Tenkar's Tavern Community Updates

Monday, April 19, 2021

Castles & Crusades City & Town Megapack Bundle Only 9.99 - Today Only! (OSR)

Castles & Crusades was the system that marked my full-on return to tabletop RPGs. Sure, Warhammer 40k's Dark Heresy introduced me to the Fantasy Grounds VTT, but Castles & Crusades had me playing on a weekly basis. I'm very thankful that Rach was extremely understanding as we courted ;)

Heck, I bought copies of the first printing of the Castles &Crusades Player's Handbook for the members of my old high school & college gaming group, as it reminded me very much of AD&D 1e (and the copies were dirt cheap on at the time). Good times.

Where I see Swords & Wizardry as the Rosetta Stone among OSR systems, allowing one to convert between OSR systems fairly seamlessly, I see Castles & Crusades filling a similar role between the OSR and 3.x Dungeons & Dragons. As such, C&C holds a special place in my gaming collection.

The Castles & Crusades City & Town Megapack Bundle offers what it says on the tin - 70 bucks worth of OSR ready cities and towns for your fantasy campaign for just 9.99 in PDF. I'd be all over this IF I didn't already own three out of four in print already. ;) This bundle is far cheaper than any one of these titles would be on their own. (Deal is good until the end of the day, Monday 4/19/21)

You get the following titles for your 9.99:

Castles & Crusades Bluffside City on the Edge ($20)

Castles & Crusades Free City of Eskadia ($18)

Castles & Crusades Heart of Glass ($13.99)

Castles & Crusades Town of Kalas ($18)

The Tavern is supported by readers like you. The easiest way to support The Tavern is to shop via our affiliate links. DTRPGAmazon, and Humble Bundle are affiliate programs that support The Tavern.  You can catch the daily Tavern Chat podcast on AnchorYouTube or wherever you listen to your podcast collection. - Tenkar

Sunday, April 18, 2021

I Missed a Far West Kickstarter Fiasco Update in February 2021!

Holy fucken shitballs! I had nearly given up on updates on the Far West Kickstarter. Of course, the Kickstarter itself hasn't seen an update since July 15th, 2019. That's sneaking up on two years. At this point, Gareth has CLEARLY qualified himself for a VP position over at Kickstarter with his amazing history of responsibility, timeliness, and truthfulness. I'm sure if he reached out to Luke Crane he could get a few pointers.

So, what actually does Gareth say in the update buried on his Far West website? (note, my commentary is in Orange - Tenkar)

Here we are in 2021.

Ten years. A decade. The original FAR WEST Kickstarter was in 2011. Ten years is a long goddamn time to ask people to wait, I know. (I don't recall being asked, but whatever)

It’s been the hardest decade of my life (its been a hell of a decade for possibly everyone). Professional (challenges like keeping your pen names straight) and personal challenges, like I’d never experienced before. Physical and mental heath crises requiring damn near all of my focus and attention (well, and Twitter. Twitter has consumed nearly ALL of your focus for the last 10 years). The work on FAR WEST definitely suffered   (I doubt much work on Far West actually happened over the past 10 years) You know it. I know it. 

Honestly, I’m all out of apologies. (Apologies need to be meant to have value. I have heard no apologies of value)

2021 is the year where FAR WEST finally gets released. (where have I heard THIS before?) I have not abandoned the project (I have not yet begun to fight! wait, wrong quote). I am finishing it up (where have I heard THAT before) (currently adding some things, suggested by my editors, to various parts of the manuscript, mostly in the final chapter (the Narrator’s chapter). My business partner, Eric Trautmann, has begun layout of the completed chapters. Things are proceeding (if by proceeding, you mean nothing of value has been happening, then yes, things are proceeding). PDFs will go out first to the long-suffering Kickstarter backers, and then will be released commercially, followed by the printed book (again, to backers first, and then wide). (there is NO WAY printed books are happening, not unless the PDF sales are huge. The money is long gone. Gareth has said so)

We will release this year– delays, disasters, pandemics or societal collapse be damned. (somehow, I doubt this statement. No. Really. Is that bad of me, to NOT take Gareth, the icon of honesty, truthfulness, and honor in the gaming industry at his word?)

Home is on the horizon (What, we're not in Kansas anymore?). We’re racing the sunset, but we’re gonna get there.


Gareth-Michael Skarka

Lawrence, Kansas

22 February, 2021

I think I threw up a little bit in my mouth. 

Then we had some comments, and Gareth replied:

Chad S. says:

February 25, 2021 at 11:24 am

Will you commit to releasing the pdf to backers, in whatever state of completion it may happen to be, before the end of 2021?

admin says:

February 25, 2021 at 11:26 am

Yes, without hesitation. (even if that state is Nothing Completed)

Darq says:

March 14, 2021 at 10:54 am

And the long suffering Pre-Orderers who didn’t have the benefit of all the secret “backer only” communications and releases, I hope! (wait! There were Pre-Orders on top of the Kickstarter backers? How much money did Gareth take in on this shell game?)

admin says:

March 14, 2021 at 4:56 pm

That’s one of the reasons why I’ve moved all updates to this site and our social media accounts. (the main reason was inability to remove negative comments from the Kickstarter page)

Michael says:

