Showing posts with label OSE. Show all posts
Showing posts with label OSE. Show all posts

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Hex Redux

I have less than 2 months to get ready for my next campaign. That is judging by the countdown to the upper right. I cannot wait for these OSE books to come in. I am kind of at the whim of shipping. 

Thankfully, I have a bunch of set pieces ready to go. My main issue is organization. I pulled my hex tiles from of a pair of giant cardboard boxes, set them up, and then packed them away in a handful of clear plastic totes. 

As you can see to the right, they weren't very organized. Some of the smaller parts don't lend themselves to orderly packing. I haven't solved that problem yet but I will get to that someday, hopefully soon. 

I moved an extra table to the middle of the room so we have enough space to use them. Now in this demonstration, I set up as many tiles as I wanted. It was overkill and I wouldn't actually do that for gameplay. 

I have a nice wooden table with two leaves in it. The leaves allow my players some elbow room. I will have to get more chairs and maybe a rolling storage bin to help clear the clutter. 

One of the nice things about this set of tiles is the quick set up. Each piece has a slot for a biscuit cut into the edge. When wargaming, this feature is a must. Pushing figures and rulers around invariably shifts the tiles. 

Roleplaying games, not so much. A 2x2 or 3x3 section can be set up rapidly, usually while I am talking. The rough look makes the players to visualize the scenario from a homely display, with flaws and gaps filled in with imagination. Sometimes, when the players ask about certain flaws, I will pick their brains for what it could mean. 

My intention in using this sort of setup is to facilitate play, not create a complete world or map. I use some odd bits and pieces to display data. Blue paper is water, green cotton balls are trees, rocks... well, are rocks. 

I use a cord to mark out roads and paths. I can use a different color of cord for the path the players intend to take. This makes the situation interactive as the party can all work together to create the best plan. As more features become evident, I drop colored pieces of paper with notes. I have some colored plastic bits to highlight areas of note. We have cups of colored beads and blocks so players can drop things on the play surface for their own purposes. 

And of course, I can add in figures. 

Check out these images from around the table. 





At the end of the day, pack up easy. Before I clear up, I make sure to photograph the set up for my notes. 


As you can see a ridiculous amount of tiles fit in one small area of my basement, always ready to go. 

Once I start this campaign, I will keep you guys in the loop. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Antiquity Tuesday - Coinage and Brilliant Minds - February 13th

I've always wanted to write about the subject of coinage in D&D, but haven't had time to do the research until recently. And not half the research I wanted to do. 

But from what I have, I can lead with the chart from the e1 PHB:


If you are playing a game based on D&D, this chart should be familiar to you in some form or another. Two weeks ago, I wrote about what a Roman soldier would carry and got into the coin-based encumbrance system. That led to a follow-up post from Ian Borchardt on Mewe that he graciously allowed me to post here. And this morning, I spotted a post from Stephen Wendell about "Holmes on a Coin’s Weight", which covers a realistic treatment of the mass of coins. 

OSR style games really went out of their way to make a system that while idealized, is actually excellent enough to hold up for decades and decades. It's actually amazing. 

But what about Antiquity Tuesday?

One of my favorite historical personages is Diocletian. He lived from 242ish to 311ish and brought about the Crisis of the Third Century. Yes, the 3rd Century was chaotic enough that we don't know the exact years. Whole books exist about the Crisis of the Third Century, but one of the crises was the triple problems of coins, inflation, and prices. And Diocletian actually failed to fix it. But he tried. And it was a hell of a try. 

Just like in AD&D, he decided the issue could be resolved with a simplified system of just 5 coins. The system was based on a silver coin worth 100 denarii. There is some variability in these values and please forgive me, but I don't trust this table in name or values. Take it as a guideline: 

aureus 1,200 denarii 
argenteus  100 denarii
nummus (a silver-washed coin) 25 denarii 
bronze radiate 4 or 5 denarii 
copper laureate 2 denarii 

What is interesting about this order or valuation is that bronze appears as a valuable metal. Both brass and bronze are alloys of copper, and that meant that bronze age implements had an innate value due to the material that they were made of. 

