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Friday, January 31, 2014

A Look at LotFP Free RPG Day 2014 Indiegogo Campaign


I was all set NOT to back the LotFP Free RPG 2014 campaign, as I'm still waiting on LotFP's Summer Folly of 2012 to ship. +James Raggi 's stuff is always high quality in production values, even if some of his recent releases are so far from the beaten path as to be unusable for all but one-shots in my opinion. I'm sure James would argue otherwise (and has argued otherwise in the past).

James is also slow as shit rolling uphill in getting his projects out the door. This I know he won't argue (as he pretty much stated it himself on the Indiegogo page):
LotFP is kinda slow on these crowdfunding things, and that's a fair cop, so here's the skinny: 
The Doom-Cave adventure is already completely written and has been played once. Needs editing and layout, and will get another play and might need some minor text revisions before final editing. The cover art shown above is obviously done. Interior art and the alternate cover are still to be done. The dungeon map for publication is already done and delivered. Worst-case scenario is a cut-rate layout going to press, but last year's 3-times-as-big adventure didn't have writing done until mid-March and still got to press on time with the quality art and layout for Free RPG Day. 
Shirts and tote bags, as mentioned, will go to press just after the campaign finishes and I learn what sizes we need for everything and ship separate from any books. The design is, as you can see, already done. Previous crowdfunding knickknacks like shirts have shipped ahead of other perks on those campaigns. Track record here is good I think. 
Chandler's stuff is more of a crapshoot because I don't have the direct control over his life and pen. But Chandler has been a MACHINE - his 2013 RPG output (nevermind his day job and fiction writing) was 1017 pages and 291,000 words, with Pandemonio, Viewscream, The Starship from Hell, Teratic Tome, Slaughtergrid, Roll XX, and Bad Myrmidon to his credit. He'll get his stuff done in a timelier manner than anything LotFP does on its own. Dude's workrate puts LotFP to shame. Bastard. But we're glad he's helping us out for our fundraiser here! I mention his track record because he is reliable and works fast. Lacerations' status is "90% of the art is done, and most of the text is written by hand, or in my playtest-notebook." If the Lacerations game is late, it'll be late. Not much I can say to that, that's a Chandler self-produced thing. If the Lost World sandbox he's doing for this campaign is late (and it is in the outline stage, it is not yet written), I will ship the Doom-Cave backer copies on July 1 anyway and ship the Lost World adventures separately when they're done. If Chandler drops dead or gets hired by someone that wants FULLTIMEALLTHETIME for too-big money to say no, I'll get someone else on it, another established writer with a rep for getting things out in a timely manner.
Here's why I am going to back this, and it has little to do with The Doom-Cave of the Crystal Headed Children (which very well may be useable - at least the premise sounds useable) and little to nothing to do with totes and shirts and everything to do with +Rafael Chandler 's contributions to this project.

Rafael has a taste for the strange and bizarre yet his stuff is still pretty much plug and play when it comes to integrating it to the average fantasy campaign. Rafael "gets it". He also "gets" the OSR community.

So yeah, I'm in. Just need to figure out that euro conversion shit ;)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Counting Goblins Over the Editions - A Look at James Wyatt's Latest D&D Article

Let me start out by saying that James missed a HUGE part of AD&D expo in his article - loot. Expo for loot recovered is more than what players can expect in by the book AD&D, which kind of throws off his numbers - and hit point.

Read the article without my insightful observations at the WotC website.

Level Advancement

By James Wyatt

I talked last week about the rate at which characters acquire magic items as they gain levels. So let's back up and talk about the rate at which characters gain levels! (lets back up even more - in AD&D 1e, characters gained expo from gaining magic items)

How Many Goblins . . .

I'm curious: How many goblins does a 1st-level fighter have to defeat to reach 2nd level?

In 1st and 2nd Edition AD&D, a goblin was worth around 15 XP. A fighter needed 2,000 XP to reach 2nd level. That's a lot of goblins—134 goblins would make the fighter 2nd level if you assume the fighter killed them all alone. (and completely discounting any loot that might have been recovered from said Goblins - the math is wrong right out of the gate)

In 3rd Edition D&D, a goblin was a CR ⅓ monster, so 3 of them were an appropriate challenge for four 1st-level characters. That means a 1st-level fighter would get 100 XP for defeating 1 goblin. All characters needed 1,000 XP to reach 2nd level, so 10 goblins would bring the fighter up a level. (alright, even taking into account loot in 1e, this really does show a change in the dynamics of leveling)

In 4th Edition, that goblin might be a level 1 minion or a level 1 lurker or skirmisher. If they're minions, each is worth 25 XP, so the fighter (who needed 1,000 XP to reach 2nd level) would need to defeat 40 goblins. If they're not minions, each is worth 100 XP, so the answer is the same as in 3rd Edition: 10 goblins to reach 2nd level. (is there really that much of a difference between 1st level minions and non-minions in 4e? they all die with one hit more or less)

That's a pretty random measure, but it certainly speaks to different expectations of level advancement in the different editions of the game, as well as some variable understandings of the threat presented by a single goblin.

How Many Encounters . . .

It's hard to judge what the pace of level advancement actually looked like in AD&D, for a couple of reasons. First, different characters advanced at different rates—the fighter needed 2,000 XP to reach 2nd level, but the thief needed only 1,250 XP and the magic-user needed 2,500. (it all balanced out as time went on) Second, there weren't any clear guidelines for what an appropriate encounter was. But a roll on the random monster tables for a 1st-level dungeon would yield an encounter worth, on average, about 90 XP. For a party of four characters, that's 23 XP each. So 87 of those encounters would bring the fighter to 2nd level! Any treasure found in those encounters would also contribute XP to that total, so the actual number of encounters could have been much less—possibly more like 40. (and don't forget treasure found outside of those encounters - and who rolled random encounters for ALL of the rooms in a 1e dungeon?)

Oy. I've said it before: I think one of the great advances brought to the game by 3rd Edition was a clear guideline for how to build an encounter to challenge a party. (I'm going to say it and I'm SURE there will be a large number that disagree, but that led to 3e's cookie cutter encounters for those that bothered with CL) And that guideline undergirded the math of character advancement. The charts were built so that a character would advance a level after 13⅓encounters of the same level. 4th Edition stayed on the same trajectory, but adjusted the expectation to about ten encounters—or eight encounters, one major quest, and one minor quest per character in the party. (I'm not much on formalistic adventure design - YMMV) 

How Many Sessions . . .

There's psychology behind the question of level advancement. Games reward you for playing: An opponent lands Park Place where you have a hotel, and you collect a fat wad of cash. You play a 7-letter word on a triple word score and write down 180 points on the score sheet while gloating over your opponents. You beat your previous high score, end up on a leaderboard, or earn an achievement. You get a power-up, finish a level, or send your opponent flying off the screen. (these are games where you are playing against others, not with others. No so sure how the examples hold up)

The rewards in D&D include experience points (earned after every encounter), treasure (earned after some encounters), new class features (earned each level), and new feats, spell levels, ability score increases, and the like (earned at some new levels). You might earn treasure or XP as a reward for completing an adventure. Many DMs award XP after every game session rather than every encounter. 4th Edition gave action points at every milestone (every two encounters). (too many carrots - holy shit)

But you see what I'm getting at: rewards of different magnitude come at different intervals. That's good—our brains respond well to both small, frequent rewards and large, infrequent rewards, and a good game design offers both. Without frequent small rewards, players begin to feel like their efforts aren't paying off. They're doing a lot of work with nothing to show for it. Without occasional large rewards, encounters feel like pushing a button to get a morsel of food—a repetitive grind with no meaningful variation. (gotta love the imagery - if pushing a button to get a morsels of food is what game design comes down to these days, I'm glad I play games built on older rules systems)

So the trick to figuring out level advancement is figuring out how often players need that very significant reward. (here's the real trick - in a good campaign with a skilled DM and players looking to have fun, the fun is the carrot more than any other trick) A number of factors go into answering that question: How long does it take to get used to playing your character at a new level? How long do you want to play the character at that level once you're used to it? How big is the reward of going up a level? How do you ensure that players have a feeling of progress without feeling like they're getting rewarded for nothing? (overthinking... or maybe not. sometimes we don't want to know how the wizard behind the curtain does what he does, we just want the end results. when magic can be broken down by science, it is no longer magic. A good campaign is magical)

In 3rd Edition, 14 encounters would get you up a level, but how long did it take to complete those encounters? Of course, that depends: How long are your sessions and how often do you play? If you play four-hour sessions, how much do you get done in one session?

