Showing posts sorted by relevance for query adventures dark and deep. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query adventures dark and deep. Sort by date Show all posts

Monday, October 14, 2013

Adventures Dark & Deep Week

Joseph Bloch is one of those rarities in the OSR side of the RPG biz.
He has a blog (nothing new there), has a retro clone (also nothing new) and he runs some Kickstarters to get his product to the presses.  Also nothing new.

What Joseph and BRW games DOES do that is noteworthy is how quickly he gets his Kickstarters done.
The rewards for the Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual shipped more than a month early.
And now the rewards for Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary are shipping now, about 6 months early.

That is great, then add in the fact that Adventures Dark & Deep is also a fun game and worth the money then you have the recipe for a very happy fan base.

I want to spend some time this week talking about all the products Joe and BRW has to offer.

A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore
Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual
Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit
Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
Darker Paths 1: The Necromancer
Darker Paths 2: The Witch

Adventures Dark & Deep is built on the premise of "What If".  In this case, "What if Gary Gygax had still been with TSR and produced 2nd Edition AD&D?"

Joe has spent a lot of time coming through Dragon magazine articles, interviews and then taking all of that and making some logical assumptions about the game.  You get something that might have been the 2nd Edition game of a parallel universe.

So join me this week as we go over this game.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Review: Adventures Dark & Deep The Darker Paths

Nearing the end of my delve into Adventures Dark and Deep so here are two older products. In fact I picked them up about a two years ago and reviewed them then.

These two classes appeared under the subtitle "Darker Paths" and they are two favorite classes of mine.

Darker Paths 1: The Necromancer
The Necromancer is the first in a set of alternate classes for the Adventures Dark and Deep RPG.
The Necromancer is one of the more popular "alternate classes" developed for any fantasy RPG.  Almost always an alternate class and never a core one, the necromancer is the ultimate foe in many games or the ultimate PC in others.  But as long as horror and undead are popular in game, then the necromancer is right there with them.
Darker Paths 1: The Necromancer packs a lot of  punch in a small book. At only 24 pages, we get a new class, a "new" race and 75 new spells.  No small feat really. The material is for the Adventures Dark and Deep game, but it certainly can be used with any retro-clone, near-clone or any other game that emulate AD&D 1st ed or Basic D&D.  The art is mixed, but very evocative of the era.  Some new pieces and some public domain works (and it looks like the editor did his research too).
If you like Necromancers and play an older edition of the game, whether an honest older edition or a newer clone, then this is a good choice.

Darker Paths 2: The Witch
I am always a bit hesitant to review other peoples work on witch-related classes since I have products of my own out there. I fear of being too critical or too lax, each to out weigh the other.  In the end I think I just need to review the product as is.  Like DP1: The Necromancer this product is for the "Adventures Dark and Deep" RPG, OR any other near-clone of AD&D.  Also like the first Darker Path book this presents the witch as an evil character class; not the Earth loving priestess of old faiths or even the spiritual seeking witches of modern tales.  This must be recalled when reading the rest of this book.  These witches are more Baba Yaga and not Circe for example.  There is the obligatory disclaimer on Contemporary Witches and how this game is not that. (As an aside, as someone that has written these myself this one does seem more of a disclaimer of "don't email me" rather than a "I am not trying to offend", but that could just be me. EDITED: I did get an email clarification on this and the author was very much in the "I am not trying to offend, but these are different things" camp, which is cool by me.)
Witches in this game are all evil and their main ability is Wisdom.  Their Charisma must start high, but it degrades as the witch rises in level.  Interesting.  I am not sure I like that since it seems here that Charisma is used as an "Appearance" proxy and not as a "Force of Personality" one.  It would make it hard to make a character like Circe, who was evil, attractive and had a lot of force of personality, as a witch in these rules. That is fine, she would have to be something else, but I do want to point it out.
Witches advance to 13th level; so reminiscent of the druid.  She has a nice variety of spells to choose from (more on this) and there are rules for her brewing potions and poisons.   Like other witches of folklore, this witch can also have multiple familiars.  A nice touch in my mind.
The spells are the real gem of this book.  Nearly 50 new spells there are a lot of classics here.  There are spells on Candle Magic (and done differently than my own) and nearly every base is covered (curses, storm summoning, afflicting others).

Like with DP1, the art is a mix of new and public domain art, but all of it is appropriate to the feel of the book.  In the end this is a very good evil witch class.

One thing that is nice about these classes is  they are sub-classes of the Mage and Cleric respectively.  So you multi-class them.  Well...it's not in the rules per se but you should be able to.   Of course I have teh perfect test character for this.  My latest acquisition, Light Core Hex!

Hex
CE Female Dark Elf
Witch 5 / Necromancer 5

Abilities
STR: 10
INT: 15
WIS: 18
DEX: 9
CON: 10
CHA: 13

Saving Throws
Paralyzation, Poison, Death: 9
Petrification, Polymorph: 12
Rod, Staff, Wand: 11
Breath Weapon: 15
Spells: 12

Special Abilities (class)
Magic bonus: +6 to magical saves
Spell casting
Create Magic Items
Affect Undead
Bell, Book & Candle
Brew Poison
Call Familiar
Limited to 13th level in Witch
Charisma degradation

Special Abilities (race)
Infravision 120'
Speed 150'
Bonus Spells
Sunlight Vulnerability

HP: 13
AC: 6 (Bracers)

Experience: 38,050 (19,025 each)

Spells
Witch
Blue Flame, Ghostly Hands, Witch's Mark, Blight Field, Fascinate, Magic Broom, Fear, Hand of Glory, Spit Poison

Necromancer
Chattering Skull, Death Mask, Detect Bones, Ectenic Blast, Eyes of the Dead, Animate Dead

Bonus (race)
Faerie Fire, Dancing Lights, Darkness 5' radius, Detect Magic, Know Alignment, Levitation, Clairvoyance, Detect Lie, Suggestion, Dispel Magic

Bonus (wisdom)
Detect Good, Ears of a Bat, Charm Monster, Misfortune, Magic Missile, Sleep

That's a lot of magic!

I have done Skylander's Hex before for other systems:
This one is by far one of the more powerful!  To get an idea of the rule differences between the systems, have a look at all these versions.

So +Joseph Bloch, if I ever play Adventures Dark & Deep with you at a convention can I use this character?!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Review: Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual

Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual is the first major release from BRW Games and the first major release of what is the Adventures Dark & Deep game.  Again, a lot of what I have said about
A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore is true here.  Including how this was the result of a particularly successful Kickstarter that shipped early.

The book works under the premise of what would 2nd Edition have looked like if Gary Gygax had stayed at TSR.  Joe has taken articles, interviews and discussions and something like an anthropologist pieced it all together to get something new and yet familiar.   Unlike the previous book, the Player Manual makes no assumptions that you have AD&D1 or OSRIC.  There are some obvious roots in those games, but this is now it's own thing.

Like most Player's books this one concentrates much of it's text on creating characters.
There is the obligatory sections on how to use the dice and then how to generate ability scores.  In a difference from this game and it's spiritual cousin AD&D 2nd ed, we still have exceptional strength.  Also all the ability score tables go to 25.  Humans (and most PCs) still rank 3-18.
The same six ability scores are here.  Interestingly enough, not Comeliness.  I thought that would have made the cut.

Races are covered.  Again the same ones we have seen before.  But thats the point isn't it? This a AD&D2 as if Gary had created it.  So there are a lot of elements in common here with AD&D 1 and 2 plus older versions.  We do get a Dark Elf (not a Drow) and Half-Orc.  It would take a critical eye to see the differences here between Adventures Dark & Deep and say OSRIC.

Classes include the new and the old.
From A Curious Volume we have: the Bard, Jester, Mystic, Savant, Thief-Acrobat, Mountebank
From the classic sources we have: the Paladin, Cleric, Druid (topping out at 15th level), Fighter, Barbarian, Ranger, Mage, Illusionist, Thief
And new to this volume we have: the Cavalier, Vates (Druids of 15th level and higher).
The Assassin is listed in the Appendix.
Classes are grouped into Class and Sub-class like AD&D1/2 but not like OSRIC.  So all in all 17 (18) classes.  Not bad really.

The Alignment system is the same as *D&D.

Secondary Skills is pretty much the same as what is found in A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore. Same with the Monthly Expenses which is now part of Social Class.

The next big section is Combat which includes the standard D&D style combat we all know and the additional material from A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore.  Morale is back in this edition, sort of like it was in Basic and AD&D2.   There is a nice section on item saving throws. I have seen similar ones over the years, but this one seems fairly complete.

