On the week of June 1st in classic gaming

It's been a rough day, and I'm doing this late, so I apologize for paucity. I've also gotten some feedback about layout and discussion of products. A lot of this is balanced by the huge number of products that come out each week. It leaves me to ask, what's better? An overview of lots of different things, or a more in-depth highlight of just a handful (3-5) products? My initial thought was the former, but if preferences is for the latter, let me know.

Without further ado:

Highlights

Underground comics is finally out!
Down twisting passages, you’ll find dungeoneering dogs, slumbering giants, eldritch sacrifices, bottomless pits, brownie poets, and more!
I'm excited about this, just because of the artists involved. New work from James V. West, Karl Stjernberg, Jason Sholtis, Luka Rejec, Stefan Poag, Trey Causey and Jeff Call. Lots of exciting names in that list. I haven't gotten my copy yet, so I'm unsure as to the official format and frequency. It's 36 pages for 2.99$.
I think it's phenomenal for a group of artists in the classic gaming scene to put something like this together, but can't imagine the economics of it. That's so many full pages of art from so many talented artists. I hope we see more of it from the future.

Luka Rejec, one of the artists above produces beautiful work in the vein of Moebius. Really. It's actually why I hired him to do the cover of the third issue of Megadungeon. He's recently begun working on his setting, the Ultraviolet Grasslands. There's a free  78 page setting book he's put up. It's available here at DriveThruRPG. Here's what he has to say about the setting:
The Ultraviolet Grasslands (UVG) is a rules-light rpg pointcrawl module inspired by psychedelic heavy metal, the Dying Earth genre, and Oregon Trail games. It takes a group of ‘heroes’ into the depths of a vast and mythic steppe filled with the detritus of time and space and fuzzy riffs.The UVG is for referees, game masters, judges, players, and fans of role-playing games who want to run a months’ long science fantasy Marco Polo-style voyage across a weird, old world.The UVG is for any gamer who wants to mine it for inspiration, adventuring locations, odd characters, maps, items, and random encounters.The UVG is also an artbook knitting together my art and maps and writing. Yes, every nut and fault, from layout to lamarckian monstrosity, is my own work.It is also still a work in progress. The responsibility for every typo, every error, and every missing stat block, is entirely mine.Now, enter the silver machine.
I'm excited by this. Alex Hakobian of Bloody Eye Games released Broadsword this week. It's got a bunch of art from people like Gennifer Bone, Eric Quigley, Devin Night, Gary Chalk, and Jenna Fowler. And it's about the intersection between board gaming and traditional role-playing games. 
Broadsword is an epic fantasy adventure game that seamlessly brings together elements from classic board games with elements from tabletop roleplaying games to result in something truly extraordinary — not quite a full RPG, but much more than a simple board game.Complete Rulebook - Everything you need to play the game. Just grab some friends and either a gridded game mat or a virtual tabletop and get ready to start your adventure!

Finally, James Shields is having a Kickstarter for some of his stock art, and it's pretty incredible. The art is designed using layers, so you can customize the presentation. It's a great way to give stock art purchasers the opportunity to get something individualized. But that's not the only thing: It's also a way to pick up a lot of related .pdfs on the cheap. At the 15 dollar level, you get 15 books, from role-playing games to modules to setting books. There's even more at higher levels.
James is a great artist, so I'm always glad to see more of his work.

So, yeah. I'm going to be checking that out this week.

John Carlson and his blog dwarven automata, handed out links to his wilderness hexcrawl tracker to go along with his dungeon time tracker.

Also, this isn't a new release really, but some of the things +Jonathan Newell is doing is just really incredible. I mean, look at it.
I love all the cool drawings.

Did you know there is a Glorantha comic book? I didn't. Prince of Sartar has been running since 2014. Color me amazed.


New Releases

Chance, a young classic gamer got some great art from Michael R and Evlyn M. and put together a new zine: Extinguish the Sun #01. Here's what he has to say about it:

Extinguish the Sun is a zine for fans of the Old School Renaissance (OSR) and associated games. This issue contains a systemless description of the City in Chains, a metropolis bound by the walls its long-dead yet still ruling monarch built around it, and rules for running a post-apocalyptic Mad Max/Tank Girl-inspired campaign in B/X.

It's 3.00$ Just for Evlyn's beautiful art alone, that's a steal. The fact that Chance is a creative force in classic gaming is just a great bonus. It's also available on rpgnow here.

Probably why Prince of Satar showed up in my feed, there's a full color release of the Glorantha classic role playing game.

Palladium Fantasy has a release of PFRPG 12: Library of Bletherad. Palladium products are a blast to read, usually. Also The Rifter #76.

James Spahn AKA barrel Rider Games released a 91 page art-free Swords & Wizardry streamlined adaptation called Untold Adventures.

From Raging Swan Press, we've got a Sun & Sand Compilation as a campaign starter. It's got 3 villages, a place of power, their desert setting book, along with 20 events/locations in the sunscorched desert. It's nice, along with a discount on the package deal. I mean, the individual releases have been combined into a single print volume resource for desert campaigns, which is both useful and convenient.

