Showing posts with label old-school. Show all posts
Showing posts with label old-school. Show all posts

Friday, November 15, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend: Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #7: Dread Swamp of the Banshee

Mark Taormino is living the dream.  He is working on producing his next module in the Maximum Mayhem Dungeons series, this time it's module #7: Dread Swamp of the Banshee.  This time the adventure is written by author Joe Pearce and it looks great!

Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #7: Dread Swamp of the Banshee


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/marktaormino/maximum-mayhem-dungeons-7-dread-swamp-of-the-banshee?ref=theotherside

It looks like the same sort of insanity that his other adventures feature.  Old-school maps and adventures and way over the top gonzo fun.

Plus you can pick up all his past adventures as well.  Combined they make a great campaign that your characters will never survive.


Check out the review I did for his first five adventure and monster book.

Mark know his Kickstarters.  He gets them done and he gets them out to you. I trust Mark.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Review: B/X Gangbusters

The latest game to take over the Old-School gaming scene like, well, gangbusters is the new B/X Gangbusters; an update to the old TSR Gangbusters.

Gangbusters is a new game from Mark Hunt based on both the original Gangbusters and Basic/Expert D&D.  At first, I was a little wary of this.  It seemed a little too close to trademarks and I have seen some shady stuff.  But it turns out that Mark legally owns the Gangbusters trademark and this has been a dream of his for some time.  Reading his posts about it online you get his enthusiasm and it is contagious.  So does it live up to the hype? Let's check it out.

Gangbusters is an old school game built on the Basic version of D&D; or at least a suitable clone of it.  So if you know that game you how this one works. 
Characters have a choice of class; Brutish, Connected, Educated, and Street Smart. And each class has six levels, complete with level titles no less!

Each class gets a good write-up and running them through my memory of Good Fellas, The Untouchables and the Godfather I think they cover just about everything.  My tastes would run more towards Private Eyes so Connected and Street Smart would be great for me.

The alignment system here is Law vs. Neutrality vs. Dishonesty.  It works. It works rather well, to be honest.   

There are a lot of lists of equipment with 1920s costs.  For historical games, I love this stuff. 
There are guides for playing characters and playing in the time period.  

Part 3 is the newest material, Piece Of the Action, covers playing the Gangbusters game. A lot of great information here. 

Part 4 covers Game Mastering or Judging. This covers running a city.  Now, this is where I commit heresy, but there some great stuff here I might steal for other B/X style games.  This also covers awarding experience points.

For Part 5 we get Investigations.  Part 6 deals with Law Enforcement and Part 7 handles The Encounter.  The big gem of Part 7 is the table of vehicles. 



Part 8 is Wandering Adversaries and that is our "Monster" section.  It is 100% or at least 99% compatible with every other OSR game.  Though these are city adversaries of the 1920s.  You get adversaries like Angry Mob, Cat Burglars, Gangsters, Klansmen,  Moonshiners and more.  I have to admit, I now want to send a coven of my witches after a group of klansmen. 

Part 9 covers Combat.  This is expected stuff, but the really cool thing are the Saving Throws.  Gangbusters gives us, Moxie. Quickness. Toughness. Driving. and Observation. Really, how awesome is that?  

There is an optional section here that grabbed my attention. Mysterious Powers allows you to play as Golden Age heroes.  That is a very, very interesting development.



The game comes as a PDF and a Print on Demand book. Color covers and Black & White interior art.   It comes in at 63 pages.  The game is also released under the OGL.

How Does it Compare to Original Gangbusters?
By using the "Basic" system there are a lot details in the original game that are not needed in the newer game.  For example, skills are less of a game mechanic in the newer game.  The original Gangbusters has more detail on various weapon effects but the newer game is far better organized. 
OG Gangbusters weighs in at 64 pages, as was common for TSR at the time and a smaller font.  So it, in general, has more text, but that doesn't mean more game in this case. 

All in all. Gangbusters is a great game.  Part of that greatest comes from Mark Hunt's enthusiasm and his obvious love for this game.  Personally, I would get it for that alone, but thankfully the game here is also great all on it's own.   

If you enjoy the 1920s, Gangster films or even, like me, B/X D&D and related games, then this is a must buy.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Reviews: OSR Mars

I have always been fascinated with Mars.  Not just the Mars I used to look at through my telescope as a kid, but also the worlds of Burroughs, Wells, Smith, Heinlein, and more.
I have often, very often, wanted to run an OD&D game on Mars, or rather a mix of Barsoom, Wells, and the Mars of DC Comics.

So one of my "Holy Grail" items has been Gygax & Blume's Warriors of Mars game. Though every copy I have ever seen is so far out of my price range.  Usually over $1,000 and one I have seen for $4,000!

