Friday, July 28, 2023

Drakken for Literacy

 I am grateful when the gods provide me a chance to step up, and one came unexpectedly this past month.

An organization dedicated to providing reading material and education to the incarcerated asked me if I would be willing to let them distribute Drakken to people in prisons in the U.S. Apparently the demand for D&D is pretty high, but it is too expensive to get it into prisons.

My Drakken, on the other hand, with just a few hours of formatting could meet their needs for a few cents a copy.

I believe in promoting the rights of the incarcerated very strongly. I believe that we should be taking measures to make sure that when people get a second chance, we give them every tool to make the best of it. And I believe strongly in promoting literacy. This was a no-brainer.

I told them that they could have it for free, (but they paid me anyway.)

So, by the time this post is up online, there will be 200 copies of Drakken heading for prisons around the United States. I hope it makes a few people's time served a little more peaceful.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Using AI Art for TTRPGs

So here's a controversal topic that will annoy the Hell out of some of my readers.

Recently I have run across several controversies over the use of AI artwork in TTRPGs. One was over a module that I reviewed where the creator used AI-generated Art on a cover and was positively brigaded for it.

Another was my recent review of the OSR game Beneath the Sunken Catacombs. I rarely go a month before I see absolute mayhem explode from some quarter of Twitter or another about someone using AI art in their product. Selling a TTRPG product that includes AI Art is guaranteed to draw backlash.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Game Review: Beneath the Sunken Catacombs

Paul Bantock
Publisher: Self Published
Engine: OSR-Compatible
Marketplace: DrivethruRPG, Amazon 

I recently spotted Beneath the Sunken Catacombs in my Amazon Recommendations. Its marketing promised a game that wasn't a retroclone, but instead was a fresh take on the original 1970s gaming experience with some modern and innovative touches with regard to classes and magic.

Beneath the Sunken Catacombs is sold at near cost for $10 (C) on, and is PWYW on DTPRG as a PDF.

It uses a Modlvay B/X D&D base, and at first glance it looks like a pretty standard retroclone, but as I read it I found some little flourish, tweak, or minor redesign on almost every page of the game, most of which I will detail below.

You will see nothing different on the character sheet of the system: It uses the standard six ability scores, ascending AC, levels, AC, 1-axis alignment, and hit points. Like Swords & Wizardry it uses only one saving throw. Characters retire at level 10. The XP system is pretty standard and uses gp-for-xp. It's Encumbrance system is a bulk system similar to that in Castles and Crusades.

Instead of different hit points for the classes, all PCs and monsters use d6s for hit points, and gain hit dice at different rates: Warriors and Dwarves gain hit dice every level, Priests, and Elves at a rate of around 2:3, and sorcerers and halflings gain a mere 1d6 every 2 levels.

There is a lot ot like about Beneath the Sunken Catacombs if you are looking for a light, fas, well-contained TTRPG. I would consider it a solid contender as a TTRPG I might give to a kind looking for a first D&D-syle game. It is very well suited for introducing D&D4e or D&D5e players into the old school style of play. It takes the heart of some of the best ideas from that era and makes them work in a B/X structure very well.

Monday, July 17, 2023

The OSR: Aesthetic and Impulse

 In 2018 I became very frustrated with how little gaming i was getting in at game-time. D&D5e and SR5 are just too slow and too fiddly for my needs. Between the wife's 60-hour work weeks and the kids, sitting down together on Firday nights for a 3-hour game just wasn't cutting it. We often got only one or two encounters done a night, and maybe four total over a week.

I wanted more game in my gametime. I missed how fast you could play D&D when I was a kid. I started looking into lighter and faster TRPG options to fill our time. I had been vaguely aware of the OSR existing, but this was the first time I really decided to look into it. With G+ gone, however, I had missed the boat on the easy way to get into the OSR.

I quickly found YouTube had a handful of reviewers and philosophers who really broke it down well. Ben Milton of Questing Beast, Professor Dungeon Master of Dungeoncraft, and Hankerin Ferinale from Drunkards & Dragons (now RUNEHAMMER), all served as a great gateway into the weird and wonderous culture that had grown up around the OSR.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Solo RPG Podcasts

 One of the things I have come to really enjoy in the last year are solo play podcasts and comics. I first stumbled across them when I was looking for an example of play of a couple of games, and was immediately hooked on them. 