The next section is Magic.
It includes the making of magic items, learning spells and even an optional rule on sacrifice.  The bulk though is devoted to spells.
The Spells are listed by class and level, but all the spells are alphabetical.  There are 118 pages of spells, so roughly what you would expect from OSRIC and A Curious Volume. I see about 6-7 spells per page, so maybe close to 650 spells. There could also be more, but I did not check every single one.  The spells are are written in a way that makes them compatible with pretty much every other OSR-style book out there.

Appendix A covers the Assassin class.
Appendix B covers weapons vs. various Armor types. A very Gygaxian holdover. As opposed to vs. AC, this is actually the type of armor. I like it and it makes sense.  I am thinking of using this in my own old school game to be honest.
Appendix C covers combat tables.

The book does capture the feel of old D&D with some interesting twists. None that would trip you up, but still enough to make you go "huh, that is kind of neat".

The art is nice and still invokes that Old-School feel without looking dated.

The PDF is copy/paste restricted, but not print restricted. Which is good because I want to print that Appendix B.  The physical book is nice and sturdy and at 257 pages it is a decent sized book. It compares well to the AD&D 2nd Ed Player's Handbook to be honest.


It is a nice book.

So who should get this book?
Well if you like the OSR or enjoy AD&D then this is a good choice.  It is a better "game" than OSRIC is.  I say "game" because OSRIC isn't a game as much as a reference to a game you already know how to play.

If you have A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore and OSRIC then yes you could re-create this book on your own.  But part of the utility of this book is that all of that information is in one volume. 

It is worth it for the new classes and spells too.

I like it because it is a well researched "What If" experiment, much like Spellcraft & Swordplay (what if D&D continued using the default combat roll) and B/X Companion (what if the Companion rules had come out for B/X and not BECMI).  We will never know what Gygax's 2nd Ed would have been like. In a way, really we don't need to know. 2e was fine and Adventures Dark & Deep is here now.
It is perfectly playable and fun.

More tomorrow!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Review: Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit

One of the greatest books ever produced for any game is the 1st Edition Dungeon Master's Guide.  One of the most disappointing books ever made was the 2nd Edition Dungeon Master's Guide.

The logic for this was good.  All the information that all players need should be in the Player's Handbook.  The rest goes into the DMG.  The result should be a larger Player's Book than a Game Master's book. That is what we got for 2nd ed.  Somehow it didn't quite work as well.

Adventures Dark & Deep follows the same logic but gain a different result.
The Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit is the book that BRW and Joseph Bloch didn't have to do a Kickstarter for.   The statement that Joe put out at the time was Kickstarters are for projects he needed to finish the funding for.  The Game Masters Toolkit did not need it.

The GMTK is smaller than the Player's Book at 174 pages.  Not as small as the 2nd ed DMG, but the comparison is there.  The GMTK also includes some information from A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore but it also has a lot more.

The GMTK also follows an example from 2nd ed and it largely mirrors the layout and placement of sections form the Players Book.  Something that the 1st ed DMG could have done better.
We start with a discussion on "alternate" races like the Dark Elf or Deep Gnome.
Various NPC types are discussed including class distribution and some non-classes like noble and hirelings.
There are tables to generate personalities and physical traits for random NPCs, as well as alignment and possessions.

We get into the Game Environment that is a hold over from A Curious Volume.
Swimming, Underwater travel and Flying are also discussed along with various terrains and hazards.  A little bit down we have a section on ships that is greatly expanded.  Again, could have used this when I was wrapping up my 1st Ed AD&D game.
The feel of these is similar to the classic DMG, but better organized.

Social Encounters come from A Curious Volume, but having them here in context with the other rules is much nicer.

Treasure types are discussed and magic item distribution.

The most interesting bits to me are coming up.   To me this shows the influence of the 3e DMG or just a natural progression.  Bloch covers not just the campaign world, the campaign mythos as well.  So whether you like playing in a Classical world, a Lost Golden Age, Underground or even in a Lovecraftian-inspired world is up to you. You are given the tools to build what you need, but not the worlds themselves (this is Feature, not a Bug!).

Religion and Gods are covered next.  Various reasons to have a god or a patron deity are covered and what sorts of powers they all have.  The list of powers and abilities is more 1st Ed than 2nd Ed.  I will also admit I don't know much off the top of my head about what Gygax said about gods and religions.  I know he said some things.  On a personal note I had conversations with  Mr. Gygax himself on the topic of religion and I know he was no great fan despite his own history.
Bloch though moves on and gives us a sample Pantheon to use in our game, the Norse gods.  Again from personal knowledge I know that Joseph Bloch is a fan of the Norse mythology and gods, so this is a good fit really.   Though I do wonder at the utility of listing the XP for permanently slaying Odin (1,022,000 XP btw).

The Planes of Existence is up next and it is cut from the Gygaxian cloth.  Wholly compatible to what we have seen in 1st and 2nd ed, there are some nice twists.  I like the art depicting the planes in relationship to each other.

Next we get into a section on Designing Adventures.  Covered are Dungeons, Wilderness and Urban.  The section is not long, but very useful.

Magic Items are next.  Personally I would have liked the charts for the Magic Items and the descriptions to all be in one place.  This takes up quite a bit of the book at 70 pages.

Appendix A is last and it collects and reprints all the useful tables.
Correction: Appendix A is a whole new set of random tables.  Sorry for the oversight on that!

With the GMTK you can really see the utility of Adventures Dark & Deep over a reference guide like OSRIC.  Not a slight at OSRIC at all, but this book has a slight edge in just by being a seperate Game Masters book.

To me the advantages of this book, all this information is one place, is better than say OSRIC or Labyrinth Lord + what is missing.

That being said, there are still some things I would have done differently. Most involve the placement of various section. Others I know are "locked" into the Gygazian visions or at least how Joseph Bloch interprets them. For me, I think I would have expanded the sections on adventuring in Dungeons, Wilderness and Urban settings more.  I would have expanded the section on how to create magic items and even changed somethings.  But that is me.

All in all this is a good addition to the game line.  I felt less of the Gygax connection here. Hard to say if that is me not knowing what he said on these subjects OR these are things that need to be here logically to make the rest of the game work.  In any case I am happy with what I got.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Adventures Dark & Deep Kickstarter

Adventures Dark & Deep is a new RPG that attempts to take the World's First and Biggest Fantasy RPG back to its early days. It takes the bones of the 1st edition game and imagines what it would have been like if Gary Gygax had stayed with TSR and released the 2nd edition of the game.

You can read more about it here:
http://greyhawkgrognard.blogspot.com/2012/11/adventures-dark-and-deep-players-manual.html and here:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/623939691/adventures-dark-and-deep-players-manual

You can see some of this in Joseph Bloch's other products  that are part of the Adventures Dark & Deep line.
A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore
Darker Paths 1: The Necromancer
Darker Paths 2: The Witch

I had mentioned a while back that 2nd Ed might be the next wave of the OSR.  Looks like we are finally seeing some of that.

Go to the Kickstarter page and watch the video.  Joe looks like what a I always thought Mordenkainen looked like, so that is worth a pledge from me for that alone!

The levels are good and well priced in my mind.
Good art and professional editing is not cheap. So I am thinking his goal is reasonable.

I don't need another retro-clone, near-clone or even alternate-reality clone (that is what I consider this and Spellcraft and Swrodplay).  BUT I do like to support my fellow gamers.

So I putting in for a hard cover edition.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Review: Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary

If you ever only buy ONE product from BRW and the Adventures Dark & Deep line then make sure it is this one.

I love monster books. I have said so many, many times. But I also hold them to a high standard.  While I Will gladly buy any monster book, few get my high praise.  Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary is one of those few.

Let be honest up front.  We have seen most if not all the monsters somewhere else before.
Most are in the SRD or from other Open sources. The new ones are great, but they are ideas we have seen.

And none of that matters.  This is still a great book.
At 457 pages (pdf) it is a beast. Monsters are alphabetically listed by areas you would find them in.  So Wilderness and Dungeon is by far the bulk of them, but there are also Waterborne (fitting in with the rules) and "Outsiders" or monsters from the other planes.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

The book begins with two monster spell casters, the Shaman and the Witch Doctor.  Shades of similar classes from the BECMI RC to be sure. But they work here great and frankly I know someone will want to use these rules to play a Shaman one day.  Heck I once tried a Wemic Shaman in early 2e days myself.  Maybe I'll see if I can do that here.  The classes are not detailed and they don't need to be. The do what they need to do.