March 17, 2021 at 11:08 pm

Would those be the social media accounts you blocked people on when they asked once every 4 years for an update? (see? EVERYONE knows the reason)

admin says:

March 18, 2021 at 12:14 pm

Nobody has ever been blocked for asking for updates. Several people have been blocked for being rude jerks. (me love you long time. Feel free to attempt to "punch Tenkar in the throat" big man)


The Tavern is supported by readers like you. The easiest way to support The Tavern is to shop via our affiliate links. DTRPGAmazon, and Humble Bundle are affiliate programs that support The Tavern.  You can catch the daily Tavern Chat podcast on AnchorYouTube or wherever you listen to your podcast collection. - Tenkar

Got Some Unexpected Help Figuring Some Stuff Out


Got Some Unexpected Help Figuring Some Stuff Out
We're pretty much all dorks/geeks/nerds here at the Tavern (except for Rach...she's an angel...[I got your back Erik!]).....and I'm willing to bet that most of us goofs like more than just RPGs.

Now I don't consider myself a Star Wars geek, but I do enjoy the films....for the most part. I really didn't care for the last trilogy we got and at the point of coming across as sexist (too late... I opened my mouth so therefor I am wrong) I really didn't care for the character of Rey. My problem though, was I could not tell you why I didn't like Rey, I just didn't. Now I really try not to be some pseudointellectual type and me trying to get up in my head as to why or why not I don't like something really isn't going to work unless I can point to something concrete and obvious......or I have it pointed out to me.

Now the title alone would normally dissuade me from watching the video, but it came up automagically in my cue 'cause I watched something about "Charismatic Intelligence" with Hollywood types and this rotated in. I won't go into the finer details here but the author/narrator's words hit home because she was able to point out something really obvious, but beyond my grasp to understand without the help.

Now since my mind wanders like no other I started to wonder if there was such a thing as "womansplaining" since I had to have a woman point out the painfully obvious to my clueless self. There is, it's called "femsplaining" and this video was so not it.

No this video was just a good explanation on a few things I couldn't wrap my head around because.....I hadn't tried?......I lack the sufficient mental capacity?......I didn't care to explore the concept further?

Most likely the latter because if you don't like something, why spend more energy trying to figure out why? It's either obvious, or it's not and knowing either way doesn't matter if you don't want to spend more resources (time & energy) on it.

Now there have been some RPG games I haven't liked, but usually it's quite obvious to me. The rules are too crunchy/fiddly for my tastes (Rolemaster) or I don't care for the amount of effort it takes to make a PC (D&D 3.5). Doesn't mean I won't play those games, but I'd rather play something else if given the opportunity.

There was a time when HackMaster was becoming a game I didn't enjoy playing, but I had no clue as to why and again I was fortunate to have another woman point out the painfully obvious to my clueless-ass self. Back when HackMaster 4th edition was waning, but 5th Edition wasn't available yet there was the "secret" 5th Edition playtesting. Now the majority of the D(evelopment) Team at KenzerCo are engineers and while they're all great guys......but holy hell can they over-engineer a RPG....and this is coming from a guy who likes a fair amount of RPG Crunch.

HackMaster 5th Edition is heavily skills based and the design of the skill system was basically that skills started at 100 and went down as they improved. You rolled a % and wanted to get over your skill number. High was always good and adding bonuses to your die roll was literally adding a number to your die roll. Sounds good right? I think there are several systems out there that use a similar mechanic.

Nope......did not like it. Honestly I don't think anyone outside of the D-Team liked this skill system, but for the life of me I could not figure out why I didn't like it. Then Shabby, a fellow friend/gamer/playtester pointed out the painfully obvious: If you have a 90% in a skill, that percentage is your chance of failure, not success.

So do I need to roll a d10,000 for that?

 As players we want to succeed, so I don't want to hear the GM tell me the chances of failure, but my chances to succeed! One is just inherently negative and the other is positive. Yes, a 90% chance of failure is technically the same as a 10% chance to succeed, but don't tell me I'm going to miss on a d20 roll of 1 to 18. Tell me I'm going to hit on a roll of 19 or 20!

The playtesters managed, probably with a HUGE amount of convincing by Shabby, to "fix" the skill system in HackMaster 5th edition to the point where I'm a fan again. While I know now this wasn't "womansplaining" I'm personally glad to have been helped out on these two occasions to figure out that I like character development and positivity in my gaming systems...... if I could only get some help with some other shit I can't figure out.....but that would also require me to care more than I do. Life's too short to dwell on media and games you don't like...... 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Holy Crap! There was a Collectable Live Action Hygiene RolePlay Game at GenCon 2001

Sometimes a post just writes itself. THIS is one of those times :)

I received an email from a listener/viewer of the Talking Crit Cast (VidCast / PodCast). Actually, Glen and I did a follow up last night on Dungeons, Dragons & Discourse (VidCast / Podcast) After listening to either Bad Mike and I or Glen and I broach the topic of "gamer funk", he sent me the following pics of, as he put it: 

"something I picked up at GenCon 2001. They had lots of these laying around in common areas. It’s obvious that the gamer hygiene issue is not small is someone felt the need to make these."
If any others happen to have an original copy of the above, I'm sure Bad Mike would love the donation for the NTRPG Con Midnight Auction. 

