Friday, October 31, 2008

Troll Lord Waves Goodbye To The Gygax Properties

From yesterday's blog entry at the Troll Den:

Gygax Games has withdrawn all licenses from Troll Lord Games. This includes Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds, Gord the Rogue, King of England King of France, C&C Adventures as well as Castle Zagyg. This is a note from Gail:

“A fond farewell from Gail Gygax:

I want to thank all at Troll Lord Games for the joy, laughter, and support they gave my late husband these past eight years. Many of you are wondering what is in store for various worlds created by Gary. To that end, I have, with TLG’s good wishes and blessings, embarked on a new journey.

Gygax Games will now take up the mantle as the vehicle for the continuation of Gary’s unfinished works, plus the Lejendary Adventure™, Castle Zagyg™, and Gygaxian™ Fantasy Worlds product lines. There are lots of fun surprises ahead!

This does not preclude Gygax Games from working the Troll Lord Games and I hope to do so in the future. To that end, I look forward to seeing everyone in Lake Geneva in the summer of 2009 for the convention!

This wasn't unexpected, but still isn't exactly a welcome answer. Frankly, I was upset with this upon first read, but since I've taken some time to mull it over, perhaps it ain't all bad. While the idea of a company like Mongoose completing Castle Zagyg with their soulless staff writing fills me with dread, Troll Lord is doing well with the selling of Castles & Crusades, and perhaps this will give them a chance to focus a bit more internally on that and the SIEGE Engine line. And if you think I'm not picking up Jim Ward's Towers of Adventure when it is released, you're crazy.

More discussion here.

I will say I think the idea/suggestions of CZ going GSL doesn't seem like a good fit to me. Nothing against the system, but as Clark Peterson of Necromancer has pointed out on another topic, 4e may not exactly have the proper feel for this sort of thing.

Greyhawk Day #9: Reviving The Greytalk Archives

Happy Halloween, and boy do I have some great Greyhawk goodness for you today!

Some truly great Greyhawk and RPG discussion was thought lost when the Greytalk Archives disappeared from online. Scott Casper, however, is doing his best to restore what he can of those fantastic insight into the world of Greyhawk, and hosts what he's been able to dig up/recover at his blog, also named Greytalk Archives. Many of the old posts were retyped from printouts, and this definitely a labor of love. Thanks, Scott, and keep it up!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Time Capsule/Predictions: 1 Year From Now...

So, by this time next year, there'll be another year of life with D&D 4e under our belts, another Gen Con come and gone, and another slate of new RPG releases out the door.

Here's your chance: comment on your predicitons for the next year in gaming.

Other possible subjects for prediction:

-What are going to be the surprise hits (and flops) of the next year?

-Of the Pathfinder/True20/d20 variant crowd, who will be clipping along, and who will be struggling?

-Where will 4e be in terms of GSL support?

-How will D&D Insider be doing?

-What sort of "industry buzz" will we all be discussing?

-Where the hell is White Wolf headed?

-What will the old school gaming community be working on? What will the titanic controversies and issues of the day be?

-What's hot now that will be forgotten in the next 365 days?

-Will the Ron Edwards/IPR split have worked out well?

-Will 4e sales be holding steady?

-How will WotC's new miniatures strategy be working?

-What company will be poised for a big breakthrough?

-Will I have my Castle Keeper's Guide yet (I have faith)?

-And dear gods, what of Castle Zagyg?

1 year from now (I'll mark it on my calendar), we'll see who was right, who was wrong, and what the jury is still out on. The is your chance to show off those prognostication skills, so have at it! (Fellow bloggers, if you do a post on the topic, let me know, and I'll do a compilation post of predictions).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Review of Races of the Shroud: The Apelord

I recently received a review copy of Races of the Shroud: The Apelord, the initial offering from One Bad Egg, and authored by Fred Hicks and Lee Hammock. This product, weighing in at 12 (electronic pdf) pages, currently retails for $1.99 at RPGNow. This is a 4e GSL (!) product which adds a new race to the D&D rulesets, complete with powers, feats, sample characters, and even a few sample adventure ideas.

First, despite the low price tag, The Apelord is really an aesthetically pleasing product. A clean, professional look, combined with some excellent art by fan favorite Storn Cook, really makes Apelord a pleasure to look over.

The apelords don't have that feel of many animal-human races in games, namely "An ape--that talks!", but instead are nicely (if briefly) fleshed out in terms of community, habit, and behavior. A few new (mostly physical) feats nicely round out this new race overview.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this product for me was the introduction of some of the monsters based on this apelord template. The Corrupted Undead Apelords are absolutely brutal, and there are some nice Brute, Lurker, and Minion variants. Many of the other apelord types seem particularly well-suited to shifting, ranged, and indirect combat, and the abilities and stats seem pretty well-baked, especially for higher-level baddies.

As mentioned, there are also a couple of adventure hooks, which are pretty standard. I won't call them "filler", but this section seems almost an afterthought after the excellent presentation of the race, feats, and monster types.

I'm not by any means huge into 4e, but short, useful products like this could definitely increase the appeal and scope of the game for me. This is the sort of product I'd like to see more of, which showcase some of the additions and bright spots of 4e monster use & design in particular. I've been burnt out in the past on animal-human hybrids, but the apelords here are presented in a thoughtful and fleshed-out manner that really make them stand as a race all their own. Many of the ideas here could (and will) be ported to other settings/systems as well. In short, if you're looking for an interesting addition for your 4e game that hasn't been run into the ground, give The Apelord a shot.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Is The GM A Dying Breed?

