Saturday, April 5, 2014

You've Got Your Fiction in My Gaming (Some Thoughts on RPG Related Fiction)

The way I see it, there are two types (more or less) of RPG related fiction. The first type is tied to the
setting - such as Dragonlance (which game first, the gaming or the fiction) and the Forgotten Realms. I'm not all that keen on this type, as there is little of the feel of an actual "RPG" within the story. Still, you don't need to understand or even know there are underlining gaming mechanics behind the story

The other type draws upon the RPG experience as part of the story. Spells match up, more or less, to the RPG used as it's source. Magic items can often be referenced in a rule book. Races have abilities and features right out of a monster manual. In same ways, the rules ARE the setting. This type of fiction is much less popular, but that's not a surprise. It's aiming at a niche within a niche.

I'm not sure how much of a market there is for the second type of gaming related fiction, but I know there are self published authors out there (I've been contacted by more than one after my review of Swords of the Damned)

I will say that despite it's flaws, Swords of the Damned is the first novel I've read straight through in over a year, and probably the only non Pratchett or Gaiman novel in more than a half dozen years (there's a whole post about chemo and the rewiring of my brain, but that's a whole series of post I suspect).

So, where does that put us? I'm going to aim to review gaming related fiction about once a month, although it could be more depending on the amount of bathroom reading I get in ;)

One Night in Slateholm (which I bought prior to realizing it was part of my Amazon Prime membership - as was Swords of the Damned)is the current book on the bathroom reading device (AKA my Galaxy Note 3)

No Plans Survive Encountering Your Contractor

Much like the last adventure I ran for our group, one night became two - in this case, one week became two, and the last day is going to hit 13 hrs easy. Yep, still going strong.

It's a good thing we cancelled tonight's game, as he's still working on the room my computer is in.

Well, at least I get to try out the Blogger App on my phone.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Lost City of Barakus Kickstarter Just Ran Out of Stretch Goals ;)

The Lost City of Barakus Kickstarter just surpassed it final posted stretch goal at 30K.

So far, between the "hit 15k in 24 hrs goal" which was hit and all of the stretch goals, the following have been added:

- player maps

- player guide (free in PDF)

- bonus dungeon level 4B

- 4 new wilderness encounters of 2k-4k words each

not too shabby - +Bill Webb needs to add some more ;)

What Role Should a DM Fill at the Table?

What role should a DM fill at the gaming table?

Sure, he is sometimes referred to as a Referee, but that rarely defines the role in total.

Facilitator, director, storyteller - they are all aspects of the persona of most DMs.

If you were to read and attempt to run many of the recent LotFP releases, especially James's, you would suspect the role to be played is that of adversary - or even destroyer of parties (Monolith From Before Time and Space comes to mind).

I think, above all, the DM is there to ensure that the group has an enjoyable time, and the role adjusts to the party's needs.

How do you see the DM's role?

Solomon Kane for $4.99 - This International TableTop Thing Rocks!

Solomon Kane for $4.99?

I already own the HC and now I'm grabbing the PDF. It's Savage Worlds with all the rules included and the awesome Solomon Kane world setting.

I'd learn the Savage Worlds rules to play in this setting.

Don't forget the FREE TableTop Day Bundle and the DCC RPG also for $4.99 (and 13th Age for $9.99 and Numenera for $9.99)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

International TableTop Day Bundle - Free!

International TableTop Day. Sure, it's a made up hobby, but the sale sales and freebies attached to it are real.

The Free International TableTop Bundle is chock full of quickstarts for various games as well as some premium items, such as:

Dragons of Faerun - just think, the same day I trash The Forgotten Realms, WotC tosses us a free PDF ;)

Firefly Echoes of War: Wedding Planners Cortex Plus - it's Firefly and it's free - do you need more of a reason?

Progenitor - massive Wild Talents setting sourcebook - includes the Wild Talents Essentials rulebook - I've heard enough about Wild Talents on the Happy Jacks podcast to make me interested, and at the high cost of "free", I may as well check it out...

World of Darkness - teen vampire angst - or is that another genre?

Scarred Lands - Termana - a setting book - is less still more?

Plus a shit load of quickstarts.

Don't forget the DCC RPG Rulebook is $4.99 in PDF for a limited time. Click now! Computers are standing by!

DCC RPG in PDF for Only $4.99!

Thanks to +Roger Burgess for the heads up.

The DCC RPG in PDF for only $4.99!

