Monday, June 28, 2021

Micro-Review: Worm Crawls

Cover Side, "Worm Crawls"  ©2021 M. A. Guax 
: M. A. Guax
Publisher: Self-published
Engine: System Agnostic

I wanted to showcase this free adventure by M. A. Guax, whom I've featured before in my mini reviews back when I was boosting Tiago Rolim's care fund in the Spring.

M. A. Guax has an impressive talent for coming up with the barest bones necessary to make something gamble, and then adding an in a liberal dose of flavor to make it compelling.

In this case, he created a map to showcase his "Unseen #1 Hexkit" them crowdsourced enough cool ideas to fill a d66 encounter table.

What we have as a result is a labyrinthine Hex crawl through a worm God to earn freedom by freeing him from ancient cursed swords embedded in his flesh. One encounter per Hex.

As I can't resist a good brainstorm on Twitter, here are my contributions:

From Worm Crawls by M. A. Guax

One paragraph, a simple map, and a d66 table on a single 3-panelled page with some cool art on the back, and Credits. That is all we need for something weird, wonderful, and eminently playable. It is a case study in elegant minimalism. And an interesting take on the one-page dungeon

If anything, I might've asked him to include copyright data in fine print somewhere, so knew how much I could share. 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Review: D12 Monthly - Issue 2

: Russ from YumD

Marketplace :

Engine: Edition Agnostic Dungeons & Dragons

D12 monthly issue 2 is the most recent offering in the d12 monthly series by YumDM. It covers how death is approached in a campaign world, how to approach player character death, some alternatives to PC death, and deities, magic items, and DMing advice - all built around the theme of death in Dungeons & Dragons.

This issue includes both some familiar columns and some new ones:

  • On the Ropes introduces new (non-) magic items fitting to the magazine's theme, in the same vein as Oils Ain't Oils in Issue #0
  • Location, Location, Location offers an adventure site or town for the player characters to explore. In this issue we have further expansion of the town of Dolfar, which has been developed through issues zero and one.
  • Dramatis Personae returns after being absent in issue 1 offering us new and interesting NPCs to use in a home game.
  • Corner Table is replaced with a set of end tables at the back of the zine.

The feature articles are

  • Death Rites an article on different ways cultures in a Dungeons & Dragons setting might deal with the dead, given the reality of monsters and undeath.
  • Different Ways to Die is a review of how hitting zero hit points and dying were handled in different editions of Dungeons and Dragons from OD&D and B/X through AD&D, as well as 3rd through 5th editions.
  • Death Defying Injuries offers a new take on the lingering wounds as an alternative to a PC or important NPC dying.
  • Death in TTRPGS is about communicating with your table when a player character dies and how to handle it both as a problem to be solved in the game and an emotional event for the players involved.
  • Ullarl offers a detailed look at a god of death used in UmDM's campaign world and who might come up in a Dolfar adventure, including a discussion of the roles and rights of a cleric of that deity.
  • Death Dealing Artifacts offers a series of powerful magic items that kill targets, but at a serious cost.
  • Spirited Away offers a plane of existence called the spirit world which covers a liminal space between life and death.
  • Resurrection Risks offers ways in which to make getting a dead character raised more complicated to keep death feeling like an important event in the game.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Review: D12 Monthly - Issue 1

: Russ from YumDM
Marketplace :
Engine: Edition Agnostic Dungeons & Dragons

D8 Monthly has been renamed to D12 Monthly. Issue #1 is the second offering in this series of free monthly zines. They've done a good job of establishing a format that works. It includes a couple of columns that we have seen in past issues

  • Corner Table provides one random encounter table to be used in game
  • Location, Location, Location gives you a short dungeon, town, or adventure site.

Issue #1 also offers quite a few more feature articles.

The feature articles in this issue are:

  • D8 Dungeon Generator a simple tool using d88 to stock a dungeon combined with guidelines derived from the five room dungeon concept to create fast and easy dungeons.
  • Leveling Your Encounters is an introduction to the two articles that follow it, suggesting how they can be combined to create a fast and easy encounter rolling method.
  • Encounter Distance is a simplified d6 table for determining encounter distance when rolling for wandering monsters.
  • What the Hell are the Monsters Doing? offers a simple random table for determining what monsters are up to.
  • Building a New Monster is advice on and an example of re-skinning and modifying an existing monster to create something new, and a discussion as to why a DM might wish to do so..
  • Building a Quick NPC builds on the map method of NPC design introduced an issue zero by adding random tables for motivation, appearance, and personality.

What I loved

Return to Dolfar

The Firststop Inn and the Quiss' Basement Dungeon build upon the setting that was established in issue #0, the small town of Dolfar. It both adds new locations and new PCS to the town, and gives us an adventure location, villainous assistant, and five-room dungeon that player characters can explore in the town, built around an NPC introduced in issue #0.

