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Showing posts from 2009

Gaming with Kids: Sir Kevin and the Daring Rescue

Continued from Part I Sir Kevin was able to convince the mushroom men that he was not hostile through gestures, hopping around, and making funny noises. The mushroom men surrounded him and herded him down a corridor. Soon he was in the throne room of the queen of the mushroom people. He was surprised to see that the queen was a teenage girl named Ariel. She explained to him that she had fallen into a hole when she was a young girl and the mushroom men had raised her. As she got older they learned to trust her judgment and made her their queen. Sir Kevin explained his quest to rescue the unicorn and Queen Ariel ordered the mushroom men to escort him back to the surface. Once back above ground Sir Kevin set out in the direction of the Goblin's shack. As he made his way through the forest he saw what looked like a beehive dangling from a tree. Since there had been nothing to eat in the caves other than rats Sir Kevin decided he wanted some honey. He used his sword to knock down the hi

Stonehell: Halfway

I am halfway through reading Michael Curtis's Stonehell and it has ruined me. I have always hated reading dungeon adventures, and now I will hate them twice as much. Nothing irritates me more than having to flip back and forth between the map and the entries. It makes it very hard for me to enjoy reading map heavy modules, even campaign settings. I keep getting yanked out of the flow by having to flip back. It will be even more irritating going forward, because I now know that IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY! If he has done nothing else with this book, and trust me he has done other stuff, Mr. Curtis has set a new standard for how dungeon adventures should be presented. Each chapter starts with a map of a whole level of the dungeon. There is also a brief discussion of the level and a list of all the monsters, with stats, on the level. This is followed by four sections, each detailing 1/4 of the level. Each of these sections starts with a more detailed description of that quarter

Knockspell Issue #3

Finally back at it after exams and a nasty sneak attack by pneumonia. Alright, Knockspell #3 is a great issue. Let's start at the start! From Kuroth's Quill: First, I appreciate the bibliography. This is one of the most academically written old school articles I have seen yet. It is an interesting classification system for dimensional gates. Usually, when I run fantasy, I am very much a "keep the magic parts magic" kind of guy. I don't like to get into how magic works, I like it to be a mystery. When I run sci-fi I tend towards hard sci-fi so I go the other way with fantasy. That said, it is far easier to construct interesting puzzles when there is a basis for how everything works. I am talking about puzzles that challenge the players' creativity here, not just the match the color kind from video games. As usual I found myself coming up with some ideas as I read grodog's article. Pulp Heroes and the Colors of Magic: Akrasia has written one of my top 5 favo

Hello Readers

I have not forgotten you. I am just in the midsts of my final exam period. I actually wrote several posts over Thanksgiving that I have not put up yet. I intended to just have to edit them and put them up during exams. Sadly I got pneumonia the day before exams started and have been playing catch up ever since. The end is near though, it is all over Friday.

Gamist v. Simulationist

I want to start this post by saying that the first blog I scroll to in Reader every day is Grognardia. I find James' posts to be very insightful and well thought out when it comes to designing and running your game. The main reason I enjoy his blog so much is that we have completely opposite styles. His profile even states his interest in philosophy. I, on the other hand, am an engineer working on becoming a patent attorney. I like to think that I am a pretty good DM. I have brought quite a few new people into the hobby over the years and I haven't had a lot of complaints. I personally find James' work in Fight On!, Thousand Suns and other places to be excellent. He comes to a lot of the same conclusions as me, and produces stuff I like, but his way of getting there fascinates me. It is totally opposite of the way I do things. An illustration. In a recent post he discusses keys in dungeons . He feels that every lock in a dungeon should have a key hidden somewhere. He talks

