Saturday, December 7, 2013

Blog Rolls and OSR

O.K. what started me down this path was post on Tenkars Tavern pointing to his friend +Charles Akins list of list of Blogs at Dyvers and claiming it as most complete. Dyvers has a pretty good list and the fact that it has a paragraph review of each certainly makes very useful. Shear numbers is not always the best metric and its Tenkar not Akins who is making the claim of completeness, but the numbers are worth looking at. At 170 blogs it's pretty large, certainly more than the 119 I tracked for Swords and Wizardry Day, or the number of blogs I track on my rulenomicon page. However this far less than the 245 blogs tracked for growth by Cyclopean in 2011,  or the 289 Blog snapshot I took of my blogroll last year and certainly less than the 320 Roleplaying blogs I am tracking on Feedly (which includes wordpress and other blogs not well tracked by blogger, and is not capped at the 280 something maximum of the blogger blogroll).  The RPG Roleplaying Alliance clocks in at 594 members. One could try to claim that the Dyvers is exclusive to the Old School Renaissance, but he includes  GURPS and 4e sites, so this clearly not the case. Personally I have always struggled with the OSR label, it is an arbitrary designation, but has caused me to think twice about posting on the 4e Dungeons and Dragons I am actually playing these days, for fear of losing OSR cred. I have apparently diluted it enough not to make Dyvers list (Hey! he could pick up one more by linking to me). **Update Akins indicates here that he will trying to add another 50 blogs soon so perhaps I will be in the second round***

P.S. Akins effort has inspired me to actually finish my long neglected Blognomicon page, look for it on the header tabs (although I have not got around to adding commentary, sometimes just reading the names gets my imagination going).
P.P.S Warning, the Blognomicon is based on my year old snapshot. Although the links were live at the time, some may have gone dark, or worse turned into Zombie blogs selling used cars and washing machines

Friday, November 29, 2013

End of days for Dungeon a Day *Updated*?

Update on a kickstarter winding down. I signed on for the original Dungeon a Day with Monte Cook but petered out at the first year renewal (87 bucks was a lot of money, having to screen capture every room for download a total pain, but I sure as heck wasn't paying extra for .pdfs). I think the dungeon could have used a few empty rooms as well. However, I always wonder about how it finished (Monte himself hit the silk about year two). As such I was quick to sign up for the renewed kickstarter (see prior post) when it appeared a year ago summer. After all a pledge level with all .pdfs was only $50, significantly less than what I payed for the yearly subscription model. Although it took a little time for the site to be up and running (I didn't get my login until October), once I was in I went and grabbed all the .pdfs I could lay my hands on. Posted a few comments on the forum, read a few other posts (mostly on the lack of posts) and forgot about it. When I got another note this September about my subscription running out, I logged on again grabbed everything I had missed the first pass and prepared to call it over. Tried the "renew here" button, as least to get price for renewal (Unfortunately Monte is still better than Hyrum Savage, so I was unlikely to pay $50 for another year), when the "renew here" page crashed I figured it was the end. However, here's where it gets weird on the day after expiration a kickstarter message goes out saying no one is expiring, everyone will be carried forward until the pathfinder update of the original dungeon is complete. So I log in again, the site accepts my login, but I can't access any of the the downloads (today I seem to be able to access the forums). I send a e-mail to complain, I receive no response. I read in the gaming news feeds that the guy who I am e-mailing has left Super Genius Games to found his own company. Based on the above I am declaring this kickstarter over (note that I am not very good at predicting the end of these, I seem to still have stuff dribbling from kickstarters over so long ago I had forgotten them [thanks for my subscription adventures Frog God]). What does this mean? well I will cease to worry about and won't hold my breath for another update. Am I disappointed in this kickstarter? No, not really, I got my $50 worth and I din't really need a Pathfinder conversion (I have no trouble converting to Pathfinder on the fly by substituting similar monsters from the pathfinder monster book and using those). I am a bit disappointed in Super Genius Games inability to keep their promises, and may not sign up for another kickstarter with them. I am bit concerned whether the departing individuals new company Rogue Genius Games will be more reliable. I also wonder if the split had anything to with the dungeonaday renewal. I suspect the onus of completing the promises of the kickstarter fall to Super Genius Games, but I am not holding my breath.

P.S. Both Super Genius's and Rogue Genius's websites are non-functional, but it appears that Rogue Genius is having a clearance sale on DriveThruRPG

P.P.S. I received a notice that my subscription was expiring December 31th, so it must have been active. Hyrum also sent a nice update to everyone saying that their subscriptions will be renewed again without further payment. However, since there has been no new content at my subscription level for month, I am not sure I'll worry about it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Numenera first pass (halfway) through

Numenera leaves me conflicted. I gave a pass to the kickstarter because Science Fiction isn't really my thing. However once the game hit the street, the buzz was that it was really Science Fantasy (more planescape than star wars) and had several unique and novel play features that sounded intriguing to me. Was going to buy the .pdf, but the local game store owner indicated he had some hardcover copies on order. Unfortunately the hardcover didn't make to the store I had requested them from until November, so I am bit behind the power curve. However, I am doing my best to get through the book, so I can give you a review. No actual play experience, never the less here are my comments based on my read through.

First impressions include gorgeous artwork, well written prose, a sidebar annotation layout which really very helpful. Owners of Monte Cook's previous masterwork Ptolus will recognize these features. The combat and skill system core mechanic is straight forward, roll a d20 try to beat a target number. I thought the idea of being able to spend effort to lower the target number was intriguing. The character creation system at first glance seems very free form and open. One starts one character by filling in the statement "I am an adjective noun who verbs". So far very good, similar to my favorite character generation system from Over the Edge (Pick three things your good at, one weakness, and one secret).

