Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bargain Alert: Houses of the Blooded, OSRIC 2.0

As several readers have pointed out, Houses of the Blooded is currently available as a pdf for only $5 at Indie Press Revolution. That's too good a deal to pass up--no waiting for Christmas on this one!

If that's still too rich for your blood, or if you just love old-school gaming, there's also OSRIC 2.0, which is just now released and available for free. I downloaded this last night, and am hugely impressed by the clear professionalism and effort of this product. I haven't been able to stop reading it! This is ~400 pages of old-school, well-crafted excellence. Everyone who worked on this deserves a cold drink and a handshake. Well done all around.

On a personal note, I'm selling some of my book collection here and here (2 books for $20, and free shipping in the U.S.) in an attempt to have a little more Christmas money for my girls. So if you see anything you like, shoot me an email (mail.rpgblog(at)gmail.com) or PM me at those sites.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Order of the d30

It all started with a post on Jeff's Gameblog about his using a d30 in a houserule:

"The Big Purple D30 Rule
Once per session each player may opt to roll the Labyrinth Lord’s big purple d30 in lieu of whatever die or dice the situation normally calls for. The choice to roll the big purple D30 must be made before any roll. The d30 cannot be roll for generating character statistics or hit points".

Soon after, we see this post from sirlarkins at The RPG Corner:

"The Big Emerald D30 Rule
Once per session each player may opt to roll the referee’s big emerald d30 in lieu of whatever die or dice the situation normally calls for. The choice to roll the big emerald D30 must be made before any roll. The d30 cannot be roll for generating character statistics or hit points".

I commented on both posts on how I also used the d30 in a similar manner in my campaign:

(Quote from our houserule wiki [offline]):

"d30 Rule: Once per game session, a player may choose to roll a d30 instead of any normal dice roll. This cannot be used for any purpose during character creation or for hit point rolls".

Because of this exemplary use of the d30, Jeff Rients has made the following announcement on The RPG Corner:

"I now declare the Order of the d30. You and Zach are both authorized to go forth and be awesome in the name of the thirty sider."



In this sign, we shall conquer.

Any other d30 love to share out there?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Vintage Dragon Magazine Adverts: Black Friday Edition

Too timid or sensible to join the frenzied masses out for blood and bargains on this, the busiest shopping day of the year? No worries, as we turn an eye towards a much less-stressful form of consumer activity--checking out what was being plugged in the October 1982 issue of Dragon Magazine (#66). This issue is also memorable for its Thieves Cant article (as part of a special section on languages) along with Uncle Gary absolutely tearing into Rick Loomis.

(Click to enlarge below):

Really, all I need is Arms Law, but rock on:





















Mine just has the (worn) black cover:















I have never heard of this, but I would totally play it:















Geez
, I didn't get a deal anywhere near this good when I signed up for the RPGA a few years back. Of course, I also didn't pay to join:





















It seems like Aftermath never gets the (good or bad) notice that FGU's Bushido or Space Opera gets. Any thoughts why (obviously, it also falls below Bunnies & Burrows, but what game can compete with B&B)?:














Here's a few little ads to round things up:















Man, those are fun, aren't they? If you enjoy these, good news: this is going to be our regular Friday feature for awhile, so feel free to subscribe using the links on this site--or just, you know, visit again.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

New Gaming Blogs Update

I wanted to take time this Turkey Day to welcome the four new members I noticed to the RPG Bloggers Network!

-Tankards & Broadswords

-Jay

-Maestro's Adventures in RPG Land

-WeeBeeGamers


Check them out and wish them the best! Axes High, fellas--let me know if I can be of any "bloggy" assistance!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Is D&D A Product of the Midwest?

I was rereading Atlas Games' 40 Years of Gen Con when I came across the following quote from James M. Ward:

"D&D's a product that always looking at the hero, and at doing good. That's very much a Midwestern "work hard and good things will happen to you" concept. If the game had started in someplace like Atlanta, it would be much more gothic in its appeal. If it had started in California, it would be more laid back. Because it started in the Midwest, the work ethic of the Midwest went along with the game design".

This sentiment is echoed in the same section of the book by Tracy Hickman and Mary Kirchoff.

So, is D&D a product of the Midwestern U.S.? Certainly it got its start there geographically, in the heart of Big Ten Country, in a period where there was much less global cultural exchange than we have today. But how much of an effect did its birthplace have on the tone and presentation of the game?

I think it would be absurd to suggest that D&D was solely a Midwestern phenomenon; clearly, the game quickly exploded into worldwide appeal. But (and this is coming from a lifelong Midwesterner, mind), I do think the Midwest left some fingerprints. Its difficult to speak in generalities, but I know the people I grew up around. There's a work ethic here that admires that steady, increased levels of success through accomplishment. There's a largely non-cynical acceptance and employment of religion. There's a cooperative idealism that hasn't quite managed to be transformed into a worn, jaded outlook. There is a less aggressive, abrasive nature than on the East Coast, yet perhaps a more focused, fussy one than the West Coast. There's a well-read population, but in more of a generalist, non-exclusionary vein. Of course, all these are generalities, but I do believe things may have been different were D&D a product of Boston, San Francisco, or New Orleans.

Had Uncle Gary been a product of the U.K. or Europe (I mean directly), I also believe the game would have been darker. We in the Midwest are further removed from the impact and geography of the landmarks of the Dark and Middle Ages; games like Warhammer Fantasy differ from D&D in terms of grittiness, black humor, and gore. It is easier for us to view these less as bloodbaths and more as fantastic vistas, even though we may know the historical facts.

How far does it go? The wintry climate encouraging indoor activities? The local library's taste in books? Likely, D&D has been influenced to be the game it is in a hundred little ways we can only guess at.

So, is D&D a product of the Midwest U.S.? Would it have been different if created in another region or country? Would it have been created at all? Fire away!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Our RPG Holiday Lists...

Its Thanksgiving week--a time when my family traditionally starts ramping up for Christmas. Anyone else have their RPG Christmas list done? Here's mine (in no particular order):

1) Castle Zagyg: Upper Works

2) A subscription to Crusader Magazine.

3) A subscription to Knights of the Dinner Table.

4) A print copy of Labyrinth Lord.

5) A RPGNow Gift Certificate.

6) Palladium's Dead Reign (which I hear is pretty good).

7) John Wick's Houses of the Blooded.

With the economy the way it is for us right now, I'm not sure what I'll get off there, but I'd be super-happy with any of it (but I must have Castle Zagyg--take note, Santa).

In addition, I would also like:

-Palladium to offer pdf versions of the old 1st Edition Palladium Fantasy books (which is still one of the best fantasy RPGs I've played).

-WotC to decide to license out the Greyhawk setting to Erik Mona and a dedicated cadre of fans.

-And this holiday season, I would like along with Peace on Earth and Goodwill Towards Men, for SenZar to find love, acceptance, and happiness in abundance.

Hmm, for those last ones, I may want a genie instead of Santa...

Are you asking for anything gaming-related in particular this year? Let's see those lists!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Organizing RPG PDFs

I've finally finished up organizing all my RPG files on our laptop. I found that I was re-downloading stuff I already had, that I had multiple copies of the same file, and that finding anything was becoming a tremendous pain. So, I decided to finally sit down and organize them in a way that works for me.