There's a book from Dancing Lights Press, Arcane Theory by Berin Kinsman, a 79 page book containing some ideas for story generation and story effects of different magical ideas.

Castles & Crusades has two modules and a setting available for sale. The Burning Firmament is an adventure for levels 4-6. Caverns of Ambuscadia is an adventure for levels 5-6. Both are written by Davis Chenault. Also, there's a bundle of the Inzae setting, a brutal land created by a dying dragon. There's some setting books and an adventure in the bundle.

Steve Jackson Releases

Grups Classic: Warriors
Car Wars: Truck Stop
Gurps Basic Set, Third Edition, Revised
Autoduel Quarterly #8/4
The AADA Vehicle Guide Volume 2 Counters
Gurps Classic: Undead
The AADA Vehicle Guide Volume 2


Wizards of the Coast Releases

FMA1 Fires of Zatal
B1-9 In Search of Adventure
Poor Wizard's Almanac II


Rumors

Is Yoon-Suin getting a second edition? Over in the official Yoon-Suin G+ community, David McGrogan asks what people would like to see in a hypothetical edition of Yoon-Suin.

The creator of the HMS Apollyon megadungeon is stepping away from classic gaming because it isn't fun for him anymore and he's maintaining his site as an archive.

He said "the 'OSR' scene this blog is devoted to has become a rather disgusting place where crass commercialization is strangling a formlerly creative amateur community" and I have to ask, do you agree? I can't say that I do. Not only do I make my living making these things, I'm glad I live in a world where I can get so many awesome things.

Would any of these great zines and things, these comics, these wonderful dreamlike works of art be made for free?  Is 3$ for a book full of Chance's writing and Evelyn's art "crass commercialization"? Perhaps its a question of value. Maybe people are less likely to create because there's more commercialization? It it strangling them? What do you think?

We will see you next week!

Was that an awesome list? It'd be great if you support me or tip me!

Hack & Slash 

On the week of May 25th in the Old School Renaissance.

Holy crap! We've had a crazy week, let's get right into you beautiful people!

Big News


Warhammer 40,000 is the origin of grimdark! ("In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war") Home of the immortal rotting carcass of the golden emperor who sends his brave genetically modified and tortured half-human marines to purge and burn corruption and heresy, now have adventures for kids of all ages!
"Catholic Space Nazis sound like awesome villains, how can they be the heroes?"
"By comparison."
You heard it folks, Warhammer 40k Children's books.

Warhammer Adventures

The 41st Millennium and the Mortal Realms are fantastical places, ripe for adventure.

Like you, we love these worlds, and we’re always looking for new ways to share them with all kinds of fans. Today, we’re delighted to announce a new type of Warhammer fiction and 2 new series that are sure to excite young readers and parents* eager to introduce the next generation to the joy of Warhammer.
Warhammer Adventures is an exciting new range of books coming next year for boys and girls aged 8-12 years old featuring younger protagonists having thrilling adventures and facing off against dangerous enemies.

They are gonna sell like hotcakes.
 Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes is on the horizon, coming on the 29th. If you're curious what's inside, check out Kiel Chenier's take on it in his tumbler post: Is Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes worth your money?

We are all Grognards here, even you youngin's. So we like our Dr. Who Classic. Fortunately Twitch.tv is going to have a 7 day marathon of classic Dr. Who. So grab your Scarf and Jelly Bellies and take a look at adventure ideas and hokey terrifying to children effects. Should be a good time. 
Over 500 classic episodes from the 26 seasons of classic Doctor Who will air worldwide on the live streaming video platform Twitch from May 29th. Fans will be able to watch adventures from the first seven Doctors – from 1963’s An Unearthly Child to 1989’s Survival – while chatting live to thousands of other viewers around the world. This epic screening of classic Doctor Who from May 29th until July 23rd follows Twitch’s successful marathons of Power Rangers, Bob Ross: The Joy of Painting and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

 Youtube

Questing beast covers the brilliant Chthonic Codex. In addition he has a discussion with Scrap Princess on how to improve spells in Dungeons and Dragons.

Mr. Welch talks about the King's Festival on Mystara. (I love this guy!!)

Speaking of Mystara, here's an interview with the Japanese developer on what material they were forced to cut from the action-beat-em-up Chronicles of Mystara.

Greg Tito acts like a madman, coming on stream with "Job Titlte here/Twitter here" as his contact. They got it fixed about 5 minutes in. He talks about the Stream of Many Eyes livestream and other streaming casting decisions and covering other news on 5/22/18.

Mike Mearls isn't sick any more and he's working on the Soul Knife Monk subclass on the Mike Mearls Happy Fun Hour 5/22/18.

Here's a link to this week's Heroes of Jordoba, Uncle Matt's Live D&D game.

Faerun History posted Tales from the Tavern -Hulburg- Forgotten Realms Lore and History

Kickstarter

So here's the thing. This whooole industry is a shitshow. I'm not supporting or recommending any of these kickstarters. Caveat Emptor

The Dice Dungeon: It's a cool dice game, where you build a dungeon inside. . . a cardboard dungeon waffle. How long do we think that cardboard waffle is gonna last? They get props for the commitment to the dragon mask in the video.

