Friday, March 29, 2013

Swords & Wizardry Blog Appreciation Day

Over in the land of Google Plus, +Erik Tenkar and I discussed doing a follow up to the highly successful Basic Fantasy RPG Blog Appreciation Day with an appreciation of another old school system. Since I have been running a Swords & Wizardry game via G+ Hangout since the summer, and Erik is gearing up to run one for his face to face group, we thought, "Why not do one for Swords & Wizardry?" A couple of emails with +Matt Finch later and we have the basics. A Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day is now set for April 17th and bloggers are rapidly coming on board. At the time of this posting we were about to reach 20 bloggers, and we will probably have more by the time we're done.

I even made a "snazzy logo" for it:

If you're interested in participating, go to Erik's post linked above and sign up in the comments.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hero Games' Steve Long On The Dorkland! Roundtable

I think that the Hero System gets a bit of a bad rap among gamers. Yeah, it can be a complicated approach to gaming but without variety we would all be playing the exact same dungeon crawls still. I talked with Steve Long about Hero Games, its history and some of the flack that it gets from gamers on the Dorkland! Roundtable. Say what you will about the Hero System, but Steve Long is a man who is passionate about gaming and about the Hero System and this passion came through in the interview. I hope that you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed talking with him.

Blog Grooming

I imported the posts from a couple of blogs that I made and really never used. They seemed like good ideas at the time, but it's probably best to just have everything pointing into one place. My 4 Color and Ignition blogs have been taken down (not that there were many people checking them out) and the posts are now a part of this blog. Both of these blog dealt with (long gestating) game design projects anyway.

Probably the only post of any interest to people will be the review that I did of the first issue of Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan's Belit story arc on Dark Horse Comics Conan the Barbarian comic. I'll have to follow up with the other two parts. If you aren't reading Brian Wood's work on Conan the Barbarian, or pretty much any other comic he's writing, you're missing out on some of the best writing being done in comics today.

Crowdfunding A GenCon Trip

I want to go to GenCon. I will admit that part of the reason why I want to go is so that I can blog about all of the cool things that happen there and share them with everyone. Of course, I do want to experience them first hand. I've run this blog for almost 10 years not, the anniversary of this blog will be in September, and I had wanted to do a big tour of conventions and celebrate my bog's anniversary with a gigantic festival of geekiness. The sad truth is that attending conventions, particularly big ones like Dragon-Con or San Diego, is very expensive, particularly when you're flying from Florida.

I had sort of given up on being able to do anything special for the anniversary of my blog (although I still have some neat giveaways planned for the fall). But then I'd seen a few people using this site called GoFundMe to help get money for things like moving expenses and other things. I thought, "why not a trip to Gen Con?" I brought it up online, and some people whose opinions are important to me said that I should do it. So I am.

Click on the badge and you can go to my GoFundMe page. I'm asking for $2000 to defray the costs of travel and hotel to Indianapolis for the convention. In my first 24 hours I made over $100, and I am very thankful for that but obviously I need more. Every little bit will help and will be appreciated.

I'm also willing to line up special interviews or other promotional considerations, if publishers or game designers would like to contribute to the campaign. Just send me a message with your GoFundMe pledge, or contact me via email or social media. I'm not all that hard to find.

Honestly, this wasn't an easy thing for me to do. And I can completely understand if you think that I'm just trying to get others to pay my way. In a way, that is true but I'm not being disingenuous about it and I'm not secretly hiding my millionaire status in order to get others to defray my expenses. I'm this guy who likes geeky stuff and likes to talk about it with other people.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Green Ronin's Chris Pramas on The Dorkland! Roundtable

I spoke recently with Chris Pramas of Green Ronin Publishing about his history as a gamer, designer and publisher. We talked about trying to expand fantasy gaming in new directions, with settings like Testament and The Trojan War and games like Blue Rose. We also talk a bit about how gamers react to the "different" that they ask for.

Also be sure to check out Green Ronin's Kickstarter for a new Pathfinder edition of Freeport (ending in just 8 days from the time of this post).

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Dungeons of Dread: The Classic AD&D S-Series of Modules Reprinted

Updated with some thoughts on the actual product.

 Out today, according to the Wizards of the Coast website:
Dungeons of Dread is a hardcover collection of four classic, stand-alone Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules -- S1: Tomb of Horrors, S2: White Plume Mountain, S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, and S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth -- complete with original black-and-white interior art.

