Saturday, May 24, 2014

Looting the Breakables - How to Give Players Awesome Loot and Not, at the Same Time ;)

Cut glass from the Dorflinger Estates Collection
I was taking my wife and mother to different yard sales today, when we stopped at a sale at the Dorflinger Estates property in White Mills, Pa. We found some amazing samples of cut glass, and the plates were part of the Dorflinger Collection. They weren't cut by Dorflinger but by one of his craftsmen that started their own cut glass line. The blank plates or uncut ones, were made at the Dorflinger factory.

So, where is this taking us?

Sure, I've given my players bulky treasure, but how about giving them highly valuable treasure that is easily damaged and rendered worthless if they aren't careful? Drop a backpack even carefully stuffed with such glassware as you enter battle and you could lose a fortune.

Have a storeroom full of glassware and crystal, and watch the reaction as pieces fall of shelves as the party's fighter bashes the door open. Don't give your players anything to pack the glassware with - make suitable packing material part of the treasure somewhere else in the complex.

Make them earn their money or have them watch is break in front of their eyes ;)

I thought it was a vase. Apparently, it's a water bottle, to be used when drinking whiskey.
What adventurer wouldn't want an item like that in their collection?
So, what kind of breakable loot do you like to torture your players with?

edit: did I mention this shit is really heavy? ;)

Time to Decompress - In the Poconos For the First Time in 2014

2013 Ended with deaths in the family, my mother in law and my cousin's wife.

2014 started with deaths among my coworkers and their families, especially that of one of my detectives. I spoke at her memorial last Friday and went to the wake of the sister of another of my detectives the Monday prior.

Intermingled between was the death of the family dog, who was suffering long term from an enlarged heart and short term from seizures that started right after the initial deaths in 2013 and was finally put to sleep shortly after we placed my detective in her final resting place.

Did I mention the upheaval at work? The Night of the Long Knives where every boss but one at my location of the rank of Inspector or higher was transferred in an effort to bring in new blood? Or the recent fun of running two units, as another sgt was out sick for three weeks? Or the pile of shit that landed friday afternoon and waits for me when I return on tuesday?

In the meantime, I'm away from all of that. It's the first time that my wife has gone to my parents' place in the Poconos without the family dog. She wasn't ready before, and in truth, I don't think we've had a free weekend that wasn't otherwise spoken for in the last six months. We used to make the trip every three or four weekends.

Besides the usual family stuff of driving around and hitting yard sales on a holiday weekend, I plan to run my wife's first RPG session using Scarlet Heroes, do some RPG related reading and upon returning home early monday afternoon, head to the privately run post office affiliate near home and finally ship out the last two things I've had packed and ready to go for a while.

It feels strange to slow down. Must be related to being a New Yorker. Best sleep I've had in six months was last night (shortly after the 3 1/2 hr drive after work to get up here), and my wife is currently napping on the couch in the front room.

Guess I'm not the only one decompressing ;)

Sneak Peek - UNFRAMED: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters (and players too)

+Martin Ralya was kind enough to put a pre-release copy of the upcoming UNFRAMED: The Art of Improvisation for Games Masters into my hands in PDF. I immediately put a copy on my tablet and my laptop and dove right in.

This is not a review. That will be coming in early June when UNFRAMED releases. This is just a peek, which is pretty much what I've done over the last day or so.

As such, I'll make the following statements: you will find essays that will not resonate with you and you will find essays that will change the way you run games forever. Or the way you approach things as a player.

Who's written essays inside the virtual pages of UNFRAMED?

If you can't find advice that fits your gaming style from the above "A" list, you're not gaming ;)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Bundle of Holding goes Dead - Deadlands Classic That Is!

Damn! I think I own most of this in print, but I'd have to go to storage to be sure of the holes in my collection.

I suspect much of this would translate over to Savage Worlds pretty easily, as much of this is "fluff", but awesome fluff it is ;)

Probably the most enjoyable reads of any RPG books I've never actually played, Deadlands certainly appeals to me as a History major and history buff. Damn tempting Bundle of Holding...

