Thursday, October 31, 2013

Unboxing: Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

Every Halloween I buy myself a new game or game supplement.  Usually something with a horror theme.
I got mine 2013 one last night.

Nice big box from Noble Knight Games.  What's inside?

OOOO  a Game in a Red Box!

Nice thick spiral bound books and dice that I have to color in!  No crayon though.

The Witch class looks awesome.

Lots of character sheets!

And a big hex map of the lands beyond the North Wind.

Cool back of the box.

Looks great with my other boxed games.

And I saved some space for it on my OSR/Clone shelf.

So far I am far, far more pleased with this game than I have a right to be!  In fact I like it even more than the when I reviewed the PDF back in March.   I think it is because I have been spending most of my summer and fall reading the Pulp/Appendix N classics.  I was always a fan of Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, but I have been reading Edgar Rice Burroughs (John Carter,Pellucidar) and Robert E. Howard.
This game is called "Weird Tales: The RPG" in the Forward, I think that is very, very apt.  And since Weird Tales is my new current favorite thing to read, I really enjoy this.

I talked before about wanting to add a Hyborea/Hyperboria to my own world/playing and this might is exactly the sort of thing I wanted to do.

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea covers a lot of the same ground as Adventurer, Conquer, King. But the ground in AS&SH is older, colder and has the foot prints of unnamed horrors.

Among other things this game is one of the best I have seen that mix the Lovecraftian Horrors and classic "AD&D" demons together into a believable whole.

Expect me to be going on (and on and on) about this game in the future.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October Movie: Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)

Halloween just isn't complete without a Godzilla movie. Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995) was on recently. I had been thinking about it, so I popped the DVD in.
Watched this one, but have seen it many times before.  Typical Godzilla logic at play here.
Godzilla goes critical, hit him with a big weapon, side effect that some new scary monster comes up.

There is no plot, but then again why should there be.  This is about monsters beating the crap out of each other.

Destoroyah might actually be one of the scarier Godzilla monsters too. Very demonic looking.  So much so that I have used a Destoroyah toy in my own games.

Works great!

In fact here is Destoroyah's demonic type as an Eldritch Witchery Calabim demon.

Gargantua (Calabim demon)
#App: 1
SZ: I (50+ feet)
AC: 8 -4
Move: 180' / Fly: 240'
HD: 30 (125)
Attacks: Claw/Claw/ (2 two-handed sword), tail-swipe, breath weapon (6d6 lightning bolt)
Special: Fly 240', Magic Resistance (fire) 90%, Immune to mundane weapons
Treasure: Nil
XP: 20,000

These horrors are destruction incarnate. These demons stand over 50 feet tall and are vaguely humanoid.  Each one is unique, but all have characteristics in common.  They are typically humanoid in shape, but could be covered in scales, leathery skin, fur, chitin, or any combination of these. Their intellect is below that of animals and they exist only to destroy.  Powerful Balor or even Arch Fiends can control them, but it is difficult to do.  Mostly they are sent somewhere where everything must be destroyed or eaten.  Gargantua will even fight and kill other demons.  All gargantua have massive claw and bite attacks.  Any roll of box cars (double sixes) on a bite indicates the victim has been swallowed whole.  Every gargantuan also has a breath weapon attack. Typically fire, but lighting and wind are also common.
Human wizards have been known to try to summon these creatures but the destruction they cause usually outweigh any perceived benefits they may offer.  The spells to do so are carefully guarded.

Tally: Watched 35,  New 30

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Halloween Sales and Freebies at DriveThruRPG

It's nearly Halloween so that means DriveThruRPG/RPGNow has their annual Halloween sales going on.

They also have their annual Trick or Treat.  Find the seven jack-o-lanterns to get a treat or a trick!
So far I have found two and gotten Savage Worlds Horror book and the Guide to Transylvania for Ravenloft Masque of the Red  Death.  I had both already of course, but still, very nice to have all the same!

So stop by, get a spooky treat for Halloween and maybe even find something free!

White Dwarf Wednesday #85

White Dwarf #85 takes us to start of 1987 and a new editor.  Mike Brunton, the new editor, talks about the scope of the each issue. How if they dedicate too much space to a particular game some people will love it, others will feel left out.  This issue in particular is a RuneQuest focused one.
The cover art is interesting. Not the Heavy Metal fare we have been getting, but something that looks like a RuneQuest cover (it might be for all I know).