Arcane Scrollworks 2: Second Level Spells You can get pieces of paper with scroll art on them. I guess this is a prop or something you frame?

There's this unfinished super generic dungeon crawler that hasn't funded yet. Comments by backers are generally negative, talking about the poor art quality, and the lack of . . . anything . . . interesting. You could take a look at Dungeons Runners! On second thought, Camelot is a silly place.

Deluxe Metal Meeples are high quality meeples by Campaign Coins who's had 4 successful campaigns.

Welcome to Yarnia! It's a knitting pattern! It's an RPG! The video is filmed in a room filled with boxes and a fish tank. It's nearing 30,000$! It's got almost a week left. There's mugs and . . . yarn patterns, and how the hell do you get 30,000$ for that? There's a book! There are these knitted cat
Welcome to Yarnia!
things! I guess you knit a companion animal for your character? I don't understand anything about this Kickstarter! Brilliant!

Yarnia is the best damn thing I've ever seen. I mean, in all seriousness, treating a knitted 'choose your own adventure based on your stats' as a record of your adventure hits all the shamanistic notes for me. It's a record of your adventure in the artistic flow. Also, Yarnia. Cause you knit with yarn.

Maybe some of  you don't knit, or cross-stitch, or crochet. I have and this is crazy appealing. The woman looks super trustworthy. She seems to have one failed and two successful kickstarters that appear to have satisfied backers. Maybe it's worth a trip to Yarnia?

Dark Fable Miniatures has a pretty attractive line of Orc Miniatures, of the humanoid face variety. If you're looking to expand an orc force, they aren't bad.

I don't know what this is, or if it's any good, but this Map Maker is hitting some of the right buttons with it's folder and pouch setup.

Games worth checking out!

Bryce Lynch certainly has a lot of nice things to say about this adventure, and it's free! Check out Mines, Claws, & Princesses.

"The groom is dead, the bride Sunnhild taken. Men rave in pain whilst their women wail in sorrow. Blood mixed with tears, the chieftain Erfried cries out “Only you are left who can hold a sword. Go now. The orcs ride to Sanjikar and you must follow.”"

And then there's the Esoteric by Emmy Allen:
Picture the adventuring party of most old-school games. A band of thugs, occultists, criminals, weirdos and outcasts who, rather than settle into normal society, risk everything exploring the dark, dangerous places of the world. Perhaps they will become rich and powerful, perhaps they die unceremoniously.
Keep this same adventuring party, and picture their equivallent in the modern day. A world with police, the internet, chain stores... The same band of thugs, occultists, criminals, weirdos and outcasts drift into the underworlds of organised crime and the esoteric.
This, then, is the premise of Esoteric Enterprises: the occult exists in a dangerous black market, where organised criminals traffic in magical grimoires and relics alongside narcotics and weapons. Hidden from the public eye, various gangs, cults and covens struggle for influence and resources in the dark tunnels beneath every city. And beneath that, stranger things lurk; inhuman creatures turn their cold gaze on the mortals who intrude on their subterranean realm.

New on RPG now!

There are over 200 products released in the last 7 days. Here is a selection of some of the most interesting.

Embers of the Forgotten Kingdom by Metal Weave Games. There's no stats in this book. You know that campaign where you're just like "If you want to write a book, you should just write a book?" Well that's what this pastiche of the Dark Souls setting is. It's a kickstarter success, which paid for the art, and only has a .pdf option on RPG.now. It's a region you can add to a campaign.

The Storyteller's Arcana
The Storyteller's Arcana seems to be a dual-statted (1e/5e) set of tools for for Dungeon Masters to use in their games.

The Greydeep Marches is a fantasy setting that is dealing with dark powers from an ancient empire and a threat in the mountains to the east. It doesn't show much in the preview. It's 34 pages for 7$

PC15- The OSR Chymist, this is a back-porting of the Pathfinder alchemist class to old school rules.

This weird product. I mean, this must be the future. You can buy this in pdf or softcover in all different weights of paper. It's called "Non-human Player Codex for Early Era Fantasy Gaming" and it's the rules for dwarves, elves, etc, for three rulesets, Original Edition Characters, Labyrinth Lord and Advanced Edition Companion. Why do you need just the non-human races? Who is this book for?

There's a DCC release from Studio 9 Games (C. Aaron Kreader) called Greenwood of the Fey Sovereign. It's a low level adventure, with a wild elf class. I can't get a look at the adventure proper but the art looks interesting.

Raging Swan had a few releases this week, Languard Locations: Low CityMonstrous Lair #8: Ghoul Nest,

Wizards Releases:
Boot Hill Wild West (3rd Edition)
Amazing Engine: Bug Hunters

Steve Jackson Games Releases:
GURPS Classic: Ultra-Tech
Autoduel Quarterly #8/3
Car Wars Midville
GURPS Classic: Autoduel
The AADA Vehicle Guide

Just a note that I also check the new releases on the DM's Guild, but it's like swimming through a sewer.



Was that an awesome list? It'd be great if you support me or tip me!

Hack & Slash 


On Gygax Design II

Let's look at the background section of the adventures B2: Keep on the Borderlands, and Return to the Keep on the Borderlands. Part I of this article is here.


