Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday Question: Creating Your Own Game

The Friday Question.  I've been flipping through a lot of core rule books lately.  My latest acquisition was +Joseph Bloch's DM's Toolkit for his Adventures Dark & Deep Ruleset.  I haven't had a chance to read it all the way through, but so far I've been really enjoying what I've gone through so far.  I highly recommend it.  Reading his book and about twenty different core books scattered across my place I got the itch to make my own ruleset.  Trust me, I put some ointment on that itch real fast.  That kind of project is WAY out of my realm.  Still, I think about it.

So my question is have you ever thought of creating your own core book ruleset?

I have note cards in various places with random house rules I think of.  But everytime I think about doing even a short house rule chap book I stick my head in the freezer, wait until the cold burns then I come to my senses. 

So the question is posted.  Have at it. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mini Review: Lair of the Orc Shaman

I'm gonna eat your feet first!
Lair of the Orc Shaman is written by Felbrigg Herriot and the maps are provided by the infamous Matt Jackson.  This is a micro adventure in PocketMod format.  That means its small.  Wee even.  One page that can be made into a tiny booklet.  It will cost you .99 cents to take a peek.  Let me tell you about it a little since this is a review.

First off, love the cover.  It's what originally made me click on it on RPGNow.  Simple and effective.  In the preview, it says it's a 1st edition adventure for 5 to 7 first level characters. It has 17 rooms in an underground crawl.  The room descriptions are tight.  Considering the space limitations I was amazed Felbrigg squeezed in all the rooms.  Plus, there are some nice descriptions.  It is not a list of rooms with just monsters and loot.  He manages to tell you what will happen if this happens and the contents of the room.

While I was reading this adventure I kept thinking this would me a great funnel module for the DCC crowd.  Tweak the stats and you'd be good to go.   No matter what system you have its a good straight forward adventure that will easily fill a night of gaming and that you can plug into your game at any time. 

Be smart.  Buy the The Lair of the Orc Shaman before he eats your feet.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Kefitzat Haderech: A Mini Review

I'm going to be doing a series of mini reviews this week.  I've been receiving and buying a bunch of great products and need to spread the word.  My first review is of Paolo Greco's, Kefitzat Haderech, Incunabulum of the Uncanny Gates and Portals.  Everyone will know Paolo from his excellent work with his Adventure Fantasy Game.  And he writes the Lost Papers of Tsojcanth blog. 

First things first, what does Kefitzat Haderech (KH) mean?  Paolo explains it is a Hebrew expression that means contracting the path or shortening the path. KH is about portals.  Getting from one place to another instantaneously.  Just think about that for a moment.  All the ramifications it could have in your campaign world.  How it would effect nearly every sector of life.  The best gaming products, like this one, will make you think about your campaign in a different way.

KH is 32 pages long.  It is packed with tables and advice on how to build your portals, what they look like and how they work.  The last three pages are dedicated to portal inspirations like, well, Portal from Valve, Morrowwind, Dr. Who and Stargate to name a few.

There are times when I get product at the same time I am considering a change in my own construction of a world.  When I received KH I was already in the process of changing or at least offering an alternative way of travel.  KH arrives and wa-la the ideas I had exploded and now I had a concrete reference to make it happen.

When I get these kind of products I like to roll on the table to give an example of how it works.  First table I'll be rolling on is the Portal Form.  Its a three columned d20 table.  The first determines the Portal Frame, the second determines the Portal Opening and the third is for extras.  Let me find a d20.  Be right back.


Column 1: Bones
Column 2: view from the other side
Column 3: strange sounds

From that I'll be filling in the gaps.

A bone archway is a wobbling mass of bones that looks to be haphazardly stacked upon one another.  It sways in the breeze and gives a little when force is applied yet it is nearly indestructable and can withstand any weather or destructive spells.  The bones peek at 15' and wide enough to allow two riders to enter together.  Within the arch is a dark, and desolate land.  A ground made of ash, stumps long blackened, and as you stand before the portal you hear a distant crowd of scream rolls at you like thunder.

Kefitzat Haderech is a product I'll be putting into my campaign building folder.  I hope I don't have to say anything more than that to convince you this is an excellent addition to your world building arsenal.  You can get a copy of Kefizat Haderech here.  Hey, want to know something else cool?  For $4.99 you get the Print, PDF and Source.  Paolo has created a great 32-page product that does some heavy lifting for your campaign and at a fantastic price. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

SALE! Today everything at GM Games RPGNow Stoe is 50% Off.

