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The d' Amberville Gambit - Campaign Session Commentary Report 1b - Now With More Jame M. Ward

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 00:54
So my Castles & Crusades rpg campaign has been humming along with me updating various adventure elements thanks in part to the Castles & Crusades rpg community on Facebook. I was able to get my local print shop to do an incredible bang up job on my recent purchases from Drivethrurpg.So I've been incorporating huge swaths of past campaigns & that brings me to one of my most Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Running First Edition AD&D Without Modules or Campaign Supplements

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Tue, 05/19/2020 - 23:42

Just looking over these old sessions and I have to say, it really takes my breath away:

  • The Hole in the Sky
  • The Thing in the Sewer
  • The Big Score
  • The Drums of the Dog People
  • Altar of the Beast-women
  • The Pugs of Slaughter
  • The Overbearing of the Crystal Men
  • The Song of Fàgor

The excitement from that initial flash of inspiration coming to life. My attempts at adventure design blowing up in my face or collapsing in unexpected ways. One page dungeons that never got used. My mistakes in carelessly interpreting monster manual entries being revisited and then evolving into significant campaign elements. Encumbrance rules creating an awesome game scenario out of nothing. Players going in disorganized and without a plan and nearly meeting their doom for nothing. That time we stayed up until midnight because we HAD to play one more delve. That one multi-class elf character that took over the game session with his unquenchable thirst for the ludicrous. The Swoleceror spellbook that never got recovered. Oghma sitting in and showing everyone what play is like when an elite player seizes the initiative. The crescendo of a half-orc’s improvised composition conjuring an entire world.

Every session completely different from every other. Rude sketches on loose leaf paper held together by little else than random monster results, a fanatical commitment to playing by the AD&D rules as closely as possible, and the audacity and persistence of the players.

All of it emerging out of exchanges that go like this:

Players: Who the frack is this guy’s superior officer?
DM: Uh… I dunno… uh. He answers to the prince.
Players: What? That’s insane.
DM: Yeah, yeah. Sure. He totally answers directly to the prince.
Players: Okay, we go talk to the prince.
DM: (Under his breath) Oh crap.
DM: Okay, you go see Prince… uh… um…
Players: Yeah?
DM: Yeah, it’s Prince Elric.
Dan: I LOVE THIS GAME

It shouldn’t work. It can’t work. None of this makes sense. But then out of the chaos something just seems to emerge in spite of everything: Swords & Swolecery! A Game of Terrific Trollops, Glittering Gold, & Punishing Pugmen!

No other campaign would play quite like this. And yet… it is undeniably pure and unadulterated first edition AD&D.

Easily the best game ever made. Don’t settle for less!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

5150 - Send Lawyers, Guns and Money Now on Sale

Two Hour Wargames - Tue, 05/19/2020 - 16:33

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

For 10 Years D&D Suffered From an Unplayable Initiative System. Blame the Game’s Wargaming Roots

DM David - Tue, 05/19/2020 - 10:50

While every version of Dungeons & Dragons has a rule for who goes first in a fight, no other rule shows as much of the game’s evolution from what the original books call rules for “wargames campaigns” into what the latest Player’s Handbook calls a roleplaying game about storytelling.

Before you old grognards rush to the comments to correct my opening line, technically the original books lacked any way to decide who goes first. For that rule, co-creators Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson supposed gamers would refer to Gary’s earlier Chainmail miniatures rules. In practice, players rarely saw those old rules. The way to play D&D spread gamer-to-gamer from Dave and Gary’s local groups and from the conventions they attended. D&D campaigns originally ran by word-of-mouth and house rules.

Gygax waited five years to present an initiative system in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide (1979). Two things made those official rules terrible.

  • Nobody understood the system.

  • Any reasonable interpretation of the system proved too slow and complicated for play.

Some grognards insist they played the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons initiative system by the book. No they didn’t. Grognardia blogger James Maliszewski writes, “Initiative in AD&D, particularly when combined with the equally obscure rules regarding surprise, was one of those areas where, in my experience, most players back in the day simply ignored the official rules and adopted a variety of house rules. I know I did.”

Not even Gygax played with all his exceptions and complications. “We used only initiative [rolls] and casting times for determination of who went first in a round. The rest was generally ignored. We played to have fun, and in the throws of a hot melee, rules were mostly forgotten.”

With Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, the D&D story grows complicated, because original or basic D&D soldiered on with workable initiative systems. My next tale will circle back to D&D, but this one focuses on AD&D, the game Gygax treated as his own. (See Basic and Advanced—the time Dungeons & Dragons split into two games.)

Some of the blame for AD&D’s terrible initiative system falls back on Chainmail and Gygax’s love for its wargaming legacy.

Chainmail lets players enact battles with toy soldiers typically representing 20 fighters. The rules suggest playing on a tabletop covered in sand sculpted into hills and valleys. In Chainmail each turn represents about a minute, long enough for infantry to charge through a volley of arrows and cut down a group of archers. A clash of arms might start and resolve in the same turn. At that scale, who strikes first typically amounts to who strikes from farthest away, so archers attack, then soldiers with polearms, and finally sword swingers. Beyond that, a high roll on a die settled who moved first.

In Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, the 1-minute turns from Chainmail became 1-minute melee rounds. Such long turns made sense for a wargame that filled one turn with a decisive clash of arms between groups of 20 soldiers, but less sense for single characters trading blows.

