Friday, November 28, 2014

Beyonder as far as I've gotten

Been meaning to write this review for awhile. Beyonder from Flying Nightbear games is not your usual fantasy heart breaker having a number of unique and different approaches. It has six primary attributes but not the standard instead we get emotion; mental; body; physic; spirit; and shadow. It also has two secondary attributes Stillness and Wyrd. It has ten races but only humans and dwarves are the stock ones. Character classes are linked to the primary attributes, but are not standard either. For example there are no fighters but the body channeling Soman are pretty close. I have been working my way through chapter by chapter, but I have stalled out on descriptions of all the powers for all the classes. Heart of the game, but very soporific as massed wall of reading (as far as I got: FNB don't feel bad I had a similar problem with the 5e Dungeon Masters guide). Although I am impressed with the presentation,art and ideas  of this game a final verdict with will depend on actually playing this and seeing how the various powers work out. I would have done the breaking of the book into chapters differently. Quick chapter by chapter walkthrough below:

After a paragraph of introduction to roleplaying provides an overview of how the game works. Important box text at the end on which part to skip to get started quickly.

Chapter 2 THE WORLD, ITS WORKINGS, AND ITS INHABITANTS (I'd have split this chapter)
Lots of nice world settling info which I skipped to stick with the crunch

Ten races:
The corba like crawn
The yoda like dwaheelies
Heola, sorta like high elves
Ishirs sorta like goliaths
Kamaris fun loving tree people
Ushen like warcraft tauren
Weylan gnomish trickster cat people
Zweyjen fish people, but not evil

Most of race ideas are not ones I have seen before.

All energy wielders. Six classes (referred to as guilds) each linked to a specific attribute, Sorecerers who channel all energies and priests. No fighters, but the body channeling Soman are pretty close.


Lots of history (also skipped)

Two methods of character creation
Method 1:
Play a pick-a-path adventure. Fun for the first time, but sure to get old after awhile
Method 2:
Direct choice
- Pick a race
- Pick a size (really?)
- Pick a gender
- Choose Energy Affinities using point buy system
- Pick a starting organization
- Add some extra talents
- Choose a guild (actually character class)
- Get some stuff
- Calculate a defense rating
- Choose a homeland

Uses essence sorta like experience but spread across a number of things. Essence can be used to master a power, learn a new power from an NPC, invent a new power, increase a talent (like skills) , or buy barriers (like class levels). Detailed descriptions of the barriers and their associated benefits follow. There is a discussion on wealth I didn't quite understand. Apparently finding treasure does not increase your wealth rating. You are allowed to buy stuff with your weatlh, some examples are given ,but the big shopping list is missing. The chapter ends a with a list of talents and their descriptions.

Chapter 6 CORE MECHANICS (seems to traditional these days to bury this in the middle of the book, rather than right up front where I'd like it).
Most actions are checks against talents. There are various timings for various actions (not as clean as 4es free, minor, move, and standard, One is allowed to do Stunts which are special actions requiring extra level of success and causing fatigue.

Chapter 7 COMBAT
Very similar to core mechanics

Countering powers (basically dispel)

Chapter 9 ITEMS
Standard Stuff yada-yada. Energentic items: recreate guild powers in item form, needs a mystic to create

The usual yada-yada.

Chapter 11 POWERS
Descriptions of all the powers for all the guilds. Heart of the game, but very soporific as massed wall of reading (as far as I got).

There are two appendices and  a glossary after chapter 11

I am very intrigued with many of the concepts in Beyonder, but I will have to find a group willing to play the game before I can assess it fully. Right now my game group seems quite content with 5e. Please also note that although I have had the .pdf since June the website is still mumbling about getting the print books out. So you dead tree affectionatos may have to wait a bit.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Con on the Cob Mapping it Old School

My time at Con-on-the-Cobb was less than I wanted due my work schedule. However I did get to play Dwimmermount on Thursday and prowl the dealers room on Saturday. A little different mix at the con. Games were free, but I didn't spot pathfinder, 4e or 5e games in the program. Have to ask Andy what went down (Andy's going to tell me next time run my own). Con didn't lack for games though. Now for the details. First up Dwimmermount.