There was a time not too long ago where I maintained a large network of Game Masters that I’d played with over the years, both as a teen and then later in the military. We would shoot the breeze, talk about how the gaming was at our hometown or current assignment. Then, I began to notice some folks drifting away from the conversation—some of the best GMs I’ve ever know, no longer chatting up it with our little fellowship. Many did not frequent the ENWorlds and RPGnets and RPGSites of our hobby, but still kept those lines of communication open.

So, I decided to conduct a poll: was my list of GMs—some of the most dedicated and excellent gamers I’ve ever known—really shrinking? Over the past month, I worked at tracking down 34 Game Masters of my acquaintance—many in the military or now retired from service, many others online acquaintances hearkening back to my first forays into gaming discussion online circa 2000. The results were perhaps not unexpected, but were also not heartening. (I will note each GM here has at least 5 years of GMing experience, or has been GMing intermittently at various points over the past 10+).

In Relation To Five Years Ago, Do You Now GM More, Less, About The Same, Or Do You No Longer GM?
More 14.7 % (5)
Less 35.3% (12)
About The Same 26.5% (9)
I No Longer GM 23.5% (8)

Of Those Who GM Less Or No Longer GM, Do You Still Play Tabletop RPGs?
Yes, Frequently 20% (4)
Yes, Sometimes 20% (4)
Yes, Rarely 20% (4)
No 40% (8)

Choose Two Reasons That Are The Largest Pressure On Your GMing or Reasons You GM Less/No Longer GM:
Unable To Find Audience For Games I Enjoy 20.6% (14)
General Unhappiness With The State of Gaming 14.7% (10)
Unable To Find Any/Enough Gamers, Period 14.7% (10)
Family Considerations 14.7% (10)
No Longer Interested/Changed Hobbies 11.8% (8)
Increased Work Responsibility 11.8% (8)
Other Time Constraints 5.9% (4)
Ease/Fun of Electronic Gaming 5.9% (4)

What Is Your Favorite System?

D&D 3.5 20.6% (7)
AD&D 1e or Variants 11.8% (4)
Palladium/Megaversal (Rifts/Palladium Fantasy) 11.8% (4)
D&D 4e 11.8% (4)
Basic D&D or Variants 8.8% (3)
Storyteller 5.9% (2)
D6 5.9% (2)
Star Wars Saga 5.9% (2)
Rolemaster 2e 2.9% (1)
Rolemaster Standard 2.9% (1)
Classic Traveller 2.9% (1)
Warhammer Fantasy 2e 2.9% (1)
AD&D 2e 2.9% (1)
Amber 2.9% (1)

This is not meant to be a doom-and-gloom article, nor do I claim my poll is in any way scientific or definitive. But I will ask: how many of us are the lone or at least primary GM for our gaming group? How often do you get a break? Is your group (as sales would likely suggest) one of those not turned on by a shared-power or GM-less game?

What really shocked me is how many of them still wanted to GM or play—but time constraints, unhappiness with something in the hobby or an experience, or a dearth of face-to-face players was either severely reducing their GMing or eliminating it all together. I imagine a player survey would be much the same. Still, old news, right? Hasn’t this sort of stuff been making the rounds for years?

I’ve always held that being a GM is not for everyone—some players don’t want that level of participation, while others don’t like or can’t handle the involvement that position brings. But in a hobby where it has often become more difficult to find face-to-face players in our towns and cities, we should ask ourselves why we shouldn’t expect a similar decline in competent Game Masters.

We have more resources online for Game Masters than ever before! And the internet is doubtless a fantastic tool for this, but how much of it is getting that majority of “lost tribe” tabletop gamers? (I also contend that in my experience [and as the poll shows in this instance], the majority of gamers out there not hot n’ heavy online definitely tend to skew more towards grognardism, and it is not uncommon to find them still rocking out the same games they were 25 years ago. If there is an upside to this, it might be that there's a lot of folks out there who could contribute much to the Old School Gaming "Revival"--were they aware of it).

In the end, with the explosion of GM resources online, I have more Game Masters than ever before, from all over the world who I can bounce ideas off. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss those who’ve fallen by the wayside.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

An Ideal Paladin

If you listen to the lyrics, everything my idea of what a Paladin should be...

...except real.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Beatles & The RPGA

I'm posting this on Saturday, mainly because I know my horrible lyrics-writing will be subjected to that much less scrutiny. This started out over at theRPGsite, where various people were changing Beatles lyrics to RPG-related ones (with mixed success). I'm not a total hater of the Forgotten Realms by any means, but its pretty well-established I was bummed when the RPGA dumped Greyhawk. So, with without further ado, to the tune of "Yesterday", may I present:


All our PCs were from Oerth they say,
Now it looks as though they'll Faerun stay,
Oh, how could you, RPGA?

We no longer have the world of Gary,
There's an emo drow that's bothering me,
Oh, RPGA switched suddenly.

Why they
Had to switch I don't know, but I won't play.
I said,
Well so long, now I've left RPGA.