I thought I'd do a 50% off sale today.  So if you have a Manor or Knowledge Illuminates in your cart get today they'll be 50% off.  GM Games sale is only for the day or until I get around to marking the prices back up.  To those on holiday, enjoy the day.  To those who aren't at least you have a the GM Game sale to get you through a Monday.

Click the icon to save 50% on PDFs.

Saturday Marathon Session was Filled with Athels

People drove from Michigan, Pittsburgh and Lancaster to join our game on Saturday.  We rented a conference room at a hotel ($100) for a 12pm to 12am time period.  Which I've already mentioned on Google+ has given me an idea about possibly starting an OSRcon here.  But one step at a time.

Dwayne from the Gamers Closet brought his amazing gaming prop, a Keep, Inn and Crypt beneath all molded from Hirst molds.  He did it all by hand and it is just incredible.  He did all the decorations, rugs, pictures, sconces, ect... and it really impressed me.

Dwayne is setting up our initial encounter at the Wulfgar Keep.

Dwayne created an adventure around his setting.  The gist, this keep is within a border barony that joined the Kingdom 25 years ago.  This barony is based off a Viking culture.  The Baron is enamored of the kingdom's ways which is in opposition of many his subjects.  We decided to use GURPS 4th Edition.  Rob made up characters for everyone before the session.  Now Rob will probably post his own version of what happened, but I have documented proof of what occurred.  All he has is a first hand account skewed to protect his dignity.  You'll only find truth here. 

Our group consisted of:
*Athelstan: Cleric of Mytria, Healing - (You are already here)
*Athelbert: Guard - Josh (he too cool to have his own blog)
Belafor: Cleric of Thor: only viking in out party.  He was blue. - Ken (Rusty Battle Axe)
Alia Rose: Scout, yeah let's go with that - Kelly Anne (Aliarose)
Sir Ellestan: A Foot Knight *snicker* - Rob (Bat in the Attic)
Cutie: Lego Knight - Gregory
* This became the running joke of the session.  How the game was full of Athels, from Athelburg.  It was funny at the time.  

A shot of the interior of the keep.  You can see all the detail Dwayne put into his keep.
Rewind a bit before we go to the keep.  We are gathered to help the border barony, we requisition supplies and in the morning when we go to pick them up there is a captain there that is going with us.  He and Sir Ellestan get into measuring the manhood battle (there was a lot of measuring tape not used).  We go on the road, its a 15 day trip to the keep.  Before we leave Sir Ellestan also gets a necklace from a powerful member of the mage guild to keep an eye on his progress.  A sleeping man talisman that allows communication between the two of them.  Its supposed to work while he sleeps, but can work when Sir Ellestan is awake.

While Sir Ellestan was on guard duty he got sucked into a dream conference and when he awoke from his meeting the captain he'd been measuring against was dead.  Throat slit.  Dead.  The blue Belafor cast See Secrets and found a pair of boot prints next to the body that were hidden by magic.

So no one slept well when Sir Ellestan was on guard duty.

We sent the body back to town when we reached a village then continued onto the keep.

Our group (bottom right) approaches the keep.
We met the baron who was very happy to have us.  I would even say he kissed our asses.  *smooch*  He explained a few people have gone missing and then his niece went missing.  Long story short, he asked for help.  No one around here seemed to know much or at least wasn't saying much.

Now Dwayne has this other prop...
Out of game knowing is okay...really.
So I used me clerical hoodedness and asked is there any weird location or strange temples in the area that might guide us.  Well wouldn't you know there was.  The Blood Oracle was down the road a bit, but no one goes there.  Of course they don't.  It's the Blood Oracle!

It was a day's walk away from the keep.  It was located in a dense thicket and we were told to only approach it from the front.  No explanation why.  With our group I was sure we would find out why.

BUT...something happen along the way to the Blood Oracle.

The tree across the mountain pass ambush trick. 
We were ambushed by orcs who blocked the way with a tree.  Remember, this is GURPS, not 1 HD meatbags that populate most games.  You need to take this serious and there were a lot of them.  We used our best and only tactic, mass confusion, one charging ahead, another running away, a few in between and me trying to dodge arrows while I kept people standing.  At one point Athelbert tried to ram an orc off the mountain side.  Great if is works.  It didn't.  Sir Ellestan caught him before he did a Wild E Coyote.  In the end we survived.

Then we arrived at the Blood Oracle.
The power of the Blood Temple caused my camera go out of focus. 
The oracle invited us in only after we defeated her guardians.  Okay sure.  Bring them on.  In Harryhausen fashion skeletons rose from the earth and attacked.  I would have been disappointed if they hadn't.
This is where everyone got polite, "No, no after you."