Hex Crawls

Those of you who have been reading this blog know that I have never run a megadungeon before. I have always used more realistic dungeon settings, keeping all underground areas to a minimum and keeping the over all size of castles and the like fairly small. There is another style of gaming I have never indulged in: the hex crawl. I have never seen hexes as discrete chunks of the map. I always just used them as a guide to find distance if they were present and not worrying about themif they were not. I have always taken a more continuous view of overland maps. This is another streak that will be ending with my upcoming OSRIC game. I will be using James M's Outdoor Map as a starting pont in my campaign. I will be heavily modifying it for my purposes but most of the features will stay the same. I will be adding my own versions of Castles Blackmoor and Greyhawk to the map. I have been struggling with how a hex crawl works. How do I know if they find features in the hex and isn't 5 m

Coup de Gace

In a Dungeon Magazine editorial from last year Chris Youngs talks about how Chris Perkins loves to use the coup de grace. He also talks about how it makes the enemies more memorable and satisfying to defeat. I couldn't agree more. In D&D, regardless of the edition, death is the threat that gives the game meaning. The threat of your character dying is what makes the game fun to play, it is the other side of the risk/reward balance. D&D is not Burning Wheel or WoD, the players do not assign soft goals that have mechanical meaning to their characters. The goals of D&D are to find monsters and make their stuff your stuff. Though in recent editions the scope of the goal has been narrowed to killing monsters and making their stuff your stuff. Either way the reward is for putting yourself in physical danger and surviving. If you are never in actual physical danger the reward is meaningless. I often have the monsters stop to kill a KO'd character. Do the players get mad? Y

Gaming with Kids: My Nephew's First Quest

On Thanksgiving my nephew, 7, brought Risk with him so I could teach him to play. As expected it started out fun but eventually devolved into mindless dice rolling as giant armies clashed in lopsided conflicts. By halfway through the outcome was obvious and he was getting bored. He insisted on playing on to the bitter end, but was ready for adventure. In the past I have played Descent with my nephew and during our vacation this summer we played through The Lord of the Rings Adventure Game. This is an introductory RPG that follows the plot of the Fellowship of the Rings through three battle scenarios. We completed it and he even explored deeper into Moria. I did not have Descent with me and since playing another made up adventure in Moria would basically be playing D&D, I drug out the D&D 3.0 starter box. Sir Kevin was born! Sir Kevin was hot on the trail of some unicorn stealing goblins when he came across their cottage outside of town. He crept up to the splintered wood door a

Thanksgiving Reading

Looks like I have a pretty good pile of stuff to read through this weekend. Fight On! Issue 5 Fight On! Issue 6 Knockspell Issue 3 Stonehell Hackmaster Players Hackmaster GM (I found the two Hackmaster books in a used book store for $15. They look like they have never even been opened) I will probably cheat and read Knockspell first because I am excited about it. I hope to get my Fight On! Issue 4 review up, one for the Knockspell issue and maybe, if I am lucky, get caught up with Fight On! I am currently working on an inn to use as a home base in my OSRIC game that starts in January. If I get that finished I will get it up. Then I will work on setting some of the elements I want in the Outdoor Map


I pre-ordered The Dungeon Alphabet and ordered Stonehell today. These are both from an author, Michael Curtis, whose work I have enjoyed online and in magazines. I also ordered WHFRP 3rd edition today too. I think Stonehell will show up first and I can't wait to see it. Since I will be running my first megadungeon soon I hope it will be helpful.

Fight On! Issue 3

I am going to preface my review by saying that this issue was not as appealing to me as the first two. My main problem with it was that much of the content is specific to old Judges Guild stuff. It is well written and much of it I could still use in some ways, but I kind of feel like I am missing something when I read it. I realize that this magazine is aimed at the OSR and I am somewhat outside that target group. My review will be coming from that viewpoint. Frankly, I think that Knockspell and Fight On! are the two best gaming magazines out there right now, even if you are not in the OSR. I no longer go through the issues article by article in my reviews, although I do read the magazines from cover to cover. I think you can get an idea of what the overall feel for these magazines is from my other reviews. I will just hit on the articles that really stood out for me. The Wild North by Rob Conley. I point this one out because I enjoy Rob's work. I have both of his Points of Light b

