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

Thursday, February 27, 2020

#TBT review - Miniature Treasures - The Moldy Unicorn

Title: The Moldy Unicorn
Code: N/A
Author: Nate Treme
Rule Set: Angostic
Year: 2019
Pages: 6
Number of characters: As needed
Levels: N/A
Rating: ★★★★★

If a book has a good cover, I'll probably take a look. If it has that haute 70's look, the smash of day old banana and lime colored paste, I'll do a double take. If it has both of the above, plus the childish, rounded look of a composition notebook, my brain shuts down and the money comes out, no questions asked.

Well, that's what happened with The Moldy Unicorn a few days ago. I purchased one of a few physical copies based on a single image on MeWe.com. And then I forgot about it.

It arrived today.

I opened the envelope and was all disappointed. It was tiny. Really tiny. "I paid money for this?"

Then I opened the booklet. And the frisson hit. Suddenly, I was 8 year old me, standing in Walden Books, smelling nasty carpet chemicals and mall pretzels, looking a copy of the Red Basic D&D rule book. Gary, Dave and Tom whispered, "Go ahead, turn the page."

The thing is six g-ddamn pages, packed with amazing stuff. Pages 1 and 2 describe The Moldy Unicorn with a colorful map. Page 3 lists encounters for the Inn. The next page describes how to design a Demon, with 3 tables, conveniently labeled 1-12 for easy die rolling. The last two pages are a mini dungeon, Grotburk Crypt.

The artwork is excellent. It isn't excellent in the sense of a masterpiece, but the odd, brightly colored outsider art that masters cannot duplicate. The text is tight, it has to be in a volume this small.

While its only 6 pages (8 if you count the covers, the thing that made me **WANT** this 'zine), those pages are highly concentrated. Being so tiny, it is delicate. I already know that I am going to buy a special picture frame for this. I am just moments away from heading to DriveThruRPG and purchasing an electronic copy, to jealously protect the physical copy like mage protects his spell book.

It's been decades since I have been this happy with a purchase. Of course, I've read it cover to cover. But I'm going to do it again tomorrow. And the next day. This is great buy. This is well worth the $6.00 for the physical copy, $5.00 for the PDF.

To put some perspective on the Star Rating above, I review a lot of things. Computer hardware and software, novels, games, historical books, etc. If I'm not going to give something 3 stars, I'm not giving any stars. If you're not going to give at least 3 stars, its like trash talking people. This is the first time I have been compelled to give 5 gold stars, underlined. I've reviewed several of my mom and dad's books. I don't hand out gold stars. It is very rare that I am so enchanted with any product to completely rethink my rating system.

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.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

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.

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.

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.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Another Unreview - Fat Goblin Games - Gnoll Artwork

As I mentioned before, I am working a OSR/AD&D character class for Gnolls. It's still a work in progress, I am slow has hell. I've never drawn a gnoll in my life, so it was time to get some artwork from someone else.

I made a DriveThruRPG purchase of Fat Goblin Games artwork. The publisher's name is rather longer than that: "Publisher's Choice Quality Stock Art Ⓒ Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games".

I hope I got the artist name correct, because this is fabulous artwork.

In my discovery process for using other people's work in my products, I read through the licensing agreement, something I haven't done in a very long time. The license is excellent, probably covering any thing you might want to do with the work. There are some restrictions, which are also well thought out and completely reasonable. You get exactly what appears in the preview and cover, at a much higher resolution and in .tiff file format. So, fear not when ordering. It's all good.

In looking at it the artwork, I realized something. It doesn't fit with my style at all. My work is rather low end, and to be honest, this artwork is way too good to be paired with my works. I won't be using as a style choice. I have no idea what I will do. However, I will be framing a copy of the Gnoll for my game area. It is a very nice piece, which will be very suitable for other, professional content producers. I'm a hobbyist, not a pro.

