08 September 2016

Celebrity Break Up: Fantasy Flight and Games Workshop?

This is big news. It looks like Fantasy Flight Games' license to make games based on Games Workshop's properties (Warhammer and Warhammer 40k mainly, plus others like the Blood Bowl card game) has ended... suddenly. Mum's the word, however, GW was shopping almost all their properties at a licensing fair a couple of months ago, and FFG has pulled all their PDFs from an online seller (though I have not confirmed this).

This is big news for role players. FFG has a large line of products to play in, including Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and all the titles based on 40k. As far as I know it has sold well, but this is GW and they probably think they should be selling more because, well, they are Games Workshop! Certainly, their minis games cost a premium penny. It is not like the RPG's don't cost a pretty penny.

If true, this is, IMO, another bad decision GW has made recently. From going to plastic minis and jacking the price up, to Age of Sigmar, a major revamp of the Warhammer Fantasy Battles rules, not grabbing the imagination as they hoped. Now they expect their RPG players to buy a whole new set of books? They probably have no problem with this as they are a company that sells revised rules for their miniatures games every year, with minor upgrades, for $50+ each time.

02 September 2016

3D Printing for Gaming Fit the First: What to Buy

Really, you should get a 3D printer. The future is now... and cheap. The flood of models for gaming is beginning and beginning to speed up, and a lot are free.

You can go onto a website like Thingiverse or YouImagine and find a bunch of "things" to print: miniature figures, scenery, dice towers, and a whole lot more (right now I am printing a scale model of Vash the Stampede's pistol from Trigun). DriveThruRPG has a section for .STL (stereolithography) files of professionally produced content (although the amateur stuff can be extremely pro looking as well).

This is the future, and I am going to bring you kicking and screaming into the revolution with me.


The DaVinci Jr. Av
There are a lot of choices for 3D printers today. They start at a few hundred bucks and go up from there. I have the XYZPrinting DaVinci Jr. It was only $279. This is a great beginner unit that is real easy to set up and use, and I like it because it has taught me a whole lot about the process. There are other models as well, and the more you spend the more features, but you would be happy with this unit as I am.

I would recommend these minimums:

  • 0.01mm layer height. This is the resolution. A lot of the low end are 0.02 or higher which means less detail. More expensive units can do 0.05mm, twice as good, but this really bumps the price up. Another year and that won't be the case.
  • Prints PLA. PLA is a type of plastic. They come in spools of a long thread of it It is melted and formed into the object. This is one of the two major types of plastic, the other is ABS. PLA is biodegradable, so you can throw it out without destroying the planet, and is non-toxic (it smalls a but like sugar when printing). ABS fumes are poisonous so you will have to put it somewhere to print you wont inhale it, which means not in your office. Most printers can do both, but not all (like mine).
  • AutoDesk Meshmixer and NetFabb Basic. These free pieces of software let you resize, repair, and optimize your prints and are must haves. As an example with Meshmixer I hollow out models so they use less plastic which can be a great savings. Free is right in anyone's budget. You can also build your own things using Blender3D or Google Sketchup, both free.
Other features you might like to have (which means more money):
  • Dual extruder: the extruder is the thing that melts and expels the plastic, like an icing extruder does when decorating a cake. Most machines have one, but some have two which lets you use two different spools of plastic. This means you can use two different colors, or use a regular plastic and PVA, a plastic that dissolves in warm water which lets you melt away supports instead of cutting them off. Supports are needed to hold up some parts of prints so they do not sag as they cool. 
  • Heated bed: The bed is the shelf the print is built on. Non-heated beds can case some warpage of the flat bottoms of the bases of larger items, but a heated bed keep the plastic warm and stops this. You can get flat prints with a non-heated bed, but it is easier with one. I'll tell you the secret of making them flat in another article as no one seems to tell the secret in other blogs.
You too can scan gnomes!
Other things you might want:
  • 3D scanner: This is a device to scan objects and make them into print files. You need to go a bit expensive here for quality (maybe around $1000 or more). Then you can copy just about any mini you can think of.



I love those dungeon tiles. Recently a company came out with a series of printer files for them, called TrueTiles. I have printed a load of them for a total of about $60. A similar product available to buy in sets would be about $600. A 10:1 savings is pretty good.

The freebies make it worth it as well. One fellow made all the monsters from the D&D monster manual at 28mm size (the Flumph is my favorite). There is also some odd things like The Dread Gazebo. A 28mm mini figure costs about $0.25 to $0.50 each to print.


Get one. Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Atheismus is coming up... hint to a loved one. 

Coming up I will show you some of the cool things you can make, and give hints on how to do it right!

21 July 2016

Star Trek Returns

Ooooh. Me like!

Star Trek is coming back. From the makers of Mutant Chronicles, Modiphius Entertainment, a new Trek RPG is coming next year... with miniatures (figures, not ships). I am excited! Fer sure! This is a good time to get the license. When the last version went away it was at a low point for Star Trek. However, the new movie is getting really good word, and the new series is helping re-build the brand. I cannot wait to go where no one has gone before!

13 July 2016

Review: Wild Card Creator (UPDATED)

Become a wild child!
I am gearing up for my new campaign set in the world of Midgard, the excellent creation of Wolfgang Baur and others at Kobold Press. It is written for Pathfinder or Fantasy AGE but I am using my "go to" system, Savage Worlds to run it under. “Oh no, you got your fluff into my crunch,” “No, you got your crunch in my fluff.” “Two great tastes that taste great together."

I love character generators and have used them for years. I would have probably not had GURPS as my go to system in 1990s without them for building GURPS characters as the method can be complex (especially in third edition with buying skills taking into account skill defaults). When I found Bill Seurer's MAKECHAR utility for MS-DOS it was heaven.

I have a license for Hero Lab and like it. I use it with Pathfinder and find it to be the best generator for that game as it gets updated with new information for Pathfinder releases pretty much as the books are released, and it fully supports the rules changes for Pathfinder Society characters. However, in the Savage World side it is not quite as well supported. It takes a very long time for updates to support new material. Also I find adding custom items and rules to be unintuitive and takes too many steps for each item, and I dislike the way you make your Novice character and then lock it to add Advances which makes it more difficult to experiment as you make a character more experienced than Novice, you need to unlock it to change.

So I recently bought a license for Wild Card Creator from Journeyman Games. It is just for Savage Worlds and was developed with the monetary help of Kickstarter supporters. Version 1.0 was released on my birthday in 2013 (September 15th). I got my license in 2016 when it was at version 1.5, and an update to 1.6 was recently released to the “wild.” I have the Windows version. It is also available for Mac OS X and Linux, with Android and iOS support promised in the future.

What I like

The program is simple which is something I like. I prefer an app that has the features I need over looks. Hero Lab has that polished look, while this one uses just basic windows and widgets. This makes the program lean and fast. The layout of the generator is well done, with tabs along the top to get to different parts of the character (races, traits, hindrances, etc.). Each tab has it easy to find the options you want and add them quickly. It also shows the stat block in standard Savage Worlds format at the top so you can see the choices applied as you click.

When books are released they become available pretty fast. Not every setting is covered but it is easy enough to custom add what you need in the campaign editor. It requires you to show it the PDF on your computer and then it adds it. It must be a supported PDF so it will not magically add the information from a PDF. I think this is a check to see if you own the PDF and it is not getting any other information from the PDF, instead the program downloads the data.