Even though most D&D players imagined brief turns with just enough time to attack and dodge, Gygax stayed loyal to Chainmail’s long turns. In the Dungeon Master’s Guide (1979), Gygax defended the time scale. “The system assumes much activity during the course of each round. During a one-minute melee round many attacks are made, but some are mere feints, while some are blocked or parried.” Gygax cited the epic sword duel that ended The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) as his model for AD&D’s lengthy rounds. He never explained why archers only managed a shot or two per minute.

Broadly, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons held to Chainmail’s system for deciding who goes first. Gygax also chose an option from the old wargame where players declared their actions before a round, and then had to stick to plan as best they could. “If you are a stickler, you may require all participants to write their actions on paper.”

Why would Gygax insist on such cumbersome declarations?

In a D&D round, every character and creature acts in the same few seconds, but to resolve the actions we divide that mayhem into turns. This compromise knots time in ridiculous ways. For example, with fifth edition’s 6-second rounds, one character can end their 6-second turn next to a character about to start their turn and therefor 6 seconds in the past. If they pass a relay baton, the baton jumps 6 seconds back in time. If enough characters share the same 6 seconds running with the baton, the object outraces a jet. Now expand that absurdity across AD&D’s 1-minute round.

Years before D&D, wargamers like Gygax had wrestled with such problems. They couldn’t resolve all actions simultaneously, but players could choose actions at once. Declaring plans in advance, and then letting a referee sort out the chaos yielded some of the real uncertainty of an actual battle. Wargamers loved that. Plus, no referee would let players declare that they would start their turn by taking a relay baton from someone currently across the room.

Especially when players chose to pretend that a turn took about 10 seconds, the Chainmail system for initiative worked well enough. In basic D&D, turns really lasted 10 seconds, so no one needed to pretend. Many tables kept that system for AD&D.

But nobody played the advanced system as written. Blame that on a wargamer’s urge for precision. Despite spending paragraphs arguing for 1-minute rounds, Gygax seemed to realize that a minute represented a lot of fighting. So he split a round into 10 segments lasting as long as modern D&D’s 6-second rounds. Then he piled on intricate—sometimes contradictory—rules that determined when you acted based on weapon weights and lengths, spell casting times, surprise rolls, and so on. In an interview, Wizards of the Coast founder Peter Adkison observed, “The initiative and surprise rules with the weapon speed factors was incomprehensible.”

In a minute-long turn filled with feints, parries, and maneuvering, none of that precision made sense. On page 61, Gygax seemed to say as much. “Because of the relatively long period of time, weapon length and relative speed factors are not usually a consideration.” Then he wrote a system that considered everything.

Some of the blame for this baroque system may rest on the wargaming hobby’s spirit of collaboration.

Even before D&D, Gygax had proved a zealous collaborator on wargames. Aside from teaming with other designers, he wrote a flood of articles proposing variants and additions to existing games. In the early years of D&D, Gygax brought the same spirit. He published rules and ideas from the gamers in his circle, and figured that players could use what suited their game. In the Blackmoor supplement, he wrote, “All of it is, of course, optional, for the premise of the whole game system is flexibility and personalization within the broad framework of the rules.”

I doubt all the rules filigree in AD&D came from Gygax. At his table, he ignored rules for things like weapon speed factors. Still, Gygax published such ideas from friends and fellow gamers. For example, he disliked psionics, but he bowed to his friends and included the system in AD&D. (See Gary Gygax Loved Science Fantasy, So Why Did He Want Psionics Out of D&D?.)

Weapon speed factors fit AD&D as badly as anything. In theory, a fighter could swing a lighter weapon like a dagger more quickly. Did this speed enable extra attacks? Not usually. Instead, light weapons could strike first. But that contradicted Chainmail’s observation that a fighter with a spear had to miss before an attacker with a dagger could come close enough to attack. Gygax patched that by telling players to skip the usual initiative rules after a charge.

AD&D’s initiative system resembles a jumble of ideas cobbled together in a rush to get a long-delayed Dungeon Master’s Guide to press. The system piled complexities, and then exceptions, and still failed to add realism. In the end, AD&D owed some success to the way D&D’s haphazard rules trained players to ignore any text that missed the mark.

In creating D&D, Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax faced a unique challenge because no one had designed a roleplaying game before. The designers of every roleplaying game to follow D&D copied much of the original’s work. Without another model, Gygax relied on the design tools from wargames. His initiative system may be gone, but ultimately Gary’s finest and most lasting contribution to D&D came from the lore he created for spells, monsters, and especially adventures.

Next: Part 2: “It’s probably so different that even if it’s better, people would not like it.”

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

AD&D Session 8: The Song of Fàgor

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Mon, 05/18/2020 - 23:37

So last session I’d just stolidly stood back and did nothing to frame up a situation or scenario for the players. I’d just left it entirely up to them to recall any loose threads from former sessions that they wanted to follow up on. This time I decided to try the exact opposite of that.

I waited for a lull in the conversation and then took a moment to rapidly move several things forward that had been suggested in earlier sessions:

  • There is an index card on the tavern bulletin board from Zanzel Melancthones offering a 1000 gold reward for the return of the cadaver of a crystal monster that had been brought to him previously. He offers 5000 gold for the apprehension of whatever thief presumably broke into his tower to take it.
  • There is an army of 50 Giant White Apes, 100 Apache horsemen, and several hundred orcs converging on the city of Trolopulous.
  • Fàgor (and only Fàgor) has noticed a blood red moon in the sky that nobody else seems to have seen.

