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

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Review: Lands of Adventure (1983)

Land's of Adventure by Lee Gold
Lands of Adventure has always been something of a Holy Grail item for me.  I knew very little about the game and much less about the author and designer Lee Gold.  However, the cover art was striking and different from anything else I had seen before that my curiosity only grew and grew.  Later on, I began to learn who Lee Gold was and her contributions to the RPGs and geek/nerd culture in general, namely via Alarums and Excursions, that game went from a passing curiosity to an "it's on the list" item.

I am happy to report that not only is Alarums and Excursions still active, so is Lee Gold, having spoken with her briefly over the summer.  After that my "it's on the list" item moved to the top of my list.

Circumstances seem to hit me just right. I had seen a huge increase in my sales and a shrink-wrapped copy had been offered for sale.   I had the opportunity and I had the cash.  The price might have been higher than I would have normally spent, but any buyer's remorse I might have had was quickly evaporated once I got this boxed in the mail and opened it up.  I am not sure what my expectations were, it had been "on the list" for so long, but now I have it and I am really thrilled with it.

Lands of Adventure (1983)

Lands of Adventure by Lee Gold was published by Fantasy Games Unlimited in 1983.  The boxed set came with the Lands of Adventure Rule Book (32 pages) and a Culture Pack (28 pages) that cover Mythic Greece and Medieval England. The back cover of the rule book has a character sheet. example and the box came with one character sheet on heavy paper/light card stock that can be copied.  Which I did.

The box also included some "micro dice" two d20s (white and green) and two d6s (green, with pips). The d20s are numbered 0-9, 0-9, so good for d20s or d%s.  I say good for them, but in truth, they are too tiny for me to read anymore! So I am going to dig up some others to use.

dice with character sheet

The books show their wargaming roots with sections numbered as 1.0, 1.1 all the way to 28.1.  The Culture Pack follows suit, but the numbers here are tied to core rules.  So section 1.1 of the culture section refers also to section 1.1 of the core rules. The Culture Pack section are prefaced with a code letter, which I discuss below.

Note on the art.  The cover art for the box and the books is all done by Bill Willingham and it is some of the best art I have seen of his. I do believe it is one of the best covers for a game I have seen. Certainly, it was the best cover of the time. The book covers are no less impressive for their old-school black and white.

Bill Willingham art

Seriously, that medusa is 10x better than any medusa art I have seen in D&D.  The interior art is by Michael Kucharski. His art is good, though not at the level of the covers. Note. Both artists have websites and both artists have, since this book, gotten to be fantastic artists.  Both also did their own versions of Doctor Stange[BW, MK], so maybe I need to roll up a Doctor Strange-like character for this.

In all cases, the art fits well with the books and the content.

Core Rules

The rulebook begins with a word from the author.  Of note Gold mentions using The Palladium Book of Weapons & ArmourThrough Dungeons Deep: A Fantasy Gamers' Handbook, and encyclopedias of animals. 

Character creation is the big piece of the first book with 11 (yes Eleven!) character attribute traits, though only about half of those are random. The others are derived.  The pure random characteristics are Craft, Talent, Appearance, and Strength. Derived characteristics are Dexterity, Voice, Intelligence, Prudence, Agility, Constitution, and Charisma.  So more than D&D, but far less than DragonRaid. You can also determine Gender and Height.  

Typically the traits are 1-20 which makes it good for converting on a d20 roll or a d% roll. Alternately there is a point-buy system where you can distribute 110+2d10 points across all 11.  I'd likely stick to the derived ones and use the points to build the completely random ones.  In this way, it is not all that different to say WitchCraft. Instead of 110+2d10, maybe 45+1d10 or something for the purely random ones (range: 4-80) and derive the others as normal.

Other details include the Culture Technology Level and modification due to races other than the default human are given. 

Up next (1.1) is Piety.  Various actions are given that adjust this score either through pious or blasphemous actions. This aids in forms of magic.   

2.0 covers measuring Vitality. For the people that really enjoy complexity in their combat there three types of "hit points" in use in this game. They are Energy Points (EP), Body Points (BP), and Life Points (LP).  EPs are lost due to magic or extra actions, BPs cover injury, and LPs cover grievous injuries.  Body Points are increased by armor as described later in the armor section.

3.0 Introduces the Skill systems. The characteristics above determine skills, which are the meat of the game really. There are 10 skill categories with some specialist skills.   These include Communication, Knowledge, Magic, Manipulation, Miracle, Movement, Observation, Persuasion, Weapons (Melee), and Weapons (Missile).  Each has its own method of calculation. Skill checks are % and roll under.  A roll of 1 to 10 is considered a Maximum success and considered flawless.  A roll of 96 to 100 is a Fumble. 

Specialized skills are well, pretty much that.  But for every 10% increase in a Specialized skill, there is a +1% increase to the category. I have not seen that before.   Categories though are Hard, Normal, Easy, and by Weapon.  So improvement in say use of a sword by 10% your ability to shoot arrows increases by 1%.  There is a rough logic here. Categories determine how long it takes to learn a skill and how they can improve. 

The next sections cover all the skills and their specialties.   For example, in section 6.0 we learn there are four categories of Magic; Compulsions, Illusions, Enhancements, and Energy.  Section 8.0 Miracles is set up in a similar manner. 

Oh, oh it's Magic!

Section 12 covers our weapons and how to use them.  Section 13 covers defense.  Relating combat as skill is of course a feature of many games outside of the D&D world.  Section 14 covers equipment.

What's an old school game without a list of weapons?


Section 15 covers time.  1 Phase = 2 seconds, 1 round = 12 seconds (6 phases), and 1 minute = 5 rounds (30 phases).   Skill time is measured in phases and rounds.

Section 17 covers magic in more detail, where Section 6 just details magic as a skill.  There are no "spells" as in D&D per se (see below), but how much power it takes to perform certain example feats of magic.  It reminds me a bit of what we would much later get in White Wolf's Mage or Eden's WitchCraft.  In 17.9 some examples of "spells" built with the rules above are given.  Section 18 covers spellcasting.  Doing a Doctor Strange character is making more and more sense. Much like we will see later on in games like Mage, the four categories of magic can be combined in different permutations to make different spell effects. 

