Monday, December 29, 2014

Kickstarter End-of-Year report

A little status check on the kickstarters I am backing. Awesome kudos to Revelry in Torth from kickstarter to .pdf in two months. Slumbering Ursine Dunes was also impressive, but a few stretch add-in still remain. 50 sHAdes of VORpal worries me as $5 I'll never see again as I have had only one update since the campaigns end. However, it is not overdue like  Arcanis, Lusus Naturae, or even The Lost Lands: Swords of Air. I am glad I made this list, because it actually send me searching for the missing World of Calidar Drivethrurpg link, which has been hiding in my junk mail folder since September.

Dementalism: Lots of Snazzy New Stuff
Legendary Games Pathfinder Books in Print
Razor Coast
Revisiting my Legions of the Petal Throne Art
Midgard Bestiary for 4th Edition
Scarlet Heroes
Rappan Athuk
Orbis Terrarum RPG
Domains at War: Battles, Campaigns, and Mass Combat
Bethorm: the Plane of Tekumel RPG
Adventures in the East Mark - The Red Box
Dragon Kings
World of Calidar
Revelry in Torth
Wield: A Little Game about Ancient Powers

Almost Complete The Original Online Megadungeon! (everything but the pathfinder conversion)
Slumbering Ursine Dunes (a few bonus things still to come)
Fantasy Hero Complete

Subscription Ongoing
Adventure Quarterly: A Pathfinder Periodical
Throne of Night, a Pathfinder RPG Adventure Path (a little behind, but good things are promised)
Arcanis: The Cradle of Empires - The First City Sourcebook (Chapter One received)

Draft in hand
Ryuutama - Natural Fantasy Role-Playing Game
Five Moons RPG by Sean K Reynolds
What's O.L.D. Is N.E.W. - Two Crunchy Roleplaying Games!
Saga of the Splintered Realm

Still waiting
The Lost Lands: Sword of Air
Lusus Naturae: A Gruesome Old-School Bestiary
Quests of Doom - Pathfinder and Swords & Wizardry Modules
Southlands: New Fantasy Options for Pathfinder RPG
13th Age in Glorantha
Rhune: Dawn of Twilight (Expanded Primer & Adventures)
Death & Taxes: A Complete Role-Playing Box Set Adventure
50 sHAdes of VORpal


Friday, November 28, 2014

Beyonder as far as I've gotten

Been meaning to write this review for awhile. Beyonder from Flying Nightbear games is not your usual fantasy heart breaker having a number of unique and different approaches. It has six primary attributes but not the standard instead we get emotion; mental; body; physic; spirit; and shadow. It also has two secondary attributes Stillness and Wyrd. It has ten races but only humans and dwarves are the stock ones. Character classes are linked to the primary attributes, but are not standard either. For example there are no fighters but the body channeling Soman are pretty close. I have been working my way through chapter by chapter, but I have stalled out on descriptions of all the powers for all the classes. Heart of the game, but very soporific as massed wall of reading (as far as I got: FNB don't feel bad I had a similar problem with the 5e Dungeon Masters guide). Although I am impressed with the presentation,art and ideas  of this game a final verdict with will depend on actually playing this and seeing how the various powers work out. I would have done the breaking of the book into chapters differently. Quick chapter by chapter walkthrough below:

After a paragraph of introduction to roleplaying provides an overview of how the game works. Important box text at the end on which part to skip to get started quickly.

Chapter 2 THE WORLD, ITS WORKINGS, AND ITS INHABITANTS (I'd have split this chapter)
Lots of nice world settling info which I skipped to stick with the crunch

Ten races:
The corba like crawn
The yoda like dwaheelies
Heola, sorta like high elves
Ishirs sorta like goliaths
Kamaris fun loving tree people
Ushen like warcraft tauren
Weylan gnomish trickster cat people
Zweyjen fish people, but not evil

Most of race ideas are not ones I have seen before.

All energy wielders. Six classes (referred to as guilds) each linked to a specific attribute, Sorecerers who channel all energies and priests. No fighters, but the body channeling Soman are pretty close.


Lots of history (also skipped)

Two methods of character creation
Method 1:
Play a pick-a-path adventure. Fun for the first time, but sure to get old after awhile
Method 2:
Direct choice
- Pick a race
- Pick a size (really?)
- Pick a gender
- Choose Energy Affinities using point buy system
- Pick a starting organization
- Add some extra talents
- Choose a guild (actually character class)
- Get some stuff
- Calculate a defense rating
- Choose a homeland

Uses essence sorta like experience but spread across a number of things. Essence can be used to master a power, learn a new power from an NPC, invent a new power, increase a talent (like skills) , or buy barriers (like class levels). Detailed descriptions of the barriers and their associated benefits follow. There is a discussion on wealth I didn't quite understand. Apparently finding treasure does not increase your wealth rating. You are allowed to buy stuff with your weatlh, some examples are given ,but the big shopping list is missing. The chapter ends a with a list of talents and their descriptions.

