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

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: NIGHT SHIFT Night Companion

The Night Companion
We are getting down to the wire here on The Night Companion

Today's character comes to you all via the Night Companion rules and a challenge from my friend Greg to rebuild his Ghosts of Albion playtest character using the NIGHT SHIFT rules.

The Game: NIGHT SHIFT, Night Companion Rules 

The Night Companion has a number of alternate rules for character creations including a point-buy system and new character types.  I figure I will show off the Immortal rules here and how they work with NIGHT SHIFT RAW.  I am also using the point-buy rules to "check my math."

The Character: Valerie Beaumont, the Immortal

Lady Valerie Beaumont has "haunted" my games for years.  She was a playtest character created for Ghosts of Albion by my friend Greg Littlejohn.  We have run games for each other off and on over the last 20+ years.  He is a great person to give a test game to and tell him "to break it."  There was an alternate combat system that almost went into to Ghosts but did not thanks to him! 

Valerie was also later used when we were playtesting the first round of Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space.  Little known fact.  A lot of the Ghosts of Albion playtesters were also playtesters for Doctor Who.

Valerie, being immortal also was part of my Spirit of '76 campaign and will be part of Black Star where she will be Captain of the USS Mystic

76 is the past and the Mystic is the future, but here is Val now, living in 2021 in one of the Night Worlds of NIGHT SHIFT.

Valerie Beaumont
Valerie Beaumont
5th Level Survivor/10th Level Sage (Immortal)

Base Abilities
Strength: 12 (0)
Dexterity: 16 (+2) 
Constitution: 14 (+1) 
Intelligence: 21 (+4) P *
Wisdom: 16 (+2) s
Charisma: 16 (+2) s

HP:  5d4+5 / 10d6+10
AC: 9
Fate Points: 1d10

Check Bonus (P/S/T): +8/+5/+3
Melee bonus: +6  Ranged bonus: +8

Saves: +3 Death Saves and area effects. +5 to saves vs. spells and magical effects.  She gains an additional +5 to all saving throws against magic, poison, disease, and death-based attacks due to her immortality.

Immortal Powers
Unique Kill: Virginia Dare (See Below)
Immortals regenerate 1d8 hit points every minute. 
+3 to Intelligence

Survivor Skills
Open Locks: 115%
Bypass Traps: 110%
Sleight of Hand: 120%
Move Silently: 120%
Hide in Shadows: 110%

Hair: Red
Eyes: light-green
Height: 5'7"

Spells
1st level: Magic Missle, Glamour, Sleep
2nd level: ESP, Produce Flame, Suggestion
3rd level: Clairvoyance, Haste, Water Breathing
4th level: Arcane Eye, Phantasmal Killer

Immortal Arcana
Innate Magic: Suggestion (x3 per day)
Enhanced Senses

Valerie was born in 1569 and is immortal. She was a young English girl that made her way to the new world in the year 1585.  She came to the new world and settled in the Roanoke Colony where she lived for a couple of years.  Then something happened.  She was caring for the young Virginia Dare and then woke up several days later and several miles from home.  When she had managed to return to the colony, everyone was gone.  She also discovered that she was immortal and was certain that the two were somehow linked.

Valerie spent the next few years roaming the new world.  She learned magic from some of the few true witches in Salem and more from the indigenous Native Americans.

Valerie Beaumont

 
She has a ring on her right little finger that manages a glamour that "ages" her.  A gift from a former lover. Currently, she appears to be in her mid-40s.  Without the glamour, she appears as she did when she discovered her immortality, a young woman of 18.  Her mind though is as someone just over 450.

Shadow Steel Sword
She also carries a long thin blade made of "shadow steel" a rare form of steel that the Fae can use.  It can attack any supernatural creature, even ones that are incorporeal or shifted out of phase. 

Valerie Beaumont

Virginia Dare

When Valerie was brought to the American colonies her primary employment was with the Dare family to act as a caretaker to the newborn Virginia Dare.  When Valerie was separated from the colony all the other people living in the Roanoke Colony were gone, including Virginia Dare.  For years and even centuries, people claimed to have seen Dare, now grown into young adulthood and called the White Doe.  Many believed the sitings of Dare were nothing more than a myth.

That is, everyone except for Valerie.  

At some point around 1622 Valerie encountered Virginia living with the Powhatan in the forests of Virginia. At first, Valerie was elated to find Virginia, but this soon turned when Virginia blamed Valerie for the disappearance of the colony.  The two fought and discovered quickly that they could harm, even likely kill, each other.  Likely they would have if they had not been interrupted by British forces.  Over the next few centuries they would encounter each other and it would lead to fighting.  

Both Valerie and Virginia are immortals.  The only thing that can kill them is each other. 

Virginia Dare is "played" in my games by Rose Byrne.

Virginia Dare by Rose ByrneValerie Beaumont by Julianne Moore

Looking forward to doing some more with these two.

--

I have her start as a Survivor.  She was displaced from her colony and spent many years wandering the unknown wilds of the North American continent. Eventually, she picked up knowledge here and there about various occult matters in including some magic. 

I like this since it really shows off how flexible the multi-classing system for NIGHT SHIFT can be.  

Want to see more?  Pledge for the Night Companion on Kickstarter!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

ENnies Voting is now Open

The annual ENnies awards is now open for voting and as usual, there are a lot of great choices to vote for, or at the very least shop for.

I might get into my picks later on (have to see how long voting is) but for today I want to focus on one particular book and maybe convince you to consider voting for it.

Up for Best Adventure and Best Cartography is Halls of the Blood King for Old-School Essentials

Halls of the Blood King

I reviewed Halls of the Blood King last month and frankly, I loved it.  So it is great seeing it get some official recognition.  It would be even great if it wins.

