- Nuits Sonores - Floating Points
- Wandering Star - Portishead
- Feel Life - POLIÇA
- Trip & Glide - Love And Rockets
- 6 Underground - Sneaker Pimps
- Rocking Horse (Acoustic Version) - Kelli Ali
- The Gaudy Side of Town - Gayngs
- Zero 7 - Destiny ft Sia and Sophie Barker (2002) - Sia Argentina
- Back To Front (Circular Logic) - DJ Shadow
- Diet Mountain Dew - Lana Del Rey
- Blue - MARINA
- Limerence (Orchestral Mix) - Dmitriy Kuznetsov
- Stay The Course - DJ Shadow
- Roads - Portishead
- Blood Moon - POLIÇA
- Sonic Boom - Venus Hum
Sunday, December 26, 2021
Monday, December 6, 2021
Rule Set: AD&D
Designers: Jim Ward, David Cook, Steve Winter, and Mike Breault
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Pool of Radiance by SSI was the first AD&D released on computer. SSI brought to Macintoshh in 1989. It was a great and faithful rendition of AD&D as it was at the time and used the Forgotten Realms setting.
To complete the game, you need to complete a couple of quests. On the way you'll knock out a few (ok, a lot) of creatures in combat.
One of the oddities of this game is the mix of color and black and white graphics. The black and white graphics are great while most of color graphics are ugly. The layout is your standard 80s RPG layout: Picture in the upper left, info on the right and text/controls at the bottom.
Monday, November 8, 2021
Actually, this story is not about me. Well, sort of.
I did create a Chaotic Good Assassin as a part of a party tasked with killing off the evil overlord of the land. I can't remember the lord's name but let's call him Lord Farquaad.
Now for the setup. I was late for the session that night and missed the bit about killing the lord "someday". Since I was late, the DM handed me a set of pre-generated stats. I was only allowed to shift scores around or swap points for prime requisites so I didn't have the stats to be anything interesting.
The DM looked mulled over my sheet while describing the villain and prompted me to fill out a character description. You know, the boring eye color, hair color, skin color, etc. Since he just described the lord, I simply wrote down what DM said. Since I just pulled a fast one with the alignment, I didn't wait to draw attention to myself by flat out stating that my assassin character looked just like his quarry, Lord Farquaad.
Right off the bat, I had a humorous way of wrecking this campaign and went for it. My character infiltrated the castle and promptly failed to kill the lord. The only person to see my assassin was Lord Farquaad and the would-be assassin managed to escape by a dangerous and inexplicably lucky leap into the moat.
Rather than getting upset by my shenanigans, the DM ran with it. Since Lord Farquaad was hunting just one obvious assassin, it gave the party all kinds of opportunities to bushwhack him. Ultimately, the lord survived all of these attacks and went on a crazy, bloodthirsty hunt for the party. He used my foolishness to really make this lord despicable.
That's where my rouse kicked into high gear. The party fled to the silver mines. We infiltrated the lord's own most secure outpost posing as guards. At this point, my character's secondary gambit was discovered by the DM. A Magic-User was detecting alignments on new guards and the DM was non-plussed to discover my assassin wasn't evil.
Where it became laughable was when my character got his hands on some forged paperwork that said his name imperfectly matched Lord Farquaad's. His cover story was his mother had a tryst with Lord Farquaad and she had high hopes for becoming the legitimate Lady of the Kingdom, to the point of naming her son "Lord Farquaad". His first name was actually "Lord". This got snickers all the way around the table.
Suddenly, the whole theme of the game shifted to a ridiculous, fantasy version of the film, "Catch Me If You Can".
Now here is the really funny part. I didn't come up with this on my own.
There was a family friend that had a name that matched a landed person in England from the 1700s. In the early 80's, the UK did something that I can only equate with an "estate last call". They wanted people to claim abandoned estates so that they could get back to collecting taxes or clearing their records for sale or perseveration as needed.
This family friend was big into genealogy and laid a claim to an estate back in England. It was kind of a big deal. He managed to provide all of the documents necessary to back up his claim as his family had the same name and this particular Englishmen did visit Western New York.
It turns out that this landed gentry from England came to New York in search of a criminal. The criminal escaped all attempts at capture by taking the name of the Lord pursuing him. Annoyed, Lord went back to his estate empty-handed.