S1: Tomb of Horrors: In the far reaches of the world, under a lost and lonely hill, lies the sinister Tomb of Horrors. This labyrinthine crypt is filled with terrible traps, strange and ferocious monsters, rich and magical treasures, and somewhere within rest the evil Demi-Lich.

S2: White Plume Mountain: It has always been a subject of superstitious awe to the neighboring villagers. People still travel many miles to gaze upon this natural wonder, though few will approach it closely, as it is reputed to be the haunt of various demons and devils. The occasional disappearance of those who stray too close to the Plume reinforces this belief. Now, the former owners of Wave, Whelm and Blackrazor are outfitting a group of intrepid heroes to take up the challenge of recovering these magical weapons from White Plume Mountain.

S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks: From the preface by Gary Gygax: "This module was begun early in 1976 when TSR was contemplating publication of a science fantasy role playing game. Jim Ward had already shown us some rough notes on Metamorphosis Alpha I thought it would be a splendid idea to introduce Jim’s game at Origins II, and introduce the concept to D&DO players by means of the tournament scenario. I laid out the tournament from old “Greyhawk Castle” campaign material involving a spaceship, and Rob Kuntz helped me to populate the ruined vessel."

S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth: In the Yatil Mountains south of Perrenland there is rumored to be a magical hoard of unsurpassed value, a treasure of such fame that scores of adventurers have perished in search of it. Find the perilous Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth and you may gain the hidden wealth of the long-dead arch-mage—if you live!
Item Details

Release Date: March 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Price: $39.95
ISBN: 978-0-7869-6461-1
It looks like it is going to be reproductions of the original modules, put together in a single hardcover. I'm looking forward to seeing these because the only one of these modules that I saw the first time around would be Barrier Peaks. I'm looking forward to giving these a spin with my new Swords & Wizardry Complete books (just arrived yesterday). I will post more when the book arrives.

Now that I have a copy of this in my hands, I have to say that this is a physically impressive product. Except for what appears to be scanning troubles in a few place (with fuzzy, low rez pictures on a couple of pages), the art is very well reproduced and the slick paper causes the black and white art to pop off the pages.

I will be honest...I never played any of these adventures the first time around. In our gaming neck of the woods in the 70s and 80s, adventures were hard to come by (no real local gaming-related store until probably about 1984), so we never played published adventures. I'm sure that this probably gave us a completely different D&D/AD&D experience back then, but we liked it. Seeing this volume of classic adventures shows me some of the things that I missed out on.

These are some brutal adventures. Tome of Horrors is considered by many to be the example of a killer dungeon. Expedition to the Barrier Peaks introduced science fantasy (in an official way) to AD&D. This is some formative stuff right here.

As someone looking at these adventures with a fresh, and contemporary, eye, I think that they have held up well. I can see running these here and now for a group of players. Obviously, it would take the right group of players. These adventures are challenging, and can grind down a party of characters. Not everyone is cool with that approach and some will be upset about having characters killed. That's all a part of the cover charge for something like this, and that is all right by me. Of course, I would be the GM so it is easy for me to say that it would be fun.

If you have never experienced these adventures, I definitely think that you should. Buy this book, run these adventures and kill some characters. This is the old school, unadorned by any of the modern add-ons of the Old School Renaissance. If you have experienced these adventures, maybe it is time to do so again. None of us are 12 any more, and it could be interesting to see how modern us reacts to these adventures, with a few more years of experience under our belts. Regardless, Dungeons of Dread is must have in the library of any GM with an interest in older styles of play.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dorkland! Roundtable with Richard Iorio

Last week I spoke with Rouge Games+Richard Iorio II about his history as a gamer, getting into designing and his work with getting Rogue Games going, and his games Colonial Gothic and Shadow, Sword & Spell. We spent a lot of time talking about older games and what about them motivated his current approaches to designing games.

Vornheim Running Low + Micro Review

Last night, or maybe this morning, +Lamentations of the Flame Princess posted this on Google+:
If you want a physical copy of Vornheim and you see it on a store shelf or in stock at your favorite webstore, GET IT. My distro warehouse person said last night they had 1 left, so whatever's in stock is pretty much it.

As you know, LotFP is a bit backlogged at the moment and Zak's next thing is A Red and Pleasant Land so it'll be a bit before we get to Vornheim again.