However, pursual of the subsequent chapters on characters begin the to reveal the dark secret lurking beneath the surface. It turns out there are only three permissible nouns: Glaive, Nano, or Jack (by the way, Monte, use of glaive in this fashion is almost as heinous as the movie's Krulls use of glaive to describe a six pointed psychic shuirekan. True polearmists know that a glaive is a long knife on a stick). There are only twelve permissible adjectives:  Charming, Clever, Graceful, Intelligent, Learned, Mystical/Mechanical (yea, I though that would be two different things but it is only one), Rugged, Stealthy, Strong, Strong willed, Swift, Tough.There are twenty verbs (which I won't bother to list) however no two members of the party are allowed to have the same verb. In balance the character creation is closer to 4e character class, theme than Over the edges free form.

Also surfacing in the character creation chapters is another concern for me, the system is a tri-stat system having only might, speed, and intellect. While tri-stat systems are not completely fatal (I have been playing Ultima Online for years, Skyrim is a more recent example), I find most of them have trouble dividing mechanics between only three stats so that one does not become significantly more important than others. Another source of trouble begins to appear in the equipment section, fixed weapon damage versus fixed armor class. Again a system which requires careful balance, it does look like it is reasonably under control, since both medium, and heavy weapons can get through heavy armor, but armor bonuses will quickly make a character vulnerable only to critical hits (this reliance on requiring critical hits to penetrate armor is what soured me on first edition Runequest).

Now we reach the chapter on rules of the game. I found this chapter the most difficult to read. Monte's narrative style is ill suited  to something that could be be explained "Old school" with a chart or table. He spends seven paragraphs explaining to make an attack you roll a d20 add or subtract the appropriate modifiers and compare it to the target number. He explains the mechanics of much of the standard stuff on climbing, healing, jumping etc. I like the guarding action which similar to a readied action in D&D but with a bit more flexibility. The defense roll instead of  the DM making an attack roll is kind of cute (However I like rolling dice as a DM). Unfortunately these next items is where it all falls apart. He makes the same mistake that soured me on the "The Fantasy Trip" more than 20 years ago, both  your initiative and chance to hit are based on speed. In the "The Fantasy Trip" this made speed archer the only viable character class. Oh sure you could try playing an armored fighter or spell caster, but you were going to get filled full arrows before you could do anything. Numenera does allow you to use might instead of speed for melee, so there is some hope for fighters. However,  Numenera compounds this with another couple errors. First as you take damage your ability fight back decreases, making hitting first even more important. Second all the fancy maneuvers such as "effort"  and "nano" are drawing from the same pool you are using for hit points. This results in making comeback options from a poor start close out real fast. Since I favor a "Heroic" style of play where players are are taking long shots to comeback from seeming overwhelming odds, I am putting the book down and slowly backing away. I had hoped for better, from the author of the books of Eldritch Might, one of my favorite 3.5e expantions. Many people do enjoy playing games with as badly flawed mechanics (Tunnels and Trolls, The Fantasy Trip, GURPS, [Champions had a slight different flaw with speed, but if you build a slow character you would never do anything but watch the speedy players mop the board]), but it is not my cup-of-tea. I may pick up the book again to pursue the campaign setting chapters and magic items (cyphers seem an interesting idea for one shot items), but right now I will leave it there.

P.S. I have not investigated this thoroughly, but it appears there are only six levels for each character class as well. C'mon Monte in this age of 80th level characters in on-line games, what were you thinking.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Beyonder slacker backer

So to avoid working on the review of Numenera which I picked up recently and planned to blog about, I have been off surfing the web. Looking for wilderness geomorphs I landed on the Talisman Island web site (happy 30th birthday talisman!). Although I think Talisman as a game is a bit "beer&pretzel"ly I love the Gary Chalk artwork of the first and second edition (I have everything from those except the timescape expansion). Gary has made a new card in honor of the 30th Birth which you can download from this page.

Clicking through I landed first at Robert Harris' (the author of talisman) and then the Fortress Ameritrash (love the name) website. Fortress Ameritrash had on it an ad for Beyonder which had some cool art world and said it was an RPG. Clicking on the ad lead me to the Flying Night Bear games web site, where it was reveled that Beyonder was an actual pen and paper game rather that the online MMG I had expected. Watching the kickstater video and looking at the awesome artwork on the website I decided this was something I wanted. Unfortunately, the kickstater ended Oct 6 I guessed I was ... but there's a link on the web site to the slacker backer page (really cool idea for you kickstarterers). I am now signed up at $50 for pdfs of the Rulebook and Bestiary. The features that sold me on Beyonder are: Cool artwork, someone's home campaign (I find home campaigns have more heart and soul invested in them, than the write for hire adventures many game companies rely on) and a shipping date not too far off. The cautions I worry about are a "mom and pop" operation and no prior track record of publishing anything. Stay tuned!

P.S. Now that the "afterglow" of the kill has worn off, it occurs to me that $25 a .pdf is a bit beyond my usual price point. Oh well! Hope its worth it.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Con of the Cob post-mortem

Had a great deal of fun at Con-on-the-Cob, even though She-who-must-be-obeyed became ill and missed the whole thing. Did meet Tim Shorts who gave me copies of his 'zine the Manor. Awesome 'zine, the folded 8" x 11" sheets stapled in the middle brought back memories. It seems to follow a one full dungeon, one setting concept format, with short new monsters, new spells, new magic items articles sprinkled in. He also had a couple 4"x 5.5" booklets which were just one dungeon. Played Dementalism with Andy Hopp on Thursday Night at the Drink and Draw. It kind of like the card game Concentration but with three cards for each match rather than two (two cards pair as normal, however if another player finds the third card and correctly guess which face down pair is a match, he can steal the pair from you). The card are decorated with the denizens of Andy's "Mutha Oith" and his usual zaniness for all sorts of special cards. I of course had to buy the game and sign up for the expansion pack kickstarter. You can sign up for the kickstarter too if you hurry.

