Saturday, August 29, 2020

Deal of the Day - The Blackest Space - An Interstellar Sci-Fi Survival Roleplaying Game (OSR)

When it comes to OSR based RPG systems, Bloat Games has a pretty good track record. While I'm not sure I need another scifi ruleset, the OSR is famous for its hackability and The Blackest Space may provide good source material for some White Star gaming. At 3 bucks -normally 9.99, there really is no reason now to find out :) 

Written by Josh Palmer (Co-Creator of Dark Places & Demogorgons and Vigilante City) comes The Blackest Space, a Sci-Fi game that utilizes the BoD game system created by Eric Bloat for The Blackest of Deaths RPG

There is 15 Classes represented in The Blackest Space:  Bounty Hunter, Captain. Communications Commander, Ebontear Endbringer, Ebontear Necrojudge, Emerald Champion, Medical Officer, Meta-Psych, Pilot, Pirate, Science Officer, Security Director, Shock Marine, Smuggler and Technician.

And 12 Playable Races: The Apparatus, Arpi, Asaluss, Cymyrs, Gnargfang, Gronslag, Harkfey, Humans, Lanerians. Mirewhips, Qu’fer and Zygaq.

Content included:

  • Rules VS Rulings
  • Core Mechanic
  • Benefit and Hindrance
  • Advantage and Disadvantage
  • Attributes (Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Constitution, Dexterity and Charisma)
  • Determining Attributes
  • Luck
  • Hit Points
  • Healing
  • Death
  • Move, Evade & Armor Points
  • Everything In Turn
  • Leveling Up
  • Initiative
  • Combat
  • Vacuum of Space & Dangerous Enviroments
  • Gear and Currency
  • Weapons, Armor and Equipment
  • Cybernetics
  • Robots
  • Vehicles
  • Interstellar Ships
  • Space Combat
  • Free Actions
  • Star Ships (all sizes and upgrades)
  • Space Booty (Stat Bonuses, Weapons, Armor, Equipment, Galactic Repute/Currency, Special Items)
  • Galaxy Background
  • Earth's Timeline
  • Sections of the known Milky Way
  • Gronslag Empire, Lanerian Depths, The Solar Council,  Earth, PAX I, J-15, Nexus Base Evermore, The Azure Domain, Barrison-5, Zonatt-3141, The Golden Arsenal, Illumination Realm, The Brine Mire, Crucible Center, The Emerald Edge, Arpourus III and XI, Forbidden Zone, Ventura II, Fury VI, Wyll III, Blackspace Corsairs, La'samoo Station, Devogolos, Koshka-8 and many, many more!
  • Organtizations:  The Infinity Exchange, The Probers or Greys & The Ruins of the Great Ancients
  • Random Star System Generators
  • Templates

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Friday, August 28, 2020

Final Two Weeks for Old School Essentials Advanced Fantasy Kickstarter

Final Two Weeks for Old School Essentials Advanced Fantasy Kickstarter
Erik should be home today from the hospital, but I'm off work early today and thought I'd use the Tavern soapbox to shill for myself, something I thought fellow Tavern-goers (do we collectively have name?) might be interested in:

Old School Essentials Advanced Fantasy Game Kickstarter.

I know, I know.....it's probably bad form to have one post with where I name-drop Ken Whitman (or is it Whit Whitman now?) and then the next day mention a different Kickstarter......

Old School Essentials Advanced Fantasy Kickstarter
I cannot do much about that now, if Erik has a problem he'll either cut me off at the bar, or.......heaven forbid, ask me to settle my bar tab. I think I'm good because the folks over at Necrotic Gnome have actually come through on their 1st Kickstarter for Old School Essentials, which was a B/X Clone.

Just a couple weeks ago I got my copy of the OSE Classic Fantasy Rules Tome.....and it is sooooooo droolworthy. Holy crap is it nice! Now I don't want to talk shit about other B/X games/sets, but I really only want to play with my OSE book now. It is one of them there "fancy" European sized books, I don't know A5 maybe.......ugh, I feel a little less 'Merican for even knowing that, but whatever. The book is beautiful, sturdy, and full of gorgeous little touches.

