Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Old School Computer DnD Pedit 5

Just finished reading Playing at the World by Was a little miffed that he missed crediting the pedit5 PLATO program which my buddy Rusty Rutheford at University of Illinois wrote, and only mentions the PLATO DnD program (which sounds very much like pedit5) being observed by an anonymous source at Cornell instead. However that is price one pays for not writing stuff down. When I voiced my complaint on the blog of holding, I was surprised when the author of the book responded in person. He suggested an alternate book "Dungeons and Desktops" which might have more details, unfortunately in it pedit5 is dismissed as ephemeral and not well documented. However, after the publication of that book "Rusty" sent an email to author which is reproduced here

I actually played pedit5 a lot in fall of 1975 before being subverted to the face to face version of DnD. It played a lot like the much more modern Dungeon Hack with a single player wandering the dungeon facing a series of random monsters with random treasures.  PLATO has has a long  but ambiguous history with gaming. Being one of the first interactive terminal computers and having networking capability across the many University campuses, it foreshadowed many multiplayer online games we are familiar with today. It also had the  ability to allow one to generate ones own fonts, which Rusty used in pedit5 by creating line art enclosing parts of a square to generate a top down view, as well as the sprites for the monsters. Those who are looking for more graphical representation have only to look at the thin wall 20x20, 30x30, and 20x20 with a 10x10' extension rooms in my old school dungeon which was influenced by the style of pedit5. However, the academics at the University who had created PLATO as an Educational tool highly frowned on its use for games (I had to use it for freshman physics homework, dull as dishwater).   Being 17 and on PLATO at the time I am well aware of the furtive nature of playing games on “Play-Toy”. About the time they gave me the boot for hijacking my fathers account I decided to quit wasting time on computer games and become an engineer instead.

Was in the same Boy Scout troop with Rusty’s sons and played DnD, Runequest, and Empire of the petal throne with him many times. Unfortunately the University of Illinois Conflict Simulation Society was not big on writing news letters (Some of members are still running Winter War an annual convention dating back from that time, although the club has been disbanded, most likely due the lack of a student to act as president, a role I fulfilled while attending graduate school at the University of Illinois in the mid 1980's), so the only documents I have from those times are a few issues of the Wurm Walder, the news letter of the local SCA chapter. I do remember playing many interesting variants of DnD (It seemed every DM I played with had his own rules). I suspect most of those are lost in the depths of time. And no I don't know "Rusty" actual first name, everyone just called him "Rusty" or in my case dependant on the situation Mr. Rutheford.

P.S. Here a link showing actual game play of pedit5 which is still playable on the cyber1 PLATO emulator here Someone with access could try cryo2 and see if my buddies magic fountain game (I loaned him the file space) is still there too!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Selandia, it's back!

Loyal readers will remember a post a year or so back about a french website which I had to take the link down because the spyware checker listed it as a "know bad website". Well the french have rebuild their website and this time it checks out clean. Here's a couple samples.

Although the bulk of the site seems to be by Partrick Janniaud (iparcoss) thre are some leads for work from the missing Pascal Furland (Faeriss). A few adventures with his name in the credits, although the Simlaracco overblog link remains as dead as a doornail.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Summer of Kickstarters update

O.K. so its November, so I thought I'd post a little update on the kickstarters I signed up for this Summer.
I signed up for three: Dungeon-a-Day, Rappan Attuk, and Midgard Besitiary 4e. I am mostly complete on the first two. For Midgard I am still waiting for the print edition (Although Wolfgang has upgraded it to color and promises it will be worth the wait), I have the .pdf so I am happy.

Dungeon-a-Day took from August until October to get me a password for a a web site that already exists (not exactly stellar performance), but the site has over four complete dungeons as well as all the Super Genius stuff Hyram is selling on drivethruRPG (including one on my wishlist) so I won't complain too loud.

Rappan Attuk after a bumpy start (needed to fill out two survey forms, I was worried I missed the deadline for the credits but I am in there) went relatively smoothly. Giving out .pdfs in advance of the print helps to keep my waiting anxiety under control. I have everything,  but the subscription levels, and am pleased with most of it (although now that I am used to color battle maps,the black and white ones seem a bit flat). The secret level was cooler in concept than execution, I like the idea of a level the party can't talk about because every evil cultist in the world will try to torture the information out of them, but the level itself is kind of small and the monsters didn't catch my fancy. I do have to find a hole in my bookcases large enough to stuff the massive tome that is the main dungeon into, so maybe I'd have been better off with the print edition. There are certainly enough extra levels to warrant having purchased Rappan Attuk for the third time, and all the extra levels and sub-levels definitely push it up from the lightweight megadugeon to one of the all time heavy weights. The Cyclopedean depths holds its own with the other published underdarks of the world (although the Greyhawk fan mash-up from TSR modules is still the all-time champion[see also Dragonsfoot forum on the mash-up]). Not so fond of the plain brown wrapper covers for either module though.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Old School Dungeon Crawling is like Baseball *rant*