I liked the idea of living play,
Now Elminster just says "ye" all day,
Oh, damn your hide, RPGA.

Why they
Had to switch I don't know, but I won't play.
I said,
Well so long, now I've left RPGA.

My Greyhawk wizards were so Grade-A,
Now I think they have to be from Thay,
Oh we're so done, RPGA.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Greyhawk Day #8: Castle Zagyg & A Deific Map

Two bits for this week's edition of Greyhawk Day:

-Earlier this week, Greyhawk Grognard posted the original release plans for Castle Zagyg. I'm hoping for the best still with this series, despite the disquieting developments, as from the descriptions alone there is no doubt in my mind I would snap up every one of these products as they became available.

-I ran across this Greyhawk Deity Map in my travels across the web this week. If, like me, you have a horrible time keeping them all straight, this could be very handy. I've also thought about doing something similiar for my homebrew...

Most RPG bloggers will tell you Friday is a wasteland when it comes to traffic (and is it ever true!). Which means I appreciate your stopping by all the more!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Vintage Dragon Magazine Game Advertisements, Part IV

(Seriously, its an addiction. I do believe this will be my last installment on this topic for a bit, but I absolutely love looking at these old ads. They just seem so innocent, energetic, and full of optimism for having a seriously kick-ass gaming time. Plus, its just too much fun to see what was being produced and what was going on back then. Thanks to Dragon Magazine #21 for these ads, which endeavored to finish off the 1978 and start 1979 on the right foot):
(click to enlarge)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Uncle Sam Helps Your Party Survive Dungeons

I mentioned this over at I Waste The Buddha With My Crossbow yesterday, but this is one of the best resources I can share:

U.S. Army Field Manual Library

Aside from the obvious applications for warfare or modern games many of the manuals hold, you'll really want to check out 21-76, which is the Survival Guide. As Jeff Rients said, Gary Gygax once recommended having a Boy Scouts of America handbook and an Army Survival Guide. Tracking, traps, knots, terrain, survival methods--all things that can come up in a wilderness or dungeon crawl, and all items that can be fleshed out or given a new direction with a quick peek at the manuals now and then. Hope this is as useful to you as it has been for me!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

WotC To Offer Non-Random D&D Mini Packs!

This just in and confirmed: Wizards of the Coast will soon (Spring of 2009) be offering D&D miniatures in non-random iconic packs. It will be an initial 18-figure run (3 figures per pack, and the first 6 sets will be as follows:
  • Martial Heroes 1
  • Martial Heroes 2
  • Arcane Heroes 1
  • Arcane Heroes 2
  • Divine Heroes 1
  • Primal Heroes 1
D&D Monster packs, also non-randomized, will also debut next spring. I have to say, well done, WotC. This is something I and a lot of gamers have wanted for a while, and which is going to be a great addition to many campaigns. I'd like to see it expand to include the Orcish and other ghastly hordes many of us would get a lot of use out of, but this is a good step forward.

Too Many Space RPGs Spoil The Party

My gaming group and I have an issue. Well, we have many issues, including a guy who liked to make a character, wait and see what the cool powers in the game were that everyone else was using, and then make a new character combining as many of those powers as possible. But today, we're going to focus on a pretty clear one--too damn many space/sci-fi RPGs to play.

Seriously. We come from divergent gaming backgrounds, and I've been privileged enough to know some of the best sci-fi/space gaming writers out there, and so we really, really cannot make up our mind as to what sci-fi or space RPG to play next. As an illustration of this issue, I submit to you our most recent "short list" of candidates (with links, and in no particular order):

Thousand Suns

D6 Space
Cold Space
Starblazer Adventures
Starcluster 2
HardNova 2
Classic Traveller
Mongoose Traveller
Traveller T20
StarSIEGE: Event Horizon
Rifts: Phase World

No one knows when this horrible deadlock will end, or what the result will be. But there is the sense that so long as the game allows for some form of Far Trader, all will be well.

Any thoughts on what your choice would be?

Monday, October 20, 2008

RPG Blog 2 Emailed To You!

RPG Blog 2 is now offering an email subscription feature. Simply input your email address in the subscription box on the top right sidebar, and have every new posting on our feed delivered directly to your inbox!

In other site news, via Twitterfeed, RPG Blog 2 is also now fed to Twitter. You can be notified of our latest posts right after they hit the page. Make sure to sign up as a follower if you're on there! I'm continue to tweak the site and work on new ways of making the site interactive and accessible. Chances are, I'll make some missteps, but at least you know I'm trying.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Our Earliest Gaming Sessions: Share Your Story

Allow me to go first. It was 1993, I was in junior high, and my buddy Brandon invited me over to try this new game (in a book???) he had picked up called Rifts. We spent a good two hours on him walking me through character creation--most of it laboriously poring over exactly which weapons to pick up, and detailing my Headhunter's awesome motorcycle (which had a smoke screen and oil slick capabilities, not entirely unlike a certain Nintendo game).

I asked numerous questions about the Rifts setting. I looked at Blind Warrior Woman boobs. Brandon showed me a pic of the Emperor of the Coalition States, Karl Prosek, and informed me that he was the big badass of the setting. I responded with a well-considered list of followup questions:

1) Can I try to kill him?

