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

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

New in Print: Mail-call Edition

When I get games or game books together; either via a con, or an auction, 2nd hand sale, or whatever I tend to think of them as "linked" products whether they are or not.  This is doubly true when I get a bunch books at the same time in the mail.  Like I did over the last couple of days.

Here is what the UPS man left on my door in three different boxes.

That is +Mark Taormino's latest Maximum Mayhem Dungeon #4 Vault of the Dwarven King, fresh from the Kickstarter.  The print proof of my own The Green Witch, which you can now buy in print AND while it is on sale at RPGNow's Christmas in July.   With +Gavin Norman's print copy of Theorems & Thaumaturgy Revised Edition. His PDF is also on sale.

Let's jump in!

First up is the fourth installment of Mark Taormino's Maximum Mayhem Dungeon series.  This time for characters level 4 to 7 it involves investigating a Dwarven mine.  But you know that is not all.

The mine cars and tracks look more like roller coasters and there are monsters breeding down in the mines.  I would say they are unimaginable, but in truth, they are EXACTLY the sort thing we probably imagined at age 13-14 when making our own dungeons.  Mark just has better production values.  Like the others in this series, this is pure nostalgia fueled gonzo fun.   Crazy mines, insane monsters, goblins with chain saws. Yup.  This module has it all, and what it doesn't one of the others in the series does.

OR order them this way to have The Maximum Mayhem CampaignTM for levels 1 to 14!

Makes me want to pull out my Basic and Expert books and do that!

If so then you can bet that I will be including one of Gavin Norman's Vivimancers in the mix.

Theorems & Thaumaturgy Revised Edition has been out for about 7 months and it looks like it is doing well.  That's great because this is completely kick ass little book.

Inside we have three new classes, The Elementalist (specialist in the volatile energies of nature), The Necromancer (master of death and restless spirits), and The Vivimancer (expert of cloning, vat-growth, and bio-sorcery).  All for you Labyrinth Lord or Basic-era game.
If you have the older T&T then Gavin has put up a blog post to explain the differences.

And of course, I will have to include a Witch in the mix.

The Green Witch for Swords & Wizardry follows up my Warlock class.  These are witches that protect the wood.  Are they protecting it from humankind, or are they protecting humankind from it? Maybe both.

Like my other witch books, this presents a new witch Tradition which includes new Occult Powers and Spells.  It also has some new associated classes, the Green Knight (a paladin for witches) and the Huntsman (a pagan-inspired Ranger).

All my recent witch books are for Swords & Wizardry and written not only to be compatible, but also to have very little in the way of overlap.  Obviously, the Experience tables are the same (they are all witches) and some spells are shared by all witches (Bestow Curse is a good example).  I try to make each one worth your while and moeny to buy.

And right now it is on sale. In fact nearly everything for the witch is on sale now.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Adventures with Venger As'Nas Satanis

Somewhere in the depths of Hell...or the Midwest, hard to tell these days, +Venger Satanis is plugging away putting out material for his own style of Old School gaming.  I thought it might be fun to check in on some of his newest books.

I like Venger's stuff. It is the right amount of nostalgia, old-school charm, sleaze and high production values and often tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Full Disclaimer: Venger sent me copies of His Flesh Becomes My Key, High-Stakes Q'uay-Q'uar, and Stairway of V'dreen for review.  I already had purchased Stairway of V'dreen and I bought Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss a few days ago.

His Flesh Becomes My Key
18 pages, $3.00, PDF
A cool horror/noir murder investigation. While overtly made for The Outer Presence RPG it is mostly crunch free. So it could be used with 1930s Call of Cthulhu, 1970s Chill or even in the 2010s with any game.  Frankly I would like to try it with Witch: Fated Souls or even Majus.  It is that flexible.
Now putting this right out there, this one is less tongue in check sleaze and more gritty urban horror.
I will not spoil the ending, but it is part of what makes this adventure interesting and good to use with nearly any horror game.
Personally, I think it is great fun and would love to try it out under different systems with different groups just to get a different feel each time.  Come to think of it, there is something in the adventure where I COULD run it multiple times, with the same players and characters under different systems.
This adventure is Eldritch Pulp meets the ugly streets of New York or Chicago or San Francisco of modern day.  It is has a nice "old school" vibe to it.  It is H.P. Lovecraft meets Clive Barker.  I hope to see more like this.

High-Stakes Q'uay-Q'uar
18 pages, $5.00, PDF + image file of game
I think most of Venger's adventures revolve around finding a dead body.  That's how this Alpha Blue adventure begins.  I am inordinately fond of Alpha Blue, so a new adventure is always welcome.
The adventure revolves around the game of Q'uay Q'uar.  It is a big deal in this area of space.  There was a Doctor Who episode, "The Wedding of River Song" that features something like this with Chess.  Now imagine that, only with purple and yellow pieces and none other than David "Space" Pumpkins as your host. Then you have an idea what is happening here.
There is alot going here with a lot of characters.  The PCs can compete in the Q'uay Q'uar challenge or they can be observers. There is a smuggling ring to stop (or join up with), a mercenary and a ton of other things to do here.
Included in the adventure is a PDF on how to play Q'uay Q'uar and an image file of a board.
I would be utterly disappointed to hear that Venger does not have his own Q'uay Q'uary game set up to play at home. I did something similar for Ghosts of Albion: Blight with a game of Fidchell. I did make a Fidchell board (well, really a Tafl board).
Like all of Venger's products, this one is heavy on substance and style, and light on crunch.  I could see this played under White StarStarships & Spacemen, or even the new Star Trek game.
I am going to use it in my Star Trek/Cthulhu-mythos mash-up for certain!