A HUGE tip of the hat to Taverner JW for the above. You made my weekend as only a Taverner can ;)

The Tavern is supported by readers like you. The easiest way to support The Tavern is to shop via our affiliate links. DTRPGAmazon, and Humble Bundle are affiliate programs that support The Tavern.  You can catch the daily Tavern Chat podcast on AnchorYouTube or wherever you listen to your podcast collection. - Tenkar




Friday, April 16, 2021

Humble Bundle Comics - New & Classic D&D by IDW Publishing

Through my early 30s, I was an avid comic book collector. When I stopped collecting (nearly 20 years ago), I stopped cold turkey. Now, I'm quite happy to buy comic book bundles to read on my iPad, as it no longer requires poly bagging and storage issues. It is simply so much easier. :)

The Humble Comics Bundle: New and Classic D&D by IDW Publishing has a large selection of D&D comic book titles. Most tempting for me personally are the Dragonlance titles. I don't think I have the patience to reread the original novels, but in comic book form on my table, I'm good to go. You can grab a bundle for as little as a buck.

The Tavern is supported by readers like you. The easiest way to support The Tavern is to shop via our affiliate links. DTRPGAmazon, and Humble Bundle are affiliate programs that support The Tavern.  You can catch the daily Tavern Chat podcast on AnchorYouTube or wherever you listen to your podcast collection. - Tenkar

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Humble Bundle - Warhammer 40,000 Stories 2021 by Black Library

I've always enjoyed the fiction set in the Warhammer and Warhammer 40k settings. The stories are generally suitably dark and quirky and scratch that itch for me that more general sci-fi can't.

The Warhammer 40,000 Stories 2021 by Black Library eBook Humble Bundle is a steal and a half. If I read two books from the whole collection in the next 12 months I'll more than make my money's worth, and I expect I'll read much more than that ;)

The Tavern
 is supported by readers like you. The easiest way to support The Tavern is to shop via our affiliate links. DTRPGAmazon, and Humble Bundle are affiliate programs that support 
The Tavern.  You can catch the daily Tavern Chat podcast on AnchorYouTube or wherever you listen to your podcast collection. - Tenkar

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Deal of the Day - Pyramid of the Lost King (Swords & Wizardry)

Today's Deal of the Day is Pyramid of the Lost King for Swords & Wizardry. I've owned this is PDF since it released and I am dying to run it, as it is as much setting as it is an adventure. There is a lot of meat on this bone, and it's in my wheelhouse, as it's geared to levels 1 to 5.

Normally 15 bucks in PDF, until tomorrow morning Pyramid of the Lost King is on sale for 7.50

Millions of year ago the lands of Usarm were devastated by a great Cataclysm in the final days of the war between the Gods of Usa’arm and the demonish threat of the N’zi. In the wake of a final assault by the Usa’arm the very fabric of reality was torn asunder flooding the world with arcane energies and rips that sundered other worlds and realities … and in the process sank Usarm into the dark depths of ruin.

Now, Usarm is home to races and monsters dragged through those rips; refugees who now call a world ravaged by magic home. Wars between some races is common, and a dark threat rises in the North and another in the far south. A south that until now was left unexplored by the peoples of Usarm.

Intrigued by the prospect of riches the Merchants Guilds of Newrk stretch their arms and money into the great southern desert of the Saragubi hoping to find new peoples and new cultures to trade with and to grow more wealthy by.

Pyramid of the Lost King is designed for play with Frog God Games Swords & Wizardry and can be enjoyed by characters of the first to five level and is as much a campaign as it is an adventure. Within this book lay the trade city of Basq, the Rift Bridge, the Saragubi Desert, and hours of adventure for all who are foolhardy enough to venture into the Desert.

edit: I was reminded there was a guest review for this from back in 2018:


The Tavern is supported by readers like you. The easiest way to support The Tavern is to shop via our affiliate links. DTRPGAmazon, and Humble Bundle are affiliate programs that support The Tavern.  You can catch the daily Tavern Chat podcast on AnchorYouTube or wherever you listen to your podcast collection. - Tenkar

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

A Wayward Kickstarter - Apocalypse 5e

Sometimes you simply have to wonder. Maybe even scratch your head. Everyone and their mother want to have THAT Kickstarter. The one that makes them a household name in the gaming industry and means they will never have to be a cog in someone else's business model ever again. Another rich and famous game creator. Sadly, the reality is that Kickstarters that hit those life-changing amounts of pledge dollars are somewhere on par with the odds of hitting it big with Lotto. It can be done, but it needs more than luck, hard work, and name recognition. It often needs something resembling the planets coming into alignment.

Now, do 13 10 (as three were canceled) successful prior Kickstarter projects mean you can hit a $100k payday with your latest? 

Hmmm- The most backers Daniel had before his current project was 124. The most monies raised on a successful project by Daniel was $2,179. That's okay though because his eyes are big and are focused on the prize:

Now, over two weeks into the funding period of the Apocalypse 5E RPG Kickstarter, he has 72 backers and just shy of $3,700 in funds raised. With two weeks left to fund.

Simply put, this will not fund. Not now at $100k. Not if rebooted at $10k. Certainly not to raise 1 million. Dare I say it, but this is delusional. The leap it takes to go from where he is to where he wants to be is nowhere in the realm of reality, but I've seen this many a time. From names well known and not so well known. 