We have six very different players this time. How in the world do they sort this out?

Some have this idea to go scout out what is going on with this army for the city. Others are very much enticed by the gold for the reward. The scouting missing looks to have the most support then Fàgor’s player stops everything to get more information about this red moon thing, but this turns out to be even more baffling.

The players go see the captain of the guard. The guy seems to be rather incompetent, declaring that they are a bit short on men-at-arms. The players (some of whom have served) ask who this guy reports to. Off hand, I just say the prince. They are shocked. This nudnik reports to the prince?!

Evidently some sort of common sense world building fail here. Naturally I double down. But the players want to see the prince now. And I have nothing on this guy. “The prince? Oh yeah. The prince. Prince… um… Prince Elric???” I tell them he looks like Nekron from Fire & Ice,

The players are really concerned about the fair city of Trollopulous and want to help. Prince Elric is not too concerned.. When informed of the approaching army, he declares that greatest treasure of the city is its trollops. He proposes holing up with them in his tower for a few days and then maybe summoning some extra-planar entities if things look like they’re getting out of hand.

The players decide to go north into the jungles. The set out after picking out their mules and war horses. I immediately get a random encounter of 20+ orcs. Obviously a detachment from the coming army. Maybe some kind of rearguard or something. Spies? Fàgor and Maubert ride straight up to them while the rest of the party keeps going on. Maubert scolds them for being out of position and rudely directs them to go a few miles west. They buy it and fall all over themselves to get going.

The players camp out on the jungles edge. At some point, Fàgor calls the other player characters “faggots”, explaining the “fag” is of course orcish for human. (Though his name means “great hero” in orcish, it transliterates as “human killer.”) In the night these four lions wake everybody up. Next day the ranger notices one trailing them. He send a couple arrows at it but misses and then hits a tree it was crouching behind. It slinks off with a growl.

The players get to the huge ruined pile in the jungle. Fàgor wants to go up the rope that the party had left behind, but when he pulls on the rope it nearly brings a precariously balanced boulder down right on top of him. They want to work out a way to get their horses into the ruins. The players find a place in the ruins where they can house their horses then get ready to go into the temple. (They don’t have any men-at-arms or henchmen with them this time for some reason.)

The players head in and cut left. They find a door and inside are jail cells with skeletons in them Fàgor uses his pike to carefully retrieve a golden belt buckle from one of the skeletons without opening up the cells. The players then continue in the maze of twisty passages, going in a complete circle. They head back in down another path and come to a hallway with five seven foot tall statues, each with twelve wings.

The ranger goes to investigate these things and then whoosh! He disappears. One by one the players go investigate, trying different things. The all disappear one after another with a big whooshing sound. Fàgor I think throws a rope near the statues and then pisses on it, maybe tries repositioning the wings. Then he steps toward the statues and disappears with a whoosh. The paladin was last. He slips to the end of the passage along the sides and discerns a circle in the floor. He considers a few different things but ends up jumping in to see what happens.

They have all ended up in this weird strobe-light filled, screeching pulse place. The players can’t think of anything to do except move in a random direction. They arrive at some sort of crystal lattice that is growing out of nothing. They find at the top of it a platform with a organ on it. Somebody goes up to it and pulls out some of the stops, hits a key or two. Then somebody else hits the lowest foot pedal on the organ and the platform suddenly starts to tip over as the crystal lattice disintegrates.

Fàgor then starts playing the organ, a soothing, peaceful tune in a Lydan mode. The pulsing cacophony ceases and is replaced with clouds and some kind of kudzu type plant begins to grow from every direction. Fàgor then modulates into a substantially different sort of song. Counterpoint is involved. It all culminates into a legitimately intricate composition. As it develops, a red sandstone structure grows around the players which then gradually spawns architectural complexity, furniture, stain glass windows. When the song concludes, they are in some sort of alien cathedral.

The players consider looting the place but decide not to as there’s nothing demonic about the artwork. They go outside and see a world full of gigantic mushrooms. They explore a ways, concerned that they might inhale dangerous spoors. They find a stream of crystal clear water that leads to a pool. The players don’t want to drink it. They fill a waterskin with it.

They head back to the cathedral and decide that they want to take a mushroom cutting before they bail out. As soon as they slice into one, mushroom figures in many directions start moving towards the players. Everyone except one person fails their open door check. They all run inside, find a circle on the floor and all dive into it. They appear back at the temple, find their way back to where they housed their horses, and then camp for the night, their sleep interrupted by both the howling of wolves and the roar of lions.

Hans Franzen the Swoleceror (2 hits, Burning hands, Jump, Message, Read Magic) [Delves 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6a, 6b, and 8] XP: 753 + 351 + 54 + 766 + 8 + 80 + 0 = 2012

Brother Pain the Acolyte [Delve 3b, 7, and 8] XP: 351 + 54 + 255 + 0= 660

Torin the Runner (7 hits) [Delves 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 6b, 7, and 8] XP: 753 + 351 + 54 + 766 + 8 + 80 + 255 + 0 = [Frozen at 2250 until he levels!]

Arthur the Gallant (7 hits) [Delves 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6a, 6b, 7, and 8] XP: 122 + 753 + 351 + 54 + 766 + 8 + 80 + 255 + 0 = 2389

Fàgor — (12 hits) Half-Orc Fighter [Delve 7 and 8] 255 + 0 = 255 (His name means “astonishing hero” in orcish. For real!)

