Showing posts with label osr. Show all posts
Showing posts with label osr. Show all posts

Friday, April 15, 2022

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

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

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

Shadow of the Necromancer


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

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

Swords & Chaos

Swords & Chaos

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

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

Tome of Adventure Design

Tome of Adventure Design

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

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

An Unexpected Wedding Invitation (5e)

An Unexpected Wedding Invitation (5e)

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

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

Shield Maidens: A New Viking/Cyberpunk Tabletop RPG

Shield Maidens: A New Viking/Cyberpunk Tabletop RPG

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

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

The Art of Ménage à 3

The Art of Ménage à 3

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

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

Old Gods of Appalachia Roleplaying Game

Old Gods of Appalachia Roleplaying Game

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

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

FAST Core Rulebook - Multi-Genre RPG System

FAST Core Rulebook - Multi-Genre RPG System

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

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


Swords of Cthulhu

Swords of Cthulhu

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

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


Lots of choices!

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Gary Con 2022

I had a great Gary Con this past weekend.   I spent all my time in the Elf Lair Games / Troll Lords Games booth.  I spent my time selling copies of NIGHT SHIFT and Castles & Crusades.

Tim and Jason at GaryCon


Elf Lair Games / Troll Lords Games

Elf Lair Games / Troll Lords Games

Elf Lair Games / Troll Lords Games

I also got the chance to run into so many people I only get to chat with online.  I stopped by the Goblinoid Games / James Mishler Games booth to finally say hello.

Goblinoid Games / James Mishler Games

I picked up some print versions of books I previously only had in PDF.

James Mishler Games

They were also selling copies of a new RPG, ShadowDark by Kelsey Dionne of the Arcane Library.  It looks rather good.

ShadowDark by Kelsey Dionne

ShadowDark by Kelsey Dionne

I also stopped by Bloat Games booth and got the chance to see Eric Bloat and Josh Palmer and grab a copy of their game What Shadows Hide.

What Shadows Hide

Again this looks like a lot of fun.

I am not an autograph hound, but there were some signatures I wanted.  Top of the list was Darlene.

Art by Darlene

Art by Darlene

I also got to stop at Jeff Easley's booth and got him to sign his art from the 25th Anniversary Boxed Set.

Jeff Easley

 

And of course, I HAD to pick up the tribute/homage covers of the new Castles & Crusades covers.

Castles & Crusades

 They do look really nice.

Castles & Crusades

I didn't play any games or run any, but I had a great time.  

Looking forward to next year!

Friday, February 25, 2022

Kickstart Your Weekend: Zweihänder, Sands and Old School Fun

A bunch of great Kickstarters this week so let's get to it.

The Valley Out of Time series for S&W DCC MCC

The Valley Out of Time series for S&W DCC MCC

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/science-wizard/the-valley-out-of-time-series-for-sandw-dcc-mcc?ref=theotherside

This one looks like a lot of fun. Has a whole "Lost World" vibe to it and I love that shit. It was already planned for DCC, MCC, and S&W and now with the first stretch goal Pathfinder 1st Edition.

Zweihander Fantasy Horror RPG Starter Kit

Zweihander Fantasy Horror RPG Starter Kit

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/zweihander/zweihander-rpg-starter-kit?ref=theotherside

I don't know a lot about Zweihänder. I know it is a clone in a sense of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying.  So I have been told to try this instead of Warhammer.  Creator Daniel Fox also takes credit for (rightly or not) taking down The Trove so that is a good thing in my mind.

This starter kit looks like a lot of fun and I think I am a good choice as a customer. 

The Sands of Despair: a D&D 5E and PF side trek

The Sands of Despair: a D&D 5E and PF side trek

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dlimedia/the-sands-of-despair-a-dandd-5e-side-trek?ref=theotherside

Recent seismic events unearth a long buried tomb in the desert, and the locals fear that a long dead tyrant's last words may come true.

Sounds fun to me! Plus I have been wanting to do more desert adventures. 

And the big one of the week!

Old-School Essentials Fantasy RPG Box Sets

Old-School Essentials Fantasy RPG Box Sets

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/exaltedfuneral/old-school-essentials-fantasy-rpg-box-sets?ref=theotherside

Ok we all know what this one is. It's the biggest kid on the OSR block right now and after 2-3 days it is sitting on half a million dollars.  Not too shabby really.

I have everything for this already. But damn this is attractive.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Review: Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy

Old School Essentials
Arguably one of the biggest success stories of the late OSR movement has been the publication of Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy (2019) and Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy (2021).  Indeed I feel that OSE has supplanted Swords & Wizardry, the darling of the middle OSR movement as the old-school game of choice.  It is the old-school game of choice here in my home game, alternating between it and D&D 5e, and seems to be the most talked-about game in the old-school discussion areas. 

