On a Secret Something Wonderful


If you haven't had the chance to check it out - you should probably take a few minutes to visit

When I first saw it, I was turned off by the high media content of the blog - then I realized, all of these posts are pretty high quality. And then there are the maps, the beautiful maps.

Here's an example from this week, and each week, it's a blank map, campaign ready. Note: it's rarely a planet - often its fantasy, campaign maps, just the kind I know you like.

Finally the Labyrinthian is tapped in to the pulse of this industry. I find information (Like Pazio getting into the mini game) popping up on his blog before I become aware of it from traditional routes.

I don't understand why he has so few followers and comments. Head on over and let him (them? her?) know what you think. It may not be for everyone, but I do not regret my second look - It's one of those blogs where every time he posts I feel like checking it out, and don't regret it. I almost didn't write this, because I didn't want to reveal my secret sources, but it's worth checking out.

On A Little Old-School Module Help For a Friend

A friend of mine is thinking about running some old school modules for some players who have never been through them. He's thinking about the giants series, but wondering if he should work up to them though modules like T1-T4.

Has anyone played through the old elemental evil temple and can help him out?

His post is here, Old School Summer. If anyone has any experience with those modules, he'd really appreciate the help.

On Why Your Blog Isn't Any Good

When I started this blog, I figured it was a good old boys club and that I'd never make any headway. I wrote intermittently, worked on some of my resources, released some things, and did ok, having 20 or 30 followers.

Then I read a statement from Cyclopetron, that said blog growth is a function of the quality of the posts, rather then a reflection of your status within community . I took this advice to heart, and in a little over a month, garnered nearly 60 followers. This was separate from the release of things like my treasure, or  empty rooms, tricks, and trap design or psionics documents. The stats on my blog in a short time it has existed (~10 months now) show it as a solid blog in our little community.

So what did I do to garner my followers? What can you do to improve your blog for me? :-)
  • Write posts that are easy to read and concise. Use white space to break things up.You are welcome to write detailed dissertations on a topic, but most people are going through a blog roll or daily reader and don't have time for a review of an in-depth topic. it's best to write that and link to it as a resource for the interested reader
  • Provide some sort of resource on your blog on a regular basis (recipes, a picture, quiz, etc.) So that people will want to mark your blog as one to come back and check
  • Let your personality come through in your posts. People will follow a blog because they like you, not just the content
  • Schedule your posts to come out either around the morning or the evening, when people are going through their blog roll (EDIT: or not as Tim points out in the comments)
  • Be consistent in your posting schedule
  • Use pictures and photographs
  • Write interesting titles that draw interest, like they teach in journalism
  • Oh, 
  • You could always just release an awesome old school rule system - that seems like a pretty sweet way to garner followers for your blog. :-)
There are also a few things you can avoid doing.
  • Don't ever post about what you're going to do or what you're going to post; or for that matter, why you didn't post. If you're writing a post, give us something besides an excuse.
  • Don't consistently rant over and over about the same topics.We got it the first time. You could just link to the original rant. :-)
  • Don't exclusively write a reply to forum post and then return to the forum and post it - unless you have something of consequence (i.e. too big or more permanent) to add, or you wrote the post so you could reference the post to avoid explaining your point of view.
Carl Rogers said what is most personal is most universal, and that's a large part of why blogs are so popular. It's what I want to see in a blog, say, one written by you.

Oh, one more advice, if you want a popular blog - if followers are your priority rather than just writing about something you love, you might want to pick a topic less niche than "out of print tabletop role playing games".

On The Adventure Coach

Here's a thing I never do, that I keep doing.

From the Dungeon Bastard, Comes the Adventure Coach.

Remember to vote on the poll!

On The Thursday Trick, More Player Agency and Some Pits

Missed the last few weeks, so making up for it with bonus tricks and further dissuasion on how to relate traditional dungeon events non-mechanically while maintaining player agency.

Sliding or Elevator Room (Special)
Trigger:  Magical: Proximity or Visual
Mechanical: Latch or Switch 
Effects: Multiple Targets
Never Miss
Onset Delay
Save: None Duration: One Round To One Turn
Resets: Automatic Bypass: None or Switch/Lever

Description: This is a trap designed to fool mappers and delvers into misrepresenting the dungeon space on their map. It often occurs soon after entering a room, at which point traditionally the doors slam shut and the room moves, only letting the players out once they have reached their destination. Although this is easy to do by fiat, it often informs the players that this has occurred. We'll look at some options of describing these effects in ways that just inform the player what information his character has received without outright stating that they've entered an elevator or sliding room.

The sliding room moves them either to another floor (elevator room) or another area within the same floor (sliding room), denying them access to where they have come from. There is either a timer (usually 10+2d12 turns) or another trigger further on that returns the room to it's original location.

Detection: A dwarf should automatically get his check to detect this if it is in a dungeon or any sort of stone environment. For those groups that fail their roll, or do not have a dwarf in the party, the following are some signs and descriptions of shifting or elevator rooms. You can use these to insure the players have agency, without giving the trap away. Some description options to be inserted in with other detritus in the room are listed.

