Sunday, August 15, 2021

Who Wants an Adventure? A Cool Location? How about an NPC Card?


July I created three 'things' for my Patreon. You can see Viviana above. She is my 34th NPC Card. An elven mage with some anger issues. She is statted for OSE rules. And the artwork is by Quico Vicens-Picatto of Misfit Studios. 

Next is The Maggot King. An adventure that'll take the players back a few hundred years to face an undead abomination, but the truth is, he was more of an abomination alive. This is a quick adventure for a single session. Artwork is by Yuri Perkowski Domingos

And lastly is Crystal Hunters. A location with interlacing situations going on for the party to get entangled. How could they not want to help out a party of poor miners against the giant Mining Guild. Dean Spencer and William McAusland helped bring this location to life.

Those who'd like to sample of collect my offerings, head on over to my Micro-Adventure Patreon and the PDFs are free. And if you'd like to get these in the mail please consider joining in on the fun. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Going Through the Spells: Find Traps

Yeah I went for the obvious, but still funny meme. The next spell up is Find Traps. I think it's a straight forward spell, but let's take a look.

Old School Essentials
Duration: 2 turns
Range: 30'
Trapped objects or areas within range of the caster glow with a magical blue light. 
Magical and mechanical traps: Are both detected.
No knowledge: About the nature of the trap or how to deactivate it is granted.

I like this spell. It's useful by letting the party know about a problem, but doesn't offer a solution. It's an abstract description so it doesn't so the trap itself, but the object or area. So it would show the hidden rope and pulley that releases the falling block. But a section of the ceiling glows blue. And for some reason I enjoy that it glows blue. Knowing me, I would have it glow blue for the first three times, bit on the fourth casting a trap glowed green. Watch the party speculate on why it's green. 

Duration: 3 turns
Range: 3"
Area of Effect: 1" path
All traps -- concealed normally or magically -- of magical or mechanical nature become visible. Note this spell is directional, and the caster must face the desired direction in order to determine if a trap is laid in that particular direction.

Sometime I wonder how I played AD&D for so many years. The spell is straight forward yet the need to put in the caveat about the 1" path just seems to give a dickhead GM a reason to mess with players. I'd just rule if its with 30' sight range of the cleric it's good to go. And where's the blue glow?

D&D 3ed.
Duration: no idea
Range: no idea
Notice traps as a rogue does.

...I should say I play 3rd edition once when it first came out. Once. I never played it to figure out how the casting works and the descriptions for the spells are all around one to two sentences. I'm sure somewhere there was a place that told you how long it lasted and what range it was, but I couldn't find it. But the description is about as succinct as it gets. It carries the spirit of the spell.

Find Traps is a tricky choice at 2nd level. I think it falls in the mid range of usability. The reason it's not higher if the duration. The cleric would need to already suspect a trap was in the area to cast it. It's not one to cast and start wandering around. The cleric casts it to confirm what is already suspected and it doesn't last that often.

But what if the trap isn't mechanical? Say you have coins in a chest coated with a contact poison? It is neither mechanical or magical. As a GM I would still have the coins glow blue, but give no further comment. Since it is a spell that will probably only detect one trap it doesn't threaten a trap laden dungeon. 

That's it. I'm out. Until next time we look into the nastiest of the 2nd level cleric spells in my opinion, Hold Person!

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Going Through the Spells: Bless

Last year I went through all the first level cleric spells, focusing on the Old School Essentials system. Then I compare the OSE version against the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons version of the spell. And if that's not enough, I throw in a random third system spell comparison. 

So let's jump into the 2nd level spells. First one up is Bless.

Old School Essentials 
Duration: 6 turns
Range: 60'
May be used in one of two situations:
1. Battle: Allies within a 20' square area who are not yet in melee gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls and a +1 bonus to moral.
2. Ritual: Casting bless may also form part of rituals or purification or consecration, at the referee's discretion. 

Reversed: Blight
Incurs a -1 penalty to morale checks, attack and damage rolls of enemies within a 20' square area. A save vs. spells is allowed to resist the blight. 

