Sunday, January 20, 2019

Inspirational Reading - Part 8

I have been slowly working on compiling a list of inspirational reading based on what has been recommended in the various Dungeons and Dragons books. When I left off, I was working through the authors listed in Appendix N of the Advanced D&D Dungeon Master's Guide. Next up for consideration is Leigh Brackett.

Leigh Brackett is one of the authors that is listed only by name in the DMG and is another one of the authors that crosses genres. Like a lot of the pulp authors of the 1940s to 1960s, she wrote science fiction that incorporated a lot of fantasy elements. Not surprising, since she was partly influenced to write by Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars books. She didn't stop there, though. She wrote hard-boiled detective stories, westerns, and numerous screenplays, including a draft of The Empire Strikes Back.

That Gygax includes her here without listing any suggestions is not surprising. A lot of the authors he recommends are classic writers from the pulp sci-fi era. The lack of suggestions leaves me in a bit of a lurch, though. She was extremely prolific. I haven't read much of her stuff yet, despite having a few things on the reading shelf. So I'm going to add quite a few entries for her.

Reading synopses online, I eliminated some of her novels. The crime and western novels are off the list. The other big category I removed is the screenplays. Eventually I may include some movies on the list, but I really want to focus on the solely written material first.

The planetary adventure novels are a given, especially the Eric John Stark stories. The Long Tomorrow is good reading for a post-apocalyptic game. The short fiction is on the list for now. Eventually some of these might fall off the list as I read them, but for now I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Most of the short stories have been anthologized, many of them in multiple books. Where I own an anthology that contains the story, the anthology and the story are in the list in bold. Other stories have either one or more anthologies that I know contain them or the original publication listed. I know there are other anthologies I haven't listed. If anyone knows of ones I have omitted, please let me know.

A few of the anthologies and most of the full novels are available as ebooks from Baen books. The online samples for the anthologies are often one or more complete stories contained in the anthology. The samples for the books are typically the first chapter or chapters.