This is a shot of the main folder (click for a larger view). I'm a visual person, so I've used some icons to help me more easily differentiate between them. (Just for reference, "Irrin" is our homebrew campaign world:


For the sub-folders, I've used company logos and pictures to much the same effect. Here's my folder for other source material:




















Here's a shot of the Other Games folder, for games I'm not playing at the moment:





















So, that's it. If you're curious, the dragon and treasure chest .ico files are free from Wizards of the Coast (link here). Does anyone organize their pdfs in a different manner (if at all?).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

On the 4e Edition Wars, Blogging, and Levels

Recently, we've seen some opinions on what Dungeons & Dragons 4e does (and doesn't do) for folks at The Gamer Dome and RPGCentric. For the most part, the conversations on those two entries has stayed civil, especially compared to the sort of hysterics we've been seeing to no end over at ENWorld.

But the fact remains, D&D 4th edition, switching editions, switching to Pathfinder, going back to an older version of D&D--anything in the least bit tied to 4e remains a hot button item. And though some very good bloggers have written some fantastic words about how we should all get along and not let the Edition Wars muck things up, no blog post, no matter how brilliantly worded, is going to change the fact there will be potshot takers and people without any sense of perspective claiming a "side" and pooping squarely in somebody's Cheerios. This is just how its gonna be for a while.

You know what? I don't play 4e. I mean, I have, but it doesn't do what my gaming group or I want. We run campaigns where the characters start out as very low-powered adventurers, perhaps days removed from being conscripted into the Baron's army and leaving their days as a blacksmith's apprentice behind. They are novices, without any particularly powerful attacks or special moves. They're likely scared shitless of facing a lone goblin for the first time, let alone a mess of minions. They aren't going to romp into combat and start pulling off lavishly-named maneuvers. In the end, 4e didn't fit what we wanted, and there were other systems that would get us there with less work. That's it. No sinister plan, no angry letter-writing campaign. A simple expressed preference for a different framework for rolling dice and Making Crap Up.

But, to the best of my knowledge, while growing up, I never once caught 4th Edition shagging my mom while my dad was out of town. It didn't throw my old high school sweetheart off a bridge. It didn't invade the Western United States, giving me and my fellow ragtag band of teenagers no choice but to form a guerrilla band to avenge our parents. It was not the cause of a resurgence of the Black Death in 18th-century Sevilla.

On the other side of things, my rejection of 4e doesn't mean I'm a Luddite, it doesn't mean I fed poisoned meat to your dog, and I am sure your mother is a perfectly nice, respectable woman.

Look, I get to a point why people get defensive--its the Internet, and its never fun when people start flinging poo at stuff you like. Let's take ENWorld for example. Usually we see this stuff start when someone posts a thread on "Why God and Abraham Lincoln Are Up There Right Now Playing 4e" or "GOODBYE FOREVER--4e IS THE WORST!!!1!" As I see it, there are three levels of posts on Edition Wars:

Level 1: This post is a (seemingly) innocuous comment on some perceived position someone may have on 4e. There may even be a good run of rational conversation on the topic at hand. Yet this is invariably a corrupted specimen, befouled by a True Believer or One True Way type--and once turned, it can't go back. Many times a Level 1 conversation will be changed by a later Level 2 comment (see below).

Level 2: On the surface, this post might seem like a Level 1--reasonable, courteous, informed--but there will be one comment placed in just the right spot, or juuuust the slightest air of smug superiority about it to cause the conversation to smolder. There's a tense air about this conversation, much like a Level 1, as everyone knows the flames are merely lying in wait. Sooner or later a backdraft of nerdrage will cause a fiery explosion, and the well-reasoned bits are forgotten as single sentences, minutiae, obscure books quotes, and the stress on syllables are brought in as evidence for the prosecution and defense alike.

Level 3: This post is pure flamebait. It is often signified by claims of "not really D&D", "just like World of Warcraft, "so's your sister", "dumbed-down", "the only way to play", and "clearly you didn't or were unable to read all 14 paragraphs of my brilliantly-crafted argument". It is made worse by people thinking they are clever by assigning the rant a rating ("you lose points for originality--7/10"), or pretending they don't care ("yawn--next please") when it is clearly EATING THEIR SOUL THAT SOMEONE DOESN'T LIKE THEIR NEW GAME YARRRGHHHHHHHHAHHH! This post quickly devolves into personal insults, and largely undoes the good effort put forth in therapy for a wide range of individuals.

Hey, until the research scientists at RPG Bloggers perfect and stabilize the element known as Level 0 (rational edition choice discourse, with well-reasoned discussion--something we have actually caught glimpses of, much like some rare subatomic particle in a supercollider), we can at least keep it at level 1. Or, we can laugh at jerks.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Striking GOLD

I'll admit it: I've often thought about what a professional RPG league would look like. Traveling tournaments, sponsors, prize money, national teams, the whole shebang.

Documentaries, movies, and other entertainment formats tackling Role Playing Games have definitely been hit-and-miss over the years (with an inordinate amount of "miss" included), but the new web series "GOLD" shows promise while tackling that exact premise. A U.S. team of roleplayers tries to overcome their internal strife and personal demons while preparing for the world Goblins & Gold Championships, which are mere weeks away. I also found it funny that the characters are struggling with the decline of their "sport" in the U.S. versus MMORPGs. Rage against the dying light, fellas.

A short prologue is up, and I'm pleased to say that the acting for this series appears to be well-ahead of many other efforts of this type that we've seen. If the quality holds up, I expect some good things from these guys. I believe the premise is interesting, and am curious to see what the next episode on December 19th holds. Check "GOLD" out for yourself to root on the U.S. (or U.K.) team in their battle to take home the top RPG honors.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Roaring 20s Cthulhu: The Silver Screen

I've really been enjoying Shadows of Cthulhu, and it has me amped to do a one shot or short Lovecraftian scenario squarely placed in the Roaring 20s. The book does a nice job of giving a basic background for the time, but I decided to do a series of articles detailing a bit about the culture, sounds, literary works, entertainment and sights of the times. Feel free to mix these up in your next Cthulhu game set in the 1920s.

First off the is the Silver Screen. The 1920s were the zenith for silent movies, and also saw by the end of the decade the first talkies. Movie stars were often as popular as they were today, and appeared frequently in the magazines, newspapers, radio features, and the consciousness of the day. It would be fitting with the era for the stars and smash movies of the time to be in the background or casually mentioned as the cultural events as they undoubtedly were. I've done a breakdown by year, with some of the prominent stars, movies, and film industry events of the times. And remember, if you want something more in-depth, IMDB has everything you need:

1920
Movies of Note: Passion, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, The Mark of Zorro
Actors/Actresses of Note: Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson
Notable Events: United Artists is formed with the cooperation of some of the most prominent names in cinema.

1921
Movies of Note: Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Kid, Nosferatu
Actors/Actresses of Note: Rudolph Valentino, Charlie Chaplain
Notable Events: Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle's sterling comedic career is destroyed by a sex scandal (and subsequent prosecution), even though he is acquitted. This is a major media event.

