Showing posts with label rpg. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rpg. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Review: DragonQuest, First Edition (1980)

DragonQuest First Edition
I have a history with DragonQuest. Not a complicated one or even an interesting one, but history all the same.  Back in 83 or 84 or so I would head to Belobrajdic's Bookstore in my hometown every weekend. There I would get a new edition of Dragon or whatever sci-fi novel piqued my interest and then check out all the new RPG materials.  One I kept going back to time and time again was DragonQuest.  This was the 2nd Edition softcover and looked really different than anything I had played so far.  The barbarian proudly holds the severed head of a dragon. 

The game intrigued me so much. I flipped through it many times and even it got to the point that I annoyed the owner, Paula Belobrajdic, that she told me I should buy it.  In retrospect, I wish I had.  Though had I I likely would not have picked up the great-looking first edition boxed set next to me now.

My history with the first edition is not as long or as storied. I bought it a while back and it has sat on my shelves for a bit. I did do a character write-up last year, Phygor, for DragonQuest and I really liked how the character came it. 

For this month of D&D, I figure a look into the game that tempted me so much would be neat to look into.

DragonQuest, First Edition (1980)

This game was published by SPI in 1980.  SPI had been a wargame publisher and decided to get into the RPG market. I am sure they were seeing their market share being eaten away by RPGs, and D&D in particular.  This is important since this game does feel very wargamey. This includes how the rules are presented and even how combat is run. While D&D/AD&D at this time was open to minis and terrain maps this game requires them. Or at least chits and the included maps. 

DragonQuest 1st Edition Boxed Set

The boxed set I have contains three soft-cover books. Some chits. Some ads, a comment card, and a tactical hex map.  My set does not have dice, but I also don't think it originally came with dice.  I added two d10s myself.

The First Book of DragonQuest: Character Generation, Combat
The First Book of DragonQuest: Character Generation, Combat

Our first book is the smaller of the three at 32 pages.  The format is three-column and the rules are all presented in "wargame" style.  So Adventure Rationale can be coded as II.1.A.1.  I won't be using this much but it does make it easy to find any rule. A little cumbersome at first and then it gets really easy. 

This was an interesting time. The Introduction (I.) and How to Play the Game (II.) don't spend a lot of time with the "This is a Roleplaying Game" and instead gets down to business. Requirements for play are discussed as well as Game Terms (III.).

We get into Character Generation (IV.) This is not a completely random affair as D&D was at the time.  You roll and get a pool of points. Though with a high number of points, your maximum is low, likewise a small amount in a point pool will give you a higher maximum.  The traits are Physical Strength, Agility, Magical Aptitude, Manual Dexterity, Endurance, Willpower, and Appearance. Scores are 5 to 25 for the human range.  So you roll a 4d5 (1d10/2) which will generate a score from 4 to 20.  Compare this to the table under 5.1. This table gives you your point pool (82 to 98) and a Group (A to G) These groups refer to the maximums. A = 25, B = 24 and G =19.-

There are even some rules for developing other types of abilities if the Game Master desires them. After this other details are figured out; Gender (or even genderless), handiness, human or non-human (such as Dwarf, Efl, Giant, Halfling, Orc or Shape-changer), various Aspects, and Heritages.  It can be a complex character system all for what is nominally an 18-year-old.   This all covers the first dozen pages.  There are no classes (rather famously so) and more to your character from the next books.

The last half+ of this book covers combat. All movement and combat is done on a hex grid, not a square one. Gives it an interesting twist and again a holdover of their wargame roots. Plenty of diagrams and examples are given. Combat rounds are 10 seconds and can be made up of an undefined increment of time called a Pulse. There are Strike Zones, Fire Zones, and all sorts of fun bits.  I am reminded of combat in D&D 3rd Edition here to be honest. 

Damage is an equally detailed affair with damage affecting Fatigue and Endurance. When Fatigue is 0 damage starts happening to Endurance, there is a similar idea here in D&D 4th edition. Maybe when TSR bought SPI DragonQuest didn't entirely disappear.  There is also Grievous injury which is much worse. 

Personally, I feel any D&D player could get a lot out of reading this combat section, at least give it a play-through once.  

The Second Book of DragonQuest: Magic
The Second Book of DragonQuest: Magic

Ask anyone that has ever played both DragonQuest and D&D about what sets the two games apart the most and you are likely to hear "Magic."  In 1980 DragonQuest took an approach to magic that would not be seen in other games until much later.  What made it different then? Three pretty good reasons. Mana, different kinds of spells, and Colleges.

Mana in DragonQuest fuels the magic an Adept can use. Spell casting can be tiring and there is never a guarantee that the spell will work. It could fail or backfire. Even when it works the target can be resistant to it.  And Adepts can never wear metal to top it all off. This notion is pretty commonplace now, but then it was new and exciting. I have lost track of how many "spell points" and "mana" systems I have seen applied to AD&D over the years and that is not counting systems like Mage and WitchCraft that use some form of Essence or Quintessence. Ass expected Magical Aptitude is important here, but so is Willpower and even Endurance. 

The different sorts of spells the adept has access to. Nearly every adept has access to at least one magical talent (I'll get to that). These talents can be thought of as a power that can always be used and they are related to the Adept's college.  Then there are "normal" spells. These are the most "D&D" like and each college has its own lists and there is very little crossover, though each college has something going for it. The limiting factors here are how many spells you know.  Finally, there are rituals. These are like spells that take longer, usually much longer, require more components but have a far better chance of success.  

I have talked a bit about them already, but DragonQuest's adepts learn their magic from distinct Colleges. There are twelve colleges: Ensorcelments & Enchantments, Sorceries of the Mind, Illusions, Naming Incantations, Earth Magics, Air Magics, Fire Magics, Water Magics, Celestial Magics, Black Magics, Necromancy, and Greater Summonings.  Each college has its own requirements.  After the college descriptions, we get [xx.1] restrictions, [xx.2] modifiers, [xx.3] Talents, [xx.4] Spells, [xx.6] General Rituals and [xx.7] Special Rituals.  There are 30 pages of these.