I like Mars, but not that much for something I am also going to house rule a bit on. 

Thankfully, we have many talented people in the Old-School games scene that can help me with my Mars obsession.

Warriors of Mars - Barsoom by "Doc"
Up first is a fan reproduction of the Warriors of Mars book.
This is from the OD&D Forums by a user named "Doc".  The PDF was reformated by Jason Vey and done up to look like an OD&D book with permission from Doc.   The book also called Warriors of Mars uses the art from the original and naturally feels like an OD&D book with better typesetting.  At 28 pages it covers the basics and the focus is more on D&D than the original 56 pages TSR Warriors of Mars which also used a lot of Chainmail rules.  I am happy this one is out there since it gives me a basis of comparison for future books.  Plus it lets me know that I really don't need to spend 1000 bucks.




Now getting to ones you can buy.

Warriors of the Red Planet
by Al Krombach with art by Thomas Denmark and published by Denmark's Night Owl Workshop.
The PDF is digest-sized, single column, with black & white art from Denmark (so you know it looks great). At 128 pages it is a good-sized volume.  And all for $8.00.  They could have made it $10 and still it would have been a great price.  Overtly the book is for Swords & Wizardry.
This game is more inspired by Burroughs than actually being Barsoom.
There are five races to play, Ancients, Elevated, Exotic, Humans and Unliving. And four classes, Fighting Men, Scoundrels, Mentalists, and Scientists.   Each class goes to 10th level.
Mentalists have powers, Scientists have gadgets and they both work roughly like spells.
There are rules for character creation, equipment (including swords and rayguns), and several examples of play. 
While I said it is overtly for S&W, there is Ascending and Descending AC and "Basic-like" saving throws.
There are some great monsters added to this as well.  Any of which can be ported over to any OSR games if you wish.  Many are recognizable from Burroughs, but there are plenty more as well.
Some of the races get more detail in the appendix.  While an Exotic can nearly be anything (with random tables to boot!) some of the more common types are listed here. As per Burroughs we have Red, Green, Black, White and Yellow Martians.  Earthlings on Mars are also discussed.
Appendix A covers all sorts of random terrain, building, missions, and the unexplained along with weird science artifacts.
Appendix B adds the eldritch to Mars with the Sorcerers of the Black Gate.
Appendix C adds an optional skill system.
Appendix D covers ship to ship combat.
And finally, Appendix N (yup) covers suggested reading.
Again, this is a great book and 100% compatible with other "old-school" books from Night Owl Workshop. And easily worth twice the cover price in my mind.

BX Mars
This is a newer book from Michael Gibbons who also does the illustrations.  Here we get a full (8.5" x 11") PDF at 104 pages with Black & White art.  The author makes a note that the B&W art fits the mood of the game and I can't say I disagree.
This book also is more inspired by Burroughs, but the DNA is a little more obvious here.  Also, the book is designed to be used with B/X style games, this also goes to level 10 (not level 14 as some B/X games).  That's also great by me. 
The classes and these are race-classes, are Princess, Warrior, Thark! (no idea why the ! is there), Menton and Terran.  The classes are pretty much what you think they are. A couple of points. Princess is only open to Red Martian women; there is no Prince class (and sadly no Purple Martians).  The Menton is a psionic using class with powers detailed in the book.
There is also something called "Mastery" which works a little like Feats from 3/4/5e but has a solid B/X/Old-school feel to them. They work quite well here.
There is a Campaign/World-building history here.  It is some good background and fun to add to any game whether you are playing as straight-up Barsoom or something else.
This book has a completely different feel than the other Mars books out there.  While all the books I have looked at list mostly the same sources as inspiration, this one comes closer to Heavy Metal than most.  Also if I ever wanted to play a Herculoids game this would be the first book I'd grab.
The art has a really cool style that I don't often see in modern RPG books, but it fits this one perfectly.

If I wanted to describe the differences between WotRP and BXM, I would say WotRP was later Led Zeppelin and BXM is Blue Oyster Cult.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

It was 20 Years Ago Today...

All apologies to the Beatles, but it was 20 years ago today that I released my very first witch book on the internet.


It was a "netbook" back in the days before the OGL and when TSR would go after everyone for even talking about D&D online.  This really put me "on the web" as it were.  Of course, I also published it under my pseudonym of "Web Warlock" at the time since I want to keep my "game" writing separate from my (then) Academic writing.

Today I am celebrating the release of The Basic Witch: The Pumpkin Spice Witch Tradition and the last couple of hours of the Kickstarter for NIGHT SHIFT.

