Sunday, August 17, 2014

Labyrinth Lord Dwimmermount on Drivethru RPG

Dwimmermount lives! Dwimmermount LIVES! DWIMMERMOUNT LIVES!

You can get it here from drivethruRPG. Now the OSR will have to find another another overdue kickstarter poster child. Unfortunately there are many candidates. I will have to stop patting myself on the back for having dodged the Dwimmermount bullet by not jumping aboard the kickstarter, and buy a copy. However I might just wait for the Adventure, Conqueror, King edition which Alex on the Autarch Forum claims is finished and should be out by the end of the month. For those interested in other wayward soap operas of game development: you might look at how the recent Ennie award winning Razor Coast came to be; or that old classic of how Gary Gygax lost control of TSR. I am still waiting for the real Castle Greyhawk (or even the next levels of the faux Castle Zagzyg), El Raja key, and the Jakallan underworld. Of course there is my own fantasy heart breaker which has yet to see the light of day.I am currently thinking an OGL futuro clone of 4e combined with a d20 based Runequest, but unsurprisingly the details are proving quite tricky (perhaps a trip to the patent registry to determine which of the 9000 plus powers of 4e are not WoTC trademarks would help). More next time (maybe even a review of the 5e players handbook if I can finish wading through the spells).

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Battle of the box sets: East Mark versus 5e Starter

The “Adventures in the East Mark” boxed set showed up Tuesday while I was still struggling to put together my analysis of the 5th edition “Dungeons and Dragons”. I though what better than an old fashioned wrestling cage match to decide who was better. So in this corner we have: the “Boast from the Coast”; the “Rattle from Seattle”; four time world champion Wizards of the Coast (WoTC) 5th Edition “Dungeons and Dragons” Starter Set. And in this corner we have the “Game from Spain”; “Windmill Tilter Extraordinaire”; `Extra-Dimensional Publishing “Adventures in the East Mark” Red Box English translation. Let’s get ready to ruuuumbleeee!!!!!!

Round 1 Box
12x12x1.5 East Mark
9x12x2 Starter
Advantage Starter (fits in the Magazine box I organize stuff with)
Round 2 Box Cover
East Mark Guy with sword and shield fights Red dragon
Starter Guy with sword and shield fights Green Dragon
Round 3 Box Contents
East Mark 1 book, 1 pencil, dice, crayon, dungeon masters screen
Starter 2 books, dice, 5 pregens, 1 flyer/blank character sheet, cardboard (to fill that extra 0.5”)
Advantage East Mark because who needs cardboard. Seriously use that 10 cents for cardboard on 10 pages of content
Round 4 Dice
East Mark “old” school red dice with white dice crayon
Starter prepainted blue dice
Advantage Starter because I hate coloring dice
Round 5 Celebrity introduction
East Mark Frank Mentzer
Starter we don’t need no celebrities (besides we fired them all at one time or another)
Advantage East Mark
Round 7 Attributes
Same Six both ways
Round 8 Combat
East Mark Old school side vs side initiative, crazy ass movement slowed by three because
Starter Individual initiative, smaller movement
Advantage: Depends East Mark is true its old school roots I have found more modern approaches more playable
Round 9 Adventures
East Mark Large sandbox region and two beginner adventures
Starter Small town and four linked adventures
Draw I am more excited about the East Mark, but the Starter has more content.
Round 10 Equipment
East Mark has stuff and boats
Starter has stuff
Advantage East Mark
Round 11 Character Creation
East Mark full rules
Starter five Pregens
Advantage East Mark
Round 12 Adventuring
East Mark rest. Carry capacity, illumination, doors, traps, outdoors, getting lost, climbing, swimming, air travel hirelings
Starter travel, jumping, climbing, swimming, resting
Advantage East Mark
Round 13 Levels
East Mark experience to level 20
Starter experience to level 5
Advantage East Mark
Round 14 Spells
East Mark to level 6 arranged by level and class
Starter to level 3 arranged alphabetically
Advantage East Mark
Round 15 Monsters
East Mark 60+ monster descriptions
Starter 27 monsters including some NPCs
Advantage East Mark
Round 16 Treasure
East Mark Gems, Jewels 80+ magic items up to +5
Starter 13 magic items!? Nothing better than +1
Advantage East Mark K.O!!!

