Monday, January 9, 2017

Kickstarter End-of-Year report 2016

Thought it be a good time to review the kickstarters I have signed onto and see how they are doing. Need to do this every so often as I always find something that was e-mailed six months ago I forgot to download.

Gold Star Medal of Honor

Adventure Quarterly: A Pathfinder Periodical. (Rite Publisher Steve Russell  killed in a car wreck. Kickstarter was completed by his estate. Now there are no excuses!)

Done

Advanced Races Compendium
Bards Gate
Godbound
Scarred Lands
Dungeon Solitaire
Heap of Creeps and Peeps
Tome of Beasts
Aihrde (I was sweating bullets on this one. Signed up for the create your own by pledging a $1 and adding things through Backerkit, However, this seemed to put me off the delivery schedule radar. Fortunately a quick e-mail put things right.)

Chugging away (not done but not overdue either)

Operation Unfathomable
Salt in the Wounds
Barrow maze 5e
Trudvang
Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying
The domes of Ishaq-Zahur
Holy Crap
Widower’s Wood

Getting there

Symbaroum Thistle Hold (Core complete stretch items to come)
Storypath Cards (Have Hope, Horror and Intrigue missing adventure Morality and Whimsy)
Robert Howards Conan (Pre-Print pdf of core Adventure book still pending)
Death & Taxes (Have the OSR version, Pathfinder still pending)
Rhune (a couple more story arc adventures to go)
Slumbering Ursine Dunes (I think there's one bonus adventure still owed)

Never ending Story

Ryuutama (basically done but pledge contains permanent electronic updates)

A bit late

Kurt Hills Fantasy Atlas
The Blight
Marmoreal Tomb

Long time coming

13th Age in Glorantha (original date July 2015)
Whats O.L.D is N.E.W (original date August 2015)
Five Moons (original date August 2015)

Please come home, I still love you baby(way past due, I still want the item).

50 sHAdes of VORpal (just grab the 100 pages of notes and doodles and slap them on the scanner, that's all I ever wanted)
Throne of Night (What you sent out was cool! Wish you'd write some more)


Saturday, December 17, 2016

El Raja Key Archive review

Rob Kuntz has finally published his collection of maps and notes from the early days of D&D. It is available from Three Line Studios as the El Raja Key Archive. From the blurb on the website:

The El Raja Key Archive is an interactive, searchable, fully indexed, virtual museum of roleplaying game artifacts from the dawn of the Dungeons & Dragons game! Contained within the Archive are over 1,000 high resolution scans of adventures, maps and keys, campaign notes, character sheets, and manuscripts from the Original GreyhawkKalibruhn, and Blackmoor Campaigns. That's right, from the very creation of Dungeons & Dragons! Includes all maps & some keys for Rob's Castle El Raja Key, the dungeons where Gary Gygax cut his teeth as Mordenkainen; Rob's manuscript for his lost Dungeons & Dragons Supplement V: Kalibruhn; maps, keys, and notes for over 40 adventures from the Original Greyhawk and Kalibruhn Campaigns including, maps & some keys for 16 of Rob's Original Greyhawk Castle levels, the map for the first ever D&D demo, the Machine Level, at GenCon VII in 1974, and the map for the first ever D&D tournament, Sunken City, and notes, NPC cards, and adventure maps and keys for the Original City of Greyhawk!
Given my love of old maps from the seventies, this was a purchase I wasn't going to pass up. I ordered the DVD standard edition, which showed up promptly in my mail box a few days after my order. I chose the standard because it contained all the old maps which were my primary interest, although i am missing out on the new adventure included in the Deluxe and Collectors editions. I have posted a sample copy of  a typical map at the top of the page (so as not to reveal too many secrets I have used the same map Rob posted to his webpage). True to its billing it provides large quantities of maps and notes from Rob's early days. I liked finally seeing at least some of the actual Castle Greyhawk (Rob only includes the levels he drew), including the infamous Black Reservoir (subject of a Gary Gygax play report). I am not that enthused with the woodgrain/notebook paper .html interface, but much of the material is directly accessible as .jpg files as wel. I wish more of the levels had the key as well as the map. After looking at Castle Greyhawk I was a little disappointed  to discover that El Raja Key is most of the same levels just arranged in a different order. It will require some intense study of  Robs scratchy handwriting to decipher the contents of the El Raja Key supplement. It seems to be in the floating charts and tables style of the original books, as well as the Greyhawk and Blackmoor supplements. I am grateful to Rob for getting this stuff out in his lifetime, rather than taking his secrets to his grave like Gary did. I much more interested in seeing stuff as it was in the day, than waiting for a modern polish to suck the life out of it (TEKUMEL SOCIETY LISTEN UP!!). For me this purchase was money well spent.

