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 would enjoy this more in a printed format. That isn't a criticism, it is just a personal preference, but it feels so much like a zine to me that I can't help saying it. I get the feeling a print version will come out down the line. I also 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 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!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Let's Read Polyhedron: Issue 4

If you would like to read the other posts in this series, click here.

Wow, it is has been forever since I blogged. It is what it is. Today we look at Polyhedron #4. This issue is not dated, but must have come out sometime in early 82'. This issue is notable as it is the first issue to reveal the title "Polyhedron", still one of the great RPG mag names. A gent named Bill Huber won the contest to name it, and received a 2 year RPGA membership and a choice of RPGA module. Other possible names mentioned included "Quasit" and "Readings Gathered for Personality Assimilation". Wow.

So there is a cool Top Secret sort of Larry Elmore cover. Very 70s/early 80s, and I can picture the dude with a suitcase full of cocaine.

The letters section contains one from Gygax, who would often write letters to various TSR mags. Here he references the prior Jim Ward interviews and mentions the somewhat familiar story of how they met. Gygax basically noticed some of Ward's Appendix N-era books and invited him to play some games.

Mentzer's editorial mentions possibly producing AD&D posters of the core books, some notes on the AD&D tourney at Gen Con, and Gygax's yet-to-be-published cantrips for AD&D.

The majority of the issue is part one of an interview with Dragon editor/publisher Jake Jaquet. Just like previous issues, the interview is the highlight. It is great to read old interviews as they aren't really colored by the passage of time, and the answers, while undoubtedly tinged with a bit of marketing-speak, generally feel more accurate that interviews 30 to 40 years after the fact. Anyway, Jaquet talks about how he got the job and his philosophy for the mag.

Jaquet and moustache

The most interesting stuff comes as they start talking about Gamma World. Jaquet states that Gamma World came about from a series of anonymous notes, then simply titled "Mutant", given to him by Tim Kask to edit into something comprehensible. He and Jim Ward then worked on them, adding a bunch of ideas from Metamorphosis Alpha. The interview goes into some depth about the development of the game, what he would change if he was doing it all over again, and the ideas they had to expand it (that were never realized). I wonder how much truth there is to the anonymous piece; I always just assumed Jim Ward came up with it, although I admit I have never bothered researching it in any depth. Anyway, very interesting. The Jaquet interview will be continued over the next couple of issues.

There is a short piece by Don Turnbull extolling his love for illusionists.

Spelling Bee goes into detail about the fireball spell and lightning bolt, and the dangers of using them in dungeons.

Notes for the Dungeon Master offers a few trick and trap ideas, none of which are particularly intriguing, although the author does recommend using "THAC0", which I know was around long before 2e but here is implied to have been in wide use since at least 82'.

Dispel Confusion tackles the Wall of Force spell, holy water uses, and ways to learn spells if you blew your "chance to know" check.

Basically Speaking is a short article that aims to help new players. Very basic info such as dice notations, etc, and key pages of the Moldvay rulebook.

There are a few notes on upcoming RPGA events, then the mag ends with the first installment of the comic "Nor", in which a spaceship crash lands on a typical faux Middle Ages fantasy world.

That's it for this issue! I will try to do these more often.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Classic Fourthcore Adventures Now Available On DriveThru!

I posted a while back about how the Fourthcore crew had written the best 3rd party 5e adventure in existence. This is still the case. They now have all of the classic Fourthcore products up for free or pay-what-you-want. These were the height of 4e design; deadly, old-school, challenging modules that broke the rigid 4e mold and killed an awful lot of characters. Even if you never got into 4e, you owe it to yourself to check them out.


Friday, December 2, 2016

Secret Santicore 2015

So the entries from last year's Secret Santicore are trickling out. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like there will be a compilation pdf this year. I can understand why; it is a ton of work. Honestly I am just thankful to be able to start seeing what folks did. I will probably compile my own personal pdf at some point. EDIT: I just heard that a compilation for last year's submissions is underway and that they just wanted to get it out via blog for the time being. That is GREAT NEWS!