OK given the current controversy about why a certain semi-famous internet blogger's dungeon is suck, I figured I would not be a blogger worth my salt if I did not climb up on my almighty soapbox and throw my hat into the ring. I will not name names or provide links as I think innuendo and indirection are more appropriate to the rant format. The first comment is to note the disclaimer firmly placed on the blog that lit the fuse ""[name omitted] is a known shit-stirrer. He stirred the shit. He got banned. Asking what he did to stir the shit introduces unnecessary complication to the scenario, therefore he was banned for stirring the shit." The second comment which the basis of this rants title, is as I read the review and listened to what they complained about, it brought found memories of the way game of DnD was played back in my college days. Much like baseballs duel between the pitcher and batter, DnD was a duel between the DM and caller, with the other players waiting to spring into action once the magic words "Roll for Surprise (note: not initiative, that came later)" were uttered. Much like baseball players don't have much do until the ball is hit and have to amuse themselves in other ways, DnD players did much the same engaging in idle gossip and conversation. The empty rooms in the early editions heighten the tension, much like baseball's waiting for the ball to be hit, by introducing a random factor into when springing into action will be required. One factor I though might have contributed to the bad time had by all are that rather than sticking with the old, old, school approach of saying "its an empty room" and moving on, the author in his new improved version felt the urge to provide detailed descriptions for all rooms, thus slowing the pace of play down. Another factor I thought was the DM decision to run the dungeon "as written". To successfully DM one must draw upon the players at the tables motivations and desires to lure them into the shared fantasy, this requires adaptation of whatever you are running to the players at the table. Having been around long enough to run the same adventure for many different players, I know that different groups experience the same adventure differently. I am both bemused and dismayed, by the large quantity of Monday morning coaching going on on the internet (even as I contribute to it now).  If the reviewer was bored by playing the adventure, he was bored, no amount of commentary will change that. As my father was fond of saying "there is no accounting for taste". The current flame war reminds me of a certain other flame war of a year or two passed, when a certain Finnish bloggers abrasive clockwork dungeon was labeled as suck, because the players turned left when they should have turned right. Its not the first flame war in the OSR and it won't be the last. Don't take any one's word for what's good or bad, make up you own mind. And remember "if your not having fun, your doing it wrong".

Monday, October 8, 2012

Elminsters Forgotten Realms

"Ed Greenwood presents Elminster's Forgotten Realms" the newest Wizard's of Coast splat books. One of the splatiest offerings to come down the pike in a long time, I mean even the title pretentious, as if we had been playing in someone else's Forgotten Realms" all this time. Filled with information such as forgotten realms slang, popular literature of the realms, and Tethyrian cuisine, you find no actionable gaming material within (unless you are making  "Trival Pursuit, the Forgotten Realms edition"). And yet I cannot write it off completely, for scattered within are copies of Ed Greenwoods typewritten notes from the original manuscript (although on far too pages). As one always fond of peeking behind the curtain, I find old notes intriguing in a manner no "gussied up" splat book can match. Would that they had published a book of Ed's notes instead of the rest of this clap-trap (I am still waiting for a full description of level 4 of Undermountain as well). I am also totally using the troll cart on the cover for a wilderness encounter as well. Not as disappointing as the new 40K Chaos Space Marines Codex, but that is a story for another blog.

Monday, October 1, 2012


I am working my way through Steve Erikson's "Tales of the Malazan Empire" series. I find he manages to maintain the gritty fantasy of "The Black Company" and "A Song of Ice and Fire" but add a wildly imaginative spin on magic that I find quite appealing and a little more DnDish than the other two series. Although the series is very high magic with earth shattering spells that can change the world, that fact that it is usually told from the view point of a common soldier dodging nimbly aside as the god duel makes it accessable. I also like the way combines a renaissance empire with tribal stone age warriors and makes it work. I am only through the first four books but I highly recommend it.

**Warning Mild Spoilers **

Roleplaying ideas collected so far :

Lurking ancient evils
Imperial Assassins
Floating Elven Cities
Elves that turn into dragons
Magic that is accessed by tapping into different worlds
A deck of cards which maps the worlds of magic
A dead God who returns to life when blood is spilled on his altar
An immortal storm raging the dessert
A Book promising the return of a prophet to rule the world
A rising of the Desert tribes once the book has been returned
A ruined ancient city destroyed by  a half-Jaghut (Jhag) who no longer remembers who destroyed the city and seeks revenge for its destruction
The Jhag's body guard who's job it is to kill the Jhag if his memories come back
A mine of anti-magic stone
A boat rowed by undead rowers
An Imperial Army cut off by the desert tribes fighting its way back to the last Imperial held City
A magical delivery service which warps its way through the planes of magic to travel
A Jaghut entombed in magical ice to hide it from the T'lan Imass
A Cannibal Army
A city floating on an iceberg

Monsters include:

Soultaken Mages capable of transforming into beasts
Giant Dragonflies capable of carrying troops
T'lan Imass Undead servitors of the empress capable of merging with the earth then popping up later
T'lan Ayss the T'lan Imasses Undead Dogs
Jaghut Inhuman sorcerer kings of tremendous power hunted by the T'lan Imass
Giant Ravens with magic powers
flying piranha fish
a sea monster sized aquatic centipede capable of sinking ships
K'chan Mal Chan Giant undead hook horrors

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ghost Blogs

OK so as per my previous post I have reached limit of blogs I can follow with a single reader feed (Thanks to the comments of my kind readers I have several work arounds for this now). I have gone back and started unsubscribing blogs without frequent updates (good news, none of you made  the no posts in three years cut, although some of you are hovering at no posts in a year). In the process I did discover several blogs that had been blocked or deleted, which I have removed from my list. However, here's the "ghost" part, although when one went to the blog directly one got the message "this blog no longer exists" ( or some such equivalent message) google reader happily displayed a capsule of the last several posts of the blog and sometimes even thumbnails of their pictures. I am uncertain if anything useful can be done with this information, but though I should at least point it out. My hoarding nature always struggles with the ephemeral nature of the Internet, I have filled my hard drive with copies of blog posts I thought important, after watch  several of them being summarily deleted by the authors due some farrago of the Internet or slight (some real, some imagined). Perhaps the "ghost" blog phenomena can be used to recover some of what is lost (I have successfully used the Internet wayback machine as well, although lately much more of online content seems to be hidden from it). Reminds me a bit of  Sir Richard Burton's wife burning his memoirs in the recent biography I just checked out of the library, but that is a story for another day.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

