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

Monday, March 4, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Snakes. Why did it have to be Snakes?

A little something different today for MM.  I want to talk about snake people.


Snake people, serpent folk, Ophidians, Yuan-ti whatever you want to call them they have been a staple of fiction and D&D since ... well likely forever.

They were common enough in the pages in the Conan that even as a casual reader of the pulps I had heard about them.  They have had a prominent focus in AD&D with the Yuan-ti; so much so that there are one of the very, very few monsters that are IP and Closed to the OGL.
So yeah, they come with some history.

I think it is also that snakes seem so loathsome to humans.  There is just something "evil" about them in our collective subconscious.   That makes them a great old-school threat.

Review: Serpentine - Oldskull Serpent Folk

Serpentine - Oldskull Serpent Folk from Oldskull, aka Kent David Kelly is a nice RPG for adding and using Serpent Folk, known as Serpentine here, in any old-school like game. The book is 41 pages with cover and OGL statement. Everything is 100% open minus the usual trade dress and some names.  The book is full color, but mostly public domain black and white art.
The purpose of this book is to bring together various mythos and stories together to present a cohesive whole narrative of a primordial race of serpent people.  In this respect, it works rather well.
History and Pre-History of the Serpent Folk. Drawing on the works of Dunsany, Lovecraft, Howard, and Smith Kelley weaves a history (or Hisssstory!) that combines the Hyborian Mythos and the Cthulhu Mythos, with other myths of the world added for good measure.  While overtly for the Oldskull world it can be added and modified as any game master needs.  One of the reasons it works so well here is that Kelley draws on some primordial myths and legends.  The same that influenced the authors of the stories being used.   Quotes from those authors are found throughout this book.
Up next we get a Serpent Folk Truename Generator.  A useful tool to help you name all those NPCs (or even PCs) you plan on using.  This is followed by Description or what your serpent folk looks like.  A section on Ability Minimums, Maximums and Modifiers is next. After that are sections on Behavior, XP modifiers, and views on Alignment.
There is a list of serpent folk deities from other myths.  It is a good list, but I have a few issues with some of the gods on it; for example Brigid. But the vast majority I see why they are there.  Mostly Serpent Folk are going to worship Yig and/or Tsathogga, though Set is a close runner up.
We get into a section now on Class Options for Serpent Folk. Most are going to fall into the various fighter classes and thief-related classes.  Also presented here is the new Soul Slaver class, which combines Cleric, Shaman, and Necromancer all in one serpent-related class.  It's a good class and it adds a lot of flavor to the Serpent Folk.  I might tweak it to be less Necromancer and more Shaman myself, but that is only personal bias, not a shortcoming of the class.  Basically, the class draws on the souls of the deceased to perform magical feats. There are spell lists, mostly from the classical B/X and Advanced sources.    They advance as Magic-Users, but have their own spell progression and, in a nice old-school touch, level titles.
There is also a section on Racial Powers serpent folk get and what kinds of snakes they are likely to summon.  This also included specail attacks and special limitations.
There is a nice section on how Serpent folk get along with Dragons (spoiler, they don't) that really sealed the deal for me.  I have been using various serpent-like races (Yuan-ti, Naga) as the ancient ancestral enemies of the Dragonfolk (Dragonborn) for years.
We end with a recomended reading list.
So for just $3 and a little over 40 pages this book packs a lot in.  There are so many cool ideas it is hard to figure out where I want to start with it.  I think that since Kelley tapped into some primal myths here that all gamers have an idea of these creatures, he just put it down in writing for us.

PWWO: Serpentine in Other Old-School Games

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea has been my obsession over the last few weeks. Given the background of both AS&SH and Serpentine, it should really be no surprise then that I see the two of them working quite well together.  With the addition of Serpentine you can really "punch up" the stats for Sanke People in AS&SH. Already an interesting monster, now with this addition Snake People go from "just another monster" in the Bestiary section to potential Big Bad material.  Growing cult activity? Serpent People. More dinosaur sightings? Serpent People.  Increased slave trade? Yup. Serpent People.   Plus AS&SH and Oldskull Serpentine draw from exactly the same sources. They just rearrange things in a different order.  Both books feature Yig and owners of one book should find it to be of positive use when used with the other book.

Serpentine features the often used Clark Ashton Smith god, Tsathoggua.  Here he is considered to be a god of the Serpent People. AS&SH has the god Xathoqqua, which is the same god.  There are some differences in how they are portrayed in each book, but gods are supposed to be mutable.  Of course, the best source for Tsathogga (yet another spelling) is from the Frog Gods themselves in their Tome of Horror Complete.  Here he is presented as a demon, but that is perfect for me really. The same book (and the Tome of Horrors 4) have the Inphidians, which are their versions of the Yuan-ti, save Open for the OGL. Speaking of the Frog Gods, in their Monstrosities book feature Ophidians, a name I have also used in the past, as snake men.

The OSR games Blueholme and Adventurer Conqueror King System both have rules within their systems to allow Serpentine player characters. All you need really is the Serpentine book.