What Do You Consider to be one of the Most Under-Appreciated Magic Items?

Wand of fireballs. Staves of power. Flametongues. Rods of Might. Kick ass magic, to be sure. Powerful, to be sure, but are they "fun"?

Personally, as a player and a DM, I've always felt that Wands of Wonder were under-appreciated. Just by it's very nature you can expect no two wands to be the same, because even if both wands are using the same by the book table, the results will be different.

Me, I always liked making custom tables foe the Wands of Wonder I've introduced into games.

So, what are some of the under-appreciated magic items in your campaigns?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Looking for More Whisper & Venom? Bird of a Feather is up for Preorders (Includes a nifty mini)

If +Zach Glazar understands just one thing, it's what old school gamers want to hold in their hands. Well, I suspect Zach understands a lot more than just one thing, as he consistently hits the post with his releases.

I have no doubt that Bird of a Feather will be up to his usual high quality (and highly useable) standards.

Now, the idea that the limited edition release in the old school style is awesome in my mind. What I want to know is how the fuck Zack is putting a mini of the following between the covers:

Yep, it looks like an upper class axebeak ;)

From what Zack tells me, he's putting in the order for the limited release this Saturday, which will account for what he expects to sell at NTRPG Con and some preorders via his site. So if you are interested, now is probably the time to order. Well, unless you read this post far down the timeline from when it was posted, in which case you may just have to settle on the regular release.

Here's the quick blurb:
Pre-Order your copy of Lesser Gnome’s NTRPG Con Release of Bird of a Feather
Comes with Rhacos figurine custom sculpted just for this release! 
Designed for levels 3-4 and suitable for any classic style Fantasy RPG System. 
Available for Pick-Up at the North Texas RPG Convention for hand delivery 
Ships to Pre-Order Customers on June 12h, 2014.  This version, printed in the old-school style, is a very limited printing. A general release is expected to be ready in August 2014.
Not having met Zach, I hope this isnt a portrait ;)

This may very well be my next desktop wallpaper
Wait a sec! Is that a dwarf he's munchin' on!

DMG to Offer Sidebars on Emulating Earlier Editions - 15% of the 5e Player's Handbook to be Available for Free Online



I'd like to sell you a bridge!

No, not the Brooklyn Bridge. A bridge between the new D&D Starter Set and the Player's Handbook. Here's the Kicker! It's free! Yep, about 15% of the new D&D Player's Handbook will be free for the taking so you can create characters with the Starter Set. How can you beat that? Right, you can't! Now, how about a Rolex? ;)

Interesting that part of the Player's Handbook will be available online for free to create characters. Not a PDF, (according to Mike it IS a PDF) not an SRD but an actual part of the Player's Handbook. Morrus over on EnWorld estimates about 48 pages.

And look, there's more!

Sidebars in the DMG to customize the game to match past editions of D&D. Color me intrigued. I really thought this aspect was too big a project and put to the wayside when Monte left, but if they can pull this off, it could turn 5e into a bridge between the OSR and the present AND open up 5e to a shit ton of OSR (and other earlier edition) adventures and adventuring.

Lot's of potential.

The Player's Handbook is already down to $30 on Amazon and the DMG and MM are hovering around $40.

It seems that I will now be anxiously awaiting the DMG (oh, early release dates for Wizards Play Network stores - so Amazon Discount versus early release at certain brick and mortar. Well played)

D&D Next Starter Set Box Just $12.66 on Amazon

Good, bad or indifferent, at $12.66 you owe it to yourself to check out the latest version of the Dungeons & Dragons game Starter Set when it releases. It includes dice ;)

Free Clone of "The Fantasy Trip" RPG - You Know You are Curious

The Fantasy Trip is one of the few older RPGs that are just cost prohibitive to purchase on eBay (at least for my mind), but it has been cloned. Dark City Games has cloned it three times actually.

Legends for fantasy gaming, Time & Space for sci-fi and Untamed West for a western version. Yes, a western version.

Dark City Games also sells solo adventures for the rules. They also offer four of those adventures for free in PDF - two fantasy and two sci-fi (sorry, no westerns at the moment it seems).