300th Blog follow

OK so Google tells me I have reached 300 Blogs I am following. You would think this was a good  thing, but Google says NO MORE! 300 is a maximum. So some of you who haven't posted in  over 3 years will be dropped. Please do not take it personal, and be assured I'll still list you in the blognomicon (although maybe not at the top of the list).

Dinky Dungeons Review

An obscure game from my collection. An antediluvian micro game from 1985. A sixteen 3.5"x2.5" page booklet it could be easily be printed one 8.5x11 sheet of paper by printing both sides. For something so small it packs a lot of sass. 2d6 resolution system, three character classes (warrior, wizard and bard) four character races human, dwarf, elf and my favorite fuzzy winker. Seven wizard spells and Seven bard spells, and 30! monsters in a 3 PAGE!! monster manual. Here's the cover 

Surprisingly enough this game has a fan site (here). They also include a tribute game called Dinky Dragon
They are claiming a value as a collectors item of hundreds of dollars. I think mine cost me $1. However, since mine has been hand tinted by my son when he was 3 its value might be slightly less (I have also mislaid the sample dungeon, which is too bad because it has a marvelous Fuzzy Winker Warrior illustration). I close with a description of the fuzzy winkers "1' tall rodents, -1 physical and mental, can't use magic, weapons, or armor and they are cowardly" Given their skill set  i.e. nothing I'd be cowardly too!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Portal 23 Temptress

OK so my random web serving has uncovered an awesome miniature painting forum. How the these guys could be up and running  over two years, and me not notice them, is one of life's mysteries. How pursuing extra dungeon tiles should lead to such a site, another. That being said, they also produce an awesome webzine Portal which is down-loadable for free. Issue 23 cover caught my eye with a marvelous paint job of a diaphanous purple gown. You can download you own copy here
However, here's my beef: on the the inside cover they have nice blurb from the artist who explains that since this is a miniature of Cersi Lannister the shear painting is almost required (as she is Game of Thrones uber slut I have to agree) and how much he likes the figure, but does explain how he did the paint job NO!! Oh well, I so I flip to the index and see there is another article on painting techniques from the cover artist, and say to myself all is not lost. However, when I flip to the article and start to read, is it talking about how to  paint the awesome shear fabric? NO!! IT IS EXPLAINING HOW TO PAINT THE MARBLE PILLAR AND FLOOR. I have to rate the article EPIC FAIL for being a total tease.

P.S. When I bitched to she-who-must-obeyed about this, she told me I must write a blog post so here it is.
P.P.S Download the webzine and its companion issues anyways, it is still an awesome paint job, even if the artist chooses to keep his secrets from the World.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

In too deep on 1km1kt

As I mentioned on the Rulenomicon post I thought I  might be able to augment my collection of RPG with a visit to 1km1kt (that's interentese for "One Thousand Monkeys/One Thousand Typewriters") I did have a legitimate excuse one of the other blogs was mentioning Dungeon Squad and I though I needed a copy. Now an hour later I have 45 files (not counting five dungeon squad variants) to sieve through and index up for the Rulenomicon. A catalogers work is never done :(

Monday, September 3, 2012

Rulenomicon, It's Alive!!!

I have placed the completed (for now) Rulenomicon with links as as a new page on my blog. Nothing fancy but links to my game downloads (looks like one of those '90 webpages) note: blogs includes websites as well. I am not the only one with this idea, see this post from the free rpg blog. I am afraid his purported 669 games at 1KM1KT leaves my 100+ games (not all free) a little short. I am also working on a page to diplay feeds from the 289 blogs (although I like the sidebar widget currently on the main page it is always overrun with the daily posters so the less frequent posters are often lost) I am subscribed, however this will require some java scripting skills to make it work like I want it to, so it will be a while...

Friday, August 31, 2012

Rulenomicon "Get-er-done" edition A-D

O.K. so I got the titles  into the spreadsheet and added the links in adjacent columns. Unfortunately I am not blogger savvy enough to figure out how to cut-and-paste a formatted html table into blogger, Therefore I am hand linking all the downloads, blogs and, websites. To avoid boredom and carpal tunnel syndrome I'll be doing it a little bit at a time over the long weekend. Let me know what think of it so far...