Brackett, Leigh. "All the Colors of the Rainbow" - in The Halfling and Other StoriesShannach–the Last: Farewell to Mars
-----. Alpha Centauri or Die! (fixup of The Ark of Mars and Teleportress of Alpha C)
-----. "The Ark of Mars" - published as part of Alpha Centauri or Die!
-----. "The Beast-Jewel of Mars" - in The Coming of the Terrans, Martian Quest, Lorelei of the Red Mist: Planetary Romances
-----. The Best of Edmond Hamilton - editor
-----. The Best of Leigh Brackett
-----. The Best of Planet Stories No. 1 - editor
-----. Beyond Mars (Baen Books ebook) - contains "No Man's Land in Space," "Child of the Green Light," "Outpost on Io," "The Halfling," "The Dancing Girl of Ganymede"
-----. The Big Jump
-----. "Black Amazon of Mars" (Planet Stories, March 1951), expanded and published in book form as People of the Talisman - in Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly StoriesStark and the Star Kings
-----. "The Blue Behemoth" - in Lorelei of the Red Mist: Planetary Romances
-----. The Book of Skaith – omnibus edition of the three Skaith novels
-----. "Child of the Green Light" - in Beyond Mars, Martian Quest: The Early Brackett
-----. "Child of the Sun" - in Martian Quest: The Early BrackettStark and the Star Kings and Other Stories
-----. "The Citadel of Lost Ages" - in The Halfling and Other StoriesShannach–the Last: Farewell to Mars
-----. "The Citadel of Lost Ships" - in Swamps of Venus, Martian Quest: The Early Brackett
-----. "Come Sing the Moons of Moravenn" - in Shannach–the Last: Farewell to Mars
-----. The Coming of the Terrans
-----. "Cube from Space" - in Mercury’s Light, Martian Quest: The Early Brackett
-----. "The Dancing Girl of Ganymede" - in The Halfling and Other Stories, Beyond Mars, Lorelei of the Red Mist: Planetary Romances
-----. "The Demons of Darkside" - in Mercury’s Light, Martian Quest: The Early Brackett
-----. "The Dragon-Queen of Venus" (also published as "The Dragon-Queen of Jupiter") - in Swamps of Venus, Martian Quest: The Early Brackett
-----. The Ginger Star (Eric John Stark 1)
-----. "Enchantress of Venus" - in The Best of Leigh Brackett, The Halfling and Other StoriesSea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly StoriesStark and the Star KingsStark and the Star Kings and Other Stories
-----. Eric John Stark: Outlaw of Mars
-----. "The Halfling" - in The Halfling and Other Stories, Beyond Mars, Martian Quest: The Early Brackett
-----. The Halfling and Other Stories
-----. The Hounds of Skaith (Eric John Stark 2)
-----. "How Bright the Stars" - in Shannach–the Last: Farewell to Mars
-----. "Interplanetary Reporter" - in Swamps of Venus, Martian Quest: The Early Brackett
-----. "The Jewel of Bas" - in The Best of Leigh Brackett, Lorelei of the Red Mist: Planetary Romances, Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly StoriesStark and the Star Kings and Other Stories
-----. "The Lake of the Gone Forever" - in The Halfling and Other StoriesLorelei of the Red Mist: Planetary RomancesStark and the Star Kings and Other Stories, Stark and the Star Kings
-----. "Last Call from Sector 9G" - in Shannach–the Last: Farewell to Mars
-----. "The Last Days of Shandakor" - in The Best of Leigh Brackett, The Coming of the Terrans, Martian Quest, Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly StoriesShannach–the Last: Farewell to Mars
-----. Leigh Brackett Centennial - contains "They" and many non-fiction pieces
-----. The Long Tomorrow
-----. "Lord of the Earthquake" - in Martian Quest: The Early Brackett
-----. "Lorelei of the Red Mist" - in Three Times Infinity, Swamps of Venus, Lorelei of the Red Mist: Planetary Romances, Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories
-----. Lorelei of the Red Mist: Planetary Romances - contains "The Blue Behemoth," "Thralls of the Endless Night," "The Jewel of Bas," "The Veil of Astellar," "Terror Out of Space," "The Vanishing Venusians," "Lorelei of the Red Mist," "The Moon That Vanished," "The Beast-Jewel of Mars," "Quest of the Starhope," "The Lake of the Gone Forever," "The Dancing Girl of Ganymede"
-----. "Mars Minus Bisha" - in The Coming of the Terrans, Martian QuestShannach–the Last: Farewell to Mars
-----. "Martian Quest" - in Martian Quest, Martian Quest: The Early Brackett
-----. Martian Quest (Baen Books ebook) - "Martian Quest," "The Treasure of Ptakuth, "Water Pirate," "The Sorcerer of Rhiannon," "The Veil of Astellar," "The Beast-Jewel of Mars," "The Last Days of Shandakor," "Mars Minus Bisha," "The Road to Sinharat," "Purple Priestess of the Mad Moon"
-----. Martian Quest: The Early Brackett - contains "Martian Quest," "The Treasure of Ptakuth," "The Tapestry Gate," "The Stellar Legion," "The Demons of Darkside," "Water Pirate," "Interplanetary Reporter," "The Dragon-Queen of Venus," "Lord of the Earthquake," "No Man’s Land in Space," "A World is Born," "Retreat to the Stars," "Child of the Green Light," "The Sorcerer of Rhiannon," "Child of the Sun," "Out of the Sea," "Cube from Space," "Outpost on Io," "The Hal´Čéing," "The Citadel of Lost Ships"
-----. Mercury’s Light (Baen Books, ebook) - contains "The Demons of Darkside," "A World Is Born," "Cube From Space," "Shannach--The Last”
-----. "Mommies and Daddies" - in Shannach–the Last: Farewell to Mars
-----. "The Moon That Vanished" - in The Best of Leigh Brackett, Swamps of VenusLorelei of the Red Mist: Planetary Romances, Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories
-----. "No Man's Land in Space" - in Beyond MarsMartian Quest: The Early Brackett
-----. "The Other People" (also published as "The Queer Ones") - in The Best of Leigh BrackettShannach–the Last: Farewell to Mars
-----. "Out of the Sea" - in Martian Quest: The Early Brackett
-----. "Outpost on Io" - in Beyond MarsMartian Quest: The Early Brackett
-----. People of the Talisman
-----. "Purple Priestess of the Mad Moon" - in The Coming of the Terrans, Martian QuestShannach–the Last: Farewell to Mars
-----. "Queen of the Martian Catacombs" (Planet Stories, Summer 1949), expanded and published in book form as The Secret of Sinharat - in Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories, Stark and the Star Kings
-----. "Quest of the Starhope" - in Lorelei of the Red Mist: Planetary Romances
-----. "Retreat to the Stars" - in Martian Quest: The Early BrackettStark and the Star Kings and Other Stories
-----. The Reavers of Skaith (Eric John Stark 3)
-----. "The Road to Sinharat" - in The Coming of the Terrans, Martian Quest, Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly StoriesShannach–the Last: Farewell to Mars
-----. "Runaway" - in Shannach–the Last: Farewell to Mars
-----. "Sea-Kings of Mars" (published in book form as The Sword of Rhiannon) - in Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories
-----. Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories - contains "The Sorcerer of Rhiannon," "The Jewel of Bas," "Terror Out of Space," "Lorelei of the Red Mist," "The Moon That Vanished," "Sea-Kings of Mars," "Queen of the Martian Catacombs," "Enchantress of Venus," "Black Amazon of Mars," "The Last Days of Shandakor," "The Tweener," "The Road to Sinharat"
-----. The Secret of Sinharat
-----. The Secret of Sinharat and People of the Talisman
-----. Shadow Over Mars (published in the U.S. as The Nemesis from Terra)
-----. "Shadow Over Mars" (Startling Stories, Fall 1944, published in book form as The Nemesis from Terra)
-----. "The Shadows" - in The Halfling and Other StoriesShannach–the Last: Farewell to Mars
-----. "Shannach–The Last" - in The Best of Leigh Brackett, Mercury’s LightShannach–the Last: Farewell to Mars
-----. Shannach–the Last: Farewell to Mars - contains "The Truants," "The Citadel of Lost Ages," "The Woman from Altair," "The Shadows," "The Last Days of Shandakor," "Shannach—the Last," "Mars Minus Bisha," "Runaway," "The Tweener," "Last Call from Sector 9G," "The Queer Ones," "All the Colors of the Rainbow," "The Road to Sinharat," "Purple Priestess of the Mad Moon," "Come Sing the Moons of Moravenn," "How Bright the Stars," "Mommies and Daddies"
-----. "The Sorcerer of Rhiannon" - in Martian QuestMartian Quest: The Early Brackett, Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories
-----. The Starmen of Llyrdis (also published as The Galactic Breed (abridged), The Starmen)
-----. "The Starmen of Llyrdis" (Startling Stories, March 1951)
-----. "The Stellar Legion" - in Swamps of VenusMartian Quest: The Early Brackett
-----. Swamps of Venus (Baen Books ebook) - contains "The Stellar Legion," "Interplanetary Reporter," "The Dragon-Queen of Venus," "The Citadel of Lost Ships," "Terror Out of Space," "The Vanishing Venusians," "Lorelei of the Red Mist," "The Moon that Vanished"
-----. The Sword of Rhiannon (first published as "Sea-Kings of Mars")
-----. "The Tapestry Gate" - in Martian Quest: The Early Brackett
-----. "Teleportress of Alpha C" (Planet Stories, Winter 1954/1955, later published as part of Alpha Centauri or Die!)
-----. "Terror Out of Space" - in Swamps of VenusLorelei of the Red Mist: Planetary Romances, Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories
-----. "They" - in Leigh Brackett Centennial
-----. "Thralls of the Endless Night" - in Lorelei of the Red Mist: Planetary Romances
-----. "The Treasure of Ptakuth" - in Martian QuestMartian Quest: The Early Brackett
-----. "The Truants" - in Shannach–the Last: Farewell to Mars
-----. "The Tweener" - in The Best of Leigh BrackettSea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly StoriesShannach–the Last: Farewell to Mars
-----. "The Vanishing Venusians" - in The Best of Leigh Brackett, Swamps of VenusLorelei of the Red Mist: Planetary Romances
-----. "The Veil of Astellar" - in The Best of Leigh Brackett, Martian QuestLorelei of the Red Mist: Planetary Romances
-----. "Water Pirate" - in Martian QuestMartian Quest: The Early Brackett
-----. "The Woman from Altair" - in The Best of Leigh BrackettShannach–the Last: Farewell to Mars
-----. "A World is Born" - in Mercury’s LightMartian Quest: The Early Brackett
Brackett, Leigh; Bradbury, Ray. "Lorelei of the Red Mist" - in Three Times Infinity
Brackett, Leigh; Hamilton, Edmond. "Stark and the Star Kings" - in Stark and the Star Kings, Stark and the Star Kings and Other Stories
-----. Stark and the Star Kings - contains "Queen of the Martian Catacombs," "Enchantress of Venus," "Black Amazon of Mars" by Brackett; "Stark and the Star Kings" by Brackett and Hamilton; The Star Kings, Return to the Stars (fix-up of four novelettes: "Kingdoms of the Stars," "The Shores of Infinity," "The Broken Stars," "The Horror from the Magellanic") by Hamilton
-----. Stark and the Star Kings and Other Stories - contains "Stark and the Star Kings," "Enchantress of Venus," "The Lake of the Gone Forever," "Child of the Sun," "Retreat to the Stars," "The Jewel of Bas"

