Friday, July 31, 2020

Friday Night Videos: Sounds of the NIGHT SHIFT, Ordinary World

Copies of NIGHT SHIFT: VETERANS OF THE SUPERNATURAL WARS have ALL been delivered to the Kickstarter backers and people are also getting the Kickstarter special Player's Guide.

You can order your own hardcover version at the publisher's website, at https://www.elflair.com/nightshift.html.

You can also buy the PDF at DriveThruRPG.

One of the things that really motivated Jason and me while working on this is music.  Spend any time here and you know I am a big music fan.  


So I thought it might be great to share some of the music that reminded us of the stories we were telling with NIGHT SHIFT and the games we have run.

Up this Friday Night Videoes are songs from my playlist.  
Tonight, songs from The Ordinary World!




#FollowFriday: Internet Trolls (Troll Week)

It's #FollowFriday and I thought some online Trolls would be good to follow.

Not the typical online trolls, but the people that have given us the products I have enjoyed all week!

Chaosium
The publisher of TrollPak (and RuneQuest, and Call of Cthulhu)

Tunnels & Trolls

Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls Team @DeluxeTnT, https://twitter.com/DeluxeTnT
Ken St. Andre @Trollgodfather, https://twitter.com/Trollgodfather 
Liz Danforth @LizDanforth, https://twitter.com/LizDanforth
Steven S. Crompton @StevenSCrompton, https://twitter.com/StevenSCrompton

Troll Lords
I didn't talk about them, but they were always on my mind this week.

Troll Lord Games @trolllordgames, https://twitter.com/trolllordgames
Stephen Chenault,TLG @TrollLordSteve, https://twitter.com/TrollLordSteve 
Chuck "BABOONSKI" Cumbow @BABOONSKI_, https://twitter.com/BABOONSKI_
Jason Vey @ElfLairJasonTLG, https://twitter.com/ElfLairJasonTLG

Images
And here are the resources for the images of my Trolla Witch Grýlka.
Overhead Games @OverheadGames, https://twitter.com/OverheadGames
Hero Forge Minis @HeroForgeMinis, https://twitter.com/HeroForgeMinis 

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Review: Trollbabe (Troll Week)

Now we come to something different.   Confession time. A lot of what you have read this week was written a while back.  My plan was to have a bunch of "Troll" related posts ready to go so they could be autoposted during Gen Con.  I was going to include pictures of the Flying Buffalo booth and T&T games, and the same with Chaosium.  

Sadly that was not to be.  So I was going post these earlier, but the discovery of this old CD-Rom backup I found with the Trollbabes RPG changed my plans again.  So pull the posts from autopost, make some edits to reflect my new thinking and boom! Troll Week was born. 

Trollbabe was not part of my original plans, but now it is hard to think of Troll Week without it. 

Now I am going to freely admit this game still has some mystery for me.  For starters, the copyright date on the book says 2002.  The CD-Rom I pulled it from was labeled "2015 Backup" but many of the files seem to be from 2008.  There is a shortcut to the now-dead Adept Press website to the Print version.  The shortcut says "Print Ed - Buy Later".  Sadly, later was too late.

So I don't know if this is the First Edition or the Second Edition.  Nor do I know how to tell the difference.

The point might be moot anyway since I also can't find a place to buy the PDF or, more to my wants, the physical book.   Maybe Ron Edwards will re-release it at some point like he did Sorcerer (the Kickstarter Edition for that is on the same CD-Rom).

Trollbabe (2002)

Trollbabe by Ron Edwards. 47 page PDF. Color cover, black & white interior art.
This game comes to us from Ron Edwards of The Forge, the one-time source of tons of interesting indie games.  It is a good example of his "Narrativism" part of his GNS Game Theory.   I am not going to get into GNS Theory here. I think it has some merit and as a theory, it does have value, but today is not the day to dig into that.  No today is about Trollbabes.  What is a Trollbabe? Well. That is sort of the question you get to answer with this game.  Trollbaabes are all women, there are no Trollbros, and she is half-human, half-troll.  How did that happen? You decide the game is not just agnostic on this issue, it flatly refuses to answer it.   In any case, your Trollbabe is tall and strong. She has troll horns and big "80s-style" hair. 

Since this is a narrativist, or what some would call Story-telling, game there is really only one stat. Your Number.  This is a number from 2 to 9.  Where do you get it?  You pick it. But before you do let us consider how it is used.  There are three types of interactions; Fighting, Magic, and Social.  
To do Magic you need to roll OVER this number on a d10. To Fight roll UNDER this number.  To perform a Social interaction roll whichever is better (over or under) and include this number.
Example. Let's go with my new troll witch, Grýlka the Trolla. Since I see her more of a magic-using character I want Magic to be her best.  So I choose 3 as my Number.  I don't see her as being much of a fighter really and an extreme number like this works well for magic and social.
Number: 3 Magic: 4-10 Fighting: 1-2 Social 3-10
If I have to get into a physical fight I am going to have some issues.
Choosing a 5 or 6 gives you a balanced character that can do a little bit of everything, but for my Grýlka here I want a character that thinks all problems can be solved with a bit of talking or throwing some magic around.

You can specialties to your interactions.  They do not add much mechanically but can add to the narrative and can prompt some re-rolls or other situations.  There are some suggestions but I am going with what fits my character concept.  For Fighting, I am going with "Staff" or Handheld weapons. Grýlka has no training in weapons other than to pick up a large stick.  For Magic, I picked "Witchcraft" or Troll Magic. this is likely to cause problems in areas where witches are feared more than trolls are. For Social I picked "Inquizative", Grýlka is very curious about her world, her magic, and how they all fit together. 

Next, you are encouraged to describe your character.  So Grýlka is a very tall, 6'5" trollbabe. She has large sheep-like horns pushing out of a nest of white-tinged-with-green hair.  Here eyes are green and her skin is olive toned. She does have two small tusks on her lower jaw.  She looks very strong (17 STR in D&D).  Her clothing reminds you of druids' with well worn, but well cared for leathers of muted greens and browns. She wears a headdress made of sticks to keep her long hair out of her face. 

Once you have your character the Game Master will then describe a situation you are in.  If D&D always starts in an inn or bar, then Trollbabe always starts with your trollbabe walking down the road.  
So a situation might be "you are walking along a well-trodden dirt road when you hear someone yelling 'help! fire!' you see smoke ahead and a barn on fire."  This is called a Scene. You are encouraged to interact with the GM on what happens.  So let us say that Grýlka comes into this scene.  Being Inquizative she wants to know what is going on. Seeing the fire she goes to the well and magically commands the water to come out and quench the fire.  I add that she speaks to the well in Trollspeak.
I roll, lets say I get  6. That is greater than my number of 3 and in range of Magic.  The water leaps up out of the well and quenches the fire.  There is a pause of shock and then the villagers all cheer! Grýlka is invited to a feast in her honor.  Of course, if I had rolled poorly then there would have been other things to happen.
Maybe there would have been a conflict.  If the player calling for the conflict is the GM and against my character than they can decide what type the conflict is.  Maybe it is a good old fashioned "villagers with pitchforks!" So the interaction is Fighting. Crap, Grýlka only has a 1 to 2 on that. Maybe it is time to run.
You can also combine types for other effects. Maybe Fighting + Social if she is trying to scare off the villagers by looking mean and strong.  She is strong, but not really mean.  

