Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Signal Boost: Being Open, Considerate, & a Good Ambassador

Signal boosting Aaron on this one (as if he needed it.)


Amen.

(Come shoot some more mutants with me, Aaron!) 

Monday, September 27, 2021

Adventure Review: Winds of Madness

Cover for "The Winds of Madness" 
Art by Inigoiio
©2021, Angus Bessai & Patrick Hoffman


Author
: Angus Bessai and Patrick Hoffman 
Publisher: DM's Guild
System: Dungeons & Dragons 5e

I don't usually review material for 5th Edition Material, but the moment Angus Bessai explained the concept, I had to read it, and bring it to the attention of some of my fellow Grognards, because this is the kind of adventure that I wish we had seen for 5e at the start. 

Winds of Madness is a 90-page campaign that carries a party from levels 11-14 and features two phases. In the first, the PCs attempt to prevent a fimbulwinter by sealing an ancient planar gate that has been opened after centuries of dormancy. The second phase is an attempt to prevent an alien being from the Far Realm from infecting and mutating all life on the Material Plane and then harvesting it. 

This setting blends material from Planescape, Spelljammer, The Epic Level Handbook, Frostburn, and 3e Psionics. 

I I could swear that this module was specifically designed for me. It takes some of my favourite things from different editions of Dungeons & Dragons, often things I wish were included in the more recent additions, and put them all together in one package. It also borrows notes some of my favourite science fiction media, like the Parasite Eve novels and games and Final Fantasy 6. 

What I Loved 

Going Beyond the Set Lore, but Respecting It

The Winds of Madness borrows ideas from a lot of sources. It expands on material like the Far Plane, the Githyanki war machine, the Elder Evils  and Spelljamming and uses them in new ways. There is loving attention to detail about how the lore worked in various editions of Dungeons & Dragons. D&D Canon is treated with far greater respect than it is in Wizards of the Coast products. Where he takes ideas to new places, like exploring the Far Realm with spelljammer ships, he makes sure to do so in a way that fits perfectly well with existing lore.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

B/X Class: Voidwarped

  My solo campaign set on The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence has taken a hell of a lot of twists and turns. It definitely isn't going in directions I would have expected, and that has made it far more enjoyable than I had expected. 

Recent events in my campaign have led to the fall, death, and surprising resurrection of one of the Clerics in my party. He has been exposed to a dimension of pure antimatter, and been in contact with entities that lurk there. 

After what happened to him and how, I don't feel like he and his Goddess are likely to be on great terms. I think he has come back drastically changed. To create something that not just would make sense, but fit the gonzo aesthetic of The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence, I decided to take the idea of a Cthulhu cultists and crank it up to 11.

So here is a custom class made for B/X Dungeons & Dragons that is ideal for a gonzo character who was warped by the Elder gods, magical radiation, or the Far Plane. 

Voidwarped

Prime Requisite: Wisdom
Experience Bonus: 5% for Wis 13-15, 10% for Wisdom 16-18
Hit Dice: 1d6 per level up to 9th level
Armor: Any, Shields Allowed
Weapons: Any
Attacks as: Cleric

Transformed by exposure to the void between worlds, the Voidwarped are a conduit for alien powers that bend reality itself. They come at a cost, however, as these powers corrupt from within causing Hideous mutations. 

No two Voidwarped are the same; they sport unique combinations of powers, mutations, and abilities. They can be found with any alignment as some revel in what they have seen while others want to shield Humanity from what they have suffered. What is true is that the longer they weild these eldritch powers, the more horrible toll it takes. 

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Update to Temple of Elemental Evil

Recent changes to Google's security protocols have forced me to change the link to my Temple of Elemental Evil 5e conversion. The file is now available here.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Game Review: Alone Among the Stars

Cover, Alone Among the Stars, 
©2019 Takuma Okada
Author
: Takuma Okada
Publisher: Self-published 
Engine: Custom d3/ card table-based game
Marketplace: Itch.io

I wanted to do a quick review of Alone Among the Stars by Takuma Okada When I came across this game, it was marketed as a science fiction solo rpg. And has a one-on-one variant called Together Among the Stars but I thought my wife might enjoy as a casual play option.

I also was impressed with some of Takuma Okada's ideas expressed on Twitter. 

I think this one is worth looking into as an example of the most extremely stripped-down expression of the solo role-playing game.