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Games Masters Tarot

The Kickstarter for the Games Masters Tarot was created by Wartorn Games (Trinity Knot Studios) and ended on July 30, 2018 with a projected fulfillment in September 2018. The base goal included one deck of cards, the General deck, and there were stretch goals for two others, an Urban deck and a Wilderness deck. I backed for all three decks in print and PDF. The PDF files were delivered in December via a Dropbox link. The physical decks arrived a couple weeks later, in the beginning of January. At the moment the decks do not appear to be commercially available either in print or through DriveThru.

The Kickstarter project did deliver a couple of months late, but the creators kept in regular contact with backers via updates on Kickstarter. They also specifically detailed the issues they were having and didn't underproject the time needed for resolving them. The creators did very well overall, and delivered a quality decks.

The decks are printed on decent cardstock with a matte finish. They are a little thinner than standard linen-finished playing cards. They look like they will hold up to reasonable use. These are meant as idea starters, not as a regular playing pack. The backs of the cards and the boxes feature a Celtic trinity knot. Each deck has a different colored knot - copper for the General deck, silver for Wilderness, and gold for Urban.

The cards are laid out with a title, suit, and flavor text. The flavor text provides ideas for fleshing out or implementing the title of the card. For example, one of the bits of flavor text on the Location card Pyramid is "A gaping hole has been torn in its side - from the outside or the inside?" The General deck includes 18 Locations, 18 Encounters, and 17 Hooks. Each type has four cards of each suit, with 5 wild cards in total for the deck. The Wilderness deck has 18 Locations, 19 Encounters, and 17 Hooks. Again, each type of card has four of each suit, and there are 6 wild cards in the deck. The Urban deck has 18 Locations, 17 Encounters, and 19 Hooks. There are 6 wild cards in this deck in addition to the four of each suit for each type.

Each deck also contains a Thank You card with a QR code that goes to the website with the suggested instructions for using the cards. There are two other cards with the decks as well, labeled with a different QR code and titled "Character Generation/Combat System" and "Magic System/Skills & Talents." This QR code sent me to the Trinity Knot Studios web page, just like the one on the Thank You card. I'm guessing that these will eventually land on another page on their site.

The instructions recommend dividing the deck into its three parts and drawing a Location, Encounter, and Hook. Using the ideas on the cards, combine them so they make sense. In addition to using the cards in this way, you can also use the suits. Each suit has themes and meanings described in the instructions. These could be used to further describe or detail the encounters or as vague idea generators on their own. Wild cards generate effects that can result in more cards being drawn to further complicate the encounter.

On the website there are a few supporting downloads. At the moment, they include an introductory "How it works" document, Instructions, a record sheet for recording a particular draw and the associated notes, a "Precognition Record Sheet" (if you use the decks to provide divination, fortune telling, etc.), three posters, and five example card draws. I printed the instructions so I would have them on hand for the correspondences with the suits.