Sir Ellestan decided to go around the temple and got a lesson on when someone tells you to go through the front door of the Blood Oracle, you don't try to backdoor her....

It's a BYOB party at the Blood Temple.  Bring Your Own Blood.
Skeletons and nearly invincible plant monsters.  They were the ones guarding the sides of the temple that Sir Ellestan tried to not merge with.  As you can see there are many more skeletons on the ground than party members.

The Blood Oracle forbids skinny dipping.

We got inside the temple.  We slipped past a fat little imp by answering his riddle.  Then encountered this pool monster.  All we needed to do was throw in a coin, but instead Athelbert cannonballed in and nearly drowned.  But he didn't.  He's such an Athel.  (See how the joke works?  Its funny really.)

We discovered the missing people were in the crypts below the Keep.  Some shadow lord had them.  Crap.   Back we go.


After some debate at the keep, the Baron's brother really didn't want us going down into the crypts.  Lots of arguing.  Needed to be persuasive.  We were.  Went into the crypts below and got another reveal.  The crypts beneath the keep and inn!

It's just a fantastic prop.  Just so cool.
So we get into the crypts and...

We get attacked by the Baron's men and his brother.  They've been sacrificing their own people to the Shadow Lord to gain power to expel the evil influence of the kingdom. 

What followed was an array of awesomely horrible rolls.  Rob rolled a lot of critical misses.  I have the proof.

In GURPS you only want to see this when enemy is rolling. 
Rob will tell you another story, but I have more proof.

That's Sir Ellestan on his back, Rob's guy.  The awesome guy in red is my guy saving the day.
The last battle was a collection of critical misses.  Even when the enemies had no defense.  All we needed to do was hit and we would critically miss.  In the end we won the battle, but we did not save the people.  We only managed to uncover the heinous plot. 

It was a fantastic adventure, the best prop set I've got the play on and it was a great day.  We played for 9 hours.  First marathon session I've played in for a long time.  We were out of the hotel by 10pm and got something to eat.

Ken bowing down before Dwayne for running such a cool adventure.  "I'm not worthy."

Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday Question: Reviews

How do you like your reviews?  Do you like a short synopsis?  Longer on content where it breaks down a product, but this would also include spoilers in most cases?  Or a simple rating system?  A rating system with one of the above?

It's Friday and I've got tons to do before I start my vacation.  Game is on Saturday and looking forward to it.  I want to see how the hotel reacts to a group of gamers and then I may have a talk with some other gamers about setting up a con or game day here in NW PA.  Erie has a game day, but it is focused on boardgames.  I'd like this one to of course focus on old school gaming, but have lots of opportunities for other games. 

Until then gamers, have a great Friday.  May your dice roll well. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


I need to do more of them.  I've got a small backlog of products I've been given or bought over the past few months I need to review.  A few of them off the top of my head are +Zzarchov Kowolski's The Gnomes of Levnec, +Erik Tenkar and +Michael Garcia's Minor Magiks & Miscellaneous Arcana Volume 1, and Slaughtergrid from +Rafael Chandler.  Great stuff.  And I recently received an interesting product from +Paolo Greco I need to read over.

I'm hoping to post The Gnomes of Levenc later tonight.  It's a good one. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Gathering

This weekend I believe we are going to have the whole gaming crew face to face.  We were talking about renting a meeting room at a local hotel so we could gather with some space and comfort.  None of us has the space the host all of us.  Well air conditioned space. 

Dwayne is bring his mega fantastic keep/inn/dungeon beneath he built brick-by-brick from Hirst molds.  Here's a few shots, its cool as it gets.  If you want to see his construction process run on over to his blog, Gamer's Room.

We are planning on meeting on this Saturday and I think we're just throwing dice and making rules up as we go.  A system less session with with a cool ass prop.  I'm looking forward to it.  I only get to roll real dice a few times each year. 

Lunch is over.  Well, it was over about 20 minutes ago so I need to haul ass outta here. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Lookie What I Got! Mail Call!

+Rafael Chandler sent me a copy of SlaughterGrid.  I've started reading it, but need to give this bad boy more time to read and digest.  More to come.  Thanks Rafael!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Skinny Sleestak Sunday

Frogshackle brings us this skinny sleestak.  No much going on over here.  Enjoy your Sunday. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Adventure Boilerplate

A few days, weeks ago, I can't remember, I purposed a boilerplate to bolt onto an adventure to give a quick summary of the adventure without wasting precious space in the introduction.  How many times do we need to read, this is this level for this many player and it is suggested...and please change anything you wish.  I'm not putting it down, its vital information, but I wanted to make a simple referral box that would provide all that information at a glance.  All I do is bolt that onto the front of the adventure and I can get on with getting on. 

