Saturday, July 6, 2013

Some Thoughts on The Tavern's Next DCC RPG Contest

I planned on announcing the next DCC RPG Contest / Giveaway tomorrow, but I need to see what I have to give away in print (from both the generosity of 3rd party publishers and some extra copies of Barve Halfling's Appendix N adventures I got during the Kickstarter) and see if I can get  some PDF copies to go along with the above. I was otherwise occupied on my vacation and failed  to do necessary "reaching out" ;)

Now, here's the theme of the contest I'm thinking off. I'm going to ask participants to put together their own "Adventure Path" using currently released adventures from Goodman Games and 3rd party publishers.

No need to buy anything or even read the DCC RPG rules (but you can read the DCC RPG Beta for flavor if needed). Read the hooks / blurbs / summaries on RPGNow of the adventures (I'll supply links to all that I know of) and string 4 or more together in a "metaplot". You can mix and match publishers if you like. Make it fun.

I'll pick 2 or 3 entrants to get print copies and I'll hopefully have some PDFs to go out to some random entrants.

This is NOT the contest announcement - that may take a few days yet. Consider this a head start to brainstorm for those that like such ;)

Reaper Bones in Hand - Holy Shit!

No pics yet, as I just came back from a few days in the Poconos and found my huge Reaper box when I returned this evening.

I was ready to bitch and complain that they left out the paints I ordered, but the 4 plain brown boxes held my 24 paints - sweet!

If I find the time I'll unpack everything and take some pics tomorrow. First step is to find some superglue so I can put together the gigantic minis that came with this. My wife already declared that I have enough minis to paint to last me for years and years, if not a lifetime. She is so right ;)

In the meantime - I have my 32 oz beer mug filled with Sam Adams Summer Ale - it's damn hot here in NYC!

Thoughts on a "Non-Zero Level Funnel" in DCC (and other Fantasy RPGs too)

One of the great things about the Zero Level Funnel adventures in the DCC RPG is that the act of winnowing down a players prospective PCs seems to invest the player in the survivors. It's something that at first glance I outright said I'd never run and in the end I think it is pure genius.

Last summer I ran Sailors on the Starless Sea as an ACKS adventure to weed out the losers of what were prospective PC henchmen. It worked exceedingly well.

In a game like DCC, with it's potentially high body count in each adventure, it got me thinking that a well written funnel for higher level PCs could be just as useful. Sure, it would play differently as the players would already have class abilities, but I think the idea is still valid.

Any thoughts on how one could make this work? ;)

Mini Review - A Gathering of the Marked (DCC RPG Adventure Funnel)

A Gathering of the Marked is Purple Sorcerer's latest release in it's line of DCC RPG adventures. If you aren't familiar with Purple Sorcerer's stuff, it's always high end with great production values and a little bit of whimsy to juxtapose the usual DCC RPG darkness.

This time around, +Jon Marr gives us a DCC 0 level funnel with ALL the trappings. I do mean ALL of the trappings. Paper minis (pages and pages), pregen characters, player visuals (perfect for use in Roll20 and other online VTTs) - lots of value for your gaming dollar.

What about the adventure itself? Like most of the Purple Sorcerer stuff, you're looking at at least 2 sessions of gameplay if not 3. My favorite scene is near the beginning - ask my players if I can spend a good part of the session talking like a pirate - then ask them if I even should ;)

As I said above, there is a share of dark and brooding, but the whimsical balances it out so well, it makes for a unique feel amongst the various DCC release lines.

There are some very unique magic items available for the players to discover. They are not overly powerful on the whole and add some excitement for the players when acquired.

How lethal is it? You can expect the party to get whittled down constantly, perhaps to the point they won't even realize their total loses. There are opportunities to replace lost party members and keep the funnel moving, but it is lethal.. It looks to be a lot of fun to run - or play in. Well done!

From the blurb:

Rich and poor, bond and free: every few months an unsuspecting few awake to find a ragged circle of midnight black scrawled on their foreheads; a dark summoning whispering on the edge of their consciousness. All who live in the shadow of the Great City know to ignore the call of the mark is to invite madness and a lingering and horrific death, so each will find his way to the sending stones, and the unspeakable peril that waits beyond.

Designed for 0-level adventurers, A Gathering of the Marked challenges a band of strangers to endure the mad games of a power who's motivations are as mysterious as its identity. Can the summoned survive to wrest control of their lives once more? Will they turn on those they struggle with, or band together to defeat a common enemy? Will they finally come face to face with the twisted power that has called them, and uncover its dark secrets? All will be revealed in A Gathering of the Marked!