It has some serious competition, in particular from the Alien RPG adventure.  But keep in mind that OSE is still largely a one-man operation of Gavin Norman.  Alien and Free League is a more traditional publisher.  So to say that OSE and Blood King are punching well above their weight class is not hyperbole. 

So, if you can make the time, give HotBK a vote for both Best Adventure and Best Cartography.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Review: DragonRaid

The DragonRaid RPG
I have been planning this review for a bit now, but upon hearing of the death of the creator, Dick Wulf, I am opting to move it up a bit. 

Full Disclosure: There is no way I can give this a complete review because I don't know enough about the source material.  I mean I know it, but not enough to for the level of play this learning game would require of me.

I have mentioned before that I have known about DragonRaid since at least the mid-80s. I was both amused and fascinated by it then.  When I learned more about it I was a little more impressed.

The Game

DragonRaid got a lot of grief in the gaming communities I was a part of.  I had some Christian gamer friends that thought it was a cheap attempt to capitalize on their faith and some even did not want to mix their D&D and belief.  As an Atheist, then and now, I thought it was interesting. As someone who was interested in psychology then and someone with degrees in it now I also thought it was an interesting way to learn something, in this case, Bible verses.  I always wanted to see the game for myself.   

One thing I have to keep in mind that this "game" is not really an RPG, but a teaching tool in the form of a role-playing game. 

The game's author and designer was Dick Wulf, MSW, LCSW, who is, as his degrees indicate, a licensed Social Worker and holds a Master's Degree in Social Work.  He had done a lot of work in psychotherapy and ministry. He also played D&D and Traveller. So it seems he actually likes and knows RPGs better than the guys who gave us Fantasy Wargaming!

Plus I have to admit the ads in Dragon Magazine always looked really interesting.  I mean seriously, that is an evil-looking dragon and should be stopped and those look like the brave warriors to do it. Even if they need some more armor*.  (*that is actually a point in the game! more later)

Ad for The DragonRaid RPG

A while back my oldest son and I saw this game at my FLGS and I told him all about it. He is also an Atheist (as everyone in my family is) and he wanted to get it so we could play the other, evil, side.  He wanted to do something with the dragons in the game (he loves dragons) and I of course wanted to bring witches into it (cause that is my raison d'être).   Plus this copy still had the cassette tape in it.  I mean that is just beyond cool really.  So yeah I grabbed it with every intention of having a bit of a laugh with it.

I might be a witch-obsessed Athiest, but I am also an educator and not really an asshole.

The truth of the matter is spending this past week with the game I just can't take a piss on it.  The author is just too earnest in his presentation of this game.  There is love here, and scholarship, and frankly good pedagogy behind the design.   I don't normally mix my professional education background with my game design work.  Yes, they can and they do mix.  But when I am writing a book on the Pagan witches for Old-School Essentials I am not trying to write a historical treatise on the pagan religions of Western Europe during the time of the Roman Empire.  I'll try to keep my facts in line, but I can't serve two masters. I have to write what is best for a game.

DragonRaid also doesn't serve two masters. It serves one and makes that work for both pedagogical reasons (to help young people understand Christianity and their Bible better) and game design reasons (to have a fun roleplaying experience). 

For this DragonRaid succeeds in a lot of ways.  For this, I simply can't do anything else but admire this game and its design.  So no playing dragons here, or me coming up with a witch class to fight the characters.  I might do that at home, but I am not going to be a jerk about it.

Besides look at everything, you get in this box! I mean seriously, this is some value.

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 1

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 2, Lightraider sheets

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 3, so many books!

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 4, counters

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 5 documentation

I even got the cassette tape! I don't have anything to play it on though.

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 6, and honest to goodness cassette tape!

What do you get?

New Player Briefing
Red cover, letter-sized. 16 pages.
This is the first book all players need to read over.  This includes the LightRaiders (player characters) and the AdventureMaster (GM).  The background is really kind of fun.  The world of EdenAgain is like an idealized Earth meets Narnia.  There are humans, regular (OnceBorn), and the TwiceBorn. The TwiceBorn are the ones that follow the Maker and Overlord (thinly veiled versions of "God" and "Jesus").  There is a lot cool details on how Abaddon and Kakia, both described as dragons here, have tempted the world to evil.  

I rather like the idea of this book.  A brief 16 page (large font) booklet to get new players into the game.  It is something that is usually handled by the "What is an RPG?" and "Introduction" sections of other games.  There is cool parallelism between this book and some of the intro to playing material found in Red Box/Mentzer Basic D&D.  Makes a lot of sense since both red books cover similar ground and have the same goals.

The World depicted here is a bit simplistic, but that is also by design.  The players are supposed to explore it all together.

DragonRaid World


Rulebook
Blue cover, letter-sized, 24 pages

The Rule book covers the Basic rules for all players. 
It covers character creations (thankfully we also have the worksheet for that), how to use the StarLot and ShadowStones, Ability checks, and the various forms of combat and armor.  I can't help but feel there was also a bit of a wargamer in Dick Wulf.  

The division of the books into Red and Blue does give me solid B/X and BE Basic vibes.  I am sure that Dick Wulf was familiar with those and chose to emulate their feel even if "Basic" and "Expert" are not really a good way to describe his books.  More like "Novice" and "Basic."  But the idea still holds.

The Light Raider Test 
Orange cover, letter-sized, 44 pages
This is the first of our adventures for the LightRaiders and it is in fact set up as a first mission. It is introduced in the New Player Briefing/Red Book.  Here it is a full-blown adventure complete with player handouts and cue cards for verses. 
Players have to rescue a LightRaider, fight a giant (or drink him under the table), and fight some goblins.  It is noted that any LightRaider that dies goes to Paradise. 
This adventure is fairly straightforward to the point of almost being a railroad.  Well...not quite. I mean the player's options are limited and a lot relies on random rolls.  I suppose as a new LightRaider and AdventureMaster this makes things a little easier.  There is another reason for this. The adventures have certain academic goals or learning outcomes.  These are usually met via the design of the game and altering these would mean the designer could not really tell if the learning goals were being met. Great for a curriculum, not ideal for an adventure. 