In particular, there is a bevy of podcasts that play OSR games that I look forward to. i check spotify every morning to see what is updated, and then spend much of the morning in anticipation of when I can steal a few minutes to myself to just relax and let the story wash over me.

If you are interested in solo gaming, most of these podcasts go into great detail about what is going on "Behind the screen" in break segments. They discuss their toolkits, their oracles of choice, rules adjustments, etc. as they play.

Friday, July 7, 2023

My Solo Play Evolution

 I have done a lt of solo play in TTRPGs over the last three years. It honestly never occured to me to use my games for solo adventuring until I started writing this blog and needed a way to test the games that I was reviewing.

Delve 2e
has built in solo gaming to introduce itself to the player, borrowing a note from the Mentzer Basic Dungeons & Dragons set that I though was a clever stroke. Some of my early reviews, like Tunnel Goons and Index Card RPG Core 2e were tested with my wife, but she doesn't have my head for rules and finds too many new games overwhelming. 

When Lucas Rolim sent me Pacts & Blades: Moorcockian Fantasy for review, she tapped out, and so I needed to figue out how to give it a really good shake. That's when I thought about by experience with Delve 2e, and decided to try playing it solo.

Random Dungeon Crawling

My first solo run involved logging into Donjon, and generating a random AD&D dungeon. I tend to stick to 

  • Tiny size
  • Medium Rooms
  • Polymorphic Rooms
  • Square Grid
  • Errant Corridors
  • No Stairs
  • Peripheral Entrance
  • Dungeon Level 1
  • Crosshatch Map Style

This is especially handy when you are playing an OSR games, as the monsters will be immediately usable with the game you are playing.

Donjon includes a tool for star systems, outer space freight jobs, aliens, blade runner cases, and much more these days. You could probably run almost any game you are looking for with Donjon or a similar tool.

How this method works:

Monday, July 3, 2023

Game Review: Mythic Game Master Emulator

: Tana Pigeon
Publisher: World Mill Games
Marketplace: Amazon 
System: System Neutral 

Because I test every game I review for at least one adventure,  I have found myself playing solo TTRPGs a great deal. Before my review of Pacts & Blades, I'd never played solo in my life, and it has been a very strange journey,  finding what works. Running through a dungeon made in Donjon without reading it first is all good and fine, but you require more if you want a rich experience that really let's you kick a game's tires.

I started expanding my experience using Parts Per Million's Dungeon Crawl Solo. It's oracle system was handier than just grabbing a tarot deck or assigning a 2-in-6 chance to everything. Once I started using an oracle of some sort, I started having a much richer experience. Combined with a big hex-crawl setting like The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putresence or What Ho, Frog Demons! I could get a lot more spontaniety of play. Threads and plots emerged of their own accord once in awhile that kept play surprisingly fresh.

I have been searching for another toolset that does so with even more torque and less emphasis on dungeon crawling for awhile now. I picked up Tom Scutt's DM Yourself last Summer, and was quite disappointed in it. I have also been using the tools from the free version of  Scarlet Heroes on occasion, which I have enjoyed. I've not reviewed the free version as I have been meaning forever to pick up a full - preferably print version, and keep putting it off. Scarlet Hereos does a much better job of spontaneous emergent play, but it is very much focused on the lone hero, which isn't what I am looking for as a playtesting tool.

I've been hearing about Mythic GME for some time now. and I listen to a handful of solo RPG podcasts that use it to great effect. I decided that I would pick it up this month and give it a try. And I am very impressed.

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Classy World-Building Phase 2-3

 For the next region, I wanted something that screamed "Time Wizard" for The Demalion... weird contraptions, clockworks, legacies from thousands of years in the past that feels strangely futuristic.

 The Gehenna of Obsol

The Technocracy of Ull was destroyed so long ago that few historians agree when it ruled the known world. It's impact, however, has carried on through untold Millennia.  The Ull created marvels that fused magic, machinery, advanced science, and reality-bending primordial forces into a Super-technology that made their small kingdom a paradise of leisure and study.

From their hidden cities, the Ull sent out emissaries riding giant constructs and guarded by biomechanical war machines. They offered machines to ease labor, spells to shape the land, and advice to lead an orderly, safe life. But at the cost of tribute, obedience,  and by giving up their best and brightest to be raised by the Ull. Ullan Technomancers built marvelous automated temples where their gifts were manufactured and maintained by initiates.  No outsider was permitted to learn how to make, repair or maintain Ullan marvels; only how to use them.