Bless is a useful spell. Especially when you have a combat option, which is always a benefit, but it's that second option, the ritual component I really like. It's one of the few times where a spell's affect is not specifically determined by the text. This gives the GM and the players additional opportunities to utilize bless in game and in different ways. I don't recall using bless in that way in my game and this is one of the reasons I'm doing this series, even though I've been playing for over four decades, I'm always learning new things. 

The only thing that doesn't make sense to me is the exclusion of those already in melee combat. Do you have to pay attention to get the bless? If so, aren't the archers drawing arrows and aiming, spellcasters prepping spells, thieves strategizing from the shadows? There is no reason the ground pounders up front shouldn't be blessed. 

The reverse, blight, is less exciting. Maybe because it's focused more on a combat aspect. I think I'd add 'defile' as an aspect. Where a rival cleric can contaminate or unsanctify a holy site. Any special properties the site may have held are now gone. I can see an evil cleric sticking the stinky pinky into a batch of holy water contaminating it.  

Duration6 melee rounds
Range: 6"
Area of Effect: 5" x 5"
Upon uttering the bless spell, the caster raises the morale of friendly creatures by +1. It also raises "to hit" rolls by +1. A blessing however, will affect only those not already engaged in melee combat. 

Reversed: Curse
Curses the enemies with a -1 to morale check and "to hit" rolls. The spellcaster determines the range of the spell (up to 6") and it affects all creatures within an 5" square centered on the point the spell was cast upon. 

There are many differences so I listed them.
  • First big difference of note, the AD&D bless spell is a 1st level spell. This is huge. Because in AD&D you get bonus spells for high wisdom. And the fact clerics get spells starting at 1st level compared to OSE, at 2nd. This means access to this spell is wide open comparatively. 
  • Absence of a bonus (or penalty) to damage rolls. I agree with the absence. I don't see a bless affecting the amount of damage done, but definitely the ability to hit an opponent.  
  • The duration is significantly different. Melee rounds are 1 minute in AD&D. So the bless lasts 6 minutes. Faster than a one pump chump on prop night. OSE version lasts 6 turns. Huge difference. This blessing would need to be done in the heat of battle otherwise it'll quickly fade after the fight starts. (thank you to Possibly Adam Morton for the time correction)
  • While maybe not a difference, but a distinction, is when casting reverse its called curse instead of blight, but acts the same relatively. In OSE the third level Remove Curse has a reverse called Curse. So imagine that's is the reason for the name difference. 
  • Also, the reverse, Curse, hits friend of foe when cast. OSE notes that enemies suffer the penalty while in AD&D, everyone within the area of effect must make the save or suffer the penalties. 
I'm not a fan of the AD&D version of bless and probably one of the reasons I rarely used it myself back in the day. Seems an ineffectual spell with little upside compared to, in this case, other first level spells, like a cure light wounds, light, or even detect magic. Bless would be way down on my list. And it doesn't have that cool role-playing component, ritual, written in like the OSE version.

Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game
Duration: 1 minute/level
Range: 50' radius
Gives the caster and his or her allies a bonus of +1 on attack rolls, morale checks, and saving throws against magical fear. 

Reversed: Bane
If fills the caster's enemies with fear and doubt, causing each affected creature to suffer a -1 penalty on attack rolls. morale checks, and saving throws against magical fear.

Slightly different from the OSE version. I find it interesting that it gives a bonus specifically against magical fear, but not against a creature that produces a natural fear. I'd think it would work for both. And I'm inclined to take it a step further and say a bless would provide a +1 to all saves for the duration. 

I also like that it gives the front line fighters some love. They don't have to disengage to high five the cleric to get the bless. 

I prefer this duration compared to the others. I like that level is taken into consideration to extend the affect. And again, I'd like it seen taken a step further by maybe adding an additional level of  blessing. Say a 5th level cleric casts the bless, then the bonus (or penalty) would be at +2 (-2). I don't think this unbalances the game and keeps the bless spell more relevant at higher levels. 