This is all with good reason.  OSE is well designed, superbly organized, and has wonderful art.  There is a minimalist approach to the rules and presentation that does not detract from the experience, instead, it rather enhances it.   You can see my enthusiasm in my review of the Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy Boxed set back in 2020.   So imagine my surprise when I learned I had not given OSE Advanced a proper review yet.

I have detailed my introduction to D&D many times here. But briefly, my "first" D&D was a poorly copied version of Holmes Basic with an AD&D Monster Manual.  My first "true" D&D, the one I could properly call my own was Moldvay Basic/Cook & MArsh Expert (commonly referred to as "B/X").  I would over the course of a year or so add in elements of AD&D.  Most importantly the Deities & Demigods, the Fiend Folio, and a copy of Eldritch Wizardry.  *My* D&D was always a mish-mash of Basic D&D and AD&D.  I later discovered that my playstyle was not at all unique.

Old School Essentials Advanced Fantasy Edition really strikes at the heart of what this sort of play was like.  The familiar and easy Basic/Expert rules with AD&D layered on top.  Layered is the right word, AD&D had a lot of situational rules and rules used in tournaments and rules designed to cover what looked like medieval realism.  As real that is in a world where half-elves fought dragons with magic.  OSE-AF strips this down back to the B/X style rules found in OSE-CF and then adds in what people used the most from AD&D.  No weapon speed factors, no tournament scoring, just D&D-style play.  

OSE-AF is divided into two books, the Player's Tome and the Referee's Tome.

I am a sucker for a book with a ribbon

For this review, I am considering the hardcover books I got via the Kickstarter, the PDFs from DriveThruRPG, and extra copies of the Player's Tome I picked up at my FLGS.  All books were purchased by me and none were submitted for review purposes.

OSE-AF Player's Tome
OSE-AF Player's Tome

Hardcover. Black and White and color interior art and covers. 248 pages. Bookmarked PDF with hyperlinked table of contents and index. $40.00 for the hardcover print (retail). $15.00 for the PDF.

The Player's Tome covers everything an OSE-AF player needs to know. The book details a lot of the same rules that are found in the OSE-Classic Fantasy (or read: Basic) rules.  This new book though integrates the "Basic" and "Advanced" material together with some notes on the "Advanced Fantasy" sections. One might be tempted to say that this book is not needed if you have the OSE-CF book, but that is not really the case. While there are certainly more classes, and more monsters in the case of the Referee Tome, there is still quite a lot of new material here.  Enough to make AF twice as large content-wise as CF.   

The main feature of this book, and indeed all of the OSE line, is the layout.  All material is laid out so that everything you need to read is on facing pages.  So a character class always takes up two pages (even and odd) so that when laid flat everything can be read at once and easily.  There are very few exceptions to this rule and it gives OSE it's unique look and feel. Add in the art, sparingly but effectively used, the feel is elegant, if minimalist, efficiency.   This is the same design that made D&D 4e a joy to read.  The same feeling is here.

Advanced Fantasy follows its Advanced namesake and splits character race and character class into two separate things. Basic combined race and class so you got Clerics (always human) and Dwarves (always fighters).  Here is the option that most folks want in the "Advanced" game.  In addition to the four classes and the four races of Basic, this book introduces six more races and nine more classes.

In the OSE-AF book, we get: Acrobat, Assassin, Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Illusionist, Knight, Magic-user, Paladin, Ranger, and Thief.

There are also the "race as class" variants of: Drow, Duergar, Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Half-elf, Halfling, Half-orc, Human, and Svirfneblin.  The level maximum is 14 for humans and variable for others. All race/class combinations are detailed.  This covers our first 80 some odd pages.

What follows next are guides for character advancement, equipment, animals of burden, transportation, and crews.

The next biggest section is Magic and this covers all the spells for the magic-using classes. Since the max level for any human is 14, spells are limited. Divine spellcasters are limited to the 5th level of casting and Arcane to the 6th level. The advantage here is the clerics and druids are on more equal footing with each other and so are magic-users and illusionists.  Unlike their Advanced namesake, this book does not require spell components nor are their other details given.  The spells are firmly in the Basic format.

The book wraps up with Adventuring, Hirelings, and building strongholds.  

The feel is solid B/X Basic with enough "Advanced" added in to make it feel just a little different. Or in other words, exactly how we used to play it from 1980 to 1983.

OSE-AF Referee's Tome
OSE-AF Referee's Tome

Hardcover. Black and White and color interior art and covers. 248 pages. Bookmarked PDF with hyperlinked table of contents and index. $40.00 for the hardcover print (retail). $15.00 for the PDF.