Chapter 6 CORE MECHANICS (seems to traditional these days to bury this in the middle of the book, rather than right up front where I'd like it).
Most actions are checks against talents. There are various timings for various actions (not as clean as 4es free, minor, move, and standard, One is allowed to do Stunts which are special actions requiring extra level of success and causing fatigue.

Chapter 7 COMBAT
Very similar to core mechanics

Countering powers (basically dispel)

Chapter 9 ITEMS
Standard Stuff yada-yada. Energentic items: recreate guild powers in item form, needs a mystic to create

The usual yada-yada.

Chapter 11 POWERS
Descriptions of all the powers for all the guilds. Heart of the game, but very soporific as massed wall of reading (as far as I got).

There are two appendices and  a glossary after chapter 11

I am very intrigued with many of the concepts in Beyonder, but I will have to find a group willing to play the game before I can assess it fully. Right now my game group seems quite content with 5e. Please also note that although I have had the .pdf since June the website is still mumbling about getting the print books out. So you dead tree affectionatos may have to wait a bit.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Con on the Cob Mapping it Old School

My time at Con-on-the-Cobb was less than I wanted due my work schedule. However I did get to play Dwimmermount on Thursday and prowl the dealers room on Saturday. A little different mix at the con. Games were free, but I didn't spot pathfinder, 4e or 5e games in the program. Have to ask Andy what went down (Andy's going to tell me next time run my own). Con didn't lack for games though. Now for the details. First up Dwimmermount.

Signed up for Dwimmermount with Tim S. (Gothridge Manor) and Ken H. (the Rusty Battle Axe). I was worried it was going to be full given that Tim advertised it on his blog but it was just us three. GM was Jim Yoder (Random Encounter Ohio [Nice Pic of us on his con report]). I chose to play an elf ( I was a bit appalled at his 3 hit points but this was Old School so I rolled with it). After a brief time in town to pick up a war dog (when you only got 3 hit point you need something between you and the monsters)  and a torch bearer, we headed through the red doors of Dwimmermount. We played it Old School without battle mat or mini's, Although it was obvious that Jim was a bit new to this style we got through it with very little "here hand me the map" and only one "oh by the way there's six orcs in this room also". Here's the map I drew:

Saturday was shopping. Picked up print copies of Labyrinth Lord and the Advanced Edition Companion from the Goblinoid Game booth. Talked to another booth with a lot of Dungeon Crawl Classic including a good collection of the "Crawl!" zine, but since i am not into DCC right now I bought Goodman games Glitterdoom and the Fey Sisters Fate both labeled as "Fifth Edition Fantasy". Although this seems a clever way around the lack of third party license for it might be a tough sell in court (in general things that are similar enough to trademarked items to be easily confused with the trademark are considered infringements as well). At least I've got mine.

Also on Saturday tried to interest the son in the playdo monster making contest, and ended up making monsters. Although I had lots of fun I am not quitting my day job to be a professional sculptor
anytime soon. Some pictures below.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

OSR On Sh*tstorm Rants

Here I go wading into fray just as things are winding down, hopefully my Nor'easter gear will keep too much from sticking.

 This particular blow of internet bad weather was of course triggered by innocent post at Tenkar's Tavern trying to point to some cool gaming stuff available for free. RPG pundit in response triggered the sh*tstorm (using the media pundit tactics of bloviating authoritatively) by trying to palm off the origins of the game to some obtuse science fiction game no one plays, and some joke rules obviously not meant to be taken seriously. When that failed RPG pundit responded by producing a paragraph long soporific definition with little basis in precedent, which brought the sh*tstorm to full flow with a volley of angry bloggers providing their own soporific paragraph long responses. For the best historical viewpoint read this post on Bat-in-the-attic (Strangely enough, although the first reference to Old School Renaissance occurs on a Castles and Crusaders (C&C) few bloggers seem to consider C&C an OSR game). My favorite definition of OSR from the current mess comes from Greyhawk Grognard who has provided a handy roll-up table on this link . The OSR being a self organizing collective of bloggers, forum posters, and other miscreants (including know sh*t-stirrers) will never settle on just one definition. One of my fondest memories of the OSR is ordering one of those boxed sets from "that crazy Finnish guy" James Raggi just so he and his wife could actually live in their apartment (he didn't listen to me when I told him go print-on-demand), and suddenly discovering there were over 750 bloggers with similar concerns selling the first print run out very quickly. Unfortunately Jame's commercial success has cut into his blog posting. As for the current sh*tstorm, like the Carcossa sh*tstorn (the nerve of that guy pretending to be the fourth expansion of OD&D :), or the "Porn-Star" (Porn-star OSR, Oh my what will the children think? :) it will blow itself as well.
Until then break out the foul weather gear, batten down the hatches (one of the reasons I moderate comments), and prepare for rough weather.

