Sunday, June 5, 2022

Old School Essentials: Characters Review

It's been a few months since I've reviewed anything. Today, I mean to correct this by reviewing Old School Essentials' Character PDF book. As you can see by the counter on the right, I backed the 2022 Kickstarter having missed the original Kickstarter a few years ago. 

Title: Old School Essentials: Characters
Author: Gavin Norman
Rule Set: OSE/B/X
Year: 2022
Pages: 73
Number of players: 2 or more
Rating: ★★★★(★) 5ish of 5 stars

Right off the bat, I must justify the star rating. This work is currently a pdf of a future physical book. It makes heavy use of gorgeous artwork, sometimes on two-page spreads. It will not print well without an inordinate amount of care or skipping the artwork spreads altogether. A half measure might be to print these spreads on photopaper, leaving the back side of the page blank or cobbing something together with glue. 

Neither seems like a good solution. The physical book will merit at least 5 stars and I will happily update this once I start to see the physical product. This is a flaw of my rating system, not really a reflection of the goods in question. Judging by the physical copy of the Rules Tome I picked up at Iron Buffalo Games, we're in good hands. 

Because I am a history major, I am throwing up my first star for a rock-solid impressum. A lot of authors, especially PDF producers skimp on the credits either throwing them in the back of the book with the legalese or not publishing them at all. OSE: Characters gets it right.

Perfect! Names and dates, as needed. Where "city of publication" is missing, we get websites which I feel is an excellent compromise. 

So, in just 73 pages, we have a modern take on the original B/X rules. Gone are the errors and counter-intuitive stuff from B/X, everything has been fixed. The level limits are mitigated by a simple chart in the event that your human gets too big in the britches. No sense in making a whole 'nother set of rules when these simple guide rails will serve so well. 

What you get is a simple and clean way to build Clerics, Dwarves, Elves, Fighters, Halflings, Magic Users and Theives. Additionally, you get flavoring from B/X and AD&D. You have Clerics with no spells to start, alignment languages, and many more. My personal favorites are hirelings, building castles and towers and an introduction to domain level play.  

It also has a handy guide to TH0AC and something called "Ascending Armor Class". It seems reasonable, but lower is better as it doesn't invalidated the classic statement: "Comes with 24 illustrations, charts and tables". That kind marketing speak was a big part of my youth and huge influence on me. "Higher is better" a statement best reserved for space stations, raves and your spouse's Christmas party. 

Anyway,  I recall reviewing a different set of PDFs by Old School Essentials. I'm slightly bent that October is a long ways off and I shaved off the gold part of the star so I have some reason revisit this. When I get my hands on a physical book, my rating system will be completely broken when I come back and give this title the whole 5 gold stars that it deserves because there is no ranking higher. I really enjoyed this one for a variety of reasons which mirror why I like the original Basic and Expert sets back in the day.  

Now if you missed the Kickstarter, if you have no way to pick up this set online, be sure to check your local game shop. I found my first OSE book by accident at Iron Buffalo Games. Nothing is better than finding a treasure in a place close to home. 

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Continuing... out of order.

Back in April, I posted a bit of a story with no title. It still has no title despite each chapter having one. I have about 7000 words written. Or about 25 pages. I've taken several stabs at NaNoWriMo, but never actually finished. Apparently, November sucks for me. If I actually crank out 50,000 words or more, maybe I'll publish it. 

Now, bear in mind, that the text in this post is subject to change. You are getting a live version, not a fixed snapshot of a work in progress. 

I had a long day today, so things are very ruff. You'll find typos and mixed-up sentences, I am sure. Up until 15 minutes ago, I didn't realize that I had one character was in two places at once. While based off of something I would use in my high magic D&D campaigns, I typically like to keep time and space fixed so I don't drive my players or myself nuts. 

This started with an idea for a D&D campaign, it has morphed into something more. Perhaps it doesn't reproduce D&D exactly, but it rhymes with it. I have a cast of characters like a party. Each character has a role like a class, but I changed things up willy-nilly to fit the story. 

The whole setting is based on Roman culture but displaced in time and space. If it was set in Rome, it would be about 200 years after the Fall of the Western Roman Empire. However, it is not set in Rome or even Europe. If you have ever been north of Buffalo or Rochester in New York, you will notice the similarities in the terrain. 

Although this section is an external character study of Justo and Gerwinder, Serena and Rolf's powers are highlighted in the extreme. 

Serena has a lot of shoutouts to Disney's Encanto, particularly the character Luisa Madrigal. She would be a divisive woman to ancient Romans. She behaves as if she is the actual wife of Hercules, which is very dangerous scenario in ancient times. She is a free woman with no duties or obligations to the rule of law because her husband cannot be taken to task or court. For the purposes of this story, there is a general belief that Hercules is an absent demi-god meaning that Serena can roll as she sees fit. 

I also use her to describe realistic clothing worn by Roman women, topped off with a fantastic expy Girdle or Belt of Giant Strength. 

Rolf doesn't know he is god touched. He is a priest of Mercury and you'll notice some of the trappings of a D&D cleric. He can turn undead and cannot use a bladed weapon. He knows the first, but not the second. His magic is thematic to Mercury, so he can cast haste on himself and others. He can probably do this once per day. 

Gerwinder's flight depicts Traveller's "slow drug" in action. 