Did a whirlwind tour of the dealers room with my son on Friday. He was more interested in the "Toys are Us" we visited on the way home, although he did get a couple of Star Trek action figures at the con. Picked through the used bins for more Mystara Gazetteers, but since it was mostly the same dealers as last spring's AnCon, I had already cleaned them out. One dealer had a good collection of print versions of the OSR small press rules. However, since I had .pdfs of the ones that interested me already and only limited space for dead tree editions (at least until I can talk She-who-must-be-obeyed into converting more of the living room into a library). My son did wait patiently while I sat in on a seminar on game design (I missed the RPG one, but the Board game one was interesting too).

Saturday was devoted totally to the fourthcore "Fane of the Heresiarch" (***Update*** new link found here). Although the adventure was a great deal of fun, and while its location in a private room near the con suite made it easier to hear the DM and concentrate, it did mean I missed my chance to stop by Digital Orc's Menagerie of the Ice Lord and say hi to my fellow bloggers (other than Tim Shorts, whom I have already mentioned). Was going to stop by at diner, but since we were running behind we only took a half hour (which is enough time to drive to the restaurant pick up diner to go and come back, DM packed a sandwich). When I got out of the game at 11 PM most of the gamers had packed things up already.

Didn't get a chance to go down Sunday. Filled my time with kickstarters instead. New ones include:

1. Legendary Games Pathfinder Books in Print (I only signed up for the .pdfs)
2. The Lost Lands: Sword of Air (Being a big fan of Bill Webb and Frog God games this was inevitable)
3. Adventures in the East Mark - Red Box (a bit of a risk, but worth a $30 bet for a boxed set)
4. Dementalism Expansion sets (See above, I am signed up to get all three expansions)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Con-on-the-Cob and odds and ends

I will be definitely be at Con-on-the-Cob this week (at least some of the time). I will not be DM the 4e games I usually ran, as the 4e organizers jumped ship for pathfinder, and I could not get my you-know-what together to add events on my own. I am signed up for the Saturday afternoon 4core game, but when I last checked  was the only one signed up, so I'll have to play it by ear. I am on furlough from the federal government, so you'd think I'd get lots done. Unfortunately furlough (especially one this stupid) is not conducive to a creative mindset. I spent most of last week trying to get signed up for unemployment just in case our illustrious Congress reneges on the House proposal to pay us (She-who-must-be-obeyed thinks they make unemployment extra hard to keep the applicants down). Finished up my long postponed taxes (thanks to automatic extensions Oct 15th is the new April 15th). Filled the rest of the time with reading books, and watching way too many Yogcast videos (Wool Race is a four part 80 minute video of the crew getting killed because they are too lazy to build a path of torches from the spawn point to where they are digging for the wool. Moonquest sounded more promising, but after four half-hour videos they have succeeded in building a base underground with a door {added in episode 4}. Simon's team at least seems to run on the sensible strategy of when in doubt dig. Sips team wasted the first six minutes of their video talking about "twerking in microgravity". I didn't watch the three other videos available for Sips team). Books a bit more profitable, got through five last week. Finally finished "Toll the Hounds" which I bought for my nook last spring. Steve Erikson  "Toll the Hounds" is a bit of a slog, too much angst, not enough action. However, it is still filled with those wild flights of Fantasy I read Steve Erikson for. "Dust and Dreams" seems to be going a bit better. Also noteworthy was "The Amber Room" about the fate of the Catherine the Greats Czarist treasure a room paneled in amber, and what happened to in World War Two. The Room still remains on the missing list, but the authors attempts to review the iron curtain archives on it read like a spy novel. I definitely recommend the "The Amber Room". Hopefully I'll get going on my Dungeontangle geomorphs inspired by reading the "Zentangle Untangled" book (If your already a doodler like me, don't waste you're time with the book, Zentangle seems mostly a marketing ploy {although some of the patterns are pretty cool}, and more information is available on the web than in the book). Lets close with some Gypsy Punk!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Saga of a Zahr-Tann Army

Guest post by she-who-must-be-obeyed

Zahr-Tann is the name of an Eldar Craftworld in games workshop’s game 40 K.  About four years ago Himself found some bargains in a garage sale or some place and picked up a few previously used Eldar tanks. Then he happened upon a partially worked on army at the Warzone.  Fortunately for me the work that had been done was just gluing so I did not need to repaint like I did with the bargain tanks, oh and he got some kits to make the painted falcons into wave serpents. Plus he actually bought a new kit of guardians for me to make up.  Much scraping, ungluing, re-gluing and painting later he mentioned the name of the Craftworld.  It has no Craftworld insignia but he found someone working on one who is on a forum that will not recognize my plea to join it. So I played with my favorite of his suggestions and came up with my own version.  Since I am not allowed to post it there I decided to post it in his blog.  At least it gets the thing out into cyber-space.

Let us know what you think.

P.S. The pick of Zahr-Tann is not quite capricious as she-who-must-be-obeyed indicates. It is based on the paint scheme of my favorite cool-mini wave serpent "Last trick of Loyso Pandokhva" which uses a blue and bronze color scheme closest to that of Zahr-Tann. Its not my fault GW only mentions this craftworld once on a webpage which has since disappeared (given the silliness associated with many official craftworlds, perhaps its disappearance is a good thing). I'll try and get some pictures of the tanks she-who-must-be-obeyed painted later.

