Showing posts with label print. Show all posts
Showing posts with label print. Show all posts

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Review: Spelljammer, AD&D Adventures in Space

Cover of the Spelljammer book
Come back to me if you will to a time just right before the Internet.
(Ok, technically the roots of the Internet were here in ARPANet and what I was using BitNet at the time. But you know what I mean.)  

The time is 1989 and the game on my table is AD&D 2nd Edition.  Well, it is really Ravenloft, because, in college that was my setting of choice, AD&D just happens to be the system that ran underneath it all.  So a couple of points already.  I was playing AD&D 2nd Ed and really all I had the money for at the time was for one setting and that was Ravenloft.  There were a lot of great settings in the AD&D 2 days; Forgotten Realms loomed large and impressive, and maybe a little intimidating.  Greyhawk and Mystara only had some minor entries, much to my disappointment, Al-Qadim and Kara-Tur both looked like fun, and then we would also get Planescape. But there was one out that seemed so strange to me that I wanted to know more but yet could not bring myself to buy.  Until now. 

DriveThruRPGs Print on Demand has been a fantastic opportunity for those of us who want to go back and look at some of these other systems and games of our youth.  While I have relied mostly on the aftermarket to get myself up to speed on the Forgotten Realms (and enjoying it) I recently picked up the hardcover POD version of AD&D's Spelljammer.  And I am so happy I did.

Now don't get me wrong. I wanted to play SpellJammer back then.  We ever started a new campaign where all the characters were in a navy, so they all had 3 free levels in fighter, and then they were level 1 (or 4 for the fighters) in whatever other classes they were going to be.  Using the AD&D dual classing rules meant they could not act as fighters until later. But it boosted their HP.  They were going to spend some time at sea, but eventually, they were going to turn their ship into a SpellJamming one.  I named the ship "The Black Betty" after the Ram Jam song because every time I heard "Spelljammer" I thought "ram jam" and the Black Betty was a good name for a ship.  Sadly we never got very far. I was at University and my DM at the time was at a different school and the other players were also at yet another school. Meeting only over the summer was not helpful for a long-term campaign.

Fast forward to today.

Spelljammer: Adventures in Space

For this review, I am considering the Print on Demand hardcover and the PDFs from DriveThruRPG.  There may be things true of these versions that are not true for the original boxed set and things that might be the other way around.  I can't speak to the boxed set since I never owned it.  

Spelljammer is a whopping 278 pages.  Jeff Grubb is our primary author with art by Jeff Easley, Jim Holloway, Dave "Diesel" LaForce, and Roy Parker.  Easley is responsible for our cover, and indeed many of the covers from this time.  The interior art is Jim Holloway who really set the tone and feel for what I consider the 2nd Ed "style" of that time.  The interior is largely black and white with some color illustrations.  Mostly the pictures of ships, what were covers in the separate boxed set books, and some maps.  The scanned pages are not crisp, but they are easy to read.

The book is divided into two large sections that correspond to the two 96-page books that came in the boxed set, Lorebook of the Void and Concordance of Arcane Space.

Lorebook of the Void

We are introduced to how Spelljammer, AD&D in Space, came about.  We also now know that this was the first of new boxed set settings to come out for AD&D 2nd ed.  More would follow and make 2nd Ed more famous for their settings rather than their rules.  The goal for Spelljammer was overtly a simple one; AD&D in space, connect all the main AD&D worlds, and make them work together without changing what makes each one unique.

This section covers the basics of Spelljamming and operating a spelljamming helm.  We get a good overview of the types of spelljamming ships and that various races that can be found in Arcane Space.  We learn that gnomes and halflings for the most part avoid Arcane Space since they are too closely tied to their planets (makes sense) but Krynn's Tinker Gnomes are not so tied to their world in the same fashion so they are very much at home in Arcane Space. We even get a bit on goblinoids.  

The next third covers the various monsters and creatures you will find in AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Compendium format. We are given new details on the Beholders (they take the place of Daleks in Arcane Space) and the Neogi. Mind Flayers also get new treatments.  

