Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Knights of the Road Inspiration

Knights of the Road, my Swords and Wizardry WhiteBox setting/expansion, is primarily based on the following sources in media:
  • Blade Runner
  • Dr. Strangelove
  • Five Deadly Venoms
  • Mad Max
  • Master of the Flying Guillotine
  • The Matrix
  • Wizards
  • Zardoz
  • Tank Girl
  • Railsea
  • The Postman
  • Dying Earth series
  • The Dark Tower series
TV Shows:
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
  • Thundarr the Barbarian
  • ThunderCats
  • Xena: Warrior Princess

These sources of inspiration are almost exclusively from the 80's (Mad Max, Tank Girl, He-Man, etc.), except for a few outliers like the Dying Earth series and Dr. Strangelove. In order to create this list, I started off with a few key points (Tank Girl, Mad Max, He-Man) and started finding other sources that I had read or seen earlier and that I felt would be a good inspiration for the genre of game that I'm working on, like related cartoons to He-Man (Thundarr the Barbarian, ThunderCats, etc.), movies that had a more martial arts/cinematic vibe (Five Deadly Venoms, Master of the Flying Guillotine), and sources that had a similar setting (Railsea, Dying Earth, Wizards, etc.).

Now I have a list of shows, books, and movies that I feel, as a whole, more completely encapsulates the genre of game that I'm trying to reach (cinematic, post-apocalyptic fantasy with a focus on vehicular combat) and can evaluate my rules and game based on how true to the base material the game is.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Knights of the Road

Knights of the Road is my name for a minor wargame/S&W WB supplement I'm working on, that is trying to emulate Mad Max and Tank Girl in a fantasy-esque setting. Think WH40k meets Car Wars via OD&D. Hopefully I'll be able to post more about it soonish. It may end up going in that 'zine I was talking about earlier.

Friday, November 17, 2017

More Musings on an OSR Zine

I'm still working on getting an OSR zine together and have contacted a few artists about doing some art for it. If all goes well, maybe it'll all be together sometime next year. Format wise, it will be a 32 page, 8.5"x11", saddlestitch booklet published through Lulu and a PDF version through DTRPG. It'll probably have a polished version of the Troika! inspired RPG I posted about yesterday, a polished version of the LotFP monk class I posted a while back, and some other gaming miscellany.

And all of this is after I write the last bit for the OtSoG stretch goals and at least the majority of the DCC compatible version.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

On Designing an OSR RPG

After reading Troika!, designing my own OSRRPG went to the forefront of my mind. So of course, after two days of work in my free-time, I now have a (quasi-almost) playable draft.  It basically uses proficiencies from Skills and Powers, random magical power based on IQ like AD&D psionics, and is around as rules-light as TBH/Troika!. Currently I just have to write all... 99 spells before it's playable and I can start playtesting. (Maybe having a d100 table for which spell you learn wasn't a good idea...)

Link to the WIP Draft

If I can finish writing the spells, play test the system, and throw a framework of a setting around the rules, I might commission some artwork and publish it, but that's a far ways away right now.

EDIT: After a long time brainstorming spells in my free time, I managed to get a complete list and will hopefully finish the rules skeleton this weekend.

Monday, November 13, 2017

On the Shoulders of Giants and Future Projects

The On the Shoulders of Giants KS is now in its last couple hours, and I'm working on that. I will be sending out surveys and finishing up additional text quickly and have a couple of other projects 'on the burner'. I have Bloodied and Battered, the Barbarians of Lemuria supplement I'm working on, a couple Swords and Wizardry WhiteBox hacks/additions, and some other stuff. Swords and Wizardry hack wise, I'm currently thinking about a Shadowrun hack (w/ serial numbers filed off).

Monday, November 6, 2017

On Classes in OSR RPGs

Every OSR RPG takes a slightly different approach to how they handle classes, from using the traditional four, to adding more classes, to stripping away classes. Personally, I like a nice happy medium of using a different four classes. For example, in my current Kickstarter, it includes four new classes for LotFP: the Conspirator, Corpse Worker, Prize Fighter, and Witchdoctor. This is because it was originally meant to be an entire rules hack of LotFP, replacing all of the core classes. In the end, I decided to just make it a supplement however. But making setting specific classes allows for the players to have characters that fit well in the world without being flooded with choices, in my opinion.

Inspired by:

Friday, November 3, 2017

[LotFP] Monk Class

I just read Qelong and wanted to try to make a monk class of my own so, here it is...

Inspiration: Kill Bill, Wuxia films, and spaghetti westerns
HD: d8
Experience: As Elf
Saving Throws: As Elf
     Unarmed Attack Bonus: A monk has a bonus on all unarmed attacks. This is one half, rounded up, of the bonus a fighter of the same level has. Monks deal 1d6 damage with their bare fists.
     Uncanny Presence: Due to a monk coming from far away and being raised in a different culture, something about them always seems off... Enemies facing a monk take a -2 penalty on their morale rolls.
     Brutal Assault: Whenever a monk delivers the final blow to an opponent, their player can narrate exactly how it happened.
     Defensive Stance: Whenever a monk does not attack in a round, they add their unarmed attack bonus to their Armor Class.
"He somersaults over the guard effortlessly before shrieking like a raptor and pulling out the guard's heart from his chest with his bare hand! As the guard slowly crumples over, the monk takes a bite from the still beating heart before dropping it on the ground."

In my opinion, this is a way to get the senseless overkill shown in many martial arts flicks without having to make the character actually overpowered, as well as giving the player a creative outlet. The monk is a lone stranger from far away, exiled from their home land. No one has seen someone else capable of such sheer violence and the monk will not teach anyone.

Monday, October 30, 2017

On a Lighter, More PbtA AD&D

After recently looking through a couple PbtA RPGs, such as Monster of the Week and the original Apocalypse World, and the 1e PHB, I see a couple things that I would love to rip from * World games for a AD&D retroclone/hack:

  • 2d6 Skills: A unified skills system could easily use the 6-, 7-9, 10+ roll system from AW. This way, a small bonus has a large impact and it provides some narrative elements as the GM can use the at a cost of 7-9 to their advantage
  • Playbooks: The real gem is playbooks as you can actually play an entire game of Apocalypse World with just your character sheet. Having a two page rules/character sheet for an OSR game contain everything needed for play would be extremely useful, especially for the groups where no one wants to read the rules. 
  • Codified GM Rules: While not as old school in feel, having a few set actions to help a GM could be useful, although I personally would not include this in a game I write.
If I have time once I finish all outstanding projects, a PbtA spin on AD&D would make a nice project so I can finally have something I can play without my players dragging their feet and procrastinating before they actually read the rule book, and that I can enjoy.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

OtSoG Kickstarter etc.

The Kickstarter is currently dragging along in the mid-KS doldrums but as it has already done so well and every KS tends to pick up in the last 48 hours, I don't really see any major problems with this. I am currently working on the additional material, currently clocking it at 11 additional pages, and determining what artwork I'll need. I just got a layout sample from Glynn Seal and it looks amazing!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

On Evolution

My Gothic RPG has switched from system to system since I conceptualized it. It was originally meant to be a WhiteBox hack, then switched to an original system similar to 1e Tunnel and Trolls, and now I'm considering getting a license to use one of my favorite systems, Barbarians of Lemuria. Of course, I won't be able to get any major headway done until I've completed writing for all of the stretch goals on my On the Shoulders of Giants KS... but soon my precious... soon.

UPDATE: I can get a license to use the BoL system and am currently considering whether to make it a supplement or full rules set.

Monday, October 16, 2017

[KS] On the Shoulders of Giants

The On the Shoulders of Giants Kickstarter has been live for a couple days now and it is already over 700% funded and smashed through all of the stretch goals! Currently it is sitting pretty at $784 and 92 backers out of a $100 goal. I am writing a new page of material for every $50 above $350, with art and layout, and the final product will be available through CreateSpace and DriveThruRPG, in paperback and hardcover!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

[Review] VSd6 Blood Dark Thirst

Explanation: Although I already reviewed Venger Satanis' vampire heartbreaker/homage to the first edition of Vampire: the Masquerade, this is a new version that uses his VSd6 system, which can be seen in his Alpha Blue and Crimson Dragon Slayer RPGs. I still haven't read VtM so this review is uninfluenced by how different or similar it is to that.

System: As mentioned above, this new iteration of Blood Dark Thirst uses the VSd6 system. What this means is that for every action you roll a certain number of dice based on how skilled you are and the highest number is your score, with multiple 6s only counting for attacks. You are skilled at three things, which you roll 3d6 for, you are bad at one thing, which you roll 1d6 for, and for everything else you roll 2d6. If the challenge is fairly easy, you add a die, and if it's hard, you subtract a die. If you should have 0d6, you simply roll 2d6 and take the lowest.

Character Creation: In addition to picking three skills and one weakness, you also pick three (out of 20) personality flaws, such as pacifist, insecure, and greedy, a name, gender, and age, and supernatural powers. All vampires have three base supernatural powers but there is also another lengthy list of powers that you will pick as you level up, ranging from changing into wolves and bats to telepathy.