Stairway of V'dreen
19 pages, $4.00, PDF
This adventure for Crimson Dragon Slayer (or any OSR/Fantasy game really) starts In media res with the PCs needing to find shelter. Here they meet Doctor Ebzub and his almost completed experiment.  What happens next is ... well ... ok the PCs end up in V'dreen. But is V'dreen is left to some questions.  It feels like some in-between world where PCs encounter the remnants of gods that were, or could be.  V'dreen is a dying world. Not in the Jack Vance sense but in the "it is rotting right before your eyes" sense.  The PCs must either save it or euthanize it.
There is a fair bit of meta to this adventure and a lot more that can be added by any group.  This is the type of adventure that works best with a group that has been playing together a long time, but maybe the first time with these particular characters. The adventure can be played for bizarre laughs or as deadly serious.
Either way it will be a lot of fun.

Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss
14 pages, $3.00, PDF
Have you ever wanted to make your own adventures? Do you want to be like Venger and write them like a fucking boss?  Well, this is the book for you then.  Overtly the book is focused on people writing their own adventures for the first time, but the advice given is so solid that even old veterans like me kind find it useful.  Some of the advice is common sense, but never underestimate the value of stating something plainly.   There are no groundbreaking revelations here, no paradigm shifts and no occult insights. And that is perfectly fine by me.  Adventure writing is not supposed to be Shakespeare, it's supposed to be Poe.  The advice given though is rock solid, and it provides easily repeatable to create fun, entertaining adventures that don't feel like a railroad.
Honestly, I would package this up with his How To Game Master Like a Fucking Boss to give GMs a full toolbox of advice and tricks to help any adventure; whether they wrote it themselves or grab one off the shelf.   Venger really should bundle this with the Character book and call it the "Be A Fucking Boss Bundle".
I have a Trek game coming up. I know what I want to do with it, but I am going to run my ideas through this book and give them a test.  So far all the advice has panned out well and I believe that this will be a better adventure because of it.

Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss
13 pages, $3.00, PDF
I picked this up based 100% on my reading of Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss.  In fact I did not even own this book when I started this review.  This book is great. Plenty of advice on how to play your character to get the most enjoyment out of it.  A lot of this I already do and have done for years.  In fact, I think playing in horror games made me a better player as well as a GM. I see a lot of that advice here too, but with a different focus.
I stand by my idea of the "Be A Fucking Boss Bundle".  Using all this advice will make you a better player and a better GM.

I started this review a couple of days ago, since that time OneBookShelf started their Christmas in July sale.  So ALL these titles are on sale now.  Grab them, now. Make them yours.  Your Players will thank you.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Reviews: Back into the Blue

Today I want to look at two products for the Alpha Blue line by Kort'thalis Publishing and +Venger Satanis; Girls Gone Rogue and Universal Exploits.

Full Disclosure: I received both of these PDFs in trade for a fair review.
Fuller Disclosure: I had already bought Girls Gone Rogue and had it in my review queue anyway.

Full Frontal Disclaimer: These products sit behind an Adult verification wall on OneBookShelf. By clicking, you are giving tacit, if not implicit, consent to see such things.  Don't whine if you see something you don't like.  These are not for the easily offended. 

Ok. So Alpha Blue is Venger's infamous "brothel in Space" source book that also includes a brief system for play.  I reviewed Alpha Blue a while back and I really enjoyed it.  I opted at the time to use this book along with some other Old-School inspired Sci-Fi books including White Star. Keep in mind that Alpha Blue nor these books are overtly compatible with any of those other games, but Venger's system is simple enough and these books are written in such a way that they are easily adapted for use.

Girls Gone Rogue 
Girls Gone Rogue (GGR hereafter) is an 80-page supplement for Alpha Blue.  The book expands on the options and tables found in Alpha Blue. There are additional character options and lots of tables but really sets this book apart, and makes it a must have for AB fans, are the adventures.
If you are a fan of Venger's style of mixing and matching various pop cultural references then these adventures are a real treat. In particular, the mixing of Galaxina and Ilsa She Devil of the S.S. is quite fun really.  Venger obviously grew up on a steady late night Cinemax. Actually, that explains a lot of GGR to be honest.
This one is a bit harder to judge in terms of a game book.  I will say that if you enjoy Alpha Blue, then this is a good buy and will be very useful.  If you don't like Alpha Blue then GGR will be more of the same really.  Though there are a some that would enjoy the adventure seeds for use with other games.

Universal Exploits
Universal Exploits is a 110 page book for Alpha Blue. UE tackles the universe beyond the space station Alpha Blue.  Like Girls Gone Rogue it is an expansion, but it also setting material.  The universe is a big and dangerous place.  Well, dangerous in the same universe that has a space brothel/space station orgy happening.  Or maybe that is just a result of some the horrors going on around them.  There are also some short adventures/scenarios you can use. Again, these are presented system-neutral/system-lite so they can be used for just about anything.
In truth this reads a bit like a collection of Traveller articles, that is if Traveller went really gonzo.  Or, chances are, like many used to run Traveller anyway.
The real treat comes in the form of the special Alpha Blue Character sheets.  Honestly every game should have great looking Character sheets and these are among my favorites.

So. Who should buy these books?
Well it's pretty simple. If you have Alpha Blue or like playing it then these are "must buys".
If you play some other Sci-Fi game and want to add a little "Sleaze" to your "Scum and Villainy" then these are must buys only behind Alpha Blue itself.
If you like lots of pop-culture references, especially ones that are more R or even NC rated, then this is also for you.  But if that is the case you already know this.

Who should avoid this?
Well normally when reviewing a product I stay away from these sorts of discussions.  But in this case, I will say those who are easily offended should not bother.
More to the point with me though is don't go into these books expecting to find a lot of material you can use for other, non-sci-fi, games.  Can I use it with say a Modern game? Sure, but there are a lot of conversions I'd have to do.  Not game mechanics, but style.

Both books are a lot of fun and I am certain I can still find a lot to use here even in my PG and PG-13 rated games.

I do want to mention the cover art.  Both are fantastic and really, really shows what you can do when you put your heart and soul into your games.

Now. If you are like me reading through all of this and referencing back to Alpha Blue and some of Venger's other products you might be wondering "when is Venger going to focus his eldritch eye on 'Heavy Metal'?".