The last thrid covers the three main AD&D game worlds, Krynn (Dragonlance), Oerth (World of Greyhawk), and Toril (Forgotten Realms).  The problems begin to show here since the cosmology of Krynn is tied very much to their gods.  This is not the fault of Spelljammer or Dragonlance, but rather one of trying to fit the divine into a scientific worldview.  I will admit I do like how the spheres are covered here.  It reminds me a little of how the solar system of Urt is covered in the D&D Immortals Set.  One could take that information and drop it rather cleanly into this book.  It was not done of course because at this time Urt/Mystara was considered part of D&D and not AD&D.  Even discussions online close to the time described AD&D as one universe, maybe even in the same galaxy, and D&D in a different universe altogether. 

Concordance of Arcane Space

The second major section of the book covers the rules part of Arcane Space.  The first chapter describes some basics of how Arcane Space and the Phlogiston work.  Chapter 2 covers some changes to the AD&D rules.  The first change, Lizard Men are now a playable race.  There are changes to some spells and how clerics can talk to their gods. We also get some new spells.  Chapter 3 covers the ships. How they are made, flown, and the capabilities (armor, weapons, storage) of examples.  Combat is covered in Chapter 4.  Ships are a lot like characters in they have an Armor Rating and Hull Points.  Damage by large ship weapons can deal hull damage and/or hit point damage. Chapter 5 covers celestial mechanics, or how systems are made. While in real-life astrophysics we know that forces like gravity will produce round (or oblate) planets and stars, there is a wide variety of things found even nearby to us.  Arcane Space should be just as diverse if not more so.  Oerth (Greyhawk) is a Geocentric system, Toril and Krynn are heliocentric. There are other systems that can be and should be, even stranger.  We learn that there is a flow to the Phlogiston and that some worlds might easy to travel to, but harder to travel away from.

We also have several appendices.  The first covers how magic spells and items work in space.  Appendix 2 covers travel times with Earth and the Solar System as an example along with Krynn, Toril, and Oerth.  Mystara/Urt can be substituted for Earth easy enough.  Flow can affect travel times.

The last section of the book are the color deck plans of various spelljamming ships. Maps and cut-out-and-fold ship minis. Best get the PDF along with the printed book so you can print these on your own.  A large black-hex map would work great for movement in space. 

Reading it today I can overlook some of the flaws that would have bothered me in 1990.  

Print on Demand Book

The Print on Demand book is hardcover, mostly black & white with some color art inside and color covers. It is a hefty volume on premium paper which makes it a little thicker than you expect a 278-page book to be.  It is very high quality. 

Covers of the Spelljammer bookCovers of the Spelljammer book


Interior of the Spelljammer book


Interior of the Spelljammer book

Interior of the Spelljammer book

Interior of the Spelljammer book

Interior of the Spelljammer book

Converting to 5e

In the first chapter of the first section, some advice is given about converting older AD&D monsters to use with Spelljammer since in theory every monster could be found somewhere.  The example given is the Grimlock from the Fiend Folio, a monster they describe as not likely to be updated to 2nd Edition.

Well. We know now the Grimlock. And updated to 3rd and beyond.   So there is no good reason to assume that Spelljammer will "Never" be updated.  In fact with D&D 5's desire to embrace the past and every world of D&D in their products it is reasonable we will see some Spelljammer at some point.  A spelljamming ship was already placed on a level in a 5th edition adventure. 

But converting to 5e based on the material in this book? Well really there are two main areas of focus; monsters and magic.  Many of the monsters have newer 5e writeups now, so this is less a question of conversion and more of replacement.  Magic, in particular spells, would need some more work but the guidelines are in place.  Similar spells should change in similar manners.  Combat can be swapped out for 5e combat, which not terribly different. So yes, if you are playing a 5e game then you can get a lot of use and play out of this book.

If you have ever been curious about Spelljammer but did not want to pay the aftermarket prices then the PDF is an absolute steal.  If you know about it and want to give it a go again (or for the first time) then the POD version is equally cost-effective.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Mail Call: B7 Rahasia, Print on Demand

Got a nice treat in the mail last week.

Module B7 Rahasia

Rahasia is one of the next adventures I will be running in my War of the Witch Queens campaign for Basic-era D&D.  I have a copy of the original B7 version, but I thought a Print on Demand would be nice to have as well.  

I was not wrong.