Humanity and Health: One of the best parts of this system, Humanity and Health are how you track your vampire's physical and mental state. Humanity ranges from 1 to 6, with 6 being perfectly human to 6 being a horrific beast. Every time you do something especially inhuman, you lose a point of Humanity, but you can only lose one point of Humanity per night. This means that if you go on a nonstop killing rampage, you only lose one point, which in my opinion can lead to nice roleplaying as it becomes one instance of your inner beast taking over. Health starts at 25 and goes up by 1d6 every level. Vampires can regenerate 1d6 Health by spending a point of blood and Humans regenerate 1d6 Health nightly.

Combat: Combat with this system, from what I read, tends towards the cinematic. Whoever describes their action first goes first and you roll a certain number of dice based on how strong your attack is. Then, based on the result of that roll (taking the highest number again), you roll a certain number of damage dice to subtract from your enemy's hit points. It's really quite simplified and I enjoy the mechanical purity. Damage does explode, which, when you're already dealing a lot of damage, could be unbalancing but it can represent the bestial instinct of the vampire taking over. Also, all vampires essentially have cleave, so if they deal more damage than they need to, it carries onto another victim.

Blood, Willpower, and Bloodlust: Points of blood and Willpower both range from 1-6, allowing you to track it handily on a d6, although it is recommended to use tokens. Points of blood are similar to mana, allowing you to use supernatural powers and heal yourself, while Willpower represents a vampire's restraint. You can only spend one point of blood per turn and one Willpower per round and three Willpower per scene. Bloodlust isn't a number but rather comes into play when you're running low on blood. When you have a low blood, you roll additional dice when doing something. When they come up as 1s, you go into a frenzy, and if they are 6s, you have a critical success. The duality of this, in my mind, allows for players to consider whether or not they want to risk running low on blood.

Weaknesses and Truths and Falsehoods: As an addendum of sorts, Venger provides a basic list of ways that the vampires can be killed, as they are essentially immortal otherwise, and debunks some 'facts' from classic films and stories. I can definitely see this being useful to a GM.

Etc.: In addition to the mechanical side, Venger also provides information for blood bonds, or binding one vampire to another, mortal slaves, a few random tables, and a basis for a starting adventure. Because of the more free-form nature of this system, and the random tables provided, having the adventure as an introduction and set of bullet points is actually a boon rather than a bane. It lets the GM decide how he wants to run this adventure, while still having a list of things to fall back on.

In Conclusion: This is definitely a more free form and brutal vampire RPG than most, with a definite focus on animal instinct versus reason. It seems somewhat alike to Daniel Bayn's Wushu in mechanical and suggested style while staying far, far away from Twilight vampires.

Final Rating: ★★★★★

Update: I received a complimentary copy of the finalized Blood Dark Thirst for review purposes, so here are my opinions on the art and layout in the final PDF.

Layout: The layout is by Glynn Seal of MonkeyBlood Design, who has done artwork for a variety of Kort'thalis Publishing products as well as recently running a successful Kickstarter for his Midderlands setting. The background of the page is stylized to be blood stained and despite this, the actual text and content is still easy to read, at least for me. All in all, the layout looks especially good to me and the actual content really benefits from it.

Artwork: The artwork is from a variety of different artists and features a variety of different artists, and unlike the WotC Star Wars Roleplaying Game, this isn't jarring at all to me. Every piece showcases a different aspect of the popular culture surrounding vampires and someone's different interpretation thereof. Plus, one of the pieces, by an artist called Priest of Terror, actually did a piece with their own blood from what I can tell! That's the best possible (and metal) art style to include in a vampire roleplaying game and I have to give credit to both Venger and the artist for including this.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Review: Star Wars RPG Revised CRB

I recently got a copy of the re-released version of WotC's first Star Wars RPG, the precursor to Star Wars Saga Edition at my FLGS for a good deal, so here's a review.

Artwork: Some of the artwork seems to be reused images from the films but what's not varies between quite nice paintings and fairly cartoony images, which is fairly jarring to me. However, if the artwork was all one type, I think it would be quite a bit better, and each piece is fairly decent by its own.
Rating: 4/5

Writing: The writing is consistent and I don't see any major typos or grammatical errors throughout the book.
Rating: 5/5

Mechanics: The game uses a slightly modified d20 system that I happen to find easy to use to introduce my group to. HOWEVER, as it should be according to the movies, the Force is a tad too powerful for my tastes and the Dark Side isn't as well represented as it is in the d6 system. All in all, the system is good for Wizards of the Coast and I would play it.
Rating: 4/5

Layout: As is standard for Wizards of the Coast, the layout is extremely professional and a pleasure to look at. The background for each page doesn't detract from the actual content and helps add to the "eye feel" of the book.
Rating: 5/5

Average Rating: ★★★★☆

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Upcoming Project

I'm still working on a few things for On the Shoulders of Giants, sanding off a few of the rough edges, and am working even harder on my current side projects. WorldRP is still in active development, as is my gothic fantasy RPG and my weird west WhiteBox hack. Bloodied and Battered has been changed from a (fairly) traditional OSR game with unique mechanics to an OSR-adjacent game based around gothic fiction and the tropes contained in this genre. I may kickstart Bloodied and Battered as well, but am working on commissioning some art and getting some quotes first.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Back to the "Roots"

As much as a blog that's only a few months old can have roots, I'm trying to get back to them. Since the beginning, I've kinda drifted away from reviews. I'll try to have another couple reviews within the next week or so, most likely for my more recent purchases (none of which are new products).

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox WIP

Now that I've (finally) finished up the writing part of On the Shoulders of Giants, I've begun work on another project (well really two). One project I'm working on is a class for Starfinder to get me familiar with the system and another is a WhiteBox hack that brings a lot of the Weird West to a desolate, post-apocalyptic future with mecha-samurai and (ray)gun-slinging, roach-riding "cowboys". Anyway, hopefully I'll be able to show you more of that soon, but I'm still waiting on a couple things before launching the OtSoG Kickstarter. Inspirations for the WhiteBox hack include Dune, Kill Bill, Mad Max, and Into the Badlands.

UPDATE: The new WIP name for it is Dust, Rust, and Lasers.

Monday, September 25, 2017

WorldRP Reborn: WIP Project

I'm currently working with a programmer friend of mine on a nation-scale "computer game". Computer game has air-quotes because it is really more of a tabletop RPG that has a digital map and commands. Currently still in the very early stages of creating an alpha version.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Dyson Alehouse Published

Xeno File issue 2, the issue I worked on for Amora Game, is now published on OBS/Paizo/etc.!
I wrote the Dyson Alehouse section, AKA the Douglas Adams-esque floating space tavern.

Monday, September 18, 2017

2018 Free RPG Day Project: OSR Fanzine

I'm now officially working on a fanzine to be made/possibly distributed for/through Impressions' Free RPG Day. If anyone has any writing/artwork that they are willing to donate, that would be amazing! Unfortunately, as it is a fanzine, I can't afford to pay anyone, and may need to run a Kickstarter to afford some aspects of printing, but I will only publish what you send me in the 'zine and will credit anyone whose work is in the 'zine.

Note: The KS, if there is one, will be to pay for lenticular printing (AKA the 3D effect you see on some stickers and things) and will have to have a goal of ~3,000 dollars.

The current WIP title of this project is the Exham Priory Periodical.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

OSR RPG Idea: Bloodied and Battered

For a couple weeks, I've been working on a tabletop RPG inspired by Lamentations of the Flame Princess, the Black Hack, and Dungeon Crawl Classics, that is, not a retroclone so much as inspired by old style games. I would like to know if the following blend of mechanics seems like a good idea to anyone.

  • Six basic attributes plus Luck
  • Two main class dependent scores: Combat Proficiency Score (BAB/to-hit) and Magic Proficiency Score (sort of similar to caster level). Both of them are capped at 10.
  • Level-less spells (Kinda similar to VaM) where you will roll a d20 and add your Magic Proficiency Score to get a result on a d30 table
  • Standardized experience totals to level up among all classes. So, just like 3e, a wizard needs the same exp. as a fighter to level up.
  • Very low hit points (level 1: 3 hit points and level 20 is normally 15 hit points)
  • Anyone can learn spells, but learning them comes with a cost
  • Percentile based skills, where the actual %s are determined similar to the Fate skill pyramid, except for a ladder instead of a pyramid
  • Abilities each improve/harm one or two skills (+/-20%), but Luck affects all skills (but with less effects than the actual relevant ability) (+/-10%)
Sorry for all of the word vomit, but I would like some comments about any of these concepts that seem particularly good or particularly bad as I'm trying to get a functioning draft out before the end of the month. I do have more details than this on the system in my notebook/brain, but the aforementioned things are more of the important parts. If it's relevant, classes are the:
  • Warlock
  • Man-of-Arms
  • Sorceror
  • Druid
  • Cultist
  • Assassin
  • Hunter
  • Champion
  • Marksman
  • and Pugilist
The current WIP name is Bloodied and Battered and it's supposed to be a rules light dark fantasy-esque game.

