Saturday, February 16, 2019

Free and PWYW DMs Guild Highlights: Week Ending 2.16.19

Every week, talented creators upload products to the DMs Guild, pricing them as free or pwyw in order to reach customers. Dozens of new free and pwyw products are added each week alone. It is a lot to sort through. My hope is that highlighting a few of each week's best supplements will help the designers get the attention they deserve. You can find previous posts in this series HERE.

Power Chord: Kill by Bartholomew Klick

This supplement for the Bard class features several new spells, but the highlight is the axe-wielding, headbanging College of Metal.

Waterdeep: The Plowing and Running by Steve "Jaspor" Orr

DMs wishing to expand their party's adventures in Waterdeep could do a lot worse than this kidnapping mystery set against a festival backdrop.

Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Character Suite by Allan C. Innes

I download variant character sheets reflexively. Many will never see the table, but I have to say I liked this one. While there is no form-fillable option (at least not yet), this 7 page "suite" offers all of the bells and whistles a player could want, including a mapping sheet.

So, A Wizard's Apprentice and a Demon Walk Into a Magic Shop... by Various Authors

This is a clever collection of plot hooks and adventure seeds based around various NPC customers encountered at magic shops. There is an interactive pdf with high production values. This was written by various authors, and if you like one piece in particular, the pdf provides links to each designer's product page on the DMs Guild.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Humpday Blog-O-Rama 2.13.19

Blogs are an integral, vital part of the RPG hobby. They serve as incubators for new games, sounding boards for new ideas, and platforms for up-and-coming talent. They keep "forgotten" games alive, foster discussions, and build communities. Not everyone can work for a big game company, command a large audience on Twitch, or get paid for their art or cartography, but every RPG enthusiast can easily create a blog and start sharing their passion with the world. Every Wednesday on the Thought Eater podcast, I take a look at what is going on in the vibrant RPG blog scene.










Non-OSR game blogs a la carte

OSR blogs  a la carte

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Free and PWYW DMs Guild Highlights: Week Ending 2.9.19

Every week, dozens of talented creators upload products to the DMs Guild, pricing them as free or pwyw in order to reach customers. Almost 70 new free and pwyw products were added this week alone. It is a lot to sort through. My hope is that highlighting a few of each week's best supplements will help the designers get the attention they deserve. You can find previous posts in this series HERE.

Zoek's Short Adventures by Filippo Columbo

This isn't just one of the week's best; this may be THE best free third party product I have seen on the DMs Guild. Seven fantastic one page dungeons. Tons of gaming. If you have ever seen the one page dungeon contest stuff you will love this. Easily usable with multiple editions. immediately.

Eladrin Variants: Arctic and Tropical by Diana Nock

A nice pair of eladrin racial variants. What separated this in my eyes from a lot of similar products was the really strong writing. The Feywild flavor is excellent, and the mechanics are well developed.

The Harvest Festival by Steven Williams

Highly creative take on a city's harvest festival, complete with competitions, game booths, specialty drinks, and more. Can be run as an unusual side adventure or as a fun competition within the party. If you are looking for something outside of the box to run for your group, this is it.

Barbarian's Bashing Tools (and other magic items) by Richard Thompson and Davis Lodzins

I loved this collection of barbarian-specific items. Lots of humor here, and you can tell that the authors probably have the Conan movies memorized.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Humpday Blog-O-Rama 2.6.19

Blogs are an integral, vital part of the RPG hobby. They serve as incubators for new games, sounding boards for new ideas, and platforms for up-and-coming talent. They keep "forgotten" games alive, foster discussions, and build communities. Not everyone can work for a big game company, command a large audience on Twitch, or get paid for their art or cartography, but every RPG enthusiast can easily create a blog and start sharing their passion with the world. Every Wednesday on the Thought Eater podcast, I take a look at what is going on in the vibrant RPG blog scene.


I have started doing companion blog posts to provide the links mentioned in the podcasts. I probably should have done these from the start, but I have never been accused of having great foresight. The links are listed below in the order they are mentioned.


Maps and Papercraft

Dyson's Illuminated Monster Manual

Star Frontiers for 5e D&D

Fighting Fantasy


Random Tables

Adventure Game vs OSR

That's it for this week! If you know anyone who might enjoy these weekly discussions, please spread the word. You can find my podcast on various platforms including Anchor, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, and Spotify. You can also keep up with what I am doing by continuing to check out my blog or by following me on Twitter.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Free and PWYW DMs Guild Highlights: Week Ending 2.2.19

Every week, dozens of new, up-and-coming authors pop up on the DMs Guild, pricing their products as free or pwyw in efforts to reach readers. My hope is that this series helps put the spotlight on the cool stuff they are doing. Previous posts in this series can be found HERE.