When compared to the AD&D valuation, we still have five coins, but electrum and platinum appear on Mr. Gygax's list. Electrum is an alloy of silver and gold which would have been more valuable than just silver and platinum wasn't discovered by Europeans before the 1600s. They may have known about it but it wasn't described until it was discovered in the New World. 

What I find wonderful about these two lists is that both are meant to be simply used. And they are perfectly logical for the system each is attached to. 

Unfortunately, Diocletian was unable to resolve Roman's economic problems, which were many. After he reformed the coinage, he call back tons, literally tons of old coins and replaced them with new ones. The Romans understood market forces, a lack drove up prices, and a dearth dropped them. What they didn't get was the variable value of coins themselves. To a Roman, a coin was a coin, was a coin. 

I bought my first PBH for $9. Used. 
This replacement was priced $15 and
I actually paid $50ish. Uhh. Inflation.

Parallel to this, Romans understood the dangers of debasement which is why Diocletian replaced so many coins. And this was also the very reason that other emperors debased coins in secret. They knew it was playing with fire. And Diocletian believed he fixed it but he didn't call back nearly enough coins to fix a centuries-old problem. 

But this was not lost on Mr. Gygax, debased coins or washed coins show up a couple of times in modules like B2 Keep on the Borderlands

A possible explanation for this lack of vision on Diocletian and every other emperor who monkeyed with the coin system was the hands-off nature of minor transactions. Roman grew in both space and time. Diocletian was trying to fix hundreds of years of bad coins on top of not seeing the effects of how Romans used coins on a day-to-day basis. As regions were absorbed into the Empire, so was their coinage. Who cared if people bought bread with denarii-based coins or some old copper from a defeated enemy? A coin was a coin. Fixed and constant. 

He had no idea what a battle he was fighting. But Diocletian didn't accept the failure of logic or reason. He decided that the actual problem was the merchants. Those evil little price gougers were running up the prices. So he tried to put a stop to it. He penned the "Edictum de Pretiis Rerum Venalium" or "Edict Concerning the Sale Price of Goods" or when we are placing blame, "The Edict of Diocletian". 

This is one of those seminal works, like the Domesday Book. It is a list of maximum prices allowed for 1200 goods or services in denarii communes or "common coins". Unsurprisingly, it looks suspiciously similar to a gamer: 


Brilliant minds work alike. This is a totally workable system... except Diocletian had to abandon his because it simply didn't work in his world, unlike Mr. Gygax who built from the ground up. If only Diocletian could have wiped the slate clean, I bet his system would have worked as well as Mr. Gygax's. 

What is awesome about Diocletian's cataloging of items is it reveals how people in antiquity thought. We know the Romans like to have 8 soldiers together carrying 3 pilums or 3 caltrops. But when it came to quills, they wanted to have a set of 4 in a leather box. We also know that most wines were of the same value when fresh, but worth somewhat less as they age. What is notably missing from Diocletian's list is weapons. No one bought a weapon, they paid for the services of an armorer who made weapons. Oddly, sharpening a sword, an axe, and a spear appears under several different categories of services. There is a difference in the task depending on the object. 

It really is amazing that someone would think of such a system several different times for completely different purposes. For the Romans, it was life and death. For us, it's a game. 

Friday, February 11, 2022

Five Point Friday - February 11th, 2022

 

Welcome to this week's Five Point Friday. This one will be a quick stroll through to current events to memory lane. 

Point 1 - This week, the kids and I have really dug into Todd Leback's Hexcrawl books. We've got a couple of purposes in this. I personally want to run a hexcrawl. My son wants to run a campaign as a DM. My daughter wants to play with tokens and slay creatures. And if you are using Into the Wild or The Basilisk Hills Ultimate, you can do all of these things. 

