Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

Friday, January 21, 2022

Character Creation Challenge, Kickstart Your Weekend style

Something a little different today.  I am interrupting my regularly scheduled Character Creation Challenge posts with a Kickstart Your Weekend style review.

SURVIVE THIS!! Dark Places & Demogorgons Class Compendium

The Kickstarter for SURVIVE THIS!! Dark Places & Demogorgons Class Compendium has begun and Bloat Games offered me a sneak peak.  I am providing a review of their new book, and a link for their Kickstarter.

The Kickstarter

I am a huge fan of Dark Places & Demogorgons

As of this writing the Kickstarter has made their initial goal. They are now heading to the next Stretch Goal of new art.  After this more stretch goals will be announced.  The lowest level to get in $6 and that gets you the PDF.  Not a bad deal really.

The Book

The current version of the book is all complete with layout and art.  Stretch goals will replace some of the art, but right now it looks great.

The book is digest sized, 210+ pages, color cover and black & white pages.  If you are familiar with any SURVIVE THIS!! book you have a good idea of how it looks on the inside.

The book contains all the classes that have appeared in every Dark Places & Demogorns book, all in one place.  The new classes include  Archery Enthusiast, Badger Scout,  Horror Connoisseur, Hot Shot,  Snoop, The Source, Sweet Baby, Thespian, and new psionic classes, Animal Wrangler and The Forgotten. So 56 classes and 10 new classes for 66 in total.  There are also new spells for the magic using classes.

Most classes cover two to three pages.  Everything you need to know about each class, but no rules for play. You still need the core rules for that. I am reading through and the classes do look expanded.  For example the Goth in the core Dark Places & Demogorgons book tops of, as all classes do in that book, at 5th level.  The Goth in the Class Compendium advances to 10th level, and there are archetypes of the "Mopey Goth" and the "Supernatural Goth."

The new classes are fun with the Horror Connoisseur toping the list of my favorites.  Though I knew a lot of "Sources" back in High School and they would also be a fun class to play.  Though the Magic Classes are still my favorite.  So I am quite pleased to get a bunch of new spells.

Skills are also updated.  The game moved up and out from the core book so new skills need to be defined and there are revised skills as well. 

There is even some space given to fighting threats from "The Otherside."  I'll try not to take that one personally! ;)

Really is a fun book and a must have if you are playing Dark Places & Demogorgons.  It should even work for We Die Young to be honest. 

So yeah, this is a Kickstarter worth backing.

The Character

Again, I think I need to go with my Drosophila melanogaster of playtesting magic classes and see what my dear little witch Larina was doing in the 1980s (1984 to be exact).  She was my big experiment in my Modern Occult Horror RPGs post a bit back, but let's have a look at her in detail.  I am also including my NIGHT SHIFT character sheet as well.

Click to see larger. 

Larina for Dark Places & DemogorgonsLarina for NIGHT SHIFT

I love how these two games work well with each other.  Each providing me a a detail I did not have before.



Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Review: Man, Myth & Magic (1982)

Man, Myth, & Magic RPG
I am going to be spending some quality time with the classic game Man, Myth & Magic by Herbert "Herbie" Brennan and J. Stephen Peek and published originally byYaquinto Publications in 1982, and now published (in PDF and single softcover formats) by Precis Intermedia.  

I was always kind of fascinated by this game. The name of course grabbed me for two reasons. There was the whole "Myth and Magic" side to it all which in 1982 was a big draw for me.  Also, there was the magazine and encyclopedia series also called Man, Myth & Magic that dealt with all sorts of occult-related topics.  

I read reviews for it in Dragon Magazine (#80) and White Dwarf (#41) and was actually quite curious about it.  The reviews really ripped into the game and I needed to know if it was as bad as they made it sound.  Sadly I never found a copy near me and a mail-order of $19.00 + tax and shipping and handling made it a little more out of reach when it was new.

But I was always drawn to historical games. I felt if I could play or run a game and learn something about history at the same time then it was time well spent really.  A few I have enjoyed quite a lot, mostly Victorian-era ones, and others I ripped online so much I promised I wasn't going to rip on them anymore. 

Man, Myth, & Magic sadly belongs to the camp of a historical mishmash, that is to say, it is about as historically accurate as an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess.  Don't get me wrong, I love me some Xena and it is very entertaining in the right frame of mind.  The same is true for this game. Great, in the right frame of mind.  In fact, I think that now, living in a post-Xena world, there is a place for this game that did not exist in 1982.   

Man, Myth, & Magic

For this review, I am going to consider my original boxed set from 1982 (now minus the dice) and the newer PDF versions found on DriveThruRPG published by Precis Intermedia.  In both cases, the material is the same minus some of the extras that came in the boxed set like the dice and a pad of character sheets.

Man, Myth, & Magic

Man, Myth, & Magic was published in a boxed set of three books (same covers), with a pad of character sheets, some maps, and dice.  The PDF combines the three books into one 132 page volume. The original boxed set retailed for $19.00 in 1982 ($55 in today's buying power) and the PDFs sell for $7.95 today.  The books feature color covers and black & white interiors. 

Book 1

Book 1 is 24 pages and covers the "Basic Game" and the game most like the one as originally conceived of by Herbie Brennan.  In this game, the players play gladiators in the time of the Roman Emperors. Which one? That is up to a random dice roll unless of course, the players want something different. 

Who's in charge around here?

It's an interesting idea, but...well there are some problems here. According to the back of the box, it is the Summer of 41 CE. Cool.  But Caligula was assassinated in January of 41 CE.  Tiberius ruled 14 to 37 CE and Nero was Emperor from 54 to 68 CE.  The only Emperor in the Summer of 41 was Claudius. Adding dates in parentheses would have been a nice touch.  Let's not even get into the fact that Cleopatra VII, the last of the Egyptian Pharaohs, had died back in 30 BCE, 71 years before the events of this game, but that looks like her on the cover.  I'll talk more about this later.  In theory you can tun this game from 4000 BCE to 500 (or 1000) CE. 

