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

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

New Mutants - Review

I've been a long time fan of The New Mutants. The idea of seeing the characters come to life on the big screen got me really excited. 

Until I saw it. This damn film has been to Limbo more times than Illyana has. It was not worth the wait, it seems to suffer from some sort of technovirus in addition to many questionable story and plot choices. 

Here is the run down of the character's names and powers: 

Rahne Sinclair, aka Wolfsbane. A mutant that can take the form of a wolf or a transitional human/wolf form. She has all of the sense of wolves plus more strength and perhaps a healing factor. 

Sam Guthrie, Cannonball. Can generate thrust anywhere on his body to propel himself through the air. While thrusting, he is impervious to anything. He does not have a healing factor. 

Roberto "Bobby" da Costa, Sunspot. Bobby has the ability to absorb sunlight and use it to empower himself with great strength, invulnerability and flames. 

Danielle "Dani" Moonstar, Mirage. Dami has the ability to project people's greatest fears and make them real. Historically, she not good at nicknames. Not only has her character changed her own code name in the comics several times, she doesn't even use other people's code names. A rare inversion of the "movie stars have no comic book codenames" trope. 

And finally, Illyana Rasputin. Magik. Oh, boy. She's a sorceress with a magic sword, the ability to teleport, partial body armor, a tail, and a baby dragon. 

There are only three other characters, Dani's dad, the Demon Bear and the evil doctor Dr. Cecilia Reyes who can make force shields.   

The film does a variable job at depicting the character's powers on a budget. The effects were on-par with Ready Player One which is not a complement. Ready Player One was a massive mashup of decades worth of video game art which works in that film. It isn't great for other film types like New Mutants.  

The whole premise of the movie didn't make sense. The kiddos are trapped or staying a hospital for mutants. The hospital had a staff of one, Dr. Reyes. 

Now, I've had a bit of experience working with kids and young adults. The first rule of these sorts of operations are two deep leadership. If you are not using two deep leadership, you're an imbecile. Dr. Reyes is an imbecile, she's trying keep the kiddos in the hospital all alone. Sam, Bobby and Rahne have given themselves over to the idea of staying. That kind of works. Dani is uncertain as to what is happening, leaving her open to staying or escaping as the chance presents. That doesn't go well at all. 

The final character, Illyana has something else going on. She's a mass murderer and can teleport. Why is she still here, if not to kill everyone else in the film? And she definitely hates everyone, in a nasty condescending, racist way.  

As far depicting superpowers, they did a good job for a few of the characters. Sam's blasting ability was a great special effect. Dani and Rahne power's appear reasonable well done, magic and werewolves are classic B-movie fodder. They couldn't have done this poorly if they had tried. I think they tried. Bobby's abilities were just ho-hum. Illyana's powers come off as a cheap video game most of the time for no good reason. 

Magik has the most wide ranging abilities, each with a vast scope. But they attempted to confine her character in tight spaces, like either Nightcrawler in the Oval Office or Captain America in the elevator. It was not a good choice because she has a massive frickin' sword. It looks like she can't fit in those spaces. When she gets out the open, they do a far better job at displaying her powers but by that time they had already decided on the video game style which wasn't applicable to the filming process.

Far too much time was spent on Rahne, who is a the most likeable character in the film but not the protagonist. They were one step away from having "The Wolfsbane Movie" and failed to make it. That would have been better than this, even if it was called, "A Werewolf in Starbucks". 

My favorite bit was everytime Sam used his powers. He displays these brilliant blue/orange shimmery flames like charcoal on the grill which is an amazing play on his character. Magik was shown trying to knock the Demon Bear into Limbo. It made perfect sense since she couldn't win in straight combat, but this tactic was negated by the strange video game special effects. It was kind of hard to tell that was her intent rather than random flashy scenery. The Demon Bear was awesome and terrifying, but the viewer shouldn't be rooting for the villain. 

All and all, I give it one and half stars of five. Maybe you should read my 5 star review of Dungeons and Dragons (2000) to evaluate how not good this was.  

Now showing on HBOMax, but you could wait a bit longer. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Game Review - Home Worlds

Title: Home Worlds
Publisher: Looney Labs
Designer: John Cooper
Artist:  OTHER Studio
Year: 2020
Pages: 32
Rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first page of the instruction sheet sums it up: "What Chess is to medieval warfare, Homeworlds is to Star Trek and Star Wars." 

