Showing posts with label Game Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Game Review. Show all posts

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Review of SM03 Cityguide to the City of Karan

Review of SM03 Cityguide to the City of Karan, available now on DriveThruRPG.



Title:  SM03 The City of Karan
Author: Dunromin University Press (Simon Miles)
Illustrator: Gareth Sleightholme and Simon Miles
Rule Set: OSRIC
Year: 2020
Pages: 70
Number of Players: N/A
Rating: ★★★★★

This book is a gazette style introduction to the City of Karen, the second city of the Land of the Young in the Barnarnia setting. I used the word gazette, but this book is 70 pages long. Each section delivers what the DM needs to walk their players through this excellent and unique setting.

The artwork is a step above Dunromin's normal work, Miles' typical artwork is there but Gareth Sleighthomlme really kicks it up a notch. Core to the product are three maps, one of the Land of the Young and the other two are maps of the City of Karan and the caves below the city. Check out the other books in the series, I just can't get over the art.

Priced a pay what you want, you can't go wrong with this title. I can't wait to check out the rest of the series.

Check out my other reviews from this series:

ORSIC Module Review - SM12 The Trials of a Young Wizard
Dunromin University Press' SM00 A Traveller's Atlas of Dunromin and the Land of the Young Review
OSRIC Module Review - M06 The Warren

Saturday, February 29, 2020

E182 Combat Event Analysis

The other day, I posted my character sheets in preparation for this post. The ship is attacked by pirates who are pouring into the ship via the airlock and cargo hold. Three can enter the cargo hold per turn and just one enters the main airlock per turn. They have side arms, a problem producing axe and u-suits.

Each pirate has the following stats: Endurance 8, Marksmanship 4 and Hand-to-Hand 6.

My team has two doctors who cannot fight, but can wear u-suits. I have two engineers that can only use side arms and u-suits in self defense. I have 5 characters that can use heavy side arms, regular side arms and u-suits.

To the pirates advantage, each carries an axe which can easily cut through walls and will automatically breach a suit, disabling the character inside it.

My advantage is, my character’s have military u-suits which take two hits to breach, 5 are carrying heavy side arms with explosive rounds and high tech level and two characters have good side arms, which are TL-3 and TL-4 respectively. Also, I roll for the pirate’s equipment and it is TL-1, while my lowest tech level is TL-3 and the rest are TL-4.

This game has no initiative and rarely a surprise round. The person with the highest tech level weapons goes first. In this case, it will always be my crew. Surprise is defined on a case by case basis by the event listing, which didn’t happen this time.

The game is not really specific about distances. There is melee and ranged. You can shoot or you can move into melee range and attack. You get one attack per round, either ranged or melee, but not both. Ranged attacks are resolved first then melee. A person can forgo a ranged attack to avoid getting into melee range. Duke has a noticeable bonus in hand to hand attacks, he can use his cunning to add one die to the attack roll.

To resolve ranged weapons, add the character’s marksmanship score to the weapon’s tech level. Roll under this value with a  2d6. Success is a hit. The same goes for Hand-to-Hand, but generally this is punching which is very low damage. There are not many hand weapons available in the game.

Mechanically, this scenario is unwinnable by a crew of less than four, because they must disable 4 targets in one round. Even with a party of 9, it took me 5 turns to do so.

For ranged attacks, the pirates had a ranged target number of 4+1 or 5, while my worst character had a target of 6. Two of my characters had a target of 6+4 or 10. Each hit does a critical or one point of damage.

Now, critical hits also play into this as do special effects. When rolling to attack, a critical occurs on a die roll of six. To resolve this, a special die is thrown. On a roll of 1 or 6, the target takes no damage but is disabled by concussion. If a 2, 3, 4, or 5 is rolled, that is number of hits the target receives. So a regular side arm can put someone down in a single hit on a good roll.

Heavy side arms are different for damage. They roll 2d6 for damage. On a 2-7, that is the number of hits done. On a 8-12, the target is down due to concussion. My heavy side arms have explosive rounds, which shreds u-suits. In a vacuum, this is lethal. It seems like the author intended to have heavy hand weapons and explosive effects as two different things, but it was left out for some reason. It does briefly come into play in specific events with unique equipment. In some cases, a heavy side arm is not able to damage a thing unless it has the property of explosive rounds. The primary example of this is Utility suits. To automatically rupture them requires explosive rounds or multiple hits in one turn.

When playing out this scenario, the Pirates have an Endurance of 8. This means a single, non-critical hit will not knock them out of the fight. You must either get a critical or depressurize the ship. It wasn’t until the 3 round that I noticed this was possible. I was taking down 3 of 4 guys by piling on wound points, but there was always a pirate that survived. Once I depressurized the ship, every hit with a heavy weapon downed a pirate. Since I had 7 shooters and 5 with heavy weapons, it was a piece of cake.

Since I am thinking of using these rules as an actual RPG, let’s look at some assumptions that I made. First is movement. I assumed that a person could only move from one area to the next in a round and moving away from an attacker was avoiding contact. Duke did this when he ran to Pilotage and back as did Emily when she went to the cargo hold. Running into an attacker would allow for contact and melee, but only if the stationary person wanted it. The pirate did not, so it didn’t happen.

The next question I would ask is about explosive rounds vs. heavy hand weapons. I would use the heavy hand weapon damage rules on their own, but not allow them to breach U-suits unless they also had explosive rounds. The explosive rounds rule seems to allow heavy weapons to damage ships and vehicles in limited cases, which is not obvious because part of rules are embedded in individual events.

