Showing posts with label DnD. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DnD. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Classic Adventures Revisited: B1 In Search of the Unknown

I want to look back at some of my favorite classic adventures both from TSR and others.  I'll give a review, though most everyone knows what is in these adventures by now, I'll also talk about how I have used them in the past and I'll also talk about what other games I have used them with or would like too.  So there is a little bit of Plays Well With Others in this too.

Why do classic adventures? Easy, I love these adventures.  I have written hundreds of my own adventures, some I have even published, but these are the adventures that everyone knows and we all have a history with.

B1 In Search of the Unknown
In Search of the Unknown was not the first adventure ever created, it was not even the first TSR adventure ever created.  It was though one of the very first adventures I ever encountered and one of the first I ever ran.

This is my "go-to" adventure anytime I want to start up a new group or game.  It's a ritual for me, roll up characters and run them through the halls of the lost Castle of Quasqueton. I still have my copy that I bought all those years ago and it was also one of the first PDFs I purchased from WotC. I also have the DriveThruRPG Print on Demand copy and it is very nice.



It is one of those adventures I can run with zero prep time and each time I learn something new or remember something I forgot. This module is simple, easy to use and can be adapted to any campaign world and even any game. It is a perfect module for the Basic game.

The adventure is a great case of both teaching tool for learning DMs (we were all new to this once) and DIY Dungeon.  Some areas are detailed, but many are not, leaving room for the neophyte DM to record what monsters and treasure were in each room.  There are also a plethora of cliche spawning Dungeon tropes, that were just getting started here.  Magic mouths, one-way secret doors, a mysterious creator of the dungeon, or in this case, two, and strange magical artifacts.

This adventure was the perfect learning tool for me at the time since my own version of D&D was a mix of Holmes Basic and the AD&D Monster Manual.   This "Basic" introductory module was released before the Basic game, but it moves elegantly between Basic and Advanced that begs you to mix and match your rules systems.  Author Mike Carr even gives some guidelines on how to use this adventure with AD&D.


Note how the using this adventure with AD&D is absent from the later printings.


The module is pretty typical for the time. 32 pages of b/w art and text. Detached cover with blue maps printed on the inside of the cover. The first 6 pages are dedicated to running the adventure and how to run this one in particular.

I have used this adventure to start every new campaign I have ever run in D&D, regardless of the edition.  The dungeon crawl here is so primal that it calls out to you. A true In Search of the Unknown indeed.   The one thing I never did, however, was to investigate more about who Rogahn and Zelligar were and why they left their lair of Castle Quasquenton.

One thing that B1 did give me, in a roundabout way, was my very first witch NPC Marissia.  She is in the lower parts of Quasquenton and she is attempting to summon the spirit of her master Zelligar and her father Rogahn.




The adventure has stood the test of time and it is a great combination of flexible dungeon design.  Nearly anything can be put into this adventure to raise or lower the difficulty as needed.

DriveThruRPG and DMSGuild offer this as both a PDF and Print On Demand.






B1 Legacy of the Unknown
This adventure is billed as a "sequel" from Pacesetter Games & Simulations.  It furthers the mystery of Rogahn and Zelligar and what they were doing.  There is a druid in this adventure named "Melissia" which I thought was very fun and worked as some sort of relative (daughter may be) of my own "Marissia", a witch NPC I always included in my own runnings of B1 In Search of the Unknown.

You can get this adventure from DriveThruRPG (PDF only) or from Pacesetter's own store (Print and PDF). While overtly designed for AD&D1/OSRIC, it would be a great fit for Pacesetter's own BX RPG.  In fact, it might fit better.

Other Games / Plays Well With Others

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition
The simplicity of B1 has made it an enduring adventure for over 40 years.  I have used it with every version of D&D I have ever played. But if you want everything at your fingertips for easy conversions I do recommend the Classic Modules Today conversion of B1 In Search of the Unknown.
Goodman Games also offers their Original Adventures Reincarnated, with B1 and it's various printings going into their Into the Borderlands Hardcover. It features the original printings of the original module as a complete 5th edition update.
There is also a set of maps that can be printed out or used with virtual tabletops.