Features of A Gathering of the Mark

-Horrifying fun compatible with the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG from Goodman Games (easily convertible to your favorite 'old school' system... and by easy, we mean easy easy!)
-Explore the cursed village of Haven's Fall, battling shambling horrors, freakishly nimble puppets, cow-devouring tentacles and more!
-Uncover the secrets of the Cult of Athax: foul minions of a Shadow Wizard with dark designs on not only the world, but you in particular!
-Packed with adventuring possibilities: twice the length of Perils of the Sunken City, with full color artwork throughout all 24 adventure pages + 24 additional appendix pages.
-Nearly 100 paper miniatures included for those who want to see the action unfold. (13 Free battlemaps available on the Purple Sorcerer Games website.)
-Virtually every image is included in easily printable format in the appendix making creating handouts a breeze!
-New: Comes with two streamlined tablet versions for both large and small tablets and mobile devices.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Mini Review - The Treacherous Cobtraps (DCC Adventure)

The Treacherous Cobtraps is a level 2 Appendix N Series DCC RPG adventure. The PDF version comes with both a DCC RPG stated adventure and a systemeless adventure for easy plugging into any other fantasy RPG.

So, what do you get for your $2.95?

A short adventure with nice atmosphere, but unless your party is a small one,  numbers alone will easily win the day. This is something you pull out when half the group can't make the session, because it will probably play out way too quickly and with little actual danger to the party with a full group.

It introduces two new magic items, one of which has further adventure potential.

The map is gorgeous. If there is one thing Brave Halfling is making a name for itself with is the maps accompanying the Appendix N series - they rival Goodman Games offerings at times, and that is a high target to match.

From the blurb:

The folk of the borderland shun the great strands of tamarack trees that lie at the southern edge of the stagnant marsh. Some tell of scuttling sounds and far-off cries that suddenly go silent. Others speak of ghostly-green, shifitng lights that bob and weave amongst the choked, tangled evergreens. Two nights ago in the halfling thorp of Brandy Hollow, a young shepherd boy and several sheep went missing. Leaders from Brandy Hollow approach the characters in desperation and offer them 100 gold coins each in exchange for cleasing the Taramack Weald of whatever evil must dwell therein.

Looking at the DCC RPG Review List - What's Been Covered, What Needs to Get Posted (with links even)

Lets see, what have we reviewed thus far during DCC RPG Week at The Tavern?

DCC # 69 - The Emerald Enchanter

DCC # 73 - Emirikol Was Framed!  - done!

DCC # 75 - The Sea Queen Escapes

DCC Free RPG Day 2012

A Gathering of the Marked (Purple Sorcerer) - done!

Tomb of Curses (Dragon Hoard) - done!

The Witch of Wydfield (Brave Halfling) - done!

The Treacherous Cobtraps (Brave Halfling) done!

and added these:

DCC # 76 - Colossus, Arise! - done!

The Falcate Idol - done!

The Black Goat - done!

Pulp Weird Encounters Issue #1 - Tomb of The Squonk & The Silent Army - done!

At least 5 reviews left with 2 1/2 days left of vacation. It might not be doable, but we'll come close to closing out this list ;)

Mini Review - Colossus, Arise! (DCC RPG Adventure)

Colossus, Arise! is an 8th level adventure for the DCC RPG. Let that sink in for a bit. 8th level. That's the approximate equivalent of 16th level in other OSR / OGL RPGs. And yes, it can easily bring your campaign to a crashing end, but at this point your campaign is at it's natural end or close to it - and oh my what an end it would be.

How dangerous is Colossus, Arise!? Here's how +Harley Stroh puts it:

I hope all of the PCs have henchmen, because the body count will be exceptionally high.

Actually, in the likely event that Colossus, Arise! causes the timely death of the PCs in your campaign, you probably ended things on such an epic level your players will be eager for next week's funnel. If you're going to kill the party, do it on a level where their failure destroys the world with them. In the unlikely even your players succeed, their triumph will be that much greater.

Who doesn't want to come face to face with a 300' undead titan? Alright, pretty much everybody - but if you can defeat it and save the world? Woot!

This is a bit of a thinking player's type of adventure, because when you think about it, the usual method of sword and spell is probably not the most effective manner to take down a 300' tall undead titan. I like  adventures that make you think. No worries, still plenty of other stuff to kill or be killed by.

Lots of handouts included in this one. Make copies and hand them out as souvenirs to the players that lose their PCs ;)

So, how long would it take to get the average group to level 8 playing DCC RPG once a month?

From the blurb:

Giants stalk the shifting sands as the lost city of Stylos awakens from its deathless slumber. The Fourth Age of Man is at hand! All that stands between the gigantic hordes of Stylos and their conquest of the world is your band of adventurers. Sinister traps, implacable foes, and the crushing tread of the dread Colossus all lurk within these pages, eager to test the courage and cunning of even the most accomplished adventurers.

LotFP's Better Than Any Man (Free RPG Day 2013) Available in PDF for PWYW

LotFP's amazing release for Free RPG Day 2013 Better Than Any Man is now available on RPGNow for the price of "Pay What You Want."

If you didn't get a copy of the print version last month, you owe it to yourself to get the PDF.

From the Blurb:

Better Than Any Man was LotFP's Free RPG Day 2013 release, and is presented here as a Pay What You Want item. If you want to pay $0.00 for it, no problem.