Mutant Future Game 1: Postponed

Didn't get a chance to play Mutant Future. This will actually give me a chance to flesh stuff out more and get a few more people together for the first game. I did wind up getting a chance to make a map and key I am pretty happy with for the battleship New Jersey. I also got a chance to develop some things that we be ongoing threads in the campaign. The first is the Multipass. The Multipass will be a combination EZPass, PATCO Freedom Card (public rail system), and admission pass. The idea is that the pass gets you through just about any gate you might have to pay to pass through. At some time in the distant past the country was basically run by corporations and Multipass basically had a monopoly on the pay portal business. They also installed killer robots for people who jump the turnstyle. There is the added benefit that few geeks can resist the word " Multipass ". I also decided that the currency for my world will be Skee Ball Tokens.

Mutant Future Game 1: Prep

I am preparing to start my Mutant Future game on Saturday. The game will be set in and around the City of Camden in NJ. The game will be starting with 1 player. This works out well, he is the guy I started gaming with. It will be easy to test out the new system in that setting. While the campaign itself will be a sandbox, I find it is best to start things off with a bang. I am going to use Grodog's suggestion and have the battleship New Jersey be in the hands of pirates. The player will start as a prisoner in the brig of the ship. I will leave the rest of the evening up to him. He can try to escape, join the crew, take over, or whatever else he can come up with. This means for the first session I will need a map of the ship, some NPC's, and a land area for him to escape to if he manages to get free. I am struggling with the map, but I found some game stats (Robotech) for the ship here. I am going to use Jeff Rient's Slimy Lake map from Fight On! Issue 6 for now if he gets a

Getting Started

I am going to talk a bit about what I think is missing for people starting out in the hobby. To set things up I am going talk about how I got started in the hobby. I first learned about RPGs through gamebooks. Gamebooks were like Choose your Own Adventure books with a conflict resolution mechanic. The first one I had was a Car Wars gamebook purchased at the school book fair. At 10 years old I was a Tolkein nut and it didn't take me long to learn that there were Tolkein Quest gamebooks. I grabbed the two availabe (they have a sordid publishing history) at the time and was hooked at once. I have learned in the years since that these are considered by many to be two of the best gamebooks ever made. They had a full color hex map for overworld exploration and there were entries in the book keyed to the map. When you entered a hex you flipped to the entry for the hex and from there choices might lead you to another numbered section of the book. Underground sections were entered this way.

Fight On! Issue 2

I am not going to step through every article on this one, just call out the ones that stood out for me. Patrick Farley's Penguin character race reminded me of the old Dragon Magazine races and classes that sometimes just cam out of nowhere. It is wacky but seems like it could work. I am thinking about throwing them in as NPCs and seeing how it goes over. If it flops we can just not come back to it. The Darkness Beneath is going to be Fight On!'s community megadungeon. I will probably not use any specific levels from it, but as I am starting work on my first megadungeon it is cool to see what they did. Shields shall be splintered offers an optional rule system for shield where they can be used to basically cancel a hit. I like this a lot and it is likely to be the first rule I add to my OSRIC campaign after the first session or so if my players want more detailed combat. The Entourage Approach by David Bowman adds depth to the henchman system. He creates a head henchman that bec

Knockspell Issue 2

Issue 2 continues the strong run for Knockspell. It opens with another good From Kuroth's Quill. This entry in the series deals with dungeon dressing and gives some cool things that can be done with doors. As I have said before these idea articles are the kind I get the mist use out of. I often times find myself putting down the magazine when reading an article like this and spending 20 minutes just thinking about the possibilities. The next article is Dungeon as Mystical Underworld. This is a good read and deals with dungeons in a way that I never have in my games. My dungeons have always been small and geared towards realistic layouts. The next section presents some views and class definitions for thieves. I know there is a lot of debate about thieves but I have no dog in that hunt. It was interesting, I may try my OSRIC campaign without them just to see what happens. Next up is another setting description by the insanely prolific Gabor Lux. You will understand what I mean if you

