Saturday, October 13, 2018

Hundreds of OSR Blogs in an Easy-to-Read Format!

The inestimable Ramanan S of Save vs Total Party Kill fame and originator of the Rammies, the only RPG award that has ever truly mattered, has given anyone that enjoys reading about old school gaming a great gift.

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Friday, October 12, 2018

OSR Guide for the Perplexed Questionnaire


You might see this questionnaire popping up a lot. I have enjoyed reading what other people had to say and thought I would add my two cents.

1. One article or blog entry that exemplifies the best of the Old School Renaissance for me:
Hard to point to one but stuff like THIS gives me warm fuzzies.

2. My favorite piece of OSR wisdom/advice/snark:
 



3. Best OSR module/supplement: Wow these questions are tough. I'll cheat a tad and go with Richard LeBlanc's d30 books .


4. My favorite house rule (by someone else): MUs being able to spontaneously cast from their spellbooks rather than prepare specific spells. Forget who mentioned it, but it allows for much more variety and creativity in play. 


5. How I found out about the OSR: When I got back into gaming I was looking at buying old 1st edition AD&D books and discovered that not only were people still playing it, they were making clones of it, adventures for it, blogging about it, etc 


6. My favorite OSR online resource/toy: Hmmm THIS is about as awesome as it gets. Also the Greyhawk weather generator


7. Best place to talk to other OSR gamers: Well that is kind of the question right now. I immediately fell in love with G+, but it is going away. I am optimistic with what I have seen on MeWe. 


8. Other places I might be found hanging out talking games: Here, G+MeWe, rarely on various forums. 


9. My awesome, pithy OSR take nobody appreciates enough: You cannot have a meaningful campaign if strict time records are not kept. I wrote that. 

10. My favorite non-OSR RPG: If you don't think pre-7th Call of Cthulhu is OSR, then CoC. If you do, then...maybe Savage Worlds.


11. Why I like OSR stuff: Nostalgia, creativity, DIY spirit, amazing talent, cool people, fun games.


12. Two other cool OSR things you should know about that I haven’t named yetTHIS spreadsheet, THIS Patreon. 


13. If I could read but one other RPG blog but my own it would be: Old Grognardia posts. 


14. A game thing I made that I like quite a lot is: I think I did a pretty good job with this adventure.


15. I'm currently running/playing: Running a weekly 1e/BX mashup game, playing in a bi-weekly Castles and Crusades game. Occasionally run a BX Stonehell game for my daughter. Jump into online games here and there when I can. 


16. I don't care whether you use ascending or descending AC because: Oh, but I DO care.


17. The OSRest picture I could post on short notice


Friday, September 21, 2018

Let's Read Polyhedron: Issue 6

You can check out previous posts in this series HERE.

Ok, let's see if Polyhedron can bounce back from a weak issue 5.


So I dig the Boot Hill sort of cover.

In the letters section someone writes in about a religious group trying to ban D&D from their school. Ah, memories of the satanic panic. What is interesting is TSR replies here that if you need help with "these sorts of problems" to write to them with "Attention: Duke" on the envelope. Maybe I don't know my TSR lore as well as others, so if you know anything about "Duke" and if their job was just dealing with crazy moms 24/7, let me know.

Where I'm Coming From references TSR's acquisition of SPI. Notes from HQ mentions how to become a Top Secret game admin for the RPGA, and again plugs the RPGA belt buckles (I want one).

Part 3 of the Jake Jaquet interview is terminally boring. They talk about calling the mag Dragon instead of The Dragon. Jake likes basic D&D over AD&D. There is a little talk about how computers could eventually influence the hobby but nothing is particularly prescient or worth mentioning.

Notes for the Dungeon Master basically talks about complaints about "realism" in D&D, something that has always seemed kind of silly to me. It is game about, like, elves and dwarves and stuff. This issue is a bummer so far.

Mercifully, Jim Ward manages to give us something worth reading with some Gamma World items. The Weapons of the Ancients include things like a Crystal of Seeing (glorified telescope) and a Holarator (used to project holograms). The flavor here is good and at least it is gameable material.

Spelling Bee spends a lot of time talking about adjudicating illusion spells. Dispel Confusion covers thief armor (no studded leather allowed), monks wearing bracers of defense (they can, but wouldn't want to according to the author...yeah right), and then a question/answer that really struck me as odd.