What I am really looking at is the subscription model. For less than $100, you can get a 100 images by Mr. Hershey. To be brutally honest, I have no need of such a stockpile of work, but I want it. I want it for no other reason that it looks great. Even if I only LOVED 1 in 10 image, that's a steal for a card sized mini-posters for the game room.

Even better than 100 images for less than 100 bucks, is his Patreon account. I totally missed this aspect of Fat Goblin Games and wouldn't have known about if Merciless Merchants over on MeWe hadn't pointed it out for me. Thank you, MeWe community!

I would request a minor update from Mr. Hershey. A second file with a signature. I know Fat Goblin Games is looking at a completely different model of business, but sometimes good artwork is simply to be appreciated and needs an artist's signature.

I'm not going to do my normal stat-block for this unreview, It's great stuff. I'll close with 5 of 5.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

STA Pigment Liner Pens Review

A set of ten pens for $10.95? Probably not a good buy, but I went for it. I had a coupon code, free shipping, blah-blah-blah. Amazon got them here in 2 days, which was a surprise. I used the slow method of shipping, so that was nice.

On opening the package, you can't help but notice that these pens are cheap. I gave them a try, and it was better than expected. The set comes with 2 brush pens, a 0.8, and 0.6 to 0.1.

I don't general use brush pens and they felt odd to me. Actually very bad. The nib or whatever was very soft. The 0.8 to 0.5 felt pretty good. The 0.4 felt like the nib was bent, but all visual inspections showed it to be straight. The smaller pens felt really good. I could see using these a lot.


I returned to the brush pens and felt that maybe with a little practice, they would be ok.

So how do they rank? I'd say a solid 3 of five stars. If they last a long time, I could see bumping them up one star. The links below are paid ads and will take you to Amazon.com.


I can't say it'd stop using my Faber Castell pens, but these would do in a pinch. If I had something experimental to work on, I would totally use these pens to save the good ones. Realistically, the F-C pens are $25.00 and these are $11. It isn't a horrible set.

Ads provided by Amazon help fund this website by remuneration. 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Book Review - Population of Loss

Title: Population of Loss
Author: Michael DiBaggio and  Shell "Presto" DiBaggio
Illustrator: Shell "Presto" DiBaggio
Year: 2014
Pages: 46
Rating: 5 of 5 stars. 

I hate big screen or small screen characters render in novel form. It's always horrible, little better than the second Star Wars book, Splinter in the Minds Eye. I want to tell future readers that this is a mashup of comic book characters set in the science fiction worlds of 1880s and 90s.

It is, but it really isn't. The prose reminds me of the classic adventure of The War of the Worlds, which it should because it is implicitly set with in that world. Each of the four short stories captures that time period perfectly, no accidental or intentional anachronistic parts at all. The Signalman does remind me of Iron Man, but he is not remotely a superhero in that vein. In fact, I know that he should be a comic book character because that is what he was designed to be, but somehow, he isn't. Nor are any of the other characters.

Its hard to describe what the Celestial Paladin is, but I can tell you where these characters came from. There are hints of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien fused with H. G. Wells. The story "In Hoc Signo" starts in Well's world of Tripod invaders and ends with a taste of Lewis's Out of a Silent Planet. The writing is more than strong, it is powerful. Reading older works is often difficult due to the changing of styles. But Mr. and Mrs. DiBaggio do not struggle with this. They capture the flavor of these works, but also give it a style all their own. The easy comparison is to the past, but the authors manage to infuse this style with a more modern frantic-ness, in the vein of Dagberto Glib ("Love in L.A.") or Louise Erdrich ("The Red Convertible"). Perhaps it is the vignette style of these 4 short pieces that capture a tiny bit of introspection by the authors, which echos through each piece.

