Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mini Review - Dungeon Crawl Classics #73 - Emirikol Was Framed! (DCC RPG)

Emirikol Was Framed! has probably the most awesome trap I've ever read in an adventure. Sadly, it plays out better at the table then it does on G+ Hangouts, but that doesn't take away from the rest of this awesome adventure.

It's an adventure for six 4th level characters and it seems to have situations where each of the core classes can use their skills / abilities / shine, so a well rounded party would be the best bet (but isn't it always?)

I like adventures that kick off with the action, and Emirikol Was Framed! does such right at the start. It's an awesome way to get the PCs involved in the story and may even give them desire for a little payback down the line a bit.

Totally as a side note, but I'm learning to really appreciate having adventures in PDF format when I run games via Hangouts. I can extract the maps and reveal them slowly via Fog of War and i can extract the relevant art and treat it like player handouts when appropriate. Needless to say, the adventure's art is suitable for use as player handouts.

The meat of the adventure is some of the most atmospheric - is that even the right word? interesting? challenging? evokative? - whatever - full of shit I'd love to run or be run through. If it plays half as well as it reads, this is one of the better adventures I've come across in my years of gaming. Again, the art reinforces the written word perfectly. It's just damn good stuff.

And then your get to the finale and Michael Curtis take it to 11. It certainly ends on a most epic note. Wow.

All that and a new spell too.

When I get to the end of the week, I may find myself convincing my group o go through some DCC adventures...

From the blurb:

The mad wizard Emirikol is terrifying the city! Striking without reason and sending his winged apes to slaughter the populace, the famous archmage has gone too far. Now a coffer of jewels is offered to those who would dare defeat him. The ever-changing walls of his Shifting Tower are guarded by a host of diabolical traps, fiendish guardians, and unimaginable terror. Will your adventurers come out victorious…or lose their very souls in the attempt?

DCC RPG Week at the Tavern!

I have a crapload of reviews to get to during my week of vacation, and I think at least half if not ore will be for the DCC RPG. In addition to that, I expect to be announcing a DCC RPG Contest later on this week, with a number of Print DCC Adventures up for grabs as well as possibly some PDF copies. Always fun times :)

The adventures in the review hopper are:

DCC # 69 - The Emerald Enchanter

DCC # 73 - Emirikol Was Framed!

DCC # 75 - The Sea Queen Escapes

DCC Free RPG Day 2012

A Gathering of the Marked (Purple Sorcerer)

Tomb of Curses (Dragon Hoard)

The Witch of Wydfield (Brave Halfling)

The Treacherous Cobtraps (Brave Halfling)

and possibly one or two others that are due to release this week from another publisher

See, vacation is a good thing ;)

Mini Review - Pulp Weird Encounters Issue #1 - Tomb of The Squonk & The Silent Army (DCC RPG Adventures)

I wasn't kidding when i said I have a lot of review coming up this week, and the bulk will be for the DCC RPG. You have been warned ;)

Pulp Weird Encounters Issue #1 is actually two mini-adventures. Tomb of the Squonk by +Daniel Bishop  (whose work on DCC RPG Adventures I've praised often in the past) and The Silent Army  by Charlie Scott (I don't believe I'm familiar with his earlier work).

Presentation-wise it fits in well with the other 3rd party DCC RPG publishers. The font used and the layout feel familiar and the maps are well done with that quasi 3d look that's common with DCC RPG maps.

Both Tomb of the Squonk and The Silent Army are short adventures. They would probably work best as short interludes between full fledged adventures.

Tomb of the Squonk is a death trap. A well presented death trap, but a death trap none the less. If your party lacks a thief, you will soon be lacking in a party ;) Most of the traps shouldn't take an observant party by surprise, but the ones that do? Ouch! It reminds me in some ways of a modern Tomb of Horrors, which is most certainly a compliment. I suspect it would play out in a short session, assuming the party makes it to the end. Tomb of the Squonk is for 4-6 3rd level adventurers.

The Silent Army is not a death trap, but it can be deadly. It requires some puzzle solving of sorts, but that's more in the line of figuring out what's going on that anything else. It's written for a party of 1st - 3rd level adventurers. Combined with Tomb of Squonk you probably have a night of adventuring.

From the blurb:

The Pulp Weird Encounter Series comprises DCC RPG Adventures inspired by the weird pulp fantasy of the 60's and 70's.

Issue #1 introduces you to the Tomb of the Squonk and The Silent Army. 

Tomb of the Squonk: A hideous creature pleads for you to restore his human form in a weird twist on a fairy tale conceit.

The Silent Army: Something in the woods has ensorcelled the men of a woodcutters village. They stand silent and foreboding, watching and waiting for something. What did they see, and can you avoid the same fate?

AD&D is Like The Amber Series - All Games Exist as Shadows of the "One"

Last night I had a fucking blast playing AD&D. We started with G1 and it was probably the most fun I've had as a player in ages. AD&D is like an old glove. Still, I don't think I've ever played it exactly the same way with any two different groups over the last 30+ years. If AD&D is the definition of the OSR as some may say, apparently we still can't agree on the particulars.

Why do I say that? Because most house rulings remove rules from the game and others add new ones, and it's been so since I first encountered AD&D back in the early 80's.

This is what was removed from the rules / added to the rules:

Spell components - ignored
Segments - for spells - ignored
Tied initiative (this would lead to a reroll) - new rule
Weapon Speed Factor - ignored
Weapon Armor Class Adjustment - ignored
Character / Opponents with multi attacks rolled all their attacks on their initiative - new rule
The whole initiative chart on page 61 of the DMG was pretty much hand waved

I'm sure there are other aspects that I've hand waved for decades and didn't notice were removed / added. Most of what I listed above is how I run my games for the most part, so it seems very familiar.

Actually, the above comes pretty close to the restating of AD&D via the OSRIC rules. Does that make OSRIC the definition of the OSR?

I think at times we fail to see the bigger picture. The OSR isn't a set of rules or multiple sets of rules. It's a style of play that harkens back to the early days of D&D and AD&D. Even back then, the particulars of that play varied from table to table, house rules to house rules, but they were all playing "D&D". Truth to tell, I have never played in a session of AD&D that was "by the book", not even at Gen Con in the early 90's in tournament play.

If you are playing "D&D" in a manner that evokes the same response and memories of gaming in the early days of the hobby, I suspect you are gaming in the OSR.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

DCC RPG On the Cheap - Be a Player With Little or No Out of Pocket

If you are an OSR gamer like I am, you like your RPGs inexpensive, at least on initial investment.  Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, LotFP Weird Fantasy BFRPG and many others have free PDFs available of their core rules and higher end PDFs as well as print versions.

I like the idea of free or inexpensive initial buy ins for RPGs, especially when one's group plays via Hangouts and the like. It's not like you can pass around a copy of the rules at the table when your players are in two different time zones (let alone two different countries).

DCC RPG is $40 for the regular edition in print and $60 for the limited edition cover and $25 in PDF. That's a significant investment for a group of 7 if all need their own copy, especially when the game might not strike the same chords for the members of the group (it happens). Who wants to pay $25 or more for a game they may only play once or twice?

Here's some resources for players to check out and even play DCC RPG on the cheap (the GM / Judge will need a full copy of the rules):

DCC RPG Quickstart - enough to generate characters for a funnel but little more.

DCC RPG Beta - much closer to the full DCC RPG than the Quickstart (and more useful), but there are some changes, large and small. Probably enough there to generate PCs, so long as everything is cross checked against the full release of DCC.

DCC Resources Page - this is where you find the DCC Reference Sheets, which includes pretty much all the charts a player needs but the spell sheets. With these sheets, one should be able to play a non spell caster without cracking open the book (once you know your class abilities - that's what the DCC Beta is for). Oh, almost forgot - not only are there character sheets here, but many of the spells have been reformatted to fit on a single sheet of paper. Not much here for clerics, but for a low level magic-user or elf, it's golden. Oh, and it's free.