Well while reviewing this Venger sent me a link to his newest Kickstarter.

Trinity of Awesome!

Looks like a lot of fun.  If it goes the way that Universal Exploits did it will grow into 5-6 adventures.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Review: Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #2 and #3

+Mark Taormino is like some sort of mad genius.  I love his Maximum Mayhem Dungeons and each one "delivers the goods" in terms of hitting that nostalgia feel.  I reviewed his first offering, The Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen, a while back.   Today I want to look at the other two.

The Secret Machines of the Star Spawn
Let's play a game of what if.  What if the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks had been written in the 80s instead of the 70s?  What if there were influences of Star Wars, Buck Rogers, 50s sci-fi movies and just a little dash of 70s Blaxplotation?  You might get something like The Secret Machines of the Star Spawn, but it would not be as good as the module Mark Taormino wrote.
The module follows a similar flow of the other Maximum Mayhem Dungeons; something weird is happening, there are rumors, a long history of strangeness and a thin excuse to go adventuring.
What they PCs will uncover is...well I don't want to spoil it.  It's no shock that this adventure will feature a downed starship and some lasers.  But it doesn't end there.
In truth there is a lot to really, really like about this adventure.  In a different setting the monsters would be scary ass deadly and really, really awesome.  Also there is so many references to pop culture, especially sci-fi and 80s pop culture, that it would be pointless to address them all. The rock band KILL was one of my favorites.
Designed for OSRIC, I played bits and pieces of this using D&D5. Though it would work just as well with AD&D1, Castles & Crusades or any other OGL based clone game.
The one issue I have with it (and very minor)  is that players that didn't grow up in the 70s and 80s would not get all the jokes.   I ran Hanging Coffins for my kids and they loved it, but some of the jokes fell flat on them here. No surprise they have no context for them.  I thought they were hilarious to be honest.  Loved the Pinball Wizard!
If I were to run this again I would either merge it with a little bit of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and run a huge Star Spawn mega-adventure.  Or I'd run it as is with some disposable characters and guys the grew up in the 80s too.

Villains of the Undercity
Here is another what-if game.  What if the Keep on the Borderlands was destroyed and then humans came in and built a new keep on top of the ruins.  Let's also say the caves of Chaos have been cleared, but not all the monsters were killed.  Where did they go? What did they do?  Now invite the Slave Lords from the A series over.  You would get Villains of the Undercity!
This adventure is an ode and homage to the great dungeon crawls of the day.
While this adventure fits the gonzo style of the other Maximum Mayhem Dungeons this one can also be played straight.  Well...sorta.  There is a crazy Halfling Illusionist Assassin, but that is for the players to figure out.
With this one anyone that has ever been inside a classic dungeon will find something to love.  There are lots of deadly traps, monsters and puzzles to figure out. Of course plenty of treasure too.
This adventure is also the one that I can see fitting into a larger campaign, even with adventures from other publishers.  I was mentally placing it in Greyhawk or even Dolmvay.
Just really a lot of fun.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Classic Modules Today

A tip of the hat to Armchair Gamer for sharing this.

There is a group online that are converting classic D&D adventures over to 5e and putting them up for sale on the DM's Guild.

Classic Modules Today has a website, a Google+ group and of course modules for sale at DM's Guild.  They are working through a list of modules and you can see their progress on their website.

I grabbed their updates for the Drow series, D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth and D3 Vault of the Drow for a buck each.

Sure there is nothing there I could not figure out on my own, but it's all here and only a buck.

I also grabbed their conversion of B4 The Lost City.  It has conversion file (which I don't really need) but also the OpenOffice document files you can use to create your own conversions.

Maybe one day I will do the conversions of the D&D4 Orcus vs. the Raven Queen adventures. They are not exactly classics, but I would still like to run them some day.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Mail Call!

Look what came in the mail yesterday!

Hardcovers of White Star from +James Spahn, Between Star & Void by +Matthew Skail and a softcover of the B/X Rogue from +Gavin Norman.

They all look great and since they came in at the same time I am thinking a Plays Well With Others is in order.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Kickstart Your Weekend: Calidar "Beyond the Skies"

+Bruce Heard is back with another Kickstarter for his wildly successful Calidar campaign system.

Calidar "Beyond the Skies"

This looks every bit as fun as the first Calidar book (reviewed here).
This book "feels" more like a campaign guide too, along the lines of the Forgotten Realms books with gods and things for mortals to do. by contrast the first Calidar book was more Gazetteer like.

The art looks fantastic, but don't take my word for it, pop on over and see.

I also appreciate the handy graphic too to know what it is I am getting for the money I spend.

Now to figure what level to pledge at!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Playing In Hyperborea

I have been wanting to run a campaign using Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea for some time now.

+Eric Fabiaschi over at "Swords & Stitchery - Old Time Sewing & Table Top Rpg Blog" has been doing a great set of Retro-Reviews of what I have been dubbing my "Second Campaign"

N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God
U1 Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh
U2 Danger At Dunwater
U3 The Final Enemy
C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan

Now I just need some adventures for levels 7-12/13 (I like the idea of going to 13).

Originally I had a bunch of desert themed adventures, but they really never felt right to me to be honest.  Maybe I should be looking towards some of the newer OSR adventures like The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence to fill out the other levels.

I like the idea of some stygian cult. Something that was a cross between Lovecraft, Howard and Clark Ashton Smith.  I think it might be fun if this cult was a Demogorgon cult too, just because.

He also reviewed some adventures I have already run or used under different systems.

B1 In Search of the Unknown
B3 Palace of the Silver Princess
B4 The Lost City
X1 Ilse of Dread
X2 Castle Amber
S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth

If you get a chance, stop by his blog and read the reviews.

Edited to Add: U3

Monday, November 23, 2015

Megadungeon Itch

I recently have been thinking about trying something I have never really done.  I am talking about Megadungeons.  I was reading this posting on megadungeons recently, and it got me thinking.