The Monster descriptions are a bit like those found in OSRIC though there are some interesting additions.
Each Monster has a Morale, like that found in Basic and 2nd ed, though it is not score but an adjustment.  Attacks are listed in the stat block, though they are the attack types. This is most similar to "Special Attacks" in other rules.  Also wholly new are "Weaknesses" which is an interesting idea and one I think other OSR publishers should adopt.  Each monster then gets a couple of paragraphs of text.  Many are illustrated thanks to the highly successful kickstarter for this (more on that later).  The illustrations are great too as you can see here and here.

All the monsters have General, Combat and Appearance sections in their write-ups.

Unlike 2e (and 4e) monsters are not confined to one-page entries.  Some have paragraphs, others just a few lines.  This is good since I think we would have something like 1000+ pages.  I think I read there are 1100 monsters in this book. Maybe 900.  Anyway it's a lot.  I spot checked a few monsters I thought might not be there, but sure enough they were.  Ok so the ones that are Closed via the OGL are not here, but I was not expecting those.  There are some alternates and stand ins if you really, really need them though.

The book sections are:
Wilderness and Dungeon, aka Most of the Monsters
Underwater and Waterborne, larger than expected, but not surprised given the material in the core books.
Prehistoric Monsters, always nice to have; Dinosaurs and Ice Age mammals.
Extra Planar Monsters, your Outsiders.

Appendix A details creating your own monsters.
Appendix B has something I didn't even realize was missing till I started reading the stats; a basic psionic system for psychic strikes.
Appendix C covers random creatures from the Lower Planes.  This is the first "Gygaxian" touch I have noticed in this book.  Reminds me of a really old Dragon magazine article from years ago..
Appendix D is magic resistance table
and Appendix E covers the abilities of Gods.

All of this in a PDF for just under $15.

I have mentioned before that Joe gets his work done and gets it done fast. Well this is not only no exception but it is the new benchmark.  Joe ended his kickstarter and then got printed books out to people 6 months early.  Let that sink in for a moment.  In a hobby where we tolerate (although not quietly) Kickstarters with delays of 18 months, Joe and BRW are out there, turning out product and getting it to people early.
You should buy a copy of this book on that principle alone.

So should you get this book?

If you like monsters then yes.  If you need monsters for your oldschool game then yes.  If you want to support Joe and the Adventures Dark & Deep system then yes. If you want to reward good Kickstarter behavior then absolutely yes.

Lots of good reasons to get in my book.  It is also the best book in his line. Kudos to +Joseph Bloch .

Friday, June 20, 2014

BRW Games Summer Solstice Sale

I make no secret of my enjoyment of Joseph Bloch's, aka The Greyhawk Grognard's, work.
I enjoy his blog, his games and frankly he has helped tremendously in improving the perception that OSR-based Kickstarters are always late.

So it is my pleasure then to let you all know about his first, and maybe only sale.
All his products (and there is a lot there for a one-man shop) are on sale.
http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/browse.php?manufacturers_id=3728&affiliate_id=10748

Everything from Castle of the Mad Archmage to Adventures Dark & Deep his "what if" 2nd edition game.

Stop by and pick something up.  Honestly I say grab something, anything, if for no other reason than to tell Joseph that he is doing a good job and sales are appreciated.

Here are some of the books I have reviewed here and really enjoy:
A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore
Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual
Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit
Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
Darker Paths 1: The Necromancer
Darker Paths 2: The Witch

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Purchases

Every halloween I treat myself to a horror-themed RPG purchase.

This year was no different except I didn't limit myself to one.
So here are my Halloween RPG gifts to myself and what I thought of them.

Mutants & Masterminds Threat Report #43: Dracula
Drac is one of my favorite villains of all time and he is especially fun in a Supers game.  I really liked what they did here and the plot hooks are good ways to pull Dracula into your games quickly.

Savage Worlds Horror Companion
I am not a huge Savage Worlds fan, but you can't say I don't give the game a fair shake.  I also keep getting books for it in hopes that I begin to feel some of that same love that others do for this game.  I thought this one might do it.  But no.
Now don't get me wrong, this is a fine book.
There is a lot of meat here (145 pages).  There are new Hindrances and Edges for heroes (though a lot of the horror standards are in the main core book)  There are even ways to make monsters into friends (to quote the late, great Joey Ramone) or rather to make monsters into Player Characters.  I particularly like their Dhampyr and might yoink it for Unisystem.  There are new weapons, not as extensive as the listings in some other games, but still fine, though if you wanted to do "Savage Ghostbusters" or even "Savage Blade the Vampire Hunter" then everything you need is here.  There is an obligatory section on sanity. It is better than most, but I still don't like it (AGAIN that is more about me as a former QMHP than as a gamer).  There is a good section about Rituals and one about Magick (with a k) that does much in strengthening what I have always perceived as SW's greatest weakness, it's magic system. Lots and lots of great monsters too, much more than I expected. So this is a huge plus.   The book falls down a bit at the Game Mastering Section. But in it's defense what it does cover is perfectly suited to a Savage Worlds game.  So SW Gamemasters can start here and then move out to other sources to get more info. All in all this was a good purchase.

Rotworld
Believe it or not, I Am not a huge fan of Zombie games.  I love All Flesh Must Be Eaten, but as an addition to my WitchCraft/Ghosts of Albion games.  Rotworld will be similar.
Produced by Daniel Proctor of Labyrinth Lord and GORE fame, Rotworld capitalizes on the 5 billion dollar a year business of Zombies (As of October 2011).  RW uses the old Time Master system that Proctor bought from Pacesetter.  He did not however buy Chill, so he can't say it is compatible with Chill 1st Edition.  But with some work it is and that is why I picked it up.  I love Chill and plan to see what sort of goodness Rotworld could add to a Chill game.  OR the other way around.  Either way this small game (65 pages) packs a punch and shows that "Old School Gaming" is more than just making the next retro-clone of Holmes Basic or AD&D 1st ed.  I hope Rotworld is successful so Goblinoid Games does a generic horror game with this system.  There are not a lot of monsters in this book, outside of zombies, but there is plenty of  text on character creation, combat and skills.  There is a good Game Master section (Corpse Master) about how to setup and run a game.
Rotworld is a fine game.  It won't unseat AFMBE as the premiere Zombie survival game out there, but it is a lot of fun and great for an evening's distraction or even gathering up a bunch of friends with fond memories of gaming in the early 80s.

Darker Paths 1: The Necromancer
The Necromancer is the first in a set of alternate classes for the Adventures Dark and Deep RPG. Adventures Dark and Deep is an interesting "what if" experiment in gaming.  The what if here is "what if Gary Gygax had not left TSR and headed the development of the AD&D 2nd Edition rules. Based on interviews, publications of the man himself at the time, and a healthy dose of conjecture, we get a game that is familiar yet new at the same time.
The Necromancer is one of the more popular "alternate classes" developed for any fantasy RPG.  Almost always an alternate class and never a core one, the necromancer is the ultimate foe in many games or the ultimate PC in others.  But as long as horror and undead are popular in game, then the necromancer is right there with them.
Darker Paths 1: The Necromancer packs a lot of  punch in a small book. At only 24 pages, we get a new class, a "new" race and 75 new spells.  No small feat really. The material is for the Adventures Dark and Deep game, but it certainly can be used with any retro-clone, near-clone or any other game that emulate AD&D 1st ed or Basic D&D.  The art is mixed, but very evocative of the era.  Some new pieces and some public domain works (and it looks like the editor did his research too).
If you like Necromancers and play an older edition of the game, whether an honest older edition or a newer clone, then this is a good choice.

Darker Paths 2: The Witch
I am always a bit hesitant to review other peoples work on witch-related classes since I have products of my own out there. I fear of being too critical or too lax, each to out weigh the other.  In the end I think I just need to review the product as is.  Like DP1: The Necromancer this product is for the "Adventures Dark and Deep" RPG, OR any other near-clone of AD&D.  Also like the first Darker Path book this presents the witch as an evil character class; not the Earth loving priestess of old faiths or even the spiritual seeking witches of modern tales.  This must be recalled when reading the rest of this book.  These witches are more Baba Yaga and not Circe for example.  There is the obligatory disclaimer on Contemporary Witches and how this game is not that. (As an aside, as someone that has written these myself this one does seem more of a disclaimer of "don't email me" rather than a "I am not trying to offend", but that could just be me. EDITED: I did get an email clarification on this and the author was very much in the "I am not trying to offend, but these are different things" camp, which is cool by me.)
Witches in this game are all evil and their main ability is Wisdom.  Their Charisma must start high, but it degrades as the witch rises in level.  Interesting.  I am not sure I like that since it seems here that Charisma is used as an "Appearance" proxy and not as a "Force of Personality" one.  It would make it hard to make a character like Circe, who was evil, attractive and had a lot of force of personality, as a witch in these rules.  That is fine, she would have to be something else, but I do want to point it out.
Witches advance to 13th level; so reminiscent of the druid.  She has a nice variety of spells to choose from (more on this) and there are rules for her brewing potions and poisons.   Like other witches of folklore, this witch can also have multiple familiars.  A nice touch in my mind.
The spells are the real gem of this book.  Nearly 50 new spells there are a lot of classics here.  There are spells on Candle Magic (and done differently than my own) and nearly every base is covered (curses, storm summoning, afflicting others).
Like with DP1, the art is a mix of new and public domain art, but all of it is appropriate to the feel of the book.  In the end this is a very good evil witch class.  It does make me wonder how the author might do a good witch.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: More Monster Book Reviews

Been kinda busy the last few days.  Today is my last day of vacation, so back to work tomorrow. We set up a pro Role20 account this past week and we are going to try that out.  Maybe I'll even run a game or two online.