Keep on the Borderlands has a four paragraph background, and a two paragraph starting encounter. The expectation is that the background is read aloud. 



The Realm of mankind is narrow and constricted. Always the forces of Chaos press upon its borders, seeking to enslave its populace, rape its riches, and steal its treasures. If it were not for a stout few, many in the Realm would indeed fall prey to the evil which surrounds them. Yet, there are always certain exceptional and brave members of humanity, as well as similar individuals among its allies - dwarves, elves, and halflings - who rise above the common level and join battle to stave off the darkness which would otherwise overwhelm the land. 

I mean, he wrote it as if it pulsed fire in his heart.

The starting scene is particularly appropriate because it instructs the players to introduce themselves to the gatekeeper, and thus the other players.

What follows is six pages detailing the keep itself. We're going to talk about this in a minute.

The Return to the Keep on the Borderlands has a five paragraph introduction, and a two paragraph starting encounter.

But wait? What chicanery is this?!

The introduction is not to be read to the players and contains ancient history. What's more it's dull. No, really. I'll—just look:

Such, at any rate, was his plan. In the event, Macsen found that retirement agreed with him. He devoted all his time to managing the affairs of the garrison and the Keep, . . . Fortunately Macsen had chosen his castellan well. Devereau was a faithful henchmen, an archer who only remained behind because of a crippling wound received in an early adventure. . . Today it is a small but thriving community once more, less populous than of old but warded by people who have invested years of hard work making this into their home and been willing to defend it to the bitter end. 
That's how it ends. That's the call to adventure. Let me sum up.

Once a dude got a keep, and it was too much effort to dick around with assholes in the woods. And so other people did it, and then all the monsters were dead. Then he went off and died in war, and the rest of the people stayed and now they are strong and happy.

Two paragraphs on a dude that's dead. Story that's both boring and not accessible to players of the game, and the call to adventure is "It's a safe, nice place."

The starter encounter has a paragraph of read aloud text as you approach the keep, and you are hailed by a guard. The boxed text makes no horrible affronts, only slightly telling the players what they feel or do. Then there are eleven pages detailing the keep.

So Much of the Keep

Why do we care about the keep? What can we learn about the way it's presented in the module? What's in those six pages?

Amazingly, it's very gamified. Each section of the keep is a tool to drive the adventure. Gygax meticulously details the arms, armaments, and tactics of people in the keep in addition to documenting the location of every loose copper piece.

What's noticeable is the expectation that the interior of the keep will be explored as a dungeon environment. The players walk in, and then walk around to all the different places. Let's look at some of the gamification of the environment:

1. Main Gate: "Two men-at-arms. . . require that persons entering the keep put their weapons away and then escort them to area 3."
3. Entry Yard: "All entrants, save those of the garrison will be required to dismount and stable their animals (area 4). The Corporal of the Watch is here [and] is rather grouchy, with a low charisma, but he admires outspoken brave fighters and is easily taken in by a pretty girl."
He doesn't have a name, but he gets a personality. Further:
Map by Dyson Logos
3. Entry Yard: Cont. "A scribe. . . records the name of each person who enters or leaves. . . Lackeys will come to take mounts or mules. Any goods not carried will be stored in the warehouse. Another lacky will then show travelers to the Traveler's Inn."

This connects directly to the entrance scene, informs characters of the stables, that there's goods in the warehouse, and then walks them over to the inn. Which is at area 15. If you're using the map, this walks the characters directly past every other interesting player facing building on the map. To wit:

They walk south past the stables and warehouse, directly towards the bailiff tower (at 6), then west directly past the smithy/armory (at 8) and the provisioner and trader (at 9-10) and the fortified loan office on the south wall (at 11).

By the time they've reached the tavern, they've been exposed to everything there is interesting to do in town for a new adventure, but it doesn't stop there.

Areas marked 7 on the map are private apartments, and Gygax provides two. A jeweler who will exchange gems and money for the characters, and a priest who is willing to assist the party in the caves (but spoilers secretly is chaotic and will attack the party—I've killed more than one player who came to the priest for aid and got a cause wounds for their trouble.)

The apartments (and their many empty partners) are set up for the Dungeon Master to introduce characters of their own. Though this is not explicit, the introduction does say "Special quarters are available for well-to-do families, rich merchants, guild masters, and the like."

How do we know that the information that's listed here is deliberate and not just something compulsive Gygax did because he was an insurance actuary? Because of what he leaves out. He does not detail the normal family members of the personages of the keep.
"The five small apartments along the south wall are occupied by families of persons dwelling within the Outer Bailey of the KEEP."
This is the only sentence addressing what Gygax felt were non-game entities. They aren't described, given treasure, etc. because they aren't likely to be involved in gameplay. The smithy's grandmama isn't going to need combat stats, and the players aren't likely to interact with a house full of women and children, so those "apartments . . . are occupied" is all the text that is given.

This deliberate presentation of some things and not others is designed for what the Dungeon Master needs in play. What if the keep is attacked? What if the players attack the keep or try to steal things? Well, that information is there for those Dungeon Masters. The contents of the bank and warehouse are documented. 