You begin with your Roman Gladiator and your two percentile d20s and roll up your characteristics.  The characteristics in the Basic Game are Strength, Speed, Skill (not used just yet), Endurance, Intelligence, and Courage. The scores range from 1 to 100.  You add all these up for your Life Points (so 5 to 500), you fall unconscious at 20 or below and dead at 0 or below. 

The Basic rules take your gladiator from start to a bit of combat and adventure with the maxim that the best way to learn is to do.   This is a tactic that the rest of the game uses.  At the end of this, your character is ready for new adventures.

The neat bit, and one I want to revisit, is the idea of reincarnation. That is if your character dies they can be reincarnated. 

Book 2

Book 2 covers the "Advanced Game" and includes 40 pages. Here we learn more about skills, the Power score, and the different Nationalities (10) and Classes associated with each (2-5 each).  All are completely random and no real attempt is made to explain why say an Egyptian Sorcerer, a Gaulish Barbarian, a Roman Gladiator, and a Hibernian Leprechaun would all be part of the same adventuring party.  Ok. That's not entirely true, but the explanation takes some digging. 

Up first is determining your Nationality. Again a random roll gives you African, Briton, Egyptian, Gaul, Greek, Hebrew, Hibernian, Visigoth, Roman, and Oriental. Each at 10% chance.   Within each nationality, there are character classes.  Regardless of how many there is an equal chance for any given class.  Most nationalities have a sort of "fighter" like class and all have merchant.  There are two classes open to women characters only, Wisewoman (African) and Sybil (Greek).  Details are given for all the classes, 20 in total, but not a lot of information.  In most cases only a paragraph here and some more details later on.  This brings up a persistent issue, the rules are a bit scattered everywhere throughout the book. 

Additionally, there are two "Special Categories" of players (not characters) of "Orator" and "Sage" or essentially a storyteller and a record keeper.  Much in the same way Basic D&D has a "Caller."  Not much else is mentioned about these roles however. 

This character is considered to be your first incarnation.  Anytime your character dies, you can then reincarnate.  This allows you to change your nationality, class, and gender and retain a little bit of the Skill from a previous incarnation.  It is an interesting idea, I am not 100% certain though that it works. Knowing gamers I see a situation where players would play a character only to get them to die for a chance at a better character next time. 

There is a fun chart on inheritance that would be fun to port over to other games.  Related there are our ubiquitous tables of equipment.   

Some of the other secondary "Optional" characteristics are also detailed.  These include Agility, Charm, Dexterity, Drinking, and so on.  These are really more akin to "skills." The trouble is that some of these you have to roll higher, some you have to roll lower and others you don't roll at all.  There is no rhyme or reason here. 

Combat rules follow and they remind me a bit of Runequest.  Nothing really special really.  Strength points over 50 can add to your damage, Skill points over 50 can add to your "To hit" chance. Combat, like all the rolls here, start with a basic 50% chance to hit.  The Basic game just has you roll. The Advanced game has you make called shots.  Classes with Combat as their "Prime Ability" can improve their ability to hit even more. All classes can spend Power to also increase their to-hit bonus; 10 points of Power to increase your chance by 1%.  Interestingly armor does not stop you from being hit, it does reduce damage taken.

The goal of the game though is the accumulation of Power.  Power advances your character and can overcome that 50% failure rate.  Power also is the, well, power behind Magic. 

The Magic part of M,M,&M

The last third or so of the book covers all sorts of additional rules.  Some seem tossed in, to be honest. Poisons are covered as are spells.  

Magic, as expected, is given some special attention, though not as much as I was expecting.  Magic is assumed to be real and work, at least part of the time.  Magic is described as "Coincidence," a spell is uttered and something happens whether it caused it or not. "Science," Damascus steel is given an example. The superior technology was seen as magic. "Psychic Phenomena" which not really an explanation at all, likewise "Trance State" and as "Lost Knowledge."  Though no explanation is really given as to how magic works.  

Book 3

The adventures take up Book 3 and is 64 pages.  This book is for the Lore Master (Game Master) only and is also one of the weaker parts of the game.  The Adventures, while interesting, are a bit of a railroad. In order to succeed the players have to hit all the parts in order and then move on to the next adventure.   

The adventures include the following:

  • The Dragon Loose in Rome. Not a dragon rally, but a rogue T-Rex.  Not that this makes any more sense, but ok, points for effort.  
  • Apollo's Temple. Emperor Caligula sends the characters to the Temple of Apollo aka Stonehenge.
  • The Witches of Lolag Shlige. The characters then have to go to Ireland (Hibernia) and rescue a child from some witches.
  • The Great Pyramid Revealed. Caligula has issued a death warrant for the characters. They find themselves in the Great Pyramid of Giza.

These adventures are a prelude to the published adventures.   There are some neat ideas here, but the adventures lack something for me. Actually, it lacks a lot of things for me, but I could make some changes to make them work.

There are some encounter tables, but they only cover the areas that the adventures are detailed here. I also have to note there are no monsters here.  Just humans. 

One of the bigger criticisms of this game at the time was the then $19.00 price tag, about $55 in today's buying power.  Now $20 for a boxed set of three books, character sheets, and dice sounds like a steal.  With the PDF at just $7.95 it is at a price I think should attract anyone that might have been interested in this game. 

The art is in black & white, which is expected and welcome, but there is not a lot of it and some of it is repeated throughout the books.  

Man, Myth, & Magic at times feels like two different games, or rather two different ideas merged into one game.  I feel that the classic Roman Gladiator/Basic Game was Herbie Brennan's idea and the worldwide game of various nations and types or the Advanced Game was Steve Peek's. Given that Brennan started working on a game called "Arena" which was a Gladitorial RPG.

About Reincarnation

Reincarnation is quite a big deal in this game. This is not a huge surprise given Herbert Brennan's publication history.  His book "The Reincarnation Workbook: A Complete Course in Recalling Past Lives" could work as a guide for this game.  Personally, I would like to use the reincarnation idea to help smooth out some of the issues with different times.  So adventurers from Cleopatra VII's Egypt, can then deal with Tiberius, and then help in Boudicea's raid on Londinium.   Something similar to the Old Soul quality in Unisystem.  