Modifiers are also discussed, since Grýlka was talking to the well water nothing was added.  But if the water had been in a river, and thus "wilder" her Troll Magic or Witchcraft might have given me a +1 or +2 on the roll. 

I love the bit on Troll vs. Human magic.  I plan to use this as a guide when playing Grýlka in other games.
Trollish magic is all about invoking and communing with the untrammeled wilderness, of any kind. It usually deals with “whole areas,” like a river, a lake, a mountain, the sky (ie immediately above), groups or types of animals nearby, and similar. It is especially effective or nifty when performed in groups.
Human magic is an individual scholarly art, based mainly on altering body function or behaviors. It is performed mainly through hypnosis, potions, and other “stagey" methods; a typical spell is cast by opening a phial and spraying a fine mist about, or by lighting a special candle and intoning a mesmerizing chant.
Grýlka is very much about trollish magic.

As this is a Narrativist game an important factor is Relationships.  If your Trollbabe forms a relationship with an NPC lets say you can control that NPC, though the Game Master has input.  So after saving the village an NPC falls madly in love with Grýlka.  We agree to let the NPC follow her around so he can prove himself worthy of her. This NPC then will try to do heroic, even stupid, actions to prove his worth and valor.  The Scale of this relationship starts out small, just this yet unnamed NPC and Grýlka.  This can change as the game goes on.  Maybe this NPC is really supposed to married to another village's daughter and now Grýlka has inadvertently caused an issue between these two villages. 
Details on Relationships between characters are also given.

There is a section on Adventures, some more details on Magic, and finally a discussion on the Narrativist style of Trollbabe and a glossary.

Trollbabe is a fun game that can be played by as few as two people. In fact the smaller the group the better.  This is not a bug, but a feature.  The aim here is not to kick in doors and kill monsters, but to have an adventure.  
As the GM for this, I personally would work up some sort of Narrative arc similar to Joesph Campbell's Heroic Journey.  But that is my take, other GMs can do something else. 

What I like Trollbabe, and Narrativist/Story Games in general, is I can use them a layer on top of more crunchy games. Trollbabe does this particularly well with the type of troll I have been talking about all week. Something like Monster Hearts for example works well with games like Buffy.  Yes. I can do the same thing with role-playing, so think of this as guided, or better yet, scaffolded role-playing.



On its own merits, Trollbabe is a lot of fun. Great to play with a small group or even for a couple of one shots.

In any case I would love to see a Third Edition of this. 

EDITED TO ADD. I did find this link for the PDF, http://indie-rpgs.com/unstore/games/title/Trollbabe

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Review: Tunnels & Trolls (Troll Week)

Tunnels & Troll might be one of the first "clone" games ever, but it really is a proper game in its own right.  The story goes that creator Ken St. Andre was browsing through the original D&D rules and thought he could do better than that so he sat down and created the first Tunnels & Trolls game in 1975.  D&D was barely a thing on the wider scale, though very popular still, and here comes T&T.

Over the years T&T has been updated, re-released, and otherwise seen many ups and downs the game itself has continued and has a dedicated fanbase.  It is easy to see why. T&T is easy to learn, has some neat little quirks, and is just plain fun.  Plus if you ever get a chance to meet Ken St. Andre at Gen Con then PLEASE do it. He is a great guy.

The name, Tunnels & Trolls, almost wasn't. It was almost Tunnels & Troglodytes, but that name was shot down by his players.  Since then the troll has become a sort of synonymous with the game and St. Andre himself. His twitter handle is @Trollgodfather and he runs Trollhala Press.

Tunnels & Trolls now holds the distinction of not only being the oldest RPG still published by the same publisher, Flying Buffalo, but also still controlled by its original author/designer. 

The RuneQuest Connection
Yesterday in my review of RuneQuest's Trollpak I mentioned that in my earliest days I thought Trollpak was a supplement for Tunnels & Trolls. Indeed both games did feature a lot of troll iconography.  But I think two it may have come with one other obsession of mine. Elric. I was (still am) a HUGE Michael Moorcock fan and I loved the Elric books.  I saw the game Stormbinger and I knew it used a similar system to both RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu.  I also knew that Ken St. Andre had worked on Tunnels & Trolls and Stormbringer.  I guess in my young mind I conflated all of that.  While I might never see my goal of a full Tunnels & Trolls/Trollpak mashup, my dream of an epic Stormbringer/RuneQuest/Call of Cthulhu crossover might still happen!

I have owned many different versions of T&T over the years. I have loaned some out, another is just gone (it is with my original AD&D books I think) and still at least one I resold in a game auction when I needed the cash.  I miss each and every one.
Thankfully I now have the PDF of Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls the most recent version and the one that is easiest to get.  I will be focusing my review on this version, with recollections of previous editions when and where I can.

Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls. 2015 Ken St. Andre, published by Flying Buffalo.
348 pages, color covers, black & white interior art (mostly) and a full color section.
Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls (dT&T) is a massive volume at 348 pages.  
The PDF is divided into Chapter sections, but more importantly, it is split into five larger sections; The Basic or Core Game, Elaboration, Trollworld Atlas, Adventures, and End Matter.

The Basic or Core Game
This covers the first 11 chapters and 160+ pages.  This most resembles the T&T game I remember playing sparingly in the 80s. This covers the basics of the game such as rolling up characters, equipping them, combat and magic.  T&T uses all six-sided dice for everything, so getting started is as easy as getting the rules and raiding your board games for dice.  Because we NEVER did that in the 80s.
Character creation is a bit like D&D and other RPGs from the time (or more accurately other RPGs are like D&D and T&T).  There are a few quirks that make T&T stand out.
Exploding Triples allow for some extraordinary characters. When rolling your 3d6 for stats (like D&D) if you get three of the same number, all "1s" or all "6s" for example, you re-roll and ADD the previous total.  In D&D rolling three "1s" is a disaster, but in T&T you then reroll and add that 3 (1+1+1) to your new roll.  Roll three "6s"? Reroll and add 18! T&T has eight abilities, Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Speed, Intelligence (IQ), Wizardry, Luck, and Charisma. They all map pretty close to D&D with the others Speed, Wizardry and Luck doing what they sound like. 
Kindreds, not Race. With all the discussion of the word "race" in D&D (yes, it is old and problematic and yes it should be replaced) T&T "solved" this issue by going with Kindred (and long before Vampire the Masquerade did).  This also leaves character creation open to all sorts of Kindreds. 
Personal Adds. For every point in a physical ability over 12 (the upper end of average), characters get +1 to their personal adds. Physical stats are Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, and Speed. These adds are combined and then used in combat.
Saving Rolls. All skills and nearly everything else use a saving throw like mechanic for resolution. The most common is a Luck roll, but others can be used.

