On Classic Gaming the Second Week of July, 2018

What a busy week. Those of you who join me for my chill Twitch streams know that I've been hard a work on an exciting project (explaining the dearth of posts so far this week) but rest assured, I've got plenty of stuff in store. This week's a doozy and time is moving pretty fast, so lets get right into business!

New releases

Faux Pas is out!

Disclosure, I'm a big fan of Nick's and he's been my friend for years. This is his first release that he's charged for. It has an audio recording of the module along with it. That's exciting.

"The first symptom is a popping sound from the belly. It can
happen at anytime, and the afflicted never feel it coming.
They’ll be having a friendly chat one moment, then pop, and
now they’re trying to kill people.
Thus begins Faux Pas, the first in a series of adventures from HOCUS publishing. . . .Faux Pas features the art of Anxy P., and layout from no less a figure than Christian Kessler (of Fever Swamp fame). I also got a lot of help throughout the process from Jarrett Crader (editor of numerous LotFP publications), and OSR luminary Evey Lockhart.
Faux Pas, A system neutral adventure. The players discover a town beset by a mysterious illness with symptoms worse than death. It breeds violence, madness, and mutation. It turns people into things that are no longer themselves.
The Inquisitor General has been warned. He’s on his way here. When he arrives he’ll burn every building to the ground and torture everyone living until they confess to the devil worship that obviously brought this evil into the world.
Will the players discover what’s really going on, and how to stop it, before the Inquisitor arrives? Or will they just loot the place and run away?"

Also, there's a couple of Kickstarters tearing things up.

NGR, Neoclassical Geek Revival has been tearing up some lists. Asking for about 600$, it's currently sitting at nearly 12,000$. It's got some pretty big draws. As well as being a classic retro-clone, it also collects all of Zzarchov's many very high-quality adventures together in a book for print. You can also have your choice of illustrated versions of the game from Alex Mayo, Chris Huth, and Dyson Logos. Really, it seems like a great deal, for a collection of good stuff, and giving work to a great group of people.

Then there's woodfall, a small setting that can be dropped in your setting. It's got a neat aesthetic and the little graphic of "Your setting" with a hole in it, with woodfall fitting right in.

Goblinoid games is also running a fully funded version of a new Advanced Labyrinth Lord guide. With the existences of Basic/Expert for sale, as well as B/X Essentials, I have the ruleset I like.

Hot takes of the week

Gavin Norman made a huge announcement of a new partnership with Quality Beast! I'm pretty sure it means higher quality and faster releases from Necrotic Gnome. I don't know, we'll have to wait and see.

Patrick conducts another interview with one of the most creative minds in classic gaming. Ben L. talks about early proto-childhood gaming and how the memory affected his creativity today.

This Lamentations/Basic D&D conversion of Dark Sun rules has been making the rounds, and it's pretty impressive.

Drama at the Ennies, isn't there always? Did the wrong people get nominated? Is the Old School Renaissance a Voting Bloc? Rule changes about judges are coming. A publisher hires a bodyguard for Gencon. Big money is on the line for the winners. It looks like we're finally big enough, we're getting a taste of that civilization movin' in from out east.

This post is Patreon supported, and I'm almost halfway to covering rent!. support me or tip me!

Hack & Slash 

On Classic Gaming for the first week of July

Happy explosion day! I pity the dogs.

New Releases

On monday, the exciting B/X Essentials Monsters dropped. Back in the golden days, it was suggested to cut apart your books and organize them by section so that basic and expert weren't split apart. However, in spite of the brilliant design, this never happened. Now we have Gavin Norman stepping in and giving us a real companion to the creature catalogue! It's all of the basic/expert monsters in one document!

That said, it's currently .pdf only, until the odious and publisher unfriendly process of getting the print version to people finally finishes. It's terrible and I feel for anyone trying to provide print copies from any onebookshelf user. That said, it is coming (even if it's weeks out).

I'm very much looking forward to the combined addition as well as some of the expansion books.

That's not all, the new release from Glenn Seal has finally dropped; The Midderlands Expanded is out. I've just recently gotten it and haven't had time to dig too deeply. At first glance it's filled with page after page after page of evocative description and setting information. The original midderlands covers the center of this twisted version of the british isles, and this covers some of the surrounding area. I can't wait for my hardcovers to arrive! I'm not a fan of the green art, but the line art is excellent and right up my alley.

