Showing posts with label OSR. Show all posts
Showing posts with label OSR. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons

Boxed sets are my gateway drug


I generally don't do 5th Edition reviews because I don't play 5th Edition much. There is a lot to like or dislike about 5th Edition. 

If you are just starting out, there are a ton of good reasons to jump into 5e. The main reason is rather simple. It's approachable and readily available to the new player. The artwork and mechanics are great and they are nice set of rules for this day and age. My son loves it and has started his gaming collection with new set of rules, which I purchased for him. 

One of my reasons for not using it is, I have collection of books going back to the Red Box set and beyond. My interest started with the Chainmail rules and expanded from there. I've filled bookshelves with games I will never play. I have an intuitive understanding of what all the major rules are in these sets. Yet another edition of games really doesn't add to what I have. 

E5, Labyrinth Lord and BECMI?
Your not kidding, eh.
The fact is, if you started at point x, you probably already an inkling of what rules x+1 would do to your gameplay. Way back in AD&D, I already had the concept of Feats and Skills as a house rule. I am not some sort of illuminary predicting the changes of the rules. Nearly everyone who played an older edition of D&D foresaw the power of the mechanics and started making changes to their gameplay as house rules. Many of these changes became standard features of the new editions. And many house rules didn't pass muster and were left behind. Here is a list of my house rules, most of which are dubious. 

As of this post, I am at 1030 post on fun and games. Lately, I've been exploring 5th Edition wondering which of any of these things will become the next generation's Red Box, Keep on the Borderlands or Isle of Dread. 

I have no idea, but I'd like to explore. And I hope you will join me. In the next series of posts, I'll be reviewing some of the 5th Edition rules. I figure this will run its course in less than 10 posts or less than 1% of everything else I've written. Because, I am that numbers guy.  

Friday, June 4, 2021

Draft 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. 

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. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Inspiration

When I was 10 or 12, Dungeons and Dragons was a big thing but the content was fairly limited. Not just the sheer number of modules, but the tone and such were limited by the player's personal preferences. Out of dozens choices only a handful leave an impression. Face it, it's really a chocolate, vanilla or strawberry choice. We like what we like for no other reason. 

This creates a cycle were the player was introduced to the module, then they presented the module as a DM to replay. The story gains additional replayability through this introducing it to others. I can repeat by placing a twist on the source material so that it is disguised. By the time you have your own kids, you see the cycle start again. It is very much like some beloved concept such as drawing, woodworking, camping, Disney, etc. to be passed down.  

The activity is the same, but different depending on where you are in the cycle. This naturally leads to the idea of maps, guides, handbooks, t-shirts. I find it amusing that there could or would be some sort of insignia, brochure or mission patch for an old module because the are simply loved and repeated. 

That is the source of inspiration for these images and my love of the OSR. 


The difference between 6 and 10 is not very great in terms of time, so I recall my bedroom decorated with classic Disney posters, 60's and 70's baseball pennants and other object de art which were done in these odd colors and styles. It's no wonder that I have associate these images with those conjured by D&D. 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

OSR OCD. Witches Brew.

Back in my campaign on the Peninsula of Plenty, I had a coven of witches. These characters were straight up magic users that operated with a pack like mentality and a specific political goal. In order to give them enough power to stand toe to toe with the party physically, they needed to be overpowered. They are 3rd, 5th and 7th level. 

Since the party was 3rd level or less, the witches operated with some serious societal restrictions. The Coven of Ash adhered to "The Old Ways", which was unrestricted authoritarian rule. Most of the Empire is not on board with this, including the Emperor. 

Their visible presence invokes terror, so they move at night or invisibly. Most of the tactics involve terrorizing people with non-attacks so as to maintain their invisibility. Say, simply surrounding a target, pinching or poking a victim is enough to scare the target into doing what they want. The Coven of Ash are not your typical witches because they're totally unbalanced. They are supporting an authoritarian regime which doesn't even exist anymore. They are basically the Sheriff of Nottingham with magic. 