Can you figure out why? I can. Because I've played Dungeons and Dragons before.

Where is there to go in this keep? What can the players do? Those questions are also answered in the text, in a very sort of computer game, pick the smithy menu, here's some information about that encounter.

What's in the northern half of the outer bailey—you know, the part the characters don't walk past on the way to the tavern—is unsurprisingly the things the characters will need after their first foray out into the wilds. 16 is the guild house for travellers, 17 the chapel for priests and healing, and most importantly, the gate to the inner keep, which you can only gain access to after you have accomplished deeds in the caves.

You can't go home again

In Return to the Keep on the Borderlands, the map remains very similar (with one or two new tricks). The guard challenge is repeated and they are met at the gate by a named non-player character, Sabine the Gatekeeper who directs them  to the stable, warehouse, marketplace, and inn/tavern. Everyone in the sequel is given names ("The second floor houses. . . Laurl, Charl, Wort, and Joop.")

Each home in the sequel has details of their occupants, no statistics, just a story about what type of person they are.
"A quiet man who keeps mostly to himself, Reece. . . has since married a local woman (Asgrim, a young widow whose first husband marched off to the battlefield while they were still newlyweds, never to return). They have a three year old son, Decius, and a year-old daughter, Nadya."
I don't see how the above is accessible or useful to play. He's a cobbler. When will the players intersect with this information? Why is it detailed? 7f details three sisters who are milkmaids and their schedules throughout the day, but should I references 7f which I'm deciding who's in an area?

Each paragraph is giving me a little character story or vignette. . . and no tools to integrate it with what's actually going to be happening at the table. The presentation is convoluted bullshit with zero effort given into what I'm supposed to do with that information.

It gets worse. The players can't buy anything at the smithy "Rafe can make horseshoes, nails, and bits with ease, but weaponsmithing and armor-forging are beyond him." followed by this useful gem that can in no way impact our game, "The keep once had a resident weaponsmith in Mascens day who kept the garrison supplied."

!?

Let's play a game. In what world where you have sat down with your friends to play Dungeons & Dragons is the following information useful?

"Beasley's daughter, Calista, divides chores and responsibilities with her husband."

"Most folks only stay here for a few days, but some stay for extended periods."

There's literally thousands of words detailing small family relationships, who's married to who, local town politics, organized only by building title:"Guild House" under which you find, Greeves and Peta who are the grandparents of Jess who is in the one-eyed cat.

Is the adventure about small town drama? If it is, why is it so poorly organized? How would I keep this web of stories and relationships straight without re-writing everything?

Every entry in the original adventure contained information that I might need. And it did so in the correct place. Anything else, it left me to create and keep track of (such as the large number of un-named guards and people)

There are some bright spots. Even though entirely too many words are used, there are an entertaining collection of colorful characters that the players can collect as henchmen. There's no indication of where they are located in the keep next to their stats, but: Third, a warrior who wears a bronze mask all the time, Brother Martin, a fair cleric who makes sure that everyone provides input (even shy people), Opal, a neutral moon cleric who's Lawful-Chaotic alignment axis changes with the moon. A clever but loony mage, a manipulative necromancer who just wants to find a way to worship at the hidden temple, and a cowardly thief.

Then there are three keep encounters, one keyed to happen after the first three times the characters return to the keep.

If the intent was to detail family relationships, following the form of Gygax is the worst way to organize it. Even though the original module has six pages devoted to the keep, it just feels like six pages of tools for the Dungeon Master to respond to players ideas and successes. Whereas the house descriptions in the sequel are devoid of any mechanical information.

I can see how you could interject some of this drama into the lives of the player characters, but I want to be clear. The text provides no tools to assist with using this information in play, besides creating the unexciting situations: A ward falls in love with her step-father, or how the twenty some-odd members of the Lum clan make up most of the militia. etc. What's more is that the format actively works against this.

I can run the keep with a single pass over Gygax's text. I couldn't even understand the second adventure unless I spend the time to reorganize all the information it gives me.

Next time, we'll look at the wilderness and cave encounters proper.

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Hack & Slash 

On Endless War II

After admiring Warhammer Fantasy for nearly my whole life, I decided to play one hundred multiplayer matches in the loving rendition Creative Assembly has made of the game. This is that story of a dwarf warrior in the end times. . .

"War has come. My name is Bedun Leatherarm. I fight for clan and glory in the end-times.

Thorin upon his throne
I was reassigned after the last battle, and found myself on a battlefield near Castle Drakenhof lead by Thorgrim Grudgebearer himself.  I didn't get too close, but he sits upon a golden throne, with the great book of grudges lain open in front of him, and four powerful dwarves carry him upon the field.

This force was much more traditional, 450 brave and stout dwarven warriors, over 100 slayers, and nearly 200 of the finest thunderers you've ever seen, gleaming brass and steel in the hazy morning light. Across the grass the runesmith stood assaying the cannons and twenty-one brave irondrakes, who burn the enemies of the dawi.

We saw the damnable red and purple flag right after first light. Mistress Tither-me-nethers or some such, and her "Brave Knights and Men" were on a "Holy Quest" which unsurprisingly took the form of artillery fire on our positions. Their aim was worse than my one-eyed grandmothers'.