Those axes are problematically for the player’s crew. They can down someone in a single hit, suit or not. I didn’t add them to the Antelope inventory because they nearly create an automatic win condition for the crew. Some crew can do Hand-to-hand in self defense, therefore the axe allows them to down opponents in cases where the rules seemed to indicate only a minor defensive ability. That ain’t minor.

I wasn’t in much danger from this attack. Remember, I placed Bones and Doc in Pilotage, which has a functional Stasis Unit. If they had gotten in to trouble, they would have activated it. The Stasis Unit removes the possibility of using the ship until removed by an engineer. If Duke was the only one on board, then I would assume turning on the Stasis Unit is an automatic loss.

The danger in this scenario is the number of crew vs. the number of pirates. If a pirate gets to the controls, it’s all over. The player merely has to stop the guy coming in the airlock, not the distraction in the cargo hold. However, the distraction allows the pirates to flood the ship if the player doesn’t acknowledge that they need to defend Pilotage. By simply waiting in Pilotage, the pirates will cut a path from the hold to the cockpit, which allows a group of characters assembled in that area a clear shot at everyone. This should eventually work to the player’s advantage.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

#TBT review - Dunromin University Press' SM00 A Traveller's Atlas of Dunromin and the Land of the Young Review

I just picked up a copy of SM00 A Traveller's Atlas of Dunromin and the Land of the Young and it is my new favorite item.

Title:  SM00 A Traveller's Atlas of Dunromin and the Land of the Young
Author: Dunromin University Press (Simon Miles)
Rule Set: OSRIC
Year: 2018
Pages: 28
Number of Players: N/A
Rating: ★★★★★

This is supposed to be a full color map folio of the Free City of Dunromin, but the work goes so much further. In addition to the beautifully drawn Free City, Mr. Miles killed it with amazing details of the surrounding area, political and physical maps of the Land of the Young, barony maps, maps of the continent and of the world.

The artwork is incredible, a great addition to any old school gaming campaign. Being a set of maps designed for OSRIC, it is generic enough to fit into any fantasy game system.

I just can't get over the art. The cover and some other images are wholly digital, but others look hand drawn. It's a near thing, I can usually tell the difference, but not in this product. Many of the pages are on a graph, but I can't tell if it's pencil on graphpaper, or digital work meant to look old school. There are a few pages where I think I can see blowthrough, like a scanner picked up information from a page behind the scanned page, but I can't be certain it isn't photoshopped to look like that.

I probably won't use this in my campaign, but I am already looking to see which pages I will print and frame. Simply put, it's awesome!

Priced a pay what you want, you can't go wrong with this title. I can't wait to check out the rest of the series.

If you need a Christmas gift and you have a nice printer and paper, this is perfect.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Dad at Nashcon 2018, with Yanks & Tanks

Here is a video of my Dad showing off his set up for a game at Nashcon 2018. Not only does he build these things, he takes them on the road.




My Dad made a video for his game Yanks & Tanks, which is available at DriveThruRPG. Each click supports him and my website.You can read a review of Yanks & Tanks right here at theseoldgames.com. I haven't had a chance to play, but I hope to do that soon.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Dad's Modeling Skill

In this video post, Dad shows off some of his modeling skills. My Dad made a video for his game Yanks & Tanks, which is available at DriveThruRPG. Each click supports him and my website.





Sunday, February 23, 2020

From the Archive- June 13, 2012 - Gemstone IV Review

Gemstone IV is a persistent MMORPG, running since 1988. The player base is measured in the thousands with hundreds of player logged in at anytime. Gemstones IV is unusual, it is text-based. All locations, actions and events are described via the game window. Commands are input in a style similar to the old Infocom Games such as Zork or Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
Would-be-heroes have a choice of races and professions; Humans to Giantmen, Rogues to Wizards. Many of the classes are standard fare for fantasy games but others are wholly unique to GSIV. The classes are Warriors, Rogues, Clerics, Wizards, Empaths, Rangers, Sorcerers, Bards and Paladin. The most unique class is Empaths; they are healers who transfer wounds from an injured person to themselves. Then they heal themselves.
Races are more diverse than most games: Elves (dark, sylan, half), humans, giantmen, dwarves, aelotoi, Erithian, gnomes (burgahl and forest), halfling and half-krolvians. Each has its own favor and cultural background. In some cases there are obvious advantages to a race: Giantmen and drawves are sturdy and can carry more items, dark elves are immune to sickness, aelotoi have insect wings, halflings have better stealth and speed than average. All races are playable for all professions which is a nice switch and I will come back to that later.
The world of Gemstone IV has somewhat more depth than the typical hack and slash adventure. Characters can actually interact and change their environment. Wizards can create permanent magic items, weapons and armor and can recharge many of them. Sorcerers can recharge scrolls, make items and summon demons or animate dead creatures to do their bidding. Bards can play music or use musically based spells to generate sonic weapons and armor. They can also read the history of items or discover the purpose and abilities of weapons. Warriors can manufacture sheaths, repair weapons and armor. Clerics can raise the dead. Rogues can pick locks, remove them and install the locks on other pieces of equipment. Rangers can give temporary bonuses to armor and make magic wands and rods. Empaths heal. Paladins can bond with weapons for enhanced combat skills and raise dead like cleric.
In addition to the class skills above, all characters can forage for herbs, run messages, forge weapons, cobble, create arrows and bolts, and fish. Most class skills or secondary skills generate experience points. In fact, the game assumes that a character will complete between first three to five levels without combat at all.
All of these features create an environment of cooperation among characters. This is not you typical backstabbing player-vs.-player game. While you can kill other players, there is a justice system and social norms in place to keep this to a minimum.
There is the usual aspect of hunt together for treasure and better weapons and armor, but within the system it is possible for a player to hunt alone using nothing but the equipment their character was given at generation. No particular “player class vs race build” is needed to gain an advantage. Game balance is very well thought out.
I have spent years playing this game and the community and constant updates keep me coming back for more.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

#TBT - A Traveller's Atlas of Dunromin and the Land of the Young

Let's take another look at Simon Miles' SM00 A Traveller's Atlas of Dunromin and the Land of the Young published by Dunromin University Press. Set in the world of World of Barnaynia but is easily adaptable to any type of campaign. The city maps are gorgeous and go on and on. As soon as time permits, I will do a full review of this product.

