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OSR Review & Commentary On The 'Free' Davis Chenault's Castles & Crusades 'The Hanged Man' adventure module For Both The Castles & Crusades rpg

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 10/26/2021 - 17:38
 "A long journey under an azure sky filling with brackish, boiling clouds ends at a large oak tree. Here, from a muscled branch, a man hangs limply by a thick rope strangled around his neck. Beyond, a dim, rising, yellow moon silhouette’s a village. Snaking, ashy tendrils of smoke coil above rooftops, lights glitter in windows while a miasmal fog creeps down upon the village from freshly churned Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On 101 uses for a 10' pole

Hack & Slash - Tue, 10/26/2021 - 12:00
101 uses for a 10' pole
  1. You can use it to sweep the ground in front of you for tripwires and pressure plates. 
  2. You can use it to assist you in mapping by measuring the walls.
  3. You can use it to remotely open or prod chests or levers.
  4. You can probe liquids and slimes.
  5. You can use it to jam between to walls closing in on you.
  6. You can use it to place across a pit or ledge to walk across.
  7. You can strike it against the ground to make a noise to help determine the size of rooms or announce your presence.
  8. You can tie a prisoner to it to assist in carrying them.
  9. Helmet on a stick.
  10. You can use it to vault over dangers.
  11. It can be sharpened and turned into a makeshift spear.
  12. It can replace the haft of a broken weapon.
  13. In a pinch, it can be converted into a makeshift ladder.
  14. The cleric can decide that it's the holy symbol of his god.
  15. You can use it to prod or whack other party members who annoy you.
  16. You can use it to push climbers who are halfway up a wall.
  17. You can interpose it between yourself and dangerous monsters.
  18. You can dangle it down into pits to help people get out of traps.
  19. You can string a line around the end and use it to fish.
  20. It can be used to increase your carrying capacity by tying balanced bags on either end and carting them on your shoulders. 
  21. You can open unlocked doors from a distance.
  22. You can use it to check dead bodies to make sure they aren't zombies.
  23. In an emergency it can be used to stake a vampire.
  24. You can also shove it up someones ass. Sideways if you really don't like them.
  25. You can also use it to poke dead monsters and wizards in the eye to make sure they are dead.
  26. You can use it as a lever to lift more weight than normally possible, helping you topple statues.
  27. You can use it to stir a cauldron or big pot.
  28. You can slice it into small discs and paint them gold or turn them into metal.
  29. You can break it in half to beat an unruly henchmen or hireling.
  30. You can agitate a pond or lake and see what comes to investigate.
  31. It can be thrown like a javelin to hit a switch or something out of reach.
  32. You can use it like a cane in the darkness to help you navigate.
  33. You can paint it dark grey or make it invisible and jam it across the conveniently 10' wide halls when being pursued by monsters. 
  34. You can use it to pole a craft across a lake or river.
  35. You can use it to determine the length or depth of crevices, niches, ponds, fountains, etc.
  36. You can tie a light party member to the end and use it to lift him up or across something.
  37. Better yet, it's where you can keep your chickens. Tied to the end of the pole. 
  38. It can be used as a locking bar to bar a door shut.
  39. You can cast a light spell or tie a lantern on the end of the pole to extend the distance of your vision.
  40. You can knock on doors and windows from a very safe distance.
  41. You can tie a mirror to the end to safely see over the tops of walls and ledges.
  42. You can use it to prod floors, ceilings, chests, and cloaks to test for trappers, mimics, and cloakers.
  43. You can thread the end and have a spade or hammer attachment, to avoid having to carry the extra tools
  44. You can have a collapsible or segmented pole for that extra 1' of length if you need it.
  45. You can jam it between the walls and swing on it to add force to a kick.
  46. You can use it to trip opponents in melee with fighters.
  47. You can use it to disrupt a light source or knock something off a ledge on a wall.
  48. You can set the end on fire. For fun.
  49. You can mark it with notches to keep track of directions, intersections, kills, or the number of times the wizard has insulted the fighter without him noticing. 
  50. You can use it to roast your opponents once you kill them, over a nice warm fire. There's no better feeling than turning your enemies into poop and ideas.
  51. You can in extreme instances use it to test for unusual heat or cold or gravitational fluctuations.
  52. If a door opens out into a vacuum or tries to suck you through, you can use the pole across the door to keep from getting pulled away.
  53. A 10' pole can double as a base for a shelter in the wilderness, as the center of a lean to.
  54. A collection of 10' poles can be used to roll large statues or other valuable items.
  55. 10' poles can serve as replacement levers or spokes for machines you might run into in the dungeon.
  56. Breaking clay pots to look for rupees.
  57. Clearing out cobwebs and spider webs without setting them on fire. 
  58. You can strap two ten foot poles to your feet and be 16 feet tall.
  59. Writing down a 10' pole on your character sheet gives you options outside of skill checks.
  60. It can be used to balance while walking a tightrope or other high narrow ledge.
  61. You can use it to start a fire if there's no wood.
  62. Nothing says the pole can't be made from metal.
  63. A metal pole can be used as a lightning rod.
  64. A hollow metal pole can be used as an air-tube while underwater.
  65. You can tie all the parties livestock to the pole to keep them from running off.
  66. You can tie a flag to the end and use it to communicate over long distances or perform a really sick flag routine.
  67. Kender control. By the judicious application of bruises. 
  68. You can offer it to a giant as a toothpick.
  69. Gives all those beautiful women you rescue from the dungeon a pole to assist with their dance routines. 
  70. A 10' pole allows you to easily interact with and test for illusions. 
  71. You can tie a rope to it and use it braced against something to descend safely.
  72. If you have to turn over all your weapons, it's unlikely they will try to take your walking stick.
  73. You can use it to play games with children or monsters, like limbo or stickball.
  74. It can be jammed in an arrow slit to block the archer's ability to fire. 
  75. You can use it to give you leverage to bend bars or lift gates.
  76. Two of them can be used as a makeshift stretcher.
  77. A cloth can be draped across it as a privacy screen.
  78. You can knock over anthills and break open hives with it.
  79. Tie meat to the end to feed hungry wild animals while staying out of melee range.
  80. Convince the wizard to enchant it so that it won't break and it will give you a bonus on your saves.
  81. Put a funny horses head on it and pretend you are riding a horse to entertain a bored prince.
  82. Use it to lift up kilts and skirts from a distance.
  83. Use it to beat the sexist a--hole who's looking up kilts and skirts from a distance.
  84. Tie a cloth and wire to the end to use it as a makeshift umbrella.
  85. Start a bar fight between to patrons at a safe distance.
  86. Tie a sprinkler on the end to disperse various toxic and alchemical substances. 
  87. Tie strings to it while camping and attack a bell for a rudimentary alarm system.
  88. Three words: Improvised Whirlwind Attack. At least as useful as the feat.
  89. Use the pole to disrupt the integrity of magic circles. 
  90. Yell "I'm not touching you" when you poke someone with the pole to turn them hostile.
  91. It can be hollowed out and used as a musical instrument.
  92. Impromptu ballastie ammo.
  93. It's really the first step to designing your very own polearm.
  94. Use it to play fetch with dire wolves.
  95. The best solution for carrying 100 gold pieces of hemp rope.
  96. It can be used as a legal option for a very non-lethal duel.
  97. Long-range defenestration.
  98. Good for collecting giant ants out of a giant anthill
  99. Better to use a pole to dig through trash and refuse than your hands.
  100. Give it to the wizard so he can better estimate exactly how far 20 feet is, and finally. . .
  101. You can lean against it when your dogs are tired.

