Saturday, February 9, 2013

Crawl! Nearly Sweeps the RPGNow 5 Hottest Items (at least on The Tavern)

I like how 4 out of the top 5 hottest items at RPGNow are PDF issues of Crawl! Now that the latest issue, #6, releases tonight on RPGNow, maybe Dak will score a sweep.

No, I don't know why the deed they feed me is different than the one at the RPGNow home page. Heck, I don't know why the DnD Classics feed is down. I do know that Crawl! rocks.

That is all ;)

Grab Crawl! #6 in Print Here!

Tonight Will Be My First Attempt at Running an RPG Session Using Roll20 - Any Hints or Suggestions for the Newb?

Nearly 2 weeks ago, right after out last session of Rappan Arthuk and just before +Joshuha Owen announced the merger of Table Top Forge into Roll20, I had decided to give Roll20 a try. I really wanted to try out the map interface with the Fog of War feature, as redrawing my party's map week after week was getting - tedious.

Now I have 4 map pages set up with fog of war, a handful of handouts" prepped and even a macro or two prepared.

I fully expect a learning curve (and I'm excited to think about the types of sound effects I can mix into things down the line) and unforeseen difficulties to crop up tonight, as basically the whole group will be new to the interface

Any helpful hints, secrets, self made user guides or the like I should be looking for?

Red Tide Sourcebook for LL in Hand - Now I Need to Strip It

At the end of January I ordered the Red Tide sourcebook by Sine Nomine Publishing. I already had it in PDF, but sometimes you just want something you can hold.

I find myself wanting to use some of the "Site Tags" in Rappan Athuk's "The Gut", as you know there are devious little quasi villages that have popped up along (or just off) the main routes. Come to think of it, an underground ruin would work vert nicely too.

God, I really like the seeds I find in this book.

Time to plot a few out for the current campaign.

And strip wall paper. And paint. And wall paper. Yes, that has nothing to do with gaming.

Friday, February 8, 2013

What is Your Favorite OSR Release?

I know there are hundreds of OSR releases over the last few years. Rules, adventures, supplements, monsters, classes, etc, etc, etc...

It is really hard to choose.

So I'm going to choose to. One classic and one recent.

The classic choice for me is Barrowmaze. It's an exciting tweak on the classic Megadungeon set up, and really begs to be used. I also want to learn more about the world of Barrowmaze.

Recent has to be the Terratic Tome. It really is a most amazing monster supplement. I want to know more about the world these monsters inhabit.

So, what are your favorite releases?

The Delving Deeper Box Has Arrived - Much Delayed But Bursting at the Seams

The Photo is Askew, Not the Box ;)
Delving Deeper arrived today. Holy shit but the box was packed. It included the 5 rulebooks, Blackmarsh as the setting (I think you need to download the map on RPGNow, as I didn't see one - but hey, it's free there too) and a stack of character sheets. Definitely a nice touch.

It seems that everything couldn't fit into the box, so there will be a second shipment at a later point which will include dice, sample modules and Zack Howard's Holmes supplement (I need to research this).

I'll dig through this over the weekend and give it a proper review.

BTW, Delving Deeper is free on RPGNow

My Next Kickstarter to Support: The Michael T. Desing's Army Ants War Effort

Real quick, as I'm about to hop in my car and brave the elements her in NYC.

I've been following Michael Desing's stuff since the Resolute RPG line. It was one of the first (only?) indie games that I groked, and I liked it  even more due to the concise presentation of the rules - no bloat here.

So, now he's got a Kickstarter for his Army Ants comic and RPG. I'm all over this like ants on a picnic basket. Others must be too, as he's nearly hit hit modest 1k goal in less than 24 hours. I'll officially be a backer tonight.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Taking the Temperature of the OSR - or - It Ain't Quite Dead Yet!

There's been a lot of talk from some pretty big personas in the OSR about where the OSR is going (or even where it is now) especially considering the recent release of many of the early D&D / AD&D books via the DnDClassics site. You can catch some of the talk here, here, here and here.