Simon's artwork is impressive. I have not decided if it is all handiwork or digital or a little of both. It looks great, very old school but clean.

This title is pay what you want. I chipped in a dollar, but I think I will either have to go back and bump that up or purchase more products from Dunromin University Press.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Oh, Dear. What Happened? Review of Farscape Roleplaying Game

Title:  Farscape Roleplaying Game
Design: Ken Carpenter, Rob Vaux, Keith R. A. DeCandido, Gavin Downing, Lee Hammock, Kelly Hill, Christina Kamnikar
Rule Set: d20
Year: 2002
Pages: 320
Number of players: 2 or more
Rating: ★★

The TV show Farscape ran from 1999 to 2003 and was followed up by a 2 episode mini-series called The Peacekeeper War. The Roleplaying Game was released in 2002, which would have been in between Seasons 3 and 4. For this reason, the book only covers the first 2 seasons or so of action.

This is an interesting RPG as it tops out at 320 pages, which is one more than the Star Wars RPG which was produced by WotC. What is interesting about this is, WotC managed to cram 4 movies worth of information into a book 1 page shorter than the Farscape RPg as a stand alone work while The Farscape Roleplaying Game assumes ownership of The Players Handbook. Farscape was published sometime in 2002, which makes this The Player's Handbook the 3.0 edition. Maybe? In June of 2003, the 3.5 edition came out. If you did not play D&D, you wouldn't even know.

The results are rather interesting. As is the rest of the book. If I reviewed the first 144 pages, this would be a 5 star review. This section of the book is a recap of everything in the series to that point, plus a short story called 10 Little Indians. The layout is incredible, the information is dense, and it really captures the essence of Farscape.

However, this isn't that review. One of the stand out features of this book is the artwork, which is entirely from the show. All of it is great and it is laid out exactly like a product in this universe would be laid out. Titles appear in a machine-like flowing script which is readable with the proper skill (DC 30). Second, the margins are thick while the columns are diagonal. It's cute for the first 144 pages, but when you actually need information, it's really hard on the eyes. Like MySpace banner hard.

From page 145 on are the rules. Remember that disclaimer about needing the Player's Handbook? Yeah... I'm not so sure. Which is a good thing because I can't tell if this means 3.0 or the 3.5 edition. I think the 3.0 edition, but it doesn't seem that necessary. If you missed that caveat, you could probably play this game not realizing something was missing. It isn't that it's missing words or that the grammar is odd, it's the layout of the book that jams your comprehension. It's just that distracting.

Like The Player's Handbook, you pick a race, a class, generate stats, select feats, skills and powers, then select equipment. All of that works well, it's a proven method utilized by many products in the d20 line. And that is where it gets weird. I can't point to a single thing that would require another book, which is probably my gamer hack-it ethic running wild. It sure seems odd.

One of the flaws in the book is, being a recap of season 1 and 2, who and what the characters are not presented in a way that plays out in the TV show. Primarily, this shows up in the pregenerated characters. John is not particularly strong or smart according to his stats, which doesn't really fit with being a physicist and astronaut. On the other hand, all of the characters do seem to be balanced when only that group is considered. However, they are all rather high level, which you would think would lead to much higher stats.

Scorpius is listing as having a 9 strength, while D'Argo has an 18 which is not quite right. I would buy the 9 for Scorpius if he had some sort of Rage feat that allowed him to overpower other, stronger characters for a short period of time. He is a man with an actual cooling system, after all.

All and all, the book seems incomplete even when paired with the PHB and some that feeling is definitely problems caused by the layout.

At $9.99 at DriveThruRPG, I'd say it's for fans of the series or a person who wants a great coffee table RPG book. It is stunning to look at. Literally.

Two stars... only because I love Farscape.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

What is Dungeons and Dragons? Book Review

Title: What is Dungeons and Dragons?
Author: John Butterfield, Philip Parker and David Honigmann
Year: 1982
Pages: 231
Rating: ★★★★★

Way back when, my dad took me to The Tek Pharmacy and told me flat out, "I don't have any extra money to get you anything." As he shopped I made my way to the book section and was perusing the Choose Your Own Adventure Books. I didn't want another, I felt like I had "graduated" from those, even though they were always enjoyable.

Back then, things were not like they are today. Being a small pharmacy, the books on the shelves would be by today's standard very old. The books were perhaps as old as 5 year since their publication date being sold as new. This is why I can't nail down the exact year of this visit. But in all likelihood, I probably look like either one of the kids on the right.

After Dad picked up his script or whatever he was buying, he found me looking at a book called: What is Dungeons and Dragons? by John Butterfield, Philip Parker and David Honigmann.