Brandon scoffed at such a lofty goal. Kill the Emperor? Who was doubtless numerous levels above me? No, I would earn my stripes fighting vampires along the Rio Grande. And so I made my final equipment addition ("knife"), and set off to where the long, lonely paths on the banks of the Rio Grande would lead my post-apocalyptic anti-hero (or "guy").

Clearly, the two hours of equipment selection and intense questioning had gotten to Brandon, because within 10 minutes, I had the following described to me:

Brandon: As you walk back towards your motorcycle, an asteroid falls from the sky and crushes you completely. Game over.

Despite this potentially frustrating start to my gaming career, I knew I was hooked. Palladium Fantasy and awkward, horrendously houseruled D&D sessions would continue my initiation into the hobby. And asteroid fatalities became much less common in the weeks and years to follow.

Let's hear it: How was your first gaming session?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Carcosa: The Controversy

It seems the recent old-school revival Supplement IV: Carcosa, by Geoffrey McKinney, has been riling folks up over its use of, well, here's one of the main excerpts being bandied about:

"Summon the Amphibious Ones: This eleven-hour ritual can be completed only on a fog-shrouded night. The sorcerer must obtain the root of potency found only in ruined apothecaries of the Snake-Men. The sacrifice is a virgin White girl eleven years old with long hair. The sorcerer, after partaking of the root, must engage in sexual congress with the sacrifice eleven times, afterwards strangling her with her own hair. As her life leaves her body, 10-100 of the Amphibious Ones will coalesce out of the mists." - Carcosa, page 31

As you can imagine, there's been the standard firestorm on theRPGsite and Dragonsfoot. In response, one of my favorite bloggers (and old-school authors) Jim LotFP, has decried many of those wailing against the product as "cowards".

Look, here's the thing: this is something I'm just not comfortable with. This doesn't make me a coward, or a prude, or naive. It just means I'm uncomfortable with that presentation of that material, and its something I don't want at my gaming table. I don't want mechanics that include child rape or abuse. I understand if people are uncomfortable with some of the common preconceptions towards casual or thoughtless violence in RPGs. We all have "want", "tolerate", and "do not want" categories for our games, and you can likely guess where Carcosa is ending up for me, personally. In my tour overseas in the military, I saw enough horrible things that human beings do to each other that I tend to veer away from anything in gaming that over-the-top.

My love of old-school games isn't built on any loyalty to the Sword & Sorcery genre, any more than it is it built on fidelity to any of the works of fiction that built To me, old school is about making rulings, not slavishly following rules, and a toolkit approach to the game. I've no doubt Mr. McKinney appreciates this, and has clearly taken that toolbox approach to publish a gaming product he found to be interesting and worthwhile. We are not forced to interact with what he had created, any more than he would be forced to accept any product I published with concepts he was not comfortable with.

And this entire tact of "well, you accept X, so why don't you accept Y" or "you need to evoke emotion and reaction and challenge your players". Look, I appreciate that people all have different standards of what they find acceptable. But I like to think that I can work what's supposed to be (for my group) a fun, generation-spanning game and challenge people's conceptions of right and wrong without resorting to raping or slaughtering little kids. I've done it up till now without resorting to that, and I like to think its worked pretty well. Its not what I want in a game, so don't try to say I have to accept it or try it or face being named a coward.

Jim does do a nice job laying out some of what's in the rest of the book (which includes some really cool other concepts, which sadly will likely get lost in the maelstrom over the rest of it), and I suggest folks review it and make up their minds for themselves. (There's a "mature audiences only" warning on there, for the record). I understand this is a sensitive issue, and no doubt emotions are running high for a lot of folks--but that's nothing new, is it? Let the folks who are ok with it get it. The rest of us would do well to get on with discussing gaming topics that would ideally be more rewarding than screaming "pervert" repeatedly. I'd say we've hit the outrage quota. As for me, it sounds like I'll be taking a pass. But that doesn't make me a coward. It just means I don't want it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Greyhawk Day #7: Hill Giants of the Flanaess

For this week's Greyhawk Day, check out this article on Canonfire by Dongul. Its a superb look at the hill giants of the Flanaess, discussing their society, habitat, (anti)social practices, and a bit of history. Great work!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Swords & Wizardry Released!

While we're talkin' old school, I would be remiss if I did not mention the very exciting release yesterday of Swords & Wizardry by Mythmere Games, in essence a "0e" D&D with a couple of tweaks here and there. The pdf is a free download, and the print version only $7.50. I'll let this quote from the Swords & Wizardry site give you an idea of part of the philosophy behind this project:

"Start with the simple framework of these first rules, and then imagine the hell out of it".

For more, just read the mission statement. I may not agree with everything in there, but I hardly have to. Rock on, and best of luck!

And I want to say as far as old school goes in general: Swords & Wizardry, Microlite '74, Castles & Crusades, Basic Fantasy, Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, Mazes & Minotaurs, Hackmaster, Mutant Future, or ant of the original boxed sets themselves--hey, if you're having a blast with it, then you're aces in my book. You will never see me denigrate anyone on this site for their choice of old school goodness. That's not what we're about here. If I may, I'd like to just reiterate perhaps the most important life lesson I've had:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Case For Castles & Crusades

(Zack comes clean about his new game of choice).