Magical Spaceship Adventures Concept/Status Update

I'm still thinking about my 200 word RPG from a while back, Magical Spaceship Adventures, and about making it into a full PbtA hack. I would have to crowdfund the production though... I also may want to run a mini-crowdfunding campaign for On the Shoulders of Giants to commission additional artwork from Scrap Princess. The goal for that would only be ~100 dollars or so and the product would get released regardless though. However, I am working on yet another project with Amora Game at the moment, and am also working on a submission/pitch to Pyramid, the GURPS magazine. Plus, I worked a little bit on Mike Myler's Operation: Nazi Smasher for Hypercorps 2099, writing a couple descriptions. Do note that crowdfunding isn't my first avenue for a project, I just will need a little extra artwork for On the Shoulders of Giants and any major project I do (Magical Spaceship Adventures, an OSR RPG I'm working on, etc. etc.) would need to be crowdfunded or passed off onto another publisher because I don't exactly have a massive budget (or much of a budget at all...).

Friday, September 8, 2017

On 'OSR-Neutral'

While the OSR is full of more systems than you can shake a bloody, battered stick at, there are things that can be used with most any OSR system. Magic items, monsters, and therefore adventures can all be used in practically any system regardless of their origin. However, these same items will not transfer nearly as smoothly to non-OSR systems (Fate, 5e, PF, etc.) due to several factors. Because of this, I "propose" the term OSR-neutral to mean anything that can be used with any system based on TSR-era D&D. Note that while I do think Traveler, Tunnels and Trolls, and similar games can be considered old school, and their retroclones therefore OSR material, the bulk of OSR material is based on D&D. A good example of OSR-neutral would be me running Monolith from Beyond Space and Time, a LotFP module, with Swords and Wizardry Whitebox.

Also note that I don't mean genre hacks'. such as the Rad Hack or Operation Whitebox, material could be used readily in Lamentations or Labyrinth Lord. That obviously wouldn't work without due consideration due to the different intent involved in the creation, at least in my opinion.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

New B/X Class: The Sssnakeman

I didn't really have any substantial news/commentary today (not that I ever do), so here's a class to be a snake wriggling around in someone's skin!

Snakemen are actually insanely long and thin parasitic worms who consume and hollow out their target's bodies in order to use them as their personal vehicles. However, they are exceedingly cunning and capable. Snakemen will consume everything in their targets' bodies except for the skin and the bones, taking up the space between. By contorting and twisting their little snake body, they can manage to move the body in a semblance of something natural.  However, this makes them very clumsy, so all snakemen subtract 1 from their Dexterity scores. Due to their lack of agility, snakemen cannot use small weapons and can only use two-handed weapons.
Actual Class Stuff
Experience/Levels: Snakemen level at the same rate as halflings.
HP: Snakemen have a 1d8 size hit die and gain 3 hit points per level at level 10 and so on.
Saving Throws: Snakemen have the same saving throws as halflings except Breath and Magic are switched because snakemen aren't good at dodging stuff and... um... their snakehide repels magic to some degree.

Monday, August 28, 2017

On Starfinder Stuff

Personally, I'm not going to buy a copy of Starfinder, because despite the various improvements from d20, I still enjoy OSR sci-fi, a la White Star and Stars Without Number. However, I will unabashedly steal some of the improvements for the d20 games I run (usually a PF/3.5e hybrid). Quite a few of the improvements had already made it into various people's d20 games already, but having Paizo use them in an official RPG made it seem more official I guess. Especially the new full attack rules looko pretty cool.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Update on RPG Products

I just finished up my project for Amora Game and a preview of the amazing cover for my personal project just came in, so I'll be spending most of my free time on finishing that up. Once the cover is finalized, I'll share it here and on Google+. On the Shoulders of Giants will be a primarily LotFP compatible product but will have Black Hack compatible versions of the classes for those of you on the rules light side of the OSR. Anyway, that should be done in a month or so hopefully.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

On the Defenders

I'm just watching the Marvel TV show, the Defenders, and I do have a few comments. Although it does have that fanboy glee on par with the Avengers that comes from watching all of the previous Netflix shows, the different shows just don't seem to mesh as much. Additionally, some of the fight scenes seem dull, lacking some of the spark from the individual TV shows. However, it does provide a host of potential plot points for new seasons of the shows and the story was pretty great, it just seems like they didn't utilize what made each character great as well as they did in their personal series.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Tenkar's Tavern Podcast/Other OSR News

Important news for OSR fans, the first episode of the Hero's Brew podcast just dropped on! Also, congrats to Lamentations of the Flame Princess for the three ENnies and the Judge's Spotlight that they got! Blood in the Chocolate definitely deserved the gold for Best Adventure but Veins in the Earth should've gotten gold instead of silver in my opinion... although Lamentations does use the silver standard...

Thursday, August 17, 2017

On the Fanzine Again

I'm still finishing up a few more pressing RPG projects in my free time, but the fanzine is still ruminating in the back of my mind. I'm thinking that it could be based around a particular set of OSR retroclones/old school material, perhaps just B/X or BECMI retroclones? Anyway, congrats to everyone who could make it to GenCon 50, hopefully I'll be able to go to 51 and here's hoping Blood in the Chocolate wins that ENnie.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

WIP Fanzine Musings

For the fanzine I've been considering making, I would have to make all artwork/writing donations but could make it PWYW on OBS and split all donations between the authors and artists through the OBS freelancer royalties tool. Then again, I would have to make sure that I would have enough interest in people making content for it, and a decent name for it. But, as I said previously, my On the Shoulders of Giants project, and Amora Game project, are taking priority currently. I should be able to expand on this within a couple weeks however.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

On Current Project Ideas

I just wanted to list the ideas and project seeds that have been incubating and fermenting inside my mind. The one I've actually been writing and working on commissioning artwork for is On the Shoulders of Giants, a setting heavily inspired by Kill Six Billion Demons and Guardians of the Galaxy's Knowhere. I'm also working on a freelance project for Amora Game and dreaming up a Egyptian/Weird West mashup setting for the Occult 7 Pathfinder modifications by Storm Bunny Studios. All in all, I've been pretty busy RPG-wise, along with trying to think of something good for Venger Satanis' adventure writing contest, and thinking about a PbtA game where you play as evil clowns a la It. Hopefully I can get a couple of these over the finish line. 😓 Of course, in addition to this, I've obviously been thinking about working on a weird fantasy fanzine (mainly for LotFP and other similar OSR systems)...

Monday, August 7, 2017

Jeremy Whitson's "RPG Generator"

Someone (Jeremy Whitson) over on /r/RPGDesign just posted about an "RPG" generator that they finely crafted. While not one hundred percent true to the name of an RPG generator, I found it generated great ideas, and really got my gears turning. It actually generates a name, a theme, a setting, a core mechanic, and names for a few important stats. While not an entire RPG is created, with a little bit of elaboration, I definitely think the generated ideas could be turned into full fledged role playing games. Again, kudos to Jeremy Whitson and look at the thread on Reddit for more information.

RPG A Day: Day 7

What was your most impactful RPG session?
As I tend to play RPGs to get away from reality and just have some fun in a make-believe world, I can't say that any RPG session I've run or played in has had that much impact IRL, except for a few instances where cheating or foul play temporarily soured the game, but nothing really permanent has occurred in a session.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

RPG A Day: Day 6

You can game every day for a week. Describe what you'd do!
Assuming I could pick to play whatever I wanted, regardless of the wishes of my group (they don't know what they want!), I would play the following games:
Day 1: Fate Core - Setting based on using the blood of fae as fuel/dieselpunk
Day 2: ACKS - Based in my WIP setting, On the Shoulders of Giants
Day 3: The Cthulhu Hack - Everyone roll under Wisdom; you all are insane!
Day 4: Pathfinder - Standard dungeon crawl/hack-n-slash
Day 5: ACKS - Continuation of Day 2
Day 6: Paranoia - You don't have high enough clearance to know.
Day 7: Savage Worlds Deadlands - I just really like and haven't been able to play it unfortunately.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

RPG A Day - Day 5

What RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?
I would have to say, out of all of the RPGs I've seen in the game store or online, ACKS' cover matches the spirit the best. It represents the darker side of the game along with providing cool imagery that you can display to your players when you plop it down on the table and say "Look at the cool book I have and you don't, I'm so much better than you!" I mean, it looks professional...

Friday, August 4, 2017

RPG A Day - Day 4

What is the RPG you have played the most since August 2016
Currently, the RPG I have played the most is d20. I say d20 because I've been using a mashup of OGL Steampunk, Pathfinder, and Dungeons and Dragons 3.X, as well as a couple things from d20 Modern. I tend to take the same approach to d20 that I do with my Old School RPGs, a few drops of everything makes the soup better. That is, I just take my favorite materials from everything I own and use it all together.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

RPG A Day Catch-up

I forgot about this and am trying to catch-up now.
Day 1: What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?
I currently wish I was playing my custom blend of OSR goodness (ACKS + LotFP + TBH + Basic Fantasy). Technically all of the components are published, even though I do combine them into a Frankenstein mishmash. I like the domain system from ACKS, the specialist from LotFP, the simplicity of TBH, and some of the refinements from Basic Fantasy.
Day 2: What is an RPG you would like to see published?
I would like to see an RPG that took more inspiration from Invader Zim, Jules Verne, and Re-Animator. Wait... that's what I'm working on... Slightly less self-promotion wise, I would like a non-Savage Worlds Low Life RPG, maybe Basic Roleplaying, B/X retroclone, or some other system.
Day 3: How do you find out about new RPGs?
I trawl the Twitters, Google+, occasionally, Tenkar's Tavern, and lots of other sites. Most of the time I just look at my favorite designers' posts on G+ though. However, I typically look for gems that have already been published instead of new games, although I do back a Kickstarter now and then. Reddit is also a great source, especially r/RPG and r/RPGdesign. I found out about The Happiest Apocalypse on Earth, a Kickstarter project for a PbtA RPG, via r/RPG.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review of Rebirth

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the PDF in order to make this review but I was in no way involved in the creation, and didn't fund the Kickstarter.