The 4th Edition DMG reveals some of the expectations that went into building the XP math for that game (an edition over done with the math behind the game to the point the magic was lost):

If you were to start a campaign with 1st-level characters on January 1st, play faithfully for four or five hours every week, and finish four encounters every session, your characters would enter the paragon tier during or after your session on June 24th, reach epic levels in December, and hit 30th level the next summer. Most campaigns don't move at this pace, however; you'll probably find that the natural rhythms of your campaign produce a slower rate of advancement that's easier to sustain.

At four encounters every weekly session, characters would reach a new level every other week, and we thought that felt about right. We also adjusted the scale so that you'd hit 2nd level pretty quickly—the first hit is free, so to speak. (nice! just like the crack dealers in the mid to late 90's in the South Bronx that I used to collar up. As if I didn't have enough reasons to dislike 4e already)

Where We're Heading

Our current design is going in a similar direction: advancing pretty quickly at low levels. It's a little tricky to nail it down, because our expectation of what an appropriate encounter is has changed somewhat. We expect every adventure to include a mix of easy, moderate, challenging, and really hard encounters (I so detest formulas). That said, a 1st-level character should hit 2nd level after about 6 moderately difficult encounters. (I'm not sure yet, but that might be 15 goblins' worth of XP.)

Compared to the previous two editions, an encounter can go much more quickly, so (again, depending on the length of your sessions) it's not unreasonable to think that you'll hit 2nd level after a single session. Another session might bring you to 3rd level, two more to 4th, and three more to 5th level. You might hit 20th level within a year of play, assuming a relatively steady rate of play. (i'm not going to say this is excessive or now, as I tend to enhance the expo the longer the time is between sessions - the more infrequent the sessions, the large the invisible expo bonus. Again, I don't like the formula, but that is my opinion. I have a successful blog, so my opinion must count more ;)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Cutting Back on Backing Kickstarters

I knew it was going to come to this at some point. As much as I'm a Kickstarter addict, something had to give, and it just did. I was already easing up on the pedal what with the new car purchase in December, but with recent emergency vet bills, helping our son buy his first (used) car and restarting of renovations at the house, cash is going to be tight. Besides, I have enough pending Kickstarters to fuel my gaming habits for a lifetime - at least, that's what my wife recently told me, and she certainly isnt wrong.

So, I'm limiting myself to Old School / OSR styled projects. So, Barrowmaze Complete is in - Ares Magazine is out. I'm looking over a draft copy of a forthcoming OSR Kickstarter, so that will probably be in, while Storyscape will probably be out (actually, probably won't fund).

Ah well, less new projects to piss me off ;)

As an aside, if any know of reputable breeders of Miniature Dachshunds in the NYC Metro Area, let me know. My wife has a broken heart with the passing of our dauchshund Chloe, and I'm looking to help mend it :)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Thoughts on Why Old School Is So Good

I've mentioned in the past that I'm open to posting articles from guest authors. The following article was written by +David Przybyla , one of the regular players in my Saturday Night Swords & Wizardry game.

Thoughts on Why Old School Is So Good

By Dave Przybyla

For many years I have been part of a regular Thursday evening roleplaying game. The group’s current
incarnation has been together about 3 years and has mostly played Savage Worlds. Then last summer I convinced them to try DCC. We played almost twenty sessions of DCC over the next five months. While I enjoyed DCC, I wanted something with less volatility of results. I decided to really go Old School and suggested we try an old TSR adventure with the Swords and Wizardry rules. Most of the group had never played RPGs during the 80's heyday of TSR; some weren't even alive in the 80’s.

I chose Swords and Wizardry for a number of reasons. First, I am familiar with it. Second, it is a well done set of rules that I can distribute in PDF for free. Third, the rulebook is not long, and prospective players can quickly learn what they need to know.

I pored over my collection of old TSR modules and picked N1: Against the Cult of the Reptile God. The premise is simple. A naga is expanding her cult by charming the people of an isolated farming village and the characters arrive to defeat her.

The module describes a number of adventure areas, including the Village of Orlane, a temple, and the swamp lair of the naga. There is some information on how the villagers, cultists and innocent alike, might react to the characters, but little guidance on how the characters should proceed. That was the first thing that struck me about the module and set it apart from most adventures I have purchased over the past 20 years. Even though there was a goal, the situation was set up more like a sandbox where the characters were expected to find their own way.

The players bought into this and enjoyed meeting the villagers and trying to figure out what was going on. But then they ran into the second Old School feature: there are no Challenge Ratings! Even though the adventure is designed for Levels 2-4, that does not mean the characters can go head-to-head with everything and expect to win. This was driven home in the first session, when they picked a fight with the constable and his deputies, and then promptly had their asses kicked. A dead PC is a tonic that cures so many ills.

This led us to a third Old School feature: characters can’t fall back on skills or other rules that will hand them information via game mechanics. They had to plan, conserve their resources, and carefully seek allies. Half of the second game session was spent planning how to get one of the constable’s men alone and ambush him. And the plan worked! It was like watching a light turn on as I saw the players find an amazing new way to enjoy the game. At that moment, I knew they were sold. They saw their efforts bear spectacular fruit and were excited as Hell.

Here is a corollary of planning: the players stretched their minds and what they conceived as possible within the game. They did not look for rules to bail them out. Sometimes, defining more possibilities through more rules actually creates a noose that strangles creativity.

As of this writing, we've played 5 sessions and I expect 2 more before we're through. TSR packed a lot of adventure into those 32 pages. The players love it and expect to take these characters through other adventures. These don’t have to be old adventures. But they will be Old School.

Monday, January 27, 2014

So Much Time, So Little Time


I'm sitting here at my computer, anxiously waiting for and dreading the phone call from the vet. I'm pretty sure what the call is going to suggest. 12 years is a lifetime for many dogs, and it will probably be a lifetime for our Chloe.

And then my mind wanders. It's starts comparing the lifetime of a D&D Elf to that of a Human or any of the shorter lived fantasy races and it occurs to me that the elves long lifespan is both a gift and a curse. Live the lifespan that is many times that of your fiends - and watch them grow old, sick and die - many times, many generations.

Then I ask myself - "why would elves EVER adventure with and form bonds with the shorter lived races, knowing that even in the best of circumstances their friends and comrades, if they were to reach old age and not perish while adventuring, would die while the elf were still young. As would the heirs of those adventurers, and their heirs' heirs."

I'm reminded that the heart chooses as it will, and it chooses our short lived companions because of the bonds we share. The value is not in the length of the life, but how it is ultimately lived.

Our Chloe has lived well, loved well and been loved.

Time waits for no man. Nor dog nor cat. It catches our furry friends more often than it catches us, but in the end, it catches us all.

And still we wait for the call. Anxious and dreading, both in turn.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Lifetime Ban on ENWorld for Blogging? Say it ain't so, Joe!



I am in a mood most foul right now, and the bullshit I've just seen regarding ENWorld and it's defensive pettiness is just fuel to the fire.

+Joe D goes on a rant about ENWorld on his blog and he gets banned from ENWorld. He didn't post it on ENWorld. Heck, it was on his own blog.

So, lets talk about my history with ENWorld. I used to be a paid supporter, even though I never actually played 3e and certainly never played 4e. I thought the community was decent.

Things changed.

I got into a pissing match with Morrus over Twitter when ENWorld got hacked. It was over the relevance of G+ over Facebook in regards to RPG Communities. In the end, we agreed to ignore each other.

I was amazed when Kickstarter violated it's own rules and allowed ENWord to fund it's revamping. I guess the Kickstarter folks were fans, and we all know rules don't apply to those that write them.

I was surprised when I saw a corner of ENWorld being put aside for the OSR.

I was confused when Morrus referred to ENWorld as "his blog". It is not a blog. It is a ad funded site run for profit. I've already pointed out some of the ads in the rotation over there are selling anything but gaming. Not that I mind tits and ass, but not when I'm reading a gaming site.

Now, I'm just pissed.