When I found out that Necrotic Gnome was doing another Kickstarter to add-in some "Advanced Fantasy" supplements...I bought in ASAP. Since the Kickstarter has just under two weeks left as of the time of this post I figured I'd clue some of you in.

Click on the link above if you're interested.....


You know that OSE Classic Fantasy Rules Tome I was just gushing over? Yeah, i just learned it's on sale over at Necrotic Gnome's Website......for a lot less than I paid for it. With the quick Euro-conversion I just did I think it's $41 plus shipping.......

......oh, wait a minute....that's if you're one of those European-type folks that natively gets what an A5 sized book is. Those guys get it on sale for more than haf-off. We can get it for $40 through Exhalted Funeral, and it's the same price what I paid for.....guess I got a little too exited....must have been thinking of the gobs of money I spent on other gaming stuff recently (got a bunch of 3d printing stuff and filled some holes in my comics collection).

If you didn't already have the Classic (B/X) Fantasy Rules Tome already, but were interested I think I'd probably just buy in to the Kickstarter and grab everything you wanted all at once and get a huge present to yourself, but that's more to see if you can shave a few bucks off of shipping.

A lot of us here at the Tavern love the OSR and this is just a pretty new flavor of OSR that I happen to enjoy right now. Love it or leave it.....your choice, but better to have the choice than to miss out....right?

Thursday, August 27, 2020

This One Time, at a Convention.......

This One Time, at a Convention.......
Erik's still in the hospital & should be out tomorrow, so your sorry lot will have to suffice with another story from me!

<insert evil cackle here>

This one time, at Scout camp.....whoops, wrong audience.

Actually since I usually type about HackMaster, especially when it come to tournaments, I thought maybe I'd regale you fine follks (I'm clearly laying it on thick) with the quick (?) story about when I allegedly became the German National Grand AD&D Champion.

Seriously.....it was evidently a thing.

Oh wait, I told that story? Well not in depth, but close enough.......

Well I know I mentioned that I was pretty much handed the Tournament MVP because the fricken adventure revolved around my (randomly assigned) PC. The thing is that there was much more going on at this convention and being the AD&D Champion came with some cool perks.

So this was back in 1996. Magic the Gathering was still pretty new and WotC had a VIP at the convention (cannot remember the guy's name). Dragon Dice were a thing and Lester Smith was a VIP at the convention. I got him to sign a few of my Dragon Dice bags and I got to play, and lose, some games with him. I won some art in a drawing, one piece of which was a huge photo negative cell-thing from an upcoming Traveller book. I still have it, never did get it framed. Got to meet Larry Elmore who was also a VIP at the con, AND I got to meet for the 1st time.......

..........drumroll please.............

Ken, fucking Whitman!

I'm not sure if Kenny was a VIP as well or part of Larry Elmore's entourage. I do remember that I was invited to a special after-party followig the convention and was volunteered to drive Ken, Larry, and the WotC guy to the party.....and at the time I was driving an old Austin Mini (Red Hot Secial Edition.....not a Mini Cooper). Now if you've ever seen a picture of Kenny, he's not a small guy.

I got everyone in, those small cars are bigger on the inside, and went to the party. To this day all I can remember about the party was that we got to play a very work-in-progress game of Groo! The cards and mechanics were pretty much done, but the cards themselves were all still hand-drawn from Sergio Aragonés. It was a fun night and I made sure to buy nyself a copy when it cane out.

I got to see Ken again when I went to the European Gen Con, which was my prize for winning the German Tournament. That was a fun experience for me, but mostly because it coincided with a longer vacation to the Netherlands........but that's more a story over beers at a future after-party.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

A HugeThank You to All for the Support During this Latest Hospitalization

 2020 has been one hell of a year. Screw Covid, I’ve been hospitalized three times without its help ;)

This latest hospitalization has been the least stressful, even though I’ve been here since passing out after lunch on Sunday.

