Monday, April 30, 2018

Ken Whitman Responds and Answers Some Questions

The following comment was left by Ken Whitman on yesterday's post regarding the sale of Little Monsters. I'm reposting it here with minimal commenting as I feel it should be shared and read and not lost in the comments section of a prior post. The following is unedited - Tenkar

Jesus H Christ... Do you guys just speculate and make stories up for no good reason?

1. Marcus sold me the store for $320 a week for three years.
2. I have not been able to make a payment since January, and defaulted on the loan.
3. Marcus had me stay on until he found a new buyer.
4. A few weeks ago, Jim wanted to be bought out from Marcus (he was Marcus minority shareholder, he got a percentage when sold Little Monsters Comics, LLC to Marcus), so Marcus paid him money and gave the old store back to Jim.
5. Jim found a buyer. yesterday was my last day as manager as I was training everyone with the new management.


Q. Did Ken own the store.
A. Yes till I defaulted on the contract.

Q. Does Ken have anything to do with Little Monsters Ent?
A. No.

Q. Is Ken still working on Kickstarters?
A. Yes

Q. Is Ken going back to GA?
A. None of your damn business.

Q. Has Ken answered the NYC Lawsuit?
A. Yes Amazing how no one posted anything about it.

Q. Why did you shut down your facebook?
A. So I can move around the country, make money and finish my kickstarters without Harassment!

Q. What about the $250k in GA?
A. The woman drop charges when she figured out the files were on the disk, but she was using a PC & not a Mac and could not see them. Look using a Mac and TA DA! Why was that never posted?

Q. Do you ever get tire of people making stories up about you and then trying to convince others they are true.
A. There is no such thing as bad publicity.

Q. What do you think about the disbarred Attorney that keeps filing suits against you.
A. I think its a shame that he wasted $250k+ on a law degree, and then disbarred for being an aggressive bully asshole.

Take care you speculating libel bastards.

New Release - The Little Book of Adventuring Classes Vol. 1 (Swords & Wizardry)

I was excited when I had heard that Jason Paul McCartan, he who is InfiniBadger Press, was working on a book of classes for Swords & Wizardry. Jason does good work and I was looking forward to seeing what he would come up with. Then he teased the cover art in The Tavern's Facebook Community. Damn but its a good cover!

Well, this morning I received notice that The Little Book of Adventuring Classes Vol. 1 had released. 40 pages including cover. The classes look solid (I'll offer a review later in the week) and there even appears to be a class inspired, in part, by our very own #ConManKen. I'll let you guess which one that is ;)

Here's the boilerplate:
The first volume in a series of minimalist design, small page-count books offering big play options for your gaming table. 
In this volume, we present 5 new races for your games, along with 8 new classes tied to some of the races as well as races in the core book. Will you play a Bugbear Stalker, a Halfling Grifter, or a Dragonkin Radiant? What about a Goblin Firespitter, or a Dwarven Bloodstormer? If your current character dies, will they come back as a Reaver? 
This supplement for the Swords & Wizardry roleplaying game works best with the Complete version of the game, but can easily be converted to work with the other older versions. The content within can also be readily used with other roleplaying game systems if you have an alternative favorite rule set.  
Includes 8 New Classes: 
  • Bloodstormer
  • Deathwitch
  • Firespitter
  • Grifter
  • Radiant
  • Reaver
  • Stalker
  • Waterstrider 
and 5 New Races: 
  • Bugbear
  • Dragonkin
  • Goblin
  • Sahuagin
  • Unliving
It's $2.99 in PDF.

Yep, that's an affiliate link above. Keep the lights on and the taps flowing at The Tavern with your support.

Oh, and yes - Jason is a good friend of mine. Despite that fact, he does damn good work and this appears to be more of his high-quality work :)

Sunday, April 29, 2018

#ConManKen - Marcus King Throws Ken Under the Bus - Time to Protect the Assets

The following is from Marcus King, posted on Facebook earlier this afternoon. I am sharing it with some commenting by your favorite bartender:

Marcus King
Admin · 1 hr

Ken Whitman, Kickstarters & Marcus.

Ken has been my friend for about 20 years.

In 2006, as I have described elsewhere in detail, Ken Whitman spent about 3 hours preventing me from committing suicide. Consider, if you can, what you might do to repay such a debt.

Ken and I never worked on any kickstarters. I never backed any of his kickstarters, either. In fact, I have backed about 5 or 6 kickstarters, ever. Two from Reaper, one of two from Dwarven Forge, a couple others. Maybe.

I never received money from Ken about or over or from his Kickstarters. (Please DO NOT consider my assets as a liability to Ken's current lawsuit)

About a year and a half ago I absorbed the assets (and not the liabilities) (Good deal if you can work that out) of another store, the owner, whose name does not need to get muck/dragged - we will call him JIM. He owned Little Monster in Somerset, KY. About that time, Ken Whitman came to work for me as an employee because he needed to work to eat, plain and simple. (Ken could have gotten three squares and a cot another way...) I hired him to work in my store. He did some good work for me for a few months. But, some of my staff did not like working with Ken. (Wow! Is Marcus saying that Ken does NOT work well with others? What a surprise...)

After a few months of Ken working with me, he had proven capable when on his meds, and erratic when not (Oh My! This says so much. Perhaps we are setting up a possible defense for the lawsuit). I suggested to Ken that I pay him $8 an hour (what most of my 12+ staff get paid) for 20 hours a week to do projects for me (like casting terrain, and making comic lots, etc), and also pay him 20 hours a week to work on old kickstarter projects (and thus allowing him to work for me, but not with my other staff) (if Ken was really such a liability, why hire him at all?). I was willing for him to start using my computers or equipment, paying him $8 an hour for 40 hours, and he could live in my home if need be (in most states, after 30 days you cant evict him, either). Thus, using his pay to buy whatever other supplies he needed (like pencils or what have you). Ken went off to work for Troll and Toad instead. (uhr?)