This book covers how to run an OSE-AF game.  Some of the details here are the same as OSE-CF but there are enough rules additions and clarification to make it worthwhile to anyone that has OSE-CF.

The first part covers running the game and adventures along with designing a dungeon and wilderness areas.

The next section, Monsters, makes up the bulk of the book.  All the old OSE-CF favorites are here and most of the Advanced era monsters.  In 107 or so pages we get over 320 monsters.  Again the art is light, but it is there.  We do not get any Demons or Devils, those are coming in a future book from my understanding, but it is still plenty.

The next largest section is Treasure which includes intelligent swords.

We also get sections on monster tables by terrain, strongholds, and NPCs.

The main feature of this book, and indeed all of the OSE line, is the layout.  All material is laid out so that everything you need to read is on facing pages. This is less obvious here as in the Player's Tome, but it is still a solid feature.

The two-volume set might just be the ultimate in expression of the time period in which I was doing my earliest D&D play.  There are other Basic/Advanced hybrid games out there and they all provide a good mix of their sources, but it is OSE-AF that is the closest to what I was playing then. All of the fun of Basic with the options in Advanced I loved.   The modularity of OSE also allows for expansion.  While the 1 to 14 level range covers most of what people will play there is no reason why there can't be an OSE-Companion to cover higher levels.

OSE-AF Carcass Crawler #1
OSE-AF Carcass Crawler #1

PDF only, 32 pages. Color covers, black & white interior art. $7.50 PDF.

The sometimes zine for OSE and named for the OGC version of the infamous carrion crawler.

This issue adds the new races to the Advanced Fantasy line, the gargantuan (like Goliaths), the goblin, and the hephaestan (logical, elf-like beings).  I am particularly happy with the Goblin.

New classes for Classic and Advanced fantasy are the acolyte (a type of spell-less cleric with healing), the gargantuan (race-class), the goblin (race-class), the hephaestan (race-class), the kineticist (psychics), and the mage (a spell-less magic-user with magical abilities).

There are new rules for fighters and thieves as well as black powder guns.  I like the fighter talents, help give it a bit more to do really.  They are at every 5 levels, but I might make them every 4 instead. 

OSE-AF Fantasy Reference Booklet
OSE-AF Fantasy Reference Booklet

PDF only, 32 pages. Color covers, black & white interior art. $4.00 PDF.

This handy guide covers all the major tables found in the OSE Advanced Fantasy line. For $4 it is a great little reference.

Through out all these books and the entire OSE line the art is both evocative of the old-school style and still modern enough to please new audiences.

This is the game of choice for me to introduce old-school style play to players of modern games. My regular 5e group took to it like ducks to water. They love it. They still love their 5e games, but they also like to do this one.  None of them had ever played B/X prior to this and it was a huge success.

I know that Gavin Norman and Necrotic Gnome have more material to give us for this, I hope it all lives up this new gold standard I set my OSR book to. 

Friday, January 28, 2022

Kickstart Your Weekend: Monsters, Classes and Raven Hex!

 Ok. The day job is really busy this week so this is going to be a complete drive by.  But here are three new Kickstarters I am excited about.

Tome of Beasts 3: Full Throttle 5th Edition Monster Mayhem

Tome of Beasts 3: Full Throttle 5th Edition Monster Mayhem

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/deepmagic/tome-of-beasts-3-full-throttle-5th-edition-monster-mayhem?ref=theotherside

I make no secret of my love of monsters!  Kobold Press' Tome of Beasts are among my favorite 5e books and monster books.   This one should also be great!

SURVIVE THIS!! Dark Places & Demogorgons Class Compendium

SURVIVE THIS!! Dark Places & Demogorgons Class Compendium

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ericfrombloatgames/survive-this-dark-places-and-demogorgons-class-compendium?ref=theotherside

I mentioned this one a couple of weeks ago, but it bares repeating.  The Class Compendium is a great collection for DP&D game.  I highly recommend it.

And finally one from my good friend Jim Balent and Broadsword Studio.

Jim Balent's Raven Hex Saga

Jim Balent's Raven Hex Saga

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jimbalent/jim-balents-raven-hex-saga?ref=theotherside

Raven Hex is the older sister of Tarot.  She is evil...sorta.  She really just wants a world where witches are not feared or mistreated.  The first Raven Hex book I picked up was a fun romp with Raven sick and feverish from a virus while Tarot read her bed time stories.  The comic was her fever dreams.  It was a lot of fun and very tongue and cheek and a lot of insight to two (Jim and Holly) super fans of Disney. 

