Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge

I love to read and I love witches, so I wil be signing up for the 2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge hosted over at Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf.  I signed up for one of the previous challenges and read two very enjoyable books.  This year I am going for the initiate level.

 Pciture by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite

I'm not sure what I will read yet but it will definitely have some awesome witchcraft action!  If you want to sign up click on the link above, the button on the right, or this link right here!  In honor or witches and witchcraft everywhere, here is my warlock character sheet from our current D&D 5th ed campaign.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

2016 Year in Review

One of the reasons for me starting this blog was to help me keep track of my gaming hobby.  Thus it is time to reflect on the year 2016 and what it meant to me in terms of gaming.

Tabletop Role Playing Games

Looking at my recorded plays over on shows that I played eight rpg systems this year. Those systems were:

Delta Green
Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles
Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls (solo adventures)
Call of Cthulhu 6th ed
D&D 5th ed
Mutant Future
The playtest rules for Star Trek Adventures

Looking at this list I realize that I did quite a bit more gaming this year than I thought.  Also, I was a player just about as many times as I was a GM.

The new Delta Green is awesome.  I can't wait for the final book be printed and to arrive in the mail.  Playing Pathfinder was fun and brought back memories.  I really like the aesthetic of Pathfinder and am itching to start a new campaign from level 1.  Robotech was the first time that I ran a Palladium game for a group.  I ran an adventure in my favorite setting, Invid occupied Earth.  Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls is a great game that is simple and fun.  The new edition has made some great changes to help players out and yet everything is compatible with older editions.  I enjoyed introducing Call of Cthulhu to some new players via the introductary scenario The Haunting.  I keep hearing good things about 7th edition but I will probably be a stubborn grodnard and continue to run 6th.

The game that I played the most was D&D 5th ed.  A buddy has been DMing the Hoard of the Dragon Queen and I have been playing a warlock who has made a pact with Nyarlathotep.  D&D 5th ed. is a great system and a lot of fun to play.  The Mutant Future game took place at Brigadecon and was loads of fun.  The basic rules are free so if you want to play an old-school Gamma World clone I suggest that you check it out.

Star Trek Adventures uses the 2d20 engine that runs Modiphius' house games, such as the new Mutant Chronicles rpg and the soon to be released Conan rpg.  The 2d20 system is a paradigm shift for me and I don't fully understand how all the pieces work together.  I found the playtest rules for the John Carter rpg easier to understand than these.  However, I feel that Modiphius took pains to match the rules to the theme of a Star Trek adventure, in that overcoming problems is just as if not more important than combat.

Board and Card Games

According to my logged plays on, these are the following board and card games that I played in 2016:

Star Wars Empire vs Rebellion
Magic the Gathering
Scotland Yard: Die Jagd nach Mister X
Star Fleet Battles Cadet Training Manual
Rory's Story Cubes: Voyages

I will just give some highlights from these plays.  If you are a comics nerd then you own it to yourself to try out Heroclix.  One of the biggest issues that I have with the game is that the old design of the dials where sometimes difficult to turn.  The new version of Heroclix has redesign the dials so that they are much easier to manipulate.  This is the game where you can have the Hulk fight Superman!  Plus, when you are tired of playing the game the minis are perfect for superhero rpgs.

Another highlight would be the Star Fleet Battles Cadet Training Manual.  This is a free download that teaches you the Star Fleet Battles wargame in steps.  I really like the rules, although after going through some of the scenarios I am trying to decide if I should follow up with Star Fleet Battles or the simpler redesigned version of Federation Commander.

I have a stack of unplayed games that I plan to attack in 2017!

Play by Mail

In 2016 I started playing play-by-mail games again.  The main one that I am playing now is Duel2 run by Reality, Inc.  My team of gladiators have graduated from the training arena and are now fighting in Aruak City.  I appreciate that Duel2 still runs turns via postal mail as many play-by-mail games have moved to email.  I have also signed up for a slow game of Hyborian War but I am still waiting for that game to start.  Play-by-mail is fun and it helps me to get my gaming fix in while life is chugging along.

Interesting Acquisitions

Besides playing I am also a collector of games.  I especially like to look for quirky, old, and out-of-print games whenever I am in stores.  This year I found a copy of the Everquest Players Handbook at the local used book store.  It is based on the D&D 3.5 OGL and probably has some interesting ideas that can be mined for other games.  I also picked up a copy of the Force and Destiny core rules and a copy of The Black Crusade for $5 from the Fantasy Flight Games winter sale.  The Black Crusade looks like a good game for those groups that just want to mess stuff up.

That is it for gaming this year.  I will probably do another post covering cool books and comics that I have read this year.  If you have read this far, go ahead and leave a comment.  What was the coolest, most interesting, worst, or most noteworthy game that you played this year?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Things I am Grateful for as a Gamer

2016 is a year that has been described as a huge dumpster fire, and I agree with that assessment. Regardless of the turmoil going on throughout the world, 2016 has been full of personal challenges and tragedies.  In terms of gaming, 2016 has been a hard year.  Our group started out strong but once work started time for gaming became scarce.  I have been so busy that I started to feel despondent about gaming.

I believe that it is important in times like these to take an inventory of all the good things that you are grateful for in life.  I am grateful for my family.  I am grateful that I grew up with a gamer father and brother who introduced me to wargames and rpgs.  I am grateful that I have friends to game with.

I am especially grateful that this hobby is being passed on to a younger, creative generation.  I was recently talking to a former student who is a member of the game club at our school.  This student was telling me about the Dragon Ball Z and Naruto campaigns that they were designing using the D&D5e rules.  How awesome was this?  Here was the new generation of gamers doing what rpgs were designed to do, creating custom content and stories.


Why not?

I am grateful to watch kids participate in the tabletop rprg hobby and make it their own.  Creativity is one of the most important forces in the universe, and I am glad that our hobby fosters it.  Gamers, keep creating cool stuff!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Something Cool for the Russians

I was checking out the stats on my blog and I am getting a lot of hits from Russia again.  Russian hackers are in the spotlight right now, but hopefully these hits are a bunch of Russian rpg geeks reading my stuff.  In case they are, I present this video for the Russian Deadlands Kickstarter for their enjoyment.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Epithets in Your RPG Game

I recently read The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien and I was inspired by his use of epithets.  This led me to create a chart of epithets for use in any fantasy rpg.  When creating characters, roll a d20 and add the epithet to their name.