Union of the Snake: The Second Campaign

The heroes of the Second Campaign, my D&D 5e nod to old-school gaming, have already had their first encounter with the Yuan-ti.  They have encountered other snake-like creatures and reptiles worshiping snake gods, but everything is about to go into overdrive when they hit their desert-related adventures.

While the campaign is 5e based there is a lot of old-school influences in it.  I plan to take a bunch of the material above, put it in a blender then bury it in a desert for 3,000 years and see what comes up.
For me a lot of it is leading up to the ultimate confrontation with Demogorgon.
Borrowing from Advanced Labyrinth Lord I am using Demogorgon as the cult leader behind the snakes and snake men.  This fits in with my use of the blood apes as one of the three factions the worship Demogorgon; with human cultists and Ophidians/Snake Men/Serpent Folk being the other two.  The campaign will take a solid desert/Egyptian turn here soon.  I just need to figure out the Set-Apep-Yig-Demogorgon connection.

Of course, there will be creepy ass snake-men and cultists. All part of the alchemy of my past. Yes. My influeces for this are an forgotten Dirk Benedict horror movie and Duran Duran.  My game, my weird ass childhood.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend: Old School Style Zines!

Got some great Old-school style Zines. So let's go!

The Isle of The Amazons - RPG Zine for #ZineQuest

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ericfrombloatgames/the-isle-of-the-amazons-rpg-zine-for-zinequest?ref=theotherside

From friend of the Other Side Eric Bloat:
The Isle of The Amazons (TIOTA) is an optional setting designed specifically for Untold Adventures by Ennie Award winning author and designer, James M. Spahn. However, as such TIOTA, is compatible with Swords & Wizardry and really any White Box based game as well as easily convertible to be used with all OSR RPG games.

TIOTA showcases the island paradise of Elencia, the home of the Amazons. It also features Amazon City, the Amazons ways, their history, other inhabitants of Elencia, dangerous locations and monsters and much more.

TIOTA details the 7 new playable classes: The Aristocrat, Disciple of the High Priestess, Guard, Muse, Psion, Sorceress & Sungia.
It looks great!

Draugr & Draculas


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/joshburnett/draugr-and-draculas?ref=theotherside

Another Old Scool Zine!
Draugr & Draculas is a one-off zine for old-stye/OSR roleplaying adventure games. Dr&Dr focuses on vampires, undead, and spooky horror magic for use in your own fantasy RPG campaigns. The zine will be entirely written and illustrated by me, Josh Burnett. In accordance with the Zine Quest guidelines, Draugr & Draculas will be a 5.5” x 8.5” zine, staple-bound and printed in black-and-white. I estimate it should clock in at around 24-32 pages.

What's in the zine?
  • Count Dracula himself, as well as his origins and current motivations
  • Details on Dracula's lesser servants
  • Dracula's deadly rival, Elizabeth Bathory
  • Draugr—northern undead of varying degrees of power
  • The Draugr class
  • Rules for magic users striking a deal with the Devil
  • New magical items of perilous power
  • Pagan's Well, a small dungeon full of traps and treasure
  • And whatever else I can fit in this thing.   

Honestly, you had me at Vampires.

And of course a huge friend of the Other Side Justin Ryan Issac's offering.

Cade's Big Book o' Booze


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1988380379/cades-big-book-o-booze?ref=theotherside
Cade's Big Book o' Booze is a humorous zine designed to be used with the 5th edition of the world's most popular fantasy rpg. While the tone is jovial, the book itself will contain content useful for any fantasy game.
  • The "Intoxicated" condition and what it entails
  • New alcohols for your fantasy game to add some flavor (pun-intended) to your campaigns
  • New equipment and weapons, including the formidable dwarven battle mug
  • Cade's Bar Guide: a list of materials/ingredients found in the game world and how to use them to make the ultimate cocktails 
  • New magic: spells and magic items 
  • New monsters to face, including the b'ooze and the dreaded bad beer elemental
  • NPC stats for Cade Ashworthy, the titular planehopping halfling 
  • And more... 

At these prices, you can grab them all!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Review: Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea 2E

This one has been a long time in coming.

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Compleat Second Edition)

This is the newest version of the AS&SH game and there are few notable differences between it and the first edition, but it is still the same fun game from Jeffrey Talanian and the sorcerers over at North Wind Adventures.

I will be reviewing both the PDF and the physical copy. I purchased these via the Kickstarter a while back so no review was expected or asked for.

Where to begin with this massive tome?  Well, let's talk about the book itself.  The book is massive at 622 pages.  The covers are full color and the interior art is a combination of mostly black & white with some new full-color pages; most to designate larger sections of the book.

Some of the art and text is held over from the First Edition, but since this book is designed as a replacement that's fine with me really.  It is more than that too.

AS&SH2e is a complete game. Everything you need except for dice is here.  There are player's sections and a game master section.  I will work through them all.