1922
Movies of Note: Nanook of the North, The Prisoner of Zenda, Robin Hood
Actors/Actresses of Note: Ramon Navarro, Wallace Reid, the Gish Sisters
Notable Events: Teleview produces one of the first true 3-D features, The Man From M.A.R.S.

1923
Movies of Note: The Ten Commandments, The Covered Wagon, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Actors/Actresses of Note: Pola Negri, Patsy Ruth Miller
Notable Events: With the first two movies above, this is widely considered the beginning of Cecil B. DeMille's run of "epic" films.

1924
Movies of Note: Monsieur Beaucaire, The Iron Horse, The Sea Hawk
Actors/Actresses of Note: Rin-Tin-Tin (seriously), George O'Brien, Lon Chaney
Notable Events: The Iron Horse helps popularize the work of legendary Western director John Ford.

1925
Movies of Note: The Big Parade, The Gold Rush, The Freshman
Actors/Actresses of Note: John Gilbert, Harold Lloyd
Notable Events: Alfred Hitchcock directs his first film, The Pleasure Garden. It will not be shown to U.K. audiences until 1927, when he has a hit with The Lodger.

1926

Movies of Note: Ben-Hur, Son of the Sheik, Torrent
Actors/Actresses of Note: Francis X. Bushman, Greta Garbo
Notable Events: Actor (and sex symbol) Rudolph Valentino dies at the age of 31 from complications from a perforated ulcer; his funeral train is mobbed by thousands.

1927
Movies of Note: It (not the Stephen King one), The King of Kings, The Jazz Singer
Actors/Actresses of Note: Clara Bow, Al Jolson
Notable Events: The Jazz Singer was the first true "talkie" in Hollywood; though it was mainly music, with very little actual dialogue. In addition, the Academy Awards were celebrated for the first time.

1928
Movies of Note: The Singing Fool, Lights of New York, West of Zanzibar, Street Angel
Actors/Actresses of Note: Mickey Mouse, Cullen Landis, Janey Gaynor
Notable Events: Steamboat Willie is released, and is the first feature released starring Mickey Mouse; it is also regarded as the first cartoon with a synchronized soundtrack (a point open to technical debate).

1929

Movies of Note: In Old Arizona, The Cocoanuts, Broadway Melody
Actors/Actresses of Note: Bessie Love, Warner Baxter, The Marx Brothers
Notable Events: The first British "talkie", Hitchcock's Blackmail, is released.

In future installments, I hope to cover Music, Sports, Literature, and a host of other items from the Roaring 20s. And I hope True20 fans enjoy Shadows of Cthulhu as much as I am!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Greyhawk Day #12: On A Thursday?

Yep, this week Greyhawk Day is on a Thursday, as I have something else scheduled for tomorrow.

I'm having a lot of fun doing Greyhawk Day, but there was a really positive response to the collections and commentary on Vintage Dragon Magazine advertisements I was doing there for a bit. So I think we're going to try that out on Fridays instead for a little bit, and see how it goes over. Rest assured, Greyhawk is always near and dear, but I want to make sure I'm putting stuff out folks enjoy. Friday is traditionally a "down" day for blog traffic, so its also a good day to try stuff out on. If nothing else, perhaps we'll do both--or alternate. I'd love any feedback on the topic!

But meanwhile, that is no cause for all of you to suffer! Greyhawk Day #12 presents the following:

Bekra's Heraldry Shop: Need examples of Greyhawk heraldry or a collection of the same? Look no further!

...and in what is my favorite find of the week:

Greyhawk Dragon Magazine Index: Listing all the Greyhawk articles, pre-2000, to appear in Dragon Magazine. A nice complement to the DragonDex.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Three Don't-Miss Gaming Blogs

I started a suggestion over at the RPG Bloggers Google Group that we bloggers take a minute to recommend three gaming blogs we think our readers might not normally see, but that are worth checking out. For my part, it was hard to stop at three, so I'm going to go with three blogs off of a larger list that I can recommend without hesitation:

The Free RPG Blog
(http://thefreerpgblog.blogspot.com/)

Rob Lang has taken on the ambitious project of reviewing the metric ton of free gaming product out there crying out for a coherent, thorough review. Rob's blog is updated every Tuesday right now, but you can be sure that every Tuesday there's going to be an impressive review of a free, accessible RPG product waiting. I am immensely glad he's decided to do this, and I've already learned more about free products I didn't know much about.

Tankards & Broadswords

(http://tankardsandbroadswords.blogspot.com/)

I learned of Badelaire's blog through I Waste The Buddha With My Crossbow, and and very happy I did so. Tankards & Broadswords is all over the place as far as gaming subject matter, but its often very insightful, not a slave to any gaming clique or movement, and provides a lot of material that made me think about what I'm doing with my own games. I hope to see a lot more from this blog in the near future.

Turbulent Thoughts:
(http://wyattsalazar.wordpress.com/)

Sometimes Wyatt writes about anime. Sometimes he writes about RPGs. He writes a lot about stuff that pisses him off. He combines this with funny pictures that leave me clapping my hands delightedly like a none-too-bright kid at the circus. His rants are fantastic, and even if the content isn't 100% gaming, its funny, acerbic, and entertaining enough to make you want this feed.


As I stated, there were plenty of other blogs that I could have listed without hesitation, but I wanted three that I thought might be off the beaten path judging from where some of my traffic comes from. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gestalt RPGs

The HackMaster GameMaster's Guide, Rolemaster Arms Law, and two Castles & Crusades books--what do all these have in common? I'll be using all of them in some capacity in my next campaign.

When I next sit down to a full RPG campaign, my system of choice will be Castles & Crusades. But that doesn't mean I can't and won't enjoy the tables and magic items of HackMaster, or the critical hit tables of Rolemaster (actually, Arms Law was designed to be usable with various RPG systems). What follows is Gestalt Gaming: taking aspects of various games, and merging them into a single RPG experience.

While some folks already do this, it seems to me this used to be more common; I remember Basic D&D being used with the cool stuff out of the AD&D DM's Guide with regular frequency in those first forays into gaming. We ran Palladium Fantasy in Greyhawk, and incorporated Traveller elements into d6. Perhaps its more of the whole "kitbashing", freewheeling style of play--I have no doubt it was messy, but I also remember it being a whole lot of fun.

Somewhere, along the way, I think folks (including myself) got less comfortable doing this. Dom't ask me to mark where or when the break occured, but it seems a lot less prevalent nowadays, almost as if there's a reluctance in some quarters to engage in anything so "messy".

In any case, here's a few example of Gestalt Gaming I've seen or participated in:

System + Setting:
-Savage Worlds + Rifts
-True 20 + Forgotten Realms 3e

System + System:
-Basic D&D + Advanced D&D
(perhaps one of the most common cocktails)
-HARP + Rolemaster

System + System + Setting:
-Basic D&D + Arduin + Arduin
(Not a typo)
-Palladium Fantasy + the Arduin Grimoire + Mystara
(Not as horrible as you'd think)

Some of these sound like monstrosities, and likely some are. But the fact remains that some folks seem to craft unnecessary barriers to enjoy the best parts of multiple systems. I'm not suggesting everything works well together, but that there's more of a chance that it will than some people think.