Epithet Chart - roll a d20 and add the epithet to the character name (ex. Black Leaf the Kinslayer)

  1. Kinslayer
  2. Honorable
  3. Black-hearted
  4. Just
  5. Outlaw
  6. Noble
  7. Petty
  8. Traitor
  9. Lost
  10. Stargazer
  11. Vengeful
  12. Weird
  13. Tall
  14. Fierce
  15. Kind
  16. Cruel
  17. Sellsword
  18. Sharp
  19. Usurper
  20. Horrid
Here are some ideas for using this chart in your game.  You can have the players use it to add flavor to their characters.  Award the players stat bonuses, magic items, or cool weapons for creating interesting backstories to go with their epithets.  Allow the players to create a way that they can use their epithet to influence the story (with limits).  You are creative gamers, I am sure that you will figure out a cool way to use this chart.

Friday, October 21, 2016

RPG Review: A Star Once Fallen Open Legend RPG

Special thanks to the fine folks at Seven Sphere Publishing for providing a free print copy of this module for review purposes.

This review has been a long time coming.  Work has overwhelmed me this year, leaving little time or energy for gaming.  However, I have been reading about the Open Legend RPG system and their introductory module A Star Once Fallen.  The Open Legend RPG system has one of my favorite characteristics; the rules are freely available online.  I still have not played the system, or any rpg system, since work has started but I have read through this module and I will share my impressions.

The Open Legend RPG system is an open source system that uses a central mechanic of rolling a d20 plus another die to determine results.  The publishers have released a module that teaches the game system while taking the players through a fantasy scenario.  The module is titled A Star Once Fallen and it is available on a pay-what-you-want basis from  This product is a combination of game rules and module.  I'll talk about the mechanics first and the module second.

A Star Once Fallen starts explaining the rules with character creation.  Characters put points into attributes.  There are physical, mental, social, and supernatural attributes.  I definitely noticed the large number of attributes there are in the game.  There are four physical, four mental, three social, and nine supernatural ones which gives a grand total of twenty attributes.  You will not have enough points for each one, so you must decide which attributes to focus on.  This is how you can tailor your character to be exactly what you want.  Want a dashing fighter?  Put points into physical attributes with a few mental and social ones as well.  Want a magic-wielding demon fighter?  Put points into physical and supernatural attributes.  You then calculate your thre defenses (toughness, evasion, and resolve) and your hit points from your chosen attributes.

A level in an attribute gives you a die, with 1 equalling a d4, 2 equalling a d6, and so on.  Actions in the game are made by rolling against a target number, such as a character's defense or an opposed roll.  To make a roll you grab a d20 and add any dice that a relevant attribute would grant you.  For example, if you have a 2 in Deception and you are trying to bluff your way past a guard, you would roll a d20 and a d6 and add them together.  All dice explode, so if you ever get the maximum on a roll you roll that die again and add it.  This mechanic seems like it would make for some wild action scenes.  I wonder if this system would be a good fit for a Wuxia style campaign.

One rule that I particularly liked is that every roll matters.  Failed rolls can lead to the characters succeeding with a twist, or failing but the story progresses.  This makes sure that the game moves along.  Combat is fairly straightforward and if you have played most fantasy rgps you will understand the mechanics.  Again, it centers around the roll a d20 plus your attribute dice rule.  The new wrinkle that combat throws in is banes and boons.  These are special conditions that you can try to place on characters.  To successfully use a bane or boon you must have the minimum attribute level required to use it.  For example, to use the Bane "Forced Move" you have to have a 2 in either might, movement, or energy.  This allows you to explain your use of forced movement as either your super strong character throwing someone around, your swashbuckler outmaneuvering them, or your psychic character using telekinesis to push someone back.

The module's story is presented in a sort-of linear sandbox style.  The characters are shipwrecked on an island and are given a starting point.  After that there is a series of encounters and events that the PCs can engage in at their leisure.  The characters are stuck on the island and have to deal with the Mcguffin in order to get off.  I don't want to spoil anything, but I will share that the island has warring factions, evil monsters, and locations where the characters can get into trouble.

One thing that the module does that I liked is that it introduces the rules progressively throughout the adventure.  The first encounter explains how combat and basic rolls work.  As the characters explore the island new rules are added depending on the encounter.  The idea of presenting them in steps as they relate to encounters is a good one and I think more games would benefit from it.

Open Legend bills itself as a multi-genre system while this module focuses on fantasy.  With a little bit of work I could see this module run as a pulp adventure as it has tropes such as jungle adventures, lost cities, and high action.  The story works well and you could use this adventure with another system easily.  The only things that I wanted that were missing were a character sheet and some more maps for the individual encounters.  However, a character sheet is available on drivethrurpg and there is a nice map of the island.

Open Legend is currently running a Kickstarter.  They have some impressive names attached to the project, including Ed Greenwood.  If you are curious as to how the system works A Star Once Fallen is a great way to introduce yourself to the game.  I am looking forward to seeing what Seven Sphere Publishing does with this system in the future.

Check out A Star Once Fallen at drivethrurpg.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Reflections on Fantasy Flights Games Losing the GW License and Material Anxiety

Rumors started to spread around the internet after Fantasy Flight Games pulled their Warhammer roleplaying game pdfs off of  Games Workshop was seen selling their IP at a trade show in Las Vegas.  People were speculating that Fantasy Flight Games had lost the license to produce games based on Games Workshop properties.  On September 9th we got the answer as Fantasy Flight officially announced that they no longer have a license deal with Games Workshop.   Now the mad grab for Fantasy Flight/GW games begins as gamers start to buy them up before they disappear forever.

Damn those are some sexy looking games.

Let's take a deep breath.  My wife and I watched a video by a parenting expert in which he explained the concept of material anxiety.  Material anxiety is when your child feels that they have to own all the cool toys and gadgets that all the other kids have.  As a gamer I have suffered from my own case of material anxiety.  I know that I have had to buy a game, often motivated by the fear that the game would go out of print or already was out of print and about to vanish.  Heck, that is how I ended up with a copy of the original Deadlands: Hell on Earth game plus six of the sourcebooks.

My message to gamers everywhere in the wake of Fantasy Flight losing the GW license is:

Take a deep breath, everything is going to be okay.

We, as gamers, do not need to own copies of every game that exists.  There are some FFG/GW games that I was/still am interesting in playing.  The Warhammer Adventure Card Game looked interesting.  I would love some expansions for my copy of Talisman.  The Black Crusade rpg seems like it would be interesting to run.  However, life will go on if I don't own those games.  Before you go on an internet buying binge, look at your shelves.  Are there games on there that need to be played?  Do you really need more games, or are you suffering from material anxiety?