So that's it from the murky sylvanlands of PA. I hope you are enjoying this series and if you have any input please comment. I do have the monitoring option on due to waves of spam. 

Thanks again. The spell coming up next...Find Traps! And you know what meme is going up with that spell without having to tell or show anyone. :)

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Kickstarter Alert: Delvers to Grow

Just when you thought it was safe to take a break from Kickstarter, another one comes along and drags you back into its money devouring maw. Douglas Cole, the man behind Gaming Ballistic, Slayer of Dragon Heresy, Headlocker of Dungeon Grappling, and a pile of gaming material that could choke out a hungry umber hulk has just released his new Kickstarter, Delvers to Grow

Doug provided me with a sneak peek of Delvers to grow so let talk about what's inside. First off this is for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy. Of course it is, Doug is 'the GURPS guy'. And being GURPS is a point buy system, creating a character can take a bit. Delvers to Grow is a tool to assist players to create characters in minutes and GMs to create NPCs. 

Before we go any farther, this isn't a Kickstarter for one book. No, no, no. There FOUR delver books and if that's not enough there is an adventure by Peter Dell'Orto the other 'GURPS guy'. Let's take a look at the four Delver books first. 

Delvers to Grow: Build a Bjorn. Doug has included base templates with basic and advanced modules. Loadouts and spell lists are there for a fast selection. 

DtG: Fast Delvers. This book focuses on thief, martial artist, swashbuckler, and scout. They specialize in precision and deadly accuracy.

DtG: Smart Delvers. We got yer spellcasters here. We got yer bard, cleric, those druidy folk, and everyone's favorite, the wizard. Spellcasters take a lot of effort so this will help cut your time at the table.

DtG: Strong Delvers. The workhorses of the adventuring party. The men and women upfront standing toe-to-toe with their enemies. Jack up your barbarian, holy warrior, knight, and it wouldn't be a Doug book if it didn't include the wrestler. 

I love the idea of the different books for easy reference. The other huge benefit is the three point levels for each template. One at 62, another at 125, and the last at 187.  So these books go with any level of game you're running. 

Oh wait, you thought we were done? Nope. We still have the adventure, The Crypt of Krysuvik. Grab a few of those 125 point character templates and get your ass going on an adventure! Here's the blurb.

In The Hunted Lands northwest of Nordvorn, The bandit Krysuvik is said to have gathered much ill-gotten plunder, and taken it to his grave. It is yours . . . if you can find it and take it. Delvers have tried and failed to find his hoard. But a new clue has come to light that might put adventurers on the true trail of the treasure. The Crypt of Krysuvik provides details for the various locations that contain the clues – and tricks, traps, and monsters – that lead to the treasure. Slay, sneak, and negotiate your way to wealth using your own Delvers to Go or the included pre-generated characters.

Peter wrote it so I can guarantee you it'll be excellent. 

So How Much is this Gonna Cost Me?
Glad you asked. He's got a lot of pledge levels, but I'm going to talk about the ones I think are the sweet spot. At $35 you're getting all four Delvers in PDF and The Crypt of Krysuvik. Plus the stretch goals in PDF. Only $35!

But if you're like me PDF is okay. I use them for reference, but there is nothing like holding a book in your hand. At $70 you get all of the above in print and PDF. Wait, that deserves a !

There are many other pledge levels that cover even more material and Doug's back catalog. Make sure you check each pledge level and get the best one that suits your needs.

Stretch Goals
I like how Doug runs his stretch goals. It's not based on the pledge amount, but on the number of backers. This series of books are called Ready to Raid. 

At 600 backers Bandits and Outlaws is unlocked. These are the bad guys. Each is a complete character, with a bit of background, stats, equipment, and suggested use. Includes a full color icon for each character.

At 750 an array of SpellcastersUse them as sages, hirelings, crackpots, adversaries, or starting characters. Again, spellcasters tend to take up more time than other characters/NPCs to create so having a batch of them ready to go is a huge benefit. 