If you like posts like this, along with other surprises coming soon, support me on Patreon!

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On the End of Just So Stories

Hack & Slash - Tue, 10/26/2021 - 01:30


What happened? Where did I go? (tw: abuse, language, mental illness; long)

I suffer from Schizotypal Personality Disorder. This is a type of schizophrenia, but you'd be surprised by the number of people without a master's degree who take the time out to gatekeep schizophrenia. 

I'd like to talk about what this means. You can find the full list of symptoms here. I have 8 of those to a degree that required hospitalization and radically affect my life.

I have ideas of reference. This is like when someone believes the TV is sending them secret messages. Now, that isn't how mine presents. It's more. . .disruptive. I want to be clear that although I'm explaining this, the manifestation of it is horrible. It sounds interesting, but this isn't some story where I have a special power. 

I'm driven by a pattern underneath the fabric of the universe. When I'm in public, I'm assaulted with the sensation that I'm in a river. I see (hallucinate) other possibilities and branches of the future constantly. The larger variety of outcomes, the more overwhelming it is. Before medication (which helps) this was so overwhelming, the stress of it caused me to have a blood clot. 

What this literally means, is I think I can feel the outcome of actions and possibilities. I, if subjected to a double blind scientific study, can't of course. That's what makes it a hallucination. The universe is giving me information, and I can feel it pulling me. It tells me about the secret hearts of people. It shows me all the ways I could die, constantly. 

It is, in a word, a nightmare—one that makes me never want to leave the house. The blood clot occurred because I thought it was normal, and I could just 'tough it out'. The reality is that every time I leave my house I was wound tightly enough for psychosis to occur. After years of being untreated,  the spring broke, and I found myself hospitalized as parts of my body died from the literal stress of it.

How does this happen? Mental illness runs in my family. In the fall of 1980, my mother shoved me down a flight of stairs. All types of reported childhood trauma were significantly associated with SPD, in a linear fashion. This, the beatings, the verbal abuse, it's not a single incident. 

I could have been different. 

She's around. I've confronted her about this, along with therapy. She's even a professional on the internet. But there's no way she'll ever see this, because she's a narcissist. The reason my bi-polar mother shoved me down the stairs is that she was getting ready for visitors and she was mad at me because I had ruined her life and career by being born. 

As an adult who spent years doing groups and providing therapy, I see her being overwhelmed, in crisis, and having her ability to control her impulses impaired in light of her misery. It was easier, in the depths of the lack of her self-esteem, to lash out at me when manic and suffering from her narcissism. She saw her flaws in me, and as every good narcissist knows, you have to hide your flaws right? You can't accept them. You can't love them.

This is not fresh trauma. I dealt with this years ago,  (i.e. she chose to have me, and I'm not responsible for her unhappiness) and the lack of disfunction in my adult life is wonderful. Realizing that I've never raised my voice to my daughter, compared to my childhood where yelling, abuse, disfunction, and violence being the order of the day, it's blissful.

But I did not escape unscathed.

The Banality of the Human Animal

Think of the unquantified rage at all those people so upset when some schizophrenic on the internet doesn't do what they want.

When I was a child, which apparently is a long fucking time ago; the state propaganda pushed out by PBS told me that everyone was the same. I took it literally, as in "People are like me" instead of "each person is a unique individual of value worthy of unconditional regard" which is what it means.

It's not surprising, the shrunken areas of my brain due to abuse make me incapable of understanding nuance or sarcasm naturally. It's also why my writing is so concrete. (clinically, I naturally parse and discuss items literally and miss both verbal and written information 'between the lines', see "Odd thought and speech (eg, that is vague, metaphorical, excessively elaborate, or stereotyped)" from the diagnosis list) Thankfully due to my obsessive paranoia, I can usually work through to the subtext I'm missing.

The bottom line, is I'm not like you at all. In real concrete ways.

I only think things that don't fit into any sort of group or position. I do not experience loneliness. I desire acceptance, yet in order to have connections with people, I have to overcome a crawling revulsion of disgust of a web that lies beneath my skin. 

The number of people willing to spew bile, lies, and threats at people suffering from mental illness while simultaneously presenting themselves of allies is eye-opening. You know what an ally of the downtrodden has? UNCONDITIONAL POSTITIVE REGARD FOR ALL HUMAN FUCKING BEINGS. The number of people who don't understand that, and propagate the violence that was done to them because they haven't processed their own damage is higher than I could have ever conceived, and written all over their timelines. The number of people willing to experience the presentation of my disease and remain in my life is even smaller. 

Why did my blog go away? I was tired of reading (ostensibly 'woke') peoples rape and murder fantasies in my comments. 

I'm still available, via discord, patreon, email, and on other social media, but I don't do social work any more. It's no longer my job, like it was for twenty long years, to deal with the trauma of the abused and help them work through it. If people are going to type out fantasies about hurting me and my daughter on the comment section on my blog, I'll gladly remove that avenue for people to abuse me. 

I'm making a living from being a writer and illustrator. I don't need blog comments or blog posts to do that.

Everything thinks.

All life on earth is earth life. If you take a bee out and feed it, the other bees will watch the dance that guides the bees to where the food is. In the case that the bee is taken to an unlikely place to eat (e.g the middle of the lake) even though the food given in the middle of the lake was sugar rich and highly exciting to the bees, they don't go get the food. 

It's because they know there's no food available in the middle of the lake. They don't believe him because they have a mind and understand the world. This has been the work of ethologists and behavioral scientists over the last 20 years.

What is science? Nothing more than a simple process by which we figure out what is actually happening in the universe. It's not an agenda. It's what's there regardless of you. And it's beyond your and my ability to understand. Consider expertise in the realm of chess.

If an chess playing adult were to play a game of chess with a five year old child, they would win 100% of the games. If a person ranked 1600 Elo, a semi-professional chess player who plays regularly and has a deep understanding of the game, were to play an untrained adult who knew how to play they would win 100% of the games. A grand-master would win 100% of their games against a person ranked 1600. Ignorance, understanding, expertise, and mastery. 

We already know about Dunning-Kruger, and how your ego works to protect you from accepting that you are incompetent or lack knowledge. Your access to the internet and information does not give you expertise. In fact, if you haven't spent a few decades working with something, whatever thoughts and opinions you have about it appear as those of a five-year old child, demanding that their authority be recognized in a realm they don't even fully understand.

And as more of the universe becomes revealed, your beliefs are going to be challenged more and more. You can already see the inability to cope in public by our lead-addled elders, attempting to prosocute someone for looking at an html page source.

You are an expert at internet use, with thousands of hours and understanding, and his comment makes him look like a ignorant 5-year old child.

The same way people look at you when you have opinions and thoughts about things that experts hold, like perhaps gender, politics, economics, or 'science'.