It comes with a pile of bonus material and I'm loving digging through it. Glenn is turning out good work here, I may post a more detailed review if there's some interest.

There's so much terrible stuff out there. It's important to remember, that this isn't a critique, it's a highlighting of exciting things that have released and happened this week. If I reviewed something, would I say what I don't like about it? Yeah. I'm just glad there are so many people putting their best out there, even if it's bad.

Like, really bad. Laughably terrible.

Braver men than I. Moving on.

Patrick, author of so many wonderful products, notably Deep Carbon Observatory and Veins in the Earth finally got the chance to interview Bryce Lynch, the most prolific reviewer of gaming products, with over 1,500 posts and upwards of 2000+ reviews. Needless to say it's a pretty wonderful discussion. Check it out here: Patrick Interviews Bryce.


The biggest news of the week are the ENnie-Award Nominations and the resulting twitter drama about who meets the right qualifications to be the type of person who should be nominated for an award. Unsurprisingly, classic gaming is all up and down the list of nominees. Is it weird that Gnome Stew has like a repeating nomination? I've read the blog, and well, it isn't in my top five list of blogs. Is it really that beloved?

Remember. The ENnies are popularity contest, and classic gaming is paradoxically nearly the sole source of innovation in tabletop gaming. Since classic gaming has all the cool people, let's go win that popularity contest!

In all seriousness, there's a lot of new talent on that list, and a bunch of exciting stuff to check out.

The other thing is Blogger and Comrade Beloch has engaged in a mission to improve our community. From organizing reviewers to posting public domain art to putting people in touch with each other, it's a real grassroots movement!
Do you want to make a meaningful contribution to the OSR? Something that will stand out from yet another blogger writing about yet another house rule that nobody will ever use? Something that will make the community better? 
According to yesterday's thread, here's how you can do that, sorted from least to most effort. Here's a link to the list.
Here's a request for people to help with "Blogs on Tape";  It's good and exciting stuff. But now it's the weekend. There's Drawing Dungeons, today and Dungeons and Dragons after work. Hope you have a great weekend, and we will see you on Monday!

This post is Patreon supported, and I really want to be able to pay my rent next month. Almost there. support me or tip me!

Hack & Slash 

On the Terrible Tragedy of Adventures

Since I've begun my journey of self-employment, I've been investigating things out of a desire to stave off the pendulum of entropy. What keeps my bank account from degrading?

So this leads to some investigating into what sells and why. I've been producing these art-heavy designed modules in the form of Megadungeon. We're somewhere around 200 rooms in 3 issues? So that's easily 40 or 50 hours of play. The art is helpful and necessary, providing tools for the Dungeon Master to run the module quickly, enabling his own personal skill at running games. But it's not narrative. It's an adventure environment with lots of useable tools and widgets.

But the problem is, people aren't interested in modules to run. Gabor Lux says:
"People know and it is blatantly obvious that most of the adventures out there which are being published are not being thought to be played or run. They are reading materials. . . A lot of people just read it as sort of a fiction and maybe as a source of indirect inspiration to get the examples and ideas." He continues, "That's where a lot of adventures fail, . . . is that they are not written with games in mind but with reading material in mind. They are bits and pieces and cannon. You can never even run them because it's a railroad and it would fall apart in your hands, but people buy it for their shelves or for daydreaming about being gamers."
This isn't difficult to tell. It's part of the insight I had while writing the Gygax module comparison. The modules are written so that the twists are hidden. That way the reader experiences surprise when it's revealed. As a tool, do I want such an important detail deep in the text?

And that's it really. I was eating with family and friends, and one said "I didn't enjoy it when I played D&D in the army." I perked up and immediately drilled down. "Why?" He said, "All they do is go from one fight to the next."

It's easy right? You're busy, no time to prep. Everyone wants to play, just follow though the dungeon, read the text and fight the fights. There. You played D&D.


There's no way all the adventures that are sold are played. I play D&D a couple of times a week and have campaigns that run 50-80 sessions with people I've known for years, but most people don't. You'd have to play a lot to get through all that. Dragon Queen and Tiamat took upwords of 50 weeks. Long past the publication date of the next two 5e releases.