Looks like Starter is going down for the count, no there’s the tag in, leaping into the ring Basic Edition web download

Round 10a Equipment
East Mark has stuff and boats
Basic has stuff and boats
Round 11a Character creation
East Mark full rules
Basic full rules
Round 12a Adventuring
East Mark rest. Carry capacity, illumination, doors, traps, outdoors, getting lost, climbing, swimming, air travel hirelings
Starter travel, jumping, climbing, swimming, the environment, illumination, food and water, social interactions, resting, between adventures, lifestyle expenses, downtime activities
Advantage East Mark hirelings more important than that other stuff.
Round 13a Level
East Mark experience to level 20
Basic exp to level 20
Round 14a Spells
East Mark to level 6 arranged by level and class
Basic to level 8 arranged alphabetically
Draw 8th is better than 6 but a long way down the pike. By level is better than alphabetic

No help on round 15 monsters or round 16 treasure

Round 17 Races
East Mark Human, Dwarf, Elf, Halfing
Basic Human, Dwarf, Elf, Halfing, but subraces
Draw Slight advantage basic for subraces but who cares
Round 18 Classes
East Mark Cleric, Dwarf, Elf, Halfing, explorer, mage, paladin, thief, warrior
Basic Cleric, Fighter, Rouge, Wizard
Advantage East Mark I am not a big fan of the class as race system, but even with those classes knocked out East Mark has more variety than Basic. Basic hold a glimmer of hope with subclasses, but since only one choice of subclass per class was included; this does not yet expand the variety.
Round 19 Alignment
East Mark Law Neutral Chaos
Basic the full nine
Advantage Basic
Round 20 Personality and Background
East Mark none
Basic whole chapter for randomly rolled features
Advantage East Mark because who needs that junk

Final score card
East Mark versus Starter: 9 rounds East Mark, 2 Rounds Starter, 5 drawn
East Mark versus Starter and Basic:7 rounds East mark, 4 rounds Starter and Basic 9 drawn
So the judges decision goes to EAST MARK. 

Seriously East Mark as a mostly complete game is a better box set, than the incomplete Starter set. Starter gives enough of a taste to run the canned adventure but then leaves you hanging. The downloadable Basic does at least allow you to generate your own characters, but does not include enough extra for someone to write their own follow-on adventure. I would have been happier with the starter, if they had added the 32 useful (without that personality and background junk) pages on character creation to the game rules. Now I have to print them out myself. People on the web appear to be using print-on-demand to produce their own Basic rulebook, another revenue stream lost to WoTC (given that they already on DrivethruRPG, I think it might of taken WoTC a whole day to set up a print-on-demand option themselves). Perhaps I am being “Old School” in wanting a dead tree version, but wait a minute WoTC went “Old School” by producing a dead tree boxed set to begin with.

P.S. I was going include a round of "over 175,000 fans of DnD" who may have opened the .zip file they downloaded versus 427 folk who had to put their money were their mouth was, but I am clearly too biased to judge fairly.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

No comment on 5e

Unlike some blogs on the web I will not be commenting on 5e, until I have an actual copy of the rules to read. I am working on reviews for Barebones fantasy, Beyonder, and the Emerald spire "Superdugeon". Hope to have them done soon, although I am currently tied up working on a technical paper for work. She-who-must-be-obeyed had some weird idea for a cartoon for a regular dungeon ripping its t-shirt to reveal the "Super" dungeon, but actually sketching it seemed too much like work to her, so I guess you'll have to draw your own.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Quick Review "Bill Webbs' Book of Dirty Tricks"

A couple weeks ago Frog God games mailed out their "bonus" book for the "Sword of Air" Kickstarter, "Bill Webbs' Book of Dirty Tricks". Took a quick look through last week it last week and thought I'd do a little review. Enjoyed the first half on Bill Webbs house rules, thought the concept of NOT having your chance to hit improve with level something to think about. Doing rather than rolling dice is another good piece of avice. Not as enamored of the second half of the book. Bill admiration of the Tomb of Horrors is perhaps the tip-off. Like that Gygaxian classic knowledge of the DM who wrote it is necessary to survival. I think one of tells of this is the story he tells of one of his long time players withdrawing from the convention run of Bills campaign, when he found out Bill's eleven year old daughter would not be playing. A section by section assessment of the tricks below.

 Players got too much money: his tricks here seem as arbitrary and capricious means of correcting mistakes made by the DM earlier in the campaign. With castles to build and uber magic items to negotiate for, I have seldom run into a campaign where this was an actual problem.

Situational Advantage: solid but nothing spectacular (unless you like skunks).

Time Wasters: Really!? My players waste enough time already.

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Some good ideas here, some not so good. The kobolds with toys has been one of my trade marks. The unkillable monster always leaves a bad taste in players mouths (especially the Dung monster ;) ) so i don't use it.

Sheep in Wolf's Clothing: Like the kobold with the glowing staff concept. Illusions are very much overused, and lead to the question of who had enough magic power that he could afford to waste it on this stuff.

Trickery: Mostly very much my style. I would avoid the melting lock unless you are absolutely certain the party can make the required check easily (having the prize snatched away or further adventuring progress blocked just because someone rolled a 1 is no fun).

Greed is Bad!: Most of these tricks are overused and highly demotivating. If you like the party tapping on floors and pitching coppers to the far side of the room for a half hour FOR EVERY ROOM use these. My time available for roleplaying no longer allows for such activities.