Malbert the Veteran (9 hits) [Delves 2, 3a, 3b, and 8] XP: 122 + 753 + 351 + 0 = 1226

Experience and treasure: Nothing! (They’ll get something for the gold belt buckle when they go back to Trollopulous, maybe.)

Time:

Day 1: The Hole in the Sky

Day 2: The Thing in the Sewer

Day 7: The Big Score part I

Day 8: The Big Score part II

(Day 9-14 — player characters all carousing¹; Keebler Khan fully recovered) <—- I day of real world time = one day of game time!)

Day 15: The Drums of the Dog People

(Day 16-21: More carousing, fasting, panhandling.)

Day 22-25: Altar of the Beast-women

(Day 26-31: Resting)

Day 32-33: The Pugs of Slaughter

(Day 34-39: Resting)

Day 40: The Overbearing of the Crystal Men

(Day 41-46: Resting)

Days 47-48: The Song of Fàgor

The graveyard:

Dorkorus — Half-elf fighter/magic-user/thief — Half brother to Keebler Khan, talked with a lisp! Killed by a pug-man in the Trolopulous mega-dungeon.

Dairage — Elf fighter/magic-user — Killed with his shield spell one, valiantly taking down the leader of the pug-men so that the party could have a chance to escape certain death!

9 Hapless men-at-arms!

 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Mail Call Commentary - Campaign Session Commentary Report 1a

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 05/18/2020 - 16:18
So the United States Post Office finally came through on Friday & decided to deliver my order to me from The Collector's Store. Note that this wasn't Covid 19 related but the second time that we're gonna lose your package. I put in a case & everything with the United States Post Office this was after the The Collector's Store screwed up my order with details on my address. The first order is Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Incursion from Outer Space

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 05/18/2020 - 11:20
By Metal Turtle Games Self-published Generic Level ... 2?

What would happen if inhabitants of the stars visited a fantasy world ?

This 24 page digest-sized adventure has a few pointcrawl locations in the wilderness and a four-level pointcrawl dungeon with about 24 rooms. It’s fairly plain, in spite of it’s gonzo nature, with little in the way of evocative descriptions. Interactivity is lightly implied, but in the abstract. There’s just not much to this, in spite of the length. Also, it’s more “weird cultist” than alien, but absolutely has tech and aliens in it.

Villagers hear sounds in the woods and see weird figures in the fog and call in the party. There are four pointcrawl locations, once of which is the four level cultist dungeon, and another location which isn’t on the pointcrawl map. Basically, an alien shuttle has crashed and some cultists, in the dungeon, have captured a few of them. The village, Cowshire, has five locations, each with a single sentence description. “Market: a regular market with a huge choice of beef street food.” Cowshire, The Laughing Cow tavern, a wide variety of beef-based street food? I can get in to that. It’s the consistency of the theming that inspires the DM to push things in their own game and dig in to it. I might wish for some off the wall examples, especially in a gonzo/alien adventure, but, the designer is certainly on the right track with theming, at least in the village. 

There’s a vampire hunter in the tavern. He’s convinced he saw vampires the night the sounds were in the woods. He tries to convince the party to buy garlic to protect themselves. That’s the extent of his description. Maybe a a bit lack lacking again, but the core of a good encounter is there and I’ll take that over too little or too much. Further, it ties in to the first couple of encounters in the dungeon proper.

The wilderness pointcrawl is really just three locations, and maybe a fourth, the shuttle. The shuttle isn’t on the map but the crash can be seen from another location. What’s weird here is that the descriptions seem out of order. I’ve seen this in a couple of other products, only a handful though, and it’s weird everytime I see it. What if you put the main encounter first, the dungeon with its four levels and its twenty rooms, and then listed the other wilderness encounters, each of which took, like, half a page? That’s what this does, putting the main dungeon first after the village and then following up with the minor locations. And then the shuttle appears BEFORE the location where you can see the shuttle. It’s out of order, and weird. I don’t know if this is just convention, staring me in the face, or of there are actual usability issues in this. But it’s weird, in any event.

There’s no stats, and no real treasure to speak of. Well, there is, but it’s mostly text descriptions. “These are very valuable books” and things like that. A blaster pistol. An alien multitool without a description beyond “useful to the party.” And a giant statue worth 1,000,000,000gp if you can get it out of the dungeon. And eyes worth 5000gp each. And that’s not on the lowest level. It’s weird. Stats are “as bandits (b44)” I assume that’s the basic book? Which one? I don’t know. And that’s the GOOD stats. There are a couple of new creatures that don’t even get that treatment. It’s listed as 1e/Basic, etc, but there’s not really anything here to tie it to any system other than that confusing “B44” thing. 

Encounter descriptions are very basic setups with not much more. There tends to be something interesting going on in most rooms, but the descriptive manner is somehow a major turn off. I can’t quite put my finger on it. The second room has a group of vampires living in it, not evil, they steal cows to drink their blood and will talk to the party. Another rooms description though is ”In the middle of the room, there’s an area of the ground with a lighter tone. This part of the ground is actually a trapdoor covered in stone, hiding a pit full of deadly spikes (save against breath or die).” it’s very basic. Very matter of fact. Mechanically based, with little attention paid to the descriptive or evocative elements of an encounter. Thus there’s a nugget of goodness in many rooms, but not much to inspire the DM to run it well. “This old library has miraculously survived many catastrophes and the passage of time, at least for the shelves and a few books.” Well, ok. At least it’s not overwritten? But those descriptions could be massaged in to something more evocative, I guess is my criticism. “This room is full of tentacles, some passing by, others looking for an unknowing prey to catch and strangle.” Ok…. well … what does that mean? I mean, nice, I guess, but … I’m just, I’m not sure what to do with it. I guess i could do anything with it, is my point, and I think a good description needs just a little more grounding. “12 orcs” is too open-ended as a description. “Rowdily dicing”, when added on, gies me something to work with. The descriptions in this seem closer to the “12 orcs” side of the house. Not exactly minimal, or maybe they are? But not concrete in the way I’m looking for in an adventure. Something to wrap my mind around during play, to kickstart the imagination and then take it and riff off of it for the current circumstances.