Fantasy Flight Games is going to make more awesome games.  Games Workshop will continue to to  put out awesome games.  If you have always wanted a copy of Blood Bowl: Team Manager then this is probably a good time to get one.  Buy the game because you will enjoy it, not because it is going away.  Perhaps I am writing this more for me than for you.  Take my advice with a grain of salt, and remember. play well.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 31: Best Advice You Were Given for Your Game of Choice

The best advice that I was given for a game had to do with what to do when you have taken a break in the campaign.  The advice wasn't for any game in particular.  At the time I was GMing a Pathfinder campaign and we were playing sporadically.  We hadn't played in a while and I was listening to a podcast (I can't remember which one, maybe Haste) and the advice they gave for starting back up a from a break was to start with some action.  They said to start with the players in the middle of a fight or some other exciting situation and that would get everyone back into the game.  I tried it out at it was a success!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 30: Describe the Ideal Game Room if the Budget Were Unlimited

Oh, the ideal game room.  There would be a table long enough to accommodate eight people.  There would be shelves along the walls full of rpg books.  There would be an endless supply of paper, pencils, and character sheets.  There would be a display case full of miniatures from every genre.  To top it off, there would be a hooded cloak for the GM to wear.

Also, this room would work just as well:

Monday, August 29, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 29: You Can Game Anywhere On Earth, Where Would You Chose?

If I could game anywhere then it would be at Burgdorf Castle in Switzerland.  My wife has relatives in Switzerland and we have traveled there twice.  Her relatives live near Burgdorf and we have visited the castle each time.  There would be something totally awesome about running a D&D adventure in an actual castle.

Our 2nd visit to the castle.  The little one is my daughte, the other two are my wife's aunt and uncle.
By the way, if you travel to Switzerland there is an excellent game store in Bern called
Drachennaescht which also sells juggling supplies.  Check it out if you can.

German Magic card I picked up at Drachennaest

Sunday, August 28, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 28: Thing You Would Be Most Surprised a Friend Had Not Seen or Read

This is a tricky topic.  It wasn't until this summer that I had read all of The Lord of the Rings.  I know many kids today who have not seen Star Trek or Star Wars.  Also, there has been such an explosion in new geek culture that some people don't have time to go back and read/watch the classics.  However, I would be surprised if a gamer friend had never seen Big Trouble in Little China.  Big Trouble in Little China was a movie that captivated me when my dad brought it home from the video store.  It had everything I wanted in a film; monsters, kung fu, magic, a bumbling hero, and tons of action.  If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and go watch it.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 27: Alternate Question Time - Why You Should GM

The topic for today is the most unusual circumstance or location in which you’ve gamed. All of my gaming sessions have been fairly vanilla. We either play at a table, over Google+, or at the occasional comic book convention. So I am going to discuss an alternate topic.

Why should someone GM a roleplaying game?

1. The majority of roleplaying games require a gamemaster. People could not play if there were no dungeon masters, storytellers, referees, etc. When you GM you take over a sacred role that is critical to the hobby.

2. Being a GM helps you learn empathy for all of the GMs who have come before you.

3. It is a great way to be creative. What I enjoy best about being a GM is making up interesting situations for the PCs and improvising off of their decisions.

4. If you are lucky you can take part in a total party kill!

5. Your players will be grateful that they have had to chance to play in a game.

Friday, August 26, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 26: What Hobbies Go Well With RPGs?

I think that reading and collecting comics are two hobbies that go well with rpgs.  Role playing games have rules and setting material that needs to be read.  Therefore it makes sense that someone who likes to read would be willing to slog through a 400 page book in order to play out novels of their own.  Role playing games have also been a medium that includes tons of art.  Comic books have used art and words to create imaginative worlds for a long time.  Comic books were one of the first places were I saw ads for role playing games as a kid.  Using art as inspiration for storytelling is a perfect example of why comics and rpgs go together.

An old Star Frontiers ad

Thursday, August 25, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 25: What Makes for a Good Character?

I think that a good character has a unique or unusual trait that makes them memorable.  There are hundreds of fighters and sell-swords, but only one fighter who quotes Trollish poetry as he stabs you in the throat.  There are many superheroes who use magic, but how many are humans who accidentally trapped themselves into the body of a monkey?  In my opinion, to make your character stand out give them a mannerism or quirk that will have people talking about them.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 24: What is the Game You Are Most Likely to Give Others?

If I had to give a game to someone who was not familiar with rpgs I would give them a copy of Basic Fantasy.  There are a few reasons for this.

1.  Basic Fantasy is an easy system.  It mimics the Basic D&D rules while adding ascending armor class,  The rules are a quick read and concepts are explained well.

2.  Since Basic Fantasy is from the D&D family, it will give the new player exposure to the common tropes and rules of role-playing.  They will learn about classes, levels, orcs, saving throws, xp, etc.  They will understand what old-school grognards as well as 3.X players are talking about.

3.  The books are inexpensive and pdfs are available for free.  The rulebook can be purchased for $5.  For less than $10 I could give them the rules and an adventure.

If you haven't checked this system out, here is the link to their website:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 23: Share One of Your 'Worst Luck' Stories

Again, today's post has to do with Hackmaster.  This is not so much a 'Worst Luck' story as it is a 'I Rolled Poorly but Everyone Had a Good Laugh" story.  After our campaign using the original Hackmaster rules, we started a new one using Hackmaster Basic.  I created another thief who had somewhat better skills.  One skill that I purchased was monster lore.  We were on a boat and were examining an empty crate.  The crate had been used to smuggle a giant scorpion, which was now loose on the boat.  Our PCs did not know what the monster was yet.  I rolled against my monster lore skill to try and deduce what the monster was from looking at the crate.  I failed miserably and the GM told me that I definitely thought that the monster was a manticore.  We proceeded to run around the boat shouting "Manticore, there is a manticore on the loose!"  That became our rallying cry for the rest of the campaign.


Monday, August 22, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 22: Random Events that Keep Happening

I was involved in a Hackmaster campaign.  We started with the original Hackmaster rules and my character had horrible skills.  Well, he did have an excellent skill in Dig Proper Grave due to his time on a prison work crew.  He was a thief and all of his other skills where horrible.  Every adventure he would try to steal something or pick a lock.  He never rolled well enough.  Dice are supposed to be random, right?  My thief couldn't hit a skill roll once.  He couldn't pick a pocket even though he and his mark were waist deep in sewer water.  He always rolled so poorly that the GM had to introduce an NPC who could get all the thief stuff done for us.  It was pretty embarrassing to have to rely on the bar maiden to pick a lock for my thief.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 21: Funniest Misinterpretation of a Rule in Your Group?