Making a character above Novice is easy. Choose the “advancement” tab and enter the XP total for the character. The program then tracks what you choose and warns you if it is in taken in error. It shows a nice list of all the advancements taken and what is available so it is easy to see, as an example, how many Attribute increases the character has left. You can order the program to break the rules and force it to add the trait anyway.

NPC mode takes all the reigns off so you can choose anything regardless of the rules for PCs. This goes along with the rules in the core rules that tell the GM to choose whatever is appropriate to the NPC.

The campaign editor is easy to use as well and it is fast to enter a new trait. You may add “mechanical effects” to it, like adjusting traits, allowing more user choice (like a free Edge or extra skill points), even calling other traits like making a Profession called “Sniper” that automatically adds the Marksman Edge. You can have many these mechanical effects. The custom setting can also hide options from the core rules that are not appropriate to your setting, such as not having any powers for your game about normals in the real world.

Printing is nothing to write home about. The built in templates are useable but no frills so you might choose to copy it to another character sheet. However, it does allow you to make your own layouts and to have the program put the information into fields on a form fill-able PDF, of which a few are predefined out of the box. The fact these customizing tools are hidden away in the preferences dialog under “experimental” is not encouraging and I have not tried it yet, but I am making a custom PDF form for my game and will give it a shot coming up. Look for me to make an update about this in the future.

What I Don't Like

If you only purchase dead tree editions and not PDFs (as many still do) and do not want to take the time  enter all the information yourself in the editor (which is time consuming), this is not the program for you. Hero Lab, though a setting book's information costs extra instead of free like here, let's a non-PDF owner access to the data. Update: Maybe this PDF only thing is a wash... you need to pay extra on Hero Lab, you need to pay for the PDF, so it is not that different.

Wild Card Creator is not a finished product and many features I think are necessary are missing. Granted, this is a small company and I love supporting the little guy, but it is still a problem. Some features are promised “in the future” though they have been promised since it's release almost three years ago.  Here are some specific shortcomings:

You cannot load more than one setting at a time. This means you cannot have a setting file you created, like one for your custom martial arts edges or custom powers. loaded with the Fantasy Companion. This is also a problem because you cannot edit the supplied setting information. I cannot import the Fantasy Companion data into the editor and add other races, powers, etc. which would allow me to combine setting together. You also cannot export any items individually to another custom setting; you cannot export your custom race from your fantasy setting to your sci-fi setting: you need to re-enter it from scratch. This is a problem for me with my custom Midgard setting: I cannot load the Fantasy Companion data with my custom data so it will not have the additional Powers or any of the magic items and character options unless I enter it by hand.

UPDATE: I have discovered you can combine settings but it does not do so by default. This is an experimental feature being tested. It may not always work right so if you use it you might run into problems. You turn it on in Preferences==>Experimental on the menu.

You cannot duplicate an entry within your custom setting. Example: Midgard has four versions of the Dragonkin race each with mostly the same build with a couple of minor changes for each. I cannot duplicate the first one I make, make the changes quick, and rename it, which would save time and energy (and sanity).

Size matters. Click to biggify!
The layout has a problem in the editor. You cannot re-size frames in the window (I assume this is the same in non-Windows versions but it may not be as the toolkit for windows are different on each platform). So, when creating the entry you have a large area for writing the description but a tiny area to add the mechanical effects. This makes it a bit harder to make an entry with more than a few mechanical effects as need to scroll a lot and cannot see all of them together at a glance to make sure you did not miss anything. It also does not automatically scroll when you add a new effect. You hit the “+” to add it and then need to manually scroll down to make the next entry when you have several effects.. Minor complaint but the annoyance builds up when making lots of entries.


Even with the missing features this is still my choice as it is fast to use, displays the information in the character maker in a way that is easy to see the “big picture” of the character, the export to PDF forms is nifty, and it is not complicated to add your own custom settings. However, it is frustrating not being able to combine data from existing settings in your custom setting. Very frustrating.

Also, as mentioned, dead tree buyers are SOL.

So I recommend it with a bit of hesitation. Just be aware of the limitations it has right now.

10 July 2016

Review: The GameMaster's Apprentice Base Deck

My reviews have not been too kind lately... and amazing and this product is....


Really, that is all I need to say. Go buy them. Now. Or a pox on all your houses.

Well, I probably should say more. Made by Larcenous Designs and brought to market by their crowd source campaign (plus it looks like some intense playtesting), the GameMaster's Apprentice is a deck of cards for a GM to use as a tool to improvise, describe, and overall use randomness to create the story and inspire events. This is the base deck which it generic; you can use it in any games. There are more decks aimed at specific genres (Sci-Fi, Steampunk, and horror which is my favorite in look, you got to see it). In addition there is a deck devoted to Dead Gentleman's Demon Hunters game, though it can easily work for others games of that genre. $19.99 per deck.

The deck has 60 cards, but since there is no need for a card back to hide the information it is two sided... that's 120 cards of goodness.

These are the first cards I have bought from DriveThruCards. I was doubtful about it. How good can print on demand (POD) cards be. The answer: darn good. If you are holding off buying cards from them because you are unsure about the results, these are as a good as a typical deck. Printing is very good, cutting dead on. I will, for sure, be buying more cards from that website.

But What Are They?
These are a deck of cards with "stuff" on them. This includes dice throws, outcomes, names, items, random locations, descriptions, runes and element symbols to interpret in any way you want, and so on, fourteen generators on each card (a really efficient useof space). As you GM and something comes up unplanned (you know how those pesky players are always asking something unexpected, or going somewhere unplanned or meeting an NPC you need to throw in, and so on), draw a card, read the generator you need, and improvise. Its it especially good when you are not on your game from being out all the previous night in a barely remembered haze of drunken debauchery and gang warfare, or even if you are planning out the next adventure in your campaign and needs something to get your imagination in gear.

I will only give a couple of examples, but you can see how it works in the PDF of the manual. Also, you can find your own uses as well.

Rolling dice is easy, draw and look at the circle up top of the card. It has rolls for the standard polyhedral dice. Great to hide the result of a roll in plain sight.

I really like the "likely odds" tool as I am enjoying the story of a game and like to be surprised as well. When you need to decide an outcome on the fly, such as is it likely there is a scorpion in that birthday present the hero got in the mail. Choose how likely it is (good, even, bad) and look to see if it yes or no for that likely hood. As in my world it is likely the result is bad and the scorpions are in there I look next to the "bad" entry. Darn. No. Well next time...

"Shopkeep, what is your name?" Draw a card, look at the names and pick one of the three. Virtue and vice could give the NPC a basic disposition as well.

Need to describe an area, that's here, with categories for sound, sight, etc. My guess it that the horror deck will be so useful just for this, as horror is so improved with original sensory information.

As I said you can write adventures with these cards. They give you ideas for why the adventure is happening, and places it might be at. It is not exact at all, it is vague to let ideas pop into your head. Best, it can inspire you to come up with plots you might never think of. It is like having a writing partner to bounce ideas off of when no one is available. You can even improvise a whole adventure on the fly such as when the planned adventure ends early, or to fill in when someone has to cancel at the last minute.

If you are a GM who just buys adventures and runs them verbatim, do not waste you money on these. If you make your own adventures, like to come up with ideas on the fly, or want to do so but want to get better at it, these are the cards you need.

Location, Location, Location????