This is a clever way to write the Zine. It means that we have a reason to keep coming back, and if Russ keeps developing related locations, we have a a good chunk of a campaign contained in the pages of the zine by the end of the year. It also allows Russ to have a purpose for the examples and content that he includes in the Zine. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Review Lands of Legends Zine

Covers for Lands of Legends: Mundane 
©2021 Axian Spice
Authors: Giuseppe Rotondo, Mauro Longo
Publisher: Axian Spice
System : OSR / Mörk Borg
Marketplace: DrivethruRPG 

Lands of Legends are thus far is two sets (Grim & Mundane) of two zines. Each are presents a series of 10 locations and 10 encounters each for 10 different terrain types commonly used in Dungeons & Dragons. Making each issue 100 encounters or 100 Adventure locations; each described in a single paragraph. These are often completely System Neutral, but roughly a quarter of them have mechanics - usually saving throws - for an OSR game. They include the OGL5 license in the back of the 'zines. 

The Mundane Volume is designed to set the baseline and format for the series. It's locations and encounters will fit in most Fantasy games, no matter what level of magic and fantasism you are using in your game. Most of the events and locations are at least plausible, if not real-life hazards and dangers that a person could stumble across on Earth, or a world very much like it.

The Grim volume is designed with Gothic and grimdark settings in mind. The Encounters in it tend to be Bleak, often full to the gills with body horror, curses, and genuinely horrific and bleak events. It is ideal for use with Mörk Borg* or Lamentations of The Flame Princess

*I will confess to not yet owning a copy of Mörk Borg, it is going on my review wish list. I'm going to have to sell a lot of Adventures to be able to pick it up, though.

I've had my eye on lands of Legends for some time, as the project is crossed my Twitter feed once in a while. I have even used elements of the Grim Locations issue in one of my campaigns based on what I read in the demo on drive-thru RPG. When Giuseppe Rotondo offered me a copy of the full for review, I was absolutely ecstatic, and I am most definitely not disappointed! The sheer level of creativity that went into this Zine is staggering.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

One-to-one time

 I started a YouTube channel to share some of my thoughts in video format. My first one is a video on one-to-one time.

I hope folks find this format useful! 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Candlekeep Mysteries Notes

Candlekeep Mysteries cover Art
By Clint Cearly;
©2021 Wizards of the Coast
I have a very specific project in mind for Candlekeep Mysteries, and so I have acquired a copy of the book.  I am flipping through adventures in random order and writing my thoughts down I thought I would share them here. This is a fairly raw and unpolished take on the book from a grouchy old Grognard. It will be a different tone from the usual articles here, and will include some foul language and general cynicism. 

It also must come with a serious Spoiler Warning: I am going through them at varying levels of detail. I will definitely ruin surprises for people intending to play in Candlekeep Mysteries. 

Be prepared for grumbling.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Game Review: Mothership

Author: Sean McCoy
Cover, Mothership Player's Survival Guide;
©2019 Tuesday Knight Games

Publisher: Tuesday Knight Games
: Custom d100 roll-under 
Marketplace: DrivethruRPG 

Mothership is a space opera horror game in the vein of Alien, Event Horizon, Cargo, Screamers, and Ghosts of Mars.

After listening to an episode of Thought Eater a couple of months ago, I had to rush out and grab the Mothership Player's Survival Guide while I still could. I've been hearing about the game on the podcasts I listen to like Spellburn for some time. Mothership had been has attained cult status in the DCC fan community.

Sean McCoy had just announced that a boxed set would be coming out soon to replace the original Survival Guide that has been making the rounds at conventions for the last couple of years. I realize that this would be a rare opportunity for me to review a product in it's original format, the one that helped it attain cult status, and then see it again in a few months - fully realized - after a couple of years of play testing.

I had been putting off getting Mothership for a while, because I really wanted to try the game, and when I really want to try something that's pay what you want, I try to put down the author's full asking price. It's only when I'm flat broke, or getting something to review for the sake of completeness that I ever consider paying less than full asking price. Not that I think poorly of people who put in $0 totals. It just doesn't suit me to do it. And I has been broke for some time.  Thankfully for me, I had just got a generous art commission. 

So, I grabbed Mothership, read it right away, and, as I had just completed a short Index Card RPG Core 2E game, I decided to create a mini series of five adventures for Mothership, fusing the plots of Mass Effect and Deep Rock Galactic with a touch of Event Horizon thrown in.

Image from Event Horizon; ©1997 Paramount
(It basically stole the original plot from DOOM, if we're being honest.) 

I have to say, I understand it's populartity: I had a blast, even though my five-part series turned into a two session lead up to a TPK.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

My Upcoming Projects

For those of you who are interested in an update, I completed a 148- page manuscript for Deathtrap Lite just over two weeks ago.

When you edit your own work, however, it is easy to keep missing the same thing over and over again, so I started a second project: Midnight Zone. My idea was to create a distilled version of my Over Six Engine that was not as interested in being OSR compatible, while still using OSR-style time keeping, initiative, and NPC randomizers.

I made it into a Cyberpunk system (or it might be better called Post-Cyberpunk) so that I would be forced to go over everything with a fine-toothed comb to make sure I was consistent with the new genre. It has helped me catch a few inconsistencies, unclear rules, and typos right away.