I'm a vagabond, a wanderer of tabletop gaming. From my early forays in Palladium Fantasy and hideously houseruled 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons games to my appreciation of Risus, Two-Fisted Tales, Epic Roleplaying, Rolemaster, Traveller, Rifts, and everything in-between, I have played and ran a tremendously large number of roleplaying games.

I've tried Troll Lord Games' Castles & Crusades before, had my Castle Keeper Screen signed by Gary Gygax himself in 2007. And though the sessions and demos I ran were fun, there was always something else to try. And being an ENnies judge for 2008 also ensured my free time to dedicate to any single game was severely lacking.

But in now coming back to it, and in loving both the exciting modern products out there and the original and homages to an earlier time in gaming, I have found Castles & Crusades to be so much of what I've been looking for. Very few times (I can count them on one hand) has a game purely "clicked" for me. As in I got it--I got the feel, the system, the direction. And that's what happened when I took my C&C Players Handbook in hand (and screen) once more. What did it? I don't know--a desired refinement of how I run my games, an re-examination for what I want out of my hobby, whatever. But I did want to share just a little of why I am so absolutely, genuinely, enthusiastically pleased with Castles & Crusades:

Bridging A Gap: I have friends who were weaned on the older editions of D&D, and those who have played nothing but 3rd Edition. Castles & Crusades allows me to sell elements of both those experiences, giving us a common meeting ground and a larger player base from which to draw. Its familiar to veterans, and easily picked up by novices.

Time: Plain and simple. Look, I have a wife, 2 kids and 1 on the way, and a lot more responsibility than Young Zack ever did. C&C's system, the SIEGE Engine, is so simple that it usually takes all of 3-5 minutes for gamers to get the gist of it. I want to be able to use all the resources I've built up over the years, run a game that encourages active, fast, inspiring GM (CK) rulings, not pace-killing rules lookup. I want low prep time, employing notes and material I already have. I'm ready to get back to the basics, and get down to gaming in a faster and leaner fashion.

A Place To Build Upon: Castles & Crusades is a framework. It isn't a toolbox so much as a sturdy workbench. This is seriously one of the most easily-houseruled games I have ever seen. You want skills, feats, some new magic system? Want to use THAC0? Have some insane d20 rule you plug into every game you play? Castles & Crusades not only allows you to plug those items in, its modularity will make it easy to do so. We are talking compatibility not only with the various prior editions and the d20 crowd, but efforts like Basic Fantasy, Labyrinth Lord, Mazes & Minotaurs, Fight On!, True 20, Paizo's and Adventure Games Publishing's docket of releases, and more. Hey, I have something from Iron Gauntlets I might throw in there. Or I can do nothing, and be just fine that way. There's just too much goodness out there that I may wish to look to for inspiration, and Castles & Crusades promises the integration of that goodness, easy-like. It's a baseline for it all.

A Style I Want: I don't want hours spent on hair-splitting character builds. I don't want reams of special powers for each player. I don't want skills and rigid, mutiple modifiers to get in the way of player initiative and creativity. I want me as a GM (CK) and my players to remember when we made rulings, not remained bogged down in rules. This ties into time constraints, but I want a fast-play, unified mechanic. I want the standard tropes and hallmarks of our shared hobby heritage there, unwarped. I want strong character archetypes. I want player backgrounds to matter in the course of play. I want so much of what has made the Old School Renaissance of gaming so inspiring to me and others. Of course, many of these lie at the feet of each Game Master/Castle Keeper, and can happen in any game. But its still good to have an RPG that's on your side about it.

A Company I Can Support: Troll Lord Games has never been anything but fantastic in our business dealings. The books are affordable. Their fan support online has been helpful and inspiring. When I was still in the military, Troll Lord contributed to a care package that was sent to a buddy of mine, and he was absolutely thrilled. It meant a lot to him, and by extension, to me. Their support of my friends and I in a tough, sometimes unpopular, unfashionable conflict will not be easily forgotten.

There is also the fact that Troll Lord Games was the last company Gary Gygax himself chose to be involved with. People can knock me for being overly sentimental and say that shouldn't matter for what game I'm playing, but that does carry some water with me. More importantly, I feel like Troll Lord is run by people who understand the innate and unique appeal of Gygaxian fantasy. They have the enthusiasm and heart I look for in a gaming company.

I've never been a one-game, one-system guy. There are too many great games out there I want to run--Epic, Rifts, Traveller, we aren't through yet. One day, I will again get to run In Harm's Way. And Castles & Crusades is ok with that. I know its there, willing to undertake any sort of tweaks or mods I might find in my travels. But I do know what game I'm coming home to. Castles & Crusades is my choice going forward to take advantage of the Old School Renaissance (heck, its my staging area for it), to keep that link going to a wider pool of players, and to maximize the time I have for quality, generation-spanning fun. That's why I'm on board with Castles & Crusades as my fantasy D&D cousin of choice. And together I see us, my friends, and eventually perhaps our kids having great adventures...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An RPG Blogger Anthology?

Over at The Core Mechanic, the idea of an annual anthology for RPG bloggers was tossed out there--a publication that showcases the best of submitted articles for the year. I think this would be an interesting project--perhaps another way to gain notice to the blogs and work that perhaps slip through the cracks? I think there could be an entire section--hell, an entire anthology--each for "Old School Gaming Movement" and "Working With 4th Edition" alike.

