Friday, July 30, 2021

New School Adventures, Old School Game

Coming to you from the glamorous 
Mother-in-Law's Basement Studio
(Vacation gaming is awesome!) 

Tuesday night was my first full-length session playing a Candlekeep Mysteries adventure using Lamentations of The Flame Princess for my podcast. I found it quite revealing about the assumptions made between different editions of D&D 

(Spoilers ahead for "The Joy of Extradimensional Spaces" ) 

Now, keep in mind Lamentations of The Flame Princess is not a perfect analog to Basic and Expert Dungeons & Dragons. The classes have been tweaked somewhat. Elves cannot see in the dark, for example. And only fighters get better at hitting things.

At its core, however, it is still B/X with a Cannibal Corpse album sleeve painted on the cover. I feel safe in stating that playing it is close enough to B /X D&D to count for the purposes of this discussion.

One of the first things you know is that combat is assumed to be way more often in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition . Rather than relying on things like reaction rolls, most monsters in the adventure entitled "The Joy of Extradimensional Spaces" attack automatically. Some to defend their owners property, some as a prank (nonsensically), some out of hunger. Even creatures with no reason to hang around and murder player characters attempt to do so.

And there are a lot of monsters. For a first level dungeon, this adventure included an imp, a quasif, two flying swords, one mimic, two fairy dragons, four crawling hands, one powerful animated library, and one swarm of animated books. I was rightly concerned that this could lead to a TPK with the average soft first level BD&D characters.

Candlekeep Mysteries cover Art
By Clint Cearly;
©2021 Wizards of the Coast
This adventure includes monsters that can only be hurt by magic, and assumes 1st level PCs have access to an infinite supply of attack Cantrips. It is assumes that there's going to be some healing available for the player characters. Neither are guarantees in older editions of D&D. My party had no healing available. While my players were lucky and rolled relatively tough characters that was no guarantee either. D&D5e is in essence a game that allows for players to charge in and overcome fairly tough foes without too much difficulty.

This is also reflected in the way the adventure rewards the PCs. If PCs are awarded experience for killing monsters primarily and level 1 requires only 300xp, then this monster a-go-go dungeon will have you half-way to level 3. On the other hand, if you are being rewarded for finding treasure, and fighting monsters is designed to have a low reward:risk ratio, and level 1 is meant to be a challenge, not a formality, this dungeon offers a pittance that doesn't even take a Thief close to the 1,700 they need for level 2.

This is well discussed osr OSR and not really news. But there is a flipside to this I had to see played out to understand.

Modules written for modern Dungeons & Dragons don't assume cautious, strategic play at all.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Review : Lands of Legends: Fairy

Covers: Lands of Legends : Fairy
©2021 Axian Spice 

: Giuseppe Rotondo, Mauro Longo
PublisherAxian Spice
System: OSR

Lands of Legends are thus far is a series of zines. Each volume has two issues one presents ten locations and the other ten encounters each for ten different terrain types commonly used in older editions of Dungeons & Dragons. Making each volume a total of 100 encounters and 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.

I reviewed the first two volumes of Lands of Legends: Grim and Mundane here. Lands of Legends Grim offers bleak, horrific, or tragic encounters for a grimdark Dungeons & Dragons campaign or a game of Mork Börg. While Lands of Legends: Mundane focuses on Low Fantasy encounters and locations that do not rely on magic or the supernatural to function.

The third volume of the series is Lands of Legends: Fairy. This pair of Zines offer 100 strange, magical, and whimsical encounters and 100 strange and wondrous locations inspired by Faerie Tales and Phantasmagoria.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Game Review: Lowlife 2090

: Stephen Grodzicki 
Publisher: Pickpocket Press
Marketplace: DrivethruRPG 
Engine: Custom d20 variant 

Over the last year I have got a lot of play out of Low Fantasy Gaming by Stephen Grodzicki. I have played in the campaign that started as baseline Low Fantasy Gaming online, and run both a short adventure series, and a full-length campaign in LFG at home. I like it because it has a simple engine that matches some of the best elements of AD&D2e, Dungeons & Dragons 3e, Warhammer Fantasy Gaming, and Advanced Fighting Fantasy in one clever package mixed with a few of its own innovations. I have become a huge fan of the system 

Another game that I've been passionate about for many years is Shadowrun. I started playing SR in second edition, but ran a campaign in first when my old manual went missing. Since then I have run campaigns in 3rd, 4th and 5th edition Shadowrun. I would guess that I have put in about 2,000 hours of play in the system over the years. 

So, when I heard that Stephen Grodzicki was making a spiritual successor to Shadowrun, but using his Low Fantasy Gaming rules, I was quick to hit him up for a review copy.

(The first time I had been bold enough to do that with anyone.) 

I m very impressed with the final product. It may be up there with Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG and Index Card RPG Core 2e in my top 10 role playing games reviewed in the last year.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

My Podcast Pitch

Here goes me, suppressing my inner introvert...

I want to run two podcasts for the short term starting sometime in the middle of Summer. Totally for laughs and good, grungy OSR fun. And I am looking for volunteers and feedback to help me with my project.

I'll start with big concepts, then go into specifics.