Here is where the story goes south and where the U. S. Government got involved. It turns out that this family friend was not related to the Lord, but the criminal quarry. Which he was fully aware of, it's is kind of illegal in rather surprising ways when you seem to have documentation that says one thing, but the reality is another. Forgery isn't always required to produce "correct" documentation, sometimes hiding contradicting documentation is better than an outright fictional document.
I'm not sure where the B.S. starts and ends with this story as this story is about the 1700s criminal leading to a land claim in England in the early 80s. I would have been about 8-11 years old myself. While I was aware of what was happening, I didn't really understand. While it's funny enough for people to retell, it's the sort of story that gets changed with every telling.
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
Today I am taking a look at an older book called Dyson's Delves by Dyson Logos. From the moment I hit buy on DrivethruRPG, I had remorse about not ordering this title in print. It's a good thing I didn't because not many things made their saving throw. C'est la feu.
DriveThruRPG's excellent library app saved my bacon as I wouldn't be able to keep doing these reviews with quick access to the hundreds of titles I've purchased there.Dyson's Delves I
Rule Set: Any OSR
Author: Dyson Logos
Pages: 153 pages
Rating: 5 (or more) of 5 stars
This is one of those titles that shatters my rating scale. I love art and this book has 60+ pages of Dyson's excellent maps, arranged into 5 delve adventures plus 44 blank maps for you to key. Each unkeyed map has a key page for you to fill out and the keys themselves are stylish and match the maps.
The delves are prekeyed and all of the monsters are thematically grouped like the beasts in Keep on the Borderlands. Dyson doesn't spell it out in the text, but even a cursory look at the critters provides connections that the DM can weave together to fit their own campaign. If you wanted to repeat a particular delve, I suggest rekeying the dungeon using Shane Ward's 10 Monsters idea from the blog, The 3 Toadstools. These delves are cool and repeatable.
I'm not sure what I like more, the stylish maps or the way this title was put together so that the reader can adapt the work to be their own table. Dyson gives permission to photocopy pages so you can write on them, but if I had this title in print, I would take the other path and write in the book. Yes, it destroys the ability to "start over" but with 5 complete delve adventures plus 44 single page maps, exactly when will I have the time to just "start over"?
I'm in full-on heretical mode. The author is wrong, go ahead in write in this book. This is basically more than a year of content if you run 1 or 2 maps a week. Date each map as you run through it. When you're all done, either print a new copy from DriveThruRPG or order another book from Lulu. I get nothing for pitching a $20.00 book from Lulu, except the reward of knowing you will have a keepsake worth far more than the multiple purchases or reams of paper you burn to reprint the pdf. It's a kind of a keepsake journal.
As I mentioned before, I have a copy from DriveThruRPG which is all fine and dandy, but as soon as my house is in order again, I will be ordering a print copy.
Thursday, September 9, 2021
|A picture shares 1000 words.|
Everyone has had that 10-page character background story show up at the table. I don’t mind, but there are limits. When I go into a campaign, I have less than a 10-page setting outline and there is an excellent chance that I can tag off of a player’s writings and interject some of those things into the game.
So, I am looking at this whole process of ideation for a completely different reason. At the moment, I have limited access to rule sets and want to make sure I have everything I need to play a campaign. This is a solo venture, I have no players because I don’t know if I have items I need.
Funny that I don’t know what items I need.
One of my anonymous readers, whom I shall call “Blackrazor” because his mom did not name him that, gave me a boatload of stuff to get started. The Basic and Expert rule set and dice. Technically, that’s all I need. The links will take you to DriveThruRPG.
Last year, I backed Todd Leback’s Into the Wild. I really want to use that book, too.
Just before this adventure began, I ordered a hard copy of Rules Cyclopedia, which strongly mirrors what I was trying to do with e1 back in 1980. Between the stuff from Blackrazor, my luck, and ordering habits, I think I have all I need. But I will test that by engaging in some solo play.
I want 6 adventurers. That gives me an Elf, a Dwarf, a Magic User, a Fighter, and two Clerics. I feel pretty good with this creeping capitalization. Today is a new start, and I am not sure how I was blogging class titles before. So, caps for classes.
Now, who is the “hero” of this story? The party, all 6 of them. So they need a reason to be together or character background. How many pages does that take? I don't know. Let us see.
When I rolled these characters, I threw an additional 1d6 for level:
1-3 is first level,
4-5 is second, and
6 is 3rd level.
So I have a first-level Elf, Magic-User and Cleric. I have a 2nd level elf and fighter and a 3rd level cleric. I’ve decided that no one has magical equipment at this point, but they do have transportation, which is sometimes better than magical items.