It has been a really fun game design carrer. That little witch book I published while sitting in the hospital after my son was born got me into working with Eden, doing some of the D&D 3e playtests, and then a lot more.  But 20 years ago was when it all really started. Also kind of fitting it was 40 years ago that started playing this game to start with!





New Release: The Pumpkin Spice Witch Tradition

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

The Basic Witch: The Pumpkin Spice Witch Tradition



Samhain Blessings!
Autumn.

A time of change, a liminal time between times. A time for warm sweaters, pumpkin spice, and witchcraft!

Introducing the Pumpkin Spice Tradition, witches dedicated to this time.

- The Sisterhood coven
- 122 Spells and Rituals for witch characters
- New magic items including magic cauldrons, masks, and tea. Plus the magic item black market
- 3 Non-player characters to challenge or aid the mightiest characters

Fully compatible with Labyrinth LordTM and other Basic-Era games.
(But pairs nicely with Advanced Labyrinth Lord Pumpkin Spice 2019 Edition)

Fully compatible with other witch books from The Other Side.

Available Now!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

NIGHT SHIFT: Talking 'bout my Generation

We are getting into the final days here for NIGHT SHIFT so I thought I'd share some more details on two of my "Night Worlds" for the book.  Some details will certainly look familiar to readers here.



Ordinary World
This is one I have talked a bit about here.  The idea behind Ordinary World is a simple one.  You are some sort of supernatural creature.  A witch, a vampire, maybe an exiled fae.  You are just trying to get by in a world full of other supernaturals, humans, and hunters. 
Every character will get the Supernatural levels for free (different than the core rules)  BUT you have to work blending in amidst all sorts of hazards thrown at you. 
There is a government group known as the Bureau, that wants to grab any supernatural they can to either dissect or use as a weapon and they already have few working for them now.
There are is an underground slavery market of Supernaturals run by "demons" that also want to grab you.   There is a group of Witch Hunters known as the "Dorothies" that really, really want to burn you alive.
And there are the humans that do what humans do in large groups.

And you just want to get to your job and pay the bills!

Lots of urban intrigues and working against a huge enemy that has all the advantages.  It will make you wish for the days of just dealing with angry mobs with pitchforks.

I am planning on introducing some new supernatural types including Cat People.

Generation HEX
Another one I have talked about here.  This one has two focuses, foci, there is more going here.
First, magic is back and everyone knows it.  But it is only the newest generation that can do it.
So there is that kind of world to deal with.
The second aspect of GenHEX is the magical school aspect for the first generation of new witches in 300 years.

You get some of the struggles of Us vs. Them as we do in OW, but this is Magic vs. Non-Magical, as well as Generational. 

Characters will all be younger, high school age, with some members of their magic-using Generation as just a little older, maybe in their very early 20s.

Rule additions here will be more kinds of magic and rules for running a Generation HEX school in any of the other Night Worlds or even other Old School games.

We have so much more planned for you all.  So give us a little support on the Kickstarter if you can!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Cult of Diana: The Amazon Witch for Basic Era Games

The first of TWO related releases for Lughnasadh and Mabon and continuing my Back to Basics series.

Cult of Diana: The Amazon Witch for Basic Era Games


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/286580/Cult-of-Diana-The-Amazon-Witch-for-Basic-Era-Games?affiliate_id=10748

Diana, Queen of the Hunt!
“Let us be Diana's foresters, minions of the moon”  - William Shakespeare

Artemis and Diana, Forever Young. Forever Wild.
Time out of mind the symbol of Diana meant freedom. And in freedom there is Power.

This book introduces the Amazon Witch Tradition. Witches from the ancient time of myths and legends.

 - The witch class and two new witch covens

 - 40 Spells and 8 Rituals for witch characters

Fully compatible with BLUEHOLMETM and other Basic-Era games.

Fully compatible with other witch books from The Other Side.

All for the low, low price of FREE.

Overtly this is designed to go with the Blueholme Prentice Rules. This gets you going using my Holmes inspired witch class for the price of a couple of clicks.

Also, check out the first of my Back to Basics witch books, The Daughters of Darkness for Basic Era Games.



AND Coming soon...

Children of the Gods: The Classical Witch Tradition also for BLUEHOLME!


Thursday, August 15, 2019

#RPGaDAY2019: Door

Today's topic is Door.

There are a lot of doors in D&D.  Which reminds of that old saying and my response to it.


D&D taught me that closed doors are supposed to be kicked open.

I feel the same way about "Gatekeepers".  This is a topic that has been coming up a lot lately.

Some groups are claiming that other groups are gatekeeping and those groups are claiming they are not.  I can't speak to any groups really, save my own.