No idea how long the price is good for, but damn that is value for your gaming dollar...

edit - don't forget to use the DCC RPG on the Cheap link to add even more value for free...

My Wife's Dice Arrived Yesterday - Hopefully We'll Run Some Scarlet Heroes This Weekend

My wife's polyhedral dice set was waiting when I got home from work yesterday (I figured if she was going to be a good sport and try out RPGs, the least I could do is buy her some dice). I went with the larger sized set, as the numbers are easier to read and the different number of sides should be easier to recognize.

Also waiting for me as I got home was my 3 year old niece, who threw herself and me and then was thoroughly distracted by the tube holding "Auntie's Dice". She wouldn't put it down for two hours, then charged my wife and she arrived home with calls of "Aunti! Dice!" I swear the young lady will be playing RPGs before she is 5. I may have to buy her her own set of dice (she already has a set of the spongy dice) as the large polies look to be large enough to avoid being choking hazards.

If all goes well, I'll have my wife rolling dice this weekend. If all goes even better, hopefully the closet being build on the wall behind my desk will be complete by the weekend. My contractor works late, and hitting the computer at 9pm when he is done doesn't leave much time before bed. Besides, the completed closet will make my wife happy, which can only lead to my own happiness ;)

Why Greyhawk is "Better" than the Forgotten Realms

Why is Greyhawk is "Better" than the Forgotten Realms?

Simple - less canon.

The more canon one has built into a setting, the more restricted the paths of the players and the greater the chance they will be overshadowed by the setting's named NPCs.

Also, the more canon there is built into a setting, the greater the chance the players will know more than the DM about the setting, and that can never lead to a good ending. Going off the "canon tracks" can lead to push back.

Still, it does make the Forgotten Realms more ripe as a shared fiction world than Greyhawk, because there is enough canon to keep various writers on the same page.

Stupid shit that seeps into one's mind while trying to sleep at night...

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Mini Review - Swords of the Damned (Adventures Dark & Deep Licensed Fiction)

The Swords of the Damned by Richard Tongue is a licensed fantasy fiction book published under the Adventures Dark & Deep banner. I have the Kindle version, and 90% of my reading of the novel happened in one bathroom or another. What can I say, it made for decent bathroom reading.

The Good - it mostly keeps to the usual "D&D" tropes, including vancian style magic. As for the story itself, the pacing is decent, the plot was good, most of the main characters are likable and it's better fantasy fiction than most of the crap put out by TSR when it treated fiction like shovelware. Yes, it was an enjoyable read and probably the first novel I've read straight through in over a year. If you have Amazon Prime, you can read it for free with your Kindle or Kindle app - wish I had realized that prior ;)

The Bad - I am not the grammar police, but there were more than a few instances where the writing was just plain awkward, and the use of pronouns got me confused with more than one "he" or"she" being referred to in the same part of narrative.

The Plain Old Ugly - if I make a spelling mistake on this here blog, it's no big deal - you aren't paying for my shit ;)  Not that I like the mistakes, but sometimes the built in spell checker doesn't catch it all, or it changes words and the like. If that happens in a novel I'm reading every minute or two, it fucking sucks. I understand that this book is basically self published, but use more than a built in spell checker to fix your spelling and typos. Use your mother, your sibling, your girlfriend. Pay someone 20 bucks. Little sucks more then getting into a story and seeing "stares" for "stairs" and "threw" for "through" and "sand" for "said" and a crapload more where they came from.

Overall, decent read, needs a shit ton of editing. If you have Amazon Prime, nothing lost by checking it out.

How Do You Handle a Thief's Backstab Ability in Combat?

I've had trouble with the thief's backstab ability (in combat) in the past, especially when playing without tokens or facing on the map. It has the potential to be either overused or underused, depending on the interpretation of the DM.

What I've been using recently, and it has never been written down prior, as DM fiat required me to figure out a solution on the spot, is as follows:

- if the target is engaged in combat with another


- the PC attempting the backstab has not engaged the target prior

the PC may spend one round getting into position. on the next round, the PC rolls a Hide in Shadows attempt, and if successful, he gets the bonus of a backstab. If he fails, he gets a +2 bonus to hit, but no backstab.

It works thus far, and may come up once per session (if that), usually against a BBEG.

How do you handle backstabs? Do you even allow an attempt in melee?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Lost City of Barakus Returns as a Frog God Kickstarter and Hits $15k Goal in Less Than 25? 13? Urh? Hours!