Signed up for Dwimmermount with Tim S. (Gothridge Manor) and Ken H. (the Rusty Battle Axe). I was worried it was going to be full given that Tim advertised it on his blog but it was just us three. GM was Jim Yoder (Random Encounter Ohio [Nice Pic of us on his con report]). I chose to play an elf ( I was a bit appalled at his 3 hit points but this was Old School so I rolled with it). After a brief time in town to pick up a war dog (when you only got 3 hit point you need something between you and the monsters)  and a torch bearer, we headed through the red doors of Dwimmermount. We played it Old School without battle mat or mini's, Although it was obvious that Jim was a bit new to this style we got through it with very little "here hand me the map" and only one "oh by the way there's six orcs in this room also". Here's the map I drew:

Saturday was shopping. Picked up print copies of Labyrinth Lord and the Advanced Edition Companion from the Goblinoid Game booth. Talked to another booth with a lot of Dungeon Crawl Classic including a good collection of the "Crawl!" zine, but since i am not into DCC right now I bought Goodman games Glitterdoom and the Fey Sisters Fate both labeled as "Fifth Edition Fantasy". Although this seems a clever way around the lack of third party license for it might be a tough sell in court (in general things that are similar enough to trademarked items to be easily confused with the trademark are considered infringements as well). At least I've got mine.

Also on Saturday tried to interest the son in the playdo monster making contest, and ended up making monsters. Although I had lots of fun I am not quitting my day job to be a professional sculptor
anytime soon. Some pictures below.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

OSR On Sh*tstorm Rants

Here I go wading into fray just as things are winding down, hopefully my Nor'easter gear will keep too much from sticking.

 This particular blow of internet bad weather was of course triggered by innocent post at Tenkar's Tavern trying to point to some cool gaming stuff available for free. RPG pundit in response triggered the sh*tstorm (using the media pundit tactics of bloviating authoritatively) by trying to palm off the origins of the game to some obtuse science fiction game no one plays, and some joke rules obviously not meant to be taken seriously. When that failed RPG pundit responded by producing a paragraph long soporific definition with little basis in precedent, which brought the sh*tstorm to full flow with a volley of angry bloggers providing their own soporific paragraph long responses. For the best historical viewpoint read this post on Bat-in-the-attic (Strangely enough, although the first reference to Old School Renaissance occurs on a Castles and Crusaders (C&C) few bloggers seem to consider C&C an OSR game). My favorite definition of OSR from the current mess comes from Greyhawk Grognard who has provided a handy roll-up table on this link . The OSR being a self organizing collective of bloggers, forum posters, and other miscreants (including know sh*t-stirrers) will never settle on just one definition. One of my fondest memories of the OSR is ordering one of those boxed sets from "that crazy Finnish guy" James Raggi just so he and his wife could actually live in their apartment (he didn't listen to me when I told him go print-on-demand), and suddenly discovering there were over 750 bloggers with similar concerns selling the first print run out very quickly. Unfortunately Jame's commercial success has cut into his blog posting. As for the current sh*tstorm, like the Carcossa sh*tstorn (the nerve of that guy pretending to be the fourth expansion of OD&D :), or the "Porn-Star" (Porn-star OSR, Oh my what will the children think? :) it will blow itself as well.
Until then break out the foul weather gear, batten down the hatches (one of the reasons I moderate comments), and prepare for rough weather.

Monday, October 13, 2014

October kickstarters I've backed

I have fallen behind on my shameless promotion of kickstarters I've backed. All of these are still live but some close on the 14th.

Quests of Doom - Pathfinder and Swords & Wizardry Modules
Made my saving throw on the 5e, but couldn’t  resist the adventures

Five Moons RPG by Sean K Reynolds
Sean Reynolds is awesome. Hopefully his game is too'

Southlands: New Fantasy Options for Pathfinder RPG
Kobold Design , duh! I forgive them the Tyrany of Dragons thing, I blame WoTC for dulling it out.

Slumbering Ursine Dunes
Because Chris Kutalik deserves his chance to go down in kickstarter flames like all those other OSR folk. As least he’s finished a few .pdfs to post on his blog.

Revelry in Torth
I liked the other two modules and the .pdf is pretty cheap

13th Age in Glorantha

Glorantha is my favorite setting. The chance to play it without using those slow ass Runequest rules or that wacked-out Herowars/quest. Awesome!!!!

P.S. I am signed up to play Dwimmermount at Con-on-the-Cob Thursday. We'll see if it was worth the wait

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Zak S. rocks; John W. doesn't get it

Read Zak S.' Blog post and watch his video conversation with John W. here:

By the way John W. I game master to listen to the players tell me stories, not the other way round as you suggest. One of things I like about old school gaming versus the plot-hammered railroad modules being pushed by commercial gaming companies, is the story can go almost anywhere and is driven by player agency. When I sat down at the table to GM I was never sure what I'd get. However that was a good thing. My best adventures often come from being light on my feet and making things up on the fly.Even worked with 4th edition although I had to print out a few monster stat blocks in advance. Still can't believe that they wouldn't dock the Spell Jammer to the asteroid, just because the human wore a funny hat. They had no problem at all following the funny hatted dwarves in the brass paddle wheeler back to their dock. Perhaps that is a story for another day...