There are plenty more lines you could add, but I don't want it to become a 3.5 stat block.  Just a simple, zip zip look and done.  I'm not sure if it helps or if it will speed things up, but I'm giving it a try in a few of the adventures I'm working on. 

Some quick notes about the stats.  I think the first four are explanatory.  You could have multiple settings.  Like for the adventure in the next Manor there are three settings. 

Difficulty Level: Beginner, Medium, Difficult
I have to give the nod to Dylan over at Digital Orc who wrote a series on determining the difficulty level of an adventure.  I go through and average out the critters and traps and the x factor of difficulty and if it averages within a level above or below I figure its average.  From that I think you can figure out what I would determine as difficult or beginner. 

Size: mini, small, medium, large, mega  and insert size joke here
Mini would be something with 8 or less rooms/encounter areas.  Something that could be completed well within a average gaming session (which I am saying is 3 hours).

Small I am guesstimating has less than 20 encounter areas.  I know the time it takes to deal with an encounter is effected by the system.  Since I am an OSR dude I'm talking about the clones, man.  I play GURPS a bunch and know damn well 20 encounters could be an entire campaign.  It would take up all of the game session.  And again with the many variables with density of population and traps, if you have a 20 room dungeon that is only half full it will probably go by quicker than one 75% full. 

Medium now we are getting into sizes that are arbitrary and just my opinion.  Medium sized adventures will are 20 - 50 adventure encounters.  It may be one level or multiple setting and levels.

Large is 50 to 100 encounters.  Probably a multi-level dungeon or town.  This of course will take multiple adventures and the focus of the campaign.  At least for a while. 

Mega is 100+ encounters for me.  Plus its an easy number to remember.  Mega dungeons are the campaign.  Not just a focus of it.  A campaign begins and ends with this size.

Rating: family, teen, mature
 Family is an adventure that has clearly defined good and evil.  Oriented toward the players being the heroes and defeating some sort of bad guy.  Swearing, none.  Graphic detail very minimal.  Its okay to mention the orc's guts are on the ground cause kids love to hear about guts, but not going into detail.  A gross out factor is okay.  The description of the horrific act, not so much. 

Teen you can get a bit more descriptive.  I would even say up to a rated R sense.  Swearing is fine if just used for color of a character.  Horrific acts can be described, but they should be focused on those who have some sort of power.  No descriptions of killing children and helpless men and women.  Raping is out.  Torture probably to some degree, but again I think in this case it depends on the victim.  It's a careful line you must tread, but don't underestimate or insult a teen-ager's intelligence. 

Mature anything goes.  I put a mature rating on my Faces Without Screams adventure because of the combination of a graphic beginning along with the swearing and then the content that followed.  And really I think I would have only given a teen rating if I had only one or the other, but thought because of both it should be given a mature rating.

People's opinions will vary on this, but this is my thinking and what criteria I'll be using when I bolt on a boilerplate in the front of my adventures.  I know some of the gamers play with their children.  One gamer told me his son did a book report for school on one of my Manors.  Everyone will have to draw their own lines of what they believe is what.

I'm done now. 

Go get to gaming!

Friday, May 17, 2013

6 Steps to Starting a Small Campaign

Someone was discussing how to begin a campaign quickly without using a canned setting. Here are the 6 steps (the 7th is optional) to getting started in a minimal amount of time. 

1. Map out a village, town or keep and the surround wilderness. This will give the players a base of operations, a place to heal, sell off treasure, upgrade their gear and gather information.
Don't be a perfectionist. Have fun. Don't worry about if the river is running in the correct direction. More than likely you will want to draw two maps, one of the surrounding wilderness and one that details the locations within the town/town/keep.

2. Detail more important and frequented sites such as a temple, the lord's estate, a shop or two, a guild hall and of course a tavern.
If you think about it players visit only a few places. Keep a GM notebook handy when they decide to visit something you hadn't detailed. Wing it, but write down what you did so you can be consistent and develop it later.

3. Detail the important NPCs the players will encounter and plug them where needed. These should include a couple guards, a shop keeper, cleric, a few mercenaries/torch bearers for the players to hire, and of course a barkeep for your tavern. I think it's also important to stock a few generic NPCs that are not assigned to anything on creation, but say the players visit an area or home that you hadn't detailed, wha-la you already have an NPC ready to go.
Keep a notebook as your players adventure to keep track of the new NPCS and places you'll need to create. Who knew they would go visit a washer woman to get advice on how to care for their linens in the wilderness.