Ah, Pathfinder feats, there are so many of them!  One of my players had his fighter take the feat Spring Attack.  This was early on in our campaign so everyone was still new to the rules.  Spring Attack allows you to run up to a foe, attack them, and then run back without provoking an attack of opportunity.  The way that my player explained it to me was that he was allowed to use his full movement to approach a foe, attack him, and them use his full movement to spring back.  It felt like his character was the Hulk, making huge leaps around the map.  As I said, we were still new to the rules so nobody questioned it.  During the next session we had a new player who had some experience, and he politely informed us that he didn't think Spring Attack worked like that. As DM I felt a tad embarrassed and we nerfed the fighter.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 20: Most Challenging but Rewarding System You Have Learned?

The most challenging but rewarding system that I have learned is the d20 3.X D&D/Pathfinder system.  The first version of the d20 3.X system that I played was Pathfinder .  While the basic mechanics of the system are simple (roll a d20 and add modifiers), the elegance of the system is how much can be added.  The feats and combat options alone create a sophisticated mechanism that allows for unlimited variety in play.

GMing Pathfinder was a challenge, especially when I was running adventures for up to seven players. Reading the Pathfinder rules reminded me of wargaming rules.  They were long, complicated, and rules from one section affected rules in another section.  Trying to learn and remember enough to run a game was challenging and I am not sure if I ever had mastery of the system.  In fact, I had to quit running for a while due to fatigue.  However, all that rules-learning worked my brain like a muscle.

I now have a great respect for the d20 3.X system.  I appreciate how huge the system is and how many different options are available to those who play it.  I appreciate the elegance of how all the rules can work together.  My favorite thing about the d20 3.X system has to be the OGL that it was published under.  The OGL paved the way for other games such as Mutants and Masterminds, Spycraft, Castles & Crusades, and the OSR retro-clone movement.  When Paizo releases Starfinder I know that I will be ready to run some d20 again, attacks of opportunity be damned!

Friday, August 19, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 19: Best Way to Learn a New Game

Today's topic for RPGaDay is about the best way to learn a new game.  I have a strong opinion on this issue.  I believe that the best way to learn a new game is through a well written quick-start version of the rules.  Many role-playing games have produced quick-start guides that include a condensed version of the rules that allow new players to learn the bare bones of the system.  Players can take these quick-start rules and start playing the game with little effort.

Here is why I think that quick-start rules are the best way to learn new games.  Quick-start guides force the designers to boil the game down to the most basic rules.  Therefore, players can learn how the game works and can put that knowledge into practice as soon as possible.  One of the best ways to learn something is by doing it, so the sooner players can have their characters picking locks and killing orcs the better they will learn the system.  I think that beginner box sets are just as useful for the same reason.

I have ranted about my love for quick-starts on this blog in the past.  I think that they are a brilliant way to garner interest in your game.  I will close with some links to quick-starts that I believe are excellent for learning a new system.

Call of Cthulhu 6th edition quick-start - I know that there is a quick-start for the 7th edition of Call of Cthulhu, but this is the version that I am familiar with.  This product gets bonus points for having rules for character creation.

DC Adventures quick-start - Green Ronin created two quick-starts for DC Adventures.  This one pits Batman against Bane.  I like this one because it explains the character's powers and walks you through combat and skill checks.

Edge of the Empire quick-start - Fantasy Flight created this quick-start adventure for Free RPG Day.  I wrote an in depth review in a previous post.  This quick-start covers many of the rules of the game and explains how to play out the various encounters.  The only downside is that you will need some of those special Star Wars dice or use a conversion chart.

Conan RPG quick-start - I'll be honest, I haven't tried this one yet.  I did read it and I am now super excited for the new Conan rpg.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

#RPGaDAY 2016 Day 18: What Innovation Could RPGs Benefit Most From?

One innovation that I believe RPGs could benefit from is what I am going to term as the "hybrid RPG."  I am using the term hybrid RPG to describe games that cross over from the traditional format of RPGs (rulebooks and supplementary materials) to other forms of games (board games, card games, computer games, etc.).  Most hobbyists would love to see the player base of RPGs grow.  Pulling in new players has its challenges.  Giving someone a 400 page rule book and a character sheet that resembles a tax form can scare away potential recruits.  However, what if you can introduce players to something that resembles a board game, or an app game?  Then they can be transitioned to a fuller RPG experience.  The "Beginner Boxes" that some of the companies sell are close to this idea, but I think that companies can be more innovative and use more types of media.

Monopoly as a hybrid rpg.  Who hasn't role-played with their token? 

While there are examples of these hybrid games already (No Thank You Evil), one that is being designed specifically for this is for Trail of Cthulhu.  I was listening to an interview with a designer from Pelgrane Press and he was describing the new boxed set for Trail of Cthulhu.  The boxed set is being designed to resemble a board game.  Players will have stand-up tokens and a board on which they move around.  The idea will be to have people play Trail of Cthulhu as a board game while being tricked into role-playing.  I am not sure of the status of this project or how much it will change, but I think that this is a great idea to bring new players into the hobby.  I think that if people can figure out how to use this idea with card games, apps and social media then the hobby can have a huge potential pool of new players.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 17: Which Fictional Character Would Best Fit in Your Group?

Today's question for RPGaDay 2016 is which fictional character would best fit in our group.  In our adventures players like to have fun and they like to cause trouble.  After all, that is the point of playing games.  If you are going to play pretend then let of some steam and go wild.  Therefore, I think that the fictional character who would fit in best would be Michelangelo, the coolest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

Michelangelo is all about having fun.  He is crazy and not afraid to try new things.  Will he can be unconventional he never forgets the importance of teamwork.  These are all qualities that would fit in with our gaming group.  Plus, he would bring some great pizza!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016: Day 16 What Historical Person Would You Want in Your Group?

Today's question is what historical person would you want in your game group and what would you want the game to be?  This is an interesting question.  I have a list of historical figures that I would like to have in a Diplomacy game (Churchill, Kissinger, Machiavelli, Richelieu, Napoleon, and Wilson).  I have never given any thought to including a historical figure in a gaming group.  If I had to choose someone I might choose H.G. Wells and the game would be Savage Worlds.

H.G. Wells playing Little Wars
I would choose H.G. Wells because his Little Wars miniatures game is a precursor to the modern RPG, as D&D evolved from miniatures games.  I would choose Savage Worlds because that system uses miniatures and he would feel right at home.  I would run a science fiction game as he was a science fiction writer.  Perhaps we could run War of the Worlds: The Remains since it is based on one of his books!

Monday, August 15, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016: Day 15 Your Best Source of Inspiration for RPGs?