I'll circle back to this at the end. 


Point 2: I am reminded of all of the wonderful coffee table books of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. To see unicorns through Robert Vavra's eye. Or take a flight with F-Stop Fitzgerald, in airplanes, or on the back a gargoyle. These books sparked so many creative flights of fancy in my youth, I love them. I spent hours looking at them. And I couldn't help it, I had one. My parents-aunts-uncle-grandma and neighbor had one. These photo books offered something for everyone.  

They often show up at thrift stores and garage sales because tons of people had them for decades. You can also take a look for them over on AbeBooks. 

Robert Vavra on AbeBooks.com.
F-stop Fitzgerald on AbeBooks.com.

Point 3 - I'm still in fantasy mode. Back in my youth, I recall spending hours looking over the Columbia House flyer for tapes, CDs, and records. I could have six for a penny. Or if I could find just two more for $2.99 each, I could have 8! If only all I had demanded vinyl back then. 

And back then, I would struggle to find just 6 or 8 items to select, month after month. Sometimes, I would team up with friends and family to make these never-to-be redeemed selections. 

It happened a lot. 

Now we have Pandora, Amazon, and Youtube music on top of Netflix, Disney+, Discovery+... Plus... Plus... Plus. I can hardly pick what I want to watch or listen to for all the great choices. 

It's often too much. I have to force myself to remember how happy some things make me (Van Halen or Def Leppard) or how good Led Zepplin is. 

What is missing from all of these choices is the not choice. The magic of having a friend play Peter Gabriel to me. Or Ella Fitzgerald. Or my dad rocking out to Chuck Berry. Music, and to some extent TV and movies have become a sadder, more personalized activity. 

Point 4: Facebook is dying, so I will no stay on that platform. More importantly, 38% of my visitors come to my site via a bookmark or manually typing the address. 

Well. Thank you 38%. That is amazing. Apparently I am doing something right and providing content that people desire. I guess that means that I can forget Twitter because it doesn't even appear. Best of all, I can actually kickback on Mewe and Dice.Camp and simply enjoy the content that they provide to me. 

Point 5: Eric Tenknar has this excellent piece on The Dungeoneer's Survival Guide on Youtube. This was not a good direction for e1 in some respects. And excellent in others. In B/X and Holmes, the thief was the gamebreaker. He had individual skills no one else could have. The Dungeoneer's Survival Guide kicked it up a notch or ten. 

I love the idea of a character having some sort of professional, non-combat related skills. Hell, I wrote a book on it. The difficultly is, AD&D e1 has a very hard time with ordering events in normal gameplay like combat. Like when and how to roll initiative is badly handled. Adding more die rolls for other points and times in play is going to be bad under e1. 

I didn't have this book wayback then or even now. I wasn't a huge fan of most of the stuff from UA and the Survivial Guide was worse. I took what I needed and ditched the rest. You can see this in my Character Sheet on DriveThruRPG. . 

I honestly think that people are writing materials along the lines of the Survival Guide. We just call it hexcrawling. B/X is a good place to land unified rolling mechanics for events and activities, so long as those rolls are very simular to other well established die rolls. A save, a to hit roll, an ability check or a plain-old 100% die. This is the strength of B/X. No new mechanics, just one of the old mechanics reused. 

Well, that is it for Friday. Have a great weekend. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Hexcrawling Tiny Hacks and Secret Rolls

Now that I have two sessions of a hexcrawl down, I thought I would share some tiny hacks and secret rolls happening. 

The first is using The White Box by Atlas Games for tracking purposes. In my last post, I used meeples for character tokens, reserving the red ones for opponents. 


Meeples are little figure tokens. The White Box is loaded with all kinds of cool stuff for gaming. If $30 is too rich for you, try a search for used on Abebooks. The White Box by Jeremy Holcomb on Abebooks.com. 

Using tokens for the party enables the players to see basic information without turning the Theater of the Mind into a game like Car Wars or something. The players were able to determine the approximate range and distance to targets and come up with plans for dealing with problems. 