Chaos Crawls Over Candlekeep

Look, Candlekeep Mysteries, to my eyes, is a hot mess of touchy-feely goo. But it is goo that, if you don't play it too seriously, can probably deliver some great laughs and good fun. So I want to convert about half of the adventures in there to play in Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Then I want to get a crew of jaded, smoky grognards who have had enough of where D&D is going under the WotC banner to play it.

Here's my rationale:

  • It'll be funny to listen to Grumpy grognards verbally roll their eyes.
  • It'd be fun to watch them murderhobo their way across the setting with extreme prejudice. 
  • If we aren't total dicks, we can also show 5e players a familiar scenario played fast and loose using an OSR rule-set so that we can showcase the beauty of the Old-School systems and playstyle.

Die, Outworlder! Die! 

Venger Satanis' Cha'alt is a Fast-paced, over-the-top Gonzo Science Fantasy game that is loosely derived from Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, but is stripped down and accelerated to its absolute fastest and lightest. The modules written for it are weird and chaotic in a style that is very much a part of OSR culture. I intend to mix adventures up from Cha'alt, Cha'alt Fuscia Malaise, Saving Cha'alt and my home-brew material to create something fast and fun. 

Here's my Rationale:

  • The fast, lethal playstyle of Cha'alt, with its meat-grinder combat is a great way to show off the most 'Metal aesthetic of OSR games. 
  • The intensely random and weird "Gonzo" style is not something much seen in Mainstream podcasts of this nature. I think it could be inspiring. 
  • Cha'alt's engine is close enough to 5e to be familiar to players of new Editions. 

If you want to know more, read on...

Monday, July 12, 2021

Planning Out Loud: Lowlife 2090

Image by Parallel Vision from Pixabay 

Because none of my players read this blog, I think I will use it to plan out loud for a one shot I arranged to play with some of my favorite gamers this evening.

The game I am running as Lowlife 2090 a Cyberpunk and Sorcery game in the vein of Shadowrun, but running on the low fantasy gaming engine, and assuming that magic and non-humans have always been there, but magic is simply too dangerous for Mortals to rely on, and so it has not significantly slowed the development of Technology.

Most of the players I've invited tonight are hardcore Shadowrun fans. It should be fun to see what they think of similar game running on the Low Fantasy Gaming engine. My review later this week. (You can put the cattle-prod down, Stephen!)

Saturday, July 10, 2021

How to be a Joy at the Table

Perhaps it is just the landscape of the culture in general, but I am finding the discourse online about TTRPG is painfully one-sided about how to make a gaming session fun. GMs are inundated with an endless stream of often unsolicited advice on how to make their tables 'fun', 'safe', 'inclusive' 'exciting,' etc. Only about a quarter of which is actually decent advice. Players, and their role in creating a better experience at the table is largely ignored.

But here's the thing: it only takes one person to ruin the fun for everyone else, and every player has the capacity to make the table more or less enjoyable for everyone else. Also, as you are either the guest or ost in someone else's space, part of your job is to make yourself welcome.  At the end of the day, a wise player will have left their host and their GM thinking "I really enjoyed my time with X, and could tell they appreciated it, too. I would like to play with them again.

Know What You Want

One thing we don't generally pay attention to when we are thinking about role-playing games is what kind of experience we specifically want. Lots of people say they want to play D&D... but what kind?

Knowing what kind of experience you want, meaning not just it's genre, but what kind of table culture you want to be a part of, what themes you want to explore, whether you want a casual beer and pretzels game, online social gathering, or an elaborate and improv heavy game of intrigue will make a huge difference to which tables you will be comfortable at.

Communicating what you are looking for both helps the GM provide for you, but also will help you figure out whether the table you are considering joining is the one for you. I think that, as a whole, the TTRPG community could stand to develop a language to help express what they want to play, and develop a custom of GMs both displaying openly what kind of game they want to run, and players learning to look for that information, express what they want, and ask about what goes on at a given table.

Once you know what you want, it also helps to know what games can best give you that experience. Dungeons & Dragons can do a lot, but it doesn't necessarily do everything well. If you want a weird cyberpunk experience with some magic and supernatural elements, you would be better off seeking a Shadowrun or Lowlife 2090 game than a futuristic game of D&D. And if you are looking for short and engaging intrigue, you'd be better off playing Fiasco than either.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021



I currently am inundated with books to review, including a gorgeous color hardcopy of Lowlife 2090 from Stephen Grodzicki over at Pickpocket Press, the latest Lands of Legends from @AxianSpice, another issue of D12 and more!

I am also playing 3-4 nights a week!

I have two full-sized TTRPGs and a couple of larger adventure modules in production, and another project coming down the pipeline that I am not ready to talk about yet. 

With an impressive body count of having died no less than 7 times in various and sundry games.and having a new record for playing the same character for 28 sessions all told (and still, he's only level 2.)

I wanted to take a moment to express just how grateful I am to all of my readers for helping me make this happen. You all are awesome! 

Friday, July 2, 2021

Character A.I.

 I wanted to share an exercise I did for my Thursday night Low Fantasy Gaming group.

I put this together on a lark for a night where I would not be present. It was, in many ways, a matter of self-parody. I looked at how I played the PCs and made a random table of the thi gs I did most often with my two characters. Then I jokingly gave it to my GM. The funny thing is that he used it, and they worked. My characters continued to be useful, effective, and in-character.