City in the Worm

For centuries Noxxe was the most powerful city on Ocama. It was the seat of the great Xnips empire and the center of technological innovation. It was a gleaming metropolis of steel and concrete. That all ended when the Chaos Worms attacked. Four hundred years ago giant worms rose up from the earth and began devouring the works of man. Noxxe fell victim to the Chaos Worm god, the World Worm. The World Worm swallowed the city of Noxxe whole. But the city was too big for even the greatest Chaos Worm. The World Worm choked to death on the city of Noxxe and the Chaos Worm invasion ended. Few have dared to enter the body of the World Worm to plunder the lost city of Noxxe, and fewer still have returned with tales of their adventures. The first stages of the journey to Noxxe will be the descent into the tunnel that the World Worm retreated into before dying. This will be a natural cavern exploration and the characters will have to deal with the standard cave dwelling monsters. The second stag

Religion in my upcoming campaign

All of the following assumes a campaign world where there are multiple gods, who are real, and are actively involved in the running of the world. One thing I want to avoid in my upcoming campaign is modern style religion. Clerics' prayers are actually answered, the gods walk the earth in the form of men from time to time, many gods are known to actually exist, and they kind of act like children. This will make for a different kind of religion. In fact, by modern understanding, it wont be religion at all. It will be science. Faith isn't needed in a world with a traditional fantasy pantheon. A god's followers are not taking his existence on faith when he can show up and lightning bolt someone. Clerics' prayers are actually answered. Religion in a world like that isn't about faith, it is about reacting to reliable evidence and things you directly observe. Religious people are not the ones sticking their heads in the sand denying verifiable phenomenon in a fantasy world

Upcoming Campaign

My plans for my next campaign have changed. It looks like I have a group of pretty experienced players who want to play D&D. I managed to convince them that AD&D was the way to go, so we will be using OSRIC. I am planning on starting with just the core OSRIC rules and tacking on weapon speed and some other things as we go. I anticipate working in a count initiative system with Hackmaster-like movement eventually. I am seriously considering using the entourage rules I saw in Knockspell. I really like this as a way to make old school death sting less without having to nerf the difficulty. I also like how it ties the players more to the setting in a continuous fashion. I will be running my first megadungeon in this campaign. Now I just have to figure out how I want to go about that. I will likely set this in either a setting from one of the Points of Light books or James M's outdoor map from Knockspell (or was it in Fight On!)

Megadungeons 2

I have read a lot about megadungeons over the last week or so, and the more I read the more I want to run one. I have never run a megadungeon before. In fact I hardly ever run dungeons at all. I can think of two real, multisession dungeons I have run. The most recent was the 4th edition module Keep on the Shadowfell. This combined two things I am usually wary of doing in a game: a pregenerated module and a dungeon crawl. It was one of the worst modules I have ever read,let alone ran. We made it maybe 4 sessions in before going back to Traveller. The first dungeon run I did was shortly after high school. We had been playing for around 8-10 years at this point and I put one into a long running campaign purely because we had never done one before. It took about three long sessions to run through the dungeon and many great and memorable stories game out of that adventure. So this one was overall very positive. Generally my players pretend to be in the political thick of things, even at low


There has been a lot of megadungeon talk around the internet for the last week. I am hardly an expert on the subject, having never run one myself, but I do have some things that I would like to see in a published megadungeon. 1. It should be pretty short. I don't need to see more than 100 pages for a whole world campaign setting (and I can go with FAR less) so I'd like to see the megadungeon come in at 64 pages or less. 2. Most of that space should be spent on a description of the rooms/areas. I am not talking about boxed text to read aloud here, I am talking about good physical descriptions that give me more than I will probably give the players at first. Historical information will be really useful here. 3. I would prefer that, in general, an area of rooms was described with random tables given for things that could be found in that area. Give me good historical information, a good description of what the stoenwork in that area is like, and random tables to use to populate th