This tide of anti-intellectualism is not new, it is constant . From prison, martyred theologian Dietrich Bonhoffer writes: 

Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed. . .  – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. . . The impression one gains is not so much that stupidity is a congenital defect, but that, under certain circumstances, people are made stupid or that they allow this to happen to them. . . Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or of a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity. . . The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other. The process at work here is not that particular human capacities, for instance, the intellect, suddenly atrophy or fail. Instead, it seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence, and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances. The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with a person, but with slogans, catchwords and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. -1943

One of the great things about the OSR, and the release of 4th and 5th edition D&D, and the popularity of D&D on twitch is that they allowed us to answer several enduring discussions that have been floating about since the beginning of Gygax's role-playing game reformation (as if people hadn't been role-playing—excuse me, having rigid and free kriegspiel—for the previous two centuries.)

And yet, some remain evergreen.

Like bigotry:

RPGA (Role Playing Game Association, the ancestor of organized play) would continue to sponsor events in other companies’ games, but the . . . scenarios would have to be . . approved by the publishing company, and (as always) they had to conform to TSR’s official guidelines.  The guidelines include the following:

“Profanity, obscenities, and vulgarity are not acceptable. Lust and sexual perversion should not be portrayed or implied in submissions.”

It was this clause that was cited when Richard Donnelly, then-president of a gaming group (and official RPGA club) dedicated to gays, lesbians and bisexuals called The Order of the Triangle, tried to get RPGA approval for a GURPS adventure which included gay characters. The RPGA refused, saying, “It is our policy that games and seminars involving sexual themes of any type are not permitted . . .” It’s important to note that Donnelly’s adventure did not include any actual depictions of or references to sexual activity of any kind; it’s just that several of the characters were described as gay. This was enough, in the RPGA’s eyes, to invoke their policy. -Pyramid #5, Industry News, 1994 (27 years ago)

There's no point in confronting these people who have opinions, yet no expertise. They will react like a five-year old, and throw a tantrum filled with certainty and petulance. I am certain of little, but I have been gaming since the early 1980's, I average about 3 games a week, and have had several books published by publishers about gaming, my work is well-reviewed, and my income comes from creating role-playing games. 

This level of expertise—the 1600 level chess player—make Dungeons and Dragons a realm where I have a degree of confidence and expertise. 

So I can tell you the thing that makes them angry.*

D&D's dominance is the most frustrating thing about the tabletop gaming scene- 2021 (this year)

D&D is a mechanical and writing dinosaur, whose dominance is honestly among the worst things ever to happen to the industry #ttrpg #gamedesign #fail -2019 (two years past)

the larger problem is that D&D kinda sucks but everyone keeps playing it anyway -2017 (four years past)

[D&D's] game system is antiquated, using many clumsy mechanics and carrying with it all the flaws of the original, never having changed ANY of the basic system in all its history -1998 (Twenty-three years past)

The state of the art for RPGs has moved on, and for myself personally, [D&D] doesn't cut it. -1995 (Twenty-six years past)

In general [D&D] has huge holes in the core rules. As a DM you either fix them, ignore them, or move on to a "better" system. -1993 (Twenty-eight years past)

And the pièce de résistance:

[P]rotagonism was so badly injured during the history of role-playing (1970-ish through the present, with the height of the effect being the early 1990s), that participants in that hobby are perhaps the very last people on earth who could be expected to produce *all* the components of a functional story. . .[The most damaged participants are too horrible even to look upon, much less to describe. This has nothing to do with geekery. When I say "brain damage," I mean it literally. Their minds have been *harmed.*] All that is the foundation for my point: that the routine human capacity for understanding, enjoying, and creating stories is damaged in this fashion by repeated "storytelling role-playing" as promulgated through many role-playing games of a specific type. -2006, Ron Edwards saying D&D and vampire players have literal brain damage. (15 years past)

Thirty years of market data would indicate fucking not. 

D&D is a good game, and when it moves away from what makes it a good game (railroaded 'story focused' modules and a focus on large sprawling settings as in 2nd edition, or dissociating mechanics from the reality of the game world as in 4th edition) it stops being the market leader.
Can you explain this to people? Obviously not, at least in the last thirty years. There are very specific reasons why it's a good game. It keeps score via gold/xp/levels, gives players clearly defined roles, emulates the hero's journey, crossing the threshold and retrieving knowledge to strengthen one tribe, has a structure that's easy to manage (i.e. dungeons are literal flowcharts) while facilitating a group, and all these structures being manageable and clear and ritualistic allow players to consistently share a common journey, made real by the group witnessing it.
People who are invested in justifying their own failure aren't interested in hearing it.
Their argument is, and always has been, that D&D is bad and somehow millions and millions of people playing it more than any other role-playing game for over thirty years is because. . . well, it's illuminating, but not about D&D. 
The Point

As the knowing happens, and we get closer to the point where everything is known, and all mysteries: The Voynich manuscript, the Antikythera mechanism, Fermet's last theory, eventually disappear as they are discovered (all of which were unknown and unsolved mysteries when I was 10, now all completely solved), we will remain as immortal gods, knowing all, in a virtually endless future within a limitless void.

Robert Sapolsky, a neuroendocrinology researcher and professor of Biology, neurology, and neurological sciences makes it clear. There's a lot of data that we have no control over our actions. Maybe free will exists. But to date, there's no mechanism, theory, or evidence for it, and daily more evidence is accumulating that there are mechanisms and evidence that it doesn't exist. We don't make decisions consciously, they are made and our brains tell us a Just So story about why we did. You don't have any control over your DNA.

You are on a ride as a passenger, with no way to steer the cart. 

Most people deny this the same way one denies that a machine can outperform you in every field to the degree that you can outperform an ant. John Henry was a steel driving man. There is nothing special about man. Your ego demands it.

But can we afford to create a society that address this? One that removes responsibility from man, and instead places it on what factors that determined the behavior?

This is not a philosophical question. We will speak with thinking living machines. We will eliminate the need for labor. We will conquer aging. Not in a geological age, not in some future era, not in far off centuries, but in mere decades. We are already genetically engineering humans to be stronger, smarter, better. 

They physical nature of the brain, the hallucinations and psychosis drugs and therapy manage, the endless insecurity and irrational beliefs of the human animal, all sitting underneath a shining sun of reason and knowledge, burning away all the ignorance, leaves the human ego where? 

Reality is that which remains. 

Coda

English Common Law holds adults responsible for their actions. What will happen if science proves they are not? 

This inability to align with any in-group has dictated the path of the future. This post is not content and I do not desire to create content. Anger has been expressed, because I refuse to take action based on the desires of any group, because I've removed parts of my public persona from view, because I've worked with people other people wish I had not, because I'm making a living at writing and illustrating instead of being enslaved to someone else, because I hold beliefs and thoughts that threaten, confuse, and anger people, because I've taken down posts due to harassment, because I've 'gone commercial' and make things and ask for money, and because I take action of my own initiative regardless of the desires of other people.

Empathy is possessed, for I felt the same way when certain writers stopped interacting with the gaming scene, in the space of four decades, I've seen it happen dozens of times. And now as a person who went from someone who's in the scene, to someone who creates for it, I can understand why. I possessed as many complex emotions over luminaries such as Michael Curtis, Monte Cook, and others withdrew from public interaction and just produced works. But now I understand it much better.

The real question is: What is it I should do? Do I produce popular "content" and get one of those ridiculous patrons that makes thousands a month? Do I just continue to produce blog "content", regurgitating the same ideas and giving everyone something entertaining to look at every day? Do I spend all my time reworking other crappy stuff written by other people on a deadline making it useful? Do I farm outrage by pandering to the needs and wants of extremists? Do I create parasocial relationships and put myself online at the risk of feeding my ego?