Section 19 covers all sorts of Daemons, Demons, and Gods. This is followed quickly Section 20 on Miracles which is given similar coverage that Spells received.  Section 21 gives us Thaumaturgists or mages with quasi-priestly powers. Section 22 likewise gives us Diabolists.   Miracles rely on the beings from Section 19 to work.   

Section 23 covers the basic stats for animals. Section 24 does the same for humanoids, 25 for Dragons, and 26 for types of undead.   None of these sections have the detail as one would see in a monster manual, the assumption being that you would create your own monsters or rely on the Culture Packs. 

Undead

We end with a very complete index.

The rules feel incomplete to be sure, but I am certain there is a playable game here.  I might be mentally filling in the blanks of what is missing with knowledge of other games and what they would do.

Culture Pack

The intent of the Culture Packs was to provide a "Game" world for the characters to play in.  While not specifically addressed, the assumption was I felt that these would be separate.  Separated by time as they are in the real world.  This is different than the take of Man, Myth & Magic which has all of the Mytho-Historical worlds existing together.  There is a bit higher level of scholarship in our two worlds than what is typically seen in say Man, Myth & Magic.

It is explicitly stated that there would be more Culture Packs, but sadly no others were made.  I could easily see Viking Age Northmen, Knights of Charlemagne, the Roman Empire, and Edo Period Japan.  In fact, given Ms. Gold's previous game, Land of the Rising Sun, Edo Japan seems like an easy choice. I might have to have a look as Land of the Rising Sun and see if I can divorce it enough from Chivalry & Sorcery roots to make a "Culture Pack" for it.  Gold would go on to write the GURPS Japan supplement.  Likewise, the Viking era also seems like a given the Vikings game she did for I.C.E. later on.

This Culture Pack covers Mythic Greece and Medieval England. With each getting half the book.

Layout-wise the two sections follow the same pattern and the pattern set up in the Core Rules. As mentioned the Section numbers match those of the Core book.  "C" is used for Mythic Greece (see below) and "M" for Medieval England.  So in the Core rules, 1.0 covers humans with 1.0b nonhumans (like Elves, Dwarves, Giants).  Section C1.0b covers centaurs, giants, and various nymphs. Section M1.0b cover faeries and picts.  

Mythic Greece is given the title "Children of the Gods," thus the "C" in the section numbering.  I approve, I used the same title (though without knowledge of this book) for my own coverage of Greek myths and Classical witches in Children of the Gods. This Culture Pack covers Ancient Greece before the Trojan War.  The rules here make subtle changes to the Core rules as well as some additions. The big feature here naturally is the inclusion of more gods, festivals, and other creatures. 

Children of the Gods

Medieval England moves the action North and about 2,000 years or so in the future, about the time of the Fall of the Western Roman Empire in England or 1070 CE.  Coverage is given for England of the time.  So one of my favorite topics, the confrontations of Christianity and the "Old Religion" of Celtic Paganism.  So tips are given for role-playing as well as various rule changes. The formula used here to build the Culture Packs is very effective.  Had this game been more successful I would have loved to have seen more. 

Medieval England

Interestingly enough, much like my own Children of the Gods did with her Mythic Greece, there are connections here between her Medieval England and my other Basic Witch book, The Craft of the Wise.  The connections are pretty obvious.  We were reading the same research at the time/from the time.  We both went into the coverage of Greek Myths by Robert Graves. For Medieval England, there are certainly a lot of material she could have used, but she also picked a few that were also on my list like the works of Margaret Murry ("The Witch-Cult in Western Europe") and poets like Kipling.  It makes me wonder how my own books might have been different if I had seen Lee Gold's interpretations first.  As suspected the Magic sections cover witches, familiars, and coven casting.  All of it is very much right out of Murray's books.  I have to admit I was a touch surprised not to see Frazer's "The Golden Bough" in her list of research.

English Dragons


Afterword

Lee Gold is still very active in producing Alarums and Excursions and she still plays Lands of Adventure with her group. I spoke to her over the summer and she is fantastic.

The game does have a "collected notes" feel to it as other reviewers have mentioned. That doesn't detract from a very fascinating, if involved game.  I am certain that with Gold as a Game Master it is all quite fluid and dynamic, first time GMs will be spending a lot of time looking up formulas and a lot of pre-game prep building monsters, NPCs and the like.

I paid quite a lot for this game in it's original shrink wrap and I have to say I am not disappointed.  It is such a fascinating snapshot of one designer's passion.  While this could be construed as a "vanity project" it is not overly so.  Lee Gold is obviously a great game designer.  The diamonds of this game though are still hidden under a lot of coal. 

I hope to spend some more time with it soon.

Unboxing Pictures

It's rare I get something from the 1980s still in shrink.  Let's take it in.

Lands of Adventure, still undiscovered.

Lands of Adventure, still undiscovered.

Tiny, tiny dice

Lands of Adventure books


Links

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: NIGHT SHIFT Night Companion

The Night Companion
We are getting down to the wire here on The Night Companion

Today's character comes to you all via the Night Companion rules and a challenge from my friend Greg to rebuild his Ghosts of Albion playtest character using the NIGHT SHIFT rules.

The Game: NIGHT SHIFT, Night Companion Rules 

The Night Companion has a number of alternate rules for character creations including a point-buy system and new character types.  I figure I will show off the Immortal rules here and how they work with NIGHT SHIFT RAW.  I am also using the point-buy rules to "check my math."

The Character: Valerie Beaumont, the Immortal

Lady Valerie Beaumont has "haunted" my games for years.  She was a playtest character created for Ghosts of Albion by my friend Greg Littlejohn.  We have run games for each other off and on over the last 20+ years.  He is a great person to give a test game to and tell him "to break it."  There was an alternate combat system that almost went into to Ghosts but did not thanks to him! 

