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Using Gary Gygax's D3 Vault of the Drow & Queen Of The Demonweb Pits With Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea - A Mini Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 07/22/2019 - 03:14
"As a member of a bold party of adventurers, you and your associates have trekked far into what seems to be a whole underworld of subterranean tunnels -- arteries connecting endless caves and caverns which honeycomb the foundations of the lands beneath the sun. Your expedition has dogged the heels of the Dark Elves who caused great woe and then fled underground. "Along with Needles
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Thoughts On The Yugoloth in Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers Of Hyperborea

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 07/21/2019 - 17:25
"There Charon stands, who rules the dreary coast –A sordid god: down from his hairy chinA length of beard descends, uncombed, unclean;His eyes, like hollow furnaces on fire;A girdle, foul with grease, binds his obscene attire."The Roman poet Virgil describes Charon, manning his rust-colored skiff, in the course of Aeneas's descent to the underworld(Aeneid, Book 6), after the Cumaean Sibyl Needles
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Don't Even Fix A Price - Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Actual Play Session Report III

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 07/20/2019 - 22:17
Today we got together to continue our  Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea game with DM Steve. We've been dealing with the revelation that the bastard captain whose taken us to our enchanted island is not who he claims to be at all but the Greco Roman god  Charon in disguise!! Session report I here  And session I part II right over here. Ray Harryhausen Clash of the Titans CharonNeedles
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The Weird & Lovecraftian Ecology of The Vargouille For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 07/20/2019 - 01:52
"In a land where weirdness and mystery had strongly leagued themselves with eternal desolation, the lake was out-poured at an undiscoverable date of elder aeons, to fill some fathomless gulf far down amid the shadows of snowless, volcanic mountains. No eye, not even the sun's, when he stared vertically upon it for a few hours at midday, seemed able to divine its depths of sullen blackness andNeedles
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Thralls of the Faceless Lord - Some Thoughts On The Lowly Gelatinous Cube & Its Kin

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 07/19/2019 - 17:50
The other day I was reading through the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition  Monster Manual & came upon the gelatinous cube entry. Every single dungeon that I've played in has had a gelatinous cube or some variety of that monster  within it. Why?!Every dungeon or wizard's tower seems to have one to clean up the remains of adventurers. They are hyper efficient at what they do. They Needles
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Shooting fish in an OSR barrel - Some Guidelines In the Table Top Hobby & the OSR

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 07/19/2019 - 03:14
One of the things that I really miss about the world without the internet was the scale of TSR back in the classic days. If you were lucky enough to find a Dragon magazine at the local street level then it was a gateway to world that someone in small town New England America at eight or nine didn't know anything about. Gary Gygax is someone that I knew only in passing  & having talked with at Needles
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'Playing With The OSR' Using & Abusing OSR Systems & Adventures For Campaign Use

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 18:40
Alright so I've been getting a bit of heat about the fact that the last blog post used classic original Dungeons & Dragons & Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books with both Godbound & Stars Without Number.  Many of the main line OSR retroclone systems will work with the Sine Nomine Publishing lines of games. Why?!None of that really matters by comparison to say Godbound or Stars Without Number. Needles
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'Mi Go & Mythologies' More Old School & OSR Campaign Workshop

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 14:52
We've had some pop up thunderstorms & 'what not' weather here so I've been down under the weather today. But my mind's been churning over & over about this Godbound rpg  campaign. I've been writing in the back of my mind between work jobs. One of the primary foes that I had for my early games were the Mi Go. Specifically, the Mi Go of the early original  Dragon Magazine #12 (Feb 1978) which Needles
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Don't Even Fix A Price - Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Actual Play Session Report II

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 07/17/2019 - 15:33
Further bits from last night's Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea game with DM Steve.We began the exploration of the inner workings of the sink hole with our two thieves repelling into the void with a pair of expensive silk & spiderweb ropes we had picked up back in the capital. They had short swords & mini wrist cross bows in the ready. We didn't have long to wait till we heard Needles
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Don't Even Fix A Price - Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Actual Play Session Report

