Showing posts with label mostfavored. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mostfavored. Show all posts

Monday, November 4, 2019

A Fascinating Idea - Elthos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Artist Shell Presto DiBaggio

If you need a kick of inspriation for you drawing, Shell Presto can deliver. She illustrates the Ascension Epoch series of books and also also a part of dynamic writing duo, with her husband Michael.

I've embedded her most recent video here:



but head on over to youtube and subscribe. Topics range from comic books, to style and layout and also has those much needed newbie pep talks.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Proper Equipment - Non-Gamer Style


A friend of mine has a wonderful website called Blue Shift Designs for purses, bags, soaps and clothing. I can't tell you I've tried these products, but my wife has and they are exceptional. Personally, I love the soaps but I could totally see a gamer rocking a bag for books or accessories. Each one is lovingly handmade, no two are identical.

While I spend a lot of time outfitting my characters, there is a special sort pleasure in outfitting my wife. Especially when the choice is a high quality, yet one of a kind design. Gifts are wonderful, because they are typically items you would never think to buy yourself.

You can check out her blogspot here or follow her Facebook page. If you follow along on Facebook, you get previews of new items as she creates them.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Inkwell Ideas, Worldographer Software

Worldographer map from this year. 
I purchased the Pro version of every product by Inkwell Ideas. My favorite is Worldographer, which can create world and continent sized maps, regional maps, city maps, and battlemats. The software is so comprehensive and rich, that I often find that I need a bit of help to get what I want done.

Hand drawn map from 2 years ago.
I usually just google answers and when combined with Inkwell Ideas' forums and the Manual I can get things done.

Today I googled something and discovered that Inkwell is using some of my maps as examples.

I love that!



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.

Friday, September 13, 2019

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.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Unreview - The Gardens of Ynn

When I found this title, I fell in love with the concept of a procedurally produced adventure. I meant to write a review of The Gardens, but I never could capture the core idea. What struck me most was the author's (Emmy Allen) desire to break out of her writer's block. Wow. That was an amazing idea and the end result is spectacular.

Anyway, I have collected up 3 reviews of The Gardens of Ynn and added a bit of commentary on each review.

The Gauntlet Blog, called the book "evocative" and praises the use of all five senses in the area descriptions. The Gauntlet takes the point of view of White Hack players, which is a step removed from typical D&D. This perspective enhances the review as it leaves the typical D&D archetypes out. While I don't play White Hack,  Fraser Simons' review of The Gardens makes me wonder if I should.

Bryce over at Ten Foot Pole, stress the Gothic Horror aspect while digging right into the mechanics of how to use this setting. Bryce is right that this is a setting book as opposed to an adventure, which something that the reader could over look, something that Emmy Allen took a moment to confirm in Ten Foot Pole's comment section.

d4caltrops calls The Garden "elegant". d4 praises the binary aspect of "go deeper/go back" to control where the adventurers go in The Garden. Even better, he suggests easy ways to use this book as a means of transport for your characters. Talk about taking a great idea and making it better.

I was surprised to see that no one commented on the artwork of this piece, which I totally enjoyed. Its Gothic simplicity is wonderful. I love this style of art.

You can pick up The Gardens at DriveThruRPG for just a couple of bucks. You can also go an add the three blogs above for free. Why not do both?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Cruisin'

Back in 2014, I had the chance to sail on The Oasis of the Seas. It was amazing. 

Our destination was the Bahamas, Nassau in particular. What a beautiful island. I can't wait to go back.

The Oasis of the Seas is a new ship, first sailing in 2009. It has 16 passenger decks, a casino, 5 pools, a carousel, chapel, a library, and dozens of other features. Our trip was only 3 nights, so obviously I couldn't see everything they had to offer. I never set foot in a bar and was only able to breeze through the shopping areas. On the deck was a massive amphitheater which also served as a rally point. As big as it was, I only saw it once.

The views from the ship were incredible. Even in port, the sights were amazing.

My wife and I were traveling with three small children and we were new to the ins and outs of cruising. My mother-in-law guided us through the process. Thank god for that, we would have been lost.

Even still, the Oasis was big enough to swallow us up even with help. One evening, my daughter and I got lost on the ship and found ourselves in the chapel, then a library and finally, a wonderful viewing point at the top of the ship. It was overwhelming.

The Oasis of the Seas is a massive ship. We could sail on that three more times and likely not see it all. Next time, we may take a longer cruise on a smaller ship. Or not. Depends on where we want to go. I would love to sail on the Oasis again.

Having said that, my mother-in-law is a great planner but not a professional planner. We keep telling her she should be. Maybe someday she'll retire to that life. In any event, my wife and I have a friend, Jaime Nowicki who is a travel planner. She loves Disney but also handles trips to other locales, too. Of course, Disney Cruise Line is one but she also plans for Sandals, Beaches, Royal Caribbean, AMA Waterways, Azamara, Celebrity, Carnival, MSC Cruiseline, Norwegian, American Cruise Line, Princess!