At 825 backers Delvers and Thegns is yours. They can act as prominent (or not-so-prominent) townsfolk, rival adventurers, hirelings, or grab-and-go characters.

At 1000 backs Doug unleashes the final stretch goal of Pirates and Vikings. The other books come in at 24 pages, this one expands to 40 pages. A Viking longship, complete with two-dozen raiders? Oh yes. A modestly crewed 60' merchant or exploration vessel? Yep. Tack on a rowed longboat and a large sailboat, each full of pirates. Each vessel will have a hex-map illustration in the book.

In Conclusion
This is Doug's 11th Kickstarter. He's always funded and over delivered. He makes great gaming books. Delvers to Grow looks like another success in the making. The price point is generous and the quality is always top-notch with Doug. So don't resist the pull as your wallet floats out of your pocket and vanishes into the ether that is Kickstarter. It's a good thing because in July, yes this July, your mailbox will groan with amazing amount of great gaming content. Click any of pictures or links to pledge!

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Artist Spotlight: Luigi Castellani

Luigi Castellani's work is someone I've used for years. His artwork ranges the entire gambit of fantasy, to sci-fi, cyberpunk, to halflings riding owlbears. I've been a member of his Patreon for years. Each month I get four pieces and each piece comes in three versions. B&W, grayscale, and color. 

I love using his art for my NPC Cards because they have so much personality that they write themselves.

While I focus on fantasy he has a lot of great art featuring other genres. 

Above are a couple examples of  his science fiction art. 

If you're looking for a versatile artist with a healthy back catalog and producing new pieces every month. Here are links to check out and follow Luigi Castellani's creations.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Starting a Campaign: Crawlers of Scorn


It's been over a year since I concluded my last campaign. Time to get into the GM's chair and begin the next chapter in my world building. The focus moves south of Hounds Head and the Komor Forest to a town known as Scorn. The seat of power of Baron Maybray. 

Welcome to Crawlers of Scorn

This campaign starts as an urban setting and I'll see where the party takes it. Streets, alleys, shops, tenements, and more NPCs than I can name. Most shy away from urban crawls, but I love them. I spent years wandering the streets in the City-State of the Invincible Overlord and loved every second. I hope to capture some of that gritty magic and develop an interesting setting where opportunities are not just in a dark tavern.

The system I'm using is Old School Essentials with home rules, of course. The platform leveling is not something I enjoy so I plan to create a more step progression with added bonuses each player can chose from upon leveling. This will allow them some diversity of their abilities so not all 3rd level fighters or thieves look alike. 

This my map of Scorn. I need to find the original copy this one bears the mark of a previous game. Each of the dark shapes are a group of buildings. And if there is space between them there is an alley. And the open areas are the thoroughfares. While I Scorn is a gritty setting, I am not trying to emulate a realistic medieval town, but one that is influenced by history with a lot of dark fantasy spice through in.  

Example of the city blocks broken down into individual buildings. These blocks are what are circled on the larger map.

I'm keeping the party small. Probably four players at this time. I'm using Roll 20. More than four players and a GM it tends to get noisy and I think it's a great number to create diversity without overcrowding

I am using a blog to record sessions. Some entries have links so the players and myself remember and track what has gone on in past sessions.

Here's a couple of examples from a one-on-one campaign I've run with Joe the Lawyer. 

Guildmaster Gordon Quarterton visited the site. Commented on the shoddy work of Snickle's shovel, but liked the idea of it. If Snickle could improve on his design Gordon said he'd be interested in buying a bunch for the guild.

Later that evening Snickle went home to fiddle with a few devices he was working on. A few hours later there was a frantic knock at his door. Carl pleaded with Snickle to let him in. After Carl entered he said the Spears of Sarrath were chasing him. He drank a bit too much and threw up the boots of a Spear.

When the players or myself want to recall what happened with a particular person, place, thing, or event, we can click on the link and there should be a 'play date' for each time they interacted and the result. This helps me as a GM to keep track of events and interactions and I think the players will find the information very useful. 