This should all sound familiar. AD&D 2nd adopted the college idea in their schools of magic; though there is more overlap in spells.  D&D 4th Ed gave us at-will, encounter, and daily spells that mimic this setup.  All have been recombined one way or the other in 5th Edition. Again, this was all brand new in 1980.

Also, something that flies in the face of all things of the 1980s is the last 25 pages. Here we get a listing of demons straight out of the Ars Goetia of The Lesser Key of Solomon. Who they are and how to summon them. And the Christians were going after D&D. 

The Third Book of DragonQuest: Skills, Monsters, Adventure
The Third Book of DragonQuest: Skills, Monsters, Adventure

Overtly the Game Master's book. 

Skills can be roughly thought of as professions or even, dare I say it, classes. You get professional skills like Alchemist, Assassin, Astrology, Beast Master, Courtesan, Healer, Mechanician, Merchant, Military Scientist, Navigator, Ranger, Spy, Thief, and Troubador.  Each one is covered in detail along with what each profession allows the character to do. 

Each "profession" skill gets a listing [xx.1] to [xx.9] that covers what is needed to learn each skill (prereqs), what it does, and how it does it. For example, according to 53.1, a Beast Master must have a Willpower of at least 15. In 54.1 we learn that while Courtesans do not have minimum scores there is an XP penalty if they don't meet certain requirements (Dexterity, Agility, Physical Beauty) and a bonus if they have higher scores.   The back cover of this book gives the XP expenditure to go up a rank in each. 

Personally. I think this should have been part of the Characters' book.

The next section is all about Monsters. They are divided by like types. So all the primates, apes and pre-humans are in one section, cats in another, birds and avians, land mammals, aquatics and so on all get their own sections. Dragons get their own section, naturally, but wyverns are part of reptiles.  The usual suspects are all here, but not much more than that. There are however enough points of comparison that converting an AD&D monster to DragonQuest would be easy enough. There are some differences too. Nymphs have the lower half of a goat, like that of a satyr. Gnolls are dog-faced. Kobolds look like tiny old men, neither dog nor lizard-like, and tend towards good.  Medusa and Gorgons are the same creatures. Not much in the way of "new" monsters, even for 1980.

The last section covers Adventure. For a game that has such tactical wargame DNA, I expected a little more here, but I guess I am not surprised, to be honest. We also get a few tables.

--

There is so much packed into this box. I can really see why this game, more than 40 years later, still has such a following. While I lament that TSR (and by extension Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro) have let this IP fall into disuse, I do see where bits of it live on in nearly all the post-1990 (AD&D 2nd ed Ed in 1989 too) versions of D&D. Schools of magic, tactical battle movement, mini use, all of these became standard.  I can't say that all of these directly came from DragonQuest, but they are certainly all headed in the directions that DragonQuest started. 

My issue right now is not counting D&D and its various forms, editions, and offsprings, I have a lot of Fantasy RPGs.  Many of my favorites are more or less dead.

Dead Fantasy RPGs

They are all great fun but with DragonQuest I am right where I was back in 1984; It's a great-looking game, but no one around me is playing it.  If I Am going to play like it was 1984 I am going to pull AD&D 1st Ed off my shelf.

The obvious reason to choose one over the other is how well does it play? Well, DragonQuest is above and beyond many of the others in terms of rules and playability. Also as I mentioned there is a huge amount of online support, informal as it is. 

There is also the idea that with DragonQuest, and adding in SPI's Demons, I could create a fun demon summoning game.  But again I have to ask, can't I do this with D&D now?

DemonQuest

Maybe DemonQuest is a game I could try out!

What are your thoughts and memories about this game? 

Friday, April 15, 2022

Kickstart Your Weekend: Adventure! Romance! Chaos! Horror!

Lots of new Kickstarters out there.  So many in fact. Let's have a look!

Mini-Adventure #1: Shadow of the Necromancer 1E/5E & Box Set

Shadow of the Necromancer


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/marktaormino/mini-adventure-1-shadow-of-the-necromancer-1e-5e-and-box-set

Mark Taormino and Dark Wizard Games has another gonzo adventure for us, this time for both 1st Ed and 5th Ed D&D. As always it looks like great fun.

Swords & Chaos

Swords & Chaos

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/blackspirefantasy/swords-and-chaos

Swords & Chaos is powered by the SIEGE Engine, the same system in Castles & Crusades. Looks like it is cut from the same cloth as AS&SH or Barbarians of Lemuria.

Tome of Adventure Design

Tome of Adventure Design

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/adventuredesigntome/tome-of-adventure-design

A revised and updated Tome of Adventure design for 2022.  I have the original and it is really useful to whip up something in a pinch.

An Unexpected Wedding Invitation (5e)

An Unexpected Wedding Invitation (5e)

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/midnight-tower/an-unexpected-wedding-invitation

A bit of change here is a Jane Austin-ish-inspired wedding mystery for 5e. Looks like a lot of fun.

Shield Maidens: A New Viking/Cyberpunk Tabletop RPG

Shield Maidens: A New Viking/Cyberpunk Tabletop RPG

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1990654819/shield-maidens-a-new-viking-cyberpunk-tabletop-rpg

Ok, this one sounds interesting.  Mixing cyberpunk, pre-apocalypse, and Norse myth.  There is also a free preview to get your first shield maiden built.  It is its own system, but it still looks fun.

The Art of Ménage à 3

The Art of Ménage à 3

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pixietrixcomix/the-art-of-menage-a-3

Now for something completely different.  Ménage à 3 was a fantastic webcomic about three roommates hopelessly in love with each other.  But that did not mean things worked out! It also launched the career of  Gisèle Lagacé.  This has art from the comic and new pieces.

Old Gods of Appalachia Roleplaying Game

Old Gods of Appalachia Roleplaying Game

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/montecookgames/old-gods-of-appalachia-roleplaying-game

Dark weird folk horror from Monte Cook? YEAH! Sign me the hell up! It is the Cypher system and you know the production values will be high.