My plan for the Little Monster location was to close it, but my new partner (JIM), wanted to keep it open, so we tried. But, MOST of what I acquired by merging with Little Monster was their inventory, and their customer base, and their manager (Jason, still works for me, does a great job). I did not want to keep the store open. So, we tried making it a pallet store, didn’t work. I tried to gift it to my daughter and her boyfriend, and give them a good start. REALLY didn’t work.

Finally, Ken not wanting to work for Troll and Toad any longer, he asked about buying the store (oh boy). Jim wanted to get out of the lease. I agreed to sell it way below value to Ken, as long as he covered the lease. We agreed, signed documents, etc.

A year went by. (I thought it sold in July of 2017. We are in April of 2018)

Jim decided he wanted OUT of being my partner. Suddenly. Like, about two weeks ago. (because lawsuits are scary, especially when you might be liable)

I paid Jim some money, and gave him back controlling interest in the debt owed by Ken to us. He worked something out with Ken, which documents I have not seen, the details of which I am not privy to. (I need to protect myself and my assets. I am not and have not been linked to Kenny financially or legally. For realz!)

This is where things stand now. (sure they do...)

I am no longer associated with Little Monster. (because that might cost me money)

I am no longer financially associated with Ken. (ditto)

I am 100% owner of Mad Ox. (and nothing else, and all of this went on BEFORE Ken was served, I swear!)

Jim is bought out and now has only to deal with Ken. (But wait! I thought the business was sold by some Jim Sears! Oh wait, it was. Ah, so Ken's debt is owned by Jim Sears, and Jim sold Ken's current girlfriend Little Monster out from under Ken. But wait, Ken claims he sold the store...)

Ken blames me for his financial troubles (heh heh - Ken blames everyone but himself), even though I had recently agreed to buy the pencil machine for him to make pencils for his old Kickstarter thingy (mostly because he now has financial responsibility to Jim, instead of me, and I had not required him to make a payment in months, and had previously said I never cared if he made another payment to me or not). (so Marcus bought Ken a pencil machine BECAUSE Kenny was not making monthly payments for the purchase of the store. Sure, makes perfect fucking sense)

My long term loyalty to Ken has been because he saved my life.
It is not because we are tied at the hip financially (please PLEASE don't include me in Ken's lawsuit, which looks valid to me and I REALLY don't want my assets on the hook for Ken's shenanigans) . His buying the store from me/us at the time really was only of benefit to Jim, because it relieved Jim & Ken - allowing Ken a source of income (but will the associated costs, what real income was there - oh, that's right, Ken wasn't making payments), and relieving Jim from the financial responsibility of the lease, which I never was party to or responsible for (see me wash myu hands of as much financial responsibility as I can)

I just wanted to post this to let there be a public record of what has transpired (keep this in mind with Ken's lawsuit. I beg of you!) 

If you want to bash me for my past blind loyalty to someone who saved my life (eh, I'll leave that to others. besides, this is just an attempt to protect yourself from Ken's liabilities), I reckon I got it coming from many of you.

I now wash my hands of all association with Ken (I think its too late for that Marcus. Seriously, if any part of the lawsuit against your were to stick to Mad Ox before, this doesn't chance shit), other than being his friend, if he decides he wants to remain friends.

Marcus King
Mad Ox Games & Comics

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Kickstarter - Barrowmaze: HighFell - The Drifting Dungeon (OSR)

I didn't even realize the Barrowmaze: HighFell - The Drifting Dungeon Kickstarter was in the works, let alone was Kickstarting earlier tonight. Well, it was and it is.

So, what is the Highfell Kickstarter? I'm going to let Greg Gillespie explain:
This Kickstarter campaign is designed to support the creation of a new megadungeon adventure called HighFell: The Drifting Dungeon
HighFell is designed for Labyrinth Lord but can be played with any Old School Role-Playing Game (or their clones) from the 70s and 80s such as B/X, First or Second edition, OSRIC, or Swords and Wizardry. This scenario can also be played with the DCC RPG with conversions. 
This new medgadungeon adventure is designed to support a medieval fantasy campaign lasting months and years. HighFell will support low-level to high-level play. 
I estimate the final draft to be between 180-250 pages and approximately 500-600 encounter areas. If you are familiar with Barrowmaze Complete, that project was 259 pages in a two-column format (cover to cover). Forbidden Caverns, my follow-up project, was 293 pages, PDF poster maps will be done in both black and Old School blue. 
HighFell opens with a gazetteer that outlines the region in which the adventure takes place. This includes a cultural history as well as the detailing of several small villages that can provide a base of operations for an extended campaign. Like the mounds in Barrowmaze, or the caves in Forbidden Caverns, HighFell also provides some low hanging fruit above-ground to get (wise) players started. The dungeon proper will be leveled in a traditional style, albeit in a floating dungeon context with twists and surprizes. This approach merges my own particular vision with inspiration drawn from modules like The Village of Hommlet, Dragons of Desolation, and The Ghost Tower of Inverness.
PDF is $39 US (higher than I am comfortable with) and $62 for the at cost POD coupon and PDF - so about $77 plus shipping.

I've been very happy with Greg's prior releases, so I'm in for this one too - Print plus PDF.

News from Steve Jackson Games - New The Fantasy Trip Logos for Melee and Wizard

In the Better Late Than Never category of gaming news, it seems I missed Steve Jackson Games releasing the new logos for their The Fantasy Trip Melee and The Fantasy Trip Wizard games (for those that missed the announcement, Steve Jackson regained the rights to The Fantasy Trip late last year.

