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Updated: 2018-01-18T00:11:03.643-06:00


Swords & Glory, Vol. 2: Tekumel Player's Handbook


Hello, 14 year-old me...I stumbled across this post on the Tekumel Foundation blog early this last week, on Facebook (I think I traced that back correctly...) This version of Tekumel, published by Gamescience back in 1984, was my introduction to The Good Professor's astounding vision so, needless to say, I was giddy as a novitiate of Dilinala, and eager to get my hands on it.When I expressed my joy on Facebook, Victor Raymond, one of the, well, founders, I guess, of the Tekumel Foundation pinged me and asked if I'd be interested in reviewing it if he sent me a copy. I've known Victor for five or six years now, and even played in a con game he ran, poking about in the Underworld of Jakalla, so I was more than happy to help him out. Plus, you know, BOOK.I was 14 in 1984, and a friend of mine mentioned seeing this crazy game--I think a store employee gave him the low-down on the world. Somehow I had some money, birthday maybe, so I ran out and picked it up, opened the box and whole new horizons opened up in my brain.So, back to the actual book. Physically, it's beautiful--a gorgeous full-color cover and a nice, clean scan. DTRPG's POD services have gotten quite good. The binding is tight is flexible, and the paper good quality. There aren't a whole lot of illustrations (not unusual back then), but the art that is there is excellent--clear line drawings, some by The Good Professor himself.Before taking a quick look at the game-system itself, it's important to point out this particular volume is vol. 2; the first volume is an almost inexhaustible sourcebook. A third Referee's Guide was advertised but, tragically, never materialized. Maybe the Foundation has notes buried away somewhere...The rules allowing you to step into Tsolyanu are, well, plentiful. Numerous as the official epithets for the Emperor of the Petal Throne. Is that a bad thing? Not at all--I certainly liked that kind of density when I was 14. Not so much now, but such is age. We did play it back then, a number of times, and my memory is of the system flowing along smoothly. And maybe that's it--there are potential rules for almost anything you can think of, though they're mostly in the form of modifiers. The core mechanic can be summed up as "cross-referencing": You have a number on one axis of a table; you cross-reference it with a number on the other axis, and you arrive at a percentage chance for success. That consistency makes the density bearable. And, of course, you could most likely jettison a lot of it if you wanted to without harming anything.However, here's the other thing about the rules, something I don't think I quite grokked when I was 14: they add another whole layer of Tekumel, above and beyond the previous sourcebook. Not to wander off into game theory, but there's the idea that some games are built for Simulation, formally defined as facilitating the experience of actually being in a given milieu (this is not the same thing as theoretical Immersion). I bring this up only because easing into these rules (first and foremost the process of character creation) will soon find you on a sakbe road, heading north from Bey Su to Avanthar, hearing the bellowing of chlen, the chatter of merchants, the cursing of soldiers, the chanting of priests, the singing of children, knowing in your heart of hearts that you are destined for greatness, your deeds recorded forever in azure ink on pages of paper-thin gold.Many thanks to the Scribe of Bey Su...In the Scribe's own hand...[...]

Deep Carbon Observatory: The Flooded Land


 This is pretty accurate... CATEGORYAdventure WHATThe always provocative and endearingly arcane Patrick Stuart at False Machine published, not so long ago, the adventure Deep Carbon Observatory. It's one of those products of which first I purchased the PDF and then had no choice but to also buy the hard copy. PLAYERSTwo. SYSTEMT.W.E.R.P.S. WHEN2-3 months ago?TONEThundarr the Barbarian + William S. Burroughs   CHARACTERS Zanuvrion Zal, Alien Scientist: Cephalopod encased in chitinous armor possessed of an inexhaustible curiousity. Exerts a low-grade mental suggestion at all times, convincing others he looks much like everyone else. This becomes problematic in stressful situations...Lu Cheng, Monk of the Order of the Pernicious Wind: Human martial artist able to manipulate the wind to his advantage. When this fails, he of course uses nunchucks...Dusty & JOE-BOT: Human entrepreneur and creator of the JOE-BOT mech-suit, built from the extensive ruins of a once-splendid coffee shop. Functions as either a refreshment stand or hurler of stale scones and boiling coffee, as needed...Quercus McCringleberry, Necromantic Druid: Human druid focused not on growth but decay. He also carries lotus powders...Rupert Grue, Seeker after Things Best Left Unsought: Human antiquarian equipped with a voluminous Encyclopedia and utter familiarity with the Abyss. He also carries lotus powders...The Whisperer in Darkness (TWiD), Master of the Shadow Arts: Human ninja who gets the job done, even when his companions forget he's there. He also carries lotus which our eclectic band contributes to civic stability, helps a Bishop find his church, feeds the forlorn, mixes it up with a platypus, puts the dead to rest, and has words with a very large squid.QUOTES"Mind the toads...""As a cephalopod, I'll try to mind-control it."HIGHLIGHTSWhen a group of rogue adventurers is discovered attempting to take advantage of the chaos to wrest control of the flooded town of Carrowmere from the rightful mayor, the coup is thwarted by a combination of martial arts, magic, and rabble-rousing.Refugees are provided with ample scones and coffee while squatting on their rooftops.A promise is made to an old man to deliver his wife's corpse to her ancestral tomb, located farther up the flooded valley.Children whisper about a witch.A fugitive bishop is delivered to his detached church, providing boons from the Optical God. Also there are large frogs eating corpses until they burst.Our adventurers have an inconclusive tussle with a giant platypus.A body is safely delivered, and an ominous warning discovered.Our adventures have a conclusive tussle with a giant squid, mostly freezing and boiling it.A windmill is discovered, besieged by bone-pale crabs.THOUGHTSThere's a LOT going on at the beginning of this adventure. The causal flowchart helps, but I think it probably has too many arrows... I love the fact that decisions made under pressure, right at the beginning, can have far-reaching repercussions.T.W.E.R.P.S. worked just fine as a system for this. I spent maybe a half-hour going through the text and converting stats from the given LotFP. I REALLY wish the maps were either A) NOT drawn in scratchy pencil, or B) provided at a higher scratchy-pencil resolution online somewhere.OTHER  There's a group of NPCs detailed in the text, the Crows. They're the kind of hallucinatory character-studies I'd expect from the mind behind the False Machine. While I liked the idea of them, in the end, I sorta felt that if I used them as written, the adventure would end up being more about them than the trials and tribulations of the player characters. I read a comment somewhere online about DCO that suggested it was more like a new form of literature than an adventure (I may be paraphrasing badly...); I guess that's what my sense of the Crows was. Actually, in some ways they feel like a revised version of first group of player characters to slog their way up the valley...Now[...]