Take the lessons we all learned in D&D. If you see a door, or a gate, kick it the fuck open.

Or better yet, say fuck you to those groups and do your own thing.  Someone says you can't play their way, kick in the door and take their shit.


I don't normally call out groups but I do want to mention what is going on in my back yard.

So a while back there was this new movement started to counter what they thought were some of the more regressive elements of the OSR scene.  They called their movement #SwordDream and I personally think they have some interesting ideas.  I am not 100% sure what they are doing will last, but I don't know.  I can't say though I could name a product that has been made yet under the SwordDream banner, BUT that has more to do with mether

Should the OSR be worried? No. In fact, they should be thrilled this is happening.  Competition should bring out the best in everyone and if one group wants to do things one way and another wants to do another thing then we should all be happy right?

Well...there is that whole gatekeeping thing.  SwordDream has mostly been met with derision among some old school stomping grounds and outright hostility in others.  Yeah I know, I have read the posts.  These are also the same people that will claim NOT to gatekeep. 

See the problem is that gatekeeping is not just telling people they can't play it's also telling them their way of play is wrong.  Or thinking their way of wanting to do things is wrong, or lesser, or stupid, or whatever.

Is the OSR full of regressive types? Full? maybe not. Are there a bunch of old fucks that don't want people to sit at their table? Yeah there is.  Are there good people in the OSR too?  Of course! Lots really.  I kinda wish that the critics of the OSR would see those people too.

What are you the new young gamer supposed to do?  Kick in their door.  Or better yet tell them you don't want to sit with them anyway.

Kick in that door. Do your thing. Do you.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

#RPGaDAY2019: Familiar

Today's topic is Familiar.

Again, I think I'll make a hard turn here and talk about Familiars; as in animal familiars, not something that is familiar.


I have talked a lot about familiars here. Books on familiars, spells for familiars, and what familiars could do for witches and wizards.

Sometimes I have pondered doing a book on just familiars. An OSR books for both witches and magic-users/wizards.  I'd include animal companions for druids as well.

But there are already good books out there for that and most of what I have wanted to add have been already added to my various witch books.  So maybe there is no need.

Still. It could be fun.

What do you all think?  Would this be something anyone is interested in?  I wouldn't do it if I didn't add a bunch of new material.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Review: Blueholme Journeymanne and Prentice Rules

It's been a year of Basic-era games for me and I want to talk about one of my newest favorites today.

Earlier this week I talked about the new D&D 5 Essentials Kit, I wanted to have another look at my own roots, the D&D Holmes Basic Set.  The Holmes set is one of the few versions of the D&D games you can't get from DriveThruRPG.  You can, however, get the Blueholme game from Michael Thomas and Dreamscape Design.


Blueholme comes in two different versions, the introductory Prentice Rules, and the full Journeymanne Rules. I will cover both here.  In this case, I am reviewing both the print books from Lulu and the PDF versions from DriveThruRPG.

Blueholme Journeymanne Rules
118 pages, full-color covers, b/w interiors. $9.99.

Blueholme is a retro-clone / what-if of the first Basic Set edited by John Eric Holmes.  Sometimes called "Blue Box Basic" or "Blue Book Basic".   At 118 pages it is a complete game.  If that sounds light, then you are right!  Blueholme is a "rules" light old-school game much in the same way that Holmes was.  Don't let it's light-weight dissuade you.  This is a feature, not a bug.
On the surface, the Blueholme Journeymanne Rules (BJR) looks like any other retro-clone in the OSR.  Once you dig into it you will see the differences are from the source materials.

Foreward.  We start with a foreward (not forward) from Chris Holmes, the son of John Eric Holmes and the reason why there was a Holmes Basic set to begin with.  It gives these rules a bit of gravitas if you ask me.

Part 1: Introduction covers what you should expect to see in this book and the general tone of the book. Like everything else it is short, sweet and to the point.

Part 2: Characters deals with character creation.  All game developers should have a look at these first two pages to see how the economy of words pays off.  In the first two pages, we cover all the steps in creation.  Rolling stats (3d6 in order), choosing a species (I prefer this over "race"), class, and everything else.  The six ability scores are covered and what they do.  SURPRISE they do much less here than in other OSR games.  Essentially these are the means to get a bonus when leveling.  Eg. Strength provides no bonuses in combat. Constitution does aid in hp it points, Intelligence still helps in learning languages. But that is about it really.  Only Dexterity helps to hit and then only + or - 1. Dexterity is central to combat, but more on that later.
For species, there is nothing specific listed outside of humans.  For anything else have a look in the Monster section and pick something! Want an elf, dwarf or orc? Go ahead! Goblin? Yes! Dragon? sure, work it out with your GM. Black Pudding? Sure...work it out with your GM.
It is very much the way the original D&D and Holmes D&D games worked.
Classes are the basic four; Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, and Thief.  Fighters do not get more attacks as they level up, but can cause more damage.  There are rules on Combination Classes or what we also call Multiclassing.  If your base creature type has more HD then there is a table of adjustments.
Alignment is broken down to just five, Lawful Good, Chaotic Good, True Neutral, Chaotic Evil and Lawful Evil.
Coin and Equipment is next. Note that all weapons do 1d6 points of damage per hit as per the OD&D and Holmes BD&D rules.