P.S. I'd like the forums, blogs and websites to be buttons instead of text, but I don't know how to do that either :(

52 page Rulebook   Blog


A Song of Ice and Fire  Forum
Adventurer, Conqueror, King   Forum Blog
Adventures Dark and Deep  Forum Blog
Adventures Fantastiques
Adventures in the New Kingdoms Blog
Adventures Under the Laughing Moon  Blog
Adventuring Party
Age of Shadows  Forum  Blog
Altus Adventum 
Arduin (revised) Forum
Ars Magika  Blog
Artesia Blog
Azamar Blog


Bandits and Basilisks  Blog
Barbarians of Leumria  Forum
Barbarians of the Aftermath  Blog
Basic Fantasy Forum  
Brickmasters  Blog
Burning Wheel Blog


Chaos and Barberie
Creatures and Caverns Blog
Crimson Blades of Ara Blog
Crypts and Things  Blog


Dark Dungeons Forum  Blog
Dark Fantasy of Sundrah Blog
Dragon Warriors  Forum Blog
Dungeon Slayer Forum Blog

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Summer of Kickstarters

O.K.  so the kickstarter bug has bit me again. I am in on Dungeon a Day. Still 32 hours to go so you can be in on it too! I am not in on Bones although I still have 9 hours to change my mind. As such I thought this was an apropos time for some good old groginardian angst on the subject. As a rocket scientist I am sufficiently well paid (although not lawyer/doctor rich) that dropping $50 to $100 a month is not going to put a dent in either the grocery or rent money. However, my frugal upbringing (and she-who-must-be-obeyed) does not allow me to tie up large quantities of cash on projects with no quick return on investment. So,as I stated on my previous kickstarter post I am looking for kickstarters from people with a proven track record, whose stuff I have bought and liked before. I also seem to be tending to jump in on projects already funded with lots of swag. That being said, both these kickstarters meet all of the stated criteria.

I am signed up Dungeon a Day in hopes of picking up a complete .pdf of the Mega-Dungeon Monty Cook put together. I already have through level 8 saved on my hard drive from the years subscription I purchased when it first came out. However since I found downloading a dungeon one itty, bitty piece at a time damn annoying, so I let my subscription lapse (WoTC the same is true of Dungeon and Dragon Magazine as well, I mean how much would it cost to hire some intern to spend a half hour a month combining all the little .pdfs into one big .pdf?). Unfortunately the lack of closure in owning half a dungeon gnaws at my soul (it does not apparently bother Monty, since he jumped ship and past the completion to lesser mortals sometime after I left the project [probably more on bait-and-switch authoring in a future blog]). Given the above conditions, the chance to pick up the complete edition for $50 was irresistible. I mean the original subscription was $87 a year! So I am in.

On the surface Bones looks like something I would jump at as well. I mean I like Reaper Miniatures, they have some totally fantastic sculpts. As others on the web have pointed out the $100 pledge gets you an insane amount of miniatures. I also think that the Reaper plan to raise the capital needed to convert their production over to a new process is a perfect fit for Kickstarter. However I am not fond of hard resin models, having had troubles with them in the past (difficult to glue, break easily [many of my miniatures have been subject to the nose-dive from the table], and bubbles in all the wrong places). I cannot tell from the information on the Reaper web site exactly what kind of resin they are using (it might even be something soft like thermoplastic, although fine detail seems to rule this out), but am leery of it (the fact that they are using superglue to reposition is a tip-off its not my favorite plastic polystyrene, the stated objective of cheap is not promising either). I am also concerned that although it is a vast quantity miniatures, many are genres I would not use in my game and would end up siting around unpainted taking up storage space in a house already bursting at the seams with miniatures. March 2013 is also way too long for my impatient soul to wait for something. Getting everything out to  the currently 14,869 backers will be a logistics nightmare (as they say in new product development, the second worst thing that happens to you product is that it succeeds). I wish Reaper luck, I certainly will buy the specific models I want at the gamestore (although with 14,869 orders to fill new Reaper stuff may not ship to the game stores for a while). Besides this looks like direct competition for my evil plan involving 3D printers, polystyrene, and a print-on-demand website. Go ahead and check it out for yourself (my resolve weakens every time I peek at the kickstarter website), but I am out.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Nice art work, nice artwork, not much else. The new Menzoberranzan book was very disappointing to me. As one of the few 4e releases I had  hopes. Splat books used to come with new monsters, new magic items, and least a feat or two, this does even have a theme. I skimmed the whole thing and didn't even spot a stat block. This book has: pages and pages of Drow households detailing the usual Drow depravities; Little thumbnail capsules of the districts without any adventure hooks; a Michelin guide to the shops and taverns of Menzoberranzan in case you are playing "silver and shopping"; a thumbnail guide to the underdark (this is almost interesting, but again no adventure hooks); and how to play a Drow (as you if wanted to play a boot licking, snivelling, conniving bastard, under the thumb of the murderous bitches of Loth and didn't know how [they've even got a card deck, sold separately of course, in case your not chaotic and treacherous enough on you own]).The old Menzoberranzan boxed set was reasonably good, if you want to know about Menzoberranzan get that one, or just read the Drizzt Do'Urden novels.



P.S. Note to WoTC: If you want to sell stuff from your website don't bury the new releases four clicks down. Putting a link to the Menzoberranzan book on your Rise of the Underdark "Everything Drow" page might be smart also.