There you have it!  Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Plays Well With Others: Modern Occult Horror Games

Been thinking a lot about all the modern supernatural games I have (and I think I have all of them) and in particular the ones that have come out from the Old-School gaming scene.  These games all cover roughly the same sort of topics and themes but they all do them in different ways that I keep thinking they would all work great together. 

OSR Modern Occult Horror RPGS

In other words, it sounds like a perfect topic for a Plays Well With Others

So the games I am talking about are Dark Places & Demogorgons, We Die Young, Dark Streets & Darker Secrets, and my own NIGHT SHIFT.  These are the big modern supernatural, occult horror games from the OSR. 

I have reviewed these games in the past.

Obviously, I have not reviewed NIGHT SHIFT. Reviewing your own game is incredibly tacky and remarkably dishonest. 

I have covered many of these games in other Plays Well With Others too.

With the addition of Dark Streets & Darker Secrets to my occult library, I wanted to revisit some of these ideas. Though I want to take a different approach today.

With this Plays Well With Others, I am going to mention each game and talk about what can be used from that game in any of the other three.  In some cases, this is easy like moving from Dark Places & Demogorgons to We Die Young which are essentially the same system.  In others, it will be converting characters from one system to the other. 

At the core of all four games (three systems) is the old-school, the OSR, design.  All of these games have the same "godfather" as it were in Original or Basic D&D.  They have the same uncle (mother's brother), the d20 SRD. And their mother is all the D&D games we all played and the supernatural, occult, horror and urban fantasy media we consumed when not playing. 

Dark Streets & Darker Secrets
Dark Streets & Darker Secrets 

This is the newest game, for me, and the one on my mind the most.  Thankfully it is also the one that has the most to offer all the games.  

For starters, the classes can be imported rather easily into the other three games.  In particular the Tough, the Nimble, and the Smart can be used as subtypes of the Veteran or Survivor in NIGHT SHIFT or as a class in We Die Young.  Maybe not so much for DP&D since those are supposed to be kids. The Gifted of DS&DS is similar to the Supernatural in NS.

The real gift of DS&DS is all the tables.  Someone online described the game as a great toolkit game. Some of the best ones to use in all games are the Complication table (p.20), Weird Items (p.32- 33), almost all the Gear. The Magic and Psychic backlash tables are also fun. ALL the artifact tables. The various "signs" in Chapter 7.  In fact, pretty much all of Chapter 7 to be honest.

Survive This!!

Both Dark Places & Demogorgons and We Die Young from Bloat Games use the same Survive This!! basic rule system, so right out of the gate they are compatible with each other.   Dark Places & Demogorgons focuses on kids in the 1980s and We Die Young on young adults in the 1990s.  So there is a continuum there for any that wish to use it.  There are plenty of "classes" in both games that can be used and mixed and matched.  Like DS&DS there are a lot of great toolbox-like tables and ideas that can be imported into another game.

I can easily see a game then of people in their 30s in the 2000s with large chunks of DS&DS mixed into the Survive This!! system.  Would this game be called "Survive This!! Dark Streets" or "Dark Streets, Dark Places, Darker Secrets & Demogorgons?"  I don't know, but I LOVE the idea of kids experiencing weird shit in the 80s, taking a bunch of drugs to forget them in the 90s (both DS&DS and WDY have these) and finally having to deal with this shit all over again in 2000-2020s as older adults.  Very "It" if you think about it.

Dark Places & Demogorgons We Die Young

The jewel though in the Survive This!! (and there are many) though HAS to be the DP&D Cryptid Manual.  DS&DS takes a toolkit view on monsters.  NIGHT SHIFT has a minimalist view (a very OD&D view if I can add) on monsters.  But the Cryptid Manual gives us a proper monster book.

Of note. Both DS&DS and We Die Young use the newer D&D5-ish Advantage and Disadvantage mechanic. Albeit in slightly different ways.  I have been using this in NIGHT SHIFT as well and find it works better for me than a simple +3 or +5 to rolls

Also, both games have a Madness mechanic.  I like the one in We Die Young much better.  Bits from DS&DS could be added to this, but in general, I think I'd use the one in WDY. 

We Die Young also has some really cool races that can help fill out the "Gifted" of DS&DS.

Don't forget you can get the new Hardcover version of Dark Places & Demogorns on Kickstarter now.

NIGHT SHIFT: Veterans of the Supernatural Wars
NIGHT SHIFT: Veterans of the Supernatural Wars

I talk a lot about NIGHT SHIFT here and with good reason, I am quite proud of the work I have done it.  It fills the void in my life left by the Buffy RPG and everything I wanted from all three editions of Chill, but never exactly got (no slight on Chill, fantastic game), a little more approachable and less nihilistic than Kult, and none of the baggage of The World of Darkness (though I do get the urge to play that again.  My oldest want to give it a try sometime).