As I put it back on the shelf to leave, my dad said, "Oh, a book. I have money for a book. As long as you read it." I was probably 10 or 11. Now I am almost 48. And I'll tell you, I read the hell out that book. The pages were falling out, the spine was shattered and the cover had gone missing a long time ago. Finally, the book met it's end when the basement flooded. It was a sad day because this book has been out of print probably for decades.

As you will note, this is my second 5 gold star review. My first was Nate Treme's The Moldy Unicorn. If I had it do over again, I would make What is Dungeons and Dragons? the first and The Moldy Unicorn second. My Mom is a publisher, my Dad writes game books and I write, too. I don't go forking out 5 gold stars for shits and giggles. (Normally, I don't cuss either, but it is what it is.) The content has to be not just superior, it has to be memorable.

I've read both over and over again and they both evoke the same feeling of nostalgia. Each was something wildly different than what I had encountered in the past.

Within Butterfield, Parker and Honigmann's book, you get a ground up approach to game play. The first 8 chapters cover a massive amount of ground. Back in 1982, this was the closest one could get to "The Internet". Chapter 1 is an introduction to D&D. Chapters 2-5 walk the reader through character generation, dungeon design, an adventure with examples, and the role of the Dungeon Master in the game. Each of these topics are presented in a solid and memorable framework, with the section on The Adventure standing out. The sample adventure is not a classic in the sense of many great modules, but is a model of what one could realistically expected to produce on one's own. And that is great!

The next several chapters cover more advance details, such as figures, accessories, computers and even AD&D with the same solid reporting of the first 5 chapters.

The final chapter addresses other game systems, in a rather cursory fashion when compared to the information now available to us now. At 231 pages, some of which are maps, diagrams, and indices, there is no way for this book to rival information available on even a couple of web pages, but this is all I had back then.

This book is a treasure. At this point I am going to throw an ad at you. If you love the history of the game, go purchase this book. My link is to Amazon, but seriously, shop around and try to get your hands on one by any means possible.

Star Viking Game Review

Title: Star Viking
Credits:
   Designer: Arnold Hendrick
   Graphics Design: David Helber and Arnold Hendrick
   Cover Painting: Bob Depew
Rule Set: Unique to set
Year: 1981
Pages: 24
Number of players: 2*
Rating: ★★★★


Star Viking places two players head to head for the survival of civilization. Well, one of you will defend the Federation civilization, the other will try to destroy it. The Star Viking boxed included a rules booklet, two dice, a folded sheet of 154 die-cut cardboard counters (each 1⁄2” square), and a sheet of 12 map tiles, each representing a star system.

Game procedure is easy, but as with all simple things can result in hideously complex results. The players are at cross purposes from the start. The Viking player selects his or her forces while the Federation arrays the map tiles and his or her defenses. Turns are divided into strategic and tactical moves. Tactical moves are only required when both players are in the same place.

 The map tiles are divided into sectors, with large cities representing more than one sector while sleepy moons are one sector. These sectors are equivalent to a hex. Some sectors are vacuum, while others are in an atmosphere. They are either contiguous or connected by an orbit line.

There are 20+ units available to the players, each one having a tech level. The sector's tech level determines if a unit can be placed there. For example, a sector with B tech level can support B and C type units. 

Each turn is divided in three, Strategic Segment, Tactical Segment and Politics and Economic Segment. Strategic is for moving vast distances, tactical is for combat and Politics and Economics represents responses such as building new ships or plundering.

One interesting twist on this game is, players purchase victory points to win. There are automatic victory conditions, if the Vikings sack the capital or one player accumulates twice as many victory points as his or her opponent via purchasing on or after the 7th round. If the game lasts all 12 rounds, then the player with the most victory points wins.

*This tiny set of rules has multiple expansions presented right in this set. The first variant is to play as a solitaire game. It suggests automatic movement by die roll, but doesn't include any tables. You are to make them yourself. The second is to use two hostile Viking players for a 3 way game. This requires having 2 boxed sets, which is easy to do since you can print them yourself. The third is to merely extend the number of rounds to 20, 30 or more.

There is exactly one errata, this was a very well produced game from the get-go and still provides hours of entertainment 30+ years later.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Star Wars: Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook

Title: Star Wars: Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook
Author: Andy Collins, Bill Slavicsek, JD Wiker
Rule Set: d20
Year: 2000
Pages: 319
Number of players: 2 or more
Rating: ★★★★


For many years, Star Wars was in the stable of West End Games. Over the years, I accumulated many of their books, but never had a chance to play. In 2000, with The Phantom Menace coming to screens, Wizards of the Coast produced a gamebook for the series, which included everything you needed to play, including a set of rules to convert from WEG Star Wars to d20.

The system is a pretty close skin of D&D 3.0 or 3.5, with some great differences.

The system is a standardized d20 system. Standardization from the ground up is very good. One of the great advantages is it breaks every character down into a couple of stat blocks, which makes building a quality, unique character easy. Each character is made of 7 different categories of descriptions, all of which is uniform between classes. You start with ability scores, then everything changes. You select a species which is an approximation of race in D&D terms, a class, skills, feats, character descriptors like reputation, equipment and finally spells, if any. All characters have the same 6 items, unlike D&D where some characters get spells in addition to their other "stats".

So, what about The Force? Those aren't spells, they are tied into one Feat and several Skills for Force Sensitive people. Hit points are replaced with vitality and wound points. This changes the dynamics of how characters work. Vitality is how much energy and stamina you have, while wounds are actual chunks of flesh. Hike through a hellish landscape will reduce your vitality, but a blaster to the head is a wound. Wounds stick around or are fatal, while vitality tracks how much "give" you've got. Nice system, considering how dangerous a lightsabre is. Vitality returns with rest and wounds require healing. The reputation system is a replacement for alignment, which actually has some mechanical advantages or disadvantages, unlike the alignment system.