It worked well enough, but now that I got my hands on Timothy S. Brannan's Witch themed books, I can see how witches can be better than mere magic users with quirks. I just have three of the books in the series: The Basic Witch: The Pumpkin Spice Witch TraditionDaughters of Darkness: The Mara Witch for Basic Era Games and Cult of Diana: The Amazon Witch for Basic Era Games

To be super honest, I was attracted to the series by the cover art of Cult of Diana and The Mara Witch but I find the one "joke" book, The Pumpkin Spice Witch to be my favorite. It's all the same author, so I don't know if it's the tone or the generic nature of the Basic Witch which appeals to me. 

I've also made the mistake of printing all three books and storing them in one binder. I find myself flipping from one to the other. I play this weirdo mashup of B/X and AD&D, so I don't really notice minor differences in purpose, which I am sure is there. 

Anyway, I am getting ready to roll up a couple of witches and introduce them into my B2 campaign. The players hopped right past the hermit and a good witch seems to a suitable, player friendly substitute.  

Current situation: Reading The Cult of Diana

I’m on laundry duty tonight. However, I’ve got a good book to read. I have Timothy S. Brannan’s The Cult of Diana - The Amazon Witch Tradition

I’m posting from my phone, so this is painful and short. 

The book is a shockingly compact 25 pages but has no lacks. It was designed for Blueholme Prentice rules, nice set of retro clone rules. The art is very nice. Ok. I love the style, but don’t want to oversell you. (I have a tendency of doing that with artwork.) Some of the art appears between the columns like newer editions of D&D, while harkening back to the old school style of first Books. Tables are neatly shaded in white and blue for maximum readability. The spells are all new and suitably themed. I was particularly taken with the spell “Surocco”. It reminds me of the Bora, a gale force wind from the Alps, which helped Theodosius' forces defeat his enemies at The Battle of the Frigidus River. It strikes me as something very preternatural something only a witch could brew up. 




Sunday, January 19, 2020

OSRx - Take That!

I honestly don't know what OSR stands for. Is it "Revival"? Is it "Renaissance"? I noticed that "Old School Rx" or "OSRx" ends in the abbreviation used by doctors for "Prescription" or more simply, "take that".

You know what you can do for the OSRx?

Right now, you can order order a charity bundle from DriveThruRPG to support those facing the fires in Australia. I've round up all 5 themes, so click away:

Fantasy Core & Settings $19.95
Starships & Posthumanity $29.95
Modern & Urban Horror $19.95
Fantasy Supplements $29.95
Capes, Grit, and Gunsmoke $19.95

EDIT January 22nd, 2020: The folks at DrivethruRPG have added 3 more at $9.99 price point for an even better value. Here is a link to the whole category. I'd also like to thank Jeremy over at Thought Eater Blog, host of The Frothcast podcast and all of the others who reshared this post. What a great community we have.

What if you don't want to do that or don't have ready cash? Linking to or subscribing to a blog could help a lot. The collapse of G+ robbed the community of the means of communication and we scattered. Every blog that shares links is a defense against that sort of collapse. My suggestion is to add those blog rolls, but also sign yourself up for https://campaignwiki.org/osr/. This "blog" serves up dozens if not hundreds of blogs in one feed. It's great. If you already did that, why not check out some of the people who provide content?

As with blogs, podcasts are great. There are so many out there, I don't even know where to begin. You could begin by subscribing to some of the podcast I linked to in the right hand column or share your own favorites in the comments below.

There are all kinds of communities to join, too. I like MeWe best, but there are so many to choose from. Check a few out.

Lastly, and probably most importantly, play a game and do a review. Post it up some place. Without you insight, the community won't know what is good and why. Have an opinion and share it.

Rx... take that.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

OSR Character Sheet

The people over at Cirsova have a new OSR character sheet for commercial use. That pretty cool. 