Friday, August 17, 2012

And now for something completely different

Here's a brief high jacking of my blog for the latest viral video about my day job. Why? Because IT"S MY BLOG!
Unfortunately I look more like the white haired guy than the guy with the 'hawk. Male pattern baldness makes the 'hawk a young man's hair cut.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Rulenomicon

So I finally broke down and bought an e-book reader (a nook). This has finally given me chance to download my internet .pdf collection an start reading through. Once I realized I have over 90 different files in my "other roleplaying games"  directory and that the they overwhelmed the 1 GB of storage for things not purchased at Barnes&Nobles ($30 and a 32 GB expansion card fixed the storage problem) I thought I needed to try and organize and and least list them. I'll  try add links and capsule review of the more interesting ones later,

A Song of Ice and Fire 
Adventurer, Conqueror, King
Adventures Dark and Deep
Adventures Fantastiques
Adventures in the New Kingdoms
Age of Shadows
Adventuring Party
The Adventurers Tale
Adventures Under the Laughing Moon
Altus Adventum
Arduin (revised)
Ars Magika
Bandits and Basilisks
Burning Wheel
Barbarians of Leumria 
Barbarians of the Aftermath
Basic Fantasy
Chaos and Barberie
The Cog Wars
Crimson Blades of Ara
Crypts and Things 
Dark Dungeons
Dark Fantasy of Sundrah

Dragon Warriors
Dungeon Slayer
Engines and Empire
Fabled Lands
52 page Rulebook

Fire and Sword
Gods and Monsters
The Grey Book
Grom Harnmaster
Heros and Other Worlds
HeroQuest (the G Stafford one)
Humanspace Empires
Impresa Express
Judges Guild Universal
Labyrinth Lord
Lady Blackbird
Lamentations of  the Flame Princess
Lost Roads of Lociam
Mazes and Minotaurs
Maze of Torment
Mini six
Myth and Magic
Northern Crown
Old School Hack
Orignal Edition Delta
Pars Fortuna
Pirates and Privateers
Raven Crowking' Fantasy Game
Redbox Fantasy
Redbox Hack
Renegade The Riddle of Steel
Savage Swords of Antor
Siege Perilous
Spellcraft and Swordplay
Sword and Shield
Swords and Wizardry
The  System
Torch and Sword
Tranchons et Traquons
Under the Moons of Zoon
Vikings and Valkyries
Wizards and Warriors
World of Urtusk

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Classes, Skills,Feats and Powers an analysis

Classes, Skills, Feats and Powers, Fourth edition Dungeons and Dragons has included all of these, and its beginning to look like fifth edition will also. Therefore, I thought it might be a good time for for discussion of their origins and purposes.

Class is of course the oldest showing up in 0e D&D. It for the most part a simple and straight forward way of distinguishing roles within the party. Chose a class and you have chosen your role. I feel many people turn to OSR rules to retrieve this simplicity. However, to me it has always felt arbitrary (of course I was always notorious for my 2nd edition Fighter/Magic-user/Thief characters). 3rd edition byzantine labyrinth of classes, prestige classes and subclasses I did not enjoy.

Skills are the next to show up, first as an augment to class in Empire of the Petal Throne, then as the only distinguisher in Runequest. I have always admired Runequest's skills only approach to character building, although starting skills and skill advancement proved challenging for me in actual play. The min-max'ers I played with made a total farce of Runequest, by trying to spot and dodge everything, and switching through a Swiss army array of weapons during combat to maximize their chances of advancement. Many online roleplaying games seem skill based as well (although tracking actual skill usage in computer games is much easier than than a table top game). I do like the Elder Scrolls Morrowwinds combing of class and skill by giving each particular grouping of skills a cool class name. Skills begin to creep into D&D with the late edition Advanced Dungeon and Dragons supplements Dungeoneers Survival Guide and Wilderness Survival Guide non-weapon proficiencies (people always have a bad reaction to these supplements, I always thought they plugged some holes which needed filling and were much better than the gamebreaking classes {*cough* cavalier} introduced in the prior Unearthed Arcana). 3rd edition of course has baroque plethora of skills with weird and arbitrary restrictions on which classes can take which skills (Pathfinder does not seem to fix this). 4th edition does a brilliant job of skill simplification reducing down to 17 skills, although they retain the arbitrary class restrictions. However in 4th edition I miss both the craft and profession skills for making stuff, and think the four social skills (bluff, diplomacy. intimidate, and streetwise) a bit redundant (especially since they are all charisma based).

Feats, although foreshadowed in point buy systems such as the Fantasy Trip and Fantasy Hero, come into full bloom in 3rd edition. At first glance they just seem like a extra something that is reasonably harmless. However with hundreds of them, some are so poorly written that they are just the loophole required to turn a cleverly min-maxed character into to a total game wrecker, things like a sixth level bard with +30 diplomacy, or a druid capable of turning into a Stoper and ripping the arms off of Bluespawn Godslayers (O.K. it was an 18 level druid). 4th edition the feats are a little more controlled, but still remain the pry bar for total game wreckage. I also see everyone taking the exact same feats, so as something to act as a distinguisher between characters (I believe that was their original purpose) they are a total failure. If I was writing 5th edition they would go away.

Power are new with 4th edition, although they were certainly foreshadowed in computer games, and bear a strong kinship with spells which have been around since the beginning. It is perfect solution to the inequality power between the exponentially increasing power of 0e spellcasters, and the linear power increase of the 0e fighters. Now rather than waiting around while the spellcasters mow down the ravening hordes, the melee specialists have some explosive fireworks of their own. I do have some problems with 4th edition turning down the room clearing powers of prior edition spellcasters (this is usually downplayed by making the monsters come at the players in evenly paired groups, but does make the hundred orc rushes of 0e to 3e {usually manned by my warhammer fantasy army} a thing of the past). All in all powers (I like to think of them as fighter spells) were a decent addition to the game (I mean why should magic users have all the fun?).