Why are they together and where?
Let’s start with the young Magic-User. He is really smart and very young, say 16 years old. He is the 9th child of a well-to-do stationer.
What’s a stationer? It used to be that people came to town on market day and threw their wares out and had people buy off a blanket, wagon, cart, etc. A stationer was a person who sold goods that were not easily transportable or too fragile to handle the weather, therefore they needed an actual shop. Back in the day, the first of these were scribes, they provided goods and were “stationary” by definition. Think of them as the mall’s anchor stores. That definition solidified into the definition of their trade goods, “stationary”.
As the 9th child of this stationer, I need to tell you a bit about this family. The Magic-User is named Charles, whom everyone calls “Chuckie”. Charles Sr. hates this and wants his son to leave home and name “Chuckie” behind to get a proper education.
So, we have a bit of the story. Young Chuck is going places. Let’s circle back to Charles Sr. for a moment. He didn’t start out as a bookseller, he was conscripted into the army. After a single campaign, he lucked out and was granted a small but rich plot of land. He got married and had 2 boys with his first wife. His first wife died of the plague.
When he remarried, he granted his oldest boys the farm while Dad started milling. One of the boys enjoyed farming, while the other was interested in seed stock and seedlings. They tagged off of each other’s skills to become successful. Dad was still doing good work of the land as a miller, which allows his boys to capitalize off of super cheap milling prices.
Charles Senior’s second wife produced a trio of girls, plus one more son. The son got into cattle ranching, while 2 of the two of the girls married well and the third daughter became a priestess.
Unfortunately, the second wife died giving birth and poor Charles senior had to remarry again. This time it worked out fine. Chuckie is the youngest of the children, he has two older sisters plus the brood of much older siblings.
Charles Sr.'s current wife is an illuminator, an artist specializing in books. This was Charles Sr.'s final career change, to stationer. He buys skins and papyrus from his children’s farms or ranches and provides these materials to his daughter’s convent. It's a good deal for all.
Chuckie has a best friend in similar shoes. His name is Avfin, and he aspires to be a Bishop. His dad works for Charles Sr. The two young men will be traveling to a larger town for schooling.
I am nowhere near 10 pages at this point, so let’s throw Alice into the mix. Alice is an elf who lives at the edge of town. She is friends with Avfin and Chuckie despite being wildly older than them. As if being an elf in a human town isn’t odd enough, she is a free spirit who runs wild all over the surrounding countryside, much to the consternation of her family. Think hippy-chick.
Her parents have done backflips to make sure she gets in with Avfin and/or Chuckie in the hopes that she will learn to read and wear shoes. When they heard that Avfin and Chuckie were leaving, they encouraged Alice to tag along, as the boys will need someone with animal and wilderness knowledge with them. Hopefully, she’ll grow up on this adventure. Surprisingly, she threw herself into the adventure with gusto despite her parent’s blessing. Alice also stole her mother’s boots and sword, plus her dad’s chainmail suit.
This is just one page, and I still have 3 more characters to describe:
Nicholas, a 3rd level cleric,
his second-level fighter bodyguard, Gaelin,
and a second-level dwarf named Wralin.
Nicholas is one of Charles Sr.’s war buddies. Army life wasn’t for either of them, but Nick has made his way as a chaplain and researcher for the army. He is currently transporting religious relics and magical writings to a large monastery. Since he was passing through anyway, he agreed to keep an eye on Chuck and his friends on their journey.
Gaelin, Nick’s bodyguard, doesn't like his job. It takes him away from the glorious, but also a non-existent battlefield. He is thankful to have Chuck, Alice, and Avfin along as the kiddos are happy to gather firewood, start fires and take care of the animals.
Wralin the Dwarf is unusual. Like all dwarves, he has an eye for construction and mining. But he has a greater passion, horses. He can assess an equine just as well as other dwarves can spot a good diamond. Oddly, he rides a mule named Sneer instead of a horse. Sneer thinks she is a warhorse. She is very comfortable on the battlefield and when dealing with monsters.
At this point, I have roughly covered more than a dozen different characters. Their backgrounds are pretty cool, and if I went 1 by 1, each character could have one handwritten index card of biographical information.
So in getting these 6 characters ready, I have a lot of campaign information at my fingertips.