  • A shaking or vibration is felt. ("The floor vibrates for a few moments" "For a second the surface of the dungeon seems to lurch and then all is normal" "As you touch the wall a slight tremor is felt" "When you look at the puddle of water, you see small ripples flow across its surface" etc.)
  • A mechanical noise is heard. ("You hear a distant grinding." "There's a loud rumbling that seems to come from every wall and shakes the floor" "You hear a mechanical groan, and then a steady beat that goes on for a few moments")
  • Other senses of the characters may be triggered ("You feel a sicking drop in your stomach." "A wave of nausea overcomes you for a moment.")
Teleporter Trap (Special)
Trigger: Magical: Proximity
Or Magical: Visual 
Effects Never Miss
(Possible) Multiple Targets
Save: None Duration: Instantaneous
Resets: Automatic Bypass: None (Special)

Description: This is thematically similar to the Sliding or Elevator rooms, though can be much much harder to detect. Teleporters transport people, either for the purposes of movement or deception. Since we are (primarily) focusing on the second function traditionally these are used to move people from an area which is more open to one that is more restrictive and dangerous. "Traps" of the first kind are also a possibility in complexes that have been long abandoned.

There are a number of ways that these teleporters can appear - primarily invisible, but also as a mist, or a distortion or a glow. Magical: Proximity or Magical: Visual is given as the trigger, but it can set the teleporter to teleport once a weight or physical threshold is reached, or when a certain number of people have passed, or even only for those that lack a certain item or device.

Teleporters may simply confuse mappers by being connectors between areas, allowing tunnels to go in a direction where the dungeon already is, because a hallway sized portal actually transported the characters to a different area. There may be no sign of this, or there may be some sort of visual anomaly. 

Teleporters instantly transport their targets to another location within space-time.

Detection: An elf or mage could be given the opportunity to notice or detect this sort of trap - as should any pure thief who is actively searching for traps, without specifying any sort of information about looking for teleporter sign specifically.  For those groups that fail their roll, or do not have an elf or mage in the party the following are some signs and descriptions of teleporters. You can use these to insure the players have agency, without giving the trap away. Some description options to be inserted in with other detritus in the room are listed.

  • An untouched further area covered in dust or long disused. ("Ahead on the floor of the corridor lies a thick coating of dust as if no one has walked there in a long time" "It looks like a thick layer of grime and dust is covering the dead end, but you are still too far away to make sure" "The footprints end in the middle of the hallway - they just seem to vanish about 10' ahead" etc.)
  • A glow or shimmer may appear ("The path before you seems to shimmer in your torchlight like a desert on a hot day" "The hallway ahead glows and small motes of light drift back and forth")
  • There may be no visual indicator - just the sensations of teleporting ("You all immediately feel sick and nauseous." "As you walk down this hall you feel your stomach drop as if someone just walked over your grave" "There is a strange breeze and your skin is covered in Gooseflesh."
 And now, for two of my favorite pits

The Shallow Pit (Pit)
Trigger: None Effects:Never Miss
Save: None Duration: N/A
Resets: N/A Bypass: None (Avoid)

Description: This is simply an open pit, in any particular low corridor or room the characters come across. Notably it traverses the entire width of the room, not allowing anyone to avoid it by 'going around'. The inside of the pit should be filled with some nefarious or viscous substance to deter anyone from attempting to cross the pit by going down inside - I'm partial to traditional favorites like acid and lava, but Black Puddings work equally well.
The pit is not that far across, and enterprising characters could easily make the jump, except for one fact - the ceiling is low, and jumping requires both length and height. Any character attempting to cross the pit will strike his head against the low ceiling as he jumps.

Detection: There is nothing hidden or mysterious about this trap - the ceiling is simply too low to cross the pit. When first describing the room or corridor is the appropriate time to explicitly mention that the ceiling in this room is just six to eight feet high.

The Sidelined Pit (Pit)

Trigger: None Effects:Never Miss
Save: Spells Duration: N/A
Resets: Automatic Bypass: Special

Description: This is a simple pit illusion. In the center of a room or corridor is a pit that runs almost to the edges of the room. On either side of the pit are small safe looking ledges about two feet across. The inside of the pit should be filled with spikes or snakes - something nasty.

What's actually going on, is that the center of the room is actually just a safe room floor. The image of the pit is an illusion. However the ledges on either side of the pit are actually deep (20'+) pits filled with many sharp spikes (preferably poisoned) covered in the illusion of a safe floor.

Detection: Like any purely visual illusion, this one is easily detectable by doing any sort of testing of the pit or the sides before attempting to cross. Let the first attempt give each observer a save versus spells to detect the illusion. If the illusion is detected, just relate the results of the action taken.

For instance if a coin is thrown on the center area of the main pit, and they make their save versus spells, let them know the coin seems to float above the pit at floor level. If they toss a coin on either safe looking platform, let them know it appears to vanish as it falls right through the illusion.

Of course with a higher level party you may feel free to use a higher level illusion, one with tactile response, making the trap more difficult to detect in general.