There are three basic and one extra character classes. Warriors, Wizards, Rogues and the Specialist.
Kindreds include Humans, Dwarves, Elves, Fairies, Hobbs (Halflings), and Leprechauns. Each kindred then gets an ability multiplier. So if you are a dwarf and you rolled an 11 for Strength  your multiplier is 2 for a 22 strength! But your Luck multiplier is .75 so if your rolled a 12 it is now a 9.  Other attributes effected are height and weight. Fairies have multiples here of 0.1 and 0.01 respectively.

The equipment list is what you would expect with some odd improvised weapons (rocks) and even guns (gunnes) but these are still rather primitive in nature. 

Saving Rolls are covered in Chapter 5 and gave us what is essentially a dynamic Target Number mechanic YEARS before anyone else did.  You determine the level of the Saving Throw (difficulty) times that by 5 to get your target number. Players roll a 2d6 and yes doubles are re-rolled and added.
It's a simple mechanic that works well. 

Chapter 6 gives us some talents. Or things you can do other than wack monsters. 
Chapter 7 cover enemies and monsters and is a whopping 3 pages!  But that is nature of T&T monsters can be abstracted from just a few simple numbers.
Chapter 8 covers combat. If I remember correctly combat in T&T was a fast affair.  The rules support this idea. 

Chapter 9 is of course my favorite, Magic. There have been more than a few times I have wanted to adopt ideas from here for my D&D games.  In the end though I have kept them separate.  Spell levels go to 18 though you need some superhuman Intelligence and Dexterity scores to cast them (60 and 44 respectively).  Spells have a Wiz (Wizardry cost) so it works on a spell-point like system.  The spell names are something of a bit of contention with some people and my litmus test for whether or not someone will be a good player in T&T.  If they don't like the names, then I think they will not be good for the game.  Among the spell names are "Hocus Focus", "Oh Go Away", "Boom Bomb", "Freeze Please" and more.  I like them I would rather have a fun name than a boring one, but I am also the guy who made spells called "You Can't Sit With Us", "Live, Laugh, Love", "Oh My God, Becky!" and "Tripping the Light Fantastic".

Chapter 10 is Putting it All Together with general GM advice.  Chapter 11 covers the Appendices. 
This constitutes the bulk of what makes up the T&T game. 

Elaborations
This section consists of rules additions and other topics.
Of interest here is Chapter 13, Other Playable Kindreds.  This likely grew out of T&Ts sister game, Monsters! Monsters! In dT&T these stats for playing have been brought more inline with the M!M! book for more compatibility.   The attribute multipliers from character creation are repeated here for the main kindreds, and then expanded out for others of the Familiar (or most similar to the Good Kindred, like goblins, gnomes, and pixies) to the Less Common like lizard people, ratlings and trolls!  To the Extraordinary like ghouls and dragons.
The means in which this is done is so simple and so elegant that other games should be shamed for not doing the same.
Later on languages, more talents and accessories (minis, battle mats, virtual tabletops) are covered.



Trollworld Atlas
This section covers the campaign world of Trollworld.  A history is provided and the major continents are covered as well as a few of the cities. This covers about 70 pages, but it is all well spent.
This section also features some full-color interior art including some great maps.

Adventures
Pretty much what is says on the tin.  This covers the two types of adventures one can have with T&T; a solo adventure and a GM run adventure.  
Everyone reading this has experienced a GM run adventure.  But where T&T really sets itself apart are the solo adventures. This is a reason enough to grab this game just to see how this is done.

End Matter
This section contains the last bits.  Credits. Afterwords. Acknowledgments. A full index. Character sheets and a Post Card for the City of Khazan!


I am going to put this bluntly.

Every D&D player, no matter what edition, needs to play Tunnels & Trolls at least once.  They should also read over the rules.  I don't care if you walk away saying "I don't like it" that is fine, but so many of the things I see so-called seasoned D&D players and game masters complain about has a fix or has been addressed already in T&T. 

Like I mentioned with Trollpak who solved D&D's "evil race" problem back in 1982, Tunnels & Trolls fixed it in 1975.

Beyond all that T&T is an easily playable game with decades of material and support and thousands of fans online.  If you don't want to buy a copy to try out then find a game at a Con.  

Is T&T perfect?  No. It lacks the epic that is D&D.  If D&D is Wagner then T&T is Motzart. Easier to approach, but no less brilliant. 

For under $20 (currently) you get a complete game with enough material to keep you going for years. Plus there is such a wealth (45 years now) of material out there that you will never run out of things to do.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Review: Trollpak (Troll Week)

In many ways, 1982's Trollpak from Chaosium (and then later Avalon Hill, then Chaosium again) is the reason for my decades-long fascination with trolls in RPGs.

Like many gamers my age, it was the ads in Dragon magazine where I first came in contact with Trollpak. The ads were quite effective too.  Going back to Dragon #65 we get a dissected troll with it's guts all hanging out.  Nothing like that EVER appeared in D&D.

Back then for some reason, I thought this product was for Tunnels & Trolls and not the very obvious RuneQuest.   Even when I learned the difference I still wanted to combine Trollpak with Tunnels & Trolls, something I am attempting to try this week.

Sadly I never knew any groups that was playing RuneQuest so getting my hands on one to view was non-existent.  And my gaming dollar was stretched as it was back then, so buying it blind for my D&D games seemed a bit of a risk for me. 

Reading over the PDF now and some of the very few reviews I see that I certainly missed out and wonder what my trolls would be like today had I owned this back in the 80s.  These days I think I am fairly set in my ways, but is still there is so much here to use.  So let's get into it 



For this review, I am considering the PDF version of Trollpak that is currently being sold on DriveThruRPG.  This is a reprint of the original Trollpak from 1982.
216 pages, color covers, black & white/monchrome interior art.
By Greg Stafford and Sandy Petersen for Runequest 2nd Edition.
The original box set of Trollpak contained three books (the "pak" part); Uz Lore, Book of Uz, and Into Uzdom.  The PDF combines all three into a single file.  The PDF was released in 2019.
The books correspond to the PDF sections, "Troll Legends and Natural History", "Creating and Playing Troll Characters", and "Adventures in Trolls Lands" respectively.