I have never really been a huge fan of Megadungeons.  The idea sort strikes me as being, well odd, but it is also such an iconic idea in D&D.
After a while I am I am wondering  how is it that these creatures don't kill each other? Or just freaking leave.

But on the other-hand I enjoy the Dungeon! board game a lot and that is essentially a mega-dungeon in board game form.

Now back in the day I did run the "comical" Castle Greyhawk module.  I will admit I had a lot of fun doing it, it was totally a tongue-in-cheek humor and fine for the time I ran it, it is not something I would ever pick up to run again. In the retrospect of the mega-dungeon article above and the now near mythical dungeons under Castle Greyhawk, it is really lacking.

So my curiosity is up and I am thinking of giving is a go.  Create some characters and have as a "it's rainy/cold out side, the kids want to play and I have nothing ready yet".   I like the idea of using something more akin to Basic/Expert.  So limiting it to 121t-14th level. Limit the dungeon itself to 13 levels too.   Plus something else in the article struck me as interesting.  People would come and go from the adventure when Gary was running it.  So if the boys have friends over they could drop in from one of the thousands of portals and then leave when needed.  I would imagine that dozens of groups of adventures would be there to clean out the dungeon or discover it's secrets.

Rules Systems
Looking for something with a real old-school vibe to it.
I like the idea of Dungeon Crawl Classics, to start out at 0-level, then move on. But I want something that feels more like the D&D of old.
Adventurer Conqueror King System is a great choice and some of the megadungeons use these rules.
This would also be a fun thing to do with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

Which Dungeon?
A very good question to be honest.  There are a lot of different ones out there but really I only have three contenders.
Top of my list is Castle of the Mad Archmage.  It might be as close as I will ever get to Castle Greyhawk and it is very complete.
Next is Dwimmermount which comes in Labyrinth Lord and Adventurer Conqueror King.
Finally Barrowmaze is another good contender.

Maybe this will be my new project for Christmas break with my kids.

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Week with Venger Satanis: Liberation of the Demon Slayer

It's the month of Halloween!  Though I understand many people still call it "October".  Fine. Whatever.

I thought this month I would spend some quality time with products that fit the theme of Halloween.  While putting together my list I realized I had a bunch of products from Kortthalis Publishing and +Venger Satanis.  I thought, what the hell, lets make a week of it.

Venger has had an interesting time in the RPG biz.  I remember talking to him shortly after he was banned from and we discussed our respective horror games.  He has had a nice rise recently as an OSR publisher and has a few nice titles under his belt.

Lately he has been promoting something he calls O5R, which I have to admit it very clever, or products that can be played with either old-school games and their clones or with the newest 5th edition game.  It is a solid strategy really.  I have demonstrated time and again to myself at least that you can freely mix the two in terms of adventures.  I would imagine that goes even further.

Today though I want to start with one of his first OSR books.

Liberation of the Demon Slayer
I first picked this up near when it was released.  Since then I have considered it a potential entry in my War of the Witch Queens adventure path.

The adventure is six levels and 70 pages.  VS suggests using 3 0-level characters per player and let everything work out, or a large party of 1st level characters.   Nothing is mentioned on how many players, but I am guessing 6 to 8.

There is some background given about the world this adventure lives in.  They are all optional, but it does set the mood for the rest of the book.   I found the bits about Snake-men and elves to be interesting.  The adventure is steeped in a lot of Lovecraftian tropes and we are introduced to some of the "Old Ones" here, albeit with different names.

If you, like me, love eldritch abominations and dark magic then this the adventure for you. The adventure itself "sounds" simple enough. Retrieve a demon killing sword from the caves to stop the demons attack your village. Easy peasy. Trouble is that the author grew up when dungeons-as-meat-grinders were a thing and everyone was afraid the big bad devil was going to get you. This adventure though is closer in tone and danger to the Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen than it is to most Lamentations of the Flame Princess products. With the right DM this could be a great and dangerous adventure where the party could live. Sure they could all easily die too. One can read this and imagine that all of the author's games are a bit like it.

Actually I have known the author for a number of years and yeah this is exactly the kind of things I expect in his games. I think the difference here with this adventure and some of his earlier material is there is a maturity here to accept the absurd. This adventure can be played straight or with a dash of dark humor. Think of it as a horror movie, even the scariest have a touch of humor to them; it sets you up for the bigger punch later down the road.

The adventure proper gets going about page 17.  We are treated to rumors, some background, wandering monsters and some maps of the first level.  The maps have been drawn by +Dyson Logos , so you know that these will be interesting.  The feel of the first 4-5 pages of the adventure is really one of pure old-school nostalgia.   The first level is a bit of meat grinder, by design, and there are a lot things going on here that would make the hard-core Gygazian adventure fan happy.  Going back a bit it becomes obvious that the "optional" information above is still rather important since it colors the actions of many of the inhabitants in this dungeon.

As you descend into the dungeon things get weirder and more deadly.  I mean really, really deadly.  Devil lords, liches, vampires, freaking lasers and a nuclear warhead.  Yeah, VS really cut his teeth on the 70s and 80s era gaming.

I want to take a moment to talk about the art. Yes there is a lot gore, nudity and phantasmagorical horror here.   It comes off though more as "Heavy Metal" than say "Hustler".  All I can really say is that it fits the aesthetic of the book.   In truth I had more of an issue with the sci-fi elements (even though there were very good reasons for them to be there) than I had with the nudity.

The demon-slaying sword Kalthalax is an interesting weapon. One that would have a good home in my regular games to be honest and one that is enough of a hook to make me want to find a way to work this adventure in.   Maybe I can make Clavenus a witch instead of a wizard.

In any case there is a lot of fun to be had with this adventure; if you don't mind the occasional casualty.  I think what helps here is while the adventure is a meat grinder, it is done just to rid the party of the weak.  They are expected to survive and tell people the tales of their great adventure.