Rescue of the Sacred Scrolls
Light Green, letter-sized, 78 pages with 28-page insert.
This is the second adventure and it is much more expansive. Here the LightRaiders must brave the castle of the dragon Thuella and rescue the captive LightRaider Zekion and recover the two parts of the Sacred Scrolls.  Along the way, they can meet a unicorn (a type of angel here) and battle orcs and cave spiders. 

These adventures, minus the quoting of scripture, would make ok D&D-style adventures. There is not much in the way of treasure and the goals really are very different.  DragonRaid players learn through these the power their LightRaiders have via faith (and therefore themselves).  

At this point though it is very, very obvious who this game is marketed to.  All of the art is whiter than the Sound of Music. You would think that there would at least be a little color.  Note: There is one darker-skinned character figure in the cardboard character cutouts.  Still though. Pretty much mayo sandwiches on white bread with milk here.

DragonRaid Book covers


Adventure Master Manual
Green cover, letter-sized, three-hole-punched for binder, 124 pages

Pretty much what it says on the cover. This is Adventure Master's book. Unlike all the other books, this one is looseleaf and three-hole-punched.  This is likely because a.) the designer wanted the Adventure Master to have a place to insert their own notes (a good idea) and b.) a lot of educational materials in the late 70s and early 80s were produced this way.  Also, there is the notion that a lot of Bible study material came published like this.  How do I know?  Back when I was working my way through college I was a night janitor at a Southern Baptist church.  If I had not already been an Atheist then those people would have convinced me.   Sadly the box, while large and sturdy, is not big enough to put a three-ring binder inside.  

Some material is by necessity repeated here.  We get more background on the OnceBorn and the other creatures populating this world that are not LightRaiders.  The OnceBorn are slaves to the DragonLords.  They might live like kings but they are slaves according to the rules.  They may seem happy but they are not we are told.  Of course no matter how evil an OnceBorn might be we have to remember that they deserve redemption; so killing them is out of the question.  

This book also includes another adventure, "Adventure as the Castle of the Falls." This is to give the Adventure Master some practice having players using the WordRunes.  Like all good Game Master books this has a section on becoming a better Adventure Master.  Nothing gamers have not seen before, but good advice all the same for the starting Adventure Master.It is good the box comes with so many adventures since there is not really much in the way of guidance on how to create adventures.  The caveat I will toss out is there are a lot of adventures that can be bought from their publisher.  Another caveat is that this is still more adventures than I am ever likely to run or play with this game. 

There are some Difficulty level charts that are keyed to the various abilities the LightRaiders have. Nice, but not portable to other games really. There are some good ideas on various dragon attacks, but again they central to the mythos and mechanics of this game.  Doing anything else with them would require a lot of work. 

Lightraider Handbook
Yellow cover, spiral-bound, digest-sized, 140 pages.

Now this one is a very neat product.  It has all the rules and even some basics on the creatures encountered, but it is designed for the players to use at the table. It is spiral-bound so it lays flat at the table.  I know the costs are prohibitive, but I do wish more companies would do this.  OSRIC would be a fine choice for this to be honest.  In fact I made my own spiral-bound copy of OSE a while back for this exact same reason.

Spiral bound player's books


This book also contains all of the Word Runes the players will need.   The creature backgrounds (but no stats) are also a nice touch.  I guess that any D&D player, even if new, is going to come to the table with ideas of what a dragon, goblin, troll or orc are.  DragonRaid has slightly different versions of these.  Shorthand if it is not human or a normal (or talking) animal, it is evil.  Tieflings? No way! Elves are even evil here. Well. Maybe not evil, but certainly surrounded by evil beings, and to reclusive to do anything about the evil around them. 

DragonRaid Player's Guide


Audio Cassette Tape
Thankfully you can go to the official Lightraider Academy website to get the audio files from the tape. 

Two Dice
D10 (StarLot)  and a d8 (Shadow Stone).
I kinda like that they give each die a bit of character.  The clear d10 is your StarLot and it is the one you will use for most rolls.  The darker d8, the Shadow Stone< is the one the forces you are fighting will use.  There is an obvious bias here towards the forces of good. 

History of the StarLots


Additionally, the box contains:
  • Character Sheets
  • Character worksheets (I used a spreadsheet for mine)  
  • A Correction sheet
  • Letter from Dick Wulf, MSW
  • Registration Letter
  • Counters (Heroes, Dark Creatures, NPCs)
  • Battle Grid (x2)
  • Ad for “Spiritual Warfare Posters”

This company is all in on this game and I have to admit I totally admire them for it. 

Final Thoughts

As I discussed back in the Character Creation challenge, a lot of the very random rolls you make can really help define who your character is. That is great, but it also confines your character in certain ways.  There are ways to increase abilities you want over ones you don't want, but this game like many others, has you play to your strengths.  Sure in the early 80s people were fine to have a character only defined by the numbers on the sheet; today?  Not so much.  

I will admit that I never felt "talked down to" as a gamer while reading this.  Yes, it is designed for someone with far less experience than myself or my readers, but all the same, the advice in the game always came across as helpful and never condescending. 

Also, I never felt "called out" as an Atheist here.  Sure by the game's standards I am one of the DragonSlaves and even though I consider my life to be good, great even, it is not truly so.   Ok. Whatever.  I am also not as attractive as an elf, strong as an orc, or interesting like a tiefling.   Though my lack of experience with Bible verses and my complete lack of desire to ever memorize any will limit my involvement with this game.  Likely to just this review.