Somehow using the idea of the Distant Memory which, like Old Soul, allows the characters to draw on past life knowledge and skill.  That is easy to do in Unisystem, not so easy to do in D&D like games with very rigidly defined classes. Maybe taking a level in another class might do it. 

Man, Myth & Magic and Man, Myth & Magic

I am sure there is more in the expansion, The Egyptian Campaign, but I don't have access to that set right now.

There is an interesting game here but I think the concept of it is greater than the rules as presented actually allow.  It never quite lives up to what the box claims.  Nor is it the abomination that earlier reviews made it out to be.  I think most reviewers balked at the price tag and the fact that the game did not offer anything new; at least not anything that meant going through the rather clunky rules. 

It is most certainly not a historically accurate game.  Historically inspired to be sure, but not by any means accurate. 

The bottom line is that the game really isn't good, in fact, it is rather bad in many respects. That is not to say that someone won't find this game interesting or fun. I just think that there are far, far better games out there.

Should you buy it?

I would say the PDF at just under $8 makes it worthwhile for the very, very curious.  I have my boxed set and I am happy with it, but my expectations were low and my curiosity was really high. 

The game itself is only worth about 2 stars.  My curiosity about it and my desire to have pushed it closer to 4 stars.  In the end, I am going to give 3 stars since I don't want to unduly affect Precis Intermedia games' overall rating.  But don't grab this unless you are really curious (which is a good reason) or want to see how not to design a game. 

Links

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Review: Adventures Dark & Deep Book of Lost Lore

Adventures Dark & Deep Book of Lost Lore
Last week I reviewed that new monster book from BRW Games, Book of Lost Beasts.  Today I want to review the companion book from the same Kickstarter, Book of Lost Lore.  I went into this one less excited than I did with the Book of Lost Beasts, but not due to anything on the part of this book.  I am always more enthusiastic about monster books. I just have to make sure that I am not making unfair comparisons.  I will be making a lot of comparisons with this book and others, however.

Adventures Dark & Deep Book of Lost Lore

For this review, I am considering the Hardcover I received as a Kickstarter backer and the PDF from DriveThruRPG.  BRW does their print fulfillment via DriveThru, so I conveniently have my PDFs where I expect them and I know what sort of product I am getting in terms of Print on Demand.

The book itself is 134 pages, full-color cover, and has black and white interior art.  The layout and art are a tribute to the "2nd covers" of the AD&D 1st Edition line. So it looks nice with your original books and other OSR books designed the same way. 

Like the Book of Lost Beasts, this book carries the Adventures Dark & Deep banner, but it is not made for that game.  It is material from that game ported "Backwards" to the AD&D 1st Edition rules. So again like Book of Beasts, some of this material has been seen before, though not all in 1st Edition format/rules.  

Lost Beasts and Lost Lore

Much of the material does come from Bloch's "What If" game, Adventures Dark & Deep, and in particular, the Players Manual which itself was derived from BRW Games' very first product A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore (now discontinued).  This is all acknowledged in the Preface of the book.  The selling point of this book is that it is all revised and edited for the "First Edition of the world's most popular RPG."  Not to mention the layout now favors the 1st ed feel rather than the Adventures Dark & Deep feel.

Though as we move on you will see that the biggest comparison that needs to be made is this book to the AD&D Unearthed Arcana.  

On to the book proper now.

This book is split between a Players' Section (close to 98 pages) and GMs' section (36 or so pages).

Players' Section

Dwarf blacksmith
This section covers new races, classes, and spells among other topics that I will discuss. 

Up first, the new races.  Here we are given three "new" races for player characters. These are the Centaur, the Forrest Gnome, and the Half-Drow, of which we get Human-Drow and Elf-Drow.  Those unfamiliar with AD&D 1st ed might be surprised to see level limits and ability limits for the races.  Some are pretty obvious, centaurs tend to be stronger but can't climb walls as a thief. Others are culture-based, drow women can advance more in most classes than their male counterparts due to their matriarchal society, but not as much as wizards since that class is not valued.  While back in the day we really ignored all these rules in AD&D (and they do not exist in 21st Century D&D) they are consistent with the rules and anyone who plays AD&D 1st ed exclusively will take to these easy.

The races seem balanced enough.  The centaur is a nice addition and one that really could go into AD&D well enough.  I personally have never had a desire to play one, but they do seem to work.  The forest gnome is also a good choice and a good option for people more familiar with 21st century D&D gnomes.  The coverage of the half-drow is very interesting and the stand-out of the three.  Given some other things I have crossed my awareness this past week or so I am wanting to try out a half-drow now.  I will need to come back to this one later on. 

Classes are likely the top feature of this book.  They are also the ones that we have seen before.  There are Bards, Jesters, Skalds, Blackguards, Mystics, Savants, and Mountebanks.  Let me repeat. While we have seen these before in other BRW products they are presented here as 1st Edition characters classes and as subclasses of existing 1st Ed classes. Except the Bard, the Bard is it's own class with the Jester and Skald as sub-classes of the Bard.  The Blackguard (or Anti-Paladin) is a subclass of the Cavalier to give you an idea where this book would "fit" into the AD&D 1st Ed lineup. 

It should be noted is a usable single Bard class.  No more advancing as a thief, fighter, and then druid to get to the bard, this is a straight out bard class.  The bard also has some nice powers too. The mystic class seems closer to the BECMI/RC version than it does to the monk.  It was also the focus of one of my very first "Class Struggles" features.   I am a little surprised we didn't see versions of BRW Games'  Necromancer, Witch, or Demonolater classes. Likey to keep these with the Adventures Dark & Deep game. 

From Classes, we move on to Secondary Skills. AD&D 1st Ed has never really been about skills outside of what your character class can do.  While back then I saw this as a problem, I am less inclined to think so now.  Still, a good selection of secondary skills are listed here and how they can be used. 

The next 35 or so pages are dedicated to new spells. Mostly these support the new magic-using classes, though some spells are cross-listed for other classes. 

The last part of the player's section is given over to combat and new weapons and armor.  The arms and armor described here do show an appreciated level of research.  One that would have made Gary and his 6 pages of pole-arms very happy.