My best source of inspiration for RPGs comes from reading books and comics.  I am an avid reader and I usually have at least 2 books going at any time.  Many of my best ideas for adventures and campaigns come from books or comics that I have read.  I never worry about being called out for stealing ideas.  Usually nobody has read the book that I have taken an idea from, or if they have read it they are super excited about it.

Here are a couple of the notable elements that I have used from books in my adventures.  I once tasked a group of adventurers to sneak the Red Death into Prospero's ball from Poe's "Masque of the Red Death."  I adapted the short story "In the Stacks" by Scott Lynch into a Pathfinder adventure.  The story is about a group of magicians that need to return a book to a magical library.  Imagine a library full of books that want to kill you, that is the idea of the story and a perfect setup for an RPG adventure.

The Red Death arrives on time!
Books are an infinite source of ideas.  I could problem grab an idea from every book that I have read for an RPG adventure.  If you need some ideas, grab a book and start reading.  To paraphrase Captain OG Readmore, "Reading is a trip!"

Sunday, August 14, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016: Day 14 Alternate Question Time!

The question for today is who is your dream team of people that you used to game with?  I have kept in touch with my core group and we have gamed fairly frequently.  Therefore my dream team is more or less still around.  So I am answering an alternate question for RPGaDay 2016.

What is your preferred method of character improvement and why?

We are currently playing Hoard of the Dragon Queen with the D&D 5e rules.  Our DM is letting us level up after each session.  This is probably my favorite method of character improvement.  It is quick and simple.  It allows for our characters to grow and progress through the story.  Also, no one has to count or keep track of xp.  I am definitely going to put this method in my GM tool kit.

My second favorite method of character improvement is from Call of Cthulhu.  I love how characters get to roll to improve skills at the end of an adventure, and that the higher a skill is the harder it is to improve it.  The Call of Cthulhu method feels the most realistic to me.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016: Day 13 What Makes a Successful Campaign?

What does make a successful campaign?  I believe that commitment from the group is one of the best ingredients for a campaign to flourish.  If everyone is ready to meet on game day and have fun, then the campaign can be successful.  In order to make sure that everyone has fun, the GM should include action and make sure that everybody's character is able to have their moment of glory.  That is what I believe it takes for a successful campaign.

Friday, August 12, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016: Day 12 Which Game is Your Group Most Likely to Play Next?

The game we are most likely to play next is DC Adventures by Green Ronin.  Everyone in our group is a big fan of comics and we all like the DC universe.  We might have a big argument as to which DC universe the game will be set.  I prefer either the pre-Crisis or Injustice: Gods Among Us settings.  Others might prefer New-52 or Rebirth.  Nothing is more invigorating than a nerd debate about comics continuity.

By the way, Green Ronin has a good quickstart available for their game.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016: Day 11 Which Gamer Most Affected the Way You Play?

The gamer that has affected the way I play the most is my brother.  The reason is that he is the one who introduced me to role-playing.  My brother ran me through Keep on the Borderlands.  It was his stack of AD&D books and modules that I used to read.  It was his Grenadier miniatures that I used to play with.  Even though he killed my 1 hit point wizard (which made me cry), he was my first model for role-playing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016: Day 10 Largest In-Game Surprise I Have Experienced

Today's question is about the largest in-game surprise I have experienced.  This took place in a Pathfinder campaign that I was running.  In the adventure a wealthy patron was trying to recover a magical artifact that he suspected the players of stealing.  He invited them to diner and drugged them all so that everyone fell into a deep sleep.  He then had his mage place all of the characters into a dream realm which the patron controlled.

Part of the dream involved the players having to cross a room that was filled with a giant fishbowl.  The lip of the fishbowl was at the height of the doors, so the idea was that the players would open the door to the room and have to swim across the fishbowl.  I created a giant goldfish monster for the characters to fight and studied the rules for swimming and water combat.  Sure enough, one of the players cast spider climb.  They climbed across the ceiling, attached a rope to the other end of the room, and then the rest of the party used the rope to get across the room.  I was proud of their problem solving but disappointed that I did not get to have an underwater goldfish fight.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016: Day 9 Beyond the Game, What's Involved in the Ideal Session?

So what is involved in the ideal session?  First, I need a space in which everyone is physically comfortable and allows for easy communication.  A nice table with plenty of space is great.  If the game is online, then the software used should allow for easy talking or chatting.  If the game is taking place in meat space, then some snacks and beverages are good additions.  I prefer game friendly snacks, such as pretzels and cut up vegetables.  Sauces, greasy foods, and other messy items add stress to the gaming environment.

There should be no time pressure so that the story can unfold, but the game should not take too long.  The players should be leveled up and prepared.  The GM should have notes ready.  Dice, paper, and pencils are available to all.  Miniatures or crude markers are nearby to show positions and distances.  Most importantly, every player is ready to have fun.  That is what would be involved in the ideal session.

Monday, August 8, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016: Day 8 Hardcover, Softcover, Digital, What Is Your Preference?

Ah, the question of what print medium do I prefer?  I am an avid bibliophile and I love the aesthetic of a beautifully bound book.  I do like ebooks and the unique options that they offer.  When it comes to game books, I do have a preference.

Hardcover offset-print book, with a pdf backup copy.

Hardcovers look nice and can take some punishment.  Offset-print books are put together well, and the bindings feel sturdy.  Having a pdf backup allows me to read the book conveniently.  I can take a tablet to someone's house when I run the game instead of heavy (but pretty) book.

Softcovers are nice as well.  I like how flexible and light softcovers are.  PDF and ebooks are great in that they are portable.  I'll be honest, any book is welcome in my home.

I do like the effect that print-on-demand has had on the RPG hobby.  Now we can get physical copies of games that are out-of-print or that have niche audiences.  Print-on-demand is of a lower quality that offset printing, although I have been mostly pleased with the titles that I have bought.  One downside of print-on-demand is that it takes the books out of stores.  We may lose some people who might have picked up that strange looking book in the store and decided to give that weird game a chance.  However, our society is changing and POD may be the way of the future for printing.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016: Day 7 What Aspect of RPGs Has Had the Biggest Effect on You?

Today's question is about the aspect of RPGs that has had the biggest effect on me.  I would have to say the aspect that has affected me the most is the fact that role-playing games invite the player to actively create their own content and material.  When I was young I spent hours reading through rulebooks, setting material, and modules.  I played very little during my younger years.  What I did do was imagine characters and adventures in my mind.  I would conjure dire dungeons and populate them with monsters and traps.  I would imagine heroes fighting their way through the dungeons to their doom.  RPGs gave me the tools, materials, and paradigm to bolster my imagination.