In part, my reach exceeds my grasp. I've been producing evergreen gaming products that I feel move the industry forward. Megadungeon's display format, maps that provide more information than a grid, templates for what an open high-level adventure that challenges players without eliminating what makes them powerful, books full of ideas for children (and the child inside all of us), a reimagining of one of the oldest artifacts in gaming.

But I want more. I want to illustrate stories, and make movies, and music, and cartoons, and write books, and, and, and; but I'm discovering the ingroup necessity to "Stay in your lane" as well as the fact that it takes time, skill, and mastery to produce quality in different fields, makes this a difficult task. I may have achieved adult levels of understanding in many of these fields, but not expertise (much less mastery)

What's more, is I'd like to do what people want to see, which is harder than it sounds, because often times people lack insight into what they actually want, and what's more, when I take action that upsets or disappoints someone, the response isn't to tell me, but rather understandably, to turn their limited attention elsewhere. 

We are going to be exploring some of these options, soon. Over the coming weeks. With three major book releases this year I have time to take a breath, and look forward. If you'd like to participate in these discussions, join the discord. It is not a daily discord, nor is it quite busy. It is a way to interact with me directly. 

If not, just watch this space. We have some amazing stuff coming soon. 

Oh, and if you want to pick up a hard copy of In a Deadly Fashion you should hurry before it's sold out. Only about 350 copies left at the time of me writing this. Some copies will be sent to the U.S. store eventually (which will help with shipping) but there's already a line forming for those.

* I linked these posts as proof. There are more on fallen forums, like story-games, and the forge. Do not contact or bother the people who made these posts. 

If you like posts like this, along with other surprises coming soon, support me on Patreon!

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

American Nightstalker - A Neon Lord of the Toxic Wastelands Adventure & Encounter

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 10/25/2021 - 22:33
 The PC's are conscripted by a local warlord to find the daughter of a local duke whose military influence has a direct impact on the smuggling operations of  'The Black Star Order of Nightstalkers'. The Black Stars are connected with lots of shady operations including mutant trafficking, slavery, and worse.  The Black Star  also dabble in demon worship & summoning. What no one realizes is that Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

In The Shadow of Sleeping Giants - Adventurer, Conqueror, King rpg & Kevin Crawford's Worlds Without Number rpg Combined Mini Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 10/25/2021 - 17:15
 So over the weekend its been me speaking with some fifth edition players because of the James Mishler review I did the other day. 'There's no welcome to the fold here folks', merely me reviewing a fifth edition product that will get used when our Amazing Adventure 5th edition game sessions continue. Now the three new fifth edition players about to have an Adventurer, Conqueror, King rpg wake up Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Seven Years in Azurth

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 10/25/2021 - 11:00

 


We played the 7th anniversary game of our 5e campaign last night, having had the inaugural session in the Land of Azurth on October 19, 2014. It hasn't been as many sessions as the time might suggest; we only played once a month over much of that time, though the pandemic and a switch to telegaming led to an increased frequency. Still, it's the longest myself or any of my players have continued a game.

We've lost no characters to misadventure, and only one player has left the game over that time period: the teenage daughter of two of the other players who decided she had been things to do than game with middle-aged folks. 

I can't say my eye hasn't wandered to other games over that time. It has probably helped the longevity that we were able to squeeze in Star Trek Adventures in the pandemic, and I'm able to play some other games with another group. Still, I think the inertia of doing this game for so long actually helps carry it forward. It's much easier to quit something you haven't invested as much in.

I don't think we've plumbed the depths of the setting, yet. There's still a lot more the group could get up too.

Review & Commentary On 20 Minor Magic Items by James & Jodi Moran Mishler For The Fifth Edition of the Worlds Most Popular Fantasy Rpg

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 10/24/2021 - 17:43
"20 Minor Magic Items contains 20 items of lesser or least magical sort, designed to be given to lower-level characters. Most of the Minor Magic Items listed herein are common or very common items of minor, lesser, or petty sort.""One common or two very common items from this booklet can be substituted for any one common item from the standard treasure lists.The 20 items are:Adamantine-Chased Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Vancian Talislanta

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 10/24/2021 - 14:30

I've again been pondering running Talislanta in Pelgrane Press' Dying Earth rpg. Why this particular ruleset, which just happens to be based on the work of an author who was a big influence on Talislanta (particularly when there's another Dying Earth game on the way, after all)? Well, attempting to emulate its source material, it discourages combat and killing and encourages social interaction and trickery. While this isn't the only way to approach Talislanta, it is certainly a reasonable way to do it, and one supported by the example of the picaresque travels of Tamerlin through the land in The Chronicles of Talislanta.
Also, take a look at the key ingredients of a Dying Earth adventure the GM advice identifies:

  • Odd Customs
  • Crafty Swindles
  • Heated Protests and Presumptuous Claims
  • Casual Cruelty
  • Weird Magic
  • Strange Vistas
  • Ruined Wonders
  • Exotic Food
  • Foppish Apparel

I don't think all of those are essential for a good Talislanta adventure but Odd Customs, Weird Magic, Strange Vistas, and Ruined Wonders seem to me to be--and none of the others seems at all out of place.
The base level of the Dying Earth rpg is the "Cugel level" which seems to recreate the adventures of the knavish Cugel (hence the Crafty Swindles and Presumptuous Claims). The next level is that of Turjun (of Miir) and the earliest Dying Earth tales, which are a bit more standard Sword & Sorcery.  Turjun level protagonists are more competent and at least sometimes more moral, so the key adventure elements change somewhat:

Talislanta certainly leans "Turjun level" (with many an archetype based around combat), but I don't think it needs to abandon the swindles and verbal interplay of the Cugel level. My personal conception of Talislanta is that it would be best served by analogy to a Vance work that was written between the time of the early Dying Earth stories and the later ones (though Cugel's first appearance does predate it) and that's the planetary romance of the Planet of Adventure series. Tschai presents a sort of Turjun-level-esque hero, Adam Reith, in terms of competence--but he's less bloodthirsty than some other Turjun-level types--who is forced to deal with with verbose grifters at every turn and maneuver through oddball cultures.
Conceptual grounding aside, the ease of adaptation is always an issue with something like this. Completely remaking Talislanta in the Dying Earth system would daunting, even though Dying Earth is not terribly crunchy. I think though a complete adaptation might not be necessary; there may be a way to meld the sort of traditional Talislanta system with the DE mechanics, but I have only started thinking on this. Perhaps more on that in a later post.

Awake & Asleep - James Ward's Tainted Lands & Cultclassic Eighties Movie Mixed With Castles & Crusades A2 'Slag Heap' by Davis Chenault.

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 10/24/2021 - 06:24
" The Tainted Land's corruption & madness is no longer contained! The horror spreads into the world of the waking.""The hunt is on! Agents have hired out the infamous Redcaps to raid along the Hruesen River and Baron Botkin wants them brought to justice. A mad run by the goblins left a trail of ruin along the river road but the time to act is now, beforre the trail goes cold. the evil doers brokeNeedleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Darkest Cargo - Combining Troll Lords The Starship Warden & Empire of the Petal Throne With Gary Gygax's S3 Expedition To The Barrier Peaks

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 10/23/2021 - 17:32
 So last night I was messing around with Grey Elf's Classic Edition website, for our Halloween gam, The  Halloween game has been moved because of work scheduling. So let's talk about planar echoes & times from the Starship Warden which have allowed a number of alien races through the gates before they've collapsed. And its actually S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks by Gary Gygax that may hold Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On 10 Ways To Open A Chest

Hack & Slash - Fri, 10/22/2021 - 13:00
"But assuming it was a treasure hunting expedition (and the lower floors of the tower were reasonably cleared, with a path of escape blocked only by wandering monster rolls) what would a party need to do in one of your games to safely open a chest?"
Here are 10 ways to open a chest safely!