Normally, I would grab whatever tokens were on hand for the players: a chess set, a Risk game, dice, etc., but I had other ideas for the tools in The White Box. 

Old School Essentials has a great item-based encumbrance system. You can download the rules and tracking sheets here. The quick gist of the rules is you can have 2 items in your hands plus 10 items in a pack and still move at 120'. Two more items drop you to 90" and so on. 


Since the majority of the stuff my players are carrying is not their personal property and also consumables like food, I had them use the small blocks from the set to figure it out. Green is the full 120" movement while yellow means 90", red is 60" and 30" is black. By doing this visually, the players were able to visualize picking items up from a pile of gear and load up their boots. 

I also have a few environmental hacks to help me DM my first hexcrawl. Since the players are on the Island of Sardinia, I have simply googled the weather in Palau, Sardinia. Todd Leback's Into the Wild has some great rules for generating weather, but this is one less thing for me to track. I'm 99.99% certain that Mr. Leback didn't expect someone to use his book to hexcrawl a real-world place, so there is that. 

The characters are also experiencing some other things not included in the session reports. Since they are on a grassy plain, their line of sight extends to the sea. Every time they enter a hex in a direction that faces the sea, I roll a 1d20. On a 1, they spot something in the water. 1 and 6 is their ship, 2 and 5 is a different ships and finally, 3 and 4 are one of those dreaded sea serpents. Additionally, once per hex, I allow the party to actively search for The Zypher. The only difference is they roll a 1d20 instead of me. Should this come up after I make my secret roll, I will override my roll with the party's die roll. 

This puts some agency in their powers of observation and planning. Quite a few times, a ship has passed by but it wasn't their ship. They seem to appreciate that detail because they are not ready to give up their quests, but if they did, the real civilized world calls. 

I cannot tell you how pleased I am with this collection of rules, from Todd Leback's Into the Wild to the hardcover of OSE's Rules Tome. This is my new favorite combo. Good thing too, because it looks like they'll have another kickstart campaign coming soon

Session 2 - Bounty on the Beach and a Ghoulish Discovery

Session two covered two days, which brings us to the 3rd day on the island. We break off from the action at midday of day 3. 

The party rested up uneventfully the first night and is trying to figure out what to do next. Not having horses has them hamstrung. They have too much equipment to carry and some of it like the saddles is pointless to take along with them. Bartholomew, Masha, Alex, and the two sailors are charged with determining what will go and what will stay. 

While they are busy with that, the rest of the party splits up into two teams, red and blue. Red Team is the Cleric Garven and William the Ranger. Alice the Elf, Rolf the Fighter, and Gerwinder the Paladin make up Blue Team. They decide to ditch most of their gear and set out exploring to the south by two different routes. 

And much to my embarrassment, I realized that I accidentally set up the party on the map of Sardinia, not Corsica. I scrolled too far south. Oh... I'll just roll with it.  

Each small hex is 1.2 miles and the weather is good. It's been cloudy and warm for winter, in the 60s (or 16° C). Since this map is based on a real place, I have simply been looking at the real weather in Palau, Sardinia. Why reinvent the wheel?  

Red Team moves to the grasslands at a slow pace. On the way south, they encounter nothing. Blue Team moves down the beach and onto the grasslands. The blue team has an animal encounter right away. They notice two strange-looking donkeys or mules following them. They are unable to approach them too closely but determine they must be some sort of feral ponies. 

On the way home, Red Team encounters Ezekiel the warhorse. The animal can speak to humans but is rather closed-lipped about how he got there. As the two teams return to camp, an odd thing happens. The feral ponies start to follow Ezekiel. The warhorse advises the Paladin that there is a herd of ponies and he has been trying to avoid the beasts since he got here. 

That of course begs the question of how he got here. 