Background: Rebirth is set in a land where there was an oppressive theocracy where the High Prophet of Aluss would force the people to live in poverty. However, seven warlocks summoned a demon and utilized this power to bring the dead back to life. This gruesome act drove the gods from Kreyo. I do have one comment about this part: "there was seven who came together, their names lost to time" versus "each nation named for the necromancer who forged it from the ashes." If the necromancers' names were lost, how were the nations named after them?

The Nations:
Sar'gon: Lawful nation full of bureaucracy and controlled by enforcers
Nahrun: 'Haven for knowledge' found in the mountains
Narcon: Reminiscent of steampunk, focuses on science and technology
Reuce: This nation reminds me of Re-Animator, and the RPG supplements, The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia and Necropunk. It seems to have a heavy focus on mutilating experimentation.
And remember, that was one of the lawful nations.
Kreuul: Gladiatorial meritocracy where you earn your status in the arena
Daerrus: Nation based heavily around slavery
Fae'ell: This is the most interesting of the nations to me. Fae'ell sacrificed a priest and serves as a god for his nation in a theocracy.
All in all, the nations are kind of a grab bag. Some of them are heavily thematic and I really enjoyed the description, like Reuce and Fae'ell, but others seem sort of like filler, like Sar'gon and Daerrus. You may feel differently though.

Rules: Rebirth uses a percentile based system, similar to Basic Roleplaying and its derivatives. It also incorporates critical success when a 01 is rolled, which is quite more rare when compared to natural 20s, and seems to be more powerful, and critical failures on a 100, which is the opposite. To determine initiative, you roll a d10 instead of a d100 and add your intuition attribute. It is interesting to me that they start talking about combat rules before introducing the attributes, and could be off putting. Action in combat is measured in events, which are similar to both a move and standard action in DnD 3.5e, but you get three of them. Using more of your moves affects your defense score, which does make sense. Base movement is 20 feet and fro some reason free strikes, which are similar to attacks of opportunity, are detailed in the movement section.  There are three saves, that do differ from the norm: forceful, intuitive, and enduring. To determine a save and attacks, there are fairly long formulas. For example, here is the formula for an attack check: [50 + (2 • character level) + (misc. bonuses) + (attribute affiliated with weapon used for attack)] – (the defensive
score of the target). And remember, this is all before a lot of the core mechanics are explained, as in I hadn't read that this was a level based system. Besides it being fairly math heavy, combat seems fairly standard.

Attributes: The nine attributes are separated into three 'trees': body, mind, and spirit, something I play with doing in some of my games. The three Body attributes are: Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution. The three Mind attributes are Will, Wit, and Wisdom. The three Spirit attributes are Charisma, Attunement, and Tenacity. The most interesting of these are the two nonstandard Spirit attributes, Charisma and Tenacity, as the Body attributes are the regular ol' physical attributes from D&D and Will, Wit, and Wisdom aren't very ingenuous either. In order to generate attributes, you select a primary, secondary, and tertiary tree. This determines how many d4s to roll to determine an attribute and what bonus you get on relevant skill checks.

Skills: Skills too are divided into Body, Mind, and Spirit. While each of the skills does have a little bit of nice fluff, there aren't really any truly unique skills to be found. To determine a skill check's goal, you do the following: [(total skill ranks) + (affiliated skill attribute) + (misc. modifier) + (character level)] – (any given negatives). Again, a tad math heavy, but it is just addition/subtraction this time. Again, the level system still hasn't been fully described, although it is stated that you can't have more ranks in a skill than 10+your level. It seems like this would make leveling a large power upgrade, as your level is involved twice in skill rolls.

Reborn: This is, IMO, the most interesting part of the book and where the flavor shines through. It contains interesting classes and finally details how you level up! There is a 20 level max. Every nation has two base classes that every character begins as. I do have one comment, and that is the distinction between base and advanced class is not as clear as I would like it to be, and you have to read the text to find out.
Sar'gon: Politician and Enforcer
Nahrun: Bard and Archivist
Narcon: Botanist and Tinkerer (Note that it calls the Tinkerer the Tinker once)
Reuce: Medic and Abomination (This section is definitely amazing! I love the Abomination class in particular)
Fae'ell: Fanatic and Paladin (The chaotic nations are in a different order than the introductions for them...)
Kre'ull: Gladiator and Scavenger
Daerrus: Merchant and Slaver

General Gifts: These are abilities that can be chosen regardless of your class, quite similar to feats from Pathfinder/3.5e. None of them seem really unique though, which is quite a loss in my opinion, due to the quite flavorful setting.

Weapons/Armor: There isn't a massive table of different weapons, but there are tables of weapons based on if they are piercing, slashing, or blunt and what size they are. With the armor, they also just have large tables of what the different statistics are based on what they are made of and their size. Although this isn't as bad as some games, I do find that it is a tad excessive.

Legendary Artifacts: Here's another section where the flavorful setting really signs through, like the sword of Gaustul, where a priest of Fae'ell believes himself to be capable of challenging his god and the sword channels that priest's soul.

Items: This item goes over all sorts of equipment that you might have in this setting, from smithing tools to grenades. Nothing really shines through here.

Divine Creatures: This section shows the spirits who are remnants from before the necromancers drove the gods away. Every one is unique and has a great description. This section ends the book on a decent note as well.

TL;DR: I would have to rate this a 3.5 stars out of 5 unfortunately. Although the setting is amazing, the system itself reads to me like an unholy combination of the d20 system and Basic Roleplaying. However, I would love to rip out my favorite parts of the setting, especially the nations and divine creatures, into a more rules light system, like Savage Worlds. So, if you want a great setting, this is amazing, but I think the creators should have gone with using a system under the OGL, like Fate.

Here's the Twitter and Facebook accounts for the game:

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

[My Thoughts On] RPG Settings

Required Disclaimer for Critics: This is supposed to be taken with a grain of salt as it is just my opinion on how settings can be differentiated, and uses a 1-10 scale for convenience. You may feel that one setting or book is completely different from my interpretation, etc. etc.

In my opinion, settings are distinguished by three factors or scales: time period, prevalence of unobtanium, and general feeling. The time period is quite obvious, being whether it is set in the Dark Ages, modernity, or the the distant future. The prevalence of unobtanium is slightly more complex. Unobtanium is not necessarily metal no. X that doesn't exist in the real world, it is anything that you can not find or possess, such as magic, advanced technology, portals, or anything of the sort. Because of this, a heavy sci-fi campaign with F.T.L. travel has a high level of unobtanium, but so does a high fantasy setting with mighty spell wielding arch mages. In contrast, a sword and sorcery campaign, where there are few instances of wizards and mystical elements, or a campaign set in the modern world, would have a low level of unobtanium. The feeling is whether it is supposed to be a horror or creepy campaign or a light-hearted and funny campaign. I'll rate a few books for example of how I think this works. For time period, 5 is the default, for unobtanium, 1 is the default, and for feeling, 5 is the default.
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
     Time Period: 5 (Normal)
     Unobtanium: 10 (Very High)
     Feeling: 8 (Quite Humorous)
     Time Period: 2 (Far Past)
     Unobtanium: 3 (Some Magic)
     Feeling: 3 (Fairly Gritty/Dangerous)
The Call of Cthulhu:
     Time Period: 4 (Recent Past)
     Unobtanium: 2 (Very Concentrated Eldritch Power)
     Feeling: 1 (Horrific and Existential)

Monday, July 24, 2017

Blog Update

I've renamed the blog from Ragtag Grognard Reviews to Ragtag Grognard PRESENTS, and will be posting more free OSR/Pathfinder stuff here, as well as more varied things than reviewed. I am still polishing up a few things about a review and that will be up tomorrow.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Delay in Posting

I've not posted a review in quite a while as I've been very busy with Pagans of the Desolate Wastes. But I do have a copy of The Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom coming, so I'll review that when it arrives. Happy gaming!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Blood Dark Thirst Review

Blood Dark Thirst is currently a playtest being run by one of my favorite authors, Venger As'Nas Satanis of Kort'thalis Publishing. So as I have not done a review in quite a bit of time due to some internet issues, here's a review!

Disclaimer: Blood Dark Thirst appears to be Venger's take on Vampire: the Requiem and the recent 5th edition play test debacle. As I've never played Vampire or even read it beyond skimming it, this review will be without knowing any of the background or inspiration... oh well! I also, unfortunately, have not been able to play it and this is just a review based on reading it.