Dark Places & Demogorgons makes some assumptions in the game that makes it what it is.  The characters are kids and there is also the Jeffersontown setting, all of which are central to the game and make it work.

Dark Street & Darker Secrets is on the other end of the spectrum with no assumed setting other than "The City" which also works fantastic for this game and one of it's great strengths.

In between those two, we have NIGHT SHIFT (and We Die Young, but I'll get to that).  NIGHT SHIFT does not have a default setting. There are different levels of difficulty you can configure the game in, Cinematic, Realistic, or Gritty.  DP&D would be Cinematic, DS&DS is the poster boy for Gritty, and WDY is around Realistic.  So I would use ideas from those games to inform my choices in the three levels of NS and vice-versa. 

What NIGHT SHIFT has to offer these other games are our "Night Worlds" or mini-settings.  Any of these can be used in any of the other games and the other games can be used to add more details.  Jason's "The Noctnurmverse" can be supplemented either by or used in DS&DS.  The "City" in DS&DS becomes the Noctnurmverse's Pittsburgh.  Or dialing back the Way-Back Machine use it with We Die Young in the 1990s.  My own "Generation HEX" benefits from the ideas on playing kids in DP&D.  You could even take Generation HEX and play it as a DP&D setting if you wanted.  My "Ordinary World" can be used in DS&DS IF you ever decide to move out of the city into the suburbs. 

I already talked a lot about how NIGHT SHIFT and Dark Places & Demogorgons can be used together.  The same logic applies when adding in the other two games.  In fact one place where this might work great is my own Sunny Valley, OH game of the Buffyverse in the 1980s rather than the late 90s/early 2000s.  This works well since a.) NIGHT SHIFT was made to fit the "Buffy-shaped" hole in my life and b.) DS&DS takes a lot of cues from and was influenced by Buffy in all media.  I might just be the best melting pot for all these games. Or crucible. Time will tell.

Putting it All Together

Honestly, there are just too many ways to combine these four games into something you can use.  Start with one and add what you need.  Start with two and be pickier about what you add from the others.  One of the ways I am using it is in my Life-Path Development ideas. Each game represents a different point the characters' lives and each is used to model that time.  The obvious reasons are that DP&D takes place in the 80s with kids, WDY in the 90s with younger adults, and DS&DS and NIGHT SHIFT go beyond that.  To go with personal experience, I was living in Chicago proper in the mid to late 90s and then in the suburbs after that.  To use my ordinary world example my progression would look like this:

DP&D (high school, small town) -> WDY (college, college town) -> DS&DS (grad school, city) -> NIGHT SHIFT (adulthood, suburbs).

In a weird way, it makes sense to me.  But I am not stating up myself. I don't live in a magical world, I live in this one.  BUT I do have my Drosophila melanogaster of these sorts of experiments, Willow and Tara.   I have done stats for them for Dark Places & Demogorgons and NIGHT SHIFT.  Doing ones for We Die Young and Dark Streets & Darker Secrets would be easy enough.  BUT.  Those are not the same characters really. They fall under my "Alternate Reality" versions rather than "Lifespan or Lifepath Development."   Though doing DS&DS versions of Willow and Tara should be in my future.

No for this I need a character that has been around for a while, for that I am going to have to turn to my Iconic Witch Larina.

Larina Nix

Fortunately for me, the witch is one of the few character classes/archetypes/concepts that can be found in all these games (the weird psychic is as well, but witches are my thing).  So building a witch feels right.

I worked up all the sheets and this is what I ended up with.  Purple is the color of all of Larina's sheets. Click for larger. 

Dark Places & DemogorgonsWe Die YoungDark Streets & Dark SecretsNIGHT SHIFT

Dark Places & Demogorgons

It's 1984 and Larina is 14 and 4th level.  She lives in a small town where her mom runs a spice shop and her dad is a Professor of Anthropology and teaches music.  She is called "creepy girl" by the kids in school.  At this point, she is shy and can't quite understand why others can't see the strange things all around them. 

Most of these adventures are of the "Scooby-Doo" sort; short ones that are resolved by the end.  Easily Monster of Week sorts.

We Die Young

We are moving to the early 90s now and she is 7th level. Larina is in grad school and is now Larina Macalester. She was married at age 19 but obviously, it is not working out well.  She is living in Chicago while her estranged husband is still living in Ireland. Her stats nudge up a little but she largely is similar to her 1DP&D version.  There are some differences between the two types of Witch classes (and DP&D still has others) but nothing I consider earth-shattering.  I did get to add her two tattoos. One is a protection tattoo (a large Triple Moon Goddess on her back) and one on her left wrist that allows her to cast a magic bolt. 