The Clay that Woke: Minotaurs and...well, more minotaurs!


Well? Shouldn't you?
Hey all! Just wanted to give a heads-up for an awesome Kickstarter campaign going on right now. It's for a game called The Clay that Woke, designed by Paul Czege of My Life with Master fame, and it's all about...Minotaurs! (if you hadn't figured that out already...)

Here's the introductory blurb:
Generations ago four infant minotaurs, a lost species, were pulled from the mud of the eternal river. Over centuries they develop a cultural philosophy to help them live among men: be contemplative, do not want, do not express your emotions, for breaking Silence in such a way is an expression of need. Be courageous. Act with wisdom. Work for justice. Do not use the names of women.

We employ them for menial and dangerous work. Pulling plows. Guarding wealthy estates. And for brutal entertainments.

I was lucky enough to be part of the playtesting for this game, and it's completely unique. The mechanics are "indie" in that they're focused on helping drive whatever narrative the players want to create, but it's also focused on long-term, campaign-style play in a completely intriguing setting: Minotaurs as the working-class in a gigantic, decaying, once-great city; the surrounding jungle, filled with strange powers, a secret war, and more. Silence to be broken; boundaries trespassed; desperate battles, betrayals, pain, joy, and scores of instantly memorable NPC with goals of their own. Just enough detail to set your mind on fire and make you want to fill in the rest through play.

The art is fantastic and prolific, custom-drawn by Nate Marcel in order to project the mood and surroundings; the picture at the top of this post is only the most recent example.

There's fiction, too, and while I know that many of us developed an acute allergy to game fiction in the 90s, trust me, this stuff is good, and truly contributes to the actual play of the game.

Check it out, ask Paul questions, and I'm happy to answer what questions I can as well.

Oh, and I'm quoted in the video... (image)

Lonewolf fan? Look no farther...


I am a Kai Lord. 'Nuff said.Project Aon has pretty much every Lonewolf-gamebook related thing you could ever want, all in excellent, bookmarked ebooks, all for free, and all with the express permission of the author himself, Joe Dever. Awesome.Of particular excellence is the Magnamund Companion, a classic example of Gold Age gamebookery. Though, given what PA is offering, we may indeed be headed towards a Platinum Age...Here are a few images from the Companion:A timeline of MagnamundInstructions for building you own Kai Monastery! And then burning it down!Instructions for building ships! And ramming them into each other!A cut-out view of the Monastery. You didn't know the Secret Kai Language was Italian, did you...Awesome color maps of all parts of the continents, uniquely split by what I guess boils down to a giant, salt-water river...What's particularly cool is Joe Dever's making all of this freely available while still working away on re-publishing the gamebooks in hardcover Collector's Editions as well. The Lonewolf world has gone through several RPG iterations, both from Mongoose. The first was a big d20 tome, The Lonewolf RPG, and the second, after the release of 4e deflated a lot of planned d20 lines from independent publishers, a return to the gamebook's original mechanics: The Lonewolf Multiplayer Gamebook. This line also has the benefit of being entirely illustrated by Rich Longmore of LotFP Carcosa fame.This first is still easy to get relatively cheaply; the second not so much (in that I'm not willing to pay over $30 for a 72-page book). If anyone out there is interested in unloading the Multiplayer Gamebook volumes  for reasonable sale/trade, just drop me a line!Oh, and it looks like yet another RPG version is on the way, published by Cubicle 7...[...]

Jack Vance Memorial Game...


Rhialto Is Dead! Long Live Rhialto!...wherein our Magicians insult twk-men, interfere in local mating rituals, perform amazing feats of regurgitive magic, and inspire filicide, all before dinner.As the blogosphere duly noted, master author Jack Vance died a bit more than two weeks ago. The weekend following his death, I hosted a Jack Vance Memorial Game session. Inspired by the coincidental discovery of this astounding Vancian Magic Supplement, (which includes the two perfect stories to read before playing in this particular milieu) and using my large collection of Dying Earth RPG rules and supplements as grist for the mill, I decided we`d play what those in the know refer to as a Turjan-level game using the Original D&D rules. All players would be Magic-Users of mid-level: Rolling a d6, 1-2: Thaumaturgist; 3-4: Magician; 5-6: Enchanter. Spells were generated using the list of Vancian spells. All were assigned two Vancian taglines (as per the DERPG) and four magical items chosen by me from various DERPG supplements and the OSRIC magic items list. Otherwise they rolled up characters 3D6 in order, HP according to rules, etc. It's worth noting that Grodram secured a STR of 18, and therefore decided to wear platemail and carry a two-handed sword...In the end, the group of truculent mages consisted of:Xamruc the Gourmet, played by JessePupericion the Wisemonger, played by NickGrodram the Grisly, played by SeanIgrex Zed the Colorful, played by TrevorAbador Rex, played by WillNormally loathe to cooperate, they had banded together to face the threat of Zaramanth, arch-mage of Almery who, displaying perhaps fatal temerity, had decided to locate his new Manse Sabulle, in the Derna river gorge in Ascolais, running through the Great Forest Da. The outline for this potentially radiant stew of conflict can be found in the pages of the first issue of the Excellent Prismatic Spray (known by all pundits and men of style as one of the best gaming magazines ever printed...) As is usual when five erudite and obfuscatory personalities congregate, chaos ensued...We made it almost exactly halfway through the adventure, and will be finishing up this weekend. Honestly, it ended up being a lot more fun than I`d hoped, especially with me just throwing it at my beleaguered players a few days before we played. Most of them were at most tangentially familiar with the Dying Earth, but with just a bit of guidance, they all jumped in with both feet, slinging spells and taglines right and left.One of my suggestions, taking my cue from the Rhialto stories, was for each of their characters to consider themselves as the absolute authority on some aspect of magic. E.g., Igrex Zed ended up with the spell "The Gestation of the Ignoble Servitor." He thereby considered himself to be the last word on mephit culture, physiology, psychology, and style. And therefore began working his expertise into every conversation possible. At least until he became distracted by a nubile village maiden, which led to a forest chase and a disagreement with Thrang the ghoul-bear...I`ve come more and more lately to see ODD as an almost transparent tool or, to paraphrase Jesse, a practical engine of pastiche, and this experience really clarified it for me. Though of course there`s a large dose of Vance in ODD already, especially in the magic, it was effortless to translate DERPG-specifics into ODD terms on the fly. Pure awesome.[...]