This is $3 at DriveThru. The preview is seven pages. You get to see the entirety of the village of Cowshire, and the first nine rooms of the dungeon. This should be more than enough to give you an idea if the style is something you’ll be in to.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/311571/Incursion-from-Outer-Space?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Showdown in Dhoon

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 05/18/2020 - 11:00

Our Land of Azurth game continued last night. The party sprang its ambush on the demon Porcus. After he cornered them in a side room, he surprised them by wanting to parley. On the condition they leave town, he revealed that he had nothing to do with the fay-flower blossoms and had only been summoned by the townsfolk cultists afterwards. He alleges the true culprit is a wizard from a neighboring town.

This is Dhoon on the banks of scenic Lake Dhoona. The party makes their way there and discovers the local lord, Lorn of Dhoon, has recently had a personality change and has been making some really nonsensical decrees. His latest sees dwarfs banished form the town under penalty of stretching on the rack.

Turns out there is no wizard in town anyone knows of, but there is a dark druid, high priest of the chaotic Church of the Dark Flower, named Slekt Zaad. That was the name Porcus gave them they couldn't remember!

Kully's got a plan to frame any mayhem on their rivals, Prof. Marvelo and the Eccentrics, while invoking Mayor Drumpf's name in a sting on Slekt Zaad. They go to the temple and get an audience with the high priest. He seems disinterested in their fake offer, but their dogged insistent regarding the fay-flowers eventually ticks him off. Slekt reveals his true face: he's some sort of plant man:


He has the doors shut by his guards, and even offers the party the first shots in the the throw down. None of this particularly worries them being a brave--or foolhardy--bunch. However. none of their attacks seem able to hurt Slekt Zaad. Eventually they switch tactics and grapple him. He can't escape, but they still can't hurt him!

His wizard ally shows up and tosses a fireball. Slekt is still threatening to kill them. Erekose is dragging the grappled high priest toward the door--but then he's paralyzed!

Magic from the Machine

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 05/17/2020 - 14:30

A post last week led to discussion of what constituted science fantasy. In discussion those admittedly ill-defined genre boundaries, I thought of one type that is fairly common in comic books but not that common elsewhere: the blurring of technology and magic.

This is not quite the same thing as Magitech, or perhaps more accurately it's a subtype of it. Magitech can be lame (or at least uninspired) stuff like magic carpet taxi cabs or soldiers armed with fireball shooting wands. I'm talking more things that have the appearance or origin of technological devices but seem to have effects that are magical. Jack Kirby employed a lot of this stuff, particularly in the New Gods, where the characters evolved from the remnants of mythological beings, but who possess and advanced technology of a sort. The Cosmic Cube is another such artifact as is the Miracle Machine in the Legion of Super-Heroes. Heaven is depicted as full of this sort of technology in Morrison's JLA.

I feel like this sort of aesthetic is ripe for use in rpgs. Maybe Exalted does some of this, perhaps Godbound, but mostly science fantasy in rpgs is pretty standard. I think it would be pretty easy too. Potentially as simple as reskinning magic items with a technological look and a few features.

5150 Send Lawyers, Guns & Money - Billy's Crew

Two Hour Wargames - Sat, 05/16/2020 - 22:05
Billy Pink, Sooze, Amber the Net Runner, Fast Eddie and Bent on the streets of Dhankann.
Waiting on last of artwork. Will have of 30+ new and unique counters.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

In The Shadow of Tegel Manor - Play Session Report One

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 05/16/2020 - 19:54
So we rolled in at about five A.M. & it was a great night of gaming! I'm using various incarnations of Tegel Manor including Frog God Games Tegel Manor. I cranked up the Gothic & Lovecraftian elements to eleven in last night's game. Frog God Games old Tegel Manor kickstarter video. It really gets the manor's feel across!A pirate ship anchored itself into the bay of Tegel village after Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Style of Play in Ø2\\‘3|| (that game I'm about to publish)

The Disoriented Ranger - Sat, 05/16/2020 - 13:04
A plan is a list of things that won't happen, especially when you are self-publishing and even more so in trying times like these. That said, we've made great progress in that roleplaying game I'm going to publish: Ø2\\‘3||. The writing is almost done, the art is lined up and the editing already started ... we are on our way and maybe (maybe!) it'll be out there as early as end of June. Wouldn't that be something?

Anyway, I'm always saying a publication is worth at least 20 posts here, and I honestly believe that the people enjoying this blog will enjoy reading Ø2\\‘3||, if not playing it. Or I could be totally talking out of my arse here (and there). To put this to the test and to give you a hint what will be in store with this publication, I thought I share a part of the introduction to the DM part of the book. Here we go, unedited (please hype):

Style of Play

If you have read this book in a linear fashion (as one would be bound to do on a first reading), you’ll only have a glimpse of what style of play we have in mind for the DM. As we define in the beginning, the system itself will produce lots of abstract patterns that help forming and directing the narrative.