Coming soon(?) to a Kickstarter near you (around 15 bucks each for 2 mini boxed games)

Update - Tavern Tales: Crowdfunding Advice & Tales of Horror - The Series will Have Guest Posts

I'm excited to see that many of the creators of Old School Gaming Kickstarters are interested in contributing to the series of Kickstarter advice posts and articles The Tavern plans to publish. It truly is a strong and deep community we have built here.

While guest posts at The Tavern are unpaid, any articles used in the compilation will be paid at 1.5 cents a word.

Email pitches to tenkarsDOTtavern at that gmail thing with Tavern Tales in the subject.

I may have the first post up later this weekend...

Brainstorming a Series of Kickstarter Advice Articles

I know I've spoken about the possibility of doing a series of Kickstarter advice articles here at The Tavern but I think we've reached the point where we should "kick it off", if I may be so bold.

It's going to cover everything from what to avoid (No Shoes, Dirty Socks, No Backers) to what to do (So it is Written before Launch, So it is Done.) The dangers of stretch goals (Danger! Unfunded Physical Stretch Goals Will Kickstarterson) to funding goals (Not Every Project is a 7th Sea). Pricing (Balancing Numbers & Backers) to videos (No Virginia, Not Every KS needs a Video). Marketing your project (Social Woes & Social Nos) to marketing yourself (You Don't Know Me, So Why Support Me?) Oh, and lots more in between.

I suspect the posts will be a bit disjointed at times. Not necessarily within each post (at least, I hope not) but between posts in the series. I'm a blogger and it's simply a result of how my mind works.

Will all of this apply to every potential Kickstarter creator? Of course not. It will be advice, compiled later (hopefully) as a guide for sale on OBS and elsewhere. As a reader of The Tavern, you will get to see the draft as it is written. Offer feedback, support, criticism or simply dismiss it all together. Take from it what you will.

It will certainly be centered on the creation of RPG and related Kickstarters, but I'm sure some of the advice will be useful beyond such circles.

I may need a graphic down the line but the series definitely needs a title. Let's see:

  • Tenkar's Kickstarter Tidbits & Tales
  • Crowdfunding Advice from Tenkar's Tavern
  • Kickstarter Tales From Tenkar's Tavern
  • Kickstarter - Tavern Tales - Crowdfunding Advice & Tales of Horror (this I have a graphic for ;)
Eh, it's all I got. Feel free to suggest some alternatives in the comments below ;)

Friday, April 27, 2018

Kickstarter - Sometimes the Kindest Act I can do is Nothing at All

I've mentioned this before but I get multiple requests each month to look at pre-release Kickstarter pages to offer my critiques (which I am generally happy to do so as time allows). This generally picks up as the weather gets warmer.

Those numbers pale to the number of requests I get asking me to post about this or that Kickstarter. I get requests through my Blogger Contact form, email, and even PMs.

Apparently, it's well known that I cover Kickstarters. Sadly, it doesn't mean that folks bother to check what kinds of Kickstarters I cover. It also doesn't mean that I cover each request.

I've had one Kickstarter open as a tab on my browser since I got the request last weekend. Sure, its pretty, but the video is annoying and, more importantly, it's NOT the type of RPG I'd likely find myself playing. There is nothing bad about its presentation but there is nothing that hooks me. If I'm not going to be looking to spend my hard earned cash on it why would I suggest my readers do so?

Would a post at The Tavern make or break its funding? I doubt it. But if I'm not excited about it my readers won't be either. Of course, I'd probably wind up focusing on the annoying video, the lack of community comments and the fact that the genre it appears to be trying to accomplish has already been done, very successfully, by another publisher - via Kickstarter of all places.

So I do nothing. Or, at least, post nothing directly about this project and others like it. Somewhere, someone is getting frustrated that nothing has appeared about their passion project. They were told, quite specifically, to make sure their project got covered at The Tavern and still nothing.

Sometimes the kindest act I can do is nothing at all.

This doesn't mean folks shouldn't send me links and reach out to me to look at pre-release pages and what not. It's just a reminder that the service I provide is for my community, not for the Kickstarter creators themselves. The currency involved is the good will and positive feedback from The Tavern's readers and I value it all.

I really do need to do a series of Tavern Kickstarter Tips posts ;)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Alignments by M*A*S*H

Cat knocked the mouse off the desk for the umpteenth time and its acting flakey.  In the meantime, enjoy ;)

Tip of the hat to Michael G in The Tavern's Discord Server

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

#ConManKen - Did He or Did He NOT Buy Little Monsters?

Wow. #ConManKen is never one to cease to surprise.

Jess Hunter is the new owner of Little Monsters, now called Little Monsters Entertainment LLC. Little Monsters Games & Comics LLC is still incorporated by Ken Whitman. So, there are now TWO Little Monsters. Following thus far?

Jess Hunter claims she purchased the store location and merchandise from a "Jim Sears", not Ken Whitman.

4440 S Hwy 27 Somerset, KY is the location of Little Monsters in either incarnation.

The WhitePages lists the following businesses at that location:

Mad Ox was both after an earlier incarnation of Little Monsters and prior to the Ken and Jess incarnations - or is it?

Is Jim Sears the business partner that Marcus King has alluded to in the past?

It seems to me that either nothing was ever sold, and Marcus defrauded the Tax Man...


The store was sold to Ken Whitman and now Ken, Marcus, Jess Hunter and Jim Sears are trying to defraud the courts.

with thanks to NotAnotherDime

Neither looks to be on the up and up.

Ah well, Ken always entertains.