Dark Streets & Darker Secrets

Things are getting darker.  Larina is now 35, 10th level, and back to going back to using "Nichols" as her last name.  Her complication is she is hiding from her ex-husband who was in the IRA.  (NOTE: I actually played through this back in the early 2000s.  The big twist was that while she was hiding out, her ex had moved on and was living his own life with his new wife.)  I wanted to use my new idea for Sanity by having it as Intellect +  Willpower /2. BUT for Larina here both scores are 17 giving me an average of 17. 

NIGHT SHIFT

Here is the one closest to my heart, obviously.  She has more spells, but this is expected at 13th level. 

As expected the powers don't always match up right and I could have taken more care in aligning the spells with each version. But I figure that these changes can be chalked up to learning and experiences.  I do feel that all versions reflect the character at the time well.   

Looking forward to trying this with other characters to see how they work out. Also, I am keeping all of these books together to use as needed.  By themselves, they give me a wonderful experience. Together they give me an epic experience.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Review: Dark Streets & Darker Secrets

Dark Streets & Darker Secrets
Dark Streets & Darker Secrets has been on my "To Be Reviewed" pile for a very long time.  I grabbed the PDF when it came out, but set it aside for the longest time because I was working on a bunch of other things and didn't get the chance.  I picked it back up and really enjoyed it. So much so I also picked it up in hardcover Print on Demand.  

A couple of things though to get started.  Dark Streets & Darker Secrets (DS&DS) is a modern occult horror game based on old-school style mechanics. I also have a modern occult horror game based on old-school style mechanics.  So I am aware that any criticism I might lay on this game could come off as sounding self-serving. I want to always be aware of this and have you the reader keep this in mind as you read my review here.  Also the author, Diogo Nogueira, also lists the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG from Eden as one of his inspirations.  This game was also Jason Vey's and my inspiration for NIGHT SHIFT.  Jason and I met while working on Buffy.  NIGHT SHIFT was designed to fit "the Buffy shaped hole" in our lives as I have said before.  So both games come from very, very similar backgrounds with very, very similar goals.  That all being said, DS&DS is NOT in competition with NIGHT SHIFT.  Nor is Diogo a competitor.  I consider him a colleague.   Both Dark Streets & Darker Secrets and NIGHT SHIFT can, and do, live on my shelves and game table in complete peace with each other.  I am going to spend some time tomorrow talking about how both games (and two more) can be used together.   Today though I am going to talk about where DS&DS shines (is that the proper word for a "dark" game?) and what it does. 

So let's get to it.

Dark Streets & Darker Secrets

by Diogo Nogueira.  222 pages, hardcover. Color cover with black and white interior art.  For this review, I am considering both the PDF and the Print on Demand hardcovers from DriveThruRPG. 

Dark Streets & Darker Secrets (DS&DS) is a modern occult horror game from ENnie Award winner Diogo Nogueira. The book is digest size so it fit well with many "old school" style books of the last 10 years.  It not only fits on the shelf physically but thematically as well.  The game is based on Nogueira's earlier works Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells and Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells, so out of the gate there are more resources for this game if you desire.

The game itself is a gritty, modern occult/supernatural horror game.  The normal humans are just slightly above average for the most part and the monsters are way more powerful.  Immediately I thought of it as a bit of Chill mixed in with Kult. The feel is very much "humanity alone against the darkness."

The book is laid out in eight chapters with some appendices.

Chapter 1: Introduction  

This chapter covers the basics of what is in the book.  

Chapter 2: Character Creation  

If you have played any old-school-like game in the last 45+ years you have an idea what this chapter is about.  The differences here fit the tone of the game.  Character attributes are rolled using a 2d6+3 (not a 3d6 or even 4d6 drop the lowest), this creates a narrower band of character attributes, 5-15 but still on the same human range of 3-18.  There is a chance to increase these later on.  The attribute themselves are a simplified version of the Basic 6; Physique (combining Strength and Constitution), Agility (Dexterity), Intellect (Intelligence), and Willpower (Wisdom and Charisma).   Once those are done you create a character concept which is a basic couple word description and not a backstory.

After this, it is time to choose the Archetype or essentially the class of the character.  They are The Tough, The Nimble, The Smart, and The Gifted.  These align with the attributes above. The Gifted is special in that you can be a spell-caster or even a supernatural creature like a vampire, werewolf, or even an alien.  Each archetype also gets a "recovery roll" which decides how quick they can bounce back from injury. 

Since this is a gritty sort of universe all characters have a complication. These can come into play in the game to keep things "difficult and exciting" for the characters.  It includes a d66 table (roll 2d6 and use the rolls like d%.  Traveller people know this one well). 