In the end, gestalt gaming can almost be like throwing combinations together in your kitchen--you might get some weird tastes, but you might also find a great dish most people wouldn't have thought of.

So, what are your thoughts/experiences on gestalt gaming aka a "RPG cocktail"?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Zack's Guide To Being Smart With RPG PDFs

So, starting to look more at pdf/electronic RPG purchase but not sure where to start? Wanting to get more bang for your buck and be smarter about what you download? Below is my quick guide to getting the most out of using pdfs for your roleplaying games and making sure every purchase counts.

1) Check your software: In my experience Adobe Reader (which a large majority of people use for pdf browsing) is oftentimes slow and takes up an inordinate amount of space. I've switched to FoxIt Reader, which is free, more compact than Adobe, and seems to scroll and work much faster with my pdf files. Even if you decide FoxIt isn't for you, don't forget there are a LOT of pdf programs out there. Having one you're comfortable with can really help you get more out of your pdfs and make using them more of a pleasure. You make sure you have plenty of light when you read a printed book; make sure you have the right setting for an electronic one.

2) Know your companies: We as a hobby have been at this pdf thing long enough now that some frontrunners have begun to emerge in terms of quality and value for RPG products. Look at the ratings on products; look at the folks consistently getting high marks. There are some truly sub-part pdf companies out there, and you don't want to get burnt. For my part, I believe companies such as Adamant Entertainment, Precis Intermedia, 01 Games, and a couple others are at the front of the pack. I usually don't like to disparage other people's hard work on here, but its easy enough to figure out who the bad ones are with very little checking. You can also use tools like RPGNow's tiers of Copper/Silver/Electrum/Gold/Platinum (I think that's close) sellers, which can at least give you an idea of how many other folks are enjoying that product.

Also remember some companies excel in different areas. I'm going to 01 Games or perhaps Skeleton Key for maps, I'm going to check out Precis Intermedia for paper minis, etc. Be sure to check those free previews on the retail sites and company web pages to get an idea of exactly what you're getting. Even if its only $10, you don't want to drop it on something that doesn't quite line up with what you want.

3) Get the newsletters: I cannot tell you how many products I've purchased at a lower price because I waited for some offer from RPGNow or YourGamesNow. Often, the newsletters and mailing lists will have a number of products indicated that are on sale or special.

4) That which is old, is new again: Sometimes you're searching for a supplement that just doesn't seem to be out there. Remember, there is nothing new under the sun. Chances are, if you're looking for it, someone has done it at some point in the past, and there's a decent chance its for sale. After all, you can buy old D&D adventures, rules, and supplements for a pittance--everything is somewhere.

5) Freebies First?: Seriously, is anyone paying attention to the massive amounts of homebrew stuff produced out there that's on par with the "pros"? Whether its Lythia.com or the documents linked to in someone's signature on a message board, there are plenty of products out there (as with #4) that may already do the job you're looking for. Netbooks, blogs, fan products, free RPGs--put in a little research and by seeing how much good stuff is free, it helps really raise expectations and what you demand out of a pay product. I know more than half of my "RPG Resource" folder on my desktop is filled with free products I've found. Don't forget about these filtered searches, either...


I know pdfs aren't for everyone, and I'm definitely in the school of thought that says there's just something about the feel and smell of an old RPG book, but there are more and more fantastic products being produced in pdf format every day. Don't miss out if you can help it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Shadows of Cthulhu

Right now, I'm happily devouring Reality Deviant Production's True20 product, Shadows of Cthulhu. Since I received this Friday, I've missed out on a good bit of sleep reading through it, and I'm happy to report it looks like Reality Deviant has done a really nice job porting over the staples over H.P. Lovecraft-inspired gaming to True20. Its got me seriously jonesing to run a Roaring '20s one-shot full of Things Man Was Not Meant To Know (and to introduce an entirely new generation of roleplayers to lines beginning with "But Professor!").

I should be doing a little tie-in project on this with Atomic Array a bit later on in the week, so stay tuned for that.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Top and Bottom 10 RPG Rankings of RPGnet & theRPGsite

I found stats for the Top and Bottom 10 RPGs rated at theRPGsite and RPGnet. I didn't find anything like this on ENWorld, but would be interested to see the data on that or any other sites folks might have:

Top


theRPGsite

Top 10 RPGs per this thread at theRPGsite:

1) Call of Cthulhu
2) Rules Cyclopedia D&D
3) Dungeons & Dragons 3.x
4) Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
5) Classic Traveller
6) GURPS 3rd Edition, Revised
7) Marvel Superheroes (FASERIP)
8) Runequest
9) Hero System
10) All Flesh Must Be Eaten

Notes: This was from early 2007, and I'm almost certain a poll today would change some things. I know my list has).

RPGnet

Top 10 RPGs Per the RPGnet Index:

1) Spirit of the Century
2) King Arthur Pendragon
3) Nobilis
4) Unknown Armies
5) Call of Cthulhu
6) Feng Shui
7) Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
8) Buffy the Vampire Slayer
9) Angel
10) Paranoia XP

Notes: We've grown apart, RPGnet, you and I...but there are still some commonalities between the two lists we've seen so far. Call of Cthulhu and Warhammer Fantasy are popular at both sites, it seems. I'm amazed Wushu isn't on here, considering its reputation for a following there, but its ranking is actually very low.

Bottom

theRPGsite

Bottom 10 RPGs of theRPGsite, per the same thread:

1) AD&D 2e
2) Star Wars d20
3) Rifts (ouch!)
4T) Powers & Perils
4T) F.A.T.A.L.
6) Aftermath
7) Immortal: The Invisible War
8T) AD&D 2 Player's Option
8T) Living Steel
10) Fuzion

Notes: These rankings were offset some by positive experiences, which moved both Hero and D&D 3.5 off the list. Yes, theRPGsite fairly earns its reputation for contentiousness sometimes. I'm surprised by AD&D 2e getting smacked down so badly.

RPGnet
Bottom 10 RPGs Per the RPGnet Index:

1) F.A.T.A.L
2) HYBRID
3) Empire of Satanis
4) The World of Synnibar (boo!)
5) Cyborg Commando
6) Fantasy Wargaming
7) Immortal: The Invisible War
8) KABAL
9) Expendables
10) Heroes & Heroines

Notes: For the most part, an obscure list. Neither site has any love for Immortal or F.A.T.A.L. (which I imagine is more a word of mouth deal than based on any actual play experience).

In summary, both these lists were a little different that I expected, and I'd like to do an update over at theRPGsite to see where things sit now. The funny thing is, I couldn't tell you if they'd vote D&D 4e on the good list, the bad list, or both.

Despite the wildly differing reputations of both sites, there are some commonalities there. However, in looking at the Top 10 on each, there are definitely also some big differences.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Greyhawk Day #11: Languages In Greyhawk

Our two Greyhawk articles this week deal with language. One of the best articles I've seen on the subject is from Tim Bugler (with Ken Barns) entitled Languages of the Flanaess. This is an extremely accessible treatment, and gives an idea of the relative, suggested use and popularity of each tongue.