Both the shallow and sidelined pit are ideas from Grimtooth's traps, a trademark of Flying Buffalo Inc. games.

WWI: Sacred 2

A great action RPG from a currently insolvent studio.

The Elements: This is an action RPG, that much like Too Human, revolutionized elements of the genera.

The Crux: You create a character (either Seraphim, Dryad, High Elf Sorceress, Undead Legionnaire, Inquisitor, or Robotic Temple Guardian) and murder countless mobs for money and treasure. You have a variety of special abilities called "Combat Arts". You may level these to whatever strength you wish - the more powerful they are, the longer they take to recharge.

The Countenance: This is a great game for several reasons. First are the non-traditional classes, combat arts, and skills. The interplay between skills and combat arts is fascinating, causing you to think very seriously about your choices when leveling as you try to increase the power curve of your character past the current difficulty of the game.

When you play and do not die you accumulate a 'survival bonus'. The higher this number is, the more powerful your enemies become. Your stats are raised to compensate. The higher the bonus, the better items you will receive. (The amount of the massive map you clear also affects your drop rate - on the PC. . .)

In short - the better you play, the harder the game becomes, with the reward being better items for as long as you can keep it up.

It was the first console RPG to utilize the triggers/buttons method of mapping powers, now copied several times over, as a critical innovation necessary for playing the genera on the PC (barring the other sort of redesign heralded by Too Human). Anyone who's played Darkstone or other archaic Action RPG's on consoles can see the brilliance in the design.

There is a huge (HUGE) map with almost 1000 side-quests, allowing free roaming, player directed game-play (sandbox anyone?). Your character can level to level 200. It has online PvE and PvP play (for free). And it's a very pretty game. You get mounts, both horses and 'special' mounts, like a demon, giant spider, lizard or flying dragon. Each class has their own specific mount. You may play as either a good or evil character, receiving different main and class quests.

The Genre: The game is a solid RPG. (For the designers take of Action RPG's falling under RPG versus another category, look here.) Essentially little has to do with your reflexes, and most having to do with your build.

The Detritus: There are reasons why the game isn't more popular. Most have to do with lazy gamers - this is a old school game that carries serious consequences for choices without punishing the player.

There is no respec option.

It is not possible to pause the console version or PC online versions of the game.

The Final Counsel: You will hear lots of people knock this games graphics on the consoles, or it's sound, or one of a dozen little niggling problems with it - what you will not hear is anyone say it isn't fun. :-)  If you've got a decent PC or a 360 or PS3, you could do much much worse then picking up this gem of a game for around a 10 spot!

P.S. If anyone does get this, I own it on 360/PS3 and PC. I'll be glad to hook you up with items or play with you. Shoot me a line.

On Planned Encounters vs. Random Encounters

So is it better to have planned random encounters, or random random encounters.

I'm running an old school Mega-dungeon for several groups (Numenhalla) and have been wrestling with this question often.

If you look at old school encounter tables in modules, there are many entries that consist of things like "2d4 zombies" and "2d6 Gnolls + 2d4 Hyenadons". Then upon the encounter you roll for the 'reaction' and role-play from there.

But what is the harm in having more interesting encounters preplanned. How many random encounters will the average party really encounter? And don't they basically fall into several categories (Things we fight, things we avoid fighting? Things we talk to?) And if the encounter is a more positive one, isn't it better to have say a name for the leader of the Gnolls, or the Maneaters?

I've done my table in the old school style and during play I've found it to be lacking. I have a general table for each level, with specific blanks for each encounter area. After a week or two of play I created a 'special' encounter list.

Here are the things I've noticed
  • Have the table split makes for a bit of page flipping and no centralized monsters information location.
  • I consistently make too many entries on the charts, meaning everything feels random instead of themed.
  • There just aren't that many random encounters that happen in a single night. I generally roll between 12 and 20 times in a 4 hour session, meaning, on average there are just 3 random encounters.
  • Being that this isn't (strictly) a wilderness, things that made sense in a wilderness sandbox (such as many monster 'animal' encounters) do not make as much sense in a dungeon - they feel less organic.
  • I'm not saying I have a specific plan for each encounter before it happens, but I often think a little more assistance with increasing the relevance of the encounter to the party, and ways for them to hook into that could be helpful. (Each player asks, "Why should I talk to dudemar?" They should have an answer to that question).
As an aside, in a megadungeon, random encounters are less a control for mages and the fifteen minute adventuring day then they are in sandboxes. One way doors, trick stairways, teleporters and things that trap the party seem to take that role. Considering that when they are covering new ground it takes 1 turn to move the slowest movement of the party, every time they move 180' they trigger a check - but when they are moving back over covered ground, they are moving quickly, and not checking for traps and such. Checks being based on time do little to address the fifteen-minute adventuring day that way.

So this bears examining - what is the purpose of the random encounter in a Mega-dungeon?

In spite of this, my party did managed to get trapped between a Dragon and a Group of Anthrophages in a treasure room on level 1. A group of anthrophages led by someone they managed narrowly knock out last week - so by no means has what I've been using so far been a failure.

