Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Hero System 6th Edition Dethroned by Grimtooth as "Game most Likely to Stop a Bullet."

I picked up a copy of the Silver-Foil leatherette cover, 620 page edition of Grimtooth's Ultimate Traps Collection. The book is larger than all three D&D 5E manuals combined. It looks larger than all of the Grimtooth's books it holds within, combined, probably due to thicker quality pages than the originals? It looks terrifyingly large.

This is a glorious collector's edition, and worth it to secure the special silver/gold goil version with 160 extra pages of content, including Traps Bazaar and Grimtooth's Dungeons of Doom. It remains suitably generic (although in the back are some notes on AD&D and T&T conversions for some bits), but note that Goodman Games also released a special module 87.5 for Dungeon Crawl Classics titled Grimtooth's Museum of Death, so if you want the totally complete Grimtooth experience not even the massive Ultimate Grimtooth's Traps book will cover it! Sadly the DCC module does not offer DT&T conversions, but it's easy enough to extrapolate DCC into DT&T mechanics (hint to any DT&T fans out there: if you love DT&T, I can promise you that you'll also enjoy DCC, which covers a very similar aesthetic and gritty fantasy-meets-high-weirdness feel that DT&T does).

The big book is $80 MSRP but I found a copy for $64. It's worth $80 though, so if you want to have the final, definitive resource on dungeon delving traps, find a copy.

Grimtina is actually in this module, with a terrifying chainsaw. She's like Harley Quinn if Harley were the love child of Hades and Ereshkigal.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

History of the Fireball

There's a great post on (the game development website) that outlines the history of the fireball from it's earliest inceptions in Leonard Patt's 1970 rules for wargaming in Middle-Earth on up to the modern computer game depictions. Not much to say other than it makes for some fun reading to watch one element of "being a wizard" in contemporary gaming's life over 50 years! Check it out here.

Actually, I will mention that the bit about Leonard Patt's rules was news to me. The post links to this page at Playing at the World, which goes on to tell the tale. D&D definitely has a bit of developmental history/inspiration prior to the 1973-74 era of its arrival, and it was very interesting to learn a new bit I did not know about.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Monday Blaaaagh!!! Kickstarter Book of the Righteous; Plus: 13th Age and Mythras

I remember when I had lots of time to do stuff....sigh. Anyway! Some random stuff this Monday:

Green Ronin has their Kickstarter going for the 5th edition version of Book of the Righteous. It's not to goal yet but as of writing has three weeks to go. I'd be tempted, but I'm not a long-term investor, and the physical release is listed as March 2017. That's a long ways off....and if there's one thing I've learned it's that the farther out a Kickstarter date is, the less likely it is that I'll still be interested in a given Kickstarter by the time it finally shows up.

And that's assuming it isn't delayed!

I'll wait until this is available for print release. The fact that the release date is so far out tells me this is a "fishing for interest" has not begun, and they are testing the waters. This is not great; Kickstarters are essentially turning in to a market testing strategy but are only receiving the feedback from people who apparently have a lot of disposable income to throw away on hypotheticals. I'd absolutely buy this book, but I'm not going to hand off $45 in the hopes that the book is worth it at the end, that I still am interested, or that nothing disastrous goes wrong between now and then. This isn't a vote against Green Ronin, don't get me wrong; I'm just refusing to buy in to the idea that Kickstarter is the best way to handle a release like this. 

Other Stuff

Classic Fantasy/Mythras: if I took all the blog hits on these two subjects as a sign, I should really be doing more content for both. I'm still waiting patiently for CF to get a physical release (preordered) so that puts a tiny crimp in prepping content related to it, but anytime I do a blog tied to something The Design Mechanism (or Chaosium, for that matter) is behind I get four to five times the normal hits. Interesting. And good news for BRP-based games.

13th Age: Pelgrane Press released High Magic & Low Cunning, which is a sort of "encounter book" of highly customizable scenarios with an emphasis on combat in unusual locales, each tied to the various icons. It's a great book, really interest in premise and design. More interesting is the map pack, which contains a ton of high quality, full color maps you can use with the book. My pre-order arrived last week and I really advise 13th Age fans to check it out. Heck, the maps alone would be useful to any GM who likes to mix and match.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Division - a reversal of decision

Well somehow I ended up with a used copy of Tom Clancy's The Division, and you know what? It's not crap. Since I had previously talked about how I planned to ignore this one entirely an update seemed in order.