How I dream up my next adventure

This has had the biggest impact on me.  Throughout my life I like to use my imagination.  When I am trying to solve a problem I like to think of unorthodox, imaginative solutions.  I like to create campaigns and adventures that are novel and exciting.  I feel that RPGs are exercise for my imagination.  To me this is the most important thing that RPGs can do for us.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016: Day 6 Most Amazing Thing a Game Group Did for Their Community

Today I am going to talk about BrigadeCon.  BrigadeCon is on online roleplaying convention that is hosting #RPGaDay 2016.  The awesome thing about BrigadeCon is that registration is free and that the event is for charity.  BrigadeCon accepts donations and will be selling t-shirts, and all the money will be going to the Child's Play Charity.  Child's Play Charity provides video games, games, and toys to hospitals for children.  I believe that it is way cool that a gaming convention will help provide hospitals with games.

Go sign up for BrigadeCon now.  BrigadeCon will take place on October 29th.  Registration is free and is open until October 15th.  Head over to their website at

Friday, August 5, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016: Day 5 What Story Does Your Group Tell About Your Character?

Today's topic is what story does your group tell about your character?  Probably that my thief was always looting bodies in the middle of battles.  Even though the fight would not be over I would go ahead and check the pockets of the slain foes.  Hey, it's what a thief does!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016: Day 4 Most Impressive Thing Another Character has Done

Today's topic is the most impression thing another character has done.  I was in a Hackmaster campaign where we were fighting against some cult of undead evil.  Our party was down in a crypt facing off against a group of skeletons.

Skeletons are no joke in Hackmaster!
Our group was low level and outmatched.  We must have been playing Hackmaster Basic because I remember rules for exploding dice.  Our dwarf cleric smashed into the first skeleton with his mace.  He kept hitting the max on his exploding dice rolls for damage and dealt over 40 points to the skeleton, which immediately crumpled to the ground.  Instead of running we figured we had a shot so we stayed to fight the rest of the skeletons.  Of course the dwarf cleric was killed and we all ran away, but his mighty blow was talked about for ages.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016: Day 3 Character Moment you are Proudest of

I was playing a thief in a Hackmaster campaign.  My character had the boating skill, which I justified by saying he grew up in a fishing village.  Our party had to spend the night in a city.  The government of the city had this crazy rule where once you entered the city you were issued papers, and you could not leave the city without your papers.  It was very clear to us that our GM was going to do everything in his power to relieve us of our papers.

The party was due to leave via boat the following morning.  My plan was to go aboard the ship and get hired by the captain.  I would stay on the ship until we left and then I wouldn't be in a position to have my papers stolen.  The GM said the captain didn't want to hire me because I didn't have the proper training.  I lifted up my character sheet triumphantly and said, "I have the boating skill!"

I earned a few gold working on the ship and the GM said I earned no xp for the venture because I was a thief and had actually worked for a day's wage.  It was a victory in my book.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

#RPGaDay2016: Day 2 Best Game Session since August 2015?

Today's question asks what is the best game session that you have had since August 2015.  My best session so far is when I ran the new Delta Green for my group.  This was my first experience with Delta Green.  Call of Cthulhu is one of my favorite games and I have often thought that the CoC system would be a good fit for and espionage rpg.  I have pre-ordered the Case Officer's Handbook and the Fall of Delta Green Gumshoe game.  I love how they have updated the rules for modern day and for cloak and dagger operations.

The scenario that we ran was a playtest for an upcoming module, so I will not speak too much about what happened at the session.  What I will tell you is that I had a blast as GM.  I did not roll any dice.  I loved watching the players try to figure out where the evil was, and to watch them fail and go insane.  Good times, and I will definitely be running this in the future.

Monday, August 1, 2016

#RPGaDay August 2016: Day 1 How do you roll?

#RPGaDay for August 2016 has started!  On to our first question of the day.

Read dice, dice app, diceless, how do you prefer to roll?

I prefer real dice.  There is something about rolling physical dice that I love.  The feel of dice clicking in my hand, the daring of fate as I shake my enclosed fist, and the anticipation as I let the dice tumbling are all paramount to my gaming experience.  In our online session we used to use dice roller apps but we now let everyone use their own dice.

I will amend this entry by saying that one of the most fun sessions that I had as a GM was when I did not roll a single die during the entire session.  We were play-testing the new Delta Green and I just sat back and watched the chaos ensue.  Whichever way you roll, play well and have fun!

My brother's set of dice from his Basic D&D set

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Kickstarter Shoutout: Gaslight Victorian Fantasy for 5e

I just wanted to give a shoutout to a project on Kickstarter.  The project is called Gaslight Victorian Fantasy and it is by Battlefield Press, Inc.  This is a weird Victorian urban fantasy setting.  There is an OGL version (which I'm not sure is in print) and a Savage Worlds version.  The current Kickstarter will update the setting and stats for D&D 5th edition.

Victorians were into some weird crap.
The setting reminds me of the book Anno Dracula by Kim Newman,  in which vampires take over Victorian society.  Of course, there are also rules for pixies, werewolves, and others.  At minimum I will use this to add beast men to my 5e games.  However I would love to run a weird Victorian game along the lines of Fallen London.  I am currently loving the 5e rules and I love the fact that companies are using them for different settings.

If you like the idea of Bobbies chasing alchemists through foggy alleyways, then check this project out.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Tolkien and Magic Items

I have a confession.  I have not read all of The Lord of the Rings.  When I was a teenager I only made it 100 pages into The Fellowship of the Ring and I never finished it.  As an adult I finished The Fellowship of the Ring and read two-thirds of The Two Towers.  During this time the Peter Jackson films were coming out, so I saw those and never went back to finish the book.  My current summer project is to finally read through The Lord of the Rings.  I am currently 50 pages into The Return of the King.

Any of you grognards remember this adaptation?

During my re-read of LotR I am fascinated with Tolkien's treatment of magical items.  Magical items have become common and cliched in a lot of fantasy rpgs.  I know that I am guilty of passing out magic items like candy in my Pathfinder campaign.  In Tolkien's writing, magic items have meaning.  For one thing, they are rare.  There are not a lot of rings floating around in Middle Earth.  Each item has a whole legend written about it.  Also, they are imbued with power.  People feel the power around these items.  Just looking at one fills people with awe and wonder.  In my next fantasy game I will copy Tolkien and have rare magic items that actually mean something.  Now back to my book!

Monday, July 11, 2016

#RPGaDAY is coming in August 2016!