Part 3: Spells covers all the spells that can be cast by Clerics (1 to 7 spell level) and Magic-Users (1 to 9 spell levels). These are not huge lists and some spells are different than other books representations of them.  Make sure you read before you assume a spell does what you think it does.

Part 4: Adventures covers just that, what the characters do and where they do it. This section is very reminiscent of the similar sections in both Holmes and Moldvay Basic.  The breadth of the information is wide, but the depth is low since it depends on the Game Master to make calls on what is happening in certain situations.

Part 5: Encounters would be called Combat in other books, but the name change fits.  We start with lots of tables of monster encounters at various levels and various locales. Combat, damage, and healing are also covered.  The initiative is determined by Dexterity score. If there is a tie then a 1d6 is rolled with highest going first. AC is descending with an AC of 9 meaning unarmored.
We get tables of attack matrices and saving throws too.

Part 6: Creatures deals with all the creatures you can encounter as friend or foes.  There are plenty here and brevity is the key.  For example, Demon gets a single entry and some tables to determine what it looks like. You can also choose your character specifies from these entries.  All the usual suspects are here. I in particular like the "pumpkin-headed" bugbear; a nod to the OD&D rules. There are a lot of Lovecraftian monsters here as well. They are the ones credited for creating the vast "Underground" where the adventurers find their fortunes. There are also plenty of "Appendix N" style creatures like intelligent apes and monsters out of Pellucidar and of course dragons and dinosaurs and undead.

Part 7: Treasure has both individual and hoard types with plenty of magic, and cursed items.

Part 8: Campaigns is a guide for Game Masters.
We end with a character sheet and a solid index.
The PDF is bookmarked, but the Table of Contents and Index are not hyperlinked (minor thing really).

The book is well laid out and easy to read. The art is all new and works fantastic with the book. Solid old-school feel to it., if slightly better than what we actually had back then.  It reminded me more of Moldvay era art than Holmes, but that is fine really.



Blueholme Prentice Rules
63 pages, mono-color covers, b/w interiors. Pay What You Want.

The Blueholme Prentice Rules came out first as a preview of the Journeymanne rules.
These rules cover the basic rules as the Journeymanne rules, save only to level 3.  In this respect it is actually closer to the Holmes set than the maine (manne?) rules.

In character creation, the choices of Human, Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling are given. The same basic four classes of Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, and Thief are here.

From here the Prentice rules parallel the Journeymanne rules, there is just less of them.  This is a truly Basic set of rules with everything to get you started for the price of dice.

The Prentice Rules has the same cover art, albeit in a monochrome format (not unlike Holmes) and features Public Domain art inside from Henry J. Ford. Now personally I LOVE the art. These old images from old fairy tales really sets the mood for me and gives this game a different feel.

Bluehlome Prentice Rules are a perfect solution for someone wanting to get into an Old School game and does not know where to start or what to do, and maybe not spend a lot of money upfront.  For a PWYW PDF and print copies under $6, it has replaced Basic Fantasy as my OSR game of choice to hand out to people I want to introduce to old-school play.

Additionally, there are some full-color character sheets and an introductory adventure.

Blueholme is a great addition to the vast and growing library of OSR games.  It might be one of my favorites, to be honest.

You can find Dreamscape Design on the web at:

Friday, June 28, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend: Friendship is Magic Edition

Couple of Kickstarters are ending in the next four days from some friends of mine and I wanted to share.  Both are great and I want to see them both do well.

First up is the sequel to Eric Bloat's wonderful Vigilante City supers game.

SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City RPG 2 Book Quickstarter


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ericfrombloatgames/survive-this-vigilante-city-rpg-2-book-quickstarter?ref=theotherside

Vigilante City is such a great game and I feel bad I have not done more with it. If you are familiar with Dark Places & Demogorgons then you know this system.   This time we get books 3 & 4:  SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City - Superhero Team-Up! and Into The Sewers.