For more #ConManKen escapades read NotAnotherDime (for Ken Whitman)

Reminder - Tavern Chat Tonight - 9 PM Eastern - Oh My!

Tonight is a Wednesday Night and that means Tavern Chat. What are we going to talk about? I don't know all of it, but I do know SOME of it will be #ConManKen. Simply "because" ;)

Tavern Chat is held on The Tavern's Discord Server. Its a voice chat but you can simply listen if you want to. there is also an associated text channel, but that's mostly in addition to the voice channel.

Here's the link to join the server:


Far West makes Me Proud to be a Joker

The thing is, I don't see the unconscionable delay of Far West (nearly 6 1/2 years late and counting) as an achievement by Gareth. Instead, it is his albatross. Whatever he published prior to this fiasco is now tainted and his work as a freelancer now - well, I just hope he puts such funds to actually getting folks the print copies they paid for.

Almost as striking is the fact that he hasn't updated the Far West Kickstarter since May 1st, 2017.

How shall we celebrate on May 1st, 2018? I know - lets all NOT do something ;)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

#ConManKen Goes to Ground - Deactivating Facebook Accounts - So He Can Finish Kickstarter Projects...

So, this has nothing to do with Kenny being served. I mean, he's going to work on Kickstarter projects. He says so, so it must be true. Kenny never lies.

Let's see. Since being served Ken has "sold his business" and is deactivating his Kickstarter accounts (I THINK he still will have one left, as last I checked he had two as Ken Whitman). Kenny is looking to escape justice it seems. Ken, why don't you just close your eyes and cover your ears - might be as effective and be a whole lot simpler.

We may need to GoFundMe a Private Eye to keep an eye on #ConManKen ;)

Edit: Forgot to add my last words to Kenny - Get yer shinebox!

Edit edit ;) 

Free OSR Rulesets - Fantasy - RetroQuest II (Chasoium RuneQuest 2 Clone)

Huge thanks to Michael Thomas for not only pointing me to RetroQuest II but for also writing / publishing it. Well done sir!

RetroQuest II - is a D100 SRD for creating your own rules and adventures in the vein of everyone’s favourite second-edition D100 roleplaying game. This System Reference Document uses the Open Game Licence and several existing System Reference Documents to re-create the mechanics and play of the first versions of the classic D100 system. See the OGL at the end of this document for more information.

Other Free OSR Rulesets - Fantasy 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Kickstarter - Graphic Novel Adventures (Solo Gamebooks)

I'm a fan of solo adventures done right. They are fun to pull out when you have the desire to game and no regular game scheduled. Some of my favorites were from ICE back in the day using their Middle Earth license. I've never seen one that used a graphic novel for the chassis, so I'm finding the Graphic Novel Adventures Kickstarter fairly compelling.

Somehow, visualizing your choice add a new dimension to the genre of solo gaming.

This is just a great visual:

Nice and short video review:

Watch the video. Well worth 3 1/2 minutes of your time. Made my decision to back much easier ;)

19 bucks to back for a single book. 75 bucks to back for all five books.

Time to play with myself... shit! That doesn't sound right!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Deadpool Has Some Cool RPG Homage Covers

With some of these covers I found it is easy to identify their inspiration. Others, not so much ;)

Below are the inspirations:

Friday, April 20, 2018

Announcement - InfiniBadger Press is Lowering PDF Prices Across the Board (Polyhedral Dungeon / Graveyard of Lus / Through Dungeons Deeper / More)

I received this email early this evening and I'm passing it on. I think I own it all already ;)

Some important and awesome things are happening at InfiniBadger Press, with lots of great product releases coming in the next 12-24 months. We've also spent time looking at how we publish, why we do, and what we want to publish. This has led to us changing up a pretty important part of our publishing approach. ONE THAT BENEFITS YOU, FINE READER OF THIS EMAIL! (er - blog post ;)

After some analysis and decision-making, we're revising our entire pricing structure for PDF/digital products. Previously we price products at 50% of the baseline print edition (usually black and white interior).

We're revising those and dropping the prices of products according to a new formula, and this is granting PERMANENT price drops on digital publications today and going forward.

This means you can:
Save $1.00 on Polyhedral Dungeon, which is NOW $2.99 (previously $3.99)
Save $1.00 on The Graveyard at Lus, which is NOW $3.99 (previously $4.99)
Save $6.00 on Through Dungeons Deeper, which is NOW $6.99 (previously $12.99) (do I need to say it? this a pure gaming gold)

Why this drastic shift in pricing?
Because we want more people to get access to our products, perhaps even upgrading to the physical versions over time. Remember that if you buy a digital version, you get a discount of what you paid for it against the print price if you do want a physical version of a product! We want to generate some revenue to allow us to bring some really cool projects to life, and we think that getting more people to buy our stuff is the way to do it.

These discounted prices apply through all digital storefronts we publish on including OneBookShelf, Lulu, Amazon, and our own website. Physical book prices will remain at their normal MSRP.

We hope you take advantage of this exciting change in the way we're publishing, please feel free to share this good news with your friends, your gaming buddies, or even your pet!

There are affiliate links above. They help keep The Tavern doors open, the beer flowing and the lights on. Thank you :)

#ConManKen Plays "Let's Make a Deal!"

The above can be found in the comments section of the KotDT: LAS Kickstarter. #ConManKen wants to make a deal with the individual that had him served.

I'm posting with minimal commentary on my part as am sure my readers will do their fair share ;)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Guest Review - Pyramid of the Lost King by Genius Loci Games (S&W Sandbox / Adventure)

The Tavern is always happy to share guest posts from members of the community. Just use the Blogger Contact Form on the right side of this page or email us at tenkarsDOTtavern at that Gmail thing with "Guest Post" in the subject line to make your pitch.