Here is a picture of the first painted tank. Although most of the army will be Waveserpents the Falcon was already assembled from a prior effort, so she-who-must-be-obeyed painted it first.

Monday, August 5, 2013

13th age arrives!

My Thirteenth Age pre-order arrived today! With the stuff I got yesterday, it feels like Christmas in August. Does the arrival of my long-lost kickstarters and pre-orders signal the coming of Gen-Con? Magic eight ball says uncertain. Even at this late my plans for traveling to Gen-Con remain uncertain as well. Since she is not able to travel to GenCon with me she-who-must-be-obeyed has been giving my travel plans a serious "Frowny Face". The recent collapse of the plan b option of bringing my mother to Cleveland to visit instead has resulted in a possible opening (my mother lives near Indianapolis so the GenCon trip is a two-fer).  Since my mother is no longer willing to make long drives herself, my sister was going to act as chauffer and visit the Rock Hall with one of her friends as well. My mother (in her 80's) is fine, my sister in her (in 50's) is having gall bladder problems. Oh well! as long as cool stuff keeps arriving in the mail I no longer need to blow eighty bucks just for the right to spend money in the GenCon dealers room (since they have canceled all the fourth edition D&D events I would of played in the dealers room is about it for GenCon these days). I though about volunteering to DM 5th edition (I did read the playtest rules one or two iterations back, and since they are "simplifing" the rules how hard could it be?) but since I can neither confirm or deny my travel plans its kind of hard for me to commit. Some reviews of all my new cool stuff later, I promise!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Three Developments

Got my hardbacks from the razor coast kickstarter yesterday, have to get a review of the them up soon.

Emperors Choice has placed some of their Arduin products as .pdf on Drivethru RPG. Most Arduin stuff, although it is hard to play straight from the book, I find chock full of novel ideas. Hopefully having them as .pdf will make them a little more widespread.

Dyson of Dyson's Delves has placed his Dodecaheron fanzine Drivethru RPG. Normally I am a little perturbed when things that used to be free start to sell for cash. However Dyson has placed them as a pay-what-you-want, so you can still pick them up for free or send a little cash Dyson's way if you want to, and I am O.K. with that.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Swag from Origins and Free RPG day

Little behind in posting this. Although both Origins and Free RPG day were on the same weekend I still made it to both. Purchases at Origins included:

 a hard copy of Dungeon World, One of my players said it might be a good replacement for 4e when 4e collapses

Shroud of Ancients, a new game system from the folks who did the terror at twinleaf d20, I like its class-less approach to characters, and after spending a half hour at the booth talking I couldn't not buy it.

Second City Boxed set from Legend of Five Rings, three books City Guide, NPC Guide, and Campaign Adventure, lots of extras including dice bag, DM screen and deluxe character sheets, only dissapointing part was that map, being a City on a plain laid out in a rectangular grid it was just not exicting

Bunch of GW stuff, it appears GW has decided to start paying attention to this convention once again. Of course they have just opened a new store in Columbus and are expecting to open another in Cleveland later in the summer. Purchases included the new plastic eldar farseer, Tamurkan the Throne of Chaos book (so I can blow the dust off my chaos dwarf army), and Imperial Armor Masterclass II.

Talked to some guys who had recently kickstarted a new dragon led armies miniature game. However they didn't have anything to sell yet (Note to aspiring game companies, if you buy a booth at a major convention bring something to sell).

Ran into a friend from work Dwanye, who is trying to kickstater a pulp art image database. I sent him over to Andy Hopp booth to see about a table at Con-on-the-Cobb (a great little convention in Huson, OH on October 17-20)

For free roleplaying day I had to drive to Sandusky, about an hour away from my house, as Northeast Ohio is a black hole for Free RPG day. Nice store, The Hero Zone , but I am not Free RPG day was such a big hit for them, since I arrived at 2 pm and was still able to pick up most of the titles I was hoping for (Nowhere the 500+ person turn-out at my local comic book store for free comic book day). I did have to show my ID for "Better than any Man" something a middle aged man with 12" white beard finds humorous, the Gamestop  I visited wanted proof that I was over 18 as well, making it twice in one day. Titles included:

Better than any Man
Cosmic Patrol
Reap the Whirlwind
We be Goblins Too
Hall of Bones
Dungeon Crawl Classics Xcrawl

Could have picked up the Tunnels and Trolls adventure as well but since I am not fond of Tunnels and Trolls I gave it a pass. I'll try to review some of these items in a future post.

P.S. She-who-must-be-obeyed will get the Masterclass II for her birthday, I don't want to distract her with it now as she is happily glueing wave serpents together, and has painted the falcon we had already put together in the Zahr-Tann paint scheme seen on the "Last Trick of Loyso Pandokhva"(just the paint scheme not the faces).

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Obscure RPG Day Adventure Revenge of Pleasant Corners

An Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Tournament, we published as the summer "zine" when I was President of the Brass Dragon Society back in 1982. Run at Dragon Flight 1 (Contest winner for the write a tournament for Dragon Flight contest). We mailed a copy to each of the 30 odd Brass Dragon club members, may have sold a few more at Dragon Flight itself, the balance of the print run (at least 100) went to the the authors basement. Here's the hook reproduced in all its dot-matrix glory. Whole module was printed on my Apple II+ thermal printer, luckily once you xerox the thermal paper the xerox doesn't fade with age (I would like to forget about hand corrections done in black sharpie, other than to mention it's "Pleasant" not "Pleasent") 
A very well crafted basic orc pit for NINE players. Run on a four hour time limit, scored on how many rooms you got through, and what you did while getting there. Usually done by gathering the judges together having each one describe his parties performance, then ranking them by consensus. Many groups did not make it past the entrance ambush. The map by she_who_must_be_obeyed is reproduced below.