DCC RPG Character Generator - for those days your really need a quick gaggle of zero level humps ;)

Spell Record Sheet - because your spells are personalized in the DCC RPG

The Crawler's Companion - Charts, Spells, Funky dice - it's all here (web, phone and tablet varieties)

One Page Chart For All of Your Zero level Adventuring Needs - Mostly ;)

Thief Skill Reference Sheet - for your thief skills - doh!

With the above and a Judge who has a copy of the DCC RPG in hand, you should be able to get a party though a few early sessions and let the party decide for themselves if it's a game worthy of continuing (and investing in).

(if i'm missing anything, let me know and I'll add it above)

Why Do I Like the DCC RPG?

I've been asked this question a bit recently and decided it needed an answer. The answer isn't an obvious one.

Believe it or not, it's not for the art. I love the art, but that's not what makes the game so special.

It's not even for the awesome maps in the adventures, many of which I'd like to have in a "suitable for framing" print. I've said this part before, haven't I?

It's not the never ending spell charts. I'm not a lover of endless charts. Ever.

It certainly isn't because of a book suitable for stopping bullets and caving in heads. I prefer my gaming books thin and svelte.

Why do I like the DCC RPG despite the above?

Because it recaptures the magic and excitement from my early days of gaming, which isn't easy to do. Hell, if I knew how Goodman did it, I'd actually make some money off of my hobby ;)

Swords & Wizardry Complete captures the feel of how my group played AD&D in my high school and college years and fits like a prefect glove.

Dungeon Crawl Classics captures the magic I felt when first learning to play AD&D. DCC most certainly isn't AD&D and doesn't try to mirror the system, but somehow has found a way to extract the magic of those early days for me.

The DCC adventures keep that magic rolling, and I suspect they would keep much of that magic even were I to convert them to S&W.

Maybe I need to houserule a DCC / S&W Hybrid ;)

Mini Review - The Vile Worm (DCC Adventure)

The Vile Worm is the second in a series of adventures to be published under the Appendix N Adventure Toolkit banner. Like it's predecessor, The Ruins of Ramat, it's digest sized and clocks in at 12 pages.

Physically (as I'm holding the dead tree version as I write this) it's impressive for the $5.95 price tag. The cover, which is removable, hold the adventure's map on the inside. While not as exciting to look at as it's predecessor, it's still a pleasant map with accompanying art. Two player's handouts on card stock round out the package.

How is the adventure itself?

Lackluster. Six rooms and not much to encounter. The Ruins of Ramat squeezed a lot of gameplay into those 12 pages. The Vile Worm, not so much. If you have a short session (2 hrs or so) and need a short adventure, this would fill the bill, but I can't recommend The Vile Worm over The Ruins of Ramat all things being equal.

$5.95 in dead tree (dead tree + PDF subscription for $26.00), $2.95 in PDF.

Tonight I Get to Play Some AD&D For the First Time in 20 Years (By "Play" I Mean as a Player)

My most frequent role in my gaming groups is the GM. It's been like that pretty much since I started gaming back around 1980 / 81.

The times I was a player, it was rarely AD&D. For some reason, others would run Rifts or Battlelords or whatever, but AD&D was my realm to run. No one else wanted to step up, and most of what we played was AD&D.

My last AD&D session was at Gencon, back in 1993 or so.

Tonight, +Joe D is running G1 for our group and I'll be using one of the pregens from the back of the module, and I'm going to game like it's 1993 again.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Review - Monsters & Magic - Part 3 - Taking Action and Refocusing

Actions are, not all that surprisingly, the things you can do whose success or failure comes down to an "Action Check".

So, what does it cover?

Melee attacks, spell casting, finding hidden things (this is your secret door check), non magical healing, hiding and moving silently, helping or hindering another character's action check, intimidation, making camp (this kinda falls into the "why" category, but whatever), making a "touch attack" (formerly known as "hitting AC 10"), persuasion, picking pockets, terrifying someone (wouldn't this fall along the lines of intimidate?), traversing the wilderness (what, no tracking?), tripping an opponent and shooting a bow are examples.

The above come with a short paragraph with examples suggesting the stat you would use to resolve the check. I'm kinda surprised that find / remove traps and picking locks weren't listed examples, as they are certainly more prevalent in "Old School" play than "making camp".

In any case, class abilities, combat situations and situations that might otherwise fall under a general "DM Fiat" ruling get wrapped up nice and neat into the Actions that PCs can make. I've participated in conversations / discussions / rants about DM Fiat in the past, but to summarize my thoughts on it, I think it's one of the things that defines "Old School Play".

Which brings up something that I think needs to be pointed out. Monsters & Magic is not an "emulator" of "Old School Play". You are not going to use M&M to game with the expectation of a 0e experience. This isn't a way to install Windows on your Macbook.

Instead, Monsters & Magic is more like a "translator" of sorts. You get to play your classic adventures in a "New School Environment" with minimal fuss. It's a different experience. It's closer to using Pages in an OSX environment to manipulate a Word document. Maybe not a prefect example, but it helps.

This means I need to do a 180 on my approach to M&M, which had been "how well does M&M evoke 'Old School Play' with modern play additions". Instead, I need to look at "how well does M&M translate 'Old School Adventures' to a modern play system". Two very different questions, and part of the reason for the length of time between the 2nd and 3rd parts of this review as I struggled to redefine my focus.

It's not that Monsters & Magic isn't up front with the intention of being a translator and not an emulator, but the presentation and trappings are certainly old school in nature even if the system isn't.

I'm not sure I'd still refer to it as "New Wave OSR" as I dig deeper, as the Old School is in the translation and not the play. I'm impressed with what I see so far, and as a tool to bring some classic adventuring to players on the modern "storytelling" type of RPG it seems to be on the money. The play will be different, but those coming from outside the OSR probably will never notice the difference ;)

I'll probably hit on "Effects Points" in the next part.

A Hollow Earth Expedition Kickstarter Hits on July 1st - Revelations of Mars

I think I've mentioned before that I've really had a difficult time wrapping my head around the Savage Worlds ruleset. No idea why. I've heard it's simple enough and I own multiple versions of it (and would love to run or play in some Solomon Kane at some point) but it has never "clicked" for me.

The Ubiquity system as first seen (as far as I know) in the Hollow Earth Expedition RPG is about to get some more visibility - on July 1st the Hollow Earth Expeditions: Revelations of Mars lands on Kickstarter.

If you haven't noticed yet, I'm on a bit of a Kickstarter diet - lots of cash tied up in extremely overdue projects. Still, this is one I'll be keeping an eye on, as I am a lot closer to grocking Ubiquity than I am Savage Worlds and I do like the setting of HEX.

There's Little Better Than a Week of Vacation - Except Maybe Reading Zine Submissions Over Vacation.

Well, except maybe two weeks :)

I'm on vacation for until the 8th of July. The plan to head to the Poconos for the first half of the vacation has now changed to the second half of vacation, as my beautiful wife was unable to get off the 1st and the 2nd but has off from the 3rd.

Still, plenty of time for reading, reviewing and hopefully looking over some more zine submissions to Unofficial OSR. You still have more than a month to get your submissions in, but the sooner is always the better so I can guesstimate the number of pages we'll be running at. Fun times. Send you thoughts, questions, ideas, etc to tenkarsDOTtavernATgmailDOTcom

Hey, being home on Tuesday means I'll be around for my Reaper Bones delivery! Rockin!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Looking Back at the DCC Beta (and Forward too)

I just re-downloaded the DCC RPG Beta rules from the Goodman Games website and see they are dated June, 2011. Kinda makes sense, as the Goodman Free RPG Day 2011 release was for the DCC RPG and for use with the beta rules.