Uz is the name the trolls of Glorantha give themselves and how their creation is central to the lore of the world.  Already this set is going to be the sort of deep-dive into a topic that you know I love.

On the very first page, we get an "in-universe" side-bar about how trolls living near or amongst humans begin to become more human-like and how both groups eventually take on an equilibrium.  
This sets the stage for this book in two very important ways.
  1. This book is steeped in the lore and legends of Glorantha. So teasing out pieces to use in other games might be trickier than I first expected.
  2. These trolls are NOT one-dimensional collections of hit points and potential XP and treasure.  If you prefer your monsters to be mindless evil races to just kill then this book will be wasted on you. 
Book 1: Uz Lore, Troll Legends and Natural History
We get right into the myths and legends of the Uz people/trolls.  We get a feel right away since we get a listing of the Seven Sacred Ancestors of the Uz even before the Gods.  It is right before the Gods sure, but the importance of these ancestors is emphasized. We learn that "Uz" means "the folk" in the Uz language. So the Mistress Trolls (akin to the troll mother race) are the Uzuz.  Dark Trolls, the corrupted "evil" trolls are the Uzko. And so on. Speaking of the language we also learn that the mother tongue of the trolls is a debased form of the "Darktongue." So in D&D terms "Trollspeak" could be a corrupted form of "Abyssal" or something like that. I think in old forms of D&D anyone who spoke the Chaos alignment language could speak to trolls.  

Speaking of Chaos.  The Law - Chaos access is also present in RuneQuest, though not as an alignment as in D&D but as elemental forces.  Another clue that these are your D&D trolls comes up that trolls are often seen as agents of Chaos WHEN IN FACT they were really some of the first victims. 
Let that sink in for bit.  If that were published today there is a certain segment of the hobby that would be screaming that they don't want "social justice" politics in their games.  But this is from 1982, from two of the titans of the RPG industry.  

The section continues with more history and recounting of great troll battles. There is a quasi-academic feel to this and that is really fun.   An example is an experiment a troll researcher did on a troll and a trollkin (a smaller version of troll) in which they were locked in a room with various items and the researcher recorded what they ate.  The point here is that Uz trolls can eat and will eat almost anything. 

We learn there are many kinds of trolls (as to be expected). The Mistress Race is the mother race of all trolls. They are ancient and wise and claim to predate all other races and even the world itself.  The other races of trolls are the Dark Trolls (your stock evil trolls), great trolls, cave trolls, sea trolls, and the diminutive trollkin.


We even get details on troll senses and how they differ from humans. Differences in trolls from region to region. Even a troll evolutionary tree and "prehistoric" troll cave painting and idols, there is even a six-breasted "Venus of Willendorf" style troll idol of the troll mistress race.
There is even details on the types of pets trolls keep. 

There is far more detail about trolls in this 64 page section than in all five editions of (A)D&D.
Nearly everything in the section is system neutral.  While it is tied to the world mythology at a fundamental level, it can be used in any game.

Book 2: Book of Uz, Creating and Playing Troll Characters
This section/book is all about creating a troll character to play in RuneQuest.  Before we delve into this let's have a look at this from "Playing Trolls,"
It is tempting to use trolls as monsters with weapons.
However, they are intelligent creatures who have survived despite gods and men. Several traits set them apart from humans as well, and they naturally exploit those special traits to their advantage. You should do so as well.
D&D players may have issues with playing races as evil or not, but RuneQuest had it figured out in 1982.

You can randomly roll which troll sub-species your character is from, with a 1% chance you are from the Mistress Troll race and 63% chance you are a miserable little trollkin.  Adjustments for all the types are given. Your troll can be wild, semi-civilized, or civilized. You can roll for social rank and equipment.  You can even see what starting spells you have since all trolls have some magic. You can even figure out what you were before you became an adventurer. 

Trolls are a matriarchal culture. So various home habits are focused around this.  For example, the more husbands a troll leader has, the higher her social standing. Looks like my troll character Grýlka gets to pick out a couple of husbands!
BTW, I LOVE the troll greeting when offering you hospitality in their lair.  They cover your head with a blanket or hide and say "I extend my darkness to protect you."  I am totally going to use that in my next adventure. 

Some gods are covered next and their worship. They have goddesses and gods of spiders, darkness, insects (very important to troll life), and the hunt. There is even a goddess of healing.
Coverage of domesticated giant insects is also covered since these creatures often serve the same function as domestic mammals in human life. 

Some new troll types are also covered.

This section by it's very nature is more rules-focused, but there is still so much here that is just good that it can, and should, be used in any other FRPG.

Book 3: Into Uzdom, Adventures in Trolls Lands
This section covers going on adventures in lands inhabited or controlled by the Uz. 
This section is very rules-focused as well with the first part covering random encounters in troll lands. 
There are also sample/small adventures like "The Caravans" which details a troll caravan of a heard of giant beetles.  Imagine this long train of trolls, some in wagons, others walking and in between hundreds of giant beetles being led like cattle in a long line.  Quite a sight really.  Another is traveling to a troll village and NOT treat everyone like a walking collection of HP.  This one is fantastic really for all the troll alcohol available and whether or not your human character can handle any of them in a drinking challenge. 
There are five larger adventures here and several smaller ideas for seeds.  The best thing though is the inclusion of a "mini-game" of Trollball.  This game is played like football and is supposed to be a reenactment of a battle from the dawn of time.  The "trollball" itself used to be a now extinct insect so other things have been used like badgers and in rare occurrences a bear, but most often it is a trollkin.   The teams each have seven players and one can be a great troll.  They are sponsored by a Rune Lord.
The game is brutal and sometimes deadly, but since there is a religious element to the game anyone killed on the field is brought back to life by the gods whom the game honors. Full stats for the Sazdorf Wackers and Tacklers is included so players can try their own hand at Trollball, but warning, the troll gods might not raise a dead human. 

There is just so much to love about this product. It is jammed packed full of ideas.  Part of me wants to adapt my D&D trolls to use these rules and another part of me wants to insert the Uz as-is into D&D as their own race or something akin to High Trolls.  

Trolpak was updated in 1990 when RuneQuest was being published by Avalon Hill.  It was then split into the Trollpak and Troll Gods. 

The "new" pdf restores all the content back to the 1982 edition. 



Reading it now after so many years I am struck with a couple of thoughts. The first is what would have happened to my own games had I picked this up and used it in my games?  Would my trolls today have a decidedly Uz flavor about them?  What else would have changed?

Also, reviews in Dragon Magazine for this are glowing and heap high praise on this book and they called it a leap in game design.  It was, but it was not a leap everyone would take.  RuneQuest/Chaosium did this for trolls like Chill/Pacesetter had done for Vampires.  There are s few others I can think of.  Orkworld did it for Orcs for example.  But still, these sorts of deep explorations are rare. 