A slightly different treatment can be found at Bastard Greyhawk. This second article tweaks things a bit, but is a nice treatment of languages in Greyhawk with a few changes. I do wish the font choice was a bit easier on the eyes.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Random Esoteric Creature Generator!

...is out! This was one of my favorite products of the last year, and now Goodman Games has released James Raggi's product in retail form. How exciting! For the uninitiated, this is a product that can be used with any number of systems that lets you create some disturbing, funny, horrific, threatening, and unique monster challenges. If this retail version holds true to the original, this is a definite recommendation for anyone looking to add a little strangeness and mayhem to the existing monster selection in their game.

(The Random Esoteric Creature Generator may also be one of the best names for an RPG product of all time, sharing the stage perhaps only with Shaolin Squirrels: Nuts of Fury).

No Sleep, Must Read .txt Files

So, why have I been refusing to sleep? Jonathan Drain is at fault, thanks to his post all about the 300 RPG text files for perusal over at Textfiles.com. Really, you just need to look it over for yourself. I really appreciate all the recovery efforts of this sort, whether its folks finding stuff on the Wayback Machine, PlaGMaDA, or the sort of thing we see from the Greytalk Archives.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Favorite Obscure RPG?

So, this thread came up over at Mos Eisley, wherein we were to name our favorite little-known RPG and why we liked it.

There are some great responses in that thread, but I'll throw out as one of my suggestions Legendary Lives, which is still available as a free download. I believe the second edition of the game was back in 1993, and it definitely has the feel of an early 90s fantasy RPG--its a good representative in a lot of ways as far as what was going on with game design around that period. But the sheer number of races and classes make this a blast to read, and a good source for ideas. I had some blank spots on my expanded homebrew map that needed some native races, and the Spriggans and Hobs described Legendary Lives worked out really nicely.

Let's throw the question out there: what is your favorite obscure roleplaying game, and why?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Guest Post From Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

"As for us, our days of combat are over. Our swords are rust. Our guns will thunder no more. The vultures that once wheeled over our heads must be buried with their prey. Whatever of glory must be won in the council or the closet, never again in the field. I do not repine. We have shared the incommunicable experience of war; we have felt, we still feel, the passion of life to its top.

Three years ago died the old colonel of my regiment, the Twentieth Massachusetts. He gave the regiment its soul. No man could falter who heard his "Forward, Twentieth!" I went to his funeral. From a side door of the church a body of little choir- boys came in alike a flight of careless doves. At the same time the doors opened at the front, and up the main aisle advanced his coffin, followed by the few grey heads who stood for the men of the Twentieth, the rank and file whom he had loved, and whom he led for the last time. The church was empty. No one remembered the old man whom we were burying, no one save those next to him, and us. And I said to myself, The Twentieth has shrunk to a skeleton, a ghost, a memory, a forgotten name which we other old men alone keep in our hearts. And then I thought: It is right. It is as the colonel would have it. This also is part of the soldier's faith: Having known great things, to be content with silence. Just then there fell into my hands a little song sung by a warlike people on the Danube, which seemed to me fit for a soldier's last word, another song of the sword, but a song of the sword in its scabbard, a song of oblivion and peace.

A soldier has been buried on the battlefield.

And when the wind in the tree-tops roared,
The soldier asked from the deep dark grave:
"Did the banner flutter then?"
"Not so, my hero," the wind replied.
"The fight is done, but the banner won,
Thy comrades of old have borne it hence,
Have borne it in triumph hence."
Then the soldier spake from the deep dark grave:
"I am content."

Then he heareth the lovers laughing pass,
and the soldier asks once more:
"Are these not the voices of them that love,
That love--and remember me?"
"Not so, my hero," the lovers say,
"We are those that remember not;
For the spring has come and the earth has smiled,
And the dead must be forgot."
Then the soldier spake from the deep dark grave:
"I am content.""

Monday, November 10, 2008

So Much For WizKids....

That funny feeling some of us have been having? Well, first Pyramid goes to a monthly pdf, now WizKids is kaput. Nothing like dying from the Topps down. I'm resisting any urge to go all doom n' gloom here (hey, this isn't exactly unheralded in the history of gaming), but my daughter and I did have a lot of fun playing with those little pirate ships. When she was three (she's four now), we even made our own rules:

Our Pirate Game Rules:


1) We each pick between 3 and 5 ships.

2) On your turn, you can move a ship three little spaces (aka inches).

3) If you are that close to a ship that isn't yours, you can fight! If it is a 1,2, or 3, I win and sink your ship! If it it is 4,5, or 6, you win and sink my ship!

4) If you sink a ship, you get a piece of gold! Whoever has the most gold at the end of the game wins! The game is over when one of us is out of ships!

Pretty complicated, I know, but she's kind of a rules lawyer....

Religion In Our Homebrew

Our homebrew setting of Irrin has been cobbled together by many campaigns over the years, but by and large it tries to be a "vanilla fantasy" meeting ground, a place where it isn't too hard to jump in and start playing with many of the standard fantasy still in place. That said, one of things we felt was underrepresented in a lot of fantasy was the idea of a monolithic, monotheistic High Church. We wanted there to be plenty of strange cults and sects, but also wanted that influential, might institution dedicated to a single deity. We also decided we needed a horrific dark power, a limited, sensible polytheism, and our old standbys of Law, Order, and Balance. So over the years, we've managed to cobble together these things into something that works well for us, yet remains easy to jump into. Keeping things in primer form is pretty key for us.

In honor of this month's Blog Carnival on Religion, here's the very basic outline of religion in our homebrew world of Irrin. I know the nations and the like won't be familiar to most readers, but I hope it gives some ideas (or at least entertains). (Please note when it mentions the Great Arrival below, most groups of Men on Irrin are thought to have arrived through several great portals connecting Irrin to other worlds millenia ago):

Religion

The High Church

Brought with them by a tribe of humans during the Great Arrival, the High Church has been established since the earliest days of the Kingdom of the West. It found much in common with the religions several other groups of humans had brought with them, and won over many with its simple doctrines of love, kindness, duty, and responsibility to one’s self and others.

The High Church follows the teaching of the Most High, in books set down by the first of those who passed through the portals to Irrin. These Revered Scribes, as they are called, wrote a series of law and direction now known as the Praised Tome. There have been other Scribes throughout history who have added to the Praised Tome, though it is a rare occurrence. The Most High (as his true name can never be known), they believe, rules over many worlds, and shelters his flock’s souls in the afterlife from the deprecations of Sercar or the nothingness of the Void.

Some 400 years ago, under the direction of the ArchPriestess Sayell, the Holy Return took place. Sayell worried that the church grew too corrupt and lazy to set a good example for its flock. She directed all clergy above the lowest levels to take strict vows of poverty, sold off much of the Church’s gold and gems and used it to build a series of devout monasteries throughout the Northern Confederation (many of which still operate today), and set strict punishments for those priests and priestesses found to be betraying their holy trust. These guidelines are still followed today, although many materialistic young clergy have arrested their advancement in the church so as not to lose their earthly goods. This is an ongoing problem the High Church deals with, and
they are considering a vow of poverty for all clergy. For now, it is only voluntary for the lowest tier of priest and priestess, but strongly encouraged.