The kingdom is at peace, but there was a war in the recent past. There are many villages and cities to see, some of which have schools and monasteries. A network of roads and probably caravans exists. The army is forced to do non-combat tasks because the Lord or Lady of the land is doing some sort of recon and resource exploitation. In peacetime, the leadership is getting ready to engage in warfare or negotiate a peace. Humans and demi-humans work together. We’ve mentioned that monsters roam and some characters have encountered them.
Rather than a 10-page character background, I have a 2-page campaign primer, which includes much of the character backgrounds that I would need as a DM. The players could refine these starting points to make the characters their own.
So much for the 10-page background. Two is more than sufficient.
Saturday, September 4, 2021
As a DM, if a character with a backpack told me they had a pickaxe, a turf cutter, a sledgehammer, a cloak bag, iron rations, in addition to rope, armor, weapons and rations, I would call B.S. immediately. Because that isn't how backpacks don't work. If you ask a modern soldier how overloaded he or she is, you'd be shocked and not bit surprised at how fast they take chances and dump that crap to get other things done. Soldiers, time immemorial, are savvy and sneaky.
Wednesday, August 11, 2021
|D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
|D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
|D&D Basic Set - Player's Manual (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
D&D Basic Set - Player's Manual (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
|D&D Basic Set - DM's Rulebook (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
D&D Basic Set - DM's Rulebook (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
|Dungeons & Dragons Expert Set Rulebook (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
D&D Basic Set - DM's Rulebook (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
The big improvement in my mind was the two book set. That way the players had a reference and the DM had a reference. I was never a fan of the three column layout and the artwork was softer, grey scale instead of black and white line art. That style really didn't grow on me until Dragonlance came out.
Tuesday, August 10, 2021
Today I realized I didn't lose everything in fire. Up in the cloud are all the PDF I ordered from DriveThruRPG. Of course, I didn't have copies of the core books so now I am making a list of what I need to rebuild.
First up is "my Dungeons and Dragons". The Blue Box, but not Blue Holmes set. I had a Holmes book, but it was acquired later in my gaming career. Of course, I do have a digital copy of BlueHolme which is excellent but doesn't match the memory of 11 year old me.
|D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
|D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
Sunday, July 18, 2021
I just got a call from my friend Doug. He wanted some help with a project for his classroom and I did what I could do help. Then went for the important business, getting players for a new campaign.
If that sounds a bit familiar, it was a one shot I did last year for the wife and kids. It went over like a lead fart because the setting was post-apocalyptic in the middle of a pandemic. Yeah, yeah, yeah. At least I didn't pour tons of money in the TV show based on The Stand by Stephen King.
Every DM has ideas kicking around their brains to build a world. Most DM's I've played with will tinker with a variety of setting. I am not built like that. Every D&D campaign I run is in a post-apocalyptic. The one thing I am good at is dropping in anachronistic ideas in ways that don't disturb the players.
My campaign settings diverge from reality in the mid-eighties with the development of fusion power. There was the Outreach, where every country in the world dumped resources into a multi-nation space program. This idea was based on "The Great Awakening(s)" that happened between the 18th and 20th centuries. Except instead of being based on spiritualism, it was based on exploration.
There was a period of upheavals as fusion tech was deployed. This was followed by the Outreach, a world wide space program using Space Fountains to deploy probes, then ships and colonists around the solar system. This went on for a couple hundred years. It pretty much distorted all nations so they no longer existed as we know them. The goal as DM in this step was to completely divorce the setting reality by making the question "What happened in/to country x" invalid or at least unimportant.
The next goal in the Outreach was to get to other stars. Back in the 80's, we didn't know and didn't assume most stars would have planets, so the effort to find them in this setting to centuries by sending out probes. This created a situation where the Space Fountains used to reach the solar system needed a massive upgrade. And this is where everything went wrong.
Obviously, such a system needed to massive infrastructure built. And this was done. However, the second step was a computer based solution. They wrote a massively complex program to handle the upgrade from the first generation of Space Fountains to the truly titanic interstellar Space Fountains. It was a very rough AI.
That AI had a glitch. It did things too efficiently. It reprogramed the Space Fountains to launch a few tentative research ships. Then instead of creating many, many waves of ships to the stars, it sacrificed everything for just one giant wave. The effort destroyed or impacted every high tech item on Earth, leaving the planet's technological systems to collapse.
Centuries of high technological items didn't disappear in an instant, they slowly brokedown. As people tried to hold on, they used the technology to change themselves and the world around them. They were morphed into different species, elves, dwarves, goblins and so on. Some people unlocked technology so high it replicated magic. Others messed with probabilities, opening up gates to different universes where our rules didn't apply.