Volume I: Swordsmen & Sorcerers covers character creation. We have the same basic material we see in all games, what is an RPG, how to play, dice, how to generate stats and so on.  I gloss over it here because I know my readers know all of this but to a newcomer to the game these sections are written with a lot of clarity.  I do think that most people coming to this game will be coming from other RPGs, but this is still good material.  The bulk of this volume (over 120 pages) is devoted to classes.  We still have our Basic Four; Fighter, Magician, Cleric, and Theif.  Each also gets a number of subclasses.  Fighters get  Barbarian, Berserker, Cataphract, Paladin, Ranger, and Warlock with the addition of a new to this edition Huntsman.  The Magician has Illusionist, Necromancer, Pyromancer, and Witch. with the new to this edition Cyromancer (a new favorite of mine).  The Cleric has the Druid, Monk, Priest,  and Shaman and the new Runegraver.  Finally, the Thief has the Assassin, Bard, Legerdemainist, Scout and the new Purloiner.  Each subclass is very much like it's parent classes with some changes.  The classes look pretty well balanced. The new classes also feel right with the Cryomancer, Huntsman, and Runegraver falling into the "why didn't think of these in 1st ed, they are so obvious!" category.
Each class has a "Fighting Ability" and a "Magic Ability" which relates to attacks. So yes, even magicians can get a little better in combat as they go up in level.  It's a great little shorthand and works great.  So a 4th level Fighter has a fighting ability of 4. A 4th level magician still only has a fighting ability of 1 and a cleric 3 and thief 3.  Subclasses can and do vary.
AC is descending (like old school games), BUT with the Fighting Ability stat it could be converted to an ascending AC easily.
Races are dealt with next. They include Amazons, Atlanteans, Esquimaux, Hyperboreans, Ixians, Kelts, Kimmerians, Lemurians, Picts, and Vikings along with the catch-all "Common" race of man.  No elves or dwarves here. Alignment is a simpler affair of Lawful Good, Lawful Evil, Chaotic Good, Chaotic Evil and Neutral.
There are background skills and weapon skills. Also listed are some gods and plenty of equipment.


Volume II: Sorcery deals with all the spells of the various spellcasting classes. At a little over 80 pages, there are a lot of spells here.  Even more impressive when you consider that the highest level spell is only Sixth level.


Volume III: Adventure & Combat covers the next 60 or so pages of what is essentially the Player's section. It deals with combat in all its forms. So combat, mass combat, saves and conditions.  Siege combat, strongholds, waterborne adventures, and combat. A great collection really of some of the "Best of" ideas I have seen in many games, but it all works really nice here. It has been expanded on from the 1st edition.
Now there are some differences here between AS&SH and say "Normal" or "Standard" D&D.  There are things like group intitative, the Fighting Ability figures more in than actually level and others.  Please be sure to read this section carefully when running your first game.

Volume IV: Bestiary kicks off what is the Referee's section. Now it is no secret I love monster books so for the next 130 pages we get all sorts of monsters. The format is most similar to Basic or Labyrinth Lord, and it is full of the usual suspects with some Lovecraftian Horrors, and even remnants of alien and bygone ages. "Demons" are here, but no devils. I know NorthWind has a Player's book out now, but a Monster book would also be fantastic.  Thankfully nearly every Clone or OSR monster book can be used with this with minor tweaks.

Volume V: Treasure covers the next 50 or so pages. Among the magic items are things like Radium Pistols and other sc-fi artifacts. Very pulpy. It also includes some rules on scribing spell and protection scrolls. There is even a small section on Alchemy in Hyperborea. Very useful to have really.

Volume VI: Hyperborea Gazetteer is our last volume. It is a great bit that I can easily drop into my game. The lands are a pastiche of Howard, Vance, Lovecraft, and Smith.  If these names mean anything to you then you know, or have an idea, of what you are going to get here.  This section has been greatly expanded from the previous edition. Included here are the gods again and a little more on religion.  Basically you get the idea that gods are either something you swear by (or to) or get sacrificed to by crazy cultists.  So yeah, you know I am a fan.


Appendix A: Referee Advice is just that.  One page and straight to the point.
Appendix B: Weather in Hyperborea. You mean it does more than snow? Charts that help you figure out the temperature and conditions at any given time.  Also useful for other games.
Appendix C: Rogues Gallery. Some NPCs, or what I guess we could call the Iconics of AS&SH.  All are easily recognizable from the art in the book.  No iconic witch though...hmmm. All are listed at 1st, 5th and 9th levels.
Appendix D: Introductory Setting. This gives us the Town of Swampgate. It's a pretty robust setting with some adventure keyed in.

I have said it once, but I will repeat it here.  Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea is hands down one of my most favorite retro-clone/OSR/Old-School games.

For me, it is another example of striking the perfect balance between B/X D&D and AD&D1.  This one leans more towards the AD&D side of the spectrum, but the power level, the grit, the overall vibe is far more B/X.  THEN you add in material from Lovecraft, Howard and Clark Ashton Smith? Well, that is the perfect icing on the cake really.

Of course, it is nearly perfect out of the box, but it can also lend itself to so much more than what is given us to use between the covers.  I have run Zothique games and Pellucidar style ones as well where all of Hyperborea was either one continent in the far future or underground, inside hollow earth (respectively).

The book is as attractive as it is huge.
I really can't recommend this book and game enough. The new book is great and it will sit next my 1st Ed box rather nicely.


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


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1575519826/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!


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1575519826/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.


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