DCC RPG: Why the Character Funnel's been bugging me...



Okay, so, I've been reading the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, and thinking about it, and probably dreaming about it, and something seemed off to me. I couldn't figure out what. Then, it hit me: The game is so literally and obviously lovingly culled from the Appendix N source literature---I mean, those spell descriptions alone are enough to bring tears of sorcerous joy to your eyes, right?
BUT, the WHOLE IDEA OF THE CHARACTER FUNNEL, while enjoyable from an old-schoolish develop-your-character-as-you-go perspecitve, COMPLETELY VIOLATES THE SPIRIT OF APPENDIX N. None of that source literature, NONE, starts off with the protagonists as, you know, sheepherders or whatever. They all start splat in the middle of their careers (and then jump all over the place, but that's not important here.)
I guess as close as I can suss it, maybe a justification would be that the character funnel, in connection to Appendix N, is, tongue-in-cheek, attempting to show just where all those protags came from. I SUPPOSE it's possible that Conan worked as a blacksmith with his father before storming the walls of Valerium. Maybe.
I mean, I can't imagine how playing through the character funnel can be anything but slapstick (I'm willing to be corrected), which Appendix N, even though displaying humor at times, is NEVER slapstick; it's anti-genre.
I wouldn't necessarily jettison it from the game, but even its declared purpose is to help get you in the mind-set of developing a serial-style character background, where it grows organically from the needs of the moment, but in our group we already do that. So.
At most I'd rule one run as zero-level characters (which is a stated option in the rules). Whoever survives moves on to 1st level.

First Flight of the Laughing Buddha, Part 1


Step right up and rub my belly!
Everyone gathered at my house last Sunday morning, and the Traveller campaign began!

Ship: The Laughing Buddha, re-purposed heavy freighter. Re-purposed for what, you ask? Only Naval Intelligence knows and, to a lesser degree, Commander Pinback...

I don't have the deck plans handy, but they'll be added in their own post.

  • Ex- Naval Officer Commander Pinback, Ship's Owner, Captain and Pilot
  • Ex-Marine Force Cmdr. Baukin Bahr, Jr., XO and Medical Officer
  • Ex-Scout Rufus Jones, Navigator and Salvage Entrepeneur
  • Ex-Merchant Donovan Braddock, Gunner and General Roustabout
  • Ex-Barbarian(?) J'Imjohtep, Warrior, Sword-wielder, Ass-kicker, Security Chief, and Back-up Gunner
  • Ex-Battlefield Armor Repair Unit RS32H, aka "Jack", Steward and Back-up Engineer
  • Jyro McAllistair, NPC Engineer
  • (One or two other retconned NPC Engineers, TBA)
Our Cosmic Saga opened in the Ragged Edge Sector; Subsector, Mad Dog's Defeat; Planet, Subsec Capital Silver Moon, with Rufus and companions Braddock (Donovan) and J'Imjohtep having come to an agreement with Laughing Buddha crew Cmdr. Pinback and Baukin Bahr about a potentially very lucrative salvage job in the Thunderbelt Asteroid Field.

Returning to the starport after recruiting some Engineers for the newly-recommisioned ship, they noticed the freight elevator was ajar. Scans of the ship's computers and onboard surveillance showed nothing amiss, but J'Imjohtep, Braddock, and Rufus went aboard while Cmdr. Pinback called the starport security. Braddock and Rufus went to their cabins to grab firearms (the Planetary Authority forbade all weapon-bearing) while J'Imjohtep grabbed his broadsword (really more of a bastard sword) from where he had left it in the cargo bay. As he moved in to check the Engineering sections, an unfamiliar alarm began to sound, and a bullet ricoccheted off the bulkhead from the open hatchway to his right. Ducking into cover by the catwalk ladder right next to the hatchway, he narrowly avoided getting shot a second time. He swarmed up the ladder, moved silently onto the catwalk, and got the first real glimpse of his attacker, who was standing next to what looked like an open compartment in the floor, maybe 1x2 meters large. Seeing his chance, J'Imjohtep leapt down and took off his assailant's gun arm with a single blow of his sword.

Then, things got complicated...

Coming up next: Robots, Mining Companies, and Alcohol...

Dagger: The RPG for Kids (apparently my kids...)