Yup. 

This game is fascinating. You're off to fight an interstellar war against an opponent, manage resources, planets and ships with just 4 types of game pieces. Insane, but it works. This is one of many games by Looney Labs which use the Looney Pyramids. The game includes 36 pyramids of differing sizes and colors, a board for the bank, the rule book and a token to indicate which player's turn it is. 

Star Systems are indicated by an upright pyramid. Ships are indicated by a pyramid lying on it's side, your ships a;ways point away from you. Enemy ships point towards you. When a system is explored, a new upright pyramid is placed from the bank. When all ships leave a system, that planet is placed back in the bank. 

Movement is simple. You can only move to stars of different sizes. Stars of the same size are not connected and travel is blocked. A binary star, two stars in one system is connected to stars that do not match either of the two star sizes. 

Each player picks a color and builds their home world with a binary star and one large ship. The colors you choose at the start of the game controls your choices later on, so choose carefully. All of a sudden, your opening choices create puzzles to be solved by you. Color and size of the play pieces represent different options and limitations. 

Players choose from a Basic Action, a Sacrifice action which puts a pyramid back in the bank or a "pass". Passing your turn isn't optimal at the start but I am told that no action might be the best option later in the game. There is a forced action called a Catastrophe when the players place 4 of the same color pieces in the same star system. 

Each color means something: 

Green=Build
Red=Fight
Yellow=Move
Blue=Trade


Pretty simple? No. 

Size also determines what each piece can do. It all gets very complex very fast. 

These simple rules create a very rich system of game play. One of the nicer aspects of the game is it assumes loopholes in the rules will allow a player to create actual logical loops in play which may seem like cheating, but are merely built in options which may or may not be useful based on the pieces in play. This also makes the bank behave as a "third actor" in a two person game. What is in the bank creates or limits options. 

There are 3 win options, destroy all of your enemy's ships, destroy his or her home world or force your opponent into causing a Catastrophe in their home system. There are also a draw  and deadlock conditions which result in a tie. 

I've only played 10 or 20 times and not always to completion, but the rule set is so ingenious, it keeps pulling me back for more. I really want to master this system and Home Worlds. 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Jedart - The Not Review

I've mention how many times I've been sucked into a document because of the artwork. Simon Miles, Todd Leback, and now Jedart

Screencap of the artist on Jedart.com

Jenna Lauren Drummond did the cover art for several of Todd Leback's books. And I really love this style of work. It turns out that this doesn't seem to be the style that appears on Jedart.com. There is a lot to love over on that website. Go ahead and check it out. Personally, I like the frogmen and the sci-fi stuff. The frogman is insanely animated, but the sci-collection are just your poses. Nice to see both fluid action and static poses.  

Let me talk about why I love the covers of Todd Laback's series of books, since this style doesn't seem to feature on Jedart.com. 

It's the floating angles and the capture of the hex crawl ideal. The first product I saw was Hexcrawl Basics. I just love that this image is a map and landscape from the air. It's not avant garde or experimental or any other fancy thing, it's simply perfect for the book title. Everything you would wonder about "Hexcrawl Basics" is summarized in the image. Click the link to check it out on DriveThruRPG. There are interesting locals like the focal point keep and the walled town, plain areas and the sky above it all, with no edge to world as everything fades at the horizon. 

That is pretty much "Hexcrawl Basics" in a nutshell. 

The next title is "Filling in the Blanks" and I am sure you can see why I mentioning this one. I'm going to do a review and I want to get my admiration of the cover out of my brain before diving into this book. 

This image I like for a completely different reason. It reminds me of the comic book artist, Pablo Raimondi. Back in the 1990s, he had a quick, savage style which he lent to the covers of X-Factor. He went for impossible angles and clear cut actions. 

Jedart's handling of the image captures nearly everything from the Hexcrawl Basics title while also embracing whimsy. I love the viewing angle above the characters in the foreground. While it isn't a one for one match with Pablo Raimondi's cover art, I can see that sort of see the "capture the moment" aspect in it. Even though we can't see the heroes' faces, there is a clear sense of wonder in their poses. 

Edit - My apologies, I keep editing this post when I recall something that stood out to me. Expect that to happen a lot. We all have deal with crap like that. 