I love prewritten adventures because it makes my life as a gamemaster easier. I usually never use them as is, making them my own, but totally appreciate the work. Right now I am reading Psychedelic Fantasies Module 1: Beneath the Ruins because it promises originality and new ideas (hope it succeeds, I am not far in though it to judge but the author promises a lot).

However, right off the bat, and nothing to comment on this work's quality, it is another location-based adventure. By that I mean is is a collection of places with rooms described in detail, designed to go from place to place. As this is a dungeon crawl that is fine. However, so many published adventures use this form and rarely use my prefered adventure design that emphasizes plot over locations.

We have worm sign!
D&D invented the published adventure, but other games eschewed the location based formula for design and D&D, especially old school, has never given it up. Sure there are good plots, like Pathfinder adventure paths, but essentially they get bogged down in the minutia of what a room looks like, what is hidden there, etc. There are exceptions. The Speaker In Dreams, an excellent early third edition adventure from Wizards of the Coast, about moving between scenes, and not necessarily in a linear fashion, which they described as "event based."

White Wolf Publishing (may Wee Jas rest its soul) was not the first to go plot based in their adventures, but was certainly the most prominent at introducing it to the masses with the success of the (old) World of Darkness. The adventures were broken into scenes that was all about the drama and conflict. Sure it might have an important location but it was always designed to forward the plot like a movie or book would do. Marc Miller's Traveller had the EPIC system of adventure design which was all about creating a forward moving plot through scenes. Yes, you might have to trudge through a space station room to room searching for clues, but this was not majority of the adventure (although there were tons of Traveller "dungeon crawls" published that did not follow these goals). Call of Cthulhu adventures also were much more scene based as they emulated the storytelling of Lovecraft fiction.

It is not that I don't like a good, well written and original location based adventure, but I like variety and I think that it is a form that can serve old school well.

09 July 2016

Review: The Cepheus Engine SRD

Chewie! Nooooooooooo!
Just released for free on DriveThruRPG, the Cepheus Engine (Cepheus is the name of a constellation, thank you Google) is a system reference document for space opera role playing. Spoilers: it is Traveller. Not one particular version of Traveller, but a bit of the original and a bit of the new, but if you have played any Traveller apart from The New Era, Traveller20 or GURPS Traveller you will know what is going on.


To be fair looks are not important here. This is a bare bones rules presentation, which is fine as it is not a retail game but a guide to make games based on. It has real basic layout, black and white text, some tables no pictures except the cover, and dry writing that concentrates on making the rules understood which I appreciate. If you are making a game using this you will want to rewrite it. There are a few places where some formatting like bullets or indents would help keep the eye on track, but no big deal.

The cover pic is good, one celestial body smashing into another. My first thought was if that moon was landing on Chewbacca? Then again I am weird.

Because there is no background art, no pics, just text it's 208 pages are real easy to flip through on my tablet. Some of these books with all their great art and so on really bog down on a low end tablet. There are some books I wish had a low quality, barely any art version for tablet use. I am reading the Midgard Campaign book right now (it is amazingly good), but my tablet groans under the weight of all the artwork.

The Rules

I am not going to explain much of the rules because, as I said, it does not depart from the classic/Mongoose Traveller you know and love. The default character creation rules has the character dying if they fail a survival roll as in the olden days, but also has all the new ways to avoid that from the Mongoose SRD. It also has a really good list of careers, which is a plus over the Mongoose SRD which just has a sample.

The combat is basically the same as the Mongoose version, which is more complete than the old days where there was a lot of “winging it.” It also has that system where initiative bounces around, which people seem to like but I am not a fan of and I used my own system instead when I GMed it.
The rest of the book is pretty complete, with ship building rules (absent from the new Mongoose core book. Boo, hiss. I think Mongoose hid it away with the index that is also not in the book). It has the classic trading mini-game, and design rules for making creatures and the universe, all bread and butter of Traveller. It has a decent write up of how to run the game, and an overview of the excellent EPIC template of adventure design. It is complete, and it should be at 208 pages!

The Future Is Past

The vision of the future here is the same that hamstrings Traveller today, it is hard science fiction as it was in 1980. Our picture of things that may come has changed radically. Sure, you can add it when you make your product but the SRD does not inspire this with examples. If you are writing an alternative to something already available you need to go that extra parsec.


The game is released under the Open Game License (as was the Mongoose SRD), as well as the Cepheus Engine Compatibility-Statement License (CSL) which clarifies how you can use it, but there are very few restrictions. This is meant for others to publish games using it, why put roadblocks up. I love original rule sets and would love to see support for them, but too many restrict the use. It is hard enough to get someone to write for a system that is not one of the big few (5e SRD, Pathfinder, Mongoose Traveller, and some others), but this is a further roadblock. I was just looking at the DicePunk SRD, intended for other to publish their content under, but it is released under a Creative Commons license that prohibits commercial use. That will put the kibosh on using it for most creators.

Is It Needed?

I have a love/hate relationship with retro-clones. I like them, but there are too many versions of the same old games, with only slight differences for the most part. It is nice to see someone encouraging a rule set not based on D&D!

The question is do we need this SRD? Why not just publish using the Mongoose SRD? The name Traveller on a cover, with decades of success (and failure… Traveller Fifth Edtion, may it please rest in peace) goes a lot further to sell a game than the Cepheus Engine. There seems to be little advantage to using this SRD over the Mongoose one. It does flesh out some rules that are truncated in the Mongoose SRD, like the careers, which is a plus, but the pluses do not add up to compelling.

How About Generic?

While this SRD does its job, I would personally love the Traveller engine to become more generic, for use in fantasy, modern, ad so on. It already does cover this somewhat as visiting worlds can be like time travel, with worlds of ultra-tech cities along side worlds of people in caves. Extending the rules to cover this would be awesomesauce.

08 July 2016

Quick thoughts

Aternity: Old Is New (to Me)

Reading the rules to Alternity. Interesting game, seems fun, dicing method is kind of weird but neat and original. I never had it because it was not long lived as WoTC cancelled it right before d20 came out. While it has some oddities, it is far better than the Frankenstin's monster that d20Modern was. Happens when marketing ("make a modern D&D") is the source of ideas. I agree with people on the Interwebtoobs, this needs a retroclone, with some adjustments to take a good game great. Sadly, not available in DriveThruRPG.

Dark Matter

Wow, what a great background. I love conspiracy games, and Dark Matter is really imaginative yet steeped in "real" conspiracy nonsense. It is what made me aware of Alternity, though I have the d20Modern version because WoTC has not made the Alternity version available. Love the "10 things you should know" about the game at the start, which writer Wolfgang "Not-Amadeus" Baur also uses in another of his works I am jazzed on called....


Midgard is an excellent game world from Kobold Press, I may be late discovering this, but that means I don't have to wait for the supplements- they are already out! It keeps some of the traditional fantasy game elements with twists and doses of new. It has been a long time in the making, stemming from Wolfgang "Gang of Wolves" Baur has used for his homebrew games since he was a teen. While written for Pathfinder (and has an AGE supplement in the back of the campaign book), it is mostly "fluff" and easy to adapt to your favorite system (I am getting a Savage Worlds based game group together right now). Lots of supplements and detail, and the world has different areas that support different game feels, from high fantasy to fantasy horror. Being rooted in traditional fantasy makes it easier to adapt adventures from other games but keeps it all fresh. Why don't you have these books? 