While this is a d20 system, there are several advantages to this rule set over a typical d20 RPG. First, your players will have a general idea of what they want to be if they have seen Star Wars. To this end, there are 25 character templates so you can play right away. The rules allow you to flavor these characters, so you are a cutout character, but perhaps not made of cardboard. Additionally, if you played WEG Star Wars, there is a set of conversion rules in the back. There is a section on Starships, Droids, and a Game Master Section, with a module included. Everything you need to play is right there.

4 of 5 stars.

You can pick it up on Amazon for less than $20.00. The links below are paid ads and will take you to Amazon.com.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

3.5 Review - Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook

Title: Player's Handbook (3.5)
Code: N/A PHB 3.5, unofficially
Design Team: Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, Skip Williams
Rule Set: Dungeons and Dragons 3.5
Year: 2003
Pages: 320
Levels: Any
Rating: ★★★★

D&D 3.5 came out in June of 2003. It wasn't until 2007 that I even looked at it. I wasn't mentally prepared to make the huge jump from AD&D and Basic D&D to 3.5, but it turns out I was. This is "These Old Games", I'm not going to review a new game...

The difference between AD&D and 3.5 is huge. Where AD&D hosted all of your character's powers and abilities under the class description, D&D 3.5 gives a cursory example of powers under class then allows you to pick from a menu of abilities.

The system is a standardized d20 system. Standardization from the ground up is very good. One of the great advantages of 3.5 is it breaks every character down into a couple of stat blocks, which makes building a quality, unique character ease. Each character is made of 8 different categories of descriptions, all of which is uniform between classes. As per any type of D&D, you start with ability scores, then everything changes. You select a race, a class, skills, feats, character descriptors like alignment and religion, equipment and finally spells, if any. All characters have the first 7 items, while only spell casters have spells, obviously.

Races stayed basically the name, but the variety of non-human sub-races were put away, presumably so DM could style their own. Gone were most racial limitations, welcoming in an age of official Elven Paladins. Races have a preferred class rather than classes they cannot perform in.

The number of classes and their relationships have changed greatly. AD&D has 11, 12, or 15 character classes, 3.5 streamlined that down to 11. Magic user and thief were renamed to Wizard and Rogue. Bard are a real class which is welcome change. Assassin, Illusionist, Cavalier and Thief-acrobat were all gone, but not really. Also, multi-classing is normal and with few restrictions, while duo-classing is utterly gone. Few very class abilities appear in under character class, they are regulated to feats.

Every character has a set of skills based on their intelligence and class. Each skill is linked to an ability, so no more nerfed Charisma.

Feats are an incredible departure from AD&D. They are special abilities that are so varied that each class can be used to create a completely unique feel. They are wholly based on class and level, so you continue to grow after creation. You can use feats to bring back those lost classes: Assassin, Illusionist, Cavalier and Thief-acrobat.

One downside to the feats system is that it is unbalanced. Magic using players are going to want the ability to make magic items, so they will lose combative feats. Rogues will want observational powers, which in no way equates to magical or combat abilities. While some of the feats are chained together with prerequisite feats, sometimes you can get two things that pair in a very unbalanced way. Usually this comes into play when you get a bonus to initiative plus some other combat effective ability, so that character always goes first with a big hit.

Your character descriptors are pretty self-explanatory, what is your outlook, demeanor, etc. But 3.5 cranks up the effect of religion on your character. You are no longer a psuedo-Catholic priest, but a follower of something out of our world. Spontaneous casting should also falls under this category, but it is described with the classes. Basically, your character can cast whatever they feel like if they have this ability. Additionally, clerics can always cast healing spells if the need arises.

Equipment has been regulated to an abstract system, almost like a tool kit for the class. It reminds of Star Frontiers' Standard Equipment Pack. I find it odd and basically ignore it. Equipment lives in the half-world of wonderfully standardized rules vs. massively extensible character variety. The designers probably realized this and went with it to allow players to access equipment that is otherwise too expensive by the charts at first level. It's not that much of a problem, really because back in the days of AD&D, I, the DM, was forking out cool equipment on character generation day.

Spells have been completely revamped and tied back to the mechanical systems of the game. Additionally, they have been realigned with the various schools and those schools are often dedicated to specific classes. A 3rd level Wizard spell might be a 7th level Sorcerer spell. Also, being in tune with the mechanics of play, there are no oddball spells that work like nothing else in the game.

Back to the standardized rules. ALL information combat information appears in the Player's Handbook. Back in the 70s and 80s, you'd make a character then wonder what you were getting into. With this book, you know. There are a few things relegated to the DM Guide, but they aren't enough to slow you down. THAC0 and decending AC are gone. Your opponent's AC is your attack roll target number, which is reduced by your attack bonus. Combat is speedier, attacks come more often than AD&D. The rounds seem to take longer, but a heck of a lot can happen in a given round without reducing combat to "high roll wins all".

Saves have also been revamped to fortitude, reflex and willpower. It's a nice, easy system. I think it's far better than charts, even though I lament the loss of the marketing statement: "Includes 31 illustrations, maps and charts".

While I still prefer to play my mashup of Basic, Expert and Advance D&D, the benefits of 3.5 outweigh any negatives. If I were doing a one shot or something and didn't have anything in specific in mind, this would be my rule set.

4 of 5 stars.