Looking out across the plain, there were nearly 1,000 men. Even from here, the ground shook when they began to march. Thorin's eyes darted back and forth. He made a signal, and a unit of slayers took off for forest cover to the east. Artillery fire continued to come in, but other than some minor injuries to the Gob-Lobber crew, no damage was taken.

Dwarven artillery on the barrel however, strikes a mite 'arder and faster than any man-made shite. Dozens and dozens of men were torn apart as they rushed our cannons, while all our soldiers stood, ready and waiting.

One thunderer was killed by a stray missile, before the vollies opened up. Men died. Then over the shoulders of the warriors, flames from the irondrakes burned the front line, torching any who survived the opening vollies. But the damnable sprite wove some dark magic and the burned skin unburned, flesh unpeeling. Dark and damned these human souls must be.

Thunderer fire rang out, each time, a dozen men fell. Flame burned flesh, and then the front lines crashed together. Grail knights darted out from the trees in the west, but were met by the deadly twin axe blades of a unit of slayers. They turned and fled. The other unit of slayers moved forward out of the eastern woods, sprinting down the battlefield to the back line of the artillery. They crossed hidden by trees and terrain!

The thunderers shifted. Two units targeted the grail knights, and the rest fired crosswise into battle, taking down any man engaged in combat with brave dawi. Thorin and the runesmith remained calm, directing the battle.

The Fae Enchantress astride her unicorn
More dark blessings rained down from the faerie kite, turning her men into savage combatants, infused with the power of the fay. Dawi fought, and the front-eastern flank buckled, and the dawi fled.

Within moments, each of us felt the runic power strengthening our armor and restoring our vigor.  They moved onto our grudge lobber, and Thorin waded in alone to give them what for.  In the rear, the grail knights charged the thunderers and horses and men fell as the slayers continued to give chase.

The slayers managed to catch one man and bring him down, but the hooves of the grail knights thundered on the ground as they charged the thunderers! Aye, they batted a few Dawi around, but none'tha worse for wear. But the grail knights did tear back and forth, causing some distress until they realized, there were dawi all around. The slayers caught up, and thunderers tore into the unit.

Meanwhile, the stealthy slayers finally brought justice to the rear line. Their axes tore through the lightly armed and armored catapult crews shutting down the ranged fire on our troops.

Aye, on some fronts we were not holding, on others we were, but any who did make it into our line, found that if you attack one group of thunderers, you expose your back to three others. One unit of men chased the firedrakes clear through our entire encampment. It was a hundred men when they gave chase. By the time they fled the field, naught but 20 remained.

Thunderer fire is not to be taken lightly.

Our leaders stood unharmed, the enemies back line destroyed, their men crumbling and routing, and we remained the victors on the battlefield that day.

Dwarves Vs. Wood Elves (loss)
Dwarves Vs, Britannia (victory)
Is anyone interested in downloading the replays of these battles?


Hack & Slash 

On OSR gaming releases 5/18/18

Welcome to gaming releases this week!

This is my first attempt at something like this, so feel free to give me comments and suggestions!

There were over 200 products released in the last 7 days, what follows are highlights only. If you'd like to be highlighted, get at me during your release week!


Steve Jackson released a large number of Car Wars .pdfs!

Pandius Provided the Poor Wizard's Almanac: The Year of Chaos
Popular threads on the vault include a civilization, wilderness and monsters density poll; and of course the Mystarn's community response to the denigration of the setting by Matt Sernett during a podcast and his subsequent apology, and their attempt to address the "endemic disrespect for Mystara [in] the community at Wizards of the Coast." Mystara is one of the most D&D-like settings ever created, with ancient human empires, magical flying cities, immortals and a hollow world.

Unearthed Arcana covers the new playtesting rules for centaurs and minotaurs leading to reddit postulating the infinite centaur because medium creatures can ride centaurs who are themselves medium size. It's centaurs all the way down!

Greg Gillespie has 5 days left for his funded Barrowmaze: Highfell - The Drifting Dungeon Megadungeon for Labyrinth Lord and other Old School Role-playing game.



Saturday May 12th

  • Corporatocracy: Company Rule in Fact & Fantasy, by WMB Saltworks
    • A quick perusal shows information about both historical cases as well as specific ideas for campaigns that can be caused by certain company interests. The text is excessively wordy, "Usually, of course, we refer to corporations in a business sense. It can be useful to remember, however, that not all companies are corporations." If you can take that sort of meandering well, this may be of some use to you.

Sunday May 13th


Monday May 14th


Tuesday May 15th

Wednesday May 16th

Thursday May 17th


If you find this post useful, and you'd like to see it every Friday, then now is the time to support my Patreon to make sure I can continue to afford housing and which totally enables putting this together every week. 


Hack & Slash 

On Gygax Design I

It's unspoken in the rulebooks all over the place.

You are just supposed to know certain things from the culture of wargaming. But it blew up way past that microculture.

The immediate casualty was the adventure. This has been my focus now for over a year. What went wrong? Why are the modules Gygax wrote good, while others that ape the style are so bad?