So if you are over one-dimensional monsters and are ready to expand your options then this is for you.
If you are RuneQuest player of any edition then this is also something you should have.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Trolls and Trolla (Troll Week)

Grýlka, ePic Character
It's Troll Week here at the Other Side!

I wanted to start off things with an idea that has been floating around my head for a while now.

Yesterday I mentioned that the "D&D trolls" did not really fit with the trolls I was reading in myths, legends, and fairy tales that often also included witches. The trolls in D&D, of course, were inspired by the ones from the Poul Anderson novel Three Hearts and Three Lions, which also gave us nixies (myths), swanmays/sawn-maidens (also Celtic myth) and the Law-Neutral-Chaos alignment axis (along with Moorcock). 

The trolls I like are bit more like Tom, Bert, and William from the Hobbit, but I am also fond of the mountain trolls from Lord of the Rings or even Harry Potter.  

But trolls have a much longer history than that.  
I am not going to get into all the myths and legends of Norway, Sweden and Denmark, but I am going to touch on them a bit. 

One of the creatures I always felt was a troll was Grendel from Beowulf. He seems like a troll to me.  Close to human, but monstrous and horrible to behold.  He is described as a "descendent of Cain" but even Tolkien in his version of the tale says he "cannot be dissociated from the creatures of northern myth."  He dislikes the sun and is harried by the sounds of the men singing. 

If Grendel is a troll then what is his mother?  She does seem to be different to be honest.

Robert Zemeckis' version aside, she does appear to be a monster, but of a different sort.   She is described as "aglæc-wif" which is debated by scholars as to its true meaning.  Among the meanings are "monster lady", "devil lady", "ugly troll lady", and "troll wife".

I always felt she was some sort of hag.  It was here reading a kids version of Beowulf in the 5th grade that I first got the idea that male trolls and female trolls might be different sorts of creatures. 


This was turned up to 11 with Robert Lynn Asprin's MythAdventures and his trolls (male) and trollops (female).  Ok in my defense it was the early 80s and I was 10-12.

I have made a couple of different attempts at this over the years.

First was the Makava or Wood Hag. Though her role was more of the wicked witch in the woods. She typically has 2-12 trolls around her home to provide her with physical protection.  They could be her brothers or her sons.

Next was the Trollwife who was something of Troll Hag found in colder areas. She appears in my Winter Witch book.  The oldest known trollwife is Mother Trollwife and she is also a powerful witch.

While both are great and really perfect for what I wanted them to do, they are still not what I was looking for for this concept.

So I had to go to Sweeden.  Not literally of course, but rather in my research.
When doing troll research you go to Norway.  Norwegians love their trolls.  I spent a lot of time reading about Norwegian trolls and these trolls have magic. But myths don't respect borders and many of these tales also spill over into Sweden, Denmark (home of Beowulf) and via more invasions than I can recount right now, England.

But it was Sweden that got my attention.
The Norwegian word for "troll" is "troll."  Nice and easy.
The Danish word for "troll" is "trold." Ok. 
The Swedish word for "troll" is also "troll."
But, "Trolla" in Swedish means "to conjure" or "to enchant."  OK! I can work with this!

There are tales in Swedish folklore of beautiful trolls, or at least beautiful women related to trolls.
All have magic.  So you know where I am going now.

Humanoid (Faerie)
Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1-4)
Alignment: Neutral/Chaotic (Chaotic Neutral, Chaotic Evil)
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
Armor Class: 7 [12]
Hit Dice: 1d8+2** (6 hp) to 13d8+26** (85)
Attacks: 1 weapon or spell
Damage: 1d8 (or by weapon type) or by spell
Special: Regeneration (1hp per hour), witch spells, vulnerable to silver
Size: Medium/Large
Save: Fighter 1 or Witch 1 to 13
Morale: 10
Treasure Hoard Class: Varies
XP: Varies

A Trolla is a type of troll witch.  They are full-blooded trolls, but some magical force causes the trolla to appear as mostly human. Always female, these trolls are both feared and revered in troll society. 
Once a trolla is born, and it is obvious at birth, she will be taken to a nearby human community and left with the humans.  During the trolla's childhood and adolescence, no troll will attack her adoptive village but will be seen on the outskirts as if watching.  The trolla appears to be human in all respects save she is often small and sickly.

Sometime around her 13th birthday, a transformation begins.  The trolla, who has been small her life will begin to grow at a rapid rate. She will within a year be taller than all the other children around her. She will reach her full height at over 6 feet tall. Her previous ill health will be forgotten has her strength and constitution will increase to at least 17 each (if not more). The girl, who always had an impish cuteness about her, will grow into a truly formidable woman.  Even if not "attractive" by the village standards (although she very well could be) she will have a force of personality that makes her fascinating to all. 

It is at this time she must choose her life; human or troll.  Those that choose to remain among the humans can become great warriors for her people, but often do not do more than any other person in her village. 

The ones that choose the life of a troll become truly powerful.  Once the choice is made another transformation begins. Her hair, which had often been blonde or light brown becomes either white or green.  Her skin takes on a green tinge. Horns, which have just been below the skin of her head will grow, as do lower tusks and even a long tail.  It will be at this time the trolla learns of her true gifts, that of troll witchcraft.

Trolla advance as Troll Witches (Faerie, Green, or Winter Tradition) at a level equal to their HD.

Trolla also have the following powers.
  • Regenerate 1 hp per Hour. This can only be done in the dark since trolls are creatures of the dark. Fire and acid wounds cannot be healed this way.
  • Infravision 90'.
  • Witch magic. Trolla are witches. They not only can cast witch spells, but also gain the benefits of a tradition (occult powers) and a coven (ritual magic).
  • Trollspeak. Trolla understands the language of trolls, ogres and other fey creatures.
Also, the have the following drawbacks and restrictions.
  • Heathen. Trolla cannot benefit from healing magic unless it comes from another witch or a cleric of her own religion.
  • Silver weapons always do maximum damage. Wounds from cold iron weapons are treated like fire.
PC and NPC Trolla can become Fighters or Witches.

Grýlka, Trolla Witch
1st level Witch, Green Witch Tradition
Chaotic Neutral

Str: 17
Int: 13
Dex: 14
Wis: 13
Con: 17
Cha: 18

Familiar: Twigblight (neutral)

Spells: Cure Light Wounds

Grýlka is a trolla witch raised among a community of druids. Her adoptive parents knew who and what she was from the time they found her.  Unable to have children of their own they raised her as their own daughter.  When she turned 13 she began her change and her parents told her of her history.
She loved her parents but felt the calling of her troll blood too strongly and too deeply.  She chose to be troll. On her acceptance she was granted a twigblight familiar, a creature normally despised by druids, to guide her into the ways of troll magic.