I went looking for a monster today for something I am working on.  About a couple hours into my search of PDFs it dawned on me.  I have a lot of monster books.  I mean an obscene amount.
One of the problems I run into is not finding a monster but finding the monster and 4 or 5 different versions.


These books are my big "go-to" books for monsters.  Even though they have significant overlap each one offers me something new and fun.

Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
PDF and Hardcover, 457 pages. B&W Interior.
If you ever only buy ONE product from BRW and the Adventures Dark & Deep line then make sure it is this one.
I love monster books. I have said so many, many times. But I also hold them to a high standard.  While I Will gladly buy any monster book, few get my high praise.  Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary is one of those few.
Let be honest upfront.  We have seen most if not all the monsters in this book somewhere else before.
Most are in the SRD or from other Open sources. The new ones are great, but they are ideas we have seen.
And none of that matters.  This is still a great book.
At 457 pages (pdf) it is a beast. Monsters are alphabetically listed by areas you would find them in.  So Wilderness and Dungeon is by far the bulk of them, but there are also Waterborne (fitting in with the rules) and "Outsiders" or monsters from the other planes.  But I am getting ahead of myself.
The book begins with two monster spell casters, the Shaman and the Witch Doctor.  Shades of similar classes from the BECMI RC to be sure. But they work here great and frankly I know someone will want to use these rules to play a Shaman one day.  Heck I once tried a Wemic Shaman in early 2e days myself.  Maybe I'll see if I can do that here.  The classes are not detailed and they don't need to be. The do what they need to do.
The Monster descriptions are a bit like those found in OSRIC though there are some interesting additions.
Each Monster has a Morale, like that found in Basic and 2nd ed, though it is not a score but an adjustment.  Attacks are listed in the stat block, though they are the attack types. This is most similar to "Special Attacks" in other rules.  Also wholly new are "Weaknesses" which is an interesting idea and one I think other OSR publishers should adopt.  Each monster then gets a couple of paragraphs of text.  Many are illustrated thanks to the highly successful Kickstarter for this (more on that later).  The illustrations are great too as you can see here.
All the monsters have General, Combat and Appearance sections in their write-ups.
Unlike 2e (and 4e) monsters are not confined to one-page entries.  Some have paragraphs, others just a few lines.  This is good since I think we would have something like 1000+ pages.  I think I read there are 1100 monsters in this book. Maybe 900.  Anyway it's a lot.  I spot checked a few monsters I thought might not be there, but sure enough they were.  Ok so the ones that are Closed via the OGL are not here, but I was not expecting those.  There are some alternates and stand ins if you really, really need them though.
The book sections are:
Wilderness and Dungeon, aka Most of the Monsters
Underwater and Waterborne, larger than expected, but not surprised given the material in the core books.
Prehistoric Monsters, always nice to have; Dinosaurs and Ice Age mammals.
Extra Planar Monsters, your Outsiders.
Appendix A details creating your own monsters.
Appendix B has something I didn't even realize was missing till I started reading the stats; a basic psionic system for psychic strikes.
Appendix C covers random creatures from the Lower Planes.  This is the first "Gygaxian" touch I have noticed in this book.  Reminds me of a really old Dragon magazine article from years ago..
Appendix D is magic resistance table
and Appendix E covers the abilities of Gods.
All of this in a PDF for just under $15.
I have mentioned before that Joe gets his work done and gets it done fast. Well this is not only no exception but it is the new benchmark.  Joe ended his kickstarter and then got printed books out to people 6 months early.  Let that sink in for a moment.  In a hobby where we tolerate (although not quietly) Kickstarters with delays of 18 months, Joe and BRW are out there, turning out product and getting it to people early.
You should buy a copy of this book on that principle alone.
So should you get this book?
If you like monsters then yes.  If you need monsters for your oldschool game then yes.  If you want to support Joe and the Adventures Dark & Deep system then yes. If you want to reward good Kickstarter behavior then absolutely yes.

Lots of good reasons to get in my book.  It is also the best book in his line. Kudos to Joseph Bloch.

Amazing Adventures! Manual of Monsters
PDF and Hardcover, 95 Pages. B&W interior art.
The Amazing Adventures Manual of Monsters manages to give me monsters I have seen before, but with a whole new take. I mean a mummy is a mummy right? Well...your old monster book won't tell you how it reacts when you fire your .38 into it. But beyond that, this book also has a lot of new monsters. Enough to make it worthwhile in my opinion.
Also as an added bonus feature is an appendix of monsters from different countries. So fight that Kelpie on its native soil. Or tangle with the machinations of the Greys.
If you play Amazing Adventures or Castles & Crusades then you need this book.

Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure
PDF and Hardcover 178 Pages. B&W interior art.
This is the main monster and treasure book for C&C. Here you will find what I call the "classic" monsters from the great Monster Manual. If you are familiar with 3.x then these are all the monsters from the SRD in C&C's format. There is plenty of new text here though to make this more than just another SRD-derived book. Like all the C&C books the art and layout is great. I have the physical book, the pdf and a printout of the PDF and all read great.
The Castles & Crusades Monster stat block is a nice combination of Basic's simplicity, 1st AD&D's comprehensiveness, and some 3.x style rules. Saves are simple (Physical, Mental or both), AC is ascending and there is a "Challenge Rating" stat and XP all factored in. Honestly, it really is a synthesis of the best of D&D. Grabbing a monster from another source and converting it on the fly really could not be easier.
This book though is more than just a monster book, all the treasure and magic items (normally found in a Game Master's book) are here. This is a nice feature really. One place to have your encounter information.
This really is a must-have book for any C&C fan. 178 pages and full of everything you need.

Swords and Wizardry Monstrosities
PDF 544 Pages. B&W interior art.
Some of these monsters we have seen before either in the SRD or other books.  That though does not detract from its value as this is a 540+ page book. In addition to all that there are some new monsters.  The cover is very evocative of the old-school (pre-1980) covers.
There is much in common between this book and The Tome of Horrors. Each monster is given a page of stats, descriptions and a plot hook.  While ToH used some recycled art, this all seems to be new art.  Even Orcus (which we now have 3 listings for) is new.  Actually, the art is pretty darn good and I don't mind the occasional repeat of a monster to see some new art.
Honestly, there is so much great stuff in this book that even with the occasional repeat monster this is still a top-notch collection. If you play S&W then this is a great monster book to have.
I am even going as far as to say it is a must-have for any serious S&W GM.

Tome of Horrors Complete (S&W)
PDF 688 Pages. B&W interior art.
What can be said about this product? The original Tomes of Horrors were all great products that featured and number of "old school" monsters from previous editions of the game all under the OGL. It even had a breif "tutorial" on how to add these beasties to your own products. Now those very same monsters are back in one huge book "updated" to Swords & Wizardry stats. Nearly 700 monsters, all ready for your game. In addition to art and stat blocks for every monster there is also an adventure hook for each one. The monsters have been "scaled down" to fit the S&W rules better. One minor nit-pick. The original art is used (which I am happy about) but in their efforts to redo the layout sometimes that art is reduced in size (making it hard to see) and other times the art is placed over some text. Not often mind you and not enough for me to downgrade this product.
Now what I would like to have is one "Ultimate Tome of Horrors" that has the Pathfinder and S&W stats together with the plot hooks.

I have a few more I like.  I'll have to post about them the next time I run out of monster ideas!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Reminder: Adventures Dark and Deep

Just a reminder that there is only just about a week left for the Adventures Dark & Deep Kickstarter.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/623939691/adventures-dark-and-deep-players-manual

This is the best thing to a no-brainer Kickstarter.  The book is already done and the author is looking for some art to improve it.

So please stop by and support this really cool "What if" project.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Class Struggles: The Mystic

No. Not the fight between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, but something far more important.