However, the layout for this PDF edition has been redone from scratch (the print version was 96 pages + cover) to take advantage of the electronic format. If you think this adds value (or if you think the adventure is just that cool to begin with), please do consider coming back and purchasing this PDF for as many dollars as you think it's worth.

Half of all income from PDF sales here go straight to the graphic designer who did all this work. The other half goes to the publisher/adventure author to invest in future releases.

A strong financial showing from this PDF will send the message that PDFs of this nature make a difference to you.

War is Hell

The Swedes are invading!
Sorcerers have taken Karlstadt with the aid of unearthly creatures!
In Würzburg, the Prince-Bishop schemes to retain control of his domain.

… and yet darker forces gather…

Thousands - perhaps tens of thousands - will die before the week is out. Can a group of luckless adventurers change the course of the events? Profit along the way? But what can they possibly do against those who consider themselves Better Than Any Man?

Better Than Any Man is a deluxe LotFP: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing adventure for character levels 1–4. Dungeoneering, wilderness adventuring, investigation, politics and negotiation, many new spells, magic items, and monsters—this one has it all!

LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing is the traditional horrific adventure RPG out of Finland that holds nothing back. It is part of the Old School Renaissance family of games, which makes this adventure broadly compatible with dozens of other old school systems.

If you can endure Better Than Any Man, look for other LotFP adventures and supplements right here on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow!

What is Considered "Successful" as a 3rd Party / Indie Publisher in the RPG Industry?

Is it "lucrative side income"? How much do you need to earn for the amount to be considered "lucrative"? Does it move you from the "beer money" category to "wine"?

If you AREN'T in for the money and just want to get you product "out there" the process is simple enough. RPGNow is like a low cost alternative to a "vanity press".

If you are in it for the money, no matter how small, it's lots of work over lots of time with lots of unexpected hurdles.

There is one piece of invaluable advice that I can't dispute that Johnn Four (who I quote above) mentions in his advertisement:

- Write 20 minutes each day.

If you want to be a writer of any sort, you need to actually write, even when you don't feel motivated. You need a routine. And you need to follow it for weeks, months, years.

I'd consider this blog successful, but that's taken place over 4 years. It wasn't very good at first. Hell, it was probably pretty shitty. Now, it's much less shitty I hope ;)

Success writing / publishing RPGs is probably not going to happen overnight.

Anyhow, I'm rambling.

As a consumer, which 3rd party / indie publishers do you consider the most successful? As a 3rd party / indie publishers, what are your goal posts for success? How long did it take you to go from "start" to what you consider to be "successful"?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Mini Review - The Falcate Idol (DCC RPG "Campaign Element")

The Falcate Idol, otherwise known as CE-1, was released a few hours after CE-2. So, its the first by number but second by actual release in the series.

In the case of The Falcate Idol, it is more of a short adventure than a simple location. It has built in tweakness for the ref, and is suitable for 2-8 2nd level characters or even 1-2 3rd level characters. It just depends on the time of the month the party finds the temple in question. Well, and which parts of the party you want to screw with ;)

It can almost be placed anywhere, so flexibility is awesome both for location and type of party (numbers and levels) it's aplicable for. This in of of itself adds nice value to the piece, and Daniel sets it all up well. The extra leads at the end can keep parts of the "campaign element" in play for a long time.

Actually, there is an element to this adventure that may literally dog the characters for months to come, which can be a nice way to set some continuity between sessions.

What I'd like to know is when +Daniel Bishop is going to reveal the world all of his adventures and other setting pieces are inspired from. I'll even accept some hints and teases on the blogside Daniel ;)

From the blurb:

The Cult of the Harrower is ancient, and each of the eight eyes of its spider-idol is rumored to be a moonstone gem the size of a pigeon's egg.  Moreover, somewhere within the cult's sanctuary, a pool flows from the Egg of Creation.  Will your Thief seek to make a legendary score?  Will your Wizard pursue the shards of the Egg?  Will your Cleric join the cult?  Or will your Warrior fight his way through the web-covered passages to rescue them if they fail?  Any or all of these scenarios are possible!

Oh My F'n God - They Are Now Offering a BS Course on Getting Published in the RPG Hobby - Limited Time Sale!

Don't you hate those sites that offer super secret info on weight loss, body building, conquering women through with your mind alone, etc?

Limited time deal! Must act now! Price will be increasing to your first born child in 13 minutes! If you miss out on this your testicles will shrivel up and fall off your body!

Well, we now have such an offering to get us published in the RPG hobby. As one of the hints is to set up your own RPGNow publisher account, I dont see why you even need to purchase the course.

Below are some screenshots for the website in question:

Wait? 500 fucking bucks is the regular price? Can one of the smaller 3rd party publishers pipe in with the average length of time before a start up RPG publisher makes that back in profit?

$147 is the reboot price as of July 8 - Hell, even $77 is too much for this.

Here's the link if you want to read it in total.

I'm sorry, but I have way better ways to spend my $77, and your should too...