Fighting a Dragon in DragonRaid
The quality of the materials is top-notch.  I am not sure which "printing" I have, but no dates are past 1984 on my books and it still has the cassette tape.   I did notice when doing some research that my box did not have a copy of the purple cover "The Moon Bridge Raid" nor did it have the stickers.  Maybe because I didn't buy it directly from the publisher? Looks like that the Moon Bridge Raid is in later editions/printings and these also included a CD.  So I am really rocking it old-school!

Note: A little digging online tells me there was a newer printing with 1998 and 1999 dates on the books.  Likely this is the printing that had the CD.

Digging deeper EdenAgain seems to be a planet that humans crash-landed on.  Looking at the art one assumes it was only white people on the ship. They had a copy of the Bible on their spaceship.   So is this one a post-apocalypse game?  Could characters from my Star Trek: BlackStar or Star Trek: Mercy games find their way to EdenAgain?  I mean that is not to different than the Star Trek Discovery Season 2 episode "New Eden."  Except the people of New Eden, aka Terralysium, combined all of Earth's faiths including Christianity, Hindu, Judaism, Bahá'í, and Wicca into one.   Not very much in line with what DragonRaid would have wanted.  Discovery Season 2 was fairly heavy with religious symbolism. 

One thing implicit in the game is that all other creatures except for humans do not have souls and can't be saved.  I did not get a clear read on animals and talking ones in particular though I know the rules are in there somewhere.  So ALL creatures would be considered evil; in fact the manifestation of sins.  That giant destroying a village? Evil. Kill it! That dragon eating all the maidens in the country? Evil. Kill it!  That orc sitting on a rock picking his nose? Evil. Kill it! Sleeping baby troll? Evil. Kill it! Get the idea?  There are no shades of grey here.  A human OnceBorn in charge of a child slavery ring is not to be killed.  The goblin that did nothing else but let you know about it so it can be stopped has to be killed.   That goblin isn't a real living creature but sin-made flesh.  Which is kind of cool if you think about it, but also a little too conservative for my tastes.   Combat is physical and is lethal. Combat can also be spiritual.  

One facet of this game that can't be ignored is the production value.  While the art has not aged as well it is still objectively good.  The layout is clean and easy to read.  The material is grouped together well.  The redundant text isn't really redundant at all since this is designed to teach.  The box is sturdy as hell, and mine is still in fantastic shape.  No idea about the cassette tape, but everything else in the box is top-notch.  A spiral rules guide for the game table is something that makes so much sense other companies should have been doing it (I know...cost).   

While character creation can be a chore, the core rules are pretty simple.  Percentile rolls vs some cross-referenced charts based on abilities.  Roll high.  With players using the d10s, sorry, StarLots and the bad guys using the ShadowStones (d8) advantage always goes to the LightRaiders. 

In the end, I am glad I purchased this game even if it took me forever to do anything with it.  I am never likely to play it or run it, and while there are some great ideas here I am also not likely to mine it for any.  I have to give the late Dick Wulf major credit.  He had a vision and a love for this game and it shows on every page.

Links

Here are some collected links if you want to learn more about this game.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

SPI's Demons (1979)

SPI's Demons game
I celebrated my 26th wedding anniversary over the weekend.  I have now been married for over half my life!  We went downtown to see the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit. I got us the Premium tickets, and glad I did, we sat through the whole thing twice!  It was completely amazing. We ate at a new fusion Thai place and of course, no date night is complete for us without a stop at a bookstore.

Since so many of the bookstores we used to go to over the last three decades are closed, we stopped at Half-Price Books.  

I found this little gem, SPI Demons.

At first I thought it was an add-on or supplement for the DragonQuest RPG.  They look rather similar really.  But closer examination revealed that it was really a board game.

In any case, I could not say no to this. Besides, look at that cover!  That demon is fantastic!

I got it home and since it was late I let sit on my dining room table for a bit.  I finally got around to looking at it yesterday.  Turns out that only is this game whole, and unpunched it looks like it is near mint condition!

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Ah. Nothing says the late 70s like oil shortages. 

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

It is a rather attractive game in a late 70s War-Games-bleeding-into-RPGs way.

I posted some pictures of this over the weekend and I was reminded that TSR bought SPI back in the day and absorbed them.  WotC who now owns all of TSR's IP also owns SPI.  They could rerelease this if they wanted to.  Sadly there is really no reason to.  The cash cow in that arena is D&D and even DragonQuest, who could do well, suffers from comparison.   TSR, like them or not, straight up murdered SPI and the body is too dead to Raise Dead.

BUT that doesn't mean *I* can't perform a bit of Necromancy myself! 

This game could feed into my "Traveller Envy" quite well.

DragonQuest & Demons

The obvious thing to do here is use that Demons map of Albania and do it as a DragonQuest Hex crawl.  And I mean a proper Hex crawl that also just so happens to be filled with demons and wizard hunters.   The magistrate or wizard hunter's angle of the game also made me think of THIS unholy abomination.

DragonRaid vs. Demons

Maybe instead of "EdenAgain" the DragonRaiders are in the old country fighting demons?  That one is a bit of stretch really.  Also I would need some sort of converter to sit in the middle; likely D&D.  Though these both will contribute to my War of the Witch Queens campaign. 

Warlocks & Warriors & Demons

These two games share a lot of similarities in tone and publication time.  Both are essentially the bridges between war games and RPGs as board games. Both feature a wilderness area to explore, monsters (demons) to defeat, and treasure to collect.  Slightly higher on the complexity scale than Dungeon! but not quite full-blown RPGs.   You can read my overview of Warlocks & Warriors here

Demons from Mayfair and SPI

These two do not have a lot in common other than name and subject matter.  But both would be equally fun resources in my games. 