"Class Struggle" is a new feature where I take a class from a D&D, OSR or related product and do a deep dive into it. I am going to focus on unique classes to each product, sometimes going back to the same product even to look at other classes.  In some cases I am going to look into a class and different representations in different products.  I am also going to mostly focus on classes that interest me. So heavy on the magic using classes.

I also want to start this feature with the Mystic, found in +Joseph Bloch's Adventures Dark & Deep.

Back in October of 2013 I spent some time doing a deep dive into Bloch's magnum opus and dedication to a game that never was.  If you have not had a chance to read over Adventures Dark & Deep I suggest that check it out.  It really is something interesting, even beyond the purely academic question of what would a 2nd Edition AD&D look like if Gygax had never left TSR.  It is also a very playable game and a fun one in it's own right.  It captures the feel of AD&D better than say OSRIC does.

If you want to just check out the new classes then BRW's first product, A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore has the new classes and few other rules.

The Mystic is one of those new classes featured in the book that was also talked about by Gygax in the pages of Dragon magazine.

Here is what Gygax said about the Mystic in Dragon #65 (from Bloch's own Greyhawk Grognard blog):
Mystic: This subclass of clerics is concerned more with prediction and detection than are other sorts of clerics. All mystics are of Good alignment, although they can be chaotic, neutral, or lawful within the Good alignment. As with other sorts of clerics, mystics would have seven levels of spells, but most would be of the sort to divine or detect. However, some new spells, and some very powerful upper-level spells, are planned.
I read this commentary from Grognardia on the same issue which got me thinking about the Mentzer BECMI sets and how they might have influenced the Gygax 2nd Edition.  To this end I will briefly mention the D&D Master Set / Rules Cyclopedia mystics.

The Bloch Mystic (for simplicity) is described as:
The mystic is a sub-class of cleric, and an initiate of an inner mystery tradition that seeks direct communion with the multiverse in order to achieve enlightenment. Insight, awareness, and a deep connection with ultimate reality are the hallmarks and ultimate goals of the mystic. Most good-aligned faiths have such mystery traditions within them, even if they are not enthusiastically promoted by the hierarchy or followed by masses of people.
The spells available to the mystic are centered on knowledge and defense, and his connection with the multiverse gives him special insights into the workings of the planes. He cannot craft magical items, but objects particularly associated with him in life, and even parts of his body, often become relics after his death.
This seems more inline with what is described as Mysticism.  I am currently reading "The Terror of History: On the Uncertainties of Life in Western Civilization" by Teofilo "Teo" F. Ruiz and this description is very much inline with Prof. Ruiz's description of Christian Mystics.

I think it is fair to say from the start that the Bloch Mystic is at least close to spirit, if not the letter of intent, of the Gygax Mystic.

Looking into the Mystic there are some "clerical" like powers and spells here, much in the same matter the druid has some too.   Interestingly, as noted above, they can't make magic items.  They can scribe scrolls which makes sense.  They also have pain management and meditations as skills/powers.
The mystic learns spells due to their "inner awareness". They have some spells they share with clerics and some new ones that really feature their differences. "Awaken First Chakra" is one such spell, Besides being able to glow under a blacklight, kidding...you radiate ultra violet light, you can also reduce falling damage and improve your dex score, at least temporarily with this spell.  There are seven chakras in total.  Also it is nice to see that for the mystic at least Astral Spell is 6th level.

Level progression is slightly greater than the cleric in most cases, but not up to the level of a wizard/magic-user.

As the mystic levels up their minds become stronger so that powers like ESP no longer work on them.  They also focus their attention on more planar issues.  This gives a party with a mystic a good hook to the outer planes.

The mystic has a certain "monk" feel about it to be certain, but only the asceticism and divine aspects; not the fighting.
Speaking of asceticism the mystic can also take a Vow of Silence.  He can cast his spells where speech is impossible and gain a 10% bonus to xp earned, but the PLAYER also needs to keep their speech to a minimum.

There are plenty of uses for a mystic in a party especially a party that plans to hit the outer planes at any point.  Also if the idea of playing a cleric is not appealing the mystic makes for a good change up.  Though to be honest the things people normally dislike about clerics and paladins is amplified in the mystic.

Other Mystics

The Mystic of the D&D Master's Set or the Rules Cyclopedia is nothing more than the AD&D Monk for the BECMI system.  Though the connection between the mystic and the cleric is made more overt.

There is also a Mystic in Fantastic Heroes and Witchery.  This mystic is somewhere between the monk/mystic of BECMI and the Bloch Mystic.  They do not gain spells, but rather a Prayer ability introduced in this game.

Finally there is a mystic in the 3.x Dragonlance Campaign Setting book.  This mystic is more like a cleric without gods.  The mystic gains their divine power from within.  In many ways it shares the same relationship with the cleric as does the sorcerer to the wizard.   This mystic is also very tied up in the myths and history of Krynn.

Final Thoughts

The mystic as presented by BRW is a solid class and one with enough flavor to make playing one an interesting challenge.  I would like to try one out to be honest, maybe using 1st Edition rules or one of the many clones.  Of course it shines the best under Adventures Dark & Deep.

The class is interesting enough that I also think it would work well for Castles & Crusades or even D&D 5.  I think some more spells might be in order to give it a little more flavor.   If I were building one for just a home game I would also borrow some idea from Mage's Akashic Brotherhood.

Also if I were going to add mystics to a game I would remove monks, or more to the point, return monks to the pseudo-Eastern parts of the world.  There are traditions of both Eastern and Western mysticism, but for ease I might use the Monk and Mystic as each respective traditions mystics.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Kickstarter Roundup

Here are some of the Kickstarters I have been keeping an eye on.  Most of these are funded now so it is about the stretch goals. Most of these are also ending soon.

Tome of Horrors Complete - 28mm Heroic Scale Miniatures
For 200 bucks you can get close to 50 minis.  They are white metal, like the old days, but not (as far as I can tell) painted. They look awesome, but even in my 3e game I am moving away from minis.
Still though these are very nice.

Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
This one should be well known to all in the OSR crowd.  900+ monsters in a format that should be easy to translate to any old-school game.
The more backer's this one gets the more art it gets.  See to me this is how to do a Kickstarter.
Joesph delivered on all his promises for his last Kickstarter and even got them in early.  The next book in the series he didn't even need a Kickstarter for.  So Bloch is quietly building his game, delivering quality books and supplements and generally just getting it done.  So backing this one is the right thing to do.  Really he kind of is the model of what you should do in a Kickstarter.

Cartoon Action Hour: Season 3
Loved Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2, so this one is a no-brainer for me.

Deluxe Exalted 3rd Edition
This one is just crazy.  First off it needs $60k for the book.  They go on to get close to half a million bucks!
I liked Exalted 2nd ed but I never got a chance to play it. 

Jeff Dee: Re-Creating AD&D Module Cover Paintings Part 1
This one has not met it's funding yet.  Some reproductions of some of Jeff Dee's module work. Featured are images from:
T1 Village of Hommlet (Back Cover) 
D3 Vault of the Drow (Back Cover) 
X1 Isle of Dread (Front Cover) 
S2 White Plume Mountain (Front Cover)
I'd love to see this one get funded too.

Adventure Maximus!
From Eden's George Vasilakos.  Funded, but still looks like a lot of fun.

And yesterday's newest one, Call of Cthulhu 7th Ed.

I was asked if I am going to back this one. I am not.  It's not that I don't like CoC, I love it. But to me this is not what a Kickstarter should be about.
CoC7 is funded. I like to fund Kickstarters though that look like they NEED my help. The ones that won't see the light of day without my input. Makes me feel like I am accomplishing something really.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Kickstarters for Monday

Here are some Kickstarters I am tracking this fine Monday morning.

The Victorian Academy of Magick Book
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/415194828/the-victorian-academy-of-magick-book

Cartoon Action Hour: Season 3
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/800609645/cartoon-action-hour-season-3

Adventure Maximus!
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1801360072/adventure-maximus

Tome of Horrors Complete - 28mm Heroic Scale Miniatures
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/centerstageminis/tome-of-horrors-complete-28mm-heroic-scale-miniatu

Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/623939691/adventures-dark-and-deep-bestiary


Re-Creating AD&D Module Cover Paintings Part 1, by Jeff Dee
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jeffdee/1227941745?token=95c6d060

That's quite a bit.  Most are already funded and are now hitting some cool stretch goals.
Adventure Maximus! is a new game by Eden Studios' own George Vasilakos.  It is an introduce kids to RPGs RPG and I think it has a quite a lot of potential. It's a bit more ambitious than the others I think.  Not in terms of amount needed to be raised, but also the audience.  I'd like to see it do well to be honest.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Monstrous Mondays: Monster Book Round Up, 1st Ed style

You can never have too many monster books in my mind.  Even I use one or two per book and my players are surprised or go "what in the hell is that!?" then it is money well spent.   Monsters have taught me so much over the years.  Monsters lead me to Greek Mythology. Monsters helped me learn how to write code to create databases and then later helped land a DBA job while I was still in school.   One day I'll update my old Access95 Monster Database, but that will have to be later.