Anyhow, if this sounds like something you'd be interested in participating in or volunteering for, leave a comment for Jonathan over there letting him know. I'm encouraged to see these sort of ideas for the blogging community--I've been kicking around seeing what interest would be in some sort of combined (holiday?) charity drive, but have no specifics on that yet. And its easy to get unwittingly over-extended in new projects. But we could certainly do more together than we could ever do separately.

It looks like this idea is at least tenatively going forward. Got a post you think deserves to be shared with a larger audience? Check out the submission form, and for now I'm guessing direct all questions over at The Core Mechanic (or in the thread at the RPG Bloggers Google Group, if you're a member).

Monday, October 13, 2008

Vintage Dragon Magazine Game Advertisements, Part III

Going through these old Dragon Magazines advertisements has been so much fun, I figured I'd continue, with Dragon #22, from February of 1979. In this article, Gary Gygax pens "Dungeons & Dragons: What It Is And Where It Is Going" [worth an article in and of itself] and also trashes some fledgling magazines):

(click to enlarge)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

2 New Free RPG City Maps Ahoy!

Hat tip to Dan Bell on The RPG Site for this one: Mike St-Pierre has two absolutely gorgeous city maps available freely for download from Don't worry if you aren't into Hârn--both maps could fit freely in a myriad of fantasy settings.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Improving A RPG Blog (2)

I've finally had a (very) little time to make a few changes and updates that I've wanted to try around my blog, and I wanted to go over them, as well as share them with my fellow bloggers. Many of these items I'm just trying to see how they work out, and will report as to their success or failure:

-The first is that I'm trying out RPGNow's Affiliate Program. I didn't really want pure ads on my site, but RPGNow offers a feed both of their 5 hottest products as well as a feed for recently reviewed items, which seems more honestly useful to me. I think I get 5% of all sales following links from this site to RPGNow. So I guess if you'd like to support the site, feel free to follow links in those two sections in the right sidebar. I'll be reporting as to how well it does. I'm curious to see how this goes--right now, I'm a little skeptical.

-I've added links on the top so that the Feedburner link is now accompanied by links for feeds for Google Homepage/Reader, My Yahoo!, and Technorati, where I'm currently stinking it up. I've also included Plusmo, which is a cool site providing phone widgets, and which will allow you to have this blog delivered directly to your phone. I hope the net result for this is a little bit of ease and variety for folks following this site.

-I've separated out my Blogroll (which, as I write this, is having technical difficulties) and other Links on the site. I wanted to highlight (some of) the blogs I've been reading in a more conspicuous style, and I think that change allows for that. Again, please scroll down on the right sidebar.

-One of the (apparently) funny things I did was sign my blog up to be tracked through blogtopsites. If you would like to humble yourself as a blogger, sign up and find yourself ranking well below Malaysian fashion blogs and blogs covering Elvis impersonators (but congrats to The Core Mechanic, which is #37 in Entertainment).

-I've been working on getting a good stream of product reviews going, and I should have several new ones up shortly. I take pride in doing a nice, thorough review, and really look forward to getting back into the practice of doing them. (Publishers can contact me at mail.rpgblog(at) if interested).

-Lastly, I've purchased the domain name You'll still be able to reach this site through the normal .blogspot address, but it is something that was only $10/yearly and pretty automatic through Blogger, so I went ahead and did it. If nothing else, chalk it up to use for future expansion and in being easy to remember.

Part of being a part of RPG Bloggers is being able to share what works and what doesn't with my fellow gaming bloggers. I'll be happy to post on any increased (or decreased) site traffic, feedback, and experience as it comes my way.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Greyhawk Day # 6: The Darlene Map

One of the best reasons to pick up the original Greyhawk Folio is the gorgeous cartography work of Darlene Pekul. A quick search online will show you many wonderful Greyhawk maps, but to my thinking, there's only one "Darlene"--click on the left and right links at the bottom of this page to see why.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Vintage Dragon Magazine Game Advertisements, Part II

Today's vintage adverts appeared in the pages of Dragon Magazine #27 (July, 1979--my favorite article in this issue is Bob Bedslaw talking about what Judges Guild has done for D&D):

(click to enlarge)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Vintage Dragon Magazine Game Advertisements

Courtesy of Dragon Magazine #18 (September '78--one of my all-time favorite issues, which also features a review of Traveller):

(click to enlarge)

Lastly, don't pass up this exciting opportunity:

Where do I sign up? Or is being 30 years plus 1 month a bit late to the party?

Blog Carnival: Review of ASM's Truth & Justice RPG

In honor of the Blog Carnival's Superhero theme, I've dusted off and tweaked an old review from my old blog a lot of folks may not have seen. Its a look at one of my favorite supers systems of all time--Atomic Sock Monkey's Truth & Justice. If you haven't looked at this game yet, you'll definitely at least want to read up on it. I count it as one of my top pdf purchases, period...

Truth & Justice--A Review

I have a lot--and I mean a lot--of Supers-genre RPGs on my shelf. So when I was given the chance to review Atomic Sock Monkey's newest offering, Truth & Justice, I wasn't sure what to expect. On one hand, I thought Chad Underkoffler's Dead Inside was a fantastic game, and I am rather fond of the utilitarian Prose Descriptive Quality (PDQ) system, but what would this game bring to an arguably crowded Supers market? Turns out, a lot.