Someone asks about to-hit rolls for monsters with just hp listed. With AD&D, I always just used the max level on the HD chart as the base (16+ for AD&D), but here they say to divide the total hp by 4.5 for the HD and extrapolate from there. This would make many monsters/gods even more powerful...to the point where there would never be a point in rolling anything. Did anyone play that way? Like a Tarrasque would be a 66+ HD creature. I'm no mathematician, but using this system with the AD&D charts, the THACO would be 0 around 23 HD....so yeah, 66 HD would be what, THACO -21? I know its a tough monster, but sheesh. Weird answer imo. I looked at BECMI, knowing it deals with very high levels, and a 35+ HD monster has a THACO of 1, which is much more sensible. In fact, from 25-35 HD, all monsters stay at THACO 2. Maybe they didn't think this one through before answering, but they probably killed a LOT of PCs in the wake of this answer. Hey wait, now it is growing on me.



There is a solitaire scenario for Fight in the Skies. A list of some RPGA charter members. Tips on how to run your own D&D tournaments. The issue ends with another "Nor" comic.

Another not-so-good issue. Maybe #7 will be better.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Classic-Era Waterdeep Products to Use (and Avoid) with Dragon Heist

The D&D community is abuzz with excitement about the new Waterdeep module, Dragon Heist. Aside from maybe Curse of Strahd, there seems to be more chatter and anticipation surrounding this release than any other so far. There is already a steady stream of fan content coming out on the DM Guild site, but as Waterdeep is probably the most famous D&D city of all time (other than maybe the City of Greyhawk), DMs can also benefit from the classic-era products that came before. Here are a few to check out (and some to avoid).

CITY SYSTEM: HIGH USABILITY 



Known for its massive map collection of the city, the real strength of this set comes from its booklet. Filled with random tables and useful info to expand your campaign, this is in my opinion the #1 classic-era product for Dragon Heist DMs.


VOLO'S GUIDE TO WATERDEEP: HIGH USABILITY


The creative travel-guide presentation of this book serves it well, effectively humanizing (demihumanizing?) the city with flavorful entries. Compatibility with the City System map keys is a huge plus. Part of what makes this and the City System box so useful is that most of the material doesn't rely on then-current events.


FR1 WATERDEEP AND THE NORTH: MODERATE USABILITY


This was the Waterdeep bible for a while, and it is a good book. Much of it could find some use in your game, but a good portion is focused on then-current events. I am no Realms expert but I am pretty sure they have been like exploded and put back together a lot of times since this came out, and a lot of the NPCs have been dead and buried for years.


THE RUINS OF UNDERMOUNTAIN: LOW USABILITY


As I expect most Dragon Heist DMs will segue into the upcoming Dungeon of the Mad Mage, you can skip the original Undermountain. There is scant Waterdeep or Yawning Portal info to be found here.


FRE3 WATERDEEP: COMPLETELY USELESS



Don't be fooled by the title. This is one of the worst modules TSR ever released. This is a novel tie-in that makes the Dragonlance adventures look like sandboxes. The party doesn't even get railroaded to Waterdeep until towards the end. A couple of generic floor plans are all you might find useful in this turd.

Note: I don't own the City of Splendors box set, so I didn't feel comfortable recommending it. From what I understand, it reprints a lot of FR1 and the City System, so I never felt the need to seek a copy out. That said, it could be another good option, just keep in mind it might overlap a lot with other products.

Monday, September 10, 2018

With Friends Like These...



Gygax's The Village of Hommlet is widely regarded as one of the greatest intro adventures for D&D and for good reason. It is the template for thousands of adventures that followed, with its manageable "home base", down-the-road dungeon, and campaign-starter plot. One of the great things that doesn't get mentioned a lot is how it introduces several NPCs that are there just to befriend, then betray the players. This kind of diabolical double-crossing is highly effective when not overused, and can give campaigns a real cinematic quality, with a-ha moments and unexpected reveals. Here are a couple of other ways I have used friends and former allies against the PCs.

RISE OF THE MEATSHIELDS

It is not surprising that the 1e DMG spends so much time discussing the morale and treatment of henchmen and hirelings. After all, the term "meatshield" isn't exactly loving, and it reveals a long history of shoddy treatment.  How much abuse are they supposed to take? How many of their friends do they need to see die before they have mutiny on their minds? A well timed revolt can prove a disastrous reminder to the PCs that their actions have consequences. Henchmen can hold grudges just as easy as the villains of a campaign. This won't be appropriate for some tables, but if you have a group of players that flippantly churn through henchmen like butter, it could be a fun twist. They know the patterns and weaknesses of the PCs, and as the song says they "work hard for the money so you better treat [them] right". Their family members may also have revenge on their minds for lost loved ones; this can even allow for long-term plotting against PCs over years of game time.