"Be sure they notice our cool t-shirts!"My five year-old twins (fraternal, in case you're wondering) had their first RPG experience this last Sunday, playing the excellent Dagger RPG by Brave Halfling Publishing. There's both a free, condensed, b&w version, or a color version with a few more useful pages for all of a $1.00 (worth it.) This is a game made with young kids in mind, and AFAIC, John hit it out of the park with this one.The game is really a stripped-down version of early D&D--stripped down meaning no stats, only one saving throw, only four character classes (knight/wizard/elf/dwarf). Well, and an optional halfling. I got the twins (Nate and Sam) thinking about their characters the night before, so on Sunday they were ready to go: Nate wanted to play a knight named...Nate. Sam wanted to play an elf named Spike. At this age, they love to write anything, and the character sheets were perfect: Spike the Elf Sammy actually first wanted to play a wizard, but we were using the figure stand-ups and map from the Pathfinder Beginner Box, and the only male wizard was an old guy, which wasn't doing it for him. He finally found a pretty bad-ass elf, made even bad-asser by the fact that he had a wand and could cast...MAGIC MISSLE! Nate found a stand-up knight with a gigantic shield shaped like a lion, and it was love at first sight. Nate the KnightI used descending AC because it was easier to tell them the AC of the monster they were fighting and then have them find the number they needed to roll to hit. I also let them roll two dice for HP and pick the highest one, 'cause I just can't play without at least one house rule. Or, actually, two. It wasn't completely clear to me from the rules how many times a magic-using character can cast their spells, so I limited it to once/spell/encounter. That magic wand needs to recharge, you know...As for the Adventure, Nate the Knight was summoned to the throne room by King Kesher. He explained that their elfish ally, the Elf Queen, had had her magic bird stolen by Garg the Ogre, who wanted to eat it to gain magical powers. Nate was given the quest to rescue the bird and slay the ogre, which he promptly accepted. Accompanying him would be Spike the Elf, one of the Queen's favored heroes. At the entrance to Garg's cavern lair, they were taunted by some goblins whom they promtply slew. Faced with the choice of an open doorway or a stairway leading upwards, they chose the stair, went up it, and then crept down a short corridor. Ahead, through an open doorway, they heard some strange scuttling sounds. Spike strode boldy ahead, and his torch revealed a large room completely covered with spider webs, especially the ceiling. This was interesting in that they weren't sure what to do--there was no immediate threat, only a mystery. I told them they could do whatever they wanted; what did they think their characters would do? So Spike decided to touch a hanging bit of web with his torch. It flamed up and out, and something moved through the webs up above from the middle of the room over towards the door where Nate was standing. The dithered a bit more, so then the (surprise!) spider dropped a coil of webbing around Nate and began wrapping him up. Though they could now see the spider, Spike decided to shoot an arrow at the strand of webbing and see if he could cut it in half to set Nate free. Um, awesome, so yeah, do it! Roll that twenty-sider! He rolls a 19... With Nate now free, they make short work of their foe, and then it was time for them to go over to their grandparents' house, so we paused the adventure. It was a blast. Could we have done it using ODD, or B/X, or whatever? Sure. However, Dagger had it all laid out already, all the changes I might've made, and a few good ones I probably [...]

The Best RPG Deal on the Internet: AS&SH, Is Now Even Better!


What do ghouls do during the daytime? Play AS&SH, of course!
Seriously, if you haven't already picked up the pdf version of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, go get it now at RPGNow. For the rest of this week it's only...


That, my friends, is a crazy deal. It's like buying a Cadillac for the price of a Yugo.

(graphic demonstration)

I think I've made my point.

A New Campaign Rises...INTO SPACE!


Feathered hair is a galactic constant...
After much rumination and discussion, in just a bit less than two weeks I'm starting up a Classic Traveller Campaign. I haven't run this game since I was, I don't know, 14? However, I've been getting tons of good advice from Victor Raymond, I've got a passel of excited players, and I'll be ready with my subsectors at launch time!

This whole experience will be different too, in that we're not going to be playing at a game store. My family and I moved into a bigger house last August, so we're going to actually be playing in the (wait for it)... basement. Awesome. On top of that, I mean for this to be an actual campaign in pure sandbox style, but more on that later.

For now, some great CT resources:

The Medium Is the Message


In an RPG as such, role-playing is the fundamental MEDIUM of the game, just as poker is a card game, and chess is a board-and-pieces game. Without the MEDIUM, you have a different kind of game. Gambling w/o cards, instead using dice,frex, is craps: a dice game. Gambling, as such, is a larger thematic classifier, not a MEDIUM.

So what?

It thus makes no sense for players to be rewarded for role-playing, any more than it would make sense to reward poker players for using cards. If you're not role-playing, you're playing a fundamentally different kind of game.

Now, this doesn't mean that you can't play a different kind of game without role-playing; if you give all your chess pieces names and personalities and have them trash-talk each other while playing, you're still playing a board-and-pieces game. You can remove the role-playing and the MEDIUM remains the same. In exactly this way, you can add miniatures to an RPG without fear of changing it into a war game.

Now, how to define "role-playing", well, that's another whole rant...

Follow the Flamingodile...


The Vanishingly Rare Flamingodile
Alex Fontinakes (aka monk) presents for your perusal issue three of his face-shredding hardcopy 'zine, Wizards Mutants Lazer Pistols. I only found out about this fine publication when I volunteered to do the above illustration for the current issue. Anyone who spells "lazer" with a Z is alright in my book...

While you're at it, check out his old school module Beneath the Ruins, the first in what I hope will be a long line of products from Geoffrey McKinney's newest venture, Psychedelic Fantasies.

Good. Stuff.

Proof of the Existence of Glob!


 Ask, and it shall eventually be given...  Alexandre Ilitchev at Blood Ghost has made my dreams come true with Adventure Time: The RPG!

The Good: It's freaking awesome.

The Bad: It's a full-color pdf, and so essentially unprintable on a home printer (well, my home printer anyway...) It also has no bookmarks.

The Controversial: It's based on 4e.