From the Kickstarter:
SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City Book 3: Superhero Team up! Comes with the inclusion of many new classes, goes through the steps of team building while greatly adding to the equipment and vehicles. It shows how to build new superhero headquarters and stock it full of the valuable tech and tools every team needs to be successful. There will be new combat rules to include Team Moves and so much more!

SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City Book 4: Into The Sewers takes you underground to maze of tunnels that travelunderthe Metropolitan of Victory City, into the world of subcultures, gangs, Mutants & Anthropomorphs. Into The Sewers will feel like a new setting and greatly expands upon the already robust Mutant and Anthropomorph classes and powers.
It looks like it will be great!
Did I mention there is an all-star team working on this too?  Well, there is!  Check it out.

Next is Jason Vey's Amazing Adventures.

Amazing Adventures 5E RPG


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/676918054/amazing-adventures-5e-rpg?ref=theotherside

I featured Amazing Adventures 5e a while back.  It is also in its last 4 days, so time to get moving.

The book is done, save for the art and layout and I have played it.  It's so much fun.
Since my first post there have been a lot of stretch goals met and more added, and met. The next one is about to be unlocked.

Both games are a lot of fun and worthy of space on your game table.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Mail Call: Bunnies & Burrows

This is my busy time at work, so just a quick drive-by posting today.  Came up from a meeting to find this waiting for me.


Bunnies & Burrows 2nd ed.  So far it looks really great.







The feel is like that of many FGG books.  The art is full color for the most part and the pages are glossy.

It "feels" more like a D&D book than say an old Bunnies & Burrows one, but that is fine.  The game inside feels like the B&B of old.

Hope to get a review up soon.


Simon Bunny approved!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Review: Odysseys & Overlords

Odysseys & Overlords is a new Old-School setting and rules system from Travis Legge and Aegis Studios.  Travis has an impressive bibliography with over 400 publications on DriveThruRPG.  So when I saw these were out I jumped on them as soon as I saw they were published.  I also admit I was drawn in with the Dean Spencer art.

Odysseys & Overlords uses Basic Fantasy as it's ruleset and I think that is a good idea. Of all the clones out there BF is one of the more flexible and easily approachable to new gamers.  If you are using a Basic-era ruleset of your own then it will work with that.  For example, while reading up for this review I compared and contrasted these rules to rules in Labyrinth Lord and Blueholme.  I found no issues.

Odysseys & Overlords Player's Guide
PDF. 56 pages, color cover, b&w interior.
The Player's guide has what you should expect a Player's Guide to have.  Here you get a bit of background on the campaign world of the O&O game.  It's fine, as far as these things go, but I have no emotional investment in it.  It does help situate some of the game-design choices and that is nice.  Still, I see a campaign guide or gazetteer sometime in the future.  Since this is a Basic-era OSR game based on Basic Fantasy races and classes are separate. With this, we get some new races, called genus in this book (a more apt name really).   We get Abyss-kissed, which are like other games' Tieflings though more in-line with this game's mythos. Spellscorched, which cover the same niche as elves only here children of the gods.  Wild folk, humanoids with animal traits and blood. And garden variety humans.  No elves, dwarves or halflings here and that is great by me! (Note: they also do not appear in the Monsters section of the Game Master's book)
Classes include the favorites of Clerics, Fighters, Magic-users and Thieves and also adds another take on the Bard class.  Might need to give that one a try sometime.  Bards do not have spells but do have songs they can learn for different in-game effects.
Additionally, there is a section on equipment. I'll be honest, I don't pay much attention to equipment lists anymore. I have so many games with so much equipment that if I need to find something I am sure I have it OR I can just make it up on the spot.
Spells follow next.   Spells for both clerics and magic-users only go to 6th level.  Personally, I still like my magic-users to have more spellcasting power than clerics and would have liked to see magic-user spells go to at least 7th level.  All the expected suspects are here. 
We get some adventuring rules and finally some combat rules.
The layout and art is really good and has a solid old-school feel. The book just looks nice and fills you with all sorts of old-school nostalgia.  I do wish the book though offered some more new unique classes to go along with the new unique races.   A little more on the world background as it applies to the characters would also have been nice.
There is a character sheet at the end of the book. You can also get the character sheet here for free.