Alone Among the Stars uses a d6 (really a d3) roll, plus a drawn card to represent what your character discovers as they travel from planet to planet on a lonely exploration mission. The d6 determines the method of discovery, the suit it's nature, and the value of the card a detail.

Players are encouraged to write journals from the perspective of their character about their discoveries.

The manual, four pages long including , essentially includes the tables, an introduction on how to Play. It also comes with a sample of play, a document twice as long as they manual, with an example of journal entries inspired by play.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Quick & Dirty Gaming: Game as Personalized Act of Service

Monday Night marked the third week in a row that players had to skip out on my Lowlife 2090 game. I have players with chronic illnesses and extremely high demand jobs. This is never surprising, but it is frustrating. Especially as life getting in the way has shrunk my group down to a delicate three player balance. At three players, I hate to do anything if one of them sits out. And in a Cyberpunk & Sorcery game like Lowlife 2090 crews of two or less are actually pretty hard to make work... at least in many class combinations.

My home game has suffered due to my wife's busy schedule as well. it is harder and harder to get in the gaming I would like. Thus my sudden interest in Solo play. But for me, the biggest joy still comes from playing with others. What I need more than ever is faster play.

That is why I started playing OSR games again in the first place: I needed a rules-light system that was designed to play fast. More than that, I needed a rules-light system that was low on BS like performance reviews and player voting at the end of the session. Many story games like Fate and Dungeon World tend to add so much needless quasi-mechanical stuff to the game in sessions it slows them down. Fast and furious Old-School games like Knave, ICRPG, and The Black Hack, or going back to B/X D&D, for that matter, have sped things up a lot. But not enough for my current needs.

Separate Solo Game Blog

I have created a separate blog for chronicling my solo Dungeons & Dragons campaign set on The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence. That way, those of my readers who are uninterested can opt out.

Given the themes of the campaign setting, and that I like my content a little racy and a little dark, I'm putting a Content Warning on it. Unless there becomes a sudden, overwhelming demand for written erotica by Yours Truly, - - which I doubt - - it will remain Rated R.

I'm way behind on my play reports, and still figuring out format, but my report for session two up. It is entitled Swordplay, Singularities, and Seduction


Monday, September 20, 2021

The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence: Attempt 2

"Jonas" created using Hero Forge. Used
here in accordance with their EULA 

Originally, I wrote this piece as a Novella. It was about 22,000 words with illustrations and all. Unfortunately, blogger does this thing where, for a split second, it replaces the content of your article with the string listng your tags. Normally not a problem. It puts it all back. But if you have an error where it switches your WiFi network at the wrong time, it will automatically save it in that state. So, I lost a book's worth of "Tale of the Manticore" inspired fiction.

It is not all gone. I have 70% of the book in garbled, out-of-order voice dictation notes that require hours of editing to translate what my phone heard into what I said. I am not yet sure if I want to spend the time.

But I still wanted to share this, because I am having fun.

Oh... And mildly NSFW art ahead.

Overview

Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia
Cover Art by Jeff Easley 
©1991 TSR, Inc
I am playing Venger Satanis' weird, pulpy, oversexed The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence as a solo D&D experiment. I am using BECMI Dungeons & Dragons played straight out of the Rules Cyclopedia that I have had since I was 12. Mixed with The Dozen Dooms. By Baldrage for simpler experience and encumbrance, and using most of the recommended house rules in 'Purple.

I am using Dungeon Crawl Solo from Parts Per Million as my tool for making GM systems and developing the campaign..

After the brutal TPK I suffered the last time I played, I decided to give my PCs a fighting chance by having full gear, a five person party, and starting them in a low level dungeon.

Once free of the dungeon, it will be a Hex crawl to find a town where they can resupply and start pursuing emergent goals. Using the character background generating tools in Purple is great for having built-in hooks without taking forever to generate. Adding in a DCC RPG occupation table writes the character for me.

Friday, September 17, 2021

My Commemorative Comic Book Covers

I try my best to be a joy at the table, to encourage other players and to step up and fill roles like caller, mapper, and treasurer whenever it is needed.

In the World of Weirth playtest group, I use Dungeon Scrawl to map for my party. I keep our treasure records. I have created the templates for character sheets, and even helped the GM write a unique save and skill system.