Mini Review - The Black Goat (DCC RPG "Campaign Element")

DCC RPG Week continues here at The Tavern. The latest release for the DCC RPG game is The Black Goat. It bills itself as a "campaign element" for the DCC RPG and it took me a little bit to wrap my head around the concept, but when I did, it's pretty damn good.

The Black Goat is not an adventure itself, it more of a location and an encounter that has the potential to seed other adventures. This and releases like it help turn episodic play towards the sandbox. (I say "releases like it", as this is the second in the series but the first to release on RPGNow). There is more game play potential in The Black Goat them most of the shorter DCC RPG adventures and it requires more roleplay than brawn to be successful, which is a nice twist.

New patrol, new patron spell, decent map of the location and lots of further gaming potential. If a player gets bedded by The Black Goat, more power to them. ;)

There is no level range indicated and I don't think one is needed. The Black Goat is there to set up further adventuring for the PCs, and that's easy enough for the ref to tweak to his party's needs.

Well done +Daniel Bishop

From the blurb:

Not all mountain passes are lonely.

Come meet the Mahmat Troth and the One they adore.  Only in the high pass will you discover what the Black Goat truly is.

The Campaign Elements series is designed to help judges create persistent campaign worlds, as well as deal with patron quests, divine requests, and the sudden need to “Quest For It”.  Whether it is because you are short on players one evening, or the wizard needs to locate a new spell, the Campaign Elements series has you covered.

Each of these areas is short enough to be played through by most groups in only a single session.  That doesn't mean that the value of the area is limited to a single session – each adventure includes notes on “squeezing it dry”…effectively getting the maximum re-use from your investment.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Mini Review - Tomb of Curses (DCC Adventure for Levels 6 to 8)

Time to review The Tomb of Curses (for levels 6-8 with 4 to 10 PCs) during DCC RPG week at The Tavern.

Where to start? Maybe with the beginning:
The party finds itself at the end of a particularly difficult adventure, having delved deep into the Brekshire Mines in search of the fabled Everglass of Uth’Pentar...
BTW, you are not quite at the end. You still need to fight the boss creature from the end of the last adventure that your party went on but you never ran because it doesn't exist except for the middle of the final encounter.

I'm sorry, but this is a horrid start for an adventure with ongoing characters no matter how loose some campaigns of DCC are run. Why not give us the previous encounter in whole, or even a (extremely) short adventure? Heck, why is it that except for Purple Sorcerer's additions to DCC adventuring, there really aren't DCC adventures that link to each other. Question for a later post.

That being said, if this were a tournament, convention or one-shot type adventure with pre-gens, starting out at the end of the party's previous adventure is totally acceptable. As far as I can tell, the Tomb of Curses isn't meant as a one-shot (it may lead to a TPK, but that's not an issue in DCC).

So, right from the start you probably need to do some major rewriting of the hook. Which is a shame, as the rest of the adventure isn't bad. I suspect few if any of the PCs will actually make it to the end, but isn't that what the DCC RPG is all about? ;)

One of the reviewers on RPGNow compared Tomb of Curses to the classic Tomb of Horrors, and I can understand why. It isn't just the "save or die" type of traps and the like, it's the "no save, you die" situations that will come up. I don't see 4-6 characters making it very far in this Tomb unless they bring lots of disposable henchmen to be their "mine canaries" to find the "no save, you die" traps instead the the PCs. (cover says 4-6 PCs, referee notes say 6-10)

Run as a one-shot or as a "high-end funnel" of sorts, perhaps to whittle down some prospective replacement PCs in an ongoing campaign to a more manageable number Tomb of Curses could be lots of fun. Hmm, everyone gets 3 6th level PCs and the survivors go to the "replacement PC stable" could work. Yeah, Tomb of Curses really does feel like a high level funnel without the requisite number of PCs to make it work. Making it a funnel also does away with the "starting in the middle of the previous adventure's last encounter" issue.

The art is awesome. I'm a big fan of +Scott Ackerman (who donated this blog's header) and +David Fisher. Well done gents.

With some tweaking of the opening scene, The Tomb of Curses makes for an enjoyable (if extremely lethal) DCC meat grinder. I think I've fallen in deep like of using it as a higher level funnel for replacement PCs. I may need to test the concept down the line.

Is it worth the 3 bucks in PDF? Yes. Even if you only use it for inspiration as to how to best kill of the PCs in your campaign, as there are some imaginative ways ;)

From the Blurb:

Hell hath no fury like an ex-wife scorned, and Uth'Pentar has eight of them.

For some, even death cannot trump the need for revenge. Prey to a vicious curse, the party must walk a careful path through an other-dimensional tomb to win their freedom. Can they survive the centuries-long, multiverse-spanning vendetta of Uth'Pentar's wives long enough to escape?

Mini Review - The Witch of Wydfield (0 Level DCC RPG Adventure)

Brave Halfling has released four Appendix N mini adventures for the DCC RPG at this point. The Witch of Wydfield is the fourth in the series and the third I've reviewed.