Interior of Module B7 Rahasia

Interior of Module B7 Rahasia

Interior of Module B7 Rahasia

Interior of Module B7 Rahasia

Back of Module B7 Rahasia

As with all the PoD modules from the TSR era the maps are not printed on the inside covers but rather as pages.  Not a huge deal to be honest, just make sure you buy the PDF as well and print them out at home.


I had hoped that Rahasia's letter had been cleaned up.  It hasn't. But the source version was difficult to read as well.  I had to retype it so I could have it ready for my War of the Witch Queens game.  

To get this once rare and hard-to-find adventure for just under 12 bucks (I paid $11.99 total) is a really great deal, to be honest. 

Rahasia Links

Saturday, June 27, 2020

More BECMI Print on Demand

Another round of mail call for Print on Demand items.  This week a couple to help finish off some ones I have been wanting for some time.

I have something special planned for this one, so $18 for print and PDF I couldn't say no.




It looks fantastic really.  I might wait till July to do this one some more.

And I picked up the last X module I need.  X5 Temple of Death.






I already had a beat-up old copy of X4 Master of the Desert Nomads.


It is out in PDF but not POD.  If I need the maps from X5, I'll just print them out.


Saturday, June 20, 2020

GAZ 3 The Principalities of Glantri Print on Demand

BECMI Month continues here at The Other Side with an early Father's Day gift for me.

The Principalities of Glantri, Print on Demand version.


I reviewed the PDF and my original print version some time ago, so if you want to check that out it is here.

The PoD is fantastic really, and great to have since this is the one Gazetteer that sees the most use out of all my Basic-era books.


My original signed by Bruce Heard.





The original Gaz 3 cost $8.95 back in 1987.  This one set me back $7.66. 


Yeah, no shipping since it is part of a multi-shipment.  Part two should be here next week. I hope so, I have a lot to say about that one.

The maps are attached to the spine, so not as useful as they could be, but getting the PDF is part of the PoD, so I can always print them out if I don't want to use my originals. 

For the price being able to put up my original and have one I can use daily if needed is a steal really.

Each PoD has been getting better and better. This one seems to be best so far.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Upcoming Projects from The Other Side: Warlocks, Monsters, More Basic, and the LAST Witch Book

Well. April was kind of crazy.

I thought I take a moment to catch my breath and discuss some future projects here at the Other Side.

The Warlock
First up, I want to get the POD version of The Warlock out to you all. I am going to try for softcover and hardcover options. That way they can fit into whatever collection you like.
The printing is a little slow at DriveThru at the moment, so as soon as I get the proofs I'll get them up to you all.

Once I get that done I am going to release another Warlock book, this time for 5th Edition D&D.  No set date on that right now, but optimistically this Summer.

BECMI Month
Another big project I am starting now but won't start to roll out till June is my month-long overview of the ONLY D&D I never really played; BECMI.  I am going to spend roughly a week on each boxed set. Doing detailed reviews, overviews, and related topics. It should be fairly enlightening for me and I hope you all enjoy it.  I am looking forward to learning something new about this system.


If you know of anything BECMI related you think I should cover, let me know!

Monsters
Another project with no specific date in mind yet is the book-form of my Monstrous Mondays' posts.
The posts have been in a variety of formats and systems over the years, so I think I am going to opt to do this book to be compatible with "Advanced era" gaming, or some Basic/Advance hybrid.  So not really OSRIC compatible and not really Advanced Labyrinth Lord compatible, but something of an OGC combination of the two.  Much like how my Basic Witch is not designed for any single system, but an amalgam of Basic-era OGC.

So this would not be a simple "copy and paste" deal, I would want to rework all the monsters to fit the Advanced play better.  My goal is to have a book that would sit next to my Monster Manuals and Fiend Folio and play just like them.


Still workshoping names, but I think my own OCD requires that the name be an alliteration.

In truth, I am looking forward to trying out a "new" system for a change.

The High Secret Order: The Book of High Witchcraft
Ah. Now this one is a big one for me.  Why? Well. I am going to use this to get back to the witch class I was playing circa 1986, the dawn of my fully realized witch.  But more importantly, this will very likely be my last of the Old-School Witch books.
While I wanted this book to be the last of my Back to Basic books, this one might also need to be an Advanced Era book. Or some mix. I am not sure yet.