Soon. I plan on running on Mondays. It'll be good to get back behind the screen once again. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Successfully Funded! Some Stats and Insights

The Zine Quest 3 Kickstarter campaign for The Many Crypts of Lady Ingrade came to a close. It funded within an hour and had a steady growth through the 14 days. Here are some stats from my campaign. 

Backers: 406 

Pledged: $4616, of that amount $1009 was collected for postage. 

Biggest Pledge Day: $1357 (106 backers) - this was the first day of the campaign. 

Project Followers: 284 at the end. The highest number I had was 301 at one point.

Converted Followers: 124 which translated into a 43% conversation rate. Which is excellent. 

Coffee Pledge: 2 pledged the coffee level. One was my mother who pledge a $100. I can get a lot of coffee with that. Equates to 28.3% of the total pledges. 

PDF Pledge: 115 wanted the PDF. Equates to 28.3% of the total pledges. 

Print/PDF Pledge: 287 wanted the zine in their hands. Equates to 70.7% of the total pledges. 74 are from international backers from 21 different countries. 

Reduced or Cancelled Pledges: There were many cancelled and reduced pledges this time around. It happens. I'm estimating $400 to $600 pledges were cancelled or reduced. The funny thing is when Ivy would ask me the check where I was at, I'd click on my page and a few seconds later I'd lose a pledge. I kept jinxing myself. 

My Take on this Year's Zine Quest: This year I started behind. The original idea I had that was mostly written was too large. And then Jim, my artist from last year, was already booked to the gills. So I was scrambling to come up with something that was interesting that I wanted to work on for the next few months. And search for an artist at the last minute.

I got lucky and I contacted Jason Sholtis. He helped me with my first zine and was available. His style really fit the style I wanted to go with this year.

Over a year ago I did an adventure for my Patreon called The Many Crypts of Lady Ingrade. I always loved the title and concept. I wanted to expand it and thought it was perfect for this years Zine Quest. 

Printing: I also chose to go with a professional printer this year instead of printing it on my own. It'll be less stressful and after doing the numbers, much, much cheaper. In addition, it's going to give me a lot more options for layout. I'm excited to play around with that.

Maps: This year I recruited Rob Conley to help me with maps. His maps are amazing and will work great on VTT. I am added his maps for VTT play.

Editing: I have my editng team from last year. Joethelawyer and my wife, Ivy, will clean up my work. Make it look good. 

Distributors: I'm going to read out to distributors this year to carry my zine. I've attempted this in the past, but haven't had any luck. Fingers crossed.

That's a look behind this year's Kickstarter. I've got to get back to writing some crypts. It's been a blast so far. 

Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Many Crypts of Lady Ingrade Sneak Peek

Here is a glimpse at The Many Crypts of Lady Ingrade's Jason Sholtis cover. Still needs tweaks and smoothing out some of the details because of the layout I'm going for. I wanted a 50's horror movie poster look and I'm pretty happy with its progress. 

Then I've been getting maps from Rob Conley. Some folks asked why I didn't use my own maps this time. I wanted to have maps that are clear even if small. Rob's maps are always fantastic and the map pack that'll come with the pdf will be very useful with online play. 

One of Zine Quest's rules is you can have black, white, and one color. Some of my favorite book covers are by Michael Whelan. He did these series of gray scale covers for HP Lovecraft paperbacks with a splash of red mingled in. That simple splash of red made those covers amazing and something that I always remembered. That's what I wanted for this zine. The pop of red. Here's a few sample covers by Michael. 

The Kickstarter campaign is going very well. I funded within the first hour and now stand at 657% funding. Which is phenomenal. With so many projects out there it's easy to get lost in the tidal zine tidal wave. And this was just the first week!

My next post I'm focusing on the zine projects I backed. This year I've invested a chunk of money to get zines. And to get physical copies. Last year, I backed a few oat the PDF level and it's not the same. I need to have it in my hand and on my shelf.

Now for more self-promotion. Please check out my Kickstarter campaign, The Many Crypts of Lady Ingrade. It's been a fun project so far. And really, how can you have too many crypts to explore?