I like the cards, and I can definitely see myself using them. They are at least as useful as any of the other idea generators I use. The only quibble I have with them is the size of the print for the flavor text. The print here is TINY! I'm able to read it with my bifocals or reading glasses, but it's a struggle. If you have difficulty reading the fine print, you might want to keep the PDF handy to be able to zoom in a bit.

If the cards become widely available, I'll update and let you know where you can find them.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Hit Point Recovery - OD&D

Hit points and healing came up as a question in my last one-on-one Labyrinth Lord game with Glenn. We both "remembered" that AD&D allowed for recovery of a hit point per night of rest. We were also both convinced that Labyrinth Lord followed B/X regarding the natural recovery of hit points and that Moldvay had allowed for healing more than one hit point a day. So I looked up the rule for healing in LL:
All beings recover hit points through rest. For each full day of complete rest, a character or monster will recover 1d3 hp. If the rest is interrupted, the character or monster will not heal that day. Healing also occurs through magic, such as potions or spells. This kind of healing is instantaneous. Magical healing and natural healing can be combined. (Labyrinth Lord, p. 54; Advanced Labyrinth Lord, p. 105)
According to this, healing in a dungeon is nearly impossible unless somehow the character can achieve complete rest there.

So then I started looking through the various rule books to see what exactly each allowed in terms of natural healing. Needless to say, I was surprised to find that the majority of the old school rule sets do not allow for any natural healing outside of resting in town for a full day or more.

We don't see the natural healing rule in OD&D until the next to the last page of "The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures." There we see that characters do not gain hit points until the second and later days of rest away from adventuring:
HEALING WOUNDS:
As noted previously, energy levels can only be regained by fresh experience, but common wounds can be healed with the passage of time (or the use of magics already explained). On the first day of complete rest no hit points will be regained, but every other day thereafter one hit point will be regained until the character is completely healed. This can take a long time. (p. 35)
The character must have complete rest and simply wait until they are recovered.

So let's look at a simple party of four first-level characters:
  1. A cleric (Constitution 14),
  2. A fighter (Constitution 17),
  3. A magic-user (Constitution 6), and
  4. A thief (Constitution 12)
I'm going to consider that any die rolls are always the average rounded up for hit points and healing, and down for damage.

If we use the three brown books only, our cleric starts with one six-sided die for hit points, so 4. Our fighter gets a die plus one for basic hit dice, plus she gets another point for having a high Constitution. She has 6 hit points. Our magic-user also gets a single die for hit points, but suffers a minus one penalty for a low Constitution. He only has 3 hit points. Sticking with the original three books, our thief doesn't even exist yet!

With Greyhawk, we get our thief, but we also get alternate hit dice. In this system, our cleric uses six-sided hit dice. So no changes there. Our fighter uses eight-sided hit dice and still gains a Constitution bonus, so she still has 6 hit points to start. Our magic-user suffers here, going from six-sided to four-sided hit dice. He also still has his penalty for low Constitution. He ends up with 2 hit points. Our thief is average and starts with 4.

So here's where we're starting:
  1. Cleric: 4 hp using either the LBBs or Greyhawk.
  2. Fighter: 6 hp using either.
  3. Magic-user: 3 hp with the LBBs, 2 hp with Greyhawk.
  4. Thief: 4 hp using Greyhawk.
If our intrepid band sets out for the dungeon and gets attacked, they will take one die of damage for each attack, rounded down to 3. So if all are hit by a single attack each, our cleric has 1 hp left; our fighter has 3; our magic-user is dead (a character dies at 0 hit points); and our thief has 1 hit point left. They need healing badly (and a shovel to bury their magic-user). If they stay in the dungeon, any of them will die on the next successful attack against them. They return to town.

Once they get back to town, each character needs to rest for six days (two days rest per point regained). Note that there is no magical healing, because a cleric cannot cast any spells at first level. So if they want to accelerate their healing, they're going to need to use potions (not normally possessed by first-level characters) or hire a non-player cleric to heal them.

At this stage of the game, first-level characters are extremely fragile. They are going to take a large percentage of their total hit points from any attack, and they are going to take a long time to heal. Not allowing healing while away from town means they are going to need to take many short, furtive trips that gain them experience before they can stay out longer.

Jump our party ahead to fourth level each, and things start to improve. Here's where our characters stand for their hit points:
  1. Cleric: 16 hp with either the LBBs or Greyhawk
  2. Fighter: 20 hp with the LBBs or 24 hp with Greyhawk
  3. Magic-user: 7 hp with the LBBs or 8 hp with Greyhawk
  4. Thief: 12 hp using Greyhawk
Our cleric can now take five average hits (using the basic six-sided damage) and still be standing. Our fighter could take six. Our magic-user is still standing after two, and our thief can survive three, but dies after the fourth.

Our characters are sturdier, so they can stay out longer. They also take much longer to heal if they do, though. If each takes the most they could without dying, they each need to rest for quite a while to fully recover:
  1. Cleric: down 15 hp, needs 30 days
  2. Fighter: down 18 hp, needs 36 days
  3. Magic-user: down 6, needs 12 days
  4. Thief: down 9, needs 18 days
With the higher level also comes spellcasting for the cleric, though. This is where things start to look better.

A fourth-level cleric in OD&D has two first-level spells and one second level per day. There is no healing spell for second level, so he is limited to just two cure light wounds spells per day. That still cuts the time for recovery significantly.

Assuming the cleric first heals himself (and again assuming average dice rounded up), the cleric can cure an extra 10 hp per day. That means he can cure himself in two days with one spell left on day two. Using that on the magic-user, along with the hit point gained from resting for two days, would cure him fully. Day three, the cleric can cure the fighter for another ten points. By day four, the fighter is fully cured. Day five, the cleric can finally cure the thief. Once characters gain just a few levels, their recovery time is significantly reduced, even though they have many more hit points to recover.