Now on to our guest review by Doug Kilmer.

A Review of Pyramid of the Lost King by Genius Loci Games

Pyramid of the Lost King is a mini-sandbox (literally in this case!) that includes a collection of short adventures written for the Swords & Wizardry rule set, but like most OSR products it is compatible with many of the early rules versions and later clones. The product is the result of a successful Kickstarter project in 2015. The electronic product is 107 pages long, including the cover, 8 pages of interior cover, introduction, table of contents, backers list, and OGL license info. The remainder is adventure and setting information.

In full disclosure, a pdf version was provided to the reviewer gratis by Joshua De Santo of Genius Loci Games. The game is available in electronic format from RPGNow (http://www.rpgnow.com/product/196455/Pyramid-of-the-Lost-King?affiliate_id=1446)

The adventures in this product are set in the Lands of Usarm, a world that has undergone a long ago upheaval and is replete with ancient technology (magic?). Refer to the publisher’s blog (http://geniuslocigames.blogspot.com/) for more information on the Lands of Usarm and material available on this setting (more information on the setting’s history would be helpful, but is not required, to use this product. Especially if the GM drops this into his own world).

What It Has…

The core of this product is five adventures, three of which are dungeons, culminating with the title piece namesake.  The adventures are designed for S&W 1st through 5th levels.  There is a nice breadth of dungeon, wilderness, and city encounters in the document as a whole. Not only does the game provide the adventures, there is a lot of information on the sandbox setting. It includes information on the great Saragubi Desert and the significant places within: the City of Basq (a merchant-controlled trading city), the Sangab Rift, the Narrows, and numerous other locations. The setting as a whole can be easily dropped into most any campaign world. Like a good sandbox, the locales in the desert can be explored as the players choose. There is enough content to be the basis of play in this area for a significant amount of play time. It would require the GM to invest in creating encounters and finding creatures appropriate to this ecosystem, but there is a strong setting framework already in place.

The adventures are well written and are a good length for 1-2 game sessions each, depending upon how long your gaming group plays at one time. Creature stats for encounters are presented in-line with each encounter (not in an attachment at the end). This makes for easier use, but some detail on how to play certain monsters or encounters would help for less experienced GMs.  I won’t go into details of the adventures here to avoid spoilers, but have to give a shout out for several of the encounters to wet your whistles: Ratmen, Rusted Sentinels, and a Great Worm. Now, that is a nice spread that warms any dungeon crawler’s heart.

The encounter maps are also well done, in that they are actually useful as drawn. They are hand drawn black & white, clean lines with just the right amount of information – not cluttered or confusing. For those that use gaming mats or paper, the dungeons are easily recreated to scale for miniatures use. The rooms are keyed to the written content as well. I like that each location has a unique title, but also appreciate they did not put this on the maps. The hand-drawn style is an aesthetic I am particularly fond of. I would play the adventures in order as they appear in the book (which may not work with a sandbox approach), as they play well in that order and become more challenging (and interesting) in that order.

The author also went to great lengths to provide random encounter tables. These encounters are great for getting groups from location to location in play time. Each table comes with brief explanations of each encounter and quick stats – just enough info to put into play immediately if rolled but not so much that it bogs down play while the GM is reading.

The end of the document contains the obligatory new magic items specific to the setting. Nothing earth shaking here, but they are good window dressing. There is also one new spell.  As mentioned above, creatures are presented within the adventures themselves rather than consolidated at the end in a separate appendix.

The Not So Good…

There really is not much about this product that isn’t useful or well done.  As typical, we would all probably like more detail. That is the hallmark of a good setting. More guidance on how to tie the five adventures together to create a mini-campaign arc would be welcome. I would also have liked to have seen more new and original monsters for this locale, or at least a general listing of where standard monsters appear and how they can be used. Many of those in the adventures seemed like standard rules creatures with new names. Maybe just giving them some setting relevant powers would help.

There is one mini-adventure, Relics of the Lost Age, where not having more information on the history of Usarm is a bit disconcerting. The adventure involves the ancient technology, and again while not necessary, more context would be appreciated.

From a production standpoint and appearance, the artwork is a bit on-again, off again. The juxtaposition of some of the finer pieces (including a very fine cover) against the weaker work is a bit off-putting. For example, a nice black line depiction of a priestess in Temple of the Fallen God which has a nice pulp vibe is followed on the next page by an elven female adventurer or caravan survivor that is almost anime in proportion.  It is understandable and common among smaller publishers to have to use a variety of stock art to adequately fill a product, but more careful consideration of pieces used and trying to be consistent would have helped. Overall, though, the art is fairly good and it does not take away from the quality of the content.

Not sure this is really a negative, but to be used to the maximum, this sandbox like others will require some input and effort from the GM. Especially once you are past the five written adventures. It also requires good planning on how to tie the adventure locales and other random encounters together in a coherent fashion for more discerning gaming groups.

The Good…

There is a lot of good in this product as described in the preceding so I won’t rehash that. The setting, the adventures, and the quality of the writing are all notable. The content will be easily recognizable to any fan of the OSR, which I also consider a plus. The setting can be easily dropped into any homebrew world that has a varied geography. That’s actually one of the best values of this product – its depth of use and versatility. The book offers just enough detail to be playable, yet leaves plenty of room for the GM to exercise their own creativity and expand upon the setting as they see fit and as fits their world. There is a lot of value in this book at the price (pdf $10.00 as of the writing of this review). This product is more than loosely linked adventures. It truly is the basis for sandbox play. GMs and players both will get a lot of value from this book.


On the old five star system, gotta give this a solid 4 out of 5. 