Regarding the illustrations, they are from a very different artist from the Shell "Presto" DiBaggio, who engages with her audience on social media. They have tiny reflection of the work of Kahlil Gibran. What is most interesting about the images of the Signalman and The Cyclone Ranger, is that they show an evolution of style over 2 years. The second is more like Mrs. DiBaggio's current artwork, but still reflecting the style of that old era. Like the writing, the illustrations have a touch of modern, frantic energy, while still embodying the works of arts from the past. Instead of being caught in between eras, they are great enhancements to the stories told. They fit perfectly.

I was only vaguely aware that the book contained artwork, and I would suggest to the reader that they obtain a paper copy as paper will always render the artwork closest to what the artist intended. It is an inherent flaw in all ebook technology.

I will give this book one more read, maybe two before purchasing the next title. It was an excellent primer for the world of Ascension Epoch.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Charles' New Podcast and Patreon

I have a couple of different outlets for communication. Facebook, MeWe, Ello, pluspora and a few others. The killer thing about promoting is that promotion is necessary, but by rote sharing doesn't work.

You need something more "organic", more "natural" to really get that impactful share to work for you.

I stole this image without permission, mostly because I used to have those dice.

Charles Thorin has a blog called "They Might Be Gazebos". I'm hoping that is a play on "They Might Be Giants", because I really like those guys. What do we have in common? Charles does reviews, he likes luck mechanics, creating interesting magic weapons and we both like to try different games.

What does Charles do that is different? He is a podcaster on Anchor, the host of Playing It Wrong. On the 'cast, he has a smooth voice but an exciting tone. This isn't the sort of 'cast that helps you to sleep at night. Playing It Wrong is an amplification of They Might Be Gazebos retooled for an audio format. He uses music and sound effects in enhance the show without being overbearing or obnoxious. Each podcast has a very newsy sound to it as Charles takes on currents in the blogosphere, topics that interest him, such as Swords and Wizardry.

Just a few episodes back he was talking about finding your voice, something that he has personally managed to do.

This week, to support his passion, he has launched a Patreon page to support his habit. I can't wait to see what new things he comes up with. Please take a moment to explore all the quality content on They Might Be Gazebos, the Playing Wrong Podcast and if you like, his Patreon Page.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Poll Results

I was shocked at the poll results. I was really expecting an old game like Star Frontiers to come in first, but also thought that a game like Catalyst's Introductory Box Set would do better due to the minis included. 

Winner with 10 Votes
8 votes

A tie at 3rd, with 5 votes
A tie at 3rd, with 5 votes
3 votes
2 votes
Good to my word, we have a review of Paranoia. 

Of course, I can't let these other games just sit. I'll be doing a review a week on the remaining sets. Stay tuned and again, thanks for your opinions.

Paranoia, Second Edition Review

Welcome to Alpha District, Citizen!

Let's start with the basics. Paranoia has been around for decades. This edition was produced by West End Games in 1987. It is a revamp of the first edition rules, which strips out much of the game mechanics in favor of pop-the-clutch-and-go fun. What was "removed" often ended up as an optional rule, which in the spirit of the game, could be ignored, introduced or changed willy-nilly during play. Players who claim to know the rules are deemed traitors and kills. So, computer, have at it. Whatever makes your players happy. And Happiness is Mandatory!

What does the game include?

  • 136 page "rule" book
  • 16 page booklet describing the life of a troubleshooter
  • 1 20 sided die for something or other
  • One box with colorful pictures 
  • Not listed on the box are supplemental items such as character sheets, charts, (dis)loyal tests, vehicle control schematics, NPC charts and reports.  
The rule book includes a mini adventure demo in the front and a longish scenario or module in the back. The artwork is wonderful, while not perfect or extraordinary, it captures the theme of the games mind-bending laughs with a touch of sarcastic paranoia. This edition was compatible with all first edition modules, which is nice. 