No date on this one either.  But this one will include the High Secret Order Witches, the Academic Warlock (with expanded Secret Masters of the Invisible College Lodge),  Hermetic Wizards and more.
I am also going to finally get my spell creation rules into one place, the same ones I have been using for years since the goals of the High Secret Order and the Invisible College is to create more magic.

This book, along with the monster book above, will represent my transition period from Basic-era to Advanced-era.   I think it is going to be a lot of fun.

The Books of the D_____
This is a brand new project. 100% Advanced-era with maybe parallel versions for 5th Edition.  Don't want to say to much about these just yet but they represent a new direction in my writing and I can't wait to get started on them.

So. I have enough to keep me busy for some time to come now.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

New in Print: The Pumpkin Spice Witch Tradition

It's a little later than I wanted, but just in time for Thanksgiving!

The Basic Witch: The Pumpkin Spice Witch Tradition is now available in print on demand.


And if you act right now you can grab it for just $9.00 with DriveThruRPG's Thanksgiving weekend sale.

The cover ended up printing a little lighter than I expected, but not enough to make me want to go back and redo it.



The book look great and makes a nice addition to my recent series of Basic-era Witch books.



It also works great with your "Pumpkin Spice Flavored" adventures.


I hope you enjoy it.

Up next...The Pagan Witch for this:


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Review: AC1 The Shady Dragon Inn

Going through some of my favorite Basic-era books and games and I should really spend some time with another favorite, but one that became a later favorite.

AC1 The Shady Dragon Inn was one of the first accessories for the BECMI flavor of the D&D game.

This book also has the distinction of being one of the first Print on Demand books that Wizards of the Coast would release for the old TSR catalog.

The book also has special interest to me since it features the stats for one of my favorite characters Skylla.

I will be reviewing both the PDF and the Print on Demand versions.

The book is 32 pages with color covers and black & white interiors.  The print version is perfect bound; so no staples.   The scan is sharp and clean and PoD version is easy to read.

The book features the titular inn, but really the main feature of this book is the collection of NPCs.  Designed to be a bit like the original AD&D Rogues Gallery.  This product though is a little more robust.  The Shady Dragon Inn write-ups include some background on who these characters are, more than just a collection of stats.  Maybe indicative of shift between the AD&D and D&D lines.

The characters are split by class.   In each case, we get a dozen or so individual characters of Fighters, Thieves, Clerics, Magic-users, Dwarves, Elves and Halflings. with art by Jim Holloway and Larry Day.  While the art helps, each write-up includes a brief description.  This all covers roughly two-dozen pages.

There is another section of "Special" characters.  These are the ones with TM next to their names. Such notables as Strongheart, Warduke, Kelek and of course Skylla.

There is a bit at the end about the Shady Dragon Inn itself along with some pre-gen adventuring parties based on level.  A great aid for DMs that need some NPCs.

The Print on Demand version includes the maps to the Inn as part of the print.  The main PDF does not have them, but they can be downloaded as a separate file.   There are PDFs and image files to print out to use with minis.  So with some minor tweaks, you can use this with any version of D&D you like.  The characters inside can be converted to 5e easily enough.
Ignore the saving throws, and recalculate the base to hit as 20 - THAC0.  I find that 22 or 23 -THAC0 actually works out a little bit better for 5e.

The maps are set to 1" = 5', so D&D 3, 4 & 5 standard.
The Print on Demand versions do not come out to 1" exactly, but when you buy the pdf you get the maps as files to print on your own.

While this book lacks the numbers of NPCs the Rogues Gallery does, it is superior in every other aspect.  Starting in an Inn might be a D&D cliché, but a product like this makes you want to embrace the cliché anyway.

The Print on Demand version is fantastic really.







The maps are part of the book, not detachable, but that is fine really.





Here is the spine.  It is Perfect bound. No staples.



Various shots of the text.  It appears the same as the early editions.  Maybe a touch fuzzier, but nothing that I consider a deal-breaker.  Barely noticeable in fact.


How can you tell this is a new print versus a really, really well kept original?  This page. This is the same sort of page found in all DriveThru/OneBookShelf/LightningSource books.
Note how the bar code is not an ISBN one.