T&J uses the PDQ system to great effect here. If you haven't seen PDQ in action in Dead Inside or some other title, it's a vaguely-FUDGEy system that manages to present perfectly serviceable mechanics while not interfering with game play. PDQ also presents three various ways to resolve a situation: one, if the respective skill or action has a higher rating than a difficulty modifier, it immediately works (sort of a pass/fail bit). The second resolution method is a slightly more complex system, wherein a dice roll accompanies the various skill or rating to surpass a target number. Lastly, there is a continual back-and-forth battle, not unlike a duel, until one character calls it quits. All three work, and work without much complication.

My first sigh of relief came when I realized T&J was not a "freeform" Supers game, nor was it a my character can do x+23 squared, whereas yours can do x+23 cubed. That is to say, there's enough meat on the system here that there won't be arguments over accurately portraying the super-strength of The Hulk, versus that of, say, Spiderman. Your average stat or ability in this game is centered on 0. Aunt May, for example, might have a -2 (Poor) Strength, I would likely have an Average, or 0, Strength, whereas Captain America would have +6, or Master Strength. The game also scales between normal attributes and supers, so that +6 Normal Captain America is strutting around with would be nothing compared to The Hulk's +6 Super-strength. There's a very handy chart in the game that cross-references abilities vis-a-vis the attribute scores, so there is no doubt what a +2 or +4 means in any particular situation. The scaling between normal and super also provides a simple mechanic for a greater range of ability description.

As always, with PDQ, the system consists basically of what I stated above. Everything--be it a trait, a skill, or an attribute, or defined as qualities. Individual games can tailor the quality system to as specific or general as they like. If they want the character quality "Detective" to cover the gamut of all detective abilities, that's fine. A more detailed game, might split it into Forensics, Investigation, and Street Smarts. Like the rest of the PDQ system, it's enjoyably scalable.

In the first few pages, we're also introduced to different styles one might wish to employ for their game. Gritty, Four-Color, Cinematic, Animated, and more are described, and tips are given on how one might to wish to play this type of setting. This part was a great resource, and I actually would have like even a bit more in here.

We've already read about how the PDQ system defines a character, and the fairly quick, yet possibly detailed Character Generation follows this to a T. An interesting point to CharGen is the addition of Hero Points. One garners Hero Points during game play by basically--well, being a hero. This could involve foiling a robbery, taking a bullet for an innocent bystander, sacrificing something to stop a villain, and many other actions that fit that whole "heroic vein". In our playtests, it seemed to make the players a bit more willing to risk their skin while not implicitly forcing them to do so. These Hero Points can be used much like Fate or Luck points in other game--increased attack power, discovering vital information, resistance against attacks, and so on. All in all, they fit nicely with the system.

You've been waiting for me to come to the Superpowers part, haven't you? Well, they're all here, from Adaptation to Transformation. The powers are well-described for immediate use in game play, but there are also parameters for designing your own. Powers like "Bolt of (Something)" are always a good sign, as they leave room for expansion and usually mean the writer isn't going completely crazy trying to itemize every power from the past 4 decades of Marvel. T&J also touches on "stunts", or creative ways for powers to be used. It does get boring using the same old ice beam every time--it's nice to come up with a new, ingenious use for it.

The last third of this book is taken up with NPC creations and several sample campaign settings, as well as examples of play. Nice stuff, and the NPCs are handy for those times when you need a quick villain or lackey to throw against your Super-group.

Production value (PDF vesion)? Well, I don’t always need to be a big artwork guy, but I do enjoy a clean-cut design with easy-to-read type and highlighted examples. Truth & Justice does all three, and the artwork looks at least respectable in my eyes.

All in all, Truth & Justice was a very pleasant surprise for me, and has quickly moved towards the top of my Supers RPG list. If I had to say anything, I would say to me it seems to be sort of the spiritual successor to the old Marvel FASERIP game. It's fast, it's fun, and it's got just enough crunch that those wanting to make clear just how fast or strong their character is can do so. I'd feel equally comfortable here creating a well-known DC hero as I would my own creation. I ran both a Saturday Cartoon-esque and a Silver Age-style game with Truth & Justice, and between Chad's continual examples and fun, light writing style, both went quite well. I'm especially appreciative of the fact that T&J can support any of the Supers sub-genres with equal ease.

If you'd like to read a bit more abut Truth & Justice or want to go ahead and pick this game up (which I heartily recommend) visit the Truth & Justice homepage. There's also a great free supplement, Dial S For Superheroes, which gives you 30 illustrated characters to introduce into your game as well as a free T&J preview at the freebies page. As for me, I give it a well-deserved 4d6+3 out of 5d6, or 4 1/2 out of 5, take your pick--just pick it up.

Monday, October 6, 2008

New Gaming Blogs Update

This week, let's give a big welcome to two new gaming blogs with a ton of potential (each):

First off, Bat in the Attic is Points of Light author Rob Conley's new blog about sandbox gaming, maps, and other RPG stuff. Rob's posts, maps, and writing are a constant inspiration to me, and I'm sure it will be to many others as well.