Like I say though I might not figure out how to get these to all work together (or even some of them) but it will be fun trying.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Kickstart Your Weekend and Interview: Roderic Waibel of Chromatic Dungeons

Today I am talking with Roderic Waibel the creator of Chromatic Dungeons which is in the middle of its Kickstarter. Which you can find here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1693797308/chromatic-dungeons?theotherside

Chromatic Dungeons

Tim Brannan/The Other Side:  Let’s start at the beginning, who are you and what do you do?

Roderic Waibel:  I started gaming in 1981 with the Basic Set, and quickly fell in love and moved to AD&D.  Been involved in RPGs every day since, from the first map I drew as a kid, to my first game I wrote in 1986 (I still have a copy of that, and it’s...nothing to be proud of lol).  I’m a project manager as a day job, but have been an indie publisher officially for the past 10 years or so.

TB/TOS: You mention in your bio you have been writing RPGs since 1986.  Anything, in particular, you want to share? What are some of your past hits?

RW:  My biggest commercial success would have to be Compact Heroes.  During my time in the military, portability was a big thing.  It’s one of the reasons why MtG took off for servicepeople; you could easily take it with you while full rulebooks were hard to do that.  So I created a card game that played like a traditional role-playing game.  That won DieHard Gamefan’s Best New Game of the Year in 2011 when it came out.  There are other things I’ve created that I like, but most of those were homebrew systems that never took off.  Let’s be honest, most never do.  Why would someone who doesn’t know me want to play a homebrew system when they have so many officially supported systems out there.  They were all pretty much vanity games.  The only other product that has done pretty well is the megadungeon: Depths of Felk Mor.  I wrote that right when the 5e playtests came out, and is 5e compatible.  It’s written in an old school aesthetic, and chock full of 80s pop culture references lol. Kind of a mix between Cthulhu and 80s cartoon hour.  Yes, that’s a thing lol.

TB/TOS: What are some of your favorite games? Why?

RW:  RPGs are my all-time favorite because I’ve always been very creative and love to imagine things.  Strategy games probably come in second place.  I always have a fond soft spot for Axis&Allies in the non-RPG genre.

Chromatic Dungeons Basic Rules
TB/TOS: Fantastic. Now tell everyone a little bit about your game Chromatic Dungeons.

RW:  Old school D&D was and is my favorite edition.  Not just for nostalgia (admittedly that is part of it, but a small part), but also because of the kind of experience it lends to.  Rulings over rules, speed of play, zero to hero, player creativity and strategy (you can’t assume every encounter should be winnable which is something I see a lot in modern games), etc.  However, it was a product of its time.  That is, catered and marketed to white young males.  As a young white male myself at the time, of course I never noticed anything problematic.  This isn’t a dig at any of the creators of the game, or any of the players of the game.  It was what it was at the time with what we considered socially OK.  But as we’ve grown as a community over the years, we’ve become incredibly diverse.  That diversity should be represented and included.  People other than straight white men like myself should be able to pick up the game and see themselves represented in it.  Studies have shown, over and over, how a diverse group is much more efficient and beneficial than a monocultural one.  I’ve hired a lot of diverse freelancers and editors for this, and I can tell you that the game is much better for it.  

Then you’ve got lessons learned mechanically over the past decades we can rely on that should be applied.  Things like ascending armor class that are more intuitive rules.

These two factors together were the driving force behind Chromatic Dungeons.  Currently there is a lot of drama going on regarding comments some of the folks who call themselves OSR or old school have made with the new re-branding of TSR.  But that isn’t what caused Chromatic Dungeons to come about.  Comments like those folks are making the news now because they are big names, but the fact is that for a long time, the OSR community has had to deal with a large portion of fans who have been espousing exclusionary opinions.  I firmly do NOT believe the OSR itself is like that, or that most fans are like that.  But it’s a problem that needs to be addressed because there is a reputation the OSR is getting, and it’s not good.  We can’t deny that.  And as a fan of the OSR, I will do what I can to show how the OSR can also be welcoming and inclusive.  

Thus, about six months ago, Chromatic Dungeons was born in its first iterations.  It’s basically a game that captures the best things about B/X, 1e, and 2e, while applying modern sensibilities and lessons learned since then, and being presented in an old-school aesthetic that represents how diverse our gaming hobby has become.

TB/TOS: What do you feel makes Chromatic Dungeons a step above or better than say current Clones on the market now?  What do you think makes it special?  Or bottom line, why should people want to buy this game?

RW:  Having fun is the best reason to play a game, right?  That’s the ultimate goal?  Many clones out there try to replicate the rules of those older versions extremely closely.  But as anyone who played back then will tell you, many of the rules got in the way.  We simply ignored them.  Chromatic Dungeons applies some mechanical changes to help alleviate that.  The first and most obvious is the move to ascending Armor Class.  But then you’ve also got a revision to alignment, making it much less impactful in regards to driving a PC’s behavior or moral code.  It’s a cosmic force that acts as an influence, not a strict moral code you have to follow.  Traditional racial traits have been re-done as well.  Now those choices only give a few traits, but there is a heritage system instead that anyone can choose that gives you traditional racial bonuses.  For example, you can choose to play a human with the fey heritage (let’s say they grew up in an elven city), so they can gain resistance to sleep and charm, two traits traditionally reserved only for elves.  Another change is getting rid of dead levels.  While not being a robust customized able system like feats were in 3e (that would defeat the purpose of having a streamlined system like b/x), each class does offer something other than a hit point gain at most levels.