4. Now check out your wilderness area and select a few locations and put something interesting there. Could be a home of a crazed mage who calls everyone Ned, a broken statue with faded runes, or hey, a dungeon entrance. When doing this don't be heavy handed, a few scattered sites will do.
A sure way to make a place more interesting is just add ruins. These can be home to some horrible critters that have been terrorizing the countryside, the top level of a dungeon and or a place for the players to rebuild and call home.

5. Develop adventures from a few of the interesting places. My advice is to include at least one old fashion dungeon crawl. It doesn't have to be a mega dungeon (it can turn into one later, maybe the players never found that secret concealed invisible door that can only be opened on the full moon the first time around that leads to the next of a billion and two levels) keep it simple and small at first. Some of the other area should be lairs for one kind of creature or another. These places are also great for planting seeds for future adventures.
Most enounters/adventures should be level appropriate, but there is nothing wrong with including a bad ass encounter the players have little to no chance with. This will give them a goal when they reach higher level. An 'I'll be back' moment.

6. After placing interesting points and developing a few small adventures go back into the town/village/keep and sprinkle in information to various NPCs. What they know, why they know it and if they are telling the truth. To get the players to go into the old copper mine might be something as simple as one of the farmer's lost his favorite goat inside and pleads with them to help. Also this is a chance to develop local folklore. One local wine merchant may speak of the night of she devils who harass his workers in the field. They come once a week so they have begun tying out a cow for those screeching devils. When the players investigate they might find a nest of harpies in the nearby forest.

7. (optional) Develop broad strokes of the world around your chunk of land. Maybe whose kindgdom it's in. Different cultural aspects of a neighboring barony or country. If you have multiple races you may want to know where they originated and so on. But that's when you start slipping to a larger campaign. This is something you may want to develop if your campaign is going to be bigger than the area you developed.

Starting small is great for jumping into a campaign quickly. One campaign I ran for over three years never left a one hundred mile area. The players never realized this. They were shocked of how small of an area they explored when I showed them my world map. The reason I like this method is much of your campaign world will be developed on the go. Lots of winging it and I know for me that's when I do my best, but then you also need to take good notes so next time the players visit a place the GM can be consistent.

It's Friday everyone. Have a great weekend and get some gaming in.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Adventure Begins How?

As a GM you've spend the last few weeks prepping for a new campaign. The players are rolling their characters, buying equipment and milking the rules to get any advantage they can find. With this done, the GM needs to find a reason for the players to meet, to be together and to trust one another with their lives. Some may gloss over this gathering or even skip it. Trying to find new reasons for the party members to be together can be daunting and not all the important in the larger picture of the campaign. But I think the introduction into the campaign is important and a GM should take some of that prep time to consider how and why the party is formed. 

Relatives: The players know one another because they are family. In this case the GM should develop an outline of the family history. Develop the history enough to sneak some family secrets and rivalries and jealousies. Often overlooked, families can be a great source of inspiration and motivation. If the players are all related it relieves the burden of 'how they met'.

From the Same Village: This version is pretty much the same as Relative above and can be combined. Again the characters come from the same background and shared the same experiences and will probably have similar motives. A couple of locals trying to make it big, trying to break out of the everyday toil of everyone they know.

Slaves/Prisoners: This one is a good one, I think often underutilized. Players begin the career as slaves, whether they have been recently captured or been slaves all their life. They will have a common goal to be free. A good example is Spartacus. There are a lot of potential adventures leading up to an escape and dealing with a player's master. A twist on this version could be that the master could see the potential of the characters and become a patron. Of course he would get a substantial cut of the treasure, but if you run a game where slavery is an everyday and everyone occurrence than all slave owners do not have to be whip wielding tyrants. For example, most of the players I know that got involved with slavery bought them to release them. Examples of this would be A4: In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords. This is definitely not for every party. 

Guildmates: Professionals in the same trade often know one another. They would meet in guild halls, markets or in their travels. Guilds do not have to be focused on a craft profession, but can be for any common interest. Some of the examples I have played in using this have been theme campaigns where everyone played a city guard, a mage or thief. The great thing about these type of campaigns it forces the GM to develop that guild, they way of life in great detail and it often happens with a great deal of assistance from the players.

A Gathering for a Greater Purpose: The Fellowship of the Ring. I don't think I need to explain this further. Tolkien has already done that. One campaign I ran used this as the glue for the party. A party who did not like one another, there were rivalries and hatreds, but because the one purpose was more important than those things they begrudgingly worked together. It made an interesting party dynamic.