Joseph Manola says on his blogAgainst the Wicked City:

 "Bryce often points out that the vast majority of adventure modules are written in a way which makes them almost useless for their supposed purpose of 'running a game in real-time at the table'. This is so obvious, and so trivially demonstrable, that its continued persistence strongly indicates that this is in fact not what most adventure modules are being used to do, and probably not even what most of their purchasers want them to do, even though it's exactly what most of their authors assert they are actually for.
"RPG books written like novels proliferate not only because many people have no idea how to write useable adventure modules, but because that's precisely how they will be read by a large segment of their target audience. For such readers, reading the book, and imagining what the experience of playing it at the table might be like, takes the place of actually playing the game.

Bryce the erudite reviewer at 10 foot pole who searches the sewers for diamonds says:
"No one wants the wrong thing. I would say that it's easy to go with the flow. Adventurer's League, show up on Wednesday night and play. WOTC pushes an adventure to the DM every week, almost no prep. And if you try and run something NOT Adventurers League, or D&D, or the most current version of D&D, then you face additional hurdles. I'm not sure that 'Apathy' is the right word, but a lot (a majority?) of folks are happy enough. I'm guessing that just enough of their sessions have just enough fun to keep them strung along, as they chase the high. It takes effort to seek out something different. It takes effort to get out of your comfort zone. When I'm at my best I want every thing in every day to always be awesome, and everything else isn't worth my time."
It's a little bit like enlightenment. One commenter on a thread said, "Surely lengthy published adventures/campaigns have to be broadly railroad by design, however well disguised that is." Because he's never seen blue, it's not possible for blue to exist. Can you describe color to a blind man?

The problem with this is, Megadungeon, and other things that are designed as tools to be used at the table are both a lot more work then a linear series of fights and not nearly as fun or interesting to read. Great, gripping, narrative literature it ain't. It's a tool to hold in your hand so you can run a game.

The list of platinum items on DriveThruRPG isn't filled with art objects. The majority of the platinum sellers are some core books, but there's a lot of items from Raging Swan Press and other small-press blog post like releases. 2$ for guildhall urban dressing. 4$ for "What's this Exotic Mount Like, Anyway". All of these type of aids lacking covers, and almost art free, and contain about 1,000-3,000 words of content. That's what's selling.*

But because it's designed as a tool for play, and isn't as enjoyable to read, it's less appealing to the majority of people who buy modules. And really, if that's what they want, we should give it to them, right?**

*I am not casting any aspersions on Raging Swan Press. Bully on Craig for finding success.
** Obviously not, it is a labor of love, but I'm going to have to slow down the pace because it takes each issue quite a while to earn back the art costs from producing it.

Do you like Megadungeon? If you support me or tip me it will help me continue to produce it! Also, there's HD ready maps for Virtual Table Tops available on the Patreon!

Hack & Slash 

On the Horror of the Critical hit

It needs to be common knowledge.

Critical misses and failures mean that the fighters and other combat focused characters suffer the most, turning them into the least consistent combatants. 

Why? A "critical miss" roll of 1 comes up a flat 5% of the time. Fighters make the most attacks. They will also then make the most critical failures. So the people who are best at fighting are those that critically fail at it most often. 

In nearly every edition of Dungeons and Dragons, the strength of fighters comes from their combat ability. Turning them into the least effective combatant quickly neutralizes their main trait and contributions. 

This is just a basic design consideration many Dungeon Masters may not consider. I come not only bearing knowledge of a problem, but also a solution. 

Any class that relies on fighting, for example, any class that gets an 'extra attack' does not fumble on a 1, but instead must roll again, fumbling only if the second roll comes up 1. This causes fighters to critically miss .25% of the time and other classes to critically miss 5% of the time. 

No muss, no fuss, and you're not twisting the balance of power towards spellcasters.

I provide insights like this for a meager living. It'd be great if you support me or tip me!

Hack & Slash 

On the Life and Death of Elisabeth Sladen

There was a towering man of obsidian, his face covered in black so dark you couldn't see where it ended and the suit began.

But the lighting was dim. The golden man told the obsidian man that when the time came, they let their people end, rather than be ruled by him. In the light, it was difficult to separate costume from actor. British, many of them unsurprisingly trained in the shakespearean manner, used their entire body as if they were on stage.

