Monday, August 6, 2012


Ever since I read the War of the Worlds and Princess of Mars I have wanted to have a D&D game based on Mars/Barsoom.  This was heightened when I later read the Martian Chronicles.

It turns out that the real Mars is far more interesting.

The latest Martian rover Curiosity has landed successfully on the Red Planet. The stated goal of this little robot is to see if Mars was ever capable of supporting life or even had life at one point.

I should not have spell out the ramifications of a positive discovery would have in both science and religion.

Till that happens you can follow Curiosity's Twitter feed.
And it's official site here:

While Curiosity roams the face of the real Mars, you can roam the face of the Mars that never-was with these games.

Savage Worlds Edition
d20 Edition

Adamant Entertainment distilled some of the best features of the Planetary Romance/Sci-Fantasy genre into their Mars books.  The lineage is obviously Edgar Rice Burroughs, with Green, Red and White (Ape) Martians.  There is also a fair enough amount of H.G. Wells, but I have a hard time seeing this dying Mars invading Earth.  As they advertise this is not the Mars of reality, this is the Mars that never was.  This is Barsoom as it were.  While not "John Carter of Mars the RPG" it can be played that way.   There are even some surprises in the form of the Grey Men of Mars.  Hint, they are not the "Greys" of later UFO mythology.
There are plenty of options for characters with an emphasis on high heroism and great feats.   Imagine all the adventure of Victorian Times and the Pulp Era with the feel of a Space Opera in a D&D campaign then you get an idea of what Mars can do or be.  This all reminds me a bit of the "Dying Earth" genre as well, since Mars is dying.  Maybe that invasion of Earth is not too improbable after all.
NOTICE: Adamant Earlier today decided to offer these at half off!

Space 1899: Red Sands
This is the Savage Worlds update to the classic Space 1899 series.  Like it's fore-bearer this is a game where brave men and women from Earth brave the Ether to travel to a dying Mars or a Venus covered in lush jungles and dinosaurs.  Based on the works of Burroughs and Verne this is a space travel game with a twist.  There is plenty of room for adventure and the importunity to plant the flag of the British Empire on a new world or even find adventure of your own.
It is the Savage World rules and you need the core rules to play this. It is great fun and it is to date the best reason given to me to play Savage Worlds.
The only downside to this is that there is no conversion notes from the old Space 1899 to the new system.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

DriveThruRPG August Sale

Been a bit since we had one of these.  But DriveThruRPG is offering 20% off any or all of the following products.

Here is the Coupon Code for this month's 20% off the listed products: TooHot8450

Tailslap Issue 1 [Unicorn Rampant]

Claw/Claw/Bite Issue 18 [Unicorn Rampant]

Second World Sourcebook [Second World Simulations]

Lore of the Gods [DragonWing Games]

The Makefactor Base Class [Total Party Kill Games]

The Agency [Realms Publishing]

DCC #70: Jewels of the Carnifex [Goodman Games]

Artists, Artisans, & Workers [Taurus Twelve]

Vornheim: The Complete City Kit

I also have a coupon for $10.00 off an order.  I have to figuer out what to give it out.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Zatannurday: Team-ups

For the most of her career Zatanna has been a solo act. She has worked in groups; Justice League or the JL-Dark (not really the team's name) and some pairings.

But I'd like to see her in more team ups with other supers.

Here she is with Raven, pairing up with her dad Zatara, with other DC Women,  with Black Canary, and a couple times (here at least) with Scarlet Witch (here and here).

So here are some other team ups with Zee!  Enjoy!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Gen Con 2012

It dawned on the other day that I am in no way shape or form ready for Gen Con 2012 yet.

Hotel was booked back in January, badges bought, games registered for.Google calendar updated.
But I am not mentally ready.  I am not running anything this year officially, maybe something for my kids.  Most likely the continuation of theForgotten Temple of Tharizdun.

I plan to pick some things up at the OSR booth, but there are not many purchases I want to make this year to be honest.

Who is going to the Best Four Days in Gaming? 
What are your plans?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Complete B/X Adventurer

I got my copy of the Complete B/X Adventurer in the mail about a week or two ago.

What do I think of it?

Well, it certainly lives up to it's hype and to it's predecessor the B/X Companion (BXC).  Though there is no emotional investment on this one for me.  I waited for the B/X Companion for almost 30 years.  I waited for this one for only about a year or less.

I am going to make comparisons of it to B/X Companion AND to the old Bard Games "Compleat Adventurer" series (Adventurer, Spellcaster, Alchemist).   I think both comparisons are fair.  The first is obvious, but the second I want to explain.  It is obvious in the construction that this book owes a lot to those previous books.  The author, Jonathan Becker, acknowledges this in his Introduction.  I did the same with the first book on Witches I ever wrote back in 1999, so I might be predisposed to like this.
There is also a feel to this book that reminds me of the later Bard Games books, The Arcanum and the Atlantis series.