Anyway, I thought I would post a pdf of my entry. It is pretty silly, but overall I am pleased with the spirit of the thing. My request was:

"I request a selection of very British magic items from various layers of the social strata. Artifacts of dubious merit with downsides to balance out upsides preferred."


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A 5e Must-Buy: Fortress of the Ur-Mage

"The Ur-Mage opens the doors of his Fortress once each decade, allowing the heroes and demigods of the realm to enter."

With the advent of the 5e SRD and DMs Guild, the 3rd party floodgates have been opened. There was already a ton of stuff coming out anyway, but in the scant few months that DMs Guild has been up, there are over 1000 3rd party offerings on that site alone already, with more being added every day. It is probably impossible to read it all, and keeping track of even the adventures seems like a full-time job (but thank you Merric!).

Anyway, how does one sift through all of this to find worthwhile products? For every interesting idea, safe bet, and no-brainer, there are one hundred or more complete and total mysteries, abject failures, and gross money-grabs. 

Well, I can at least point you to one product that I consider the first true 5e 3rd party "must-buy" that I have encountered. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of good stuff out there, but there is only one offering so far that I really think DMs should rush and buy immediately. And that would be Fortress of the Ur-Mage

From some of the minds that brought you 4thcore, this "tournament deathtrap dungeon" carries on their rich tradition of turning system assumptions upside down, shaking them, throttling them, then curb-stomping them into oblivion.

This is not an adventure made to gently insert into a campaign. This is a one-shot meant to test the mettle of even the most experienced players. This can be run in a tournament setting, with multiple tables attempting the dungeon at once, or with a single group. The party or parties score points based on how much they accomplish. You know that annoying thing where it is hard to gauge how long a one-shot might take? You won't experience that here. After five hours of play, finished or not, "a horde of summoned Spectral Death Knight Cavaliers atop fleshless horses" gallop through and slaughter the party. Kinky. Determined parties will want to try again and again to reach the final chamber.

This adventure is filled with all of the trappings we have come to expect from the 4thcore crew: fantastically grim set-piece encounters, a myriad of cruel and creative monsters, powerful and interesting magic items, and killer cartography and artwork. I was so pleased to see that the legendary Crypt Thing, Robert Waluchow, had done the maps and art for this. He is a great talent.

This thing comes with everything you need to get right to it: pregens, handouts, magic item cards, everything. Priced at a mere $6.66 (!), the value of what you get here puts a lot of 5e pricing to absolute shame.

If you are looking to run an event at a convention or if you have a group of seasoned players that think they have seen it all, you owe it to them to grind their bones into powder with this module.
Published by "DDE Adventures", it is unclear what future 5e plans these demented souls have in store for us, but follow them HERE to find out.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Review: Tales From The Game Tavern #2

A while back I posted about how we are living in the golden age of the RPG zine, and the passing of time has only reinforced this view. It seems a week doesn't go by without some awesome new zine coming out.

I have been a fan of Grand DM's excellent Ultanya blog for quite some time, and it is great to see that he has thrown his hat into the zine ring. Today I thought I would take a look at issue #2 of Tales From The Game Tavern.

This is a holiday themed issue, but what with all the blizzards and snow going on, it still seems timely. There is a good bit of content for the price, with 28 pages of material (not including the cover). I enjoyed the variety, as you get class material, items, monster stuff, an adventure, as well as a recipe (!) in one issue.

Some of the material focuses around Krampus, which is nice and gameable. Highlights of the issue for me are a very nice hex crawl adventure, and "Krampusnacht Curios", some flavorful items that tykes might find in their shoes. These are minor enchanted items that eventually lose their powers; I like introducing things like that into my games, as they encourage use and do not affect long-term game balance.

An example of the high quality of the layout 

There is a "roast beast" soup recipe, the term taken from The Grinch that Stole Christmas, which I found a nice touch. It calls for a "turkey carcass". Yum...carcass!

This is a very creative and welcome addition to the burgeoning OSR zine scene. The stats provided are loose and generic, and thus fitting for any OSR game. Pick up one yourself and check back frequently at Ultanya to grab past and future issues.