I'm pissed because there is nothing that +Joe D said that wasn't true. ENWorld's relevancy in the OSR is about on par with the influence +James Raggi is going to have with the art direction in D&D Next.

I do know ENWorld has to toe the WotC company line. It's how they get press releases early and the like. You don't bite the hand that feeds you. It also means that you are less likely to let bad publicity hurt the hand that feeds you. So I suspect +Joe D 's ban was to prevent some anti-WotC / D&D Next post popping up on ENWorld before one of the moderators could shut it down.

Preemptive Strike if you will.

So, here's my deal. Anyone that gets a lifetime ban from ENWorld for "off site posting" can submit guest posts over here at The Tavern. I will vet the posts - I'm not going to allow personal attacks. That being said, I don't need to agree with the poster. As folks that read this blog regularly know, my moderation of the comments section is about as light as it can be.

I might not have the traffic of ENWorld, but your post won't be lost in ENWorld's endless forums either.

Nothing personal. I just don't like bullshit.

40 Years of D&D - What Rules Did You Misinterpret?


My first (A)D&D session was run by my friend Kenny. He ran my fighter through a dungeon with skeletons and other stuff (which I don't recall, but the skeletons made me think of Jason and the Argonauts famous Skeleton Fight). At the end of the session, he had to call a friend to see if I leveled. You see, Kenny only owned the DMG ;)

This was back in late 1980. That summer, I received the Player's Handbook and the Dungeon Master's Guide (as well as a nice set of dice, perhaps Koplow). I dived right into my job as a DM and declared I didn't need a Monster Manual, as all the monster stats were in the back of the DMG anyhow.

I didn't quite understand the notation of 4+1 for HPs (such as an Ogre). Why write it as 4+1 when 5 would be so much simpler. I didn't realize my mistake (Hit Dice vs Hit Points)until I found other kids that were playing AD&D. It suddenly made sense why all my dragons were pushovers. I still picked up the Fiend Folio before I had a copy of the Monster Manual.

Never really understood weapon speed in AD&D, nor did anyone in any of the groups I played in - it was one of the first rules we ignore, but there were others. Adjustments vs armor by weapon type? Too much to look up. Casting of spells and counting segments lasted maybe the better part of a year, but when the group size went from 3-4 players to 8-12, it was just one less thing to track if it was ignored.

Then came Unearthed Arcana, and I was forced to house rule on the spot when new rules conflicted with old. The good old days ;)

So, what rules (if any) did you misinterpret when you started playing D&D?


Where Are the Sales Hyping the 40th Anniversary of D&D?

Where are the sales hyping the 40th anniversary of D&D?

I don't see anything over at RPGNow.

Paizo seems to be silent.

Heck, even the WotC site seems to be quiet about it.

Is it just the OSR, thanks to +Jon Peterson 's research, that recognizes this weekend, more or less, as the birthdate of D&D?

The only sale I have seen linking itself this event is Pelgrane Press' sale on the 13th Age PDF:
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of The RPG That Started It All, we’re offering 40% off 13th Age—a love letter to the classic game from two of its lead designers. 
13th Age is the game Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet run at their own tables: a fast, fun, accessible fantasy RPG that combines the best of the d20-rolling legacy with new indie-game inspired story mechanics. From its flexible skill system to the greatest combat dice mechanic since critical hits, this PDF contains everything you need to play one of 2014’s must-have titles. 
Save 40% on the 13th Age core rules PDF! But this special price is for one day only!
That "one day" is today.

Any other sales folks can point at?


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Damn You Tim Shorts!!!

If you've been following along this week, you know it's been a week of hellish proportions. With today's funeral behind us (and a long nap afterwards - well, after lunch at the local pub) I figured I'd be ready for some gaming posts.

Then i read +Tim Shorts post over at Gothridge Manor and his box of loot from Troll and Toad.

I'm neck deep in buying more shit that I don't need thanks to you Tim! I had to make a conscious effort to not pick up the Challenge Magazine issues. I'm still going thru the list of clearance - I'm only up to "E" so far.

I need to order this stuff before my wife looks over my shoulder and asks me "WTF are you doing!?!"

Good thing I get home from work before she does - I'll just unpack the box when it arrives before she comes home - and hide the loot!

(edit: some Dragons starting at issue 79 for 49 cents! I have them already, but for others, damn but it's a good price!)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Saying Goodbye to a Fine Detective


Not a gaming post. Life (and death) is what happens in the time between the gaming. Today I said some farewells to a fine detective that I had the pleasure to supervise for too short a time. Rest well Ozzie, you fought the good fight and now is the time to be at peace.

Tomorrow morning we bury her. In service death, so missing man flyover, bagpipes and full honor guard. I've been to way to many of these funerals in my 17+ years, but it's the first time where it's someone that has worked for me.

My first was my training sergeant when i was just six months out of the academy.

Ah well, back to normal posting tomorrow afternoon.

"New Game Day" on 2/2 - Or Should it be a Full Week of New Gaming?


The guys over at Gnome Stew have decided to make a go at creating a new "gaming holiday" of sorts - New Game Day, which is to be on 2/2 this year and every year hence.
What is New Game Day? 
New Game Day is a free annual event for tabletop gamers worldwide — a day to celebrate tabletop roleplaying games (RPGs) and board games by playing something you’ve never played before. It’s easy to remember, too: “New on 2/2.” 
We hope that on 2/2 every year you’ll take some time to play one or more new games, support the folks who design and sell those games, and share your love of games with others.
Now, I can pretty much guarantee I won't be running a new game, or any other game, on 2/2 this year, as I'll be watching "The Big Game" that shall not be named. I will, however, have a weekend full of gaming between 1/31 and 2/1.

That being said, I'm going to make an addendum and declare the week of 2/2 through 2/8 "New Game Week" and will try to get something hooked up later in the week. I'd love to run a session of Hollow Earth Expedition - just need to dig out the rules from wherever I packed them away and reread them. If I'm able to get this going, I'll announce it in the usual places before hand.

I just need to get out of this week first ;)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

I Finally Own a Copy of the "Ready Ref Sheets"


Until my eBay copy arrived today, I never owned a copy of the Ready Ref Sheets from Judges Guild. An amazing confession, I know ;)

Not the easiest to read for my aging eyes, but it's a damn near mint condition copy and I'm very happy with it. Along with the D30 books, I should have the tools to fill some amazing sandboxes.

I'll need to do a post or two mixing the tables from the three books, but probably not until I put this week from hell behind me.

Oh, that's Chloe, our dachshund. Last night at 11 PM we thought she was on her way out, but she instead was having a slight OD from the fenal barbital she was just started on for Monday Night's severe seizures. Vet visit earlier this evening as a follow up to the emergency vet hospital stay has her a-okay, all things considered. She's now on lifetime meds for her heart and the seizures. Our little trooper. And yes, she shares the bed at night with our cat Ashley. :)

Tyranny of Dragons - The NEXT D&D Storyline (multiple platforms)



From USA Today (today;)
For the first time in six years, gaming fans will roll the dice with a new set of rules for the iconic role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. 
Publisher Wizards of the Coast will launch this with the fresh story Tyranny of Dragons this summer, the latest chapter of the role-playing game first launched 40 years ago. 
The next chapter for Dungeons & Dragons will spread across multiple modern platforms, including a new tabletop adventure, and similar experiences for console video game systems and mobile devices. 
"This is a huge year for us," says Nathan Stewart, brand director for D&D at games publisher Wizards of the Coast. "At the heart of Dungeons and Dragons, it's adventure." 
Tyranny of Dragons pits players against throngs of dragons, led by their five-headed queen Tiamat. Players will get to battle Tiamat -- who has appeared in D&D lore as a key villain since the mid-'70s -- for the first time in an official D&D adventure...
You can read the rest of the article here and you can read more at the WotC site here.

I'll leave my thoughts on this for a later post ;)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hey! There's an Ad Banner at The Tavern! The F'er Has Gone Commercial! (Nope)

Here's the deal.

Commercializing The Tavern is a bad idea. Lack of control over ads is my main hang up. Well, that and my own integrity.

However, The Tavern does decent traffic and could help projects that I believe in and want to support.

So, how about free banner ads for the projects I want to support? Win / Win / Win if you ask me.

I get to show some love for projects / products / whatever I like.

Creators get some extra eyes on their stuff.