P.S. The job of cross indexing these scans with clandestine photos of Gary's notebook, and the other pieces of Castle Greyhawk in published  modules is left to others for now. I can tell you the levels presented do not match the maps of Greyhawk Ruins at all, and although the style is somewhat similar to Grodog's Greyhawk the levels are different.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Death of Lone Wolf author Joe Dever





From EN world

We are sorry to be the bearers of such tremendously sad news, but our father passed away peacefully at 10:15 yesterday morning. This follows twelve years of an illness that he kept secret to all but those closest to him. We appreciate this news may be a shock to many.

He died as he lived - with colossal bravery and dignity - and held by those that loved him. He was working on the final three Lone Wolf books until Monday evening. His thoughts were with his work and thusly his fans until the last possible moments. His work clearly meant a lot to his fans, and your loyalty meant everything to him.

It is with enormous honour and great responsibility that these notes for the final three books of the saga, and the legacy of his incredible universe, are passed to us to complete.

Please allow us time to attend to the family, and his personal affairs. We will be in touch via this page and his website with further news about a memorial service that we hope to arrange for late January. We will also share how you can apply to attend the memorial, with full details of the time and location.

With love,
Ben Devere & family


Joe and I in happier times

You can find a great deal of his work available for free at the Project Aon website. One of his latest and perhaps last project (although the obituary mentions three more books in the works) the Lone Wolf Adventure Game is available from Cubicle 7 .


Friday, November 25, 2016

Post Turkey Update

Dear Reader,

Just a quick post to try and catch up.

My Tuesday night game has been perking along. After assaulting the drow army (which provided just the cover the white kobold needed to slip into and grab the artifact the party was after); they escaped the drow hit team sent to extract revenge; Signed on as met cutters to help carve the Tarrasque (Totally borrowed from Salt-in-the-wounds blog); discovered a secret door inside the Tarrasque leading to a plane of ice and snow; recovered a 3' cube which seemed to be blowing snow and ice everywhere ( another of my artifacts); Traded this cube to a weird elf guy in exchange for a magic item each; and are currently working for the elf guy to grab the sphere (the last remaining artifact in the set). I'll try and put the story about the cameo of the fire lich and the nightmare up in it's own post.

Recent purchases have included:

A bunch of pay what you want adventures from the DMs Guild

El Raja Key Archive

A realy good look into the maps and notes one needed to play "Old School" DnD. Contains the levels Rob Kuntz drew for Castle Greyhawk (about half of them) including the infamous Black Reservoir.  Big on maps, map keys and content not so much.

Zodiac Campaign Setting

Kickstarter I didn't sign on for, but they had hardbacks for sale at Con-on-the-Cob

And of course, Volo's Guide to Monsters

Cons attended:

Con-on-the-Cob. Only there Friday and Saturday, less gaming stuff in the dealers room than last year, and not as many name brand artists. Had a nice demo of a game to be released next year, and played in my friends "megagame" Night Falls (semi RPG semi Parlor game similar to "mafia"). My vampire cult team won, but somehow our allied villager team managed to come in last out of four teams.

If  I get ambitious this weekend I may expand on some of these, but that's it for now. 


Monday, October 3, 2016

Shadow of the Demon Lord Review

"... I wanted something to call my own, a tabletop roleplaying game freed from canon and born from my imagination..."