A great deal gets even better. $40 gets you the Lost City of Barakus in hard cover and PDF in your choice of flavors (S&W or Pathfinder) - and now includes Player Maps!
If we fund by 9am, April 2nd, we will provide Player's Maps for Barakus! For Free, no foolin' around.
Also, if we fund in that time period, Bill will write another wilderness encounter!
Done with 11 hrs to spare ;)

Now for some stretch goals!

Forgive Us in Hand (LotFP Indiegogo)

Yeah, this was one of the few adventures that funding during the James Raggi Summer of 2012 "Crowdfunding Insanity".

Nope, haven't read it yet, but as it's written by Kelvin Green and not James, I suspect I'll find use for it. Damn shame that James produces high quality stuff that are just party screws lately, so I have hope for Forgive Us (the adventure formerly known as Horror Among Thieves).

The included town map mini poster is pretty cool too,

The Lost City of Barakus Returns as a Frog God Kickstarter (no joke)

I have the original from 2004(?) somewhere. Even if it was for 3e, it read of awesome.

Now Frog God is bringing The Lost City of Barakus back, set in their Lost Lands setting.

$40 for the hardcover and PDF, in either S&W or Pathfinder flavors. Wait, it's Frog God, that price can't be right, can it?
For all you Lost Lands fans out there, this one is canon — it interfaces with Stoneheart Valley, Rappan Athuk, and Sword of Air, and represents the next of many ongoing chronicles of the Frog God Games/Necromancer Games home world. A MUST HAVE book for any fan of our material. 
Our base level of funding is small — we wanted to keep the price point down on this. We listened to your feedback from our last few Kickstarters — and we are adding more new material based on stretch goals as detailed below. 
Shit, it's legit ;)

I may need to turn some of the new closet space into game storage. Won't my wife be happy - heh!

The Grumpy Dwarf Pees in The Tavern's Scrying Pool

Another April Fool's Day is here. It's time for Grumpy to stir The Tavern's Scrying Pool for some predictions for the rest of 2014.

1 - Fans of D&D Next are going to be surprised to find the 3x SRD between the covers of their newest and latest Dungeons & Dragons. What's old is new again.

2 - Monte Cook is going to publish the "Numasutra". Enough said.

3 - Paizo's Pathfinder will reboot it's core rulebook - 550 pages for $5.50 in bulletproof hardcover.

4 - Disney World will be the next Apocalypse World game. Personally, I want to play Donald.

5 - RPGNow and DriveThruRPG will become two separate companies once again, just so today's announcement can actually come to pass.

6 - The next OSR Clone with be Swords & Lords, a mish mash of the worst of S&W and LL.

7 - Lee's List will publish 100 Lists of Lists of 100.

8 - DCC RPG in Spaaaaaccccceeeee!

9 - Mike Nystul will rise like a phoenix. Mike's Crab Shack and Mini Con will have a fundraiser on Indiegogo. Funds raised will buy Mike a new Winnebago.

10 - Dwimmermount will release. No one will notice. Rats will cry and copper will melt.

11 - Tunnels & Trolls Deluxe will face yet another rewrite. Ken will borrow from Apocalypse World to create Troll World. At least it will still use D6's.

12 - The Tavern will embrace the latest and newest edition of D&D. It will be kept in the privy and read one page at a time. Previously read pages will not be available...

Monday, March 31, 2014

Expecting Some "April Fools" Tomorrow

Every year some RPG publisher or another tries the old "April Fools" scam.

According to ENWorld, WotC is delaying it's usual Monday Legends & Lore article until tomorrow - April Fool's Day. All they need to do is run one of Monte's early D&D Next articles. You know, the ones promising compatibility to all editions at the same time in the same gaming group ;)

In any case, God willing, I'll hopefully start getting some RPGNow credit out to the winners of the first round of the OSR Superstar Competition in the next day or so. My contractor didnt leave the room my computer is in until 915 tonight - but at least we are seeing progress.

Expect the Grumpy Dwarf to take a pee(k) in The Tavern's scrying pool tomorrow. Who know the vision that may be floating in such waters ;)

Ever use a "Caller" in Your Games?

I remember reading about "callers" in my early days of roleplaying. I only experienced it once. As a senior in High School, my group got invited to another group's game session. They were college students and then some. In other words, they were old.