The readers get to look at something new and hopefully exciting.

The first such banner is for the Barrowmaze Complete project over on Indiegogo. +Greg Gillespie has been kind enough to keep me in the Barrowmaze loop right from the beginning (or damn near so) and I offered him the first banner when he mentioned his latest project to me. Greg will have his banner up until the end of February. It's good to be the first ;)

After that, I'll be opening it up to all on a weekly basis. Accepted banners will be displayed in weekly intervals. Whether or not I accept your banner is totally subjective on my part, although if we have communicated in the past, you are an active commenter on the blog or you are part of the "inner circle" (trust me when I say folks in the "inner circle" should know they are in the circle) you have a better than average chance to get on the list. If your product is available in PDF and you want to donate a copy to be given away to a random Tavern Patron, so much the better.

I'll keep this experiment running at least until July.

Use the contact form on the right side if you are interested. I'll post this again as February comes to a close.

Whisper & Venom - Dungeon Module WV1 - (OSR Adventure)


When +Zach Glazar announce to those of us he was doing a limited release of an adventure for his Whisper & Venom Boxed Set, I jumped at the chance to snag a copy. Just like a classic TSR adventure, the map is printed on the inside of the cover (which is NOT stapled / attached to the module proper).

Looks very cool at quick glance. I'll try to give it a closer look when things calm down on this end. Our doggie just came home from a stay at the emergency vet (seizures are now mixed in with her congestive heart failure). She's an angel and has been through the ringer, so I forgive the bed wetting shortly after she got home ;)

Mix the pet adventures in with all the other events going on, and 2014 HAS to get better...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Final "Fight On!" # 14 for Sale on Lulu


Fight On! is a snapshot of the OSR. Grab any issue and is just bleeds Old School and passions about gaming.

Issue #14 will be the last one unless things have changed (Edit: an Issue # 15 is apparently planned)

I look forward to reading the latest and the greatest of the Fight On! releases.

Print - $9.99    PDF - $4.99

Followup Thoughts on Last Week's Interview - My Thoughts on Blogging

There are people that consider Tenkar's Tavern a popular blog - and for the corner of the RPG hobby that is the OSR, it is. I'm pretty happy with how things have worked out and I'm happy to share the secrets of its success.

The first secret is - there are no secrets.

Really.

If you read this blog on a regular basis, you know it is probably popular because of the passion I have for the subject matter. I love RPGs and I fucking love the OSR. If you enjoy writing your blog's content, there is a good chance your readers will enjoy it too. If posting is "work", that will be obvious to your readers too. Blog about something you have passion for and you've already passed the first and largest hurdle.

Engage your readers. Engage other bloggers on their blogs. If you enjoy reading forums, engage the readers there. Engage, engage, engage.

Establish a posting frequency. I'd suggest at least once a week, but whatever it is, try to stick to it. Multiple times a week is even better. I'm not suggesting multiple times a day like I tend to do, because the trick to that isn't just "blogging in the moments between", it also requires a certain type of controlled ADD and perpetual multitasking. I blame it on the chemo from a few years back - I used to read a book a week on average, now I'm maybe a book a year. I am still a voracious reader, but now I look for it in smaller pieces.

Be yourself. That may not be the person you are in everyday life or it may be, but it needs to be a true aspect of you. Nothing is worse than a blogger putting on a false show. It's hard to maintain and sooner or later, the facade will fail.

Do NOT expect to get rich off of blogging, especially in a niche the size of the OSR, or RPGs in general. Heck, don't expect to make any money doing it - this way, if you do make some nickels and dimes, you'll be thrilled as opposed to disappointed.

My personal observations have shown me that Adsense and Amazon are just not worth the hassle for the minimal income they will generate. I have found that referral sales from OBS / RPGNow have raised sufficient funds to allow me to run contests and give away gift credit and the like to my readers. A win / win if you ask me.

Most of all?

Do.

Do it. Start blogging. The only failed blog is the one that never was. Even a blog like Grognardia, long since silent, has a voice that still resonates across the internet.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Why I had to pass the DM Torch on Saturday Night

I was supposed to run the second part of a two part adventure this past Saturday Night, but as has been the usual ritual lately, weekends seem best if they could be avoided. I woke to my cell phone ringing twice with a "private number", which 4 out of 5 times means work is calling, and as I was off, I was not picking up. Thirty minutes later I received a text message - one of my detectives, out sick with stage 4 cancer since July of 2012, passed in the early hours of Saturday morning. It was a shock to the family, as she had been hopeful that the third treatment would be the one to finally work.

I was supposed to have been away for the three day weekend, but the threat of snow in the Poconos kept us home. We spent part of Saturday afternoon with the family. I've been through this before, and it's always a shame that the only reason I get to meet such amazing people is because they lost a loved one that happened to be a member of the department.

My wife and I just lost her mother to a long fight with cancer back in the fall, so we know very well what the family is going through now and what they will go through later. Damn shame but at least the suffering is over. Shit like this makes me even feel even more guilty for surviving my bout with cancer. No, doesn't have to make sense, it is what it is.

Anyhow, I asked if the other DM in the group could handle Saturday night's session, as I still wanted to play, but my head wasn't in it to DM and God himself knew I needed a few beers. Thanks Joe for stepping up - I needed it.

The wake is Friday Night (need to cancel the monthly S&W session) and the funeral is Saturday.

Ozzie, you fought the good fight. Rest now, you earned it.

Grid or Theatre of the Mind - Does it Effect Spell Interpretation?

After reading the responses to yesterday's post, How Strict are you with "Fireball Volume?" it got me thinking - are these responses based in part on two extremes of style? We have those that run their games with a grid, with minis or not, where facing, distance and counting out squares is part of the gaming experience and we have those that run their games as Theatre of the Mind, where little is mapped out to exacting specifications and much is left to DM interpretation and fiat. Needless to say, most gamers fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.

Myself, i fall on the far end of Theater of the Mind. I use maps that are revealed on screen using Fog of War (Roll20 is our VTT of choice these days) but we don't use tokens, we don't stress exact placement and my players put a lot of faith in me to run things fair and square (I do believe that successful Theatre of the Mind style play requires player trust). If one of my players were to put himself and their party in the way of a "fireball blowback" I'd be sure to give them a hint of such a possibility as they announced their intentions.

I'd expect that "use of a grid" leads to a more precise spell interpretations than the "Theatre of the Mind" style of gaming, but I could be wrong.

I'm not saying one style is more correct than the other, as the rules support both extremes out of the box, at least until late in 3x.

So, thoughts, comments, questions?

Follow Up Thoughts on Last Week's Interview - Crowdfunding and RPGs

You can read, watch and / or listen to me being interviewed over at the Gaming Ballistic Blog. We touched on a lot of topics, but the first one I feel a need to expand upon is "Crowdsourcing of RPG Products".

I don't think anyone starts a Kickstarter with the idea of screwing folks over. Really, I don't. Not even the worse of the lot, the Mike Nystuls, James Mals, Toms, Gareths, Joshuas and the rest of them went into the process thinking that a successful Kickstarter could lead to their greatest failure. They had some amazing idea that they wanted to see in print and the Kickstarter money machine was there to help them.

Which brings up a point I'm pretty sure I missed during the interview - the greater the success (especially for those that aren't coming from some sort of business background) can lead to the biggest failures. If your Kickstarter "fails to fund" - no harm, no foul. Your backers aren't out a cent (unless it's one of those "Variable Funding" deals at Indiegogo). If you fund with a bunch of stretch goals that sounded great on paper, but the reality is that they are less then feasible, both in cost and time, your extra success just screwed you over. More importantly, you screwed your backers over.

Does that mean that stretch goals should be avoided? Not at all, but the physical product should be what the base goal funds. Any extras probably should be PDF only (much like the FATE Kickstarter) unless you really know your break even numbers, and as postage increases are a variable, the less physical product you add, the less that variable will hurt you. Because it will hurt you. Especially as the project runs long - the longer you take to ship, the greater the chance a postage increase will bite you in the ass.