Valerie was also later used when we were playtesting the first round of Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space.  Little known fact.  A lot of the Ghosts of Albion playtesters were also playtesters for Doctor Who.

Valerie, being immortal also was part of my Spirit of '76 campaign and will be part of Black Star where she will be Captain of the USS Mystic

76 is the past and the Mystic is the future, but here is Val now, living in 2021 in one of the Night Worlds of NIGHT SHIFT.

Valerie Beaumont
Valerie Beaumont
5th Level Survivor/10th Level Sage (Immortal)

Base Abilities
Strength: 12 (0)
Dexterity: 16 (+2) 
Constitution: 14 (+1) 
Intelligence: 21 (+4) P *
Wisdom: 16 (+2) s
Charisma: 16 (+2) s

HP:  5d4+5 / 10d6+10
AC: 9
Fate Points: 1d10

Check Bonus (P/S/T): +8/+5/+3
Melee bonus: +6  Ranged bonus: +8

Saves: +3 Death Saves and area effects. +5 to saves vs. spells and magical effects.  She gains an additional +5 to all saving throws against magic, poison, disease, and death-based attacks due to her immortality.

Immortal Powers
Unique Kill: Virginia Dare (See Below)
Immortals regenerate 1d8 hit points every minute. 
+3 to Intelligence

Survivor Skills
Open Locks: 115%
Bypass Traps: 110%
Sleight of Hand: 120%
Move Silently: 120%
Hide in Shadows: 110%

Hair: Red
Eyes: light-green
Height: 5'7"

Spells
1st level: Magic Missle, Glamour, Sleep
2nd level: ESP, Produce Flame, Suggestion
3rd level: Clairvoyance, Haste, Water Breathing
4th level: Arcane Eye, Phantasmal Killer

Immortal Arcana
Innate Magic: Suggestion (x3 per day)
Enhanced Senses

Valerie was born in 1569 and is immortal. She was a young English girl that made her way to the new world in the year 1585.  She came to the new world and settled in the Roanoke Colony where she lived for a couple of years.  Then something happened.  She was caring for the young Virginia Dare and then woke up several days later and several miles from home.  When she had managed to return to the colony, everyone was gone.  She also discovered that she was immortal and was certain that the two were somehow linked.

Valerie spent the next few years roaming the new world.  She learned magic from some of the few true witches in Salem and more from the indigenous Native Americans.

Valerie Beaumont

 
She has a ring on her right little finger that manages a glamour that "ages" her.  A gift from a former lover. Currently, she appears to be in her mid-40s.  Without the glamour, she appears as she did when she discovered her immortality, a young woman of 18.  Her mind though is as someone just over 450.

Shadow Steel Sword
She also carries a long thin blade made of "shadow steel" a rare form of steel that the Fae can use.  It can attack any supernatural creature, even ones that are incorporeal or shifted out of phase. 

Valerie Beaumont

Virginia Dare

When Valerie was brought to the American colonies her primary employment was with the Dare family to act as a caretaker to the newborn Virginia Dare.  When Valerie was separated from the colony all the other people living in the Roanoke Colony were gone, including Virginia Dare.  For years and even centuries, people claimed to have seen Dare, now grown into young adulthood and called the White Doe.  Many believed the sitings of Dare were nothing more than a myth.

That is, everyone except for Valerie.  

At some point around 1622 Valerie encountered Virginia living with the Powhatan in the forests of Virginia. At first, Valerie was elated to find Virginia, but this soon turned when Virginia blamed Valerie for the disappearance of the colony.  The two fought and discovered quickly that they could harm, even likely kill, each other.  Likely they would have if they had not been interrupted by British forces.  Over the next few centuries they would encounter each other and it would lead to fighting.  

Both Valerie and Virginia are immortals.  The only thing that can kill them is each other. 

Virginia Dare is "played" in my games by Rose Byrne.

Virginia Dare by Rose ByrneValerie Beaumont by Julianne Moore

Looking forward to doing some more with these two.

--

I have her start as a Survivor.  She was displaced from her colony and spent many years wandering the unknown wilds of the North American continent. Eventually, she picked up knowledge here and there about various occult matters in including some magic. 

I like this since it really shows off how flexible the multi-classing system for NIGHT SHIFT can be.  

Want to see more?  Pledge for the Night Companion on Kickstarter!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

ENnies Voting is now Open

The annual ENnies awards is now open for voting and as usual, there are a lot of great choices to vote for, or at the very least shop for.

I might get into my picks later on (have to see how long voting is) but for today I want to focus on one particular book and maybe convince you to consider voting for it.

Up for Best Adventure and Best Cartography is Halls of the Blood King for Old-School Essentials

Halls of the Blood King

I reviewed Halls of the Blood King last month and frankly, I loved it.  So it is great seeing it get some official recognition.  It would be even great if it wins.

It has some serious competition, in particular from the Alien RPG adventure.  But keep in mind that OSE is still largely a one-man operation of Gavin Norman.  Alien and Free League is a more traditional publisher.  So to say that OSE and Blood King are punching well above their weight class is not hyperbole. 

So, if you can make the time, give HotBK a vote for both Best Adventure and Best Cartography.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Review: DragonRaid

The DragonRaid RPG
I have been planning this review for a bit now, but upon hearing of the death of the creator, Dick Wulf, I am opting to move it up a bit. 

Full Disclosure: There is no way I can give this a complete review because I don't know enough about the source material.  I mean I know it, but not enough to for the level of play this learning game would require of me.

I have mentioned before that I have known about DragonRaid since at least the mid-80s. I was both amused and fascinated by it then.  When I learned more about it I was a little more impressed.

The Game

DragonRaid got a lot of grief in the gaming communities I was a part of.  I had some Christian gamer friends that thought it was a cheap attempt to capitalize on their faith and some even did not want to mix their D&D and belief.  As an Atheist, then and now, I thought it was interesting. As someone who was interested in psychology then and someone with degrees in it now I also thought it was an interesting way to learn something, in this case, Bible verses.  I always wanted to see the game for myself.   

