Saturday, August 24, 2013

Thoughts on a NYC Area "PubCon"

Yesterday afternoon (and a good chunk of the evening) I hung out with +Joe D and my beautiful wife Rachel. It was her first time ever to the Complete Strategist in Manhattan. She's a trooper ;)

Afterwards, we settled into Rattle N Hum, a truly amazing NYC Pub. Great place for a bite a and few brews after some heavy "game shopping".

Anyhow, to cut to the chase, Joe brought up the idea of a NYC PubCon. We've discussed this before (while at the same pub), so it's certainly something on our minds. I can guarantee you it won't be at Rattle N Hum, as the space is limited and the cost would be more than painful.

We are still in the early stags of brainstorming this. We figure Spring 2014 at the earliest, and probably one of the outer boroughs of NYC to keep the prices down. It would also be more of an informal con I suspect than a "professionally" run one - closer to a "gameday" with adult beverages and good food. Aimed at Old School Gaming, but not limiting itself necassarily to the OSR.

The place I have in mind is blocks from the subway, easily accessible by highway and has a legit (not hourly ;) hotel within walking distance. Not sure how many would need a hotel, as this would probably be one day only at this point, but just throwing it out there.

Just trying to judge the interest in this before working out more details (like how much it may cost us and finalizing a location).

Heck, my wife even said if we move forward with this, I need to teach her how to game so she can join in ;)

We're open for input...

Review - Five Ancient Kingdoms - Men & Mettle (Part 1 of 2)

There are three books and one adventure (and dice if you buy it in print) in the Five Ancient Kingdom set, so I'm going to try and go through the books in order. I doubt I'll be able to cover everything, but I'll do what I can.

Men & Mettle is the first volume of the three rulebooks. The default setting is bases off of the Muslim / Arab / Middle East of 800 AD or so (sorry - I don't use CE)

First things first - a small observation: The organization of the rules is not exactly what I'm used to these days, although it is reminiscent of the "Original Boxed Set". Basic explanation of task resolution, followed by classes, followed by subclasses, followed by stats and character generation rules. I'm used to stats, classes, character gen... So, I needed to adjust to the flow of things.

FAK uses d6s for everything. "1"s are read as "0"s all of the time. There are NO exceptions (at least none that I've found thus far). FAK reads much like an OSR ruleset, but I suspect it plays out very differently while retaining a similar feel.

The core classes are Hero (fighter), Magician, Saint (Shaman for those that don't follow monotheism) and Thief. Pretty much the standard fair. What really ups it a notch are the subclasses. There are eight - two per core class. Each subclass's description takes up about 3 or 4 sentences. That's it. It's really a prefect way to handle it if you ask me. Just enough to make them different - not so much that they seem like a whole new class.

Characters have both an alignment (Law / Neutrality / Chaos) and a Motivation (fortune / glory / power / etc). Calling into play your character's motivation can have a mechanical bonus as well as a story effect. Heck, it's mechanics and a roleplaying nudge all in one, which is surprising when the author refuses to label FAK an RPG in the classic sense. I suspect that is much about splitting hairs myself.

The character stats are the ones we know well: STR, INT, WIS, DEX, CON and CHA. Heck, even the order is classic. High prime reqs give and expo bonus, low scores give an expo penalty. High and low scores give an assortment of bonuses and penalties respectfully.

Stats are rolled using 4d6, drop the lowest counting all "1"s rolled as "0". The player may place the scores in any order they desire.

Hero Points are your Hit Points and are rolled each adventure (1 Hit Die per level, roll adjusted by class, all "1"s are "0").

Social Status is also rolled at character generation (and probably should have come before the description HPs, as Social Status is not determined each session but one time only). 3d6, giving a result of 0 to 18 - escaped slave to nobility. Social Status also determines starting gold - multiply by 10 and add 20 (although the example used later in this section neglects to add 20, so that might have been changed).

Last major thing to determine for starting PCs is their starting "advantage". Anything from extra wealth, failed magician apprentice (with some spell use), combat bonuses, story hooks - all are possible - 36 possibilities in all, it goes a long way to making characters unique and the concept easily translates to other OSR games.

Part 2 of the review will deal with mechanics, combats, saving throws, retainers and the like.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Hunting Down the "Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle" (D&D Next)

Yep. I did it. I picked up the GenCon exclusive "Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle", a D&D Next Mini Campaign over on Ebay for a surprisingly fair price (less than I paid for RQ6 in paperback at retail last year).

I haven't read it yet. Heck, I have barely peeked at it.

It will be reviewed over the next week or so (I need to read Five Ancient Kingdoms first).