The Inside Out is a defense against the AI which has collapsed to a single underground location. The locals have banded together to construct a veritable castle around the entrance.
The creatures coming out of the facility are interpreted as undead, demons and devils who's vast technology appears as magic.
Sunday, July 11, 2021
Tuesday, June 15, 2021
|Boxed sets are my gateway drug|
I generally don't do 5th Edition reviews because I don't play 5th Edition much. There is a lot to like or dislike about 5th Edition.
If you are just starting out, there are a ton of good reasons to jump into 5e. The main reason is rather simple. It's approachable and readily available to the new player. The artwork and mechanics are great and they are nice set of rules for this day and age. My son loves it and has started his gaming collection with new set of rules, which I purchased for him.
One of my reasons for not using it is, I have collection of books going back to the Red Box set and beyond. My interest started with the Chainmail rules and expanded from there. I've filled bookshelves with games I will never play. I have an intuitive understanding of what all the major rules are in these sets. Yet another edition of games really doesn't add to what I have.
|E5, Labyrinth Lord and BECMI?|
Your not kidding, eh.
As of this post, I am at 1030 post on fun and games. Lately, I've been exploring 5th Edition wondering which of any of these things will become the next generation's Red Box, Keep on the Borderlands or Isle of Dread.
I have no idea, but I'd like to explore. And I hope you will join me. In the next series of posts, I'll be reviewing some of the 5th Edition rules. I figure this will run its course in less than 10 posts or less than 1% of everything else I've written. Because, I am that numbers guy.
Friday, June 4, 2021
Updated 4/29/2021. I got my digital copy and ordered my print on demand. This update changes very little, except to add the excellent artists names, page count and to provide links to DriveThruRPG. This one has also been added to my 5 of 5 star listings. Once I get my POD, it might shift to five gold stars.
June Update - I need to re-review this based on the hardcopy I have.
As happenstance would have it, I have been granted a couple of great opportunities this week. I have yet to back to a kickstarter and at no time in my decade or so on the web have I been able to review a product that is still in production. On Thursday morning, I got the chance to do both. God, I hope I don't screw this up.
Let's have some transparency. Every since I was a kid, I have collected books. Not just any books, but galleys. These are preproduct books sent out to authors and editors so they may do their final proof before printing. Sometimes, they have to do this several times. This is essentially What Todd Leback has sent to me. I feel really comfortable with this format even though it is never something that you would see on a store shelf.
Second, I have tested, playtested and been a part of study groups on a lot of consumer products. A ridiculously amount of products, everything from flossers to cameras to wargames. There is a reason why I am the way I am. :)
And item C: I dropped a $20 on the Kickstarter. During this review, I am receiving updates from Kickstarter. I am ignoring those and focusing entirely on the presented copy for information. This will cause this review to age poorly in the next 28 days or so. Please check out Kickstarter for updates. (This project is done, you can view the Kickstarter, but I doubt further updates will be forthcoming.)
Publisher: Old-School Essentials
Author: Todd Leback
Editor: Brian Johnson
Layout: BJ Hensley
Cartography: Todd Leback, Aaron Schmidt, Adrian Barber
Cover Art: Jen Drummond (jendart.com)
Interior Art Adrian Barber, Dan Smith, Carlos Castilho
Artists: Is currently a stretch goal. TBA.
Rating: 5 of 5 stars.
So, what am I reviewing: a Kickstarter or a book? Definitely, the book and only the book. Reviews, especially of unfinished products are best done by the numbers. Or the main questions:
- Who is the author of the book?
- What is the idea of the book?
- Was the idea delivered effectively?
- What are the strengths?
- What are weaknesses of the book?
You'll notice that none of those things have to do with stars or ratings, and unlike my other reviews I have not offered a star rating at the outset. And I might not do so by the end. I have only had 48-72 hours to review the material so I have spent most of my time digesting rather than playing or planning.
Todd Leback is the author of a series of books on Hexcrawling. He has also written on topics such as domain building and authored a one page dungeon. He started playing with the Red Box D&D set and enjoys the OSR style of play with family. This is his second Kickstarter and he runs a great Patreon page which provides 5-8 pages of Hex based content to his patrons every 3-4 weeks.
Previously, I reviewed Mr. Leback's Hexcrawl Basics.