And then of course there’s the presentation.  The game is presented to be welcoming and inclusive of everyone.  Making everyone welcome is always a good thing, as it grows our hobby and keeps it alive. 

TB/TOS: You list a few differences from older games on the Kickstarter site.  What was your driving motivation behind these?

RW: I guess I answered that above.  I tend to ramble lol.  The key goal is to capture the feel of gaming back then, but rules changes can be made as long as that goal isn’t compromised.  You should be able to pick up an old module from the 80s and play Chromatic Dungeons with very little conversion.  You should be able to do it on the fly, actually.  That’s important for me to keep.  People have a plethora of material from the old days, and they should absolutely be able to use it with Chromatic Dungeons. 

TB/TOS: The Character sheet looks fantastic and has a great old-school feel to it.  What things from the older games did you want to retain?

RW: The most important is speed of play and player skill.  Players shouldn’t feel discouraged from attempting something with their PC if they don’t have a skill for it.  The less a player references a character sheet, and the more they go to their imagination to describe what they want, the better.  Keeping players engaged is important. However, if players don’t prefer to use player skill for whatever reason, they can fall back on a skill system that is incredibly simple.  It’s a roll under ability system.  If your PC wants to jump up to the chandelier and swing across the room, they don’t need an acrobatics skill to do that.  Simply roll the d20 and if it’s under your Dexterity score, congrats!  This system also makes every point in an ability count.  A gripe of mine from the current system is that there is no difference between a 14 and 15 ability score.

Chromatic Dungeons Full game
TB/TOS: What sorts of games do you see others playing with these rules?

RW:  Like all old-school games, I see people taking bits and pieces of this and applying it to their own games.  Most old-school gamers are also big into homebrewing.  Back in the day, we all created our own worlds and adventures, and I don’t see that as much now.  So I can easily see someone taking an old adventure module and playing Chromatic Dungeons with it.  Or taking the heritage system out of CD and using it for their OSE game.

TB/TOS: Who would you say Chromatic Dungeons is for?

RW:  Everyone.  I know that sounds cliche, but it’s true.  It’s a big driver behind the whole project.  Everyone should feel like they can play this.  However, and there’s always a however, I fully understand that some folks might not find the appeal.  And that’s totally OK.  We all have different preferences, and there is no one-true-way to play the game.   For example, because the game is streamlined, optimizers might not be drawn to it because there isn’t the level of customization options as 3e.  If you were to force me to answer, I’d say this game is especially for those who want a classic feel of gaming with modern design sensibilities, and who were traditionally not represented in those older games.  But really, anyone who enjoys the style of old school gaming, regardless of the diversity or lack thereof, should enjoy this game.  Because the game makes a point to represent people of every demographic doesn’t mean it excludes the traditional straight white male (I would be excluding myself!).  Yes, I’ve heard that complaint as well.

I will add this:  Because no intelligent mundane humanoid has a default alignment in Chromatic Dungeons, there are several people who I’ve heard say this game excludes people who just want the old way of doing things, where all orcs are evil.  I want to be very clear that in CD, you absolutely can still do that.  I’m not showing up to anyone’s house to “cancel” them.  It’s just not the default assumption anymore.  But you as a GM can do whatever you want, and play them however your table feels like.  That’s still a perfectly valid way to play the game. 

TB/TOS: What are your future plans for this game?

RW:  The immediate plans are to put out a monthly Zine that offers new material.  Think of it like a mini-Dragon magazine from back in the day.  The first four are already done, and part of the Kickstarter as a matter of fact.  Writing the fifth one now (really expanding on orcs, their various cultures, etc).

TB/TOS: And finally, for the benefit of my audience, well and me, who is your favorite witch or magic-using character?

RW:  The second fantasy novel I read after the Book of Three was Sword of Shannara.  So Allanon has always had a soft spot in my heart.

I want to add one final note regarding this campaign.  It’s important for me to walk the talk.  It’s one reason why I made it a point to hire diverse freelancers and editors.  This isn’t mentioned on the Kickstarter page because Kickstarter cannot be used as a fundraiser for charities, but I have committed to matching 25% of net profits and donating that to The Trevor Project.  That’s a great charity that helps at-risk LGBTQ youth, and to give them the support they need.  So by supporting this project, you’re not just getting a great RPG, you’re helping at-risk youth who deserve to be treated better than our society does. 

Links

Chromatic Dungeons Kickstarter

Izegrim Creations

DriveThruRPG


Thursday, July 8, 2021

Blue Rose as an Old-School Setting?

Last month I put up my review of the new Blue Rose Adventurer's Guide, which allows you to play a Blue Rose game using D&D 5th Edition.

Now. I love Blue Rose. I love D&D 5e.  But I also love my old school games.  To be blunt, I am an old gamer and these games fill me with nostalgia.  Can I run a Blue Rose game using the systems I have here?

Short answer? Yes!
Longer Answer? HELL Yes!

Everything I need is right at my fingertips. So how would I do it?  Let's have a look.  Now I have talked about how to take Blue Rose and run the AGE system like an old-school-style game already.   Here I want to talk about how to take your old-school rules and run them like a Blue Rose game.

Old School Blue Rose

Setting

Grab the first Seven chapters of the Blue Rose Adventure's Guide and use them as-is. Append with details from AGE or True 20 as needed.  I mention the True 20 since some things will be easier to convert from that.

Classes

Blue Rose True 20 and AGE have only three classes, Adept, Expert, and Warrior.  Blue Rose Adventure's Guide has all the classes from D&D 5.  Older versions of the game don't have all of these. No problems let's see what we do have.

In the Blue Rose Adventure's Guide, we have the following Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Sorcerer, Thief, Warlock, and Wizard.

By using the "Advanced" versions of both Old-School Essentials and Labyrinth Lord, plus a couple of my witch classes, we could cover every class.  It pains me to even say it but we might not even need my witches here!