Until then here are some of the monster books I am enjoying a lot right now.

Blood & Treasure 2nd Edition Monsters
For the Blood & Treasure 2nd edition game, but can be used with any Old-school game.  The system is a mix of Swords & Wizardry and AD&D 1st Ed/OSRIC so reading the stats is really easy.
215 pages, over 600 monsters.  Color cover, black & white interiors.
This one has all the usual suspects from the various SRDs and that is fine for me really.  There are some new descriptions and there are new monsters.
There are things in this book that make it more worthwhile than just monster stat blocks.  There are a number of conditions and definitions ported over from 3.x OGC that are very welcome additions to the "OSR Ruleset".  There are guidelines for Monsters as a Character Race which are quite nice.
Another import from 3.x are Monster Templates.  Now you can a Celestial Gnome or a Draconic Goblin among other things.  Really expands your creature database.
There are even four mini-adventures included.
Not at all bad for just under $10.  Highly recommend!

Blood & Treasure 2nd Edition Monsters II
The second book for the Blood & Treasure 2nd edition game.  This one has 197 pages, over 500 monsters. Color cover with black & white art.  No this is what we buy monster books for! New Monsters!  At 500 some odd monsters there are some here that can be recognized from the records of myth and fairy tales, (lots and lots of dragons!) but there a plenty of more that are completely new to me to edge it out over Monsters I.  There is similar material from the Monsters I book; conditions, attack descriptions and the like.  But the bulk is dedicated to new creatures for your game. This book also has a Chimerical Monster table for making your own chimeras. Tables on mutant dinosaurs and vermin.  Also a combined monster listing of both books.

If you have Blood & Treasure Monsters then you will want this one.  If you just like new monsters then get this one too.

Malevolent and Benign
Malevolent and Benign has long been a staple on my game table.   128 pages with 150 monsters, all in OSRIC format.   The monsters are all new (to me), with some converted from other OGC sources.  The art is quite good and the feel of the book is something like a Monster Manual 3 or a Fiend Folio 2 really. It sits on my shelf right next to my monsters books, or in theory, it does. It is actually out on my game table more often than not. The softcover is very nice to have and the PDF is fully bookmarked.
The book also has a small section on new magic items associated with these monsters.
For $10 it is a good deal.

Malevolent & Benign II
In many ways I actually like M&B2 more than M&B1.  This book is 110 pages with 150+ monsters.  Again we have a color cover (which is fantastic by the way) and black & white interior.  In fact all the art is a step up.
If M&B 1 was akin to a MM3 or FF2 then this one is the next in line, but with no loss of quality. The monsters are new and quite deadly or at least the ones that are not deadly are interesting.
I have not picked up the softcover yet, but the PDF is fantastic.
10 bucks for the pdf or 20 for the pdf + softcover book is a pretty good deal.  Especially for a bunch of new monsters.



Found Folio Volume One
A collection of creatures from various 3.x sources converted back over to "Advanced era" stats. What it lacks in art it makes up for in the number of monsters (typically two per page). Lots of 3.x faves here, ready for your OSR games!
130 monsters in 70 or so pages.



Honorable Mentions. Almost AD&D1 stats.

Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
If you ever only buy ONE product from BRW and the Adventures Dark & Deep line then make sure it is this one.
Let be honest up front. We have seen most if not all the monsters somewhere else before. Most are in the SRD or from other Open sources. The new ones are great, but they are ideas we have seen.
And none of that matters. This is still a great book. At 457 pages (pdf) it is a beast. Monsters are alphabetically listed by areas you would find them in. So Wilderness and Dungeon is by far the bulk of them, but there are also Waterborne (fitting in with the rules) and "Outsiders" or monsters from the other planes. But I am getting ahead of myself.
The book begins with two monster spellcasters, the Shaman and the Witch Doctor. Shades of similar classes from the BECMI RC to be sure. But they work here great and frankly I know someone will want to use these rules to play a Shaman one day. Heck, I once tried a Wemic Shaman in early 2e days myself. Maybe I'll see if I can do that here. The classes are not detailed and they don't need to be. The do what they need to do.
The Monster descriptions are a bit like those found in OSRIC though there are some interesting additions. Each Monster has a Morale, like that found in Basic and 2nd ed, though it is not a score but an adjustment. Attacks are listed in the stat block, though they are the attack types. This is most similar to "Special Attacks" in other rules. Also wholly new are "Weaknesses" which is an interesting idea and one I think other OSR publishers should adopt. Each monster then gets a couple of paragraphs of text. Many are illustrated thanks to the highly successful Kickstarter for this (more on that later). The illustrations are great too as you can see here and here.
All the monsters have General, Combat and Appearance sections in their write-ups.
Unlike 2e (and 4e) monsters are not confined to one-page entries. Some have paragraphs, others just a few lines. This is good since I think we would have something like 1000+ pages. I think I read there are 1100 monsters in this book. Maybe 900. Anyway, it's a lot. I spot checked a few monsters I thought might not be there, but sure enough, they were. Ok so the ones that are Closed via the OGL are not here, but I was not expecting those. There are some alternates and stand-ins if you really, really need them though.
The book sections are: Wilderness and Dungeon, aka Most of the Monsters Underwater and Waterborne, larger than expected, but not surprised given the material in the core books. Prehistoric Monsters, always nice to have; Dinosaurs and Ice Age mammals. Extra-Planar Monsters, your Outsiders.
Appendix A details creating your own monsters. Appendix B has something I didn't even realize was missing till I started reading the stats; a basic psionic system for psychic strikes. Appendix C covers random creatures from the Lower Planes. This is the first "Gygaxian" touch I have noticed in this book. Reminds me of a really old Dragon magazine article from years ago. Appendix D is the magic resistance table and Appendix E covers the abilities of Gods.
All of this in a PDF for just under $15.
I have mentioned before that Joe gets his work done and gets it done fast. Well, this is not only no exception but it is the new benchmark. Joe ended his Kickstarter and then got printed books out to people 6 months early. Let that sink in for a moment. In a hobby where we tolerate (although not quietly) Kickstarters with delays of 18 months or longer, Joe and BRW are out there, turning out product and getting it to people early. You should buy a copy of this book on that principle alone.
So should you get this book?
If you like monsters then yes. If you need monsters for your old-school game then yes. If you want to support Joe and the Adventures Dark & Deep system then yes. If you want to reward good Kickstarter behavior then absolutely yes.
Lots of good reasons to get in my book. It is also the best book in his line.

Swords and Wizardry Monstrosities
The first of two HUGE monster books for the Swords & Wizardry game.  This one is also my favorite of the two by just a tiny bit.
This has mostly new monsters but some of the monsters we have seen before either in the SRD or other books. That though does not detract from its value as this is a 560+ page book since in addition to that there are some new monsters. The cover is very evocative of the old-school (pre 1980) covers. I love this cover. There is much in common between this book and The Tome of Horrors. Each monster is given a page of stats, description and a plot hook. While ToH used some recycled art, this all seems to be new art. Even Orcus (which we now have 3 listings for) is new. Actually, the art is pretty darn good and I don't mind the occasional repeat of a monster to see some new art. Honestly, there is so much great stuff in this book that even with the occasional repeat monster this is still a top-notch collection. If you play S&W then this is a great monster book to have. I am even going as far as to say it is a must have for any serious S&W GM.



Tome of Horrors Complete - Swords and Wizardry Edition
What can be said about this product? The original Tomes of Horrors were all great products that featured a number of "old school" monsters from previous editions of the game all under the OGL. It even had a brief "tutorial" on how to add these beasties to your own products. Now those very same monsters are back in one huge book "updated" to Swords & Wizardry stats. Nearly 700 monsters, all ready for your game. In addition to art and stat blocks for every monster there is also an adventure hook for each one. The monsters have been "scaled down" to fit the S&W rules better.
Color covers, black & white interior art.  688 pages (that's right!)

Converting these to AD&D1/OSRIC/Advanced Labyrinth Lord should not be an issue.

Eight monster books and somewhere over 3,300 monsters (lots of duplicates sure, but all unique presentations).

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Class Struggles: Class Compendium Books

RPGNow has a big sale going on on various d20 books.