All of this assumes that the cleric is able to memorize and recover spells while resting to heal. In this case, it breaks even. The cleric can fully recover by the second day of spellcasting, even without the natural recovery from a rest.

Another thing inherent in this scenario is the status of the cleric. Without the curative magic of the cleric, the other characters are left to shorter exploration periods and longer healing times. The cleric solves those problems, but is inherently tasked with keeping the party healthy.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

More Kickstarters

Time for another round up of some of the Kickstarters that I'm watching.

First up is Into the Wyrd and Wild. This is a sourcebook for OSR games that deals with wilderness setting and exploration, especially with a horror flair. It includes new rules, monsters, items, spells, and a lot more. I've already backed this one. It ends January 6th.

Another one that I've backed is Low Fantasy Gaming - Deluxe Edition. This is an expansion of the original Low Fantasy Gaming, and you can get the Midlands sandbox setting and a bunch of adventures as well. It ends January 6th.

Next up is The Fantasy Trip Adventures, the follow up to the huge Fantasy Trip kickstarter from earlier in the year. This one promises several new adventures and some possible other accessories. I backed the earlier campaign, and jumped on this one early. This one ends on January 14th.

This is another one that ends on January 6th. Miniature Paints -Liquid Acrylics from RPE is setting out to develop a new paint range available from Ral Partha Europe. I'm not sure how close they will be to the old Partha paints, but they might be worth a look. Rewards will ship to anywhere in the world, and you can select reward levels that include miniatures and brushes along with the paints.

Chronicle Cards - Universal RPG Tools is a series of card decks that are designed to add detail to different things in a game. They are developing decks for items, personalities, monsters, and events. This one ends on January 6th.

The Art of Miniature, Miniature Art Tutorial Book is in its last 48 hours, ending on January 7th. It started as a 90-page book with tutorials for various skill levels of miniatures painters. With the current stretch goals, its up to 120 pages. Rewards include the book, brushes, and models.

Next up is some more character minis. The Adventurers is a campaign to fund the creation and casting of 20 new adventurers models. This one has some unusual characters that would be a lot of fun to paint. It's set to end on January 8th.

The Noticeboard is a stand-alone game of side quest adventures that can also be used to develop side quests in other games. It's running until January 9th.

I have no reason to get into another wargame or wargaming period. On the other hand, I'm really tempted with the figures in the Allies on the Frontier kickstarter. These models are for the French and Indian War period in colonial North America. The campaign includes Anglo-American Provincials, Rangers (including some in Scots bonnets), and Mohicans of course. It ends on January 11th.

Retro 1E & 5E Fantasy Mini-Adventure Set 2 continues to add material to flesh out the adventures in the Roslof Keep campaign. As noted in the title, these are for both 1e and 5e D&D. The campaign runs until January 15th and includes some rewards that include material from their previous Kickstarter campaigns.

Norba Miniatures' Fantasy Dragon miniatures has some great dragons for rewards. Some of the dragons can have riders, and the stretch goals are unlocking things like various pieces of armor for the dragons. This one has a while to go, ending on January 17th.

Map Maker Adventures - Dungeon Crawl RPG for 1-4 players is exactly that - a series of adventures for the Map Maker game that allows a small group or someone playing solo to do some dungeon crawling. It includes map resources and everything you need to play. It ends on January 17th.

Next up are some more miniatures, this time factions that could be used for things like Kings of War. Legendary Heroes I is developing six different factions as part of the campaign. There are some angelic figures, elves, dark elves, dwarves, orcs, and Clan Raitz (basically skaven). There are a lot of nice models here, and the faction packs are very reasonable for the number of models in them. This one ends January 22nd.

Secretum Mundi - The book of the Secret World is a campaign to develop a book of plot hooks and ideas for modern occult RPGs. This could be a great resource for ideas for modern-day Call of Cthulhu games, but also for Kids on Bikes or Dark Places & Demogorgons. The content for this partly depends on backer submissions. The campaign ends on January 28th.

That's it for this round of Kickstarters. I'll add more as they come on my radar.

I should note here that I am not affiliated with anyone involved in these projects. They are simply projects that I am either backing, thinking of backing, or at least keeping my eye on to possibly purchase in the future if they become publicly available. Links to products on DriveThru RPG are affiliate links. If you follow them and buy something, I get a few cents to put toward buying more gaming stuff.

Monday, December 31, 2018

LL game - sessions 5 and 6

Glenn and I had the chance to play a couple more sessions of my one-on-one Labyrinth Lord game. The last session we played, the party managed to clear out some crabmen that had taken residency in some sea caves. After a couple of stiff fights, they decided not to continue into the caves under the Fist and opted to return to Castle Caldwell instead.

The first three sessions of the game, they had managed to clear out the surface level of the castle, but they weren't able to get into the dungeons underneath. Clifton Caldwell managed to find a magic-user that could bypass the wizard lock on the sealed door, but the poor magic-user wasn't interested in going through the trap door she found in the room on the other side. So, Clif hired the party for 100 gp each to drop through the trap and clear out the dungeons. [If you plan to play Castle Caldwell as a player, I should warn you that there are lots of spoilers ahead. Since the module has been out for 33 years, though, I'm plowing ahead.]