10. Pour acid in the lock.
9. Use a pick and chisel to break apart the lock mechanism.
8. Use a crowbar and specialized tools to pry the lock out of the chest.
7. Saws!
6. Carry the chest back to town and pay the thieves guild to open it.
5. Hammers!
4. Knock!
3. Unscrew the lid hinges.
2. Pry off the back of the lid!

And the number one way to open a chest safely?

1. Have the thief open it, there's always more where they came from!

Why don't they just do these things by default? They are time consuming, loud, or require heavy encumbrance penalties.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Minaria: Muetar

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 10/22/2021 - 11:00
 
Muetar is the largest kingdom of Minaria in land area and possessed of the largest army. Its rulers are the descendants of the Mueta horse lords who first harried the city-states of the Land of the Great Rivers, then were its foederates, until a chieftain general Oyaro (Old Meuta: Hoyaru), forced the Princes of Methluma to give him the title of Supreme General or Warlord. The word, as borrowed into the Muetarian tongue, eventually came to mean "emperor." Oyaro's line came to be the de facto rulers of the land in a military dictatorship that developed over generations into the current feudal state.

The Empire's current ruler is Herrott (Kheroth) of the Pirostar (Phiroshtar) Dynasty. sometimes called "Golden Helm" for brightly polished helmet he wears in battle. Herrott was the second son and given command of the elite guard of the Emperor, but ascended to the throne upon the death of his older brother in a riding accident. While his father's rule was occupied with internal struggles, Herrott turns his eyes toward expanding the empire, but he is cautious and not prone to rash action. He is an avid falconer as well as rider and pampers his prize animals.

Atata, his Empress, is descended form the old Oyarostar line. She has little taste for court gossip or petty intrigues and is judged as aloof and perhaps even severe by her ladies in waiting. Like all Muetarian elite she takes part in the rituals of the martial cult of Anshar (who has absorbed much of the folio and importance of the supreme god Taquamenau in the Muetarian ascendance), but supports a policy of religious tolerance in the Empire. She is an advocate for the poor and is said to use her influence to protect the more moderate clerics of Huisinga--this despite the peasant uprising blamed on radical members of the Sankari sect during the reign of Herrott's father, Maasa. 
Atata is also a patron of the arts and has even brought Ponian theater to the court of Muetar.

Coming Next Month to Kickstarter

Two Hour Wargames - Thu, 10/21/2021 - 15:12

 All good things must come to an end....



Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Demon Driven to the Maw

Ten Foot Pole - Thu, 10/21/2021 - 12:52

Emergency Thursday Post!
Emergency Thursday Post!

By Brad Kerr Swordlords Publishing Cairn

SOMETHING IS WEIRD ABOUT THIS PARTY IN 16TH CENTURY SCOTLAND. A famous thief stole a magical jewel and hid inside a castle where a party is taking place. Enter the party, find the jewel, escape with your life.

FUCK! 

YES!

This sixteen page adventure details a nice party in a manor with about seventeen rooms … before things go to hell. It is everything an adventure like this (social/investigation) should be. Brad Kerr knows how to add flavour to a bit of scenery without bogging you down in useless crap. I want to have millions and millions of this adventures babies. I repeat …

FUCK!

YES!

Our pretext for this evenings adventure is “The thief Jougal stole the famed Sky Marble from the king’s bedside. It’s the talk of the town. A drunkard at the tavern swears he saw Jougal headed towards Firnhirst castle in Edburg, a forlorn neighboring hamlet. Following the drunkard’s tip, you find a full blown party at Firnhirst Castle. Two smiling servants hold the door and beckon you to enter…” Not bad, eh? Short. Its the talk of the town. A drunkard tells you. A full blown party. You could either use that text as read-aloud or roleplay it out; there’s enough there to get the gist of what’s going and add enough, as a DM, to fit it in to the game smoothly. My only complaint is the last line. Yes, that’s my only complaint IN THE ENTIRE ADVENTURE. As read-aloud that telegraphs to me, the player, to be on guard for More Than Meets The Eye. As the DM, it very successfully communicates the vibe of the adventure, but, perhaps, could inspire a bit more subtly. It’s almost a perfect set up.

So, fellow asshats on this journey we call life, SPOILERS. Yes, that’s right, I’m announcing spoilers. Don’t read further. I mean go right ahead and buy the thing so you can run it. You bought it? Ok, let’s talk …

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG! Cool, right? Ok, so, the local Baobhan Sith (deer-hooved vampires, with a delightful little art piece successfully conveying their nature. FUCK! Where’s my GURPS Vampires book when I need it?!) have come up from hell to throw a party for the Devil. And he’s shown up! Let’s see, they mostly look female, their skin is removable, sometimes swap identities for their own fun, and like to seduce weak-willed mortals and then slice their chests open to feed on their blood! (So, an older folklore vampire, not a D&D vampire.) And that’s what’s going on tonight. They’ve taken over the manor and are throwing a party for the local villagers. Shortly after the party arrive the doors get chained shut (windows are arrow slit windows, this being a former ‘working’ manor) At some point (in 4d4+1 turns) they are going to set the place on fire to burn it down and start their black mass feast. Inside is the thief, along with a host of locals and mostly disguised hell folks. Search around for the thief, talk to some folks, get creeped out by things, and then ABSOLUTE CHAOS starts. This is what SHOULD happen in an adventure like this. Oh, and as the vampire/sith are running around, after the fires have started, they are killing people, etc … they are yelling “Hail Satan!” Because everyone reading this INSTANTLY recognizes that is EXACTLY what SHOULD happen in this situation. I can’t think of anything else in life, ever, feeling more right than that. 

Excellent use of bullets points to highlight important information, but not an overuse of them. SOmethinglike “During the fire phase these things will happen” or some such. Offset boxes are used, along with selective building, to highlight important bits of reference data. NPC’s are generally found on one page. Maybe two sentences each, a general one and a “Wants.” Lum, a giant from the underworld, sad that her date ditched her. Wants a good time, a hot meal, and basic human kindness. Noice! I can run Lum. It’s quick, terse, and choked FULL of relatable human behaviour that I know how to run and is ACTIONABLE during the game. Hele, the Morning Star. Literally Satan. Doesn’t care about all this blood and sacrifice stuff as much as everything thinks he does, bu, a party’s a party. Fuck Yes! 

Supplementing this are a table full of random villagers at the party, along with another with some of their small talk, as well as a small table for the vampire sith. Both of these are ACTIONABLE. Their tables are focused on their interactions. It is GAMEABLE DATA. 

Likewise the locations in the manor. They are all handled on, like three pages. Because the designer recognizes that this is NOT an exploratory adventure. What happens in THIS adventure is the party wanders around from room to room interacting with people, mostly.  The descriptions are generally focused on that. Again, generally interactive, with an NPC or something interesting, like a locked door (which no doubt the party will fixate on) or some such. 

