Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Review: Dark Places & Demogorgons The UFO Investigator's Handbook

I am sitting here now trying to figure out why my DVR didn't record Project Blue Book on the History channel and it got me thinking about another book about UFOs. 
If you were a kid in the 70s and 80s like me and most of my readership then it likely you watched the late 70s show about UFOs and Project Blue Book called "Project U.F.O.".  Oddly enough a lot of people remember the show as being called "Project Blue Book" too.  More Mandella effect I am thinking.  I am also thinking that Josh Palmer was a huge fan of the show then.

Dark Places & Demogorgons The UFO Investigator's Handbook
This book is the latest (for now) book in the Survive This! Dark Places & Demogorgons line.  A couple of things jump right out at me.
First, the cover has dropped the "Survive This!" label.  It is still mentioned on the cover page, but I am thinking that the Dark Places & Demogorgons name has more visual recognition.
Second, that cover is fantastic.  It's a step up from the covers of past books (which are still great, this one is just better) and it invokes EXACTLY the feelings they wanted.  Is that a Whitley Strieber inspired cover? Fire in the Sky?  X-Files?  Yes. To all the above.

Ok, let's jump right in.
I am reviewing both the book and the PDF.  These were not sent to me, I bought them on my own dime.  Noticeable differences: The PDF cover is blueish on my screen (nod to Blue Book?) but the physical copy is more green (Little Green Books?) anyway.  Not important...moving on.
The book is 48 pages with an interior cover page and two pages of OGL.  The font is larger than say your average Swords & Wizardry book at the same digest size.  Color covers, black and white interior art.

The first section covers new classes. We get a good selection of the usual suspects; UFO Investigator (a class I resemble a little too closely at that age), Conspiracy Theorist, Alien Hunter, and Alien in Disguise (for your Starman types).  The UFO Investigator covers your basic Fox Mulder, Carl Kolchak, Scooby Gang, and others.  The Alien in Disguise is the most detailed with various forms and powers. 

Up next are a couple pages of new equipment including the UFO Investigator's kits.  Some adventure hooks, UFO terms, and some misrepresented UFOs.  Enough in a couple of pages to get you going really.

The really fun stuff is next Alien Encounters/Seeds.  Included are the Hexpost Monster, Alien Probers (we know what these guys are all about),  K.U.F.O.O. (an organization), Green Men Attack Gaslight, and the G-Men Come to Town (basically the Project Blue Book).   So if the hooks couldn't get you going these will.

We end with what is one of my favorite parts of all the DP&D books, the Recommended Reading and Viewing lists.  Interestingly enough "Project U.F.O." is not on this list.  Ok, Josh Palmer, this needs to be added to your watch list.

The book is excellent really. Great addition to the Dark Places & Demogorgons game.


Come Endless Darkness: Adventures in Coggle

The day is getting away from me. So my post for today will have to wait.   I am playing around with a new tool today at work.  Thought I might try it as a way to map out all my D&D 5 campaigns and games.



The tool is called Coggle and it used for multi-user mind-maps and flow charts.

You can click here to see the public version.

I'll add the characters then hyper-link everything to the proper resource (DriveThru, DMsGuild, D&D Beyond).  Build it up as I go.  It's a nice organizational tool and a way for me to keep track of various items, especially characters. Had a player lose his character sheet so we recreated what we knew but said he lost all of his equipment and magic items.

I can see a lot of uses for this.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Review: Dark Places & Demogorgons Cryptid Manual

If I have said it once I have said it a hundred times. I LOVE Monster books.  Any and all monster books. I even grab monster books for games I don't play.  So when Eric Bloat they head monster hunter at Bloat Games asked if I would be interested in looking over his new monster book (Kickstarting today) for his FANTASTIC Dark Places & Demogorgons I screamed HELL YES at my computer.

Now I promise to be fair here but a couple of words of full disclaimer.  First I was sent this book as part of an agreement for a review.  That is no big, I get a lot of books this way and I always try to be fair.   Secondly. Well, look above. I am predisposed to like Monster books and I already love DP&P and cryptids are a TON of fun.  So please keep all this in mind.

Dark Places & Demogorgons: Cryptid Manual is a digest-sized book weighing in at 90 or so pages.  Some bits look like redacted Governmental documents and blood splattered hunter's notebooks.  It's actually pretty cool looking if not 100% original (see Chill, Supernatural and Conspiracy X).  That being said though it is also 100% EXPECTED.  That's HOW I want my 80s monster hunting guide to look like.

The interior and the cover features two-color art (blacks and reds) on glossy pages. Now the gloss might just be my pre-copy version, or not. In any case the color, the art, and the layout are all a leap ahead in terms of style and look than all the previous DP&D books.  If this is the future of their books then the future looks good.