When we got there I counted 16 people sitting at this really large table - 2 DMs and 14 player. I don't believe I ever rolled a die that night, but I do remember there were 2 "callers", one for each side of the table, more or less. Anything you wanted to do had to be announce via the caller.

I couldn't tell you what the adventure was about, as there was just a sensory overload going on, but I understood the need for a caller with 14 PCs.

I've never run a group larger than 10 (maybe as much as 12 in college - not 100% sure) but I dont recall my groups even having leaders let alone callers. Organized chaos for the win.

So, did you ever, or do you now, us a "caller" in your groups?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

What I Would Want From My Ideal Virtual Table Top (My Wish List)

After some discussion with a few of the members of the "Friday Night B-Team" I started to think about what I would want from my ideal online Hangout styled gaming session. The list below is NOT all inclusive, I am sure, nor is it written in stone. It has been on my mind, more or less, for a while tho'. It is fairly focused on Roll20, which is what I use these days, but if one package offered all that I wanted, I'd jump VTTs in a heart beat. I can be such a whore ;)

- Character sheets much like those found in Fantasy Grounds 2, including clickable macros right from the sheet. Damn, that would be an excellent way to speed things up. Damn shame FG2 chokes on the session set up side if you don't know programing, but as a player it does a great job streamlining stuff.

- Every adventure published in PDF form should have an unkeyed "player's map". Even those with "teleport traps" and the like. With a dwarf or gnome in the party, they will know they've been moved. We'll just start revealing from a new map. I can't describe room dimensions and the like well enough when I'm gaming face to face - I suck even more when doing video hangout sessions.

- Simple to set up and use "dynamic lighting". Sure, I don't use tokens in my RPG sessions, but if we had simple to set up and use dynamic lighting, I'd include a token for the party. I'd much prefer this to "Fog of War & Reveal", as this would show the party where they were yet still require them to make an accurate map on their end. Player side mapping is an often forgotten skill.

- Drop down menus for damn near everything. Drop down menus that don't cover up 40% of your screen. Drop down menus that are user editable. Drop down menus for the win.

- WTF is it with screen real estate? Allow the user to set the font size and side bar size and pop up menu size. I have a 27" screen I run my sessions from and Roll20's pop up menus and side bars take up way too much screen space.

- Truly random random dice. too many 20's and too many 1's. It's a programing issue.

- Awesome looking visual dice like Fantasy Grounds. No one has come close before or since.

- Voice and video that allows for whispers and split parties. Sure, I'm asking for a lot, but hey, it's my list. During face to face games I've taken players out of the room to keep events in private when the party is split, or someone has been charmed / doppleganged / cursed and the like. To be able to easily do so online in a manner that does not use chat text would be great. Not a must, as it's use would be infrequent, but still useful.

- I've yet to find a simple and useful way to play background noises for the players - I'm pretty sure Roll20 has the feature. I may just need to experiment more. What I would really like is a simple drop down menu with the sound clips I choose with the session in mind - fighting in the distance, a door slamming, chains dragging and the like. Shit, now that I think of it, I'd REALLY like this. The possibilities are truly epic.

- 3d graphics and walls. Just because.

A Quick Look at the Guidebook to the City of Dolmvay: Special Edition

For those that don't know, the Guidebook to the City of Dolmvay is an OSR city supplement that is about 90% OGL (the non-OGL content is mostly the regional and world setting material that is touched upon). The Guidebook to the City of Dolmvay is also PWYW in PDF, so you can check it out for free before dropping a dime. There really is no reason for any RPG fan to not have a copy of the PDF.

The Guidebook to the City of Dolmvay: Special Edition is the print / hard cover edition. It includes the low level adventure Oak Grove Whispers, which to the best of my knowledge is available no where else (and is not part of the PWYW PDF). It's a full sized adventure clocking in at 36 pages and makes for an excellent introduction to the City of Dolmvay.

Did I mention the hard cover edition is a mere $19.99? I have no idea how +Pete Spahn was able to reach that price point, but the value for your gaming dollar is excellent, as the whole package clocks in at about 240 pages. (The soft cover of Dolmvay without the adventure clocks in at $13.00 - another amazing value)

That's a thicka booka!
Make sure to stop by Tenkar's Tavern when you visit ;)

From the blurb:

The Guidebook to the City of Dolmvay is a FREE Labyrinth Lord™ supplement that details the people, layout, and government of the City of Dolmvay. The city is presented in broad strokes and is open to customization. It was specifically designed to give Labyrinth Lords a convenient and familiar city setting to place their adventures.