Odysseys & Overlords Game Master's Guide
PDF. 63 pages, color cover, b&w interior.
This book covers a bit of material not found in the Player's guide. 
Again we get some great Dean Spenser cover art and again we get the same overview of the campaign world.
We get into a section on various encounter areas, including my favorite, Urban Encounters.   Tips on dealing with players, hopeless characters, and weapon and armor restrictions.
There is also a good section on XP advancement and narrative advancement, which has come to be called "milestone" advancement in D&D 4 and 5.  It provides some nice balance. I am using both types in different games and it has the effect of taking the focus away from combat and more onto role-playing for Narrative/Milestone advancement. 
Magical research into new spells and new magic items are also discussed.
There is a monster section following the discussion on dungeons and wilderness exploring.  The problem I have with the monsters here is that you are directed to use Basic Fantasy there are not any new monsters.  Nearly all, save for two, can be found in what I would call the "common canon" of the OSR.  There was a real chance here to set this book apart from others with some new and unique monsters, or at least some rare ones.  It is too bad this chance was not taken.
Magic items follow next. A good variety here, but again I would have liked something unique to this world to stand out.
We end with the Kingdoms.  Ah! now here is the new and unique material I was hoping for.  There is a good amount here to work with without being overly detailed.   The descriptions are good, but a map, even a rough one, would have been great.  Tip: Can't afford a good cartographer?  Scribble one out and call it "an adventures map found in a dragon horde". 
Interestingly enough, there are maps in the books from Dyson Logos, but that causes an awkward mix of the OGL and Creative Commons Licences that I have been told to avoid doing.  Hope this works for them!
I think there is something here to the world put forth, I just would have liked to have seen more of it.

I have not picked up many of the adventures yet, but here is one.

Temple of the Harpies
PDF. 14 pages, color cover, b&w interior, two maps
This adventure is a pretty straightforward affair that can be run in a long afternoon. Designed for four to six characters of 2nd to 3rd level, the character must retrieve a missing child, defeat harpies, kobolds, and an ancient curse and not awaken an army of undead. Suitable for any OSR game or really any d20 based fantasy game with tweaks.  This one also includes some new monsters, which I always like.


I think there is a lot of potential with this line and would like to see more.



Thursday, May 30, 2019

Holy Grail Item: Vampyre Mini Game from TSR

So to recap a long and sad story, I lost a lot of my old school D&D books in one of my moves between college and grad-school.  The only thing I had from my "early days" were my core 2nd Ed AD&D books and a few modules.    Fast forward a few years and the sweet combination of a great job and an understanding wife I have been able to replace all that I had lost and then some.

But there are still a few items that have remained ever elusive.
Today I can cross one more item off that list.

Thanks to an estate sale on eBay I was able to pick up a copy of the Vampyre: Game of the Hunt for Dracula for much less than it normally goes for.



The game is, as far as I can tell, complete if already punched.  The maps are in great shape, the book less so.






The book has highlighter all over it, which sucks, but hey I can't expect a perfect copy and I am sure mine had highlighter all over it too.

As big fan of the novel Dracula, I loved this game.  I remember enjoying the wilderness portion more than the castle. 

Very nostalgic seeing the same Souvenir/Soutane font and Erol Otus art as the B/X sets. I tried many times to run a Castle Dracula like game with Basic/Expert.  Maybe now is that time!

Anyway happy to have this.  Only a couple more items on my list.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Mail Call: Bloat Games

Quick one today.  Yesterday I got a nice package in the mail.






Vigilante City is here! 
These books are much larger than I expected and I rather like them.
The print versions look fantastic and I can't wait to play around with them some more.

As soon as I can I'll need to devote a week or so to this game. Reviews, characters, and some ideas.
Printing a bunch of sheets now.


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Review: B/X Essentials

To celebrate 40 years of playing D&D I am doing a year-long celebration I am calling Back to Basic.  While I got my start on Holmes Basic, it is the Moldvay Basic and Cook/Marsh Expert that really lit my fires.

It should be no surprise then that I am a big fan of Gavin Norman's B/X Essentials (soon to become Old School Essentials) line. 


Gavin has been producing some great content for a while now via his Necrotic Gnome label. His Theorems & Thaumaturgy and Complete Vivimancer are among my favorite Old-School books.

His Kickstarter for Old School Essentials is funded and going into its last days now.  While this is going on you can still get copies of B/X Essentials.

For these reviews, I am using both the PDF and Print versions of these books.

B/X Essentials is a redesign of the classic "Basic/Expert" rules using OGC sources.  The books are all digest-sized, 6" x 9" format.  All of the books feature fantastic full-color covers from artist Andrew Walter and color accented interiors; limited to mostly pale green.
A moment about these covers.  They remind me of a surreal 70s version of Lord of the Rings meets Elric; easily some of my most favorite covers of in all of the Old-School movement.
All the books are extremely modular. This was a design goal by Norman and it pays off.  Everything is easy to find.  Sections usually take up a page or multiple full pages. If you were so inclined you could cut up your books (!) or print out the PDFs and reorganize them as you see fit. Really at this point, the only thing that could make these books easier to use is having all the content in a spiral-bound volume so it can lay flat at your table.