Last year I participated in the #RPGaDAY event.  I had a great time posted about rpgs.  How it works is every day there is a question related to the tabletop rpg hobby.  You respond to it and post it with the hashtag #RPGaDay.  This year the event will happen again in August.

This year the event is hosted by BrigadeCon.  For more information check out their site.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Adventures in Play-by-Mail Gaming

The summer drags on with heat and tedium and I look for new gaming pursuits.  I am joining a play-by-mail game.  For those who do not know, play-by-mail is just what it sounds like; opponents playing a game by submitting their turns through the mail.  One of the first play-by-mail games was chess, as it is easy to write down a chess move and send it to an opponent.  Soon, more complex games were played through the mail.  The board game Diplomacy was played with nations mailing their turns to a referee, who would then adjudicate the moves and mail the results back.  Later on, games were designed for the play-by-mail format.  A play-by-mail game could accommodate many players at once, and the game rules were taken care of by a moderator (often a computer).  Play-by-mail exists today, although many companies use email for turns and some are experimenting with browser based games.

What do you get from the play-by-mail experience?

I love all types of games.  I play rpgs, wargames, board games, and card games.  I enjoy them all.  I love to figure out strategies of conquest and then implement them on the battlefield.  I love to match wits against an opponent who is trying their best to beat me.  Play-by-mail offers the chance to engage in games with many opponents.  Play-by-mail games can offer huge simulation games where  opponents control various nations at war.  Because the game is moderated by someone else, I only have to focus on my strategy.  They also have a temporal quality to them.  Orders are submitted and then I have to wait to see the results of my planning.  The wait time brings about anticipation.

The game that I am trying is Duel II.  The concept of the game is that you own a stable of five gladiators and each turn you fight them in the arena.  You decide which warriors to fight, how to equip them, and what strategy they should adopt in the ring.  You fill out a turn sheet for each fighter, slip it into an envelope, and send it off to the company.

A turn sheet for Duel II.
One of the reasons that I chose Duel II is that the company that runs the game still uses actual letters and sends your turn results in the mail.  Many play-by-mail companies have moved to accepting turns by email and emailing you the results.  I wanted to have the tactile  experience of filling out a sheet, as well as the thrill of ripping open an envelope to see my results.  Electronics and computers have provided a lot of innovation for gaming, but there is something special about holding a sheet of paper and inking a plan of action.

Recommended Resources is the company that runs Duel II.  They run two other play-by-mail games which are wargames that take place in the Hyborian age and Forgotten Realms. is a website devoted to play-by-mail games of the past and present.  They have a list of active games and the publish a free pdf magazine, Suspense and Decision, that is dedicated to the play-by-mail hobby.

I will bring more resources to your attention in the future!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Game Review: Fantasy Wargaming; The Highest Level of All

Fantasy Wargaming is a role playing and wargaming set of rules.  The book says "compiled and editied by Bruce Galloway", as was a collabarative writing.  The blog Swords & Dorkery has a great post about the history and writing of the book.  This review is based on a read-through of the text. No attempts were made to play this game.

What is it?

This book is an attempt to create a role playing game based on the historical Middle Ages.  Characters can interact in a European medieval world with Christianity and/or the Norse gods as the dominant religion.  The authors create rules for social standing, how magic would work in Christian/Nordic Europe, combat, and monstrous creatures.  The rules are convoluted and the book feels like someone took their masters thesis on the Middle Ages and turned it into a role playing system.  The modeling of the medieval Christian paradigm into a game system (complete with stats for God and saints as well as calculations for length spent in Purgatory) is impressive.  Overall, this would make an interesting resource for game designers or those interested in the Middle Ages but the system is too complex play.  I will provide a brief synopsis of each chapter

Revelation (Introduction)

The introduction of the book introduces the concept of fantasy role playing.  The  intended audience of the book is miniature wargamers, and the author tries to convince them to give fantasy role playing a try.  The book shows its age when the author talks about how they first tried Dungeons and Dragons.  They state that they found "a fairly basic set of rules, called 'Tunnels and Trolls...'".  Tunnels and Trolls is a different game from D&D, although it began life as a D&D variant.  The authors are British and T&T was one of the first rpgs to be sold in the UK.  However, this shows how early in the hobby this book was written, as Dungeons and Dragons is at this point synonymous with fantasy role playing.

Chapter I, City, Court, and Country

This chapter describes life in the Middle Ages.  The authors write about where people live, what they did, etc.  Feudalism is described.  There is a lot of information about medieval Europe.  A GM or player will gain insight into the history of the Middle Ages.  The strength of this chapter is that the role-player will understand the medieval world better from reading it.

Chapter II, Myth, magic, and religion

In my opinion this is one of the most interesting chapters.  The authors discuss magic and present their theory as to how they can model magic and the supernatural in Christian Europe during the Middle Ages.  Magical energy comes from belief.  The Ethereal Plane exists, and this is home to Heaven, Hell, Valhalla, fairies, and the like.  There is a discussion of the Church and of how magic and magic-users were viewed in the Middle Ages.  Pagan magic is examined, as well as the differences of magic in the Dark Ages and High Middle Ages.  Actual game mechanics are not present in this chapter.

Chapter III, The Book of Physiologus

This chapter talks about monsters and fabulous creatures of the Middle Ages.  There are no stats, this is pure description.  The authors discuss how monsters appear in the stories and literature of the time period.  I particularly liked the comparison of Teutonic vs. Celtic dragons.  There is also talk about Medieval bestiaries and creatures from heraldry.   The main point of this chapter is that if one is going to run an authentic Medieval game, then the source of creatures should be the actual Middle Ages. Barrow Wights are in, orcs are out.  Dwarfs (not dwarves) are in, except they kidnap mortal women.  If it is seen on a tapestry or shield, the players can kill it.

Chapter IV, Mortal Combat

This chapter describes weapons, armor, and fighting techniques of the Middle Ages.  There are some pictures of weapons, castle plans, and a glossary.  This chapter is short and like chapter one the strength of it is in helping players and GMs understand the details and context of historical medieval combat.

Chapter V, Moorcock and More ...

This chapter contrasts strongly with the rest of the book.  From the introduction through the first four chapters the tone of the book has been one of, "Do you know what would be really cool?  D&D except if it took place in the real Middle Ages!"  The descriptions in the book strive for historical accuracy, even when discussing myth and magic of the time period.  In the section on character creation female characters are forced to take penalties to their stats and are forbidden from all combat.  Chapter V discusses fantasy literature to read and use for inspiration.  Tolkien is mentioned, as are a few series about King Arthur by T.H. White and Mary Stewart.  More than one series is mentioned that are about future civilizations and seem to cross the border into science fiction.  Anne McCaffrey's Pern series is mentioned.  The contrast is that many of the books talked about are either high fantasy or science fiction.  They take place on worlds vastly different than our own, or are fantasy tales full of strange creatures and stranger magic.  The choices seem odd for a book that spends so much time trying to ground its rules in the Middle Ages of our world.  However, we gain a glimpse into the author's taste for fantasy literature back in 1981.