Grýlka stands 6'3", 6'7" if you measure from the ground to her curving horns.  Her skin is olive-green. Her hair, which was always white, has remained the same as has her green eyes.
She carries a staff of striking +1, a gift from her druid parents.  She discovered that healing magic no longer worked on her and this caused a bit of a panic, so her first spell is Cure Light Wounds.

She is now seeking out others of her kind so she may learn more.


I am going to spend some time with Grýlka all week and see how she fares with all the other trolls we meet this week.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Troll Week Starts Tomorrow

I have been working from home since March 15th or so. It has been great really, work has provided me with all the tech I need. I wanted to make my life a little easier so I also set up my kid's old gaming computer in my office.  They still use for playing D&D online via Discord and Roll20, but I use it to test various things.  The computer still has CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives.

While digging through some old back-ups I found a download folder I had thought had been lost.

On it was a copy of Ron Edwards' "Trollbabe" RPG. 
I was reading through it and forgot how much fun it was.  It also got me thinking about trolls, troll magic, and all sorts of related topics.

I remember back in the earliest days of my Dragon magazine reading and getting mail-order catalogs from Games Plus and the Dungeon Hobby Shop one of the products that always jumped out at me was Runequest's TrollPak.  

It was the exact sort of deep dive into a singular topic that appealed to me then and now.  Of course at the time I thought it might be related to Tunnels & Trolls.  When I discovered it wasn't I figured I could convert it and have a Troll-focused game.

You can't read a bunch of myths, legends, and fairy tales about witches and not run across the occasional troll.  They are all over the place.   Especially any of the stories of Northern Europe.

What I never liked though was how the trolls of myth and in particular the trolls from the Hobbit looked and acted nothing like the trolls of D&D.  Sure ogres are fine, but thin rubbery dudes that regenerate? Not so much.  As time went on I of course saw where the D&D trolls came from and why they were chosen; a stronger differentiation between ogres and trolls needed to be made.  But I still never really liked them.

In my games I made a new troll, the Earth Troll, that was more like the trolls I saw in the books I was reading.  These trolls were often the lackeys of hags, in particular, the Wood Hag.  These were much closer and I would later go one to make more trolls.  The idea here that trolls are highly adaptable to their environment.  They are Lamarckian Evolution played out in D&D.  Put a troll near water and in a couple of generations, they are adapted to it.  

But one thing I never did and will do this week, is adapt Troll Pak and Tunnels & Trolls to the Trolls of D&D.


Looking forward to seeing what I can come up with!

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Games Plus Fall Auction

I have mentioned my Favorite Local Game Store, Games Plus, many times here.
They have a games auction twice a year, in October and in March.



This year they are looking for some advice on how to run their October auction.
While COVID cases are slightly down in Illinois, Cook County has seen some minor increases.  The state is generally going in the right direction, but things could change if people lose vigilance.

This game auction is often the source of all my rare and wonderful items I find.  

Why am I bringing this up to you all?  Well, one of the options includes a virtual auction that would allow you to bid from anywhere.   While I have absolutely no desire to have all the gamers that follow me bid against me, one of these options opens the auction up to people that have never been able to take advantage of the joy that is a Games Plus game auction.




So let them know what you think if you would like to take advantage of this.  

Friday, July 24, 2020

Friday Night Videos: Sounds of the NIGHT SHIFT, Welcome to the Academy of Magical and Paranormal Arts

Copies of NIGHT SHIFT: VETERANS OF THE SUPERNATURAL WARS are going out to the Kickstarter backers AND people that pre-ordered on the website.

You can order your own hardcover version at the publisher's website, at https://www.elflair.com/nightshift.html.

You can also buy the PDF at DriveThruRPG.

One of the things that really motivated Jason and me while working on this is music.  Spend any time here and you know I am a big music fan.  



So I thought it might be great to share some of the music that reminded us of the stories we were telling with NIGHT SHIFT and the games we have ran.

Up this Friday Night Videoes are songs from my playlist.  Tonight, songs from "Welcome to the Academy of Magical and Paranormal Arts" for the Generation HEX Night World!




Silver Anniversary Time

Wednesday was my 25th Wedding Anniversary!  We had plans to be in Jamaica this year, but given how Americans are been told to stay in their own damn plague country, we settled for carry-out at our favorite seafood restaurant (Bob Chinn's FYI) and a nice walk (been walking 5k+ every night since COVID hit).

My wife and I are at an age where we don't really want a lot of things. For me, it was better to spend time with her, our favorite restaurant, and plate of sea scallops.  Besides we are also at an age where if there is something we need or want we just go get it. I didn't bust my ass in grad school for nothing.

BUT.  That doesn't mean I am not going to treat ourselves.
While my wife is going to get a new garden shed for her hobby.  I went to my FLGS and grabbed something I have been wanting for 20 years. Consequently, it is also a 25 year anniversary item.


My FLGS has had the D&D 25th Anniversary edition boxed set in their "glass" case for some time.

It is a premium item and likely cost WAY more than it should have (and more than I should have spent) but it is something I have wanted, it was my anniversary and I had promised I was only going to buy local once everything had opened back up.

I got it and I am very pleased.

I knew of the contents of course, but it was so nice to have them in front of me.


While they are all reprints I didn't actually own the separate G series modules and my copy of S2 White Plume Mountain walked years ago.  All I have is a printed PDF.  So those are "new" to me.

The copy of Ravenloft is nice and a little different from my 1983 original.



The "new" material for me was the history book and Len Lakofka's L3 Deep Dwarven Delve.





With L3 in hand, I now have the complete Lendore Isle's Trilogy. (Yes, I DO know there are more on Dragonsfoot.)



The set is very nice and there is a lot of room inside for more.  But not everything belongs inside to be honest.   But I figure my Silver Anniversary Return to the Keep on the Borderlands would be fine.


I just need a good copy of Return to White Plume Mountain as well. (ETA I see there is a POD version up at DriveThruRPG!)

BTW Return to the Keep is seriously under-rated. I use it now whenever I want to run a Keep adventure. I just typicall show everyone the B2 module so they think they are getting the full "orginal D&D experience."

This set is a nice companion piece to my Arts & Arcana for D&D history.



So happy 25th anniversary to me, my wife and D&D (just 20 years late on that last one).




Wednesday, July 22, 2020

B/X Boxing Match: OSE vs. BX RPG

One question I have been getting since I purchased both the Pacesetter BX RPG and Necrotic Gnome's Old-School Essentials is "which one is better?"

Truthfully I am not really interested in "better" but instead "which is best for me" and "which one satisfies it's design goals best?"

Well, lets have a look!


Before I start let's agree on some terms and shorthand.