One thing I have to keep in mind that this "game" is not really an RPG, but a teaching tool in the form of a role-playing game. 

The game's author and designer was Dick Wulf, MSW, LCSW, who is, as his degrees indicate, a licensed Social Worker and holds a Master's Degree in Social Work.  He had done a lot of work in psychotherapy and ministry. He also played D&D and Traveller. So it seems he actually likes and knows RPGs better than the guys who gave us Fantasy Wargaming!

Plus I have to admit the ads in Dragon Magazine always looked really interesting.  I mean seriously, that is an evil-looking dragon and should be stopped and those look like the brave warriors to do it. Even if they need some more armor*.  (*that is actually a point in the game! more later)

Ad for The DragonRaid RPG

A while back my oldest son and I saw this game at my FLGS and I told him all about it. He is also an Atheist (as everyone in my family is) and he wanted to get it so we could play the other, evil, side.  He wanted to do something with the dragons in the game (he loves dragons) and I of course wanted to bring witches into it (cause that is my raison d'être).   Plus this copy still had the cassette tape in it.  I mean that is just beyond cool really.  So yeah I grabbed it with every intention of having a bit of a laugh with it.

I might be a witch-obsessed Athiest, but I am also an educator and not really an asshole.

The truth of the matter is spending this past week with the game I just can't take a piss on it.  The author is just too earnest in his presentation of this game.  There is love here, and scholarship, and frankly good pedagogy behind the design.   I don't normally mix my professional education background with my game design work.  Yes, they can and they do mix.  But when I am writing a book on the Pagan witches for Old-School Essentials I am not trying to write a historical treatise on the pagan religions of Western Europe during the time of the Roman Empire.  I'll try to keep my facts in line, but I can't serve two masters. I have to write what is best for a game.

DragonRaid also doesn't serve two masters. It serves one and makes that work for both pedagogical reasons (to help young people understand Christianity and their Bible better) and game design reasons (to have a fun roleplaying experience). 

For this DragonRaid succeeds in a lot of ways.  For this, I simply can't do anything else but admire this game and its design.  So no playing dragons here, or me coming up with a witch class to fight the characters.  I might do that at home, but I am not going to be a jerk about it.

Besides look at everything, you get in this box! I mean seriously, this is some value.

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 1

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 2, Lightraider sheets

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 3, so many books!

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 4, counters

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 5 documentation

I even got the cassette tape! I don't have anything to play it on though.

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 6, and honest to goodness cassette tape!

What do you get?

New Player Briefing
Red cover, letter-sized. 16 pages.
This is the first book all players need to read over.  This includes the LightRaiders (player characters) and the AdventureMaster (GM).  The background is really kind of fun.  The world of EdenAgain is like an idealized Earth meets Narnia.  There are humans, regular (OnceBorn), and the TwiceBorn. The TwiceBorn are the ones that follow the Maker and Overlord (thinly veiled versions of "God" and "Jesus").  There is a lot cool details on how Abaddon and Kakia, both described as dragons here, have tempted the world to evil.  

I rather like the idea of this book.  A brief 16 page (large font) booklet to get new players into the game.  It is something that is usually handled by the "What is an RPG?" and "Introduction" sections of other games.  There is cool parallelism between this book and some of the intro to playing material found in Red Box/Mentzer Basic D&D.  Makes a lot of sense since both red books cover similar ground and have the same goals.

The World depicted here is a bit simplistic, but that is also by design.  The players are supposed to explore it all together.

DragonRaid World


Rulebook
Blue cover, letter-sized, 24 pages

The Rule book covers the Basic rules for all players. 
It covers character creations (thankfully we also have the worksheet for that), how to use the StarLot and ShadowStones, Ability checks, and the various forms of combat and armor.  I can't help but feel there was also a bit of a wargamer in Dick Wulf.  

The division of the books into Red and Blue does give me solid B/X and BE Basic vibes.  I am sure that Dick Wulf was familiar with those and chose to emulate their feel even if "Basic" and "Expert" are not really a good way to describe his books.  More like "Novice" and "Basic."  But the idea still holds.

The Light Raider Test 
Orange cover, letter-sized, 44 pages
This is the first of our adventures for the LightRaiders and it is in fact set up as a first mission. It is introduced in the New Player Briefing/Red Book.  Here it is a full-blown adventure complete with player handouts and cue cards for verses. 
Players have to rescue a LightRaider, fight a giant (or drink him under the table), and fight some goblins.  It is noted that any LightRaider that dies goes to Paradise. 
This adventure is fairly straightforward to the point of almost being a railroad.  Well...not quite. I mean the player's options are limited and a lot relies on random rolls.  I suppose as a new LightRaider and AdventureMaster this makes things a little easier.  There is another reason for this. The adventures have certain academic goals or learning outcomes.  These are usually met via the design of the game and altering these would mean the designer could not really tell if the learning goals were being met. Great for a curriculum, not ideal for an adventure. 

Rescue of the Sacred Scrolls
Light Green, letter-sized, 78 pages with 28-page insert.
This is the second adventure and it is much more expansive. Here the LightRaiders must brave the castle of the dragon Thuella and rescue the captive LightRaider Zekion and recover the two parts of the Sacred Scrolls.  Along the way, they can meet a unicorn (a type of angel here) and battle orcs and cave spiders. 

These adventures, minus the quoting of scripture, would make ok D&D-style adventures. There is not much in the way of treasure and the goals really are very different.  DragonRaid players learn through these the power their LightRaiders have via faith (and therefore themselves).  

At this point though it is very, very obvious who this game is marketed to.  All of the art is whiter than the Sound of Music. You would think that there would at least be a little color.  Note: There is one darker-skinned character figure in the cardboard character cutouts.  Still though. Pretty much mayo sandwiches on white bread with milk here.