In summary: Classes good for their time but obsolete, Skills good in small quantities with strict controls, Feats no thank you!, Powers good but need to be balanced. So my ideal game is a game of skills and powers (with perhaps cool class names for different mixes). Since 5th edition seems unlikely to head in this direction I guess I'll have to write my own.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July

Here's a little music to help celebrate
and a little more music just because I like it

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Adventure Burner not so hot

I really wanted to like "Adventure Burner" it being the final book to complete my set of "Burning Wheel" (at least for now). It has been a bit of a "Unicorn" having missed out on it two years ago at Gencon. I spotted Thursday and put on my list of things to pick up, but wanted to scan the whole hall before committing. When I came back Friday it was "sold out". Therefore when I spotted it Origins a few weeks back, I snapped it up. It being one of the few purchases I made at Origins I had high hopes (see prior post for the Old School bust at Origins, of course at its heart Origins is a boardgame convention). Unfortunately Adventure Burner did not meet the standards of the other Burning Wheel books. Most of the other books have been thought provoking with a lot of open endedness, and hooks for adding in (Magic Burner is my favorite). Not Adventure Burner, Three adventures, a bunch of NPC to specific to be of much use, and rules errata for the main book (which should have been its own internet download, but may account for the high sales rate at Gencon). And the introductory adventure, the worst of the worst, an ugliness know to my old school buddies as the "loot fight".
A scenario of four adventurers uncovering a magic sword a dwarf, an elf, a mage and a ratman, each with his own use for the item. Can it be solved via wicked roleplaying, to avoid mass interparty slaughter? No according to the scenario this is not possible. Even though they suggest a reasonable solution in their explanation, they also explain that all the NPCs will act like dicks to prevent it. Their soultion the so-called "test of wits"(more like nit-wits) a dice rolling contest leaving one player the victor and every one else to go home crying, and not involving any actual thinking on anyone's part. All in all a sadistic adventure designed to give players a railroad ride down the mindfrack express. If this what your offering as an introduction, I'm giving your game a pass. I like my roleplaying about adventurers banding together to overcome the trials of a hostile world, not carving each other to bits. The other adventures? A small village were the guy who summons you to help actually wants to sacrifice you to his evil god (not one of my favorites), and a reasonably straight foward micro-dungeon which is far too short (Tony Dowling's map is however the highlight of this book).
*end spoiler*
 No other adventure hooks, no broad campaign settings, no dialogue what makes a good adventure anyways, just these. After reading this I had to go back and reread the other Burning Wheel books and see if I had missed the inner darkness in these as well. Nope, they are solid offerings and expansive in nature. I think the Burning Wheel mechanics are a solid game system (although the baroque style makes them a little hard to understand), and I actually think having character motivations makes for roleplaying opportunaties. However, I think that substituting "roll playing" for roleplaying and letting the dice descide how you act on you beliefs is a bad idea (might as well play a real dice game like craps and park you brain at the door). It is for advocating this sin that I must give "Adventure Burner" the thumbs down. Burning Wheel can be played just fine without it (OK you might want to peek at the rules revisions, but skip the rest of it).

Saturday, June 30, 2012

I go down the well

OK, OK so I finally weakened and signed up for the Rappan Athuk Kickstarter. You can climb down the well too, but you better hurry because the Kickstarter ends Monday July 2nd 4:59pm EDT. I always swing hot and cold about these things. Giving money to strangers for things they haven't produced yet is risky buisiness. I am so glad that She-who-must-be-obeyed talked me out of funding Greg Stafford's "Hero Wars" as that game came out nothing like I wanted. I did sign on with Wolfgang Bauer for Halls of the Mountain King, but found the waiting for him to get it done torture, and found the concept of having to pay extra to comment on the procces a bit absurd. Although I like Wolfgang's stuff, I am happier buying it when it comes out instead of signing up in advance, besides bragging rights for collectable .pdfs is a bit limited (it's not like your friend are going to spot them on the virtual bookshelf and ask). I also signed up for Bill Webb's Slumbering Tsar. That was close to two years of waiting agrivated by having the installments show up for sale on Drivethrough RPG slightly before I got the e-mail to pick up my prepaid copy. However, he did actually send out the hardbound copy last month. So why did I sign up for this one?

1. I like Bill's stuff (I have been using the old Necromancer modules in my home game for several years)
2. Bill has a proven track of delevering on his promises (see Slumbering Tsar comments above)
3. There's too much cool swag added to the kickstarter to pass up
4. She-who-must-be-obeyed is still asleep and will never know...

So in my moment of weakness I have signed up to re-buy a dungeon I have purchased twice already. Am I signing up for your kickstarter? Not unless I have bought stuff from you before and liked it, you have a proven track record of finishing stuff and delivering it close to ontime, and 800 of my internet friends jump on first to drive the swag pile into a irristable heap.

P.S. was severly temped by the hand drawn maps, but it was a litte too much chedder for me to swing

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Dungeon Crawl Classics the good, the bad, the funky

Just picked up my copy of Dungeon Crawl Classics. Although I did not find it at a booth at Origins, as I had hoped for (Origins was pretty much OSR deprived, I only found one booth with much OSR stuff), my local game store got it in the next week. My reaction is a bit bittersweet. I think it is a perfectly playable game, many people will have a great hoot with one-offs using this system. However it incorporates a large dose of random lethality that will inhibit long term character development, and leave many characters, not retired but so gimped up as to be no fun to play. The good is that it is a large book at a reasonable price, it is published under the open gaming license (yay!!! that's a big plus in my book) and play could be a hoot. The bad limited character classes and few options to make them unique (although this is typical OSR), your character could explode,  randomness instead of game balance (more on this below). The funky, using different size dice instead of changing target numbers, arcane check charts for casting spells. Both these ideas are definitely out-of-box thinking, but look like they'll work.