I've downloaded the rules and they seem simple enough. As I don't have the originals, I can say how close they keep to the originals, but the price certainly is right.

I've also purchased a few of the adventures in print. They include a map and character and monster tokens to print out.

You can grab it all at the Dark City Games website.

There is another clone of The Fantasy Trip available at Heroes & Other Worlds

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Could WotC Have Found a Way to Do Organized Play Right? "D&D Adventurers League

Starting in August:
One System, Many Ways to Play 
At the core of the new D&D Organized Play experience is the D&D Adventurers League. Essentially, we’ve given the system a name, because we wanted to emphasize the connected nature of our public play programs. For the first time, we’ll have our entire public play taking place in the same ongoing D&D campaign. 
As a player, you’ll create a character for the D&D Adventurers League. You’ll be using the same rules to play at a convention, a store, or any sort of public event. There will be a D&D Adventurers League Player’s Guide available to let you know how it all comes together. Through the different programs, the D&D Adventurers League will be inviting to casual D&D players, experienced D&D players, and players looking for ways in which their characters can impact the campaign world. We want players to find the play that best fits them, and enjoy playing for years to come. 
As a Dungeon Master, the D&D Adventurers League is a great way to run fun adventures that involve a minimum of prep work. We’ll find ways to reward you for your time and effort through the various programs, and there will be additional support and opportunities to showcase your skills. 
As an organizer (either in-store or at conventions), you’ll find that the D&D Adventurers League is a great way to keep your players engaged. There will be fresh content available on a regular basis (mostly monthly), ensuring that there’s always something new around the corner.
Three Flavors:

Epic kicks off a story arc, usually at a con, and can influence how it all progresses.

Encounters is what you have now with 4e, but I suspect the combat goes quicker in 5e

Expeditions is the "Advanced Play". It's an ongoing campaign. I would guess it's similar in ways to the old "Living" campaigns.

I'm actually interested in seeing how this goes. Yes, I understand organized play is by necessity "on rails", but if the plot line is strong enough, that can be forgiven. I suspect organized play will have some say in the success or failure of the new edition. As I hope it finds success, I'm hoping the Adventurers League finds a sizable membership.

Is the Emperor Wearing Pants? What's REALLY Going on with the Release of 5e?

There is more left unsaid than said right now with the impending release of 5e. If WotC were graded on a scale of 1-10 on it's use of social media, it would be risking a negative rating.

"Mystery" Mike Mearls and his tweets are more about what isn't included than what is.

The Pundit's social media posts are all about what he knows and can't talk about, but trust him, it is great. You know what? As a paid consultant of WotC - I don't trust your opinion. I'll trust your facts when you present them, but as you can't, you have nothing.

My biggest question isn't "how can you create PCs to use with the Starter Set when the Starter Set doesn't include PC gen rules, but still, you can do it - Mike says so" but more "If there is a step between the Starter Set and the 3 Core Books AND it's an integral part of the release (enough that The Pundit says it's all rainbows and unicorns and shit) why mention it if it can't be talked about?"

Social media is aimed at current roleplayers, not newbs or boardgamers one is looking to convert. Why fuck with us? It may gain WotC publicity, but the sour taste is going to turn many away.

Really, does anyone at WotC even understand social media, because it's obvious Mike doesn't...

Maybe we'll need to open up the scrying pool in the privy to figure this shit out.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

More "Mike Mearls Magic Pearls" - Tweets - Turning Board Game Geeks "Geekier"

Okay, so it's pretty much a "remedial" gaming package. Which is okay. But if this means Next will suffer from "boardgamism" like 4e, I'm not looking forward to the future.

Is this an as yet unnamed release, the new DDI, or something even more sinister?

More Mike Mearls Tweets - Starter Set aimed at DMs - No Char Gen in Box (Think Outside the Box)

So, pregens and perhaps online?

Psychic powers maybe?

Maybe even an SRD?

Break out the AD&D 1e Player's Handbook?

Possibilities are endless...