DragonRaid Book covers


Adventure Master Manual
Green cover, letter-sized, three-hole-punched for binder, 124 pages

Pretty much what it says on the cover. This is Adventure Master's book. Unlike all the other books, this one is looseleaf and three-hole-punched.  This is likely because a.) the designer wanted the Adventure Master to have a place to insert their own notes (a good idea) and b.) a lot of educational materials in the late 70s and early 80s were produced this way.  Also, there is the notion that a lot of Bible study material came published like this.  How do I know?  Back when I was working my way through college I was a night janitor at a Southern Baptist church.  If I had not already been an Atheist then those people would have convinced me.   Sadly the box, while large and sturdy, is not big enough to put a three-ring binder inside.  

Some material is by necessity repeated here.  We get more background on the OnceBorn and the other creatures populating this world that are not LightRaiders.  The OnceBorn are slaves to the DragonLords.  They might live like kings but they are slaves according to the rules.  They may seem happy but they are not we are told.  Of course no matter how evil an OnceBorn might be we have to remember that they deserve redemption; so killing them is out of the question.  

This book also includes another adventure, "Adventure as the Castle of the Falls." This is to give the Adventure Master some practice having players using the WordRunes.  Like all good Game Master books this has a section on becoming a better Adventure Master.  Nothing gamers have not seen before, but good advice all the same for the starting Adventure Master.It is good the box comes with so many adventures since there is not really much in the way of guidance on how to create adventures.  The caveat I will toss out is there are a lot of adventures that can be bought from their publisher.  Another caveat is that this is still more adventures than I am ever likely to run or play with this game. 

There are some Difficulty level charts that are keyed to the various abilities the LightRaiders have. Nice, but not portable to other games really. There are some good ideas on various dragon attacks, but again they central to the mythos and mechanics of this game.  Doing anything else with them would require a lot of work. 

Lightraider Handbook
Yellow cover, spiral-bound, digest-sized, 140 pages.

Now this one is a very neat product.  It has all the rules and even some basics on the creatures encountered, but it is designed for the players to use at the table. It is spiral-bound so it lays flat at the table.  I know the costs are prohibitive, but I do wish more companies would do this.  OSRIC would be a fine choice for this to be honest.  In fact I made my own spiral-bound copy of OSE a while back for this exact same reason.

Spiral bound player's books


This book also contains all of the Word Runes the players will need.   The creature backgrounds (but no stats) are also a nice touch.  I guess that any D&D player, even if new, is going to come to the table with ideas of what a dragon, goblin, troll or orc are.  DragonRaid has slightly different versions of these.  Shorthand if it is not human or a normal (or talking) animal, it is evil.  Tieflings? No way! Elves are even evil here. Well. Maybe not evil, but certainly surrounded by evil beings, and to reclusive to do anything about the evil around them. 

DragonRaid Player's Guide


Audio Cassette Tape
Thankfully you can go to the official Lightraider Academy website to get the audio files from the tape. 

Two Dice
D10 (StarLot)  and a d8 (Shadow Stone).
I kinda like that they give each die a bit of character.  The clear d10 is your StarLot and it is the one you will use for most rolls.  The darker d8, the Shadow Stone< is the one the forces you are fighting will use.  There is an obvious bias here towards the forces of good. 

History of the StarLots


Additionally, the box contains:
  • Character Sheets
  • Character worksheets (I used a spreadsheet for mine)  
  • A Correction sheet
  • Letter from Dick Wulf, MSW
  • Registration Letter
  • Counters (Heroes, Dark Creatures, NPCs)
  • Battle Grid (x2)
  • Ad for “Spiritual Warfare Posters”

This company is all in on this game and I have to admit I totally admire them for it. 

Final Thoughts

As I discussed back in the Character Creation challenge, a lot of the very random rolls you make can really help define who your character is. That is great, but it also confines your character in certain ways.  There are ways to increase abilities you want over ones you don't want, but this game like many others, has you play to your strengths.  Sure in the early 80s people were fine to have a character only defined by the numbers on the sheet; today?  Not so much.  

I will admit that I never felt "talked down to" as a gamer while reading this.  Yes, it is designed for someone with far less experience than myself or my readers, but all the same, the advice in the game always came across as helpful and never condescending. 

Also, I never felt "called out" as an Atheist here.  Sure by the game's standards I am one of the DragonSlaves and even though I consider my life to be good, great even, it is not truly so.   Ok. Whatever.  I am also not as attractive as an elf, strong as an orc, or interesting like a tiefling.   Though my lack of experience with Bible verses and my complete lack of desire to ever memorize any will limit my involvement with this game.  Likely to just this review.

Fighting a Dragon in DragonRaid
The quality of the materials is top-notch.  I am not sure which "printing" I have, but no dates are past 1984 on my books and it still has the cassette tape.   I did notice when doing some research that my box did not have a copy of the purple cover "The Moon Bridge Raid" nor did it have the stickers.  Maybe because I didn't buy it directly from the publisher? Looks like that the Moon Bridge Raid is in later editions/printings and these also included a CD.  So I am really rocking it old-school!

Note: A little digging online tells me there was a newer printing with 1998 and 1999 dates on the books.  Likely this is the printing that had the CD.

Digging deeper EdenAgain seems to be a planet that humans crash-landed on.  Looking at the art one assumes it was only white people on the ship. They had a copy of the Bible on their spaceship.   So is this one a post-apocalypse game?  Could characters from my Star Trek: BlackStar or Star Trek: Mercy games find their way to EdenAgain?  I mean that is not to different than the Star Trek Discovery Season 2 episode "New Eden."  Except the people of New Eden, aka Terralysium, combined all of Earth's faiths including Christianity, Hindu, Judaism, Bahá'í, and Wicca into one.   Not very much in line with what DragonRaid would have wanted.  Discovery Season 2 was fairly heavy with religious symbolism. 