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Review - The Seventh Decimate

Title: The Seventh Decimate
Author: Stephen R. Donaldson
Pages: 319
Year: 2017
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Donaldson is known for his use of obscure words and bleak stories where characters confront and cross their self created moral event horizons in support of a wide and wild ranging story. The Seventh Decimate is clearly born of this style of storytelling, but nicely reverses itself so as to place the reader at a distance from the main characters. The use of this "observation mode" narration is effective and engrossing as the reader can understand the main antagonist's point of view without having to buy into it. Additionally, the prose lacks those obscure words and heavy sentence structures Donaldson is so well know for using. This makes for a quick read.  

This book describes the war between the magic using Amikans and the gun toting Bellegerian forces. There is no lead up to this juxtaposition of genres, Donaldson just lays it out there for the reader. The plight of both kingdoms are presented in the Bellegerian Prince's point of view. The Prince, a simple man, lacks many of the horrible traits of Thomas Covenant and he is a transparent character for the reader to study. Oddly, this level of transparency makes the Prince an ideal, if unlikely, hero to carry the story to completion. Being that this is Donaldson, there are many "What the Hell, Hero?" moments in this story, but none of them are surprising or horrifying which is a heavy shift in style for the author. There is nothing terribly inexplicable in the Prince's actions, he is flawed and simple but never works in a way to sabotage the story for the sake of a twist. And there are many twists.  

The final chapter is rather disappointing as a singular book, the cliffhanger ending is great for a series but may put off the casual reader who was expecting some sort of solid end point. However, that end IS exactly as you would expect which is very pleasing. 

I can't wait to read the next book, The War Within. All links will take you Amazon.com to check out the series. 


Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Review: Dungeons and Dragons Film (2000) Review

Title: Dungeons and Dragons
Publisher: New Line Cinema
Year: 2000
Rating: 5 of 5 stars. 

Am I insane? 5 stars for the 2000 Dungeons and Dragons movie? Yes, I am but it isn't a factor here.  

We have a film starring Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayans, Thora Birch, Zoe McLellan, Kristen Wilson, Lee Arenberg, Bruce Payne and the Original GQ Smoothy Jeremy Irons. They tried to work with all kinds of Intellectual Properties from the game and it's a dud. 

Well. That has to be some sort of record. How could you fail with that much background information and those actors? Easily, apparently. 

But why would I give it 5 stars? 

It's funny really. It's like someone at New Line Cinema sat down at a table and said, "Gee, let's throw some money at a long list of actors who probably aren't filming something today and we'll see what happens. We can fix a lot of stuff with edits and in post." Looking at the list of people involved with this project, they could have picked worse people. Hell, some of them I like a lot. Actors, directors, writers and so on. When it comes to the actors, I am sure they went out of their way trying to make an excellent movie and I am positive it was perfect. 

What they missed was a quality Dungeon Master. You know, someone who could come up with an engrossing story and snappy delivery. Something that makes the players want to come back for more. 

If only that they hired an actual DM to actually, you know, produce something. Instead, what we got was Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayans, Thora Birch, Zoe McLellan, Kristen Wilson, Lee Arenberg, Bruce Payne and Jeremy Irons all in a room, picking their character sheets and paychecks off the commissary table and trying to work out their motivation in all of this over some dicey ham salad sandwiches. 

The result is laughly bad. How could they pick out 8 people with actual 18+ charisma scores and botch a movie? 

Well... they didn't. The result is exactly like if you sat down with Justin, Marlon, Thora and the gang and tried to play D&D for the first time. I can't tell you how many horrible campaigns I've put stellar players through and this movie captures this process perfectly. This film is a perfect rendition of every noob mistake made by a rookie DM. 

5 of 5 stars. 

"I know Mr. Irons. You ARE charismatic. You just rolled a one, that's all. It happens..."

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Review: Dark Forces

Title: Dark Forces
Publisher: LucasArts
Year: 1995
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ah, memories. In Dark Forces, you control Kyle Katarn on his mission to recover the Death Star Plans and save the rebellion from the Evil Empire. 

Oh, but there's more... Kyle discovers a secret base on the Arc Hammer, ready to pump out a new weapon system, the Dark Troopers. This is one of the first times Star Wars fans access the universe via a character who does not have the Force and does not pilot a cool ship. Han Solo and Wedge, Kyle is not.

The game plays out like a cross between The Mandalorian and Doom. Considering how the 1990's were, that should be no surprise. It was refreshing not to see Sith and Jedi gumming up a straight shooter game along with the idea that the Cool Ship was merely a vehicle within the story, not the main character like TIE and X-Wing.