It cast a raw immediacy on the performance. The dimly lit cheap-foam background faded into the background, as the golden man sonorously intoned, "So now you are King, as was your wish. I salute you from the dead. Hail, Eldrad, King of nothing."
Oh the ragof Eldrad. The Doctor and Sarah stood meekly in the corner. "Is this my reward?!" he screeched, storming menacingly around the room, his figure looming over them. "I CREATED this world It is mine, mine by right!". He moved in the suit, his training making it look as if a mountain shook in anger.

The Doctor gives that childish smile to sarah, beloved companion, and quips about someone having done their work for them. Sarah coquettishly says "I wouldn't want to live down here, and I wouldn't want him as a leader."

Like a player that just gave a dungeon master a terrible idea, and suddenly finds himself the recipient of the dungeon master's rampant glee at his new love; Eldrad grins and looks at Sarah, "Yes, I shall be King. The Earth people. . . . I shall rule them! I shall be their god!"

A chase ensues, and the Doctors flawless plan is 'hide and trip him with my scarf into a bottomless pit.' I wonder if this is the kind of plan seven year old's come up with because they watch Dr. Who, or if all small children have such pure beliefs in good intentions.

Sarah leaves the Doctor almost immediately after. When I was a child, I had difficulties due to some personal afflictions that turned out not to be character flaws and poor willpower but an illness that improves with medication. Sitting on the cold brass floor of the TARDIS, handing the doctor one fisher price sci-fi power tool after another, she cried out "I'm sick of being cold and wet! I'm sick of being shot at, terrorized by bug-eyed monsters" I empathized with her. He was on an adventure, and being on an adventure is hard.

It is, right? We are all on an adventure right now, and someday it ends. I identified with her stress and fear. The Doctor continued as if he did not hear her. He was implacable. Nothing she could say or cry would ever move his stoic indifference. And Sarah said, You know what? Fuck this. I'm out.

That's the worst she could do to hurt the man who couldn't listen. That was the harshest thing she could think to do, was to say, I have to deny my true nature to you, because your indifference to my suffering is too much. The most extreme response becomes the only response. You have to get out. Don't you? For yourself, I think you do.

Rewatching it now, it's clear. Sarah is a young child throwing a tantrum. The Doctor is not a romantic interest (unless perhaps you have a serious Electra complex). He is an indifferent parent. An abusive parent.

But he does love Sarah.

He, of course, unaware of anything she has said, gets a call and has to go home. He can't take her to Gallifrey of course! She returns to the room, carrying a tennis racket and a suitcase in her right hand, and a jacket along with a potted plant in her left. A stuffy lies on the floor.

He then experiences a sharp pang of compunction over how he will break the news to her. He says, without turning to face her, "You're a good girl, sarah." And she yells back, no! It's too late now for any of that. I've got to go! It's because they always apologize. And they really do love you.

When he hears what she said, his face lights up and he turns around. "How did you know?" She flinched. He said, "I can't take you with me, you've got to go."

Her voice cracking she says, "Oh, come on. I can't miss Gallifrey." She can't figure out if he's doing this to hurt her. "Oh, you're playing one of your jokes on me, trying to get me to stay." I don't think he's playing jokes. Even though the subtext is heavy above, it's not that the Doctor is a missing stair or represents an abusive parent. He's a representation of the nature of the universe which generally gives a field completely empty of fucks about how we feel.

He tells her she's home. South Croydon. Hillview road. She awkwardly smiles, standing on the street, accompanied by a pink owl and potted plant. She looks around and sees she's not on Hillview road. She's not even in South Croydon.

So, Sarah is an undefined child. Elisabeth herself even said so, saying "Sarah Jane used to be a bit of a cardboard cut-out" So after raising her daughters, Elisabeth went back to Doctor Who. When her character meets him, years later, she doesn't recognize him. Instead of the doe-eyed ingenue, she's now a tough-as-nails investigator.

When it's time to go, and his identity has been revealed, she confronts him. First thanking him for taking him with her, and then implying that she's single because no one ever measured up. It seems like being taken about and having life-threatening adventures as a child might affect your relationships in your life. That damage done, it leaves Sarah, or Elisabeth Sladen, to fill the role of protector, her own life and happiness denied her, because of her time spent too close to the truths of the universe.