Holy shit but I was not impressed with the beta rules. I'm not 100% sure why that is, but I do remember my disappointment with the funny (funnier?) dice and the idea of the character funnel did not sit well with me.

Oh yeah. The charts. Overwhelming at the time.

Strange how I like the total package these days. Heck, preordered the rules when preorders opened even though I didn't particularly like the DCC Beta, mostly because I trusted Goodman to put out a good game. He did. The DCC RPG is a good game. Damn shame I'll probably never get my regular group to play it.


The size of the rulebook.

They would probably be fine with it after playing a session or two. The DCC RPG kinda get's it's teeth in you and you find yourself a convert. I need to get them to the table first, and convincing the others to invest the time (50 bucks now) and time in this tome is a hard sell. Especially to OSR players who are used to the try and then buy method.

So, I was thinking of directing them to the DCC BRPG Beta download, but I know the game has strayed from the beta a bit. Experience points is the one thing that sticks out mostly to me but I know there are other parts that changed. Did anyone ever put together a document that explains the changes?

I wonder how useful it would be to update the beta to the final rules, so less a beta and more of an introduction to the rules. It might be too labor intensive, but if not, it may be a great way to expand the DCC RPG player base. If you are going to do it, now is the time, before "Next" becomes the next big thing - or not ;)

(what is it with "summer" and DCC for me? heh)

Mini Review - Crawl! #7 (DCC RPG)

I misplaced Crawl! #7 after it was delivered without reading it. Actually, for a while I was doubting that I even ordered it. I found it yesterday :)

Dak continues to do a fine job with Crawl! and I really like the fact that much of this issue is easily transportable to other fantasy RPGs with little if any conversion if needed. Don't believe me?

Kirin Robinson's "Lost in Endless Corridors" is an article about using mazes to drive your PCs crazy. Stat free and good with any RPG system.

"Roguelike Fountains" by Thom Hall is about, you guessed it - magic fountains. Some parts of the tables may need minimal conversion, but there is a lot to like here for any OSR game. A d30 would help, but that's the first weird ass die I owned way before the DCC RPG ;)

"Consider the Ogre" by Sean Ellis is an article about making Ogres "fresh and mysterious". It's an awesome article and nearly worth the price of admission on it's own. Works with any OSR system

Jeffrey Tadlock gives us "Critical Table T: Traps". Use it for inspiration and you can simply pick and chose what works in your game without conversion. I'd use the crit table in place of the regular trap damage in a game like S&W just for the flavor. Probably more valuable for DCC referees.

"Shadowsword of Ith-Narmant" by Jurgen Mayer is a sword with awesome flavor, lots of power and one hell of a price to pay. It would work very well in a LotFP Weird Fantasy campaign with some conversion from the DCC RPG specific mechanics.

"My Gongfarmer Can't Do Shit!" by Paul Wolf is a one page article on how to make your zero-level profession useful in later levels. Pretty system specific in nature.

Crawl! is consistently one of the highest quality zines being published these days and it's available in digest sized print and PDF for the unbeatable prices of $3.95 shipped in digest size and $2.95 in instant gratification PDF.

You owe yourself an issue of Crawl! no matter what RPG system you play.

New DCC RPG Podcast - Spellburn

Consider me very pleasantly surprised with the Spellburn podcast. There are 3 episodes out and I've listened to 2 1/2. It's just damn fun to listen to and I listen to a wide range of gaming podcasts.

Yeah, they do the same damn stichk as the others on the same network - "This is DM Dip and I'm DM Stick" but they use the "ref" term from the DCC RPG and then seem to forget it, which is good.

Why is it good? Because they sound like a bunch of knowledgeable guys talking about the hobby they enjoy and aren't going out of their way to impress. They sound real, both in their manner of talking and in their enjoyment of the DCC RPG. I suspect it's a fine listen even if you don't play the DCC RPG, although you might be tempted to after listening for a while.

Now, can they keep that realness going without turning into voices reminiscent of minor market radio personalities? I hope so ;)

Kickstarter Question - Why Does it Seem That For Every Kevin Crawford There's a Half Dozen "Nystuls" Looking For an Easy Score?

Alright, maybe a half dozen "Nystuls" is an exaggeration.

Still, while most RPG Kickstarters fall into the realm of "terminably late", the severe fuck ups like Nystul greatly outnumber the +Kevin Crawford s of the Kickstarting world.

Shit, I'm still waiting on my Myth & Magic Player's Guide - maybe we need to send someone to the Boston area to bid on the storage unit the books are supposedly in - because it's been over two months since the last update and those books are still sitting somewhere - then again, we've only seen pics of a single book.

Far West, Quantum RPG, Axes & Anvils, Infinite Dungeon... fucking sad state of affairs.

Notice how few new Kickstarters I talk about these days? I don't kick in to the very end if I even do. Too much tied up in projects that are spinning their wheels.

But Mike is special - Oh For Three!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mike Nystul the Fiscally Incompetent Washes Himself Clean of Yet More Responsibility - Passing the Buck on Cairn

Lets see. Mike ran out of money (which was probably shortly after he received the Kickstarter funds which were spent on his own personal fantasy - Castle Nystul - and a pointless Dwarf Con) without producing anything for his three Kickstarters (oh, almost forgot his scamming through Indiegogo after the fact).

At best, Mike is a foolish, incompetent, idiot that should never be allowed near adult responsibilities again. At worst, he's a thief.

Mike's found a sucker partner to take responsibility of The Infinite Dungeon. Mike claims to be getting the mini rewards together, but the last update was a month ago. Don't expect much from Mike's side of this.

Two weeks ago Mike promised a playable PDF of the Axes & Anvils game. It isn't here yet and again, don't expect physical rewards. The money was spent on staff for the company that can't complete a product.

Today's announcement is for Cairn. This is where I tapped out on Mike, as it was his third Kickstarter with nothing in hand and warning bells went off in my head. Guess what? He has signed over the property to a third party that will complete the project and will offer it in print to backers (just pay shipping & handling) but the Kickstarter promises and stretch goals all remain with Mike.

Is it better than getting nothing? Sure. Is Mike still a fuck up that lived up to his namesake spell in AD&D 1e? You tell me.