I KNEW I RECOGNIZED THAT GUY

Undead are the gift that keeps on giving, especially when they kill PCs. PCs killed by undead will often rise again as undead themselves. Some very memorable encounters have happened in my games over the years when the party encounters a fallen comrade. This doesn't have to be driven solely as a combat challenge; you can play up the drama of seeing an old friend literally falling apart, or depending on the tone of your campaign, it could even be milked for comedy. Never let a dead PC go to waste.



Have you ever done anything similar in your games?


Sunday, August 12, 2018

Review: The Blasphemous Roster

So today I am reviewing The Blasphemous Roster by Michael Raston with Ben L and Trent B. The layout is by Luke Gearing.



So, Raston's home game is set in and around a sprawling, aged, and corrupt city called Infinigrad. The city is filled with competing Guilds that hire "Guild Dogs" to do their bidding. What this book does is give you tons of random tables to create the Guilds and generate missions for PCs to attempt for them.

The first thing that jumps out when looking at this is the layout. The layout feels like the DIY punk and skate zines of my previous life, with tons of public domain images presented collage-style throughout. It feels very much at home within the current OSR zine scene.



The table content is varied and interesting. The tone itself is on the weird and dark side, with a hint of gonzo. The adventure generator is particularly strong, offering tables for the target of the job, what the Guilds want done with it, the location of said target, the danger to be found there, and finally the reward. Let's try one.

Let's see what that Guild of maniacs wants this time. Hmmm...they want us to find this mad scientist sort of dude. Apparently he needs to be "revived or resuscitated", so who knows what the hell happened to him. We are given a lead about some sleazy flooded bathhouse. Ah, perhaps he drowned? This all sounds dangerous, even for us, but the Guild is promising us a tamed monster for our troubles. We're in!

Man, I sure do enjoy rolling on random tables.

I would recommend this to folks that are into OSR zines and random tables. You know who you are. There is enough content here to generate a lot of gaming material. I think I will enjoy this most in the printed format, as that will allow for easy flipping from table to table, and seems to me more suitable given the zine feel of the product. I can't say as to whether the layout will be for everyone, but I like it. Another thing that was cool about reading through this was getting to peek into someone else's campaign. The setting is very gameable, and the Guild device, while not wholly original, provides an endless stream of adventures for PCs. I would be interested in seeing other Infinigrad supplements that reveal more about the setting.

Check The Blasphemous Roster out in pdf HERE and in print HERE!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Let's Read Polyhedron: Issue #5



If you would like to read other entries in this series, click HERE.

Issue #5 follows the pattern of the other early Polyhedrons, with the main feature being an interview. In this issue we have part 2 with then-Dragon editor/publisher Jake Jaquet. Unfortunately, the substance is not all that compelling, mainly dealing with RPGA membership info and Dragon mag not being a "house organ". No really interesting tidbits. He badmouths the Fiend Folio a little bit.

The art throughout is hit or miss, with a recycled Tramp image and a cover with some super shiny helmets going on.

There is a plug for a TSR belt buckle I wish I owned. Talk of the R series modules being late.

Notes for the DM has tips on balancing encounters vs the number encountered roll. Some readers offer sadistic ways to kill PCs, such as ten foot pole mimics.

The Round Table recaps some tournament play from GenCon XIV. Dispel Confusion clarifies some rules. Dragon breath does damage equal to starting hp in AD&D, current hp in Basic. Saddlebag carrying capacity. Enlarge spell info. Bag of Tricks offers a few tips from readers, none of which are really worth noting. Crappy issue so far.

Spelling Bee reprints a couple of spells from Against the Giants, "Crystalbrittle" and "Energy Drain". Crystalbrittle turns metal into fragile crystal, which is ok, but for a 9th level spell it is awful, especially since it is 9 segments and you need to touch the item.

We get some tips on mini painting, some cryptogram puzzles, and a list of RPGA charter members. A Top Secret gadget contest and Gamma World art contest are mentioned.

The issue mercifully ends with a Nor comic in which nothing happens.

Probably the worst issue yet, they can only get better from here!