Ezekiel tells the party that the horse sling fell overboard as the sailors tried to take it down. Two sailors went in the water with it. The horse jumped in to rescue them. Having done his duty honorably, he was annoyed when the men walked off northwest. 

Back at camp, everyone greets their newest adventurer. Bartholomew and the sailors are super excited to see the extra pack animals and tried to lasso one of the ponies. The thief took a kick to the chest for his trouble. 

While Garvin quickly ministers Barth's chest injury, Alex, Alice and William assess the ponies. They are too small to ride and too skittish to capture. It's an odd standoff as the ponies seem to be attracted to Ezekiel but too scared to approach the adventurers. 

The party settles in for night two on the island, no further along than when they landed. But they discover quite a few things about each other. It turns out that both sailors were rowers elevated to seamen. Sammy likes to fish and the George likes to whittle. They were leading the mules because neither is very adept at seamanship, yet. 

Ezekiel shares that the other two sailors took off towards the northwest. Gerwinder explains that the horse is being literally accurate. The last time the horse saw them, they probably walked exactly direction up the beach. 

Alex discovers that Sammy and Alice can sing and the music brings the ponies closer. Alice was able to toss some fruit at them and they tolerated it. Once to food was gone and the music stopped, they retreated. They hope the routine will tame the ponies, but they have their doubts. 

The day three plan has the party moving westward and then south. It wasn't the plan, but the two missing sailors are without food and water. Also, the party has more food than they can easily carry. The Ranger and Theif want to hang it in a tree. They can see the foliage of shrubs and small trees to the southwest. They'll be moving pretty slowly due to the load, but if they can find the other sailors, they can share their supplies and load. If not, they'll cache the extra food. 

I am using the item-based encumbrance tracker for OSE. The party is trying to tote their personal gear, two tents, and 24 saddlebags full of extra food and supplies. I've decided that each individual saddlebag is a little smaller than a backpack so two together are about the size of 1 and 1/2 backpacks. Each mule can carry 4 or one of the tents. Ezekiel can carry two saddlebags and a rider. 

Before setting out, they fill the rowboat with the saddles, extra baggage cover it with the tent, and rope it down. The sailors were great at this. 

They have 24 saddlebags. The equines are carrying 10, the two sailors are carrying 4. That leaves 10 extra bags. They leave the remainder at the campsite with the intention of reaching the stand of trees and shrubs by midday. This should leave time for them to cache some food in a tree and return for the rest. However, the party is of the opinion they may not want to or have to. 

They make it 3.5 of the 5 miles to the shrublands before trouble occurs. William spots footprints leading south. He gleans that two men passed through the area at a run. The terrain is undulating, so they don't see anyone in the distance even though it's grasslands. 

In a low spot, Ezekiel freezes and Misha lets out a shout of warning before unleashing a magic missile. Five men are approaching from behind the party, the magic missile strikes the first to little effect. Alice, Barth, and Alex pull their bows and step in front of Misha. The sailors form a second barrier between Misha and the attackers. The 4 fighter types have to turn around and rush back to defend the rear of the party, with Gerwinder and Ezekiel looping wide to avoid missile fire. 

In the first round, a flurry of arrows and missiles hits three of the men, but none drop. They are approaching fast. Misha and Barth with the two sailors start backpedaling. Alice advances with Rolf, Alex, Garvin and, William. The Paladin is just out of striking range. 

In the second round, the Paladin surges forward and slashes one of the men. As one, they turn on her. As the party rushes to her aid she yells out, "Ghouls!" Since all of the ghouls have attacked, the party runs straight into them. They down 3 ghouls as the horse stands over Gerwinder. 


Round three starts in a tie for the initiative. Alice barks, "Get back!" but no one listens. Alex and Barth have moved to each side hoping to angle an arrow into the ghouls next round. Everyone gets hit. All of the ghouls are down, but Rolf flops to the ground paralyzed moments after the last ghoul falls. 