I am not done with the class analysis I wanted to do today so I thought maybe I would highlight some of the books with new classes for your OSR games.  Some of these I have reviewed in the past.  I am sure there must be others, but these are the ones I am most familiar with.  Not all these books are on sale.

A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore
One of the first, this is the book that launched BRW games and Adventures Dark & Deep. Part of +Joseph Bloch's "What If" experiment of a hypothetical Gary helmed 2nd Edition.  I recently went back and reread some of the articles from Gary about the 2nd Ed. game of AD&D that never was.  Interestingly he made comments about a 3rd and 4th edition game too!  This book covers the Bard, Jester, Mystic, Savant, and Mountebank classes.  The mystic was the first class I looked at for the Class Struggles series.

The Complete B/X Adventurer
This is the second book of the B/X Companion series by +Jonathan Becker.  Where Adventures Dark & Deep gave us a hypothetical AD&D 2nd Ed, Becker gives us a Companion set that never was.    This book gives us some extra rules but the main feature are the classes.  The classes are Acrobat, Archer, Barbarian, Bard, Beastmaster, Bounty Hunter, Centaur, Duelist, Gnome, Mountebank, Mystic, Ogre-Kin, Scout, Summoner, Tattoo Mage, Witch, and Witch Hunter. 17 new classes.  New classes in B/X and BECMI related games are a bit more varied since races are also classes.  But there are a lot of great classes here.

Basic Arcana
+Tom Doolan published his first work, Basic Arcana all the way back in 2013!  This is also a "Basic Era" product.  It starts with some "Class Variants"; Dwarf Priest, Dwarf Scout, Elf Sorcerer, and Elf Warrior. For humans we have the Martialist (like a monk) and the Barbarian. All of this and some extra rules on combat and a page of spells.

Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts
A favorite of mine, this book introduces a baker's dozen of new magic using classes and their spells. +Dyson Logos gives us the:  Cleric, Wizard, Elven Swordmage, Elven Warder, Enchanter, Fleshcrafter, Healer, Inquisitor, Merchant Prince, Necromancer, Pact-Bound, Theurge, and the Unseen.

ACKS Player's Companion
ACKS is still one of the slickest look games around.  +Alexander Macris gives us 19 new character classes, including the Anti-paladin, Barbarian, Dwarven Delver, Dwarven Fury, Dwarven Machinist, Elven Courtier, Elven Enchanter, Elven Ranger, Gnomish Trickster, Mystic, Nobiran Wonderworker, Paladin, Priestess, Shaman, Thrassian Gladiator, Venturer, Warlock, Witch, and Zaharan Ruinguard.  So a good collection really. That takes up about 44 pages of the book's 160.  New classes have new spells as well. Best of all is a character class creation guide. It look like a similar idea that appeared in Dragon years ago.  Basically it reduces any class to a set of points and you point buy a new class just like you would in say GURPS or Unisystem.  Maybe one day I'll check out a bunch of classes using this.

Theorems & Thaumaturgy
This is part a class book and of course all the new spells.  It's not part of the sale, but +Gavin Norman offers it as Pay What You Want, so make this worth his while.  The new Classes are the Elementalist, Necromancer and Vivimancer. The Vivimancer later gets his own book, but these are three very solid class choices.

Class Compendium
+James Spahn has been delivering solid classes since the dawn of his Barrel Rider Games.  This is a collection, edit of some of his best selling and favorite classes. The first 166 or pages are dedicated to a Basic Era/Labyrinth Lord compatible class.   Well this book is huge and we are given 52 classes, divided by category.
Arcane Allies: Alienist, Familiar, Thopian Gnome, Wild Wizard
Doughty Dwarves: Raging Slayer, Rune-Smith, Warchanter
Enchanting Elves: Dark Elf, Greensinger, Half-Elf, Sylvan Elf
Heroic Halflings: Burglar, Feast Master, Huckster, Lucky Fool, Tavern Singer
Holy Rollers: Angel, Friar, Inquisitor, Undead Slayer
In Shining Armor: Commander, Dragon Slayer, Knight
Martial Masters: Barbarian, Berserker, Gladiator, Samurai, Sword Master
Monstrous Marauders: Dragon, Goblin,  Half-Ogre, Half-Orc, Treant
Second Star to the Right: Fairy, Lost Boy, Pirate
Traveling Trouble-Makers: Acrobat, Explorer, Fortune Teller, Wanderer
Unhallowed Heroes: Cultist, Damphir, Death Knight. Eidolon
Urban Adventurers: Bandit, Bard, Bounty Hunter, Watchman
Virtuous Victorians: Automation, Investigator, Metaphysician, Shootist

New Class Options
One of the most recent one this comes from Genus Loci Games and +Johua De Santo.  The classes included here are the: Blood Witch, Chesh, Forrester, Highlander, Mermaid of the In-Land Sea, Mythwood Elf, Pixie, Prodigal, Ruca and the Draken-Knight.  I covered the Blood Witch in some detail a while back.

So. Over 120 (give or take) new classes.  Not to bad really.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The 30 Greatest D&D Adventures of All Time

Been kinda of obsessed with lists lately.  But this one does have a point for me.  A while back (2004 in fact) the Pazio run of Dungeon Magazine listed their top 30 adventures of all time.

I have been going through what I call the "Classical Canon" of D&D.  Not just so I have the experience of running them all, but so my kids can also enjoy these great adventures.  I also am looking for what makes a truly great D&D adventure; something that people still talk about years later.

Anyway here is the list with my thoughts.

30. The Ghost Tower of Inverness, 1980 (C2)
This is great one, but an odd one to run with a party in an ongoing campaign.  So I used it in my Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space playtest and ran it as "The Ghost Tower of Inverness, Illinois".  I used this as the location of the "Ghost Tower" which is actually a malfunctioning Time Beacon.

29. The Assassin’s Knot, 1983 (L2)
Personally I prefer L1, Secret of Bone Hill, but this is a great sequel and I can see why many people like it more than Bone Hill.  Assassin's Knot works well as a murder mystery, but not great if your players are wanting to go in a bust skulls.

28. The Lost City, 1982 (B4)
I played this one in 8th Grade when it was new and had a blast.  I ran it again for my kids a few years back and still had a blast.  There were so many things in it I had forgotten and I spent most of the module smiling to myself in memory.  It is a Moldvay classic really and really has the feel of early 80s Basic D&D.

27. The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, 1981 (U1)
This was one I played back in the day but I have yet to run.  I have it all ready to go with my 3rd Ed. conversion notes.  Of course at the time I thought this was great because I was deep into my Anglophilia and I thought ANYTHING from England was perfect. Given that it was written (in part) by Don Turnbull then it was bound to be good.  If I remember right I played this one after Lost City.  I loved the tenor and mood of the module. It inspired an adventure I wrote in 88 called "Home by the Sea".  Parts of that adventure were then later used in my Ghosts of Albion adventure Blight, which took place in Ireland.  So it all came full circle.

26. City of Skulls, 1993 (WGR6)
This is an odd one. I never played it, never ran it and never really heard anything about it.  This was near the end of my Ravenloft games and very, very close to the time where I took a huge break from D&D.  I will check it out sometime, but doubt if I'll ever run it.

25. Dragons of Despair, 1984 (DL1)
I never played or ran any of the Dragonlance modules.  I enjoyed the books when they came out and I liked the idea that everyone playing was going through it all at the same time.  Hey, maybe someone should revive this for the next D&D Encounters!  I loved the idea and I loved the new design of the modules, but even then it felt a little railroady to me.  Plus I wanted to use my own characters.

24. City of the Spider Queen, 2002
I am not a good judge of this one. I don't like Drizzt. I don't like R.A. Salvatore. I never really cared for the Forgotten Realms till about 4th Edition.  I don't really know anything about this module. I suspect it was added to the list because there was a dearth of "modern" adventures and most of the others were "Greyhawk" related.

23. The Forgotten Temple of Tharzidun, 1982 (WG4)
Now this adventure...This one I can get behind.  I never played this one, but I have run it twice. It's a death dealer and a peak into what might have been coming as a narrative arc if Gygax had been into such things.  This module is one of out first peeks into the horror that is Tharzidun, a god that is part Cthulhu and part Satan in my game.  I am weaving material from this module into my larger campaign.

22. The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, 1982 (S4)
The same is true for this module. I remember buying it as soon as it came out and I begged my DM to run me through it.  I have run it myself twice since, the most recent time with my Dragonslayers group.  This is one of my most favorite modules. It has a vampire, Iggwilv, tons of new demons (many that later became part of the Monster Manual II) and just enough puzzles to keep the players on their toes. Running it this last time was a lot of fun.