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 07/17/2019 - 06:52
Tonight I took a break from being behind the screen to take a break & get into playing within my friend DM Steve's rotating Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea game in Litchfield,Ct. So once again I dusted off my Hyperborean warlock character Mojin Wormus. This would be my fifth or so game in this campaign.I met the rest of the party down on the docks around Butcher's Bay & we Needles
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Having To Go Further A Field With Dragon Issue #94 For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 07/16/2019 - 17:21
Further & further down the rabbit hole I go with looking into both Stars Without Number Revised & Godbound. These two games have led me into a series of campaign notes that I made back in the 90's. Those notes pointed back to a little known resource from Dragon magazine issue #94. Not only does this issue have a gorgeous cover by Clyde Caldwell  but there are few important articles in this Needles
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Going Down Deep - Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Campaign Workshop & White Dwarf Issue Seventy Commentary

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 07/15/2019 - 16:38
"Until about three years ago, the peculiar town of Port Greely was renowned as a prolific exporter of crustaceans. Then the Greely lobstermen severed all ties with outside partners. Subsequent attempts at renegotiation were shunned.More recently, a small group of Fishmongers’ Guild representatives from the City-State of Khromarium has gone missing in Port Greely, and answers have been Needles
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Dungeons & Sheens - A Stars Without Number Revised Campaign Idea Using Dragon Magazine issue #258

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 07/15/2019 - 02:34
"Once the Glaive was a powerful weapon. In the right hands, it can be so again." "Don't worry, I'll come back with it." "If you don't come back with it, Colwyn, you'll not come back at all!" -- Ynyr to Colywn, Krull, Marvel Comic AdaptationSo the year is Nineteen Ninety Nine,  Dragon magazine is a force to be reckoned with, Alternity is the new sci fi game from TSR  & White Wolf rules theNeedles
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Playing With The Ruler of The Devil World For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 07/14/2019 - 18:06
Scheduling is one of the biggest hazards in setting up a new game campaign. Today I've been meeting with DM Mike & his brother Steve to discuss doing a sort crossover game using Stars Without Number & Godbound.  We started tossing back & forth different ideas villains that we've used in the past. Who would fit into the campaign world? We dived into Ward & Kuntz's Deities & Demi Gods Needles
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Planning On Going Back To My Stars Without Number: Revised Edition OSR Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 07/14/2019 - 03:03
I've been speaking with some of my players about running a Godbound & Stars Without Number: Revised Edition campaign. Some of my players are thinking of switching to the back of the screen & over the years have had lots of experience in this regard.  Why?! "Backwards compatibility, as the Revised Edition is built to work cleanly with existing Stars Without Number supplements and materials. TheNeedles
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(5e) The Tower of Tharikthiril

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 07/13/2019 - 11:13
By Devin Cutler Self Published 5e Level 3

The evil wizard Tharikthiril was defeated by the dwarves years ago. But why then are the groundlings becoming numerous around his ruined tower? And what are those strange lights seen in the distance coming from the direction of his tower? Has the wizard somehow cheated death and risen again?

This 31 page adventure describes an evil wizards (former) tower with about fifty rooms described in fourteen pages. It can get lengthy at times, in DM text and read-aloud, but tends to keep things reasonable. What is suffers from, more than anything, is being boring. It tries, but beyond monsters and lengthy traps it has little to offer. 

This wizards tower, errr, former wizards tower, has a large ground floor of 33 locations and then a couple of very small tower levels and a couple of very small dungeon levels. Running around inside are some vermin, goblins and corrupted dwarf-mutations, and an evil wizard with a few abominations. 

Traps are sprinkled throughout, each taking up far more space than they should with multiple skill/stat checks referenced. There’s a few attempts at a weird effect or two in a couple of the rooms.

Unlike most adventures, this thing takes a good running start at an evocative writing style. One room has it’s corner collapsed with rubble strewn down the mountainside. A mosaic purposefully pried up in one hallway. A room choked with stone from the ceiling, mud, water, dung, all forming a thick goop with the skeleton of a small humanoid lying atop it, gibbets of meat still on its bones. We can argue about the use of small and goop, but gibbets of meat still upon its bones, and the image of the skeleton in the much room, if a good one. It’s a nice lure to bring the party in. In general the adventure does a pretty good job of getting in and out with its read-aloud while providing the correct degree of specificity to be evocative when mixed with its colorful use of adjectives and adverbs. It’s not exactly The Best but it is CLEARLY a cut above the fact based descriptions that permeate adventures. A little scrubbing or agonizing editing and it could have possibly been really a standout in that area.