Let me know your thoughts on the purpose of the encounter in the dungeon/megadungeon - and on what ways you might structure your table uniquely.  I'll talk more on my redesign to make the tables more useful soon.

On At What Cost, Liberty?

Wherefore has our vigilance fled?

Blogger crashed over the weekend. They did an update and something was wrong, so they reset the blogosphere to Wednesday.

How much of the OSR would disappear - how much would be lost if it wasn't last Wednesday, but was instead last year?

I'm not the resident brain trust around here (that honor goes to the Jovial Priest) but I can tell you that I treat blogger like it's my own personal hard drive - thinking that once I've posted something I'll always be able to find and reference it.

I'll certainly be thinking about ways to duplicate my blogger data - any suggestions and discussions on what to do - on what you are going to do - are welcome.

I've re-posted my poll that was lost in the debacle. Please vote for which two tables I should submit.

Edit: A solution for the problem, posted by Lurking Rhythmically.

On Which One Should I Choose?

So, Fight On is running a random table contest.

But which ones to submit?

There is a poll to the right - please help me decide which of these tables is best and vote!

Random Tables 

Edit: This is terrible! There was a poll up, but for some reason it has disappeared. Thank you blogger.

I've recreated the poll. Hopefully it will stay around this time. Please re-vote if you haven't.

Also, comments appear to have dissapeared from this post. Anyone know what's going on?

WWI: Kindle DX

An entire RPG library in the palm of my hand?

The Elements: It's an e-book reader from amazon. It reads .pdfs, .mobi format and text documents among others.

The Crux: It's pretty straight forward. Transfer files from your computer to the kindle. You can use a free application like calibre to convert anything that's in a format Kindle doesn't want to read.

If you're dumb and computer illerate, you can e-mail documents and have amazon whisper-net them to your kindle for a fee.

The Countenance: I'll get right to the important questions.

Does this read .pdfs?
Yes. I bought the DX because on the normal size Kindle they can be too small to read (although you can hold sideways and see the page across) Not all .pdf's worked, I had to covert some of them with calibre. I was concerned about that, but the software is awesome and works perfectly.

Can I use it as a replacement for my gaming books at the table?
Not really. The search function is so slow and it takes a while to refresh .pdf pages. Pulling up an often used table would be ok, or perhaps searching for a specific spell might be marginally quicker, but overall the function is very limited. I should also point out that it lacks many features, such as annotations, though I've had no problems with the book mark feature.

So this e-ink thing?
It's super easy on the eyes, and does require external lighting (just like, you know, a book).

It does have browser access, but I've had little success getting it to download the .pdfs from my webpage.

As far as it's worth as a book reader goes, it's divine. I can bring all my reference to work without it weighing down my bag and it's a pretty marvelous reader for books, lightweight and easy to read on. I REGRET NOTHING.

The Detritus: There is a thing that it does better than anything I've ever seen. The Fighting Fantasy books and other Kindle Active content are brilliant. It contains the original (Russ Nicholson!) art, draws a map, keeps track of your character sheet, rolls dice and more. I'm drawn right back to the hundreds of hours I spent playing those books over at my grandmothers house. There are at least two of the fighting fantasy books available at the amazon store, and due to the difficulty in ordering the actual physical books, they have a guaranteed sale anytime they want to release a new one.

I wouldn't quite tell anyone else it was worth the buy in price just for how well it handles the fighting fantasy books, but it does.

The Final Counsel: The price for the DX was very close to the price for a full blow tablet. I've owned an actual computer tablet before (long before the ipad) and it cost about twice as much. I think if you were really looking for a .pdf tablet library device, you'd have to deal with the issues on a blackberry, android, or ipad to be really functional. I use it a lot for reference, and unlike a computer I can use my kindle at work, so I'm happy with my purchase. As an e-book reader, it's a pretty brilliant device. Do recommend.

The Kindle is (unsurprisingly) available at Amazon.

On the Efficacy of a Sword

I've already spoke on how you are role-playing incorrectly, here's how the mechanics support the idea of role-play being how you would explore the dungeon.

You know what has exactly the same chance to hit as a fifth level fighter (needing 16,000 experience)?

A first level wizard with a +3 sword.

What's important is the play of the game. The differences between most characters between levels 1-9 are minimal. A few extra hit points for some. But there is a good chance, for most classes that when you level nothing may change.

But does it matter?

Not in the least. You determine your status as a winner by surviving and surveying the pile of gold you've accumulated. You enjoy the play of making decisions and attempting to survive.

I'll let you in on a secret - the 'talents' and 'skills' I let my players have is illusionary. The design space that they are designed to fill, would not need to be filled if they didn't take the 'talent' or 'skill'.

There are little changes between each level, because the characters are not what keep you alive. It's you as a player that keeps your character alive.

On A Guide To Dominion

Today we have a guest post, Written by James Breakfield on Dominion and a guide to playing the game, as well as where to play online for free.