Traveller: Mongoose Version 2

My wife got it as I was on the fence as it is really not that different in rules from what came before. However, I really like the new edition of Mongoose Publishing version of Traveller because it has left the 1980's in look (lots of text, black and white line drawings) and now is a modern book with great layout and excellent art, especially the gear section, and the isomorphic deck plans are very cool.

UPDATE: It has no index. No index? Really? Not  cool. I mean, they are kind of a new frill, only in books since the 1500s.

F.A.T.A.L. for D&D 5e

No. Thank the gods of Greyhawk.

Kickstarter: Not What It Should Be

Memes, what Photoshop was meant for making.
I am not enamored of the current state of crowd-sourcing because of two incidents, a personal one that has turned me off something I was really excited about, the second because Kickstarter was used to rip off my wife and the company does not seem to give a rats ass. First, the details, followed by analysis. Note, there is a bit of passion in this essay because I am kind of pissed.

Also, these are not the case for most projects, but one bad apple can spoil the bunch.

Incident One

Back in late last year I extolled my excitement for the return of Kult in a new edition. Kult is one of the best of the horror genre ever, and I like it more than the wonderful Call of Cthulhu. I was so chuffed I immediately decided I need to be in the Kickstarter and set aside money for it. I have never given to a crowd-sourcing effort before so this was kind of special for me to want in. My wife has done many (and I have benefited from that), but I have never actively been in the process. To make sure I did not miss it I signed up on their website to be informed by e-mail of updates.

Fast forward to last month. Wondering when the Kickstarter begins I go to the website and find it already ended… almost two months ago. I check my e-mail and there are none from the company. I assume something went wrong, however when I signed up there was no sign of an error, you just put your email in and go. I use automatic form fill so I know I did not mess up the address.

I contacted the company and was told, in a terse two-sentence e-mail, they were sorry but I can still pre-order the items, I should have followed on the Facebook page, and should go there now and sign up (although there is no reason now, I already missed it). Turns out I can pre-order, but not only do I not get the cool editions I would have gotten, the prices of the items are a but higher now, so I get the privilege of paying more for the items because they (IMO) made the mistake.

Further, I cannot get the PDFs early, and I cannot join their private, backer only forums to discuss the game and those people who did back are not discussing it elsewhere I can post, at least not in numbers to make it interesting to me. They “might” release the free PDFs later, though they did not say if I would be lucky and have to pay extra or not.

Inevitably I feel that they owe me something more than a dismissive “sorry,” and relegate me to the club of the people who were fortunate enough to hand them tons money for it- even though I would have. I know companies use this to cover printing and make it affordable, but it is so obvious in this case if you didn't get on board you are not really cared about by them, even with their mistake a part of it.

Anyway, I responded to their response and they have not written me back. The lack of giving a poop is deafening. As it is, I will not be buying their game, no matter how much I love the previous editions, because they are seeming like a bunch of jerks right now who are all about the money and care less about customer service. They may be nice people but this is not being handled well, and future projects from the are off the table as well.

Incident Two

If you see the name Ken “Whit” Whitman on a Kickstarter, run away. This guy has started many of them, collected tons of money, and the money disappears with no product delivered. For a full detail on this guys immoral activities click here.

My wife pledged for the pencil dice campaign and to the live action version of Jolly Blackburn's Knights of the Dinner Table strip. She did not give money to the Traveller video project but that one also has stopped with the money gone and nothing to show for it as well.

In this case part of the fault lies with Kickstarter who tells the people that make these campaigns they need to deliver, taking the money is a promise to fulfill. Campaigners are told to be in a position where they are ready to finish it before ever asking for money. That does not always happen.

So what does Kickstarter do to fix this? Nothing at all except pocket their cut of the money. No matter if the project is delivered or not, they make their money. They even let their users break their own rules and not give a damn such as not running more than one campaign at a time, but here the same user had multiple campaigns concurrently. Now it is up to the people who funded this to go out on their own and pursue legal action while the founders of Kickstarter buy their 15th sports car on their cut..

Truth About Crowd Funding

Crowd-funding is a powerful tool to get projects going that would not happen because of lack of capital. RPG and board game projects have benefited immensely with games coming to reality that would never have made it. There are so many more choices and interesting undertakings, it has been a boon.

However, Kickstarter has also become a marketing tool, the term means "excitement." The idea of a Kickstarter with a limited window is all about hype for most. Larger companies use it to fund projects they could do otherwise. Although it makes it more efficient, Kickstarter seems like it was originally aimed at the underdogs who have not made it yet. They hype though! That is what drives it.

These larger companies could do crowd-sourcing themselves. Most already have e-commerce set up and could do exactly the same thing without giving a percentage away to Kickstarter and make the money go further which could mean even better production values and extras. GMT games essentially does this (and predates Kickstarter) with their P500 program. Small up-and-comers need Kickstarter because it provides all tools they would otherwise not be able to put together.

The worst part is when you miss it, and I am not the only one who has missed one as I have found out searching the web, you are kind of an outsider. While it is fine not to have the extra goodies, cutting the fan base out of the forums to discuss the game is kind of cutting your own throat. What if the person had bad cash flow and missed? By not allowing him to be able to discuss a game he is excited with others does not engender good will.

Steve Jackson Games added, at the last minute, a new pledge level of (I think) a buck to their Ogre Kickstarter; if you give it you would get exclusive access to their secret, members only forum to discuss the development of Car Wars Sixth Edition. I am not an Ogre fan, and I also am not a regular follower of there crowd-sourcing efforts (I buy TONS of material though, usually through my FLGS, and Kickstarter in some ways hurts the mom-and-pops by cutting them out to an extent but it is like my patronage kind of means diddly-squat), so I had no idea about this cheap way of getting in that was added at the last minute. Car Wars was the other project I would Kickstarter because I know it will have cool extras. However, cutting me out of those forums I find capricious. Forums are a great tool to engender excitement and a feeling of involvement that makes me want to buy it. As it is Car Wars has dropped off my list. Someone tell them that marketing is supposed to make people want to buy it, not piss them off.


You may not agree with me (although Gizmodo seems to, read their scathing article). Your experiences may vary, but my limited experiences have made me very wary of the whole thing. Certainly cutting out people who may buy it later, or cannot afford at the time to get in on the campaign, of even talking about the game with other enthusiasts is just not healthy to the hobby in the long run, although right now the excitement of crowd-funding outweighs those negatives, but will that last forever?

06 July 2016

Review: Adventures Under the Laughing Moon

Cool cover. What is inside though?
Conventions are great places to be exposed to new games, and playing a session there has led to me buying into a game I might have not otherwise.

I first encountered Adventures Under the Laughing Moon a couple of years ago at Maricopacon in Mesa, AZ. My session did not leave me chuffed, more bewildered and confused. I was not sure if it was the game itself or the way It was presented. The fellow who ran the short adventure was enthusiastic almost to the point that it felt more like a sales pitch rather than a fan trying to show me what was cool. He was not explaining things well. You would do something and here comes a random rule. The background was not well explained as well. This does not mean the game is bad at all, often this comes from the desire to make things exciting and not overwhelm a player with details that might slow things down. Personally, I like to get the gist of how it works, how it plays, and what it is about to decide if I will invest.

The fellow who ran the adventure was not the creator, Todd VanHooser, the author of a series of fiction that the game is based on and the writer of the game.VanHooser is an underdog author who does not have a bunch of marketing money, a big publishing contract, and seems to be doing it for the love of writing, which is what art is about and I think is wonderful. Thinking that the presentation at the con might have done it a disservice I bought the PDF of the main book from DriveThruRPG, and decided to give it a fair look.