Oh, here's part of his Risks and Challenges part of the Cairn Kickstarter. Talk about lying through your teeth:
We have the game in hand being edited even as we speak. The art is mostly blocked out and is being inked. The cover is done, layout has been designed and we are all set to put the thing together as soon as it looks like we have the backing we need.
Here's today's Cairn update:
Dear Cairn Backers, 
Real, substantial news has been a long time coming. I hope here to clear up a little of the confusion around the Cairn Kickstarter, let you know what’s going on, and what’s coming up next. 
First, this is not Mike from Castle Nystul. I am Ross A. Isaacs; some of you may remember me from a previous update. I have freelanced for Chaosium Inc., Holistic Game Design, White Wolf, and AEG, and I’ve been employed as a full-time employee at Last Unicorn Games and Decipher. I am a seasoned professional with a proven track record for producing quality game products. 
My involvement with Cairn, up until this point, was as a freelance writer and editor. I joined the project in 2012 because I truly felt it was a wonderful game in a unique setting, and brought something new, fresh, and charming to the tabletop gaming world. 
When Castle Nystul announced that all of the capital from their three Kickstarters (Axes & Anvils, Nystul’s Infinite Dungeon, and Cairn) had been exhausted, I was as surprised as you. All three projects were effectively on hold, waiting on whatever solution Castle Nystul could craft, which could mean potentially months (or even years) until new funding could be secured. 
Mike was looking for a solution. I decided to step up and do something. Which is why I’m writing to you today. 
Cairn is a wonderful title with a great deal of potential, into which the writers and contributors have poured a great deal of themselves. It’s a truly delightful family-oriented game. It’s a game that you’ll be happy to play with your kids. 
You want the game. I believe it deserves to be out there. So I’m going to make that happen. 
When it became clear that the Cairn rights were available, I approached Mike about transferring the intellectual property -- the writing, artwork, and any future Cairn projects. He agreed, and we’ve negotiated a settlement. The Cairn title is in capable hands and hopefully my industry pedigree reassures you in that regard. 
I am forming a small, independent game publishing company with help from a few of my friends. 
The Bad News 
You might have read a few things in various places, or been told the status of the project outright. I’d like to draw a line in the sand and look forward, not backwards.
We had a version Mike was considering publishing in his rush to get something out. But the work stopped when the money ran out and the net result is not something I am comfortable bringing to market. Moreover, key elements were left on the cutting room floor and two chapters have yet to be written. The book is not finished nor is it in layout. 
All of the funds raised by Castle Nystul’s three Kickstarters is gone. Getting Cairn into print will be at my own expense. As I am sure you will agree, this is quite the financial undertaking. I hope you will understand that any promises made by Castle Nystul during the crowd-funding process remain with Castle Nystul. This means that no other perks can come from my company. I simply do not have the money to cover the production costs for the plushies, the miniatures, the storybook, the hardcover Cairn rules, and so on. 
I am taking on the Cairn IP and future publishing rights. I am not taking on the responsibilities of the Cairn Kickstarter.  (emphasis mine)
But There’s Good News… 
I’ve got a large personal investment in this that is about to get even larger. I have good friends and family who have invested in the project. You paid Castle Nystul for a copy of Cairn. I want to make that happen. Call me “old fashioned” but I believe this is just the right thing to do. 
I am therefore offering all of Castle Nystul’s backers a FREE copy of Cairn from the first print run. I will have to ask you for shipping, but I assure you that it will be for whatever I have to pay to get the book in your hands. And I’ll be offering pickup of your copy from future conventions where Cairn has a presence (wherever possible). More details on this to come. 
I understand that you might not be happy with this. You’ve already paid money, and gotten nothing for it. All I can do is get you the roleplaying game you were promised. It’s the best I can do. 
If you want your FREE copy of Cairn, please email souljar.info@gmail.com
What Happens Now?  
To the beginning of August, I will be finalizing Cairn writing and artwork. Layout is slated to begin on the third week of August. 
In mid-September, the layout should be done. I will provide you with a PDF at this time. The book goes to the printer. 
Printing should be done by the third week in October. 
Any Cairn backer who wishes to get a FREE copy (plus shipping & handling) will be sent their book at the end of October. 
If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me. I will address your concerns as openly and honestly as I can. From now on, please visit http://www.souljar-games.blogspot.com/for further updates and information on the Cairn RPG. Thank you. 
Ross A. Isaacs
Ross, God bless you for taking part of this project over but I'm glad I don't have to pay shipping for something that was already paid for.

Games From the Basement - Space 1889

Strangely enough, I don't think I ever really read the rules to Space 1889, let alone ever tried to get my group to play it. Heck, it's not like the John Carter books were on my list of things to read - knew about them and had no interest at all.

Why I spent 30 bucks on this in the late 80's I really have no idea. 25 years on the bookshelf and I looks like I just bought it.

Maybe I should read it some time (there's a recent Savage Worlds adaptation of this if I recall correctly)

Timothy Brown to Release "Spiritual Successor" to Dark Sun - Dragon Kings

You know what?

I wish there was more to this press release than is given, as I enjoyed Dark Sun back in my 2e days and I'd love to see what Tim Brown has in store:

Hello, I’m Timothy Brown. 
I’ve made games for many years, including the Dark Sun universe, the science-fiction setting 2300AD, and most recently the End of Nations computer game. 
I’m also a musician. I’ve played with a number of bands, including Head East (if you’re an old classic rock fan, you’ll remember them). I’m a big Rush fan, too, and I always wanted to make my own 2112. 
I’m creating a new role-playing game universe that I want to conceive in fiction, art, and music all at the same time. I’m calling it Dragon Kings, and it will be my ‘spiritual successor’ to the fantasy setting Dark Sun. 
Khitus, the World of the Dragon Kings

Right now I believe that will include: 
· A progressive rock CD
· An art-intensive ‘album’ or ‘concert’ style book that expands heavily on each song (with lyrics, more stories, maps, specific art, etc.)
· A hardbound game book 
That’s the plan! 
Watch this space. I’ll be putting up ideas and art, even scratch tracks and finished songs as we go along. I’m recruiting a lot of old friends to contribute, and some really talented people who I’m working with for the first time, too. 
It’s going to be a journey, kind of an adventure in itself, and while I have all the basic concepts designed now there’s still a long way to go. 
The collaboration with other talented people is just beginning, and those aspects of the world are starting to take shape. I’ll tell you one thing: I haven’t had this much fun in years! I think you’ll enjoy it, too, and look forward to sharing it with you as it comes to life! 
Timothy Brown
May 2013

If you enjoyed Dark Sun, you’ll enjoy Dragon Kings, as well.
I'd like to know if this is going to be a new system, OGL based or some other type of ruleset.

Not so interested in the progressive rock album, but ya never know.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tunnels & Trolls Contest Time - Signed, Limited Edition T&T 1e Reprint With Typo to be Given Away

Take a close look at the cover of this Tunnels & Trolls 1e Reprint and you'll notice a typo. There are only 10 such copies in existence and thanks to the generosity of +Jason Paul McCartan I have two such copies. One is personalized to me by the great +Ken St. Andre (that's mine) and the other is signed with a note from Ken.

That second one is the one I'm giving away.

What do you need to do to one this rare piece of Tunnels & Trolls memorabilia?

Simply tell us why YOU deserve it. Be entertaining. Make it fun, as that is certainly what T&T is.

I'll leave this post's comment section open for your entries until midnight, Friday June 28th, 2013.

At that point, Jason and I will decide on the winner (shared responsibility Jason). I may have something or other in my collection for a runner up - I need to check the prize closet ;)

How Important is Art in an RPG Product?

Yeah, I know this is a very individual taste type of question, but then most opinion questions are.

When I look at released from Godman Games or LotFP, one of the things that really stands out is the art. It's not just good or damn good, frequently it's of the "holy shit I want a print of this to fram and hang on my wall" type of quality.

Good art isn't cheap. Well, it can be, but not if you are paying something close to what it is worth. Art will certainly effect the bottom line of a product.

So, when it comes to art in the RPG products you by, how importnat is it to you compared to the rest of the product?

Thoughts on a DCC RPG "Basic Box"

The DCC RPG rulebook is "friggin' 'uge!" Hell, it's damn near intimidating.

The reality is much of that size is due to the numerous spell charts, but until you open the book up you might not realize that.

I think the DCC RPG might be well served by a "Basic Box" or "Basic Set".

Levels 0-2 only.

A small, handpicked selection of spells.

Humans only to keep the class selection simple.

A zero level funnel, two short first level adventures and a short second level adventure - just enough to entice players to move on the the full rulebook.

Everyone knows boxed sets look nice on store shelves, and if the funky dice were included it really would be a complete introduction to the DCC Game.

Hey, a man can dream, can't he?

It's a better option in my opinion to putting out the core book with a new cover every 6 to 9 months...

Monday, June 24, 2013

I Love the OSR Extremes - Swords & Wizardry and Dungeon Crawl Classics

I almost went with "like", but I like nearly all of the systems in the OSR realm of gaming. I fucking love S&W and the DCC RPG, and they seem like such polar opposites.

S&W is concise and simple and if it weren't for spells could probably be run with just the adventure in hand after the DM has a few sessions under his belt. It feels very close to AD&D 1e as we played it back in the day, especially when you add in the classes from S&W Complete (and maybe houserule the stat adjustments just a wee bit).