First things first. The map is simply gorgeous. Suitable for framing for sure. Probably useless for actually running the adventure (and it can truly been run mapless) as it is a bit confusing but great eye candy.  Looking forward to the print version almost for the map alone.

As a funnel it's probably too short to work with more than 8 or 9 zero level peasants. If you have have a large gaming group, the default number of PCs in the usual funnel are going to overwhelm this adventure.

Is it potentially fairly lethal? Of course - it's a DCC funnel ;) That being said, the most effective strategy is for the players to pretty much swarm everything - it's missing the thinking and puzzle solving of sorts that the Goodman and Purple Sorcerer funnels generally include.

It's a decent hook to get the PCs involved, and that's always good, especially for a funnel.

There is also a generic version of the adventure included, so you should be able to run it with the fantasy RPG of your choice should you so choose. It's a nice bit of added value.

It does put too much magic in the hands of the PCs for a 0-level funnel in my opinion, but that is easy enough to remove.

From the blurb:

The product includes:

Bookmarked Digest PDF
Bookmarked Text PDF for Tablets and E-Readers
System-Neutral Template
You are abruptly awakened by the frantic sounding of the chapel bell. As you gather with the other villagers in the village square, you are told that the light of morning has revealed that Sister Thara has been murdered and the young maiden Dela, is missing. The only clue to this terrible mystery are three letters written in blood beside Thara’s body; "Y U L."

Thara was the town’s protector and healer. Now she is gone. Who will protect Wydfield now? Who will right this wrong? No man, woman or child will sleep again in Wydfield until this evil is dealt with and defeated. If there was ever a time when Wydfield needed new heroes, now is the time! Who will go?

Is the Default Campaign Type for the DCC RPG "Episodic"?

Back during my early days of gaming, we didn't worry much about the "where and why" that got our party to the adventure location - the adventure itself was the thing.

No sandbox, no plot hooks, no threads leading from one adventure to the next. Most times, not even a bar scene. Usually, you were told your motivation with your destination around the corner and went at it.

DCC RPG adventures seem to expect a similar style of play to my eyes - cut to the chase and hop right into the action.

How does it play out in your DCC campaigns?

How different is it from the expectations you have of other OSR styled campaigns?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tenkar's Tavern is Strangely Popular in Germany These Days

No idea why. It's been like that the last few days.

Was it something I said? Damn shame my German isn't better ;)

The Kickstarters Are Landing! The Kickstarters are Landing!

On Saturday, Boss Monster: the Dungeon-Building Card Game landed on my doorstep.

Then yesterday, Drinking Quest Volumes 1, 2 and 3 were in my mailbox.

Today, my copies Dungeon Heroes arrived. Copies. Three of the core game, two of the expansion. Somehow I have one extra core copy I didn't expect. May need to do something with that.

My Reaper Kickstarter package is due via UPS sometime today.

They are landing and life is good ;)

D&D Rules Cyclopedia For Sale on DnDClassics Webstore For 10 Bucks

The classic D&D Rules Cyclopedia went on sale this morning on the DnDClassics webstore (aka OneBookShelf). For many, this book has been price out of range on Ebay and the like. It's $9.99 in PDF.

I don't know what quality the scan is, but from what I've seen so far of the WotC PDF releases, they've been pretty good.

From the blurb:

Whether you're a player or a Dungeon Master, the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia is now the comprehensive sourcebook you need for the original fantasy roleplaying game! For ages 12 and up, the Cyclopedia contains the compete game system and hundreds of features, including the following:

-All the rules from the D&D boxed set series, including Basic, Expert, Companion, and Masters
-Guidelines to develop and play characters from levels 1-36
-Comprehensive lists of weaponry and equipment
-Expansion rules including optional skills and talents
-An overview of the Known World and the HOLLOW WORLD game setting, the official D&D campaign world; and Rules to convert D&D games and characters into AD&D 2nd edition game statistics and back again
-Fully compatible with the new DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Boxed Set, this volume allows players the full scope of fantasy role-playing from gungeons to the Outer Planes. Now, more than ever, the DUNGEON & DRAGONS game is ready and waiting for you.


Product History

The Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia (1991), compiled and developed by Aaron Allston was the triumphant finale to the BECMI edition of D&D (1983-85). It was published in November 1991.

The End of Basic D&D. By 1991, Basic D&D was TSR's longest running roleplaying line. TSR traced the history of the game back to the release of the original D&D (1974). Even if you don't count that, the first game labeled as Basic D&D - the J. Eric Holmes Basic Set (July 1977) - appeared five months prior to the release of AD&D's Monster Manual (December 1977). It had since undergone two major revisions: the Tom Moldvay D&D Basic Set (1981), which was part of the B/X release, and which kicked off Basic D&D in its modern form; and the the Frank Mentzer D&D Basic Rules Set (1983), which was the first book in the BECMI revision.