Game play is quick. Each player is entitled to 6 clones, one at a time to represent the player's character. Unless the computer decides otherwise. As one character dies, another clone appears to take his or her place. Sometimes, they remember what happened to the last clone and sometimes they do not. Unless the computer is optimistic about the lethality. In which case, a second, third or 20th clone can be played at the same time as the other 1, 2, or 19. This will increase the likelihood that the player will turn on themselves, leaving other players bemused, horrified or shocked. 

In one session, I had a player holding 20 character sheets like a hand of cards and when he dropped sheet, that clone died. The book is chocked full of insane tips for pushing the charac... er... playe... er... maybe character's? paranoia buttons. My personal favorite is reading room descriptions with a stryofoam cup over your mouth to simulate a broken speaker.  

For a game that revolves around comedic death, the character creation process is robust. As are the choice of weapons and suggestions as to when to use them on your friends.. There seems to be a section on combat, but it is sort of optional. Except the coveted rear position, Troubleshooter. The motive and ability to bushwack other players is fun. Fun leads to happiness and Happiness is Mandatory! 

The included 19 page module, "Into The Outdoors with Gun and Camera" is laugh out loud funny. It works in tandem with the rules, basically forcing the players and computer through most of the rules. 

One issue I see with this set is the concept that the computer is ruthlessly hunting for "Traitors", a concept that was awesome and understandable in The Cold War, but perhaps won't play well with younger people today. 

You can check out Paranoia at DriveThruRPG

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Boxed Set Reviews

I have two weeks off and ran ahead one week for 52 Weeks of Magic, I figured I would get some cleaning done. To that end, I have some box sets gathering dust. Time to do some reviews.


I'll be running a poll on MeWe to see which item goes first.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Title: Crash on Volturnus
Code: SF-0
Author: Mark Acres, Tom Moldvay with Doug Niles
Rule Set: Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn
Year: 1982
Pages: 30
Number of characters: 4-8
Levels: 1
Rating: ★★★★★

Crash on Volturnus is one of my favorite modules. The player start of as passengers on the Sierra Dawn, where they first encounter trouble en route to Volturnus. After an epic battle and escape, players move on to phase two, an incredible hex crawl on the planet of Volturnus culminating in a final(?) battle with the pirate forces on the planet. Aided by the local inhabitants of the planet, surely the players will win the day.

This module was released with the Alpha Dawn rules set and to my knowledge, was not released independently of that set. I received my set of Alpha Dawn rules peice meal and ended up with two copies of the module. The whole boxed set includes giant maps and wonderful counters, which makes SF-0 a snap to play.

Crash on Volturnus is the first module in the series and was followed up by SF-1 and SF-2. The other SF series modules are unrelated, but are valuable as they are set up for characters to continue their adventures in new settings. The series was also brought back to life by the Endless Quest book Villains of Volturnus in 1983. It was published in relatively short time frame making the series rock solid in game play and feel.

Having played SF-0 several times, there are few game breakers built in to the scenario. First, when the escape pod crashes, the characters only have time to get the survival packs. Several of my players started out with standard equipment packs and used the coveralls as a makeshift backpack tied across their chests before seating themselves. Since the equipment was attached to them, I couldn't justify taking it. The players also started with 4 medical kits, which made them neigh unstoppable in combat. They kept pulling back to heal. Of course, these were the same players who tied their equipment to their chests. I kept running them against random encounters to try to eat up resources, but that was unfulfilling. Eventually, I figured I'd let them run in god-mode and kill everything and everyone. Many of the challenges they faced were thinking scenarios and not fighting scenarios, so it really didn't change the outcome. 

All and all, I found this one module to be the best of the best for Star Frontiers. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

The whole shebang is available over on DriveThruRPG.

Alpha Dawn with SF-0
SF-1 Volturnus, Planet of Mystery
and SF-2 Starspawn of Volturnus

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Review of Duane Schultz’s Month of the Freezing Moon

Schultz, Duane. Month of the Freezing Moon: The Sand Creek Massacre, November 1864. New
York: Published by St. Martin’s Press. 1990. Print.