Second, Icar's Rob Lang has started a blog (to be updated twice weekly) on free tabletop RPGs, settings, and downloads: The Free RPG Blog. He has plans to feature and review a lot of free products that sorely need solid reviews, so make sure to drop him a line with any suggestions.

Best of luck, guys! I'll be tuning in!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Greyhawk Day #5: The Free City of Greyhawk!

The first part of this week's Greyhawk submissions comes from reader Salvador (in Portgual, of all places!), who says "if you're a fan of hand-drawn gaming maps and Greyhawk alike, you will definitely love these maps!". He's referring to Greyhawk Grognard's City of Greyhawk maps, which are enough to evoke nostalgia from the most obstinate of gaming hipsters.

Keeping with the Free City of Greyhawk, you can also find the beautiful maps by Denis Tetreault for the City of Greyhawk, RPGA-style, right here. (Don't forget to check out his city NPC listing as well).

A couple of Wizards of the Coast articles for your consideration as well: The Directing Oligarchs of Greyhawk, and The StoneRing of Greyhawk.

Now that we're in the 5th week of Greyhawk Day here at RPG Blog II, I just wanted to again say thanks to all the contributors and folks who've suggested links for this feature. For the novices out there, I hope that following these links is giving you a taste of a setting many of us dearly love (and that is such a rich part of our hobby's shared history), and for the hoary old vets who check this out, I hope it helps generate excitement, reminisicing, and inspiration to a new group of folks ready to strike out into the Flanaess. May Cold Iron Avail You!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

TSR Fonts Revealed!

Mega-hat tip to T. Foster of theRPGsite for this link, which covers the font names (and look-alikes) for the various Dungeons & Dragons series and editions over the years. There are even links for downloading or locating many of the fonts! I know I have a few homebrew documents I'll be converting to a more "retro" and authentic look quite soon...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Blog Carnival: Superheroes!

Chatty DM is hosting this month's Blog Carnival for RPG Bloggers, which means its time for Superheroes! Make sure to check that permalink, as I anticipate a lot of participation this month. I also have a few entries planned, but ironically enough, I was watching the DVD release of Iron Man with the wife tonight, and didn't get to the article I wanted. And that in itself doesn't make for a very good article.

If you haven't been active in the past Blog Carnivals, now's a great time to get on board! Get your best blog post on Superhero gaming ready, and post it in the comments over at Chatty's!

Quick 6: Games I Never To Get Play

So we all have those games sitting on the shelves that either by circumstance or fate never get their fair shot at your gaming table. Some new hotness comes along, or there's a scheduling conflict, or it doesn't fit your group's composition, or perhaps you are its lone advocate in your circle of gaming buddies. However it happens, we all have games that just don't make it to the gaming table. Here's a new Quick 6, detailing some of my bitter (and often silly) defeats for some games I really dig:

1)In Harms' Way: I love this game, and consider it Flying Mice's best work. Charting the adventure and career of naval officers in the Age of Napoleon? Move over, C.S. Forester! The competitive yet collaborative (and troupe) play, the accumulation of Notice by your brave (and likely foolhardy) acts, to the amazing use of Voluntary Wounds to progress play--this game is a masterpiece. Alas, though its been tried, my current group isn't much into Alan Lewrie, Horatio Hornblower, or Jack Aubrey. And so I have to get by on stolen convention games, a snippet here and there. I need to start a game at the Naval Institute, apparently.

2)d6 Space/Fantasy: My gaming group has several WEG Star Wars RPG vets in it, and so we were looking not long ago at returning to at least an iteration of a system we really knew and enjoyed. But the entire West End Games sell-off brouhaha started right around then, and between the analysis, argument, and endless discussion, we got burnt out. Without actually playing the game. We'll come back to it, but not right now.

3)GURPS: Period. The line seems to be "love Steve Jackson Games, love Munchkin, love GURPS sourcebooks, don't want to play GURPS". That includes GURPS 3e, 4e, any of the "Lite" versions, and likely the foreign versions as well. And the weird thing is--no one really dislikes it. Some of us even like it individually. But as a group, there's just no particular interest in it. In this context, if GURPS were an actor, it would be Bill Pullman.

4)Run Robot Red: I pitch this game about once every few months, and the pitch still goes flat. Annie Rush made a quirky little indie game about different types of robots trying to escape a huge worldship. Its easy to run, fun, and different. And apparently everyone else I game with walked in on this RPG doing their mom, because they will not go for it. So it just sits on a thumbdrive, awaiting to be thrown into my backpack for the next convention.

5)Splicers: Admittedly not Palladium's best work, this game still has some interesting ideas I've wanted to parlay into a couple of short linked adventures. But an early bad experience with the game in the hands of a different GM has scared off a goodly portion of my player pool, fairly or no. Players can be like a skittish stray cat--you might be able to get them close enough once for contact, but if you mess with them, they're awfully leery about coming back around.

6)Icar: Icar deserves better than this. Rob Lang has put several metric tons of work into creating one of the most impressive Sci-Fi RPG compilations I've seen--and its amazingly free. But with a backlog of roughly 17 other space/sci-fi RPGs pushing for playing time simultaneously, I feel like Rob's baby doesn't get the attention it richly deserves. We've got to work out some sort of rotation system for space and sci-fi campaign ideas/system proposals in our group. Custody every other weekend, perhaps?

Question Time: What are some of the RPGs you never seem to get to run or play?