While VS takes the care to make sure this works with nearly any old-school game (and in the future he fits 5e into that as well), I can't help but think how well this would work with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  The background is similar and the elves in Demon Slayer would be a nice addition to AS&SH, which does not have any elves.  Indeed, elves would seem like souless, demon-like monsters compared to humans. At least to humans that have never seen an elf before.   There is a mix of demons, devils and Lovecraftian beasts/gods that somehow feels right for that world. Mixing in AS&SH to this would give you something very, very close to playing akin to Michael Moorcock's world.

Curiously enough in my own games I do have an epic weapon for killing demons. In my current world state this sword is lost and a quest is needed to recover it. Maybe this is what I need. If so then the value of this adventure just increased ten-fold for me. I am going to have to spend some quality time with it and a pencil to see if it can be recrafted into something that fits my world a little better.

However YOU decided to use this adventure I am sure it will be fun.  Maybe deadly fun, but certainly fun.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Kickstart Your Weekend: Ernest Gary Gygax Jr.'s Marmoreal Tomb

This was one of the big ones I was reading about at Gen Con last week.

Ernest Gary Gygax Jr.'s Marmoreal Tomb Campaign Starter

Though it doesn't really need my support at this point, it is full of Original Old School street cred and even newer OSR Old School cred.

Frankly I like the idea that it will have addons to work with D&D 5 and White Star.

Personally I am looking forward to the Modern Horror and Castles & Crusades conversions too.

In any case this looks like a lot of fun.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Review: Manse on Murder Hill

The Manse on Murder Hill is a Labyrinth Lord Adventure for character 1st to 3rd level written by +Joe Johnston. The PDF is 50 pages which includes 2 title pages, 2 blanks and an OGL page.
Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this pdf in exchange for a fair review.

Ok now that I have that out of the way I also want to add that this is also the exact kind of adventure I would have sought out. Especially these last few weeks. It is "Basic Era" so already I like that and it is a haunted (or so they say!) house. So pretty much I am sold and I have not even gotten past the cover yet.

The art includes work by +Stuart Robertson+David Guyll (whom I have been enjoying a lot of his Dungeon World material of late) and +Tim Hartin. I want to take a moment to talk about the art. IT is great and really helps set the mood. This module feels different than other "old-school" modules and it is a nice change of pace really. The art and overall feel of the module make this feel more like something you would play with Chill than Labyrinth Lord.  Maybe Joe and his team could redo it for something like CryptworldRotworld or Majus. Course the monsters would need to be changed to something else, but it still works.

The adventure itself is for 6-10 characters.  I am not sure what the survival ratio is supposed to be, but that seems like a lot.  I would rather reduce the party size a bit and have higher levels go. There is a lot going on here, so the larger numbers do work.   I think one of the issues some Labyrinth Lords might face is a party "splitting up and searching for clues".

The feeling of this adventure is old school, but old-school+.  Like I mentioned above there are modern sensibilities here.   Yes, there is a great rumor table (which has a nice XP award system attached), but there is also a backstory to what is going on.  The village of Little Flanders feels like something you would have found in a book from a red box, but there are other touches as well.
Characters should feel free to search the village, but keeping in mind that a village is not a dungeon.

The titular Manse itself is not very big.  It doesn't have to be really.   The place has the requisite eerie feel to it and the table of random "illusions" (I would have called them "hauntings" or "phantasmagorias" but that is me) help.  There are also some wandering monsters.

Truthfully I kept picturing #12 Grimmauld Place from the Harry Potter books when I was picturing the Manse.  There is plenty of great descriptive detail, but anything more you can add while playing is great.  Don't forget the smells and the little noises too.

The module progresses until the goal is discovered, the lost children.

The module is quite flexible.  I could not help but think that I could change the monsters to Bogarts and Goblins and have a Faerie-lands sort of adventure.  Change them to degenerate humans and suddenly we have a cult to break up.  Change them to various types of undead and...well you get the idea.

It should be a perfect rainy-afternoon sort of adventure. Which also happens to be one of my favorite kinds of adventures.

Maybe it can go without saying, but I will say it anyway.  This is a very flexible adventure and you can put it into just about any campaign world you want.

Now lets talk about the price.  At $2.00 this is criminal steal. Seriously I have very recently paid twice as much for far less adventure than what I got here.  This a great adventure.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Petty Gods: Nox and Syla

In case you have not heard.  Petty Gods is now out.

(sold at cost for $22.47 USD through
Click Here

(sold at cost for $13.22 USD through
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PDF - without watermark!
(FREE through RPGNow)
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I have a couple of entries in this book, Nox the Petty Goddess of Twilight and the near dark and her chief servant Syla.
Here is a bit of history of this project from my point of view:

Of course is was my thrill to see the art from this book featuring my two characters.

The artist, Mona Dowie did a fantastic job with these.
I am particularly pleased because I think she captured both characters so well.

I love how Nox's hair sort of blows away and merges into the background.  I never pictured her as barefoot, but now that is the ONLY way I can see her.  Plus I love how she did her eyes.  Some how she managed to capture what I was thinking.   I love all the Fyre Fae around her too.

Syla is perfect.  I love the pointy shoes and the designs on her dress.  Those are the details I admire the most.

I am really, really thrilled this is the art next to my characters.  I could not have asked for better.

You can find Mona on the web on her Facebook page and her DeviantArt Page.
Her husband's site is here: Ramblings of a Great Khan

Excellent work.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Review: X-plorers

This really has been a lot of fun going through all of these OSR flavored Sci-Fi games (or are they Sci-fi flavored OSR games?) anyway. I am going back a bit to 2009 and X-plorers which comes to us from +David Bezio and  Brave Halfling Publishing.

X-plorers is somewhere in the middle of Starships & Spacemen and White Star. Both thematically and in terms of rules.  There is a more of an old school vibe of this one.  So to continue my analogies to the point of breaking, X-plorers is more Buck Rogers, the old serials and 50s sci-fi movies.

The book itself is 41 pages. This includes cover, title page, ogl page and a trademark license.  The trademark license is nice.  You can make content that is "X-Plorers Compatible" as long as you abide by the license.  Yes other games do this too.