Setting: The players are from a later generation of vampires, descended from the original corpses with demons trapped inside made by European sorcerers. The art of creating new vampires has been forgotten and now that task is left to the vampires themselves. The players themselves have only been vampires for a maximum of 100 years.
System: Blood Dark Thirst uses a d10 dice pool to resolve all of its conflicts. It has a built in cap at 10d10, which I definitely appreciate as I won't have to deal with munchkin players bringing buckets of dice. You add your ability and skill to determine how many dice to roll and then count successes above a difficulty given by the GM, normally 7. Giving a baseline for a difficulty is also fairly helpful for me the indecisive GM. Also, there are quasi-exploding dice (10: 2 successes and 1: -1 success) and something called bloodlust dice that are not explained in this section.
Combat: In BDT, attacking your enemy and tearing them to shreds can actually be disadvantageous to a hungry vampire, as it would be better to keep them intact and drain them dry. That this is one of the key points of the combat system is quite interesting to me. Having as many pints of blood as ranks in Health is a neat abstraction that helps with the focus on saving every last drop and makes it easy to GM. In this section, it also talks about the fact that vampires are nearly immune to blunt/bludgeoning weapons except for massive impacts (cars, trains, etc.).
Abilities: The three abilities in BDT are pretty generic: Physical, Mental, and Social. They are divided into primary (3 dice), secondary (2 dice), and tertiary (1 die). If you are forced to act during the day, you reduce those numbers by one day, fairly significantly making tasks harder. Besides the limitation on acting during the day, this section is fairly generic.
Skills: This section either allows you to randomly generate skills or to pick them. The method of random generation allows older vampires to gain more traditional skills and younger vampires to get technology and medicine. However, I am not sure how this limitation is supposed to work when you are picking your skills instead.
Types of Vampires: There are six types of vampires: Arcana, Outsider, Genteel, Romantic, Transient, and Vile. Each comes with a neat description that is fairly flavorful.
Name/Background/Predilection: Another neat part are three tables that allow you to generate random things about your vampire to begin playing very quickly.
Blood: In BDT, when vampires run out of blood, they fall into a coma, not waking until they gain blood. New vampires can store up to 10 pints of blood and older vampires can store more. Also in the blood section are six uses for blood, ranging from creating a vampire to waking up at dusk. The variety of options make blood very useful.
Blood Potency: This separates vampires into power levels, based on their rank in Blood Potency. As your rank in Blood Potency increases, you become increasingly scrupulous in what blood you can drink but also gain new powers and immunities. For example, a rank 3 vampire can only drink blood from vampires and mortal virgins and is not effected by faith or religious symbols, among other things. That higher rank vampires can not use more 'base' types of blood is really flavorful, especially because it describes this inability as those types of blood being unable to sustain you.
Types of Blood: This section goes more in depth on drinking blood, including prepackaged blood. If 'sub-par' blood is drunk, the vampire can not drink more than three pints per night or vomit and lose a point of Willpower.
Bloodlust Dice: In this section, those mysterious bloodlust dice from the section on the core mechanic are explained! If a vampire is running low on blood, they roll bloodlust dice. If a 1 is rolled, the vampire flies into a destructive rage! If a 10 is rolled, the action must become darker in order to gain 2 successes. This really helps to establish vampires as creatures barely held back from draining their targets when they are thirst. In addition to rolling 1s on bloodlust dice, vampires can also become frenzied when smelling or tasting blood.
Health, Willpower, and Humanity: These are three statistics that help in various situations. Health is effectively just hit points with a death spiral effect stapled on. Willpower is more interesting, being the vampire's mental fortitude. It is spendable and indeed it is spent quite a lot, such as overcoming 1s on bloodlust dice and other vampires' control attempts. Humanity is the most interesting in my opinion. A table is provided that details your morals and appearance based on your Humanity score. Appearances range from 'your worst nightmare' to 'human with inner glow'. The fact that how human you are allows you to hide your vampire nature and that how human you are can shift based on your actions can lend some depth to the game.
Supernatural Powers: Thirty supernatural powers for any vampire are detailed in this section, ranging from being able to start fires at will to remember moments from your victim's life. Once again, you can either roll or choose. The supernatural powers are not given specific mechanical impacts, although there is a variant rule where a roll based solely on your blood determines how well your power works.
Blood Bonds: With blood bonds, if you drink too often from another vampire, you will become bound to him, becoming his slave servant subject. There is not too much mechanically in this section. You can also give regular ol' mortals a taste of immortality by feeding them vampiric blood.
Weaknesses and Falsehoods: To help the players and GMs understand BDT vampires more, information on what they are weak to (decapitation, sunlight, etc.) and are not (crossing water, garlic, etc.). Although not necessary, this section, in my opinion, does adds a few useful details.

Playtest Survey Answers
As previously mentioned, I could not actually play it, but I will still try to answer these as honestly as possible.
  1. What do you think of the name, Blood Dark Thirst? It does seem to set the tone but could seem a little bit discordant to an outsider.
  2. What did you enjoy most about the game in general? I really enjoyed the style of writing and how lots of the document seemed to drip with flavor.
  3. What was your favorite rule? I really like the bloodlust dice and how they help add to the vampires' bestial nature.
  4. What did you enjoy least about the game in general? I did not like how it's just a playtest document! Jokes aside, I would like some example characters.
  5. What was your least favorite rule? I did not like how Health was effectively just hit points, although using them as the number of pints of blood for mortals was interesting.
  6. What rule do you feel is missing?
  7. Did you choose characteristics or randomly roll? N/A - Didn't get to play :(
  8. How easy was the game to play (for players) or run (for GMs)? I couldn't play, but feel that it would be quite easy to play and run due to the simple rules, as long as you didn't manage to forget something important.
  9. What kind or type of game would you like to see supported in the final version of the rules? Perhaps it would be good to see more information about sneaking around and differentiating weapons for more of a realistic feel in my game about demonic vampires.
  10. 1.      Anything you’d like to share about your experience in order to make the game better? I honestly think the playtest is quite amazing and really look forward to seeing it grow.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Toon Review

Toon was one of the earlier RPGs to come out, with it first being published in 1984. It was published by Steve Jackson Games and because I just found a used copy at my FLGS, I'm going to do a review.