(Thing is with small press, resources are limited and tying them up with reprinting an older title often seems less interesting and lucrative than doing a new project because sales of the reprint would be considerably slower than a brand new thing, even if in the long run Vornheim has the greater sales power - which we can't know ahead of time...)
I haven't talked much about Vornheim on here, but it has slowly but surely worked its way into my gaming since I picked it up last summer. Regardless of what edition of D&D you may play, this book has great ideas that will find use in your games. I use the tables like Search The Body constantly, to give quirky little flavorful items to characters. The urbancrawl rules are great for coming up with city maps in a hurry. The names and titles tables are great for coming up with a name for that NPC that you had to come up with on the spur of the moment. This doesn't even scratch the surface of the cool tables that make up the front and back covers of this book. +Zak Smith has come up with two tables that allow you to figure out everything from the to hit and damage of NPCs, to the level of wizards, to the cost of beer in an inn by making a single die roll. These tables are beautiful and elegant in their simplicity and utility. I will use them for as long as I run fantasy games.

Basically, all of this means that if you see copies of Vornheim in your FLGS, or on your favorite web store, buy it. Buy it now while you can still get this in actual book form. It might be a while before you can get another chance.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Sherman, Fire Up The Wayback Machine and Find Some Vintage RPG Files

I will admit that I was looking for a copy of the original text file version of Fudge (purely from nostalgia because that was actually how I was introduced to the game back in the 90s). A Google search found it, but alas the website was defunct. However, thanks to the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine I found the RPG page for the missing TEXTFILES (it was the 90s so you should think of it in all caps) site.

You want old school, this is where you want to look. In addition to the Fudge rules (plus addenda) you can find old Chaosium Digests, old early free RPGs, and netbooks for AD&D, Rifts, Shadowrun and other games. It even has the old Highlander hack for oWoD there.

There's a convenient .zip archive of the entire page, so I just downloaded that. Rediscover some "lost" gaming history now.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Fudge ASCB: Fantasy, Part I

Yesterday I put up the SRD page for Fudge: ASCB. As I said, periodically I'm going to put up notes and ideas for Fudge-based things on here, and that will be my baseline.

Fantasy is a cornerstone of our gaming, and it is something that I have thought about a lot. Most of my ideas have revolved around trying to smoosh D&D into a Fudge paradigm, and that just doesn't work. There is a Fudge build for fantasy (it originally appeared in the Fudge Expanded Edition rules put out by Grey Ghost, but it is derived by Steffan O'Sullivan's 5-Point Fudge variant). I like it, but I want something a bit lighter and less traditional.

This is obviously going to be more than one post, and while I'm not going to shove D&D into a Fudge hack, I am going to convert some D&D materials over. That's the fun part of Fudge and d20 both being released under the OGL, I can move monsters and spells back and forth.

If you haven't looked at the Fudge: ASCB page yet, you might want to now. The terminology will make more sense.

What D&D calls classes (Fighter, Thief, Magic-User, Cleric, etc.) we will use what ASCB called Aptitudes. These aptitudes will handle the basics of what classes do in broad strokes. A Fighter fighting. A Thief stealing. A Magic-user using magic. A Cleric smiting divinely. The broadest applications of these things will be your character's aptitudes. These are ranked on the standard Fudge attribute ladder. There will be more than the basic four, because otherwise it will be hard to make characters look different. I think Bard will be needed. Outside of that....I don't entirely know yet. I still don't want a straight up D&D knockoff. We've already got D&D and it does what it does just fine.

These are like aptitudes, but more specific and they help clarify the exact abilities that your aptitude gives you. They also help set apart characters, so that one character who has the Fighter/Cleric combination of aptitudes can look different from another one. They are player defined, so that will take care of most of that, but I do want samples. Combat maneuvers, for example. I think my posts on Old School Clerics and Fighters will help with making some predetermined Specialties.

This is an easy one. Basically what other games call races will be cultures in this hack. The nice thing about that is that it is also easy to make Cultures into cultures if you're interested in a more human-centric game, like something inspired by REH. But for most, Elves and Dwarves and all of those things will fit neatly into a Culture.

This represents your character's  place within their culture. In many cases it is an occupation, or something like that, but in the case of this hack I am going to imagine it as who your character was before they started on the adventuring lifestyle.