I notice they credit Davis A. Trampier as one of the numerous artists. I'll need to make that my "Easter Egg Hunt" as I read through it ;)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dungeons & Dragons the RPG - Alas, I Knew You Well (D&D GenCon 2013 Presentation)

Sadly, adter watching this video I now know what "Dungeons & Dragons" means - recycled fiction, 2 MMORPGS, lego like ugly ass crap with one recognizable character from the Drizzt series of books and it isnt even him, iOS Battlegames, iOS Boardgames, re-released 20+ year old computer games and if you are lucky there might be an RPG - but that's just to drive sales for all of the previously listed money makers.

Yes, I know this shit is a business, but WotC has gotten so corporate it's scary.

They will never sell the D&D trademark, but perhaps, one day, an RPG titled Dungeons & Dragons will live up to it's heritage in the hands of others.

Micro Review - Labyrinth Lord Gnome Class (Free OSR)

Now THAT'S a Nose!

I really can't make Labyrinth Lord Gnome Class a mini review - as the actual product less it's cover is a page long.

So Micro Review it is.

Magic User / Thief hybrid class that get's advanced (+2 level) thief skills and comparable MU spells for the same level. It's a bit over powered at early levels, but screw it, it's free, right?

My one concern is the lack of the OGL in a product that claims LL compatibility. No impact on gameplay, but I do believe that is a violation of the applicable licenses.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Is D&D Next "Close Enough to Emulate" the OSR, and is That Good or Bad?

I REALLY need to catch up on the latest release of the D&D Next rules, but as I'm sure others already are caught up, I pose the following questions to my readers:

- Are the rules close enough to the OSR to emulate OSR / Old School style gaming - or is this just a simplified 3x with some other pieces bolted on?

- Have they figured out the simple / complex - basic / advanced in the same campaign paradox that they were trying to implement? Does it do what it "says on the box"?

- If it can come close to Old School style gaming, is that good for the OSR in general or a sign of the forthcoming gaming apocalypse?

D&D Next Playtest is Coming to a Close - Is It Actually Done?

Got this in my email this morning:
A few days ago, the D&D team announced that the next playtest packet will be the last in the public playtest. That’s why it’s more important than ever that you provide feedback. Today’s survey focuses on content that was updated in the August 2nd playtest packet, such as feats and classes.
So, if the public beta is done, does this mean the rules are ready to be finalized?

My group tapped out of the playtest in late spring of 2012 and I really haven't followed the updates all that much recently.

I know the initial vision of all things for all editions is pretty much out the window, but for those of you that have kept up with the beta, do you think we have a winner or another loss of market share?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mini Review - Gygax Magazine Issue #2

I guess Two is better than One ;)

I wasn't all that impressed with issue #1 of Gygax Magazine, as it was full of a significant amount of "here's my Old School Cred" and very little material that was worth something to "Old School Gamers".

Issue #2 of Gygax Magazine has measurable value for "Old School Gamers". There are other games represented too (including The One Ring, which is tempting me to sit down with the rules and maybe learn them).

So, what old school goodness do we have?

First, the Jeff Easley cover. Well done and very evocative of the classic Dragon Magazine covers from the mid 80's. It sets a nice tone.

Next up is Leomund's Tiny Shelter - Len Lakofka talks about death in AD&D. A bit chart heavy for me these days, but certainly the type of article you would find in a classic issue of The Dragon.

Jon Peterson has an article about what might be the earliest version of the D&D rules. Yep, he's the guy that wrote Playing at the World. The article is a good chance to see if you like his style of writing. It's a very interesting article at that.

Ken St. Andre +Ken St. Andre writes about ordinary characters in fantastic worlds. No game rules, just ideas and thoughts. Systemless.

The Old School Renaissance gets some attention from +Vincent Florio .You know, the guy behind ENnie winning Mazes and Perils. A decent article to point those interested in the OSR in the right direction.

+Jeff Talanian presents an article on adding some Lovecraftian strangeness to run of the mill fantasy. Or even taking it further, and moving on to "strange new lands" inspired by Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith and leaving the stale fantasy behind. Again, systemless but easily used for inspiration with the OSR ruleset of your choice.

The Blighted Lands are a peek at +Luke Gygax 's upcoming campaign supplement. It looks to be AD&D compatible. The dead tree version will even have fold out maps. My one complaint is that the introductory adventure starts out with three paragraphs of text to be read to the players - my group will zone out some where after the third sentence ;)

Did I mention the very nice maps? I'll be eagerly awaiting my print issue to arrive in the mail.

Heck, there's even a page of Order of the Stick :)

Well, there's other stuff too, but I must say the amount of articles aimed at and usable by old school gamers like me is impressive. Issue #2 of Gygax Magazine has leveled up.