FAST Core Rulebook - Multi-Genre RPG System

FAST Core Rulebook - Multi-Genre RPG System

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/563681582/fast-core-rulebook-multi-genre-rpg-system

A new multi-genre system that looks like it has a LOT of potential.  I like multi-genre systems since I tend to mix a lot of things together in one game. 


Swords of Cthulhu

Swords of Cthulhu

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/brwgames/swords-of-cthulhu

Another cool one from Joseph Bloch who has a stellar Kickstarter track record.  This one brings the Lovecraftian mythos back (or back again) to AD&D/OSRIC.


Lots of choices!

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Plays Well With Others: Man, Myth & Magic and Lands of Adventure

Ok. "Plays Well With Others" might be stretching it a bit. Almost to the point of ridiculousness to be honest, but I have wanted to compare both Lands of Adventure and Man, Myth & Magic for a while now.

Man, Myth & Magic and Lands of Adventure

On the surface both games are attempts at presenting historical or at least semi-historical, roleplaying to a Post-AD&D world. Both games present various areas and eras of play to help facilitate that notion of historical roleplaying. LoA with its Culture Packs and MM&M with its adventures and Egyptian add-on.

Both games can best, and fairly, be described as overly complicated and in reality somewhat messy.

Both games have more complicated (than AD&D) character creation but attempt to create characters that are appropriate for their times.

Incidentally, both games also use real tiny d20 percentile dice that are difficult at best for me to read these days.

Thematically MM&M tries for historical accuracy despite having a rogue T-Rex running around as an ersatz dragon.  LoA probably does a little better here even though it does include several fantastic beasts and monsters.

LoA gives us two (more were planned) Culture Packs, Ancient Greece and Medival England.  They are separated by about 2000 years and characters are not expected to be able to travel to one from the other.

MM&M gives us a bunch of different cultures and the idea of "travel" between them is via Reincarnation.  The culture best (and I say that loosely) represented here is Rome circa 40 AD (or sometime around that).  Even then it has issues.

Neither system is one I want to cozy up with for long periods of time.  Not to mention there are plenty of other games that do historical roleplaying better, Pendragon and Chivalry & Sorcery are two that come to mind right away and there are others.  The idea of historical role-playing though is still an appealing one.

What is a Game Master to do?

The Fantastic Journey

Back in the late 70s there was a short-lived TV series, The Fantastic Journey, about a group of people that were traveling to different lands throughout time and space. It hit all the social and occult themes of the 1970s. A man from the future with psychic powers, the daughter of an Atlantean and an extraterrestrial, a scientist from the 60s (Roddy McDowall), a young African American doctor, and a super-smart teenager (Ike Eisenmann, fresh from Witch Mountain).  The show didn't last long, but it imprinted deeply on my psyche.  

It had similarities to the show Time Tunnel that came before it and Voyagers! and Quantum Leap that came after.  Though, unlike those shows that tried to pay a little lip service to time travel science, TFJ was pure fantasy.  There was magic and even a sorcerer and a werewolf.   I have often wondered how I could make a game that mimics this and fulfill the promises made by MM&M and LoA.

I could take a page from Herbie Brennan's other game Timeship for ideas. But honestly, that is just trading an easy solution for more problems.

I like the idea of a group of characters, unstuck in time, traveling to different periods.  Whether the characters themselves are doing it or they are reincarnations, I go back and forth on.   Part of me likes the idea of the idea reincarnation since that sets them in situ with the proper time and knowledge. OR maybe their consciousness is traveling and inhabiting new bodies ala Quantum Leap.  I would need a big bad of course.  Someone travelling through time, or maybe someone (or multiple someones) that are immortal and trying to do something to humanity.  Destroy it?  No, that is too easy. I am going to say advance them in the past so they are more powerful and deadly in the future for some nefarious means. I might take a page from the Doctor Who episode/serial City of Death.

Part of me wants to do this and each time the character travel in time use the system that best represents it.  So Pendragon, LoA, MM&M, even WitchHunt.   But that is, to put it mildly, insane.

I would use a simple system, likely NIGHT SHIFT to be honest. Survivors would work the best with the odd sage, psychic, and veteran.  Then adapting D&D-like games is easier. Each time the character travels they can pick up some odd skills or the like.

historical games? maybe.

Again, I hate to fall into another sunk cost fallacy here but I like to think I owe it to myself to have the game that I wish these games were.

Friday, October 1, 2021

October is Horror Month

RPG Blog Carnival
Hello and WELCOME to The Other Side.  October is a big deal around here.  I spend the month talking about horror.  Both in terms of horror RPGs, horror movies, and anything else that strikes my interest.

This month I am honored to be hosting my first ever RPG Blog Carnival.  Of course, I am going to be talking about horror and all the great things you can do in your RPGs.

All this month I am going to be talking about adding horror elements to your games. Whether you play D&D or Kult or Bunnies & Burrows, any game can have elements of horror to them.  I hope to give you the means to add these AND also provide you a place to discuss your own horror elements.

How to Participate

Simple. Write a blog post, vlog, social media post, tweet, or what have you.  The topic can be about horror, about adding horror elements to a game, or even as simple as what you are going to do for a Halloween game.  Have a scary RPG-related story? Post it and post the link below!

I do have Comment Moderation turned on to help keep the spam out, so if you don't see your post just give me a bit and it will show up.

Come back here all month long to see what others are posting and linking here.

Come back to my blog all month long to see what I am posting as well!

Here's the Spookiest month of the year and my favorite time of the year.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Ghosts of Albion is a Platinum Best Seller!

I was working on something for later in the week and I noticed something really cool.

Ghosts of Albion is a Platinum Best Seller

Ghosts of Albion

I have a Platinum best-selling title!  I do admit I am pretty pleased by this. This game is my pride and joy. 

Another of my favorites is NIGHT SHIFT which is also moving up in the sales ranks.