Briefly in Open Box we get Bloodbowl, a game I always thought was interesting looking but never tried, and some D&D books.   The D&D books covered are the Wilderness Survival Guide, the D&D BECMI Creature Catalogue (sic) and the first mega-module GDQ1-7 which combines the previous Giants, Drow and Queen of the Demonweb Pits adventures into one and looses something in the translation. The WSG is enjoyed by Carl Sargent. He claims that any FRPG could use it. I think he is correct, I remember that most of the tables were straight percentages. The Creature Catalog is also enjoyed by Tim Brinsley with special note given to Frank Mentzer's guide to balancing encounters.  It is worth it for that alone I think. Note this is the AC9 version and not the DRM 2 version, though I would not be able to tell you the differences except for publication date.
We also get a brief review of the Bard Games supplements, The Arcanum, The Lexicon and The Bestiary. These were the must have books back when I was in college and had discovered college town used books stores.

20-20 Vision covers some movies. Perennial gamer favorite, Labyrinth is reviewed. Though Colin Greenwood says that Bowie looks too much like his 1973 version, but lacks the style of Ziggy Stardust. I rewatched this a while back. While I get a nostalgic joy from it, and the songs are still maddeningly catchy, the story is weak.  Though it was not till someone pointed out that "Requiem for a Dream" works as a sequel to this, continuing the story of Sarah and her guilt for the loss of her brother Toby, that I got some new joy from it.

Critical Mass covers some then new books.  Though I don't recall reading any of these save for the reprint of the Chronicles of Corum.  This was the time I was leaving fantasy, having already left sci-fi, and had moved on to horror.  By the end of 87 I wasn't reading anything at all unless it was somehow tied to the Cthulhu mythos.

Allan Miles gives us Only Skin Deep which talks about the human-centric view in AD&D and how the various demi-human races get short changed on a number things.  For starters he says, and I agree, that there should be no level limits on many of the classes. In particular fighters.  Honestly while this is interesting for the time today we live in a post 3.x world where every race can advance in any class.  Level limits on demi-humans are now imposed in OSR games purely out of nostalgia and not really for a game-balancing mechanic.  Back in the day we never bothered with level limits. We kept class restrictions though.  Still, the article is a fun read since it is not as dogmatic about the rules of the game and instead tries to find good reasons to do the things it does. Often the answer is "that reason doesn't make sense".

A brief bit on playing the FASA Star Trek game.

A Tale to Tell is a RuneQuest III adventure and the main feature of this issue.  At 16 or so pages it is the largest adventure I can recall to date.  It's a big adventure.  I have a hard time though judging if it is any good. It reads fine and it is the sort of adventure I have come to associate with RQ as opposed to the dungeon crawls of D&D.

The color pages are saved for some ads and 'Eavy Metal. Dragons this issue.

Swords of Pendragon is not for the Pendragon game, but rather a system agnostic bit of fluff about the various swords that have appeared in the King Arthur tales.  No stats, just some background info.

An ad disguised as an article, "Illuminations" covers fantasy art. This time all from the new Warhammer Fantasy game.  It is good art though.

Letters is next.

Fracas covers the last parts of the Reader Poll.
Some of the polls that are of interest to me today are the one about computer use in games. 65% said they have one and use it in gaming. By this point I was using a combat simulator that sped up combats for my AD&D game. It was written for the old TRS-80/Tandy Color Computer and yes I still have it. Just no CoCo to run it on.
The vast majority, 4,121 respondents vs 1,177 say they use miniatures in their games.  Granted there is a larger proportion of Warhammer readers here than say the national or even worldwide average.  Still this goes a bit against the idea that the use of computers and minis are somehow something new to gaming.
Men outnumber women in this poll 86 to 1.
The top four RPGs according to the poll are MERP, AD&D, CoC and Warhammer.
The average age of the responder is 16 and has been playing 3.8 years.

So what does this issue give us?  Well there is obviously a change in the air at WD.  We have gone through more editors in the last few issues than the 60 issues prior.  The focus is shifting, though unless you know the future you really can't say what. Yes there are clues, but this seems to indicate that we will see more MERP as well.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October Movie: All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006, 2013)

Another one on my list to watch, this was the newest one to make the list.
I'll admit. I like watching Amber Heard.  She is not a terrible actress and maybe one day she will even be good.  But until then there are films like this.

Ok so what is this movie?  Er well. it's Friday the 13th with a twist.  No seriously.
We have been over this ground many times. I suppose there is the twist of Mandy herself, but I was spoiled early on and did not see it as big surprise.

Still though. Good fun teenage slasher flick.

Tally: Watched 34,  New 30

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Review: The Shrine of St. Aleena

Once upon a time there was a boy and a girl.