Yep, that's an affiliate link above. Keep the lights on and the taps flowing here at The Tavern :)

More Thoughts on the Gygax Games / Fig Announcement (Snark Free)

Last night in Tavern Chat, one of the topics that came up was the Gygax Games / Fig announcement. As we were discussing, I received a PM with the following screenshot:

Talk about horrible timing. Not only is there no Gygax Games website to go along with the announcement that Gygax Games was to license IP for video games BUT the Gygax Memorial Fund website was down (still is as I type this)

So, why the apparently rushed announcement that Gygax Games was apparently NOT ready for? And yes, they weren't ready, as you can see from the Facebook commentary of one of the Gygax Games team members:

The announcement benefitted Fig but does little for Gygax Games. Fig needs "eyes on". It needs traffic. It needs incoming links. Sure, it's funded some huge IPs for millions of dollars, but these were well-known IPs / developers with huge followings. Compared to Kickstarter and Indiegogo, Fig is barely a fig leaf.

Here are some Alexa traffic rankings for Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Fig:

See the traffic rankings? I'll throw ENWorld in for comparison.

Just as important, if not more, look at the "sites linking in". Nearly 40k for Kickstarter. Over 18k for Indiegogo. 75 for Fig. They aren't in the same ballpark.

That's telling. It means that Kickstarter and Indiegogo are destinations unto themselves. Backers will go there to find projects. Few are going to Fig to find projects. Projects are sending folks to Fig.

So, yesterday's announcement was potentially huge for Fig. It got them press. It got them traffic. For Gygax Games, with no website, it means very little. No traffic from yesterday's announcement. Just an opportunity to piss off the established fanbase of Gary's work (why Alex couldn't you have avoided trashing TTRPGs?) Gamers have a short attention span when it comes to news in the industry, but insults tend to linger.

My advice, unsolicited as it is, is for Alex to start priming the "social media pump". For this endeavor to have any chance to succeed Gygax Games needs to have a presence on Facebook, in gaming forums (both tabletop and electronic), news articles, blogs, and Alex needs to be that face. He's personable enough in person. He can't be like Gail, a recluse, as that WILL NOT build up the fan base that will be needed for success.

Gygax Games needs a website like yesterday. Professionally done. Pleasing to the eye. It needs to be updated frequently with news related to this project. It needs to funnel Alex's excitement.

Anyhow, for comparison, below is The Tavern's Alexa statistics. We're no ENWorld ;)

Talking about ENWorld, the commentary on the relevant thread over there is worth the read.

Palladium - The Uninviting - Kevin Seimbeda no Longer Gaming Guest of Honor at Capricon

I guess failure has consequences. How many Robotech Tactics backers were left out in the cold?

Ah well, I'm sure Gareth is available. Or even Kenny if there is a film industry in Chicago ;)

Link to the Facebook announcement: https://www.facebook.com/capricon.org/

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Free OSR Rulesets - Fantasy - Swords & Wizardry White Box & Core - Editable Documents

I'm adding the Swords & Wizardry White Box rules in .doc format and the Swords & Wizardry Core rules in .rtf to the Free OSR Rulesets Fantasy page.

Perfect for those looking to house-rule or hack their own ruleset together based on the Swords & Wizardry engine.

Swords & Wizardry White Box

Swords & Wizardry Core

Free OSR Rulesets - Fantasy Page

Reminder - Tavern Chat Tonight - 9 PM Eastern - Whitman, Gygax Games - oh my!

Yep, I expect a lively discussion tonight at Tavern Chat, what with the recent Gygax / Ken Whitman announcements.

The link to tonight's chat is here:


9 PM Eastern on The Tavern's Discord Server.

Voice chat will be in the Open Bar channel. Feel free to lurk :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

#ConManKen Goes on the Lam - Little Monsters "Sold" - Ken Looks for a New Community to Grift

It's been a busy day here at The Tavern. Beleive it or not, now we have some news from our very own #ConManKen that he posted on Facebook. Actually, I'm surprised it took this long:
As of 6pm tonight, I am no longer manager/owner of Little Monsters Games & Comics, LLC. I will be staying on till the end of the month to help with the transition of new owners. I will begin persuing a full time career in the motion pitcure industry as well as finishing up some unfinished kickstarter business. I appreceate all of you who have helped my time at Little Monsters an incredable experience.
Yep folks, its time for a new episode of ConManKen Goes on the Lam with Marcus playing the part of the chief enabler.

Mind you, all that follows are a whole bunch of suppositions. Strong ones, sure, but still suppositions.

Now, let us be real. Ken was NEVER the owner of Little Monsters. It was a shell game that benefited both Ken and Marcus UNTIL Ken was served last week with a lawsuit. The store being in Ken's name, even if only on paper, put Marcus in an awkward spot. Spotting Kenny a few bucks and giving Kenny a place to sleep (even if it was a cot in the store's office) is one thing - being on the hook to lose a whole business because of Ken's past shenanigans is a totally different ballgame.

Full time career in the motion "pitcure" industry? Where? He has a rep in Atlanta and it isnt a good one. The West Coast won't take him. Vancouver, maybe? He can claim refugee status in Canada ;)

As for the unfinished Kickstarter business - it's ALL unfinished. Not some of it - ALL of it.

Psst! Kenny - the business you sold may still be at risk from your current lawsuit, as the "sale" happened after you were served. Just a thought...

edit- I originally had "Lamb" instead of "Lam" in the post title. I blame it on Ken ;)

What's 10 Years Old and Losing Value Every Day? - The Gygax Trust (CRPG Games to be Licensed by the Gygax Trust via Crowdfunding)

How do you ensure the IP you are entrusted with withers on the vine?  Refuse to license it for 10 years.