Then you pick out some gear. If it is mundane gear you have it. You also get some weapons and "weird" gear. These are detailed in the next chapter.

Finally, we have derived scores. Vitality (Physique + Level) are your "hit points."   Sanity, or mental stability, is equal to your Intellect.  Now I have mentioned before I do not like how many games handle insanity or madness.  Sadly this game is not an exception.  I spent a few years working in a mental health facility back when I was in grad school.  There is no relationship between intelligence and mental health.  In fact, I had one guy who was schizophrenic and could speak 3 or 4 languages including German and Swahili. He learned I also spoke German and would use that when he wanted to talk about the other clients "in secret" to me. So yeah. I am not really a fan of this one. I'd rather roll a 2d6 and then add a bonus from Willpower (and maybe Intellect) to get my Sanity score.   There is also Luck points which are like fate points or drama points (everyone starts with 3) and Money.

Chapter 3: Gear  

Covers mundane gear, expendable gear (like ammunition and things that wear out) and even some weird gear.   Weird items are the best part.  Every character has one weird item they start off with.  This is easily explainable either they found it and thus introduced to the weirder world OR they have always had it and the world is waiting for them.  There is a d100 table that covers a bunch of different sorts of items.  Note, we just get the names of the items, what they do will be discovered in-game. 

Additionally, drugs, services, illegal goods, and money points (abstraction of money carried) are also dealt with. 

Chapter 4: Rules of the City  

Here are our basic rules for the game.  Everything is an attribute check (roll under your attribute modified by level and difficulty).  There are some neat quirks.  There is an advantage/disadvantage system here called Positive and Negative rolls. Rolling on your attribute is considered a critical success. You roll lower than your attribute to succeed, BUT higher than the difficulty.  So if something has a difficulty of 8 and my attribute is 12 I have to roll a 12 or lower BUT also higher than an 8. So only rolls of 9, 10, 11, and 12 will get me a success. 

Players can add a Luck roll to their challenges. This is not a matter of just adding points. You have to roll a d6. If it is equal to or lower than their luck score then you get to make a situation more favorable. 

This chapter also covers sanity and madness. You lose Sanity if you encounter something strange and fail a Willpower test. Difficulty set by the situation. Points lost also can vary. When the character's Sanit score reaches 0 then they get a Madness.   Thankfully there is no list of "madnesses" here.  Most game designers get these horribly wrong anyways.  In game you get a minor "quirk" on your first loss.  If you suffer 4 losses then the character has succumbed to madness and can't be played. 

Level advancement is a form of Milestone advancement that looks like it should work rather well.  Again individual GMs can (and should) alter this to fit their needs. 

Chapter 5: Combat  

Like many RPGs combat gets a special chapter even if it is just a particular form of the rules stated above.  But if one is going to fight the armies of darkness then one is expected to actually fight.  Reading through this you get the idea that yes the characters can be tough. You also get the idea that the things they are fighting are a lot tougher.  While there are a few ways the players can save their character's bacon, there are still a lot of grisly ways to die in this game. 

Chapter 6: Sorcery and Psychic Powers  

Ah, now this is the meat of the game in my mind. A Gifted character can be a sorcerer, a witch, a psychic or some other type of creature.  Their powers and how to use them are detailed here.  Regardless of the origin or the nature of the powers, game-wise they are treated in similar manners, the difference largely being different Backlash tables.  How they are played can vary wildly.   I mentioned that this is grittier game than one would see in say a Buffy-like game. The previously mentioned Backlash is one and Corruption is another.  These include simple things like a "witch's mark" to changes to one's body and mind or just getting pulled right into the Abyss.  Pro-tip, don't botch your rolls.

A very nice (and long) list of powers is given with their effects.  While the list is long (60 entries) it is not exhaustive. 

Additionally, Arcane artifacts are covered. How they are made, what they do, powers, cost (to make AND to use), and some samples.

Chapter 7: Running the Game  

This covers the world of DS&DS.  There is a bias (is that the right word? Preference is better) to an urbane game.  Thus the title really.  Outside of this there is no set theme or even setting. This would be a sandbox game if it were a FRPG. What we do get here is a ton of tables full of ideas for a a game, campaign, or an entire world. 

Chapter 8: Monsters  

Our Monster chapter differs from other games in that there is not a bestiary here per se, but example creatures and the means to make others of a similar nature.  So for example there is a Cultis section that covers some sample cultists from 1-3 HD to demon-possessed leaders of 4-8 HD.  This includes a table of "What are They Doing?" and "What do They Want?"  A very effective means of repurposing content.  The more powerful the creature the more detail they need obviously, but there is not a lot of detail in most cases.  This works well here since the players (mostly the GM) provide all the details.  There are powers listed for random creatures as well.