True20 / AGE D&D 5e OSR / Basic
 Warrior  Barbarian  Barbarian(LL-A)
 Expert/Adept  Bard  Bard (OSE-A)
 Adept/Warrior  Cleric  Cleric
 Adept/Expert  Druid  Druid
 Warriror  Fighter  Fighter
 Warrior/Adept  Monk  Monk (LL-A)
 Warrior/Adept  Paladin  Paladin
 Warrior/Expert/Adept  Ranger  Ranger
 Adept  Sorcerer  Magic-User
 Expert  Thief  Thief
 Adept  Warlock  Witch
 Adept  Wizard  Magic-user

Ancestry, Culture, and Backgrounds

What old-school games call race we will now break up into Ancestry, Culture, and Backgrounds.

Essentially we can map them like this, rules-wise:

Humans are Humans, Night People use the rules for Half-orcs, and the Vata are essentially Elves rules-wise.  Sea folk are humans with some perks, I'd use the half-elf rules for them.  Small Rhydan can use the rules for halflings and medium Rhydan use the rules for Dwarves. Alter movements and attacks as needed.

Monsters

Every monster in the Blue Rose books has something similar to it in the D20 SRD.  This is an artifact of the Blue Rose True20 days.  If it is in the SRD then there is likely an Old-School version somewhere. I could do a search, but I am pretty confident that every monster in the BR-AGE core can be found somewhere in the Old-School world.

Relationships

Blue Rose pays a lot of attention to how the characters interact with others.  This absolutely should be part of an Old School Blue Rose game too.  Here though mechanics and rules will have to give way to good roleplaying and XP bonuses for characters who play their roles well.  While some old-schoolers may balk at this idea, seeing the characters as only a collection of numbers, the truth is the role-playing aspects that both Blue Rose and D&D5 players love so much today were already all there back in old-school play.  Some of us did it then and didn't need the rules to tell us how or why.

Still, I would offer some XP bonuses for good in-character inter-personal relationships. Especially the bonds.  OR if I REALLY wanted to get old school, XP penalty for not doing it.

Blue Rose + White Box = White Rose?

I might also replace the Law-Neutral-Chaos alignment with Light-Twilight alignment.  Effectively there is not much difference in terms of how one plays a character, but it would give a different feel. 

Everything Else

In truth what I have above covers nearly everything.  What remains can be handled by the DM/Narrator in their own games.  I have already talked about how to use Blue Rose in conjunction with several old-school adventures.

My family really enjoyed playing Blue Rose so I might add some more elements of this game to my old-school games.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Review: Old-School Essentials Adventures

One of my fondest memories of gaming has to be the Summer of 1982 playing this weird-ass hybrid of AD&D first ed and D&D Moldvay/Cook B/X. I think I played every weekend to be honest.

While a lot of games have come really close to this feel, the one that now comes the closest has to be Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy

Old-School Essentials Adventures

There are a lot of great clones out there but right now nothing is scratching my old-school itch quite like OSE.  I got my Kickstarter package a bit back and while I was engrossed with the rules of the new books, I utterly failed to give much attention to the two included adventures. That is until I started hearing people talk about them more online.  I went back to them and you know what?  They are really kind of great.

For this review, I am considering both the hardcover copies I got with the Kickstarter and the PDF copies from DriveThru RPG.

Both books are 48-page, full-color books. The maps are printed on the inside covers with encounter areas labeled on the maps.  The books are A5 format (5.8" x 8.3", 148mm x 210mm).

The Incandescent Grottoes
The Incandescent Grottoes
by Gavin Norman

This is an introductory adventure designed for characters level 1-2, written by OSE creator Gavin Norman with art by Nate Treme. 

The adventure could be considered a dungeon crawl along the lines of Keep on the Borderlands, but like so much of OSE it taps into how the games were played rather than written. The dungeons of IG *could be* like the Caves of Chaos, but more accurately they are played like Caves of Chaos were played back then.  What do I mean?  Well, there is a demonic cult here, The Cult of the Faceless Lord. There are factions within the dungeon and how they interact. Plus goals for the various groups of monsters. There are tables of treasures and random occurrences to make exploring this dungeon something players can keep coming back to. 

The rooms and areas a very nicely detailed and the whimsical art really adds to the dream-like qualities of the adventure.  There is even a dragon waiting for the characters at the end!  Ok, it is not a very powerful one, but to 1st and 2nd level characters it is powerful enough.  There are some new monsters (the aforementioned dragon) and lots of great encounters.

While there is no overt meta-plot here, one could easily see this as some sort of introduction to a cult of Juiblex vying for control of the Mythic Underworld. 

A bit about the name.  I can't help but notice that a 1st level adventure into the "Mythic Underground" can be read as "I(n) Can Descen(d)t."  I am sure this is intentional.

Halls of the Blood King
Halls of the Blood King
by Diogo Nogueira

Diogo Nogueira has been racking up an impressive list of RPG publications and getting him to pen an adventure for OSE is quite a score.  And the adventure is pretty much what I hoped it would be like.

This time the artist is Justine Jones. If the art of Incandescent Grottoes is dream-like then the art here is nightmarish.  I mean that in the most positive way. 

The adventure is set up in a manner similar to other OSE adventures. We get maps with major encounter areas, descriptions and relationships of the major factions/NPCs/Monsters.

The adventure itself is a castle of a vampire lord for characters of 3rd to 5th level.  

Detail-wise this adventure lives somewhere between the sparse-ness Palace of the Vampire Queen and the detail rich Ravenloft.  I don't want this to sound like there not a lot of detail here, there is, but there is no over arching epic here.  This is great since it allows you to take this adventure and work it into your world much easier.   For example with a tweak or two here and there I could make this "Halls of the Blood Queen" and add it rather nicely to my War of the Witch Queens campaign.  This would work out well since I am using OSE for that.  The only thing stopping me is I have so many Vampire Queens now!  But still, it would be fun and very, very easy.

