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

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Into the Borderlands

I stopped by my favorite local game store, Games Plus, today and picked up my copy of the "new" Goodman Games Into the Borderlands.

It's a huge book.

Almost 400 pages (380) and full of nostalgic content.

There are several essays from people involved with the originals and the new project.

Some full-color panels of the covers and maps.

Inside the covers where they belong!

So interesting tidbits I never saw in the earlier modules.

It compares favorably to the originals, but it's size makes it awkward for the game table.  I am hoping that Goodman Games comes out with a PDF so I can just print the sections I want.

This book also has some new spells and some "new" monsters, or really monsters ported over from the Fiend Folio for the most part. 

The large number "1" in the upper left-hand corner is quite conspicuous.  I am wondering if we will get a "2" with Palace of the Silver Princess and Ilse of Dread?  A detailed treatment of B3 Palace of the Silver Princess would be fantastic, to be honest.

Is it worth the $50 price tag?  Maybe not to new gamers, but certainly to gamers of my age bracket.

I think it is pretty damn fun in my opinion!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Kickstart your Weekend with Venger As'Nas Satanis

You gotta love +Venger Satanis and his Kortthalis Publishing
He is out there doing his own thing. Doing to make the stuff he wanted to play with back in the day and if we want to come along, well great. While he takes himself far less seriously than other publishers, he takes his games and books very seriously. And it shows in his production values.  So today I want to share two new Venger products with you.  First up a Kickstarter.

Battle Star Trilogy: Trek Wars

I'll admit it. I LOVE Alpha Blue.  I might be because I am the right demographic for it, but I also love 70s sleaze.  Anything for Alpha Blue then is good in my book.
This one will be three adventure scenarios for Alpha Blue, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't thinking of trying them in White Star and/or Star Frontiers.

Player's Handbook Like A Fucking Boss
Out now is Venger's latest in his "Like a Fucking Boss" series. 
Venger is a man after my own heart, and PHB-LAFB takes many nods and cues from Basic-era D&D, or at least his reading of it which is just as good.
PHB-LAFB is not a rule book or an adventure, but a collection of various tips, tricks and odds and ends to help your game along.  There are some very obvious nods to classic/Basic/OSR style play and there are nods to more modern/D&D5 style mechanics and design.  The bottom line here (and a big one for me when reading this) is I can use it with just about any game I play.
In truest old-school fashion there are plenty of tables. "Stranger Things" gives us a table of various odds and ends, emphasis on the odd.  "Honor and Fame" and "Dishonor and Infamy" are also very useful tables for rewards that reminds me of some the rules I have seen in AGE and Blue Rose; again a natural idea given Venger's own twist. 
There is a lot of great character building ideas too. Tables, checklists, backgrounds. It's all here.
For $5.00 and 33 full-color pages, it is quite worth it.
I am not quite sure if it is up to the level of awesomeness that is How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss but it is also more focused on players and characters and is half the price too.

No one does Venger quite like Venger.  Both of this products are top notch.

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
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(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.

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