There ARE project creators that KNOW how to do this. They can handle stretch goals, exceptional funding success and get their projects out on time or even early. I'd never hesitate to back a project by +Greg Gillespie , +Joseph Bloch , +Zach Glazar , +Kevin Crawford or +Fred Hicks . These guys can DO. There are others that can also do, but they do so significantly late, so no shout outs to them ;)

I am wary of project creators that offer a project right after another project, before the first one is even written they are looking to fund another. I find this to be one of the biggest warning signs of someone that has been bitten by the "Kickstarter is a Gold Mine bug", and it is seen in the Nystul trifecta of failures, The Quantum RPG and Myth & Magic. I'm sure there are others, but these come to mind unbidden. Look for the signs and maybe you won't throw more money after bad.

I still feel that Kickstarter and other crowdsourced funding is an overall positive for the RPG hobby, but I fear it may have a similar result of the D20 Implosion had on 3x except this time it won't be the retailers stuck with a bunch of unsellable shit, but instead it will consumers with money tied up in RPG projects that don't deliver. Heck, already retailers complain that Kickstarter projects hurt their revenue. Money lost to Kickstarter failures wont even put playable projects into gamers hands let alone retail stores. (retail is a whole 'nother topic, what with Amazon undercutting most brick and mortar retailers on a piece by piece comparison).

Alright, enough for tonight. I'll flesh out some other stuff (blogging and such) in further posts.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Barrowmaze Complete goes live on Indiegogo (OSR Megadungeon and Miniatures)


Barrowmaze Complete went live on Indiegogo earlier today. Barrowmaze is +Greg Gillespie 's megadungeon and originally appeared separately as Barrowmaze and Barrowmaze II (if you look in Barrowmaze II, "Teknar's Pole" is a bit of a shout out to the Tavern).

This time, Greg is making the two parts a coherent whole with some additional content AND the option to support at a level that includes miniatures.

Personally, if I had to choose between Rappan Athuk and Barrowmaze, I'd probably go with Barrowmaze. It's the more accessible of the two, as it's parts stand much easier on their own - you can isolate section and remove them from the megadungeon structure and they'll play out just as well on their own as they do as part of the greater whole.

I'll be in for this project, as +Greg Gillespie 's projects are always on time or damn near so and communication has always been excellent. The question is just: "do I go for the minis or not?"

From the Barrowmaze Complete Indiegogo site:

The Plan: Barrowmaze Complete

Barrowmaze I and II need to be combined into one definitive volume: Barrowmaze Complete. In addition to combining the two books, this campaign will facilitate the introduction of 1) New Content, 2) New Art, 3) New Professional Layout and Cover Design.

1. New Content:

The village of Helix, the starting point for the campaign, will be detailed in full to provide a threshold to the adventure. The focus will be on NPCs to create role-playing opportunities to balance the emphasis on dungeon crawling. Locations like The Brazen Strumpet Tavern (with a random patron generator), as well as the Shrine of St. Ygg (and many others), will be laid out. Numerous sub-plots will be added for the PCs to pursue both in town and to piece together information gleaned from Barrowmaze. The town will include a map of the various locations. My goal is to bring Helix to life through interesting NPCs (all with illustrations) and create a vibrant and intriguing gaming environment.

Additional Barrow Mounds (especially mid-level) will be added, as well as dungeon rooms, map additions, rumours, rival adventuring parties, monsters, magic items, and spells. There will also be further revisions to the plot line surrounding the Pit of Chaos and role-playing opportunities in the dungeon.

Although I can encapsulate everything into a concise paragraph or two, the above constitutes a substantive amount of work.

2. New Art:

I am thrilled to announce that Erol Otus will illustrate the colour cover and the frontispiece of Barrowmaze Complete. I must admit, I am very excited about Erol's involvement. He is my favourite TSR artist and think his otherworldly oeuvre fits Barrowmaze perfectly. I had the opportunity to meet Erol at the NTRPGcon last June and he was keen to take part in this project.

I am also very excited to announce that Timothy Truman, another Ex-TSR artist from the early days of the hobby, will provide new interior illustrations including a full page illustration of Barrowmaze II baddie Lord Varghoulis! This is an exciting development for the OSR, as I have yet to see Tim's work return in the context of the old school movement.

In addition, Cory Hamel, Stefan Poag, Zhu Bajie, and others will all return to provide new illustrations.

As you may already know, I am absolutely committed to providing the best classic fantasy art possible for this project. Barrowmaze will celebrate the art of classic fantasy role-playing games.

3. New Professional Layout and Cover Design:

Cory Hamel, the Barrowmaze II cartographer and artist, is a professional graphic designer for a firm in Vancouver. Cory will facilitate the layout and create the new cover design. The new layout will include header illustrations and commentary by me in the outside margins to help facilitate play for referees.

What are the Official Barrowmaze Miniatures by Otherworld?

Alongside the Barrowmaze Complete book, this project includes the creation of a new Boxed Set of Barrowmaze monsters developed in concert with Richard Scott of Otherworld Miniatures (Richard has also run a successful campaign on Indiegogo).The Barrowmaze boxed set will be modeled after the sets of Dungeon Adventurers currently available on the Otherworld Website and include art by Victor Corbella.




How Strict Are You With "Fireball Volume"?

A "fireball blast" not only has a burst radius of 20', but also fills 33k cubic feet (33 10' x 10' x10' cubes - paraphrasing S&W Complete, but it follows AD&D if I recall correctly)

Outside, a fireball is fairly easy to account for, but in a dungeon, the opportunity for substantial blowback is considerable.

I remember an article in the Dragon (issue in the late 60's or early 70's of numbering I think) that dealt with the issue, but damned if I can find it.

How do you handle the area of effect of a fireball? BTB, handwave, guestimate or something else entirely?

(The magic-user in the party is now 4th level - I expect fireball will be one of the spells he will be looking to learn ASAP after hitting 5th ;)

New OSR Ruleset - Seven Voyages of Zylarthen (OD&D W/O Clerics + FREE)



Alright, in truth, Seven Voyages of Zylarthen is a lot more than OD&D without clerics, but at the same time it's a lot like OD&D without the supplements.

It comes in 4 booklets that are obvious homages to the 3LBBs:

Volume 1 is Characters & Combat

Volume 2 is The Book of Monsters

Volume 3 is The Book of Magic

Volume 4 is The Campaign

A review will be forthcoming. I literally just got notice of this when I awoke this morning and digesting will take a bit. If nothing else, I'm sure there is much I can yoke for my Swords & Wizardry games and the price (FREE on PDF) is certainly right.

From the blurb on Lulu:
SEVEN VOYAGES of ZYLARTHEN is a re-imagining of the original edition of the world’s most popular paper and pencil fantasy adventure game, first published in 1974. The brilliance and charm of the earliest version was its simplicity and elegance, combined with a certain asymmetrical quirkiness. It invoked many sources—King Arthur, the Crusades, Middle-earth, the Arabian Nights, pulp fantasy, fairy tales, even science fiction. Its breadth of tone was a virtue, offering to the players a multiplicity of delights. SEVEN VOYAGES of ZYLARTHEN is a different game, published under the Open Game License. We are not affiliated with TSR (old or new) or the current Wizards of the Coast. But our intention was to follow the spirit of the original as closely as possible. Happy dungeoneering! Guard the innocent! Avenge the wronged! May you find heaps of gold at the end of your path, or at the least a memorable and heroic demise! But above all, God grant that you find wonder everywhere!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Kickstarter - Ares Magazine - Update From the Source (Sci Fi Fiction and Board Game Magazine)



I posted previously about the Ares Magazine Kickstarter. The idea of a SciFi fiction magazine with optional game included (it comes in both flavors) I find intriguing if not a little bit exciting. My initial posting on it did raise some questions in the comments section.

Carmen Andres was kind enough to give some further details and background on the project via an email, which I will share below:
Thank you for sharing news about the Kickstarter campaign for Ares Magazine with your readers! We greatly appreciate your interest and support.

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve added several new reward levels--and we’re most excited about the addition of two subscription-based levels. The ITHACAN gives pledgers six issues chock-full of quality science fiction wrapped around a unique board game for $120—that’s $60 off the cover price. The ATHENIAN is for collectors: two copies of the first six issues for $235, which is $125 off the cover price.

We want to provide customers with a range of products to best suit their tastes, so we also offer pledge levels to allow separate purchases of the fiction magazine or the game.

We pay all of our fiction contributors a fixed price per word. We have a small editorial staff that reads each story and assesses it on the bases of preferred genre, quality of writing, and originality. Two of our staff members have worked as staff on magazines, and one has worked on the staff of a newspaper. All of our editors are mad science fiction fans.