Basic D&D had sold incredibly well at first, back in the late 70s and early 80s. Thanks in large part to the extensive publicity that D&D received from the James Egbert affair, new players were flocking to try out the game, and most of them went to TSR's introductory game - Basic D&D. That interest was in large part what led to the creation of the B/X and BECMI editions of the game, each of which expanded Basic D&D to allow for even more long-term play.

Unfortunately for Basic D&D, the pendulum began to swing toward AD&D as time went on. By the mid-80s, when popular books like Unearthed Arcana (1985) and Oriental Adventures (1985) were released, AD&D was clearly in ascendency, and Basic D&D was increasingly becoming the unwelcome relative who'd overstayed its welcome. The B-series ("Basic") adventures largely ended in 1985. The rest of the BECMI coded adventures finished up in 1987; other than the production of two final introductory adventures, B11: "King's Festival" (1989) and B12: "Queen's Harvest" (1989) a few years later. The "GAZ" line of Known World setting books then stumbled to a halt in 1991, with just one book published in each of the last years.

Although there were some new efforts like the "DDA" adventures (1990-91) and the Hollow World Setting (1990-92), it was clear that Basic D&D's flame was quickly fading.

A Black Box and a Hardcover Book. TSR tried to revive Basic D&D one last time in 1991 with a pair of new rules releases. The first was The New Easy to Master Dungeons & Dragons Game (1991), called alternatively the "Black Box edition," the "fifth edition," and "ten-seventy" (its product code, 1070) internally at TSR. It was a boxed D&D set that TSR described as "the first truly introductory version" of the game (as they had with every other "Basic" version of the game). The Black Box used cards to teach the game, something that had been advocated by Lorraine Williams based on the SRA reading programs (1957).

The Black Box is reported to have sold quickly and well. Approximately a half-million copies were purchased worldwide. It was also supplemented by a set of adventures that were almost boardgame-like with their colorful dungeon maps and figures. Unfortunately, the Black Box had one problem, the same problem that D&D "Basic" sets always had: it was limited in level, though it actually went up to 5th level, a bit higher than Basic's 3rd-level standard.

This limitation dovetailed nicely into TSR's other major plan for Basic D&D in 1991. Though the BECMI set of Basic D&D rules had always been well received, everyone thought it was quite troublesome to go through seven booklets totaling 368 pages when trying to track down a specific spell or magic item. Thus TSR decided to compile all of the rules into one hardcover book. The Rules Cyclopedia was the result - and it also offered somewhere for the Black Box players to go when they finished with fifth level.

Ironically, this was reportedly the exact same setup that Gygax had planned for the J. Eric Holmes Basic Set and also for AD&D, way back in 1977.

The Compilation. The Rules Cyclopedia is a compilation of the D&D Basic Rules Set (1983), the D&D Expert Rules Set (1983), the D&D Companion Rules (1984), and the D&D Master Rules (1985). It contains not only the rules from those boxed sets, but also the monsters, making the Cyclopedia one of two great sources for Basic D&D monsters, the other being the Creature Catalog (1986, 1993). Approximately 150 pages of rules on characters and magic from the "GAZ" Gazetteers (1987-91) are also included, making the Cyclopedia a truly massive compilation of about a decade's worth of Basic D&D rules.

The Immortals Rules (1986) are notably not included in the Cyclopedia, although it does contain seven pages from the Master Rules that include basic information for immortals, including rules on PCs ascending to those lofty ranks.

Rules on jousting in tournaments and on artifacts were also left out of the Cyclopedia.

Not an Introductory Book! Unlike every other iteration of Basic D&D, this one was not intended to be an introductory roleplaying book. It was instead a reference for Basic D&D play, which matched TSR's thinking about the AD&D 2e rules.

Expanding the Known World. The Cyclopedia doesn't expand the Known World in any notable way, but it does include a rather impressive atlas, featuring 16 full color maps, including the maps from the Gazetteers and the world maps from the Master Rules and the Hollow World Campaign Set (1990).

Future History. The Black Box rules and the Rules Cyclopedia got some joint support in the form of the "Thunder Rift" series of low-level adventures (1992-93). The Rules Cyclopedia also was supplemented with a few boxed releases, the most notable of which was Wrath of the Immortals (1992), a new set of immortals rules.

However, after the Black Box was revised one more time as The Classic Dungeons & Dragons Game (1994), all support for the line ended. After 22 years (or 19 if you prefer), Basic D&D was finally dead.

About the Creators. Though lots of people worked on the Rules Cyclopedia, the two most notable creators are Frank Mentzer, who wrote all the original boxes, and Aaron Allston, who led the Cyclopedia project. Mentzer had left TSR for New Infinities back in 1986, which was likely why he wasn't directly involved in this project. Allston didn't work for TSR at all, but instead had been a freelance RPG writer since 1983. Though he only tended to write one or two books for TSR each year, by the early 90s he was writing the biggest releases for Basic D&D, including the Hollow World Campaign Setting, the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, and Wrath of the Immortals.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Lulu Code For 25% Off July 3 - 5 ONLY

enjoy :)

Announcing the Winners of the Signed Tunnels & Trolls Goodies Contest

We had lots of entries to this contest. Damn good entries too. I added two prizes to the pool to bring the total to thee and that still isn't enough to cover all those that made +Jason Paul McCartan  and myself laugh and smile. Ah well, better luck next time for the others.