Some indications of how that works have already been shown throughout the book (how Anger limits the actions a player has in combat is one example of that). However, it’ll need a little bit more than that to make it work for a District Master. We believe that each DM needs the equivalent of what the character sheet is for a player. A world sheet, if you will, although more fittingly it should be called something like an ‘analogue world engine’.

A clockwork like that would by necessity be way more complex than anything you’d expect from a character sheet, which is why we dedicate the second half of this book not only to offering a DM more background for the setting of Ø2\\‘3|| but also try to ease the DM into designing their own campaign with this game.

How to exactly do that will be described later in the book. For this introduction full of inspirations and themes we want to conclude with a little passage how all of the above connects to form a game in Ø2\\‘3||.

There is one universal truth that unites all DM/Player-driven roleplaying games: the decisions the DM makes push the narrative that manifests at the table beyond its event horizon to move it forward. The feedback loop between players and DM will create areas with possibilities that get limited as the dialogue about them progresses to a point where a final decision needs to be made how to progress. That’s when the DM makes a call on what needs to happen next and how.

Aspects a good DM will take into account with their decisions need to be (1) the established narrative, (2) the player expectations, (3) the setting (as a background), (4) the immediate scene (as the stage, if you will) and (5) the rules (basically the physics of the simulated gaming environment).

As important as those aspects are, they are also merely indicators. They offer possibilities. The style of play that emerges from decision to decision to choose among those possibilities is in equal parts what will make the tone of a game and what defines a DM.

Now, roleplaying games allow for a lot of conjecture-driven projection between the ‘real world’ (or our perception thereof) and the gaming environment. DMs will instinctively use that leeway to compensate for all kinds of shortcomings a game might bring by applying common sense, personality and good old story telling instead of the rules.

Again, to a degree this is a necessity due to the complexity of the aspects a DM needs to take into account at any given moment. However, the gap between the limitations a game brings and the craftsmanship of a DM decides about the experience at the table. In other words: it takes a great DM to work with an incomplete game.

But what makes a game ‘complete’? It is our strong belief that a game should offer all the rules necessary to produce a similar (if not equal) basic experience to which then a DM adds their personal touch.

To be more precise, Ruled As Written (R.A.W.) each game of Ø2\\‘3|| should produce the kind of stories it wants to tell while allowing for autonomous, intuitive and spontaneous play from all involved, including the DM.

This is, ultimately, where the style of play in Ø2\\‘3|| connects to those original games of yore: a game of AD&D is recognized as such through the usage of its rules (it’s just its popularity that allows DMs to project the game instead nowadays).

To achieve something like this, a set of rules needs to provide abstract patterns that go beyond what the main set of rules described in the beginning of this book will do for a DM. It is the area where the game designer gives a game nuance. It is what makes it complete.

Since Ø2\\‘3|| is about a dystopian world where individuals are imprisoned, manipulated and monitored in their own private little bubbles, we decided to create tools for DMs to generate twists and turns for the narrative that culminate in the tropes one would expect in a story like that along with point-driven economy (called ‘Pennies’) that forces players to make the setting response stronger and more dangerous the more advantages they take.

DMs will also get the opportunity to create the districts the characters live in as well as surrounding districts and districts they might travel to. It will bring that specific part of the world in Ø2\\‘3|| to live and help a DM in describing a complex science fiction setting with lots of urban areas. This ‘sandbox’ will change over time as the narrative emerges and the DM spends Pennies.

All this is kept abstract enough to let a DM make out of it what they deem interesting and entertaining, offering enough material and interaction to allow believable freedom of movement on the player side while staying consistent with the premise of the game and the fictional surroundings.

In Ø2\\‘3|| DMs will improvise aspects of the narrative most would expect to be prepared (like encounters and the basic story) and will be able to do so consistently because the game offers the tools and additional rules to give complete support for conjuring all the little details that make the game a unique experience.

Lastly, this approach to roleplaying games allows a DM to actually play their part of the game as they can freely improvise and create without making hours of preparation necessary before each Episode.

And that's that

As you just saw, this will be somewhat demanding, and purposely so. Aren't there already enough roleplaying games out there doing the same over and over again? This will be an attempt on going into another direction. I'm actually not afraid to fail. The book stands for itself and it will not embrace mainstream. It'll also be hard to find (look at the title) and it'll be only PoD for the price I deem appropriate (no pdf ... you want this, you buy the book or know me personally). That said, all involved are giving their best to make this as good a book as possible.

We'll also sell merch. Here is part of a poster (details on where to buy it will follow):

The complete poster will be a detailed cityscape with lots of details ...

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Diluvian Disaster

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 05/16/2020 - 11:06
By Mike Myler Legendary Games 5e level 8

Up from the Depths! Dark and disturbing dreams of the deep wash over Marriwell harbor, and the townsfolk wonder if that nightmare of a vast wave was terrifyingly real. For the heroes, something has changed as their bodies now crave the salt and the brine, with their skin slowly sloughing away to reveal gills and scales. The scummiest seaside wharves hold secrets long hidden, and a voyage into the deep must brave savage storms to reach a sunken city where maelstroms above and below the surface hide a fleshwarping tide of mutation and madness that threatens surface dwellers and merfolk alike. What strange magics are bubbling up from the ocean floor in The Diluvian Disaster?