Summons by a Lord or Great Power: A lord of the manor, baron, king, priest or a god gathers the players because of their abilities or their potential abilities. This often mingles with the above, for a Greater Purpose, but it is not limited to it. Could be the baron is having problems in the eastern villages with raids and the king recently made him provide double the soldiers so he doesn't have the manpower to deal with the raids. Maybe by chance or reputation the players are gathered to deal with the situation. These can be a one shot or long term situation, but either way it is enough to introduce the players to one another. An example I would use would be King Arthur in the early years. When the Grail Quest began it would fall under the Great Purpose category.

Location, Location, Location: Example for this is B2: Keep on the Borderlands. The reason why the players would meet there is that is happening spot. A place to make a name for yourself. If a village or keep is known to have a dungeon close by and people are hauling treasure out it won't take long before others gather to get their share.

Stranded: I was reading over the latest adventure path for Pathfinder and the initial set up is the players are shipwrecked on an island. So they have to scavenge what they can from what is washed up on shore. I like the idea of that. And the very cool thing about this one is if you need to introduce a new player just have them wash ashore.

Greed: Sometimes it's not difficult or a majestic purpose. It's just money. Don't care about the purpose, don't care about the fame, money is the goal. Money is the end goal.  I guess the Ocean movies would be a good example.

In Media Res: Or 'Into the middle of affairs'. Or 'roll initiative'. Imagine the players finish all their little details for their characters and they think the GM is just going to ease them into the game with a stroll through town or a tankard at the tavern. Oh no. The GM places them right in the middle of a battle where they must join forces to survive the encounter.
Forgedaboudit: And of course the GM can just forget about romancing the players together and just have them together because that's the way it is. For one shot adventures this is what needs to be done.

A few tips I would give GMs new and old if they haven't tried this before.
  • The first is to run the players separately for an adventure or two. This allows them to get a feel for the character, the world and develop a background. So when he joins the party he already has a idea of how he approaches things in the world.
  • Second, if you are playing with a point base system like GURPS, allow the players to rearrange points if they wish during the first two sessions. Sometimes the idea they had when developing a character doesn't play out that well with the party. So allow them to tweak it if they wish.
  • Third, I think it's the GM's job to develop an outline of the character's background so it fits into the world, doing this of course with the player. And then the player has the outline can fill in the details. This will give the character a knowledge of things so a cleric knows not to pray in the middle of the market because that is against the atheist baron's law. Simple but important things.
  • Fourth, don't get too wrapped up in party balance. It may help the player tremendously to have a cleric who can heal them, but if they don't they will have to figure out a solution. Maybe it will be to buy a ton of healing potions or hire a cleric to travel with them. Allow them to find a solution to the problem. Makes it more interesting.
  • Lastly, do not get too fancy with introducing new characters into the game. I once had a GM, I won't mention any names *cough* Rob *cough* who tried to introduce my character into the game by imprisoning me in a coconut. I don't think I was too subtle with my critique, "I think that's the dumbest thing I've heard." But I went along with it anyway. The party found the coconut and didn't open it. So I spent the game trapped. Rob tried to get them to 'open' the coconut but the party was having any part of it. Please GMs, do no put imprison your players in food.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Awesome Mail Call: EDIT

 EDIT: I erroneously contributed the homemade zine to Peter Regan, he had emailed me earlier in the week and when I got a envelope from across the ocean and automatically contributed to Peter.  When it was in fact from +Simon Forster who has been making some incredible maps of late.  I apologize to both Peter and Simon for my mistake. 

Yesterday was a shit day.  Huge piles of it everywhere.  Couldn't wait to get home and get away from work.  I get home and Ivy said their was mail for me.  I said, where's it at.  She said its over there.  I said no its not.  She said yes it is.  I said no its still not.  So she went over there and said, oh, its not here.  Maybe I left it in the car.  She went out to the car.  It wasn't there.  She searched the first over there place and it was over there.  How many of you have I lost yet?

It gets better.

So I get the mail and holy fricking crap, I got three glorious pieces of mail.  Here are the suspects.

The people who made my Friday much better are the following, from top, +Christian Walker, then +Dak Ultimak, and finally an excellent surprise from +Simon Forster.  Look at that beautiful creepy butterfly Dak sent me.  Love it.

First, let's take a look at +Christian Walker's offering.  The Shudde M'ell Confidential, number 1, is Christian's introduction into his combining Los Angles and Call of Cthulhu.  His story begins at the Pacific Palisades and a Methodist reverend Dr. Charles Holmes Scott wanting the area to embody the ideals of the Chautauqua Movement.  Then it moves along to introduce Nathaniel Eisen, a scriptwriter.  We get his background, but Mr. Walk-air is dangling the nugget for a future issue we will get to know what happen to Nathaniel, his brush with 'mind bending terror'.