How do you attempt to revive its value? Talk about the death of its original market and aim for a new one.

What am I talking about? Why, the Gygax Trust and the ludicrous attempt to get value from Gary's work, not from tabletop RPG but from computer games.

There are two articles floating around today about the Gygax Trust making a deal with Fig (some crowdsourcing program) to license CRPG rights to Gary's works to developers. Let us look at those articles, shall we? Be warned, there's a shitload of snark from your bartender, and I'm not referring to Alex Gygax...

First, from Polygon:

Dungeons & Dragons creator’s unpublished work to be turned into video games

Gygax Games and Fig announce open call for interested developers
By Charlie Hall@Charlie_L_Hall  Apr 17, 2018, 12:00pm EDT

It’s been 10 years since the death of Gary Gygax, the man who co-created Dungeons & Dragons. Now, Gygax’s family, through the auspices of the Gygax Trust, wants to bring his unpublished works to life as video games. (Here's the deal - Gail's hope to have movies / streaming services / multimedia from the deal with theTransformers producer in July of 2016 hasn't come up with shit and Gail / Alex need money - the rest of the family is NOT involved)

The Trust announced today that it has partnered with crowdfunding and investment website Fig (who the fuck is "Fig"?). Together, they will begin a global search for the right developers to carry the legacy of Gary Gygax forward. (this should have happened 10 years ago. The Gary Gygax legacy has withered on the vine)

To accomplish their goal, the Gygax Trust has rejuvenated Gygax Games (you would think they would have revived the website BEFORE the announcement)  and installed Gary’s youngest son (and Gail's only child), Alex Gygax, as the CEO.

“I was gaming since I could walk and talk,” said Alex, who was raised in the family home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. “My first D&D adventure I’d say was when I was four or five years old, running a solo campaign with my father on his work breaks. So I was playing D&D before I knew what any of that was.”

Alex told Polygon that at an early age he played an instrumental role in playtesting another creation of Gary’s, a tabletop role-playing game called Lejendary Adventure, which was licensed for a time to Troll Lord Games. The game is now out of print. (and why is it put of print? Gail. Yep, she's a real wizard at making money)

“I was playing in our Thursday group through the entire creation of the Lejendary product line,” Alex said, who is also one of the lead bartenders at a local pub called Sprecher’s. “Since then I’ve been working here in town, doing a lot of gaming, hanging out with the locals, going to my local game store. I’ve played everything from Xbox games to computer games, board games, over at my brother’s house or Magic: The Gathering events at the local game store.”

Alex said that his job will be to ensure that future projects based off his father’s work continue to retain the spirit of the original Dungeon Master. Right now the Gygax Trust is working to archive handwritten materials and Gary Gygax’s personal effects, some of which formed the basis for the creation of Dungeons & Dragons. Alex called the collection a “treasure trove.” (problem with this - anything Gary wrote before he left TSR is probably owned by WotC these days, whether or not Gary revealed it at the time. What does the trust have rights to? Lejendary Adventures, the game they refuse to put back in print)

Alex Gygax was one of the first playtesters of Lejendary Adventure, a role-playing system by Gary Gygax and published for a time by Troll Lord Games. You can still find the quick-start rules at their website. (Grab it before the Witch of the Mid-West demands it be taken down)

“One of the major ones that everyone knows about is his personal dungeon,” Alex said. “It was his personal D&D campaign that he had never released to the public. He didn’t want his game nights being destroyed by publishing his work and then having his group go out and buy it and find out all of his secrets. So that’s one of the main things that we have to use, and all the little side derivatives of that.” (not so sure where the rights for that actually lie, but whatever)

More than anything, Alex said that he’s excited to find his father’s original work a new home in the future of digital role-playing games.

“I grew up playing this and I’m also a huge video gamer, so I’ve always wanted to see my dad’s work because I thought that they were some of the greatest stories and tough adventures,” Alex said. “I’ve always wanted to see them put out in the next level. Pen and paper is a dying art. (There you go tabletop gamers. Get your Fucking Shine Box! Tabletop RPGs are hitting new highs but they're dead. Sigh. Alex, I had high hopes for you. Ever get your name actually on the GMF website as a member of the board or is that still "in the works"?) Computer games, video games, they’re the next generation, the next wave of games and I’ve always wanted to see them on that new medium (that's all fine and dandy, but why not tabletop too?) and I’ve always wanted to be working with someone who’s excited as I am about it.”

Alex said that many of the games that his father created were always meant to be digital properties, and the time is right to fulfill his wishes.

“He always had the intention of taking certain product lines and transferring them to the digital realm (I'm guessing this was in addition to print versions), it just never came to fruition,” Alex said. “There are a few lines that he created specifically with that in mind. So published or unpublished, there’s definitely the digital realm in mind with these lines. It’s something that has been talked about for a very long time, and I’m really excited to get this underway.” (sure it has been. So why is Gail finally giving it the OK? is the Trust broke?)

Fig CEO Justin Bailey told Polygon that his company entered into a licensing agreement with the Gygax Trust with the intention of finding developers to pair with it. Ultimately, the Fig platform will be used to run the crowdfunding campaigns that will in turn produce the games.

“We’re running a full green-light process with our advisory board,” Bailey said, referring to the team of experienced game developers who help curate games on that platform. They include Randy Pitchford (Gearbox Software), Feargus Urquhart (Obsidian Entertainment), Tim Schafer (Double Fine Productions), Aaron Isaksen (Indie Fund), Alex Rigopulos (Harmonix Studios) and Brian Fargo (InXile Entertainment).