I didn't expect it to be crap in a solid, identifiable way....but this game had a lot of contentious press in all directions. People who normally hate all things Ubisoft suddenly liked this game, casting suspicion on themselves. Others hated it with a weird and apathetic contempt. Others analyzed it to death, pointing out that the game's subject and message was rather heavy in import but not treated as such, necessarily.

As usual, if you try to form an opinion on something or make a decision based entirely on aggregating the internet, it will always let you down.

Anyway, I'll keep on playing and do a review soon. Right now The Division is pretty much a disaster prepper's wet dream, situated in a brutal "not too far in the future" post-apocalyptic New York (possibly natural, maybe not) hit by a ravaging mutated small pox virus, something sufficiently bad that it apparently took the military out and all that's left are a hand full of disaster recruits (who all, I suspect, used to be garbage men before this started) and a bunch of sleeper agents trained all their lives to be ready for this event. It's like a zombie game without the zombies, and more of the guys from "Escape From New York." But near-future realistic-looking type dudes who favor beanies and hoodies to deal with the cold weather over mohawks and piercings.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Tales from the Sea of Chirak IV: Intrigue in Dunnare

I am way behind on these! Time to catch up:

Our intrepid crew:

Naivara, the noble half-elven wizard
Tia, the half-elven priestess of Kalieyana
Ungarak, the half-orc paladin of the cult of the forgotten
Nehenac, the immortal last emperor of Xaxican and former prisoner of the Fortress of Hathor (NPC)

We have had some in-and-out guests, will name their PCs if I remember who they were....

Session 4 Summary:

When we left off, the crew had arrived in Port Dunnare after some harrowing adventures. Here they have had a day's rest before awakening to a busy day.

In this session the group divvied up to gather information and learn about the port. Key events that transpired include:

Ungarak stumbles on a murder....a druid was slain outside the city in the farmland and crucified on a tree. Evidence suggests it was orcs who did the deed. In following up on this they met the Watch Commander of the city, and learned that this has been an ongoing problem....the orcish tribes of the Northwood seem to be uniting, and are targeting the druids dedicated to the "White Goddess," a local spirit figure revered by the tuadathen elves.

Naivara enjoyed a pleasant stay in the Royal Inn. In the morning she meets Kargath, the minotaur who is a priest-dedicate to the mysterious cult of Hun'hunal, who is sipping martinis on the patio and scaring away customers. She learns Nehenac awoke at dawn and left early on an unknown (and worrisome) errand. She investigates where he went, meeting with Ungarak on his own investigation.

Tia spends time at the local (and smaller) temple of Kalie'yana, before setting out to meet the rest.

The group ultimately finds that they are directed to the Hunting Lodge in northwest Dunnare, where the Warden of the Northwood, a ranger named Ovidio, keeps his own special order. Ovidio might know more about this mysterious local threat by the orcs which has all concerned.

They arrive at the North Lodge and learn that this ancient fortress on the city's edge has been here for at least six centuries, predating the arrival of the old Sea Kings and the founding of Espanea. It was further built on top of older ruins that may be ancient. Ovidio, a pleasant older ranger, has had the complex in his family for almost four centuries.

As it turns out, Ovidio's lodge had an unexpected visit this morning: a mysterious man that by description must be Nehenac broke in, entered the catacombs beneath, and sealed the passage off with a hidden stone block that even the rangers didn't know about. They are working to find men who can remove or chisel away the stone so they can pursue the invader, who is now locked in a catacomb that runs seven levels deep before ending at a flooded passage.

Tia uses her true seeing to discover three hidden secret doors: one is a plastered wall behind which it turns out is what appears to be an ancient planar gate, now overlooking the pig pens. A second secret passage is in the back of the pantry, and a third is in the armory. Ovidio knew of only the pantry, which leads to a secret passage out....a safe passage to escape the fortress if it's defenses were ever compromised. The other two were mysteries; none lead to alternative routes to the catacombs so far as they least not without investigation!

The group begins with the armory secret door, after determining the other is a hidden gate that is very worrisome. Ovidio explains that Taddeos, the high wizard of the local Academy, outfitted the armory as a gift a few years ago with four enchanted suits of animated armor. Each suit contained a silvered skeleton on which the suit draped. As they investigated, pulling a decorative shield triggered the skeleton-armor to turn and push a pivoting hidden door in the wall, revealing a wide spiral staircase going down. This is quite a surprise to Ovidio.