On average, each two player game takes about 15 to 20 minutes and increases by approximately 10 minutes for each additional player.  You can access the FAQ link from the site above to learn more about how the interface works and inquire into the leaderboard ranking system.
 The game basics are as follows:
 There are three types of cards - Action, Treasure, and Victory.
  Action cards give you a specific ability or several abilities.
  Treasure cards allow you to buy additional cards.
  Victory cards provide you with points upon completion of the game to determine who won.
 The point of the game is to build a deck allowing for the purchase of victory cards.  The player with the most victory points at the end of the game wins, and if there is a tie, the winner of the tie is the player who was last in the turn rotation.  All games start with the same 10 cards in each player's deck - 7 copper (worth $1 each) and 3 estates (worth 1 VP each).  You will draw 5 of these cards to start the game and as you play, your deck will be reshuffled and reused over and over including the cards you purchase throughout the game.  Each turn will consist of an "action" phase followed by a "buy" phase.  Once you start playing treasure cards, you can no longer play any action cards that turn.  You start each turn with 1 action and 1 buy but can acquire certain cards that will allow you to increase the amount of cards in your hand, actions available for your use, or the number of possible buys.
 The game setup is as follows:
 Dominion currently has 5 expansion sets so there is a large selection of cards available.  The game will select cards at random from one of these sets unless you specify which cards you want to play with.  Each game will consist of 10 cards (mostly actions with occasional speciality treasure and/or victory cards) selected for each game.  Since these 10 cards are different for each game, every game is unique and may require a different approach or strategy for achieving victory.  Regardless of which 10 cards are selected at the start of the game, each game will also include the following cards:
  Treasure cards - Copper ($1), Silver ($2), and Gold ($3); which cost $0, $3, and $6 respectively.
  Victory cards - Estate (1 VP), Duchy (3 VP), and Province (6 VP); which cost $2, $5, and $8 respectively.
  Curse cards - worth -1 VP and cost nothing 
 Depending on which expansion set is being played, there is a possibility that an additional treasure (Platinum - worth $5 and cost $9) and victory card (Colony - worth 10 VP and cost $11) will be available.  
 The game mechanics are as follows:
 You will start the game with 5 cards as mentioned above.  This will provide you with between $2 and $5 on your first turn depending on your copper to estates ratio (meaning your second turn is the remainder of the original 10 cards).  With this coin, you must decide how to set about your purpose of creating the most efficient deck to allow for the quick acquisition of large victory point cards (Provinces and if available, colonies).  You can start by purchasing a card which is equal to or less than the total amount of coin in your hand.  Bear in mind that you currently do not have any action cards so your action phase goes unused and you move immediately into the buy phase.  Once you play cards (whether action or treasure), they are placed within your discard pile.  At the end of your turn, you place all purchased and unused cards within your discard pile and draw a new hand for the next turn.  Once your deck is exhausted from drawing cards, you shuffle your discard pile back into your deck and begin again, thereby cycling through your deck every couple of turns.  As you begin to acquire better treasure cards, you can purchase more expensive cards which tend to have better properties.  Some actions require you to trash a card which means it is removed from the game permanently as opposed to discard which allows it to be reshuffled into your deck.
 Conditions for Victory:
 There is a set number of each type of card available depending on the number of players.  For instance, on a 2 or 3 player game, there will be 10 of each action card and 8 of each victory card.  The game ends when a certain number of card stacks are depleted (3 stacks for a 2-3 player game or 4 stacks for 4-5 players, etc.).  The game also ends when all of the provinces or colonies have been purchased, regardless of how many stacks of cards have been depleted.  Once the game ends, all of the victory cards are added together and the winner is the player with the highest number of victory points.  There is no value for treasure or action cards once the game ends.  The only exception to this is that there are a select number of action cards which award victory points as they are played during the game.  These points are also added into the final victory point total at the conclusion of the game.  These cards hold a lot of value since they provide victory points which are not associated with victory cards that can bog down your deck and lower its efficiency.
 Combination/Specialty Cards:
With some of the more recent expansion sets, cards types have been combined to provide more versatility during game play.  An example would be the Harem which is a victory card that doubles as a treasure card (2 VP and $2) or the Great Hall which is a victory card that doubles as an action card (1 VP with +1 card and +1 action); essentially counting as a cycling estate since it replaces itself with another card.  Keep in mind that playing this card consumes an action which is then refunded.  To allow for multiple actions to be played in a turn, you must use a card which provides you with +2 or more actions (replacing the current action and providing you with a free action).  Some action cards are considered attack cards since they manipulate the opponent's deck.  You will notice that there is a color pattern to the cards which is as follows:
  Green - Victory card
  White - Action card
  Yellow - Treasure card
  Blue - Reaction card (can play in response to attack cards)
  Orange - Action/Duration card (effects both this turn and next turn)
  Purple - Curses
  Potion - counts as a treasure (used to purchase cards from the alchemy set)

In the early stages of the game, you will want to increase the effectiveness of your spending capability by purchasing silver and gold coins.  It is also beneficial to acquire cards which remove the copper and/or estates from your deck, thus increasing the value of the cards drawn at the start of each turn.  The basic idea is to refrain from making unwise purchases which will overload your deck and decrease it's purchasing capability in later turns (such as buying estates or copper).  Most players will try to avoid buying victory cards until the end of the game (since they are essentially dead weight within your deck preventing you from drawing a better card) at which time it will be the only thing they purchase from that point on.  There are several combinations of cards which will allow you to continue drawing cards until you have most or all of your deck within your hand at one time (possibly allowing for the purchase of multiple cards with an abundance of coin).  These will take the form of playing a card which gives you multiple actions followed by playing a card which gives you multiple cards.  Mix in some attack cards to disrupt your opponent's rhythm and/or load him down with curses to assure yourself the victory...unless he does it to your first. 