Entrants were asked to simply tell us why YOU deserve it. Be entertaining. Make it fun, as that is certainly what T&T is.

The winners are as follows:

For the signed reprint of the Tunnels & Trolls 1st Edition rules complete with typo on the cover:
+Grandpa Chet 
Why do I deserve the reprint of TnT 01? The reasons are myriad, and you already know that myriad a little lamb. Therefore, I shall number them? 
1. I shall use the material to compare and contrast all editions of TnT, Monsters Monsters, Stormbringer, and any other St Andre rolegames which use compatible mechanics. Sadly, this rules out Starfaring, but may include the Powers superheroes game. 
2. With this knowledge, I shall declare myself the Official Tunnels 'n' Trolls Historian. As such, I shall prepare an Official History and an Archive so this information will be available to fiture generations. 
3. I'll finally get that poor cover girl out of the lake and get her some clothes. After 37 years, she must be a human prune! 
4. I shall create new solos using this set of rules and no other. 
5. I shall drive my grandkids crazy running games with this. 
6. Most of all, because I shall eat pie when doing all the above.
For the signed deluxe Tunnels & Trolls 2013 Preview / Quickstart:
+Sorcerer Blob 
You know why I deserve this awesome Tunnels & Trolls 1e reprint? Because I've never played the game before. Seriously though, stay with me. 
But I will devour this book. I will use it to infect my friends and my play groups. I will convert them to the dungeon crawling ways of this edition from the pits of the past; or, 1975.  
You see, they won't know what hit them. Thinking they are safe in their typical fantasy dungeon environment, they will be wrong. The Gods of Gygaxian Lore cannot protect them from the great Flying Buffalo. No, they will weep. They will run. And when I am finished with them, much like masochists with severe Stockholm Syndrome, they will be begging for more. They will be hooked. 
Never again will they kill Goblins or Kobolds the same. No. It's not as simple as rolling a d20. Soon they will learn that one must both strength and dexterity, and perhaps a little bit of luck to pull off their acts of derring-do.  
And in my hands I will mold them with this most marvelous of tools. They will discover how to game, circa 1975. They will learn. And when I am done running through adventures within the tunnels that are filled with trolls, they will beg to run it themselves. And then finally I'll be able to run my Faerie Warrior. Finally!
On a less humorous note, I have heard of Tunnels & Trolls but have never checked it out or given it a shot. As I've been expanding my gaming repertoire over the past year or so, I'd love to do so further with a blast from the past that is far from my zone of safety that is D&D. 
For the signed map of Trollworld:
+James Mishler 
Once upon a time I went exploring in Buffalo Castle. Sadly, I was caught early on in a Deathtrap, but I was able to use my mnemonic Equalizer to negate it. I then wandered in a Labyrinth for a while, Naked, and I thought I had met my Doom. But really I only ended up wandering out of Dargon's Dungeon in some sort of Weirdworld, which I felt was Overkill. I then traveled Beyond the Silvered Pane to the City of Terrors to play a game of Sorcerer's Solitaire. Following this, I became a Sword for Hire in the Arena of Khazan, but was able to escape through the Sewers of Oblivion. i then sailed upon the Sea of Mystery to the Blue Frog Tavern in the Mistywood, where I met the Gamesmen of Khazan Beyond the Wall of Tears. Amongst them I fell Captif in d'Yvoire, for a sorceress desired The Amulet of Alkti so she could join the Red Circle of magic. I then took a Caravan to Tiern to visit the Dark Temple When the Cat's Away. That's when I joined the Elven Lords on a Rescue mission and ended up here...
Thanks to all that entered :)

For the three above - email me at tenkarsDOTtavernATgmailDOTcom with your snail mail address so I can get these things out to you. I'm on vacation, so it may not got mailed until early next week.

Free RPG Day 2013 - Cosmic Patrol - The Eiger Agenda (Quick-Start)

I thought this was the same as last years release, but it isn't. So, in theory, you can play at least two adventures in Cosmic Patrol before having to drop cash on the full game. Not a bad deal.

The link to this year's The Eiger Agenda and the link to last year's The Kahn Protocols. Damn covers look the same across the line ;)

Just a Wee Bit of Fiction - "The Contract"

(When +Tim Shorts told me that he and a few others were to putting together an anthology of Appendix N short fiction, I was sold. Right away my mind started churning. Below is the initial results of that churning. Just a simple scene thus far. No rewrites or editing yet - pure simple thoughts. Oh, and i find it difficult to tell stories without elements of humor, dark or otherwise. I'm a much better storyteller than i am a writer - Erik)


The dwarf pulled a stone across his axe blade, then tested the edge with a finger.


Another trip for the stone across the edge.