Game designs are paid for at a flat rate depending upon completeness and pedigree of the design. Ares Magazine is a project of OSS Games, which has almost two decades of experience in designing and marketing games.

Again, we appreciate your interest and support. If the above information is valuable to your readers, we hope you will continue to share news about us and our Kickstarter campaign. Let me know if you have any questions or would like more information!
                                                                                                                                                                                                   
Best regards,
Carmen Andres

Web: www.aresmagazine.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/AresMagazine
Kickstarter: www.kickstarter.com/projects/1488075951/ares-magazine
 
Consider this a question (and hopefully answer) thread. Post your comments / questions below and let's see if we can't get you some answers.

As for me, I might go for the 6 issue subscription. Can't be more of a risk than the majority of the Kickstarters I've backed ;)

Some Swords & Wizardry Houserules For Your Perusal

The link below will take you to the INVULNERABLOG. At it, you will see an article on some Swords & Wizardry Houserules by +Joshua Kubli .

It was supposed to have appeared in the Unofficial OSR Zine that never fully got off the ground, so Josh posted it on his site. It's a really nice piece, and I'm tempted to steal bits and pieces of it for my current games of S&W Complete.

I'm posting the beginning of the the article here, but you'll need to go HERE for the full article:



MY OSR HOUSE RULES

I’ve got a set of house rules I use for most OSR games I run. They add a simple “hero point” mechanic, skill system, and critical damage system to the game. Why did I add these rules?

It gives the players something to look forward to between levels, without adding a lot of complexity or minmax potential.
It gives players the option of surviving with lasting injury or trauma, instead of dying immediately from serious injuries. I don’t use these rules when running Dungeon Crawl Classics, for example, because heroes characters are supposed to die in droves in that system. That’s half the fun.
It gets players involved and moving forward. They don’t get rewarded for playing it safe and cautious, they win big, and if they screw up, they have a chance to survive.
My first DM used an ad-hoc “point reward” system, to give us stuff when we rolled well or had great ideas. My beloved fighter-wizard had a peanut butter point, a “Knight of the Bone” point (it was because he saved the party by striking up a conversation with a lich, although the name certainly suggests other tales of bravery…) and assorted other silly points by the time that first campaign was done. This is a similar idea, just implemented in a slightly less silly way.

The rules have two parts: Valor and Cunning, and Anguish and Trauma.

VALOR AND CUNNING POINTS
This section provides a rudimentary “hero point” and “skill/feat” system.

GAINING VALOR AND CUNNING POINTS
Each time a character gains a Valor or Cunning Point if they roll:

Any extremely effective, clever, entertaining, humorous, and/or successful plan or action.
01 to 05 on a Thief Skill check.
 20 on an attack roll.
 1 on an Attribute roll.
Any other roll, if the player rolls the best possible result. If the best possible result occurs less than 5% of the time, round up. So, for example, players would gain points on a roll of 1 or 2 on 1d30 (roughly 6.67% chance).
Gaining Valor Points: Characters that roll well on physical actions, or that act with vigor, speed, force, and good combat tactics, earn Valor Points. Attack rolls using physical weapons, lockpicking, and tumbling earns Valor.

Gaining Cunning Points: Characters that roll well on mental actions, or that demonstrate good long-term or large-scale planning, ideas, puzzle-solving, deductions, foresight, and persuasive skills, earn Cunning. Well-placed attacks with spells, social interaction, and abstract thought are all worthy of Cunning Points.

As you might expect, fightery types, including rangers and paladins, are more likely to earn Valor Points, while spellcasters are more likely to earn Cunning Points. Characters that act in both a physical and a mental capacity, like thieves and bards, have a good chance of earning both.

(go to the INVULNERABLOG for the rest)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Bundle of Holding - The Dying Earth RPG


I'll admit it. I've never read any of Jack Vance's stuff, let alone The Dying Earth series. Shit, this feels like a true confession. The thing is, back in my High School and College years, no one I knew was reading Vance, and the only mention of him I knew of was in the AD&D DMG (it was the DMG, right?).

Now I have a chance to grab The Dying Earth RPG - 7.95 for the core stuff, less then 15 for the full boat.

I'm in for 15. I'll read one of the setting books first, as I'm less interested in the rules than the setting. Maybe I'll find a Vance book to read on my Kindle while I'm at it...


Followed Up By "This" Asinine Email...

You know what I hate about marketers? They don't bother reading. Sure, my site is about "gaming", but not their style of gaming:
Guest editorial on tenkarstavern.com 
Hi Erik, 
We are interested in producing editorial content for your site. 
We would be happy to pay an administration fee of $110 annually for your time spent reviewing and publishing our content referencing our client, one of the largest betting and gaming operators in the UK & worldwide. The content will be professionally written in line with your site’s tone and voice.  
Payment can be made by PayPal (or check delivered via FedEx US/Canada only).
I appreciate your consideration and look forward to hearing from you. 
Sincerely, 
Jonathan Hart
Marketing Assistant 
P: (919) 890-3927 x304
P: (919) 890-3919
Email: jonathan.hart@totalmarketing.com
Web: www.TotalMarketing.com
514-137 Daniels Street
Raleigh, NC 27605 
So, apart from maybe checking my Alexa rating and looking at the number of folks that have circled me on G+, how much time do you think was actually spent reading the blog? Anything more than a minute is a fucking lie.

For a hair more than 9 bucks a month one is expected to sell the integrity of their work and / or hobby?

I wouldn't do it for 110 bucks a month (or any price), but at least it wouldn't be so insulting.

So, is this a sign of "hitting it big", because if it is, it's fucking lame.

I have thoughts on monetizing the blog (or any blog) but this shit certainly isnt it.

God, I really want to send Grumpy after them...

I Got This Awesome Email Last Night...

Somethings make you smile. THIS email had me grinning like a kid in a candy store last night:
I have a funny story for ya. 
Last night my wife was doing some stickers for a little boy at school. (Autistic kid.) Turns out this kid is a FREAK fan of D&D. So, my wife was searching the internet for D&D pictures. 
She says to me "This Erik Tenkar guy has a lot of stuff out there." I was like "holy shit. Do you know who that is? That's NYC Erik !" So, your fame is really getting out there. You da man!
Heh! An Interview AND random fame ;)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Interview is Live to View / Listen / Read! Flog Away!

I was interviewed by +Douglas Cole on this past Monday Night for his Gaming Ballistic Blog.

The interview is now posted over at the Gaming Ballistic Blog - Youtube for the video, MP3 format for download and a transcript.

I'm pretty pleased with how it all went. It never would have happened, as I never would have been on the radar, if it wasn't for the community that has enveloped this fine blog. I can't thank each of you enough. All this would just be a form of "mental masturbation" if it wasn't for the fine patrons of this Tavern (I'm paraphrasing my college Creative Writing professor).

Commence the flogging!

I Listened to the Pre-Release Version of My Interview - I'm Actually Pleased



I NEVER like how I sound when I hear my voice. Still don't, but I didn't sound half bad. Sure, some stammering, some dramatic pauses as I racked by brain trying to find the answer. Heck, even guilty of being the average New Yoiker - abbreviated words, fast talking at points and the like - but not bad at all. The rocking in my chair annoys the shit outa me, but what can I say? I was nervous...

I most certainly will need to expand on some of my answers, especially in regards to Kickstarter, my thoughts on being a successful blogger and monetizing the blog. I'll hold off on that until you folks get a chance to watch, listen to and / or read the interview. I am quite sure there will be some flogging of the bartender - both here and elsewhere.

It does make me think that "Tenkar & The Badger" as a monthly podcast could actually work. Hopefully this summer, once +Jason Paul McCartan 's life notches down the insanity to moderate madness.

In any case, it should be up on the Gaming Ballistic Blog at some point tomorrow.

How Do You Handle the "Sleep" Spell in Your Campaigns?

Sleep is by far the most powerful spell a low level magic-user can cast. It can take out up to 16 adversaries (if they are low enough) and doesn't grant them a saving throw. Which is all fine and grand until you realize that same spell in the hands of your players opponents can bring the session to an awkward halt.