She tells him good-bye, and he makes light, saying "Aww, it's not goodbye.", She says, tears in her eyes, as she looks at him. "Just say it this time, please." and she walks away overwhelmed with the closure she's finally received. He leaves her K-9, their synthetic dog assistant. She's confused, because K-9 had been destroyed. She asks him how he's here. He tells her, he's new, he replaced the damaged and destroyed K-9, that he's a new, upgraded model. She says, finally with closure instead of pain, "He does that."

She returned and played the role for children, this time not as a careless adventurer, but as one who guided children, protecting them as they explored the unknown, with her faithful robotic dog companion.

You know, I had a dog named K-9 growing up. A dalmation. Beautiful dog, happy, impulsive. Dumb as a box of rocks, but wonderful. She would, while we were walking in the woods, run ahead as fast as she could on the shaded asphalt streets that twisted through the wild forest paths, realize we weren't there, and then turn around and bolt back to us, always impatient, always exhausted.

She took the role, not just on the show, but in life, as Sarah Jane, Sarah Jane who became a hero to children, Sarah Jane who survived the Doctor and surpassed him, Sarah Jane who survived the doctor twice, it made it all more devastating when she was struck by cancer in February of 2011 and died several months later. She is missed.

Support and tips mean I don't get evicted. Your support very concretely affects my survival!

Hack & Slash 

On the month June in (classic) Gaming

What a hell of a month!

This month was complicated. I am currently in free-fall, falling back on only my faith in myself. It was productive in spite of itself. I had my sleep study and got a continuous positive air pressure machine which radically altered my life. I've drastically cut down on caffeine and have had very strange sleeping patterns.

Look. The study said I had 170 interruptions average an hour. The longest of which lasted 32 seconds. Even if every interruption lasted 1 second, that's nearly 3 minutes not breathing an hour. The fact that they last much longer than that. . . I had been going without sustained REM sleep for a long time now. I was living in the realm five minutes before bed, where exhausted set in from the very moment I woke up.

What a weird hack. Sleep apnea kills, flooding your body with stress hormones every time you can't breath, causing arterial damage. This stress gives people heart attacks and the damage is cumulative. Some bright monkey built a weird box to fix this by blowing air into your face. If you're overweight, tired a lot, go see your doctor. Mine is quiet and completely covered by insurance. Last night I had only 14 interruptions an hour, and my average is now under 10. Your families and friends love you.

I only do a few Hearthstone arena runs a week, far to few to qualify for the leaderboard (which requires 30 runs or more).  But this month I played about 15 arenas, averaging 4.7 wins with a win percentage 68% (130ish wins, 75ish losses). Taverns of Time has been great fun. The above may not seem infinite, but with the improved quests, I've gotten a ton of gold this month. Here's the video of my 12-win arena run (and a quick "For the King" party wipe)

Speaking of "For the King" It's a hex-based rogue-lite where you take a team of three adventurers (with unlockable classes) and collect treasure, clear dungeons, and try to stop an ancient evil. It's a pretty fun and exciting implementation of a random hex-cralwish type game. First, It's Fun! Second, on the hard mode, it's very tense and every decision matters. You can see my quick party-wipe on the easiest level here in the above broadcast. After every win, you can spend lore to unlock more things, classes, items, events, etc.

But that's not what we are here for!

New Releases

Oh, man I'm excited about Mothership! "Mothership is a sci-fi horror roleplaying game where you and your crew try to survive in the most inhospitable environment in the universe: outer space! You'll excavate dangerous derelict spacecraft, explore strange unknown worlds, exterminate hostile alien life, and examine the horrors that encroach upon your every move" A space horror game from Sean McCoy, who I have to disclose, is a friend of mine. Still, I've seen the design of the character sheet, and it's brilliant. It's available as pay what you want on DrivethruRPG with a 4$ suggested price.

Look at that cover art! It's a great design, with a definite classic aesthetic. You're not playing heroes, you're playing men trapped in metal coffins surrounded by the void. It's also complete in less than 40 pages. And you can jump right in, character creation is on the record sheet. Go check it out!