The DCC RPG is almost nothing like my AD&D 1e of old, and yet it evokes much of the same magic and excitement of my early days of roleplaying. Every spell is something new and exciting. Fighters with their Might Deeds can push things beyond anything I could have accomplished in my days of old. Magic-Users are truly magical. The book can be intimidating, but so was the AD&D 1e DMG.

And then there is the DCC RPG art. Holy fucking shit, the only other publisher that even comes close is LotFP. I love the art because it reminds me of the awesome art I saw as a teenager in the Player's Handbook.

So, what do I run on a mostly weekly basis? AD&D 1e / OSRIC. Notice that both of the systems I mentioned evoke feelings of AD&D 1e for me?

Coincidence? I think not :)

ConTessa Video Panel: WTF is the OSR?

I had no idea this panel was going on last night or I would have watched live and annoyed the panel with questions and comments like I did with the Marketing Your Game panel.

It's an interesting video to watch and in a way I'm happy to see no one can really agree what the OSR encompasses. I like a little anarchy in my OSR ;)

There were shouts out / mentions / praise of folks like +matt jackson , +Stuart Robertson and +James Raggi to name a few (much praise for the Referee Book for LotFP Weird Fantasy, ans I've been praising that for years it seems).

Nicely done all :)

What Are the Best Judges Guild Products?

Serious question.

I have a handful of Judges Guild stuff in print (Rat on a Stick, some RQ stuff, a EotPT adventure) and I'm now checking out the Wilderlands in PDF.

What's the stuff I should be setting my sights on?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Would You Believe I Never Owned The Wilderlands of High Fantasy From Judges Guild...

I have the 3e boxed set of the Wilderlands that was released by Necromancer and I have a handful of Judges Guld Products, but I never owned the originals.

I still don't, but I just grabbed the map pack in PDF for $10 off of RPGNow and I think I've found a new love.

Current game plan is to snag stuff in PDF from RPGNow first, then decide if I should hunt for certain items on Ebay.

I need to buy ink for my printer too, as there are like 90 pages worth of maps to print out.

Hell, 3 bucks for the Wilderlands of High Fantasy booklet in PDF? (maps not included) No brainer. I think I'm in trouble...

Mini Review: DCC #74 - Blades Against Death (Level 4 DCC RPG Adventure)

I'm trying hard to get through a huge backlog of reviews and I've noticed I have fallen behind on Goodman Game's latest DCC RPG releases. In part when it comes to the DCC RPG, I haven't had an opportunity to run a session since last fall. Summer is here, and I'm hoping to squeeze in some random DCC RPG as my schedule permits.

First, let me start out by saying that Blades Against Death oozes with atmosphere. It also reminds me that the DCC RPG needs a setting of sorts to place the official adventures in, as they feel disconnected otherwise. Sure, when I started gaming and DMing over 30 years ago, I never had a setting and the players went from adventure to adventure without worrying about the nebulous connections. I'm 30 years older - show me a setting please ;)

On to the adventure. If you're working from the PDF like I am, I don't care if your are reading from your computer screen or a tablet - print out the two maps. Seriously. This applies to most adventures no matter the system, but the maps really help you visualize the accompanying descriptions in Blades Against Death. Of the two maps, the second one is definitely suitable for framing. +Harley Stroh tell Joseph that some of us want to buy these maps as prints suitable for framing.

It takes some mental adjustment on my part to remember that level 4 in the DCC RPG is somewhere around level 8 in other OSR games based on relative power and rate of advancement. The fact that much of the first part of relies on stealth (or at least, the attempt of stealth before it all goes to shit) is something that I'd really enjoy playing through, both as a GM or as a player. Success in most DCC RPG adventures relies upon brains (and luck) as much as it does combat - this is no exception, especially the first half.

That is one of the nice things about this adventure - it feels like two interwoven adventures and you get your monies worth with this one.

Blades Against Death is most certainly a "two nighter" as the first part has it's own climax (assuming the PCs are successful) before they land in more trouble. Actually, the second part has even more atmosphere than the first part. The players have a chance to cheat Death himself, and that's no small task. I am sorely tempted to convert this adventure to OSRIC just to give my players an entertaining side trek from Rappan Athuk. Heck, I could probably do it on the fly if needed. Damn, I'm derailing myself here...

Eh, I'm derailed. The blurb will have to suffice for the rest:

Punjar: wide-eyed madmen stalk the streets pronouncing the end of days, mail-clad priests crush the skulls of heathens underfoot, and timorous virgins are offered up in sacrifice within sooty temples. But even the greatest of shining temples and the strangest of mystery cults don’t dare to challenge the terrifying finality of Death.

Until now. In Blades Against Death, the adventurers cross between the realms of the living and the dead, and wager their souls in a desperate bid to steal a soul from Death’s hoary grasp. To win over the God of Dooms, you must be the most daring, stalwart and cunning and – when all else fails – willing to test your blades against Death!

A mid-level adventure for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game, Blades against Death offers characters a once in a lifetime escapade. Those that return from the Realms of the Dead will have earned the true title of adventurer, while those that fail will spend eternity in Death’s service.

Games From the Basement - Steve Jackson's MAN to MAN (Fantasy Combat from GURPS)

I remember using this for small unit skirmishes when we only had two or three players show up for a gaming session.

There was more than enough here to get me warmed up for the full GURPS release shortly after I found this. Even though I ran some GURPS Fantasy back in the day, I don't think any of us in the group fully understood the magic system (a problem we also had with sorcery in RQ3)

MAN to MAN even came with free "Cardboard Heroes" Miniature - I still have them in the ziplock in the back of this book.

BattleTech: A Time of War: Quick-Start Rules (Free RPG Day 2013) (Free PDF)

It looks like the Free RPG Day 2013 PDFs are trickling out.

BattleTech: A Time of War: Quick-Start Rules (Free RPG Day 2013) is available over at RPGNow for the price of FREE.

Time to grab my copy...

There is Now an OSR Forum Sub-Section at ENWorld

Now, before anyone goes on about ENWorld in general (I've seen the rants - heck, I've written some of them), this specifically can only help our little corner of the D&D Universe.


Because unlike other forums such as Dragonsfoot, Knights & Knaves and others that are already preaching to the choir, having a sub-forum for the OSR on ENWorld can only add to the visibility of the OSR. As the D&D Brand transitions from 4e to Next we have an excellent opportunity to showcase the type of gaming the OSR is known for.

I haven't been a big forum guy since I started blogging, but I'll have to change my habits slightly and check on the OSR forum over at ENWorld a few times a week. It's just a shame I didn't notice this before today, as it's been live since May 12th.

(yeah, there are older OSR posts in the OSR Forum, but the actual sub-forum - not just the "tag", went live last month)

Looking For a Bargain Price on "Dyson's Delves" in PDF?

Hell, I have the dead tree version of Dyson's Delves and I'm hankering for the PDF for easy integration of the maps into Roll20 (and I really don't want to write in my dead tree version).

Dyson is working with the Delvers podcast to offer a 25% discount on the Dyson's Delves PDF.

More info at the Delvers Podcast site. While you are there, listen to the podcast. It's the best produced "real play" podcasts I've listend to.

First Look - Shotguns & Saddles (Classic Western OSR RPG)

With Shotguns & Saddles+David Bezio (he of X-Plorers fame) brings the American Old West genre to the OSR. There are some notable changes to the system most of use are familiar with, which is why I'm making this post a "First Look"and not a mini review (that will come later). I want to look at the core of the system David is presenting in Shotguns & Saddles.

There are 12 attributes in S&S, not the usual 6 (or 7 for the 2e crew). Athletics, Book Learning, Fighting, Frontier, Grit, Horsemanship, Perception, Presence, Shooting, Stealth, Strength, and Quickness. Some of them are obvious reskins of OSR attributes, others aren't. Rolls range from 3-18 which then get converted to a score from -2 to + 2

The Background table adjusts 2 to 4 of these attributes by +1 depending on your roll. A Teacher would get bonuses to Book Learning and Perception while a Railroad Worker would get Frontier, Grit and Strength.