Now, that's probably only controversial to the Old Skool crowd I run with, most of whom have no real use for 4e. Actually, it'll probably be more disappointing than controversial. I myself have an on-again/off-again fascination with Type IV, especially in its Essentials manifestation, so it doesn't particularly bother me.

On the contrary, I think it's a sorely-lacking example of how flexible 4e can be. This game really strips the system down to its fundamentals, and shows (also for the first time) that 4e does humor with no problem. Frex, if you play a Candy Person (and of course you can), your racial power is "Candybalism", which allows you to break off and eat a piece of yourself in order to immediately use a healing surge. Completely. Algebraic.

There's also an online Character Generator, which allowed me to create Sweet Cheeks the Awesome, Sticky Bun Warrior of the Candy People, in all of two minutes.

Do yourself a favor and check it out. If you're not familiar with Adventure Time, well, stop living in a cave and join us in the Land of Ooo; you won't regret it. Well, at least not as long as you have a sense of humor...

You know what Time it is!

D&D Next Playtest, or A Goblin Bloodbath...


Hey! Three Little Brown Books!Well, after one failed attempt, we finally organized a D&D Next playtest! Will, of course, needed booklets, and so not only hosted us, but set the tone with his old school rendition of the newest school. Awesome.The CrewFrom left to right: Chad, Will, Sean, and Susan. My awesome Brave Halfling gaming box is standing in for me...The CharactersFrom left to right: Rhynar the dwarf Cleric of Moradin; Parsley, the elf Wizard; Darro, the halfling Rogue;  Slayer the dwarf Fighter.As usual, I couldn't keep names straight, and immediately starting referring to Rhynar as Rhino, and Darro as Pedro, but there you go.The AdventureIn which goblins are taught the futility of their existence...Our intrepid heroes enter the realm of the Caves of Chaos. While deciding which cave to approach, Rhynar feels a greater evil emanating from the caves at the far end of the ravine. Sensibly, they decide to enter a cave near the mouth of the ravine...They immediately encounter a goblin patrol, and almost as immediately obliterate it. As the red fog clears, they hear the flat-footed approach of more goblins, and so duck down a dead-end corridor, hoping to find a secret door. Parsley comes up empty, and so as a clump of goblins at the far end of the corridor notice them, our heroes open fire with crossbow, sling, and magic missile. Goblins die. Slayer and Rhynar rush forward; Darro ducks and weaves through the fog of war. More goblins die. Some goblins run away. All is momentarily quiet.Not for long. A door is heard crashing open. Heavy footsteps and basso-profundo rumblings approach. Our heroes ready themselves and behold a sight they'll not soon forget: A naked ogre, bilious yellow in color, with violet eyes and a great shock of lank black hair, shouldering a big chunk of wood. He sees Parsley and smiles hideously. "Ellllllllff..." he grumbles, and lumbers forward.A furious battle ensues in which heroic tactics win the day: Parsley shows why it's so vital to master cantrips, and locks the brute in place with Cone of Frost. The dwarves wound and are wounded, and Darro stays out of the ogre's line of site and pelts him with sling bullets. He begins to break free of the ice, and is promptly frozen in place again. Rhynar ends things with a righteous warhammer bringing justice to ogre genitalia. The creature collapses, and Darro finds himself crushed beneath what is later termed "the flaccid ogre bulk." Thankfully he suffers little more than bruised dignity. The party takes a short rest to allow Rhynar to shake out his battered shield arm, and then push on.Locating the ogre's aromatic den, they poke around and quickly leave with a large sack of coins and an unopened cask of fine brandy. A bit farther on they find a room which seems to be full of goblins. They confirm their suspicions by throwing a torch into the darkness, which is greeted by squeals of panic and flight of arrows. Our heroes charge in, the dwarves leading the way, and indeed find a roomful of foes. Battle is joined and many more goblins die. Quickly. Gruesomely. However, Parsley is knocked unconscious one moment, only to be reinvigorated by Rhynar's healing chant. He leaps up and brains a goblin with his staff, then starts melting off faces with Shocking Grasp. Rhynar plays the knightly defender to the hilt, interposing his shield between friends and foes, saving Parsley and Darro several times from potential injury. Slayer, well, slays. A lot. Then the Goblin King rushes into the room with his retinue.Hurling a spear, it strikes the already wounded Slayer in the chest, knocking her unconscious. Parsley shouts out the runes of Sleep, and casts his glittering dust over the newly arr[...]

Dim Carcosa, or darn that Shub-Niggurath...