The High Church has had its share of issues with the Apsectionists at one time or another, but with the recent influx of Sercar worship and dark cults on the rise in recent years, many old prejudices have been put aside. Officially, the High Church now recognizes Aspectionists as “Brothers & Sisters of The Larger Faith”, though there are still clashes of varying severity reported in various regions.

Aspectionism

Aspectionists lie firmly beyond the neat realm of the High Church, but fewer and fewer places see the differences between the two religious interpretations turn into outright violence.

The origins of Aspectionism goes back to the first interactions between the then-tribes of the east and the High Church of the west. Many of the tribes worshiped either the elements of nature or of natural phenomena. In order to relate to the tribes, the High Church claimed that all gods were the one god, or rather aspects of him. So whether a tribe worshiped Nature, the Sea, or even Death, these were elements of the Most High, and there was no sacrilege in worshiping him.

Over time, this practice turned into Aspectionism, and formalized in nature. According to Aspectionists, there is one god—but consisting of 12 parts, with 12 sacred names. However, each separate Aspect is also its own deity, while remaining a part of the larger deity (there also several reams of holy text dedicated to explaining this). Each Aspect has its own priests (and often priestesses). The main branch of Aspectionists believe that all possible aspects of a god somehow fall into these 12:

1) The Home and Prophecy (Neya, Female)
2) Knowledge and Diligence (Conthor, Male)
3) Nature and Freedom (Erineth, Female)
4) Honor and Justice (Arlor, Male)
5) Courage and Battle (Tolrain, Male)
6) Death and Renewal (Denriss, Female)
7) Love and Creation (Alann, Male)
8) Healing and Protection (Irothen, Female)
9) Mercy and Temperance (Taeya, Female)
10) Prosperity and Harvest (Falrend, Male)
11) Laughter and The Arts (Cillana, Female)
12) Travel and Song (Olslade, Male)

You will note that some names are given as being female; when the Most High is referenced however, it is as a male. Naturally, pure evil is not ascribed to the Most High or any of his Aspects, and so make no appearance on the above list.

There are some irregular sects of Aspectionism that have more than the 12 gods; in Pomaloth, for example, dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of aspects are worshipped. Aspectionism is strongest in the south of Irrin, especially in Cerras, Pomaloth (unorthodox), and Hastal, where it counts upwards as 40% of the populace as followers.

There are also notable followings both in the Northern Confederation and the League of Tormien.

The Three

Followed mostly only in Alrychium, The Three are worshipped as the Gods of Creation and All. This is an ancient religion, its origins dating back to the oldest Alrychi written records. They are worshipped as Law, Chaos, and Balance. Law is depicted as a strict female, Chaos as an empty-eyed male, and Balance generally appears androgynous in appearance. It is an informal religion, one whose priests are considered to hold state office, but inspire little in the way of piety or more than casual devotion.

The Oasis follows a bastardization of Law, disdaining the other two deities.

Sercar

Sercar is said to be the embodiment of all that is evil in this world, and indeed the universe. He is considered to have ruined 1,000 other worlds, and could be considered the Most High’s Opposite Number, a deity of overwhelming hatred and corruption. Although a disturbing number of Sercar cults have been found in human lands, it is the Orcs seem to take particular delight in worshipping a dark god, the same who is purported to be the antithesis of all that is good & sacred in both human religions. Dark priests of Sercar who are human have virtually nowhere where they can practice in the open, as they very thought of such is repugnant even to the most vile of nations.

Sercar also garners worshippers in some Kobold communities (though they still largely pracitce ancestor worship of great chiefs and warriors). Goblins, for the most part, have made a total break with Sercar worship, though generations of black ritual has made them somewhat wary of religion in general.

Sercar is purported to have a son, one who is reincarnated each generation, growing more and more powerful as he lives many different lives. When the time is right, he will use his garnered power and knowledge to sweep across this world, leaving it directly in his father's grasp.

Other Human Religions:

Those of the Dahani, several other barbarian tribes, and those of the Harmonious Lands practice ancestor worship, though it is worth noting the actual way they go about this is vastly different.

Other barbarian tribes tend towards elementalism or nature-worship, with a few following their interpretation of a singular Aspect of the Most High.

In addition to all these, strange cults do pop up quite often, being very popular especially in Alrychium and the Northern Confederacy. One recent religion claimed dragons were another Aspect of the Most High, and should be revered accordingly!

Non-Human Religions

-The Elvish religion seems to be very heavily-oriented towards nature and spirit worship, though it can hardly be called a simple form of animism. There is much rite and ritual in all the religions, and even the Night Elves have their hard-followed customs. The High Elves also consider their rulers to be demigods, and have their own rituals for this belief.

The Elven religion does indeed have priests and priestesses, with the split being
about 25/75.

The Wolfen worship the god Wolvenar, whom they believe rescued and brought them to this new world. Wolvenar is said to take mortal form quite often, and is also believed to actively choose Avatars and Speakers of his will from each generation. These individuals are always honored as the "Hand and Mouthpiece of Wolvenar".

-Traditionally, Dwarves worship the Stonemaker, but very few details of the religion are observed by outsiders. Some Dwarves now follow the religions of Man as well, much to the dismay of many Dwarven elders.

-Minotaurs worship the Most High, though they tend to frame in him in very Minotaur-esque terms.

-Gnomish religion has no central deity, but rather preaches a philosophy of good
works being their own way to release the soul from a self-induced hell. Many craft-oriented gnomes who have forsaken their woodlands have taken the “good works” bit to mean “better inventions”, and tend to go from there. There are no official clergy to speak of.

-Many Goblins in the fledgling Goblin Homeland practice a form of animism, and put their faith in their shamans, who seem able to control nature and the surrounding environment. A very few worship Sercar, but are not welcomed in most refugee communities.

-Orcs worship Sercar, if anyone.

-Trolls have never been known to bend the knee to any deific power, Sercar or otherwise.

-Those Kobolds not engaging in the reverence of great warrior (by kobold standard) ancestors are often found in the ranks of Sercar worshippers. In fact, due to the perverse nature of Kobold thought, the two are not entirely incompatible.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Music That Inspires: Highwayman, and Thoughts On Legacy

A lot of gamers have songs that speak to them about their gaming experiences, that bring back fond memories of games and get them amped for games to come. I love the Two Towers theme, the opening music to Conan the Barbarian, and "Promontory" from Last of the Mohicans. I imagine many gamers share a fondness for those tracks. I also imagine that we each have a few songs that mean something to us as well in regards to our chosen hobby. I have one that may be considered a little unorthodox:



If you can, just listen to the words.

I tell you, when Johnny Cash starts in on that last verse, it ties in a common thread every great fantasy character to every beloved Traveller character played, and every one in between. There is that invisible bond to our own history in gaming; the similiarities and differences in characters, the different games we've played, and a dozens of roguish endings, bitter defeats, undeserved failures, improbable victories, and everything in between. Gaming for me is a lifelong odyssey, one that circles and comes back in funny and unexpected ways, that still manages to continually surprise, with the thought that in these shared worlds, in the universe of imagination, what we do does live on in some aspect, so long as we remember it and cherish it, or are lucky enough to have good friends that do as well.