Thursday, February 4, 2021

A Zine Nudge

Zine Quest 3 is going crazy with a ton of selections, but there are two that will fund, but I wanted to give them a nudge to get them over the funding line. 

This first one is by Frank Turfler Jr. Lair of the Manticore! Barrow NO. 13. Located deep in the marshes, protected by the dangerous local fauna and nearly impassable terrain, it is rumored that a terrifying Manticore has recently made its home here.

Rumors spread fast and suddenly there is an odd stranger at the Keep offering an extremely large reward for the live capture of the beast.

Frank's only $82 away!

The second is by Jeffery Jones, Scoundrels: Making Your Game Criminal. Running games involving crimes is fun. Many of our favorite movies, TV shows, and comics center around themes of heists, robberies, gangs, bootlegging, or even acts of extreme violence. Sometimes the protagonists are criminals trying to climb the ladder for wealth and power; other times they are “Robin Hoods”, nobly fighting injustices through their own criminal acts.

When you want to run games with a criminal focus, you'll find a lack of solid tools that support this kind of play. From sandbox adventures, to side-quests, to fleshing out existing adventures, Scoundrels helps you–the GM–run a successful crime-themed game each and every game night.

Jeffery is a mere $44 away.

Please take a moment and check these two out and give them the nudge to put them over their funding goal!

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Zine Quest #3: The Many Crypts of Lady Ingrade

Nothing like waiting until the last minute to get my shit together. My offerings for Zine Quest #3, The Many Crypts of Lady Ingrade has been approved.

With art by Jason Sholtis and maps by Robert Conley I need to step up my game and make sure the writing matches the quality they produce. 

It goes live Monday, February 1st. 

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Deck of Many Things with a Bonus!

One of my favorite magic items of all time, The Deck of Many Things. I was cruising on Amazon checking out some random gaming trinkets and this one populated in my feed.

Also included is the Deck of Fates. I guess it did say it on the lid of the box, but I missed it. The box itself is very nice. Divided for the two tuck boxes and I dig the Emperor Moth on the lid and on the desks. 

I was extremely pleased with the quality of the box, but of course this is all about the cards. And I'm a bit of a RPG card junkie. Not sure why, but cards with dungeons, hooks, NPCs, or whatever, I want. 

Here's a picture with the Deck of Many Things on the bottom and The Deck of Fates in the top row. There are 49 cards total. Here are a few close up shots of some of the cards.

A small sampling of The Deck of Many Things. For $15 you can't go wrong. I almost bought a second set!

The links in this post are affiliate links. It helps keep the lights on in the Manor...well not really, just let's me grab a few more gaming trinkets. Even if you don't use my link you should definitely grab a set!

Monday, January 4, 2021

Behold! The World Breaker!

 I got this beautiful beast today. A antique gold, metal 100 sided die. It weights almost a pound! This thing can do some damage. I love the look of it. It's going to make me create d100 tables. 

I grabbed mine at SkullSplitter Dice. I've grabbed a ton of dice there. Along with this die I grabbed a mystery bag of dice. I always get crazy, weird dice from them. 

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Grab a Copy of Majestic Fantasy RPG

My good friend Rob Conley released his Majestic Fantasy RPG to the world yesterday. This is an interesting take on developing an RPG system using the nuts and bolds of Swords & Wizardry and adding original content and rules to reflect the setting. The tweaks Rob made are simple to implement and I adds a lot to a game. Rob and I have gamed together for over three decades so I am bias, but I also think it's very good.

In addition to the rule book he has his Basic Rules Reference Cards and Quick Reference Cards for Swords & Wizardry. Both handy tools when running a game. Imagine having an entire GM screen on a single page. Or if you are like me, having these cards near me while I'm developing adventures of content for my game is invaluable. 

I know Rob spent a lot of time getting this just the way he wanted. He had two editors look it over. He scored Richard Laschek, the artist for Harn products, to do his cover. Rob is one of the best GMs out there and if you want to take a peek at how he does it, grab a copy Majestic Fantasy RPG and find out.