Well done.

Contents for issue #2 of Gygax Magazine

Tactics in Samurai Battles by Tim Kask

The evolution from wargaming to role-playing by Ernest Gary Gygax Jr.

Hitchhiking in Doctor Who by Jay Libby

Leomund's Secure Shelter by Len Lakofka

A forgotten grimoire and its curse by Jon Peterson

From one geek to another by Jess Hartley

Building a winning spellbook for Mage Wars by Bryan Pope

Heroes, kings, and champions by Ken St. Andre

The old-school renaissance by Vincent Florio

Weird vibrations by Jeffrey Talanian

The inkubus by Gordon Dritschillo

The hare and the hill giant by Shane Ivey

Special Attraction

The Blighted Lands by Luke Gygax

The Kobold's Cavern

Super-science in fantasy games by Eric Hindley

Dueling through the AGEs by Rodrigo Garcia Carmona

Lost wonders of Caelmarath by Brian Liberge


Full Frontal Nerdity by Aaron Williams

Order of the Stick by Rich Burlew

Why Do You Go to Gaming Conventions?

GenCon is over, but there are other cons left for the year.

So, why do you go to gaming conventions?

Is it to...

   play games?

   shop the vendor room?

   attend seminars?

   meet various gaming friends?

   meet publishers?

   pick up con exclusive releases?

all of the above? some? none? other stuff?

Let us know...


Monday, August 19, 2013

Mini Review - The Twice Robbed Tomb (Labyrinth Lord Adventure)

The Twice Robbed Tomb is a nice little adventure for LL or really any OSR system of your choice. It's not huge and is probably playable in a single session, unless you have to herd an unruly pride of cats like I do every Saturday night, in which case it may take multiple sessions ;)

Ah, to be a teenage boy w/o
the internet again ;)
I always appreciate it when a publisher includes a players' map, as I run my games online using Roll20, and I hate inadvertently revealing secret door and traps to the players before the proper time. Purple Duck is pretty good with including an unkeyed map for use in VTTs, and this time is
no exception.

I'm not so sure about the level spread. A party of 6 2nd characters will probably get their asses handed to them. I'd personally move the range to 3-4, with 5-6 characters, but that's because I'd hope to see most of the party survive. Maybe I'm not "Old School" enough... heh.

I do like the adventure. Just enough surprises to keep it fresh, some "save or die" moments that give the observant players ample warning and just enough to play in a night of gaming. For 2 bucks it's damn close to a steal.

From the blurb:

The long-disappeared loot of Pheniket the Pharaonic’s tomb was indeed a mere distraction, a few baubles hidden from the looting rebels. The opening of the tomb fifty-odd years ago allowed some of Pheniket’s almost completed efforts to come to fruition, and a demonic being known as a succubus has set up in the uncompleted lower level of the tomb, served by a large pack of ghouls attracted by the necromantic powers of a node of negative energy secured by Pheniket in his last days.

To build her power, the succubus, Invexia, has used her powers of temptation to start a campaign of corruption and seduction, using greed to bring gullible adventurers to Pheniket’s tomb. She knows of the other of Pheniket’s creations, a portal to the Plane of Shadow that he used to control his fledgling kingdom. It is this nexus of power that subsequent plunderers unknowingly seek. She solved the entrance requirement- a certain astrologically-shaped golden key- and is now sending charmed catspaws to ‘sell’ maps and keys to greedy adventurers, bringing loot, prospective undead soldiers, or perhaps even playthings and minions to her spider’s web beneath the Twice-Robbed Tomb…

A Labyrinth Lord adventure for 4 characters of 3rd level, or 6 or more of 2nd level.

First Look at "Five Ancient Kingdoms" ("OSR" Ruleset)

What is Five Ancient Kingdoms? Apparently it's NOT an RPG but a Fantasy Adventure Game. Semantics aside, if you like OSR gaming (and are a bit of a completist) this is probably something you should take a look at.

It comes in with 3 booklets, a short adventure and a set of 4d6. These aren't your usual d6, as where one would normally expect to find a "1" you find a "zero" instead. I need to look deeper to find out how that effects the usual number spread.

So, you get your six "OSR" stats, which are generated using 4d6, drop the lowest and re-roll Zeros. You get the usual 4 core classes (even if they are renamed) and a butt-load of subclasses.

You also get "advantages", which is almost like a prior profession / skill acquisition. You get one randomly determined at 1st level.

Hit Points are randomly determined each session. That's damn interesting.

Alright, enough random observations from the first booklet - time to read this a bit more in depth.