In all three cases the books provide additional classes, spells and magic with additional rules that can be added with little effort to your game.  We saw something similar from the official D&D books in the Unearthed Arcana books.

But getting on with the review proper.

The physical book is now perfect bound, not stapled, and it comes in at 62 pages. The cover doesn't try to invoke any other old-school product I am aware of, but I could be wrong.  This is a good thing really since it should have it's own identity. BXC very much wanted to invoke the images of the old Basic and Expert sets.
Table of Contents is on a page, not the inside cover.

Ready to play!
Now on to the meat.  We get a nice introduction from Jonathan Becker about how the book should be used.  It does indicate compatibility with Labyrinth Lord, LoftFP and Swords & Wizardry.  Though I don't see the compatibility licenses those products require.  I hope that is not an issue, but something that the author should look into.  Also this is not an OGL product, so no license and no OGC.  May not matter to you. In terms of buying.  I supposed if someone wanted to use some of this material in say an adventure that was broadly compatible Becker would give his permission (and he has said as much if I recall correctly).  For me I like to operate in the safe harbor of the OGL.  But this doesn't detract my opinion from the book at all.

First up we have charts on random head gear.  While this section is very good, it feels completely random. Not in terms of the tables, but why does the book lead off with this?  I would have made this an appendix or part of a later chapter.  Oddly enough the class table does not include any of the new classes in this book.  Move this to the back in future printings I say.  This follows with class exceptional traits.  Also very cool.  This one would belong here, but I would have put it after all the new classes.  Again, this does not have all the new classes listed.  Sure use the sub-class idea with Witches as a type of Magic-User.   Follwing this firearms. Again move to equipment.  I might not ever use this, but my son wants too (he read the book before I did).

Next up are all the classes.  These are the gems of the book in my eye.  The classes get about a page each.  So this will be nice to print out the PDF pages and re-org as needed.   The classes are Acrobat, Archer, Barbarian, Bard, Beastmaster, Bounty Hunter, Centaur, Duelist, Gnome, Mountebank, Mystic, Ogre-Kin, Scout, Summoner, Tattoo Mage, Witch, and Witch Hunter.

The classes are about what you would expect if you have been in this game for a number of years, but they have their twists.  The gnome, centaur and ogre-kin are obviously race-classes in the Basic/Expert style.  The Summoner is really cool.  You summon creatures to do your magic for you.  So part demonologist, part Pokemon trainer! (ok ok) only really awesome about it.  It is one of the neatest takes I have seen on this ill-used fantasy archetype.  I will discuss the witch and the witch-hunter in detail in a bit.

This is followed by all the new spells that these classes need. It's a good amount, taking up the remaining 20 pages of the book.   The spells are of a good sort and there are a lot of them here.

The art is good and similar in style to BXC, sharing a couple of the same artists. Each class gets an art piece (another similarity to the Bard Compleat books) but the spells doesn't get much if any.  That is too bad since the art is generally very good.

My Thoughts
Again I think I would have put some the beginning material in the back to focus on the classes more.
But I really enjoy all these classes and I think that for my kids old-school AD&D game I would let them choose from this as a possible source.  I can see my youngest wanting to play an Acrobat and my oldest a Bounty Hunter.   I would some tips I have written in the past about converting "Basic" classes to "Advanced" ones, but honestly there is not much here I would change.

Another thought is that most of these classes are stated out to 14th level.  This makes them perfect, obviously, for pure Basic/Expert style D&D.  But there is something else they would work well with, ACKS.
In fact I have mentioned before how well BXC would work in extending ACKS.  Well now you can use the TCBXA as an add on to ACKS.  These two games have different purposes in life, but they fit together rather nicely, and this gives you some new classes to play around with till ACKS Player's Companion is out.

NOW all we need is Jonathan to give us a B/X Companion boxed set.  It can include the B/X Companion, the CBXA, and a brand new module.  I think that would be great!

The Witch
Ok, I have to play special attention to the witch.  Not just because it is a witch class, but because it is different than the other spell using classes.  For starters the witch can cast in groups to cast higher level spells. That is a nice feature really and something very much in tune with the archetypal witch.  The witch is the class in the book that is stated up all the way to 36th level AND built to gain powers to that point, also something I rather like.  Why?  Because a 36th level witch is the only class that can cast 10th level spells.  Yup.  This one goes to 10!

Crafting spells.  The witch does not memorize a spell, but she does have a limit on how many she knows.  The witch needs both a high intelligence (to know the spell) and a high wisdom (to learn and scribe it down in the first place).  So a first level witch with a high Intelligence knows 1+Int mod 1st level spells.  She can also scribe spells of 1st level + how ever many extra levels equal to her Wisdom mod.  I like it.  It is a nice quick way to know what can be done.  In fact I would like to use that for clerics since gods should know ahead of time what spells their flock need and then they just give them to the cleric at that time.

For the witch though I would reverse it.  Intelligence to write or scribe the spell and Widsom to know how many they can cast.  Witches are often called the "Craft of the Wise" afterall.   But all in all I like it.
10th level witch spells are nothing at all to sneeze at.  This is a powerful witch class.