How fast you more is determined by athletics and a high quickness will help with your Defense (kinda like your AC, but as you don't wear armor, it also gets better with leveling).

Hit Die size is determined by you Grit score.

There is even an alignment system, but it is labeled by hat color: White Hat, Brown Hat, and Black Hat. You can probably guess the generalities of how the hat colors are defined.

You also get a randomly determined Special Ability which helps differentiate your PC from the others.

So, much of the above seem familiar enough and I doubt the the transition would be all that hard. I'll review this when I finish my way through the rest of it. I'm really hopeful that converting some Deadlands stuff, at least in a general sense, shouldn't be too hard.

Mini Review - The Ruins of Ramat (DCC RPG Adventure)

I recently received my dead tree copies of the first two Appendix N Toolkits - The Ruins of Ramat and the Vile Worm. With this post I'm taking a look at Adventure Toolkit #1, The Ruins of Ramat.

Right off the bat, I need to mention that the quality of the map is right up there with the best of the Goodman Game DCC RPG Adventure releases. You know how I harp about wanting to frame some of these awesome maps as prints? The copy of The Ruins of Ramat I unwrapped (I'll be giving some away in a contest later this summer) came with two wrap around covers. That means it has two wrap around maps on the inside of the cover. One for use in game, one for me to frame. +John Adams , the Lord does work in mysterious ways sometimes ;)

It also comes with two full page player handout inserts on cardstock. I always enjoy player handouts, so this is very cool. In the PDF version they are easy enough to load up in a application like Roll20 or print out as needed.

Regretfully, the player introduction is cut short, but as it is basically the same hook that's on the back cover of the adventure, it's omission isn't a huge issue. Still, here's the two paragraphs complete from the PDF version (the rear cover also refers to 4 handouts - there are two - the rear cover of the PDF version correctly refers to 2 handouts):
It is mid-spring, the time when the land’s rulers and their men-at-arms go to war with
their neighbors. Nearly every able person is already involved in such conflicts, or helping the remaining militia protect the local village. 
A little girl comes running and crying into the center of the village. When questioned, she sobs that she and her dog were playing just outside of town, by Rose Hill, when a giant,clawed creature came up out of the ground and took her dog. The girl is completely terrified and her dog, which never normally leaves her side, is nowhere to be seen. You and your companions volunteer to look into the matter. (the last few words are the ones cut off)
The adventure itself is relatively tame for a DCC 0-Level funnel. By that, I mean that I'd expect a sufficient number of survivors without the need of mid adventure 0-Level "recruits" ;)

$5.95 for the print version of this a well worth it ($2.95 in PDF).

Saturday, June 22, 2013

How Do You / Would You Market Your OSR Product?

Last night's "Marketing Your RPG" panel was hosted by the Blonde Frog. Although some of the advice was applicable to smaller (hobby) publishers, most was aimed at larger publishers. That makes sense, as the panel was composed of folks representing Frog God Games and others with fairly large footprints in the hobby.

The OSR does not have a large enough footprint in general to use many of the advertising and marketing techniques in question. Our strength is the tightness of the OSR community, which I saw first hand with the Basic Fantasy RPG and Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Days. There are some amazingly creative members of our community that enjoy giving back to the community.

It's a community that is very accepting of "fan and hobbyist" created works and can also be highly critical when those hobbyists attempt to make the step to professional. If they slip we tell them. Often vocally. It is simply how we are.

This also means that projects can live or die based upon the rep of the people being it, as word of mouth is our hobby's main method of marketing. That doesn't mean a good rep will necessarily make a project successful, but a poor rep can kill it before release.

The OSR, with a few notable exceptions, pretty much works for beer money and a pat on the back. There is nothing wrong with that, but I for one would like to step up to buying more microbrews ;)

So, any words of advice for your fellow hobbyists?

Mini Review - The Imperishable Sorceress - (Free RPG Day DCC Release)

I enjoy the DCC RPG releases in general. They are usually well written with twists one doesn't get in a standard OSR styled adventure. The Imperishable Sorceress, the first half of the Goodman Games Free RPG 2013 release is a fine example of this.

+Daniel Bishop manages to put a full adventure's worth of gaming into six pages of text, a full page piece of art and a full page map. If you've never before come across a DCC RPG map from Goodman Games, the included map is a fine example. I've said it before many a time, I'd love to see the DCC RPG Adventure Maps released as prints for framing. They really are that good.

At six pages, there isn't much I can say about the adventure without giving much away. Like most DCC RPG adventures, it's not a typical dungeon crawl - it's much more swords & sorcery than that.

I'm looking forward to running it. The Imperishable Sorceress should work fine in a three hour hangout slot, which after bullshitting is the average amount of play time my groups seem to get in. Hey, Goodman even has some pregens ready for download!

"Marketing Your RPG" Panel "On Air" With Rachel Ventura

I watched the whole thing live last night and it was very entertaining and even a bit informative - some interesting personalities were on display ;)

I wish they had included someone like +Joseph Bloch , +James Raggi or Kevin Crawford - the independent small guys that are successful at their craft. The advice given was mostly (not all) aimed at projects that could afford an advertising budget that probably amounts to more than the more successful OSR projects even take in. The secret to successful OSR publishing (besides putting out a damn good product) is word of mouth for a large part, as you probably don't have an advertising budget.

I did receive an invite to be on the panel, and for that I am flattered (thanks +Rachel Ventura ) but I really don't think I'd have been able to add more than I did in the chat window. I'm not a publisher of games. I'm a writer of blogs :)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Mini Review - Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls "Preview Pack" (Free RPG Day)

Flying Buffalo released a preview of the upcoming Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls RPG (to be released this summer) as their Free RPG Day contribution. Let me touch on the high points before I hit the low point.

The included rules preview cover characters up to 5th level, including spells. I love T&T spells for the shear simplicity and brevity of their write ups. The OSR could learn much from this, as I doubt any OSR game could fit five levels of spells on a single page and still cover what is needed.

It also includes the classes (all? most?) from the upcoming dT&T release. Biggest change is upping the power of the basic Warrior class, which I had planned to do with house rules. No need for that now I guess ;)

I didn't see mention of "Spite Damage" with each natural "6" rolled. Perhaps that's gone now.

The actual Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls short form rules appear to be very playable. I'm not sure if my own previous rules knowledge is filling in the gaps, but I suspect a good GM could run a short campaign using these rules. He wouldn't want to start will the included adventure, unless he was looking for a truly short campaign of about one encounter.

The Chambers of Z'Tpozz The Mad Dwarf is nominally for 4-8 characters of levels 1-5. Maybe if you had a group that was near the high end in numbers and level there would be a chance of survival if not success, but newbie characters need not apply.

Interestingly enough, they include three ready to use pregens (notice how the minimal suggest characters is FOUR). The are a very good example of how T&T races are not balanced against each other, and why I'd have my group go either all trolls or no trolls - there is no power curve with trolls - they overpower all else. I had hoped this would have been addressed with the new edition  Ah well.

The included adventure has a running clock that can kill the party if they don't move fast enough, but as most encounters will handily kill a party of the average 1-3 level PCs (and probably higher) the running clock isn't much of an issue.

Is it a fun adventure? It looks to have potential, but a group of new players, especially with newly rolled PCs and possibly new to gaming will be left with a poor taste in their mouth.

There is also a free to download dT&T solo you can request from Flying Buffalo. Haven't gotten far enough to request that yet.

So, I'm overal happy with the rules as presented and continue to be amazed at how concise they are and yet still playable. It's a shame the included adventure isn't playable with the rules, at least not past the first encounter and TPK.

Thanks again +Tim Shorts ;)

The Rest of My Free RPG Day Picks Arrived Today - dT&T and DCC RPG

A huge thanks to +Tim Shorts of Gothridge Manor for sending these along to me. I missed out on them on Free RPG Day, as they were sold out at Noble Knight's online store by 830 Saturday morning.