Keep on the Borderlands

Let's just start with the introductions. 

"You are not entering this world in the usual manner, for you are setting forth to be a Dungeon Master. Certainly there are stout fighters, mighty magic-users, wily thieves, and courageous clerics who will make their mark in the magical lands of D&D adventure. You, however, are above even the greatest of these, for as DM you are to become the Shaper of the Cosmos. It is you who will give form and content to all the universe. You will breathe life into the stillness, giving meaning and purpose to all the actions which are to follow. The others in your group will assume the roles of individuals and play their parts, but each can only perform within the bounds you will set. It is now up to you to create a magical realm filled with danger, mystery, and excitement, complete with countless challenges. Though your role is the greatest, it is also the most difficult. You must now prepare to become all things to all people."-Gary Gygax, "Keep on the Borderlands"

Let's see.

"You are not entering this world in the usual manner" is literal. He presents this powerfully as descending not only personally into the realm of fantasy, but the, and I quote, "become[ing] the Shaper of the Cosmos. It is you who will give form and content to all the universe."

Heady stuff. 

Let's look at the introduction of Return to Keep on the Borderlands by John D. Rateliff 1999, at the tail end of the dark ages of Dungeons & Dragons:

"Return to the Keep is an update of the classic adventure, detailing what has happened in the Caves of Chaos and the Keep itself in the two decades since brave adventurers cleaned out the monsters and departed for other challenges. The rules have been fully updated. . ., encounters have been fleshed out, and the section of advice to inexperienced Dungeon Masters expanded and rewritten. In the main, however, Keep on the Borderland remains what it has always been: A series of short adventures, distinct enough that player characters can catch their breath between each section, that smoothly segue together. Altogether, this adventure gives novice players and characters a chance to learn the ropes without getting in over their heads; characters who survive will have learned the basic tricks of their trade, just as players and Dungeon Masters will know the basics of good gaming."

What the f$% happened here? Do you see this shit? Apologies to Rateliff, but I try to edit my blog posts better then this introduction. There's just extra, redundant, words in excess of the words that are needed, for some reason that's a reason there's extra words for a reason. Right? 

"A series of short adventures." is the short description of "Adventures distinct enough that player characters can catch their breath between each section". How about "In the main, however". What purpose does that equivocation serve?

An example from one of the worst printed module of all time, N2, The Forest Oracle. Although terrible, it's common in quality to the vast majority of material on RPGnow and DM's Guild. But I'd rather not punch down on amature creator, so consider this a stand in for the type of dross you find on onebookshelf. 

"The Forest Oracle is an AD&D module for levels 2-4. It is an independent adventure, and not part of a series. It can be integrated into any existing campaign or played as a separate adventure to help initiate players into the world of AD&D." -Carl Smith Forest Oracle
Every single word of the above introduction is patently obvious. The level range is on the cover. You can integrate any adventure into an existing campaign or play it as a separate adventure.  This is literal wasted space. Compare with original borderlands text.

The point I'm driving at here, is Gygax used every word of the introduction to drive home a mind-blowing idea, the introduction was copied for the sequel by a writer who writes as if he gets paid by the word, and the worst adventure writers don't even understand the point of the introduction so they just say truistic generic comments. "This is a module." or one of my personal favorites "This module is for X level characters, but you can run it with higher or lower characters if you increase or decrease the difficulty."

No shit?

Why did I pay? How does this help me? What does this do for me?


Dungeon Master Text

This text varies between each individual module.

Let's look at the original keep:
This module is another tool. It is a scenario or setting which will help you to understand the fine art of being a Dungeon Master as you introduce your group of players to your own fantasy world, your interpretation of the many worlds of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Adventure. THE KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS is simply offered for your use as a way to move smoothly and rapidly into your own special continuing adventures or campaigns. Read the module thoroughly; you will notice that the details are left in your hands. This allows you to personalize the scenario, and suit it to what you and your players will find most enjoyable.
Which commits the sin of being obvious, but considering the dearth of modules at the time, this was good advice then. Is the pass I'm giving the above text unfair?

The DM should be careful to give the player characters a reasonable chance to survive.
Hopefully, they will quickly learn that the monsters here will work together and attack intelligently, if able. If this lesson is not learned, all that can be done is to allow the chips to fall where they may. Dead characters cannot be brought back to life here! 
Then, Gygax lines out his conception of Dungeons & Dragons:
The KEEP is a microcosm, a world in miniature. Within its walls your players will find what is basically a small village with a social order, and will meet opponents of a sort. Outside lies the way to the Caves of Chaos where monsters abound. As you build the campaign setting, you can use this module as a guide. Humankind and its allies have established strongholds—whether fortresses or organized countries—where the players’ characters will base themselves, interact with the society, and occasionally encounter foes of one sort or another. Surrounding these strongholds are lands which may be hostile to the bold adventurers. Perhaps there are areas of wilderness filled with dangerous creatures, or maybe the neighboring area is a land where chaos and evil rule (for wilderness adventures, see DUNGEONS & DRAGONS@ EXPERT SET). There are natural obstacles to consider, such as mountains, marshes, deserts, and seas. There can also be magical barriers, protections, and portals. Anything you can imagine could be part of your world if you so desire. The challenge to your imagination is to make a world which will bring the ultimate in fabulous and fantastic adventure to your players. A world which they may believe in.
He is a priest, his sermon dense with meaning. Note particularly "will meet opponents of a sort" and "hostile foes of one sort or another".