I thought of creating an OSR sheet, but 99% of my rational of uploading my AD&D character sheet was nostalgia. I've been using this particular sheet for decades and though other people would be amused by is simplistic design values. My second version was done on the oldest software I could find to continue the sight gag. 

This sheet is pretty cool because it has those nostalgia values AND it's free for commercial use. That super generous. If I do a OSR one shot, I'll totally use this sheet.


You can download my file at DriveThruRPG using the links on the upper right. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Housekeeping and Distraction Post

Astronomy Cast
My first experience with podcasts was way back in 2006, with the Astronomy Cast podcast. Hosted by Dr. Pamela Gay and Fraser Cain, it was and still is a fascinating journey into not only Astronomy but the power of the web.

With that first episode on Pluto, I was hooked on podcasts.

I skipped around here and there looking for new material and have been through dozens of podcasts.

Lately, I have picked up on the OSR type podcasts and feel that my handle on the hobby is much better for it. You can mouse over each picture for the podcast name (including Astronomy Cast above) and click it as a link to the associated blog for each Podcast. I'm not going in any order, except the last podcast.

Elthos RRP
The first 'cast is by Vb Wyrde and he talks about game systems and creation. It's kind of heady stuff as he really digs into the hows and whys of various system's mechanics. This is a companion piece to his websites.

Playing It Wrong PodcastNext up is the Playing Wrong Podcast, with the lovable wizard pig. I like to think of it as the Cow-Dog of the OSR. This week's entry is about social media vs. content, which is kind of a big deal these days. On a tangential but parallel line of though, Dyson Logos has been talking about his experience on Facebook, which is not the most optimal platform to work from. You can also check out the link above labeled "The Tek" to see all kinds of statics about my website and downloads. 

Red Dice Diaries PodcastThe Red Dice Diaries is an excellent podcast which should have decidedly British slant, but actually is rather cosmopolitan in nature. I love John's ideas and point of view, plus he brings in a collection of guests to talk about their experiences at the tabletop. The episodes I found most enlightening were ones on a game that I always wanted to pick up, called Burning Wheel.

Super Adventure Friends Co. PodcastA rather new podcast is SAFCOcast. It covers Gurps and Traveller and a whole lot more. I like this one as it is hosted by a group rather than an individual. I don't get a lot time to play and I find this podcast satisfies my Science Fiction itch. I just wish I had more time to play some of those other games.

Maybe, some day.

Thought Eater PodcastWho has the time to read every blog under the sun? Oddly, the Thought Eater does. Take a listen to Jeremy's weekly Wednesday round up of the blog-o-verse. Jeremy is comprehensive, you can have two weeks of content to read over from just one listen.

Also, on Friday's he a short, 5ish minute show where he lets fly with his latest thoughts on the OSR.

Do Jeremy, me, and you a favor. If you run a podcast or blog, put your name on it. Or at least a good handle. It helps us find you.

The last OSR Podcast has a special place in my heart. It's called Blogs on Tape. It is intended to as readings of the Best of Blogs.

Blogs on Tape

What I see is accessibility. I've toyed with the idea of a podcast myself, but what I really want is a presentation so that people with poor vision can access blogs in the easiest, most natural format, the human voice. No place does Blogs on Tape mention this as a priority, but it is what they are doing. I love it.

If you want some insight as to why I would want this for my site, take a look at this semi-autobiographical short story I wrote. Most of it is fiction, but much of it is true.

If you want your blog or podcast featured here, feel free to shoot me a note at phil(dot)viverito(@)gmail(period)com or add a comment below. I'd love to add your content. Also, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the wonderful Old School RPG Planet which reblogs your content. It is an excellent idea.

I apologize for the mess in the right column, I'm trying to add a graphical podcast list over there and ran out of energy. There is only so much coffee I can drink, and I need to stop casting from hit points.