It is an oddity that Serena is Rolf, Sarah and Leon's sister while also having the cult title of "Sister". I hope that isn't too confusing. The multiple references to "cults" is in line with the ancient meaning of the word, which lacks the current negative implications. It is all about the rites and ceremonies in practicing religion. In this particular case, Serena is celebrating Hercules by not being present for his feast day, an event that excluded women. 

Since Heracleia takes place in late July or early August and the wheat harvest is anywhere from July to mid-September, we have the implication that Sister Serena is a bit of a globe trotter. 

Geoff is Rolf, Leon and Serena's brother-in-law. He is a fighter-farmer, which is something every legionary and auxiliary aspired to be. He is an earnest citizen of his new culture. He is probably an example of a lawful good alignment in action. 

Leon is the opposite of Geoff in every way, being landed and noble in a very simplistic way. He is the oldest son in a large family, of which we have only met a handful. Don't be fooled by Leon's actions in this section. He is a prime example of lawful or neutral evil thinking in action. He is putting weapons in the hands of people enslaved by Father. What a wonderful way to inherit young. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Obi-Wan Kenobi - Episode 3 review

 Oh, so much ground to cover for a Wednesday. But Ben comes first. I'll save the other exciting events of the week for the weekend. 

Episode 3 picks up where the last episode ended. Ben and Leia are on the run from the Inquisitors. This episode is odd because it solidifies what happened in the Clone Wars cartoon while seeming to undercut what happened in Rebels. There are a ton of shout-outs to both series in this episode. 

In the last Episode, Reva betrayed the Grand Inquisitor and makes a powerplay with the rest of the Inquisitors. She jumps in the driver's seat and takes the Empire for a spin. She manages to locate and isolate Ben and Leia, which of course leads to typical Empiric missteps. Often, Star Wars plays these types of events for laughs but Ben's encounter with stormtroopers is anything but funny. The two heroes end up on the short bus with a bunch of stormtroopers which could have been played for laughs but instead, we get sorrow and tension before the stormtroopers learn to just walk away. 

Meanwhile Third Sister, or Reva if you like, tries to get the Empire back on Ben's track. She is only partially successful. This is what I like in a villainous character, driven but totally luckless. Reva and the other Inquisitors are forever stuck in a battle of brawn more than will. Where the others are ruthless, Reva is honest. That is one of the most dastardly traits of a villain. She has an awareness of what the Inquisitors are and doesn't fully mean to emulate them. Much to their pain. 

The big cameo is Vader's appearance, a direct result of Reva's power-grabbing stunts. It's a pity that the other Inquisitors are unable to learn from past mistakes and can only emulate important actions. Which leads to vying for power and bad ideas.  

Emperor Claudius

I've had a theory since seeing Rogue One, which is weird because Rogue One is in Obi-Wan's future. In the original three Star Wars films, Vader was a beast. There was nothing scarier than that black suit and dark breathing. But it comes at a cost. There is only so much energy he has to spend. When not in the suit, he's in the tank just trying to be ready to get in the suit. He is worn out, exhausted from the constant pain of his injuries. This was very evident in Rogue One and to a lesser extent, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. It comes back in Obi-Wan Kenobi, as Vader sits on his throne. He is more Claudius than Conan. 

He's not his best by any measure. Perhaps a better analogy would be Vader and Tiberius. 

This is the Vader we get in Kenobi. While weak, he dominates the stage, making everything seem small and cramped. This episode opens up the world when Leia and Ben are on the road through deserts and mines, but everything collapses in when they are being stalked by the Empire. 
As the trap closes on Ben and Leia, the scenes take on a more realistic tone. The lightsabres are back to being physical objects as they were in the first 3 movies. Their glow is powerful, almost overdone pitting Ben's blue light against the red of Vader's blade. There is not a hell of a lot of swordplay here. The two battle like boxers coming off the ropes, which makes a lot of sense. Ben is older and Vader is maimed. 

Like the last episode, a lot of smaller characters make their way into the action hinting at a much larger world. Like Rebels, these people play a role they do not completely understand. We don't have a rebellion just yet. But boy is one brewing up. 

The episode ends in a cliffhanger as Reva almost captures what she needs. Curiously, she ends the episode spouting kindness and reassurance, which is the last thing you want from a villain. 

I look forward to the next episode. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

For the Black Rabbit of Inle

I have the garden growing again. I have the mulch in but it needs to be weeded again. 

I have 2 tomatoes, 3 cucumber plants, 2 strawberries, 3 dill plants running wild, thyme, rosemary, basil, two sweet peppers, and a spicy pepper plant, plus some radishes. I have 2 empty slots. 

My daughter mentioned how her rabbit would love the garden. Hmm. Ideas sunk in. 

First, I don't know why she named The Black Rabbit of Inle, "Bo Bunny". Second, it'd be nice to have some plants around the house over the winter. 

The dill, strawberries, and thyme are holdouts from last year. They withstood the ash and fire, the lack of water and weeds. Bringing a few plants inside really couldn't be worse than what they weathered.  

I started another batch of seedlings. Cucumbers and oregano. Once they spout, I'll try some tomatoes and beans. The idea is to get a couple of liftable containers going outside this summer and bring them in for the fall and winter. 

The other half of this project is four more basement lights. LEDs with a Bluetooth controller. With a brighter basement, the garden may actually winter-over inside for next year. I have no idea if that will work, but that is my plan.

The worst-case scenario is The Black Bunny eats them all.