I'd reprint this adventure, but the way the Brass Dragon Society did thing the copyright reverts to the author. Maybe Dave Butler still has a few copies in his basement on Capital hill, if he's still in the Seattle area.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ancon convention and loot report

ANCON has ended,

Pretty good convention overall, although Friday was a bust. Having no players for my 40K demo I played the Nercomunda demo which didn't get any players either and watching new Doctor Who episodes with the roll-up a Silvervine character who had one sign-up, who since he already knew Silvervine had the judge check his new character for about 5 minutes and was done. The Silvervine folk tried to convince me that Silvervine was easier than Dungeons and Dragons, but since they needed an entire session for rolling characters I was not convinced. Picked up some Dungeons and Dragons Gazetteers, Gaz2, Gaz11, Gaz12, and one that just says Gazetteer (probably paid too much but they are long out of print) got Realmspace and some spiral bound thing called Goblin World thrown in for free. I had turned my nose up at the Gazetteers when they first showed up, because they were BMX D&D and not AD&D. However, after reading Harvards Blackmoor/Mystara, and Bruce Heards blog feel I may have missed out on something good. Once WoTC releases them as .pdfs for $5 each I'll feel a bit foolish. Paid 1 pound 50 ($3.25) for best of White Dwarf Scenarios 2 (I have 1 and 3 already, may have 2 already, but 3.25 was worth the risk of repeating myself) Old white dwarfs seam to go fairly cheap in the US, not sure people understand that before issue 100 or so there are a lot of Dungeons and Dragons articles. Realm of the Penguinmancer on Sunday was not too full. However I had good time teaching 4ed D&D to two folk from Toledo who had sseen game for half-off in the Game store and wondered how it played. Got to help out the damsel-in-distress. She was getting ready to DM a second edition D&D game, when of the players asked her if it was true that in first edition D&D elves and dwarves were both character classes. I both revealed the existence of an earlier 0th edition, and explained the difference between 1st edition AD&D and BMX D&D. I am as yet unable to explain, why the heck TSR kept both versions going for close to 10 years, or why the one that was harder to read and understand was more popular with my friends. I'll and get some reviews up of the gazetteers, once I've read them, and perhaps Silvervine too (once I've found my copy).

P.S. The Silvervine folk assure me the revised edition has been actually proofread by someone who is good at it, but since they have gone to an online purchase model, they didn't bring any copies to sell at the convention.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy Roleplaying Review

O.K. so I am in need of a break from preparing my 40K armies for the upcoming Ancon (starts Thursday, May 2nd. Stop by if you are close to the Cleveland/Akron Ohio area, Hudson is right between the two). So the Iron Kingdoms roleplaying has leapt out from behind my computer to grab my attention. Even middleweight grognards should remember Privateer Press' early start in the d20 era with the Witchfire trilogy, although their current Warmachine miniature game greatly out shadows that earlier effort. You should also remember their Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy d20 based Character and World guide, this review is not about that game. Late October of 2012 I picked up the lasted roleplaying offering titled "Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy Roleplaying Game: Core Rules. On examining it, it became quite clear it represents a clean break with the d20 past, and a switch to a 2d6 system closer to the Warmachine system.  once I recovered from the shock of it not being d20 (like the old Iron Kingdom books I have and kind of liked) I think got a reasonable value. Lack of a good monster manual in the back may limit its game play, until an adequate monster manual appears. The artwork is nice although some of it is recycled from those older books. I think the rules are a better "fit" with the Warmachine/Hordes miniatures rules than the "old d20", although an explicit explanation of how to move between this and those systems is lacking. A bit more crunch than I like to see in rules, and a character system which is overly "straightjacketed" turned me off a bit. The fact that it is 2d6 based will make harder to steal from for my d20 games. However, the game looks very playable, and the "straightjacket" character system allows for generation of a complex character quickly. Overall, I give it 3.5/5 stars. My page by page in-depth review starts below.

The first 103 pages are world setting and can probably be skipped by those already familiar with the Warmachine world.

Pages 105 and 106 cover Stats. Pages 107-114 cover races. Stats are a bit different consisting of primary stats of Physique (PHY), Agility (AGL), and Intellect (INT) and secondary stats linked to the primaries: Speed(SPD) and Strength(STR) for PHY; Poise (POI) and Prowess (PRW) for AGL; Arcane (ARC) and Perception (PER) for INT. Stats are determined by race selection (no dice role for you). There are also derived stats such as defense (DEF)  Initiative, Armor (ARM), and willpower (WIL). I am not quite sure what to make of the stat system.  I thought at first it was to better align with Warmachine but those stats are SPD, STR, Melee factor (MAT), Ranged attack (RAT), DEF, ARM, Focus, Command (four of them line up, the rest are missing). It is probably closest to the Fantasy Trips old tri-stat system of Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence, although the secondary stats may ameliorate some of the deficiencies of that system. The fact that it is fixed by race and doesn't vary that broadly (only 2 to 8) also helps. However, that does not yield much roleplaying fodder to distinguish between your burly barbarian, and your effete city dwelling mage. This It is probably closest to the Fantasy Trips old tri-stat system of Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence, although the secondary stats may ameliorate some of the deficiencies of that system. This distinction is provided by selecting one of four archtypes Gifted, Intellectual, Mighty, or Skilled which are covered from pages 115 to117.