This is a fantasy world with a wild west influence. Six guns and sorcery set in a different planet. It is strongly derivative of D&D in race choices, professions that act like classes, and rules that descend from the old game. The book is 182 pages but somehow seems less due to the content.


The artwork varies in quality, some better than others, but is mainly passable. Some are a bit amateurish, and a few are exciting and attractive. The cover is striking: nicely executed and having that excitement that brought me into role-playing originally. The logo is excellent.
The layout of the book is in the lower-semi-pro category. The combination of choices on line spacing, font, and things like the frames of boxes do not seem to be as well thought out as they should be. A prime example, and one that makes it less friendly to the eyes when reading, is the word spacing. The text is fully justified but it has caused the word spacing to have a lot of extra space that would probably not be there if it was not fully justified. This could be caused by poor parameter choices in the layout program, a poorly designed font, or an application that just not good at it. 

You may be saying “well, the writer is not a professional layout artist” but these days you can look like one: there are good books and tutorials all around on how to do this, and you can easily get a powerful desktop publishing program to do it in, even free (Scribus). Layout is important for readability: I would rather have no pics and good layout than middling layout and artwork.

Also, please do not turn off the ability to copy text in the program! Why do this? Maybe I want to copy something to put in an email to players, or print on a hand out. Is it to stop piracy? I could give them the whole PDF or a print out, so what does stopping me copying a line of text do to solve this problem, except make me have to go through the extra, one minute step of cracking the protection with readily available freeware so I can do what I really should be able to do with the file for PERSONAL use?

The World

Buying this book did not give me a fully playable game in the World of Elderon. There is almost no detail beyond a couple of maps, hints in the descriptions of races professions, and rules, and some short adventure seeds to go on. I expect a better overview of the milieu (I love that word) so you can glean what the creator's world is like without buying a bunch of other books unless you want to dig deeper. I bought the game, give me what I need to play- that is not just rules.

This does not mean a super detailed history and descriptions, but a good summation is needed to convey why I want to adventure in that universe and the tone of the stories I will play. This strongly fails in that department. This one is really bad because the author encourages everyone to read full novels to glean this basic information, “to get a feel for the settings, games masters and players are encouraged to read the fantasy series that inspired the game.” That is fine for a free fan based adaptation, but if you are charging money some of us will not be into reading having to read the books to understand the game world. If people like it they will look to your other work. Pinnacle Entertainment's Lanhkmar inspired me to buy the Lieber novels, and though the game goes into much detail about the world it did not ruin the books, it inspired me to buy them.


The characters are derivative of D&D: Elves, Halflings, Dwarves, etc., and while they have differences they do not fall far from the D&D tree. There are professions, which are basically classes, and all the standard archetypes are here though with a few surprises. It is a point buy system, which is a plus, but the professions still constrain player's choices as in the old game.

It uses skills and again this reminds me of D&D, as they are very similar to AD&D's non-weapon proficiencies.

All in all it is functional and easy to make a character, though it is hard to know what makes a playable character without playing a while. Sample characters would be nice to help guide noobs so that halfway through the first adventure they do not realize they made poor choices.

Also, skills start pretty low, either at zero or a set starting amount based on profession or race, so there is a lot of failure when trying skills. Attributes don't help to make it easier, except in combat. You may have a high intelligence and dexterity and it does nothing to increase you chance to use a skill, though it might stop you from using a skill at all (if you don't have minimum dexterity and intelligence you cannot hypnotize people; being incredibly dextrous and a genius does nada).


The rules are pretty short, only covers the basics and not situations that inevitably will show up in game play, leaving a lot or room for interpretation. While I encourage "winging it" I also want to have things defined so when I wing it I have a clue as to how. Also, how about some examples of play to illustrate the rules? 

It borrows from D&D for its die rolls blatantly, using percent dice for skills and d20 for combat, the author extolling the excitement of rolling a d20 to hit. On top of it spell control checks add another way to roll, starting with 2d10 rolls, adding them together against a target number. Rolling for combat readiness is also a different roll. I prefer systems that use the same basic method to resolve everything. If you roll d20 for an attack roll why not do it for a skill roll. Using different dice method leads to having to learn multiple ways to modify rolls and read them which is another unnecessary complication to getting into the adventure. D&D third edition discarded this old idea when it changed all rolls to d20 and made the whole thing work the same.

Another thing is why percent dice? This goes for other games as well, like Bare Bones Fantasy from DWD Studios. Most systems use percentages, and vary them by multiples of 5%. For a d20 roll each +/-1 is exactly 5%, so rolling less than 6 on a d20 is EXACTLY the same odds as rolling less than 30% on d%. Adding +1 is the identical to adding 5% to a percent roll. Just go with the d20 for everything folks, small numbers.

Oddly, tied rolls are fails.

Reading the rules on skills you would think are no modifiers for difficulty, that it is pass fail and all locks are the same, but this turns out not to be the case. Hidden away on the GM tables at the end of the book there is a list of difficulty modifiers. This should be in the skills chapter.


The spell system is spell point based, and uses  checks for success. There are not a lot of spells even though they are pretty specific in effect. They are in “levels,” which keeps more powerful spells out of the hands of starting characters. Nothing revolutionary.

There is a short section of magic items which borrows heavily from D&D, including a “portable hole,” and the deck of chaos which is the D&D deck of many things with a different name. It covers no new ground and nothing seems to add to the originality of the background.

The Arcane Magic chapter also has a short section on the ways of the Fey, although it seems misplaced; it should go into a detailed world background chapter if it had one.


Combat is oddly laid out. Most of the rules for it are in the Combat Skills, Weapons, and Maneuvers section, but the Taking Damage rules are way back in the Game Play section and the combat section does not even include a “see page XX” reference. How about putting all the rules for game play in game play? This organizational mistake is everywhere.

This system has one of my least liked sacred cows of D&D: armor makes you harder to hit but does not reduce damage. It is armor class by a different name. Characters can learn combat skills and maneuvers which are basically modern D&D feats. The“Laughing Moon” combat skill seems pretty powerful because with a successful agility roll you have a 10% chance of beheading the foe with a hit! A lot of the "feats" seem to be martial arts maneuvers in the spirit of the monk class but there is no background reason for such Eastern flavored unarmed combat.

Initiative is by group and the GM chooses who goes first, no roll (so be sure to buy the GM pizza and pop as this is totally the GM's call). Combat Readiness (think “action points”) is another different roll. You need to above roll a 5 on d10 to see how many actions a character take, with additional dice rolled as they advance in their combat readiness skill. A character with a Combat Readiness level of 3 rolls 2d10, so they can perform anywhere from just one free action on a failure to fifteen extra points of actions. That's quite a spread.

You can attack a lot if you have the actions. You are limited to “only” three attacks with the main hand, one more with a weapon in the off hand, so a character can have up to four attacks. This seems to be needed because the damage system makes it take many hits to defeat opponents.


Each area of the body (the “hit location”) has its own hit points, which if exceeded the area is maimed. The amount of hit points is not well distributed, as maiming a foot is three, and the head is five for a human. Maiming the head means instant death if the GM chooses, so maybe a monetary tip in addition to that extra-meat pizza for the GM would help avoid an arbitrary death. I assume a maimed body part means that body part is useless, but it is not explained. Can you still stand with a maimed leg? Who knows?