Kyle does a cool ship, but it's not an item you use on your missions. It carries you from and to each mission via screen cuts. The Moldy Crow is epic looking and seems to be the look Bungie was going for in Destiny with the Guardian's ships. 

This game is very similar to Doom in it's execution, but has some notable differences. Like Doom, Kyle Katarn  is armed with an array of weapons, each one except fists needing ammunition. These weapons can strafe and have two modes of file. 

They are: 

1 Fist
2 Bryar Blaster Pistol
3 E-11 blaster rifle
4 Thermal Detonator
5 Imperial Repeater Gun
6 Jeron Fusion Cutter
7 I.M. Mine
8 Packered Mortar Gun
9 Stouker Concussion Rifle
10 Assault Cannon

In addition to these weapons, Katarn has a collection of items which are helpful. Headlamps and Infrared googles, a breathing mask, ice cleats, and medi packs are all necessary to complete the game. Kyle will also need batteries, power ups and extra lives to make it to the end. 

Unlike Doom, the player is able to look up and down, move vertically and maps simulate different elevations. There are jumping puzzles, mazes, environmental hazards to stymie the player. It has three levels of difficulty to assist the new player get into the game. 

Mission 1: The Death Star Plans: Operation Skyhook – Secret Base
Mission 2: After the Massacre – Talay (Tak Base)
Mission 3: The Subterranean Hideout – Anoat City
Mission 4: Imperial Weapons Research Facility – Research Facility
Mission 5: The Blood Moon – Gromas Mines
Mission 6: Crix Madin’s Fate – Detention Center
Mission 7: Deadly Cargo – Ramsees Hed
Mission 8: Ice Station Beta – Robotics Facility
Mission 9: The Death Mark – Nar Shaddaa
Mission 10: Jabba’s Revenge – Jabba’s Ship
Mission 11: The Imperial Mask – Imperial City
Mission 12: Smuggler’s Hijack – Fuel Station
Mission 13: The Stowaway – The Executor
Mission 14: The Dark Awakening – The Arc Hammer

Gamer Walkthroughs is an excellent resource I wish I had back in 1995. Each mission has specific win parameters, so you need to hunt for solutions and solve puzzles. If all the Storm Troopers are not enough for you, you'll fight Boba Fett, a Kell Dragon with no weapons and finally, face off against the terrifying Dark Trooper. 


While no longer canonical Star Wars, it's nice to see some of these scenarios come to life via The Mandalorian.  

The audio track was excellent, the music virtually lifted from the movies. The use of stereo sound was terrifying, you hear things coming from the proper direction with headphones. The first time a Dark Trooper attacks, you know it's badassed just by the sound of it's footsteps. 

The AI is sort of lack luster and the missions are designed Doom style meaning you don't sneak or bypass enemies. It's straight up blast and kill session even though you have a story and mission parameters. 

Performance was iffy if I remember correctly. 4 MB was not enough for you to get the full effect. It's even choppy on my Sawtooth, which has more than enough horse power for 1990 games. 

All and all, I give this game 4 stars. Go check out the videos at Gamer Walkrhrough for a feel of the game. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Review: SimEarth

Title: SimEarth: The Living Planet
Publisher: Maxis
Author: Will Wright
Year: 1990
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sim Earth is a fantastic game by Will Wright, creator of the Sims and Spore. SimEarth was released by Maxis in 1990. As a 31 year old game, it's rough but lovable. It is based on the Gaia model and runs amazingly well on G3 Mac under OS 9. 

The purpose of the game or simulation is to use energy and feedback loops to advance your chosen lifeform to the highest level of technology possible. It's easier said than done, but well worth the effort. You are pitted against not only your own created mishaps, but random events such as weather, cooling, warming, etc. It's a great primer on what it takes to make a planet full of life. Events are predictable, but not repetitive. 

Earth isn't the only planet you can work with, the game includes scenarios for Mars and Venus. These are breathtakingly difficult. A simplified model called Daisy World highlights the power of the sun on Earth's environment. While it is meant to be a simulator type game, it dives into science fiction with some of the devices and creatures that appear. 