B/X refers to the D&D Basic and D&D Expert Boxed Sets edited by Tom Moldvay (Basic) and David Cook and Steven Marsh (Expert). 

BECMI while it might not come up, refers to the Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, Immortal sets edited by Frank Mentzer.  Unless a distinction needs to be made I am always referring to the B/X versions of Basic and Expert rules.

OSE refers to the Old School Essentials set from Gavin Norman and Necrotic Gnome. In truth I also mean OSE and the Fantasy rules.
OSE-Advanced refers to OSE with the Advanced add-ons; classes and spells.

BX RPG refers to the BX RPG by Bill Barsh and Pacesetter Games and Simulations.

The "Gold Standard" for any comparison is the B/X set.

I want to state unequivocally that I am very, very fond of all four of the above-mentioned games and they all have a place on my table.  Each one is used in my games. Sometimes separately, sometimes all at once.

Match 1: How well does the game emulate B/X?
So our first match is how well does each game emulate the source material of B/X.  
If we are talking "Rules as Written" then clear winner here is OSE.  If we are talking "Rules as played" then it can be a toss-up between OSE-Advanced and BX.  Both offer different takes on B/X + Advanced.  
I can recall my first paladin character was made in a mix of Expert and Advanced rules.  Eventually, BECMI would give us a Paladin, but mine was pure B/X.  Both sets offer a paladin class (among others) and they are roughly equivalent. 



Match 2: Layout and Art
The OSE game is a marvel of layout efficiency, modular design, and artistic expression.  There is not a ton of art in OSE, but what there is packs a punch.  Both OSE and BX feature "old-school esthetic" in terms of black & white art.  This is not a detractor, but rather a feature for me.
My biggest issue with OSE's layout is that it is TOO efficient and sometimes that leaves it feeling a little bit sterile.  Efficiency and modularity are two of the set's design goals so it is hard to fault them here.
BX RPG needs another round of QA check, but otherwise, it also meets their stated design goals.
OSE edges out here. 

Match 3: Options
Out of the box BX offers more options than core OSE. More classes, races, levels, spells, and levels. Here OSE's strength of emulation works against it.  If you have B/X and can play it without looking things up then OSE Core has little more to offer you.  
Adding the OSE-Advanced options makes it more attractive to the current B/X player looking for more but not wanting to dive deep in the AD&D ocean.  Still, even with these options in place, BX RPG edges out OSE.
Both games are promising even more options in the future so this one could be close for some time to come.

Match 4: Playability
OSE is so well organized it not only edges out the original B/X in this regard but even the well organized BECMI.  OSE though works best for players already experienced in B/X or any flavor of D&D. The modularity of OSE rivals that of 4e.  That is not a slight, but rather a compliment. The layout and modularity of 4e was a design masterpiece. 
BX RPG is less organized, but there is so much explanatory material that it is perfect for newer players or someone with no experience with B/X and wants to give it a try.
Verdict? If you have B/X experience then OSE is best. If you are new to B/X then BX RPG.

Match 5: Price per Value
This is much harder.  Both games are priced well. 

The physical BX RPG boxed set comes with books, adventures, and dice for US$50.  Though it is hard to tell exactly what is in the box from Pacesetter's website.  So I am not sure what is exactly in the box other than the rule books. This is just the physical books, no PDFs.

The OSE Boxed set can be configured in a number of ways on the Necrotic Gnome website. The Classic set, closest to the B/X game, is available in a box with hardcover digest sized books and PDFs for €60,00 (presently about US$68.50).  You can add on the OSE-Advanced options. 

OSE has a sturdier box and hardcover books and comes in a single volume option.
BX RPG has good box with room for dice and adventures.

So lower price entry for the boxed sets for BX RPG.  More buying options for OSE.

Which one is for you?
I hate to dodge this one, but that is really up to you and the games you are going to run.

For me? I am happy to have both systems. I think there is a slight edge on BX RPG for players and a similar edge for Game Masters for OSE.  The options of BX RPG make it more attractive to the player and the OSE-Advanced books work fine with BX and B/X (even BECMI).  The organization of OSE makes it a dream to run and find things.

One thing for sure for me, if I were to run either game I would invest in about four or five extra player books for the players.

BX RPG Player books can be bought here, PDF and Print.
Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy: Player's Rules Tome, PDF and Print/PDF.
(Note if you are outside of Europe you might want to go with this site for OSE products.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Review: Pacesetter Games & Simulations' BX RPG

So far it has been a good couple of years for fans of the classic B/X version of the D&D game.  This is one edited by Tom Moldvay, David Cook, and Steven Marsh.  It is certainly one of my favorites.  This scene has been dominated by the success of Necrotic Gnome's Old Schol Essentials, but it was not the only boxed set dedicated to BX D&D to come out in 2019.

The other was Pacesetter Games & Simulations' BX RPG designed by Bill Barsh.  
This set had a different approach and design from OSE. Different enough that I happily back both Kickstarters for both products.  While BX RPG can, and does, stand on it's own, comparisons to OSE are natural and merited. But I will keep them to a minimum.



The BX RPG from Pacesetter G&S was Kickstarted back in March of 2019.  There were some delays, but there was also a lot of communications so I never really worried.  In December 2019 I got my boxed set and the PDFs were sent out a bit before.

The boxed set and books were only available via Pacesetter's own website, BX store,  but now you can get the PDFs from DriveThruRPG as well. 

For this review, I am going to consider the box set, the softcover books, and the PDFs.

The main design philosophy behind the BX RPG was "remaster" the B/X rules into a whole and then split the material between a Player's Guide and a Dungeon Guide for Game Masters. The boxed set also included some adventures and dice, depending on your pledge level.


Pacesetter has a fun esthetic that shows a love and appreciation for the old-school rules but still manages to differentiate themselves in a world where every publisher wants a bit of the nostalgia dollar.   

Ultimately Pacesetter, like many publishers these days, is a one-man shop of Bill Barsh.  This leads to a consistent vision but also slows things down when the guy writing the material is also the guy editing the material and the guy shipping the material.  Sometimes this shows.

104 pages. Color covers, black & white interior art.
The BX RPG is split into the Player's Guide and the Dungeon Guide.  The Player's guide has all the information a player needs.  The book is broken down into creating a character, the character classes, spells, and other abilities of the classes.  Following the basic design goals, the information in this book largely cleaves close to the original B/X game. So things like the ability scores and their bonuses work the same way.  There are some optional rule sidebars, like giving max hp at 1st level and so on.  Likely things we all did anyway.  They are not part of the core rules and are presented as options.