Thanks a ton Christian.  Loved it and as always looking forward to future issues.  And welcome back to the fold.  I've missed your mojo.

The next guilty party for making my Friday better was +Dak Ultimak and his most recent issue of Crawl!  My first thought was, "Wow, this is really pink."  The cover art by bygrinstow is great.  Its a front and back cover which I want to do for a future issue of the Manor.  I think this one of the best issues just because I love the theme, TIPS! TRICKS! TRAPS!  The articles are all great.  There is a particular demon sword I took a shine to.  If you don't have the pink issue, go get it.  Crawl! is a fantastic zine.

And last and most surprising was this mini zine adventure from +Simon Forster.  This is all hand written.  Maps all hand made.  And look at the crosshatching on that map.  Amazing.  I would have gotten motion sickness doing all that.  And its double sided.  It's an 8 room mini adventure title The Face of Evil.  Thanks a ton Simon.  I loved.  You helped save my Friday.

I love getting gaming stuff in the mail.  Getting it on a Friday is a bonus because I can enjoy it over the weekend.  I am enjoying them all.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ray Harryhausen Blogfest Part 1

Just a cool picture I found and thought it would make a great initial shot for Ray Harryhausen's blogfest.  I need to go find some of my DVDs and make it a point to watch a couple of his movies this weekend. 

A Quick Adventure Construction

It's the day before game night and due to real life commitments and too much time on the 360, you have nothing planned. You could grab an adventure from off the shelf, but that would take a lot of tweaking to suit the level of your characters not to mention having to change the stats to the system you are using. You could use one of the many random dungeon creators out there and wing it, but the same problems still comes into play. The players are expecting some kind of dungeon crawl. They spent last session researching an abandon fortification. They heard through a few well-placed rumors that the army payroll for that post was never found. The carrot has been dangled, a sketch of a background describing the type of 'dungeon' was established, and last session some of the research said the fortification is haunted by the soldiers.

Maybe you're not in too bad of shape. You read over last sessions game notes and find the map you drew. You said it was a simple fortification built into the side of a cliff. You trace over the map you drew them to give them the rough sketch for a player's map.  A prop.  Players love props.  It takes a few minutes to sketch out a dozen rooms. Hmm, not too bad, it's got some personality. You can see the story in the architecture, the shapes and design.

You have an hour before dinner and after that you have to take the wife out or she'll threaten harm on your tender parts. Better get a move on.

You calculated it will take three days travel to reach the fort. Two days will be spent going through a wild forest. You think about making a random encounter table, but decide to go with a few planned encounters. The party will run into a few giant wolves as they enter the forest just to knock the rust off their dice. Later in the day they have a chance to spot a trail where a patrol went though. It's an orc hunting party. The party can follow the tracks, it takes them a little off their destination. In this case the party has a good chance of gaining surprise. If an orc is kept alive he may tell the party his tribe has moved into the forest because of the noises. He can explain no further. Should the ignore the tracks, later that night the orcs attack the party's camp. Why waste a perfectly good orc hunting party? The next day in the forest they see sign of something very large has uprooted trees and left craters of footprints. A giant. The next night tease the party with the ground vibrating. There'll be no sleep for them.

On the third day the party reaches the hills where the fortification is waiting. You're feeling generous and lower the difficulty to find the place. Just to add some atmosphere there will be a bad rain storm making the terrain slick. Excellent. You figure to keep the dungeon as straight forward as possible at this point. You'll need to look through your monster manual to find an undead creature that would be a suitable challenge for the players to represent the restless soldiers. Shadows, they'll fit perfect. It will give the cleric something he can turn, something for the fighters to hack and the magic users to blast. In one section you decide to throw in a pack of Shadow Mastiffs. It adds some variety and will keep the players from getting too cocky. You populate the rooms then move onto who the boss fight will be. You thumb through the manual and reach the wraith. Hmm, the level drain worries you, but the party will just need to be more strategic than bull rushing every encounter. But, being a kind and generous master of the dungeon you make a note in the forest encounters to give one of the orcs a +1 bow with a few magical arrows so they can fight from a distance.   

Now to put that chest of gold somewhere. Putting it in the wraith room is just too easy. You notice a mark on your map you didn't like and erased. That could be a good hiding place. The soldiers threw the bags of gold in holes. Anyone who can see in the dark or tosses a light down there will see them easily it will just be a matter of looking in there. You decide to put a few Shadows in there standing guard. Let the players figure out why they are standing guard in the crapper.