The question to ask is "who will be to blame" for the project's failure to fund? Certainly not the creator. It never is.

Strangely enough, even the name of this project isn't accurate, as Apocalypse 5E RPG isn't a stand-alone RPG as the title would imply, but as the Kickstarter page itself says, it's a "post-apocalypse RPG setting handbook that allows you to use 5E rules and combine fantasy and sci-fi themes."

Or is it?

I'm sure this would have done well on the DM's Guild, though not in the amount that the author would have hoped for.

The Tavern is supported by readers like you. The easiest way to support The Tavern is to shop via our affiliate links. DTRPGAmazon, and Humble Bundle are affiliate programs that support The Tavern.  You can catch the daily Tavern Chat podcast on AnchorYouTube or wherever you listen to your podcast collection. - Tenkar

Monday, April 12, 2021

News - Jeff Grubb's Lost Manuscript of the Mystara Setting for AD&D 2e to be Released for Free Later This Year

WotC actually gets it!

Sure, their attempts to appease the loud voices that don't actually play their games often fall flat, both with fans and those with the loud voices. This time, it's the less loud, but consistent voices that got heard, and I tip my hat to WotC for doing right by the fans of Mystara, also known as The Known World.

On Saturday, April 10th, over on the Piazza, it was announced that Jeff Grubb's lost manuscript of the Mystara Setting for AD&D 2e was going to be released to fans for free later this year at The Vaults of Pandius

Indeed, the cat is out of the bag now - I had been intending to make the announcement on the release of the unpublished AD&D Mystara worldbook. I had been in contact with Wizards of the Coast from whom I received consent to release it. Since then I've been working on editing the document to tidy it up, and to learn some graphic design to put the product into a more polished output. Given that the 25th anniversary of the Vaults was coming up I thought that that would be an appropriate date to work towards its release.

Further details can be found at Havard's Blackmore Blog

The Mystara Sourcebook was commissioned by TSR in 1990s and was to be part of the companies relaunch of the Classic D&D setting under the AD&D 2nd Edition rules. Mystara first appeared in published form in 1980 with the release of the adventure X1 Isle of Dread and was from that point on the default setting of the B/X and BECMI D&D line which also incorporated Blackmoor. 

Sadly, the nearly completed book that Jeff Grubb had written was never published as curious reversals of decisions within TSR's management and sales department at the time suddenly decided that instead of a book presenting all of Mystara to AD&D 2nd Ed fans, they instead wanted a product focusing only on the Grand Duchy of Karameikos. 

Jeff Grubb describes some of the contents of "the lost manuscript" on his blog, Grubb Street

Lastly, there were suggestions of publishing this anyway. The document itself was in first draft state and then abandoned before it was completed, is awash in typos, sarcastic comments, and unfinished sections. It is unplaytested, unreviewed, unrevised, and untouched by human hands. Even with permission, it would need a lot of work. So I have doubts about its usefulness, other than as a historic artifact. But I am posting here a summary of what survived in the files I had printed out at the time.  I'll point out that most of them are just gatherings of previous information scattered about the various Gazetteers, updated and brought into 2nd edition. Here's how it all broke down: (you'll need to go to the source to see the breakdown).

If you'd prefer a video recap, you can find it here:

The Tavern is supported by readers like you. The easiest way to support The Tavern is to shop via our affiliate links. DTRPGAmazon, and Humble Bundle are affiliate programs that support The Tavern.  You can catch the daily Tavern Chat podcast on AnchorYouTube or wherever you listen to your podcast collection. - Tenkar

Sunday, April 11, 2021

My Brief Run-In with Dave Arneson


Just another hot & sweaty munchkin
Although I've been a big volunteer for a game company squaring-away the "big" convention tournaments, I've only attended GenCon two or three times. I've always been much more a Origins fan.....far more "bang for my buck" and GenCon is just too much, well for me......"too much".

Regardless, I have attended a few times and most importantly for the purposes of today's post, I attended in 2008. I managed to be able to stay after the con closed and helped KenzerCo tear down their booth, something I was able to do quite a few times at Origins. The lead-in pic is from the Steve Jackson Games guys letting me try on the Munchkin head.....despite several extremely poignant warnings and attempts to dissuade me from doing so. It was as hot, sweaty, and post-con nasty as you'd expect a big mascot head to be.....but also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.

That wasn't the only once-in-a-lifetime opportunity during that convention.

Now I'm not sure how many Tavern patrons are aware, but last week (April 7th) was the anniversary of the passing of Dave Arneson. We all seem to remember Gary Gygax's passing, but we have his children running a memorial game convention every year that helps all of us remember.....

Dave Arneson Dice

Anyway, GenCon 2008 was Dave Arneson's last GenCon with us and I briefly got to meet him at the KenzerCo booth. He was being pushed around in a wheelchair and it just seemed he knew it was his last big con. That seems sad, it did in the moment, but at the same time I have to give the man credit 'cause he was (literally) rolling with it. He was going around giving other game designers/artists these little baggies with d20's and a note in them. I was gifted one of these and they were two Gamescience d20's and the note was on a Westin Hotel sticky notepad:
Rubbed in the hair of a live game designer

"Rubbed in the hair of a live game designer
-Dave Arneson"

I've never rolled the dice and being a KoDT/HackMaster fan, the whole "fame rub" on a game designer (there is a long story arc about this in the comic) makes this a special memento in a couple of ways.