Beyond the table activities, I also have tried to create ways to encourage my fellow players and engage them. One of my recent ways to keep everyone engaged is to use Hero Forge and Photoshop to create art.

Last week I got the idea of commemorating some of my favorite or most memorable events in the campaign by drawing them up like silver-age comic book covers. I wanted to share them here in case they inspired someone else.



Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Ill Met on the Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence

The tragic trio. Image made with Hero Forge.

My first attempt at a solo game on the Islands of the Purple-Haunted Putrescence turned out to be a very short-lived comedy of errors.

Shipwrecked: Hex 002

My three adventurers, Shael, Arlan, and Drace, washed up on the shore of Kravian after their ship was attacked by a strange, many tentacled horror. Corpses and crates washed up around them. Being part deep one, Drace was the only one who hadn't swallowed a huge amount of salt water, and helped to revive the others.

The introductions were short, they all knew in the stinking heat and high humidity that they needed water and shelter quickly, and the best thing to do would be to pool their resources.

They scoured the beach, but could find little other than dead fish, four silver pieces in a pouch, and a backpack that contained a waterlogged wanted poster. They tucked the fish in the backpack, and after a few minutes of commiseration, headed inland.

Immediately, I rolled a random encounter with 2d4 Koshi, the monkey men who live on the Purple Islands. Neither group was surprised, and at first, the Kishi were cautious, but not unfriendly.

(9 NPC Reaction)

Shael tried to ease the tension by kneeling down and reaching a hand out to the smallest and most curious of the simians. The creature took one look and...

(Even w/ a +2 Snake eyes on NPC reaction rolls are bad news).

...screamed, clawing at his face.

The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence Solo Play Ssn. 0

Cover to The Islands of Purple-Haunted 
Putrescence; Art by Faustie
©2014 Kort'thalis Publishing
 
So, to give myself a broader depth of experience in solo gaming, I've decided to do something fairly straightforward for my first foray into longer-format solo play. I am going to play BECMI Dungeons & Dragons from my much loved Rules Cyclopedia as a base. I am going to use some mods from The Dozen Dooms for simplification and overall cool.

I have decided to explore The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence, and see how that weird, wooly setting pays off. 

Ruleset

So here's my Frankengame.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Solo on My Mind

The Adventuring Party from my Pacts & Blades Solo
Created using Hero Forge & Photoshop 
Hero Forge miniatures used in accordance 
With the Hero Forge EULA
I was hoping that I would have time this Summer to run and review some solo games. Back on January I ran Four Against Darkness and enjoyed it. And before that I ran several solo adventures here on the blog to playtest Lucas Rolim's excellent Pacts & Blades: Moorcockian Fantasy. My solo play of Pacts & Blades was very satisfying, I played one session on my own, one session here on my blog, and then a three-part adventure (1, 2, 3) to test out some of the material in Pacts & Blades' sourcebook, Salamandur Household.

Up to this point, I have had a strange relationship with solo games. I developed my method for running solo purely to test out game systems that were so radically different from Dungeons & Dragons that I couldn't playtest them at my regular table. I use a fusion of the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia, random Dungeons from DonJon, read with a skimming method, and whatever game I am reviewing . Or I build a dungeon using random encounter tables and a clock to test specific mechanics. 

After reviewing One Shot in the Dark, I decided to give a listen to the  Tale of the Manticore podcast. I have been binging it for a few days, and have listened to about a third of the series over the weekend. 

Creative Journaling exercises are also a topic that has come up in conversations recently, which led me to recommend Alone Among the Stars to my wife. And one of books that just hit the top of my backlog is Dungeon Crawl Solo, a book of solo play methods recommended to me by Bob V. G., a frequent reviewer of my games on DrivethruRPG. 

I also recently received copies of two of my favorite Fighting Fantasy books from my childhood as a gift, and have been playing them in fits and starts. 

And I also recently stumbled across a copy of Barbarian Prince, a solo adventure game from the early 80s I found compelling. 

Needless to say, solo adventure has been on my mind, accordingly. I've decided to try playing creatively for pleasure once in awhile. So I am going to use the blog to document what tools and methods work for me. But this, unto itself requires me to ask some preliminary questions. One of the biggest of which is "What do I hope to get out of this?"

