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)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

It came from the depths of the web Skyrim edition

Sometimes when I’m fooling around with blogger I look what keywords pop up as leading to my website and see where else they go. This post is based on “pen and paper skyrim”. In addition to my wistful musings (I do recommended the revised Skyrimic Sandbox chart ). I found several other interesting items.  First up off a fairly direct route to the Skyrim Blog a spreadsheet, a good list of what to include but woefully incomplete as rules. Next a link to a  .pdf  from this thread on the Piazza forum. This ones complete enough to try to play, although its a d100 game rather than my beloved d20. Released with a  noncommercial creative commons license so free to play and pass to your friends, just don't sell it. Thanks Barruktp! Now here where it gets tricky. Not content with just the ruleset I backed up the URL and landed on this site . Not a particullary descriptive site its just labeled /sup/tg; covered in internet cobwebs (last post was May, second to last post six months earlier). However it did have an archive and the archive had search function. A quick search on "elder scrolls" led to a post on "Scrollhammer" which in turn led to this wiki page. This is version one of "Scrollhammer" based on giving Warhammer stats to the various factions of the Elder Scrolls world. Webpages are not the easiest format for rules so I copied it into MS Word to make something I can print. Some back "wiki"ing revealed a second edition page which actually has a link to a handy dandy .pdf Unfortunately for Warhammer fans like me the second go round is based on the infinity engine rather than Warhammer (probably a better way to avoid the GW legal dragons, but reduces the scope to a skirmish game). The original infinity rules can be found on another stub of the main "wiki". Definitely have to some more poking around the "wiki" and see what else I can find.

Note to all: The deep end of the web has no life guard and there definitely are sharks (and worse). Surf my suggested links at your own risk.

Friday, August 29, 2014

RPG international Dutch Game Queeste

While trying to bang out my long delayed Beyonder review, I successfully sidetracked myself again. Off reading the "Mesmerized by Sirens" blog ( an aptly named blog for me, who shared the authors penchant for chasing after obtuse out-of-print games), I was going down the list of "Unicorns" and discovered one from 1979 that is available on LULU NOW!! Unfortunately it's in Dutch, but if you get the .pdf the price is right (as in free). Download it here. Hopefully, translate is better at Dutch than Hungarian (could happen. right?)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

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.
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