For every five points of damage to a body part the character takes one wound. This seems to be regardless of the part, and even if it is maimed makes no difference, so I am not sure why the chest has a hit point value. How do you have a maimed chest? No rules for it. For each wound you get a penalty to your action roll and lose d6 Stamina Points, and if you have a lot of wounds you bleed more stamina every round.

When Stamina hits zero you go unconscious. Go negative you die. Since Stamina is the character's Fortitude and Constitution scores added together, a minimum of 20 for humans. At an average of 3.5 stamina lost per wound, it takes an average of 5.7 wounds to incapacitate him… more because he is likely higher than the minimum. This is why you need to do those multiple attacks I mentioned. Combat skills can make it a bit faster, and a critical hit can inflict some extra damage. BTW: That critical table is weirdly placed after the list of “helpful” names and before the random encounters table (another vestige of D&D). Are they trying to keep it secret?

So, how do you choose to hit a body part? You don't. In the spirit of one of my most disliked bad rules it is random. You cannot target an arm, you just randomly hit it. Facing off against a foe with a dagger in your hand. Ooops. Hit him in the foot. The foot? Really? Rolling a d20 on the random hit location table (carefully secreted on the GM tables along with skill difficulties) gives you the body part hit. You hit the right foot on a 19 and the left foot on a 20. That is a 1 in 10 chance… with that dagger in your hand… of hitting one of the feet.

As for those crits, you get them when you roll a natural 20, and a critical miss on a 1. The crits do not have any tie to the body part hit. A crushing hit on the foot can crush the skull. WTF????


I could go on, but I tire of this. You could accuse me of being a villain, unnecessary harshing the game and being a big dick, but I do not get pleasure or like kicking people. Todd VanHooser seems like a man with a passion, but the passion is obfuscated here under this hot mess. If he ever makes a second edition with a major rewrite I would be happy to try it again. Here are a few ideas:

Get better at layout:  Learn how to do it right or get someone to do it who is. It is not that hard to make a small press project look awesomesauce these days with tools available that are as powerful in the hands of a duffer as in the hand of a pro. It is not like when D&D was written on manual typewriters because that was all they could afford.

Organize: Put everything together that goes together together. For example, have your combat rules damage rules, and the rules for crits all in one place. Do not be afraid to reference another section when the necessary.

Examples: More of them. If there is anything that may be confusing show it in play. What seems straightforward to the writer may not be for the noob. Playtest it and ask what was confusing. You will be surprised what people might be unsure about.

Model: Role-playing games are four decades old, and there have been tons of trial and error in rules sets. Some ideas were terrific, some were bad, but there are very few innovations anymore. Take Traveller, written just a few years after OD&D was released and included skills (which D&D would not have for a few years more), and armor that reduces damage. It was a hit and has become the rule not the exception in most games since because it works and passes a real world test. Old school D&D is not the best for modern games as its roots in wargaming show. Play a bunch of other games and see what works for what you are trying to do, and use them as models. Go to game stores and play one shots there (you are in Glendale Todd, check out Imperial Outpost. My friend Stuart Dollar is a good one to game with; he does a lot of one shots there and a variety of games). I may be wrong, but this game seems to demonstrate a lack of experience outside of D&D games with the creators. Another choice it to use an existing system. Instead of making a system on your own, adapt a system that already exists. OGL games are a goo start, as are other non-d20 games that have free or cheap licenses. Tweak them, but concentrate on what really matters in a game: the background.

More background: Give me a true feel of the game world, its politics, heroes, and everything that makes a world real. Gaming is about adventure not rules. This book is way too heavy on rules and way too light on background.

Playtest: Run it at conventions and ask for feedback on draft versions you distribute on the Interwebtoobs: Do anything to get outside your box. Making a game is like being in love. Your friends see that the problems in the relationship while you are blinded by passion

Get help: Sometimes a creative guy does not do as well with the nuts and bolts. Team with a nuts and bolts warrior.

Todd VanHooser, go back and make a second edition that rocks and pulls me into your universe. As this was the first exposure I have to your writing this game sadly turned me off to sampling other works. That may be unfair, but first impressions can last.

05 July 2016

Savage Old School - Release Version

Touch me to get something.
UPDATE: Fixed the link on this pic.

UPDATE 2: Added my name as the writer. Duh.

UPDATE 3: Adding my name blew the layout up. Fixed that now. Serves me right for doing it in a word processor instead of a real layout application like InDesign.

I recently talked about my love of old school gaming- the adventures, the feel, the campaigns- but not the rules. Savage Worlds is perfect for Old School gaming under a modern game that is built for fast play and not letting the rules dominate a session. Of course, it needs a bit of a tweek to make it really old school and thatis what I have tried here with  my take on making Savage Worlds party like it's 1979. It even has options to add in some of the crazy rules and lack of balance that was part of the day. I am going to run one shots using these ideas at conventions.

It is just a bunch of ideas for you to download FREE, peruse and possible use. Most important, I hope you enjoy it.

03 July 2016

Savage Old School - Example Actual Play

I have already had some feedback on the Savage Old School and will be fixing and laying out this week. I had a chance to playtest it with four friends for a couple of sessions. In order to give a little look at how it plays I recorded it and made a transcript to give you a feel of how I run it.

The gang:

Billy as Scarlett
Sandie as Blackleaf
Vinny as Khonan
Jasmine as Elfstar

and Eric as the GM.

When: Friday night nine o'clock.
Where: The living room. Or front room. Or Arizona room. Or whatever people call it.

GM: Okay, so… were return to the dungeon. After the loss of your cleric to the pack of hell hounds…

KHONAN: Language, please.

GM: Sorry, I mean “heck hounds” claimed the life of your cleric on the first level, Khonan the fighter, Elfstar the wizard, and Blackleaf the Rogue…

BLACKLEAF: Don't call me that. I am the thief and proud of it!

GM: …. and Blackleaf the "thief" descend the stairs to dungeon level 2.

KHONAN: I really need healing. Bring the new cleric in before the next fight, please.

GM: Well, right on cue, you see a chain mail clad, mace wielding, holy symbol holding cleric.

SCARLETT: Thank goodness you found me. I was lost and wandered into this ancient hidden dungeon. You look hurt. Let me cure you.

BLACKLEAF: What is your name, cleric?

SCARLETT: I am Scarlett of Johansson.

GM: Billy, not again. Pick another name.

SCARLETT: I like this one.

ELFSTAR: What is with the name? Can you ever be serious? Come up with a name that fits the milieu.

SCARLETT: Like you, Elfstar, the non-elf, stupidly named Halfling.

ELFSTAR: I fireball him… her… whatever.

GM: Change it.

SCARLETT: Please. I like it. Plus you killed off my last character totally unfair like.

GM: Because you refused to change her name. Vanessa of Hudgens. And before I killed that one I killed off Emma of Stone…

SCARLETT: I'm keeping it.

GM: Well, have another character ready to go.

SCARLETT: Megan of Fox on deck.

BLACKLEAF: And can you make a better character drawing than a stick figure with two large circles for boobs? There are two girls playing here and it is not cool.

ELFSTAR: Tell it like it is, sister.

GM: Let's get to playing. So Scarlett casts cure serious wounds and Khonan is healed. Mark off the power points. Now, before you is a twenty by thirty square foot room, a wooden door on the far wall. A chest sits in the middle of the room, a brassiere next to it is burning. Why are you laughing?