Game Masters' Section

This section is not as large but still has gems; figurative and literal. 

making magic items
Up first are some guidelines for social encounters including reactions.  There are some alternate treasure rules that uses the same Treasure Type classification but breaks it down into different categories.  Both the original system and this system can be used interchangeably, even within the same game, with the Game Master deciding what works better at the time. 

There are some new magic items, with updated tables to include them. 

Finally some discussion on the game environment including ability checks. 

Honestly, the only thing it is missing to be "Unearthed Arcana II" is an appendix on the gods of the Centaurs.

Unearthed Arcana and Lost Lore

Some art has appeared before in other BRW books but all of it captures the Old-School gaming feel.

So. Who is this book for?

The obvious answer is for anyone that plays First Edition AD&D.  It should work fine with OSRIC, since that cleaves so close to AD&D, but not sure if players of Advanced Labyrinth Lord or Old School Essentials Advanced will get the same benefits. For example, both of those other games have a Bard class that works about the same.  That is not to say they would not get benefits from this book, it's just the base design principles are not 100% the same.

If you are a player of Adventures Dark & Deep then there is likely nothing new here for you.  But if you have those books and still play Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first ed. then there is enough here for you even if you can convert easily between the two games. 

If you play AD&D 1st ed then this is a great book and it will sit nicely on your shelf or on your table next to your other AD&D books. 

One minor point, the book was not released under the OGL.  Doesn't matter for play or use only if you wanted to reuse a class or spell elsewhere.  Though given the use I have seen of the OGL over the last 20+ years this is also likely not an issue. 

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


Monday, November 8, 2021

Monstrous Monday Review: Adventures Dark & Deep Book of Lost Beasts

Adventures Dark & Deep Book of Lost Beasts
Joseph Bloch at BRW games is really the model of how you should run a Kickstarter.  When I look at a Kickstarter I want to know that the person running it has experience.  The Kickstarter for Book of Lost Lore & Book of Lost Beasts was back in July. We were promised the books in March of 2022.  I believe I got mine in late September or early October. Was there padding? Maybe, but I don't care. Getting books just a couple of months after pledging is still pretty good.  Not to mention this has been true for the other five I have backed from Joseph/BRW.

Plus I also like to see that the person running the knows what to expect. So I look to see how many they have backed.  If it is a low number, or worse, zero, then I stay away. That is not the case with BRW Games.  

That is all great and everything, but does the book hold up to all this excitement?  Let's find out.

Adventures Dark & Deep Book of Lost Beasts

This is one of two books that were part of BRW's Summer 2021 Kickstarter and the one I was looking forward to the most.  The reasons should be obvious to anyone who has read my reviews over the years; I love monster books and consider the 1st Edition Monster Manual to be one of the greatest RPG books ever written.  Sure there are better-written ones, but few that have had the impact of this one. 

For this review, I am considering the Hardcover I received as a Kickstarter backer and the PDF from DriveThruRPG.  BRW does their print fulfillment via DriveThru, so I conveniently have my PDFs where I expect them and I know what sort of product I am getting in terms of Print on Demand.

The book itself is 132 page (about 128 of pure content), full-color cover and black and white interior art.  The layout and art is a tribute to the "2nd covers" of the AD&D 1st Edition line. So it looks nice with your original books and other OSR books designed the same way. 

Old-school cool

Old-school cool

Adventures Dark & Deep Book of Lost Beasts is a collection of 205 monsters for the AD&D 1st Edition RPG.  The book feels familiar (in more than one way) and can easily be added to your AD&D game.  The monsters are alphabetically listed. At the start of the book, there are some details about playing Monster spell casters (Witch-doctors or Shamans) as well as some other minor rule changes/alterations.  These chiefly involve whether a monster has psionics or not, and how an undead creature is turned.

Additionally, there is more detail on the monster's treasure. While a Treasure Type is given it is asl broken down between Treasure Value and Magical Treasure.  Monsters all get a Morale bonus listed to indicate if they will flee combat.

In the Preface, Bloch gives us a bit of history on his Adventures Dark and Deep RPG.  While this book carries that heading, it does not use the Adventures Dark and Deep RPG rules except as noted above. IT uses the tried and true AD&D 1st Ed system.  Also it is noted that many of these monsters presented here already appeared in his Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary, which I reviewed here.   The Bestiary is 450+ pages and has monsters from the SRD plus more in the Adventures Dark and Deep RPG format.  So you could convert them back to AD&D 1st Ed if you wanted.  But this current book, the Book of Lost Beasts, has the new monsters from the Bestiary plus a few more already converted.

The brings up a good question.  Should I buy this book? 
I am going to say yes, but here are some caveats. If you have the Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary AND you are comfortable enough converting then maybe you don't need this.  If you play AD&D and want more monsters then you should get this.  If you don't have the Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary and like monsters then you should get this.  If you are like me and just love monsters and already have the Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary then you should get this.  I hope to make these points a little better below, but do keep in mind that some people have seen these monsters before.

That is just one of the ways this book feels familiar.  The other way really lives up to its name of the Book of Lost Beasts.   This book feels like Bloch took the Monster Manuals I and II (and to a lesser degree the Fiend Folio) and set out with the goal of "What monsters are missing?" and got to it.  For example, the Quasi-Elementals are more filled out.

Another great example of providing us with "what was missing" AND giving us something new are the ranks of nobility of the Dao, Djinn, Effrti, Madrid, and Rakasha. While these creatures are found in the Monster Manuals and expanded on in the ADD Bestiary, they get a longer and more detailed treatment here. 

After the 205 or so monsters there are appendices on Treasure Types and a random Creature for the Lower Planes generator. These were very popular in the pages of Dragon Magazine if you recall

The PDF is currently $9.95 which is a good price for a PDF of a monster book, and $24.95 for the hardcover.

One minor point, the book was not released under the OGL.  Doesn't matter for play or use only if you wanted to reuse a monster in an adventure.  Though given the use I have seen of the OGL over the last 20+ years this is also likely not an issue. 

If you are looking for a new monster book for use in your AD&D 1st Edition games then I can highly recommend this one.  Plus it will look great sitting next to all your other AD&D 1st books.