The stairs descend in to a chamber with a strange, blue-illuminated pool dominating a large chamber, with a passage to the right and a far wall in the chamber that appears to have a charnel stone sculpture of human flesh and limbs carved out of marble, partially overlapping two doors along that wall, such that they don't look like they can be opened without breaking the wall statuary to do so. As Naivara gets closer, it turns out the wall is alive! It is flesh with a gray pallor, and moves slowly but certainly, speaking in telepathic whispers, asking the adventurers to come closer, just a bit closer. They decline.

The group, fascinated at what's going on here, head to the passage in the right and follow a cooridor to a large, oddly shaped chamber with six deep cistern-style pools on the floor with utterly still water, and what appears to be a massive white dragon skeleton suspened with metal wires from the high ceiling. Each cistern has what appears to be a sealed iron hatch at the bottom of each pool.

Before they can really investigate a horde of bloody skeletons burst in from two of the three doors at the end of the chamber! A brutal fight ensues, as several of the skeletons appear able to summon a maelstrom "blood storm" in which acidic blood fills the chamber, eating at flesh and blinding the eyes. The party is immediately fighting for its life, and narrowly defeats them after a brutal fight.

In the middle of the fight one of the bloody skeletons is knocked in to a cistern, and its body begins to dissolve immediately....the cisterns are not full of water, but caustic acid!

After they skeletons are defeated the adventurers, with a badly wounded Ovidio, quickly retreat to recover and regroup. They have a very dangerous mystery to solve...

While resting up, a messenger boy from the Royal Inn arrives, looking for Naivara. He has a message from Nehenac, who states that he needs to learn if his "old cache" is still intact, and that he feels he must prepare for the revenge he is commited to against the ancestors of the Masirians who wronged him. He states that he knows the Lodge contains a secret entrance to the old Vault which he built beneath the lost Xaxicani colony that once rest on this exact spot, 2,500 years ago before the Masirians razed it to the ground....and he thinks they may never have found his hidden cache in the vault.

Next: Masurana's Secrets Revealed!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Back to Savage Space!

Yeah....despite what I was thinking, our group went with Savage Worlds SF last Saturday. So luckily I had all of that along with me (I came more or less prepared for AS&SH, 13th Age and Savage Worlds) and worked out a scenario while everyone rolled some new PCs.

Savage Worlds is always fun to play. The swingy dice and vital nature of the bennies always surprise me when I return to SW after an absence, but the incredibly swift play mechanics make up for it. I'm not sure I would get any less of an experience out of using --say-- White Star, but as I put it, "Savage Space is a hard space opera setting with a modicum of seriousness swirled in with the action," whereas my White Star campaign was clearly a "let's see what a gonzo anything-goes-kitchen-sink SF campaign looks like.

I was planning to show off "WOIN," the What's Old Is New RPG from EnWorld Publishing but completely forgot to bring it. Next time....definitely. It's a more nuanced system, not necessarily more complex but provides more detail; it's mechanically around D&D 5E in complexity feel, I think. I'll post more about it's currently in the running for "systems I might actually GM soon."

Anyway, I had done a lot of prep for AS&SH so I was mildly disappointed that the group didn't go that direction.....people in the group had the following reasons not to: 1. and SF option was on the table and they really wanted to try that; 2. selling AS&SH as "a refined and specialized AD&D" was discouraging about 2/3rds of the group who are apparently not as OSR-hip as I might have thought; and 3. No one had a copy of the rules, unlike Savage Worlds, which despite my assurances that ownership wasn't a requisite didn't really work out so well. Ah well, another time.

I'll just say that I really like the Ghost Ship of the Desert Dunes module, and plan to run this one way or another....even if I have to adapt it to D&D 5E or 13th Age or something.  Jeff Talanian's writing style is exactly what I like in a published module.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Saturday Looms....What Will We be Playing....

I've thrown a lot of ideas out to my Saturday group as we prepare for a new phase of gaming. I'm thinking, though, that I know what I'm going to run. I feel like a "fantasy, but different" mood. Not necessarily a "rules" different, but a "weird setting" sort of different.

Mythras and Classic Fantasy is on hold until I get the book sometime in June. After that, it's probably what I'll push for next campaign on Wednesday.

13th Age continues to intrigue me....and may well end up being what we play, but I'm pushing hard to see if people will give......Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea a shot. I've got a real interest in running AS&SH straight up, using the setting in the core boxed set as-is*, with the modules published so far --which means starting with Rats in the Walls since it's the only level 1 adventure for the game I have.

But 13th Age has a lot of interest, too. I admit....the only issue holding me back from fully jumping back to 13th Age right now is my current dislike of the onerous icons system, which is both cool and limiting in weird ways. People do run 13th age without the icons, or mitigating their relevance....but really, I feel like they're sufficiently important to the game's flavor that it makes more sense to save it for when I am feeling inspired.