A little over 50 monsters fill this book.  They use the same stat block as DP&D so that also means they are roughly compatible with Swords & Wizardry (I'd say about 99%) and most other OSR-flavored games.  Given the size of the book it fits in nicely with my Swords & Wizardry Whitebox games, so I have another monster book now for that! Each monster gets a page. Some exceptions occur with the Bigfoots and the E.T.s, but still, it's a good bit for each one. 

There are also templates in the back of the book that work like the monster templates from 3.x.  So you can apply the Vampire, Werewolf or my favorite Radioactive, template (among others) to any monster.  Radioactive Bigfoots?  Hell yes!  There is also a table of enhancements and how they change your monster. So now it's Agile Radioactive Bigfoots!
There are some conditions ported over from 3.x (more or less) but very, very useful and I am happy to see them here.

Ok what are some of my favorites?  There is the Almasti, which I also used in Ghosts of Albion. They have a special place in my heart.  I'll likely include Almasti Shamen in my DP&D games like I did with Ghosts.   Old faves like the Bunyip and Chupacabra.  Holy crap there is a Crocoduck!


I have to admit I nearly shot coffee out of my nose when I first saw that.  Worth the price of the book alone in my mind.  Flatwoods Monster, all the various extraterrestrials (Nordics, Reptilians, LGMs, Greys), Hellhounds, the Hodag! (love those things!), Jersey Devils, Skin Walkers, and the Wendigo.  So plenty really and many more.  The monsters mostly come from modern cyptids, but there some classics from myths and local monsters.

This book is great really. While I may have been pre-disposed to like it, it really delivered and then some with me.  The art is great and fun. The layout top notch and the monsters are just too much fun. 

While reading it I could not help but think how well this would also work with White Star or other White Box derived game.   So even if you don't play DP&D (and you should really, it's just too much fun) you can still get a lot of enjoyment out of this book.

This book is currently in Kickstarter and you can get in for as little as 10 bucks.  Not too shabby of a deal really.


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ericfrombloatgames/dark-places-and-demogorgons-the-cryptid-manual-tab

There is a lot more information on the KS page, but trust me. You want this.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Melonheads for Dark Places & Demogorgons

One of my favorite games of 2018 is turning into one of my favorite games of 2019.

I have been given the pleasure of an advance copy of the newest book in the Dark Places & Demogorgons catalog, the Cryptid Manual.

It is not out yet, the Kickstarter begins on January 16, but it might be the best looking DP&D ever.

The book is digest sized, 90 pages and full of great illustrations.  The crew at Bloat Games really outdid themselves with this one.  The book reminds of a Chill or Conspiracy X monster book and that is a really good thing.

Expect a full review from me later this week. In fact expect a lot more DP&D goodness this week as I spend some more time with it and my Sunny Valley, OH setting.

Since today is Monster Monday. Let's find a Cryptid worthy of this book and something my Sunny Valley cast could encounter.

One of the features of the original series was the Monster of the Week episode.  This notion came from spirtual ancestor of both the show and this game, the X-Files. So going back to Mulder and Scully is never a bad plan.  For this episode, though I wanted something new, something we have not seen a lot of in the past AND something from Ohio.

Please allow me to introduce you to the Melonheads.
These creatures have been terrorizing people (reportedly) in Ohio, Michigan, and Connecticut since at least the 1960s.  Really they are kind of perfect for this.

Found in the woods in and around Ohio these creatures appear as small emaciated children with giant bulbous heads.

One legend has it that a deranged doctor (Dr. Crowe) and his wife near Kirtland, OH took in some hydrocephalic children to care for. In truth, they did strange experiments on them.  Eventually, the children fought back killing the doctor and his wife and burning down the home.  They escaped into the woods where they still live to this day, terrorizing anyone that comes into their territory.

Melonheads
Armor Class: 10
Hit Dice: 2
Move: 12
Actions: 1
Morale: 4/8
Terror: 13
HDE: 2

Attack Damage: Claw (d4)
Special: Dark Vision, Hunt in Packs
Bonuses: +5 to Spot, +5 to Stealth, +2 to Listen

Pack Tactics: Melonheads are rarely encountered alone. When they are their Morale is 4. In a pack of 6 or more their moral jumps to 8.  They will attack en masse with three being able to attack a single victim at once.  Their attacks are not very effective, but with multiple creatures, they are sure to land a few.

Melonheads are not particularly strong or very bright.  They attack anything and everything that enters their territory.   Melonheads are only active at night.

Using typical 80s monster logic they mostly attack teenagers making out in the woods.