Now while I have seen The Secrets of Blackmoor, but I personally don't think I quite "get" Arneson's full contribution to this hobby we all share. I know there are some books I probably should pick up someday that might help, but I already have a few "history" books on the early days of this hobby I haven't gotten around to reading yet as it is.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Review of The Vast in the Dark – a Zine About Exploring Dark and Alien Megastructures of an Infinite Realm (Guest Post)

I'd like to thank Doug for submitting this review. As I've stated many times, but I can never state often enough, The Tavern is yours and it is significantly better when members of the community participate in its content - Tenkar

Review of The Vast in the Dark – a Zine About Exploring Dark and Alien Megastructures of an Infinite Realm by Doug Kilmer

I’ll start this review with a thank you to Tenkar’s Tavern for showcasing the Kickstarter ZineQuest (note - The Tavern's YouTube series of Fireside Chats for ZineQuest 2021 can be viewed here) I would never have been aware of this movement, or the great products that were offered this year, without the heads up. I purchased way too many products for my wallet and so far don’t regret one.  

Charlie Ferguson-Avery’s The Vast in the Dark is one of the best.  Published by Feral Indie Studio, it is not only an incredibly useful toolbox, it drips with an original atmosphere and dark character, which is hard to achieve in this now mature industry literally full of thousands of settings.  

From the back cover:

The sky is black as night. A tectonic rumbling can be heard overhead: the ruins sprawl out with a fractal madness. And a vast sea of colorless sand stretches out into the darkness.

That writing alone gets my attention.

The electronic version of The Vast in the Dark is available here for a minimum contribution of $5USD. As identified above, the product is the result of a successful Kickstarter project in early 2021 that has already delivered in full. The electronic product is 28 pages long, including front and back cover, insides of covers, table of contents, and two pages that are predominantly art. The remainder is a toolbox for the creation of this alien environment. The writing is fairly tight and concise, and it is simple and clear to read.  The booklet makes great use of evocative art that reinforces the brooding atmosphere, and the layout is functional and minimizes wasted space.

While technically system neutral, the author recommended systems include DCC, OSE, Pathfinder, Knave, White Hack, and Black Hack.  So obviously, this is going to have an old-school vibe. As a backer of the Kickstarter, I also have a saddle-stitch print version, which is a handy 5” x 8” and fits well with my Old School Essentials books.

What it has…

As I mentioned, this is a toolbox to adventure in a “crumbling alien wasteland.” At its heart, it is a sandbox for hex crawling.  Definitely OSR-ish, hence the system recommendations. Within the limited page count is everything you need to randomly generate an ancient wasteland of some past empire. The ruins of megalithic structures littering a sandy waste, dotted by conclaves of other travelers caught in the dark clinging to existence.

The Vast in the Dark is not meant to be a full setting, but rather what I will call a “side setting.” This product can pretty much be bolted on with any setting. I think it is best used as a diversion from your main campaign, possibly a jaunt on the other side of the veil or being caught up in the planes. Three to four games sessions ought to do it; enough to frustrate your players, make them appreciate escaping this place, and definitely memorable fodder for your players to talk about in years to come. 
Yes, the Vast has that level of potential to turn ugly and hopeless for the party. Walking out of here without some form of permanent mark probably won’t happen. And it shouldn’t in my opinion.

There is no wasted space in this zine. A brief explanation of the setting, rules on exploration in the Vast (e.g., navigation, becoming lost, and quirks that your character can take on due to being too long in the wastes), and an inventory system. The zine also provides a modicum of the mundane necessities of life (e.g., food), a lodestone-based (one of the few setting resources) currency system, and some discussion of the Vast’s society. There are even three representative factions that can be found while wandering the wastes.

The zine also provides a quick and simple exhaustion system.  This is key to playing in this environment, as it reflects the slow wear and tear of struggling to survive in an alien environment.  Characters gain levels of exhaustion when they miss a night’s sleep, are severely wounded, push themselves beyond the norm, and go without food. These build up and can result in an illness or injury, which puts tasks using the associated ability at a disadvantage until rested or healed. Truly reflective of the dark and gritty of the Vast, and definitely will be a challenge to even veteran players of old school systems.

Cool, but not the real treasure.  

The Good…

The random Vast generation tools are the true value. The method starts on the macroscopic level developing regional terrain maps, and then works inward to local scale hexes, and lastly ruins.  The regional and local mapping uses a die drop method to generate the locations of ruins, pillars, and empty wastes. Pillars are enormous constructs made of lodestone that seem to be holding up whatever is above beyond the sight of the ground. Like the ruins, they can also be inhabited.

For ruins, a simple room-by-room grid-based mapping method is provided that can be used on the fly. Example types of rooms, features, treasures, and encounters are all in the booklet. It comes with an associated time tracking guide for room exploration. All very old school.