The party was the same as last session - Bruegor (third level halfling thief), Martin (second level human cleric), Greld (first level dwarf), Jack (first level human fighter), Harald (first level halfling), Neville (first level elf), Pardant (first level human cleric), and Welmond (first level human magic-user). Between the third and fourth sessions, Glenn asked if he could switch some of the race-as-class characters to race and class, and I agreed, so during the second half of the dungeon Greld became a dwarf fighter, Harald became a halfling thief, and Neville stayed a race-as-class elf.

This is one of the things I enjoy about using Labyrinth Lord (and applies to a lot of the retro-clones and old rule sets). The ability to mix and match specifics, in this case combining some race-as-class characters like Basic D&D and race and class characters like AD&D, makes it a lot easier to let  players play the characters they want. Fortunately, Labyrinth Lord has rules for both, which makes it even easier.

Anyway, on with the action.

The party used Bruegor's rope of climbing to enter the dungeon through the trap door. They lit their lanterns and were getting the lay of the land when they realized that the trap door had closed and disappeared. They started to explore the ceiling with lanterns and the rope, but couldn't find a way back through. The party was trapped in the dungeon until they could find another way out.

A man that looked remarkably like Welmond came into the room, greeted the party, and introduced himself as Hallowell. After a bit of questioning, he explained that he was in the dungeons performing a bit of magical research. He offered to let the party see his work and talk for a bit in his rooms. The party agreed, and they all struck out through the dungeon. On the way, he pointed out a couple of the doors, explaining that some of his colleagues, rivals really, were behind one. The other he explained away as an area of the dungeons he hadn't explored.

Most of the party was skeptical, but Welmond pushed ahead, having both an abysmally low wisdom and a desire to see some of the research. When the group got to Hallowell's rooms, Welmond went inside while the rest of the party tried to keep a watch on the hallways outside with one eye and a watch on Welmond and Hallowell with the other. Hallowell took Welmond to his desk and pulled a thick sheaf of papers from a shelf. As Welmond leaned over to look at the notes, Hallowell's hand transformed, turning a sickly gray with long claws. Unfortunately, that was the last thing the poor magic-user saw. The doppelganger attacked with surprise and killed him with a single attack!

With the magic-user down, the doppelganger rushed to block the door to prevent the rest of the party from entering. It managed to back against the door, holding it mostly shut. Bruegor squeezed into the room and attacked it. Over the next couple of rounds, the party outside tried to force the door open while Bruegor kept the doppelganger busy. After a couple rounds, they forced the door and killed the monster. Realizing that it had killed Welmond, the clerics said a quick prayer and covered him with his cloak. Then they moved deeper into the dungeon.

I should note here that the module says to try to have the doppelganger lure a single party member away from the others, attempt to kill them, and then return to the party as that character. Since Glenn is playing the whole party, that wasn't really possible. Still, he played along with splitting Welmond from the rest of the party. I then modified the tactics of the doppelganger based on the situation, with an eye to keeping as close to the module as possible while not making it too deadly. The struggle with the door was simply opposing strength checks. If both made the check or failed it, the door stayed where it was. If one side succeeded and the other failed, the door would move in the direction the winner was pushing. The party got bonuses for a couple of characters pushing at the same time. I decided it would take one successful check by the party to open the door enough to allow a single character to squeeze around it. A second success would open it enough to allow two characters a round to enter. Two wins by the doppelganger would allow it to shut and bar the door.

There were three rounds of struggling for the door. The first round, the party won and Bruegor slipped in. The second round was a bust for both sides. I think Neville jumped in that round. The following round the party won again, and the rest of the party jumped into the room in time to see the monster die.

Heading out from the doppelganger's room, the party struck further into the dungeon. They found one room with an ornate lock on the door, but couldn't pick it or force it.

They investigated an empty room that led to another hallway with three doors leading from it. Bruegor checked the first door for noise and traps, then opened it. He could see a few coins and a dagger on the floor inside. As he was moving to open the door wider, a thick translucent pseudopod grabbed him and started pulling him into a gelatinous cube. He failed his save versus paralysis, so he was helpless to fight against it. The rest of the party tried to free him, but the cube managed to cause enough damage to kill the halfling just before the party killed it.

By this point the party was feeling exceptionally nervous. They had encountered two monsters in the dungeon so far and lost a party member to each. They still pressed on, though, hoping they could find a way out of the dungeon before more party members were killed.

They explored another empty room along the hallway, then found a door that opened into an unfinished cave. Searching around, they encountered some berzerkers, which they quickly dispatched, and a trio of thouls, who managed to inflict a bit of damage before they were also killed. They also managed to pile up quite a bit of coin, a magic sword the leader of the berzerkers was using, and an ornate key. With the caves being a dead end, the party retreated into one of the empty rooms, spiked the door shut, and decided to take a rest.

The next session, we picked up with the party getting up from their rest and resuming their hunt for a way out. We discussed the rules for recovering hit points a bit, and realized that we have been breaking the rules for forty years give or take. I'll talk about that in another post.

The party returned to the room where they entered the dungeon and again checked for the trap door. No luck; it still hadn't reappeared. So they started checking out the doors they had bypassed on the way to the doppelganger's room. They discovered a pair of magic-users in one room and managed to kill both of them before they could even attack the party. Their luck was turning!

The next room, their luck turned again. They were attacked by some giant robber flies that were nesting in the walls. They killed a few of them before the last one retreated into its nest in the wall. Unfortunately, Neville was killed just before the last one fled. With nothing to do but press on, they moved Neville's body into the room with Welmond's, said a quick prayer and made their way to the door with the ornate lock.