Appendix O: Optional Rules 

Here are a group of optional rules you can add to your game. Things like Drunken Luck, Daring Points, Single Hero games and Multi-Archetype (Multi-Class) Characters. 

Appendix I: Inspirational Materials  

Covers the various books, movies, TV Shows, and other RPGs for inspiration. 

Appendix S: Simple Scenario Structure  

This discusses how to build a quick scenario and an example.

We end with a Character Sheet (and a Form Fillable one is provided with the PDF) and the OGL statement.  I do feel the need to point out that Nogueira has released this game as 100% Open Gaming Content.

Dark Streets & Darker Secrets certainly lives up to the hype and has a lot going for it.  If you have a world already in your mind and just need a system to flesh it out then this is a great choice for you.  In this respect, it is very similar to old-school D&D. No default world type, just the tools to play in the world of your imagination with some assumptions built-in. 

If you are looking for huge meta-plotting like the World of Darkness or even the baked-in mythology of Buffy the Vampire Slayer you find that here, which is refreshing. The players all have maximum flexibility to do what they want and that is the key strength of this game.

Dark Streets and Colorful Sheets


Friday, November 5, 2021

Chromatic Dungeons, Part 4 Final Thoughts and Wrap-up

Chromatic Dungeons
Edited to add:  Here are all the parts to this series: Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4.

I am ending my week (or so) with Chromatic Dungeons today. It has been a real treat going through this game.  There is a feeling here of the first time I went through the AD&D 1st Ed Player's Handbook in terms of the potential I feel for my games.  There are some really great ideas here I plan to use, either running a CD game or adopting them for my other Old-School games.

Ancestry & Heritage

Along with such products such as Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e from Arcanist Press and the new material in Pathfinder 2e, this is the way all games are going to move towards. I could go into the racist history of why "race" was originally used starting with examples from the Victorian age and moving on to practices in educational and biological "research" but the truth is the people that are least likely to change are also the most likely to ignore all of that. So what's the point.  I don't teach fish to read and I don't try to talk to people who have their minds made up.  I am convinced that we will see this in D&D 5.5/5r and it will soon migrate to other, even old-school, games.

I am likely to give it a try in my OSE-Advanced games. I would likely tweak it a bit more to fit my needs a little better.

No Alignments for Sentient Humanoids

Again, this is a sea-change in many games.  I have no issues with it at all.  I have had good orcs for years, and a lot of mostly neutral ones, and scores of completely evil ones.  Yes, yes, insert Tolkien arguments here...BUT as much as I adore the Professor and his works, he is not my DM.  Neither is Gygax, or Arneson, nor any others.  I get to decide what my world does or does not do.  Goblins are already all over the place in regards to alignment for me, I am even getting to a place where Drow might not all be evil. Yes the vast, vast majority of them are demon-worshiping sadists. But not all of them.  Interestingly enough, the one humanoid I have always seen as Always Evil are Gnolls.  Something the Gnoll Sage line rejects. 

Again there are things going on here that are just on paper that I have been doing (and posting about here) forever.

Which Witch to Use?

This is my blog so I want to talk about which witch I would use with this RPG.  Design-wise Chromatic Dungeons can be used with just about every or any version of D&D or clones thereof.  So by that logic, any of my witch books should work fine.  But some work better than others, to be honest.

Chromatic Witches

Given when my Chromatic Dungeons books came in the mail I also got my new Pumpkin Spice Witch mini with some Candy Corn Dice.   So I have always felt that my Pumpkin Spice Witch book for Advanced Labyrinth Lord would be perfect.

Chromatic Pumpkin Spice Witch

Rule wise the Classical Witch or Amazon Witch is a better choice. But in any case, if you are playing CD then use the XP values in the CD books and the powers from whichever book you choose.

Personally, I like the idea of Fleabag coming into a "Home, Hearth & Heart" and having a conversation with Becky my Pumpkin Spice Witch.  She would offer them a PSL (though I see Fleabag more as an herbal tea drinker) and go on about their fur ("It looks so soft! Do you use conditioner? We have one here that I LOVE, it's on the house! Wait, you are not allergic to lavender are you?") and have a nice conversation about witches in the world.

In true Chromatic Dungeons fashion though I think there should be a coven with a witch from every Tradition I have represented.  So Pumpkin Spice, White, Green, Classical, Amazon, MaraAiséiligh, Winter, Faerie, Aquarian, Maleficia, Hedge, and Pagan.  That would be a lot of fun.  Not sure how they would all get along though.  Chromatic coven to be sure.

Pumpkin Spice Witch