Careers are covered from  117 to 149. Instead of classes everyone gets to choose a career (actually two). There are twenty eight all together. A few of them are restricted to a certain race, a few of them are restricted to Gifted archtypes, a few of them are available only to starting characters, for example Warcaster can only be chosen by a gifted starting character (you must also choose the tradition focuser). Once you have chosen your two class your skills and abilities are pretty much determined. An ability is just something you can do, a skill requires a check. There are several general skills which are freely selected  (I understand why Climbing, Jumping, Swimming and Riding are on the list; Animal Handling, Intimidation and Lore not so much), but most skills are linked to career. I did not see any general abilities they seem to be all linked to careers. The system reminds me most of the Old Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFR), but thankfully Iron Kingdoms do not require the acquisition of props like that system (In WFR: want to be a rat catcher? first you need to get a cage and a stick).This system feels a little unnecessarily straightjacketed to me, but it will keep the "min-max"ers in check for a bit (of course there is nothing "min-max"ers love more that a straightjacket to wriggle out of, I would start by poking at the afterthought sidebar on customization and options on page 119). Pages 120 to 149 explain the various careers in detail. Page 150 explains how to finish out your character sheet. Page 151 to 153 talk about adventuring companies, since it is poorly explained and optional, I skipped it.

Experience and advancement are detailed from pages 153 to 155. With your starting advance coming at 2 experience points (xp) it obviously on a far different scale than most games (you do get 1 xp just for showing up for a game). Acquiring the top rank in this book requires 150 xp (although this number seems small, at 1 xp per session its a lot of games). Most advancements are in the form of stat and skill improvements, although there are ability gains and archtype benefits as well. Being a bit "Old School" I prefer a more varied experience table , after all if you're man enough to go hunting dragons you deserve to advance faster, than if you go grinding through orc grunts every session.

Pages 155 to 168 detail all those abilities we've been talking about, there's a brief section on connections (in my view a specialized friends in high or low places ability) and then we get skill descriptions from 171 to 195. Most skills have a little doing things table with them which is quite good (although my brain requires recalibration from the high stat modifier plus d20 numbers I am used to).

Page 196 to 226 we finally reach playing the game. Most of the system is straight forward: roll 2d6+modifier to determine outcome, Action order determined by an initiative roll at the start of the combat, movement is your speed in inches (No grid for you 4e guys). The two quick actions, attack and one quick action, or full action per turn is eerily familiar. As always a bunch special rules for charging, knockouts, grapples...etc. Area of effects use templates (I like 4e's grid better). Damage is against your attributes (although they are doubled and laid out on a six arm spiral, not quite double the arms join two bubbles out from the center). Run out of bubbles on a spiral you get a minus two to combat function that attribute supports. Run out of all bubbles and you are incapacitated, when you come to you get to roll on the injury table. Not my favorite system, but not completely horrible either.

Page 227-246 are magic and magic spells, magic seems to be point based, although many spells require upkeep. Not a lot of spell detail in the descriptions, most are just one sentence. Looks complicated, I'll tackle it in another post.

Page 247-297 are stuff. Yes, they have stuff including all sorts of firearms, and alchemy. Not sure if any of this stuff counts as "magic" in the D&D sense (I am not seeing +1 swords), but a lot of it is both "cool" and character enhancing. Steamjacks being extra-special stuff get their own chapter from pages 298 to 325. A comparison between the custom steamjacks of these rules versus standard jacks in Warmachine would be of interest. However, that will wait to another day as well.

Page 326 to 339 are the usual Dungeon Master yada, yada, yada. Most DMs can figure out how to create NPC, encounters, and campaign settings on their own. About all you need is the chart showing how many monsters of what toughness to through at what number and level of characters. Having DMed over 30 years, I usually find these parts dreadfully boring. As least they had the good sense to limit it to one short chapter, rather than publishing it in its own book (as some games are want to do).

Page 340 to 347 Monsters. Most disappointingly there are only 16 of them, and that's if you include the different level variants of several of them. Hopefully an actual monster manual is in the works. Here's another idea they missed, include a guide on how to convert all those Warmachine and Hordes stat'ed things in all those miniature rules into this system, that would give you several "instant" monster manuals to get up and rolling.

Book is closed out with character sheets, blast templates, and a nice large index (one of my favorite things in a complex roleplaying game).

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Blognomicon Swords and Wizardy edition

To commemorate Swords and Wizardry  appreciation day, and because blogger will only let me track 300 sites at one time, I have posted Tenkars afternoon list of participants to a new tab on the top labeled "Blognomicon Swords and Wizardry Day".  Hopefully someone besides me will find it helpful.

P.S. Full Blognomicon still in preparation. I'd like to do it blogroll style, but still haven't figured the java for that out.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Swords and Wizardy core review

Sword and Wizardry is an interesting beast. The first question to ask is which version to review. For now I’ll be sticking to the free ones, although I may use the discount code to pick up the complete version later. I have copies of the second, third and fourth printing (just like early edition players handbooks, which kept tweaking the rules and not warning anyone, we’d pull out our handbooks to resolve some dispute and discover different peoples handbooks said different things). I also have  a draft of the white box edition. For the most part I’ll stick to the fourth edition.