“Will you stop with the sharpening? It’s the same every night, and except for the rabbit I killed with my sling we haven’t encountered anything in this damn forest!”

Looking up from his axe, the dwarf slowly put the stone to the side. He looked at the young human, face pocked with acne, and reminded himself he was dealing with youth yet unspoiled by things left best unspoken in the world beyond.

“Lad, I’m here for me blade. Val...” he paused to spit as he always did when he called the sorcerer by name, even if he was getting to like the weird coot, “he hired you for your hands and eyes. When we get to the tower midday on the morrow, my blade will keep you alive as your eyes find the traps and your hands do what ever they need to grant us safe passage. This blade needs to be sharper than your eyes if you want to come out again.”

“Yeah, yeah! Whatever! No one told me it would be nearly a week in the wilds, sleeping on bare ground just so I could earn a full share of the treasure. This is not what I signed up for!”

“Actually” said a voice that seemed at first to come from everywhere and nowhere, “you signed a contract. You said you could read. I even had you initial each section.” Val The Sorcerer (because he wore the wardrobe of a sorcerer right down to the funny hat) approached the discussion.

Reaching into his robe he pulled out a handful of parchments, shuffled them a bit and then started reading from one.

“'I, Meagenbrand Osworth the Third, have read the above Guild Contract and agree to the terms stated herein.’ Then you signed it. Damn signature ran right into the paragraph above. So, you did read it, right Meg? You wouldn’t have just signed the silly thing without reading, because the trip, lack of accommodations, responsibility for supplying your own bedroll and rations, it was all there. Tenkar even scratched his X as witness.”

The dwarf grunted in agreement.

Meg kicked at the dirt absently with the toe of his boot.

“Val, it was two pages long. How was I to read all that and decide right then and there?”

Tenkar looked up at the youth. “Lad, you do realize that me and the sorcerer get two shares each to your one, right? ‘Tis in the contract...”

The Ogress of Anubis (Free OSR Adventure)

Here's a free Egyptian themed adventure for character levels 4 to 6 - The Ogress of Anubis.

And you know what? Even if the adventure is hard for you to slip into an ongoing campaign, it includes a series of unkeyed tomb, cave and even a sunken city map.

(Actually, it may fit well with a few tweaks into a DCC RPG campaign)

The price is free, the maps are decent - what are you waiting for?

From the blurb:

An Egyptian-themed Adventure w/ Sandbox Support
for character levels 4-6, to use with 0e/1e/BX and compatible retro-clones

Azeneth believed the life of the high priest (or priestess) should be as comfortable as that of the kings and the gods. She spoke her contempt for her father’s “weakness” loudly and publicly, almost from the time she learned to talk. As she neared her teens, she made it known her plan was to supplant her father and become high priestess of the temple, sometimes claiming it was her place as the incarnation of the goddess Nekhbet.

Many say Azeneth has the power to command serpents, and it was she who sent the asp that killed her father Kemosiri. Regardless, she siezed her position as high priestess of the temple and set about her accumulation of power and wealth.

Recently, children from the villages around the temple have begun to disappear. Rumors abound that Azeneth is sacrificing them and cannibalizing them because she believes this will make her wealthier, more powerful, and more divine. The people of the villages have begun to refer to Azeneth as the “ogress of Anubis”—believing it was Anubis himself that made this woman mad, and commanded her to consume the children she sacrifices.

Someone must end this reign of fear and terror, and try to return the children alive—if it is in the will of the gods.

Includes the following: information for adapting to different OSR rules editions; adventure background; regional overview (small map + info on villages and wandering monsters); information on the temple compound and its vicinity (including wandering monsters); a detailed map of the temple compound; a 4-page detailed encounter key for the temple compound; new monster (animal mummy w/ 7 variants, statted for Oe/BX/1e); "generic" stats for all monsters and NPCs mentioned in the adventure; 12 pre-generated NPCs w/ details; 10 adventure seeds (for continuing adventures in the area); and 8 additional unkeyed maps (7 tombs, 2 caves, 1 sunken city) for use with the adventure seeds.

Pulp Mill Press is Looking For "Appendix N" Styled Short Fiction Submissions

+Tim Shorts from the Gothridge Manor blog and a few others have gotten together to form Pulp Mill Press with the intention of publishing Appendix N flavored anthologies of short stories.

How f'n cool is that?

Here's the official announcement:
As of today, Boric G of the Dwarven Stronghold, Ken Harrison of The Rusty Battle Axe, Sean Robson of Tales from the Flaming Faggot and myself have formed Pulp Mill Press. 
We are announcing that Pulp Mill Press is putting a fiction anthology together, short stories in the tradition of Appendix N, called Libram Mysterum.  
We are looking for short stories with interesting characters and innovative plots.  If you are interested in submitting a story please read the guidelines first.  While all of us are very excited about the project, it is a lot of work, and following the guidelines will help streamline the process.
Hell, Tim gave me the heads up last night and I started a little piece. Not sure if it's the piece I will stick with, but I've got the thoughts sloshing around my head now ;) 

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.

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