Here are the takeaways:

- ECG of my heart reveals the four stents I received for congestive heart failure in May are working perfectly. Actually, the cardiologist told me my heart was working perfectly. My current issue is low blood pressure when I stand, likely due to dehydration. No more diuretics! Currently on a saline drip. This appears to be the cause of Sunday’s passing out.

- there are partial blockages of my coronary and one further artery leading to my brain. CT was late yesterday afternoon. Waiting on vascular surgeon to review The CT, but was told most likely course of action will be to treat with medications.

- I’d rather be bored and monitored than worried :)

I’d like to thank all of my friends in this community of ours for the kind words and thoughts. It really means the world to me. Of course, a huge thank you to Chris, who’s been posting the past few days. The Tavern truly is a team effort.

Oh, and to the magnificent bastard that paid 10 bucks each for the two volumes of Pocket Monsters as well as snagging a copy of SWCL - I don’t know what to say other than “thank you”. 

Thank you all.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Hitting the Party Sideways

Hitting the Party Sideways
One thing that has always gotten under my skin was the concept that as an adventure author, of course this is HackMaster (Association) specific, that my adventure had to "Hit the Party Sideways", or have elements so far out of left field as to surprise the players to the point where it'll lead to a PC death.

Now granted this was usually in context of one of the two big national (Origins & GenCon) multi-round elimination tournaments, but as a GM or a tournament/adventure author, should our goal ever be a player-character death? Personally I say no. My job is to make a fun, engaging adventure that sets up the possibility for the PCs to kill themselves. Despite the apparent adversarial overtones of the GM/Players relationship (we did have PC kill stickers after all), I'm there to have fun and I root for the PCs just as much as against them.

While this "hit them sideways" bit was usually a generic challenge, I have had it issued with regards to a specific group, in one case the winner's of the tournament last year. Evidently my buddy Topher and his group kicked too much ass and needed to be taken down a peg or two. Now I will admit that back in the day I called bullshit. Now I'll admit I was friends with Topher and had actually flown from Boise to Chattanooga a few times to game with his group......ok that's an exaggeration. My work flew me from Boise to Nashville a couple times and I did the added two-hour drive to Chattanooga on my free Monday nights to sling dice. Anyway, this group was a well-oiled machine that wasn't a collection of PCs, but a group that started having their collective shit together before they started rolling 3d6. When Topher played (he was normally the GM) his PC was a Double-Specialist Diviner, basically the magical equivalent to Sherlock Holmes. In a heavy hack & slash game like HackMaster, Diviners seem kind of lame since they are non-combative one-trick ponies that seem kind of useless on the surface. Useless that is unless you need to find out some information about something......which comes up so much more often in a tournament situation than you might imagine.

In any regard, good job creating a PC that either shines or hangs back and does jack squat. In most gaming groups this would not be a good PC to play, but in a good cohesive team built from the ground-up to work together, this guy could be a tournament wrecker......could be.

I'm not one to care if a specific group/table/player/PC finds one particular encounter easy because of good roleplay, character design, teamwork, or just dumb luck. Technically, especially in HackMaster, it is possible for me to set a single 1st level Cleric with a wooden hammer up against a Red Dragon and have the Dragon succumb in one blow due to a critical hit. Statistically impossible, but still can happen. As a GM/author you cannot, I dare say should not, plan for/against outliers. It's kind of a waste of your time.

If you're writing for a group other than your own, make up a story and make it make freakin sense for your game world. Who cares if somebody isn't sufficiently challenged by one particular encounter, or hell....even the whole thing. Now I'm not saying that you shouldn't put in the effort to make it fun for everyone involved, but spending an inordinate amount of time of making it sufficiently "sideways" is not a good use of your time.