The Not so good…

I only have two minor criticisms, both of which are admittedly not valid given the limited page goals of zines: not enough original monsters; and, just not enough content.  That’s it. This product definitely leaves you wanting more. I look forward to a companion in the future. Maybe something that fills in what is on top of the pillars.
The lack of unique creatures to encounter is really the only gap in this booklet.  The uniqueness of how the Vast is presented justifies the need for original creatures. There are certainly a plethora of monster manuals that can be pilfered for non-standard creatures, but I want the author’s vision on this as well.


On the old five-star system, have to give this a near-perfect 4.5 out of 5.  At $5 for the pdf, this is one of the best values I have come across in years.  Personally, I can’t wait until my players cross the veil and realize they are not in Kansas anymore.

The Tavern is supported by readers like you. The easiest way to support The Tavern is to shop via our affiliate links. DTRPGAmazon, and Humble Bundle are affiliate programs that support The Tavern.  You can catch the daily Tavern Chat podcast on AnchorYouTube or wherever you listen to your podcast collection.  

Friday, April 9, 2021

Deal of the Day - Aryxymaraki's Almanac of Unusual Magic (ACKS / OSR)

I really enjoy the Adventurer Conqueror King System as more than just a ruleset but as a resource. The way ACKS defines classes makes for a great template that can be ported over to almost every other OSR system. Today's Deal of the Day is Aryxymaraki's Almanac of Unusual Magic for the ACKS system. Normally 10 bucks in PDF, until tomorrow morning, Aryxymaraki's Almanac of Unusual Magic is on sale for a mere 5 bucks in PDF.

Within the pages of Aryxymaraki’s Almanac of Unusual Magic, you will find four new kinds of magic-user, each of which uses magic in new and exciting ways:

  • Dwarven earthforgers inherit an ancient tradition allowing them to draw on the spark of the divine found in all creation to power their magic.
  • Gnomish alchemists are experimenters whose concoctions range from ‘helpful and safe’ to ‘incredibly poisonous’.
  • Terran engineers are scientists and builders from another time, whose inventions and tinkering certainly appear magical to most non-technological societies.
  • Warlords draw on the chaotic energy of battle, taming it with their practiced tactics and leadership to ensure that their side wins.

These new classes are built for use with Autarch’s Heroic Fantasy Handbook, which provides rules for ceremonial and eldritch magic. Because they use eldritch magic, the new spells (and tactics) described for the gnomish alchemist, the Terran engineer, and the warlord constitute more than one hundred new eldritch spells usable in any campaign that includes eldritch magic, even one that doesn’t include any of these new classes. Of course, it wouldn’t be an ACKS supplement without full builds for all of the classes and spells, and the source factors for gnostic magic, allowing you to build your own content to expand what’s in the Almanac.  

Magic is all around you. Are you a forger of creation, an engineer of wonder, an alchemist of the unknown, or a lord of war? Discover what kind of unusual magic speaks to you, with the help of this Almanac!

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Thursday, April 8, 2021

Tome of Adventure Design 50% off Thru April 13th (PDF)

Frog God Games is offering Matt Finch's awesome Tome of Adventure Design at a 50% discount in PDF through April 13th, 2021. Use the above link to receive your discount.

Tome of Adventure Design is currently on the top 100 list on DriveThruRPG. 

We’re proud of our books and we want people to see them, so we’d like to make you a special offer: 50% off Tome of Adventure Design. This is a limited-time offer, good until April 13th. 

Tome of Adventure Design contains a huge number of random generation tables for fantasy RPGs, but that’s not why it has been a consistent best-seller in the gaming community. What’s unusual about it is that it’s a guide for creativity more than a set of quick-roll tables. Many of the tables fold into or branch out from other tables in the book, building adventures intuitively from the combination of many related elements. We hope you’ll take us up on this offer and see why the Tome of Adventure Design is our most popular adventure-writing resource!

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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Free RPG - The Lost Outpost, The OpenQuest Quick-Start Rules and Adventure

I'm a huge fan of OpenQuest. Were I to run my classic boxed sets of Pavis & Big Rubble again, I'd use OpenQuest for the ruleset. It's, IMHO, the best presentation of the RQ/BRPG d100 system that I've encountered.

The Lost Outpost, The OpenQuest Quick-Start Rules, and Adventure is a free taste of the new edition of the OpenQuest rules. 75 pages, hyperlinked and ready to roll ;)

This pdf is designed to get players and Referees up and playing OpenQuest, with the minimum of preparation.

It contains the following sections.

  • Characters. A rundown of what an OpenQuest character is made up of, both in terms of numbers and concepts.
  • Quick Rules. A concise version of the OpenQuest rules, enough to play the adventure.
  • Combat. The rules for physical combat.
  • Magic. The basic approach to magic, known as Personal Magic.
  • The Lost Outpost. An introductory adventure set in OpenQuest’s example setting, the Empire of Gatan.
  • A set of six pre-made characters. Players should pick one and get ready to play.

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Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Deal of the Day - Against the Darkmaster Core Rules

What is Against the Darkmaster? According to the Against the Darkmster Quickstart Rules (available at PWYW pricing, so please, grab the Quickstart before plunking down your cash for the full rules):

Against the Darkmaster (abbreviated in VsD throughout) is a tabletop pen & paper role-playing game of high fantasy, epic adventures, eldritch magic, and heavy-metal combat.