ELFSTAR: Not brassiere. That's a bra. You mean brazier.

BLACKLEAF: Burning brassieres? I think we stepped through a portal to the 1960s!

GM: What is your toughness?


GM: Damn. 

KHONAN: Language.

GM: I rolled a nine for wandering damage.

BLACKLEAF: Whatever. Go on wound me. We have a cleric.

GM: For now.


BLACKLEAF: I will search for traps. I got a raise.

GM: You don't find any.

ELFSTAR: I'll be back. I need to take a piss.

KHONAN: Language. Jesus Christ people. You know I am religious. God has struck down people for less.

GM: Wait, the bathroom is that way.

BLACKLEAF: She's calling Steve again.

SCARLETT: I hate that guy. She's been all goo-goo since they met. Joined at the hip. Joined at the… whatever.

KHONAN: Language.

SCARLETT: I didn't say any bad words.

KHONAN: It was implied. In your heart you sinned.

SCARLETT: In my fart, you mean.

KHONAN: Language!

GM: Okay, so that chest is there. Vinny, sit down.

KHONAN: I need some Red Bull.

GM: I'm trying to set the mood here. Give it a minute.

KHONAN: If my caffeine drops the blood is on your hands.

GM: Okay. So the chest is there, it is lit by the brai… fire thing. What do you do.

BLACKLEAF: That was the mood?

GM: Dim light is a mood. So, what do you do?

ELFSTAR: I'm back.

GM: No more phone calls.

ELFSTAR: Don't worry. I am not talking to him anymore. Ever. Again.

BLACKLEAF: Trouble in paradise.

ELFSTAR: Screw him.

KHONAN: Language.

ELFSTAR: Stuff it, Vinny. Let's just play.

KHONAN: Blackleaf, open the chest.

ELFSTAR: I try to open it.

GM: As you do it a mouth appears with teeth, a tongue…

KHONAN: Mimic! I love me some mimic!

GM: Blackleaf. Strength roll. What did roll?


GM: Your hands are stuck to it. Notice rolls everyone. Looking for a success.



KHONAN: Me neither.


GM: The way I like it. So the good guy goes. Mimic attacks the cleric.

SCARLETT: Wow. No surprise there. F**k!

KHONAN: Language.

GM: He rolls a 14 which hits, right?

SCARLETT: Yeah. Stop looking so happy.

GM: So, it does 2d6 damage. Okay, another… there. Two sixes. and two more sixes, and another six… and another… and another… and another… you are dead. 

SCARLETT: You didn't roll that.

GM: It was so big I rule you are automatically, irrevocably dead. No rolls to survive..

SCARLETT: I couldn't see the roll behind that GM screen. You faked it.

GM: And a benny goes into my pile for arguing.You have another character ready? 

KHONAN: Godammit! Would you stop being a total assh**e and getting the rest of us f**ked!

ELFSTAR: Vinny! Language!

BLACKLEAF: Wow. Hypocrite much?

GM: What's that rumbling?

ELFSTAR: It's becoming black outside. The roof… it is ripping open…

SCARLETT: Is that a hand? It's huge. It's pointing at...  it's pointing at Vinny

KHONAN: The hand of God!!!!

(a crack of thunder!)

SCARLETT: It… it killed him.

GM: That's why I am an atheist. If you don't believe in something it can't hurt you.

BLACKLEAF: Wow. Not much left. Ashes. A brown streak on the chair.

ELFSTAR: No, that was already there.


GM: My mom is so going to kill me.

ELFSTAR: Dude, you are fifty years old.

BLACKLEAF: Can I have dibs on his can of Red Bull?

If you can even capture the slightest magic we had playing that nightyou will truly be in the cult of the old school.

02 July 2016

OSR: Old School "Renaissance" or "Regurgitation?"

They do make them like this anymore.

The Old School Renaissance (OSR), (or revival, or re-tread) movement is still in full swing with games with rules based on early RPGs (mainly original, Basic, and Advanced D&D) being released all the time. The point of OSR is to bring back the good old days when rules were simple, you players could try anything, and there was a lot of winging it as a major part of the experience. You could easily imagine an old school enthusiast saying things like “things were better back then. Armor didn't reduce damage, just made you harder to hit. And it was better that way,” or “you kids stay off my tabletop with yer newfangled battle mat!” Was it really better back then, or is it a case of wearing Goggles of Rose Colored Seeing +2?

Was It Better?

Forty years have passed since the birth of the role-playing hobby. It has been evolving every since. Many innovations have come. D&D did not have skills, (though Basic/Expert and AD&D did gain them later on). Early games also made characters archetypes, their features set by the “class” chosen and your character's abilities advancing in pre-determined ways. There was no room for customization. Random generation was the way of life, with dice determining your attributes and those rolls limiting what class you can take. These days most games let players design the character they want usually through point buys, and choosing new features as they adventure.

The evolution of RPGs took many different roads, but many OSR adherents tend to think they have gotten too rules heavy and a burden in playing a character. This is actually not true, with games like FATE and Dungeon World as prime examples of rules that are very light and encourage role playing. My current go to game, Savage Worlds, rings all the bells of what people want old school to be. In fact these games are far less complex than real old school D&D which, especially in its AD&D form, had tons of rules which tend not to work like other rules for similar circumstances, many exceptions for this or that, or designed just for a real esoteric concept. AD&D is the epitome of this.

Doing it all again.
The problem I have with most OSR rules is that they are pretty much copies of the old rules. OSRIC or Labyrinth Lord are basically the same game, maybe with a few select differences but manly adhering to the old rules. How many versions of a single rule set do we need? One? Two? A dozen? I encourage these writers to take that energy and go their own way, integrating rules changes or creating a whole new game that captures the feel they want but gets rid of the cruft. They can even make it compatible in most ways while integrating new ideas into it. Sadly this is rare.

Some ideas are held on to even though they do not pass a basic realism test. Armor Class (AC) is the prime suspect, so ingrained that the newest edition of D&D holds onto it like a sacred cow. With AC armor does not block damage, it made you harder to hit. Even early on other games discarded that idea, letting armor reduce or even block damage. In D&D even if you are in the heaviest plate mail if you are hit you will take as much damage as an unarmored peasant. Another is the “kill and take” mentality which makes cleaning the pockets of the dead a major part of the game (even for paladins). What is more conducive to role playing, spending time solving problems, or searching nooks and crannies for gold and magic and keeping long lists of the spoils? Heck, most of these retro-clones eschew the “evil” of skills. How about making magic-users fun to play at low levels. I played in a first level one shot for the anniversary of D&D at my FLGS. I cast my one spell, ans pretty much did nothing for the rest of the game.

This is not to say that there is not some really good things about OSR. There are tons of adventures to run, some really good settings as well, which I convert to a different system to run.

Lastly, are they even needed. One of the main reasons for retro-clones is that the old rules are out of print. Not actually. They are all available in PDF these days. You want to play first edition AD&D? DriveThruRPG has the whole kit and caboodle.

I am not trying to insult anyone, just to question if looking back is full of cloudy memories.

08 February 2016

RPG.net: Home of the no-fun-forums.

I do not like to use this blog to complain, but what the hell. Let's do it!

I used to go to RPG.net a lot, but have really stopped except to occasionally read a review (they have an extensive collection and it is being added to all the time). I used to read the columns but have stopped because it is not a place I like to go. Why? Because of the No Fun Forums.