The stats are the standard six rolled on 3d6 in order. Most stat bonuses appear to be either -1 if you are below average or +1 if you are above (the fourth printing seems to relent a bit and allow extra modifiers for high strength to a maximum of +2 to hit +3 damage). Character classes are the basic three cleric, fighter, and magic user. Thief is included as an option in the fourth printing. Advancement charts are very old school (exponential scale to name rank then linear, with different rates of advancement for different classes). Fighters and fighters only get the option to parry using their dex score (like most old school parry rules this is a trap, try to parry your way out of a fight and your dead). The fourth printing mentions dual classing for humans but gives little guidance. In terms of races other than human: Dwarfs are always fighters or fighter/thieves and capped at 6th level unless they are strong;  Halfings are either fighters or thieves but a maximum of 4th level fighter; Elves may be Fighter/Magic-Users, Thieves, or Fighter/Magic-User/Thieves but are limited to 4th level fighters and 8th level magic users. Alignment is Law, Chaos or Neutral, but not much emphasized. The equipment list is well the equipment list. Armor class has both the “old school” descending armor class, as well as an alternate ascending armor class. Movement includes a weight based encumbrance table, reduced movement for combat and extra movement for running. There is a very short how to play section. Saving throws are based on class and level (weirdness note:  although there is a text description of the saving throw process, the chart in the saving throw section is for an alternate system). The combat round is very “old school” with group initiatives and pre-declared spells ( an alternate system uses a dex based system for initiative). Surprise has been made extra nasty by giving  a 1 in 4 chance to drop something in your hand if you are surprised. Separate to hit table are provide for each class (well thieves and magic users have to share) as well as monsters. The specific situation rules add some tweaks for different situations, well as a two weapon fighting option.  Turning undead is done on a 2d6 table. Death is not instantaneous at zero hit points even though you fall unconscious, you have to hit minus your level in hits points before you are dead. Morale is handled by the DM will determine…. Rules are included for building a stronghold and hiring henchmen. Spells are the basic old school ones although I did not check for completeness in my little brown books. It has a pretty good monster list, although the demon list seems to be augmented with ones that did not show up until the Eldritch Wizardry expansion. Treasure generation seems to be new system with trade out options for every 100 gp to add gems and magic items. Magic items are the same old, same old. Book finishes with a one page campaign setting and a map.

The book is well written and rules straight forward. I enjoyed the pen and ink line art throughout the book. The fourth printing is well formatted and colorful. I would have organized things a little different, perhaps sticking the example of play with the campaign setting in the back. Overall  Swords and Wizardry core remains true to its desire to re-create the little brown book rules, although one can sense the strain in the little flips and twists the author sneaks in. The core rules set will definitely give you the old school experience. As is traditional “old school” many things such as climbing, jumping, handling boats, etc. is left to the GMs discretion. Me, I was done with the “old school” long ago, having started playing just about the time the Greyhawk supplement came, and never looked back. I never liked the level caps on races (Swords and Wizardry second printings allowing higher level dwarves and elves, but on a slower experience scale, was better). One also finds the basic three character classes quite restricting after a while. I will be using my discount code to pick up the “Swords and Wizardry Complete” edition, as is seems to offer a bit better range of character diversity.  Its also got that cool Erol Otus cover as well. You can too either at

Frog God Games website (use the code SWApprDay ).


SRD store webstore (use SWAD252013)

I am going with the Frog Gods link myself, as they make lots of other cool stuff and I want to support them. However SRD is also cool (an online version of Swords and Wizard can be found at

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A to Z fantasy roleplaying

O.K. so this is the month that makes me feel totally inadequate as blogger.The busy bloggers are off posting once a day in alphabetical order, while I have trouble cranking out something once-a-month these days. Today it occurred to I already have this A to Z covered. All you have to is click on the second tab on the top of this blog and it will take you straight to the Rulenomicon, my alphabetized list of role playing games I have down loaded off the internet over the years. If you click on the dark blue text, its a link which will take you to the place I downloaded if from. I have also provided links to the forums and blog associated with the game as well. I was going to do weird little emoticon ratings, but She-who-must-be-obeyed  put her foot down. Not quite as cool as the role-playing game dungeon map below (which I found googling "megadugeon map", my maps don't show up until  you hit the show me more, I suppose if I'd labeled them as megadungeon they'd have done better).

P.S. I'll see you all again on Swords and Wizardry day April 17th ('cause I love blogging for free swag), unless the mood strikes me sooner.

P.P.S I have once again hit the 300 feed limit so some of the more anemic ones may be moving off to blognomicon garden memories again. Someday I'll get that page working well enough to add a tab for it as well. Unfortunately I cannot figure out how to tell blogger to use different layouts for different pages, so my original plan for the blognomicon of just centering the feed widget did not work out...

Friday, March 1, 2013

Kyle Stanley Hunter where are you now?

In cleaning up my living room the other day, I ran across my copy of Downer Volume 1 Wandering Monsters.

Downer remains one of my favorite comics, and his Harrow deck I have used a game prop many times (It is one of the best uses the DnD ninefold alignment system has been put to).  However, I got to wondering what else the author Kyle Stanley Hunter has been up to. A google search on Kyle Hunter returned far too many hits (including some sports stars of little interst to me). Never-the-less adding the middle name narrowed things down. Wikapedia lists him as Pazios art director, but appears to be from 2008. Boardgame geek gives his livejournal website, but the last post is from 2008 also, says he hard at work on Downer volume 2, but the Pazio site does not sell such a thing. A search of deviant art turned up nothing but a Downer Tatoo pattern. A linkedIn post comes closest to revealing his current activaties as Art director of Wunderman a Seatlle based Martking/Advertising firm as well as Illustrator/Designer at Kyle Stanley Hunter Freelance (read self [perhaps un]employed). I do not wish him ill, but am saddend to see him move away from the creative cartoons of his early years becoming just a working Joe like the rest of us and wonder what unfortune event led him and Pazio to part paths. Well, at least he's not driving a cab in Carbondale...

This just in I have found a lead on Downer Volume 2 Google books lists it as being availible from Diamond publishing

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A little late to the party

But what the hey!?

P.S. If anyone knows a link to that smashing goblins with the warhammer song that starts the Save or Die Pod Cast #64, please let me know so I can stop surfing the web and cluttering my blog up with other DnD songs. Better hurry though or I'll end up posting that Felica Day "Game On" song which is barely even DnD related. I know I heard it last November"ish on one of the blogs I am following. However, searching the blog roll has proved challenging.