A Thousand Classes + A Thousand More by Vivian Ruby

New subclasses for every core class and almost 100 new spells. There is a TON of material here, so you are bound to find something you like. I thought the Sniper fighter was really cool, and spells like Clot, a necromancy casting by which a magic user can temporarily slow damage, make for cool alternatives to traditional healing. A lot of neat stuff.

Crafting Encounters: Room 2 by Kristian Richards

Cool "puzzle" sort of dungeon encounter, easily slotted into the Dungeon of the Mad Mage, with links to pwyw papercraft tie-ins. Part 2 of a series.

Druid in the Sewers by Stephen Bandstra and Chris Curran

Toxic mushrooms started appearing in town recently, and now they are everywhere. The PCs attempt to unravel the mystery in the sewers below. A short adventure with plenty of fungus.

Inflicting and Healing Lingering Injuries by Wallace Realini

Optional rules like these aren't for every table, but if you want to knock out some teeth and puncture some lungs, this is the supplement for you. I have used lingering injuries in my campaigns for comedic effect, so I enjoyed this one.

Trollskull Manor NPCs by Lady Luthien

Coming up with random NPCs on the fly can be a difficult skill to master. Ostensibly for Dragon Heist, but useful for many adventures, this short supplement provides a list of various NPCs with notes on their appearance, personality, and motivation. Just enough to give the DM what they need to improvise.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Let's Read Polyhedron: Issue 9

Check out previous posts in this series HERE.

I mentioned last time how the production quality of the newsletter had improved under new editor Mary Kirchoff, and issue 9 continues the trend. This is a double issue, coming in at 32 pages. This came out sometime in the winter of 1982. As implied by its cover, this issue celebrates the release of TSR's sci-fi rpg Star Frontiers.

Aggghh! Roll initiative! Oh wait, that's just Gygax in a Santa hat. Gygax extends warm holiday wishes and discusses ambitious plans for the RPGA, including sending GenCon tourney winners overseas to compete, whilst hoping its members continue "dispelling the charges that roleplaying is occultist and...aimed at subverting the nation's youth". Ah, the good ol' satanic panic.

In Confessions of a Greenhorn Gamer, editor Kirchoff recounts her first experiences playing D&D, coming away from it amazed by the possibilities. The game has the same power today.

Steve Winter, he of too many awesome credits to list, provides an overview of Star Frontiers, which is also now available on the DM's Guild and still has a loyal following. Winter states the game has sold about 50k copies in just a few months. He gives an overview of the set, including the various playable alien races, the setting, and the adventure provided in the box. I was just talking about wanting to play this on my podcast last week, and this pretty much sealed it. The shapeshifting "blobs" aka Dralasites sound right up my alley.

Cute lil' feller

Moving along, we get a crossword puzzle ("_ _ - Monster is a psionic monkey!) and a half-page of fiction.

One of my all-time fave D&D designers, David Cook, provides a Star Frontiers encounter based on the cover. It involves an octopus-like creature riding a big lizard. What else is there to say, really?

Dispel Confusion, basically the Q&A section, breaks into three columns for the first time, supporting AD&D, espionage rpg Top Secret, and the post-apocalyptic classic Gamma World.

The Top Secret gadget contest results are announced, and this is probably the single most gameable article yet published in Polyhedron. 1st prize goes to the "fibre-optics probe", sort of a wire-thin surveillance camera, but my fave has got to be the "telegraph shoe", which allows you to communicate via Morse code by tapping the heels of the shoe. "Thus, a message may be sent under direct observation of the enemy." Yeah, nothing to see here, just a spontaneous bit of soft-shoe.

A new edition of Fight in the Skies, now titled Dawn Patrol, is plugged. In Spelling Bee, Mentzer discusses the various polymorph sorts of spells. There is a short piece offering hopelessly corny TSR carols ("I'mmmmm hunting for a white dragon, with every new torch that I light"). Audible groan.

After a short comic strip, there is a feature on GenCon 15, and is always so hard to believe how much it has grown. "7,000...gamers flooded the rooms and corridors of Parkside attend gaming's largest convention." Incredible.

A scene from GenCon XV

Recipients of the RPGA scholarship fund are featured. Mentzer's tips in this issue's Notes for the Dungon Master are sadly uninspired. The Letters section is mostly dry, with questions about back issues and the like, although there is a bit of foreshadowing. One reader asks about modules possibly appearing in Polyhedron, and while Kim Eastland plays it coy, Polyhedron eventually contained tons of cool adventures for multiple systems. I will get there eventually!