The premise of Into the Wild is to bring several other publications together in one book and link those concepts to kick an OSR style campaign up to the level of domain play. Into the Wild is a 200+ page book which marries hexcrawling to domain building. These ideas came from many of his previous works, but this is not simply a compilation of text. These separate works are merged together seamlessly and are amplified. While some parts of the text are recognisable as being from prior works, they have been edited in away that allows the reader to flow from one idea that was a single book to another, which is different from a compiled collection or an omnibus.
The book is based on Old School Essentials, but that merely means a tiny bit of tweaking is needed to adapt it to other OSR rulesets.
The intent is use hexcrawling to engage players into a more complex style of play by bringing domain building into the fold and expanding on it with additional features that would interest high level characters. Mr. Leback does this in 200+ pages with maps created in Worldographer. While this document was offered to me "with no art", it contains over a dozen maps which are illustrative in nature. Additionally, he also includes many tables and charts to simply and clarify the ideas in each section.
Like Mr. Leback's previous works, copious examples highlight the various details of hexcrawling, weather, domain management, wealth and character options. This is one of it's strengths. Another good point is the fact that it required a great amount of table time to develop these ideas. Into the Wild shows it's table time very well. It is the product of many years of work and playtime by both the author and his audience. He has merged player feedback with his writing style to produce tight product based on the idea of play.
One weakness of this work is that it introduces new ways of using DM provided data, which is an inherent flaw of all hexcrawling activities. It's not something you can simply drop into a campaign mid-stream without some sort of introduction. That is not a terribly big deal because hexcrawling and domain building are now "things" that players will understand.
You could use Into the Wild for low level characters to engage in all the guts and glory type things adventurers do while also running a domain level campaign where a handful of high level characters interact the lesser characters on a larger, more regal scope. This style of play puts the players very close to the DM when it comes to planning, while still maintaining the general mechanics of D&D.
All and all, this is an excellent book that will only be improved by the stretching nature of a Kickstarter. I look forward to seeing the completed work.
Saturday, May 29, 2021
Here was the scenario: The party gets in a fight. The winner of that fight gets jumped and their cash and prizes are stolen. Then the party chases down the second group of people and gets their stuff back.
"You planned all of that in advance. You were railroading us!" they whined.
"No. I wasn't." I pulled out my notes and showed them.
The Party and Group A get in a fight. Only 4 things can happen: either the Party or Group A can win. Or they reach a stalemate and no one wins, either by flight or not starting or finishing the fight without winning.
Next. The first group out of the area gets jumped. Those 4 options happen again.
And finally, when the loser or second people out of the first situation one catch up, you basically have the same 4 options. Win, lose, or two different draws.
That's not a railroad. The players have a choice at each event they are present for and the dice can change that outcome. When the party isn't present, I pick the most viable option because I'm not stopping play to fight combat against two NPC groups against each. When the party comes back, they get another set of choices and outcomes.
A railroad would be if I decided what was going to happen TO THE PARTY before they were granted a choice. I know where the branches are and what should happen next, but I have 4-5 different possible choices to account for in every scenario. If the party has an obvious choice of 4 items, and they come up with the fifth, sixth, and seventh option, I have no plan and need to fly by the seat of my pants.
I gave the kids a good example.
I had a party meet at a tavern. They were supposed to stop the evil lord's men from shaking down the peasants for money. The party chose not to do that. So, the peasants got shaken down. Then the party gave the peasants money to replace what was stolen. I didn't expect that outcome.
In the next session, I decided to just re-run the whole thing. Again the party didn't bite. This went on for a bit with the peasants getting shaken down and the party replacing their lost funds.
Now the party was responsive to everything else I did in each session, but I was baffled by their lack of activity on this one point of defending the peasants. It almost rose to the level of a joke. After a few months of play, they checked back in on the peasants in the tavern.
Since they asked, I provided. This time the lord was there to get in on the fun. And the party sat there as the peasants got beat down and robbed again. It wasn't until the lord threaten everyone and turned to exit that the whole party opened fire with crossbows. In the dark, in the back.
The explanation for this behavior was, everyone in the party and a few of the players are lawful evil. It was just their nature to use the peasants for bait to draw the evil lord out.
Again, this was not railroading because the players themselves asked to check on the situation and determined the outcome they personally desired.
So when planning an adventure, you should plan for the obvious. What if the party wins? What if they lose? What if they run? What if they won't or don't fight? If you have those few things down, then the adventure probably won't go off the track, but if it does, the DM is only scrambling for a few seconds and not moment to moment. Which reduces the possibility of railroading the players.