B1 and Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
Like many old-school adventures, one merely needs to turn up the horror aspect to give it a good run in Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  Though there is not much that needs to be done to change it.  There is a feeling that Rogahn and Zelligar were messing with the forces of chaos a little more than they should have been.  Make that Chaos now with a capital "C" and we are getting the adventure closer to what we might see in AS&SH.  The one thing that always struck me about Quasquenton is that it is all underground.  It's not a castle, not really, but a warren.  Eric Fabiaschi suggests that the complex had been built by one of the older Lovecraftian races and the adventurers Rogahn and Zelligar only found it later.  It seems to fit for me.
Also given that B1 is an odd admixture of proto-Basic D&D, OD&D, and AD&D, the feel is perfect for AS&SH.


B1 and Blue Rose
In this mix, the chaos elements run the other direction so to speak.  Here Rogahn and Zelligar stumble upon an element of Shadow while constructing their castle/lair.   Maybe it has something to do with what I call the "Chaos Stone", Room 45/XLV "Cavern of the Mystical Stone".  This is obviously some artifact of Shadow and it either drone Rogahn and Zelligar mad, killed them or caused them to kill each other, or destroyed them outright.  Maybe all the above.
When converting ANY D&D adventure to Blue Rose I take some points from Fantasy Age where I can. In particular the monsters.  Typically in Blue Rose, you would not see this concentration of monsters in one place, the Chaos Stone/Mystical Stone is drawing them near.   As Envoys of the Sovereign, it would the character's jobs to find out what is going on and how to stop it.   I would give more background to Rogahn and Zelligar and stat up Marrissia a little more.
While this is a good "first-level" adventure in D&D, the implication of Shadow here makes this a much more dangerous enterprise.

Step with care here Envoys. More than your life is at stake.


B1 and Army of Darkness
One of my favorite mixes, but not my top favorite (more on that one next time).  Army of Darkness allows for all sorts of crazy adventures.  For the same reasons that B1 works for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, it works for this.  So imagine this, you have a party of Primative Screwheads, they are out in the woods. It starts to rain.  They find an entrance to a cave and boom, suddenly it is horror movie shenanigans. Monsters chasing you, weird-ass artifacts and cultists who are somehow still alive from the Middle Ages.  Have at least one archeologist to talk about how insane this all is and then go monster hunting and maybe, just maybe stop the forces of Chaos from ruling the world.  Use Dungeons & Zombies as your guide to covert D&D to Cinematic Unisystem.



Saturday, August 24, 2019

#RPGaDAY2019: Triumph

Today's topic is Triumph.

Let's all cast our minds back to the early and mid-80s when D&D was getting REALLY popular.



There are more, if you want to find them.  Lots more really.

The biggest Triumph we have had as RPG players and geeks, in general, is that society has come to embrace us.

The biggest movies in the world now are all nerdy topics that never would have worked in the 80s.  Comic-books, stories about wizards, Lord of the Rings, movies about Aliens.

Let's have a look at the at the top box office earners according to Box Office Mojo.

1Star Wars: The Force AwakensBV$936,662,2252015
2Avengers: EndgameBV$858,188,4152019
3AvatarFox$760,507,6252009^
4Black PantherBV$700,059,5662018
5Avengers: Infinity WarBV$678,815,4822018
6TitanicPar.$659,363,9441997^
7Jurassic WorldUni.$652,270,6252015
8Marvel's The AvengersBV$623,357,9102012
9Star Wars: The Last JediBV$620,181,3822017
10Incredibles 2BV$608,581,7442018

The only "non-geek" movie in the bunch is Titanic.

Now celebrities tout their geek and D&D cred like it is a badge of honor and respect.
Vin Disel,  Stephen Colbert, Felicia Day, Dwayne Johnson, Joe Manganiello among many others routinely talk about D&D.  Will Wheaton walks around Gen Con like he BELONGS there (spoiler, he does!).