There are little mechanics for redcaps, an increasing number over time, following you … waiting until their are enough of them to overpower you. Sweet! And a great table on “What atrocity is happening in this room?” after the fire/black mass/slaughter begins.  What happens when you go to hell? The adventure gives you advice! 

EVERYTHING here is SPOT on. It is exactly the correct amount of information. It is EXACTLY flavourful enough. It is formatted perfectly to do what it needs to do. It’s not following rules, for formatting, but flowing naturally, relying on evocative tersity to convey what it needs to.

You can run this. You instinctively know HOW to run this. The adventure supports you in running it. It is full of GLEE, or, perhaps, POTENTIAL glee. 

It is all I have ever wanted in a D&D game. WHich means it is all I have ever wanted in life.

This is $4 at DriveThru. The preview shows the entire thing. Because Brad is a classy guy. Try page 6, the NPC’s for a great example of flavour, tersity, and gameability. Absolute wonder in sixteen digest pages.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/372360/Demon-Driven-to-the-Maw?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Use a White Paint Pen to Label Miniatures

DM David - Thu, 10/21/2021 - 12:12

I suspect most folks organize their miniatures by category. Teos “Alphastream” Abadia explains this approach, along with recommendations for storage options. I organize by set, and then use a resource like MinisCollector to find the figures I need. But unlike the older Wizards of the Coast miniatures, the newer WizKids miniatures lack any label that reveals their set. To help organize these figures, I write the set’s initials on the bases using a white, fine-tipped Sharpie paint pen.

Bonus tips: Use a white paint pen to label your wall-wart power blocks so you know what device they power. Also, if you become a famous artist and need to sign your glossy prints, the paint pen works beautifully.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Hearing the Owls Hoot in the Day Time

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 10/21/2021 - 11:00

 


Owls Hoot in the Day Time & Other Omens was the title of the 2003 collection of Manly Wade Wellman's John the Balladeer/Silver John stories from Night Shade Books. I have long been a fine of these Appalachian-centered fantasy stories (they were an influence on Weird Adventures). Recently I bought the audiobook of this collection for a work trip. I probably have read these stories in nearly 20 years so it was fun to revisit them and the narrator is just right for the material.

The Deadly Mine of Pantanga

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 10/20/2021 - 11:11
By Tim Shorts GM Games OSE Levels “I won’t bother with how many and what levels the party should be.”

I call this a found adventure. There are no hooks and motivations. The party is traveling and they find a cave. Adventurers love caves. Can you ever recall a time when an adventuring party didn’t enter a cave? I’ve decorated the cave with bones. They love that. Wish the party good luck, then smile.

This sixteen page digest adventure uses around nine pages to describe eleven rooms. It’s small, low on treasure, and feels more disconnected that I think it should. While the writing, and encounters, are decent, it feels a bit empty, like there’s no point to adventuring here.

The writing here is decent. It’s focused and provides a moderately evocative description of the various scenes encountered. The very first encounter, the entrance, is reenforced (sp) by thick wooden beams, with a cracked crossbeam, bones scattered around the entrance, and a handful of barrels that smell of sour ale, one cracked open and covered in big black flies. This is the best example in the adventure of a good description of a scene. It’s short, and yet does a great job painting a vivid picture of the scene before you. It’s not really read-aloud, and what I’m quoting isn’t an actual quote; it’s got a bit of DM commentary scattered through it. But it could ALMOST be read-aloud, and does what it needs to do: give the DM an image of what’s going down, inspiring them to then give that picture to the players. There are occasional smells listed, or lighting notes, in the descriptions all of which work to let the imagination of the DM and players fill in the rest. It’s not overly rigid, not all rooms mention lighting or smells, which goes a long way to helping it be terse and focused. Which, of course, in turn then helps the DM quickly scan the room and run it for the players. It’s just enough, allowing the DM to then riff on things and leveraging their abilities for the game. 

Treasure is quite light, but the magic items in particular get a decent enough description. What does that mean? A potion is in a silver vial. Not just a bottle. A vial. Not just a vial, a silver vial. That’s one extra word, silver, and using “vial” instead of “bottle”, but the effect is substantially better than “a potion of ESP.” Likewise a magic ring that is platinum with an onyx band. These little touches really ramp up the nature of the items. This is exactly the sort of thing I’m referring to but encouraging designers to go just a little beyond what they expect. There’s an abstracted genericism inherent in the word potion, at least as in how we use it in D&D for a treasure description. By just working the editing magic just a little bit more you give the imagination something solid to hold on to, just as with a good room description. Non-traditional items are present as well, like Dead Mans Fingers, a mushrooms that grows to look like … dead mans fingers! Putting on in your mouth delays poison/death for 1d6 days, as it slowly dissolves. It’s a nice item. A good description analogy, a good effect (not immediate) and the added time delay factor. Folk remedies at its finest folks! But, yeah, the treasure is otherwise light for an OPR game. We’re looking at about 4000 in loot, for an adventure that has a deadlier than average trolland several 3HD monsters. Yes, it’s a side-trek sort of thing, just a spot on the road to poke in to. But … why? And I’m not talking hook. I’m talking Compelling …

The cave complex is small, about 60×90 in total. This makes many of the encoutnters feel like they are on top of each other. There’s an occasional note of a sound or smell coming from a particular direction, but the guidance here is not strong, nor is creature reaction, for a complex that is so small. It FEELS larger, or perhaps I mean more complex, than a typical lair dungeon, but it also doesn’t feel fully formed. It’s occupying some middle ground of not a lair dungeon but also not a traditional site-based location. I’m not sure there are a lot of these out there. A dyson map in a sinkhole comes to mind. So, no unifying concept, like with a lair dungeon, slightly larger than a lair dungeon, a variety of encounters in the location as one might find a site-based dungeon, but substantially smaller and shorter than one of those would imply.

And somehow this is all throwing me off of wanting to run this. If this were one zone of a larger complex, perhaps with a little more space in it, I think I would be more interested in it. It’s also got a few rooms that are crystal themed that come off pretty flat … a killer in a dungeon this small. They don’t FEEL like crystal rooms. It could be that I’m TOTALLY over the idea of just throwing in a couple of living crystal statues and saying “crystals in a room” being a good room concept. Or it could be that those are the weakest rooms in the dungeon and it’s no amount of leaping troll or “three pillar sized colonies of yellow mold” is going to save it from that. But man, it gets close … that leaping troll is a good one. And while the yellow mold room is a good anchoring concept, there’s no real reason to hang around.

The adventure explicitly has no hook. And that’s ok. But, there also doesn’t seem to be any reason to adventure here. Poke around. Find some things. Find a TERRIBLE thing in the yellow mold and just get the fuck out. It all feels so … unsatisfying. Isn’t there some german or french word that? When you anticipate something are are not really disappointed, but unsatisfied?

This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages. You get to see the first rooms, which is representative of the writing. Good preview.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/372871/The-Deadly-Mine-of-Pantanga?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: DC, January 1980 (wk 2, pt 1)

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 10/20/2021 - 11:00
My goal: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around October 23, 1980.