NIGHT SHIFT

Silver is pretty good considering we had a successful Kickstarter and sell the book via the Elf Lair Games store-front

Ghosts of AlbionNIGHT SHIFT


Don't forget! The Night Companion is in the last days of its Kickstarter. Love to hit the 5k stretch goal, but 6k would be even better.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Kickstart Your Weekend: Fun is Where You Find It

 Been a bit since I have done this, but here are a couple that look really fun.

Coyote & Crow the Role Playing Game

Coyote & Crow

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/connoralexander/coyote-and-crow

This one looks like a ton of fun. An alternate future America? Yeah, sign me up! Worth checking out.

Tales of Voracious


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bluestocking/tales-of-voracious

This one is from a friend, Kate Bullock, and it has stories of affairs (ahem) with monsters.  It also looks like a lot of fun.

Both are funded and doing quite well, but they still look like they could have a few cool stretch rewards.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Witch Week Reviews

I am going to do some reviews of some non-D&D witch books this week as well.  I am going to talk about what I plan to get out of each game and if they help contribute to more of my "Traveller Envy" (spoilers, they do).

For all these reviews I am going to review the PDFs and the physical books.

I'll spend some time reviewing the game on their own merits and then also looking at what I am planning to do with them.  Keep in mind that my plans might extend beyond the design goals of the various authors and designers and any short-comings they have at that point are not due to the design or the game itself, merely my implementation of them.


The games are:

Kids on Brooms: Core Rulebook

The Great American Witch

Charm Roleplaying Game

and one add on for D&D 5e, Witch+Craft, a 5e crafting supplemental

Looking forward to them all!


Wednesday, September 9, 2020

What's So Innovative about Night Shift: VSW?

My NIGHT SHIFT co-author Jason Vey has a bit to say on the design and innovation of our Modern Supernatural RPG. 


You can read it about it all here: https://wastedlandsfantasy.blogspot.com/2020/09/whats-so-innovative-about-night-shift.html

Jason makes a lot of fantastic points. So many in fact that I do not feel the need to reiterate them here and now.  Save where I want to talk about why I wanted to make this game.  And even here I am going restate something Jason already said.

NIGHT SHIFT: Veterans of the Supernatural Wars was designed to be familiar. 

For me though not just in terms of game design, in terms of the types of games I have been playing over the last 20 some odd years.

In 1999 I was facing something of a crisis of my RPG playing. I had been playing D&D for 20 years solid by that point, with minor breaks due to college, grad school, and getting married.  I had bought a house and had a kid on the way. Plus in 1999 D&D was feeling tired and old.  I had played some other games, namely World of Darkness and other horror games. I had recently picked back up Chill, but none of these had lit the spark the way D&D had.

That is until I found CJ Carella's WitchCraft RPG.  Now here was a game I loved and it relit the long dormant fires of RPG creativity.  From here I picked up Kult, found more and more games. Soon I was freelancing at Eden. Then Jason and I were working together on Buffy, Angel, Army of Darkness, and more. But D&D was still that first love.   At the same time the d20 boon was happening and there were a lot of new great games coming out based on the d20 OGL and more still based on the principles of the OGL.  I went from a "dark time" to a new Golden Age in just a couple of years.

NIGHT SHIFT hooks into that familiarity. 

The rules are a streamlined version of the d20/OGC with an "old-school" bend. 
The situations are modern supernatural, so there feels like there is a "world continuity" with games I was playing using Chill, Kult, CoC, Mage, WitchCraft, and Buffy.

I want a game that can take me to the next 20 years of gaming and I truly think this one is it.

You can get hardcovers of NIGHT SHIFT from my publisher's webpage or PDFs via DriveThruRPG.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Kickstart Your Weekend and Interview: Christopher Grey and the Great American Witch

Today I am talking with Christopher Grey, designer of The Great American Novel and The Great American Witch (Games) and author of Goddamn F*cking Dragons, Will Shakespeare and the Ships of Solomon. (Novels)

Christopher is currently coming to the end of his latest Kickstarter for The Great American Witch.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/greyauthor/the-great-american-witch?ref=theotherside

Tim Brannan/The Other Side: Let’s start at the beginning, who are you and what do you do?
Christopher Grey: I’m Christopher Grey and I’m a game designer and novelist. I created The Happiest Apocalypse on Earth, an ENnie-nominated PBTA game about an evil children’s theme park, and The Great American Novel RPG, which was recently nominated for the Indie Groundbreaker Award.

TB: How did you get into gaming?
CG: It’s hard to pinpoint a starting place, I feel like I’ve always been gaming. When I was eight I was making board games on my dad’s file folders. My first RPG design happened somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 or 16. In the early days I played AD&D 2e, then graduated to Rifts, then hobbled over to World of Darkness. I think it’s fair to say I’ve been playing some sort of RPG for at least thirty years.

TB: What are some of your favorite games? Why?
CG: It’s so hard to choose! And it changes fairly regularly. I basically love anything Free League puts out and their latest game Vaesen I think is a masterpiece. The game system is slick and easy and the setting/content is perfection. But they get lots of love, so I’d like to point out some of my favorite indy games. I’m a big fan of Monkeyfun Studios and they are close friends--Bedlam Hall is still on my list of all-time favorite games. I mean you basically get to play Downton Abbey meets The Addams Family. I think Kimi Hughes’ Decuma is a huge innovation in gaming and I shamelessly robbed her approach for a game concept of my own. I’m a big fan of world-building games like Dialect and Microscope. Ten Candles is also top of my list. Oh! And Icarus… that kind of lands in the world-building category. For the Queen changed my understanding of game design. Really loving Lighthearted by Kurt and Kate Potts. I should probably stop. I love so many games.

TB: Very cool! Let’s get into what is important! What is The Great American Witch?
CG: The Great American Witch is an RPG where you get to play in the secret world of witches as they protect humanity from supernatural threats and secret societies. It was built on The Great American Novel chassis so it is story and character-focused. It is designed for campaign play of the kind you see from World of Darkness games.


TB: What sorts of games do you see others playing with these rules?
CG: The rules are highly tuned into the Great American Witch setting and experience. I think folks will have a tough time playing something other than powerful secret witches with the ruleset. However, it was adapted from a generic rule system that has a lot of flexibility. I do intend to expand this rule set into other categories of the GAW fictional universe. So stay tuned on that!