BRW Games Lost Books

 

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Review: Chromatic Dungeons, Part 3 The Gnoll Sage

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

Heading into the last of my three-part series on Izegrim Creations' Chromatic Dungeons game.  Today I want to review the first 5 issues of their Zine-like publication The Gnoll Sage.  What it adds to Chromatic Dungeons and what you can get out of these even if you are not a Chromatic Dungeons player.

The Gnoll Sage, #1 to #5

The Gnoll Sage

For this review, I am considering the PDFs from DriveThruRPG as well as the printed, digest-sized, soft-covers I received via Kickstarter.

Each book is 24 or so pages with Issue #5 coming in at 42 pages.  Color covers and black and white interiors. Each one is released under the OGL so a couple of pages go to the license statement.

On the surface, there is a strong influence from Dragon magazine, but not in the way say Gygax magazine tried to do.  The influence here is easily one of someone that had read and grown up on Dragon and wanted to recreate the feeling rather than the actual layout.  It serves The Gnoll Sage (TGS) well.  

The unifying thread through all these issues is the involvement of "Fleabag" the eponymous Gnoll Sage.  Not Phoebe Waller-Bridge (but that would be hilarious) but an intelligent, erudite, be-spectacled, and maybe a bit of a pacifist, Gnoll who presents topics from the issue/zine from their point of view.  I personally rather like it.  It fits well into the idea that no humanoid race in Chromatic Dungeons has a default alignment.  The funny part, for me at any rate, is I have often agreed with this idea on my blog EXCEPT for Gnolls.  Maybe I'll give Fleabag a try anyway.

Each zine has a main feature, usually depicted on the cover, and other details like some magic items, equipment, spells, and so on.  There is a comic section reminiscent of "Dragon Mirth" as well.  There is an editorial in each issue talking about the issue and what might be coming next. 

The material presented in each issue is overtly for the Chromatic Dungeons game, but it is all written in such a way, with extra notes when needed, that it can be used with just about any 80s or 90s versions of *D&D or any clone that emulates them.  In particular, I felt they would be very handy to use with B/X D&D or Old-School Essentials. 

The Gnoll Sage #1
The Gnoll Sage #1

The first issue details the Mrav Covjecka, a group of insectoid/humanoid hybrids that need humanoid blood to nurse their brood. We get an "Ecology of" article as told to us by Fleabag. A monster statblock that can be used by any d20 based game including D&D 5. 

There is also a brief adventure featuring the new monsters.  There is the humor section, some new magic items, some NPCs you can meet, a section of new spells and upcoming topics in future books. 

There is also the OGL statement at the end.


The Gnoll Sage #2
The Gnoll Sage #2

In this second issue we are given the Animist class which is designed to replace classes like "the Witch doctor" or Shaman or even "Spirit Guide."  This is a good thing since the term Animist encapsulates all of these ideas. It is a divine spellcaster in Chromatic Dungeons terms, but can easily be ported over to any other D&D/Clone.  It could also be tweaked and added to D&D 5 if you like.  The class and all it's powers take up 18 of the zine's 28 pages.  I have not played it yet but it looks pretty solid.

The remainder of the book is given over to humor, the look forward, and a copy of the OGL.


The Gnoll Sage #3
The Gnoll Sage #3

The third issue of The Gnoll Sage gives us the ecology of a monster introduced in the Chromatic Dungeons hardcover, the Mushropod. In the Ecology Of article, we get more details from our Gnoll on the Scene, Fleabag as they let us know what they have uncovered about the sentient mushrooms.  Again the stat block reminds me of a 5e one, but everything here lends itself well to use of any 20th century D&D or clone.

There is a very brief adventure featuring these guys, some humor, three new magic items, some new NPCs, and a new spell. We end with the State of the Business note from Waibel where he mentions his Rise of Authur project.  If you follow him at all online now (late Fall 2021) you have seen the characters he has been working on. 


The Gnoll Sage #4
The Gnoll Sage #4

Now here is one I was quite excited for.  This issue introduces us to the Psionist class for Chromatic Dungeons or any other clone.  We start with some fluff with Fleabag and the aftermath of the Mushropod attack from the last issue. Fleabag describes a unique "spellcaster" they had met who what not a spellcaster at all. We then get into the class proper.  Now I am very particular about my psychic and psionic using classes. Even to the point where I have a preferred term (it's "psychic" btw) and I need them to be very different than my spell-using classes. Also if their powers can be built up over time with disciplines, then all the better.  This class satisfies two of those three. The class is flexible to use just about anywhere and easy to introduce. In fact, with the most minor of tweaks, a 5th Edition class can be found here. The psionist can choose one of three disciplines; Psychometabolism, Telekinesis, and Telepathy.  There are powers with each one and they grow as the character levels up. 

We also get an ersatz Mind Flayer in the Mind Eater and some comics.  In the State of the Business, we learn this was the last issue of the original four set, with issue #5 coming as a stretch goal.


The Gnoll Sage #5
The Gnoll Sage #5

This issue is the last of the Kickstarter issues and also the largest so far at 42 pages.  This issue covers the Ecology of the Orc and sets out to challenge our notions, or at least stereotypes of orcs.  This is introduced in the starting fiction with Fleabag challenging the party to think about what sorts of orcs they might be dealing with.  What follows is a very long Ecology Of and details of seven very different Orc clans.  

In the Ecology Of we learn the basic structure of an orc clan including numbers, leadership, and organization.  What follows are descriptions of seven example clans.  They are, briefly: Small Clans are the various orc clans represented in pretty much all other RPGs.  The Iron Shield Clan, a group of orcs more interested in making weapons, and selling them, than using them. Yellow Fang, a group of plains orcs that wear the skins of their enemies as clothing. Chaka Plains orcs are not pacifists per see, but understand the value of life and death and respect it. Meet them peacefully and you will be respected, meet them with violence and they will happily escort you to your next life. There are the sea-faring orc pirates and privateers of the Red Sails, but they only attack the wealthiest of ships.  There are the imperialistic and arrogant orcs of the Baildan Daguulalt (Empire) that combine the best, and worst, characteristics of Imperialisy Britain and the Roman Empire. They are brilliant and utterly convinced of their own superiority, in fact they made the cover.  Finally the orcs of the Silver Glacier might be the most dangerous of all these clans. 