I have no problem hitting my players with a well deserved TPK, but taking them out without a save, even if it is to wake up tied up and captive instead of dead, just doesn't seem right. It's not all that fair, either, but I'm not so worried about fairness ;)

So, the options as I see it are:

- don't give NPC / monsters access to the sleep spell

- give Sleep a saving throw for all

- the players are special and get a saving throw against Sleep - the spell works as written for others

- allow for a save the moment the victim is touched (to be tied or killed)

The second option is probably the best I can think of, but I'm sure I've missed a few.

How do you handle "Sleep" in your campaigns?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Reflections on my Interview at Gaming Ballistic

I'm probably more anxious to listen to myself being interviewed for the Gaming Ballistic Blog than any of my readers are. I NEVER like how I sound when I am recorded, but I'll just pretend it's not me but some other goofball. Waiting is always the hardest part.

I do, however, remember the questions that were asked and the gist of my answers. Although I like my answers, as they are my actual thoughts, I've got this nagging feeling I'll need to expand on them, or at the very least, some of them, here at The Tavern.

Now it would be pointless for me to expand on stuff that I haven't yet listened to exactly what I said, let alone dtuff that my readers have yet to listen to or read in transcript form, but that doesn't stop my mind from percolating now. When I say that my mind prepares blog posts in the "in-between times", this is what I mean - my mind is going and thinking and revising posts that won't be written until later this week or next.

I expect I'll have the most to expand upon when I listen to my answers on "how to have a successful blog", monetizing your blog (I have thoughts about Patreon that occurred to me after we logged off) and Kickstarters (can you believe I have more to say on that?). Probably more than those three questions and answers will be expanded upon in a series of posts.

I still owe +Douglas Cole (my interviewer) a favor - feedback on his recent GURPS release: Martial Arts - Technical Grappling. I'm about a dozen pages in and I'm having fond memories of playing GURPS from the old boxed set and Man to Man prior to that. After the different editions of D&D and my near complete Tunnels & Trolls Collection, GURPS holds more shelf and / or storage space than any other game in my collection.  

I Weep for Lost Innocence - Kickstarters That Fail to Deliver, Repeatedly

Strangely enough, this is not directed at a single project, so don't get your panties in a bunch if you think this post is a reflection on you. It probably is, but you have esteemed company.

So, lets see what we have:
A project that has pushed it's release date back by years, has repeatedly promised a PDF "in your hands next month, next week, tomorrow" and has yet to deliver. 
A project that has repeatedly claimed to have shipped, had a pissing match in the comments section of it's project page and has apparently only shipped to big mouth bloggers and the like. 
A project that is overwhelmed by what it promised via stretch goals and it creator historically has been late with just about every product that's been offered as a preorder - the Kickstarter just upped that a notch. Big mouth bloggers received some of their stuff late but others still have nothing. 
A project in which the project creator quit (but not before going dark for months), leaving the folks fronting the project holding the bag - and the backers waiting on something that may or may not be what they expected when they backed the project. 
A project that tried to run a second Kickstarter before the first was even written. Now the creator is broke and there is doubt that it will ever release in PDF, let alone print. 
Projects by a creator that funneled the monies not into the projects themselves, but into creating a company and hiring a staff. Now there are no monies and no releases. 
Those are just the chronic failures I've backed.

It's not so much my innocence that was lost, but the creators above that thought they found the secret to success before learning the gold path they walked upon was actually pyrite.

Well, I also weep for the monies I pissed away, but that's a whole 'nother issue ;)




Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I Was Interviewed for the "Gaming Ballistic Blog" Last Night

Yep, I sat down with +Douglas Cole from the Gaming Ballistic blog last night to chat about RPGs, blogging, Kickstarter and other stuff.

The video should be up in a week or so (I think) and for those that don't want to hear me yap for 40 minutes or so (who can blame you) there will be a transcript.

Hey, if we can get just the audio, it could be listed to while some of your folks commute to work. Just think, my words of wisdom in your ears. "Tenkar's Tavern on the Go!" That would be right up there with "Tenkar and the Badger" ;)

Seriously, I think the interview went well. Amazingly enough, I don't think I dropped a single "fuck!" the whole time, not even when talking about Kickstarters. Or maybe I dropped a few ad don't remember. Think of them as "audio Easter eggs" ';)

I know I forgot to mention a long list of amazing folks that help make this blog what it is, but ya know I love you all. Now get off my fucking lawn!

Shit! I should have brought out Feltothraxis for a few minutes. Damn it! :)

Is Far West Finally Within Reach?

From last Thursday's Far West update:
Project Update #80: Fiddly Bits 
Posted by Gareth-Michael Skarka ♥ Like 
Just a quick note to let you know what's up:  At this point, it's crossing "t"s and dotting "i"s, doing final passes on the index, catching any remaining "page XX"s, and making sure that no backer portraits have been left out. 
Beyond that, it's fiddly, boring stuff like double-checking (and adjusting, if necessary) CMYK ink coverage so that we don't have production problems, and setting up the necessaries for secure digital delivery to you, and other production-and-fulfillment stuff which I won't bore you with. 
At this point, I'm hoping to turn this over to you at some point this weekend, but -- given that there are other folks I need to coordinate with on some of this -- it may be Monday or Tuesday at the latest.  (emphasis mine)
If you need anything, drop me a comment here or an email at the usual address.  I'll try to be as prompt as I can in responding. 
-Gareth-Michael Skarka
Lawrence, Kansas
9 January 2014
Today is that "Tuesday" (Monday has exited already, as did the weekend).  Anyone want to make predictions?

Today could truly be "True Tuesday"...

On Saturday Night, My Players Encountered "The Church of the Elect" (d30 Sandbox Companion Generated)

So, I mentioned last week that I planned to put some of the D30 Sandbox Companion in motion for our Saturday Night game session. We only had 3 players, so much of that went out the window, but I had a backup plan of sorts. I put The Church of the Elect into play as the party's protagonists antagonists (edited for sleepy writing) (previously generated using the D30 Sandbox Companion).

There is a race on for the recovery of a book of power hidden in the dungeons under the remains of a mad wizard's tower (The Maze of Nuromen). The players have taken a beating, but in their encounter with the cultists they managed to get the advantage of surprise. The three cultists never stood a chance. Shame the players were only able to deal with the first level of the dungeon before retreating. Still, they have befriended the local wood elves, which may allow them to return without much of the level repopulating.

As you can see at the left, i now have both the D30 DM Companion and the D30 Sandbox Companion in print (as well as PDF and "scratch" copies printed at home). These will be getting a ton of use.

It should be noted that my players noticed the difference in tone and presentation between the DCC adventures (both 3x and DCC RPG modules) that I have converted on the fly for use with Swords & Wizardry Complete (heavily house ruled) and The Maze of Nuromen which is written for BLUEHOLME. DCC stuff is more "gonzo" while the map in Nuromen has more options for exploring and probably more doors on one level than they had encounter in the campaign thus far ;)

Fun times were had by all :)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Magic the Gathering to be a Movie Franchise!

Thanks to +Erik Jensen and +James Aulds for bringing this to my attention.


From the Hollywood Reporter website:
20th Century Fox has closed a deal to acquire the hugely popular fantasy card game from Hasbro and will develop the property with an eye to launch a massive franchise on the scale of Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings.
This will be either really sweet or suck ass. We do know the Dungeons & Dragons movie franchise sucks ass.

My favorite quote from the article:
Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner and Stephen Davis and Wizards of the Coast president Greg Leeds will act in produce capacities. (emphasis mine)
So, are we going to push the movie in the "produce aisle" of the local supermarket?

Yeah, I make typos all of the time, but I'm a lowly blogger ;)

The Grumpy Dwarf Peers into the Scrying Pool for 2014

Grumpy nearly forgot to give his predictions for 2014 in the world of RPGs. I've sent him to the scrying pool, otherwise known as the Tavern's Outhouse, to make his observations for 2014.

Here are the results:

1 - Far West will finally release in 2014. It will be over 2 years late and no one will notice, because no one cares anymore.

2 - D&D Next will release at NTRPG Con in June. It will be a re-reprinting of the AD&D 1e books. Optional modules will include the re-reprinting of 2e and 3.5e, as well as a reprinting of 4e. All are the New D&D according to WotC.