Action Comics #515: Wolfman's story here is an interesting alternate history of the sort the X-Men would do a lot in the 80s (in fact, X-Men #141, "Days of Future Past" is out this same week!). We see a world where Vandal Savage is the absolute ruler and Superman is his dedicated enforcer, completely convinced of Savage's beneficence, until undercover rebel agents Lois Lane and Perry White make him see the light. The issue ends with Superman vowing to make Savage pay. It's odd seeing the very Silver Age Curt Swan drawing this sort of "modern" story.
In the Atom backup by Rozakis and Saviuk, an agent of cosmic balance named Mallo (who is drawn so mundanely and specifically, I feel like he has to be a reference to someone but I don't know who) is worried that having an Earth-1 and Earth-2 Atom without the same powers will somehow cause a problematic imbalance. So he switches the Atoms' powers, and Ray Palmer has to go through the issue just being tough and not having shrinking powers. At the end of the issue, Mallo restores Palmer's usual powers and plugs the upcoming "Whatever Happened to the Earth-Two Atom?" feature. This story is logically flawed and a bit silly, but it didn't bore me, which is a win for a backup.


Brave & the Bold #170: Burkett and Aparo bring Batman together with Nemesis, probably to try to build interest in the character who's going to return to the backup feature after this. Nemesis and Batman get to the top of the organization that killed his friend and brainwashed his brother to do the killing. It turns out Head is a guy in an iron lung. Nemesis wants to kill him, but Batman convinces him not to. Still, a dying Nazi scientist does the the job. The story has a nice moment where Batman is examining with professional admiration the quality of one of the masks Nemesis uses as a disguise.

Detective Comics #498: The Conway and Newton/Adkins main story starts out a little confusingly as it is a direct sequel to story from 1979, but they don't tell you that until a few pages in. After his last encounter with Batman, Blockbuster falls into the ocean and is presumed dead.  After washing up on a beach, he walks to Bleak Rock, West Virginia, for some reason where he gets involved in the struggle of miners against a corrupt union boss. Batman has been looking for Blockbuster to show up (perhaps a bit guilty over his death) and flies to West Virginia. He is promptly hit in the back of the head by a goon and thrown into a mine. He's found there by Blockbuster who starts to get enraged and wants to kill him. To be continued!
The backup continues the "Barbara Gordon--Murderer" storyline by Burkett, Delbo and Giella. Commissioner Gordon is back to bail Barbara out of jail and the lawyer she's friendly with agrees to represent her, but she doesn't have much time to clear her name--unless she wants to reveal that she's Batgirl. The prosecution has an invoice signed by her for the poison that killed the Congressman, so Barbara knows her administrative assistant must be in on it. She visits her as Batgirl, and the woman admits the part she played, but she didn't want Barbara to go to jail, only to leverage Commissioner Gordon into letting her brother out of jail. She now knows she was duped. Before Barbara can do anything with this information, thugs bust in, and she in knocked out in the ensuing fight. This continues to be a decent storyline.

Green Lantern #136: There's a lot going on in this Wolfman/Staton yarn. Trying to find out what happened to Carol Ferris, Green Lantern and Tom seek out Bruce Gordon who was at Ferris Aircraft the day of the bombing. Bruce Gordon is Eclipso, though, so a fight breaks out that leads to the collapse of the building. As GL flies to save Tom, he is transported away to a future Earth under siege by the Gordanians. The time jump has left him without his memory. The Space Ranger breaks him out of the hospital to enlist his further aid against the invaders. They manage to find a green lantern in an old weapon cache, so Jordan can recharge. Unfortunately, the Gordanians defeat them all and take them captive. While (well, not really since she's in the past, but you know what I mean) all this is going on, Carol is being hunted Most Dangerous Game-style.
Unsurprisingly, the Adam Strange backup by Sutton and Rodriguez is less interesting than the main feature. There's a sort of planetary Olympics going on on Rann. Strange is competing, but the contests keep getting won by the same stranger in suspicious circumstances. Strange figures out the guy is somehow solar powered and confronts him. It turns out he's a shape-shifted alien who for some reason thinks he will conquer Rann by winning the contest, but when Adam Strange defeats him in one on one combat his species gives up the attempted conquest.

House of Mystery #288: The "cover story" hear is a riff on "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by DeMatteis and Speigle. A skeleton in a top hat playing a bone flute shows up in an idyllic town once a year to lead away some mentally challenged townsperson. A young man is determined to get his friend back and tracks the Piper to a cave where he is torturing the man he took away. The Piper shows the young hero the River of Souls, where the dark elements of human nature are held--and kept away from the town--so long as they give up one innocent soul a year to be tortured and corrupted by the Piper. Our hero attacks the Piper to free his friend, then the River of Souls is released. The town begins to destroy itself in a frenzy of concentrated badness. Our hero's uncle joins him and the former victim in leaving town. He explains as they go that he had once confronted the Piper over the hero's father but had been too frightened to do anything after seeing the River.
The other stories aren't as good. Barr and Jodloman deliver a short story about a big game hunter shooting a guide in an argument over shooting an endanger wolf, but then it turns out the guide is a werewolf. "Blood in Sand" is a weird story by Gwyon and Redondo about a young matador who wants to win enough to pay the rent on his mother's grave, but his girl's unhappy with the dangerousness of his chosen profession. She's also being pursued by the wealth bull breeder. An old wise woman warns the matador that the next bull he fights will not be as normal bulls, but doesn't quite believe her. In the arena though, he realizes his rival's spirit is somehow guiding the bull. He manages to kill it but dies in the process. No one pays the rent on his mom's grave or his grave, Cain helpfully informs us. The last story by Kanigher and Cruz  is a tale of doomed love and jealous in an Irish fishing community, and is the sort of bland stuff I expect from Ghosts.

Unknown Solider #247: Haney and Ayers and Tlaloc have the Solider infiltrating the Warsaw Ghetto to get information from a Jewish scientist whose "gas diffusion" work will aid the development of the atomic bomb. The old man is dying, but he will only give up the information if the Soldier takes his granddaughter out of the Ghetto. They are on their way out, but they're captured by Jewish resistance fighters who at first thinks the Soldier is a Nazi spy, but won't let them go even after they find out otherwise, fearing that under torture the girl would give away their hiding place. One of the fighters helps them escape into the sewers for the promise of a lot of money, but a German patrol nabs them. The cowardly fighter turns traitor, but the Solider stuffs a cyanide pill in the guy's mouth! He and the girl get away, hiding in a wagon of corpses being removed from the ghetto. Outside, they are again caught by German troops, but the Soldier fakes a heart attack to grab a soldier's rifle. With help from the resistance fighters on the walls, they kill the squad, and he the girl make good their escape. 
Kanigher and Mandrake follow that up with a tale of ancient Greece. After the Battle of  Thermopylae,  a brave shepherd boy kills a Persian commander. The coda remarks that the Persians are now called Iranians and suggests the possibility that their "fanatical leader" might fall to a single blow from a defiant boy. The last story by Burkett and Ayers/Celardo continues the travails of the "Ruptured Duck" from last issue, where the old, worn out plane keeps somehow saving folks' lives--and still breaking down a lot. Part one seemed kind of pointless and part two definitely was.

Tasha’s Rules for Custom Origins Make Pencil-Necked Mountain Dwarves Overly Good

DM David - Tue, 10/19/2021 - 12:17

I played Rime of the Frostmaiden in a party that included the sort of armored dwarven wizard empowered by two features: (1) a weak dwarf’s ability to wear stout armor without a speed penalty and (2) the customized origins from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, which let players assign their race’s ability score bonuses to any ability score. This dwarf started with a Strength of 8 and level of fighter for heavy armor proficiency, but some characters gain similar benefits by opting for a mountain dwarf and gaining proficiency with medium armor.