And then you have something like this.
Actress Dominique Tipper from "The Expanse", a British/Dominican actress of color so no where near the stereotype of a D&D player.



Her Twitter posts after this have been a delight.  She is falling in love with the game so many of us love and it is a wonderful thing.

The Triumph of D&D is how we went from being persecuted in the 80s to being in the limelight today.

They say the best revenge is living well and D&D is living well indeed.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

D&D Essentials Kit: Unboxing and Review

Today I want to spend some time with the new D&D Essentials Kit.  I had held off buying this when it first came out.  It was only available at Target stores and it is designed to get people up and going in the D&D 5 game that does not have prior experience with D&D.  That is not me. Plus buying one means that someone new might not get a copy.  But I kept hearing really good things about it and the sales I have heard are really good.  So I opted to pick up a copy now.

Since I prefer to buy my game materials from my favorite local game store, I will pick up another one when they are released to games stores in September.  I am likely going to donate that copy to my kid's local high school gaming club.  It will be well recieved I am sure.

So for $25 what does the Essentials Kit have and what can you do with it?  According to the back of the box we have:
  • 64 Page Rulebook
  • Dragon of Icespire Peak Adventure
  • Double-sided poster map
  • DM's screen
  • 6 blank character sheets
  • 11 polyhedral dice
  • 81 cards describing magic-items, NPC and conditions
  • Access codes for D&D Beyond


Opening up the box we see:


The adventure has a familiar feel of all the D&D 5 books.


Cards.



The map of the Sword Coast.


The DM's screen.  It is similar to the DM's screen sold separately, but this is made of thinner material.


Character sheets. These are thicker paper than photocopier paper.


The rulebook covers nearly everything characters will need for levels 1 to 6.



And dice. 1d4, 4d6s, 1d8, 1d10, 1d%, 1d12 and 2d20s.

The Essentials Kit covers a bunch of material and it is a fantastic introduction to the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition game.  The rules are clear, cover all the necessary topics and items.

The Essentials Kit is designed to work with the Starter Kit, but in truth I felt the Essentials can stand on it's own.


Certainly together they make for a complete game.  The Starter Set has more monsters and another adventure. 

I think that there was a missed opportunity here to call these the Basic and Expert sets.



The easy comparison here is to the various Basic Sets we have gotten over the years for D&D.



One of the complaints of the Starter Set was the lack of character creation rules. There were some other complaints that I felt were overblown. But let's look at this new box and ask the basic question "can I run a D&D game with just this box?"

The answer is yes, of course you can.  But are the elements here? Certainly.
I went through my Holmes and Moldvay Basic sets (Metzer is similar enough to Moldvay for this) and picked out rules sections to see what they have and how the Essentials compares.

This is what I came up with:

Item/Rule/Topic D&D 5e Essentials Holmes Basic Moldvay Basic
Character Creation Yes Yes Yes
Ability Generation 4d6, drop lowest or array 3d6 3d6
Character Races Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Human Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Human Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Human
Character Classes Bard, Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, Wizard Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, Thief Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, Thief
and Race-as-class
Levels 1 to 6 1 to 3 1 to 3
Spells Yes (Bard, Cleric & Wizard) Yes (Cleric & Magic-user) Yes (Cleric & Magic-user)
Equipment Yes Yes Yes
Combat Yes Yes Yes
Monsters Yes, in included adventure Yes Yes
Magic Items Yes Yes Yes
DM's Section Yes, in included adventure Yes Yes
Running Adventures Yes Yes Yes
Sample Adventure No (but includes a full adventure) Yes Yes
Full Adventure Dragon of Icespire Peak B1 Search of the Unknown B2 Keep on the Borderlands
Character Sheets Yes No No* (but a page you can copy)
Dice Yes (11) No (Chits) Yes (6)

All three sets align well in terms of what you have.  You can start a character, choose one of four races and one of five classes and take them from 1st to 6th level with this box. And with this box there are already blank character sheets.