“Any developer who wants to propose something, get it in through pitches@fig.co and we’ll review it with our green light committee and with Alex to make sure that it’s a good fit. Once Alex is able to get the Gygax Games website up, that will be another avenue for submissions.” (Holy Shit! See this? The website isn't up for Gygax Games - that's some shade throwing right there. CEO of a shit show don't mean shit)

So why did it take 10 years to bring these foundational pieces of Gary Gygax’s work to the digital space? Alex said that it was all simply a matter of timing. (LOL! Timing? The timing was lost long ago. This is a matter of desperation to finally get some cash from the rotting IP)

“It’s just a combination of things,” he said. “Technology. Having the right group of people there. (Mom being broke) Wanting to have the fans involved and being able to keep some creative control. Maybe not full control, because we want a developer to be able to do what they’re good at, but making sure that it’s done with Gary’s spirit in mind. So being able to keep his spirit with everything is I think one of the really big parts of why we waited so long.” (No, the reason you waited so long is Gail wanted a million bucks to even open the vaults. Now, she's willing to take coppers on the gold piece in the hopes of making some kind, and kind of money.)

Yep, fun times.

Now, from VentureBeat:

D&D co-creator Gary Gygax’s trust and Fig partner on video games

Video games owe a great deal to Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons. In many ways, his game set foundations for the medium, and its mechanics and spirit branch out to all genres these days. But Gygax never created a video game that made it to market.

Alex Gygax wants to add video game development to his father’s legacy. Today, The Gygax Trust is announcing a partnership with the crowdfunding platform Fig to publish video games based on the unpublished works of Gary Gygax. Timing for the first campaign was not disclosed. (Because there IS no timing for the campaign. Judging from the lack of details, this probably just developed)

In an interview with GamesBeat, Paul Stormberg (I'm clueless) of Gygax Games said that the projects would deal with, among other things, the original home role-playing game campaign that Gygax ran. (Good luck on that - isnt that owned by WotC thse days?) “We’ll just say it’s something people have been waiting for a long time,” said Stormberg, who’s worked for years in the pen-and-paper RPG industry.

Alex Gygax said that the trust picked Fig as a partner because of the important role fans play in crowdfunding. (Huh? Correct me but wouldnt, I don't know, Kickstarter be a better choice?) Since they don’t have a development studio signed or a game prototype yet, they chose Fig to work with. This platform differs from Kickstarter and Indiegogo in that people backing products can get a piece of the action and a return on their pledges. (interesting)

“It’s a good opportunity to get some games produced and work with gamers and still be able to have some direction of where some things go,” Alex said, “making sure the spirit, the essence, of Dungeons & Dragons (bad Alex! Bad bad bad) and the RPG Realm is kept in mind.”

I asked if it was at all based on Castle Greyhawk, the megadungeon that served as the base for one of Gary Gygax’s home campaigns. They were a bit coy about it, but they did confirm that the projects wouldn’t involve Gord the Rogue, his character that appeared in novels after the D&D co-creators breakup with his own company, TSR, or the Castle Zagyg, a Castles & Crusades megadungeon that could be called “The Son of Castle Greyhawk.” (right, so is LA stuff that's been rotting for 10 years)

“We’ll just saw it’s something people have been waiting for a long time,” Stromberg said.

The Gygax Trust has had years to adapt Gary Gygax’s works into a game. So, why did they decide now is the time? It’s a combination of platforms like Fig and the advancement of in-game design and computer tech. (sure, and like I said above - Gail is finally desperate to make money off the IP - 10 years to late and a million dollars short)

“Video games have caught up” with the ideas and concepts my father played with, Alex Gygax said. “I think [the industry] has caught up with what we’re trying to create.”

Stromberg explained how over the years, the family has tried to work with studios to make games on Gary Gygax’s works before.

“Gail [Gygax, Gary’s wife] herself is quite familiar with the development of her husband’s IP for computer games, having worked with a number of companies over the years to do so. While the projects all had promise, some of them quite fantastic, the developers could never quite achieve the vision Gary had laid out,” Stromberg said. “However, now, with Fig, an amazing pool of talented developers, and some truly amazing advances in computer gaming, we know we can begin to bring the real jewels of Gary’s unpublished IP to his legions of fans and the larger gaming community.” (as a betting man? this goes nowhere)

As we chatted, Alex Gygax and Stromberg kept talking about the fans. It’s certainly the people who play, who create adventures and worlds of their own, that have been the key to D&D‘s longevity over the past 40 years. Poking around internet communities such as Reddit and forums devoted to RPGs, you find people still playing the old editions that Gary Gygax published decades ago. (so, there's a market for Gary's work, but they aren't going to market to the market...)

“[My father’s work] is something people love, and they stick with it. It had a very family like feeling to it, to everyone that has played or enjoyed it over the years,” Alex Gygax said.

On Reddit and those forums, you’ll also find people recounting their fond memories of encounters with Gary Gygax, who always made it a point to interact with fans at conventions and answer thousands of letters and emails. Alex Gygax even noted how his father would answer letters from prisoners.

And it’s that passion and goodwill that Fig and the Gygax Trust are hoping to tap for their crowdfunding campaign.

So, there you have it. Another deal from The Trust that will go nowhere. Beleive me, with 10 years of practice doing nothing with the Gygax IP, Gail is a master at the art now.

If I appear to be overly harsh in my assessment, feel free to make counter-arguments below. Note that Gail is a shrewd business woman, able to balance a Trust and a Fund and accomplish nothing with both of them.

Tenkar's Tavern is supported by various affiliate programs, including Amazon, RPGNow,
and Humble Bundle as well as Patreon. Your patronage is appreciated and helps keep the
lights on and the taps flowing. Your Humble Bartender, Tenkar

Blogs of Inspiration & Erudition