One thing implicit in the game is that all other creatures except for humans do not have souls and can't be saved.  I did not get a clear read on animals and talking ones in particular though I know the rules are in there somewhere.  So ALL creatures would be considered evil; in fact the manifestation of sins.  That giant destroying a village? Evil. Kill it! That dragon eating all the maidens in the country? Evil. Kill it!  That orc sitting on a rock picking his nose? Evil. Kill it! Sleeping baby troll? Evil. Kill it! Get the idea?  There are no shades of grey here.  A human OnceBorn in charge of a child slavery ring is not to be killed.  The goblin that did nothing else but let you know about it so it can be stopped has to be killed.   That goblin isn't a real living creature but sin-made flesh.  Which is kind of cool if you think about it, but also a little too conservative for my tastes.   Combat is physical and is lethal. Combat can also be spiritual.  

One facet of this game that can't be ignored is the production value.  While the art has not aged as well it is still objectively good.  The layout is clean and easy to read.  The material is grouped together well.  The redundant text isn't really redundant at all since this is designed to teach.  The box is sturdy as hell, and mine is still in fantastic shape.  No idea about the cassette tape, but everything else in the box is top-notch.  A spiral rules guide for the game table is something that makes so much sense other companies should have been doing it (I know...cost).   

While character creation can be a chore, the core rules are pretty simple.  Percentile rolls vs some cross-referenced charts based on abilities.  Roll high.  With players using the d10s, sorry, StarLots and the bad guys using the ShadowStones (d8) advantage always goes to the LightRaiders. 

In the end, I am glad I purchased this game even if it took me forever to do anything with it.  I am never likely to play it or run it, and while there are some great ideas here I am also not likely to mine it for any.  I have to give the late Dick Wulf major credit.  He had a vision and a love for this game and it shows on every page.

Links

Here are some collected links if you want to learn more about this game.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

SPI's Demons (1979)

SPI's Demons game
I celebrated my 26th wedding anniversary over the weekend.  I have now been married for over half my life!  We went downtown to see the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit. I got us the Premium tickets, and glad I did, we sat through the whole thing twice!  It was completely amazing. We ate at a new fusion Thai place and of course, no date night is complete for us without a stop at a bookstore.

Since so many of the bookstores we used to go to over the last three decades are closed, we stopped at Half-Price Books.  

I found this little gem, SPI Demons.

At first I thought it was an add-on or supplement for the DragonQuest RPG.  They look rather similar really.  But closer examination revealed that it was really a board game.

In any case, I could not say no to this. Besides, look at that cover!  That demon is fantastic!

I got it home and since it was late I let sit on my dining room table for a bit.  I finally got around to looking at it yesterday.  Turns out that only is this game whole, and unpunched it looks like it is near mint condition!

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Ah. Nothing says the late 70s like oil shortages. 

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

It is a rather attractive game in a late 70s War-Games-bleeding-into-RPGs way.

I posted some pictures of this over the weekend and I was reminded that TSR bought SPI back in the day and absorbed them.  WotC who now owns all of TSR's IP also owns SPI.  They could rerelease this if they wanted to.  Sadly there is really no reason to.  The cash cow in that arena is D&D and even DragonQuest, who could do well, suffers from comparison.   TSR, like them or not, straight up murdered SPI and the body is too dead to Raise Dead.

BUT that doesn't mean *I* can't perform a bit of Necromancy myself! 

This game could feed into my "Traveller Envy" quite well.

DragonQuest & Demons

The obvious thing to do here is use that Demons map of Albania and do it as a DragonQuest Hex crawl.  And I mean a proper Hex crawl that also just so happens to be filled with demons and wizard hunters.   The magistrate or wizard hunter's angle of the game also made me think of THIS unholy abomination.

DragonRaid vs. Demons

Maybe instead of "EdenAgain" the DragonRaiders are in the old country fighting demons?  That one is a bit of stretch really.  Also I would need some sort of converter to sit in the middle; likely D&D.  Though these both will contribute to my War of the Witch Queens campaign. 

Warlocks & Warriors & Demons

These two games share a lot of similarities in tone and publication time.  Both are essentially the bridges between war games and RPGs as board games. Both feature a wilderness area to explore, monsters (demons) to defeat, and treasure to collect.  Slightly higher on the complexity scale than Dungeon! but not quite full-blown RPGs.   You can read my overview of Warlocks & Warriors here

Demons from Mayfair and SPI

These two do not have a lot in common other than name and subject matter.  But both would be equally fun resources in my games. 

Like I say though I might not figure out how to get these to all work together (or even some of them) but it will be fun trying.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Kickstart Your Weekend and Interview: Roderic Waibel of Chromatic Dungeons

Today I am talking with Roderic Waibel the creator of Chromatic Dungeons which is in the middle of its Kickstarter. Which you can find here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1693797308/chromatic-dungeons?theotherside

Chromatic Dungeons

Tim Brannan/The Other Side:  Let’s start at the beginning, who are you and what do you do?

Roderic Waibel:  I started gaming in 1981 with the Basic Set, and quickly fell in love and moved to AD&D.  Been involved in RPGs every day since, from the first map I drew as a kid, to my first game I wrote in 1986 (I still have a copy of that, and it’s...nothing to be proud of lol).  I’m a project manager as a day job, but have been an indie publisher officially for the past 10 years or so.

TB/TOS: You mention in your bio you have been writing RPGs since 1986.  Anything, in particular, you want to share? What are some of your past hits?

RW:  My biggest commercial success would have to be Compact Heroes.  During my time in the military, portability was a big thing.  It’s one of the reasons why MtG took off for servicepeople; you could easily take it with you while full rulebooks were hard to do that.  So I created a card game that played like a traditional role-playing game.  That won DieHard Gamefan’s Best New Game of the Year in 2011 when it came out.  There are other things I’ve created that I like, but most of those were homebrew systems that never took off.  Let’s be honest, most never do.  Why would someone who doesn’t know me want to play a homebrew system when they have so many officially supported systems out there.  They were all pretty much vanity games.  The only other product that has done pretty well is the megadungeon: Depths of Felk Mor.  I wrote that right when the 5e playtests came out, and is 5e compatible.  It’s written in an old school aesthetic, and chock full of 80s pop culture references lol. Kind of a mix between Cthulhu and 80s cartoon hour.  Yes, that’s a thing lol.