Bartholomew makes an executive decision and unloads the tent mule so that Rolf and Gerwinder can be carried to the shrublands. He will stand guard over it with Alice. Once the party makes camp, they can come back for them. Garvin the Cleric makes only one change to this declaration, he will also stay with the Theif and Elf. 

This brings us to midday of day 3. We'll pick back up next session. 

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Session 1 - A Very Bad Day at the Beach

I have the party all set. There are eight 4th level characters. The quick details are: 

  1. William, Ranger
  2. Gerwinder, Paladin
  3. Alex, Bard
  4. Rolf, Fighter
  5. Misha, Magic User
  6. Garvin, Cleric
  7. Alice, Elf
  8. Bartholomew, Theif

Their goal is to land on the beach of the island and move south, tracing the shoreline. They are looking for furred animals, freshwater sources, and any trails or paths that hint at the location of the shrine of Terminus. Their ship, the Zephyr will check in on them from time to time. The captain of the ship has found a nice place to put the explorers down, a rock shelf with very shallow water. Due to the wind and currents, the captain has to put the starboard side of the ship closest to land. 

The party briefly explored the beach while a group of 4 sailors brought their gear to shore using a large rowboat. Two of the sailors were left on the shore to watch the gear while everyone else waded out to the ship to help with the mules and horses. 

The ship used a sling to lower 4 mules down to the water. It took two people to settle the mules and get them wading ashore. Gerwinder and Rolf awaited the first horse, Ezekiel the warhorse to be lowered to the water. 

At that moment, the crew on the deck sees a surge of water coming towards them. There are sea serpents bearing down on the party in the water. 


Since no one is surprised due to the range, the captain bellows orders to raise the anchor and drop the oars in the water. Bedlam ensues because of the men in the water near the ship, the horses on the deck and the sling is still in the way of the oars. Only the port-side rowers get into the water. The ship is backward with the port side facing out to sea. 

The party loses the first round of initiative. The first sea serpent lashes out at the third mule but accidentally bites a sailor between it and the mule. Satiated, it turns away as the party is knocked to and fro. The first two mules make for the beach taking Garvin the Cleric and Bartholomew the Theif with them. Masha is pushed away by surge while the fourth mule and Elf use the same push to move away from the beasts.  

The Ranger, Fighter, Paladin, and Bard splash forward to meet the second sea monster with swords. Everyone else tries to get out of the water with the mules. 


The party loses initiative again and the sea serpent tries to devour the mule. The mule takes 4 points of damage and cannot land a hit. Only Rolf and Alex are in range to strike and manage to roll a 20 and 19, doing a total of 11 points of damage. 


The Serpent is hell-bent on taking the mule and stays in place giving Gerwinder and William time to close. It mistakes the sailor as an attacker and bites him. Onboard the ship, the captain gets the crew moving and the ship rows backward and sideways a bit.  


The mule thrashes away while the serpent finishes off the sailor. The Bard and Ranger miss, while the Paladin hits with another 20 for 7 more points of damage. Rolf barely manages to hit but rolls enough damage to kill the sea serpent. The first serpent has disappeared in the distance while the third is confused by the thrashing oars and combat. 


The last sea serpent rushes behind the party and they manage to wack it a few times. 


The sea serpent manages to grab the mule but takes a series of fatal blows for its effort. 

The tired party stumbles ashore. While not mentioned in the above notes, the party has taken minor damage from being battered by the surf. They don't have a lot of good options as the ship has pulled back away from the shelf. The first sea serpent is circling the corpses in the water. No one wants to wander out there and the ship doesn't have any weaponry. The crew does have slings and bows, but the crew is not confident in their own abilities considering the serpent could attack the ship and sink it. The bard and ranger have taken a couple of potshots with arrows, but it's ineffective. 

The captain and the explorers have a frustrating shouting conversation across the water. The explorers will take the two sailors with them south. They will leave the horses on the ship. The party takes stock of its resources and realizes how lucky they were. No one was wearing armor in that fight. 