TB: How does it relate to your earlier game, the Great American Novel, and can the two be used together?
CG: Great American Witch adapted the GAN rule-set heavily in order to create an experience unique to it. They aren’t really compatible as they are working toward different things. GAN is designed for one-shots or short campaigns of a literary nature (the sorts of slow-moving narratives you find in classic literature), whereas GAW is designed for extended play that creates cinematic experiences (like the dramatic tension you find from your favorite streaming shows). However, if you’ve played GAN you’ll find a familiar approach to game design--one that focuses on characters and motivations, not on attack rolls or skills.

TB: Of course while the title is clearly an homage to your earlier game, I have to ask are you a Rob Zombie fan? And was the title inspired by his “American Witch”?
CG: I almost didn’t go that direction in order to differentiate it from American Witch. I do like Rob Zombie, but this experience is more like American Horror Story: Coven, the Craft, or True Blood. Ultimately I couldn’t resist calling back GAN since that is the primary engine running it. Plus, it has a nice ring to it.


TB: I loved American Horror Story: Coven and The Craft! What are your future plans for this game?
CG: Oh so much. I intend to work in this system and setting for quite some time. I’ve already started supplements for GAW that will include more play options (such as covens and crafts) as well as additional settings within the same world. I’m also working on other types of games for the setting, such as a story-prompt card game that is already in the editing phase. Eventually, I will expand to other supernatural groups, like the Illuminati, vampires, werewolves, etc. Frankly, I’ll be doing this for a while.

TB: Nice. That sounds great. And for me and my audience here. Who is your favorite wizard, witch, or magic-user?
CG: Considering the amazing examples of magic-users throughout recorded history, this is a hard one. Ultimately, I’d have to say Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service. I just absolutely love that movie and character.


TB: I adore Kiki! She is fantastic. Finally, where can we find you on the internet?
CG: Best place is my site christopher.world where I keep all my stuff and links to my social channels.

Links:
https://www.christopher.world/
https://twitter.com/greyauthor
https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/12812/Christopher-Grey

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Review: Tunnels & Trolls (Troll Week)

Tunnels & Troll might be one of the first "clone" games ever, but it really is a proper game in its own right.  The story goes that creator Ken St. Andre was browsing through the original D&D rules and thought he could do better than that so he sat down and created the first Tunnels & Trolls game in 1975.  D&D was barely a thing on the wider scale, though very popular still, and here comes T&T.

Over the years T&T has been updated, re-released, and otherwise seen many ups and downs the game itself has continued and has a dedicated fanbase.  It is easy to see why. T&T is easy to learn, has some neat little quirks, and is just plain fun.  Plus if you ever get a chance to meet Ken St. Andre at Gen Con then PLEASE do it. He is a great guy.

The name, Tunnels & Trolls, almost wasn't. It was almost Tunnels & Troglodytes, but that name was shot down by his players.  Since then the troll has become a sort of synonymous with the game and St. Andre himself. His twitter handle is @Trollgodfather and he runs Trollhala Press.

Tunnels & Trolls now holds the distinction of not only being the oldest RPG still published by the same publisher, Flying Buffalo, but also still controlled by its original author/designer. 

The RuneQuest Connection
Yesterday in my review of RuneQuest's Trollpak I mentioned that in my earliest days I thought Trollpak was a supplement for Tunnels & Trolls. Indeed both games did feature a lot of troll iconography.  But I think two it may have come with one other obsession of mine. Elric. I was (still am) a HUGE Michael Moorcock fan and I loved the Elric books.  I saw the game Stormbinger and I knew it used a similar system to both RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu.  I also knew that Ken St. Andre had worked on Tunnels & Trolls and Stormbringer.  I guess in my young mind I conflated all of that.  While I might never see my goal of a full Tunnels & Trolls/Trollpak mashup, my dream of an epic Stormbringer/RuneQuest/Call of Cthulhu crossover might still happen!

I have owned many different versions of T&T over the years. I have loaned some out, another is just gone (it is with my original AD&D books I think) and still at least one I resold in a game auction when I needed the cash.  I miss each and every one.
Thankfully I now have the PDF of Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls the most recent version and the one that is easiest to get.  I will be focusing my review on this version, with recollections of previous editions when and where I can.

Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls. 2015 Ken St. Andre, published by Flying Buffalo.
348 pages, color covers, black & white interior art (mostly) and a full color section.
Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls (dT&T) is a massive volume at 348 pages.  
The PDF is divided into Chapter sections, but more importantly, it is split into five larger sections; The Basic or Core Game, Elaboration, Trollworld Atlas, Adventures, and End Matter.

The Basic or Core Game
This covers the first 11 chapters and 160+ pages.  This most resembles the T&T game I remember playing sparingly in the 80s. This covers the basics of the game such as rolling up characters, equipping them, combat and magic.  T&T uses all six-sided dice for everything, so getting started is as easy as getting the rules and raiding your board games for dice.  Because we NEVER did that in the 80s.
Character creation is a bit like D&D and other RPGs from the time (or more accurately other RPGs are like D&D and T&T).  There are a few quirks that make T&T stand out.
Exploding Triples allow for some extraordinary characters. When rolling your 3d6 for stats (like D&D) if you get three of the same number, all "1s" or all "6s" for example, you re-roll and ADD the previous total.  In D&D rolling three "1s" is a disaster, but in T&T you then reroll and add that 3 (1+1+1) to your new roll.  Roll three "6s"? Reroll and add 18! T&T has eight abilities, Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Speed, Intelligence (IQ), Wizardry, Luck, and Charisma. They all map pretty close to D&D with the others Speed, Wizardry and Luck doing what they sound like. 
Kindreds, not Race. With all the discussion of the word "race" in D&D (yes, it is old and problematic and yes it should be replaced) T&T "solved" this issue by going with Kindred (and long before Vampire the Masquerade did).  This also leaves character creation open to all sorts of Kindreds. 
Personal Adds. For every point in a physical ability over 12 (the upper end of average), characters get +1 to their personal adds. Physical stats are Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, and Speed. These adds are combined and then used in combat.
Saving Rolls. All skills and nearly everything else use a saving throw like mechanic for resolution. The most common is a Luck roll, but others can be used.