Sunny Valley, OH Episode: It's a Shame About Ray
(*Someone will appreciate that title)

The episode begins with a missing teenager, Ray. He had been out in the woods walking with his girlfriend Shanon last night. Before they got out of the woods though he was attacked by a group of Melonheads.  His girlfriend describes "creepy, dirty children with giant heads".  It is now up to our cast to find them.

The only way to stop them is to close up the mine they have been using as a home and hiding place.

Read more about these weirdos here:

Friday, January 11, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend: Start of 2019 Edition!

New Year and a whole host of new Kickstarters to talk about so let's do it!

Retro 1E & 5E Fantasy Mini-Adventure Set 2


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/563681582/retro-1e-and-5e-fantasy-mini-adventure-set-2

More adventures from the Folio line.  But in truth, they had me at 1e & 5e.

The Streets of Avalon


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/encoded/the-streets-of-avalon

A Gothic Mega-City for 5e?  Sign me the hell up!  I love urban adventures and never get enough of them to be honest.  This one looks perfect.

Cha'alt


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/vengersatanis/chaalt

Venger Satanis is back with another adventure.  This one is also designed to be 1e/OSR and 5e.  A pyramid mega-dungeon.  Venger is always pretty good with his Kickstarters so this one should rock as well.

Kingdoms of Hell

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/292543184/kingdoms-of-hell

Part RPG and part miniatures skirmish game this one looks pretty awesome too.  Frankly, I am in it for the minis.  This only includes the files for 3D Printing, not the minis themselves.  But that is fine I can print as many as I like.

To quote Lzzy Hale, "a little evil goes a long, long way."  And there is plenty of evil fun here.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Featured Artist: Luigi Castellani

Hello and welcome to my first Featured Artist post of 2019.  If you are new to this then the purpose here is simple.  I find an artist I really like and I share some of my favorite pieces with you.   The hope is you find some new artist to like and maybe buy their prints or subscribe to their Pateron or whatever.  But at the very least we all find someone whose art we can enjoy.

Today it is my pleasure to introduce you all to Luigi "Artkid" Castellani.

Luigi is an artist from Rome, Italy (where I do believe art was actually invented, but don't quote me on that! ;) ).  You will recognize his work from several of my own witch books. But most likely you will recognize him from his stock art packages or the books that use them and his art.

His art is very reminiscent of the old-school style D&D books and it could be that is the reason he is so popular with the OSR crowd.  His work has appeared in books and games by Joseph Bloch's BRW Games, OSRIC, Carcosa, and Peter C. Spahn's Small Niche Games among others.

Here is Luigi in his own words.
Like so many artists I started drawing before I got in primary school, my reference material consisted of Marvel Comics with Buscema and Kirby being the foremost inspirational artists. I first made contact with D&D, Call of Cthulhu and Traveller in 1980, and my love for gaming endures to this day. Over the years I've played or GMed a variety of systems (Shadowrun, SW D6, Pendragon, CP 2020, TORG, Bushido, Flashing Blades, Hero, MERP/RM to name a few). I'm mostly a "trad" and Old School gamer but I never liked fences and walls, gimme dice and I'll play (almost) anything. My favorite gaming artists ever are Erol Otus, Dave Trampier and Keith Parkinson.
Here are some of my favorite pieces.










You can Luigi at the following sites:

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

This Old Dragon: Issue #104

Wow! A this Old Dragon? Really.  Time to get back into this.  Grabbing the Dragon that has been sitting on my desk it is ... hmmm, no cover. Well, inside it says December 1985 so that should make Dragon #104.  Rocky IV dominates the theaters, Mr. Mister and Lionel Richie rule the radio waves with "Broken Wings" and "Say You, Say Me" respectively.  It's December 1985 and this is episode #104 of The Old Dragon!

Well, my cover is gone, but my Google-fu tells me it is another Denis Beauvais piece.  This time a happy looking wizard.

Letters covers some the issues with the adventure "City Beyond the Gate" in Issue #100.  I have to agree, now in retrospect, with the errors being pointed out with Robert Schroeck's version of London.  If I do issue 100 I'll have to come back to this.

Kim Mohan's editorial covers William Dear's book "The Dungeon Master". In particular, Mohan focuses on the game that Dear played and didn't enjoy.  Me, I have a host of other issues with the book but that is not really the point of his editorial.

Nice ad for the Dragonfire software.  I often spoke about how my earliest memories of D&D and D&D experiences are contemporaneous with my earliest experiences with computers.  To me, they go hand in hand.  Back in the day, we had written our own software for the various TRS-80 computers we had.  It was fun.  You can still get the Dragonfire II software online. I am not sure of the legality of those sites though.