Like the boxes of old, save for my Holmes set made during the Great Dice Drought, all have dice.  All have included adventures and all have character creation rules.
Will Dragon of Icespire Peak go down in history like Keep on the Borderlands?  No. But it is still a very fine adventure.

The weak point of this boxed set as a complete game are the lack of a huge variety of Monsters.  Holmes featured 58 monsters.  Moldvay had over 70, more with variants and sub-types. Essentials has 33.  Still, a good amount and all three sets cover the same ones.  I don't see this as an issue since monsters can be downloaded from the SRD or the online Basic Game.  The Starter Kit also has Monsters as well.

So. The new Essentials Kit is a great starting place for people wanting to learn D&D 5 and have never played D&D before.  It is also good for anyone new to D&D 5 but has played other games in the past; though I would direct those folks to the Player's Handbook.

At 25 bucks the entry price is low enough for a casual gamer. 

The woman at the register at Target asked me if the game was for me or my kids.  I admitted it was for me, but my kids play.  She was telling me how popular the set has been and it was flying off the shelves.  I told her I knew, since this was the fourth Target I had been at in the Chicago'burbs looking for it.  She said her son had asked for it and she got it for him.  Now he and all his friends play at her house.  Cheaper than a video game and she knew where they were and what they were doing to whole time.

I think. No. I KNOW that Wizards of the Coast did the right thing putting this in Target stores.  If this gets the word out more about our hobby, then fantastic.

My next plan is to do some sample characters.  I have a new Bard, Cleric or Druid, and a Fighter I want to try out using just this box and do the same characters with the new Pathfinder.  Could be fun to see which character creation process "feels" the best.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Caverna do Dragão / Cave of the Dragon

Like many gamers my age I have had a "complicated" relationship with the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon of the 80s.  At the time I thought it was stupid. But as I got older I came to appreciate it for what it really was.  My kids LOVED it, especially my youngest son.  I bought the boxed set that came out with the D&D 3.0 stats and it was a great blast.

So the whole Internet has been abuzz when these pictures start coming out.


A cosplay group?  A new movie!? A Netflix series??
Nope. It's a Brazilian car commercial for the new Renault Outsider!




I have to admit. Tiamat looks freaking awesome here, and they really captured the feel of the characters.  I swear that Eric and Diana looked like they walked right out of the cartoon and into this commercial. 

My orginal DM just said on Facebook that they must have had a bigger budget for this 1 minute 45 second TV spot than the first D&D movie.  I am inclined to believe that.

AND now thanks to Renault we know how the story ends.

Now maybe Paizo can team up with Nissan for a Pathfinder commercial?

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Dungeons & Dragons Stranger Things Starter Set

There is no doubt that Stanger Things gave D&D a boost.
D&D 5th ed was already doing great and was on its way to being the best selling version of D&D ever before it became a major feature of the highly popular Netflix show Stranger Things.  When Season 1 premiered I had adults my age (who would have been the same ages as the kids in ST at the time) coming to me and asking how they could get a D&D game for their kids.

Well, I wish I had had this boxed set at the time.


The new Dungeons & Dragons Stranger Things Starter Set is making it's way to retailers now.
I picked up a copy on Amazon (to donate to my son's D&D club at High School...yeah they have now) and getting another one from my FLGS.

Truth be told I don't *need* it, but it sure is fantastic!

Done up like everyone's favorite red box D&D this is a starter set for D&D 5th Edition.  And it is PERFECT for anyone that is a fan of the show and wants to learn how to play D&D.
It does have the Wizards of the Coast logo on it, but also the "Hasbro Gaming" logo which is new.  Also since this is being sold not only in game stores and Amazon it is being released to Game Stops (the video game store) and other markets.   Hasbro is serious about backing D&D and I think it is going to be a huge win for them.

The box set includes a basic rule book similar to what we got in the first D&D 5e Starter set.  We also get an adventure "Written by Mike Wheeler", character sheets, a set of dice (mine are exactly like the ones I got in the Starter Set) and two "Demogorgon" minis; one painted the other plain.