Characters have class, hit points, and levels just like most OSR books.  The characters in X-Plorers though only have 4 attributes; Agility, Intelligence, Physique and Presence. They are still ranked 3-18. There are also four classes; Scientist, Soldier, Scouts and Technicians.  Personally I think some sort of Royalty or Ambassador class might have been a nice inclusion as well.
There are some multi-classing rules too which are nice to see.

Equipment is covered next.  The basic unit of commerce is the credit (cr).  It functions largely the same way the gold piece does.  Gear and weapons are covered, but also vehicles and robots.  Near the end we cover skills as well.

Chapter 3 covers running the game.  This includes saves, combat and skill checks.  All similar territory to other games.

Chapter 4 details Space. This covers ships, buying and outfitting with crew as well as combat.  Each phase of combat is discussed, so the gunner, engineer, pilot and so on.  This reminds me of some the of old school Naval ship battles.  Ship repair is also covered.

This is followed by a referee's section.  This covers creating a game and running one.  There is a small section on Aliens and Planets.
NPCs, Allies and Monsters are featured in the next section. I would have liked more, but again, these are easy to take from any fantasy game.

Chapter X is an adventure/background piece on Roswell.  There are even stats for the Greys, whic is really cool to be honest.
Chapter Y covers psionics and pyschic characters.  This is also pretty cool.

We end with some sheets for characters and ships.

X-plorers is a light game and designed to emulate the games of the 70s.  So in that respect it does the job well.  Some people will want more, but there is still a lot here.  Rule-wise it reminds me more of White Box Swords & Wizardry, in fact you could use S&W as the rules and the rest as add-on.

There is a free version with no art, X-plorers (no art)a Quick Start, a printable Players Guide, and Character Sheets.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Review: Metamorphosis Alpha, 1st Edition

MORBIUS: Back. To. The. Beginning!  - Doctor Who: The Brain of Morbius.

There is a game going all the way back to the dawn of time, or at least the dawn of the roleplaying age, that has fascinated me.  I knew of it's children games, Gamma World and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, but it has not be till recently that I have seen the father of sci-fi games.

Metamorphosis Alpha is considered to be the first popular Scifi game available.  While many of us heard of and purchased Traveller first (and that could be another entire week for me) MA really is the first. Published a year before the Traveller books.  Written by James "Drawmij" Ward, MA has deep ties with D&D.  The game was playtested by Ward and Gygax and others at TSR.  This lead to the aforementioned Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and Gamma World.  The forward of the game was written by Gygax and Brian Blume.

The basic game outline is that characters, human, mutant and other all live on a fantastic colony ship, The Warden, that has broken down.  The ship is basically a giant flying dungeon. In space.
The character creation rules, monsters and everything are like Original D&D through a distorted lens.  To use an analogy from computer programing if D&D/AD&D is Pascal then Metamorphosis Alpha is Modula. Naturally this makes Gamma World Modula 2, AD&D2 Turbo Pascal, D&D3 Borland Pascal, D&D4 Oberon, D&D5 Delphi and so on...

It would be a fantastic game to play when you are in a great old-school mood and I do know people that have made great long campaigns with it.  Think about it, the idea would later pop up in the series Red Dwarf.

The book itself is 40 pages which includes front and back cover, an updated errata sheet, pages of tables, character sheet and maps of the Warden.

The game itself is complete and a prime example of old-school minimalism.  Modern readers might be tempted to ask "is this it", but to these eyes it is succinct and complete at the same time.

MA of course is perfectly playable on it's own. Has been for 40 years.
But it also works great as a setting or a as a "Mega dungeon" in space.

Mix MA with any of the games I have been reveiwing over the last few days and you have a mysterious, ancient colony ship. 80 km long, 40 km wide and 14 km tall and filled with humans, mutants and who knows what else.   Think of the ship in "WALL-E" now fill it with mutants.

Honestly I am using it in my own old-school D&D game and it is part of my world's history.  The uses and re-uses of this game are endless.

The mutant rules in the book are easily ported over to any game.  So use them as mutants or aliens or even demons in your fantasy game.

At just under 6 bucks it is also a steal.
There are character sheets too for humans and mutants at a buck each.  Normally I think sheets should be free, but I am only paying $5.99 for the pdf.  If the sheets were free and the game was $7.99 I would not balk or fret at the price.

If you have any interest in old-school gaming, sci-fi gaming or even the roots of our hobby, then this is a fantastic game to add to your collection.
If you are playing any of the new "old-school" sci-fi games then I consider this a must buy.

Monday, May 4, 2015

May the Fourth be With You

It's "Star Wars day".

I suppose you will be seeing this in a lot of places today, but I also want to increase the volume on this.  James Spahn has released his old-school Space Opera epic, White Star.

James and BRG has come a long way since putting out LL compatible classes for a buck.
This should be a hit for him.  It is already #1 at

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What are YOUR Favorite NEW Old-School Adventures?

For the longest time I go on and on (and on and on...) about my enjoyment of the many of the old school games.

But I am really doing my contemporaries a huge disservice.   So today I wanted to talk about some of my favorite old-school adventures published within the last few years; aka the OSR adventures.

The Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen
I have talked about this one a lot.  It's a meat grinder and just a crazy, gonzo adventure with tongue firmly planted in cheek.  It is great fun and you can read more of my experiences here,

The Shrine of St. Aleena
Another great intro module and a great intro to what Old School Gaming can be.
I also covered this one here,

Oak Grove Whispers
Another great intro module set outside of the City of Domvay (and included in the special edition print versions of the book). If The Shrine of St. Aleena works for you then give this one as a try.  This is more straightforward.

A lot can be said (and has been said) about this mega-dungeon/campaign, but one thing is for sure. Autarch really saved this project.  I am not a huge fan of mega-dungeons, but this really is a must have.  I think in the end what sells me on this project is it's vision. Sure it could be described (and has been) as a monumental act of hubris OR you could look at it as a commentary on how the OSR solidified 70s and 80s nostalgia into a post-millennial marketing tool.  It might not be the best at saying what we do, but it is an honest look.