Classes
This is one of the larger changes to the standard B/X rules.  In the BX RPG we have the same "Basic Four" of Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, and Thief.  We also get the Druid, Monk, Necromancer, Paladin, and Ranger.  Some classes get some additional abilities. Clerics have spell progression to the 9th level (but only up to 7th level spells are featured in the book).  Magic-users can use cantrips or 0-level spells in a fashion similar to what I have done with my Witch classes. Makes sense, it is an easy way to add minor spells to a Basic-era game. Druids, Monks, Paladins, and Rangers all get their expected abilities and powers.  They are a pretty good Basic interpretation of some standard Advanced classes. Fighters, Monks, Rangers, and Paladins all get extra attacks per round as they advance. 
The Necromancer is a truly new addition.  It takes the "place" of the Illusionist. Their XP totals are bit more than the Magic-user. While they do not get the ability to use cantrips, they control undead as a Chaotic Cleric might. Spell progression is a bit faster compared to a magic-user, but their selection is more limited.  It might be interesting to compare this Necromancer to the others I have seen in the past.
All human classes have a maximum of 18 levels.





Races
Since this is a B/X remaster, races are classes as well.  This RPG gives up the same trinity of Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling, and adds the Gnome and Half-elf race/classes.  There are some changes to these classes as well. Dwarves are limited to level 15, Elves to 18, Gnomes 18, Halflings 15, and Half-elves 18.  Gnomes and Half-elves have magic similar to elves. In fact, not much differentiates the elf from the half-elf save that the half-elf gains the fighter's multiple attacks per round and elves are better with a bow.  Halflings though get some minor thieves abilities which are a great addition and something that should have been part of the B/X rules in my opinion. 

Spells
The next 50 or so pages of the 104-page book are dedicated to spells.  They are sorted by class and then by level.  Clerics and Paladins share a list. Magic-users, Elves, and Half-elves share a list. Druids and Rangers share a list. Necromancers have their own list. Gnomes have their own list as well.
Like B/X and BECMI some spells can be reversed.  
There are redundances in the lists. For example spells like Light and Wish appear on multiple lists and the spell is repeated each time for those classes at the appropriate level as opposed to the B/X standard of "See 1st level magic-user spell of the same name" or listing all spells alphabetically and including what class can cast it, like 3rd Edition does. The advantage to this is if you have the PDf you can print out all the spells for your class and have them all attached to your character sheet.  Nothing jumped out at me as being particularly new in the spell area. There are few non-B/X, non-BECMI ones ported over from Advanced and some logical extensions of spells, like Wall of Bone for Necromancers. Again this largely fits in with the design goals of this set.  

There is a somewhat plain, but very pragmatic (often the same thing) character sheet at the end. 



The art is very much old-school inspired though I think some may call it "anime-inspired."  I actually rather like the art and love the cover.  The halfling, in particular, is great and from now on thanks to this and James Spahn, all my halfling will have mutton chops. 

The book could have gone through another round of edits and QA checks. There are some typos and some layout oddities. I am only mentioning them because others have. I only found the ones I did because I was looking for them.  Though one sticks out.  The Cleric spell chart going to level 9.  Hard to say if this is a typo (or editing mistake) or if clerics really do get 8th and 9th level spells and those will appear in a future product. 

112 pages. Color covers, black & white interior art.
One of the best features about the BX RPG is taking the base B/X game and redoing it all to split the Player's and Game Master's material into two books.   Makes it great for when you have a group and can get extra Player's books.
The Dungeon guide covers the basic rules including adventuring, combat, poison and granting experience.  These rules go into more detail than their B/X counterparts and more akin to the detail we see in BECMI.  There are more examples given for situations as well.  If you were a brand new player of Game Master for the B/X system then this set is a pretty good start to get you going. 

Creatures
A large bulk of the book is dedicated to creatures.  Here is a good mix of both the Basic and Expert sets with a few more thrown in for good measure. A lot of detail is given to the creatures.  Additionally, the stat blocks are bit more robust than with other Basic-era games, but not quite the detail we see in the 2nd ed AD&D game. Monsters are grouped by type, Animals, Giants, Dinosaurs, Dragons, Undead, and so on.  So if you are an old hand at this the monsters are easy to find, if you are new it might take longer. There are new monsters sprinkled around here and there. Some are new-to-B/X and some are new new.  So it is nice to get a little more variety. 
Demons are mentioned and this is the first explicit notice to check out another product and to wait for future ones. It seems the universe is telling me that Demons are a good thing for Basic-era games.



Gods, Demons and the Planes
In the first bit of overt world-building, the BX RPG takes place in Pacesetter's Misty Isles setting (Print, PDF).  There is note stating that more setting material will be available in Fall 2020.  Some gods are mentioned and they seem to be practical "D&D" like gods.  There is not a lot here, but enough for clerics to jot down a god on their sheets.  Demons seem to be like the D&D standards so far. No stats or names are given here.  

Treasure, Charts, and Appendicies
This section follows the monsters much like day follows night.  The usual treasure is covered here with a lot of magic items. There are no intelligent swords. 
Monster to hit and save charts follow. Along with Cleric turning, and Object saving throws (nice to have).

A sample dungeon in next and it is an excerpt from the module BX2 the Haunter Tower which is included in the boxed set (print, pdf). It's a nice intro to be honest and I got a solid Basic Set vibe from this. That is intentional of course. 



There are also random tables of monsters, dungeon settings/encounters, random treasure and even curses and monster summoning tables.

There is a bit on demi-humans using other classes. This book falls on the side of yes there are dwarf clerics and elf thieves, they just don't go on adventures. Though Game Masters have the ultimate say.

In my review for the Player's Book I ended with a note on the typos and layout issues. The same problem exists here. Though this time there were enough that a new version of the Dungeon Guide was sent to the backers of the Kickstarter. 




 The differences are about 12 pages and the older version of the Dungeon guide is stapled (like the Player's book and the original B/X books) the newer one is perfect bound.  The PDF only has the newer content.

The Boxed Set
The Boxed set comes with both books plus four adventures and a set of dice.








The adventures are not bad, very "Basic" is all senses of the word, but that is a good thing in this case.

I have been including my copy of B1 Legacy of the Unknown and B2 Beyond the Caves of Chaos

While overtly designed for AD&D1/OSRIC and AD&D1/D&D 5 respectively, it would be a great fit for the BX RPG.  In fact, it might fit better.


One thing I did find odd about this set was the fact there is no OGL statement anywhere in the books.  These were not released under the OGL.  While this is not a concern for the average player it does strike me as odd.

In the end this set does what it set out to do. Remaster the B/X rules by splitting up the Player and Game Master sections while adding the material from other sources to round out the game.  The final rules could have used another deft hand at editing, but there are no deal breakers in terms of readability or playability. 

The box can hold more books so I am planning to go over the Pacesetter material I have and see how well it all fits inside the box. 

I am likely to spend some more time with this set.
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