They have their supplies, three mules, and two extra sailors in tow. The mules were meant to carry two large tents, water, and food, plus some equipment like lanterns, oil, firewood, and a handful of spears. Additionally, they have 8 saddles, 8 saddlebags full of supplies, and a rowboat. It's beginning to look like they have too much stuff. 

They decide to set a watch for the afternoon and set up one 8 man tent for the night. Since there are two extra members of the party, setting watches is easy and the night passes uneventfully. 

By morning, things are looking better. Bartholomew, Alex, and the two sailors have cobbed together a 3 or 4 man tent out of horse blankets, a pair of reasonably serviceable backpacks from some saddlebags, and hatched a plan to cache the saddles and extra supplies with one of the two 8 man tents. 

Two serpents are circling in the sea. Maybe more because the corpses are all gone. The ship nowhere to be seen.  

Also on the downside, someone has named all of the mules Barth-a-mule. The Bard pointed at the Paladin and she muttered an ungodly oath that it wasn't her. She also roundly curses her armor and the lack of a horse. These are real problems, she can't walk fast in plate armor and they have far too much gear for 10 men and 3 mules to carry easily. 

The Cleric, Theif, and Bard urge the party to stay in place one more day and night while they try to get a handle on all of the gear they have to transport.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Five Point Friday - January 28th, 2022

Today's Five Point Friday is history-themed. 

Point 1: I picked up copy of Necrotic Gnome's Old School Essentials. I love this version of B/X. It was offered as a Kickstarter a long time a go. I happily picked up a copy at a local store, but really want the whole set. 

Well, now it will be available via Kickstarter near the end of Feburary. I can't wait to get my hands on the whole deal. I had thought it would happen some day in 2019 or 2020. 2021 was too challenging to me. But now in 2022, I will get my hard copy.  

Point 2: OSE features dozens of charcter classes including gnomes, elves, duergar, and svirfnevlin. 

Did you know that in Iceland, these types of creatures are called the Huldufolk, the hidden people? Nearly 50% of the population currently believe that the Huldufolk might exist. 

It isn't just a hokey belief, they actually redirected road construction to avoid a Huldufolk settlement. There is something dangerous about the Huldufolk. That danger apparently doubles when you introduce machinery into the mix. Dynomite is apparently right out. 

Here is an interesting article from the BBC on the Huldufolk. If you want something more polished, check out the Lore podcast episode 5, "Under Construction." Researched, written, and produced by Aaron Mahnke, it details the same events of the BBC article.


A imagined likeness of Lars
Posena from 1500 AD
Point 3: Lars Porsena, King of Clusium. As an Etruscan king, most of Lars Porsena's history comes to us via the Romans. We know that King Porsena lived in what would become the modern city of Chiusi, he minted coins with his likeness and we might know where his tomb is. So, he was a real person. 

But the Romans played him out like an evil villain most of the time. 

The Roman were excellent narrators of history, however they are not without their flaws. Rome was sacked by the Gauls on July 18th, 390 BC. It was a Thursday. This sacking destroyed the historial records of the Romans and allowed future historians to rewrite their own history as they saw fit. They modified their humble beginings to mirror the Greeks and not surprisingly, these "historical" stories make the Romans the first of all people to do anything of note. 

Since Lars Porsena was around about 200 years before the first sack of Rome, he has become "unhitched" in time. We don't know when Porsena really ruled, but the Romans tell us it about 508 BC. Maybe on a Friday. But probably not. 

This is an Ertuscia coin. Note the Janus like head.
It's called a dupondius and the Romans used it, too. 

One of the funny things about history and Lars Porsena is how little people change over time. Lars appears on Rome's doorstep in support of the deposed Roman king, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus. The Romans had shifted to a republic due to the Tarquinian king's poor conduct. The Romans seriously hated all kings after him, King Lars Porsena included. 

There is the epic story of Gaius Mucius Scaevola, a Roman citizen hell bent on breaking Lars Porsena's seige of Rome. Gaius was an assassin, a would be King-Slayer. 