Monday, October 13, 2014

October kickstarters I've backed

I have fallen behind on my shameless promotion of kickstarters I've backed. All of these are still live but some close on the 14th.

Quests of Doom - Pathfinder and Swords & Wizardry Modules
Made my saving throw on the 5e, but couldn’t  resist the adventures

Five Moons RPG by Sean K Reynolds
Sean Reynolds is awesome. Hopefully his game is too'

Southlands: New Fantasy Options for Pathfinder RPG
Kobold Design , duh! I forgive them the Tyrany of Dragons thing, I blame WoTC for dulling it out.

Slumbering Ursine Dunes
Because Chris Kutalik deserves his chance to go down in kickstarter flames like all those other OSR folk. As least he’s finished a few .pdfs to post on his blog.

Revelry in Torth
I liked the other two modules and the .pdf is pretty cheap

13th Age in Glorantha

Glorantha is my favorite setting. The chance to play it without using those slow ass Runequest rules or that wacked-out Herowars/quest. Awesome!!!!

P.S. I am signed up to play Dwimmermount at Con-on-the-Cob Thursday. We'll see if it was worth the wait

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Zak S. rocks; John W. doesn't get it

Read Zak S.' Blog post and watch his video conversation with John W. here:

By the way John W. I game master to listen to the players tell me stories, not the other way round as you suggest. One of things I like about old school gaming versus the plot-hammered railroad modules being pushed by commercial gaming companies, is the story can go almost anywhere and is driven by player agency. When I sat down at the table to GM I was never sure what I'd get. However that was a good thing. My best adventures often come from being light on my feet and making things up on the fly.Even worked with 4th edition although I had to print out a few monster stat blocks in advance. Still can't believe that they wouldn't dock the Spell Jammer to the asteroid, just because the human wore a funny hat. They had no problem at all following the funny hatted dwarves in the brass paddle wheeler back to their dock. Perhaps that is a story for another day...

P.S. John W, I still like the Wield book I got from your kickstarter, although I am unlikely to use it exactly as you wrote it. Don't feel bad, I very seldom use the gaming stuff I buy as is.

P.P.S. Although my Dad used say there was no point in playing games with rules more complicated than chess. I think the pawns should be able to run away when that big old rolling tower comes bearing down on them.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bare Bones Fantasy Plain and Skyrimed

As I mentioned previously I actually got a chance to play Bare Bones Fantasy at AnCon. Pretty straight forward system. Percentile Based; Four abilities Strength, Dexterity, Logic, and Will determined by 5d10+30; Races include Elf, Dwarf, Halfing, Human. So far nothing special, but here's where it gets interesting the skills are classes. Skills are as follows: Cleric, Enchanter, Leader, Scholar, Scout, Spellcaster, Thief, Warrior. EVERY player could have a rating in each of these. Scout, Thief, and Warrior have ratings based on ability for everyone. Cleric, Enchanter, Leader, Scholar, and Spellcaster are 0% unless you have a level in them. At the start every one gets to add +20 to one skill, +10 to another and 1 level in one skill (for demo purposes since we only had two players we got a level in two skills). Once you have figured out starting charterers there are several more items calculated from your abilities and equipment including: Body Points, Initiative, Damage Reduction, Movement, Weapon Damage, Unarmed score, Unarmed Damage, rank, and development points. Only about twenty spells but their effects get stronger at higher levels.

In actual game play everything is a % roll. Doubles on a successful roll are a critical, doubles on an unsuccessful roll are a fumble. You can try again at -20% (I spammed my charm spell unmercifully  until the giant spider was charmed).

Overall I found it a simple but ingenious system. Things I liked about it included the skill as class, the reroll, and spells that level up. Things I didn't like about it, percentile dice, low number of abilities, linking both body points and fighting skill to strength (No Elric of Melnibone characters for you!), and capping level at 6. The game I ran through also felt a bit generic, I am afraid one of the problems of simplicity is a lack of hooks to hang things on. The extensive adventure generating tables in the middle look awesome, but I haven't tried them out.