Chapter 1:
Chapter 1 contains both the traditional introduction to RPGs and some advice specific to Toon.
Excerpt: "Survival? Who cares? You can't die, so you've got nothing to lose by jumping right in and having fun"
This excerpt explains the play style expected in Toon very well. As instead of dying you just have to sit out for three minutes, there's no risk associated with just jumping right in! There's no risk, just fun. All in all, the introduction is fairly well written and helps set the tone.
Chapter II:
Chapter II introduces the main mechanics and pieces of Toon. Toon only uses six-sided dice and the core mechanic is just rolling one, two, or three dice. There are four attributes, Muscle, Zip, Smarts, and Chutzpah. They can be compared to Strength/Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence/Wisdom, and Charisma for you six attribute people.
Chapter III:
Instead of trying to explain all of the rules before you can play, Toon goes in the opposite route. It explains the bare bones and then sends you on an adventure. The introductory adventure is called The Cartoon Olympics and is fairly well written. This chapter also introduces Skills and combat. In combat, both parties roll two dice and if it's below one of their Fight skill levels but not the other, they deal damage. If both succeed or both fail, nothing happens. This is fairly easy to understand. Toon uses the fairly standard hit point system but as mentioned before, you Fall Down instead of dying, you just have to sit out for three minutes. In addition to the decent starting adventure, this chapter also contains information on Plot Points. Plot Points are tools used by the Animator (GM) to reward players for being funny. The adventure is fairly straightforward and doesn't need much description here.
Chapter IV:
This chapter goes over creating cartoon characters. It goes over generating attributes (roll 1d6 for each or use a point buy system), determining hit points (1d6+6), choosing a description, natural enemies, and beliefs and goals. The beliefs and goals section is fairly in depth and helps you decide on your motivations in the game. Toon does use a fairly unique equipment system. You can have effectively anything (within certain limits) as equipment but can only have eight items. You can also have 'gizmoes'. Gizmoes are items that exist in a state of indeterminacy until you decide what they are. Then they are that for the rest of the adventure. This makes sense due to the more freeform nature of cartoons.
Chapter V:
Chapter 5 goes over all 23 skills, including the ones not discussed in Chapter 1 and Shticks. Shticks are amazing abilities that go above and beyond the skills. The base level for all skills is equal to the number in the relevant attribute and you can increase it to a maximum of 9. This is one of the more effective ways I have seen for handling attributes and skills, having a good attribute make increasing your skill cheaper. Shticks, however, are where this chapter really shines in my opinion, in addition to the good art distributed throughout the pages. You can spend skill points on Shticks which do things that skills just can't. Examples include having a bag of almost anything (you have to roll), being able to fly, and stretching (a la Mr. Fantastic). It also provides a (fairly basic) set of guidelines for Animators to make personalized Shticks.
Chapter VI:
This chapter goes over becoming a better Animator or player. It provides several alternative methods of accomplishing things that could help the atmosphere. Examples include instant mail, sound effects, and 'illogical logic'. One of the better parts of this chapter is where it goes over the difference between animals and animals (the difference between the characters and actual animals). The 'Toon Commandments' are also in this table.
Chapter VII:
This chapter includes a lot of adventures for the new Animator, or an Animator who wants more information. I'll just put a rating and brief explanation for each.
The Cartoon Olympics Strike Back- 3/5; Just one page of information on expanding on The Cartoon Olympics
I Foogled You!- 4/5; Fairly comprehensive adventure with some interesting characters and quick laffs.
Spaced Out Saps- 4/5; Funny space shenanigans, but with a seemingly shoehorned method of 're-integrating' things that have been disintegrated.
The Better Housetrap- 5/5; Interesting take on non-cooperative advanced tech as well as at least one dangerous thing in every room (save for Junior's Bathroom)
Fast Food Fracas- 2/5; What can be a fairly interesting adventure, but seems to fall through due to excessively dastardly evil restaurant owners.
Beach Nuts, or, No Sense Atoll- 4/5; Oog is an interesting character who just wants a turkey dinner!
Fangs for the Memories- 4/5; Count Gotchula is a decent bad guy and the concept in itself is fairly novel, if overdone.
Mars Needs Creampuffs- 5/5; The characters return as SAPS (see Spaced Out Saps) and must deal with the Dough Boys and stop Do-Nut from kidnapping the Kruller King and destroying the planet! All in all, quite an original adventure that really takes advantage of the inspiration for Toon.
Jerks on a Beanstalk- 4/5; The characters are actors hired to fight a 'robot' giant to help film a remake of "Jack and the Beanstalk"
Chapter IIX:
This chapter goes over creating an entire series (a la Looney Tunes) and playing in it. It provides fairly good advice for consistent characters, ongoing relationships, running gags, and recurring bad guys. To further explore the ideas of a series, this chapter includes a brief description of the Toon series Witchdusters, Car Blazers, and Spy Guys, as well as a series pilot for each. Like the adventures, I'll just give a rating and brief explanation for each.
Witchdusters- 4/5; Low key parody of Ghostbusters with the twist that they have to pay rent for the massive HQ they work at, the adventure is fairly in-depth and interesting
Car Blazers!- 5/5; Car Blazers are officers of the law who fight Teleks all across the galaxy. The adventure is based around destroying the Giggle Gun and some insane dentists.
Spy Guys- 3/5; Spy Guys is based largely around high explosives but doesn't have much besides that in my opinion. The adventure is more interesting, but doesn't really make up for the poor premise.
Chapter IX: 
Chapter 9 contains 5 'quick flicks' or brief cartoon adventures. I'll do the same as the adventures from Chapter 7.
 Flopalong Foogle- 5/5; Reuses Foogles from I Foogled You (Ch. 7) but they are trying to get the banjo-playing and badly singing Foogle out from in front of their railroad. Interesting character and "reasonable" actions.
Ant Misbehavin'- 4/5; The players are agents of the government who ahve to stop the giant ants. They have to fast talk or fight the ant queen to stop them.
The Jerk's on You- 3/5; This is a decent adventure but doesn't have many interesting features to it.
Surely You Joust- 4/5; This adventure has the players in ancient Camelot, participating in a joust. Its inclusion automatically made me think of playing a Monty Python and the Holy Grail session with Toon.
Lulu of a Lullaby- 5/5; This adventure is made by only a single character and is by Steve Jackson himself. For a single character adventure it's pretty interesting with a decent twist near the end.
Chapter X:
Chapter 10 is full of random generators! Yay! It contains humor charged generators for situations, locations, bad guys, characters, motives, objects, random events, outer space, and an apocalyptic big finish. This chapter makes playing Toon on the fly way easier.
Chapter XI:
Chapter 11 details 11 different locations, with additional information on Martians and ghosts in Toon. All in all, this is a decent chapter, though I would have appreciated more locations.
Chapter XV:
Chapter 15 provides stat blocks for a lot of the characters used as examples throughout Toon, and although extraneous, could give you a better understanding of character creation.
Silly Tables:
Last but not least is a section full of silly tables! You can generate everything from things falling from the sky to random disguises.

TL;DR Review: 4/5
Although flawed in places, Toon is a fun and creative roleplaying game that shines in doing what it tries to do, let you play characters straight from the Saturday cartoons or create your own. If you can find a copy, this would be a good addition to your RPG collection.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Anomalous Subsurface Environment 1 Review