Once Midnight Zone has a draft done, I will go back and edit Deathtrap Lite, the release an open beta for anyone will g to help me make it better. Then I will go back and update Midnight Zone with what I have learned.

I am really proud of Midnight Zone, it is strange, offbeat, and takes Cyberpunk into a very different hostile environment: the floor of the Antarctic Ocean.

So here are some screens hots to whet you whistle :

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Gaming with Kids: Final Thoughts

Playing TTRPGs even with small kids can be a great way to help them explore their world, and a great way to bond on a rainy afternoon. But it is going to be fraught at times with unique challenges that you aren't going to run into with mature players.

Running a game for children, especially small children can require a lot of extra work. You need to help them navigate the rules. You will need to contend with a short attention span in some way, either through the structure of your game or the volume of your content. You will need to be aware that if you are playing with your own children, or children that trust you that you are teaching values at the same time that you are playing, and make sure that your game reflects that, rather than trying to be gritty, morally ambiguous, or revolutionary.

As children are no good at advocating for themselves, you also have to exercise a significant deal more empathy. Reading the room, making sure that the kids at your table are comfortable and having a good time, balancing the game in a way that gives every player a chance to shine, and interviewing your players to figure out what they like and don't like is important. D&D tables with adults are subject to Market forces: if the players don't like the game you're running they won't come back. If you're running a game with kids, they may feel like they don't have a choice but to playay.

Most Children's role playing games has certain qualities that are designed to make them more approachable. They tend to use one die type, tend have very simple and light mechanics, tone down violent imagery significantly, and they tend to have some structural mechanism to help deal with short attention spans.

However, they also often suffer from being designed with very little respect for the intelligence of children, and, seem to have absorbed the values adjustment philosophy that took over schools back in the 80s. Namely, the idea that kids' media should have very little if any moral content or frightening material. They tend to be devoid of danger, the monsters are usually misunderstood, rather than being monstrous, and neither player characters or NPCs gets hurt.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Game Review : First Fable

First Fable Cover Art by Chris Bates
CC-ND-SA 2012 Play Attention Games 

Game Review : First Fable

Author: Matthew McFarland
Publisher: Play Attention Games and One Bookshelf, Inc. 
Engine: Custom d6 Pool
Marketplace: DrivethruRPG

I have had First Fable longer than I have had kids. It was in a bundle I purchased from DTRPG in 2012. It is a free, open-source TTRPG oriented to kids aged 8-12.

Player characters have three attributes: Strong, Fast, and Smart determined by character class (Knight, Pirate, Animal Keeper, and Faerie Princess.) They also select three "Shines", one "Slow" (weakness) and a special item or ability. All things are rated 1-5.

A challenge is set by the GM with an appropriate stat as the base pool, the Player's may choose to increase or reduce the pool based on character shines (with a rating) and slows.

Players may expend charges on their ability item (max 5) to boost the pool.

The players roll the final pool in d6. Each result of 4 or higher is a "Star." One star is a success, multiple stars improve the quality of the success. If all rolled dice a Stars the character adds a new shine.

In opposed rolls, like combat, both sides roll and the character with the highest number of Stars win. Ties are rolled over.

In combat, characters have a fight value equal to total stats and shines (12 for a new character). At the start of a fight, PCs choose how many stars an enemy may deal in damage (net stars from an opposed fighting roll) before they are out of the fight, to a maximum their fight value.  If a PC takes more damage than their highest stat, they are "hurt" gaining a penalty on all challenges and getting a new weakness temporarily.

In many ways this is a quintessential Kid's role-playing game:

  • It includes classes based on what the author assumes kids would like, such as pirates and faerie princesses.
  • It uses only d6s.
  • The system is simple and relatively robust. 
  • Combat has relatively light consequences.
  • It uses a lot of unique, cutesy jargon.
  • Focuses on pets or magic objects as a source of power. 
  • Assumes the game will initially be played by kids and run by grown-ups. 

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Playing TTRPGS with Children: Downsides

Image by Urh Kočar from Pixabay

When I decided on doing a series of articles about playing role-playing games with children, I felt it was important to look into some of the negatives.

Lots of people will write about this topic and not dare have a negative thing to say; and I find that strange. It is easy to see downsides to including kids in your hobby. Including behaviors you would never put up with in an adult player. I feel that it is important to cover some of the things that you need to watch for when playing games with kids.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Game Review: Hero Kids

Game Review: Hero Kids

Cover Art for "Hero Kids" be Eric Quigley 
©2020 Hero Forge Games
: Justin Haliday
Publisher: Hero Forge Gsmes
Marketplace: DrivethruRPG
Engine: Hero Quest

Two months ago I when the complete library of Hero Kids in a contest. The publishers had asked parents to describe their children's imaginary superheroes. I described my little guy's hero Fire Bum, a pro wrestler with a light saber, super strength, and a collection of cursed monkey heads, who knows a few magic spells, but wins most fights by simply summoning the goat from the video game Goat Simulator to wreak havoc on his enemies.

Honestly, putting my son's imagination up in a competition feels like cheating.

So far, I have only run him through a couple of scenarios, but it is rapidly becoming one of his favorite tabletop games.