After the AnCon play I put the game in the mildly interesting bin to get around to reviewing later, but a recent comment on one of my posts brought it back to the front of the list. Turns out some dedicated soul has produced an Elder Scrolls expansion. You can find it at . This forum post contains an extensive collection of conversion documents. The players guide includes Tamriel race descriptions, schools of magkia, ways to create walls and auras, Tamriel specific equipment, and more. The spell guide contains suggested tweaks to the BBF spells to make them Tamrielresque as well as a cross index between Tamriel and BBF spells. The GM guide has things like Tamriel diseases and poisons, as well as creatures (I was surprised to see no tamriel magic items, but perhap
s the enchanting rules cover this terrain). There are also guides for Dragon Shouts, Organizations, Paths of Power special classes, and lots of paper minis. I am hopeful that this expansion is just the thing to chase off the generic of Bare Bones Fantasy.

P.S. I'll still have to put up with % rolls,  and low number of abilities (although these are found the Elder Scrolls Games themselves)
P.P.S As always the magic system will require more acctual play experience to determine both its balance and where the broken bits are.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

From the depths of the web to the burning sands of Athas

My son is a great fan of the old DOS Darksun computer games. He was off googling the other day and ran across the Darksun Online Crimson Sands massively multiplayer online game. Despite his complaints, I pointed out that game that had all its servers shutdown in 1999 was unlikely to be playable. I did go looking for some of its artwork to appropriate for dungeoncraft (a Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventure simulator). However, an image search on dark sun came up with this beauty which stopped me in my tracks:
Being an affectionato of maps I had to have more. I traced the image to this nine year old forum thread in which Brian (screen name zombiegleemax) attempts to fill in the rest of the world of Athas from maps provided in the published setting. Here's what is mapped in the published setting:

Here's what it looks like on the fan built Continent map (maps 1, 2 and bits of 3 and 4):

And here's what that continent looks like on the entire world:
As you can see Brian had plenty to work with, Here's a thumbnail composite of the maps he got done before trolling and real life shut him down:
Full size maps as well as the photoshop brushes (just in case someone wants to pick up the torch) Brian used to make them can be fouund at the Athasian Cartographers Guild (

P.S. I can't believe I missed this for nine years! (The fact that the Athasian Cartographers Guild was already in favorites indicates some awareness)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

It came from the depths of the web Skyrim edition

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

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

Friday, August 29, 2014

RPG international Dutch Game Queeste

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

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Labyrinth Lord Dwimmermount on Drivethru RPG

Dwimmermount lives! Dwimmermount LIVES! DWIMMERMOUNT LIVES!

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

Saturday, July 26, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

No help on round 15 monsters or round 16 treasure

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

No comment on 5e

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

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Quick Review "Bill Webbs' Book of Dirty Tricks"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 9, 2014

Ancon Postmortum and Oddmall

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

Friday, May 2, 2014

Ancon Friday

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

Python Fluxx
Barebones Fantasy

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

Friday, April 11, 2014

Kickstarter update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Mythweaver RPG

A rules light RPG from New Zealand at . Written to introduce the the authors friends to roleplaying its core mechanic is both simple and elegant. Everything is resolved by attribute roles. Need to disarm a trap make a Dex check, need to bluff somebody make a charisma check. Normally I am not fond of attribute checks (especially the old roll a d20 and get under your stat kind), but the mechanics for this are bit different you are rolling a d20 and adding a bonus based on your attribute to hit higher than a target number. Target number is based on difficulty (seven levels from easy at 5 to uncanny at 30).  There's a nice table that lists all the common things that adventurers often do and what kind of check they are. Reasonably straightforward so far, but here's the twist that makes it awesome, if the attribute is primary you get to add your level. What determines if the attribute is primary, why your character class of course! Fighters are good at strength things, Rogues at dexterity, etc. What struck me about the system (perhaps I'm just in a weird mode) is that it has given a mechanism for doing what what needs done while kicking to the curb all that talent, skill, feat, non-weapon proficiency crunch that grinds many modern systems to a halt, but still preserves unique roles for fighters, rouges etc. Magic is based on a spell point system Mages get charisma+1 spell points to start and an extra spell point every level. Spells cost 3 points per spell level (cantrips are only 1 point leaving one open to cantrip spam abuse but damage from these is only 1d3). No Clerics, healing spells are on the mage list. I did have a few things I didn't like, the most important one being if your longsword only does 1d8 giving platemail a damage absorption of 8 is going to make things tough. In general I found fixed damage adsorption a bad idea.One of the reasons I gave up on Runequest was that its damage adsorption both that most hits didn't count and that fight usually went to the first one lucky enough to roll a critical. I am working on a percentage damage reduction system, but since smooth implementation will require a chart it won't be rules light.  Lack of artwork didn't bother me since the pages are well laid out in a nice font. All in all Mythweaver is definitely one of the better rules systems I have run across, and since it is currently a free download the price is right. Definitely worth checking out.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