It does fall down on interactivity though. The adventure interprets this as monsters and traps and therefore it falls in to a rut of combat and traps. There ARE a few rooms where you can speak to a demon lord via a circle, and so on, but, especially on the homes main floor, it needs some more interactivity. For every small skeleton luring you in to combat there are 12 rooms that are far FAR more mundane. It doesn’t have to be a funhouse but interactivity needs to be more than combat and traps. Especially when those traps are nearly never telegraphed. Bad!

And then it goes and gives a full page of read-aloud monologue at the start, as a hook. Or gives you a page of text for a room with a quasit in it. These are extreme examples, but its clear that restraint failed in several other rooms as well. Long read and short DM text is usually a key that something fucked up. Short initial read-aloud, and an exploding format of the DM providing more and more detail as the players investigate would resolve this. Experiences are consistent, at least initial ones, with the DM consulting for more as needed. 

It’s also clear that, for most of the adventure, an order of battle is missing. With a couple of groups of at least semi-intelligent humanoids I would expect a few notes on how they respond to intruders or summon help, etc. 

And then for every good room description we get history and backstory embedded in the DM text, adding noting to the adventure but getting in the way.

Not doing much good. Dipping in to the bad on occasion but not living there. Is that enough to recommend an adventure? No, but it’s enough to not hate it. For its faults, this thing is better than most published 5e adventures. What’s heartening is that I think usability and interactivity are more easily learned than evocative writing. It’s possible that this designer may get things together and figure out the interactivity and usability elements while kicking up their evocative writing another notch. There’s just too much decent content available go lower than “Decent.”

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $2. The preview is quite poor, showing you that page long read-aloud in the hook and nothing of the actual rooms/encounters. Thus you have little idea of what to expect when you buy the thing.

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Random Thoughts About The "Monster & Treasure Assortment Sets One-Three: Levels One-Nine" (1980) Book

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 07/12/2019 - 16:25
 "Are you running out of ideas for ways to stock your dungeon full of treasure? Do you need a quick and easy way to fill out your castle of 1,000 rooms with monsters? The Monster & Treasure Assortment has 900 monsters, 900 treasures, a host of treasure containers/protection devices/concealments, and complete instructions for using the assortment to fill in partially stocked or newly Needles
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Some OSR Thoughts on The AD&D Rogues Gallery by Brian Blume, Dave Cook, Jean Wells For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 07/11/2019 - 06:13
" Hundreds of pre-rolled non-player characters of all classes and types, complete with alignments, sex, personalities and much more." There are books that I used to pore over for hours on end & then there are Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books that have gained utility as I've grown with this hobby. One of these is the AD&D Rogues Gallery by Brian Blume, Dave Cook, Jean Wells."The Rogues Needles
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Further Explorations of Dungeon issue # 69 & Its Use In Old School Sword & Sorcery Game Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 07/10/2019 - 16:08
Way, way, back in the hoary days of Nineteen Ninety Eight Dungeon magazine was still a thing & there were some killer issues on the spinner racks. There was one issue that stood out & that was Dungeon issue #69. No its not for the issue number its for the adventure  Slave Vats of the Yuan-ti by Jason Kuhl, Illustrated by Terry Dykstra, Cartography by Diesel. p. 10-27. If you can find it thenNeedles
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Bone Marshes

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 07/10/2019 - 11:11
By David Schriduan Technical Grimoire Games Knave

We need your help! The marshes are burning, and we don’t know why!

This 48 page hexcrawl has 25 hexes. [Hex size defined as “four hours to cross] It falls in to the “Real deal” category of adventures. Not mini-dungeon, but fully formed with lots going on. It makes some non-intuitive choices but it’s easy enough to use once you’ve got the hang of it. Chok full of adventure.

You find some magic flyers saying the swamps are on fire and some mage needs help. The mage has a mission for you: charting a path through the swamp for her supply caravan to reach her base. After that she another mission, and then another. These come with handy dandy tracking sheets and notes on modifications on how to turn each in to one-shot. The above references two themes: an impishness and a nod to usability. 