Thing that worries me the most is the randomness. Randomness in itself is not bad. However random tables with small but finite catastrophic occurrences tend to tilt out of balance quickly (subject to both the long tail and black swan events for you economic statistic junkies). Those players who always role well will prosper under this system, folk like with often sub-average luck are screwed.

Friday, June 1, 2012


I have marked this review with the chess symbol for gambit (!?). I picked up Carcosa the new hardback edition up at my local game store. It falls to me being employed and relatively well payed to buy stuff at the store to ensure that our Thursday night table does not given to the Magic players, so I am always on the lookout for small press stuff, the owner knows this and stocks things other than mainstream. I found the writing very inspiring for those interested running weird Lovecraftian game. I am not enough of an affectionatio of the Cthulhu mythos to know how much information is new to this book and how much comes from the novels, but this book exudes eerie creepiness. However, the Thursday night crowd was disappointed that the book was marked with an adult content sticker due to human sacrifice themes rather than actual sex. It is nicely illustrated with pen and ink drawings and different sections of the book are tinted with grayish green and purplish pink. I can  definitely use the monster list, and think the spacee alien weapons, and random robot tables may come in handy as well. I am less down with the Sorcerer class having to haul around a large quantity of different colored human sacrifices (there are 13 different colored human races including the new colors of jale and ulfire, as well as dolm which is a combination of ulfire and blue). There is also the problem that the Socorer has a significant risk of being eaten by whatever he conjurers and the monsters are going to bash his skull in long before he completes his 5 minute ritual. The random roll-up table for what sided dice to roll for your hit dice seemed overly chaotic, even though I did understand the authors statement that actually gives the party a shot against those 59 hit dice, because the monsters could be using 4 sided this time. I doubt I will be using the campaign map or the sample single hex sandbox, but some of the encounters from these may sneak their way in to other things I run. Luckily for me the author has given permission to use his book any way I see fit. In summary not a good pick for those on a limited budget, but filled with ideas to riff off of; "Old schoolly" in the way of the Ardiun Grimoire and the Book of Ebon bindings.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Diablo III so far

Well finally exorcised the installer demon and got the game running last night (it took downloading the installer files from a third party site). Unfortunately it is playing like a dumbed down Diablo II. My favorite character class (Amazon) is missing, and rather than have a skill tree my Barbarian seems to have Hobson's choice for skills (at this level you get skill x take it or leave it). Not sure what Blizzard was thinking, but I think they may have jumped the shark on this one.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Doom of future past

Well I was going going to post about Journe comparing the first edition to later ones and provide some links. Being one of the few people on the planet with a first edition Journe, I can do that. She-who-must-be-obeyed picked me up a copy for my birthday at Gencon when it first came out. Most of the awesome Miles Teves artwork (the best thing about Journe) has been reproduced in later editions. The less said about the awful Journe computer game the better. Then I thought I'd post about writing about my own roleplaying game (I am going to write one real soon.or not); how I thought that classes, feats, powers, and skills were a bit redundant; and how my game would have only skills and powers. She-who-must-be-obeyed suggest using a skill tree, so I hunted up an image of that weird sphere grid from Final Fantasy X (my favorite skill tree, you can be anything you want, its just going to cost you). I will post my dungeon based on the maps in the book "the Complete Valley of Kings" once I get them drawn. I was going to post She-must-be-obeyed notes on Arthurian campaign setting based what we know about dark age Britian, but she tells me her 30 pages of handwritten notes are not ready yet. I did dig out Dungeon Masters Guides for 1st, 2nd, and 3.5 editions so she could work on her random treasure table table based on stuff found in dark age hordes. Unfortunately the copy of Diablo III I picked up at the Gamestop yesterday is calling "play me, Play Me!, PLAY ME!!!" so none of this other stuff will get done for a while....

Boy did I call it. Past midnight in Ohio and I still haven't gotten past the setup bug. Guess I should have blogged instead.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

H is Halls of Undermountain

O.K. so I am not really doing the alphabet thing, I am lucky to to post once a week let alone 26 posts in a month (By the way I did think the Tekumal project was doing an awsome job with their alphabet post introduction to the world of Empire of the Petal Throne, but then they have a big weatlh of marterial to draw from). I wanted to instead post my review of the new 4th edition supplement "Halls of Undermountain". One might think that this yet another attempt by WoTC to cash in on past glories by slapping the name of some old favorite on random shlock to boost sales (Witness the re-release of "The Tomb of Horrors", yes the tomb is in there but its EMPTY!?). However  "Halls of Undermountain" is actually pretty good and somewhat true to the end-of-first edition orginal . It contains the entire first level of Undermoutain and 79 keyed rooms for encounters (unlike the little tiny piece of undermountain detailed in the 3.5 edtion "Return to Undermountain). It even has RANDOM TABLES to fill the rooms which are not keyed. Although I have not yet pulled out the old first edition boxed to do a room by room comparision, the new encounters do include many mysticaly wacky but deadly tricks and traps that are characteristic of the first edition. Unfortunately it also contains some of the "no, you can't dissamble the trap and rebuild to use it against montser, because it only works in this room, Why? because the DM says so." I found so objectionable in the first edition. It has also gone back to a old school format for presenting the encounters, by simply giving a page reference in the monster vault for each monster in the encounter (thank God, if they had tried to lay out 79 enounters with a battle map and detailed stat block for everyone this book would be 500+ pages and weigh a ton). For those who like plot there are three adventures strung together. However, these plots are accomplished by roaming the dungeon, and there is very little to keep the players from wandering off on their own. Unfortunately once they hit fifth level their ability to wander down to the 2nd level is limited, because this supplement only cantains level one. Given WoTC production schedule, I will have to wait a least six months for 2nd level, and probably and enternity for the twisted caverns of level 4 (I have been waiting for the twisted caverns ever since they decided to jump to 5th level in the second boxed set, I suppose I could write my own twisted caverns since there is actually part of a map in "Return to Undermountain", but I have always wondered what Ed Greenwood put in his.) All in all I think that "Halls of Undermountain" is one the best 4th edtion supplements I own, and I am eagerly awaiting the chance to try it out on some unsupecting victims er. I mean players ;)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Regreting the Passing of M.A.R. Barker