You can grab a digital copy from DriveThruRPG for less than 10 bucks. Or head over to Amazon for a physical copy, I suggest you shop around for a good price over there. This one is too expensive. The link below is a paid ad and will take you to Amazon.com. 



It is also available at Alibris.com.


Friday, December 27, 2019

"You're the scum of the Sector!" Star Smuggler Review

Title: Star Smuggler
Credits:
   Designer: Dennis Sustare
   Graphics Design: David Helber
   Map Art: Tom Maxwell
   Cover Painting: Bob Depew
   Edited by Arnold Hendrick
   File prep for online publication: Eric Hanuise
   Digital Character Record Sheets: Ron Shirtz
Rule Set: Unique to set
Year: 1982
Pages: 24 Page Rules Booklet, 20 Page Events Booklet
Number of characters: Solo adventure, many characters.
Rating: ★★★★

This game has a story to start the story. I came by my physical set back in the late 80s and loved it ever since.

But for the publishers, designer and author, the story was a bit more rocky. I don't know all of the details, but the Publishers, Heritage and the imprint Dwarfstar had a run of popular and cool games such as Barbarian Prince, Demonlord, Outpost Gamma, and Star Viking starting in 1981. These were all in house games created by Heritage/Dwarfstar. Two games were designed and created by outside designers, Dragon Rage and Star Smuggler. Hard times hit and the company and their imprint were down but not entirely out.

In 2003, Reaper Miniatures obtained the rights to many of these games allowed them to be reproduced online. (Click the link for all the games) In 2006, Dennis Sustare granted permission for limited online distribution by Dwarfstar.brainiac.com of Star Smuggler.

I snagged a photo of the game for this review. You can check out all of the art and the full game on Dwarfstar's website. I only mention this due to the Distribution Agreement at the end of this post, while the photo is probably fair use, I agree with the agreement below. Although I have a physical copy, I would like to thank Eric Hanuise for all the work in digitizing this game for online distribution.

So how does this game play? Very well for something probably designed, typeset and edited entirely by hand. You are playing "Duke" Springer, a business man turned criminal... maybe. Depends on how you roll, literally sometimes. After a quick read through the rules, you are ready to go. The rules spell out what you can do, but often not what you cannot do. That is to be expected in such a light weight game. Your character has 4 stats, hand to hand, ranged combat rating, endurance and cunning. All characters have the first 3, while only Duke has cunning. Cunning allows Duke to outsmart other characters and enemies.

To play, you write out your character stats, money and inventory on a sheet of paper. Recently, I don't know when, Ron Shirtz published a character record sheet and time tracker to make this task easier. You flip to e001 in the events book and you are off to adventure.
The future of the 80s was pink and green.
In the course of play, you can hire a crew, get in combat, buy and sell or run down many of the special events, some of which are relatively simply side quests. The goal is to pay off your debt on your starship, a total of 120,000 secs. or Sector Exchange Units. Every week you have 300 secs. interest payment and paying on principle doesn't reduce this amount. Back in the 80s, front-ending loans was thing, I guess.

The game has many locations where events occur and these locations are divided up in the System by planet and then planetary regions, like cities, starports, space stations, ruins, etc. It is a rather ingenious system which precludes oddities such a car dealer on a spacestation or military presence in a ruins, except for when those things would make sense in context. Travel from one area or planet to another eats a lot of game time, which is important for making those interest payments. You are totally on the clock, all the time, in this game.

Have you heard the phrase, "You need to spend money to make money"? That is totally true in this game. While it is a solo game, you need to hire a crew to be effective. And the crew gets paid, so you need to be sharp with your money.

How do you win? Pay off the ship. How do you lose? Die or lose the ship. Simple.

However, within the events booklet, there are seemingly dozens of different endings. I've never troubled to count the actual number but there are more than a few. The first time through, these auto-win, auto-lose events add flavor and spice, but on replay, they are an annoyance. Depending on your mood, you probably don't want to win or lose by a single die roll in a game that requires so many die rolls.

One of things that stands out in this game is the ever-changable scenery, the planets, tend to not so much scale as warp so you can have a very different experience on each one with the exact same mechanics. There are very few things in the game that change the mechanics, which is nice. The rules are dense, but once you have them down, they're easy to remember.

Some of the downsides to this game are many, but none of them are a deal breaker. The system has a simple but effective combat system, which is obviously lethal to participants. You can die in a shootout that leaves your crew alive, but purposeless. Game over. There are a number of cheap shot endings, which are annoying if you play frequently enough.

This game is actually complex enough to have a number of things in the middle ground as far as gameplay goes. First and foremost, there are some rather obvious things left out. You can pilot a ship, fight well and use a variety of weapons from ship guns to hand weapons. But you can't drive a skimmer, the 1980s' future version of a car. Skills can't increase, except Cunning. Combat is deadly in a vacuum, but can you depressurize your ship? Not covered, at least not as a purposeful action. Can you have two ships?

One of the stranger bits is the concept of "losing". There are a few events which specifically cause a lose condition, like death or imprisonment, but there are a number of ways to lose everything except your character. Is that a loss? Don't know. Without a ship, you can't do much, but you also have less of a chance of dying. So you can have series of lingering "not winning" scenarios.

There is a difference between the physical books and the digital files. Eric Hanuise remastered many of the confusing typos right out of the books, and incorporated all of the errata into the text. Thank you, Mr. Hanuise. The physical boxed set also had counters printed on the box cover edge. That did nothing for the box, which was sturdy before I cut it. Again, the counters have been reproduced and even improved. The ability to print as many counters as you like is wonderful, but I find myself using random counters.