This 32 page adventure describes a thirty room underwater dungeon. There are two encounter types: set piece monsters and room with a DC skill check or take damage. It reminds me of a 3e adventure. It is boring. 

Ok, so, an illusion tidal wave washes over the party, and the party only, and now they can breathe underwater and have to be immersed in salt water for ten minutes before they can take a long rest. Three random buildings in town have some sort of information that says there is an underwater city off the coast. I guess the party should go there? It’s the usual underwater problem: how do you keep the party alive? In this case, you turn them in to fish people and tell them they have to go underwater to stay alive. Ta da! They can now breathe water, and nary a level 1 adventuring party being gifted 2 billion go in underwater breathing magic items to be found! It’s all just a pretext, I know, I know. But when the pretext is this blatant, with so little effort behind it … whatever, I guess.

Three locations in town. A tavern, a merchant, and a sea temple outside of town. Who the fuck knows who you find your way to each of thr three. There are no real hints, or guidance, just three isolated places. Fine, ok, I can work them in, i guess, but it IS traditional to provide the DM just a few threads to hold an adventure together, even in the bullshit “investigation” portion before the combat starts.

Underwater adventure! Yeah! Except it’s not. It’s dungeon, essentially, but filled with water. No real 3d element. You face two kinds of rooms. First, monsters attack. Standard stuff. Second, make a DC check. In the most monotone voice you can manage I want you to say “The room is full of corrupted coral. Make a DC 15 Strength(Athletics) check to avoid taking 4d4 damage.” That’s about half the rooms, right there. Serious. Gee, that’s fun. Wonder. Whimsy. Exploration. Discovery. Or, just make another fucking DC check.

Speaking of … DC checks abound! For the most trivial things! Make a DC8 check to figure out you’re covered with seawater. Make a DC check to see who falls asleep first. Make a DC check to see who wakes up first. Make a DC check to see that the people don’t notice you freaking out about the tidal wave. Fucking garbage. Useless rolls. Rolling dice for the same of rolling dice. And in some cases, at the cost of horror. It would be great to add the horror-ish elements of the seawater and people not noticing the tidal wave … great horror elements there. Hope someone sees that so it can happen! Why the fuck would you hide this behind a DC check? Just make the fucking thing happen to build tension at the table!

Unlike, of course, the skeleton attack. “If the party is having an easy time so far, then 8 skeletons in this room attack,” ARRRGGGGGG!!!!!! What the fuck is the point of it all? Read-aloud in red italics, because THATS easy to read in long chunks … Read-aloud that over-shares details of the room, destroying the interactivity between player and DM that is the heart of RPG’s. A lack of section headings in places, causing text to run in to each other. Meaningless detail. Boring encounters. One room tells you that in the final room you get to roll a DC 15 check if you’ve been in this room. Why the fuck would you put that in this room and not the final room, where ts actually fucking relevent? . 

Yeah, the adventure is comprehensible. If you can make it past the red italics rea-daloud, that assumes you go counter-clockwise around the circular dungeon hallway (why would you assume that and write it that way? Was is that important?!) You can figure out what is going on. Because it’s just a boring fucking combat and then a boring fucking DC check. There is no wonder of being under the sea. There is no interactivity. I missed the Necromancer era, but is touting people from Necromancer as being involved. Is this what Necromancer was?

B O R I N G

This is $7 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages. You get to see the ? of the tavern description on the last page, as well as all of the “make a pointless DC check” stuff for th tidal wave illusion. Useless fucking preview, showing nothing of what you’ll actuall be buying.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/311270/The-Diluvian-Disaster?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Lions, Dragons, Dinosaurs, & Slavers - Wrapping the Campaign World Setting Up -Tegel Manor Session Zero Play Report Part II

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 05/15/2020 - 18:05
Off the California coast strange prehistoric beasts have been seen. The locals are trying to mount an expedition but there's been rumors of strange lights, 1400 century pirate ships,etc. Alright so I converted my old copy of X1 Isle of Dread over to my current Castles & Crusades campaign. I'm getting a real Valley of Gwangi feel about this version of X1 in the campaign setting so I'm Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Post-Apocalyptic Greyhawk

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 05/15/2020 - 11:00

A great deal of change separates the North America of the 21st Century from the future age of the Free-City of Greyhawk, sitting on the ruins of ancient Chicago. The upheaval around the Anthropocene Thermal Maximum lead to mass migrations and alteration of the landscape. Four emerging peoples would be largely responsible for shaping civilization of the Greyhawk era.

The ancestors of the Bakluni were sea nomads and climate refugees from Asia who had settled on the southern Pacific Coast of North America. Pressure from groups fleeing north from the Tropic of Cancer led their culture in a more warlike direction--and also pushed them both east toward the Rockies and northward.

The Pacific Northwest was the domain of the Suel culture. It evolved in the main from separatist groups with racial supremacist leanings during the fracture of the United States and Canada. An upper-class of "pure-blooded" nobility ruled over a "mixed race" lower class in a feudal society. The inbred ruling class commonly displayed a unique mutation in melanogenesis that led to pigmentless skin and hair, and violet eyes.

The underclass of the Suel was similar (and indeed often derived from) the peoples of diverse ethnic origin that were the primary cultural group from the Rocky Mountains eastward. These were collectively known as the Flan, though they did not initial share any real concept of national identity. Most Flan lived in small, nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes.