The issues ends with a catalog of sorts, all RPGA related products, punctuated by my white whale, the awesome TSR belt buckles.

Although this was ostensibly a double issue, it doesn't quite feel like it given the amount of advertising in the back. Still, these continue to make for fun reading. Neat time capsules of games long gone by.

Early Polyhedron newsletters are now available on the DM's Guild.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Free and PWYW DMs Guild Highlights: Week Ending 1.26.19

Every week, dozens of new, up-and-coming authors pop up on the DMs Guild, pricing their products as free or pwyw in efforts to reach readers. My hope is that this series helps put the spotlight on the cool stuff they are doing.

The Crystal Cavern: An Undermountain Encounter by Richard Thompson with illustrations by Davis Lodzins

This is a short but well developed encounter that you can add to your Dungeon of the Mad Mage campaign. The party encounters a mage who has been trapped in crystal by Halaster. A lot of material for 6 pages, including a new magic item, new monster, and a nice little map.

Common Curiosities and Trivial Trinkets by Sean Hower

New trinket tables are always welcome, and the 60 additional "mundane magic" items presented here are often whimsical and creative.

Volume One of Rengerghat Butterbe's Studies of the Natural World of Madrikhar by Tal Woodblaze

While the title is almost as long as the supplement, new creatures are always nice. The highlights here are the various forms of plant life, some helpful, some deadly.

100 Non-Combat Encounters (On the Road) by Sarah Breyfogle

I do not hide my love for random tables. Lots of flavorful and creative little bits of color to add to your party's next journey. Usable with any edition.

Some cool stuff this week! Maybe I can be consistent with this, but only time will tell. Hopefully this will help shine a light on what some folks are doing!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Humpday Blog-O-Rama!!!

Do you like RPG blogs? Yeah, me too. I have a shameful addiction to them. Every Wednesday on the Thought Eater podcast I discuss highlights from around the RPG blogosphere.

Check it out HERE!

Also, I thought I would mention, if you would rather listen to my podcast somewhere other than Anchor, you can check it out on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Breaker, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, and Stitcher, although there is sometimes a lag with the updating.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Megadungeon Podcast!

Hi all. I have really fallen in love with this Anchor podcasting app. While I won't bore you with blog updates for every podcast I do, I thought I would share this one on megadungeons. I hope to do a follow up episode, so please leave comments if you would like me to discuss anything else about them.


Just look at that map, will ya?

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Check out my Podcast!

Hi ya'll. I have started noodling around with a podcast, just a way to share random gaming thoughts when I don't feel like blogging. Here is a link if you want to check it out.


Friday, December 7, 2018

Let's Read Polyhedron: Issue 8

Check out previous posts in this series HERE.

Well, if you can't tell by the cover, Gangbusters has been released, and this issue promotes it with a cover image and a couple of articles. This issue is also a much more professional looking affair, with more artwork throughout and a more consistent layout. It is no coincidence that it is the first issue under new editor Mary Kirchoff.

The Letters section is pretty standard fare. There is some reference to late issues being sent out, and you can tell that they have gone through the natural, expected sorts of struggles getting this off of the ground. The White Rabbit column suggests that the logistics of doing this sort of thing back in the 80s were nightmarish, with its talk of bounced checks and Canadian exchange rate fiascos.

The main section is part two of the Mike Carr interview. After some discussion of Fight in the Skies, the conversation moves to Top Secret. The most intriguing tidbit is what Mike mentions regarding the early draft. He says it was not so much a roleplaying game and was more "pre-programmed...with more of a flow chart type of arrangement". It would be interesting to see what that looked like.

Encounters is a new column that basically makes a little mini-scenario out of the cover image. So here Jim Ward does this Gangbusters shootout with Big Bernie, Lefty Fingers, and gun moll Maria Kirchinetti.

Someone must have pissed in Mentzer's cornflakes before he wrote this installment of Notes for the Dungeon Master, as it is solely devoted to screwing players over in sadistic ways. He gleefully suggests rear surprise attacks with carrion crawlers ("Ever see what the player...looks like when he's got to make 40 saving throws...before doing anything?") and casting time stop to steal spell components just for kicks. Sheesh.

Figure Painting is what it sounds like. Nerd's Quest is a forgettable fiction blurb. Rune Scry is a cryptogram puzzle.