The main upside of a programmed solo adventure is that it is always there for you. The big downside is, if you are a creature of habit, you can get yourself stuck in the game, repeating the same routes and sequences again and again. This isn't a limitation inherent to only Star Smuggler, it is inherent to all solo adventures.

All and all, I'd give this 4 of 5 stars even though it is one of my most prized games. It has a lot of bugs and flaws, but still worth a play or 100. Download it today.

DISTRIBUTION AGREEMENT -- PLEASE NOTE Dennis Sustare has granted permission for digitized copies of this copyrighted game to be posted for public download. The game and files are NOT released into the public domain. You MAY NOT not sell these files or charge a fee for access to them. You MAY NOT distribute these files except as authorized by Dennis Sustare. PLEASE RESPECT THE TERMS OF THIS DISTRIBUTION AGREEMENT so that these files can remain available for free download.
By downloading any files from this page you are certifying that you will abide by the terms of this distribution agreement. All of these conditions must be posted prominently and openly on any page or site providing access to these files.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

OSRIC Module Review - M06 The Warren

Title: SM06 The Warren
Code: SM-06
Author: Simon Miles
Rule Set: OSRIC
Year: 2019
Pages: 79
Number of characters: 6-10 characters
Levels: 5-8
Rating: ★★★★★

Today, I downloaded Simon Miles' SM06 The Warren. He publishes under the name Dunromin University Press, which has it's own website. I found it to be an excellent read even though I play a fused version of Basic D&D and AD&D, the OSRIC information seemed completely transparent in purpose. I don't think this particular module fits with my current campaign, it is clearly an homage to Keep on the Borderlands. I could totally use this as a high level one shot.

Oh, and the artwork is amazing.

The production values are just as high in this book as SM00, this module is loaded with artwork and maps. The maps seem to be a fusion of old school and modern styles, where I actually can't tell if they are wholly digital or a mixed media. One addition that this module has is little vignettes of the dungeon map by the text descriptions. These are obvious digital, but a very nice feature. Again, I really like his maps.

This module takes the party through the Burning Woods to the goblin heaven or haven of The Warren. The adventures start off with mere rumors and weapons to start their adventures. The maps cover miles and miles of terrain and the multi-leveled Warren. The module is 79 pages with zero filler.

Mr Miles describes this module as "challenging". After a read through it, that is an accurate assessment, but we're talking normal challenging, not Tomb of Horrors total party kill-fest. Additionally, Mr. Miles adds in tactics and weapons for the Goblin pack, which is a great bonus.

I am not sure what to make of the World of Barnaynia as yet, I feel that these modules under that banner are easily modified to plug and play anywhere, which is why a ranked these modules as high as I did. I would like to see and understand more of the World of Barnaynia, so I await more materials.

ORSIC Module Review - SM12 The Trials of a Young Wizard

Title: SM12 The Trials of a Young Wizard
Code: SM-12
Author: Simon Miles
Rule Set: OSRIC
Year: 2019
Pages: 48
Number of characters: 4-8 Characters, one must be a magic user.
Levels: 1-2
Rating: ★★★★★

A little while ago, I downloaded Simon Miles' SM00 A Traveller's Atlas of Dunromin and the Land of the Young. He publishes under the name Dunromin University Press, which has it's own website. I found it to be an excellent read even though I play a fused version of Basic D&D and AD&D, the OSRIC information seemed completely transparent in form and function. I feel like I could run this campaign setting with a couple of rule sets with little modification. Oh, and the artwork was spectacular.

I wanted to see how the rest of the series holds up so I downloaded SM 12, The Trials of a Young Wizard. The production values are just as high in this book as SM00, however, being a module, it doesn't show off Mr. Miles' artwork as much. The maps seem to be a fusion of old school and modern styles, where I actually can't tell if they are wholly digital or a mixed media.

One of the surprises in this book is the fact that it's a single module, it's actually 3 books in one. The titles are The Lost Son, The Return of the Cauldron of Millent and Murder at the Red Barn. Nice! Key information for the DM is bolded and the text boxes are infrequent and spare so that a seasoned DM has space to add flavor while giving a new DM important info to grow from.

The stories are linear from one adventure to the other, but the wording leaves wiggle room so that players can have their PCs recover between them. The second adventure begins with the line, "It's not a big deal really". So, feel free to recharge those PCs with a little R&R.

The mechanics of each story or module in this three part set take into account the character's limitations. The first is not particularly dangerous, figuring the PCs are low hit point starters. I would think that seating 8 players at the table would work better, and I am glad to see the module assumes this from the get go. One of the biggest changes from Basic D&D to modern rules is the assumption that there will only be a DM and 4 players vs. a DM and any number of players plus their NPC retainers. This is one of the reasons I prefer OSR and the older original stuff to the otherwise fine rules of later editions.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Nice Set of Dice from Amazon.com and A Book From DriveThruRPG

"Dad, guess what," said Nathan.
"What?" I asked.
"We have a D&D club at school!" he answered. 
"You are such a nerd," his sister, Catherine said. 
Guess what I order. Dice for everyone! These KUUQA dice come in a pack of six sets, each individually wrapped and six dice bags. 


It's a really nice set of dice for 13 bucks. The links below are paid ads and will take you to Amazon.com and DriveThruRPG, respectively. 



If you are looking for a Christmas gift, you are too late. 

So let's move on to something better than these dice. Let's talk Simon Miles' SM00 A Traveller's Atlas of Dunromin and the Land of the Young published by Dunromin University Press. Set in the world of World of Barnaynia but is easily adaptable to any type of campaign. The city maps are gorgeous and go on and on. As soon as time permits, I will do a full review of this product. I have to say I love it.