Each world scenario is broken down into the world map which is initially populated with land forms. As time goes on, the landforms morph under the energy of the sun and tectonic forces. Sooner, rather than later, life will emerge. There are dozens of Taxa of life, all of which are on equal footing to evolve and become intelligent. These taxa and landforms are all right out of your Earth and Biology text books from high school, they feel familiar. You can use the magnifying glass to observe their description and current state. As creatures become intelligent, you can guide them through different levels of Civilization with the goal of getting them to colonize other planets. 

SimEarth is educational in it's whimsy. You can bring back the Trichordates, a species of life with tri-radial symmetry. Or create Carniferns, man eating plants or even robotic life. All of these achievements have to be done between ice ages and hot, dry epochs. The game includes several scenarios which pose questions as to what hardships life can overcome with guidance or the limits of science. Terraform Mars and Venus, anyone? 

Time flies when you're creating life.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Shout Out!

My White Box review got a nice shout out from Jeremy "frothsof" Smith on the Humpday RPG show

Now I have to back and relisten to the show. It also makes me want to dust off the cobwebs on my podcast and the list of podcasts I share. I feel like it can and should do better.  

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Review - X-Wing Miniature Game

Title: X-Wing Miniature Game
Credits: A Game by Jay Little
Rule Set: Unique to set
Year: 2014? 
Pages: 24, 16 and 4 page booklets
Number of players: 2*
Rating: ★★★★★

I picked this game up for my son a few years back and we played it a lot. My son has his X-Wing and TIE models on a shelf in his room. I started this post at 4:45 am, which is why you won't see images of those parts in this review. I'll see what I can do when my son and our sun gets up. 

As I understand it, this system is full of power creep which really doesn't effect the gameplay of this set. This is also the first edition rules, which is different than what is currently on the market. So on to the game review. 

This version of X-Wing was produced for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I had to guess at the date because there isn't one on the box. The box is solid, it will hold up well on the shelf. Inside are 3 booklets, totalling 44 pages of information for game play. The graphics are incredible and a valued addition to the game as they present gameplay information, not random photos from a at the time unreleased movie. It's a good thing the box is as sturdy as it is, it's loaded with parts. 3 painted models, cards, dice, tokens, templates, etc. It's a lot of parts, but nothing extraneous. 

The first play guide has you in the seat of your beloved X-Wing or TIE fighter and blowing the snot out of your enemy in minutes. The instructional method is a familiar one: learn the basics as you play, add more rules, play again, then master the all rules and go crazy with new adventures. 

The first session can be played in 10-30 minutes as you learn the rules. Its really nice. My first impression of the game was that it was a copy of Top Gun**. There are some similarities, both where made for a movie, both had some cool tokens and a move, react, shoot, repeat method of play. But that is where it ends. 

There is one thing missing from the box that sets this game apart from the others: A Game Board. There isn't one. Players are told to find a good sized table, lay down some felt or a black table cloth and have at it. Sure, you can buy one but the rules clearly state it isn't necessary. Movement templates guide the ships, unlocking them from the play space. The lack of a board is actually a strength. Not having a grid or hexes to lock your pieces down gives the game the same fluid dynamic of Star Wars space combat. You feel like you're in the cockpit. 

This game brings back a lot of memories in one tiny box. I have already mentioned that it felt a bit like a better planned out version of a Top Gun** Movie game from the late 80s, which was an apparent skin of the Aerotech game (which is available via the Battletech Compendium at DriveThru. It has the movement guides like the turn keys of Car Wars. Combat is handled with dice where each player rolls dice at the same time like Risk, with the twist that the defender's dice eliminates the attacker's damage. There is a I-go-you-go approach to terrain, which is a hell of an old school call out to games like WRG. And it's Star Wars themed. 

First edition games may seem rough, but this one isn't. Gameplay and rules are tight, with carefully considered options. Gameplay pops and snaps into place naturally, it's like something from the Spice Mines of Kessel. And since it's a vehicle for selling models as add-ons, it very successful at that. 

*While intended as a two player game, there are 3 models which could be divided among 3 players. For complex missions, one could add a game host. My initial playthrough was with 3 young children each having a model and myself acting as a gamehost, so 4 people can be involved. Whatever you do, it just works out. 



** I wish I could point you to the Top Gun game I had back in the 80s/90s, but I have never seen one except the one I bought from the shelf of my local Hobby Shop back when the movie was hot. Since I lost my copy, I don't even have a picture. It was pretty cool at the time, coming with about a dozen tiny plastic airplane tokens. 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

#TBT - 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.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Review - World Builder by Silicon Beach Software

Publisher: Silicon Beach Software
Author: W. B. Appleton and Charlie Jackson
Year: 1986
Pages: 87 pages
Overall Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Ok, now I'm reviewing software. It's ok, we'll get through it. 