GMs day sale *update*

Here's what  I bought at the GM's day sale

Marked down 30% until the 15th

Marked down to $5 until the 31st then the're gone

Pay what you want

Some good titles from some of my favorites including Avalon Adventures, Cubicle Seven, Kobold Press, and Purple Duck games. Was going to buy ORSIC adventuers from Expeditious Retreat , but they are still cheaper per adventure in the bundle ten packs, and she-must-be-obeyed recommended focusing my $100 budget on rules rather than adventures (I ignored that recommendation for Kobold Press). You too can get in on the savings but you have to hustle because the sale ends tomorrow (the 14th).**Update sale still on Saturday the 15th, Drivethru rpg account reports 1 day 1 hour 13 minutes at 8:47 AM Eastern Daylight time. Going to pick up some emperors choice Arduin eternal things and hunt for more ***

P.S. my biggest problem there is so much on sale its hard to sort through (unfortunately not the tile sets I am still missing from Skeleton Key games).                                                                  

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The road goes ever onwards

Although I am a big fan of Tolkien and Lord of the Ring, having first read them when I was only 11 and re-read them three times since, I have not been a big fan of Middle Earth roleplaying. To me at least, Middle Earth (which seems to have  limited wizards to only seven semi-divine beings and has no apparent clerics whats so ever) was a poor fit for classic Dungeons and Dragons (although fighting the big battles of middle earth with Chainmail rules seems completely plausible, not that big battles are are going to save Middle Earth). It also has the issue of when do you set it? Before the books anything the players do won't matter. After the books the great evil has already been defeated, and the magic is fading from the world. I like D&D games where the the player characters are causal agents (much more Conan king by his own hand) rather than bit players in some giant overplot. However my web surfing today revealed that quite clearly many people do not agree with my position.

Off surfing the web ran into this site rating classic Dungeons and Dragons modules (disclaimer I do not agree with his rankings Tomb of Horrors sucked when it first came out and still does, Queen of the Demonweb still rocks). However, I also noticed his comprehensive review of Middle Earth Role Playing (MERP) modules from Iron Crown. I do have a bit of a soft spot for MERP as Arms/Claw/Spell Law light, and some of the modules sounded lots better than Moria and the Corsairs of Umbar, which are the only two I own. So I went to see what was on the web. Unfortunately MERP itself seems locked in the property rights graveyard (where games go to die) having lost their license from the Tolkien estate in 1999. I can find are boot-leg copies (no I'm not giving the links, you can find them yourself). However, in addition to the Decipher Lord of the Rings Game (also property rights defunked, although the card game seems to still be continuing) and the the One Ring from Cubicle 7 available from Drivethru RPG (although at $30 quite expensive) I found several quite interesting home brew game systems. On there is both Adra Marred  and Ea d20 , as well as a GURPS adaptation. Also of use was a collection of lord of the rings fonts (the tar.gz format is not real pc friendly, but 7zip was able to handle it). Several folders for other games exist but have no content. There is a Hither-lands entry but the link is broken, luckily I was able to find the teaser edition of Hither-lands on  The teaser edition is a really very interesting 30 pages, as well as being enough rules to play, although lacking DM guidance for monsters and building encounters. I would like to see more, however since the last date on the news page is 2010 and the forum link crashes this project is probably abandoned. Pursual of the links page of lead me to the The Heren Turambarion website their own game Ambarquenta is currently a password locked beta test (and has been since 2012, I'll try asking for the key anyways). However, they also have a copy of The Middle-Earth Adventure Game (MEAG) which is not locked. Other site of interest included the fanzines Other Minds and Halls of Fire , and an archive of MERP fan modules and game aids. I signed up for the fan MERP module yahoo group, but they have not let me in yet. There are also a number of sites to devoted to literary critisms of the Lord of the Rings, but since I think Lord of the Rings is one of the most over analysed books there is I won't bore you with them further. As some of the younger folk at work were pointing out its my generations Harry Potter, the book you love because you grew up with it. Unfortunately I am beginning to get that collectors itch to go acquire MERP modules I turned my nose up at when they were easy to get a hold of. Hopefully the free stuff I downloaded today will stave that off.

Updates: The password in Open Minds 4 for Ambarquenta still works! The Open Mind site also contains the fanzine Open Hand for download as well. Am in on the yahoo group (interesting files but not well organized) it points at another depository of even more stuff (but no better organization)
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