P.S. John W, I still like the Wield book I got from your kickstarter, although I am unlikely to use it exactly as you wrote it. Don't feel bad, I very seldom use the gaming stuff I buy as is.

P.P.S. Although my Dad used say there was no point in playing games with rules more complicated than chess. I think the pawns should be able to run away when that big old rolling tower comes bearing down on them.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bare Bones Fantasy Plain and Skyrimed

As I mentioned previously I actually got a chance to play Bare Bones Fantasy at AnCon. Pretty straight forward system. Percentile Based; Four abilities Strength, Dexterity, Logic, and Will determined by 5d10+30; Races include Elf, Dwarf, Halfing, Human. So far nothing special, but here's where it gets interesting the skills are classes. Skills are as follows: Cleric, Enchanter, Leader, Scholar, Scout, Spellcaster, Thief, Warrior. EVERY player could have a rating in each of these. Scout, Thief, and Warrior have ratings based on ability for everyone. Cleric, Enchanter, Leader, Scholar, and Spellcaster are 0% unless you have a level in them. At the start every one gets to add +20 to one skill, +10 to another and 1 level in one skill (for demo purposes since we only had two players we got a level in two skills). Once you have figured out starting charterers there are several more items calculated from your abilities and equipment including: Body Points, Initiative, Damage Reduction, Movement, Weapon Damage, Unarmed score, Unarmed Damage, rank, and development points. Only about twenty spells but their effects get stronger at higher levels.

In actual game play everything is a % roll. Doubles on a successful roll are a critical, doubles on an unsuccessful roll are a fumble. You can try again at -20% (I spammed my charm spell unmercifully  until the giant spider was charmed).

Overall I found it a simple but ingenious system. Things I liked about it included the skill as class, the reroll, and spells that level up. Things I didn't like about it, percentile dice, low number of abilities, linking both body points and fighting skill to strength (No Elric of Melnibone characters for you!), and capping level at 6. The game I ran through also felt a bit generic, I am afraid one of the problems of simplicity is a lack of hooks to hang things on. The extensive adventure generating tables in the middle look awesome, but I haven't tried them out.

After the AnCon play I put the game in the mildly interesting bin to get around to reviewing later, but a recent comment on one of my posts brought it back to the front of the list. Turns out some dedicated soul has produced an Elder Scrolls expansion. You can find it at . This forum post contains an extensive collection of conversion documents. The players guide includes Tamriel race descriptions, schools of magkia, ways to create walls and auras, Tamriel specific equipment, and more. The spell guide contains suggested tweaks to the BBF spells to make them Tamrielresque as well as a cross index between Tamriel and BBF spells. The GM guide has things like Tamriel diseases and poisons, as well as creatures (I was surprised to see no tamriel magic items, but perhap
s the enchanting rules cover this terrain). There are also guides for Dragon Shouts, Organizations, Paths of Power special classes, and lots of paper minis. I am hopeful that this expansion is just the thing to chase off the generic of Bare Bones Fantasy.

P.S. I'll still have to put up with % rolls,  and low number of abilities (although these are found the Elder Scrolls Games themselves)
P.P.S As always the magic system will require more acctual play experience to determine both its balance and where the broken bits are.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

From the depths of the web to the burning sands of Athas

My son is a great fan of the old DOS Darksun computer games. He was off googling the other day and ran across the Darksun Online Crimson Sands massively multiplayer online game. Despite his complaints, I pointed out that game that had all its servers shutdown in 1999 was unlikely to be playable. I did go looking for some of its artwork to appropriate for dungeoncraft (a Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventure simulator). However, an image search on dark sun came up with this beauty which stopped me in my tracks:
Being an affectionato of maps I had to have more. I traced the image to this nine year old forum thread in which Brian (screen name zombiegleemax) attempts to fill in the rest of the world of Athas from maps provided in the published setting. Here's what is mapped in the published setting:

Here's what it looks like on the fan built Continent map (maps 1, 2 and bits of 3 and 4):

And here's what that continent looks like on the entire world:
As you can see Brian had plenty to work with, Here's a thumbnail composite of the maps he got done before trolling and real life shut him down:
Full size maps as well as the photoshop brushes (just in case someone wants to pick up the torch) Brian used to make them can be fouund at the Athasian Cartographers Guild (

P.S. I can't believe I missed this for nine years! (The fact that the Athasian Cartographers Guild was already in favorites indicates some awareness)
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