Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Back on the Horse

Well tonight sees me writing my first blog entry since July 2016 and a lot of water has passed under the life bridge.  A new job in the private sector was kicking my arse for a while but I now seem to have it all under control (foolish words?).

A return to DMing

In recent weeks I have also returned to DMing after a long hiatus.

When the opportunity arose (a nice way of saying that a game collapsed and I stepped into the breach) I have to say I was filled with doubt.  Could I still do it?, would I be able to juggle the balls of work/life balance to give time to prep? would I be able to physically last for a 3 hour session after a hectic day at work?

Technically not a horse, but this is how I felt about DMing after an 1,800 day detox
  Well I did manage to survive and I can't believe how much I enjoyed it.  Sure it was not my finest hour and I was a little rusty, but I made it through to the other side and I think my players really enjoyed it.

Most likely the two go hand in hand, without the catalyst of an ongoing campaign I did not have the creative juices flowing through my mind in order to create content and to share those ideas with you the RPG community.

Old Skool Shits and Giggles

The scenario I ran was an epilogue to the NSFW module Liberation of the Demon Slayer by +Venger Satanis, and Bryan Winter's decidedly Old Skool scenario Baron Mikrut's Tomb from Pulp Dungeons #5: Uninvited Guests published by Corsair Publishing back in 1997.  The latter posed a few problems when it came to monster stats because it was one of those systemless scenario which used to get published back in the day by Independent Publishers who didn't want to sign up to OGL or pay system royalties.

Pulp Dungeons #5: Uninvited Guests (1997 Corsair Publishing)
by Gary Gygax (it must be old skool)
They always require a bit more DM effort than "Official Modules" but they often have a much bigger payback in terms of not suffering from the usual tropes or baggage which come with trying to fit into an established milleu.   

I'll do a proper synopsis on My Campaign Blog but suffice to say the PCs handled the nuclear winter, mutated wildlife, a demon invasion and a dungeon crawl with aplomb.  Thanks to all those who took part it was a lot of fun.  

So my mind is made up and I will now start to...

Plan My Next Game

The question is where do I set my next game.  The library is fully stocked with plenty of dungeon magazines and some old skool scenarios and I have 3 months to put something together to astound and amaze.  Will I be proactive? Will I labour furiously to craft a campaign so cunning that it will be the talk of my game group for years?

Probably not, but I'm going to do it anyway.    

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Dungeonmorph Dice gets an Ennies Nomination

The 2015 Ennie Award Nominees are out and I don't normally get excited about these sorts of things as Gen Con is so far away and I'm unlikely to get the chance to go myself.  However, this year is different and I will be rooting for Inkwell Ideas Dungeonmorph Explorers Dice in the "Best Aid / Accessory" category.

What sets Dungeonmorph Dice apart from the other products in the category is one word... 


This nomination is more than just a reward for Joe, it's a reward for all the geomorphing contributors that have been part of our odd little cartographic community for the past 4 or 5 years. 

I know how difficult it is to come up with unique cartography and, through my involvement with the Dungeonmorphs 2 Kickstarter, how much work goes into making this idea into a real product.  The hours pouring over designs, selecting the best ones and making subtle changes here and there, not to mention the wrangling of manufacturers and shipping out orders. 

Congratulations to all the mappers out there that made this possible and lets spread the word and turn this nomination into something bigger.

Monday, 22 June 2015

A to Z of UK RPG in the 80s: M is for Mayfair Games

M is for Mayfair Games founded by Lawyer Darwin Bromley in 1980.  This small games publisher branched out into RPGs with the help of veteran Bill Fawcet and began publishing their "Unofficial" AD&D / D&D / T&T compatible adventure modules like 1982s Question of Gravity under the Role Aids banner.  Their attempt to steer through the copyright minefield by using the coverline "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of TSR Hobbies, Inc. Use of the trademark NOT sanctioned by the holder." they eventually fell foul of the changing attitudes to product licensing at TSR.

Role Aids - A question of Gravity
Role Aids - A Question of Gravity
Looking at these modules through OSR spectacles they are refreshingly light, yet ambitious and Question of Gravity in particular has a quite unique take on the traditional dungeon.

The cover art (by Fantasy author Janny Wurtz) does not allude in any way to this singularly impressive locale which is the focii for this scenario... 

... a dungeon on the inside of a 1000ft wide cube.

The interior maps are an impressive feat considering the lack of digital artistry back then.  I saw something similar nearly 20 years later in Issue #86 of Dungeon Magazine which was a Tracey Hickman Dragonlance scenario called "The Anvil of Time" but this was only one room not a whole dungeon.

Grids are notable absent from the maps, this was the 80s after all, where play was freer and not concerned with tactical movement, flanking or god forbid Attacks of Opportunity!!  The room (or should I say platform) descriptions oddly don't have the tried and tested "read aloud to the players" boxed text that we have all come to know and love in our pre-written dungeon crawl modules, but in this case I can understand.  Enemies can come from any direction and the mind boggles at trying to replicate this on a tabletop grid.  The descriptions are brief and designed to give a flavour of what you may encounter, the salient points rather than detailing the minutia.

original hand illustrated map (click to embiggen)Sketchup Render (click to embiggen)

Whilst these modules are rare, they are still available in all the usual places, and they may well prove to be an unexpected and inspirational distraction for your players.  I know that I've got plans for using the cube in my own campaign world.