As suspected, the key they found with the thouls opened the lock. The room was bare inside except for a corner cabinet heaped with treasure that emitted a green glow. The party was careful exploring around the walls looking for secret doors, but a couple of characters got too close. As soon as they were within ten feet of the cabinet, they disappeared. The rest of the party froze for a second. Wondering if they had teleported somewhere or if they had been killed, they tied a rope on Harald and sent him into the green glow. He also disappeared, along with the rope! (I gave the rope a 50% chance to go with him and a 50% chance to stay with the cleric holding it.)

At this point, Glenn and I had a bit of a discussion. We decided to resolve all of the action in the room with the corner shelf before I revealed what happened to the characters that had disappeared. I counted off the rounds when each character disappeared in the glow. When the party was finished with their action in the room with the shelf, I described what happened round by round to the vanishers. Fortunately, after Harald disappeared along with the rope, the rest of the party stepped into the glow on the following round.

The party found themselves in a large room with ten stone sarcophagi, an inlaid circle in the center of the floor, and no exits. They examined and explored the circle first. It was made from green marble and had a brass circle with intricate details around the edge. Unfortunately, it didn't appear to do anything on first examination, so the group turned to the sarcophagi.

They started by examining all around them. The tops were heavily decorated, and there was a single seam between each lid and the case. The lids were solid stone and only the strongest members of the party could budge them when they worked together. When they opened the lid of the first coffin, the circle in the center of the room glowed green for a few seconds, and then the light winked out. Seeing the light, Harald and Pardant went to investigate. As soon as they touched the edge of the circle, they disappeared again.

The rest of the party wasn't daunted this time, and they continued to investigate. They opened a couple more sarcophagi and found masses of coins entombed with the dead. The fourth coffin they opened contained a wight, who jumped out to attack the party. Greld and Jack attacked it, while Martin stood back ready to turn. Throughout the dungeon, Jack had a hard time hitting anything in combat, but the sword he took from the berzerker leader came through. He scored hit after hit on the wight. Unfortunately, the wight managed to score one hit on Martin, draining him of a level, but the next second Greld and Jack destroyed the undead thing. In the sarcophagus they found a scroll tube that contained a map to a treasure hidden in the entry room, a scroll, and a scrap of paper with a poem telling how to get out of the dungeon.

Now they had their way out, but they wanted to explore more before they tried to follow the others. They were wary when they were opening the rest of the coffins. They moved across the room and found another sarcophagus that contained only grave goods. The they opened another with a second wight! This time the fighters waded in right away and put the thing down in just a couple rounds. The next three coffins produced more coin. Finally, they approached the last sarcophagus.

As they pulled the lid back, they triggered a trap. A liquid sprayed on Jack, eating into the steel of his armor and equipment. Anything metal that was not magical aside from gold and silver was eaten away by rust in moments. He was able to save the magic sword, but his armor and other weapons were eaten away. With the last coffin opened, they puzzled how to get back to the others. Eventually they loaded a few sacks and tossed them into the circle. When they disappeared, the group loaded up the rest of the treasure and jumped on the circle themselves.

The circle turned out to be a teleporter back to the room with the corner shelf. By the time Greld, Jack, and Martin jumped back, Harald and Pardant had explored the room for secret doors again and found out that the corner shelf and its treasure were illusory. They also found out that they couldn't teleport back to the other three.

Once the party was all back together, they followed the instructions in the poem and found a secret door that led out of the dungeon. They gathered their treasure and the bodies of their dead party members and headed back to the Mug and Barrel.

The party lost three members this time around, but they managed to collect quite a bit of treasure. They were able to collect enough to have a patriarch in the city cast a raise dead on Bruegor, but not enough to raise the other two. With Bruegor recuperating for at least a couple of weeks, the rest of the party has time to recruit some new members and hunt up some rumors that will hopefully lead to their next adventure.

Despite the criticism of this module (along with a lot of other later TSR-era D&D modules), it had some good challenges and we had a lot of fun with it. There was a real risk with the teleporters at the end that the party would trap themselves in the dungeon and have to dig their way out of the crypt. This was the second of five parts in the module, and some of the rumors will eventually lead to the other three parts.

These were our last two sessions of 2018. We've started playing regularly, and I'm looking forward to keeping the momentum going.

Happy New Year! Here's hoping we all get to roll dice more in 2019.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Judges Guild's Bob & Bill

This year I was ready when Lulu put up their promotion for 30% off right after Thanksgiving. I ordered several books, including Judges Guild's Bob & Bill: A Cautionary Tale by Bill Owen. Bill was one of the founding members of Judges Guild, and the book is his recollections about his time with the company.

It is a slim book, only 35 pages, and is currently listed at Lulu for $26.96. Without the 30% off, I probably wouldn't have picked it up. Lately I've been on a bit of a Judges Guild kick, though, so I finally pulled the trigger on it.

The book is a nice memoir of Bill's start in gaming, the evolution of his gaming group in high school and after, and his experience founding and working through the first couple years with Judges Guild. There are quite a few anecdotal accounts of specific events in Judges Guild history along the way, and the book has plenty of photos of people, places, and things involved in that history. It was interesting to see some of the bits and pieces in these photos.

Overall, however, the book felt a little flat. There were a few details, but not much that really struck me as new or deep. Everything seemed to focus on the highest points, without getting into much detail. Being a long-time Judges Guild fan, I expected more.

The biggest takeaway I had from it is the reason for the subtitle. Bill spends a good amount of time talking about how creating and working at Judges Guild put him off of fantasy gaming. Turning his hobby into his career killed the fun. Fortunately, he was able to keep his friendship with Bob Bledsaw and his love of other games, especially wargaming, but his involvement with fantasy gaming is very much a fond hindsight.