We never know when sharing what bit of our world or common experience, when running a game at a convention, when writing an article for no gain but joy, we will also be unknowingly enriching the future gaming of someone else, our ideas living on at their tabletop and through their cycle of adventures and fellowship. If that is as far towards immortality as any of us journey, let us be happy in that.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

OK, Let's Talk Game Balance

There was an interesting question addressed I suppose at the old-schooler crowd/gamer public over at Unnatural 20, namely "Is Game Balance Unnecessary For Fun?"

There's two parts of RPG Ike's original post that are pretty key here:

"You need balance so that it's fun for everyone at the table," I retorted. Then I think he said something about my mother, and we kept playing. The idea that a game could be fun while lacking a militant eye for consistency and power levels on both sides of the screen perplexes me, though. Hopefully you can help me understand.

and:

I'm missing something here. I can't embrace the idea that the 1st generation of tabletop gamers did nothing but reroll one-dimensional characters all the time for fear of unkillable water wierds. Or, if you did, I can't understand the adamant defense of those first editions as being the best on offer when 4E (certainly not my favourite) offers streamlined play for uni-dimensional character builds (guess what? You've got 5 powers, so go have fun!).

On top of all of that, the 3X extensive ruleset allows you to maintain balance while imagining as much, as little, or anywhere in between for your game (which is where I suspect the answer to the game balance question lies).

Am I wrong?

Here's my answer to Ike, but I'd love to hear more feedback on this:

Hey there,

I guess here's my take on it. Balance isn't bad in and of itself, and imbalance isn't a guarantee for a good time. But for me, too much balance becomes staid, predictable. What's the difference between a 1st edition fighter and a 3rd or 4th edition fighter? The 1st edition knows how to run. Taken to the extreme, excessive care to game balance can result in encounters winding down in the same way, can lead to a certain amount of expectancy that things will be a certain way for players. You shouldn't know if you can take whatever's behind that next door in the dungeon. You shouldn't know that your encounter will likely fall within a set range. But neither should you be feeling every fight and foray is an exercise in hopelessness.

Now I'm not saying that having 3 1st-level characters in a row eaten by a Black Dragon within 5 minutes is a blast, either. But many old schoolers who do not bow at the altar of game balance maintain an idea that things tend to even themselves out in the end. I don't insist that the game be balanced, so long as the gaming group is working, if that makes sense.

Game balance is also generally enforced through more rules, which is at odds with the idea of "making rulings instead of rules". In some ways, its a bit more organic of an undertaking.

Now, of course, with this being the internet, examples on both sides (old school vs. the new hotness) can be carried to extremes. But all characters are not created equal, they don't need to stay in lockstep during play, and a GM doesn't need to spend excessive time ensuring everything lines up "just so".

Jerks in a balanced game will try to game the rules to mess things up. In a one that doesn't care so much about balance, they argue rulings. Good GMs don't put up for long with either.

In the end, I think Matt Finch addresses some of the points here better than I ever could:

http://www.lulu.com/content/3019374

...but its just another style of gaming folks enjoy. I hope that makes a little sense. :)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Greyhawk Day #10: Allen Varney Talks Greyhawk

This is sort of an unusual Greyhawk Day. Allen Varney is one of my favorite RPG authors, but despite a long and productive career writing, he's perhaps best-known for his work on Paranoia XP. I did, however, scrounge up this old magazine article reprinted on his site, which talks about the 1998 relaunch of the Greyhawk campaign setting. Its interesting to see some of the opinions and thoughts about this great setting, which would largely officially get the boot (though surviving in parts, for now) a decade later. One quote jumped out at me in particular:

When Wizards of the Coast purchased TSR last year, Wizards president Peter Adkison noted "a lot of pent-up demand" for the return of Greyhawk. Having patched up TSR's sore relations with Gygax, Wizards re-launched the Greyhawk Adventures line in June 1998 -- and Johnson approached the task with all the ambition of the boldest player character.

"I want people to see Greyhawk as synonymous with AD&D," he says. "In Greyhawk, all the rules work. There aren't any restrictions. Chronomancy, shamanism.... If you want psionics, they happen. If you want specialty magic, there it is.

"This is the birthplace of adventure."

Anyhow, give it a read, its an interesting flashback, and yet another reason Allen Varney rocks.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

YouTube: Animated Fellowship of the Ring Showcase

All these videos originate from the old Rankin-Bass Fellowship of the Ring animated movie. They are a cherished part of my childhood, but that does not mean they are not more than a little unintentionally hilarious. Let us examine:

My daughter heard me singing this in the shower the other morning. I was a little embarrassed. Anyway, Elrond is rocking that beard. Bilbo looks like Estelle Getty.




"The Wearer of the Ring, the Bearer of the Ring..."

ACTING!!! SAMWISE!!!




A song for your Monday commute to work. Friggin' hippie orcs:




If I close my eyes and listen to the voices, Eowyn is fighting Skeletor here.




All rise for the Slacker National Anthem:




If we could just master the One Ring, we could save Middle Earth! Or have picnics with Orcs!:




Dammit, Gandalf! THE SURGE IS WORKING:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Quick 6: Can't-Miss PDF Recommendations

One thing I hate is feeling like I just paid some hard-earned cash for a pdf that isn't going to do diddily-poo for my gaming. I'm pretty choosy with my pdf purchases, but that are a few I've picked up that have turned out to be absolute home runs. I'm also a sucker for a bargain, and can't stand seeing pdfs for sale for $39.95. We can do better. For this edition of Quick 6, here are some of the best RPG pdf recommendations I can make:


1) Disposable Heroes Series: Seriously, forget what you knew about minis or counters. If you've ever had need of an army of skeletons or orcs, a host of superheroes, a gaggle of animals, a brave company of mercenaries, fearsome redcoats, a sci-fi hero, a Wild West posse, or just about any other type of miniature you can ever think of using in an RPG, you need to check out the Disposable Heroes line of paper miniatures. For a fraction of the cost of buying a plastic minis collection, you can print out a fully customizable line of minis you need. Numbered, color, black and white, flat counter, stand-up--pure and simple, this line is not only one of the best accessories in all of gaming, its one of the most affordable and customizable. And you can take that to the bank.

2) Bits of... Series: Look, I'll admit it: I don't have the time I once did for game prep. (Family life will do that to you). And even when I do, there are nights when my descriptive text comes out like a poorly-translated Japanese grill instruction manual. Thank goodness for Tabletop Adventures, whose Bits of... series provide some nice descriptive and flavor text for various wilderness and urban settings alike. It may even give rise to a plot hook or two. If you're a GM, regardless of what system you're using, this line will do right by you. (I would especially recommend Bits of the Boulevard and Bits of the Wilderness: Into the Mountains).

3) Two-Fisted Tales: This is the second Precis Intermedia product on this list, but it is a well-deserved placement. This is my favorite pulp RPG of, well...ever? Its supremely easy to jump into, and can be easily used to run anything from deadly serious pulp fiction spinoffs to the Venture Brothers. This is a book that really almost reads like a tutorial in parts--an inspiring one, at that! Simple, elegant resolution mechanics and a real feel for helping make the game your make this product an absolute home run. Nearly everyone I have let borrow this game has gone absolutely wild over it.