As bonus for contributing the kickstarter I do not feel cheated by this product, however I would probably not pay the $10.95 cover price for it (I might buy a $3.00 .pdf). Most of the tricks are just not my style and I have seen way too many of them before. I did like the box tips explaining how to use the tricks in pathfinder.

P.S I have expressed my dislike for the "Tomb of Horrors" several times on this blog before. A dungeon filled with limitless magical death traps, seems to both capricious and unfair. However, I remember an interesting post a few years back on Gary's purpose for writing, as well as Rob Kuntz's "Robilar" successful navigation of said tomb (see  Creative Origins on this wiki several forum thread [for those more dedicated to than me] on the subject as well). Once I read that I understood its true purpose, but think an intimate acquaintance with Gary's style and some metagaming is required for survival.

*** Update *** P.P.S. Check this link out for comments from Gary himself on the Tomb of Horrors

Friday, May 9, 2014

Ancon Postmortum and Oddmall

Back on Ancon last Saturday, but with the family. Not so many games played (as in none :( ). She-who-must-be-obeyed was going to do the paint and take, but was discouraged by the need to wade through the registration line again to pick up the required tickets. Had a nice chat  with Andy Hopp about Con-on-the-Cob in the fall and the heretical concept of not charging for individual events, but including games in the registration (probably not this year). Andy wants you to know about the Oddmall this Saturday down in Akron at the John Knight Center. Toys and comics have been promised in addition to the weird art, so I have to check it out this time. Definitely gamer friendly hours Noon-10 PM (even if no gaming). Andy is hoping for some crossover from the Roller Derby game in the evening. Come on down!!!!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Ancon Friday

Decided to take off work and go down to Ancon instead. Not pre-signed up for anything but had a good time playing demos and pick-up games. Games played so far:

Python Fluxx
Barebones Fantasy

Most interesting is Barebones Fantasy, quick character generation reasonable percentile resolution system, class as skill mechanic which avoids skill proliferation, Have to dig up my .pdf of the rules and post a full review sometime soon. Went on with Larry Moore one of the publishers of Barebones off to play HouseTek. Although we successfully stopped Mechazilla ( In order to stop Mechazilla we resorted to dropping tanks on his head, see Larry's Blog for the Skystriker in Mechazillas death grip), the rules seemed a bit rough-and-ready. By the way if your rules contain high tek space lasers they should shoot across the room not just a crappy few feet in front of themselves. Both Fluxx and Libertalia were card games and less than an hour to play, good for filling time while waiting for events to start, but not the main attraction. I prefer Libertalia for a little more finesse and less randomness, even though I won the Fluxx game. I have written about Numenaria before, but wanted to try it actual play, Mechanically it went quite smooth, however the dungeon we were in seemed challenging figure out without breaking out the skill checks and having the DM explain (not really my cup-of-tea). Ancon has two more days to run. It's at the Clarion in Hudtson (Route 8, and I-80 the turnpike). If you are close to the Cleveland-Akron area, come on down!. If you stop by the Barebones or HouseTek booths tell them Imredave sent you.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Kickstarter update

A brief update on the kickstarters I am backing and their status: 

Dementalism: Lots of Snazzy New Stuff
Legendary Games Pathfinder Books in Print
Razor Coast
Revisiting my Legions of the Petal Throne Art
Midgard Bestiary for 4th Edition
Scarlet Heroes

Almost Complete The Original Online Megadungeon! (everything but the pathfinder conversion)
Rappan Athuk (still one more subscription level to go)

Subscription Ongoing
Adventure Quarterly: A Pathfinder Periodical
Throne of Night, a Pathfinder RPG Adventure Path (a little behind, but good things are promised)
Beyonder (rules in hand, bestiary still pending)

Draft in hand
Orbis Terrarum RPG
Ryuutama - Natural Fantasy Role-Playing Game
Domains at War: Battles, Campaigns, and Mass Combat

Still waiting
World of Calidar
Adventures in the East Mark - The Red Box
Dragon Kings
The Lost Lands: Sword of Air
***Update two more added***
Lusus Naturae: A Gruesome Old-School BestiaryBethorm: the Plane of Tekumel RPG

Best performer: Scarlet Heroes final .pdf shipped within 20 days of funding. I was going to list Beyonder as most worrisome, because as a slacker backer I didn't get to read their updates (next time either in at the start or wait for drive thru  .pdf). but they sent the rules .pdf out last week. These days I am mostly opting for the digital version, having ridden out the proto-kickstarter Slumbering Tsar and the white knuckle ride that was Rappan Athuk. Note to kickstater newbies: layout takes longer than you think, the tchotchkes will not show up when the vendor promised, and shipping a 1,000 of anything is real work. However, notice I am still buying stuff from Frog God games. Why? Because their products are cool, they have always delivered in the end, and they let the subscribers know whats happening good or bad.
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