The Guidebook to the City of Dolmvay is largely open content. Small Niche Games would like to encourage professional and amateur publishers to use the Guidebook as a shared city setting and set their commercial adventures within the City of Dolmvay. Labyrinth Lords (and publishers) should feel free to change, add, or remove any of the information in this book to better suit his or her own game.

The Guidebook to the City of Dolmvay contains:

-A breakdown of city-based adventure themes

-History of the City of Dolmvay

-Detailed overview of the City of Dolmvay including government, religion, commerce, and laws and punishment

-Descriptions of over a dozen major festivals

-An overview of the citizens of Dolmvay including a breakdown of social classes, daily life for commoners and nobles, style of dress, arms and armor, rumors and gossip, and common gestures, curses, and phrases

-Layout of the city including details on architecture, street lighting, sanitation, as well as detailed descriptions of the city's wards, districts, quarters, neighborhoods, and businesses

-Descriptions of dozens of factions and stat blocks for hundreds of NPCs

-Descriptions of common shops and businesses, prices for food and lodging, and a dozen sample inns and taverns

-Over 100 unique city encounters

-Over two dozen new plants and monsters

-A detailed description of the religious organization known as the Church of Law and Order including church history and doctrine, major NPCs, and new magic items

-A detailed description of the Dolmvay Adventurer's Guild including training facilities, dungeons, and major NPCs

-A detailed description of the city's magical sewer system including dozens of unique encounters and several sample sewer geomorph maps

-Guidelines for NPC generation including common names, professions, dozens of quirks and traits, and rules for creating unique and interesting 0-level NPCs

-Guidelines for random treasure determination including pick pocket tables and random tables for determining household treasures

This Special Edition Hardcover also contains the full-length adventure Oak Grove Whispers, for 3-6 characters of 1st-3rd level!

A TPK Avoided, But Not Without Sacrifice (2nd session of The Caves of Ortok)

Last week the Saturday Night Swords & Wizardry group had their first session delving into the Caves of Ortok, an adventure soon to be forthcoming from +Jason Paul McCartan . They nearly killed two PC's bungie jumping off of a statue on a small island, killed a giant crab, found the caves, got ambushed and finally held position inside the small cave complex as they and the sahuigan deeper inside decided on tactics. Not bad for a night of gaming.

Last night, the party made their move.

They sent the thief in invisibly to take out the shaman as the magic user slept the front lines followed by the monk (also invisible) and ranger charging in. It was brutal.

The thief rolled a nat 20 on his backstab and opted to take maximum damage for the crit, which was then multiplied by three. Not quite down but severely wounded. Sleep took out 2/3's of the sahuigan front line, but they held. There was no where to run to and they were fighting for their prince's life.

The party won initiative, and the magic user finished off the shaman with a pair of magic missiles. The only problem for the thief is he was now facing the prince and his captain BEHIND what was left of the lines. There would be no help coming anytime soon.

Invisible monk couldn't hit the broadside of a barn those first few rounds, so he remained invisible and his opponent couldnt hit either. Damn near comical.

The thief fell and damn near bled out before the party was able to stabilize him (rubbing ointment and shoving potions down his throat). Actually, the magic user, who wadded into combat like a pro and the monk (finally visible) where each a single hit away from falling. Even the hit point tank of a ranger was brought down by half. It's one of the few times the players truly feared a TPK. Heck, even I started thinking about "the next campaign" ;)

The thief lived, but using the ACKS rules for going below zero HP, he was found to have taken severe damage to his head, mouth and vocal cords. Never again would he speak a spoken work, and thus he retired from adventuring, to be replaced by a cleric.

Yes, holy shit! Both the "A Team" and the "B Team" added clerics for the first time to their ranks. Go figure. It must be serendipity.

Afterwards, the players figured out how to open a secret door they found in the caves, and proceeded into Ortok's chambers.

I'm going to gloss over much of this part, so it should remain a challenge to others who may adventure within, but I literally laughed so hard when the monk traversed a hallway that was presumed to be trapped by literally climbing the walls. Upon reaching the other side and being instructed to use a spike or two to secure a rope high on the far wall so party members could follow suit and avoid the floor, he informed them he had neither spikes nor hammer. Come to think of it, he lacked rope too. Which kind of defeated the party's plan which they had discussed before he made his way across. Simply priceless ;)

Yes, a damn fun time was had by all.

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