Duane Schultz meant to tell war stories. Month of the Freezing Moon was Duane Schultz’s first failure. The work was published in 1990, 20 years after it was written and was preceded by two novels and five historical titles (“Home”). Duane Schultz is a courtesy professor of psychology at the University of South Florida (“Home”) and his love of history and psychology shines in Month of the Freezing Moon: The Sand Creek Massacre.

The psychologist comes through in the first 2 pages of the narrative. The book contains no preface, introduction, or thesis. It starts with a map and the word “Testimony”. In a call and answer style, Professor Schultz uses the words provided by history to lay out his premise:

QUESTION: Were there any acts of barbarity perpetrated there that came under your own observation?
ANSWER: Yes, sir. I saw the bodies of those lying there all cut to pieces, worse mutilated than any I ever saw before—the women all cut to pieces (Schultz, p. 2).

Was there a betrayal perpetrated at Sand Creek? Were these native Americans under the assumption that they had the protection of the American Flag? Were there horrible consequences for this attack? The answer is “yes” to all of these questions.

Professor Schultz launches right into his narrative of the Sand Creek Massacre then rolls back to prior events to explain its context and the ramifications of the attack. Sand Creek was a horrific betrayal of those who were protected by the United State’s flag. How the Cheyenne came to have that flag and the aftermath of the barbaric attack led to the obvious counter attack at Greasy Grass, otherwise known as The Little Big Horn.

Schultz does more than describe the Massacre itself, he explains the milieu in which it occurred. While endless detail could be provided, Schultz’s coverage of Chivington’s life from childhood to his time in Colorado and beyond is apt enough.

As a child John Chivington was well cared for, educated and trusted by his loved ones. After the passing of his father, he stepped into the family lumber business. He found that he had a talent for marketing over woodcraft and shifted his role in the company to take advantage of his persuasiveness. Chivington continued to evolve and he found two passions, religion and abolitionism. This was followed by a firmity, a certainty of logic in these two principles.

In Missouri, during the guerrilla warfare that boiled over the border with Kansas, he gave a particularly harsh sermon against the institution of slavery. Chivington was threatened with tarring and feathering if he spoke from the pulpit again (Schulz, p. 49). The following Sunday, he entered the church to find several men with hot tar waiting for him. His answer was simple and clear. He opened his robe and pulled out two guns and placed them on either side of the bible. He announced, “By the grace of God and these two revolvers… I am going to preach here today” (Schulz, p. 49). Chivington handled everything thing he perceived as evil in the same forthright fashion. He entered the Civil War as a part of the Colorado Militia and conducted himself in the same fashion. Laws, regulations and orders were subjected to his own internal logic, which happened to be good for conducting warfare. Professor Schultz tells a good war story.

While Chivington was righteous, powerful and even very quotable, it becomes obvious how such attitudes can be less than noble and reasonable. If Chivington has journeyed east instead of west, if had not found a place in the Militia, or become interested in a “stable Colorado” (pg. 63), he would have been remembered as a different sort of man. Grandios, brave, heroic. But with his mind set on a Colorado as he desired it, this was not to be.

Very often, nations have desires as men do. And America under President Andrew Johnson had a very different idea of how Colorado and the treatment of native Americans should be conducted (Schulz, p. 163). It isn’t fair to say that Johnson’s administration has more enlightened ideas about native Americans, but the Office of the President was enlightened enough to know that it should be the sole power on this stage. Men like Chivington stirred the pot, gave Americans and natives alike pause for thought.

The Johnson administration made sure that Chivington and his allies were done. However, this was hardly the solution the country needed. Chivington and the other perpetrators, even men who refused to participate were thoroughly investigated. Not once, but three times (Schulz, p. 166). Chivington had his opportunity to address his accusers, Captain Soule in particular, who refused to attack. This led to further public disasters (Schulz, p. 167). Soule was assassinated after his testimony, which sobered many Chivington supporters (Schulz, p. 171).