No dungeon would be finished without a trap. Let's take that original chest full of the gold and put it in the wraith room. Put a lock on it for the thief to feel useful. No needle trap in the lock that is too cliche. Maybe a fireball blows out the top when it's opened. Nah. Let's throw a teleport trap in there. The player gets a save, but if he fails he gets sent to a cell. The cell is at an undisclosed space. There are six dead bodies in the cell with the player. You could place the cell south of the dog pens, but maybe it could be used as another adventure seed. You note a few possibilities and think about it. Inside the chest are a handful of non-magical weapons to give it weight should the players decide to take it home without opening it. The teleport works once a week.

So there you have it. Let's break it down.
2 Encounters : If you need another encounter you can always throw in more orcs or that giant.
12 Rooms : A dozen room in the fort.
3 Monster Types : The monsters go with the theme and there is enough variety to keep the players interested.
1 Trap : Not only is it a trap, but a possible adventure seed.
1 Twist : The treasure being in the crapper instead of the chest. Just slight enough to keep the players guessing.

And that's it. Within an hour you've come up with adventure that should keep your players challenged through the evening. It could easily stretch into a second evening and on to other adventures. The wife is calling. Dinner is done. You look over your quick dungeon. It's rough, but definitely doable. Tomorrow you'll have time before the game to smooth some of the rough edges.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Blogfest for Ray Harryhausen

RJ over at Gamers & Grognards purposes a blogfest on Friday dedicated to the late, great Ray Harryhausen who passed away this week and 92.  I've always refereed to him as Harry.  When I would here his name when I was younger I thought Harry was his first name and Hausen was his last.  I knew there was a Ray in there, but seemed to forget about it.

If you're a gamer of older age his movies were must see.  Any gamer of any age should watch his movies.  I think his movies shaped my view of gaming in my early years.  All the fantastic creatures that we populate the dungeons come to life.

If you're interested, please join in on Friday in a blogfest honoring Harry, Ray Harryhausen.  Share your favorite memory, favorite movie or just post a picture of one of his monsters that you remember best. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Review: Citadel by the Sea

One of my favorite features in Dragon Magazine were the adventures in the center of the magazine. Sorta like the centerfold. One of the adventures that stood out for me was Citadel by the Sea designed by Sid Fisher. It appeared in issue #78 and won 1st place in the module design contest, category A-1. It combined many of the classic elements without being cliché. Orcs barricaded within a ruins of an old elven fort with a couple of dungeon levels beneath. Mix in some undead, an evil half-orc cleric and an orcish artifact and you got yourself a wang dang doodle of a party. What I appreciate the most about this adventure is the simplicity and the progression of the adventure.

This adventure is very adaptable. How difficult is it to place that setting/situation into a campaign? I have used it four or five times, with small changes. It became a stronghold for one of the players. He tried to capture some creatures during his expeditions to stock his own dungeon and found it was easier to kill the critters than subdue them. There is plenty of room to develop the area for a micro setting, a seed for a sandbox campaign. The village of Awad (probably not the best name in the world) could easily be mapped out and some of its inhabitants are already detailed. The area has a history that could be altered, but even if the GM decided to use the background it can easily be adapted into an existing campaign.

If you have issue #78 (it's a pretty great one) than dust it off and take a look. I was fortunate to find the first 250 issues on DVD a few years back. There were many great modules tucked into those pages and this one always seems to come back to me. It's like a great late night horror flick you've seen it a dozen times. It's just as good the twelfth time as it was the first time.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Adventure Design

I've been working on adventures.  A handful of them.  And I notice I don't have a unified approach to any of them.  Not that needs to be, but sometimes its helpful.  When you do the introduction its pretty much says the same thing, this is for x number of characters at x level.  Please change anything you like.  There is some standard stuff in every adventure.

Here's what I propose.  Propose?  Here's what I plan on doing.  I want to develop a stat block for the adventure itself.  For easy reference for perspective GMs and so the writer can save precious space.  I probably should put this out there until I've thought about this more, but I rarely like to think too much.  Causes cramps. 

This is a sample, but it would be a in a block on the cover of the adventure.

Level: 3rd to 5th
# Characters: 6 to 8
Setting: Village & Underground Dungeon Crawl
Difficulty Level: Medium
Size: Small
Rating: Teen

The last three have qualifying answers, but I would keep it to a three or four tier answer system.  Difficulty: easy, medium and hard.
Size: small, medium, large.
Rating: family, teen, mature.

In general, the basic information is delivered at a glance.  There are probably a few categories that could be added.  If you have a suggestion please do or maybe something could be changed in what I proposed.