That is a lot! There are still a couple of magic items, some comics, new spells, and some hints about the next issue and a new class The Commander.

Each issue runs for $5.00 for the PDF and $6.00 for the print or print/PDF combination. 

Their digest size makes me think they will fit in well with the newest versions of Old-School Essentials or Swords & Wizardry. So even if you don't play the Chromatic Dungeons game, these are still great resources.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Review: Chromatic Dungeons, Part 2 "Advanced" Rules

Chromatic Dungeons RPG

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

Today I want to cover the big game in the Chromatic Dungeons line.  I call it the "Advanced" game, but the name on the cover is just Chromatic Dungeons RPG.

Note.  I do want to point out that nowhere in the game nor in any online conversation has Roderic Waibel or Izegrim Creations called these rules "Advanced."  This is just what I am calling them to differentiate them from the Basic Rules.

Again for this review, I am considering the hardcover I got as a Kickstarter Backer and the PDF from DriveThruRPG.

Note 2: I'll make allusions to the Basic game here.  This is only to describe how these rules go above and beyond the basic rules.  At no point in these rules did I see something that had you refer to the Basic rules for more details.  This rulebook is complete on its own.

Chromatic Dungeons RPG

330 pages, hardcover, color cover art, black & white interior art.

If the Basic Game was meant to invoke feelings of the 1981 Moldvay Basic set then this book is clearly influenced by the earlier AD&D 1st Edition core rules. It is a hardcover for starters, larger, and provides more details for playing a CD game.

The rules are largely in line with and much more compatible with each other than say Basic D&D was to AD&D.  This is one of the biggest reasons I was excited about this particular game.  Back in the day we played D&D and AD&D interchangeably and tried to deal with the rule contradictions the very best we could.  Here those contradictions do not exist except in the way that specific rules override general ones.  Characters are more detailed, as are spells, monsters, and a host of other options, but never in a way they feel contradictory to the Basic Rules.  Characters can move fairly freely between the games. 

Ability Scores are chosen the same way 4d6 and drop the lowest.  Here the general modifiers of the Basic game give way to specific ones for each ability and subscores, ie. to hit and damage adjustment for Strength, number of spells for Intelligence, followers for Charisma, and so on.  Ability Checks are handled in the same fashion.  Scores still cap at 18 for rolls or 20 with bonuses, but the charts go to 25 for the use of exceptional characters and monsters.

Ancestry covers what species you were born into. Dwarves come in Hill, Mountain, and Deep varieties. Elves can be High, Wood, or Deep. Humans and Halflings are back and joined by Gnomes.  A table of alternate Ancestries is also given so you could play Gnolls, Centaurs, Orcs, or Goblins to name but a few.  The system is simple enough that almost any sort of ancestry can be used.    

Ancestry

Heritage, like the Basic game, covers the character's upbringing. This chart is the same as the Basic game, but expanded with more types.  

Character Classes.  This is the first of the really big changes. Where the Basic game has only three basic character types, this one has four major class groups with many sub-classes underneath.  The feeling is that of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea or AD&D 2nd Edition to be honest, with maybe just a touch of 5th Edition D&D.  Each group shares an advancement table for HD calculations and to hit bonus along with a shared Saving Throw table.  All groups share the same single XP per level table as per D&D 3rd through 5th Editions.

The first group is the Divine, which gives us Clerics and Druids. Divine Spellcasters are limited to 7th level spells.  Warriors include the fighter, berserker, ranger, and paladin.  Rogues are the most diverse lot with thieves, assassins, bards, and monks.  Magic-users are arcane spellcasters and they get spells to 9th level.  They include the Wizard and the Sorcerer which is a spell-point-based spell caster. Like the sorcerers of 3rd to 5th edition, they have a bloodline and some examples are detailed.

Multiclassing and Alignment are the same here as the Basic game.  The unified XP chart makes multiclassing easier. Alignment is a three-point system of Law-Neutrality-Chaos. 

Equipment is next. Very similar but expanded over the Basic game. 

Spells is the next largest section of the book and also one of the three that gets the most changes.  Spells are split out into classes with the Divine first (Cleric then Druid) then all the Arcane spells. The spells are all listed out alphabetically.  Included now are staples like Area of Effect, Components, casting time, and saving throws. Each spell also has a school listed. 

Spells with Dean Spencer art

How to Play covers the game. This is roughly similar to the Basic Game, but it is expanded.  Saving Throws are now added to the game. They are an interesting remix of Basic/AD&D and D&D3 style saves.  More on traps, diseases, and hirelings are covered here. 

Combat gets its own section.  Here initiative is back to a d20 (not the d10 of the Basic game). 

The Campaign deals with adventures, granting XP and what kinds of monsters can be found where. It ends with a sample play session.

The Bestiary is the last of the three big changes. Not only are all the monsters expanded on, but there are also more of them.  The monsters are still sorted by categories or groups, but now there are more. There are Beasts, Demons, Devils, Dinosaurs, Dragons, Elementals, Fey, Giants, Golems, Humanoids, Lycanthropes, Monstrosities, Oozes, and Undead. The stat blocks are expanded to give average scores for Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma. Special Attacks. Special Defenses and Magic Resistance are all now included. 

Old School Monster art

As with the Basic game, many monsters do not have an alignment. Or rather their alignment is listed as n/a.  In the case of animals (Beasts and Dinosaurs), it is because they lack intelligence or awareness. Others like humanoids it is because the Game Master can choose what they want.  Notably, all Demons and Devils are Chaotic, Dragons are split between Lawful and Chaotic along the lines you think they are, Elementals are now properly Neutral, and Fey runs the spectrum.  We get the usual suspects here, nothing jumping out at me as new save for the Mi-Go (not new, but not usual) and the mushropod (sorta new, but certainly NOT usual). 

The Treasure section is also expanded. Included new are Sentient Weapons and rarity tables. There is a new section on crafting items including an ingredient listing with measures of rarity. 

We end with appendices of tables, blank character sheets, indexes, and our OGL statement. 

The PDF is fully bookmarked.