Jeff Dee's art is a treasure
This is the first module, a teaching module, the first time many of these things had ever been seen. Yet the form of treating it as the first-ish publication anyone may ever see, is not something that other and later modules needed to copy. A lot of the text in the original B2 is almost an errata—a detailed description of procedures in play for lost or confused Dungeon Masters. Other then a few pointed notes, I'm going to excise this from the analysis, due to the singular artifact of "being first".  A rules addendum is tangential to our examination of Gygax's content versus the imitators of form.

Of particular note:
To defeat monsters and overcome problems, the DM must be a dispenser of information. Again, he or she must be fair - telling the party what it can see, but not what it cannot. Questions will be asked by players, either of the DM or of some character the party has encountered, and the DM must decide what to say. Information should never be given away that the characters have not found out - secret doors may be missed, treasure or magic items overlooked, or the wrong question asked of a townsperson. The players must be allowed to make their own choices. Therefore, it is important that the DM give accurate information, but the choice of action is the players’ decision.
It's bolded like that in the original text.

In Return to the Keep on the Borderlands, the text and advice is largely similar and fascinating. Perhaps Ratcliffe was just warming up earlier and needed a sharper editor for that paragraph. I'd like to quote  things that indicate people carried true knowledge always with them, even as those who claimed to be kings had lost that knowledge. To wit:
"Boxed text can either be read out loud by the Dungeon Master, or simply paraphrased in his or her own words. Paraphrasing is often preferred by experienced Dungeon Masters. . ." 
"Players have a habit of doing the unexpected; resist the temptation to force them to follow a particular track." 
"For purposes of this adventure, the Dungeon Master is strongly urged to use the optional rule that grants experience points for treasure (at the rate of 1 XP per 1 gp value); this sends the message to the players that there are a multitude of right approaches to take (combat, stealth, negotiation), not a single preferred method of play."
This was in 1999, before the release of 3rd edition, where traditional games of Dungeons & Dragons and Vampire were advising Dungeon Masters to invalidate their players choices, and modules consisted of badly constructed railroads of the sort a grade schooler might create. In the darkest moment the hobby of Dungeons & Dragons has experienced, light still shone.

Next time we're going to look at the background section of the adventures and dig into things both nitty and gritty.

Did you enjoy this post? I would like to continue eating as much as you would like to read the next post! Your support means my survival!

Hack & Slash 

On Endless War

After admiring Warhammer Fantasy for nearly my whole life, I decided to play one hundred multiplayer matches in the loving rendition Creative Assembly has made of the game. This is that story of a dwarf warrior in the end times. . .

"War has come. My name is Bedun Leatherarm. I fight for clan and glory in the end-times.

This is the tale of my first battle. . . and loss. One of many.

I joined with the Iron Shanks, who talked of 'wheedy elves' that we were going to cut down on the plains of Waldenhof. Two regiments of thunderers with their weapons of iron and fire bolstered confidence among the throng of warriors. We also had a unit of irondrakes and slayers! I had no faith in what those non-traditional dawi would bring.

And the cannons. Beautiful cannons. Immediately effective. We set up on a hill in a simple box formation, the slayers and irondrakes hidden in the trees and just began raining fire upon a wood elf regiment of eternal guard, standing in the open. Our engineer directed the fire to devastating effect.

We could hear the screams from where we stood! 30 dead in one volley. 5 more died in the next. Still, the elves stood, unmoving. What cold hard creatures to send their own to die like that. I drew in my breath, assured of success as I watched our cannons work. 49 died before the elves dained to move.

Arrows from waywatchers hit the shield of the warriors on the left flank first, doing little damage against dwarven wood and steel. Our rangers and firedrakes opened up and the swift elves fled, downing firedrakes with their arrows as they left, their preternatural ability to fire while they ran devastating our troops. Suddenly from the trees behind us, a hidden unit rained arrows at the rear of our thunderers!

Our rangers and firedrakes moved forward taking heavy damage, trying to fire on the enemies front, while warriors moved to the back. Another unit had chased off after some archers and was getting picked apart! I grabbed my axe before I felt the hot spray on my face.

Dragonsbreath! From not one but two dragons! The thunderers panicked and fled. A Glade Lord sat grinning aboard his dragon, casting bolts of energy around the field. Arrows came from every direction as the forest dragon landed and engaged our thane in combat. Where were the slayers?!

Later I would come to find out they had foolishly given chase to faster elves. Chaos reigned as we ran back and forth between target to target, the elves taking to the air and peppering us with armor piercing arrows the entire time.

The dragons, their elven lord astride danced, back and forth, causing chaos among our ranks, until we could stand and fight no more.

And so we turned, and fled. "

Thus ends the first battle of Bedun Leatherarm.
Dwarves Vs. Wood Elves (loss)


Hack & Slash 
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