21. Dark Tower, 1979 from Judge’s Guild (JG 0088)
While I would argue that this is an obligatory JG entry, this one is actually a lot of fun.  I never played it myself and it is so rare on eBay that it has been cost prohibative.  Thankfully we have PDFs of the Original and of the 3.5 update.

20. Scourge of the Slave Lords, 1986 (A1-4)
Another classic getting the reprint treatment.  I remember playing this one in 8th grade as well.  My DM at the time folded the Lost City into the A series to make a campaign out of them. Also he had a copy of Grimtooth's Traps which made everything deadlier. Or as he said "better".  I still have a thief stuck somewhere in a pit trap.

19. Against the Cult of the Reptile God, 1982 (N1)
I have never played or run this one.   I have though always wanted to use it as a start of a "Second" campaign,  After running the Classical Canon, I would start with a new campaign focusing on reptiles as the enemy.  Work in some modern "Reptoids" and have a go at it.  Maybe someday I will still do this.  But this is a fun adventure to read.

18. The Hidden Shrine of Tamochan, 1980 (C1)
Another great old module I never played, but read many times.  Like N1 I always hoped that I could use this one as part of a second campaign.  Though given some of the elements I would not be amiss using it in my "Come Endless Darkness" campaign.  I already have too many modules/adventures for the 5-7 level range.

17. Ruins of Undermountain, 1991
Ah. This is one that I have always known about but never really bothered with.  It was Forgotten Realms so I never gave it much thought.  Though I always thought this was more of a campaign expansion, ie part of the the whole Underdark deal so I never considered it an adventure.

16. Isle of Dread, 1980 (X1)
Oh the hours I spent pouring over this map.  This was Tom Moldvay's love letter to the pulp era and to such classic horror movies as King Kong. This also included the first full map of the Known World.  I ran it many times as a kid and it was one of the first modules I ran for my son.  He wanted to go an island of monsters, "like in Godzilla".  This did not disappoint him or me.  More so than any other adventure, the Dragonslayers were born here.

15. Castle Amber, 1981 (X2)
Another great. Again Moldvay's pulp horror influences are showing here, in particular his love for the works of Clark Ashton Smith. This time we enter an old house full of crazy characters and plenty of dangers.  This could have come off as a "fun house" dungeon, but something in the presentation is different.  Maybe it is the undertones of horror and dread.   My players in our 5e game are going through this one now. I have dropped the first hints of the "coming darkness" to them here.
This is one of my personal favorites. Certainly part of my top 5.

14. Dead Gods, 1997
Dead Gods is not an adventure I have ever run or been in, but it is one I have used quite a bit.  There are a number of elements in it that I use for my "Rise of Orcus" plot. Especially back in the 4e days and the rise of Orcus adventures.  Honestly there are enough adventures out there that you could build a universe (and edition) spanning mega campaign on nothing more than stopping the machinations of Orcus.  One day I should give that a try.

13. Dwellers of the Forbidden City, 1981 (I1)
This is a great adventure and part of my "Second Campaign" (AGGHHH too many adventures to play!) it is also at the 4th-7th level sweet spot.  This one is a key part of that idea since it introduced the Yuan-ti, a monster I have used repeatedly; often calling them Ophidians.   It has elements that would fit in nicely with my 5th edition group, but I have too many adventures for this level.

12. The Forge of Fury, 2000
So this is our obligatory 3e adventure I think.  I never played it or ran it, thought I have read it.  Personally I think The Sunless Citadel was better and should have been on this list.  It was the first and introduced a generation to Meepo.  Sure he was no Aleena, but you could also say that Aleena was no Meepo!

11. The Gates of Firestorm Peak, 1996
Ugh.  Sorry, but there is a lot about this module I just don't like.  I don't care for the shoehorn plot for starters and I hated the Skills & Powers books. Som much that it threw me off of D&D till 3e came out.  It was "Lovecraftian" and I did like that.  I suspect that is why it is on this list to be honest. Though many of the ideas in this module came into sharper focus during the 3e years.

10. Return to the Tomb of Horrors, 1998
You have to admit. This is a total cheat.  I have it, I enjoyed it and I like the idea that the Tomb is something that people can keep going back too (whatever the edition).  As a sequel there is a lot to like. As a stand alone and on it's own merits though it might be passable.

9. White Plume Mountain, 1979 (S2)
I am inordinately fond of the S series of modules.  This one is no different.  It of course makes 0 sense, but works great as an epic D&D adventure. Plus it gave us Wave, Whelm and Blackrazor.

8. Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, 2001
In many ways I like this one better than the original. I like the idea of returning to the Temple I also like the idea of talking in game about adventures that came before.  Gives me a sense of continuity.   This is one of my favorite 3.x era modules to be honest.

7. The Keep on the Borderlands, 1979 (B1)
What can I honestly say about this one?  The Cave of Chaos were as well traveled as a local Mall in the 1980s.   When I think "Classic Canon" this is the first thing that comes to mind.

6. The Desert of Desolation, 1987 (I3-5)
Another total cheat this "super" module is made up of Pharoah (I3), Oasis of the White Palm (I4) and Lost Tomb of Martek (I5).   Though to be totally fair they are linked together. Another really great set of adventures I would LOVE to play or run (read them many times) but not likely to.  Maybe if I do my "Second Campaign".  There is a lot in these I have used elsewhere though.

5. Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, 1980 (S3)
"You know what AD&D needs?  Freaking laser guns! Lasers and killer robots!"  Seriously. Has there ever been a module to encapsulate everything the late 70s and early 80s was all about more than this one?  It even has a karate instructor robot.  I am going to add in a break-dancing robot that moves to a funky Herbie Hancock beat when I run this next.  Which should be soon. I am going totally gonzo with it too. I am grabbing bits of Gamma World and Metamorphosis Alpha too.   In fact since the characters are higher level than the module requires I am doing a sort of "Return to the Barrier Peaks" spin on it. I am going to add some material from The Illithiad as well.

4. The Temple of Elemental Evil, 1985 (T1-4)
Another of the classic canon. If you didn't start your adventure in the keep, then chances are you started it here.  I have always wanted to run this one and never have.  I have used pieces of it before.
I suppose if I do my "second campaign" I will start with this and change the temple a bit.

3. Tomb of Horrors, 1978 (S1)
We just finished this one and it was every bit the meat grinder it was rumored to be.  I had gone through back in the day, but running it was a completely different experience.  Now I might be branded as a heretic here but it is not really that good of an adventure.  Really it isn't. There are lot things in the adventure that don't make sense except in a D&D world.  That being said it is a rite of passage and everyone should try it at least once under their favorite edition or at least once under 1st ed as Gary intended it to be.

2. Ravenloft, 1983 (I6)
Here we go. This is my favorite module on the list. I just love it; warts and all.  Yeah there are some real leaps in logic in this one and there are plenty of reasons NOT to like it, but I don't care. I think it is great. It's a Hammer Horror film in D&D form right down to the small "Hammer Hamlet" village with terrified peasants.  There are vampires, gypsies, werewolves, really strong zombies, gargoyles. Even a huge pipe organ played by the vampire.  You can almost hear Toccata and Fugue in D minor while running it. I have played through this once and I have ran it three or four times.  I would love to try it sometime under the Ghosts of Albion rules.  I am going to take my 5e group through it when they complete Castle Amber.

1. Queen of Spiders, 1986 (G1-3, D1-3, Q1)
The first AD&D campaign arc.  We talk alot about being "plot free" in our adventures but when it get right down to it we love a good story arc and the GDQ was that.  I am not 100% sure that Q1 lived up the promise of the G and D series, but damn was it fun.
This super module was made up of:


Back in the day EVERYONE was going through this. It was the D&D Encounters of it's time.  The only problem was no one was doing it at exactly the same time or way.  So I know dozens of stories about how these turned out. I have dozens of my own.  Plus that Bill Willingham cover of the Giants is one of the most iconic covers of the age I think.

There you are. The 30 greatest adventures as ranked by Dungeon Magazine.
Do you agree or disagree?  What is missing?

Here are my honorable mentions.

In Search of the Unknown, 1978 (B1)
Every adventure starts somewhere. Mine usually start here.  This is my go to module for a quick a easy sandbox style dungeon crawl.  I have run it half a dozen times or more with new groups and it is always a thrill.

Palace of the Silver Princess, 1981 (B3)
Yes it is a rather silly adventure, but I really enjoy it.  Plus the backstory on it makes it a lot more fun.

Palace of the Vampire Queen, 1976 from WeeWarriors (V2)
The first ever published adventure or "DM's Kit" as it was called then.  What it lacks detail it makes up for in style.  I have ran this one twice now under various systems.  It works with everything to be honest; it is that sandboxy.