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.


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 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!
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