As a backdrop to all of this, the actual aggrieved party, the native Americans, who were not considered Americans at this time by the Johnson administration were working to strike back. Throughout the narrative, Schulz touches on the Black Kettle and other leaders of the Sioux and Cherokee. Many of these were not footnoted and may be astute conjecture on Professor Schulz’s part. But they ring true. The last third of Schultz’s work becomes a who’s who of American history, Custer, Kit Carson, Sherman and may others come into play, attempting finish what Chivington started. And Custer is the last soldier mentioned by Schultz. He launched two important attacks on the array of native tribes and just as Chivington had flaw, so did Custer. During the Civil War he engaged an enemy without scouting first (Schulz, p. 205). Schultz describes how this flaw followed him to the end, and his luck ran out on the third time he struck without scouting.

Schultz book was an excellent delivery of both historical fact and reasonable conjecture. Where the record was accessible, he often quoted it directly with no interpretation. When describing the chiefs such as Black Kettle, Schultz did not have a written account to work from and instead filled in the blanks to stitch their history and lore into the fabric of his work. Month of the Freezing Moon: The Sand Creek Massacre, was a fast paced, informative work on a great tragedy in American history.


Citations:

Schultz, Duane. "Home." Duane Schultz. Accessed February 20, 2017. http://duaneschultz.com/.

Schultz, Duane. Month of the Freezing Moon: The Sand Creek Massacre, November 1864. New
York: Published by St. Martin’s Press. 1990. Print.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Be Careful What You Wish For...

My first offering on DriveThruRPG is Zero to Hero. In the past 5 days of sales, there have been 80+ downloads. Thank you so much for your support, but do you know what I really need? Reviews.


I am in the process of coming up with a second title by October. The reviews would certainly help me craft a quality product for you.

Again, thank you for downloading. But please let me know what you think.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Knight Hack Review with Reflections


 Title: Knight Hack
Author: Philip J. Viverito,
(1st edition by The Jogglers, which also included Ed Backer, Richard Kohlbacher)
Rule Set: Hack Series
Year: 2005
Pages: 52
Setting: Western Europe, North Africa, The Near East and Eastern Europe 1000 AD to 1400 AD
Number of players: 2+
Rating: ★★★★★

The original Hack series was born in 1991 and it was a reflection of the times. Knight Hack, Third Edition was born in the 21st century and is also a reflection of now. The game has a evolved so much, it is hard to see how 1st edition relates to third, except on first principles. This is a game for gamers, written and tested by gamers.

As the person responsible for supplying the art for original book, I have to say third edition is by far superior. Most of the clipart is gone, replaced by full color images of the game in actual play. The rules have been simplified with a new D-10 system, which reduces the rule length from 52 to just 19. This is accomplished by the removal of the concept of troop type and the premade Q.R.S. or Quck Reference Sheets for each era and type of army. The rules now have a proper table of contents and an index in addition to the required charts and 38 pages for the Q.R.S.

I hate to say it, but everything I knew about and all that I did for the first edition is gone. And the rules are better for it.

I've posted about my first Con in 1977. I still have the brochure. It was a formative time for me. I would have been all of 5 years old, and there I was watching WRG, Tractics and most importantly to me, D&D being played for the first time.  It left quiet the impression.

Fast forward a few years and I was in to all of these Games Designer's Workshop and Task Force products. I had Robots, Striker, Traveler and Federation Space. I still have them.

At the end of the day, knew that something like Knight Hack would be made. My parents made sure that I knew enough about games, the importance of play and of inspiration to know that things change and usually for the better.

Tonight, I stumbled across one of my first coloring books: Camelot.


The copyright is 1967, by the Whitman Publishing Company. You know, parents who make something like this one of the first coloring books is instilling a love a play, games and history. 

Drive Thru RPG carries the first edition rules here and Third Edition here.