There's also the new adventure Shadows of the Forgotten Kings, with art by Dyson Logos and Chris Huth, and written by Zzarchov Kowolski. "Caravans do not make it through anymore. A handful of tattered survivors have made it back to the city and reported being assaulted by wave after wave of panthers that would attack, retreat, and attack again in replenished numbers. The merchant houses want their lucrative route back. The villages need grain and supplies; their people cannot live forever scavenging fruit and huddling by their hearths in fear every night." Kowolski has a great talent at making visceral and very real feeling villagers and situations, so this is exciting. Gus, who we talked about leaving in our last rumors section has spent some time writing extensive reviews, and he has a good one of this adventure located here if you're interested in a solid breakdown.

The Beast is a strange product, a handwritten complete one page game about a gothic horror scenario, where you work for a reprehensible baron and there's a village attacked by a beast. You have to kill it for the baron that you hate. It's pay what you want with a suggested price of a dollar. I'd complain about it missing a list of gothic tropes or scenes, except for the fact that its free, one page long, and contains a beast generator that is very suggestive of scenes. You need to be familiar with horror tropes and I imagine anyone who's interested in this probably is. Seems like a great replacement for a night of gaming as a one shot for the right group.

There's a 7 page download that just collects the rules for polymorphing from Pathfinder. I'm used to editions where this is handled by a single paragraph.

Although I don't play his great high-powered immortal-style Godbound role playing game, any Kevin Crawford release is worth noting, so we have The Lexicon of the Throne, which contains just a whole lot of expansion content for Godbound.

Another download that looks like a passion project is the Thousand Year Sandglass. It's a set of expansion rules for labyrinth lord (B/X) for running Arabian Nights-style games. The writing seems solid. The author seems to have a real passion for the subject and it shows through in the material.

I'm going to say something about the Hidden Halls of Hazakor, which I almost just passed by. This thing here, man. Ok, it's an adventure module, written for children to run, with an expected age of 12. I, just. . . I ran Temple of Elemental Evil when I was 12.  I'm mentioning this because it's great. I mean, bully on Scott Fitzgerald Grey on putting this together. But here's the problem, who's this product for? If I were a 12 year old Dungeon Master, I wouldn't be looking for a module. You're twelve? Like, your job is to hang out and play? So mostly you have a lot of time to make adventures. And when you do go looking to buy an adventure, it's because it's one that someone you respected said was cool.

The issue with this is that it's for adults to buy for their children to run. Is that a problem? I dunno. Did you want to wear the pants your mother picked out for you when you were 12? Perhaps I'm overthinking it. I think a more useful tool would be adventures that teach adults how to run role-playing games for children.

There's some professional talent behind it, and it's certainly written for an average reader, someone who might not know the definition of summarize. It's very comprehensively and clearly written, a little cliched, but the dungeons aren't linear, and the advice that I saw mostly seems very solid. I'm not giving my opinion, because I'm not quite sure what it is yet.

Issue 4 of the unofficial Lamentations of the Flame Princess 'zine Black Dogs is out! "Issue IV contains: guidelines about social interactions with NPCs, instructions for designing NPCs, skills and experience house-rules, an adventure on a dangerous mountain pass with new creatures, and advice on setting up a campaign." It's good stuff. 3.00$ for the .pdf, or 6.50$ for a physical copy plus .pdf. Also Back to basiX #5 is available, a B/X fanzine.

Have we seen Times that Fry Men's Souls? It's an classic hexcrawl set in "Demented Colonial New York and New Jersey" It's 136 pages, and is extensively illustrated. 10$ in pdf only at RPGnow, but also 10$ in print from lulu. So I haven't gotten my copy yet, but it looks impressive!

For those of us in the hobby a long time, GURPS Classic: Wizards is finally available in .pdf from RPGnow, and it's an interesting reference for any referee about spellcasting archetypes, in addition to being invaluable for GURPS referees. 7.99$

Finally, Sacrebleu is pretty amazing. Great cover art, pay what you want with a .50 cent suggested price, it's about goblins with world war one rifles that you don't tell the players about and having the players being stuck on a tropical island with them. It's useful! It has ideas and creativity! It's exactly what we are always talking about wanting. The future is now!

As always, none of the above is sponsored. Products I purchased I purchased with my own money, and they are nothing more then things I happen to think are good. I don't talk about the things that are bad. If I've missed something, let me know.

Was that an awesome list? I'm still hustling just to make rent. It'd be great if you support me or tip me!

Hack & Slash 
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