The final group, the Oeridians, were a people of less certain origin, but they seem, like the Suel, to be derived from North Americans of European descent, but with genetic markers indicating a significant contribution from Native American ancestry. They were a tribal people known to both the Bakluni and Suel--and employed by them both as mercenaries.

Cha'alt 1870's - Tegel Manor Session Zero Report Part I

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 05/15/2020 - 04:16
So tonight I got out the twins & began to go back over Cha'alt. I've owned Venger Satanis's Cha'alt now for a few months as a physical book & its been one of the best OSR gonzo Science Fantasy books on today's market. The PC's have over the last year made some really nasty enemies within the walls of the black pyramid. Those Lovecraftian  enemies are well aware of the PC's movements & Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Back To The Manor Baby! Tegel Manor Session Zero Play Report

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 05/14/2020 - 18:51
One of the ideas that's been kicking around my head has been using Castles & Crusades with the older 3.5 Ravenloft books but twisting it around Tegel Manor. But there's far more to my version of Tegel manor. But that could wait as we dive back into Tegel Manor's long & storied history in my OSR games.  Sorry folks but I've been a wee bit absent for the last day & a half but campaign Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Ruined Tower of Zenopus Goes Gold!

Zenopus Archives - Thu, 05/14/2020 - 16:43
Updated image for the product page
Interest in the The Ruined Tower of Zenopus has remained fairly steady at DMs Guild over the last few months, no doubt aided by the forced increase in screen time everyone is subjected to during these days of quarantine, and (in the last week) the sale at DMs Guild I posted about earlier this week. As a result the adventure has now hit another DMs Guild milestone: Gold Best Seller...!

As a thank you to everyone who has purchased the adventure, and to help it be more useful for on-line play during these dark days, I will soon be adding a re-drawn map as a separate file. DMs Guild allows redrawn maps as long as they support a product rather than being sold alone. Everyone who has already purchased the product should be able to download the new map for free.

This map is derived from the map I made in Gridmapper a few years ago and posted here. I've tested and found it very suitable for import into Roll20, and have optimized the size for aligning with the grids in their interface. I've also made DM and Player versions, so there will actually be two map files of this sort. Here is a preview of the Player's Map, with room lettering and some other features erased:




I've also been working on a hand-drawn map that will be more printer-friendly than the original or the Gridmapper map.

Product Link:
The Ruined Tower of Zenopus on DMs Guild

Click here to read reviews of the RTOZ by various bloggers
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Weird Revisited: Scavengers of the Latter Ages

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 05/14/2020 - 11:00
I think I might right another follow-up to this post, so it was worth revisiting from the distance past of 2018...

Art by Bill Sienkiewicz
Here are some further refinements/elaborations on the idea I presented in a previous post for a 5e (or any sort of D&D really) game that was actually far future science fiction replicating fantasy.

  • The Distance Future: Millions of years certainly, though exactly how long is obscured by the mists of time and the humankin's fickle devotion to data storage formats. It is possible that biologic humanity even disappeared at one point but was resurrected by its nostalgic offspring. Scholars are aware that more than one civilization has come and gone and the Height was long ago.
  • A Neglected Garden: Earth was once an intensively managed paradise, maintained by nanotechnology and AI that were integrated into the natural world. Most of the animals were heavily modified by genetic engineering and technology, and some were of exozootic stock. Even humans were integrated into this network, and everyone born still carries the nanotechnological  system within them. Though technological spirits and godlings still live in nature, they no longer heed humans on any large scale, at least in part due to the fact that few humans can activate the necessary command codes.
  • Diverse Humankin: Through genetic engineering, different clades of human-descended biologics have developed. The reasons for the modifications from baseline seen in these "races" may not always be apparent. Perhaps some were just art projects for some creative god?
Art by Laura Zuccheri
  • The grist: Commoners speak of "magic users" in dim memory of the fact that everyone of Earth is a "user" in the computer science sense, but wizards know there is no such thing as magic, only grist (or maybe mana), the shells of nanotechnology that envelope the world. Everyone uses it to a degree, but few have the aptitude to develop the skill to employ the grist to work wonders.
  • The ether: The underlying grid of spimes and metadata, which supports the nano and once integrated it with the internet, is known as the Etheric Plane or Ether. Wizards and other magic users are aware it plays an important part in their spells and also in the powers of gods and incorporeal intelligences, but they are like mice within a palace, ignorant of its total function and potential.
  • The Outer Planes: Civilization at the Height was not confined to the Primal Earth, but extended through the stars. Some of the posthumans that went to other stars disassembled planets to convert to computronium, then huddled close to stars for power. Their civilizations sometimes became very strange, perhaps even went mad. Many of their networks still connect to Primal Earth through ancient but robust relays. Humankin of Earth are often in grave danger when they venture into such places.
  • Treasures Underground: Earth's current society is built on the detritus of millennia. Current humankin seek to exploit it in rudimentary ways, and more advanced civilizations of earlier times sought to do so in more advanced ways. The tunnels they dug still exist, but so do the guardians they put in place and the dangers they encountered.

The Bare Bones of An Upcoming Adventure Using Castles & Crusades Classic Monsters book & Frog God Games Glades of Death

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 05/13/2020 - 16:27
So I've been going through Castles & Crusades Classic Monsters book & setting up wilderness campaign encounters for an upcoming Victorious rpg campaign. Work has had me on the ropes for some time now but some how I've squeezed a few ideas into the campaign mix. The Classic Monster book basically has a rework of many of the Fiend Folio favorites in it Behirs and Boggarts cavefishers,  Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
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