What is Against the Darkmaster inspired from? As we mentioned above, VsD is an epic fantasy game first of all. As such, it draws its main inspiration from the classic works of the masters of the genre, from J.R.R. Tolkien to Ursula K. Le Guin, passing through the two Terrys (Brooks and Goodkind) and their followers, Weis & Hickman, Jordan, and Williams. Anyhow, these are only the original sources of inspiration.

Against the Darkmaster is also inspired by the great fantasy movies of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s and from the sword & sorcery genre. Think of The Lord of The Rings cartoon from Ralph Bakshi. Think of the cheap ‘80s barbarian movies. Think of the heartbreaker movies a whole generation was raised to: Dragonslayer, Krull, Labyrinth, Clash of the Titans, Legend.

Finally, think of VsD as a mix of all the above as seen through the eyes of a heavy metal music fan. And when we say “heavy metal”, we mean the original genre. The music of Malmsteen, Dio, Black Sabbath, Blind Guardian, Manowar, Iron Maiden. Lyrics and music bringing to life the very clash of steel versus steel, the power of elemental fire and thunder. These are all ingredients you will find in generous doses in the VsD recipe.

Why is it abbreviated VsD?  I'm guessing the original is in Italian, and that is the abbreviation from Italian. I could be wrong, so I'll be happy to correct it.

But really, WHAT IS Against the Darkmaster? For all intents and purposes, it is a clone of the Rolemaster rules. It never comes out and says to, but just looking at the cover, you can see the similarities.

I no longer desire to play rules as fiddly as Rolemaster, but for those that do, Against the Darkmaster Core Rules may be an excellent option. Normally 20 bucks in PDF, until tomorrow morning at 11 am Eastern, the rules are on sale for 10 bucks. Remember, the Quickstart Rules linked above are free.

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Monday, April 5, 2021

Kickstarter - Mythic Table (Open Source, Non-Profit VTT)

I'm a huge fan of Virtual Table Tops, which for brevity's sake I'll refer to as VTTs for the rest of this post. kLoOge.Werks (last updated in June of 2020) was one of the earlier ones I played around with. Screenmonkey (last updated in 2012) was yet another. Battlegrounds was another early VTT I tried, which is still in development. Maptools, iTabletop (I was a forum mod there briefly), Fantasy Grounds (1, 2, and Unity), Roll20, the list goes on. I've probably forgotten more VTTs than many readers have actually used.

All this is to give you my bonafides, not as a VTT expert, as I certainly am not, but as a consumer that enjoys following the development of VTTs and is still looking for that certain VTT that will hit upon all of my wants and dreams, even the dreams that I don't even realize I have.

This brings us to, in a less than direct manner, Mythic Table. An open-source VTT is NOT something I'm used to seeing, and although I am definitely NOT a programer (thus my love/hate relationship with Fantasy Grounds) I can see where a strong community could drive this software, and I think I want to be along for that trip, even if only in the passenger seat ;)

So, what does Mythic Table offer right now?

  • Basic assets for out-of-the-box (ootb) playability - maps and characters.
  • Campaigns - Viewing, joining, adding, editing, and removing campaigns
  • Dice - Rolling, chat, security, rendering, persistence, etc
  • User - Registration, login, authentication, guest users, and profiles
  • Maps - Viewing, adding, editing, deleting, and more
  • Smooth interface - User experience process, UI iterations, and user interviews
  • Character - Viewing, adding, editing, deleting, frame, moving persistence, and more.

Stretch goals add more features, like Fog of War (a necessity for me) and World Anvil integration, and backers get discounts at the Open Gaming Network / Open Gaming Store, and at higher backer levels, World Anvil.

I'm a backer and I'm anxious to see how Mythic Table progresses. 

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Sunday, April 4, 2021

My Thoughts on a Point About the Recent Candlekeep Mysteries Brouhaha


Something you Tavern readers might not realize is that I don't always drink the Tavern's in I don't read every post here and listen to every podcast or watch every YouTube video. I like Erik personally and enjoy the OSR, and I suspect that most people here are closer to my POV and less overactive Tavern fanboy.

I mention this because recently there has been some drama over WotC editors......editing a writer's submission to meet the needs of the desired publication. Erik posted about it at the Tavern, and I'll state my opinion....he didn't really hit on the important points of the problem very well. (Note: I pre-wrote this post days ago......)

BUT, to be fair, I thought he did a much better job on the YouTube video, and for you non-Kool-Aid drinkers, that would rather listed then read....go check it out.

Now I'm not going to insult you by going over everything I just suggested you watch, but I have a couple of main take-aways from everything I've seen and some of it is from personal experience, which I'll get into in a bit:

  1. When you get hired to write something, there are established parameters that you need to conform to. Some are kind of understood, like "submit in English please" and others need to be (and usually are) spelled out, like "submit 5,000 words in this format". If you've been hired to submit a short adventure, regardless of word count, submit a short adventure! Regardless of word count, an adventure that is "a showcase to the deeper lore and history of the FR." kind of stretches the boundary for a short-story. Bringing back and or fundamentally changing a couple races......again stretches the boundary for a short story/adventure.
  2. Most every writer has some big idea or a series of ideas.....I assume it's part of the creative process, but a successful writer, in addition to conforming to their client's desires (as expressed in written and unwritten standards mentioned above) does a good job of differentiating between what is and isn't important for the submission. Not the story, the submission. The piece of work that has to be edited and published to meet the needs of the publication itself.