Robert J Schwalb from preface to Shadow of the Demon Lord

I signed on to the kickstarter for all the .pdfs and liked it so much I bought a hardback of the core rules from my friendly neighborhood game store. Things I like include starting simple and adding complexity as well as a clear and easy to read prose style. The add or subtract a d6 to the d20 is a good alternative to the roll two d20. The game also allows for multiple d6, but the take the highest helps to keep it from getting totally crazy. I found the core rules chapter clear and comprehensive, although I would be inclined to present more of it as charts and tables, and less as prose (When I write my fantasy heartbreaker I'll give it a shot). I am afraid I'll not be able to judge the true balance of classes and spells until I turn my min-maxer friends lose on it (which hasn't happened yet). If you are a connoisseur of roleplaying games definitely pick this one up. The kickstarter has filled driveRPG with a lot of adventures as well. I haven't talked my 5e players into this yet, but it may be worth giving it a shot (Although she-who-must-be-obeyed is still struggling to switch from 2e to 5e, so perhaps best not to switch targets).

Chapter by Chapter Skim Through.
Table of Contents
Always useful (although I like indexes better)

Forward
Kind words from Frank Mentzer

Preface
Thoughts from Robert himself (see quote at the start of this review for example)

Introduction
Some basic concepts and play examples

Chapter 1 Character Creation
Four attributes Strength, Agility, Intellect, and Will. Starting attributes are determined by race with some slight wiggle room. Only half a page on attributes here. Races include Humans, Changelings, Clockworks, Dwarfs, Goblins, and Orcs. No elves, halfings, gnomes or lizardmen (Probably only I will miss the lack of lizardmen, but the lack of elves  is more conspicuous, certainly after watching Shannara on DvD I am convinced that both elves and gnomes can do grimdark well). Lots of roll up tables for backgrounds and starting professions (better selection than 5e in my opinion).

Chapter 2 Playing the Game
Making decisions ask your DM.Time timekeeping is important (but not talked about here). Rolling dice 2 pages boon/bane only thing you haven't seen before. Attributes (1.5 pages kinda short shrift.) characteristics mostly calculated from attributes, long descriptions for insanity, and corruption. Speed for some reason includes the movement rules. Damage is the next section, mostly the standard stuff. Disabled has some possibilities. Afflictions (same as conditions in 5e) mostly the standard stuff. Environment deals with objects, range and distance, obscurement, illumination and invisibility. Role Playing covers social interactions and includes options for character bonds. Combat is comprehensive covering most options and ends this chapter.

Chapter 3 Novice Paths
Four novice paths: Magician, Priest, Rogue, and Warrior. Novice paths provide powers for 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 8th levels

Chapter 4 Expert Paths
Sixteen expert paths: Artificer, Assassin, Berserker, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Oracle, Paladin, Ranger, Scout, Sorcerer, Spellbinder, Thief, Warlock, Witch, and Wizard. Expert paths provide powers for levels 3, 6, and 9.

Chapter 5 Master Paths
64 master paths: Abjurer, Acrobat, Aeromancer, Apocalyptist, Arcanist, Astromancer, Avenger, Bard, Beastmaster, Blade, Cavalier, Champion, Chronomancer, Conjurer, Conqueror, Death dealer, Defender, Dervish, Destroyer, Diplomat, Diviner, Dreadnaught, Duelist, Enchanter, Engineer, Executioner, Exorcist, Explorer, Geomancer, Gladiator, Gunslinger, Healer, Hexer, Hydromancer, Illusionist, Infiltrator, Inquisitor, Jack-of-all-trades, Mage knight, Magus, Marauder, Miracle worker, Myrmidon, Necromancer, Poisoner, Pyromancer, Runesmith, Savant, Sentinel, Shapeshifter, Sharpshooter, Stormbringer, Technomancer, Templar, Tenebrist, Thaumaturge, Therge, Transmuter, Traveler, Weapon master, Woodwose, Zealot. Master paths provide powers for level 7 and 10

Chapter 6 Equipment 
You know armor, weapons, adventuring gear, hirelings seem cheap. Options to buy scrolls and potions are always nice.

Chapter 7 Magic
brief introduction then list of spells split up into small schools called traditions Air, Alteration, Arcana, Battle, Celestial, Chaos, Conjuration, Curse, Destruction, Divination, Earth, Enchantment, Fire, Forbidden, illusion, life, nature, necromancy, primal, protection, rune, shadow, song, storm, technomancy, teleportation, theurgy, time, transformation, water. Have to turn my optimizing friends loose on this to which traditions have the killer apps. Air has some nasty spells. Arcane is for your magic misslers. Forbidden has some really freaky stuff. finally fire for fireball. I suspect there is a close correspondence between the Master paths and traditions, but I have not mapped it out in detail.