I'm not quite sure I can tell you what is the right amount of "sideways" and I'm not sure one even exists because that seems to go against my personal philosophy, but I can give an example where I had added some.....and where it didn't matter. This particular encounter takes place in what is essentially an exit shaft up and out the mountainside of a Dwarven fortress. It's really designed for exit OUT of the complex, but the players are trying to use it to go IN. The wide corridor extends a good 100 meters into the mountainside and ends in what appears to be a dead-end. At the end of this hall is a stone tray filled with large tiles, Dwarven runes on one side and copper pegs embedded in the other side (I actually had props for this of placards with Runes on one side of a bunch of cards). The end wall of this hall had tile-sized indents filled with little holes. Now this was basically a lock for the escape hatch out of the mountain. The idea was that there was a password to open the lock where you had an eight-letter word you needed to spell out in runes using the letters provided. Once the last tiles was placed, if the word was correct, the secret door would open. If not, the ceiling would drop out and crush the party.

Now it is important to note that this encounter was designed to be a time-waster more than anything.  The tiles were large enough and spread out enough that it would take more than a pair of thieves to "pick" the lock. Three thieves could try, but ideally it took four. If a party had three or four thieves in it, they suffered enough and should be able to get a pass on this encounter. This trap/lock was like a memory game. Every letter corresponded to a section of hallway, with an extra section at the end above the tiles. For every letter/rune in the word that was incorrect, that ceiling section came down, doing a specific amount of damage.....but so did the section above the tiles. With enough trial and error, a group should be able to figure out the word needed and open the secret door, which was well down the corridor they had already walked through, definitely not within the area of the trap.

Now with the right spells, skills, magic items the party might be able to eventually find the door on their own and bypassing it (and the trap) would take some effort, but mostly because it wasn't where you would normally look. A party going that far would still be wasting time and having to use resources that would then not be available to them later in the game. The time-wasting effect would still be there.

Now I'm sure this wasn't a sufficiently "sideways" for some of my adventure reviewers, but come on.....this was basically just a fancy lock on a fancy door that was really made for one-way use. If you needed it to be a little more....I don't know...extra: remove some of the needed tiles. Maybe this lock had been used more often than originally intended and some of the tiles were showing some extra wear & tear so one of the brighter Dwarven guards temporarily removed some key tiles so newer replacements could be made.......

......that makes sense to me. Hitting the group sideways by spelling the "password" wrong to begin with, that's probably more like what I'd been told to do all along.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Deal of the day - GM’s Miscelany: Dungeon Backdrop


Let’s see how well I do posting with my iPad. Maybe the new Blogger interface will solve a multitude of problems. Maybe ;)

Today’s Deal of the Day is GM’s Miscellany: Dungeon Backdrops. The whole GM’s Miscellany line is simply an awesome resource for the harried GM, and this release is no exception.

You are a GM, but you are busy. You want to write your own modules, but you just don’t have the time. And you don’t want to use commercial modules. You want to make your campaign your own. That’s where the Dungeon Backdrop line comes in! Each Dungeon Backdrop presents a fully fleshed out and lovingly detailed self-contained dungeon ready for you to use as you see fit. Stock the dungeon with your own monsters (and—perhaps—their treasure), decide their back story and you are good to go. 

Every Dungeon Backdrop is carefully designed to be easily inserted into almost any fantasy campaign. Dungeon Backdrops: we describe the dungeon, you add the monsters (and the treasure).

Ah well. Still problems. I’m biding my time in the hospital for some tests. Thank God for Chris Stodgill. Give the man some love.

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My Introduction to the HackMaster Association

My Introduction to the HackMaster Association
This last week school started for some folks and a good friend of mine saw his youngest daughter off to college. One of the things she was sent off with was a "party pack" of the most recent Pacesetter Games BX set (has a bunch of extra player's books). She also got some dice, map boards, and some other D&D books (4th Edition?). Her father told me she was interested in playing so I bought a bunch of stuff to do so (on a couple of occasions). Despite me spending more than a couple hundred bucks (my buddy won't read this so I don't mind mentioning that fact) I couldn't get her family to start up a game and I hope that she'll have better luck in college.

Now on the surface I'm sure this seem stupid as hell, especially given that I go by "Frugal GM" with another blog by the same name. Why the hell do you spend that kind of money on NOT playing a game?

In short: because I can.

First off, in my opinion, being Frugal has nothing to do with being cheap. Frugality is about spending money wisely and saving money when and where appropriate. I simply feel that a couple hundred bucks is a worthwhile investment in a buddy's kid, but more importantly, the very real future of the next gaming generation.