@ttack Thoughts

I have come to prefer a blend of sci-fi and fantasy over either in their pure form. This can take the form of science fantasy like Star Wars or Expedition to the Barrier Peaks style UFO's in a fantasy world. Post apocalyptic fantasy like Gamma World is also very appealing. I do not like prophecies, supermen, or chosen ones. Anyone like that is likely to be a villain in one of my games. Actually a villain is likely to be someone pretending to be genetically superior to others to control them. I want to have a megadungeon in my game. I have never run a megadungeon, in fact I have run very few dungeons period. There have been caves and ruined castles, but they were always realistically small in size. In order to have a megadungeon I will need to come up with a reason for it to exist that makes sense. I do not want to have character classes or races in @ttack. That isn't to say that players cannot have a character of a race other than human, just that they will not be forced to adh

D&D Editions: BECMI Basic Set

From time to time I will be writing my thoughts on different editions of D&D. I take a very expansive view of what counts as an edition of D&D. There are several games that are heavily D&D based that will be included. BECMI stands for Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, and Immortal. These were box sets published throughout the '80s by TSR and put together by Frank Mentzer. They detail the system that is commonly referred to as Basic D&D or Classic D&D. Each box set was intended to cover different levels of play. Basic: 1-3, Expert: 4-14, Companion: 15-25, Master 26-36, Immortal: after the characters ascended to immortal status. They are easily identified by their Larry Elmore cover art. The Basic Set was my introduction to D&D. It was not actually my introduction to the hobby, More on that later. This edition is laid out to teach the game. After a short introduction there is a very simple adventure in which you only roll the D20 to play. That is followed by a

Knockspell Issue 1

Knockspell is another magazine catering to the old school gaming market. It is published by the same people who make Swords and Wizardry and is aimed mainly at that game, although the articles work for any pre-WotC D&D. The first issue has a great Mullen cover, I really enjoy his art style, especially the way he draws people. Inside you will find an editorial from Tim Kask, the first employee of TSR, an article on one way doors and trick stairs, several character classes, 2 adventures and several other miscellaneous articles. The high points of the issue for me were: From Kiroth's Quill , an article on one way doors, variable stairs and sub-levels. These kinds of articles always give me good ideas for things to do in an adventure. Even if I don't use any of the things listed in the article, it sets my mind down that path. The Random Hireling Generator, I always enjoy random trait generators. They are one of the best tools a GM can have, especially for improv. Charnel Cryp

Fight On! Issue 1

Fight On! is an old school gaming publication. It will be most useful to people playing OD&D, Basic D&D, or 1st Edition AD&D. By extension it is also useful to people playing Swords and Wizardry, Labarynth Lord, OSRIC and other "retro-clones". That is not to say that it will not be useful to players of newer editions or other games. It is the kind of publication that gets the gears spinning in your head no matter what kind of game you play. The first issue is a slim 30 pages, but it is packed with gaming goodness. Inside you will find random description tables, a new character race, three dungeon descriptions, some magic items and other various articles full of gaming ideas including a primer on sandbox building. The dungeons are presented in very sparse detail, this gives you enough to work with but leaves plenty of room to make it your own. Overall I enjoyed the first issue of Fight On! and trust me they only get better, more on that later.

Expedition to Castle Blackmoor

I have been thinking about running a game set in the dungeon of Blackmoor Castle. I started my research a few days ago and thanks to some very nice people (you know who you are) I was able to read Supplement II: Blackmoor and The First Fantasy Campaign. Both of these were interesting reads but didn't help me as much as I thought they would. The First Fantasy Campaign was very difficult to work through. It was basically a dump of Arneson's campaign notes, and in many cases assumed that the reader already knew a lot about the players and the setting. There were some great maps of the dungeons, so I will be using those. Luckily, a guy named Harvard has an awesome site dedicated to Blackmoor. He also has a rockin' blog on the subject. Thanks to those sites and some articles in Fight On! I was able to read accounts by the actual players of those early games. I found the accounts by Greg Svenson to be especially useful. There is no way I can reconstruct the actual story of wha


This blog will deal with pen and paper roll playing games. I previously had a blog that dealt with many different kinds of games and with movies. I will concentrate only on pen and paper games and related items in this blog