But the weird classes, world and entities of AS&SH? Those are inspiring me a lot right now....

*The minimalist setting is perfect, just enough to jump into with, but not too much to hamper my own development of the Lands of the North Wind.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

And We're Back! - Family Road Trip Summary

It was a short four-day trip (cut a bit short due to work demands) but well worth it. As usual the best place to start a road trip is Arizona, which has no shortage of random stuff to see. We visited....

   This is a great location as it contains a great array of live rattlesnakes (and some others) in captivity as well as a private garden for desert tortoises in the area. We never make it out of here without spending some cash in the gift shop. It's conveniently only 25 miles away from where my folks live.

   We missed this last visit to Tucson, Arizona, and caught it at last. An amazing display of taxidermied animals, insect collections and more. A lot of placards with interesting stories and information, if you can get the four year old to slow down.

   This was not available for public consumption when I was attending the University of Arizona in the early nineties, so fun to go to a site I had never seen before locally. It's not really a restored site, and there's a signficant swathe which has already been pot-hunted, but the remains of the original Hohokam buildings and walled area are evident, as is a ball court area and a much later ruin of the Romero ranch (pictured).

   We found out about this by accident so headed off to Tempe, AZ to take Marcus there. Turns out Legoland was next door.....but wouldn't open until the end of the week! What timing. Still, we spent a couple hours enjoying what is a rather impressive aquarium (for Arizona) and then continued on to see The Jungle Book in the Arizona Mills mall. (Micro Review: it was a good movie to take the family to, but I wouldn't have bothered to see it on my own.)

   This week was a free week for National Parks, so bonus! We hit this one Tueday morning and took the steep path to view the cluster of Sinagua cliff-dwellings. A lot of fun, and a good work out.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Packing RPGs for a Trip the Minimalist Way

We're about to head off on a little family excursion for a few days. There's a distinct (slight, but distinct) chance that we could play a game along the way. In consideration of this I studied my voluminous collection of RPGs with the idea that I'd try to find one (or two) that worked within the minimalist packing standards I had set for myself.

It was no surprise that any of the White Box games fit the bill, of course....there's a plethora of S&W/OD&D RPGs out there which you can fit in your back pocket (if you wear cargo pants, anyway). I was more surprised to realize that some systems, such as Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls, were officially off the table for this option now, unless I opted for an older edition (the Corgi version of T&T 5th edition, for example). T&T really does need a slim, portable edition to compliment  the Deluxe version....a basic edition, if you will.

Beyond that, I had Savage Worlds ready to go. But otherwise? Not so many. I'd probably have more choices if I was in to FATE and -World games, but alas, I am not.

Of course, this is all a moot point when I consider that my Nexus 7 alone has about 8 GB of gaming PDFs loaded on it, and my Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 has a 64GB card loaded to the gills. But, as any proper gamer of my age knows, you just can't pull a game off (easily) with a PDF. Nothing like a physical copy of the book to lure people in....

I do lament that there appears to be no easily portable horror games out right now, other than Savage Worlds with a copy of the Horror Companion in tow. I think Don't Rest Your Head could count, although now we're having to dive in to the realm of minimalist rules mechanics that are gimmicky at best and mildly entertaining for a beer and pretzels night at worst.'s a good game so I'll count it. The entire Void Core line and Shadows over Sol is also highly portable, and both are great systems blending SF and horror.

Remnants, too. That one's pretty cool, actually.

I think I'll pack Warriors of the Lost Planet, Shadows over Sol and White Box Swords & Wizardry with the Companion. That's not really as minimalist as I'd like, but it's plenty to keep me occupied with and all three are easy sells right now. Especially since I'll definitely include my Galaxy Tab and Nexus in the bag.

....Or I could just fill it full of stuff like Mutant Year Zero, Fragged Empire, Chill 3rd and Runequest (Mythras) stuff and lug along an extra 60 lbs. That sounds more like my style, anyway....

Yeah....I totally do not know how to do minimalist living well, at all.

(ADDENDUM: as we plan for an early AM leave I managed to stick only White Box S&W in my main travel bag. Then I crammed my backup book bag full of 13th Age, WOIN, and Fragged Empire  ...well...a lot of Savage Worlds because you can get a lot of those books in one bag. Go figure. My wife, in a surprise move, is reading Amethyst: Quintessence for D&D 5E and will start running it next week for her Thursday group. Wow! And so you can tell this runs in the family, my son has filled his travel bag with Slug Terra stuff and his Planst vs. Zombies action figure collection.)