2012-03-26T13:15:57.034-05:00 dim Carcosa.About 10 days ago I managed to run a G+ session of Geoffrey McKinney's Supplement V: Carcosa, now available in a gorgeous edition bound in human, some sort of extremely tactile substance. Sadly, my own copy is a printed-out version of the original edition, as it were, but as soon as I become independently wealthy, I'll spring for the Finlandian volume.I've wanted to game in Carcosa ever since it first came out, but seeing as how at the time my oldest son was usually playing in our sessions, I needed to bide my time. G+ sessions are by there temporal nature (for me at least) kid-unfriendly, so I finally got my wish. I grabbed the Carcosan Grimoire (extremely helpful, and I believe its contents are included in the current edition), hunted down my copy of Fight On! #4, containing Geoffrey's Carcosan intro adventure (also now included in the revised edition), and was ready to go. Will and Shane joined me online, having already created basic characters (both Fighting Men--no Sorcerers this time out). I decided on the ODD rules, but with the stat bonuses from Labyrinth Lord, just 'cause. I also started them both out at second level, since there were only two of them. We Carcosa'd them by choosing color and, from the Grimoire, by adding names and a specific item of clothing for each, which gave us:He of Mercy, Neutral Green Warrior, wearing Translucent Chains. (Will)The Unanswerable Wind, Lawful Ulfire Warrior, wearing Precious Chains. (Shane)I started them right on the southern edge of the desert, spending the night in burnt-out ruins while in search of treasure. They swiftly encountered a gigantic flying edifice shaped like a kneeling woman clutching at her veiled face, which loomed out of the black night and settled next to their campsite. A being inside sent them on a dream flight across the desert and into caves on the far side, where they viewed a disturbing statuette of greenish-black stone, somewhat reminiscent of a Great Old One whose name rhymes with "Hulu". The entity suggested they retrieve the statue, and waking to find the edifice gone, they decided to comply.Thence followed the gathering of dried Black Lotus leaves from an enigmatic statue; a quick and brutal fight with some yellow cannibals; more antagonism involving White Lotus zombies and the death of The Unanswerable Wind; the discovery of a heretofore unnoticed captive of the zombies, a Chaotic Blue Warrior named Uttermost Grace of War; the drinking of a potion in an alchemist's lab which promptly turned UGoW into a green man (much to the delight of He of Mercy); an avoidance of a group of Deep Ones; and the final death of both Warriors in battle with a foul Spawn of Shub-Niggurath in the form of a bone-white arachnid creature with burning yellow eyes and plethora of small fanged mouths as they back-tracked through a storage room. Thus the adventure ended, though not before rolling up two new characters:The Uttermost Ravishment, Orange Warrior, wearing a Leather RobeShining Life of the Eyes, Orange Warrior, wearing Tight Weapons (?)Immediate synopsis: We had a blast! It's such a weird setting, I don't think any of us really knew what to expect from encounter to encounter. The wacky dice-rolling turned out to be a lot of fun. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'll use this type of dicing whatever version of ODD I'm running. It's great because it really makes combat uncertain and actually exciting, and you're throwing all the dice all the time, which is always fun.I'm excited to run it again, and in the quest to find some character sheets, I was tipped off to a limited-edition Carcosan game-aid, which I'll share more about as soon as it arrives in the mail...[...]



Pe Choi. Tekumelyani race. Elegant philosophers and most friendly with humans.As many of you have no doubt already heard, Professor M.A.R. Barker died peacefully yesterday in his Minneapolis home, in the presence of loved ones. He will be sorely missed, and the work of The Tekumel Foundation is even more important.I never got to meet the Professor (though I live in Minneapolis), though I came close once. Nevertheless, his creations have enriched and inspired me for almost 25 years. Tekumel products, including the newly published facsimile copy of the pre-published, playtest rules for The Empire of the Petal Throne can be found here and here.I was privileged to fulfill a longtime dream of mine and publish three Tekumel-related illustrations in the pages of Fight On! Magazine, issues 5-7, as well a couple of others scattered about. In the best memorial I can think of, I've posted them here.Thank you, Professor, for everything you gave us. Long Live the Petal Throne!Pygmy Folk. Tekumelyani race. Will steal you blind. And then steal your eyes.Ahoggya. Tekumelyani race. Will pretty much eat anything. Including you, if you look like you're dead...Grandpa Aqqa. Shall we say, a devoted worshiper of the Lord of Worms.Hra. A terrible undead creature found far too often in the Underworlds.Shunned One. A mysterious race living in gas-filled dome cities.[...]

Target 20: Me likey...


This post at the Aspiring Lich led me to this document: Target 20. I feel pretty sure I've read it before, but must not have been in the right mindset to appreciate it. I really like it--it pretty much solves all my statistical and neurotic hesitations about ditching to-hit charts and not liking ascending AC (and getting my kid to practice adding on the fly!)

The only weak spot seems to be thief skills. I can see how it works for almost all of the skills as they stand except for Climb Walls, which starts out much higher to begin with. Maybe give that particular skill a +3 modifier to the roll?

Dungeon Crawl #1 & some awesome paper minis...


Wayne Rossi, over at Semper Initiativus Unum has published his own modest 'zine, Dungeon Crawl. I laid down my $2.50, and promptly received said 'zine. This is something that seems like it might be a burgeoning phenomenon: content that could easily have been provided as a download (free or otherwise) being printed and mailed. I'll admit, I was strangely pleased to get this in the mail, in an envelope. Here it is:Six pages of content:Introduction Random trap chartsMagic items and monstersMonstersNew Magic User spellsOne-page dungeonI like the intro 'cause I'm always interested to hear about the process. Some might be slightly annoyed that an entire sixth of the document was devoted to an intro, but I'm not one of them. The traps are fairly generic, except for the death ray results, which were pretty awesome. Six magic items, each with an elemental focus, as per the intro, all of which I could see myself using. The five monsters are quirky, one of which (the Ypotryll) I'm immediately going to use as a riding beast in my campaign. I coulda done without the Shocker Lizards. Five new Magic User spells, four of which were 1st level, one of which was 4th level. I don't usually use spells from outside sources (I'm not sure why that is), but it'd be fun for characters to find the aftermath of a Sand Storm spell clogging a room in the dungeon...Last but not least, the first level of an apparently ongoing Dungeons of Tsalonia. This is presented in the One Page Dungeon Template, of which I'm a big fan. This of course means that descriptions, etc., are left to be fleshed out by the individual DM, which some might dislike.My favorite room description:32 - In the center of this room is a pit trap (trapdoor type). In the pit is a bear (HD 4, AC 6). The bear is quite hungry.This is very much an oldschool dungeon, in that there's no attempt at Gygaxian Naturalism. Insert into campaign map, and away you go. :)Overall: I felt it was worth $2.50. Will I by another? Most likely.On another tack entirely, check out this excellent bunch of free paper minis, with basing instructions. Just click on the pictures themselves to download your legions. I can relate to this line:So, if you prefer wargaming to painting models, and if you want to finish projects and play before hell freezes, paper can be a solution for you.Amen, brother.A[...]