There are three basic and one extra character classes. Warriors, Wizards, Rogues and the Specialist.
Kindreds include Humans, Dwarves, Elves, Fairies, Hobbs (Halflings), and Leprechauns. Each kindred then gets an ability multiplier. So if you are a dwarf and you rolled an 11 for Strength  your multiplier is 2 for a 22 strength! But your Luck multiplier is .75 so if your rolled a 12 it is now a 9.  Other attributes effected are height and weight. Fairies have multiples here of 0.1 and 0.01 respectively.

The equipment list is what you would expect with some odd improvised weapons (rocks) and even guns (gunnes) but these are still rather primitive in nature. 

Saving Rolls are covered in Chapter 5 and gave us what is essentially a dynamic Target Number mechanic YEARS before anyone else did.  You determine the level of the Saving Throw (difficulty) times that by 5 to get your target number. Players roll a 2d6 and yes doubles are re-rolled and added.
It's a simple mechanic that works well. 

Chapter 6 gives us some talents. Or things you can do other than wack monsters. 
Chapter 7 cover enemies and monsters and is a whopping 3 pages!  But that is nature of T&T monsters can be abstracted from just a few simple numbers.
Chapter 8 covers combat. If I remember correctly combat in T&T was a fast affair.  The rules support this idea. 

Chapter 9 is of course my favorite, Magic. There have been more than a few times I have wanted to adopt ideas from here for my D&D games.  In the end though I have kept them separate.  Spell levels go to 18 though you need some superhuman Intelligence and Dexterity scores to cast them (60 and 44 respectively).  Spells have a Wiz (Wizardry cost) so it works on a spell-point like system.  The spell names are something of a bit of contention with some people and my litmus test for whether or not someone will be a good player in T&T.  If they don't like the names, then I think they will not be good for the game.  Among the spell names are "Hocus Focus", "Oh Go Away", "Boom Bomb", "Freeze Please" and more.  I like them I would rather have a fun name than a boring one, but I am also the guy who made spells called "You Can't Sit With Us", "Live, Laugh, Love", "Oh My God, Becky!" and "Tripping the Light Fantastic".

Chapter 10 is Putting it All Together with general GM advice.  Chapter 11 covers the Appendices. 
This constitutes the bulk of what makes up the T&T game. 

Elaborations
This section consists of rules additions and other topics.
Of interest here is Chapter 13, Other Playable Kindreds.  This likely grew out of T&Ts sister game, Monsters! Monsters! In dT&T these stats for playing have been brought more inline with the M!M! book for more compatibility.   The attribute multipliers from character creation are repeated here for the main kindreds, and then expanded out for others of the Familiar (or most similar to the Good Kindred, like goblins, gnomes, and pixies) to the Less Common like lizard people, ratlings and trolls!  To the Extraordinary like ghouls and dragons.
The means in which this is done is so simple and so elegant that other games should be shamed for not doing the same.
Later on languages, more talents and accessories (minis, battle mats, virtual tabletops) are covered.



Trollworld Atlas
This section covers the campaign world of Trollworld.  A history is provided and the major continents are covered as well as a few of the cities. This covers about 70 pages, but it is all well spent.
This section also features some full-color interior art including some great maps.

Adventures
Pretty much what is says on the tin.  This covers the two types of adventures one can have with T&T; a solo adventure and a GM run adventure.  
Everyone reading this has experienced a GM run adventure.  But where T&T really sets itself apart are the solo adventures. This is a reason enough to grab this game just to see how this is done.

End Matter
This section contains the last bits.  Credits. Afterwords. Acknowledgments. A full index. Character sheets and a Post Card for the City of Khazan!


I am going to put this bluntly.

Every D&D player, no matter what edition, needs to play Tunnels & Trolls at least once.  They should also read over the rules.  I don't care if you walk away saying "I don't like it" that is fine, but so many of the things I see so-called seasoned D&D players and game masters complain about has a fix or has been addressed already in T&T. 

Like I mentioned with Trollpak who solved D&D's "evil race" problem back in 1982, Tunnels & Trolls fixed it in 1975.

Beyond all that T&T is an easily playable game with decades of material and support and thousands of fans online.  If you don't want to buy a copy to try out then find a game at a Con.  

Is T&T perfect?  No. It lacks the epic that is D&D.  If D&D is Wagner then T&T is Motzart. Easier to approach, but no less brilliant. 

For under $20 (currently) you get a complete game with enough material to keep you going for years. Plus there is such a wealth (45 years now) of material out there that you will never run out of things to do.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Happy Friday the 13th! Slashers & Survivors - Slashcan Edition

It's Friday the 13th! You know that is like a holiday around here.

What better way to celebrate than a new game from my friend Justin Issac?

Slashers & Survivors - Slashcan Edition



From DriveThruRPG:

Slashers & Survivors: Slashcan Edition is an ashcan version of the our new slasher rpg. Based on The Blackest of Deaths by Bloat Games, the game allows you to create a nerd, jock, or other slasher staple and see if you can outwit and survive a homicidal maniac or deadly cult. This is not the final version of the game and the pdf will be updated periodically with feedback recieved. There will be a deluxe version of the game coming to Kickstarter later this year with more content.
I grabbed it and it is fun.

It is PayWhatYouWant, but do throw money at it. 



Saturday, February 15, 2020

Zatannurday: DC All Star Games

Now here is something truly unexpected!

DC Universe wants to get in on the "Critical Role" action and do a live-action unscripted 5-part special with actors playing the 1980s DC Adventures RPG.