World Builder is a 35 year old program for creating games. It was issued on a single floppy disk, with a manual for Macintosh computers by Silicon Beach Software. It was useable on System 3 and higher, but a System 7 or 9 needed a free update to 32 bit. Prior to it's release the code had been used to create the game Enchanted Scepters. 

The package promises to get you coding to create you own games. Did it deliver? Hell, yes. It wouldn't build Doom or any other real time first person shoot, but it could certainly handle round based games. It was really meant to create IF games like Zork or other Infocom style games and did so very well.

The manual is a gem without the software as it is applicable to many of the core ideas behind programing. The manual suggests 4 steps to creation, design, populate, design characters and play. It's a little more complicated than that, but that complexity are just details of creation. 

The software has a couple of windows and concepts the user needs to master and that framework of 4 steps makes it easy. 

First, every world must contain scenes. Think of them as a stage for the story. Scenes are hardcoded with some basic concepts like a name,  travel functions, a drawn image, text to display and of course code. You draw static items that appear in the scene like walls, floor, lights, etc. These can provide hints as to what the player should do there. Next, you describe the scene with text. A graphical interface allows the builder to assign valid direction to move and text to appear when an invalid  choice is made. 
It will work on OS 9.2 with the 
32 bit version.

Scenes can be connected like a map, or disconnected like a schematic. You need both most of the time. One great feature is the Scene Code which is specific to each scene. This can be used to create functional interactions, such as sit, stand, or turn on the lights. There is a customizable menu so the Builder can give the players hints or ideas of what needs to be done in a specific room. 

Let jump ahead to designing characters. Every game requires a Player, so this is the one character you need to build. The code refers to the main character as Player@. He or she has attributes that any gamer would relate to, Physical or Spiritual Strength, Hit Points or health, etc. All characters have this abilities. A graphical interface walks the build through the creation process including such things as automatic responses to specific events like combat or other actions. It is fairly robust. Statistics carry through scenes and can be modified by them. 

For example, a character could be give a great fighting skill in the character builder, but have those abilities modified by events or circumstances in the scene such as deep water or darkness. It's a very powerful engine. 

Having mentioned that all characters have the same stats, World Builder does not have the best combat system. The problem is the random number generator. It's a random value between 1 and 256. That is so unlike a percent or a die roll it is hard to predict what the outcome will be without some fine tuning. 

While this may seem odd or difficult, populating the world will clarify this. Being called "Populating", you'd think this part would be about characters. It is and it is not. 

Games come down to a practical point of what is the conflict and what are the barriers. A conflict is something general: a battle of disimular viewpoints. That makes a conflict and the resolution comes when one of those viewpoints is allowed to extend to it's logical conclusion. It could be a defeat or a victory or perhaps even a merger. Conflict is complicated.  

A barrier is something that must be overcome by a set of conditions. It less complicated than the conflict itself. 

Was Smaug there for Bilbo to wrestle to the ground and defeat? Nope.Not that sort of conflict. But Smaug is defeated.  So technically, Smaug is a barrier. The defeat of Smaug requires a certain set of conditions, such as the bird pointing out the chink in his underbelly, Bilbo frustrating the dragon and Bard lying in wait for Smaug with a special arrow. 

So, Bilbo is a character. But Bard, the bird and Smaug and even the arrow are not characters. They are Objects@ (in World Builder terms) or tools to gain a resolution. 

World Builder teaches that difference in the course of programing your own adventure. Populating means creating Objects@ and Characters@ and integrating them with game world you creating. That's a powerful idea that transcends the software itself and is relatable to other outlets like gaming. 

Pulling the tangent back from those high concept, this software is excellent at it's given purpose: World Building. It contains everything you need to get started, the code engine, the drawing software, import tools, sounds and sound creation, plus a means to distribute your product as a stand alone application. 

It really is quiet amazing. 

If you have the hardware, you can download it for free from various abandonware websites. It should be noted that this is not your typical abandonware because at the time that it was remastered for 32 bit and color, it was also released as a free download. It's only a quirk of time that prevents the author from hosting the software themselves as they had in the past. 