My dream trip would be to Cuba. My wife, Kitty's dream is to go to England and Ireland. We need someone like Jaime to manage these dreams and give a plan that is both incredible and budget friendly.

You can find Jaime on Facebook or Twitter, or contact her by email or phone at:

716-491-9980
j dot nowiki at magicalvacationplanner dot com

Of course, there is a website, too.





Thursday, June 14, 2018

Guest Post from Jaime Nowicki @ magicalvacationplanner.com

This is my first guest post from Jaime @ at magicalvacationplanner.com.


June 19th!

Disney Vacation Dates for 2019 will be available to book.

Book soon to get your preferred Disney destination, resort, room, package...they will fill up fast! You can book a Disney Vacation Package with only a $200 deposit. I am a certified Disney travel agent, my concierge services are complimentary, and I am looking forward to helping you plan your 2019 Disney Vacation.

Contact me at: j.nowicki@magicalvacationplanner.com or check out my website.

Don't forget to like my Facebook page.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Outside the Envelope

Sometimes my family gets a chance to step out of New York and experience wonders in other places. Our most recent major endeavor was Disney World.

My wife and I had made this journey a couple of times, but the kids have only been twice. Both trips were amazing!
Alice, the Mad Hatter and my kids.

We had a little help for all of our trips. The first time it was AAA, the second was my mother-in-law, who is amazing a trip planning. She travels all the time, but Disney isn't really her favorite. We need a pro this time. 

A good planner can help get all your ducks in a row. Over the next few weeks, I will be reviewing some of the choices we made in the past and a few vacation planners, like Jaime Nowicki. You might find her helpful, too. Expert help is always wonderful, they can point you to new options and things you might not have thought of even if you are good at planning. Jaime has given me a ton of ideas for this upcoming trip. 

Two of three trips to Disney have been in August. The other was in February. Completely different experiences. This next one will be a big one around a major holiday. All of the rules change and I'll need a little help from Jaime to pull this off. 

I have another vacation in the works. This is more of a working vacation as it will be to support a novel called "Pio". It takes place in Bari, Italy. This is likely several years down the line, but the planning started a year ago. Jaime specialized in Disney, but also plans cruises and other all inclusive packages. I'm ready to pick her brain, but bookings and spousal approval are months to years away. 

If you are looking to get away, drop her a message or check out her website. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Certain Vibe – Dyson’s Delves, Tsoran and Gemstone IV

I’ve been a gamer since I could read. Perhaps, thanks to my dad, before I could read.
Some of my favorite games have something in common, a certain vibe. My favorite D&D modules are some of the earliest: Keep on the Borderlands,Ghost Tower of Inverness, Isle of Dread, and the adventure that appeared in Butterfield, Parker and Honigmann’s What is Dungeons and Dragons book.
All of them have the same vibe; an organic construction, a hint of what is to come and a basic hook that could be implemented at anytime. There is the name place which is foreboding and yet interesting. A diagram like structure of events. A collection of “show, don’t tell” sample characters to inform the DM of what is expected from the players. And nothing else.
It was all so simple:
“Do X and maybe Y will happen.
“Can’t really say for sure, your players have free rein.
“Make it work.”
I loved the way these old modules assumed that you and your players had something to bring to the table. There were events, maps, and charts documented, but you needed people to make the whole thing work.
That is awesome.
Recently, I returned to Gemstone IV, a MUD that thrives on the idea that players make the story. Being entirely text based, everything is very rich in descriptions and only rarely does art make it’s way into this world. There are many talented artists at Simutronics; but again, living by their player base, the players also a very creative bunch. Strangely, one of the most prolific “artists” was a player going by the handle Tsoran. He spent his time creating maps of the Lands of Elanthia. He may not consider himself to be an artist, but his maps ARE the image of the Lands. It is what I picture when I think of the game.
A number of years ago, Tsoran stepped away from the game and left the work of mapping the Lands to others. There would be no more updates to his maps. I have always been enviously of his detailed maps and wanted to make my own. Sadly, they never compared and I did not share too many.
Until I stumbled on Dyson Logo and his tutorials. Using his methods, I quickly cranked out a map that I loved. One that did not surpass Tsoran’s source materials, but stood along side. I was extremely please with myself.
Soon, I found myself digging through Dyson’s maps and blog postsfor more artwork to emulate so that I could improve my works. I found that he has a series of books called Dyson Delves. I ordered the first one and found myself back in The Keep on the Borderlands.
Dyson’s books capture that certain vibe. Unscripted but beautifully detailed. Just thumbing through the first book gave me the same feeling I had when reading those classic modules.
Go give Dyson a try. His work is available at RPGNow in electronic form or from Lulu in book form.