There will be other things, of course, like magic to worry about, but I already have some ideas on that. I am looking forward to fleshing out some of these ideas here on the blog.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Tomorrow: The New G+ Hangout Campaign

We started a new game this week. We have had a lot of fun with our Swords & Wizardry games over the last few months, but we decided that it was time for a change of system and genre for a bit. As most people who know me know, I am a big fan of the Fudge RPG, so after a few false starts that is what I pitched to the group. We're using a variant called ASCB for the characters, with a few embellishments on my part.

We made characters:
We also started to flesh out the connections of the various characters.

We aren't sure yet how long this campaign is going to go, but we are definitely in for an interesting ride.

HARBINGER WARS #1 – Read the First Five Pages!

On April 3rd, there will be no winners. Just survivors. Harbinger Wars is coming!
Valiant is proud to present an advance preview of Harbinger Wars #1 (of 4) – the can't miss first chapter of the game-changing battle between Bloodshot and Harbinger that will define the Valiant Universe in 2013! From acclaimed writers Joshua Dysart and Duane Swierczynski and red-hot artists Clayton Henry and Clayton Crain, Valiant's first family crossover event starts right here this April!
For decades, Toyo Harada’s Harbinger Foundation and the government’s own Project Rising Spirit have been waging a secret war over the rarest resource known to man – the unruly superhuman telekinetics known as Harbingers. Over the years, they’ve each collected a small army of these empowered children to inflict their agendas on the world. But now, the reformed Harbinger hunter known as Bloodshot needs to atone for his crimes – and he’s going to start by releasing two dozen of the most volatile Harbingers from their PRS prison and into the world.
Bloodshot wants to lead them. Toyo Harada wants to control them. And Peter Stancheck, a teenage renegade with immense powers of his own, wants to give them free rein. But the runaway children of PRS have their own ideas for the future…and, as the body count rises, the Valiant Universe will realize that power this immense cannot be contained. It must be exercised. Who will survive the Harbinger Wars?
Spanning 12 issues total, the definitive Valiant Universe storyline of the year begins on April 3rd in Harbinger Wars #1 (of 4)! Then the action continues with new jumping-on points in Harbinger #11 and Bloodshot #10 – the first issues of all-new four-part storylines chronicling the fallout of the Valiant Universe’s first full-scale superhuman conflict. Follow the entire Harbinger Wars saga through Harbinger Wars, Harbinger and Bloodshot or read each series independently for a complete standalone story arc!
For more information on Harbinger Wars and the rest of the Valiant Universe, visit Valiant on Twitter, on Facebook, or at

Cover by LEWIS LAROSA (FEB131152)
Pullbox Exclusive Variant by CLAYTON HENRY (FEB131153)
Variant Cover by CLAYTON CRAIN (FEB131154)
Variant Cover by PATRICK ZIRCHER (FEB131155)
$3.99/T+/32 pgs.
ON SALE – 4/3/13 (FOC – 3/11/13)
Art & Cover by KHARI EVANS (FEB131156)
Pullbox Exclusive Cover by CLAYTON HENRY (FEB131157)
Variant Cover by PATRICK ZIRCHER (FEB131158)
ON SALE 4/10/13 (FOC – 3/18/13)
Cover by MICO SUAYAN (FEB131159)
Pullbox Exclusive Cover by CLAYTON HENRY (FEB131160)
Wraparound Variant by LEWIS LAROSA (FEB131161)
ON SALE 4/17/13 (FOC – 3/25/13)


Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Dorkland! Roundtable with Matt Forbeck

There was a lot of things to talk about when Matt Forbeck was at the Dorkland! Roundtable. I knew that he had worked for a great deal of companies in the tabletop role-playing industry, even co-found Pinnacle Entertainment group and serving as its first President. I didn't know that he had published a gaming fanzine while still a teen and had a booth at GenCon for it. We talked about all of these interesting things and we talked about his writing career, including his successful 12 for 12 Kickstarter campaigns.

There was a lot of good stuff, and we probably could have kept talking for another hour. I think, along with my talk with Monte Cook, these were the two Roundtables that we could have just kept going on and on. I hope you enjoy.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Valiant Comics Hit H.A.R.D.

The 90s are back, and Valiant Comics is bringing back the H.A.R.D. Corps as part of the Harbinger War.