We come up to one of the early "theme" section of Dragon.  These became more and more popular from Issue 80 or so on hitting their height in the in late 1980s (issues 100 on).
The theme for this issue deals with Thieves, which even at this point (end of 1985) they were being referred to as "Rogues".

John C. Bunnell starts with The Well-Rounded Thief which deals with various reasons why a character would want to be a thief.   There are a lot of good ideas here (greed, professional motivation, artistic, recreational, revenge) and 99% of this article can be used with any version of D&D really.   Thieves may not have been in the Little Brown Books, but they are a staple of D&D now.

Bunnell is up next as well with Race is Ahead of Class.  This article really gave us some insight on how different races view thieves and was a preview of the Race/Class/Kit books of 2nd Edition.  Again this article can be used today regardless of your edition of choice.

What does your thief get when they pickpockets? Well, Bruce Barr has the answer in Was It Worth the Risk?  Tables of picking pockets depending on who is the mark.  The tables will feel a bit old-school for newer players, but they are pretty useful.

David "Zeb" Cook gives us a two-page preview on the new Oriental Adventures in Oriental Opens New Vistas.  It is more than just a commercial for OA, there are notes on design choices made to make this feel different than AD&D RAW.

Michael Dobson is next with Three Challenges in One where he talks about his new module X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield.   The big feature of this adventure is the inclusion of the BATTLESYSTEM combat system.  Which is odd really.  The Companion set for Basic D&D (BECMI) already had their own mass combat system called War Machine.  This adventure ended up using a hybrid of the two systems.

Meeting of The Minds updates the psionic encounter tables with monsters from Fiend Folio and Monster Manual II.

Len Lakofka is next with his Leomund's Tiny Hut feature on Specialization and Game Balance.  This covers the new features fighter got in the Unearthed Arcana.  I was not all that concerned about Weapon Specialization back then and frankly thought it was fine but I have also read that some people thought it was a game-breaker or a game-changer depending on who was talking.

Nice big ad for Gary's first book.  Sadly in one year's time he would be gone from TSR.
Ads for BATTLESYSTEM and Oriental Adventures too.



Ed Greenwood is back with another ecology article, this time The Ecology of the Ochre Jelly.  Ed had a good way of making even the lamest monsters sound interesting.

Somewhat related to the thief articles is this one from Lionel D. Smith on Assessing, Not Guessing.  Or allowing PCs to make their own value judgments on treasure.  It is a very old-school feeling formula where you determine a character's CAP (correct assessment percentage).  I might try it for my next 5e adventure just to see how it works out.

Our special section and the main feature of the issue is SUDDEN DAWN a Marvel Super Heroes module set during WW2.   I have read through it a few times over the years and it looks like fun and at 16 pages it is a good size.

Merle Rasmussen is back with more Spy's Advice for Top Secret.

An ad for some cool AD&D, Dragon and Dragonlance shirts.  I'd love to have one of those now.



Profiles covers Harold Johnson (Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan) and David "Zeb" Cook (lots).
Previews covers Oriental Adventures and connected modules.   Teased are a new Dragonlance Trilogy , Legends (which I liked better than the first trilogy), a new "unnamed" AD&D core rule book (spoilers Dungeoneers Survival Guide), the D&D Immortals set and more Gary penned Greyhawk novels.

Ares covers the best in SciFi gaming this month.

Star Law Returns by Matt Bandy covers law enforcement for Star Frontiers.

Hexes and High Guard comes to us from Jefferson P. Swycaffer and deals with space wars for Traveller.  It's a fairly short article but feels like it would work well.

Gamma World is not to be ignored they have stats for a Terminator style...er wait, an Exterminator style robot in The Exterminator by John Mau and Brian Shuler.

Ah.. here is something I really like.  The Kzinti Have Landed by Jon Slobins for the FASA Star Trek game.  Obviously about playing Kzinti in the Star Trek universe for all those Larry Niven fans out there.  I liked the Kzinti and was always disappointed they were not in the rules, but I knew why they weren't.   There is enough here to get Kzinti fans going.  Back when this issue was new I thought about a Kzinti police force (my ode to The Slaver Weapon) using the Star Law article.  The ship in the article has a solid Romulan look to it.



Marvel-Phile covers more WW2 characters including a very non-Sebastian Stan Bucky.

Gamer's Guide has small ads including two for artists to illustrate your character.

Convention Calendar covers the cons of late 1985, early 1986.

Wormy gets four pages, Dragonmirth gets one and we end with SnarfQuest.

So. If you are into thieves then this is a must-read issue.  If you like Kzinti then if you can find this issue cheap give it a go.

Want to know what I said about White Dwarf from the same time? Check out White Dwarf Wednesday for Issue #72.

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