The sky is falling. Or the ground is rising. Maybe the ground is falling and the sky is rising. Really, who the fuck knows.

Simple fact. The OSR isn't going anywhere. Putting the originals back into PDF format isn't going to gut the OSR of "old school players" anymore than DnD Next is. If anything, making the originals available in PDF format is likely to bring us the newly curious: "Wait, you mean there is a version of B/E that I can download for free and the rules are clearer than the originals? Score!"

This isn't us losing from a limited pool of  "old school gamers" but having the opportunity to expand that pool with the release of the classic PDFs. The question shouldn't be "how do we not lose players to the re-released classic rules?" but it should be "how do we embrace the players that are just now finding  Old School Gaming (or returning to Old School Gaming) thanks to the classic PDF reprints?"
It's the time to remind the gamers out there that Labyrinth Lord is a clearer rewrite of the BX/EX rules,  Swords & Wizardry is the OBS with some of the original supplements. OSRIC is AD&D 1e much like how it was played. Why stress these three? All are free and they cover much of the Old School Experience.

Then, once they are here, once the assimilation process starts, you hit them with LotFP Weird Fantasy, BFRPG, Microlite 74, ACKS, ASSH, C&T and all the rest.

I mean, folks do remember you can play more than one game, right? It isn't "one and done". You aren't stuck on the first game your find.

Will the OSR "change"? New blood always bring changes. Still, the OSR at it's very root is "Old School Gaming", and that will never change.

I'm on Vacation Next Week - Let's Do a Tunnels & Trolls Friday Night Kickoff!

I've been looking to kick off a "once a month" Tunnels & Trolls game for a while now, and with vacation coming up for me next week, it seems like the perfect time.

So, Friday, February 15th at about 8pm Eastern Time using G+ Hangouts and the Roll20 app.

I have 2 spots reserved, so 4 spots are open.

Using T&T 5.5 rules with some house rules drawn from 7.5.

Let me know if you're interested. If I have too many for a single session, I might run a second, but that entails balancing "wife agro", so i can't guarantee it ;)

Do You Write Up Campaign Specific Spells?

One of the hardest things to tweak in an OSR ruleset (original or close) is the spell lists. Sure, you can remove spels from the available selection, but do you ever add new spells?

I ask, because in general, when I see new spells in an OSR adventure, they are rarely there to be added into the PCs hands, and accurate spell level / power is largely irrelevant. It's when you write up a spell for the players to actually use, that you realize how hard they are to correctly balance.

I wrote up a couple of cleric / druid spells last year and posted them on the blog. They were well received, but they weren't really adventuring spells (which is what occupies actual spel lists - non-adventuring spells could be a whole 'nother post).

Do you write up spells as a DM for your players? Do you allow or even encourage your players to write their own?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Reoccurring Villains - Do You Use Them?

(can you tell I'm trying to get ideas for use in my current campaign? ;)

So, do you use reoccurring villains in your campaigns?

I used to in the way back days, but I found they either died to early or I had to pull off that mysterious "He weren't quite dead it seems" bullshit to bring them back. Neither was satisfying.

Now, I know you can keep the Big Bad Evil Dude offscreen for the longest, and just allow the PCs to interact with henchmen, "Left Hands" and "Number Twos (Who does Number Two work for! heh) but that seems like it will play out after a while.

So, do you use reoccurring villains? If so, how do you make them work? If not, why not?

Is There a "Core" Fantasy Race That You Tend to Leave Out of Your Campaigns?

If there is a core race from the AD&D 1e Player's Handbook that consistently seems to get the short stick it's Gnomes.

Heck, I really want to like gnomes, but I can never seem to see where they fit. Are they Dwarven / Elven hybrids? Remember, they can cast spells as Illusionists.

Are they Dwarven / Halfling hybrids? Could be from the looks of it.

That being said, others look down on the portly halfling (LotFP Weird Fantasy makes them a "Saves" specialist, and ACKS leaves them out as PCs all together?