On The Magic Weapon: A Table part II

Magical Effects and Weirdness:
Roll a d20. On a result of 10+, roll on the table below.

01-29) Weapon Glows (See color table)
30-34) Weapon glows (See color table) when a certain monster is nearby
35-39) Weapon Drips (See substance table)
40-44) When Swung the Weapon leaves Tracers (See Color table)
45-49) Sword is surrounded by (See surrounded by table)
50-54) Blade is Colored Force (See color table)
55-59) Sounds (See sounds table) Occur when Blade Strikes
60-64) A Visual Display (See visual display table) Occurs when Blade Strikes
65-69) Strike against target leaves marks (See Marks Table) around wounds
70-75) Blade Exudes an exotic but pungent scent (See Odors Table)
76-78) Blade of weapon is invisible (All the time, during daylight, during darkness, above ground, underground)
79) Weapon Hums
80) Weapon Vibrates
81) Weapon Whistles
82) Weapon Chuckles
83) Weapon whispers secrets
84) Runes Appear on Sword
85) Runes Appear in Air near sword
86) Shines
87) Always polished
88) Always bloody
89) Blade swivels
90) Liquid in Blade
91) Blade Drinks in Blood
92) Blade is Like a Liquid Conforming to a Solid Shape
93) Weapon is Translucent 
94) Blade is Made of Metal Scales that Sometimes Pulse Open
95) Weapon causes those nearby to feel an emotion.
96) Weapon flutters in the breeze like a silk ribbon
97) Weapon sprouts spikes transitory and intermittently.
98) Weapon is weightless
99) Roll Twice
100) Roll 3 Times

Drips Color
  1. Ichor
  2. Sap
  3. Blood
  4. Tears
  5. Fire
  6. Poison
  7. Water
  8. Wax
  1. White
  2. Gold
  3. Silver
  4. Green
  5. Blue
  6. Red
  7. Purple
  8. Rose
Surrounded By Sounds
  1. Motes
  2. Dust
  3. Wind
  4. Steam
  5. Smoke
  6. Leaves
  1. Shriek
  2. Thunder
  3. Laughter
  4. Single Note
  5. Humm
  6. Animal Roar or Growl
Visual Display Marks Table
  1. Sparks
  2. Stars
  3. Light Burst
  4. Fire
  5. Electricity
  6. Cold
  1. Frozen Flesh
  2. Charred Flesh
  3. Golden (or any metallic) Flesh
  4. Rotted Flesh
  1. Musky- perfumes/aftershave
  2. Putrid- rotten eggs
  3. Pungent- vinegar
  4. Camphoraceous- mothballs
  5. Ethereal- dry cleaning fluid
  6. Floral- roses
  7. Pepperminty- mint gum

Of course you may roll on all, some or none of these tables and just pick. Randomizes have been provided to complete generate a random weapon or just get an idea and use it as a creative tool.

On The Magic Weapon: A Table part I

So, You found a shiny sword did you?

How shiny?

Let's find out.

Blade Material (1d20) Blade Shape (1d20)
1-4 High Carbon Steel
5-7 Folded Steel
8-10 Layered Steel
11 Crystal
12 Glass
13 Obsidian
14 Ceramic
15 Bone
16-20 Roll Again, if this result reoccurs, then blade is made from a Special Material

Special Materials
  1. Mithril
  2. Adamantite
  3. Cold Iron
  4. Alchemical Silver
  5. Star Metal
  6. Orichalcum
  7. Hell Metals
  8. Astral Metals
  9. Ice Metals
  10. Solid Gemstone
1-8 Straight
9-11 Curved
12-14 Tapered
15 Kris (Wavy)
16 Fullers (Blood Grooves)
17 Notches
18 Spikes / Protrusions
19 Saw
20 Jagged
Hilt Materials (1d6 + 1d6) Pommel Materials (1d6 + 1d6)
1) 1-6) Steel
2) 1-3) Wood
2) 4-6) Slate
3) 1-2) Ivory
3) 3-4) Bone
3) 5-6) Antler or Coral
4) 1) Marble
4) 2) Obsidian
4) 3) Quartz
4) 4) Iron
4) 5) Bronze
4) 6) Lead
5-6) 1-2) Wrapped in Fabric (reroll 1d4+1d6)
5-6) 3-4) Wrapped in Leather (reroll 1d4+1d6)
5-6) 5-6) Wrapped in Fur (reroll 1d4+1d6)
As Handle Materials for 1-4, replace 5-6 with:
5) 1-2) Nickle
5) 3-4) Brass
5) 5-6) Copper
6) 1-2) Electrum
6) 3-4) Silver
6) 5) Gold
6) 6) Platinum
Crossguard Shape & Hilt Shape (1d20 & 1d10) Pommel Shapes and Accents (1d20 & 1d12)
Hand Guards (Usually depicted in relief or sculpture)
1-4) Arched
5-8) Crossed (T shaped)
9-12) Bowed
13-14) Domed
15-16) Depicts Fauna (Leaping Gazelles, or Lizards etc.)
17) Body Parts (Hands, Arms, Heads, etc.)
18) Flora (Vines, Flowers, etc.)
19-20) Gods