We both played wizards who boasted similar offensive power, except his wizard never got hit. When the character returned at high levels for my D&D weekend, a shield spell routinely boosted his AC into the 30s.

Aside from a monk with high-wisdom and Stunning Strike, I suspect the character type that dungeon masters find most tiresome combines high AC and the ability to cast shield. We DMs can be fans of the characters and want to land an occasional attack. I love Superman, but I also love the threat of a robot powered by a kryptonite heart.

Tasha’s custom origins improve D&D by giving players freedom to play the character they want without choosing ability scores that make the character less effective than others. In an appearance on Dragon Talk, lead D&D designer Jeremey Crawford says, “All games are about making choices and making meaningful choices, but we want the choices to be between things that are all fun and interesting. What we don’t want is a choice where just hiding inside it is some kind of trap. And that’s what the traditional ability score bonuses often feel like to people.

“As the game continues to evolve, and also as the different types of characters people make proliferate and become wonderfully diverse, it’s time for a bit more of those old assumptions to, if not pass away, to be something that a person can set aside if it’s not of interest for them and their character.” The Tasha’s rules create a game that helps gamers imagine and create a broader spectrum of viable characters. “You can play the dwarf you want to play. You can play the elf you want to play. You can play the halfling you want to play.”

Does the new freedom fuel more powerful characters? Jeremey says no. “Contrary to what many people might think, those ability score increases that are in those different options, they are not there for game balance purposes. They are there strictly to reinforce the different archetypes that have been in D&D going back all the way to the 70s.”

The game’s design gives smaller ability score bonuses to races with more potent racial features. Jeremey contends that where players put the ability score bonuses doesn’t matter.

Except the placement matters. Before custom origins, mountain dwarves gained a +2 Strength along with medium armor proficiency—a feature that rarely benefits characters who gain from a +2 strength. Fighters and paladins get armor proficiency anyway; barbarians and monks avoid armor. For wizards and other classes that actually need armor, that +2 Strength offers nothing. To the Player’s Handbook designers, this combination of strength and armor proficiency seemed like such useless fluff that mountain dwarves gained +2 in two ability scores rather than just one. Besides, Strength is a roleplaying choice for sub-optimal characters..

I suspect that if Jeremey failed to save against a suggestion that forced the whole story, he would admit that the placement of modifiers does matter, but not enough to derail adding the simple and flexible custom origins in Tasha’s. Mountain dwarves rank as strong, but not overpowered.

Still, if the designers gained a redo on the dwarf, surely the race’s mechanics would change. In the case of dwarves, the custom origin rules go beyond enabling unique characters who defy class archetypes. The rules encourage pencil-necked dwarf wizards able to wear half-plate. I’ve learned to accept characters who sell out to seldom get hit, but acceptance comes easier when the price isn’t a bargain. Nonetheless, if I were king of D&D, custom origins and their flexibility would stay despite the adventuring parties suddenly filled with clanking dwarven wizards.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Beneath Bernhold

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 10/18/2021 - 11:11
By Louis Kahn Starry Knight Press OSRIC Levels 8-10

Hidden in a wooded vale lie the remains of Bernhold Keep. Beneath this ancient fastness dwell the spirits of its original inhabitants, betrayers who turned away from the Light and embraced Chaos in a climactic battle that rent this land asunder. Cursed to everlasting unlife, they wait below, ready to claim the lives of all those foolish enough to venture into their demesne. Are you brave enough to delve Beneath Bernhold?

This 54 page digest adventure uses 24 pages to describe a dungeon with fourteen rooms. Yes, as that page count would suggest, it’s padded to fuck and back with conversational writing, background data, and myriad other issues. The text is hiding a mostly linear dungeon with traps and undead. *sigh*

Your level 8-10 party is hired by some sage for 4000gp to go explore some ruins. Why you’re doing this at level ten I don’t know. I guess you’re suckers. On the way you meet a wandering monster table that takes multiple lines for each entry because each entry starts with what is essentially “it comes out from behind a tree and attacks.” Oh, and the treasure? The DM is left to determine appropriate treasure for the party.

This hints at the major issue of the adventure (beyond dungeon design choices) : the padding. Meaningless padding. It feels like every sentence, every phrase, every room is padded out. Every little thing needs the DMs hand held. “If the players search then they find …” we are told. This is the classic quantum padding I’ve referenced so many times in the past. An if/then statement that should be reworded to just explicitly state what is going on. Or “The treasure found is as follows …” This is just pure padding, having no use at all in making the adventure clearer. “If the players are not carrying illumination …” the adventure tells us, then they can’t see. Well no fucking shit. That IS how fucking D&D works, isn’t it? Or, rather, how LIGHT works? If there’s no light you can’t see? “If the players don’t breathe then they die of suffocation” is, thankfully left out of the room description for each room. 

The adventure goes on and on in this conversations style. Room backgrounds and histories that have no purpose in the adventure. “Lord Bob had a sliding floor trap placed to foil prisoner escapes.” You can’t even argue that this might, in some way, cause the DM to put in some extra feature or be able to answer some player inquiry, like “this room used to be a kitchen” sort of thing might be, in some possible, arguable. On and on and on it goes, every sentence in a conversation style. 

This leads to, of course, a wall of text issue where all of the text runs together and the DM can’t actually use the adventure for its main purpose: as a reference tool to run the adventure. This is, of course, one of the main conceits of this blog. The Adventure is a reference tool for the DM running it. The DM uses it to run the adventure, and thus it must be formatted, and the writing put down on the page, in such a way that facilitates the DM running it. Spending minutes reading a room description, and fumbling through it during play in order to pull out the details you need to run the room, is not a reference tool. It’s something to be read, perhaps. The greatest sin an adventure can make.

And the gimping. *sigh*. Undead cannot be turned. No commune spells work. A trap “cannot be detected as a trap because it is not one.” You put a fucking needle inside of a mouth in which you put your hand in to. Sure, it may be a door lock, pricking you to get blood so the fucking door will open, but, that CANT be detected as a trap? Seriously? 

I don’t know what else to say. Sticking your monsters in the second paragraph, or deeper, so the DM will overlook them? “Oh, uh, wait, sorry, there’s actually eight skeletons in this rooms glowing with unholy fire.” 

The text, padded as it is, is devoid of actual descriptions of things. Just plain jane words with few adjectives and adverbs, much less evocative ones. 

It makes my heart yearn for what it was meant to be. Not the garbage thats in front of me, but what the vision was. The art is there, you can see it on the cover, and on a few pieces inside. It was clearly an act of effort to do layout. To use the formatting that was used. And yet the editing is not there, in any way shape or form. And then, the actual DESIGN of the adventure? The traps and encounters and how they work together? No. This kind of product just hurts my soul and makes me wonder why I do this shit. To be reminded, every day, or the meaningless of it all? And yet, we must imagine Sisyphus as happy …

“If the players don’t remember when you described the green mist going through the fireplace then remind them so that the adventure can continue. 

*sigh*

I thought, maybe, that Starry Knight had improved. Maybe I’ll try again next year.

This is $6.50 at DriveThru. There is no real preview. 


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/370241/SOS9-Beneath-Bernhold?1892600

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