Friday, September 10, 2021

Game Review : One Shot in the Dark

Cover for "One Shot in the Dark"
Art by Tale of the Manticore
©2021, Tale of the Manticore
Author: Tale of the Manticore 
Publisher: Self-published 
Marketplace: DrivethruRPG 
Engine: OSR inspired ultra-light

It has been a busy few weeks in the deathtrap. I have had a 3-day journey across country, got my kids back to school, and dealt with the death of a pet. Accordingly, I have a bit of a backlog on reviews. The one I have been most interested in reviewing has been the hardest one to get reviewed. Finding time to sit down at a table with a deck of cards as being stunningly difficult for the last month. That review is for One Shot in the Dark by Tale of the Manticore.

One Shot in the Dark is a solo dungeon crawler in the same vein as Four Against Darkness. You control four simple characters in a theater of the mind dungeon crawl.

The dungeon is generated by drawing cards. A heart is drawn to determine the room, with traps, the presence of monsters, or magical challenges listed. Diamonds are drawn for monsters, and clubs for treasure. Each floor of the dungeon has three tables to consult, giving each floor a unique feel. It would be fairly easy to write additional or alternate tables to create different themed adventures. After three floors, the PCs draw a spade to discover the final monster of the dungeon.

The actual game mechanics are minimalistic, A party of four can easily fit on an index card. Your party automatically consists of the four basic classes of B/X Dungeons & Dragons: Fighter, Thief, cleric, and Magic user. Each character has a level, hit points, and they hit die. They roll for extra hit points up on levelling up and make attack and damage rolls. Clerics and Wizards have one spell each from their respective class list, and gain a new spell up on levelling up. This spell may only be used once and duplicates are not allowed.

Attack and damage rolls are handled using the hit die.

The game is a simple exercise in imagination. It is significantly faster than Four Against Darkness and other solo games that I have played.

I would imagine that it would be very easy to steal either the ultra-light rule set or the dungeon building game and use either separate.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Hacking Friend Computer: Making a Custom Game of PARANOIA pt. 2


Warning
: This file is coded  ULTRAVIOLET  clearance. Any citizens of clearance  VIOLET  or lower may not read further Knowledge of the existence of this document is coded  GREEN if you are clearance  YELLOW  or lower, please report for neural pruning.

My Objective 

I am trying to brew up a custom hack of PARANOIA RPG based on its different editions that has some of the modern nuances, but is easier to play online. I am doing this for a couple of reasons:

First: The 2017 PARANOIA Red Clearance Edition is a great game, but with multiple decks of cards, custom dice, and a bluffing game to determine initiative, it is simply not a great fit for playing online.

The first time I ran PARANOIA Red Clearance Ed. online it took me 5-6/hours to cooy/paste upload, label and script all of the various cards used in the game's custom decks in Roll20. And they cannot be exported to another campaign. It is a pain. Writing this article will probably take the same amount of time, and let me have a lot more to show for it. 

At the same time, some of the mechanics of Red Clearance Edition are beautiful and clean, and I want to use them. 

Second: I want my humor to be as black and dry as a politician's heart. 2017 has a very wacky, slapstick comedy built right into the cards that isn't quite what I am looking for. I want Classic play, but I want a PARANOIA fist edition feel to the campaign

So, my best bet is to beg, borrow, and steal from various editions and cobble together something that gives me most of what I want. Then maybe overlay some of my own ideas over top.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Hacking Friend Computer: Making a Custom Game of PARANOIA pt. 1

"The Computer" from PARANOIA
1st and 2nd Edition, by Jim Holloway
®1984 West End Games
Warning: This file is coded  ULTRAVIOLET  clearance. Any citizens of clearance  VIOLET  or lower may not read further. It is Treason for citizens of  INFRARED  clearence to read this warning. If you are of  INFRARED  clearence, please report to a Confession booth for self-termination.

I wanted to talk about building the perfect engine for a campaign of PARANOIA by looking back over the game's history and variations. All of which is probably highly treasonous. But we do it for the glory of our friend The Computer.

This comes out of a conversation I had with Russ from Yum/DM and Iain Wilson from the Roll to Save Podcast, as well as an episode of Roll to Save where Iain Wilson interviewed Allen Varney, author of Send in the Clones and lead developer of the PARANOIA XP edition.

PARANOIA has gone through a lot of editions which have had often radically different approaches to the game's core concept and setting.