There’s a tone present which isn’t gonzo and isn’t deadly serious 1e AD&D and isn’t humor. It’s a slightly bizarre character thing, drifting toward ren-faire but never actually getting close. There’s some tech present in the swamp, at the heart of mystery in fact, but its not a gonzo adventure. It’s more subtle. There’s no real humor, but there are non-serious moments. These are almost entirely in the form of the NPC’s. They are not humorous, but they do have strong character. A guy who like to see things burn. Sages who like their comfort. And the primary quest-giver, a mage with a lot of money, not much sense, a childlike wonder, and who is looking to make a name for herself. Further in the swamp are memgomanicial bandit kings and some swamp-creatures with a trial separation going on. They don’t go over the top, or least not enough to make the adventure a farce. They do provide strong elements to hang your DM hat on and provide engaging play for the party. Which is what it’s about.

There’s also an emphasis on usability. I noted the handouts for the three missions, which double as a kind of note-pad, etc for the party. The character sheets also have some nods to usability for a “you got mud on you” mechanic. The hexes are noted in a format to help aid the DM, as is some underground/flooded tunnel notes. The descriptions make good use of bolding and summaries, whitespace, bullets, and terse evocative setting descriptions. It’s clear that usability was a major design consideration, and it pays off.

There’s a lot to do and interact with in the swamp. Fighting, fire fighting, NPC’s to talk to do, schemes to plot, places to explore and so on. It’s a small hex crawl done right. There’s some over-arching goals for the party and a canvas full of things waiting to happen for the adventure to develop as the party tries to achieve their goals. It’s a great example of both plot and sandbox mixing in the correct proportions to achieve some directed purpose without dictating which way things should go. 

And it’s not without its flaws. For all its attempts at usability a few fall short. 

The adventure makes an effort at cross-references, they appear in more than a few places. It also doesn’t always use time when it should. There are five gizmos scattered about the swamp that play a major part in the adventure … but there’s no unified place where they are all mentioned. Other elements, mentioned in passing as goals or so on, also do not get a cross-reference. Where was that swamp-throne again? 

The swamp map is a little non-intuitive as well, at first glance. The hexes are numbered A through R. Then the hex descriptions start. It took me more than a few minutes to recognize that the hexes were keyed by the encounter name. “Archies Camp” is hex A. “Queens House” is hex Q, and so on. I get it, once I figured it out, but I’m still not sure it makes the layout/design more intuitive. It also moves from one area to the next a little more fluidly then is helpful. In particular the indoor and underground sections for the main encounter areas end up being less intuitive then they could be if done in a more traditional format.It’s not BAD, exactly, but it does require more work than usual to figure out how things relate to each other.

Finally, there’s the fire aspect. This is the pretext for the entire adventure: the swamp is on fire and the mage wants to put it out. Mechanically, this is covered. There are rules for fire fighting, damage and the like. Easy to find, laid out, and understandable. Then there are tactical level fire issues: many random encounters and a few fixed ones have fire elements to them. Hexes tell yo uwhat they look like before and fires in them. But it feels like there’s a gap when it comes to, oh, let’s call is Strategic fire management. Let’s start with something very basic: where are the fires? Having spent a couple of hours with this adventure I can only tell you one hex. If you levitate up, or fly, or somehow get high up and look out … where are the fires? Where is the smoke coming from? There’s not help in this area. [Further, in retrospect, I don’t think fires exist, except in isolated circumstances and that one hex. I think they mostly come up through play and random encounters. The feeling of “smoke and small fires everywhere” doesn’t really come through for me. This may be a play thing though.]

But, these are minor nits and generally easily addressed. Monsters are freaky and get good descriptions. Hex/item descriptions are evocative and terse and the text easy to scan. It’s just how it all fits together that could be better. Still, easily one of the best. A “real” adventure, and there’s not many of those out there,

This is $10 at DriveThru, and worth it. The preview is fifteen pages. You get to see a DM overview of one of the “plot quests”, laid out nicely. You also get some bestiary pages, showing off their descriptions and freakiness. Preview page 10 and onward shows you sample hex encounter descriptions, with wanderers and the main layout/descriptions for hexes. It’s a good preview.

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