TB/TOS: What are some of your favorite games? Why?

RW:  RPGs are my all-time favorite because I’ve always been very creative and love to imagine things.  Strategy games probably come in second place.  I always have a fond soft spot for Axis&Allies in the non-RPG genre.

Chromatic Dungeons Basic Rules
TB/TOS: Fantastic. Now tell everyone a little bit about your game Chromatic Dungeons.

RW:  Old school D&D was and is my favorite edition.  Not just for nostalgia (admittedly that is part of it, but a small part), but also because of the kind of experience it lends to.  Rulings over rules, speed of play, zero to hero, player creativity and strategy (you can’t assume every encounter should be winnable which is something I see a lot in modern games), etc.  However, it was a product of its time.  That is, catered and marketed to white young males.  As a young white male myself at the time, of course I never noticed anything problematic.  This isn’t a dig at any of the creators of the game, or any of the players of the game.  It was what it was at the time with what we considered socially OK.  But as we’ve grown as a community over the years, we’ve become incredibly diverse.  That diversity should be represented and included.  People other than straight white men like myself should be able to pick up the game and see themselves represented in it.  Studies have shown, over and over, how a diverse group is much more efficient and beneficial than a monocultural one.  I’ve hired a lot of diverse freelancers and editors for this, and I can tell you that the game is much better for it.  

Then you’ve got lessons learned mechanically over the past decades we can rely on that should be applied.  Things like ascending armor class that are more intuitive rules.

These two factors together were the driving force behind Chromatic Dungeons.  Currently there is a lot of drama going on regarding comments some of the folks who call themselves OSR or old school have made with the new re-branding of TSR.  But that isn’t what caused Chromatic Dungeons to come about.  Comments like those folks are making the news now because they are big names, but the fact is that for a long time, the OSR community has had to deal with a large portion of fans who have been espousing exclusionary opinions.  I firmly do NOT believe the OSR itself is like that, or that most fans are like that.  But it’s a problem that needs to be addressed because there is a reputation the OSR is getting, and it’s not good.  We can’t deny that.  And as a fan of the OSR, I will do what I can to show how the OSR can also be welcoming and inclusive.  

Thus, about six months ago, Chromatic Dungeons was born in its first iterations.  It’s basically a game that captures the best things about B/X, 1e, and 2e, while applying modern sensibilities and lessons learned since then, and being presented in an old-school aesthetic that represents how diverse our gaming hobby has become.

TB/TOS: What do you feel makes Chromatic Dungeons a step above or better than say current Clones on the market now?  What do you think makes it special?  Or bottom line, why should people want to buy this game?

RW:  Having fun is the best reason to play a game, right?  That’s the ultimate goal?  Many clones out there try to replicate the rules of those older versions extremely closely.  But as anyone who played back then will tell you, many of the rules got in the way.  We simply ignored them.  Chromatic Dungeons applies some mechanical changes to help alleviate that.  The first and most obvious is the move to ascending Armor Class.  But then you’ve also got a revision to alignment, making it much less impactful in regards to driving a PC’s behavior or moral code.  It’s a cosmic force that acts as an influence, not a strict moral code you have to follow.  Traditional racial traits have been re-done as well.  Now those choices only give a few traits, but there is a heritage system instead that anyone can choose that gives you traditional racial bonuses.  For example, you can choose to play a human with the fey heritage (let’s say they grew up in an elven city), so they can gain resistance to sleep and charm, two traits traditionally reserved only for elves.  Another change is getting rid of dead levels.  While not being a robust customized able system like feats were in 3e (that would defeat the purpose of having a streamlined system like b/x), each class does offer something other than a hit point gain at most levels.

And then of course there’s the presentation.  The game is presented to be welcoming and inclusive of everyone.  Making everyone welcome is always a good thing, as it grows our hobby and keeps it alive. 

TB/TOS: You list a few differences from older games on the Kickstarter site.  What was your driving motivation behind these?

RW: I guess I answered that above.  I tend to ramble lol.  The key goal is to capture the feel of gaming back then, but rules changes can be made as long as that goal isn’t compromised.  You should be able to pick up an old module from the 80s and play Chromatic Dungeons with very little conversion.  You should be able to do it on the fly, actually.  That’s important for me to keep.  People have a plethora of material from the old days, and they should absolutely be able to use it with Chromatic Dungeons. 

TB/TOS: The Character sheet looks fantastic and has a great old-school feel to it.  What things from the older games did you want to retain?

RW: The most important is speed of play and player skill.  Players shouldn’t feel discouraged from attempting something with their PC if they don’t have a skill for it.  The less a player references a character sheet, and the more they go to their imagination to describe what they want, the better.  Keeping players engaged is important. However, if players don’t prefer to use player skill for whatever reason, they can fall back on a skill system that is incredibly simple.  It’s a roll under ability system.  If your PC wants to jump up to the chandelier and swing across the room, they don’t need an acrobatics skill to do that.  Simply roll the d20 and if it’s under your Dexterity score, congrats!  This system also makes every point in an ability count.  A gripe of mine from the current system is that there is no difference between a 14 and 15 ability score.

Chromatic Dungeons Full game
TB/TOS: What sorts of games do you see others playing with these rules?

RW:  Like all old-school games, I see people taking bits and pieces of this and applying it to their own games.  Most old-school gamers are also big into homebrewing.  Back in the day, we all created our own worlds and adventures, and I don’t see that as much now.  So I can easily see someone taking an old adventure module and playing Chromatic Dungeons with it.  Or taking the heritage system out of CD and using it for their OSE game.

TB/TOS: Who would you say Chromatic Dungeons is for?