I have a lot of reading in store (not including the $150+ worth of GURPS I bought as a bundle for $50).

Enough chit chat - some reading so I can do some reviews ;)

Are There Any OSR Quickstarts Besides the Two Swords & Wizardry Ones?

I can only think of two OSR Quickstarts: Frog God's Hall of Bones for this years Free RPG Day and the classic Swords & Wizardry Quickstart.

Am I missing any?

How would you put together an OSR Quickstart (system is fairly irrelevant to this question)?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A 7 Minute PBS Documentary - "Dungeons & Dragons and the Influence of Tabletop RPGs"

Shout out to +Gnome Stew for bringing this video to my attention. Certainly an interesting seven minutes of D&D Documentary video. Shame that some of the clips seem to show 4e ;)

A Look at Free RPG Day's "Hall of Bones" (Swords & Wizardry)

Hall of Bones was the Free RPG Day 2103 release for Swords & Wizardry. I've heard some grumblings on the blogshere and such that it was lacking, and I understand the arguments. The thing is, those arguments are coming from within the OSR. Hall of Bones is not aimed at current OSR gamers. It's aimed at roleplayers that need an introduction to the OSR - primarily Pathfinder players I suspect.

On that level is works. It's a decent introduction to OSR gaming. The adventure is short, but if you plan to explain the rules and put them into action, you don't want a multi-session adventure. You probably want something that plays to the end in a short session, and that is what you have here.

I'm glad I picked it up even if it is of very little use to me, as it shows me that Frog God Games is serious about growing the Swords & Wizardry Game, and that is very good news indeed.

"Shotguns & Saddles" (OSR Western) Goes Wild and Neoplastic Press (Teratic Tome / SlaughterGrid) Goes "All In" on PWYW

I'm either in a reviewer's heaven or a reviewer's hell, as I just can't keep up with the releases that I really want to read.

Shotguns & Saddles is the new OSR Western RPG release by +David Bezio . You might remember him from a little OSR game X-Plorers. I'm very excited to check this out and I'm already toying with the idea of borrowing elements from Deadlands when I get the chance to run it. I mean, it's OSR, so I have compatible magic spells and walking dead things ;)

Neoplastic Press (aka +Rafael Chandler ) has gone all into the "Pay What You Want" pricing at RPGNow. If for some unknown reason you've missed out on the Teratic Tome, SlaughterGrid or one of Raf's other releases, you literally have no excuse not to check it out now. (when you get to the Neoplastic Press page at RPGNow, you will see suggested prices. Click on the PDF in question and you will go the the PWYW page).

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Call For Submissions to the Unofficial OSR Zine

I've got vacation time coming up from the real job. I'm off the first week of July and the week that covers the end of July / first week of August. I'd like to devote much of that time to reviewing / editing submissions to the Unofficial OSR zine.

What are we looking for? Monsters, adventures, spells, magic items, classes, house rules, design thoughts, series of articles, whatever the fuck is on your mind that your think others might want to read and is OSR related.

In all seriousness, this zine should belong to the OSR community and as such needs to be written by the community. If all you wantred to read was my thoughts, this blog would suffice.

The plan is to cover all of the OSR games out there, dependent of course on the articles submitted. Can't publish articles for AS&SH or LotFP Weird Fantasy and the like if no one submits them. Some articles may be "generic" OSR, some may be more system specific. Some may be multi-system stated. Depends on the submission.

The Unofficial OSR Zine pays in "beer money" - either thru RPGNow credit or Paypal. "Beer Money" is $5 per accepted article or piece of art. Grumpy Dwarf (that's us / me / whatever) gets the rights to publish your work in the PDF issue it's initially published in until the end of civilization, and the right to publish it in a print on demand collection of the PDFs in question. You keep the copyright. You can republish it as you will.

We are also offering free 1/4 page ads for any and all OSR zines out there, in print or PDF. This is a community project, at least from my POV, and giving back to the community is the least I can do.

Want to know where the RPGNow affiliate credit this blog earns goes when it isn't given away in some random contest? It will be going to pay the "beer money" for this zine until it breaks even.

Send inquiries, ideas, submissions, threats to tenkarsDOTtavernATgmailDOTcom. Put "zine" or some such shit in the subject heading.

Oh, and for those that are inquiring about submitting articles for OSG (Old School Games) send me an email and we'll figure out if it fits.

First Impressions - Better Than Any Man - LotFP Free RPG Day 2013 Release

Say what you will about +James Raggi , but when he connects he hits it out of the park. Better Than Any Man is probably his best release yet.

The art, the maps, the presentation, the fold out cover, the screwed up real life history - 96 pages of James at his best and it's all for free. Alright, it was paid for by Kickstarter funding, but it was available for free on Free RPG Day.

I'm so looking forward to really digging into this. I just got my copy today from Noble Knight Games and have just done a quick skim of this. Didn't even open up the Star Wars Quickstart and the Swords & Wizardry one seems to have been aimed at newbies to the OSR (as well it should be).

Better Than Any Man is aimed solidly at those in the OSR and it really hass been excited to read it. Not so sure how representative it is to James's recent releases, as this seems at first glance to be very playable and not the recent party fucks that James has done of late - entertaining party fucks, but party fucks none the less. This seems like a sandbox setting with a very interesting plot. Hopefully it lives up to those impressions. I'll work on the review over the weekend.

For Those That Say a G+ Hangout RPG Session Can't Equal Face to Face...

This past Saturday was our group's first session in three weeks, not counting a short Hangout with a handful to test the new DSL at my folk's place in the Poconos two weeks ago. We usually take 30 to 45 minutes to get settled, catch up, tell stories, bitch - all the usual stuff that goes on in a Face to Face game, except we aren't sharing snacks and farts.

This time we never even got to game - we literally hung out for 3 hours just talking and laughing our asses off.

It's been damn near 18 years since I had that happen to a game I was running, and that was with my old high school / college group.

Our online group has come together and bonded much like most good face to face groups. That is a thing of beauty to behold, even if it did frustrate me a bit a the DM. Then again, the whole point of gaming is to socialize and have fun IMHO, and we certainly did all of that, so I really can't complain...

Face to Face or Online - Which is Your Preferred Method of Playing Your RPGs?

There is a certain intimacy that in Face to Face gaming that you don't get with most Online / Hangout / VTT sessions. It's also easier to see if your players are distracted or fading.

Online offers a much larger pool of players for your group. Our current group consists of players ranging from the east coast of North America to the west coast, from Florida to Canada and in between.  Kinda impossible to pull that off Face to Face.

Running sessions online also cuts down on time lost to commuting to the game site. Oh, and you only have to clean up after yourself ;)

Both methods have pros and cons, and in the ideal situation I think I'd prefer face to face. That being said, my ideal gaming group spans 3 times zones and two countries, so I'll take the ideal group over the ideal method in this case :)

Face to Face or Online? Which is it for you?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Thoughts on a "Mad Libs" Style Mini Dungeon

Sometimes thoughts come from out of the blue and trip you up bad - they derail your ability to think of anything else.

This is one of those times.

As I sit here thinking about some regular sections and such for the Unofficial OSR Zine, the idea of a "Mad Libs" styled Mini Dungeon came to mind. Instead of using nouns, verbs and the like, it would be things like "choose humanoid", "choose mindless undead" and "giant _____" in the room encounters. Could even work out a system for traps too.

Maybe it's silly, but no two dungeons would run the same. Besides, silly can be fun too.

If you have no idea what Mad Libs are, Wikipedia defines it as:
Mad Libs (from ad lib, a spontaneous improvisation) is a phrasal template word game where one player prompts another for a list of words to substitute for blanks in a story. The game is frequently played as a party game or as a pastime.
Maybe under the title "Spontaneous Dungeons".