I am a bit late with this as he passed  March 16th. One of the greats of the early years, his Empire of the Petal Throne is still a most playable game, and a lot more clearly written than original D&D which was the alternative at the time (although I never liked his let's randomly roll for spells). We have him to thank for one of the first introductions of skills to the game. His system for this is still better than a lot of implementations done today. I found the night I spent with M.A.R. Barker at a Chinese Restaurant more memorable than the game of Rail Baron I played with Gary Gygax.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A gaming session that will live in infamy (rant)

Well my character yesterday successfully proved that you can die in fourth edition D&D, if the dragon breaths on you twice in the same round. However,  more egregious than that was watching one cowardly player decided that even though he was not was not even bloodied yet it was time to run. If anyone needed an example of what morale is they only needed to watch what happened next, as with the exception of one brave dragonborn (as he pointed out, in the new Forgotten Realms dragonborn HATE dragons)  the rest of the party decided that the smart more was to run. This left the bloodied dragon holding the field with a mere 60 hit points left. The fact that the encounter ended at the map edge in typical 4 edition fashion made the running away alot more succesful than it would have been in an old school game. Even so, the wizard nearly bought the farm as well , as the cowardly player opened the portcullis the wizard had been firing magic missles from behind to make his escape. This allowed the dragon to swoop down on the next turnand nearly finish the wizard as well . If had not been for the late rememberance of a "wizards escape" power and a DM that allowed take backs the wizard would have died as well. Of course the wizard used his teleport five squares to leave the map. As my character's corpse is branded with it's new slave tattoo,  my character invokes the infernal powers of the Internet (think Servilla in the TV series ROME episode Death Mask ) to curse the cowardly player's character forever (or the next three death saving throws, which ever comes first).

Cowardice has a new name and it is "HUG BOT Mach 2"

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Skyrimic Sandbox Chart revised

Hopefully some of you noticed the roll-up chart I posted a few days ago (unfortunately I double posted on that day got lots more hits on the second one). Alright, so the last iteration was a little too flat for my tastes (too many chances for the first level adventurers to be eaten by dragons). So here is a new one sorted by distance from civilized area. Decide which zone you are in and roll a d6 to determine the settlement.


1. Lumber Mill

2. Military Fort

3. Town

4. Mine

5. Bandit Camp

6. Roll on Borderlands


1. Hunter Camp

2. Military Camp

3. Orc Stronghold

4. Forsworn Redoubt

5. Animal Den

6. Roll on Wilderness


1. Giant Camp

2. Spriggan Grove

3. Draugr Crypt

4. Dwarven City

5. Falmer hive

6. Roll on Places of Mystery

Places of Mystery

1. Hargraven Nest

2. Dragon Lair

3. Dragon Priest Lair

4. Vampire Lair

5. Warlock lair

6. Dungeon Masters choice

Design notes: The bandit camp and animal den could be easily swapped, same for the falmer hive and hargraven nest. There is not necessarily a clear demarcation between wilderness and places of mystery, but I tried to put the tougher encounters on the places of mystery chart

Monday, January 23, 2012

Old school Assassins (Rant but short)

Ever since their appearance in Blackmoor,Assassins have been problematical. Their all-or-nothing instant kill is anathema  good role playing, and fits poorly with the rest of the rules. Second edition was right to remove them. In my opinion "Blackmoor" was the rules supplement which revealed that just because it was "Official" didn't mean it was either fun or a good idea.

Skyrimic Sandbox Roll-up Chart

Yes Alduin is dead! Now I can spend a little time on my long neglected blog. Thumbing through my Skyrim clue book (I learned long ago that good clue book can turn a game from a frustrating few hours to several months enjoyment) I encountered a little table with seemed to cry roll-up chart so here it is (roll d20 whenever your sandbox generator calls for habitation):

1. Hunter Camp
2. Lumber Mill
3. Military Fort
4. Military Camp
5. Mine
6. Orc Stronghold
7. Town
8. Animal Den
9. Bandit Camp
10.Dragon Lair
11.Dragon Priest Lair
12.Draugr Crypt
13.Dwarven City
14.Falmer hive
15.Forsworn Redoubt
16.Giant Cam
17.Hargraven Nest
18.Spriggan Grove
19.Vampire Lair
20.Warlock lair

Be warned this chart is very old school in two respects. One, the putzy Hunter Camp is the same chance as the high level Dragon Priests Lair. Two, the exact details of what each encounter means are left to the DM (I may to flesh out the encounters a bit more later). Well that's it for now, I am back to the conundrum of how to rise to the top of the assassin's guild without slaughtering a lot of innocent people.

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