Mentzer's Spelling Bee encourages strict record keeping of spell components as a way to control spell use in your game. It is really up to you if you consider this good advice. The main issue for me is the game could just paradoxically become a quest for spell components if you follow the 1e rules to the letter. However...there is a certain romantic quality in forcing your MU to carry around a live carp. So I am torn.

Mark Acres, one of the designers of Gangbusters, presents an article on starting a GB campaign. It is short but provides sound advice on different types of characters, NPCs, and motivations.

Dispel Confusion mentions that it is the only official source for rules answers and that Sage Advice in Dragon is more or less opinion. I found this interesting. We learn you can't haste a hasted creature. A bard returning from a long journey in which he gained 20k xp is out of luck, he can't train past 2nd level and really only gets credit for 4k. Sorry bud.

There is a little comic. Kim Eastland is now taking over as RPGA coordinator from Mentzer, as Mentzer will be devoting his time to what will become BECMI. The issue ends with a catalog page and membership drive info. I don't know if this means the Nor comic is cancelled or coming back.

Well, there is the sense reading through these that they are slowly getting better. I can't recommend tracking down print copies unless you are a really obsessed collector; there just isn't a lot of useful gaming material. At least not yet. If you are hardcore into Gangbusters though, you might try and find it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Let's Read Polyhedron: Issue 7

You can check out other entries in this series HERE.

We have a serviceable, generic cover from Scott Roberts. In the editorial piece at the beginning, Mentzer mentions he is stepping away a bit from the newsletter saying "Essentially I'm to be #2, right after Gary....I hope to...reorganize the books a bit", alluding to the upcoming BECMI D&D products. This is all at some point in '82.

Nothing too intriguing in the Letters section. Dispel Confusion, which is kind of the Q&A section, explains that rangers cast druid spells at their level-7, magic user spells at their level-8. Also, ranged cure spells are called too powerful and "would need lots of playtesting before addition to a campaign".

The big interview piece is part 1 of 2 with Mike Carr, designer of Fight in the Skies and author and editor of various D&D and Top Secret products, including In Search of the Unknown, one of the most famous adventures of all time. He talks about how he got into gaming, how he worked at the Dungeon Hobby Shop, editing AD&D, that sort of thing. He waxes nostalgic about Wednesday game nights, playtesting early material with Gygax and Ward, and attending early conventions, then indulges in a little bit of a pissing contest between Gen Con and Origins, which you see a lot of in other mags around this time.

After this, Gygax steps in to address a question in a previous issue about actions per round. He basically says that D&D combat isn't meant to be a true, detailed representation of actual combat, that things are happening each round that aren't checked for ("parrying, fencing, circling for general position"), and that "combat is glossed over". This feels sort of like when he explains hit points. It is an interesting reminder of how new some of these concepts were at the time, and how some folks had a hard time balancing fantasy abstractions with reality.

Spelling Bee is surprisingly good this time, it goes through a number of Cleric spells with tips for each. It reminds me why I allow spontaneous casting as a houserule though, as many of these spells see so little play compared to Cure Light Wounds.

Campaign Clues provides some tips for Top Secret admins regarding time, scale, and how organizations might work in a campaign. I would really like to play some Top Secret sometime; guess I will have to run it myself to make it happen.

Ranch Encounters is for Boot Hill and provides, well, encounters on a ranch. There are also tables for job openings and pay. I could see this being useful for any western game. Notes for the Dungeon Master discusses replacing higher level PCs after they die, along with a few "trick" sorts of dungeon elements, including a magical corridor that shrinks the PCs without them realizing it. Actually could be pretty cool when I think about it.

There is a page on a membership drive for the RPGA, followed by a mouthwatering gift catalog.

This is followed by quick wrap-up of recent conventions. The issue ends with another Nor comic, which is actually getting pretty good.

All in all another fascinating little peek into the gaming of yesteryear.


Monday, November 19, 2018

The Fourthcore Crew Have a New Kickstarter Up: 5e Team Deatchmatch

I was a big fan of 4thcore. Some of those folks have moved on and now do some cool stuff for 5e. It is weird, I just recently heard about some kind of upcoming 5e competition series that is going to be live-streamed, then a few days later I was made aware of this. My money is on this being waaaay cooler than whatever the other thing is.


It has already funded and the thing is apparently already written. These guys are endlessly creative and really know how to kill...errr challenge a PC. For more on what they do, check out their home base, DEFY DANGER.

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.


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. 

8. Other places I might be found hanging out talking games: Here, G+ til it dies, my podcast, TwitterMeWe, 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