To start off my RPG review blog, I decided to do a page-by-page review of the latest product I received, Patrick Wetmore’s Dungeon Module ASE1, or Anomalous Subsurface Environment. I detail the highlights and impressions from every single page. If you don’t want to see the minutiae of my review, just skip to the TL;DR at the bottom. NOTE: This review, by necessity, contains major spoilers.
Cover: The cover features amazing art that really sets off the module in an interesting manner, as well as a fun and concise summary of the module.
Page 1: The first page is merely the cover but in a black-and-white color scheme. Nothing much to report here.
Page 2: The second page is merely credits, disclaimers, and such. Again, nothing new to report.
Page 3: The third page is solely devoted to a table of contents and a list of all of the tables in the book. This is exceedingly helpful if you need to find table X right now.
Page 4: Page 4 starts with a description of what is contained in ASE1 and the meaning of megadungeon. Wetmore states that ASE1 is meant to have campaigns revolve around it and begins to talk about the organization of the book.
Page 5: Page 5 contains advice for running the city of Denethix and advice for referees new to retroclones based around OD&D. While not for everyone, the advice for new referees is concise while managing to hit most of the main points.
Page 6: On this page, advice is given for referees to give to inexperienced players. This is limited to a few short bullet points that the referee can just rattle off. This finishes off the introduction and without further ado, it begins to describe the campaign setting. The core part of the setting is that it is based in a post-apocalyptic land where wizards rule the wastelands, with Denethix being the only chance for a decent life.
Page 7: Page 7 finishes talking about the brief setting description given and begins to talk about ‘orbital gods’, the deities of the setting. In the Land of One Thousand Towers, the gods are in fact artificial intelligences created prior to the cataclysm that reside in satellites. From their satellites, they communicate through the God’s Eyes, which are described on
Page 8: On page 8, even more information is given about the orbital gods. It tells that for the most part, the gods are Neutral, sometimes bordering on Chaotic. It provides advice for paladins and clerics and reveals the pantheism of the gods. After this, the Cult of Science is explained. The Cult of Science is a group of people who literally worship science, using a basic understanding of some minor aspects without any true discoveries or research. This is quite original and provides a cool bit of flavor for the setting.
Page 9: Page 9 introduces the Cult of Starry Wisdom, infravision, and demi-humans. The Cult of Starry Wisdom is devoted to Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos. They are heavily Chaotic and prone to practicing human sacrifice. One of their primary goals is the seeking of the Shining Trapezohedron, an ancient artifact. Infravision has been expanded to wide spectrum vision, a choice that does make sense for the setting. Demi-humans have been cosmetically altered from Labyrinth Lord but have no real mechanical alterations. All in all, this page crawls with great flavor that really resonates with the reader.
Page 10: Page 10 revolves around goblins, revealing that they are merely the servitors of Hive Minds, aliens exceedingly like illithid elder brains. It also begins to describe the map located on
Page 11: Page 11 is devoted to a map of the Land of One Thousand Towers. It uses a hex grid, but the terrain is not tied to the hex grid. This is one of the better options for using a hex grid, allowing players to move on a hex grid but not restraining the map to fitting into set hexagons.
Page 12: Page 12 describes places with names as flavorful as ‘the Feasting Trees’ or ‘Lanthanide Wastes’. Every place comes with a brief description of the rumors enshrouding it and of the dangers lurking within, typically around four sentences each. The page ends by beginning to describe the history of Denethix and its mad ex-ruler Feretha. All in all, this page drips with adventure ideas.
Page 13: Page 13 describes the fate of Feretha, who died of a stroke and was secretly replaced by the only two people who witnessed his death. This was what led to Denethix being the haven of freedom that it is. The second half of the page is devoted to describing law and society in Denethix, especially the bureaucracy and hazards involved. This page shows some unique concepts and ideas but not as many as the previous ones.
Page 14: Page 14 begins to showcase the various factions of Denethix. The sample stat blocks provided for the members of the Unyielding Fist are quite helpful and the descriptions do suggest several concepts. The enmity between the Society of the Luminous and various other factions especially could prove fruitful.
Page 15: Page 15’s key features are stat blocks for Koyl Yrenum and Marcus Tyro, the two true leaders of Denethix. Besides this, not too much helpful information is included.
Page 16: A basic map of Denethix is on this page, along with descriptions of the Street of Upright Living and the Street of Worthy Servitude. The map is barebones, but this is a necessity due to the constant change to the planning of Denethix.
Page 17: Page 17 details the Street of Lesser Men, the Street of Industrious Efforts, and the Street of Students. The average inhabitants of each are described, as well as lists of popular inns and taverns there. The lists of popular inns and taverns are a welcome addition.
Page 18: Page 18 continues detailing locations, ranging from the Street of the Alien to the Verdant Plaza. The locations mentioned here are more interesting and unique than the ones found on the previous pages. Quote: “The poor also live in wooden tenements tucked between the slave warehouses and manses of the flesh peddlers, but it is an uneasy existence…” That quote immediately suggests an adventure hook of the party coming upon the scene of a slaver enslaving a citizen.
Page 19: Page 19 contains a quarter page illustration of people at the Inn of Alabaster Surprise, one of the more popular establishments in Denethix. It also describes how the (wealthy) people of Denethix receive power.
Page 20: Page 20 contains descriptions of more interesting locations. The most interesting location is the Bank Inviolable, the heart of Denethix’s economy, which is protected by four man sized automatons who kill any would-be robbers. All in all, this is a decent selection of locations.
Page 21: On this page, two more locations in Denethix are detailed, as well as a few towns and villages surrounding Denethix. It describes the mold farmers of Gansett and the dirt farmers of Chelmsfordshire, who hang out at the Muddy Cup. While not very serious, the towns and villages thus far seem to be quite interesting.
Page 22: Page 22 contains information on more villages and towns. The most detailed and interesting is Lugosi, a town that practices several odd rituals and festivals based around their vampiric past. For each of these towns and villages, the most popular eating houses are detailed.
Page 23: Page 23 contains another hex map that focuses on the areas around Denethix, such as all of the surrounding towns and villages, as well as the River Pristine, the River Effluent, and Mount Rendon.
Page 24: Page 24 details three more towns and cities, each of which have an interesting detail that goes along with them. It also has a table that allows you to randomly generate city rumors. The best one, “The Unyielding Fist’s got a new laser, see? Big one! But get this… it’s fueled with people! People!” However, all of them could set the stage for a cool side adventure.
Page 25: Page 25 contains even more random tables, that let you generate unusual curios, shops of the greater Denethix area, and random city events. Every single one of the unusual curios are indeed unusual, such as a four-sided triangle or a doll made of human teeth. The shops are quite easy to comprehend and the events have brief and detailed descriptions.
Page 26: On page 26, the random city events table is finished and a list of city encounters is provided. For every encounter, a type of person and a random number is provided, as well as any other relevant information.
Page 27: Tables for dangerous encounters and random encounters are on this page. All of the dangerous encounter entries contain stat blocks and a few relevant details. An amusing pair of entries are one entitled ‘Sometimes mold cakes just don’t satisfy’, where you encounter beggars turned cannibals, and one entitled ‘Sometimes when you kill a beggar-turned-cannibal, they don’t stay dead’. The town and village encounters are quite interesting as well, with examples being gauchos riding protoceratops and an ancient robot continually planting seeds. All in all, this page contains two of the better tables.
Page 28: Page 28 contains tables to generate good clean country violence, fashion for wealthy gentlemen, and haute couture for ladies of means. These tables aren’t quite as interesting, but, once again, the good clean country violence table contains complete stat blocks.
Page 29: Page 29 contains tables for generating random horrible secrets and barkeepers. Every entry in the barkeepers table gives a name and a description of their manners and appearance. Each of the horrible secrets is indeed a horrible secret, ranging from being an aspect of Nyarlathotep to not having a soul. These tables help add to the gonzo theme of ASE1.
Page 30: This page contains tables for generating villagers and urban poor. Just like the barkeepers table, every entry has a name and a unique feature about the person, from having two noses to seeking to make a ‘parrot’ from a carrot and a potato. The entries on the urban poor don’t always have detailed features, sometimes just a brief description, but the rustic villager table is more robust.
Page 31: Page 31 contains tables to generate the bourgeoisie and the opulent. Both of these tables make the characters seem interesting and have a sense of mystery or motivation.
Page 32: Page 32 contains a table to generate random demi-humans and orbital deities. The table to generate demi-humans is somewhat lackluster but the table of orbital deities lists their domain and what they manifest as.
Page 33: On page 33, the final random table is provided for henchmen for hire and a section on equipment begins. The henchmen for hire table lists a short description, a name, and a class. The equipment section lists a short background on how the assembly line and mass production are not used and begins to describe the weapons that are described. The fact that the propellant used instead of gunpowder is a waxy paste made from fusillade beetle excrement is a fun detail.
Page 34: Page 34 contains a table detailing various guns and other ranged weapons and details on machine guns and grenades. The table is fairly small and contains a bevy of ranged weapons.
Page 35: Page 35 contains descriptions for plasma and laser weapons as well as flamethrowers. It then begins to talk about reloading and acquiring ammunition for weapons, and prices for ammunition. All in all, this is a mostly flavorless, albeit necessary page. It ends on a quite interesting note with describing manifold weapons, weapons that phase shift through dimensions and use Cherenkov radiation to deal damage.
Page 36: On this page, a new table with information on advanced melee weapons is given as well as information on miscellaneous equipment ranging from paint guns to baby grunkies (read discount trap finders). This page is much more interesting than page 35 and makes me wonder what my players would do with this non-traditional equipment.
Page 37: Page 37 details costs of living per day, monthly rental costs, and cost of ‘purchasing’ a home (houses are only semi-permanently leased in Denethix). All in all, this allows you to always have an answer for a player asking ‘Hey, how much would a [building] cost’, when trying to establish a base of operations or HQ.
Page 38: Page 38 has prices for meals, ranging from mold cakes to peryton hearts, and begins to introduce more information on wizards in the Land of One Thousand Towers.
Page 39: Page 39 provides some sample stat blocks for wizards in the Land of One Thousand Towers. The most interesting one is Canus, lord of the hounds, who created the Dober-Men, dog-human hybrids after killing the wizard who experimented on him. The other wizard is Ferayn, wizard of Tab-Nakel who flies in a giant stone head.
Page 40: This page contains more information on Ferayn and a stat block for M onsantor, lord of the stalks, a riff on Monsanto. Monsantor controls a corn army to raid his neighbors and take his loot to his massive grain silo.
Page 41: This page details the history of the Anomalous Subsurface Environment, the megadungeon introduced in ASE1. The ASE was once a mine owned by Integrated Mineral Exploration Services/Dynamic Materials, Inc. that contained unique materials and that violated the laws of physics. For seven years, the dungeon was excavated and mined until a lock down procedure was initiated, locking every single person in the ASE inside. This history of the ASE interweaves with the history of the Land of One Thousand Towers and makes sense.
Page 42: On this page, the main materials that can be found in the ASE are detailed, protonium-metal, argonium, and sick rock. Each of these have special mechanic features, often saying that a weapon or piece of armor is effectively a magic weapon.
Page 43: The introduction adventure, Moktar Lair, is introduced and detailed on this page. A small map is included and every trap is detailed. This adventure is designed to get the party’s hands on some sick rock to open the ASE.
Page 44: This page expands upon Moktar Lair, detailing more rooms and loot that can be found in the lair. The characters and monsters detailed inside feel realistic and the moktars are smart, using the spider cave to store their loot safely. All in all, this is a well-polished dungeon with interesting traps, such as an electromagnet that smashes anyone wearing metal armor into the ceiling.