This title is pay what you want. I chipped in a dollar, but I think I will either have to go back and bump that up or purchase more products from Dunromin University Press.


Sunday, December 15, 2019

Game Review - G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T.: Glorious Adventures in Science Loosely involving Generally Historical Times

Title:  G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T.: Glorious Adventures in Science Loosely involving Generally Historical Times
Author: Christopher Palmer and John R. "Buck" Surdu
Rule Set: G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T.
Year: 1984
Pages: 36
Number of Players: 2+
Rating: ★★★★★

I stumbled across this 2000 printing of  G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T., a game of Victoria hi-jinx. On the first reading, it strikes me as a Victorian era Striker game. You create your hero, his extras, etc. and then go off to encounter something. It could be just like Chainmail with a few differences.

It's decidedly different. You'd think that the rules revolve around the hero but you'd be wrong. All that nonsense stops at page 7 when you get to design vehicles. The meat of the system revolves around modular system to create vehicles, monsters, and other contraptions right of the serials of the 1860s. It's nuts! Steampowered villains against dragoons and kung-fu powered fighters? Go for it!

I love it.

Now for this game, you'll want oodles and oodles of minis. It'd be expensive, except the rules seem to assume that you obtained your kit from the 99 cent store. Bags of dinosaurs, robots, spaceships, cars, tanks and those weird erector set want-a-be things from Dollar Tree would do nicely. You can match your designs to your minis which is awesome.

Once you have designed and assembled your minions, you need to build a deck of cards. This feature reminds me of The Sword and The Flame. The deck controls who goes when. Nerve racking. The system proceeds down the order of battle: card draw, morale, shooting/throwing, move, reload, lather, rinse, repeat.

The rules are simple, because things get hectic fast. The links below are paid ads and will take you to Amazon.com and DriveThruRPG, respectively.

While I have reviewed the original set here on These Old Games, you can obtain a completely updated set over at DriveThruRPG. The Compendium runs 190 pages, which is quiet an update from 36. If you want the 36 page set, check out Amazon. (It lists 40 pages, which includes the covers, and the inside covers which are also packed with information. I went by the actual numbered pages.)

The links below are paid ads and will take you to Amazon.com and DriveThruRPG, respectively.

You should also check out Buck's webpage. It's old school awesome.

Oh, G-d damn. It's always the scale and basing with you people. Movement for infantry 6" and for cavalry is 12". Looks like HO, 28 mm, 1/72, 1/76 or something like that. Formations are wavy lines and blobs, so basing doesn't matter except perhaps for one figure per base.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Cleaning up and decorating

I'm cleaning up after making a mess with styrofoam this morning and getting some artwork ready for my new game room. Little touches right now. 


This is a book by Nate Treme and you can get it from his website. I am not sure if there are any physical copies left, but you can print your own. It's great, check out my review, here.

Right now, I just caught a newsflash that The Midderlands Expansion by Monkey Blood is free today. I was going to take a pass on it, but the article mentions that it contains a new map. Ah... more artwork for my game room. Check it out, but hurry!

Monday, November 11, 2019

SimEarth

SimEarth is one of those classic sandbox games, something with a charm that is ageless. I finally found my box and installed it on an old G4 Sawtooth Mac. It turns out that I am very rusty at all of this, so it will be a while before I do a review and some gameplay videos.

Here is a 90 second clip of the software in action.


I was concerned about this old Mac's specs, so I updated it a bit. I have max memory and four hard drives. Unfortunately, I can't seem to run OS 7 on this and don't believe OS 8 will run either. Time will tell.



Monday, November 4, 2019

A Fascinating Idea - Elthos

I've been looking at ElthosRPG. I can't say I understand it at the moment, but it looks awesome. Elthos has two titles at DriveThruRPG, Elthos RPG Core Essentials Rules Book and Elthos RPG Core Rules Book. The Essentials is a slimdown, speedy set while the Core Rules are the full Monty of Elthos.

What is even better is the Mythos Machine. VB Wyrde has written a whole website to allow users to tag up the Elthos ruleset against a crazy detailed world and character builder. Oh, that is so wrong. It does so much more. I just signed up for the Beta myself and can't wait to start digging. The depth is incredible. It is like nothing I have ever seen.

I am a 100%, A#1 D&D type guy, but these alternate rulesets really call to me. There is this interplay of what D&D does and the core concepts which could be reinterpreted. Elthos and Mythos Machine do both amazingly well.

I talk about the wonderful world created by Simutronics in their Gemstone IV game. This is basically a reskinned and heavily customized version of RoleMaster. It is beautiful, but not D&D. However, like Elthos and Mythos Machine, it totally captures that sense of wonder I had when picking up that original Basic and Expert set. I wish I was older so I could say I started with something more "original", but the beauty of role playing games is that your first is your best.

Elthos gives you a chance to capture that "first set" feeling. It is unlike anything I have have ever seen, but still hearkens back to other games so I feel that sense of connection. I can't wait to dig in.

The feeling is invigorating and I have had it twice this year. Go back and check out my only 5 Gold Star review of the first product that gave me that feeling this year. I feel pretty strongly about those classic D&D games and modules, but I can only offer my thanks to the OSR community for making new products that bring back that magical feeling I had in my youth.

When I get around to reviewing Elthos and Mythos Machine, I think I will have a trifecta of 5 gold star reviews this year.

I wish I could toot my own horn like this, but the OSR community is working overtime and I'm going to have to kick it up 11 notches to be in the same league as some of the more "basic" producers.