Here is the information for DC.
DC UNIVERSE Announces Original Unscripted Gaming Mini-Series
'DC UNIVERSE All Star Games'

Clare Grant, Vanessa Marshall, Sam Witwer and WWE’s Xavier Woods Join Freddie Prinze Jr. For Five-Part Role-Playing Game Adventure Set in The Classic 1980s Game DC HEROES

DC UNIVERSE has announced its first original unscripted gaming mini-series, DC UNIVERSE All Star Games. This new anthology series brings famous DC fans together to play a variety of games in the increasingly popular gaming show genre. Season One features a nostalgic role-playing adventure, The Breakfast League, from Executive Producers Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Sam Witwer. The first episode of the five-part series will premiere exclusively on the DC UNIVERSE digital subscription service on Friday, February 28.

DC HEROES, the famous post-crisis role-playing game, sets the stage for the first season in which Vanessa Marshall, Clare Grant and WWE superstar Xavier Woods also join as players. Set in the same 80s era as when the game was first published, the five participants role-play as a group of high schoolers stuck in Saturday detention. As they improv their way through a variety of situations familiar to fans of beloved movies from that time period, they soon discover their destinies as the world’s greatest super-heroes.

“DC Heroes was the first RPG I ever played as a kid. It was also my introduction to the DC Universe, its Heroes and, most importantly, its rich pool of villains.” said Prinze. “ I had a blast making this series and I hope all of you love it as much as I do.”

Directed by Jon Lee Brody and produced by Telepictures, “DC UNIVERSE All Star Games” is the first unscripted addition to DC UNIVERSE’s expanding original programming slate which includes “DCYou Unscripted” and “DC Daily.” New episodes will go live exclusively on DC UNIVERSE every Friday after the series premiere on February 28.

For more information on DC UNIVERSE and “DCU All Star Games” please visit dcuniverse.com and follow DC UNIVERSE on Facebook and Twitter.




This could be a lot of fun.

Join Freddie Prinze Jr (Buffy's Husband), Clare Grant (Oz's wife), Sam Witwer (multiple DC shows), and more. I am looking forward to this!


Friday, January 10, 2020

Kickstart Your Weekend: We Could Be Heroes

I was considering retiring "Kickstart Your Weekend" since there are so many Kickstarters now and plenty of places to get information on them.  But these two are nearer and dearer to me so I thought it would be fine.

Plus it was Bowie's birthday a couple of days ago (Jan 8) and today is the anniversary of his death (Jan 10, 2016), so for Bowie's sake let's be Heroes.

The Hero's Journey 2e


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gallantknightgames/the-heros-journey-2e?ref=theotherside

The Hero's Journey 1st edition was a delightful game. It was the perfect antidote for grim-dark murder hobo games that seem to be so popular.  A nice cup of tea vs whatever they sell in the local run-down dive where characters are supposed to meet.

This new 2nd edition gets further away from it's S&W roots and that might be a good thing.
James Spahn has delivered when it comes to games, so I have expectations for this one.

What I loved about THJ1 was that the characters were the heroes, people doing good in the world.  I think we need more of that.

Really looking forward to this one and I hope to see it in my local game store sometime.


Full-Color Custom Miniatures with Hero Forge 2.0


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/heroforge/full-color-custom-miniatures-with-hero-forge-20?ref=theotherside

This one does not go live till next week, but you can bet it is going to break all sorts of records.
I was a proud backer of Hero Forge and I have enjoyed watching it grow over the years to be the standard by which I judge 3D printed minis.  If they can do the color they are displaying above then this is the reason why Kickstarter exists.

I can't wait to see this.  Will the minis be costly? Maybe, but I have been pleased with the prices on Hero Forge so far so I am expecting this will be similar.

If the timing is right I'll come back with a follow-up to this post with a color 3D Hero Forge mini of my Hero's Journey character!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend: Night Shift

Ok a little self-promotion here, but I am pretty excited about this one.

Night Shift: Veterans of the Supernatural Wars RPG


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/294629699/night-shift-veterans-of-the-supernatural-wars-rpg?ref=theotherside

First the Kickstarter sales blurb from my co-author Jason Vey:

So folks, to coincide with Halloween, I will be Kickstarting the newest core RPG from Elf Lair Games this October! I'm still working out the exact details (getting quotes for printing costs in particular) so I know what to set my goal, but it's planned as a hardcover B&W release. Please spread the word and keep your eyes out! Here's some more about the game:

NIGHT SHIFT: VETERANS OF THE SUPERNATURAL WARS Debuting the new Elf Lair Games house system, O.G.R.E.S., Night Shift is an urban fantasy, horror, and dark modern supernatural game that uses a brand new system of old-school mechanics inspired by and derived from the original, basic, expert, and advanced versions of the World's Most Famous Role Playing Game. It allows you to mimic all the tropes of just about any film, TV series, or novels you like.

All of the following are possible with Night Shift:
  • Cheerleaders that are chosen to slay vampires
  • Sisters imbued with the power of chosen witches
  • Worlds where Fae of all manner battle in the politics of light and dark
  • The great-grandniece of a famous gunslinger inherits the legacy of the demon hunter.
  • A world where two brothers armed with knowledge and weapons hunt the supernatural in their father's name
  • And more!
Excited? I sure am!!

This game came about through long collaboration with Jason and I.  We met while working at Eden Studios together.  Jason was doing a lot of work on All Flesh Must Be Eaten, the zombie horror game.  I worked on WitchCraft and Armageddon.  We both worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG.  Over the years we collaborated on other games.  He was a playtester and contributor to Ghosts of Albion.  I contributed to his AFMBE and later Amazing Adventures books.

We both hit the OSR scene at the same time in 2007 and he wrote Spellcraft & Swordplay.  I wrote my first Witch book and Eldritch Witchery for his Elf Lair Games label.

Night Shift combines a lot of different ideas we have had over the years. 

First, we are developing an advanced version of the in-house O.R.C.S. game system (O.G.R.E.S.) that captures the old-school rules we both love with some (minor) modern advances.  Though you can still play Night Shift with any OSR product with no issues.

Secondly, we are also bringing several different "Night Worlds" to your game play.  I don't want to give out any spoilers, but these "worlds" represent several decades worth of play.  I will spoil one or two.  One of my Night Worlds is "Ordinary World" which I have talked about here before and the other is "Generation HEX."   If you dig through my archives here you will also see mention of "Daughters of Death" that might come later.