Page 45: This page contains a table for wandering monsters on Mount Rendon and describes the gatehouse of the ASE. The table, once again, contains complete stat blocks and the description of the gatehouse mentions the metals that it is made from. Some of the automatons using the human remains to jury rig repairs and the rift between them and the other automatons is quite ingenious.
Page 46: On this page, several rooms are detailed, as well as a table for wandering monsters in the gatehouse. It is evident in several of the areas that it has been abandoned for years, such as a green slime having taken over the showers and a black bear living in the entrance to the gatehouse. There are a couple minor typos (‘to’ instead of ‘too’ and so on) but no major problems.
Page 47: This page contains a map of the gatehouse and descriptions of the barracks. The map is more constrained to the grid than the overhead maps of the terrain, but not wholly constrained to the grid. Usefully, prices are given for items that may be stolen by the party, such as wall sconces and pins.
Page 48: This page contains information on more rooms in the guard house, with more prices for miscellanea (papers in the engineering room)! There are also rusted weapons that were once used by the guards. Cool details such as cages underneath pit traps falling if too much weight is applied and signs indicating directions are welcome additions as well.
Page 49: Page 49 contains a cool illustration of the emergency generator core as well as six more rooms. These rooms range from empty rooms to rooms packed with automatons searching through human remains to find any potential replacement parts. Dimensions are given for lots of the items in the rooms and the undisturbed wooden tables disintegrating if touched is a nice touch.
Page 50: This page contains yet more descriptions for rooms ranging from a lair of a powerful automaton to a training simulator. A bit of dark humor can be found in the hologram stating that the AES has been accident free for the exact amount of time that it has been sealed away from the outside world. Ways to randomly generate results for touching wires together and a secret closet full of loot are fun additions as well. These sections of the guardhouse are quite loot laden, with the abomination having one thousand and two hundred fifty gold pieces in treasure, in addition to a protonium-metal bar.
Page 51: This page details the last sections of the guard house. The fact that there is an empty trapped chest with a secret compartment filled with… nothing is interesting. For every footlocker in the guard room, the contents are specifically detailed. The entrance to the dungeon is sufficiently grandiose, with klaxons sounding and searchlights activating when the entrance is opened.
Page 52: On page 52, the hierarchy of the first floor is revealed. The screechmen and the goblins are abused (can’t think of a better word) by the morlocks who truly control the first floor. On this page, there are also a list of new entrances to the AES and what other factions do to them. This page does indeed do a respectable job on introducing the structure (social and physical) of the first floor.
Page 53: On this page, the first few rooms are detailed and a table to generate wandering monsters is included as well.  The table to generate monsters is quite interesting and so are the rooms. The room called ‘Eyeful of Jellies’ is quite interesting, with corpse jellies being released from the eye sockets of skeletons if enough levers are not pulled. It even provides a percentage for the players being surprised by this occurrence. The page also contains a decent illustration of the room containing the jellies.
Page 54: On page 54, more rooms are detailed on the first floor. The ‘Place of Bones’ is where bones are dumped and has a location where a green crystal skull can be used to make a non-magical object into a magic item. In addition to this, there are also an assortment of descriptions of rooms where there are not many interesting artifacts.
Page 55: This page has a massive map of level 1 and a description of another room. The map is highly detailed and easy to understand. Once again, the man-made sections are more limited to the grid but the more natural elements are not.
Page 56: Page 56 contains a small drawing of the cross room and details three new rooms. Once again, crystal skulls (red this time) are used to generate magical effects, in this case a portal. The room entitled ‘Screechman Surprise’ should be a challenging encounter for the party but there is not such a gonzo attitude as in the other rooms.
Page 57: This page details several interesting rooms, from a trapped throne to a set of evil spheres called ‘party balloons’. This page also details the dungeon highway, a passage that the screechmen, goblins, and morlocks use to travel from place to place on the first floor. Several alcoves that can be found in the dungeon highway are described and many intricate details about the highway are listed.
Page 58: This page details a cellar full of slime, a chamber with a hidden treasure, and a trapped bejeweled statue made of stone. How long the gas from the trapped statue takes to fully dissipate is interesting and the jewels and gold on the statue have prices as well. This page helps foster the unique atmosphere of AES.
Page 59: This page details a room with a trap set by the morlocks and a cave filled with the serpent. The serpent and goblin spiders make sense as minibosses, or more powerful individual enemies that would reside in the room.
Page 60: More rooms utilized by the goblins are detailed on page 60, including the goblin lair and the room where the goblin hive mind was. The room of the hive mind has been mostly abandoned after a morlock raid killed the goblin hive mind, leaving the goblins without intelligent direction. The goblin lair is just filled with what little treasure the goblins could find and a few goblin spawn-sacks. Once again, prices for miscellanea are provided, from clawfoot chairs to a mahogany table.
Page 61: Page 61 details a storage room and the misty arches, a room where the archways are filled with colorful mist. The room has unique properties based entirely on which archway was entered through. The effects caused by pouring the jug of water into the basin can either grant the character unique powers for a day or cause them to take a penalty for a while. Regardless, the potential benefits and penalties are well balanced with each.
Page 62: This page finishes describing the misty arches and continues describing an assortment of rooms that do not have as much detail as the misty arches. It contains a cold room full of human bodies, a dining hall with a cursed item, a dance hall full of intelligent mushrooms, and a carving of a bearded man who will answer any question. This collection of rooms doesn’t seem like it should be able to go together but with the background of the AES, it makes quite a bit of sense.
Page 63: This page mainly details the morlocks, with information about other rooms that don’t contain as many weapons. It contains a paper about the trapezohedron detailed in the description of the Church of Starry Wisdom that is in scientific jargon that can only be deciphered by a successful check. There is also a bit of a technological joke where a secret door’s passcode is 1234.
Page 64: On this page, it details a cool magical item and more rooms used by the morlocks. The morlock skins are exceedingly interesting, grafting onto a wearer’s skin and slowly transforming the wearer into a morlock. Another interesting room is the audio/visual training room, a room that contains a training hologram and talks about some of the rooms found on the lower floors.
Page 65: This page talks about a room containing masterpieces from before the cataclysm and a room containing a cyborg sasquatch. The masterpieces in question are da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Van Gogh’s Starry Night, and Michelangelo’s David. In a bit of irony, due to the current residents not being aware of the fine points of art involved in the creation of each piece, the price for selling one is very low. There are also two blade zombies with a solid gold hookah for no immediately obvious reason. The grammar and mechanical writing here is quite good though.
Page 66: Page 66 explores several small rooms, one containing more party balloons! In addition to the party balloons, there are wood gnomes in the shape of lawn gnomes and tunnel moths surrounding a lamp post. Besides these interesting rooms, there is nothing else of note on this page.
Page 67: This page contains descriptions of several rooms, ranging from a room with a mummified corpse holding a letter, a ‘treasure mollusk’, and a series of shelves for crystal skulls. There is also a room with a party of troglodytes trying to hide from the screechmen… who will negotiate!
Page 68: Page 68 deals with a room called the treasure grinder, the last room detailed! It is a pool that dissolves anything but gold. And if you remove ~half of the gold in the pool of acid, a trap is triggered and cylinders of DEATH try to cut you to death and splash you with acid. Basically, the final room is a deadly, and creative, death trap.
Page 69: Page 69 devotes a couple paragraphs to finishing the description of the treasure grinder and starts describing magic items. The magic items described are the amulet of vampire health and the cannibal’s crown. The amulet of vampire’s health stops characters nearby from healing normally and siphons hit points from nearby sleepers to the wearer. The cannibal’s crown detects nearby meat but compels the wearer to perform acts of cannibalism.
Page 70: This page details the malicious mirror, a mirror that is effectively the opposite of Harry Potter’s Mirror of Erised, showing you horrendous scenes. Luckily, it contains a table to randomly generate what you see, ranging from seeing nothing to seeing the viewer kill everyone in the room and then himself.
Page 71: On this page, more stat blocks for monsters that are found in the AES are included. It contains stat blocks for the lesser automaton abomination and the greater automaton abomination, along with a more in-depth description for each.
Page 72: On this page, more statistics for automatons are included. Besides the more in-depth descriptions, nothing of note is included here.
Page 73: Two cool graphics are on this page, one of one of Monsantor’s cornstalk warriors and one of a blade zombie, zombies with blades stuck throughout their body. The blade warriors aren’t necessarily a unique idea but are quite interesting and the cornstalk warriors are quite a weird addition to this monsters section.
Page 74: This page contains information on the custodians of the Bank Inviolable and the corpse jellies, as well as a graphic of the corpse jellies.
Page 75: This page controls a picture of a dungeon elemental and of a dober-man, the two monsters detailed out this page. The dober-men appear to resemble Anubis but with the heads of Dobermans instead of jackals.
Page 76: This page details the giant earwigs and the dust ghost. Dust ghosts are the remnants of an automaton carried through static electricity between dust motes and filled with great rage. Giant earwigs are effectively just giant earwigs who attach to their enemies.
Page 77: This page contains a picture of a goblin spider and statistics for Exterminators, goblin spiders, and grunkies. It also explains the origins of goblin spiders – “The goblin spider is a weapon bred by the Hive Minds for their use. Without a Hive Mind controlling it, it is a mindless killing machine, seeking only to feed.” This makes the goblin spider’s inclusion in the module and the goblins’ fear of it far more understandable.
Page 78: This page contains a picture of a grunkie and a jawhead, as well as stat blocks for grunkie overlords and jawheads. Grunkie overlords are quite interesting, gaining their massive stature (~5’ tall) from consuming too many grunkie pineal glands. 
Page 79: On this page are pictures of a malignant sphere (party balloon) and a moktar. Moktars are lion headed raiders and mercenaries while malignant spheres are mindless bubbles that stab tendrils at its enemies.
Page 80: This page contains no graphics but contains stat blocks and larger descriptions for the morlocks, perytons, and giant pill bugs. Besides suggesting that morlocks could be the descendants of the miners trapped in the AES, this page doesn’t really contain much of note.
Page 81: This page contains statistics for the pincer serpent, sasquatron, and screechman, with a picture of the cyborg sasquatch sasquatron. Out of these, the sasquatron is the most interesting, with the claw for a right hand and a computer in lieu of a proper head.
Page 82: This page contains statistics for flat screechers and steel leviathans, the vehicle of choice of the Unyielding Fist. Here, at least, the greater description of the steel leviathan was greatly appreciated, as we finally get a better idea of what these hulking behemoths are, but sadly no illustration.
Page 83: This page contains statistics for the radioactive stirges and the treasure mollusk but nothing else of note.
Page 84: This page contains statistics for the tunnel caterpillars, tunnel moth, and vagabond mushrooms without any illustrations. It is interesting that the tunnel caterpillar uses coins and gems to bait its tunnels so that it can lay eggs in the corpses of adventurers though.
Page 85: This page is merely an index of some of the more interesting items found throughout this module/setting.
Page 86: This page is the Open Gaming License necessary to use Labyrinth Lord material.
Page 87: This page contains the end of the OGL and the copyright notices for the product.
Back Cover: The back cover contains a picture of a blade zombie and an enticing introduction to the ASE.

TL;DR: In summation, although it does have its faults, the ASE is a wonderfully fun and entertaining read and accomplishes what it set out to do: give you a stage and platform to run a ‘gonzo robots’n’swords campaign’. All in all, I would give ASE1 5 stars out of 5, especially due to the cool black and white illustrations scattered throughout in addition to the excellent material. Definitely check this out on Lulu if you have some spare funds.