If you don't have the hardware, the 87 page manual is an excellent primer into code and game design. Give it a look. 

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 ill 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. 

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Review - How to Hexcrawl by Joe Johnston

Publisher: Unknown
Author: Joe Johnston
Year: Unknown
Pages: 24 pages
Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Oh, the pain of being a historian and researcher. Reviews and criticism come at the drop of a hat. My third review, Raphael was an agonizing one star. I'm taking a break from novels. This series is all about the sci-fi and fantasy, so novels reside along side games. 

Let me throw a word out there: Impressum. It's a mark of ownership and pride. PRIDE! If you are offering you book on DriveThru or other publishing sites, put that in. Include your name, your website, your city, county and a date. Nothing is more frustrating than not knowing which Joe Johnston wrote an excellent book and guide for a world wide community. Which Joe Johnston is a thought leader? 

Enough whining. 

Mr. Johnston's How to He crawl is an excellent guide for players and DM's alike. My usual warning for reviews: this book is written for Labyrinth Lord but it is easily adaptable and applicable to other systems with little to no modification. 

How to Hexcrawl sets the stage with a brief introductory paragraph outlining how rewarding outdoors adventures are and plunges the sources used to create such adventures. Mr. Johnston spells out what organization he uses, why and how that will help the reader. 

The next sections detail how to begin, for both the DM and the adventures like. It is follow with the basic ideas and conventions with examples of usage. In a dungeon, the primary limitation imposed on players is the physical structure which imparts a sense of unknown. In hexcrawls, everything is wide open but perhaps only vaguely known. Mishaps such as navigation or failing to navigate rules game play. This is something well addressed by Mr. Johnston. 

Other challenges will occur along the way. Injury, weather and encounters are woven in at a very basic level. Whether a player is bit by a rattlesnake, the wagon tongue breaks or the logistic of travel are too challenging, this book provides guidance. 

Although a brief read, it is economically written, providing everything the reader needs to Hexcrawl. As a bonus, the layout is a great benefit to author and reader alike. The single column format is clean and the maps and artwork strengthens the work. For this piece breaking out the art and maps from the text is impossible. At 4.5 of five stars, it is hard to find room for improvement. 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

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

Here is a throwback post originally hosted on my MYGSIV and UNPWND.com websites. The game still goes strong in 2021. 


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.

Monday, November 30, 2020

City of Nexus Map Bundle Review

Title: City of Nexus
Author: Seafoot Games  (Luke Seefuss and Rianna Stahl)
Rule Set: Any
Year: 2019
Pages: 5 pdfs, 15 pages each, plus 15 .jpg images. 
Rating: ★★★★★

Since this pandemic thing kicked off, I've been looking at Seafoot Games' City of Nexus bundle. It's been on the hot list for most, if not all of 2020. 

These sort of products give me fits for reviewing. How do I show an image without giving the milk away for free? Well, I'm gonna do my best by showing part of the title page of one of the five books included with set. 


It's impressive. Imagine this image with 300 px detail and multiply by five products. 

The books are nicely designed, with several pages dedicated to the Artist's Patreon following. The next ten pages include a 8.5" by 11" overview map, with nine pages dedicate to sections of the map. In this format, I advise printing one sided pages on photo paper. Every image has a grid for your figures, tokens or models. It's is wonderful with the right paper.

But I suspect that was not what the artist intended you to do. Each of the five maps has 3 jpeg files in 300px, 72px and one 300px poster size. The first two are perfect for virtual table tops and the choice of resolution is there to meet your needs. Sometimes, you don't want to pull up a massive file. 

These maps are battlemats for you to populate. They are extraordinarily detailed with beautiful set pieces, all obviously designed for each map in question. You could either ignore them or write them into your game. The set is ruleset agnostic for ease of use in any type of campaign. They are obviously medieval looking, but that's what 99% of OSR use. 

Back to "massive". The last jpeg for each map is a mighty poster 33" by 23" with a nice white border. It's perfect for framing as art OR to print off and cover with glass for your physical tabletop. Did I mention you get 5 of them? 

The price is great. It's CyberModay today, so I am not sure if there is a sale on right now, but at triple the price this is an excellent set. An easy 5 star product. 

Click the link to order. 

Hottest New Book
City of Nexus | 20x30 Battlemaps [BUNDLE]
City of Nexus | 20x30 Battlemaps [BUNDLE]

Thursday, February 27, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.