The 10th level spells are a nice solution to the "Coven spells"/"Powerful magic" vs independent witches.  I can't see too many witch covens in groups.  Maybe two or three at a time.  With what JB has done here is given us a way to have powerful magics in groups at lower levels and keep those same magics out of the hands of solitary witches till much later.  This then does not make them a more attractive solution over Wizards/Magic Users.

If you are going to have witches then you should have witchhunters. The ones here are fairly straight forward but they have some nice features.  I like that they get magic, but not as spells but powers.  Sure you could do a multi-classed Cleric-Ranger, but this is B/X not 3.x.  I'd like to give this witchhunter a spin sometime.

Bottom Line
If you enjoyed BXC or even Basic/Expert or other Old School play then this is a great buy.  If you enjoy old school play but are sticking with your clone of choice then I still say get this.  Look at the class list above and decide if any of those sound interesting to you.

I like it and I recommend it.

I'll stat up a witch after a bit and compare her to other OSR witches.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Blog Roll clean-up

First of the month, time for clean up.

I want to add some new sites, but Google puts a limit on how many I can follow, so some have to go.
Normally it is very easy.  But as I deleted older blogs and replaced them with newer ones I have added more than fall out naturally.

So have to make some hard cuts.  I am not lobbying for one site or another, I am just bemoaning that Google limits how many I can follow.

White Dwarf Wednesday #26

Summer of 81 is ending but White Dwarf 26 is ready with all sorts of new ideas! Let's get started.

First off, how awesome is this cover?

In this issue's editorial Ian Livingstone discusses the prospects of a monthly White Dwarf.  Bottom line they need more to write about (and more people to do the writing) to make it work.   We know that they will, but that is a bit off yet.

First up is "The DM's Guide to the Galaxy" or Space Travel in D&D by Marcus Rowland.  Two pages of what looks like the genesis of the Spelljammer products or even Space: 1899.  Very interesting to my eyes now, but back then I would have rejected it as being too odd.  I never mixed my D&D and SciFi back then. ;)

Open Box is next with our reviews.  We learn about the Apocalypse board game for 2-4 players from Games Workshop.  John Olsen gives it 9/10, downgrading the otherwise superb game due to the amount of time it takes to play.  Book 5 High Guard for Traveller is up.  It also gets a 9/10 from Robert McMahon.  Up next is a favorite of mine, and an admission.  I mixed Sci-Fi and D&D all the time and Marcus Rowland knows this.  He reviews module S3 The Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.  The hours I spent reading and re-reading that module.  He gives it a 9/10.  Knights of Camelot reviewed by Charles Vasey only fairs a 7/10.

Roger Musson is back with the Dungeon Architect.  Prat 2 is The Constructed Dungeon. Two pages of various physical features of the dungeon.  Such items like traps, one way doors and use of vertical space are covered. Lots of great ideas and certainly worth a look the next time you are designing an old-school dungeon crawl.

Star Base details the problems with Jump Drives in Traveller.

Letters covers topics from the last issues (24 & 25).

Character Conjuring is next with one of those articles I think everyone had a copy of or knew some one that did "Lizardmen as Player Characters". Simply put Roger E. Moore and Michael Brown spell out how to use the Lizardman as a player race.  I remember using this a a template for all sorts of odd-ball races.  What I like is they get everything onto one page.  Easy to read and use.  We should be seeing more stuff like this in the OSR.

Neil Cheyne presents his winning Traveller scenario, Amber to Red.  Three pages long.  I always admired how Traveller did more with less when it came to scenarios.

Lew Pulsipher is back with "An Introduction to Dungeons & Dragons" with part 4, fighters and thieves.  In both cases we are asked to look at these characters a bit differently and play to their strengths.  I can't but help think of the old Dragonlance modules/books here which had in their group 5 fighter types, but each acted differently from the other and had different strengths in the group.  That was this article in action.

Treasure Chest is back with some good treasure this issue.  The Potion of Quiet Spell casting is so cool I am disappointed I never thought of it myself.  A magic dagger, a curse potion that makes your words come out wrong, a tarot like deck and all sorts of other useful items.

This issue's Fiend Factory continues with the themes, in this case the Dire Tribes.   We get spell casting Shadow Goblins (which I have used before), the Asrai (water elemental or fey types),  Forest Giants and Winter Kobolds.  All of these are really cool monsters and the type of thing I bought WD for back in the day.

We have the results of both the White Dwarf questionnaire and the Monster Quiz.  The results were as expected really.  More coverage of other games, go to monthly.  Most people loved the cover to issue 23.   I likes 22 and 24 better myself.  The top three games are still the same, D&D, Traveller and RuneQuest.

Some news. Some Classifieds/Small ads. Then many pages of ads. Cover to cover 36 pages.

In truth a solid issue and one that has a lot of material that stands up to the test of time.
In fact I might drop a couple of Shadow Goblins into my new 4e game just mess with the players some.
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