Tomb of the Elephant


Our last-minute game of Chainmail-as-RPG last Friday went swimmingly, for a number of reasons:G+ Hangouts rock! We lost Will towards the end, but he gamely hung on with through IM.I finally got to freaking test some of the dynamics of Fantasy Supplement combat. Lots of good info!So it was me, Will and Kris playing, with my Tom literally just hanging out for a bit. We whipped up characters in a matter of minutes. I gave each of them the option of up to 3HD of followers, so Will made Eric the Hero and his henchmen, um, now I'm forgetting (and I don't have my notes in front of me...)... Charles, Frederick, and Rupert? I'm sure of Rupert... Each one was a 1HD Veteran. Kris made a Wizard (which as Will pointed out, is worth 100 army building pts as compared to 20 for his Hero...) named Biwulf (?) with a 3HD pet giant spider named Fuzzy. We decided on the spot that Fuzzy would attack as a Lycanthrope.When Biwulf had a scroll slipped into his pocket by a mumbling, disturbingly large-eared man in the back streets of Mad Dog's Defeat, it turned out to have a map to a dungeon referred to as The Elephant's Tomb, they headed out to try their luck. Finding it obscured by undergrowth (see picture above), they headed through the door, and soon had reason to try out the combat rules.In a large room smeared and cluttered with the blood and cracked bones of dead adventurers, they ran afoul of the terrible Minoderm (Pachytaur?)! This was one for the Fantasy Combat table, so Eric's henchmen were out of the running. Eric, Biwulf, and Fuzzy engaged in combat, with the Minoderm throwing a spear and lodging it in Eric's shield. Eric tried to crack it over the head with the haft of it's own spear, but was thrown across the room for his troubles. Then ensued an entirely-too-long-and-drawn-out-combat, since I had decided NOT to make the FCT instant death when hit. I gave the Minoderm 6HD, and that turned it into a hit/missmissmissmiss/hit kinda thing. That was Lesson #1.After defeating the Minoderm, they headed into another room filled with swirling darkness and sparkling, swooping lights. Biwulf sensed something magic in the center of the room, headed forward, and was instantly swallowed up in darkness. Eric, alarmed headed in after him with Rupert, but their torches gave off very little light, and seemed to attract swarms of the glittering lights. As Biwulf approached what became clear as an elephant statue in the middle of the room, which was belching forth the swirling dark, Eric and company were attacked by swiftly-moving, small, shadowy beings who zipped in and out of the tiny radius of their torchlight.As Biwulf engaged in a contest of wills with the statue, Eric and Rupert battled desperately for their lives. I treated the shadowy attackers as goblins, and we used the Combat Table, meant for mass battles, for individual combat (Lesson #2). Rupert was taken out almost immediately, and Eric managed to hold his own while taking damage. Biwulf kept rolling all four of his HD, trying to score a single six. It took awhile, but as soon as he made it, the darkness all sucked back into the statue, and the shadowy beings disappeared. As did Rupert. Eric was alive, if somewhat tattered. Biwulf gathered up the stature, and everyone hightailed it back to town.Lesson #1: I like using the FCT, but for next time it's going to be one-hit death. Eric's henchmen can help him, with each one aiding lowering his foe's roll by one. However, everytime the foe hits, it comes at the expense of a henchman. The idea is that while they can't help the Hero actually harm the Fantast[...]

Chainmail as RPG


On the proverbial spur-of-the-moment, I've decided to run Chainmail as an RPG tonight on G+, from 10pm-midnight, CST. This will be "straight" Fantasy Supplement, with a few things added in from the main rules (arrow fire, morale, I think that's it...) Each Hero or Wizard gets 3HD of followers, human or otherwise (HD here meaning how many Men  they fight as)

We'll see how it goes! :)

(and no, that's not me in that picture...)
(and yes, it was very difficult not to use a picture of someone wearing a chainmail bikini...)

If you're interested, post here, email me or add me on G+.



First of all, unrelated, this is awesome: The FriarA lot of weird images come up when you type the word "gestalt" into Google... Anyhow, this one fits what I'm talking about. I think.The discussion going on around DnD Next or 5E or whatever has been nagging at me. I really like the idea that it sounds like they're actually going to pay attention to the history of the game and try to unite all editions in play, so a 1Eish character could adventure right alongside a 4Eish character. Fabulous. I signed up to playtest, and will do so in good faith. However, I've been wondering if it really needs to be so involved. This came to me yesterday when rereading some forum and blog posts about how M.A.R. Barker of Tekumel fame used to run his games. Players would have some details for their characters, and then when conflict arose, they'd simply roll a d20, and Prof. Barker would let them know what happened. The whole mechanic was the higher you rolled, the closer you came getting your way. This was modified by the context. You can't really get simpler than this.So, based on that thinking, here's a little unifying (as yet untried) system to bring all versions of DnD (and since I've been reading Hackmaster 4e lately, that too!) into the same game.GESTALTUnbelievably, this word is not an acronym. I'm using it with two assumptions in mind:The "whole" of DnD is a mindset or experience that can encompass all editions.In a complex field of contextual factors, a meaningful result can be focused upon with the insertion of a simple randomizing lens. :)Character Creation/ImportationDescribe your character in no more than three sentences or no more than 30 words.List an Object, a Belief, and a Goal unique to your character.Note your levelList anything else you consider to be important: Spells, abilities, skills, powers, whatever.ConflictResolved with a d20.In general, any character adds their level to any dice roll they make. The DM may modify this based on the conflict and the particular character involved.In opposed conflicts, the DM adds the HD (or some other appropriate number) to her roll.Any character aiding another adds a +2 to their roll.The DM can/should liberally address contextual modifiers, from +1 to a +5These contextual modifiers should mostly come from everything listed out on the character card, as well as from how the player decides to use the environment. Awesomeness should always be rewarded.Non-opposed: I.e., jumping over a chasm; checking for a secret door; etc. The player rolls a d20, +/- modifiers. High is better. DM "gestalts" results.Opposed: I.e., you know, fighting, mostly. Player states what they want to do; both player and DM roll d20s, +/- any modifiers. DM gestalts the results based on the difference between the rolls.The trick with combat, especially, as a player, is to specifically describe what you're doing in order to convince the DM to give you positive modifiers. Tactics and Awesomeness will win the day, especially against stronger foes.Trying the exact same thing when it didn't work the first time should give you at least a -2 modifier.An opposed roll for a spell/power is to see how close it comes to achieving its listed effects, which of course will need to be folded into the overall gestalt.I think that's about it.So yeah, Will, if you're reading this, this is what we're gonna play.Oh, and here's the other image I almost used:It might actually represent the core of the idea better:"Is it a rabbit? Is it a duck? Who the hell cares---it's o[...]