Twilight City: A Super Powers Setting

Toying with this idea for a superpowers setting...still tossing around the idea of Savage Worlds, Mutants & Marvels or FASERIP as the ruleset of choice....

Twilight City: Savage Worlds Supers Setting

Welcome to Twilight City….a quasi-Cyberpunk near-future dystopian West Coast* sprawl which has exploded over the course of the last decade and a half. Founded as a mining town in the late 1800’s Twilight City grew into a sprawling nightmare, one of the west coast’s most notorious lawless towns. By the mid-forties the town had turned into a decent city thanks to an industrial wartime boom, and it was around this period that some of its first noteworthy costumed vigilantes first appeared, including the Renegade Patriot and Doctor Futurity. By the sixties the city had turned into a major industrial center for the auto industry, rivaling only Detroit until a total crash in the seventies following the oil crisis. As manufacturing jobs fled the city in droves Twilight City collapsed into a steep economic decline and crime exploded.

In the year 2000 the New Twilight City project was founded from the Council of Civic Restoration a state appointed council to invite corporate and architectural interests in to revive Twilight City. The project was so named because it was seen as the modern industrial answer to the urban nightmare that Twilight City had become. Designed to attract the attention and interest of tech start-ups across the world and serve a primary focus for competition and development in science and research, Twilight City initially served well as a focused, upscale living experience, attracting dozens of major corporations and many, many more startups. By 2010 Twilight City had become the most famous high-tech city in the world, and the national center of innovation and advancement.

Today, in the not too distant future, Twilight City is regarded with a measure of awe and is the leading city for growth in the nation, possibly the world. As the population explodes the city has grown too quickly, and crime has returned as an unexpected problem, one which not coincidentally seemed to manifest around the same time several industrialized military tech firms opened up shop in the city. Groups like Mystech are also suspected to have had an influence on the growing prime problem, albeit from a rather unusual angle: the study of the occult, something which the rather unique corporation has perfected in ways no one could imagine. Ostensibly Mystech is to the public and its competitors a tech firm specializing in artificial intelligence design, but internally it is harnessing an enormous amount of research in psychic and paranormal studies. Part of Mystech’s efforts have involved extensive resource collection, including highly illegal artifact theft around the world. To facilitate this Mystech used front companies to set up their reliable allies in the city, to provide a legal avenue for the import of goods it needs for its research and to also distance itself in case plausible deniability is needed.

Elsewhere the illegal import and export of weapons technology has become major driver in high tech crime, as has the ever present urban sprawl of neighboring boroughs in California proper, including the Night district of Twilight City which is regarded as one of the largest hell-holes for crime in the nation. As Twilight City grew in its dense center, the old industrial sections of town continued to rot and fester, providing a cheap and easy way for crime lords to continue to import and export illegal goods such as arms and drugs through the city’s vast port.  In the last few years Night District’s problems began to spill over into the renovated section of the city. The high-tech policing used in Twilight City helps mitigate the problem primarily to maintain the city image, but Night District itself now helps to facilitate the growing industrial crime and espionage that plagues its neighbor.

Amidst all of this a new generation of costumed vigilantes have risen up. In the wake of the legacy of the Renegade Patriot a “new” Doctor Futurity has appeared, along with such icons as the east coast hero Arbalest, who has taken up his ruthless vigil against crime with a sidekick named Bowman 13. Spectros prowls the city, seemingly obsessed with Mystech Corp. and its possible wrong-doings. Dr. Damon Cole, wealthy philanthropist, bought the tallest building downtown for his own Cole Research Corp. and the top levels of the tower now house the Phantom Five, including Dr. Cole himself along with Hyperlight, Sabercat, Shaper, and Lady Occult.

Supervillains plague the city as well. The extra-dimensional Lord Rift, summoned by accident during the testing of the Corvus Corp. Supercollider Experiment in 2009 is loose in the city and appears determined to find a way to forge a portal to his home dimension, that he may summon his armies to invade the earth. Killshot is a known corporate assassin that some believe work for Military Dynamics, Inc. which is one of the leading military contractors centered in the city, and his reputation precedes him. Splatterblast is a renegade bioweapons experiment gone wrong that is believed to prowl the city sewers and commit atrocious murders. The Demon is a super-powered thug in the employ of the crime cartel run by the enigmatic crime lord called Mr. Diamond. Many others aside from these criminals have found their way to Twilight City.

*Where is it? Somewhere out there....either an alt-reality world where the stretch from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara got some heavy historical retooling....