Chapter 8 A Land in Shadow
Gazetteer of the campaign setting

Chapter 9 running the game
A nice basic introduction to Dming. A nice section on horror as well. Read if you have need of such things.

Chapter 10 Bestiary
The bestiary closes out the book. A quick look shows most of the old standards, but nothing leapt out as new and noteworthy. I like the sections on characters, customization and templates

Summary
There is a lot of potential here. Fairly close to its d20 roots the main distinctions in the paths and traditions providing a bit finer division than classes and spell schools (a feature which intrigues me). Although it claims a grimdark setting, most of this system is just solid roleplaying. I like starting with basic classes and expanding outwards as levels increase. I think picking new classes for higher level powers will cut back on the 1000+ feat optimization problems of  3e and pathfinder. However, an extensive effort to find where the cracks are has yet to made. Pick this up, play it, find the cracks and let me know.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Return to and escape from Black Rock

Well the adventure went reasonably well. The after climbing down the ladder the half party finds itself in a room filled with periwinkle mist. They defeat the ogre which materializes out of it and add the paladin which materializes to the party (had to add the new player somehow). They move on to find in the next room to find a kobold wearing welder's goggles and a reptilian beast with glowing periwinkle eyes. The kobold turns to gas and flees sicking the beast on the party. The discovers much to its horror that the gaze of this beast turns people into periwinkle mist, but only the druid misses enough saving throws to be fully affected. They find several bottles of periwinkle mist carefully labeled things like "White Dragon" and "Frost Giant". They put the druid in an empty one. They progress on to the next room which has one door heavily guarded by a balista, barred from this side with a lighting bolt projector in front of it. The other door is just shut although closer inspection reveals that it is barred from the other side. The thief uses his tools to unbar the door. On opening the door they find a chamber with four iron cells on the left and a carriage equiped with four dragon headed nozzles on the right. In back is the kobold with welders glasses and another kobold with a whip. The party decides to talk, once the kobolds explain about the four nightmares behind the iron doors, the party decides to go a different way. They talk the kobold with welders glasses into disarming the traps in the previous room exit through the formally heavily trapped door into the great underway and reunite with the rest of the party sleeping in the kobold camp above. They retreat to a hidden spot and take a long rest (there is some stupidity with a captured kobold which I will not go into). They are horrified to find on their return to the underway a drow army storming through (guess they weren't the only ones interested in finding out how the traps for the door worked).

Final Battle Mat
Original keyed sketch

P.S. Although the players prudently exited before reaching the lava pool, I am bit disappointed not to see how 4th levels deal with lava.



Sunday, September 4, 2016

What I did on my summer vacation

Well I appear to have taken the summer off. Staying step ahead of my players in my Tuesday 5e game seems to be taking most of my creative time. I am of course using this blog post to procrastinate finishing the lower levels of Black Rock, a strange twist of fate whereby my players always want to head into the areas I have not defined in my 20+ years of campaign notes. Most of the parties hearing about 400+ kobold armies and something called a "Fire Lich" would run the other way in a sandbox campaign, but not my players. After launching a frontal assault on a vanguard of thirty kobolds they successfully carved their way into the Black Rock itself, only to be met by the elite guard. The wizard was horrified to discover that his sleep spell only dropped one kobold. However they still carved their way through, only to be met by the next wave. A quick challenge to single combat with the CR 5 Kobold chieftain was accepted and although the principal fighter was defeated, her lizardman henchman was able to finish off the wounded chieftain. At that point the kobold shaman, his gaggle of kobold archers and elite kobolds asked them to leave. The cleric, the lizardman, and the fighter did. However the thief, wizard, and druid used a handy side passage and rope trick to lay low until the commotion died down, sneak into the depths of the Black Rock. I halted the session there as the deep depths of Black Rock are as yet undrawn. However, as the inner sanctum of a lich I have always envisioned them as  at least CR 6. So do I stay true to my vision keep it high level or do I tone it down so my half party of  4th level adventures can succeed?
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