Or maybe i just need some sleep ;)


Mini Review - Verloren The Rufescent and the Atramentous (LL Mini Setting and Adventure Hooks)

Where to start. Verloren is a city ripped from it's place in time, moved forward or backwards no one is truly sure. It is, effectively, an urban sandbox of sorts.

The map of the city is unlabeled, and in truth, probably not needed. The city is in the midst of moral decay. The hooks, and there are many, don't coincide to places on the maps - they are linked to personalities and events.

See, this isn't an adventure and to come to it with that expectation would leave the prospective DM frustrated. It's a series of hooks and story elements that can come together as a bigger picture, but the DM and the players are going to be the ones to put that together. It's a toolkit of sorts. A very disturbing toolkit at points.

Unless the DM is comfortable running game sessions from the seat of his pants, Verloren is going to need significant prep work, not the least of which is how the players react to the shift from normal city to one quickly decaying.

The big plot hook behind this all? Pretty interesting, and I'm not going to ruin the surprise.

Negatives? I already mentioned the virtually useless city map. As there really isn't much need for it (the DM may be well advised to possibly map out a very localized block or two for some of the hooks) being useless isn't so much a problem, but it would have been nice to have some locations / hooks labeled.

You need to watch the video to find out it's for adventurers 5-13 as it isn't spelled out at the RPGNow site.

The blurb:

Verloren is a city hanging in the balance.  Either it will fall to an ancient evil or triumph based on your actions.  Enclosed are city details, maps, nine original monsters, and interesting non-player characters for encounters in and out of Verloren.  In this fantasy supplement, players will face powerful monsters and explore a decaying city to discover the secret of The Change and save the thousands of inhabitants.

    9 Original Monsters
    Over 20 Original Illustrations
    3 New Spells
    Lots of NPCs and Story Hooks
    2 Maps

A Kickstarter That Needs a Priest - ZEITGEIST AP hardcover compilation (Pathfinder & D&D 4E)

Well, I gotta give it to Morrus - he certainly knows how to grab attention ;)

In all seriousness, what little work I've seen from E.N. Publishing has been fairly good (admittedly that is from the 3e days), but as I play neither Pathfinder nor 4e, this is all wasted on me.

If I did play either, the $60 price point for the color HC edition and all of the stretch goals in PDF is probably the sweet point.

Just 118 more backers for the "Divine Intervention" ritual attempt :)

Of Blogger and G+ and the Piss Poor Mish-Mash of the Two

I'm an active blog poster. I probably post on average three to four times a day over here at The Tavern. Each of these posts also get shared on G+, and I guess I'm fairly active over there too. Heck, as of today over 4,000 fine folks have included me in their circles. I'm flattered.

My experiment of trying out the use of G+ for comments in Blogger lasted a few hours. It prevented those without G+ accounts from commenting, which I thought was pretty damn limiting as many of my blog readers and commenters aren't active on G+.

So, the communities overlap to a large extent, but the blog and G+ are also a bit separate.

Now, I posted a comment on a Blogger blog yesterday that had G+ integrated into the comments section, and it turned my comment into a publicly shared post by me on G+, which lost much of the context of the comment as the blog was linked to, but not quoted from by G+. I wasn't looking to fan any flames, but to get the original poster's thoughts on a specific question.

My comment basically started it's own thread, which was not my intention.

Looks like I'll be avoiding commenting on blogs that have G+ integrated in their comments section until Google figures this shit out.

Monday, June 17, 2013

What Are the Best OSR Gaming Supplements Out There?

Yes, I know it's a question that's very subjective. Still, it doesn't invalidate the question.

I have two favorites, for very different reasons.

The Teratic Tome, because it is amazing to behold (both in print and PDF). The unspoken setting behind many of the creatures presented must be brutally amazing. Did I mention the art is awesome and there are so many creatures I want to find ways to sneak in Rappan Athuk?

The second is the Tome of Adventure Design. I really should do a post a week, creating adventure locations and the like using the table in this book. The amount of inspiration in this book is beyond my ability to quantify - lots doesn't come close. Get it in dead tree format if you get the chance - there is nothing like flipping through this book to make you want to run a game session.

Now, despite my two picks above, I am sure there are numerous other choices that are just as worthy, if not more.

What are your picks?

Review - Monsters & Magic - Part 2 - Checks Please!

If you are still thinking "D20" with Monsters & Magic, please stop (although if the name automatically is translated as "Might & Magic" you probably played the same computer games I did). M&M doesn't use a D20, it uses "Checks" built with 3d6 plus modifiers for resolution.

Heck, sometimes you dont even need to roll, you just go with attribute score + trait bonus if you'd rather not leave it to chance. It's kinda like "taking 10" in 3e - not that I've played more than a single session of 3e, but I do own and have read the books back when they were new. No stress? Figure out your Static Check - as in "doesn't change".

Action Checks are probably the most common checks in the game. Want to attack, persuade, cast a spell, pick a pocket or any of potentially dozens of other actions? You need to make an Action Check.

Resistance Checks are used in traditional save situations and as a passive resistance. In most circumstances the rules suggest you would use the Static Check, but apparently you can choose to roll it as a sort of active defense, which could be higher or lower than the passive Static Check.

Then we have Ranked Checks, which is used for things like initiative, contests and competitions and the like.

If it seems a little confusing it very well might be, especially if you are coming at this from the OSR side of things and not one of them "new fangled" games like Fate or Dungeon World. Once you start adding trait bonuses, armor bonuses and damage dice to the checks I need to step back for a minute and grab a beer, as now things start getting a bit complicated.

This is where I'm no longer standing on solid ground, and for the purposes of this review I'm going to reproduce the Damage Dice & Armour Bonuses Table from page 37.

Are you following along at home? A "Golden Carriage" has a "Damage Die". "A Member of Nobility" gets an "Armour Bonus".

It took about half a beer to get past this and remind myself there are two types of damage in this game, two types of armor class.

If you are going to bring "social combat" (for lack of a better phrase coming from my fairly insular "Old School Gaming" background), this is probably the way you would have to introduce it to me. Don't bother thinking that I'm standing on steady ground at this point, but it makes more sense to my sensibilities than Fate does. Actually, it may go so far as to help me understand Fate. Or not, but there is hope.

Crap. Actions are next. Which are pretty much the types of things you can make a Check to attempt to do. This is really where you find out how the Effect Engine figures out your success or failure (and margin of such) and helps you interpret that based on the action you were attempting (as well as the applicable Resistance).

I need another beer I think ;)

Some RPG Definitions I'll Be Using on This Blog

There is an on going debate as to what falls under the OSR and what doesn't. So, I'm setting some definitions for use here at The Tavern. It should make some things easier, at least from my perspective. I'm open to new definitions, but not the whole argument of what does or doesn't fall under the OSR.

So, what is the OSR or Old School Renaissance here at The Tavern? Any AD&D 2e or earlier game system, clone or derivative.  Pretty simple. If it can trace it's roots directly to early D&D or AD&D, it's OSR. (note - this is the definition i'm using HERE starting now. Use your own definition over THERE ;)

Next is OSG or Old School Games. Tunnels & Trolls, RuneQuest, Traveller, Rolemaster, GURPS, the old Pacesetter line and the like are Old School Games. The OSR is a subset of the OSG.

New Wave - Fate, Apocalypse World, Dungeon World and the like are new wave to my eyes. I don't seem to grok the new wave stuff so well but I try.

Indie - Savage Worlds, Umbiquity System and similar systems are under my general Indie Label.

The OSR and the OSG are where most of my interest lies, as long time readers of this blog should know.

Eh, I needed some accurate tags for all of these blogposts, and the above is a start. Feel free to add your suggestions below, such as "Shite" for the WoD line or Insane for the crunch laden Hero line (which is also OSG I guess ;)
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