Which is More of a Carrot For You as a Player - XP or a Cool Magic Item?

D&D has multiple carrots to keep the player's motivated: XP, wealth, magic items, new spells, knowledge, connections, rulership, plot, etc.

The big two seem to be XP and magic items - unique and possibly powerful magic. Usually the end results of killing things and taking their stuff

Which motivates you the most as a player? What fails to motivate you?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Mike Mearls Tweets and Answers Questions - Kinda (D&D Next Release)

SRD upon release perhaps?

Riddles within riddles...

Kickstarter - Flying Buffalo Makes Things Right - and Then Some!

Last week I posted about some of the goodies I received from the deluxe Tunnels & Trolls Kickstarter. There was a mixup, which I found more amusing than annoying - I received the 2013 Free RPG Day T&T Quickstart and not the Buffalo Castle solo that was indicated on the shipping slip.

The thing is, I have just about every FBI published T&T products - most in 2 or 3 flavors - so the mixup was, as I said, amusing. Nothing more.

I was also covering a second unit at work the last 3 weeks and my free time was greatly limited. Blog posts or read emails - I posted when I could and read next to nothing, so I failed to see Rick's emails apologizing for the mixup until I went looking for them tonight. Why did I look? Look above.

The new Buffalo Castle and 3 The Origins Metagame cards.

Now I just need dT&T so I can use the updated Buffalo Castle...

D&D Release Dates are Now Official! Kobold Press Working as a WotC Design Studio! Pigs Fly!

EnWorld, Dyver's Blog and G+ have been awash with the official announcement by WotC as to the release dates of the various D&D 5e products. Yes, even I will partake of the latest edition.

Here's the items and their dates:

Starter Set 7/15
Players Handbook 8/19
Hoard of the Dragon Queen Adventure 8/19
Monster Manual 9/30
The Rise of Tiamat Adventure 10/21
Dungeon Master's Guide 11/19
Deluxe DM Screen 1/20/15

All nicely linked by fjw70 from EnWorld. Here's the Amazon links.

A few comments:

- The Starter Set covers levels 1-5. Not a bad range of levels.
- Six weeks between releases of the core books, not three months as inferred earlier from the lack of a leaked release date for the Monster Manual
- How can a DM Screen be "deluxe" if there is no regular version
- Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamet were written by Kobold Press. They are also the first 2 adventures for the new ruleset. Well, the finalized new ruleset:
Kobold Press, working as a design studio for Wizards of the Coast, has designed two adventures to support the upcoming Tyranny of Dragons storyline—Hoard of the Dragon Queen (out in August) and The Rise of Tiamat (October). These adventures are the first to work with the new rules set.
Interesting how WotC is farming out adventure design, at least in the early releases. I have some hope that the initial adventures may be fairly good now with Wolfgang Baur and Steve Winter doing the writing.

Now, I thought the initial adventures were going to include a self contained version of the rules - that now longer seems to be the case:
The first of two adventures in the Tyranny of Dragons™ story arc, Hoard of the Dragon Queen provides everything a Dungeon Master needs to create an exciting and memorable adventure experience.  
Or I could be reading it wrong. Wouldn't be the first time ;)

Gaming is the Fountain of Youth

When Fools Gather...
During Saturday's Gathering of Fools, Dave (one of our founding members), remarked that leading up to our final session, we were gathering at my house earlier and earlier. As early as 10 am, with sessions lasting to 7PM or later.

We knew the writing was on the wall. After the first weekend of March in '97, it was quite likely that I would no longer have weekends off - I was graduating the NYC Police Academy and would work where and when the job dictated. Weekends off like I had for the 8 months of the academy (and Sundays off for 8 years of retail) were about to be history. We knew we were squeezing in what we could, when we could. Six, seven, eight hours or more on a Sunday - we couldn't get enough as we knew it was coming to an end.

The sad thing is, after six months on the streets I wound up getting steady Sunday / Monday off, but the deed was done. Of the five of us, two were married, two were engaged and all significant others quickly found things to occupy those Sunday afternoons. In the end, we all gave up our childhood when I went to patrol the South Bronx.