The adventure is also rather good and looks like a lot of fun.

If these are examples of how adventures for OSE are going to be written in the future then OSE is going have a nice long shelf life.  While neither adventure is revolutionary in design or concepts they are really good adventures.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Bunnies & Burrows

Yesterday I reviewed the 3rd Edition of the Bunnies & Burrows RPG. So given my desire to stick with cute and fluffy bunnies, I thought a character was in order.

The Game: Bunnie & Burrows

I detailed this game yesterday, so no need to go into a lot of details here and now.

The Character: Simon

Simon is a dwarf Jersey Wooley rabbit. He is a good bunny and a bit of a rascal. 

Name: Simon Bunny
Species: Rabbit (Jersey Wooley)

Profession: Maverick

STR: 7 (+0)
SPD: 16 (+2)
INT: 16 (+2)
AGI: 17 (+2)
CON: 12 (+0)
MYS: 7 (+0)
SML: 13 (+1)
CHA: 15 (+1)

Abilities
Tumble, Stealing, Handle Man-things

Real bunnies love B&B

Simon is a Maverick.  Thought this was best given what an escape artist this little stinker is.  

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Review: Bunnies and Burrows 3rd Edition (2019)

Bunnies & Burrows has always been one of those games that elicits a variety of responses from gamers and non-gamer alike.  Most often it is "really? there is a game of that?"

I will admit I was and am a fan of the original 1976 Edition.  I never really got to play it, save for one time, but that was it. It was fun and I wrote a review for it

I did, however, spend a lot of time back in 2007 rewriting the Bunnies & Burrows article on Wikipedia.  Not only was I and others able to get the article to Good Article status, but I also had a Furry Advocacy group offer to send me money because of it.  I just asked them to donate the money to the Humane Society.  I didn't want my edits called into question if I Was doing them for pay.  I was doing it to further my own RPG knowledge.

So when the Kickstarter for the new edition from Frog God Games came up, well yes, I had to back it. They delivered it and it looked great. And I promptly put it on my shelf never to be seen again.  I was cleaning up some shelves to make room for more Traveller books when I found it.  I figure I should give it a go again.

If you have never checked out this game then I say do yourself a favor and remedy that. This is a great piece of the RPG past and should not go ignored.

I am going to review Bunnies & Burrows 3rd Edition from Frog God Games.  For this review, I am considering both the PDF and the Print version I received from Kickstarter.  There is a Print on Demand version, I have not seen it. 

Bunnies & Burrows, 3rd Edition

Bunnies & Burrows 3rd Ed comes to us from Frog God Games. Maybe more well known for the Swords & Wizardry line of books than rabbits, this game is still a solid contender for the Old School market. More so I say than some other games that people think of as "Old School."

In this game, you play rabbits.  Not anthropomorphic rabbits. Not mutant rabbits. But normal, everyday, common in your backyard rabbits.  If this feels a bit "Watership Down" then you are right on track.

Part I: Traits and Characteristics

Characters have 8 base traits, Strength, Speed, Intelligence, Agility, Constitution, Mysticism (was Wisdom in 1st and 2nd Ed), Smell, and Charisma.  Different Professions (Runners, Spies, Shamans...) all have a primary trait.  Traits are rolled like D&D, 3d6, and the bonuses are similar. 

Every profession gets some special abilities. So for example the Fighter gets a double attack and a killing blow.  It is assumed that your starting character is a rabbit or bunny. 

Bunnies & Burrow art

There are other choices too, Raccoon, Jackrabbit, chipmunk, skunk, porcupine, opossum, armadillo, and gray squirrel.  With the examples given, other small furry wild animals could be chosen.

Bunnies & Burrows

Part II: Playing the Game

This covers the rules of the game and more importantly, the sorts of things you can do in the game. Covered are important topics like Habitats, Grooming, Sleep, Foraging, Diseases, and dealing with other animals and at worse, Man-Things.

There is a huge section on encounters and how basically everything out there is harmful to you. There are predators, humans, dangerous terrain, rival animals, and the ever-present search for food and water.

There are many sample scenarios and even a few mini-games to play.

Part III: For the Gamemaster

The last part covers the last half of the book.  It has a lot of information on setting up a game, how to roleplay, and stats of all sorts.  A lot of rival and predatory creatures are also listed in what would the "monster" section of other games.




There are a bunch of maps, scenarios, and encounters all throughout the book.  There is no unified theme, nothing that ties them all together, other than "survive as a little thing in a world full of bigger, scarier things."

There is certainly a lot of Role0playing potential in that. 

Bunnies & Burrow art

Bunnies & Burrow art


Bunnies & Burrow map

B&B makes you feel like it could all be happening in your backyard.  That while we Man-Things sit on our decks and grill our burgers and drink out ices tea, there is a world not that far from us distance-wise, but one that is as different and far away as we can get. A world of survival just under our noses. 

The game is quite attractive in terms of color and art. It looks fantastic.

There is a feel from this, I am going to call it the S&W effect, that I didn't feel when reading the original game.  This is a polished game that is trying to feel old. As opposed to an old that was trying to feel polished.

The original B&B looks cheap by today's standards but it was such an "out there" idea for the time that it felt more important than say the representation it got in RPG circles.  This new B&B has a similar feel, but maybe lacks a little of the gravitas of the original.

In any case, it is a fun game, and one every gamer would at least try.  I don't think you can call yourself an old-school gamer unless you have played it at least once.

Real bunnies love B&B

This game is Simon Bunny approved!