Finally, I wanted to create something that in the eloquent words of my friend Robert Black called "filling a Buffy-shaped hole in my life".  I have worked on a LOT of really great games and properties over the last 25 years.  Some of that material I can use, most I can't.  But that is fine, I have had years to learn what I like and what I want in a Modern Supernatural Horror game. 

Over the years we have also shared our love for the Modern Supernatural genre in TV shows and books.  Obviously, we were both Buffy and X-Files fans. Jason turned me on to Lost Girl and the books of Kelley Armstrong.  I recommended the books of  Kim Harrison and the TV shows HƎX and Charmed.  Between the two of us, we have worked on several score horror games and played many more. We have a lot of opinions.

Night Shift is the result of all of that.

So expect some more posting on this all month.

Up next?  My sons are going to play two bothers (naturally!) who drive across the country stopping supernatural monsters with nothing but their wits and a trunk full of guns and rock salt.  If they choose the names "Sam" and "Dean"...well that is just a coincidence. ;)

Saturday, April 27, 2019

April TTRPG Maker, Day 27

Day 27: How Do I Market My Work?

Hopefully very well!

But seriously I tend to focus on the online communities I am part of; Facebook, Twitter, formerly Google+ (pour out a bit for our departed brother).

I have paid for ads on Facebook and I have done DriveThruRPG deal of the day.

Back in the day I even did a little bit of advertising on Usenet!

It seems that my best recommendations are word of mouth.  People telling others about my books.

Again, this one where I am curious to see what others do.  Hope to pick up some tricks.

Since this is a marketing post, please have a look at my games!
https://www.rpgnow.com/browse.php?author=Timothy%20S.%20Brannan

Friday, April 26, 2019

April TTRPG Maker, Day 26

Day 26: Favorite Online Community

So many really. I love all my online communities.

I guess my greatest love is still blogs.  Best signal to noise ratio, best content on the games I enjoy and a chance to interact with other creators.

Facebook is still a great place to find a wide variety of opinions and games but that also means there is a large collection of "noise".

This is one I will really enjoy seeing what others are going to post.  I am always in the market for more places to learn about games.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

April TTRPG Maker, Day 24

Day 24:  Favorite RPG thing to Create?

Hmm.

That's a toss-up.  I love making monsters.  Monsters are what got me interested in RPGs to start with.

I also love to make classes.  My witch is my foremost example, but I have many more.

But in the end, I would have to say spells.

According to my spreadsheet, I have written over 800 unique spells for various games.

Spells and magic are my favorites.

Monday, April 22, 2019

April TTRPG Maker, Day 22

Day 22: How are you working to improve the ttrpg community?

I hope I lead by example.

I would like to be the example that not all "old guys" are stuck in the 80s (although my wife would question my tastes in music) and we are not all a bunch of grumpy assholes.

I also try to call out bad behavior when I see it and correct my own when it happens.

My reach is not very far, but I am hoping that things like this will help.

I like to be an RPG evangelist.  Show everyone what is good about RPGs and the joy of sitting around the table with family and friends and rolling dice.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

April TTRPG Maker, Day 20

Day 20: A Game You Want to Make You Think No One Will Play?

Oh, that's easy.

I want to make an officially licensed Charmed RPG.

I am not ashamed of this, but all things considered I vastly prefer Charmed to Buffy. I don't even consider myself a Buffy fan, to be honest, more of a Willow & Tara fan. But I am an unapologetic Charmed fan.

There is the whole witch thing to be sure.  And the Charmed Ones are rather easy on the eyes.  But I think my friend and former TV writer Robert Black said it best,  Charmed never forgot who their audience was and never forgot they were a TV show.

While I know the demographics of the show and your average gamer are not exactly the same, I think with the amount of "modern supernatural" fiction being published today that a Charmed game would be fantastic.  Buffy sold well, Dresden Files is doing nicely.  Granted those are properties with significant geek/gamer buy-in and at the time of their games the properties are still active.

I would like to point out that with all the stuff I have written about witches and magic in the things I have published that this game would be a natural for me. ;)


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

April TTRPG Maker, Day 17

Day 17: How Does Your Identity Influence Your Work?

This is related to yesterday's post.  But let's break it down into how I see myself.

I am an aging Gen Xer
Not a Baby Boomer (thank you!) and not a Millenial.  I grew up on a diet of MTV, horror movies on basic cable and later on VHS.  I learned to program a computer to get the software I needed (no aps or stores yet).  So I have learned to make do with what I had available and then create the rest.
My books are often the games or supplements I wanted to play in the 80s but no one had written.
So I also have a preference for some older games. I am not saying they are better (and if you spend anytime here you will know I play and love a lot of new games) I just find them fun. I like them.

I am a Midwesterner
I grew up in the mid-West.  My high school was in the middle of two corn fields. We lived through the Satanic Panic of the 80s so "of course" everyone knew of someone that knew someone that saw a Satanic altar.   I got the see the power behind a social movement early on and in your face full color.
This also affects my next bit of identity.

I am an Atheist and Skeptic
I grew up as an Atheist in a town whose claim to fame is the number of churches they have.  Look I love writing about ghosts, witches, magic, and gods. I just don't believe in any of it in real life.  None. In a very significant way, my early explorations into RPGs (D&D in particular) and mythology was a way of dealing with being the only kid in school* who didn't believe in fairy tales.  * I have since learned through the wonder of social media that I was not the only one they were just as afraid as I was to say anything.

I am a Father
Becoming a husband and father is one of my greatest achievements in life.   Yes, I have had plenty of other really great achievements; my education, my degrees, my books.  But being a dad.  Nothing ever comes close to that.  I write games I want my kids to also enjoy.  I want worlds that they would want to play in.

I am sure there is more.  I used to have a professor that said culture is like a tackle box that someone shook up.  It is very difficult to pull out one thing or separate one from the other.  I think that is true here.