Here is where it gets funny. Gaius arrived in the seige camp ready for murder. However, being about 500 BC, he didn't have a picture of the king. He had no idea who he was after. Since this was payday, King Lars dispatched his paymaster to distribute cash and prizes. And as per normal, this paymaster was dressed as King Lars. 

Wait? What? 

The King forced a follower to dress like him and watched that person distribute paychecks, to make sure that his minions were suitably appreacative of the pay they had worked so hard to earn. Only to be rewarded with the scene of his imposter-king paymaster getting knifed to death by someone in the crowd. 

Has anyone seen The Office? This is exactly something Michael would do. My PCs would totally do this. D&D, Star Frontiers, doesn't matter. My players would wack the wrong guy for fun. 

This is why I love history so much. The story is supposed to be about the evil of kings, the heroism and determination of the Romans, the love of the Eternal City, yada-yada-yada. 

Instead, if you turn the story a tiny bit, you get comedy and humor. Which was probably not lost on the Romans themselves. 

Point 4: I resevered Point 4 for Sci-fi. So, I would be remiss if I didn't mention episode 5 of the Book of Boba Fett. This is hands down the best episode of the series. Because it is missing all of the main characters. I couldn't like it more for that. You can skip every episode up to the Fifth Episode and be fine with it. 

Point 5: Something about nothing at all... hmm. I've rambled enough I think. At some point, you just need to end a good yarn. 

Friday, June 4, 2021

Review of Into the Wild (Kickstarter Complete!)

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.) 

Title: Into the Wild
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.
Year: 2021
Pages: 216
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. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

Review - Hexcrawl Basics by Todd Leback

Publisher: Old-School Essentials
Author: Todd Leback (Link to Patreon)
Artists, Interior: Bruno Balixa, Dean Spencer, Rick Hershey of Fat Goblin Games, Jack Holliday, Matt Forsyth, Matthew Richmond
Cover Art: Jen Drummond
Year: 2019
Pages: 24 pages
Rating: 5 of 5 stars


My first 3 reviews were on a single series of novels. I most recently reviewed How to Hexcrawl. I like the idea of series reviews or fits, but for awhile I'll be limiting myself to pairs of related titles. These are not comparisons, but singular reviews. 

Here is my usual warning, this book is written for OSE but it is easily adaptable and applicable to other systems with little to no modification. If you had a dungeon and you moved the characters outside, this book would be of use to you. 

This title starts with a definition of a hexcrawl, which is a very economical start. This is one of many books on the subject by the author, every concept is very tight owing to Mr. Leback's great experience on the subject. The first section covers the hex and the player's purpose in these hexes and the process to be followed. Artwork is used not only as mere art, but Worldographer maps exemplify what the author spells out. Todd Leback's use of art is excellent. 

Chapter two and three cover features and lairs found in hexes and subhexes plus random encounters. The next two sections cover procedural events, weather and getting lost, which are big part of the hexcrawl experience. 

The final chapter is an extended example of the hexcrawl process in action. It nicely loops back to the beginning of the book and marches the reader all the way to the end without missing a beat. I suppose that the book could have been written without this extended section, but would be a lesser work. The example perfects this book. 

Three caveats about this book. The artwork is very nice but does not print well on plain paper. The only way to get a nice copy of this book is to print on extreme quality on great paper. It is totally worth it, take the effort and time to do it right.  

Second, there is a small link to Mr. Leback's Patreon. Blink and you'll miss it, so I have placed it here. I normally don't do that, but the link to Populated Hex was almost too unobtrusive. (EDIT - There is also a Kickstarter coming soon. I've never gone in on a Kickstarter, but this might be the one to start with.)

I was tempted to make this a 4.5 of 5 starts but the example and the excellent artwork kicks it up one more level. Especially if you print it nicely. I was drawn to this title and series by the cover art, which I love.