Is there a particular "core" fantasy race that you would rather not see in the next game you run or play in? Why?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Crawl! Issue #1 Now Available in PDF (DCC RPG)

I'm not going to bore you with my review of Crawl Issue #1 (which you can read here). Suffice to say I thought it was a bargain at $3.50 for a print issue.

$1.75 for the Crawl #1 PDF? Not only is it an impulse buy at that price, it's just a fucking amazing price for an awesome product. Crawl! is consistently one of (if not THE best) RPG fanzine currently being produced.

If you play the DCC RPG and haven't checked out Crawl! yet, why not? Heck, even if you play other fantasy RPGs you'll find stuff to steal ;)

The D&D Expert Rulebook Isn't the Only Recent Release at the DnD Classics Store

Yep, putting the D&D Expert Rules into a clean PDF is certainly big news. For a grand total of $10 you can get your Basic and Expert D&D rules and have years of playing ahead of you with original (not cloned rules).

See, it's times like this that I regret starting my RPG experience with AD&D and mistakenly thinking of B/X as D&D "rules for kids". It took me years to get past that idea.

Still, I am most comfortable with the AD&D rules, which is where I learned (and ignored) a crapton of rules. Today, WotC added a few more titles to the AD&D selection:

Monster Manual II - This was the the third of the AD&D monster books, and probably the only one that stuck to the actual AD&D rules (MM1 was released before the AD&D rules were completed, and often feels like a D&D book to me. As for the Fiend Folio, those wacky Brits produced a lovely wacky monster book). I still love the cover even today.

The Wilderness Survival Guide and the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide introduced Non-Weapon Proficiencies to core AD&D (they made their first appearance in Oriental Adventures). Aside from that, I don't recall getting much use from them. Maybe someone else did. The came out on the tail end of AD&D 1e, and I remember them being sold at a steep discount at the Complete Strategist in Manhattan when 2e released.

Tunnels & Trolls, You've Come a Long Way...

As I write this there are about 2 hours left in the Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls Kickstarter. It's blown away it's $26k goal and is past $122,700 at the moment.

Simply amazing.

It's nice to see all of the T&T love.

I expect to see a lot of T&T gaming popping up this summer on G+. I need to get my own off the ground, and with a vacation next week that I had forgotten about, I would probably do well to get that first session set up for some time next week ;)

What's in a Name? - The Difference Between a Monster and an NPC

Yesterday I wrote up a unique monster for my campaign, a Gargoyle named Slate. The name isn't original, but precious little is these days.

It didn't occur to me until today that I had basically turned the monster into an NPC.

Really, what is an NPC? It's a monster interesting enough for the players to interact with prior to or instead of killing it. Because lets be honest, most groups in fantasy RPGs are thinking about the body count ;)

If the highwaymen don't have names, they're monsters. If they have names and motivations they are NPCs.

A gargoyle is a monster, unless it's named Slate and can converse in the common tongue, at which point it becomes an NPC.

Now, if the NPC becomes a DMPC we have a whole 'nother problem ;)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Letting Magic Items Fall Where They May - or - Sometimes the Cool Sh!t Just Never Gets Found

I enjoy making up cool and unique magic items that have both good and bad attributes. Most of the time, the good outweighs the bad, which makes for a nice, non-generic item for the player that finds it.

When I decided to use Rappan Athuk, I knew I wanted to swap in some of my creations. My party has done a decent job of missing a handful. They almost missed the last one they found. I had to reread to them a "player's note" they had stumbled across 2 weeks earlier real time, but maybe a day game time.

See, I've been running games via G+ Hangouts and (the soon to be no more) Tabletop Forge. It was a pretty decent combination, except that you had to redraw the map with each session and there is no way to give players an actual "handout". What should have been a fair clue was forgotten over the intervening weeks. So, the other week I reminded them of their "handout". They were able to overcome (and then release and run from, foolish party) their adversary, but not before one of the party's thieves found an item I had placed weeks prior.

Strangely enough, it was the one section of the second level that they had bypassed when moving on to the third, before backtracking.