Handle Shape:
1-3) Straight
4) Tapered
5) Fluted
6) Straight Grooves
7) Spiral Grooves
8) Prism Shaped
9) Hand Imprint
10) Hollow
Pommel Shapes:
1-10) Sphere
11) Shapes (Pyramid, Cube)
12) Monster Head
13) Human Head
14) God Head
15) Crosses
16) Skulls
17) Holy Symbols
18) Limbs
19) Hand, Claw, Paw or Talon
20) Pommel is Short Blade

1) Word Engravings
2) Picture Carvings
3) Runes
4-5) Precious Metal Inlays
6) Jeweled/Gemed
7-12) None

Released under the Alexander License.

Stay tuned! After work comes the second part of the table, Magical Effects and Weirdness!

On Even More Media

Hey Fishface.

I'm usually never like this. Back to your daily written post Monday morning.

On the Weekend Being Way Off-Topic

That Fringe finale man. What the heck.

Of course he'll be back next season, but seriously way to jerk us around.

For those not in the know, this started off as the worst series ever, and now is some of the best, most bizarre sci-fi ever made.

Just had to say, ugh.

Next week will be more focused.


WWI: Arkham Horror

ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!
ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!

The Elements: This is a complicated cooperative boardgame, for one to eight players. You attempt to stop horrors from the eldrich realms from invading earth. I'm assuming correctly that you're at least passingly familiar with H. P. Lovecraft. If not, what are you doing here?!

Answer me that!

The Crux: It's complicated.

Everyone gets an investigator card. This is your character. Each one has sliders that change their stats every turn, along with a special ability, gear, skills, spells, money, clues, and an indicator that tells you how much to change your stats.

Each turn has several phases.

Upkeep where you change your stats and do upkeep stuff.

Movement where you move around the board. There are main streets, and 'event areas'. You also do all your fighting in this phase.

Encounter, where you draw cards and close portals

and then the Mythic phase (referred to as the 'F&C* You phase) where gates open, monsters on the board move around randomly, and strange events complicate the situation.

All of this horror continues until enough gates open to summon the evil horror, enough gates are sealed (requiring 5 clue tokens), or there are no open gates on the board. (good luck!)

The Countenance: So let it be noted that there is no irony in a game about a baroque setting has baroque gameplay.

Also, it's important to say that getting your investigator and the way you power her up is very fun. I mean, like I want to do it again tonight levels of fun.

However, the game is too complicated for anything but fairly die hard groups. There are a number of issues with this.
  • Tracking your stat changes slows down upkeep to a crawl. 
  • Keeping track of movement phases and the fact that combat happens in them, versus event phases and the sheer number of things that trigger during the turn is difficult.
  • Adding new monsters requires you knowing the monster total, equal to the number of players on the board. The board is .  . . very busy and that takes time to get an accurate count.
  • Finding all the monsters to move them is equally difficult. 
  • The vast number of things that require multiple turn tracking (a fair number of mythos cards, shops closing, various other random events) make it difficult to make sure they all process.
  • The fact that only certain cards are of use in certain out-lands and other dimensions mean that you end up having to shuffle through multiple cards to find one that applies to you. This doesn't take a long time, but is an example of the type of design decision that ends up taking extra time and effort to recall and process.

The Genre: It's a turn based boardgame, but it clearly has Exploration and Conflict elements, and because it's a real world tabletop game, it is a strategy game, putting this according to the grid, as an RPG.

Though I'm sure this seems strange (It's clearly a board game!?), I actually think it's pretty accurate. It's not much different then a small dungeon with a big boss and lots of little side quests. My general impression of it, paying attention to the setting detail and how the game built up, is that it was very much like a Call of Cthulhu game, just with an arbitrary DM determining the activities of the eldrich horrors by random chance.

The Detritus: Clues allow you to seal portals, and reroll dice, which gives a high value to their utility, but they come and go quick. I was fond of skills, since they are permanent increases in your character utility, but in the final analysis, they were not as useful as they could have been. I am uncertain (since we only played once) if that is due to the ones I picked or skills in general.

There are lots of options and cards to explore. It could be played ten or so times at a minimum and still be finding new things.

The Final Counsel: This game has a number of serious design issues. There are many things that could be done to address these issues, (house rules, familiarity with play). Several of these issues would seriously inhibit me playing this type of game with someone who isn't already the type of person who would play Rolemaster.