Point #1 is a bit common sense and easy to argue/debate. If a writer is contracted for 5,000 words on an adventure to be written in English for D&D 5th edition and they submit 7,000 words for a French version of 1st Edition AD&D, the publication will just reject it outright and refuse to pay. No brainer there.

Point #2, and this is what I'm seeing in all this drama, is when a writer doesn't do a good job of meeting the needs of the project or audience. Usually this is when they meet the technical aspects of the contract and either ignore the unwritten aspects or disregard the needs of the publication or end-user.

Back when I was in charge of organizing the GenCon and Origins Tournament Adventures for the HackMaster Association/KenzerCo, I ran into Point/Issue #2 more times than I'd have preferred. I'm 110% certain that my early drafts my own writing attempts were guilty of this as well, but I'm sure I've gotten at least somewhat better due to dealing with other writers.......have I gotten good enough, not my place to say.

I will say that as an adventure editor, the whole idea of a writer trying to explain their big "backstory" and/or NPC "motivation", pretty much pisses me off*. I don't want to have to sift through pages of details of shit that is pretty much never going to come into play, or matter, at the game table.....and that is as an editor. As a GM I don't have the time or inclination to read three paragraphs of details, buried in four pages of text, on why one NPC feels a certain way about another NPC.

Show, don't tell.

If you need one NPC to be a dick in an adventure, simply give the GM that direction instead of having to make a reader....or end user, glean that information from a large body of text. If it is something the PCs won't see, it can probably be excluded altogether. Motivations and backstories are internal adventure points, not external, or party-facing. If you don't consolidate and/or dumb-down this unnecessary information, your editor will do it for you....

.....and he/she will hate your for it, and you'll probably hate them for it as well. Current case in point.

HackMaster Tournament adventures, back in the day, had a pretty standard format in that there were a specific number of encounters and there was a general rule as to the numbers and types of encounters. You wrote to a specific level range and while you could tweak things a little want to swap out a trap encounter for another combat encounter, go for it.....but expect there to be more editing issues. Unless you inserted combat stat blocks in the body of the text, something I did (in addition to them in the end as a battle-sheet) a tournament adventure ran six pages or so (it's been a decade so my numbers are fuzzy).

I had an author submit twelve pages of content. It took me so long to edit that it would have been easier to just re-write it myself and use the basic idea for each encounter, but no I did the editing back-and-forth with the author. Now I was also the Head GM and as such I have to make sure that all my table GMs have what they need, when they need it, to run a table smoothly as all the tables play concurrently. Depending on the complexity of the adventure this might mean I give the GMs the adventure the week before. Usually a day's advance notice is sufficient because I'd take the time to prep maps and other game-aids when I could. I'd been known to provide battle-matt overlays and even monster tokens, broken out by encounter, so GMs could focus on running the game and not looking for minis or drawing maps.

Anyway this author was going so far as to try and provide me updates to the adventure the morning of the tournament, making sure he was clear enough on some NPCs motivation. It was all too much, and when asked for an evaluation of his adventure I gave some bluntly honest feedback.

If you are able to do so, I encourage you to look at the adventure T1 The Village of Hommlet. I'd argue that there's a lot of game play to be had, multiple game sessions' worth for certain. My PDF copy is 25 pages, counting the covers. The "Backstory" for the entire adventure is roughly a page and half, spread between the intro and some more on the ruins of the moathouse. Even that is a bit of  stretch because there is a generous three pretty much "read to the players" paragraphs and extra notes to the GM that are a mix of "backstory/motivation" and actual notes (like how some buildings aren't numbered). Everything else is condensed to a simple statement where needed.  

For example, entry 25 states that the herdsman "and the Druid of the Grove are friends". As a GM, that's all I need. I don't need to know that the herdsman's prized ewe that won a blue ribbon at the last Spring-Fair came down with hoof and mouth and the Druid spent two days on round-the-clock care, bringing her back to a state of excellent health such that the herdsman was able to sell her twin lambs later that spring for a record price, allowing him to afford his middle- daughter's dowry so she could marry up in social standing. The herdsman now considers the Druid of the Grove a friend and ally and makes a small offering every week.

Yes, I have been given this level of ridiculousness before.....I wish I had saved the files, but at pennies per MB of storage, it wasn't worth the hard-drive space.

Lastly, nobody values your story more than you do. This is a given and just suck it up! If someone values it enough to pay you five cents a word, then make sure they feel they got five cents a word value! Just because you think you are worth ten cents a word, or than your extra 1,000 words are worthwhile....well they just aren't. Deal with it...preferably in some self-evaluation and not on Twitter/Social Media.

*This is why I'm not a fan of overly detailed drivel, er backstory and motivation. My frustration at having to deal with pages of ultimately useless information and distillation of days worth of my wasted time spilled out into a truthful, but clearly negative review of this author's work. Now I definitely know better now how to appropriate review or critique a body of work.....I'd argue I knew then and refused reason, I created an enemy that day. I'd argue long-term wise this guy got his revenge and then some.


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