4) In Harm's Way: You knew it would be on here! As I've mentioned before (repeatedly), this game gets the nod for "Game I Love The Most That I Never Get To Play", but that doesn't mean it wasn't worth every penny. Clash Bowley's mechanics are a delight, and this game brings to mind the best of Captain Jack Aubrey, Horatio Hornblower, and dozens of other nautical heros from fiction and history alike. There's so much to love about the game: competitive play, the voluntary wound system, the Interest/Notice mechanic, the well-realized troupe play... Even if you have as hard a time as I have convincing your regular players to take on this genre, I guarantee you'll be adopting or thinking about some of the mechanics for your other games.

5) Dungeon Sets 1 & 2 (Fat Dragon Games): I am, quite possibly, the worst miniatures cardstock assembler on the face of the earth who can still claim reasonably normal motor control in his daily life. However, as much some of Fat Dragon's other products were a bit tough on me, the Dungeon sets were a nice 2-D/3-D blend, allowing me to create really nice dungeon scenes without blowing a ton on ink to boot, and were easy enough that even I had no problems with them. The Caverns set is also pretty nifty.

6) D&D Rules Cyclopedia: Because its still considered by many the finest rules compilation of all time. Because regardless of the edition you play, reading and perusing this volume can give you a better idea of many of the "whys" of Dungeons & Dragons, as well as make you think as to why certain things are as they are. Because for $5.95, you are getting one hell of a bargain.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

New Castles & Crusades Classes I'm Working On

I've been really enjoying toying around with Castles & Crusades lately (with no Castle Keeper's Guide in sight, I've instead been having fun with the very compatible and hilarious charts and tables found in the Hackmaster Gamemaster's Guide). I've been adding a few things here and there, and have been really happy with simple it seems to use items from other legacy D&D products or OGL items.

One of the additions I've been looking at is tweaking or adding to the choices as far as classes go. There are 3 classes I've had in mind to add to my idea of Castles & Crusades--a Swashbuckler, a Scholar, and a Sorcerer.

I don't have the full writeups done yet, but wanted to sort of preview my thinking on each new class I'm working on:

The Swashbuckler is less robust than a Fighter (d8 Hit Dice), but has a nice weapon selection (anything but two-handed) and decent armor selection (any light, a couple medium). They take some of the more acrobatic class skills of the Rogue, but also boast Tumbling as a class skill, which reflects their incredible dexterity and specialty in agile combat. Master of the blade and the dashing fight, many young bravos off to see the world may be considered Swashbucklers, as can several wily rebels and highwaymen.

The Scholar is no great shakes combat wise (mediocre combat progression, d6 Hit Dice), but combines some of the better skill features of several different classes, to include the Bard (minus any of the inspiration stuff). Not practitioners of magic, they nonetheless can Decipher Script, have a chance at activating magical devices, and can use their Sage's Lore to remember a tremendous amount of information from their studies, no matter the subject.

The Sorcerer, unlike the Wizard or Illusionist, does not use a spellbook, but rather channels the raw energy of the universe into spell-like effects. Their powers are usually relatively less than that of a Wizard, but they eventually come to master many low-level effects, and can become quite formidable if they survive long enough to develop and refine their powers. Each time they "cast", there is a very real risk of minor-to-catastrophic failure (anything from a mild concussion to the wrong spell being cast to a rip in the space-time continuum. They are weak combatants (d4 Hit Dice) and cannot wear armor. Their weapon selection is slightly larger than that of a Wizard. (I'm working on making the Sorcerer a mix of a Wild Mage and the standard OGL Sorcerer).

Once these classes are done, I'll put them in a pdf for free download. I really want to get some more player feedback, since as much as anything they're designed with an towards my gaming group and their preferred styles of play.

I've looked at some of the other Castles & Crusades classes folks have made, and I think my takes on these will be different enough to continue with the design. I'm hoping they'll complement the other ones already in C&C without breaking anything. If anything, I'm thinking classes like the Scholar may be a tad underpowered (though I believe with all the class skills included, it should all shake out. Besides, striving for too much balance is overrated).

Monday, November 3, 2008

Zack's Awesome RPG Moving Sale

I'm getting ready to move into new digs, and with the holidays coming up, I also want to make sure I have some funds to buy my family some nice products. Therefore, I'm listing the following products through ebay:

Traveller T20 Handbook

Dragonlance: Dragons of Krynn

Hackmaster Gamemaster's Guide

Hollow Earth Expedition: Secrets of the Surface World

Classic Battletech Tech Manual

Chronicles of Ramlar RPG

Secrets of Pact Magic

Amethyst Campaign Setting

Lesser Shades of Evil RPG

Alpha Omega RPG


In addition, I am offering any and all of the following products for $10 each.:

Traveller 4th Edition (Imperium Games)

Art & Academe (Atlas Games, Ars Magica)

Shadow Nations (Apophis Consortium)

World of Warcraft: Dark Factions

Kingdoms of Kalamar: Svimohzia

Dungeon Crawl Classics #49: Palace in the Wastes (Gen Con 2006 tourney module)

Exalted: Scroll of Kings

Exalted: The Roll of Glorious Divinity, Vol. 1

Exalted: Sidereals

Mage the Awakening: Magical Traditions

Mage the Awakening: The Mysterium

Demon Hunters RPG (from the folks who did The Gamers)

Exalted: Compass of Terrestrial Directions Vol. II: The West

Mutants & Masterminds: Hero High

Mutants & Masterminds: Iron Age

Rifts Ultimate Edition

d6 Space

d6 Spaceships

A Practical Guide to Monsters

Please note I have an excellent feedback score from ebay, so you're in good hands. All products are in good to excellent condition. Shipping is $5 USPS Priority (buy more than one to save shipping, and yes, I will ship to Canada), and I'll definitely combine shipping for multiple purchases. Paypal is preferred, but we might be able to work something out.

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Up The Garden Path

A man can dream, can't he?

A module printed exclusively in the United Kingdom by TSR UK. Using the 1986 National Garden Festival as its theme, this module was sold both at that festival, and at the 1986 Games Day RPG convention at the Royal Horticultural Society Hall in London (hosted by Games Workshop that Saturday, September 27th). The module uses the actual map of the National Garden Festival event, held at Stoke on Trent (presumably where the code "ST" comes from), and translates such features as the parking lot into a "grey wasteland surrounding the universe". It is composed of a wrap-around cover (that bears the full-color map) and a 16-page booklet with a 4-page pull-out section. It contains three new monsters: the Iffanbutt, Shadow Wolves, and the Snap Dragon. The adventure itself is humorous and whimsical (similar to the style of Dungeonland and Land Beyond the Magic Mirror). This is one of the rarest, obscure, and most valuable TSR modules, mainly due to its extremely limited availability (only at the UK convention) and small print run (speculated at 250-500). The picture shown upper right is of the actual module for sale here. The spine has several small creases, however the rest of the module and the interior are in excellent to mint condition.

The price? $2,995. Wow. Wow. Wow.