My Collection Includes:

705 Question of Gravity
706 Tower of Magicks
710 FezII The Contract
 715 Swordthrust
716 Deadly Power 
719 Fantastic Treasures
720 FezIII Angry Wizard
725 FezIV Wizard's Revenge
728 Clockwork Mage
732 Elven Banner
741 Crystal Barrier
742 Beneath Two Suns

These books are not terribly rare and many listings come up when I search for Role Aids on eBay.

Monday, 16 March 2015

The Tale of Tynka Azolla - The Isle of Dread - Episode 1

As I mentioned in an earlier post I am embarking on my first adventure using D&D 5th Edition and I'm going to chronicle my journey (and that of my character) as a series of blog posts.  The format will be character journal entry and then my take on the rules.

This being the true and reasonably accurate account of the misadventures of Forest Gnome Barbarian Hermit Tynka Azolla.

The tribe have left me to look after the old hermit Klandgnor and the egg of Khan Arge in the ruins of Montnorad

He's insane but harmless and cries out in his sleep when troubled by the dreams of the 52 black birds and the missing Iles of Cruise, visions of the war between the hawk men of the Capitol and their enemies the Coh Mees of Uesesah.  He rambles prophetically about The End of Days when the high priest of Potus spoke to the the amureeckans and told them to go forth and shelter from the fall.

I was out picking berries to make a poultice to calm his dream time when a great black shadow passed over the forest, followed by a raucous cawing.  When I got back to the ruin it was a shattered mess.  There was no sign of the old man or the egg, but in the sky I could see a great bird travelling South.

I grabbed my travelling pack, glad that my father had trained me well to always be ready to move at a moments notice and headed South.  On the third day I found the hermits body among the flat rocks at the bottom of the waterfall.  He had been split open and his insides torn out, great claw scratches littered the rocks among the blood, feathers and viscera.  Whatever swooped down and snatched him up had decided to eat him.  The egg was nowhere to be seen, so I blessed the old man's corpse and continued South.  The hermit had taught me that a great evil resided in the egg and should it be released it would consume the world in destruction, my mission to find the giant bird and retrieve the egg.

Eventually coming to a great coastal settlement I found many people who had seen the great bird always heading south.  Some said that it must be headed to the Isle of dread.  I found a merchant who was assembling a trade ship bound for the Isle.  I lied to him about my past but he believed me and I am now one of his bodyguards. 

We set sail on board a ramshackle ship bound for the Isle.  10 days later we approached the archipelago when an ungodly storm came out of nowhere smashing our ship to pieces and I jumped overboard to save myself.  We woke up in the beach battered but alive, a heavy mist obscured the horizon so I went inland in search of fresh water, food and foliage.  It was then that the giant crabs attacked, I killed one with my javelin and almost killed two others who were attacking Kendrick the merchant and some of the other survivors and sailors.

Giant Crabs attack the PCs (yes the pencil sharpener is a PC) and survivors on the sample file beach.
When the mist cleared it was clear that we were on a sandbar and the ship had hit a reef a sort distance away.  It was heavily damaged but intact if we are to survive we must construct a raft from the flotsam washed up on the sandbar and make our way back to the ship to gather supplies.

My Thoughts on Character Generation

My character is a truly random creation.  Race & Class were randomly rolled and Attribute scores were determined from a best of three sets  (using 4D6 drop lowest method) then placed appropriately and Race/Class modifiers applied.  This resulted in above average STR, INT and DEX scores but a truly awful WIS.

The use of predefined "packs" is an excellent answer to long complex equipment lists and gets you up and running in no time.  Similarly, I really liked the background aspects of the new character gen system (Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, Flaws) which will be of immense help to new players and create some really interesting combinations.

I'm a big fan of the way Castles & Crusades / SIEGE system resolves Skill/Attribute checks so I feel quite at home with the new slimmed down skills list and proficiency modifier system.  Gone are all those horrible 4e Powers which made even a low level game sound like you were in an 80s anime and drove you nuts tracking Class Feature / Race Power / At Will / Encounter / Daily usage.

In play

Coming around after the shipwreck encounter, I received my first Disadvantage token, which was a real shock.  Although it only applied to skill checks it really had an adverse effect on my play.  I could not catch a break and I failed all subsequent skill rolls.  I'll reserve judgement on this until I've benefitted from Advantage but I'm leaning towards favouring a static positive/negative modifier as I feel it's effects might be too random.

Combat seemed way more streamlined and faster than 3.5/4e with a return to the simpler bash/bash mechanics of earlier editions.  It may not be terribly realistic, but it gets the job done with the minimum of delay.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Thunderbirds are Go... ing to be a Co-op Boardgame and RPG in 2015

Supermarionation fans are going to have an FAB 2015 as they celebrate 50 years of Thunderbirds.

In April ITV launches it's semi CGI remake of the classic series Thunderbirds are Go! and Modiphius have teamed up with Pandemic designer Matt Leacock to make a Thunderbirds Co-operative Boardgame and RPG currently going through the crowdfunding motions on Kickstarter.

Withing minutes of hearing about it, I backed it.  Game components look top drawer and with the extra RPG stretch goal already unlocked, it's two games in one.  Can't tell how it will play, but if Pandemic and Forbidden Island / Desert are anything to go by this should be a crowd pleaser.

Whilst you're waiting for this to be delivered check some of the stunning models created for the new series by WETA Workshops. I can't wait to see how it looks with the CGI characters added in.