B/X Essentials: Core Rules
The Core Rules weighs in at 34 pages and gets to the very heart of the B/X Essentials line.  The essential Essentials as it were. It covers Ability scores in general, sequences of play and all the basic rules needed.  Combat is covered separately. Magic also gets a bit of coverage here in general terms and including how spells can be researched and magic items made. 
The rules have been "cleaned up" from their obvious predecessors.   Focus is on readability and playability here.  In fact all the entries under the basic rules are alphabetical, so finding something say like Movement, is easy.  In the original rules it took a bit of digging to actually figure out how much a character moves.  This was vastly improved in later editions of the game, but here it is very succinctly spelled out. Other rules are equally made clear.
Since the "Basic" and "Expert" rules are combined here there is an economy of word usage here.  As much as I love my Basic and Expert games, sometimes you need to consult both books when a situation comes up.

B/X Essentials: Classes and Equipment
The Classes and Equipment book comes in at 44 pages.  It begins naturally enough with character creation.  Some details, such as Ability scores, are detailed here, but also give a call back to the Core Rules book.  Still, though everything is here to make a character.  For practice, I made a 7th level Cleric just using this book. It went extremely fast and very little need to flip pages back and forth.  I just needed to use the Spells book to pick out spells.
The modular design of the B/XE system extends to this book as well. Each class begins on an even-numbered page and extends to the next odd-numbered page.  You can then hold the book flat, put it up two-pages at a time on your screen,  and read everything you need in a glance.   I really appreciate this level of attention paid.  Many books do not do this and in fact, look like they were just run off on Word's PDF converter.  There is more attention put into the layout here than in most products and to me, that is what sets this above the others.
The classes represented here are the 7 classics; Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, Thief and the three demi-humans, Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling.  True to B/X these are "race as class" classes.
Equipment, money and of course weapons are covered in the next half of the book.

B/X Essentials: Cleric and Magic-User Spells
Cleric and Magic-User Spells would have been my favorite book if B/XE had come out in the 80s.  Right now it also has my favorite cover from the entire series. Seriously, I love it.
The book itself has 34 pages and covers all the Cleric and Magic-User/Elf spells in the game.
All the usual suspects are here.  Again when making my recent Cleric I used this book. 
The modularity again is a huge boon for this book and game.  Adding a new class, like the proposed Druid and Illusionists? Add a new book easy! 

B/X Essentials: Adventures and Treasures
At 48 pages this is one of the two larger books in the series. This book deals with adventuring and what sort of things you can find on those adventures. So there are traps, monster tables, and all the treasure types and magical treasure.
Again we see where combining the Basic and Expert rules gives you a much better idea of what is going on in these "dungeons".
This is also my second favorite cover of the line. 

B/X Essentials: Monsters
Ah, now this is a book I would have loved back in 81.  Also coming in at 48 pages this book is about monsters and nothing else.
Stat blocks are concise and there is none of the bloat in the descriptions that appear in later editions (ok to be fair that bloat was demanded by players).   The book is fantastic with my only reservation in I wish it had been illustrated more.  But even that is fine.
I can easily see a "Monsters 2" and "Monsters 3" sometime in the future for this line.

In truth, I can't say enough good about this.   Is it 100% brand new material?  No, but that was also never the design goal.  The books do exactly what they say they are going to do.  If I were starting with a new group using B/X-flavor D&D I would be hard-pressed to come up with a reason NOT to use these books.

B/X Essentials: Demihumans of Dolmenwood
This free product is only 8 pages long and is only in PDF. It is the only genre and world-specific book in the line covering the Dolmenwood, the shared setting used by Necrotic Gnome.   This book includes two new races, the Fairy Elf and the Woodgrue, both fairy races of the Dolmenwood.  There is also a listing of some Fae lords and ladies.



A Bit about OSE
Old School Essentials expands on these rules and reorganizes them some more.  There is a Basic Rules that takes place of the Core book and then a Genre book that covers classes and other "D&D" like topics.  I imagine that different genre books will have other rules and classes.

Old-School Essentials: Basic Rules
This free 56-page book covers all the basics of the OSE line.  Picking it up you can see the stylistic changes from B/XE to OSE.  Also this book covers just about everything you need to play right now.  It includes the four human classes, some rules, some spells, some monsters, and treasure.  Enough to give you a taste of what OSE will be like.
It has the same modular design as B/XE so finding things is simple, leaving more time for play.
There is no interior art in this free version, but that hardly detracts from it.

I am really looking forward to seeing OSE out.  But until then I am going to enjoy playing with B/XE!

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