I have no problem letting my creations "rot away" unfound. It's the nature of fate. If they weren't hard to find in the first place, they wouldn't be as memorable ;)

I expect forgotten player's handouts will not be an issue in the future. Last weekend, before the announced merge of TTF into Roll20, I'd already decided to give Roll20 a shot. In part, it was for the mapping with a decent Fog of War, but it was also for the Player's Handouts feature. I expect I'll be giving both features a decent workout in the coming weeks.

The LotFP 2013 Free RPG Day Adventure Kickstarter is Live

James Raggi is attempting to Kickstart funding for a Free RPG Day product. You are NOT getting the Free RPG Day release by funding this Kickstart, you are instead getting PDF and possibly print copies of new LotFP adventures (depending on your pledge level), and the funding of this project will find a PDF release (@ $2,500) or a Print & PDF release (@ $15,000).

The funding period is only 16 days, so it's going to be interesting to see how this plays out.

I'm not even going to try to explain the different funding levels and their rewards as I'd lose my sanity check. You'll need to read them for yourself ;)

Butt Kicking For Goodness! Slip Sliding Away...

The projects that were long in the tooth? Generally speaking, little progress is being made in many of them.

Far West - 2 Backers Portraits were completed over the course of the last 4 updates. 4 chapters of the book still aren't completed, which means layout isn't done and incidental art is still needed. 13 months past estimated delivery date.

Dwimmermount - currently dead in the water. Backers were encouraged to put their own stamp on the current pre-release PDF of Dwimmermount and exchange such with other backers in the Dwimmermount Community. Each week that goes by without hearing directly from James makes it less likely that this project will actually get completed in my opinion. Silence certainly is not golden.

King for a Day - The PDF was finally released yesterday. At 5 months late, that's almost on time for an RPG Kickstarter.

Myth & Magic Player's Guide - PDF was released but the Hardcover, which was due back in August, still has no indication when it will be released.

Quantum Roleplaying Game - The "beta" is now being rewritten fairly extensively for the "final" version. This project was due in April of 2012. Last fall's Kickstarter add-on for this project (which thankfully never funded) would have been due this month. Imagine how long we would have had to wait for both of these projects if it hand funded.

Appendix N Adventure Toolkits - from the Feb 2 update: "Third - shipping your modules. I have tested out trying to ship just one or two of these modules at a time (which was my original plan back when I thought only 100-150 people at most would support this kickstarter). I have discovered that unless I put $1.50 worth of packaging around each module, the chances of them getting bent or damaged during shipment are pretty good. I do have tons of nice shipping boxes already on hand, so I have decided to ship as many of these modules to you at once as possible. I hate to put off shipping until the first of March, but I would rather have folks fuss about a delay than see hundreds of images of damaged modules emailed to me or posted online. " (just a reminder, these products were supposed to start shipping in July 2012)

Spears of the Dawn RPG - dead tree copies are expected to ship this week - a month EARLY. WTF? You mean it CAN be done?

Slate, Gargoyle Wanderer and Guide of The Gut

Artwork by Bruno Balixa

Slate, Gargoyle Wanderer and Guide of The Gut

While it is true gargoyles by nature are some of the most vile, evil things about, there are always the exceptions that prove the rule. Such is "Slate". It's not that Slate isn't evil, but his own morbid curiosity tend to keep his evil nature in check.

Slate has found himself an unlikely occupation - guide to wandering adventurers in The Gut, the underground highway that connects different parts of Rappan Athuk. It wasn't always such for him, but he doesn't recall much of his early days after his creation. Blood and violence are the only images he has retained of those times.

He does not recall eating the young ranger named Eramus nearly 100 years ago, but the event changed him. Slate become self aware and found he had desires beyond killing. He desired to wander, to explore and strangely enough, to be around people. It didn't hurt that he understood the common tongue  and with some effort could even speak it.

Slate knows most of the factions operating in The Gut and can help parties negotiate safe passage in many cases. All he asks in return is to be allowed to observe the violence when negotiations fail or are impossible. Oh, and be allowed to eat the slain from either side.