Chatper VI, The Compleat Enchanter

This chapter is full of advice for the game master.  The new GM is told to use fiction and the real world as templates for the game world.  The authors reiterate that the default setting of Fantasy Wargaming is Medieval Europe, and therefore the GM does not have to create a new world.  Of course, the GM can create their own world if they want.  There are some interesting pieces of advice, such as letting a player don the role of an npc.  The idea of traps is deconstructed, as traps lying dormant in dungeons would likely be victims of rust and rot and may not work properly.  Most of the advice is useful and relevant today.

What the heck is going on in this picture?
Chapter VII, Playing Rules

Here is the meat of the game.  There are rules for character creation, doing stuff (picking locks, etc), combat, magic, gods, and monsters.  The rules for Fantasy Wargaming are byzantine and complicated.  There is a detailed chart for the character's social class, where the character can be anything from slave to emperor.  There are optional rules for rolling your character's astrological influence and how it changes their states.  Female characters are banned from all combat.  Characters can have the disadvantage of being a heretic or being Jewish (since it is the Middle Ages).  That is just character creation.  The rules of play have many idiosyncrasies.  Here is an example of how to calculate a character's leadership score.

Figuring out your character's combat maneuver bonus in Pathfinder is child's play in comparison.  Speaking of leadership, the party of characters has a leader who tells everyone what to do.  There are in game rules for challenging the leader.  There are also rules for temptation, which fall in line with the medieval view of sin and temptation.

The rules for doing things in game involve rolling on a chart with percentile dice.  One interesting note is that the charts have results for partial success as well as success.  I thought that the idea of a partial success or success with complications was a modern game design concept, and here it is in a game book from 1981.  Combat is also resolved by rolling on a chart, and there is a chart for weapons breakage.  When consulting the charts there are many modifiers that are added and subtracted in order to find the difficulty of the roll.  The book prints these modifiers as a sentence rather than a vertical list, so I found it confusing to read through them.

There are also a set of miniatures wargame rules for large scale battles.  Of all of the rules in the book, these ones seemed the most playable.  After those there are the rules on magic.  The author(s) do give a list of spells and they also give a system for creating spells and rituals.  Again, these rules are very complex and when reading them you sense that the authors knew and discussed a lot about actual medieval magical practices.  There are rules for divine magic, including how much mana a human sacrifice will get you.  You can also calculate how long a soul will stay in Purgatory.  The rules are detailed and are impressive in that the author(s) show their knowledge of the subject.  If someone mapped out how medieval people thought religion would produce spells, blessings, curses, and miracles, this system models it well.  There are stats for God, saints, demons, and Norse gods.

The chapter ends with a bestiary.  All monsters are from the Middle Ages, i.e. people actually believed in them, they were from actual myth, or there was a picture of one in a book or on a tapestry.  Therefore, dwarfs lust after mortal women and players can fight venomous sheep.  Stats are given for each creature.  If I use any part of this book for a campaign, it will probably be this section.

Overall Thoughts

This book feels like it was written by a hobbyist, however the author's voice changes from chapter to chapter as the book was a collaboration.  The best features of the book are how it turns the medieval worldview into a game system.  If you want to know how well God would respond to a cleric's plea according to how pious he was, then this game can simulate that for you.  This also means the game disenfranchises female characters and forces the players to deal with issues of antisemitism.

So who is this book for today?  Should a group try and run it (answer - no)?  Is it worth it as a reference?  Here is my opinion.  If you want to run a game based in the real Middle Ages, there are better designed games out there that will do that, such as Pendragon or Ars Magica.  I think that this book would be of most interest to the collector, game historian, and designer.  The collector and game historian can look at this book as an early attempt by amateurs to create their own realistic version of D&D.  The designer can mine the book for some interesting ideas and admire the authors passion while avoiding the confusion wrought by the game.  If you are interesting in obtaining your own copy do a quick internet search.  I grabbed a used copy off of Amazon.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

I Have Been Rolling Up Some Tunnels & Trolls Characters!

Tunnels & Trolls is one of my favorite role playing games.  It showed me that a role playing game could be simple, fun, and suitable to solitaire play.  Recently I have been reading through the Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls rules.  I was hesitant at first as 5.5 T&T was an edition that I loved.  I bought the 7th edition and I always felt that 5.5 was a tad bit better.  Deluxe T&T takes everything that I like about 5.5 and refines it.  I will need to convince my group to run a few sessions of dT&T soon.

My copy of Buffalo Castle, where many a character has met their death
One of the best ways to get a feel for rules is to play the game.  Fortunately T&T has a long tradition of providing solitaire modules for times when you can't find a GM or group.  Tunnels & Trolls solo modules follow the choose-your-own-adventure format, where you read a paragraph, are presented with choices, and then turn to a certain page or paragraph depending on what you pick.  Saving throws and combats take place within the solo module, as T&T combat can be run by one person.

I have rolled up three characters so far using the Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls rules.  I love the ease of character creation.  Roll eight stats, calculate combat adds,  roll for height, weight, and starting gold, equip, and the character is ready for adventure.  I have run my three unlucky warriors through Buffalo Castle (one of the most famous solos) where they have all perished.  I have run two through the solo adventure The Abyss, where they have a chance of exiting the afterlife.  Both failed.  I like the changes that have been made to the warrior class, and I have been able to try out the poison rules for the first time.

While solo adventures are a fun diversion between game sessions, I find that their best value is that they are a great way to learn and master the rules of the system.  When I first read the T&T rules I liked them but I was uncertain how they fit together.  After one run through Buffalo Castle I understood how the rules worked and the tone of the game.  Tunnels & Trolls is a game of risk and reward.  Characters can achieve great glory or be crushed quickly under the heal of a monster.

There are free Tunnels & Trolls solos available on the web.  You can try one out if you are curious as to how the system works, or just want a quick dungeon crawl experience.

Buffalo Castle is available on the publisher's main website.  You will stumble around  a castle, fighting monsters and having encounters.  Goblin Lake is one of my favorite solos, as you play as a goblin trying to win favor in your tribe.  Both of these solos use the 5.5 rules which are close to the Deluxe T&T rules.  Know that Deluxe T&T has amped up the power level for warriors in the new edition.