Sunday, May 2, 2021
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
Author: Gavin Norman
Artists: Mustafa Bekir, Michael Clarke, Mark Lyons, Thomas Novosel, Juan Ochoa, Stefan Poag, Matt Ray, Luka Rejec, Peter Saga, Del Teigeler, Andrew Walter
Pages: 54 pages
I'm not sure how to handle this. There is nothing better than those old rule D&D boxed sets. Nothing really compares to them. Until now. There are a lot of renaissance books out there but only handful really improve on the original.
Old-School Essentials does that, even in the basic (and free) form. This 54 page book covers all of the basics so that you can play D&D with a single book.
By now, I am sure you are aware that I love great artwork. In some places, I see this book as being offer as "no art". In other places I see it described as "player facing rules only". "Basic" doesn't refer to the original Basic/Expert dichotomy, but the traditional meaning of "basic" as "simple".
Those are lies. This "artless" book has no less than 11 artists with great stuff appearing on dozens and dozens of pages. Also, the "player facing rules" include attack tables a combat section, which means this is fully playable from the get-go. I am going to take off two stars for those misrepresentations. Conveniently, this allows me to write a review that does not break my 5 star scale and award it a mere five gold star ranking.
Nice how that worked out.
What is missing is the ideation process for new Dungeon Masters. Ok, "basic" it is. What it adds are dozens of revisions to those old boxed sets rules which streamlines and clarifies those rules.
Also missing are the non-human classes of Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling, however the rule book does not specifically say you can't have an Elven Fighter or a Dwarven cleric. Since the term used is "adventurer" and not "human", this could simply be ignored allowing the group to simply add a descriptor of choice. The players can role or roll as they wish. This doesn't change the game. It's not a terrible way to simplify a ruleset.
Initiative and surprise are simple and complete. Armor class is reduced to just 5 rankings for none, leather, chain and plate with or without a shield. The attack matrix is set up as per the original rules but then as an option T.H.A.C.0 is introduced. They even touch on how his changes the probability which is very nice.
Ability checks are clearly defined and branch from thieves abilities. For a simple or basic set of rules, this is a great improvement. Looking at Holmes and AD&D, the addition of professional skills into the game has always branched from thieves abilities and touched ability scores, but was never codified until later additions. In fact, it seemed to disappear from the B/X and other basic offerings. While this set does not go whole hog on these concepts, the tool is there for the creatively minded.
This is a rock solid offering for anyone interested in the old school type game and a great reason to purchase the complete, "non-basic" set on DriveThruRPG.
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
So this is how I amuse myself. I made a 20 page character sheet from one sheet of paper.
Let me tell you what a pain in the ass that was. Everything needed to be orientated correctly and having gotten it wrong twice, I realized I had it right the second time, but folded it wrong.
As soon as I get folding instructions done, I'll add it to my character sheet download at DriveThruRPG. It will strictly be a print and write on affair. I have no patience for PDF forms where some of the data is upside down.
Saturday, April 17, 2021
Publisher: The Other Side Publishing
Author: Timothy S. Brannan
Pages: 65 pages
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Reviewer's note: The date is taken from the forward, this could be the most recent update rather than the original publication date. If that is the case, my apologies but then that also means the author is providing an excellent experience by routinely updating his works.
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Filling in the Blanks
Title: Filling in the Blanks
Publisher: Old-School Essentials
Author: Todd Leback
Cover Artist: Jenna Drummond (jendart.com),
Interior Artists: Chad Dickhaut, Adrian Barber, and Dan Smith
Pages: 79 pages
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
This particular book comes in two forms, the preview edition and the regular edition. I have both. The preview edition is a text only copy of the main concepts of the full book, which is more than enough to let you know if you would want or need this title.
Starting at the beginning, let me tell you about the author. Todd Leback is the author of a series of books on Hexcrawling. He has also written on topics such as domain building, authored a one page dungeon and had two successful Kickstarters. The most recent, as mentioned before, is the book Into the Wild. This should be out in about a month or so. He started playing with the Red Box D&D set and enjoys the OSR style of play with family. He runs a great Patreon page which provides 5-8 pages of Hex based content to his patrons every 3-4 weeks. As I mentioned in my review of Hexcrawl Basics, the link to both his Patreon and Jenna Drumman's sites are too small so I have reproduced them here.