  • PARANOIA
  • PARANOIA 2nd Edition
  • [REDACTED; refs unproducts]
  • PARANOIA XP / PARANOIA SP1
  • PARANOIA Troubleshooters / IntSec /High Programmer Edition
  • PARANOIA RED-Clearance Edition

I want to go over the evolution of the game and to discuss what sets the various editions apart, and what is worth hacking from them.

PARANOIA Retrospective 

PARANOIA

Cover to PARANOIA, Gamemaster's handbook
Art by James Holloway 
©1984, West End Games
 
The 1st Edition of PARANOIA released in 1984 was the flagship product of West End Games. Its goal was to develop a futuristic dystopia role-playing game inspired by texts such as Cat's Cradle, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and A Brave New World. It was meant to be satirical of contemporary politics, pop culture, and the hobby of role-playing.

PARANOIA was very specific about the setting. The cause of the Earth's destruction (asteroid strike) , the location of Alpha Complex (there are 100, the largest in Des Moines, Iowa), the date (2281), the origin of The Computer (a repurposed traffic control system) and the cause of its insanity (filling in its knowledge gaps with McCarthyist propaganda and Civil Defense documents) are all clearly documented.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Game Review: Basic Fantasy Roleplaying Game 3rd Edition

Basic Fantasy RPG 3rd Ed. Cover
Art by Erik Wilson
©2006-2016 Chris Gonnerma
Author: Chris Gonnerman
Publisher: Chris Gonnerman 
Marketplace: Amazon.com
Engine: OSR Compatible

Basic Fantasy RPG is a simple, easy-to-use, and affordable OSR Compatible RPG. It was created in the early days of the OSR simultaneously to Labyrinth Lord and OSRIC.

Basic Fantasy tries to blend elements of Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2e, and Dungeons & Dragons 3e to create a system that takes the best from each version of D&D to create the simplest possible fusion of these systems.

Basic Fantasy uses ascending AC, and OD&D saving throws mixed with roll-under ability checks. It has only the four basic character classes, fighter, thief, magic user, and cleric. These are configured along the lines of B/X D&D: the characters have low hit dice, clerics only gain spells at first level, fighters are distinguished by having more hit points and becoming better attackers. Race, however is separate from class and a player may choose to be humans, dwarves, elves, or halflings. There are some race/class combination restrictions, and elves are permitted to multi-class. Like AD&D and  Dungeons & Dragons 3e, classes have a 20 level progression (B/X goes to 14; BECMI goes to 36), and the experience tables are closer in character too AD&D than to B/X D&D.

Monster stat blocks are nearly identical to the ones in B/X D&D, although the selection of monsters is varied.

Basic Fantasy uses a slightly looser time structure, similar to D&D3e.

Basic Fantasy is an online community effort. The basicfantasy.org site includes a highly active forum with a very enthusiastic community. They collaborate to create manuals, adventure modules, and expanded rule sets. The community models itself on a gnu/gpl software team.

All Basic Fantasy RPG manuals are available online for free. However, the volunteer organization that maintains the game also sales print editions of all the manuals at cost. This means that the core book costs roughly $6, and most Source books come in at somewhere between $4 and $7.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

The Gaming Bucket List

The Player's Bucket List

Some years ago I asked my players what their gaming "bucket list" was. I wanted to know what experiences they would love to have in a TTRPG to help me think up adventure ideas. Mine looked something like this:

  • Have a character who built a castle in a couple of nights using stone shape, wall of stone, and fabricate.
  • Command an epic Star Trek style space battle.
  • Build a frontier Dominion into a mighty kingdom.
  • Set off a Supernova
  • Play a Barbarian that takes a crown by slaying a king.
  • Play a character that invents multiple spells.
  • Play a computer hacker that destroys a war ship or space station with a computer.

Its an exercise I recommend considering with almost any role-playing group. If you are going to play with these players lo g enough, putting the things they are looking for somewhwee in your world can pay off...  So long as you are willing to make them work at least a little to make it happen. 

The GM Bucket List

It was also an exercise I did at a time when I was really frustrated that no one else was stepping up to GM. It was built on wistful "Forever-DM" energy.

Since then I have moved in a very different direction in my gaming. First, I found some online groups where people were willing to take turns running the game. And second, I started looking at the OSR and indie games for something lighter and faster to play.