Castle of the Mad Archmage
This might be the closest we will ever get to exploring Castle Greyhawk. Yeah it is not perfect, but the effort and work here is beyond reproach and it is a damn fun adventure.  This is also on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Dwimmermount.  Like the other mega dungeon this is the vision of one man, in this case Joseph Bloch.  Though were Dwimmeromount received much hype CotMA just quietly got published with no drama.  When Bloch has done Kickstarters they have been on point, fast and he usually gets people their materials WAY before he promised he would.  This is also a good example of the OSR ethic.  There is still nostalgia here but it took a different path.

No Salvation for Witches
I will be honest. I find most of James Raggi's adventures to be unplayable.
Not due to content or anything like that. I just believe that the GMs job is to help characters to greatness, not stick them into an adventure where they have no chance of winning.   I don't mind a meat grinder now and then (see Vampire Queen above) but not a design philosophy centered around fucking with the players.  Tomb of Horrors was a one time deal, not a template for every adventure.
That being said I like No Salvation for Witches.  It still has the same art quality one expects from LotFP and the adventure still has buckets of gore, but author Rafael Chandler brings some of the same splatter-punk horror the he demonstrated in his own Teratic Tome (which would make a good add-in for this).  I like the setting and the plot is something taken out of the most salacious accounts of the witch trails. Well if those accounts were embellished a little by Clive Barker.
NSFW (cute) is set in LotFP's pseudo historical Europe, but frankly I would rather take it and set it in the world of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea to give it that "older and colder" feel that AS&SH does so well.

Liberation of the Demon Slayer
Venger As’Nas Satanis has a reputation comparable to James Raggi. Liberation of the Demon Slayer does nothing to change this.  Also this adventure is something I might like to run under Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  There is a mix of demons, devils and Lovecraftian beasts/gods that somehow feels right for that world.  There is a lot of the author's advice for running and some of his house rules. Normally I might ignore these, but they seem central to his design philosophy that maybe, just for this adventure, they should be used.
If you, like me, love eldritch abominations and dark magic then this the adventure for you. The adventure itself "sounds" simple enough. Retrieve a demon killing sword from the caves to stop the demons attack your village. Easy peasy.   Trouble is that the author grew up when dungeons-as-meat-grinders were a thing.  This adventure though is closer in tone and danger to the Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen than it is to most Lamentations of the Flame Princess products.  With the right DM this could be a great and dangerous adventure where the party could live. Sure they could all easily die too. One can read this and imagine that all of the author's games are a bit like it.
Actually I have known the author for a number of years and yeah this is exactly the kind of things I expect in his games.  I think the difference here with this adventure and some of his earlier material is there is a maturity here to accept the absurd.  This adventure can be played straight or with a dash of dark humor.  Think of it as a horror movie, even the scariest have a touch of humor to them; it sets you up for the bigger punch later down the road.
Curiously enough in my own games I do have an epic weapon for killing demons. In my current world state this sword is lost and a quest is needed to recover it.  Maybe this is what I need.  If so then the value of this adventure just increased ten-fold for me.   I am going to have to spend some quality time with it and a pencil to see if it can be recrafted into something that fits my world a little better.

The Snake's Heart - A Lost Age Adventure
This is my newest one. The overall feel of this one is like an action movie. Maybe more like a horror-action movie, but you get the idea.  The adventure is hard core old school. It is compatible with S&W: White Box but like most of the OSR adventures it can be used with just about any rules.   The file is a pretty simple affair; 19 pages, line art. So nothing too fancy, but the aesthetic is very, very old school.  It looks like something your older brother's friend who was the first kid in the neighborhood to play D&D might have made; only a lot better.
The adventure itself starts with a simple set up and encounter (I like adventures that make the players DO something right away) and then that simple encounter leads to a confrontation with an evil cult. Shenanigans ensue. The adventure takes a few cues from more modern adventures and separates encounters. The effect this has is to keep the action flowing.  If this were a movie it would be Raiders of the Lost Ark or, more aptly, The Temple of Doom.  At just under $2.00 it is also perfect for an afternoon when you want to play something but don't have an adventure ready to go.  
For myself I might make some minor changes here and there.  Snake Goddesses are fun and all but what if I need a Wolf Goddess or a Centipede one?  It make a great introduction for some characters that have already been through one adventure and are their way to the larger plot brewing.   I say grab this one and use it this weekend.

Hmm...maybe there is a campaign here.

What are your favorites? What have I missed that I should be playing.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

I am a Dungeon addict.

Hello. My name is Tim Brannan and I am a Dungeon! addict.

It started out simply enough in 1981.  I got a Dungeon board game for Christmas along with the D&D Basic Set. I played that game for hours and hours.  I even made little version of my own D&D characters on Dungeon cards to run them through.  Yup my first game conversion.

At some point I lost that game along with a lot of my Basic/Expert and Advanced stuff.  But I never forgot it.
I have bought other Dungeons in the past, but none really measured up to that first one with the color in dice and little grave counters.

Well. I fixed that!

Presenting my newest acquisition!

Just like my original.

Here is a close up of the dice and the Erol Otus art.

And more of my expanding collection.


I might need professional help.

But in my defense we do play these games, they are not sitting on  shelf collecting dust.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Working Here...What is your Favorite OSR adventure?


So between working on Strange Brew, the Horror Movie Challenge and oh yeah the Day Job, I kinda feel like I have been phoning it in lately.

Well today is no different!!

Actually though there is something you all can do to REALLY help out.  I will post the reasoning tomorrow as part of a larger post.

But what I would like to know today is this.

What is your favorite OSR adventure module?

By this I mean a new adventure, published say since 2007 (I am flexible on that date), by a third party publisher for use with one of the OSR* rulesets or the Original Rules (OD&D, BD&D, AD&D).

(*I guess unless that is a tautology above I am saying that the "R" in OSR does not mean "Rules".  That's about as close as a definition as you are going to get around here.)