The boy was just getting started out in his new life as an "adventurer". He didn't know much, and the girl even asked him if knew about clerics at all.  But theirs was not a story to fill long epics or sagas. Her story ended then when she was murdered.

The Shrine of St. Aleena is an adventure in the lands where that boy who never forgot that girl would later become a man, settle down, raise some kids and erect a 20 ft tall statue in honor of the saint she became and the girl she was.

The adventure "The Shrine of St. Aleena" is another act of devotion.  Maybe by a similar boy, now 30 years later a man. Sorry, I don't know Peter C. Spahn personally.  The adventure is designed for beginning level characters, levels 1-3, around the the eponymous shrine.  Just like the old days there is a dungeon crawl and the surrounding environs where monsters can be fought and sometimes even NPCs can be befriended.

The central plot is that the minions of "The Infamous One", the wizard that killed that poor girl, are attempting to defile this most holy of places.  It is up to this generation of heroes to once again stop his plans.

This could have come off as a ham fist attempt at nostalgia, but there is an earnestness about it and honesty that instead it comes off as loving tribute.  The art, descriptions and some situations all have thinly-veiled references to things going on in the 80s in gaming that if you are the right age then you will find them very amusing.  But if not, no worries, they still work in the adventure.

The plot is thin at best, but it's still more plot than most of the old-school adventures from the time when the Saint herself was still alive.  So really, that is feature not a bug.

There is a great table of rumors (d12 though not a d20), plenty of random wilderness encounters (yeah a d20 table!) and of course that awesome site of the 20 ft statue of the saint.    In true old-school fashion there are a lot of save or die encounters here, so you are warned.

The objective is easily defined, but there is a lot here to keep the party busy.  A dedicated party could complete in one (longish) session.  Most parties though will take more.

The only thing I think missing in this is some information on what the shrine is like after the defeat of the Spawn.  Personally I think drinking from the pool grants a Cure Light Wounds once in a character's life time or maybe even a Bless enchantment.  Another random table! d6 for random benefit!

d6 Roll Benefit (only once per character)
1 No effect!
2 Cure Light Wonds
3 Bless +1 on next d20 roll
4 Remove Poison
5 Remove Paralysis
6 Reverse Turn to Stone

In the end I really enjoyed this and plan on inserting it into my regular game as a "Side trek".  That's pretty serious for me. I was limiting all my adventures to modules made in the 80s only.

Well worth the money paid.

Emirikol the Chaotic for Eldrtich Witchery

A while back I did stats for Emirikol the Chaotic for 4e.  Though lets be honest. Emirikol is an old-school bad guy.  The oldest.  Even before Bargel became Public Enemy #1 in the hearts and minds of D&D players, Emirikol was blasting people in the streets just because he could.

Here he is as a bad ass Eldritch Witchery Warlock.

Emirikol the Chaotic, Weaver of Chance, Harbinger of Doom
Human, 19th Level warlock (The Goetic Lodge)

Strength: 12
Dexterity: 16
Constitution: 15
Intelligence: 19
Wisdom: 14
Charisma: 17

Hit Points:  66
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral (evil) (yeah I know, not a proper S&S alignment)
AC: 6 (talisman of protection)

Occult Powers
Arcane Blast: 1-3 hp, 19x per day
Familiar: Fire Elemental Horse
7th level: Summon Lesser Elemental (Chaotic)
13th level: Summon Demon (Type I or II)
19th level: Summon Greater Demon (Type III, IV or V)

First: Black Flames, Chil Ray, Detect Spirits, Fey Sight, Ghostly Slashing, Minor Fighting Prowess, Silver Togue, Sleep, Spirit Dart
Second: Agony, Broca's Curse of Bable, Death Armor, Discord, Ghost Touch, Levitate, Mind Obscure, Phantasmal Spirit, Spell Missile
Third: Astral Sense, Cause Fear, Fly, Ghost Ward, Haste, Lesser Strengthening Rite, Liar's Curse, Protection from Normal Missiles, Speak with Dead
Fourth: Charm Monster, Confusion, Dance Macabre, Instant Karma, Phantom Lacerations, Spiritual Dagger, Tears of the Banshee
Fifth: Bad Luck, Death Curse, Dreadful Bloodletting, Feeblemind, Teleport, Wave of Mutilation
Sixth: Anti-magic Shell, Death Blade, Disintegrate, Mass Agony, Primal Scream

While it could be argued that he is a Wizard or Warlock, I think this works well for him.