Like the Basic books, this book is filled with evocative old-school style art.  Some of it is from various stock art artists the Old-School community knows, but a good deal is original and new art.  Much of it is clearly influenced by 40 years of playing.  The art goes beyond "Euro-centric" D&D art and a variety of ethnicities, genders, and peoples are represented. 

Old School Art

Again like the Basic books this is really directed at and written for people coming into the Old-School RPG scene anew. While there is a lot to enjoy here if you are an old Grog, and the art, in this case, is a particular treat, the audience that will get the most out of this are a generation younger.  If you still have your original D&D books from the 1970s and 80s you will still find enjoyment here. Especially if you are like me and enjoy seeing the design choices of "D&D's Greatest Hits" here.

The book "feels" like AD&D 1st Ed. Or maybe it is a 2nd Edition clone if that game had been produced later.

Because of how it is built it also feels like nearly anything can be used with it from nearly any area of D&D's history.   

Who Should Buy This?

I said this yesterday about the Basic Chromatic Dungeons game, and it is true for this version as well. This game is a great game to introduce new players, new to RPGs or new to Old-School style games, to the ways of playing of the 1980s.  Sure it is not exactly how we did it, but it is a great compromise between Old and New school.  Finally, someone has made a "Basic" game that works great as an introduction to an "Advanced" game and one that works well enough on its own.  Yes, yes there is Old-School Essentials and Labyrinth Lord that have both Basic and Advanced options, but Chromatic Dungeons' Basic game is truly that, an introductory game, "Basic" and "basic" at the same time and it is the perfect introduction to this "Advanced" game. 

If you are like me and grew up on old-school games and now have a family that loves the newest version of the game then this is a good way to introduce them to old-school play.  OR if you are new school player and want to try your hand at some old school play, but want to retain some of the options that make the new games so attractive, then this is a great game for you.   

--

I am posting this as part of this month's RPG Blog Carnival on Indie Games hosted by The Rat Hole.


Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Review: Chromatic Dungeons, Part 1 Basic Rules

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

The craziness that  is October is behind me now, time to settle in and read some books and do some reviews.  I have been planning to do this one now for some time and this feels like the best time for me.

For the next few days I am going to review the new Old-School Game on the block, Chromatic Dungeons from Roderic Waibel and Izegrim Creations.  Waibel ran a very successful Kickstarter for this over the Summer and the physical books and PDFs have been in my hands since the very start of Fall. I am happy to report I am very pleased with what I have received. I interviewed Waibel back when his Kickstarter was live so you can get an idea of the goals of Chromatic Dungeons.   I'll refer back to that to see how well his stated goals were met for me.

Chromatic Dungeons

Let me begin with noting that that there three distinct reviews I am doing here this week.  The first covers the "Basic Rules" made up of Player's Book and a Monsters & Treasures book.  The "advanced" or full game of Chromatic Dungeons will be tomorrow. Finally a zine-like product, The Gnoll Sage, will be after that.

Chromatic Dungeons, Basic Rules

Basic Rules, Player's Book. 86 pages, soft-cover, color cover art, black & white interior art.
Basic Rules, Monsters & Treasures. 58 pages, soft-cover, color cover art, black & white interior art.

Chromatic Dungeons, Basic Rules

For this review I am considering the two soft-cover Basic Rules books and PDFs.  

The Basic Rules of Chromatic Dungeons consists of two books a Players Book and a Monsters & Treasures book.  The material for the Game Masters is split between the two books.  Players only need the Player's book, but the GM will need both.  Considering the prices of the books this is not a problem.

The guiding principle for Chromatic Dungeons is to provide an old-school ruleset, say circa 1981, but still have some new school sensibilities.  Because of this it does not make much sense to call Chromatic Dungeons a "retro clone."  It is an old school game yes, but the rules inside are an interesting mix of old and new school mechanics.  I will point these out as I move through the text but to put the major selling point up front, this is the game you are likely to have the most success with when introducing old school play to newer players.  I will detail more (and a few more times) as we progress.

The Basic Rules are designed to introduce new players to the CD game.  It has a lot in common with it's progenitor game, Dungeons & Dragons, in particular the 1981 Moldvay Basic set.  It is written for people that have never played before.  This is still a good thing since one of the goals I believe of this game IS to introduce new players to old-school gaming.  

Basic Rules, Player's Book
Basic Rules, Player's Book

We get an Introduction and Forward that helps explain the nature of this game, but also to set the stage for what we will see. The author wants to make it plain up front that this is an inclusive game and that everyone should feel welcome to it.  This includes a brief overview of the game and a brief glosary of game terms to get everyone going.

Character Creation is first with the character concept and the rolling of ability scores.  The method used here is 4d6, drop the lowest and arrange to suit your concept. This strikes a good balance between getting the character you want and old-school randomness. Want 3d6 in order? That game was already written and likely you already have it.  After this you choose your Ancestry (and Heritage), Class and get equipment.  Lets go into some detail here.

XP per Level is covered first. Each class uses the same XP value much like you see in 21st century D&D games (3rd Edition and beyond).  This has a number of advantages of course.  Multi-classing becomes easier and it helps keep level progression fairly even.  Also it helps the intended audience, new gamers, become acclimated faster.  (Editorial aside: I have taught many players whose first experiences were 3e, Pathfinder or 5e and they adapt to differing XP level charts fine; often with an occasional reminder that the thief is higher level because of it. But still this is easier.)

Ability Scores are the standard six we are all familiar with.  Like the Moldvay Basic set the scores run 3-18 with simple modifiers they all share. Note. These mods are slightly different than what you might find in B/X, Labyrinth Lord, or Swords & Wizardry, so make sure you put them on your character sheet and don't go by memory.  A simple ability check system that is compatible with, well, really all sorts of versions of D&D/Clones is presented.

Note in this version of the Chromatic Dragons game there are no "Saving Throws" but rather specialized ability checks.  For example to "save" against some mind affecting magic you need to make a Wisdom check.  This actually works rather well in my mind.