I've not made it a secret that I didn't get to game worth a damn growing up, and would maybe argue even still today (but I've had some pretty good stretches). One recurring theme in my personal gaming journey has pretty much been the high barrier-for-entry. My introduction to HackMaster is a good example.

HackMaster PHB
So in 2002 I'm on my Honeymoon in Las Vegas and my new bride decides she wants to visit EVERY comic book store in the greater Las Vegas area. I like comics and most comic books stores also stock games and cool toys, so no problem. At one store I happen upon the HackMaster PHB. Now at this point I haven't slung dice in five, maybe even seven, years and 1st Edition? Decade or two for sure. I recognize the homage that is the cover, but at the same time it's not familiar.....I hope that makes sense. I end up picking up the PHB and...and I'm hooked. I loved the writing and the blend of 1st Edition, 2nd Edition, and home rules. I had bits and bobs of different rules I was wanting to run with another system, but HackMaster just felt so much better.

Now don't get me wrong, I know damned well that HackMaster 4th edition is crunchy, clunky, and has a few of the same problems 1st Edition did, but I loved it. I really wanted to play.

I got my chance nearly a year later when I found out that HackMaster was being run at a game convention in Salt Lake City over Memorial Day. Now this convention is much more an art, sci-fi, and cosplay convention so gaming was there, but almost an after-thought. I tried, and failed, to register for the games I wanted. Evidently the sign-up sheet wasn't there and the registration "guy" was nowhere to be found. My 1st game wasn't until the next day, but I was getting pretty worked up, agitated, down-right pissed off that I could not register for my games! I didn't drive 6 hours, rent a room over a holiday weekend, and subject myself to fricken cosplayers to miss out on a game 'cause some guy can't be bothered to work his volunteer shift!

After the third or fourth visit to the registration desk the convention staff wisely decide to track down the games-guy before this one guest loses it. I didn't know that this really wasn't a gaming con and if I'd just showed up the the right time & table I'd have been good....

Man did I have a good gaming weekend. Aside from one ass-hat blatantly cheating in one miniatures game it was a good time all around. Met a lot of good guys that were in a couple different home groups, but active together in something called the HackMaster Association (HMA), basically a way to track home groups, PCs, and allow for organized play.

Wait, more opportunities to game and a way to have my PC from a Home Game play in a tournament? Sign my ass up!

Yeah, this brief , bright moment of gaming would inevitably crash into that common high "barrier for entry" I referred to. So these new gaming friends a state away were part of one particular Chapter of the HackMaster Association. Since I was living in Boise that placed me into a different Chapter. I could sign up for the HMA, register my home group and even get certified as a Level 1 GameMaster, but anything else I had to work with my Chapter.

You Eastern folks might have issues comprehending the distances involved hereOk....no problem. Let me reach out to the other groups in my Chapter.....oh wait, there's only one, and its in fricken Spokane! That's an eight hour drive. This group isn't active, but the GM sure seems to be. I don't know what the heck is going on yet, but I'm liking this HackMaster game so I'me willing to do some digging......

It ended up that there were a lot of active HackMaster players, groups, and a chapter in Seattle. There was this one group in Eastern Washington led by a bit of a notorious GM. I had a buddy in Boise from GM who was big into the gaming scene there and he was able to fill me in on some details and I was able to do some more digging.

I won't go off too much on this guy, but for you older Air Force Vets that might be reading this.....he retired at 20 years as a Buck Sgt! Says enough for me right there!

Anyway there was this big HMA fight I guess with this one guy wanting, nay demanding, that every other year his home group getting to host the Washington State HMA Championship. I'm not going to comment on fairness or how I think things should have played out, but in the end, this guy (as I heard, remember this is all 2nd hand info) had a hissy fit and decided to form his own chapter. As part of trying to legitimize his chapter he claimed all of Eastern Washington and the whole (player-less) state of Idaho.

It was a bit of work trying to formalize this research, contacting the powers that be, and finally getting to join up with the folks in the SLC area to form a new HMA Chapter. It was a pain, but well worth it. We drove down several times a year to game, folks from "down there" came up to game with use. To this day I'm still friends with some of those folks...