In all, there is not a lot here that most fans of Judges Guild won't already know. Still, it is nice to see his account of things and his obvious love for his Judges Guild experience.


Sunday, December 16, 2018

LL game - session 4

Glenn and I got a few hours to play yesterday . He decided to have the party follow up on rumors about a beachcomber being abducted by some strange creatures near a few sea caves called the Fingers.

The party included Bruegor (3rd level halfling thief), Martin (2nd level human cleric), Greld (1st level dwarf), Jack (1st level human fighter), Harald (1st level halfling), Neville (1st level elf), Pardant (1st level human cleric), and Welmond (1st level human magic user). We're using Labyrinth Lord, so we can freely mix characters using separate race and class and characters using race as class.

The party had cleared out the surface level of Castle Caldwell and returned to the Fist to recuperate and resupply. A few of the characters picked up bows and arrows, which they hadn't been able to afford before the last adventure. They set up rooms and storage for their valuables at the Mug and Barrel, one of the finer inns on the trade road.

They overheard a pair of combers in the common room talking about a comrade that had been abducted. The combers had found a ship's strongbox in the Fingers. One of them was carrying the chest and lagging a little behind the other two. They heard a shout and turned in time to see him abducted by a pair of creatures half again as tall as any man. By the time they ran back to the caves, both their comrade and the chest were gone.

The party took Comber's Path down to the beach and made their way to the Fingers. Checking the depth of the water in the caves, they realized that most of the party could handle the depth, but the halflings would have to swim or be carried. The halflings ended up piggybacking on Martin and Jack. That settled, they entered the first cave.

For this area, I wanted to simulate the effect of the waves moving in and out of the caves. I settled on a check each round to see if there was a surge. If a surge happened, each character would have to roll a save versus paralysis to keep their feet. If one of the characters carrying a halfling lost their feet, the halfling would have to make a save versus paralysis to hold on and stay above water. Once a character was off their feet, they needed to roll under the better of their Strength or Dexterity on a d20 to regain their feet.

The party made it about twenty feet into the cave before a surge happened. Jack failed his save, dumping he and Harald both into the water. The rest of the party kept their footing. As Jack and Harald struggled to regain their footing, a crabman surfaced and started attacking them. The rest of the party managed to damage the crabman enough to draw its attention away from the swimmers, but several party members took damage from the monster's pincers. The creature took a good amount of damage in the combat. Just as it was about to break away, the party scored a series of successful hits and killed it.

Not knowing what the monster was, the party dragged it out onto the beach to examine it. They used a couple spells to heal some of the wounded party members and decided to press on. As they were preparing to go back into the caves, another crabman attacked from the water. This time the party was more successful, and they managed to kill it fairly quickly without taking too much more damage. They stowed the crabmen on the beach to take up to the Fist later.

This time they managed to search through the first cave, finding a chimney at the back that exited somewhere on the hill above. Pressing on to the second cave, they found a shelf about fifteen feet above the level of the water. Rather than risk a fall and noise, Bruegor used his rope of climbing to get to the edge and peek over.

Two more crabmen were making a quick dinner of the beachcomber, and the strongbox was on the floor behind them. Bruegor climbed back down, and Welmond went up the rope. With a quick sleep spell, he knocked out the two that were feasting and one more crabman that was lurking farther down the corridor. With the three incapacitated from the sleep spell, the party finished them off and searched the area.

Deeper into the cave, they found a place where the passage narrowed. Beyond was a room filled with all manner of garbage with a small pond in the center. Bruegor started to scout the room, and two giant crabs crawled out of the pond to attack. Bruegor took a couple hits from their pincers that very nearly killed him. He fled the room to drink a potion of healing and let the rest of the party wade in. After a few more tense rounds, the party killed both crabs.

The party looked at the size of the crabs and the narrowness of the opening where they had entered. There was no way that the crabs could fit through the passage, so they wondered if there was a tunnel in the pond. Weighting Harald down, they dropped him into the pond to explore. Unfortunately, there was nothing there for him to discover.

Next they searched the room for secret or concealed doors. Neville, the elf, found one in the back of the cave. Greld searched it and found the mechanism to open it, a cunningly hidden switch. They opened the door and found a narrow worked passage with a flight of stairs leading up. Bruegor and Greld started to search the area at the base of the stairs. The search turned up nothing, but they heard a few faint scuffling sounds from the top of the stairs. Next they knew, heavy rocks were rolling down the stairs, barely missing the dwarf and clipping Bruegor in the shins. They beat a hasty retreat and closed the secret door behind them.

Figuring that discretion was the better part of valor at this point, the party retreated back to the inn, taking the strongbox, one giant crab, and the body of one of the crabmen with them.

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This session was a quick little side jaunt for the party. I prepped it in about an hour, drawing a little map and noting the monster placement and statistics right on the map. That allowed me to run everything with just one sheet, the rulebook, and my dice in front of me. I marked the attack tables, saving throws, and experience tables so I didn't have to spend much time looking things up. This was probably one of my most efficient sessions as a DM ever.

Here is the map, with the unexplored sections blocked out.


If something else moves into the Fingers, I can erase the old and write in the new stuff or just tape a scrap of paper with the new information next to each area. I'm thinking I may go with taping new notes over the old so I can go back later and see what was there before.

In the little cut in area on the right side of the page you can see where I kept tabs of some basic info about the party. The numbers next to their names are their respective armor classes. With that I was able to tell if something was able to hit without necessarily announcing the numbers rolled. That let me keep a little mystery about how many hit dice each monster had.