The forums at RPG.net are the most populated in the role-play games community. There are tons of members. So shy do I hate it? The moderation has become out-of-control. The moderators are very inconsistent. Many are okay, but some are very heavy handed. There is no real guidelines for what gets you a ban or time out. It is basically anything a moderator dislikes. What is okay for most, another will come down way heavy handed. There is no appealing to them, PM'ing them is an automatic time out for several days. There is an appeals process that takes a long time and as I have read usually ends up being in favor of the moderator unless they do something really egregious extraordinary.

Humor, often used to make a point, is a no-no because many moderators, if they do not get it, mead out punishment. RPG gaming is not that serious, but these mods seem to think they are working for the UN or something.

I have seen it all, and complained about someone who got suspended in a way I thought was unfair and capricious, and I got suspended.

I am not saying that moderation is bad. There is unacceptable posts: haters, trollers, racists or sexist comments, and so on. None should be allowed. However, the personal whim of the moderator should not be so heavy handed. If they get complaints do something; if you do not agree or get a point do not pull the trigger.

Like I said, there are some very good mods there. The few spoil it for everyone (you mod by the name of "Emprint") as the fun has been sucked away as if a fun-vampire (funpire?) came in the night. This was not always this way, but has evolved over the years into a mess.

The problem is there are other forums that are a lot more fun, but the traffic at RPG.net is so high other cannot compete with it.

26 January 2016

Best systems for a convention

Running a game at a convention has the problem of time, usually a four hour block. You want to get to the adventure but some (or all) of the players may not know the system, you have to teach them, but you do not want to take an hour to teach it and the players want to play, not be lectured.

To help this I have selected a few systems that I find easy to teach and run.

1: Savage Worlds

Shane Hensley's very playable system is easy to teach the basics in about ten minutes. It also has the advantage of running fast and having a quick combat system with little paperwork. Players also love the card initiative system and the way the dice work, GM's love the way it can play a wide variety of genres, and both love the cinematic feel of it. It also has a lot of support and settings from the publisher (Pinnacle) and third party developers.

2:  WARP

Once upon a time there was an awesome, Philip K. Dick meets William S. Burroughs game called Over the Edge, set in a surreal island where multiple dimensions interact, strangers migrate from all over the world, and intrigue, violence, and weirdness meet. The game engine was ahead of its time, being a very rules light game all the way back 1992, years before such games became a popular thing, emphasizing story over mechanics. Recently, Atlas released the rules under the open gaming license and have it for download FREE! It's called WARP (Wanton Role-Playing System) and it's only 28 pages including fringe powers. Also, there are WARP adventures available for sale. It won't handle everything, but what it does handle (conspiracy, thrills, fear, and weirdness) it does well.

3: Rolemaster

No, just kidding. Not Rolemaster. Not ever.

4: Tales of Blades and Heroes

This game is simple to learn and play. It captures sword and sorcery gaming perfectly. It also has one of the smallest character sheets around, and the magical system, which is improvisational, lets a creative player have a really good time.

Here is a typical character from the book:

Alika the Mighty (50 pts)
Q 4+
Hero Points: 1
Special rules: Bow 3, Fearless, Knife 2, Magic Resistance,
Strong 2, Two-handed Sword 4, Vengeful, Lethal versus
Kobolds, Light Armor
Equipment: bearskin armor, bow, quiver with 20 arrows,
greatsword, dagger, rope, 24 silver pieces

It fits on a business card!


If you want old school D&D without the complexity, basic/expert is the way to go. It has the feel of OSR (because it is) without the weird complexity of AD&D based games. You do not have to go to ebay for an old copy (though scoring a copy of the Rules Cyclopedia is always nice) as there are a few OSR retro-clones of basic/expert rules to choose from that present the rules cleanly and include some modernization to improve play including Dark Dungeons (sharing the name of a famous anti-D&D Chick tract), and the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game, which adds a few changes like ascending AC and separating races and class making it more modern but easy. Both are free to download and have print on demand options, and both work with adventures for basic/expert D&D.

IMHO, do not run low level adventures because the person playing the magic-user will not have fun. Also, the stats are meant to be rolled 3d6 down the line, and are anything from 3-18, with 10 in the center, so do not give stats all above 10 the way you do in modern D&D. It will throw off the encounters in the adventures. Players of newer games will think it low, but assure them it is not.

6: N/A

Who is number six?


I hesitated to include this because some people have a real hard time grokking the system of tagging (because it is unlike most other games out there), but the play is so good, fast, and interactive it has to be here. FATE Accelerated is a simplified version of FATE Core, and is a strong narrative game that gives players a lot of say in the adventure, and the character sheets are small and easy to understand. Price is right: pay what you want for the PDF (give them at least $2.50 please), or you can get the printed book and PDF for a mere five bucks.

There you go. Check out these games and whatever you run at a convention, thank you for making fun for players. Without you there would be no RPG cons.

24 January 2016

MaricopaCon 2016

You know you want to go.
Here is a shout out to my Arizona peeps! MaricopaCon 2016 has its Kickstarter up and running. Its the only way to get tickets. Its a fun, local con run by Jason Youngdale who has done an excellent job the past few years. Lots of role play and board games to keep you having a blast! It is located in Mesa, AZ.

I'll be running two RPG session's. One will be set in the dystopic/ultraviolent supers setting of Undergound (the Mayfair Games' title from 1993) under Savage Worlds. I will also be playtesing a secret project!

Get off your lard butt and support this Kickstarter!

Traveller needs a reboot

The new logo, stolen from Red Dwarf.
Traveller, the sci-fi RPG created by Mark Miller, has been around a long time. It is a classic, bringing a cool universe full of adventure with its original rule set being really progressive and helping shape the future of roleplaying (the skill system was really amazing in a world of D&D and its imitators). It has been through many versions (original Traveller, MegaTraveller, Traveller: The New Era, Traveller 4, GURPS Traveller, Traveller T20, Mongoose Traveller, Traveller Hero, and the dead on arrival Traveller 5. Also the excellent fan made Spirit of the Far Future for FATE).

Some of the editions used far different rules, but the background was one continuous story of the Imperium and its intrigues in different eras (and even in an alternate timeline where Traveller split into Megatraveller and GURPS Traveller). What never really changed was the technology. Not only has tech plateaued where it has not changed much over millenia, it also has not kept up with real science as it changed over the last forty years. It is missing the future of gene manipulation, transhumanism, nanotechnology and so much more. Traveller has become quaint instead of imaginative.

There is a second edition of Mongoose Traveller coming out, but it is more of the same (in fact, it looks like it is only a minor upgrade to the rules, yet costs an arm and a leg).  The more Traveller changes, the more it stays the same.

What Traveller needs is a reboot, similar to how Battlestar Galactica was rebooted on television. It was at the same time familar and yet so different and modern. This might make some Traveller diehards cringe, but the truth hurts. Cutting edge games like Eclipse Phase are an extension of today's science and are relevant to today's vision of a possible future.

A rebooted Traveller would be similar, with the Imperium, feudalism, jump technology, politicl intrigue, and so on. The history would change but be similar, incorporating the effects of what science might be in the view of today's knowledge. It would be at the same time familiar yet new, and would appeal to newer players as well as making new types of adventures playable.

However, the chance of this happening now are smaller than the distance between gluons inside baryons. As sci-fi has shown us, the future is always in flux, so maybe it could happen.