Dave, Bri, Tony and  John - if you are reading this, I will strong arm you all back to gaming once a month via Roll20. Bring Kevin along for the ride and we can all be in our mid 20's again. Heck, bring Texas and it will be like the MMO years ;)

The OSR is the Fountain of Youth for gamers in their 40s and beyond...

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Kickstarter - Dungeon Crawl Classics: The Chained Coffin (With a nice bunch of stretch goals under it's belt)

It's rare that I give a Kickstarter s second posting here at the blog - at least the good ones. For the most part, the good ones are "one and done". No snark, no gripping, just solid projects.

The Chained Coffin is different. Here's the basic summary:

- Level 5 DCC RPG adventure module to be manufactured with a puzzle on inside front cover that consists of 3 spinning wheels.

- Spinning wheel edition to be produced with limited edition silver foil cover, at $30 price. "Regular" color cover edition is also available (featuring the wheel graphic without the moving parts) at a price of $10.

- Written by Michael Curtis with inspiration from Appendix N author Manley Wade Wellman. Includes additional mini-adventure "The Rat King's River of Death" by Steven Bean.

But with the additional stretch goals, the $30 limited edition foil cover will also include:

"The Almanac of the Shudder Mountains, which is packaged separately with the silver and gold foil editions, will now be expanded to include a Magic section. This is in addition to the Bestiary and other material from prior stretch goals: the gazetteer, patron writeup, random encounters, and 7 additional variations on “the cover art monster.” Plus the extra player handouts in the main book. And all of this is IN ADDITION to the 0-level module that will also be included! Next up is stretch goal #9 to expand the Almanac from digest-size to normal 8.5"x11" size, with even more gazetteer material!"

You Can Go Home Again - Gathering of Fools 2014

Saturday afternoon through evening was the annual sprint Gathering of Fools. It's when my old gaming group from high school, college and beyond (at least until March of 1997). We do aim for more than once a year, but the springtime is sacred - we gather to remember out friend Paul, who we lost when the Towers came down.

I gave away copies of Hackmaster Basic and Scarlet Heroes AND got a commitment from 3 of the 5 in attendance to aim towards a once a month Roll20 Hangout session. Sure, it's the guys without kids that agreed, but hopefully the ones with kids will find a more immediate use for the Scarlet Heroes ruleset.

It was a good time, with good beer and good food and general shenanigans. Isn't shenanigans one of the best reasons to game?

You Too Can be a "Grand Knight Commander" for Just 250 Dollars! (operators are standing by)

+Jason Paul McCartan had a pretty good rant on Knights of the Crusade (the C&C "Fan Club" of sorts) over on G+, but I felt a need to add a few cents of my own.

I remember when the Trolls killed The Doomsday Book, a C&C fanzine, because it was in competition with the official Crusader magazine. How well did that help Crusader? One issue in the last 2 years or so? Oh, and the last half dozen issue or so were filled with so much filler they might as well have given up completely.

Recent C&C Kickstarters have been to make the current core product line of rulebooks "in color". How many different ways do the same rulebooks need to be offered? How many copies of the same rules does one need?

Now, you can pay for the privilege of being a fan of the Castles & Crusades RPG. Oh, and be required to join 2 mailing lists for said privilege. Oh oh, and provide free content for The Trolls while you are at it.

Oh course, The Trolls have many different levels one can be shaken down for...

Really, is it wrong for me to see this as a money grab? And why does one need to subscribe to the Fat Dragon Games Newsletter?

Hey, the free option doesn't require you to submit anything nor subscribe to anything. I don't think you get anything either.

Look, if you do work for free, you get free titles too!

Castles & Crusades was my gateway back to the OSR. It was accessible and evocative of old style gaming. I have a lot of respect for the system, if not the current manner of marketing and separating gamers from their cash repeatedly for the same product packaged slightly differently each time.

There are better ways to building a community for an RPG line and this is too expensive and too damn complcated.  Having players pay for the privilege just makes it seem like a cash grab. Especially when there is a yearly renewal for repeated shake downs.
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