Exiting Fight On!


I have returned, to Fight On! Like, literally.

Go here for more info, but the skinny is this:

The massive, classic Fight On! hardback compilations are almost ready to go back into the archives. Get 'em while you can with these particular covers!

Use this lulu code through the end of this month for 20% off your order: SWEET305

Last but not least, you can get free pdfs! Not to be missed!

Fight On! #5

Roll the Bones Fantasy Fiction collection (I've got a story in here...)

I think all the other issues might be on sale, too...

Good to be back. :)

Entering Stasis...


Think I need to call it as it is. Not that I've been posting with any regularity, but I've got serious Real Life things to pay attention to these days, and so am going to let this blog enter stasis for awhile.

I appreciate everyone who's read and commented, and I hope to be back at some point.


Fight On! Random Table Contest winners...


...will be announced tomorrow, at 1:00 pm CST. You can check out the announcement on the ODD 74 Fight On! forum.While you're at it, you should pick up the newly released Fight On! #12, dedicated to Jim Ward, creator of Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World. I mean, c'mon---look at that cover!Table of Contents:Champions of ZED (Daniel Boggs).........................................3Fast Company II – Nonhumans (Schroeder & Shieh)..............11It’s All in the Cards (Michael Curtis).......................................12The Tomb of Kaman-Doh Rey’d (David Coleman).....................17The Apen (Andrew “The Venomous Pao” Trent).......................20Geologians (Tim “Sniderman” Snider).....................................22The Witch Doctor (Scott Moberly)...........................................24Knights & Knaves (Barber, Green, Rients, & Cal).....................25Grognard’s Grimoire (Erin “Taichara” Bisson)...........................27The City State of Dusal Dagodli (Gabor Lux)...........................28The Darkness Beneath (Heron Prior & David Bowman).............32Education of a Magic User (Douglas Cox)...............................44Doxy, Urgent Care Cleric (J. Linneman & K. Green).................45Sir Tendeth (Tim “Sniderman” Snider).....................................46Creepies & Crawlies (T. Snider and Jeffrey P. Talanian).............60Monstrous Ecology (Ron Edwards)..........................................63Random’s Assortment (Peter Jensen & Random)......................64Curses Gone Wild! (John Laviolette).........................................65Artifacts, Adjuncts, & Oddments (Jason Sholtis)........................67Treasure Types (Simon Bull)....................................................68Dungeon Modules: The Rondo Rooms (Jeff Rients)....................69Pigdivot! (Chris Robert)............................................................72Where the Action Is (Zak S.)....................................................80Merlyn’s Mystical Mirror (Gabor Lux & Jo Kreil)..........................84Notes from a Master (James M. Ward & Tim Kask)....................86Of immediate note in the ToC are the "Where the Action Is" guest editorial by Playing D&D with Porn Stars blogger and Vornheim creator Zak S, the first serialized installment of Dragons at Dawn creator D.H. Boggs' Champions of ZED retcon RPG, and "Notes from a Master" by Jim Ward and Tim Kask!Too much goodness!Oh yeah, and all Fight On! pdfs are now $5.00. Forever.[...]

Ryth Chronicle Cover-to-Cover #2


Player Activity Record                                            Player Activity RecordThe topic for this post is the initial Player Activity Record, compiled from the "archives" of the first nine months of the campaign. At this point, participants are identified by player name, not character name (this changes later on.)The first thing to notice, of course, is that 23 players are listed! This includes John and Len---since both were DMing, both also got to play. The top paragraph gives a peek at what the tone of the whole campaign will be like:This is the first report of the D&D campaign along the Ryth, published as a public service by the Yggdrasill papermill, and compiled by John Van De Graaf from the recent archives of Rythlondar. Please report any inaccuracies to your friendly referee so that he can feed you to a ravenous purple worm, thereby cleansing his records.I doubt anyone in the hobby at this time was taking themselves too seriously...though they were very obviously having fun!Even though nine sessions are notated (third week in Nov. of '74 - the third week of March '75), November has no details (I'm assuming that covered expedition A), so it really starts with Session 2 (game week 3). It looks like the "campaign time scale" mentioned on the first page was decided upon: one actual week = one game week.Some quick math yields the following tally:Eight expeditions over 17 weeks of real/game timeSeveral weeks had two adventures going onTotal fatalities: 21Highest XP total: Two characters in Expedition B received 4999 XP!Lowest XP total: One character in Expedition M received only 115 XP (though it looks like he collected 360 GP, so I'm not sure what happened there...)Highest GP total: 1462, in Expedition ELowest GP total: Three characters in Expedition C walked out with only 26 GP.Interesting here is the overall low GP totals. I'm assuming it's for total treasure gained, though I guess that could be  wrong. It looks to me like the vast majority of XP in these first expeditions were gained by killing ye olde monsters, especially given some further rules clarifications on the next page (covered in the next installment!)Current Questions for John and LenHow were you determining treasure amounts?How much experience were you giving for monsters killed?Do you remember what date you bought the White Box?I ask the last question in particular, because the closest to exact publishing date I can find for the White Box is Gen Con, 1974. Assuming Gen Con has always been in the summer (which may not be the case), that means the Ryth Chronicle began only (approx.) three months after the game was published...[...]