This was a rough introduction to the HackMaster Association, but things got better and at one point I ended up helping to run the darned thing, but that is (probably not) a story for another time.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

My Non-Thoughts on "Combat Wheelchair" Minis

My Non-Thoughts on "Combat Wheelchair" Minis
OK, I realize that this is probably more rant territory than anything, but yesterday I came across this article about WotC, well specifically WotC staff, chiming in on the "Combat Wheelchair".

My initial reaction was, "WTF, is this actually a thing?"

No, not the wheelchair mini....I could give a rat's-ass about Tiefling minis in the first place. That's there's one on a wheelchair is even more a non-issue for me.

What fucking blows my mind is that someone, well anyone really, cares enough about a wheelchair mini to bitch and gripe about it to the extent that anyone, much less WotC staff, has to come and make a statement (in defense or otherwise) over the mini.

Seriously guys, and probably not you, but the whiners.....do you not get that it is a game?! You don't want a wheel-chair bound Tiefling...then don't play one! If having one in the group is that big of a deal to you then bring it up in the group and guess what......you might be looking for a new gaming group, but if you're that hung up on the issue that were you really in the right group to begin with?

I take it this is the mini in question:

I prefer this option to the large chicken mount

Please don't read into me on this.....I'm not some Social Justice Warrior championing the cause of diversity and inclusion at the gaming table. I've got my own biases, judgements, and can be just as big of a dick as the next guy.........but at some point you have to be an adult and realize it's your job in life to figure out what's important/not important and make the appropriate call......and that call isn't to go online and piss and moan.

You don't like the mini, great......again, don't buy it. I won't buy it because I have no use for it....even if it wasn't a Tiefling. Would I turn down a player wanting to use it for their PC?.....yes, but again only because it's a Tielfing. If this was a Dwarf, go for it. Like any other aspect of your PC I reserve the right to use the wheelchair against you. Don't expect me to suddenly make dungeons accessible or anything, but you know creatures/humanoids are fricken lazy so aside from stairs between levels a wheelchair would probably be more useful than initially imagined, but good luck escaping those pit traps!

Also, as an aside.....don't give me too much to work with as I'll use anything you give me against you if I can!

You don't have to be inclusive or have a diverse group at your gaming table, but maybe....and I'm going out on a limb here...you don't need to be a dick about it. It is just a game and there's a lot of out-of-game stuff that really matter, until it does. I don't know about disabilities, but I've had players with lifestyles (and religions!) I don't agree with.....that might not be the right way of putting it.....I generally don't care what you do in your off time as long as innocents aren't harmed...except Furries...they just (figuratively) rub me the wrong way, but that's my problem to work on.

I have been in a gaming group where I definitely did not agree with the GM's lifestyle. Again, I generally don't care, but too much "downtime" around the table consisted of discussions I really did NOT want to have to listen to. I wouldn't want to hear about my best-friend's sex life at the gaming table, and I might find that interesting, so someone else's.....no thanks. I stuck with the game for a while......and I would like to say that I mentioned my discomfort to the GM, but it was years ago....doesn't matter now. Clearly this was just "my" issue, so I just stopped playing. It was a good game & GM otherwise, but it was a big enough issue to stop playing. I'm self-aware enough to know that I probably wasn't as mature and adult about the whole situation as I should have been, I am human after all, but I learned from it and I did not go online to piss and moan about the situation that really only affected me. I did not expect the world to change to make me feel more comfortable and I definitely did not act like a big enough douche that KenzerCo (it was a HackMaster game I was playing) felt like they had make some public statement.

Clearly I'm not anyone special here, not claiming to be, but I have a soap-box and really when/if you guys reading this happen upon this level of self-entitled whining trying to force someone else to needlessly play RPGs "their way".....shut that shit down....

.....unless it's about Furries or Tieflings, fuck those guys*.

*Lighten up Francis......I'm kidding, clearly, but there should probably be some very minor variances made for edition-preferences.

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