RW:  Everyone.  I know that sounds cliche, but it’s true.  It’s a big driver behind the whole project.  Everyone should feel like they can play this.  However, and there’s always a however, I fully understand that some folks might not find the appeal.  And that’s totally OK.  We all have different preferences, and there is no one-true-way to play the game.   For example, because the game is streamlined, optimizers might not be drawn to it because there isn’t the level of customization options as 3e.  If you were to force me to answer, I’d say this game is especially for those who want a classic feel of gaming with modern design sensibilities, and who were traditionally not represented in those older games.  But really, anyone who enjoys the style of old school gaming, regardless of the diversity or lack thereof, should enjoy this game.  Because the game makes a point to represent people of every demographic doesn’t mean it excludes the traditional straight white male (I would be excluding myself!).  Yes, I’ve heard that complaint as well.

I will add this:  Because no intelligent mundane humanoid has a default alignment in Chromatic Dungeons, there are several people who I’ve heard say this game excludes people who just want the old way of doing things, where all orcs are evil.  I want to be very clear that in CD, you absolutely can still do that.  I’m not showing up to anyone’s house to “cancel” them.  It’s just not the default assumption anymore.  But you as a GM can do whatever you want, and play them however your table feels like.  That’s still a perfectly valid way to play the game. 

TB/TOS: What are your future plans for this game?

RW:  The immediate plans are to put out a monthly Zine that offers new material.  Think of it like a mini-Dragon magazine from back in the day.  The first four are already done, and part of the Kickstarter as a matter of fact.  Writing the fifth one now (really expanding on orcs, their various cultures, etc).

TB/TOS: And finally, for the benefit of my audience, well and me, who is your favorite witch or magic-using character?

RW:  The second fantasy novel I read after the Book of Three was Sword of Shannara.  So Allanon has always had a soft spot in my heart.

I want to add one final note regarding this campaign.  It’s important for me to walk the talk.  It’s one reason why I made it a point to hire diverse freelancers and editors.  This isn’t mentioned on the Kickstarter page because Kickstarter cannot be used as a fundraiser for charities, but I have committed to matching 25% of net profits and donating that to The Trevor Project.  That’s a great charity that helps at-risk LGBTQ youth, and to give them the support they need.  So by supporting this project, you’re not just getting a great RPG, you’re helping at-risk youth who deserve to be treated better than our society does. 

Links

Chromatic Dungeons Kickstarter

Izegrim Creations

DriveThruRPG


Thursday, July 8, 2021

Blue Rose as an Old-School Setting?

Last month I put up my review of the new Blue Rose Adventurer's Guide, which allows you to play a Blue Rose game using D&D 5th Edition.

Now. I love Blue Rose. I love D&D 5e.  But I also love my old school games.  To be blunt, I am an old gamer and these games fill me with nostalgia.  Can I run a Blue Rose game using the systems I have here?

Short answer? Yes!
Longer Answer? HELL Yes!

Everything I need is right at my fingertips. So how would I do it?  Let's have a look.  Now I have talked about how to take Blue Rose and run the AGE system like an old-school-style game already.   Here I want to talk about how to take your old-school rules and run them like a Blue Rose game.

Old School Blue Rose

Setting

Grab the first Seven chapters of the Blue Rose Adventure's Guide and use them as-is. Append with details from AGE or True 20 as needed.  I mention the True 20 since some things will be easier to convert from that.

Classes

Blue Rose True 20 and AGE have only three classes, Adept, Expert, and Warrior.  Blue Rose Adventure's Guide has all the classes from D&D 5.  Older versions of the game don't have all of these. No problems let's see what we do have.

In the Blue Rose Adventure's Guide, we have the following Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Sorcerer, Thief, Warlock, and Wizard.

By using the "Advanced" versions of both Old-School Essentials and Labyrinth Lord, plus a couple of my witch classes, we could cover every class.  It pains me to even say it but we might not even need my witches here!

True20 / AGE D&D 5e OSR / Basic
 Warrior  Barbarian  Barbarian(LL-A)
 Expert/Adept  Bard  Bard (OSE-A)
 Adept/Warrior  Cleric  Cleric
 Adept/Expert  Druid  Druid
 Warriror  Fighter  Fighter
 Warrior/Adept  Monk  Monk (LL-A)
 Warrior/Adept  Paladin  Paladin
 Warrior/Expert/Adept  Ranger  Ranger
 Adept  Sorcerer  Magic-User
 Expert  Thief  Thief
 Adept  Warlock  Witch
 Adept  Wizard  Magic-user

Ancestry, Culture, and Backgrounds

What old-school games call race we will now break up into Ancestry, Culture, and Backgrounds.

Essentially we can map them like this, rules-wise:

Humans are Humans, Night People use the rules for Half-orcs, and the Vata are essentially Elves rules-wise.  Sea folk are humans with some perks, I'd use the half-elf rules for them.  Small Rhydan can use the rules for halflings and medium Rhydan use the rules for Dwarves. Alter movements and attacks as needed.

Monsters

Every monster in the Blue Rose books has something similar to it in the D20 SRD.  This is an artifact of the Blue Rose True20 days.  If it is in the SRD then there is likely an Old-School version somewhere. I could do a search, but I am pretty confident that every monster in the BR-AGE core can be found somewhere in the Old-School world.

Relationships

Blue Rose pays a lot of attention to how the characters interact with others.  This absolutely should be part of an Old School Blue Rose game too.  Here though mechanics and rules will have to give way to good roleplaying and XP bonuses for characters who play their roles well.  While some old-schoolers may balk at this idea, seeing the characters as only a collection of numbers, the truth is the role-playing aspects that both Blue Rose and D&D5 players love so much today were already all there back in old-school play.  Some of us did it then and didn't need the rules to tell us how or why.

Still, I would offer some XP bonuses for good in-character inter-personal relationships. Especially the bonds.  OR if I REALLY wanted to get old school, XP penalty for not doing it.

Blue Rose + White Box = White Rose?

I might also replace the Law-Neutral-Chaos alignment with Light-Twilight alignment.  Effectively there is not much difference in terms of how one plays a character, but it would give a different feel. 

Everything Else

In truth what I have above covers nearly everything.  What remains can be handled by the DM/Narrator in their own games.  I have already talked about how to use Blue Rose in conjunction with several old-school adventures.

My family really enjoyed playing Blue Rose so I might add some more elements of this game to my old-school games.