3 - Dwimmermount will dim further, before being rescued by none other than James Mal himself. It will be rewritten for James's Thousand Suns RPG and be reskinned as a abandoned space dreadnought. Kickstarter backers won't be amused.

4 - There will be 2d6+1 OSR rulesets released in 2014. At least one will attempt to recreate My Little Pony.

5 - Myth & Magic will still be shipping at the end of 2014

6 - Mike Nystul will attempt to run a "real life dungeon" in some random cave complex. Funding will be via Indiegogo.

7 - RPG Kickstarters will have funding issues in 2014, as backers money will still be tied to unfilled Kickstarters from 2012

8 - WotC will license the FATE rules for a special "tho shalt not die" edition of the D&D rules. Afterwards, the FATE system will simply fade away.

9 - Someone will invent a D31 die - just because. The D31 will supplant the D31, and cause all D30 tables to be revised.

10 - Two months after the release of D&D Next, the first OGL reskinning of D&D Next will occur. There will be much teeth grinding at WotC and burning of the OGL in effigy. The OGL'ed reskin of Next will outsell next itself.

11 - It will be a cold December in Seattle. The yearly purges will return.


Is D&D Next is Compatible With AD&D 1e "Out of the Box" - Wizards May be Saying So


Dungeons of Dread (S1-4) and Against the Slave Lords (A0-4) are listed as usable with D&D Next or have conversions for download.

When you follow the links for the two above, there are numerous download links, but none for conversions.

So, will the final version of Next be AD&D 1e (or a clone) with a bunch of bells and whistles as options?

Or is WotC incapable of having a website that is updated and accurate? They still have a link to the playtest documents, but you can no longer download them. Sloppy.

Perhaps this is more sloppiness. Or maybe it's an attempt to assimilate the OSR.





Sunday, January 12, 2014

Grumpy Returns and Looks at "Roleplaying in D&D Next" (a Mike Mearls article)

Yes, the infamous Grumpy Dwarf has been on hiatus for a while. Is he still as grumpy as he was? Let's find out, shall we?

Roleplaying in D&D Next <- Original article link without the Grumpy-isms

Mike Mearls

During the holiday season, we're looking back at some of the most popular articles this year, within each column. Today's Legends & Lore originally ran back on September 22. (see how long it's been since I've looked at this shit? - oh, and I guess the Holiday Season means "filler articles" - hey, how about I dig up some old posts and spread them out again?)

We look forward to seeing you again in the new year!

It's pretty obvious that D&D began its life as a roleplaying game. It has grown to include toys, novels, comics, video games, and board games. At the core of D&D, though, rests an RPG. (D&D is just a marketing brand these days. The D&D RPG hopefully is an RPG)

So, if D&D is an RPG, what do the rules need to do to encourage you to roleplay your character? (roleplaying is in the eye of the beholder, and what one player considers roleplaying, another may consider "wasting time when dice could be rolling and swords be a swinging") Like a lot of things relating to D&D rules design, the answer lies somewhere between providing no encouragement and demanding players to play act personalities that are distinct from their own.

To start with, I think that D&D is more fun when players adopt characters with distinct mannerisms, traits, and goals. (which is fine, and I'm glad mike states it as an opinion, and not a fact) As a DM, I love it when a player ties a character to the setting in a meaningful way.

For instance, in my current campaign, the rogue is a former member of the duke's secret police. He turned in evidence of a plot that resulted in the execution of his former comrades for treason. One member of the secret police escaped arrest and has sworn to kill the rogue. That gives me a ready-made villain to throw into my campaign. It also means that when the player characters visit towns or villages where the secret police installed a reign of terror, he had best watch his back.

One of my current characters, the wizard Kel Kendeen, is fun because of his personality and mannerisms. His mechanics reflect his abilities as a wizard, and I love slinging fireball spells and using disguise self spells, but five years from now I'll remember him more for his ardent dedication to anarchy, chaos, and freedom. He's fun to play not because he can cast the disguise self spell. He's fun to play because he's a radical anarchist who uses that disguise self spell to mimic petty officials and undermine hierarchical organizations.

If the rules give us tools to use in a campaign, our character's personalities tell us why and how to use those tools. Without that layer, D&D is no longer an RPG but simply a fantasy world simulator or a skirmish battle game (sounds like 4e - doh!). It doesn't take much to make that work, but it's a layer of play that brings the game to life in a way that no other type of game can match.

Of course, every group has different standards for roleplaying. Our goal is to give you guidance and ideas to inspire you to roleplay a character with a compelling backstory and provide you with mechanics that have a light touch in terms of helping you shape your game. We want to encourage you to roleplay your character without mandating it. (carrot but no stick I guess)

In the current draft of the game, as part of character creation, you also flesh out a few things beyond alignment. Your bonds are your character's ties to the world, people, places, or things that are meaningful to your character in some way. Your flaws are your character's weaknesses, while your ideals represent the things that keep your character going when things are at their worst.

In essence, these concepts flesh out the starting point provided by alignment. They translate those abstract ideals into actions, things, and beliefs that are tied to the campaign world.

To make things easier, our current draft of backgrounds includes tables you can use to flesh out your character's bonds to the world. Additional tables use alignment as the starting point for ideals and flaws. For instance, as the member of a craft guild you might be intensely loyal to the patron noble house that sponsored your guild membership. On the flip side, you've made an enemy of the criminal cartel that wants to disrupt your guild. DMs with the time and inclination can fill out their own tables as starting points for characters. As usual, you can also choose to make stuff up if nothing on the tables is appealing, or simply roll on them and accept the results. (actually, pretty cool, and seems to be something you find in RQ6 and the like)

A final table provides your character with something that sparks the beginning of your adventuring career and gives your character a key problem or question that needs an immediate solution. Perhaps you left the guild because your master was murdered under circumstances that point to you as a suspect. You might have been sent as an undercover agent to infiltrate the cartel that is working to undermine the guild. (if everyone has this huge type event in their backstory then none of these events are huge, or unique)Your DM could also give you ideas based on the campaign, or you could come up with something on your own. (tailoring to the campaign is almost always better)

Mechanically, we're looking at a fairly simply system that we're calling inspiration. (shit! here comes the New Age / touchy feely / aspect driven crap) When you have your character do something that reflects your character's personality, goals, or beliefs, the DM can reward you with inspiration. (this of course is based on the DM's opinion, which will often not match that of the player in question) The key lies in describing your action in an interesting way, acting out your character's dialogue, or otherwise helping to bring the game to life by adding some panache to your play. (great! time to improv at the table) By demonstrating that the events in the game are critical to your character's goals and beliefs, you can allow your character to tap into reserves of energy and determination to carry the day.

You can spend inspiration to gain advantage on a check, saving throw, or attack attached to your action. Alternatively, you can bank it to use on a roll that happens during the current encounter or scene. Additionally, you can choose to pass the inspiration along to a different character during the scene. In this case, your character's determination serves as an inspiration for the other party members. You can have only one inspiration at a time. (and if the player isn't the type to ham it up, or is shy, or just isn't into this shit - they don't get the bonus)

It's up to the DM to reward inspiration, but as a rule of thumb, a player can gain it once per significant scene or important combat. Inspiration fades quickly, so you must spend it within a few minutes in game time before you lose it. (and folks complain about DM Fiat in OSR games - this is no better, because again, awarded at the DM's whim)

Just as a DM chooses when to reward inspiration, the DM also chooses why to award inspiration. You can use it as described above, or adapt it to other things that your group finds help bring the game to life, keep the action moving, or otherwise make the game more enjoyable for everyone. (Fuck it! "Nat 20" for the win!)

Like many things in the DM's hands, inspiration is a tool that requires more finesse and art rather than science to properly apply. A good DM uses inspiration to encourage play that makes the game better for everyone at the table. Think of it like a micro-reward, something short of experience but still a useful reward for good play. (very open to abuse and too ill-defined in my know it all opinion) 

The inspiration mechanic is a simple gateway to deeper rewards for roleplaying your character. Groups that want a more narrative game (see, I told you we were talking indi game / new age bullshit) can reward inspiration freely or adapt it for other uses. You can even give players a pool of inspiration that they can spend only to reward other players for good roleplaying moments. (time to hold hands and sing kumbaya)  By baking inspiration into the core of the game, we have the basic structure needed to provide for more in-depth rules modules.

Damn, but Grumpy is out of practice!
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