P.P.S My son has just told me to turn that damn! music down, so I have obviously gone total retro!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Reactions on Original Dungeons and Dragons Republication

Personally, I am glad they are rereleasing them. It will give a chance for this generation to see how sparse and badly organized a roleplaying game can be. I think $150 is a bit steep, I would have rather seen them released as $5 .pdfs. If you are trying to play OD&D I would ignore the Blackmoor and Eldritch Wizardry supplements, they contain a lot of wild half baked ideas that bog the game down. I think it is a shame they are not re-releasing them with original covers, the purple beholder on Greyhawk was one of my favorites, and Eldritch Wizardry’s full color printing to show a naked woman strapped to an altar, so outré.   I am afraid I don't think of OD&D as one system as every DM I played under had a different method for plugging the holes in the rules. I think they are interesting from a historical perspective, but if you want an actual playable game I would look for Empire of the Petal Throne instead. Similar mechanics (except for EPTs percentile attributes)  , but written in English rather than "chart"ese $11 .pdf at Drivethru rpg.  EPT’s skill system was a great innovation at the time not found in OD&D. I was not enamored of EPT's random spell acquisition system, but OD&D Greyhawk’s percentage change to learn a spell is not better. I think EPT unlike OD&D is a game you can learn from reading the rule book and play. Perhaps I will buy the $150 set,  just to replace the copies of Eldritch Wizardry and Gods, Demi-Gods and Heroes which disappeared long ago (and because if I don’t meet quota at the game store the LFR game gets tossed out on the street [We already get bumped to provide more tables for Magic]). However, I am probably replacing the copies in the box with the little brown books I bought for $10 in 1976. I know I am not very constistant in this post. I afraid the teen fan boy love of the little brown books overwelms the rational thought that there are far better values in roleplaying for $150 than this offering (perhaps if the box is maple or oak, rather the dyed red pine I am anticipating it would tip the balance...)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Diablo III Redux

Those of you who read my blog may remember my post on Diablo III in June . I am afraid my judgement may have been a little harsh based on the game continuously crashing my computer. However, when uninstalling stuff to make room for the 17 GB of Assasains Creed 3, I decided to give it another shot. Apparently in the intervening nine months Blizzard figured out how to make the game run (WOW a patch that actually fixed things!!!). I switched from playing a barbarian to a demon hunter, and although not as good as in melee as my beloved amazon from Diablo II the demon hunters rapid shot makes makes a nice machine gun for ensuring thing never get into melee. Laying the caltrops and backfliping away also works well, So Assasains Creed has returned to the install sometime pile, and I happily machine gunning my way through Diablo III. Pluses beautiful artwork, fascinating story Minuses liner as heck, limited character customization. The magic items flow like water, so much so that I have stopped picking up stuff that is not magic. I like the new auction house for dumping those rare items you just can't throw away, but can't actually use. However I still for the life of me can't figure out why a randomly generated procedural needs to be linear rather than a sand box. lack of imagination I think, I'll play it one through and then put it away like the other Diablos. Apparently no D&D supplement for this one, the D&D 3e Diablo random magic item chart is still one of my favorite. I am working on a 4e version of the magic item chart, but since I am DMing mostly Living Forgotten Realms I don't have much use for non-standard magic items. Perhaps when we go off the reservation to keep 4e alive after D&D next.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Am I an Artisit?

O.K. I have been hanging out at deviantart, having discovered both the magic and tedium of groups back in early December. devianart is home to many awesomely talented inviduals, who my humble technical skills to shame. However, I find trying to keep with the firehose of 1000+ new Fantasy NPC portraits a week, even worse than tracking my the 200+ blogs on my blog roll. I also found that looking at a 1000+ portraits in thumbnail dims my interest in them. I was wowed by the artistry of many of the maps and battle mats. However, I discovered on closer examination that some of them are pieced together from other peoples clip art. The maps seem to issue at the much more reasonable pace of 10-30 new ones a week. If I did that I could have cool maps too! Unfortunately the gaming rhythm I have fallen into involves drawing the battlemat for Sunday's game on Sunday afternoon, lends itself to drawing with colored wet erase markers on my vinyl battle mat. I have been taking photographs of the battle mats before erasing them off for next's week game, so I can deviantart them up sometime in the future. I have also posted some of the raw photos to my deviantart site directly, but since I feel humbled by the things on other sites I have been doing this sparingly. Devianart seems to make a bright line distinction between ametuer and proffesional artists. Am I a proffesional artist? My art has graced the cover of things sold for cash, but I didn't get any money for it. The item "Myroun Island" was a tournment prepared for the MINI-CON 1980 at Seatle University. It exists in less a hundred copies. I know because I took the master to the Kwik copy myself Saturday, and ordered as many a would make the best price break, cost was under $2.00 each. Because we were on deadline and desperate we took the map I had prepared for the tournment DMs and pasted it on the cover. Although the copyright status of "Myroun Island" is in limbo, belonging to a orginization which no longer exists, I feel comfortable publishing my own artwork. Behold "Myroun Island"

Copies of "Myroun Island" sold less than six. She-who-must-be-obeyed is still sore because we buried the cost of publication in her publications committee budget instead of the MINI-CON budget. However, by doing so we were able to show a slight profit for the MINI-CON and convince the club to go on to orginize the much bigger Dragon Flight, so I deem it a nessesary evil. So that leaves my career as a "professional" artist rapidly approaching the sales and earnings of Vincent Van Gogh (total one painting sold during his lifetime for 400 francs).
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