Starter Set Rulebook
This book gives all the basics of D&D in 44 concise, full-color pages.  Everything is here to get you started. How to play, the basics of combat and adventuring, a chapter on spell casting and a subset of magic items and monsters.  Pretty much what you expect in a "Basic" set.
Instead of art we get some screen grabs from the ST show.
There are stats for the Demogorgon monster (not the demon).

Hunt for the Thessalhydra
Ok, truth time, I LOVE this. I want more adventures like this.
The sample adventure is done up to like a notebook written by Mike from the show.  Complete with wide ruled notebook paper background and Jr. High style art (only much better).  D&D artist Stan! is behind this one and I could not be happier about that.


The adventure is as old-school as summer 1983. You have a quest, a knight a monster to defeat, a table of rumors. Troglodytes! (art takes it inspiration from the Monster Manual) and random encounters.
The adventure is not ground-breaking, but it is not supposed to be.  BUT it does take place in the "Upside Down", so that is cool. They describe it a bit like the Shadowfell, but no attempt is made to make it part of the larger D&D 5 cosmology and that is perfectly great by me.  There is even a sword from the Upside Down.
And no Refrigerator Aleena in this one, there is a Proud Princess that will aid the characters but they can't even harm her if they try.  She is obviously the Eleven stand in.

Character Sheets
These are all stand-ins for the kids on the show, more or less, We get all the major races; elf, dwarf, human, half-elf, and half-orc. No halfling though. And a good subset of classes; bard, cleric, paladin, ranger, wizard. But no straight up fighter or rogue.  A halfling rogue (or maybe a zoomer!) would have been a nice touch.  No names or genders on the sheets as it should be.

Dice and Demogorgons
The dice a pretty standard, same set I got with the other starter set.  There are only six (as were in old-school sets) so no d%, there is a standard d10 (and d4, d6, d8, d12 and d20).
The Demogorgon minis are the weakest part of this set.  The minis are the right scale but the plastic is really flimsy. The "painted" one only has a little bit of orange on it. These are not the Wiz Kids minis we get at game stores, these are made by Hasbro and appear to be made cheaply so they can make tons of them.

But really, this box hits all the nostalgia boxes AND is still a solid introduction to the D&D 5 game.





Monday, January 22, 2018

This Could Be Hobbit Forming, Part 2

Note: Part 1 is here and more discussion is here.

Well I have one kid down sick and another I had to rush to the ER because he cut off the tip of his finger.  (Both kids will be fine).  But that, of course, means no weekend gaming report.

What I did though was give a little more thought on what my Middle Earth game might be like.

I know there are some perfectly good Lord of the Rings/Middle Earth games out there.  I played MERP in the past and I was one of the playtesters for the Cubicle 7 The One Ring game.  I will talk about those at a later date.  There are also some other games that others have let me know work well for Middle Earth.  I might touch on those too, no idea yet.  One, Rolemaster, intrigues me because it is not the sort of game I normally would do with RM.

No. Today I want to talk about something I have wanted to do forever.  D&D in Middle-Earth.  So per my normal weekend-game prep I set some books up on the old-treadmill and went for a run.

I think by now we all know that the effect of Tolkien on D&D has been purposefully diminished over the years.  The reasons are varied (and various) but largely seem due to avoid more legal issues.

The evidence is there that Tolkien did have an influence on D&D.  Here is my copy of Chainmail with the Fantasy Supplement.


Moving in on this.


So here we have "Hobbits", "Balrogs" "Ents" and even "Nazgul" among the standard "Elves" and "Dwarves".   These were scrubbed from later editions.

Regardless of all of that, it brings up my first candidate.  Original D&D.



OD&D has a LOT going for it.  The rules are really stripped down, the class selection is few and the overall power level is what I feel represents the average to high-level adventurers in Middle Earth. Despite wizards, dragons, and rings, Middle Earth is a low magic setting.  Even great swords like those forged by the elven smiths in Gondolin are at best what, +3?  Nothing like a vorpal sword, or even a sword of sharpness.  OD&D does this really well.