I would prefer stand alone adventures, but a trilogy is also fine.

Tell me what it is and why you like it.

Myself I am rather fond of some of the Dragonsfoot Adventures, but mostly I like the ones from Troll Lords' Castles & Crusades line.

Post in the comments below or on Google+.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review: James Mishler Games

+James Mishler is having a big sale on all his Olden Lands products and they are worth checking out.
James runs a great blog over at and Google+ Group where he posts tons of great old-school material for the price of a click.
I am partial to his works since the Mystoerth map I use is based on his work.  One day I really, really need to chat with him about this map and how he runs/ran his combined Mystara/Greyhawk world and see if was similar to how we did it back in 86.
Anyway check out his products.

I guess the first thing that needs to be said is that all these products are designed to be used with any Old-School game.  They are overtly labeled for Labyrinth Lord and some dual-stated for Castles & Crusades, but really you could pick up anything from the *D&D family and play these.

The look of the books is certainly Old-school with the Souvenir/Soutane font.
Most of these books lack art, but I don't think that is an issue here. They do fine with out it.

Castle Adlerstein and Environs Map Pack
8 maps. Pay What You Want
The maps are all hires PNG files.
Features the hex area around Castle Adlerstein which is to be detailed in the future. Again at present it is avery sandboxy and can be used with anything.  8 maps (7 maps and a grid) and PWYW make this a great deal.  It will be a better deal when the rest of it comes out too.

Chronicles of Mhoriedh Map 00 Olden Lands Continent
7 maps and a guidebook. Pay What You Want.
The maps are all hires PNG files.
The guidebook lists various monsters and resources of the areas. No descriptions of the lands or anything else.  That is all coming in the in the Gazetteer of the Olden Lands.  But it works as a huge sandbox and I was already mentally placing it in my own world. Easily worth the price of a look and throwing a few bucks into James' hat.  Easily more things to do here than I can put down on paper (pixels?) now.  IT really recalls that feel that getting the original Expert Set box and seeing the maps.

Gods, Demi-Gods, and Cults #1: Chaos Queen of Ants
This 21 page (cover, OGL, and 19 pages) book is the first of the GODS,DEMI-GODS, AND CULTS series.  This one features Khraliche Karinkhamür the Chaos Queen of Ants.  Presented here is plenty of detail about the cult, the sub cults and the important figures.  Worshipers are detailed and discussed. We also get some new spells for both Wizards and Clerics and some new monsters.
What I like most about this is that it can be easily added to any game world.  The feel is overwhelming old-school and sandbox, but that is great.

Hercynian Grimoire #1
46 pages (cover, OGL, 44 pages).
The first of hopefully more books in this series as well.  This is also the first of the Olden Lands and the Chronicles of Mhoriedh line.   The book is divided into a recognizable "Men & Magic", "Monsters & Treasure", "Underworld & Wilderness" and a newer, but still recognizable "Gods & Demi-gods".  So needless to say I am hooked so far.
First up a great few of pages on Gnolls and their human-half breed kin the Gnoles.  I never gave gnolls a second thought but this is some good stuff.
Another feature that you see the d66 table. Roll two d6s like percentile dice and get 36 outcomes.  Like Traveler used to do.
Next up is a section on spells. What I love about this and can get 100% behind is that Magic-user/Wizard spells are also labeled as "Intelligence", Cleric spells as "Wisdom" and Witchcraft spells as "Charisma". It is like it is custom made for my Witch class!
There is a Gnoll encounter table, a random faerie table.
The next section is a collection of new magic items.
About half-way we get to a monster manual like section.  Plenty of new hyena types and more.  All monsters are dual stated.
Following some more tables we talk about some of the Olden Lands.  Up first, the Realm of Alspadia and it's major settlements.
This is a pretty packed book at 46 pages. Lots of things to use to be honest and all can be added to your current game with no troubles.

Ogres of the Olden Lands
Ogres are the boogeymen of the Olden Lands. Or at least that is how they are depicted here.  I love what James is trying to do with the ogres here. Give them something more of the supernatural. It works to be honest and for how little this book costs you have no excuse not to be using this to spice up the ogres in your own game. Ok though, I do plan on using this information for goblins instead!  The random ogre feature tables for both Ogre and Ogre Magi is just great.
Though the STAR of this book is the Half-Ogre as a player character.  Gamers of A Certain Age (like James and myself) grew up on a steady diet of fantasy and the half-ogre is the result of that.  Either from the pages of Dragon magazine or the pages of Piers Anothony, the half-ogre was something that was sure to show up in someone's game in the early 80s.  This half-ogre does that memory justice.
As a bonus we get the lands of the ogre and full color maps!

Vampires of the Olden Lands
The Olden Lands is James' in house campaign the Chronicles of Mhoriedh. All the books in this series are dual stated with Labyrinth Lord and Castles & Crusades stats. This appeals to me on a number of levels. I like that he went through the effort to do this and the nice effect is that between these two sets of stats you can play this under any old school version of D&D you like. There is also plenty in this book that work with any other game as well.
We start out with some common protections against vampires. We follow with 8 very different sorts of vampires including living, dead and spirit. All dual stated. There is a new race to play, The Dhamphir. I have seen a lot of "Dhampirs" over the years, but this one is one of the best so far just in terms of simplicity.
All in all a really nice take and these vampires are not like the Dracula-Lestat-Edward clones that can populate so many other games.

All in all these are great additions to my game library and something I plan on using in my own game world.
I hope to see a LOT more of this world to be honest.  I would also love to see how people are using it in their own games.  For me, I am planning to set Dolmvay in the Olden Lands somewhere.

Plays Well With Others
I could not help but notice that there are lot of references to a Witch class in these books.  This class is left undefined for the most part (outside of it being a Charisma based spell caster) and is really meant to be any kind of witch.  I can't help but notice how perfect this fits with my own Witch class.  So if you liked my class and have the book, then grab these too, but especially grab Hercynian Grimoire since it has witch spells in it that would be perfect.

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