But what this game is, in spite of all the above, is fun. I look forward to playing it again.

So buy it - it's pretty affordable for what you get, and I look forward to using it on a week I need a break from running.

Platforms: It's available in boxes, at places with games. Also Amazon.

On You're Role-Playing Wrong

What exactly is the confusion about role-playing?

Early on in the hobby, there was a terrible mis-supposition. Because the game involved fictional people, people looked for ways to more accurately simulate the whole of their lives. It doesn't matter where your character sleeps for the night, or what his home life is like, or what he did for 3 hours on Tuesday night on Zeno Rising 4 (remind me to post my calendar sometime), because that is not what the game is about!

"What is every last thing Fred does in the 2 weeks till the next adventure"

A maxim of game design is, additional realism hardly ever equates to an equal addition of fun.

Somewhere along the line, people forgot that they were playing a game with certain well defined limits. First a dungeon, then a wilderness hex.

It's easy to understand how this happened. People took the term Role-playing and interpreted it literally, as in taking a role-as an actor would. Instead of what it actually meant.

What would you do in this dangerous dungeon situation? Run? Flee? Will you pull the lever or not?

The role you play is yourself - what choice would you make?

Now it is certainly possible to play from the other mindset, (i.e. "I am Throg of the mountain clans") but all too often, during play, we do not make decisions as Throg would. We end up just role-playing in the sense of the original term - as ourselves. And this is where the difficulty lies, and problems begin.

Do you have to justify the fact that you are a thimble staying in a hotel? Why not? Then why do you feel compelled to justify your reasoning for taking a feat, or a class level?

(Of course there is a lot of worth in the other style of play - but it is often inconsistent (i.e. I'm only Throg when it's convenient) or used as an excuse to disrupt play, because that specifically is what the player is looking to do.

My point is just, when you are having an out of character discussion on what to do next in the dungeon - that is role playing.)

On Spellbooks and Their Contents

Wizards and their spell-books - PC's never seem to keep spell-books that look anything like those they find. And frankly random assortments of basic spells always got a big meh from me. (It's like treasure only more!)

So, here are 100 random spell-book spell themes

  1. fire
  2. earth
  3. air 
  4. water
  5. illusion
  6. evocation
  7. invocation
  8. conjuration
  9. divination
  10. abjuration
  11. necromancy
  12. transmutation
  13. enchantment 
  14. charm
  15. alchemy
  16. archery
  17. artifice
  18. bardic
  19. chromatic
  20. councilor
  21. dragons
  22. flight
  23. inhibition of movement
  24. protection during travel
  25. sight
  26. mist & clouds
  27. counterspells
  28. detection
  29. fear
  30. emotions
  31. swords
  32. knowledge
  33. servants
  34. shapeshifting
  35. light
  36. oratory
  37. stones
  38. storms
  39. trickery
  40. alteration
  41. universal
  42. darkness
  43. stasis
  44. misdirection
  45. mentalism
  46. staves
  47. portals
  48. misdirected travel
  49. protection
  50. shadow
  51. extradimensional
  52. force
  53. geometry
  54. sound
  55. orginization
  56. wild magic
  57. eastern
  58. undead
  59. vampiric
  60. time
  61. dreams / sleep
  62. ice
  63. death
  64. hedge magic
  65. metamagic (Incantrix)
  66. Nature
  67. Sea
  68. Weather
  69. witch
  70. racial spells
  71. transmutation of volume
  72. mind control
  73. speed
  74. teleportation
  75. stealth
  76. weapons
  77. armor
  78. savage
  79. animal
  80. circles
  81. rays
  82. creation
  83. sonic
  84. memory
  85. walls
  86. empathy
  87. reality
  88. planes
  89. stars
  90. knowledge
  91. theft
  92. illness/disease
  93. power
  94. control
  95. insects
  96. monster spell book
  97. summoning
  98. sun
  99. reptiles
  100. anti-magic

On Numenhalla: Update

I've updated my Obsidian portal page with new information, including more god descriptions and pictures, and updated wiki, and more information about the house rules I'm using.

Infos can be found here: http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/numenhalla

If any of my players want to add their characters, that would be great!

On the Slow Post

I've been a bit under the weather.

I'm satisfied with the completion of my A-Z posts - I learned a lot about forge theory and found what exactly what it meant. I won't be talking about narrative or simulationist games in the future, now that I know what those words (don't) mean.

Apparently I've got some new players for Numenhalla, so we're looking forward to that next week.

Most of this week and the foreseeable future will be spent on Alchemy & updating the Numenhalla website, so May's posting will be a little slower then normal. I'm also moving soon, so I might only average 1 post a day.

Also, I am sorry for setting the OSR blogosphere on fire.


Seriously though, I had been thinking about it for a while and I will make it affordable and mostly all the  stuff will still be on the blog. I'm still making stuff for me and my campaign, I'm just going to change a little about how I choose to share it. Thank everyone for their wonderful words and support.

Happy May!
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