The biggest issue I have with OD&D is that I already had a grand experiment with it.  Back in 1988 I spent a summer playing in an OD&D campaign with rather mundane characters; 3d6 in order, no substitutions unless an ability was lower than 7.  Now don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the hell out of that game.  But I am not sure if I want to do that again or not.

Naturally, I thought, maybe Basic D&D is the way to go.


I am planning on limiting my Middle Earth game to just 10th level.  If I throw in the Expert set I might go to 12.   Here again, there are a ton of compelling reasons, for me, to use this.
I love Basic era D&D.  I can do so much with it.  I also even think that race-as-class would work; except for a halfling burglar.

While I really wanted to stick with something pure D&D at about the 1-mile mark I came to a realization.  The game I want does exist.   It is OD&D like.  Limited to 10 levels. And has the feel I Want in a game.   It is +James Spahn's The Hero's Journey Fantasy Roleplaying.



Hero's Journey is James Spahn's love letter to the Hobbit and the kinds of adventures inspired by it.  This is not a grimdark game so it would fit my needs perfectly.  Plus James has worked on Cubicle 7's Adventures in Middle Earth RPG so he has the background to pull it off.

Now. I have no idea if I would include my own Hedge Witch in this.  She doesn't really fit, but I pulled my book anyway to see.  Hero's Journey not only has the feel I want, but it also has the classes I am looking for.  While I am not likely to use OD&D/Basic/HJ's Wizard or Magic-user at all, I do see a spot for the cleric.  Only instead of serving gods they the scholars of Arda.  Plus we will need some healing magic.

I think I am going to come up with a basic character concept, maybe even a couple, and see how well I can create them in these games and selcted Middle-Earth dedicated games.
Obviously I will have to use a young hobbit adventurer, a dwarf fighter of some sort maybe an elf and a human too.


This won't be a long-term or even a serious campaign, but one I can run when I have the desire to do something light.

Just need to find a time to set it all in.  I am thinking at the start of the Third Age or maybe near the end of the Second Age.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Wizards of the Coast Print On Demand: The Results, Part 3

Today is Tuesday so that means new releases.  Wizards of the Coast has some new classic D&D books up for POD today.  Be sure to check them out.

Today I want to compare the POD 3e Draconomicon to the one I bought my son when it first came out.
A bit of background.  The Draconomicon is a watershed book for the Brannan family.  I got it for my son because he loved dragons. Still does really.  Well he carried this book with him everywhere for years.  Needless to say it is in pretty bad shape.  I have wanted to get him a new one for years and I have seen many at Half-Price books and of course at my FLGS, but none have jumped out at me saying "buy me".  We I opted to spend some of the money from the sales of my own books on the POD version.  I splurged and got the "Premium Heavyweight" paper.

In the pictures the original print in on the left side of your screen, the POD on the right.


Side by side it is hard to know which is which.  The art on the POD version seems a little bigger.  You will notice there is a spot on the bottom where the cover doesn't quite make it to the bottom.  I have seen this before on other books.  Sometimes it prints like this other times it doesn't.


The Heavyweight POD is noticeably thicker than the original print.



The POD does not have the dragon art printed on the inside cover.  The images are repeated in the original printing but only one of each in the POD.  The POD actually looks more interesting.



Inside the books are remarkably identical.


My son was 6 when I got this for him.   He carried it to school for two years straight.


This is the LightningSource/OneBookShelf page added to all the books.   So no chance someone will mistake these for originals if they know to look for this.


Equally, the original features an ISBN barcode.  The the POD has a different one that is not an ISBN.


The spines are also very different. This of course is by necessity to accommodate the varying thickness of the paper choices.

In all I am happy with it.  It doesn't look like my original, but that is fine with me.  It makes it more of a "new" book in some respects.  Yes, just like the original I am giving this to my son for Christmas. Don't tell him.

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