Available in print only I believe, but a PDF version would look nice on my iPad ;)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Just a Wee Bit More Fiction - "The Door" (Swords & Sorcery)

Following up on "The Contract" and leading up to "Who Knows What", "The Door" is the next part of my submission to the Librium Mysterium. Heads up to +Tim Shorts , +Ken Harrison and the rest ;)

The dwarf ran his hands along the surface of the tower door. It was made of stone, but his fingers could feel light etchings along the surface.

“Val” the dwarf paused to spit before proceeding, “as you suspected, this door was made by the hands of my kin. If we open it in the wrong manner I suspect it will lead to death.”

The sorcerer acknowledged the dwarf’s observations by summoning their recently hired “apprentice treasure finder”.

“Meg, have you estimated the height of the tower yet? ‘Cause even if you haven’t, we need your skills here” as Val gestured at the dwarven made door.

The young man scurried down off of his nearby perch, where he had been scanning the tower for additional ways of egress. He failed to find any.

“Why do they call this the Tower of the Purple Sorcerer? It’s not purple, it’s grey.” Ever the observant was Meg.

“It isn’t the color of the tower, but the title of the one that built it. Powerful sorcerers rarely use their birth names and colors often have other meanings. In this case, the sorcerer in question was insinuating that he was of high noble birth, perhaps royalty or the bastard son of such. After nearly 400 years, I assume he is dead. Hopefully his treasure remains. Which is why you are here. Tenkar says the door is of dwarven make, possibly trapped. Time to earn your share lad.” Val gestured towards the door in question.

“Aye lad, I suspect it is trapped. We’ll look for prying eyes as you do your work.” Both the dwarf and the sorcerer made their way to the nearby outcropping that Meg had previously used.

The young man focused himself on the stone door. Running his hands along it’s surface, he felt the nearly invisible etchings Tenkar had found before him. This was no simple lock to pick - there was no visible lock. Instead, he ran his hands along the stone surface surrounding the door.


One. Two. Three barely perceptible raised stone buttons, invisible to the eye but found by well trained hands.

One of these will open the door, Meg thought to himself. The others are probably trapped. Which one? Dwarven door - dwarves are short - the bottom button.

As Meg pressed the bottom stone button a soft “click” was heard from above before the stone door swung down and outward on a pivot approximately 1 foot off of the ground. Meg threw himself to the side, the heel of his right boot ripped off by the falling stone slab.

“Lad, didn’t they teach you to open dwarven doors from the side?” Tenkar asked of the now dirt covered and one boot heel short Meg. “Keep getting lucky like that and you may actually earn that share” the dwarf said with a grin.

“Val” Tenkar let loose a globule of spittle inches from the still prone Meg, “can you shed some light for us before we go in. Place is as dark as a tomb. Which is a good sign, I might add.”

My Family / Friends Went to Gen Con, and All i Got Was a Lousy...

Some of you went to Gen Con this year. Hope you had a blast.

Most of us didnt get to attend.

For those that did, what items did you pick up for friends and family.

For those that didn't get to attend, what exclusives do you wish you had a chance to get.

For me, it was Gaming in the 'Verse for the new Firefly game, but I can grab that for 10 bucks in PDF on RPGNow if I decide I really want it.

The DnD Next exclusive would have been nice, but as I have less desire to even catch up on reading about the updates (let alone download the actual updates and no desire to play) that's a loss that I can easily suffer through ;)

DCC Session Recap - Doom of the Savaged Judge

Last night was our DCC RPG session and our second session since the funnel that kicked things off.

Warning - minor spoilers follow for Doom of the Savage Kings.

The party was in search of the village of Hirot, and were almost there when they saw a large group emerge from the mists - 3 dozen peasants in a mob with a tied and gagged young woman at the front and the town leader and his guards bringing up the rear.

Hail and well met? No...

Halt! What is going on? No...

Instead, fizzled Charm spell at the obvious leader of the armed men, followed by the Wizard stating he's casting Sleep while the Elf states he's casting Choking Cloud on the soldiers.

Wizards rolls a natural 20. Elf rolls... a natural 20. Halfling offers to boost the sleep spell to "all hostile targets in 200'"

Now I need to have the Wizard and Elf roll initiative against each other. Wizard's sleep comes off first. Choking Cloud on the Jarl and his men follows.

32 peasants plus the ties and gagged on - asleep.

Jarl rolls nat 20 against sleep and nat 19 against the Choking Cloud - his men and their horses are not so lucky.

Jarl runs and gets chased down and killed.

Party takes no damage - not even an attack in their direction.

We end the session (which was over 2 hrs of blabbing before we kicked things off anyhow).

I have until next Saturday to figure out the new direction of the adventure.

The Doom of the Savage Kings savaged me, but it was a f'n blast to watch it play out ;)
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