Ancestry and Heritage is the system used to replace the antiquated notions of "Race."  Essentially this is a "Nature and Nurture" idea where Ancestry is your genetic or biologic make up and Heritage is how and under what conditions you were raised.   For ancestry you can choose Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, and Human. Each has details common to members of the same Ancestry. Dwarves are short, live to 300 years or so, and also something called "solid build" which gives them the ability to reduce damage by blunt object by 1 point. Humans get to add 1 point to any ability score, elves don't need to sleep and so on.  Heritages are how you you were raised.  So this helps give players a bit of character creation control to that backstory in their minds.  You choose two heritages and the list can easily expanded.  For example you can be born a halfling and have all the benefits of the halfling ancestry, but maybe you lived in a a Dwarf community, so you have the heritages of "Crafting" and "Subterranean."

This is a great concept and one I would wholesale adopt for all my games in the future. It just works too well for me. But I do have a couple of nitpicks with how it is done here.  First under Ancestry everyone gets a language of their ancestry.  This is something I feel better goes under Heritage.  And there are some heritages that are better suited for ancestry.  For example my Halfling who grew up in the Dwarven community knows how to speak Halfling due to their Ancestry and has Infravision due their "Subterranean" heritage.  I can see "Dark Adapted" working, or even the ability to detect sloping corridors; but infravision feels like something you should be born with and languages are something that are learned later.  Again, a minor nitpick, but one I will adjust when playing.

Basic Rules Art
Character Classes cover the three basic classes; Fighter, Rogues, and Wizard.  Other 3-class games call these Warriors, Rogue (or Expert) and Adept, but the names in the book are more suited to this genre and make translations to the "Advanced" game easier.  Each class get an ability bonus, much like you see in newer games.  So fighters get a +1 bonus to Strength, Constitution, or Dexterity.  This can be easily rationalized as training. Each class also gets a set of abilities.  Note, the Rogue abilities are presented using the same system as all other ability checks.  They get bonuses for particular abilities; same name as the thief abilities of other games.  Each level they gain 6 points to improve their 9 abilities as they choose (reminds me of 2nd Ed AD&D's Rogues).  I do rather like this, yes it is different from the multiple subsystems that was either the curse or the charm of old-school games (depending on your point of view) but it also makes for a speedier game.  Wizards for this game cover wizards, magic-users and clerics.  Another small nitpick, since there is the Advanced game, I would have called this class a Magic-user, and then when the classes are separated out in the Advanced game called the Magic-users Wizards.  But again, this is minor.

Alignment is a basic, or rather Basic, affair of just Law, Neutrality and Chaos. 

Equipment covers everything you can buy.  I remember running some friend through the Keep on the Borderlands years decades ago and they spent the entire adventure shopping in the Keep and trying to get deals.

How to Play covers all the Basic rules starting with movement.  Movement scale is closer to that of newer, 21st century forms on D&D. We also get good coverage on time, vision, stealth and more.  Discussions on what you can do on your turn are detailed.  At this point we have read a little about about combat, but not all of it. That comes up now with initiative.  Here we are using a hybrid of Basic and 2nd Edition inspired initiative sequence.  We also get Morale another Basic/2nd Ed hybrid, but based on a max score of 10 as opposed to 12 (Basic) or 20 (2nd Ed). 

Armor class is Ascending, not Descending.  This is good since it gets rid of the need for attack tables. Characters have an attack bonus and they roll vs. AC. 

Experience Points are pretty much the same as seen in earlier versions of D&D.  A bit on creating adventures is given and a sample adventure is provided.

Wizard Spells follow.  Since there is only one spell casting class, all the spells to 5th level are here.

We end with a blank character sheet, Appendices of tables, sample characters and a combat quick guide.

Basic Rules, Monster & Treasure
Basic Rules, Monster & Treasure

This book is primarily for Game Masters.  

The bulk (2/3) of the book is about monsters.  It starts off with what the descriptions of the monsters mean, how to read the stat blocks and so on. The stat block is pretty similar to what is found in *D&D circa 1981, so reading or even adapting to other games is easy.  While XP values are listed Treasure type is not. 

There is a section on special monsters, such as having the abilities of a character type or class. As well as assigning numbers for ability checks for monsters.  Something that will be easier in the "Advanced" version of the game. 

The monsters are grouped by category rather than all alphabetical. The Categories are Beasts, Dinosaurs, Dragons, Elementals, Fey, Fiends, Giants, Humanoids, Lycanthropes, Monstrosities, and Undead. Nearly all the usual suspects are here. 

Some monsters are given the alignment of "n/a."  This is typically true of creatures that are too unintelligent for alignment such as dinosaurs, or humanoids that can be any alignment.  I do think for creatures like beasts, dinosaurs and elementals that "neutral" would have been fine and for humanoids "any" would have worked.  Fiends are all Chaotic and so are most of the Dragons, Giants, and Undead.  

The Treasure section covers not only magical treasures as expected, but gives us an alternate treasure type system based on the monster's HD.  So not dissimilar to 3e or 5e. 

Both Books

Both books are filled with evocative old-school style art.  Some of it from various stock art artists the Old-School community knows, but a good deal is original and new art.  Much of it clearly enfluenced by 40 years of playing.  The art goes beyond "Euro-centric" D&D art and variety of ethnicities, genders and peoples are represented. 

Both books are really directed and written for people coming into the Old-School RPG scene anew. While there is a lot to enjoy here if you are an old Grog, and the art in this case is a particular treat, the audience that will get the most out of this are a generation younger.  If you still have your original D&D books from the 1970s and 80s you will still find enjoyment here. Especially if you are like me and enjoy seeing the design choices of "D&D's Greatest Hits" here.

Both PDFs are fully bookmarked.  Both books are fully OGC.

This game is a great game to introduce new players, new to RPGs or new to Old-School style games, to the ways of playing of the 1980s.  Sure it is not exactly how we did it, but it is a great compromise between Old and New school.  This game is also the perfect introduction to the "Advanced" game of Chromatic Dungeons.  Finally, someone has made a "Basic" game that works great as an introduction to an "Advanced" game and one that works well enough on it's own.  Yes, yes there is Old-School Essentials and Labyrinth Lord that have both Basic and Advanced options, but Chromatic Dungeons' Basic game is truly that, an introductory game, "Basic" and "basic" at the same time.

Tomorrow I'll talk about the full Advanced game.