When Slate talks, the words tend to be said slowly and enunciated clearly and distinctly.  If at all possibly, he keeps his sentences short and to the point.

(I think I'm going to go through many of the standard D&D monsters and write up some "unique" variants on the some ole' same ole'. Should be fun ;)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Brave Halfling Online Store Will Shortly Be No More - Brave Halfling to Move to POD

John Adams posted on his blog Confessions of an RPG Publisher  on Friday that he's shutting down the Brave Halfling Online store at the end of February.

John goes into his reasons and they all make a lot of sense. I think an unspoken reason is the huge delay in getting Delving Deeper out on time as well as the delay in the print rewards from the Appendix N Kickstarter. He's gotten flak for it, and it's deserved.

When you sell in PDF and Print on Demand, your products are actually on hand, not a preorder. The fact that someone else gets to mail out your orders with POD must be huge too, as I've found just mailing out prizes from the blog is a PITA when you need to work out the horrors of the US Postal System after a full week of work.

I am tempted to get extra boxes. At 10 bucks a pop Otus and Mullen boxes, they are a decent deal and they do look great.

If D&D Sessions Had NFL Commentators in Their Dungeons

"I believe the coaches and the players are going to deal with it best they can." said by a stupid commentator from the field of the Superdome regarding the current power outage.

Wait, is the other option that the coaches and the players are going to deal with it as poorly as possible?

I can only imagine what would happen if RPG sessions had commentators on the field of battle:

"Yes, the players have taken a setback with the TPK, but I suspect they will be back with a vengeance."

"The goblins say that they are willing to parley and it's always an option in their playbook."

"The party's thief expects there will be traps but he's trained hard for such an eventuality and is ready for whatever is thrown at him."

"I spoke with the ogres in room 13 and their keeping themselves mentally prepared for their encounter with the PC party by exchanging mind twisters. They're still working on '2 plus 2'."

"The DM states that he always plays fair and never fudges a roll. Back when I was a DM I can't say I never fudged a die roll, but I always played fair."

God, I really hate the fucking talking heads, especially when they have nothing worthwhile to talk about.

Super Bloodbowl Sunday - Organized Sports in Your Fantasy Worlds

I have the first edition of Games Workshop's Bloodbowl. I'm not sure we ever played a game to completion, as the rules were suitably confusing in the way of most Games Workshop's first editions were back in the 80's. Still the concept was awesome in so many ways.

I always wanted to find a way to integrate a Bloodbowl like game into a D&D campaign, even if it was just winging it with combat rolls, but I never found a way to work it into an active campaign. I think I feared that the players would regard it as, well, if not silly, certainly far out of the realm of normality.

I no longer think it's a silly idea. I think it's a damn awesome idea. All I need to do is work out a one-sheet of rules / regulations and then find a way to throw my party smack dab in the middle of it.

Anyone ever work a Bloodbowl type game into their fantasy campaigns? If so, how did it play out?

Inclement Weather in Your Games - Hand Wave or a Heavy Hand?

As I sit on the now winterized front porch at my parents' place in the Pocono Mountains, looking at maybe 2 inches of new snow on the ground, it's making me think. A couple of inches of snow is no big deal here on the east coast (the west coast is a whole 'nother ball of wax).

I pretty much ignore seasons and weather in my games unless they are there to set the mood. I haven't snowed a party in with a 4' snow storm since my high school / early college years (damn you Dragon Magazine of old!)

The thing is, you don't need 4' of snow to make folks miserable in a fantasy setting. Half a foot is going to make travel a real pain in the ass. Flooding and muddy paths and roadways after the snowfall is probably even worse.

Then there is the Weather Control spell. Just think of the advantages a village / town / city could have if it controlled it's own weather. Walk out of a snow storm in a brisk spring day with birds chirping and the sun melting the snow right off your cloak.

On that note, I should step out into the 15 degree weather and clear the snow from the patio and my car. I do want to be home in time for the Super Bowl.

So, hand wave or heavy hand for your weather?

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