Filling in the Blanks is all about generating hexes. He covers geologic features, habitation of a variety of sizes, resources, hazards, lairs, etc. Of course there is a bit about magic and weather. This product is totally table driven with the text providing guidance and examples for usage. Those three together are great for demonstration of how the game is supposed to work. It's also a great way to allow for adaption to specific campaigns and thematic settings.
My personal favorite part is on graveyards, but I think most people will like the section on Inns. That one seems to be the most useful for any campaign. Maps are in color, while the art is black and white. Somehow, I suffered a printer mishap and all of the black and white art came out blue tinted. I actually like that, but is probably my own problem.
All in all, this is a great book on the someone who is well versed in hexcrawling. The only slight weakness is the lack of links back to Hexcrawl Basics. That title makes a good primer for what this book covers. While this title is only 79 pages, it is can feel like drinking from a firehose. There is a lot of information packed into this book.
It would make a great addition and edition for anyone desiring a full featured exploration of the concept of Hex Crawling. While written for Old School Essentials, it can be easily adapted to any rule set. I might even be using this for a continuing Star Wars campaign.
Thursday, March 11, 2021
|Duskruin is current Gemstone IV paid adventure|
D&D 3.x fixes this with challenge ratings. It works pretty well, with the exception of creatures with special powers. They don't seem to have the appropriate CR assigned to them.
Gemstone IV has a different method of ranking for creatures. Being a MMO, your character can literally walk up an incredibly high level creature and get turned to dust. That works for an MMO where you have the concept of "extra lives" but it doesn't really work on the tabletop.
For more evenly matched creatures against the player, there is a sliding scale. A first level character against a 1st level creature is worth 100 experience. A second level character against a 1st level creature is only going to give the PC 90 experience. By 11th level, it's kind of pointless to fight 1st level kobolds and as a consequence, they don't give any experience any more.
I like that. It creates a coherent world. At 10th level and beyond, fighting kobolds shouldn't be the point for AD&D and D&D characters. They are so past that. Kobolds don't stop existing, they merely cease being something the player should fear. While you can ramp up the numbers and abilities of kobolds, they still aren't intellectually challenging. A zillion of them merely represents a zillion chances to roll the dice. That stops being a story real quick.
I tend to use the formula 10 equal level encounters should equal one level. A party of 4 characters fighting 40 equal level monsters should be one level of experience for each player character. What this does is enable me, the DM the ability to pace the party. Do I want 40 monsters all at once or 10 groups of four? Probably someplace in between.
This builds a coherent world in my mind. On day one, a nasty encounter with a kobold patrol is fine. Six sessions into the campaign, sure, my players encounter that patrol of kobolds but they are super leary of mixing it up with the players. 10 sessions later and the party may be hiring them as man-at-arms, porters, etc. The kobolds didn't disappear, their role changed because they aren't a challenge.
I kind of like that concept and generally use it over mathematical gyrations provided in the DMG.
As a consequence, it does break the model of gold for experience, but I never liked that anyway. Fighters don't go to fighter school to level up. As they gain experience, they gain followers who make them explore the concept of their trade as they teach others.
Having a simple rule of thumb allows me to plan more fully. Not just what sort of monsters the players will defeat, but also what sort of resources they players will encounter. If the party plows into a patrol of monsters, chases them home and has the tribe bribe them not to attack the village, that's a win. It is total defeat for the monsters, perhaps dozens of them because they offered surrender or capituation.
This allows me to control what resources end up in the player's hands beyond having them scoop up piles of treasure and hoping for a random roll. I know what is on the table and can use the interactions between the party and the challengers to guide the party. Gold is gold, but this method leapfrogs the concept of magic swords and other nice prizes. A tribe of kobolds might offer up a nice +1 two handed sword to escape the party's wrath because it's a six foot long weapon for 4 foot tall creatures. It's not valuable to a kobold. Plus the kobolds can hint at it's power so as not to waste the party's time trying to identify every item that comes to them.
It's a nice feature because it establishes a history of what happened. In the above example, the kobold tribe doesn't have to be obliterated to represent victory over 40 kobolds. They can come to an agreement with the party that in exchange for the sword and a promise not to raid the town anymore, they can live in (a fragile) peace. The party know they are there and can sometimes draw resources from them. A safe place to sleep, a good gossip starter or perhaps something else.
Stolen ideas are good. Why don't you join me in the world of Gemstone IV by clicking the link below. GSIV has a nice F2P model that will give you a taste of an expansive world of magic.