Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Review of The Temple of the Blood Moth

The Temple of the Blood Moth

By Jacob Butcher

Edited by Skerples

If you want a bit more science in your fantasy The Temple of the Blood Moth by Jacob Butcher is a great place to start at the price point. This 24-page, black and white module is a perfect short adventure for an extended session at a convention or a 2-4 nights delve for your weekly game. The book is designed to work with your standard OSR games, like Old School Essentials, but could easily be converted to 5e with little problem. It is considered a “hard” adventure for levels 1-3 and “moderate” difficulty for levels 4-5. The layout of the book conforms to the 2-page spread motif that is popular right now. This makes for easy use at the table whether in physical form or on a PDF reader. The art and maps of the books matches the tone, which is an eerie and grotesque mutation of a common D&D type temple adventure. 

According to the zine you will find, “Inside you’ll find Monsters, original Spells, new Magic Items, and three Random Tables for Mutations, Revelations, and Madness” and it is true. The adventure has plenty of cosmic-style horror with a healthy side of body-horror. The basic premise of the plot, without spoiling the adventure is that zealots are kidnapping people for sacrifice to their abomination of a god, The Blood Moth. If you put this into your existing campaign world just know it could forever change it with the ramifications of the story. Also, the PCs can go through some intense, will say “changes”, over the course of play. This adventure is not for the faint of heart.

        The adventure is provided with several hooks to get the PCs started, in general they mostly revolve around the players finding an abandoned town with tracks leading to the temple. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation or hacking. One option given is to have the players wake up in the temple, taken as prisoners and working their way out. This would be a good option for convention play in my assessment.

One of the features that I like a lot was an escalating random encounter chart. The chart goes from one to twelve with the challenges being greater the higher the number rolled. Surface level encounters roll a d6 and the deeper you go the die grows to a d8, d10, and then 2d6. I am sure this has been used before, but this is the first time that I have seen it, so I was impressed. It comes with several handy random charts and a few new spells that fit the theme of the zine overall. 

I think this is a great zine for the $5 pdf price point. Is it perfect, no. It has some issues with the many of the combatants having the Sleep spell, some of the damage by the new creatures is a bit intense, and without modification the BBG is going to be rarely seen in any adventure. All these issues are significantly outweighed by the other quality bits you receive inside with a cool setting and theme. You can smooth out the rough edges with just a minor amount of work. It is a strong recommendation from this blogger, check it out.

Click here to buy The Temple of the Blood Moth

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Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Faux-Adversarial Dungeon Master


               I have seen many a discussion on Facebook groups, YouTube, and Blogs that there are different styles of being a Dungeon Master. One style that is often looked upon negatively is the Adversarial Dungeon Master. This is a Dungeon Master that feels they are in competition with the players and one of their objectives is to “beat the players” often resulting in a total party kill. It is often stated that the Dungeon Master must be a fan of the characters and be there as a supporter of the characters. Some with an older mindset might feel that the Dungeon Master is a neutral arbiter basically calling “balls and strikes” in the fantasy world that is created. But what if you project the aura of an Adversarial Dungeon Master, while really supporting the players in the long run?

                Let us be clear from the get-go that if a Dungeon Master wants to kill a party, they will have not an ounce of difficultly in doing so. No amount of clever play will save you or amazing build for a character will survive. If the DM is out to get you, you are going to die. For all intents and purposes the DM is god in the game, and that give them the ability to interject deadlier challenges until the PCs die, they cannot be defeated. I think this fear exists in every player that the DM at some point could turn against them and it is all over. As Dungeon Masters, we can use this to make a more exciting game.

                We can take on the mantle of the Faux-Adversarial Dungeon Master. What do I mean by this? Oftentimes in my game I will state things like, “Oh, you are going to die now.” Or maybe, “I am going to kill your character.” I FULLY have no intention on doing so, but this makes the player fell there is a viable threat. I become the makeshift “enemy” and they then become the team that is opposing me. This bonds them together. When I then make the proclamation, “You guys are not walking away from this fight!” They have that slight moment of fear, but when they overcome that obstacle, that the all-powerful DM said they could not win, they feel like they really accomplished something.

Give the players this look and make them think twice.

                I first noticed this phenomenon when I was playing dungeon crawl-like board games that have a competitive edge to the game. I am talking about games like HeroQuest, Star Wars: Imperial Assault, and Descent. These games mimic the Dungeon Master and player relationship of an RPG, but the difference is that the Dungeon Master is on their own side and out to win. In these games I was almost always the DM figure role. I noticed that players started calling me names, like “Dirty Imperial Scum” or “Bastard Sorcerer”. I became the personification of their enemy in the game because I was it. I was there to try and win, because if I won, I got cool stuff in the game too. This led to me playing hard to win and really pushing the players if they wanted to win. I remember playing Imperial Assault and I won the first 3 missions; I was killing it. The fourth mission they managed to win with only one character left on the board. The Rebel players literally jumped out of their seats they were so excited. High fiving each other and rubbing it in my face.

                The difference between these two situations though is that the power of the Dungeon Master role in the board games is limited by the rules. The power that is afforded a Dungeon Master in an RPG is virtually unlimited. The idea of the board game is that it is an equal playing field between the two groups whereas in a traditional RPG there is a clear imbalance in the way the power dynamic is structured. Thus, some kid gloves need to be applied. You cannot use this tactic when the players are already almost down and out. You cannot use this tactic on a player that has already had a string of terrible luck. You can use this tactic when the players are fully rested and ready-to-go. You can use this tactic when the players have a string of good luck. A basic guideline is to not pile-on the player or group but antagonize them a bit when they feel superior or immune from harm.

                Bottom line is that I want my players to be successful and I want their characters to do well and grow. I do not want it to be easy for them, because the struggle is the fun. I want my players to have ups and downs, but always feel like their character’s life could be in danger. If I must tease them a bit to make the win feel good, I will. Remember that a dramatic statement like, “I going after you, because I want you to die,” and a roll to hit out from behind the DM’s screen will add tons of tension to the game. Push on your players a bit, but do not push too hard.

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Old School Essentials (OSE) - Barrowmaze/Stonehell #5 on YouTube

    This week the party travels back to Stonehell and clears out the old gatehouse. They have a pretty comical run in with goblins and a a not-so comical run in with Stirges. I hope you are enjoying the series.

Some are reporting not being able to see the videos above (Especially on mobile devices), if so, here is a direct link to the channel. Click HERE.

My Twitch channel for live videos is HERE.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Lessons On Using Roll20 - Tokens & Websites

           After I posted the first video on setting up a Roll20 game and using the character sheet, I had plenty of people wanting to know how I created tokens in my games. This video goes over token creation and implementation on Roll20. The video also covers some of the websites I use in my Barrowmaze/Stonehell game. These cover the Barrowmaze random tables page and the Old School Essentials SRD website. I hope people are enjoying and getting use out of the videos and if they have something they want to know about, please let me know in the comments.

If you are having problems viewing the video (happens with mobile users) here is a direct link to the YouTube channel. Click HERE.

Lesson #1 on Basics in Roll20 and the Character Sheet is HERE.

My Twitch channel for live videos is HERE.

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Monday, September 28, 2020

Why Rolling to Cast is a Bad Idea

               This article is really in response to Professor Dungeon Master and his video(s) where he professes to like random results for casting spells. Let me be clear here first, I love the Dungeon Craft YouTube videos and I love the FB group. I have stolen many of the Professor’s ideas and agree with him about 90% of the time, but I must break from him on this subject. This video also runs in complete opposition to the magic system that is used in Dungeon Crawl Classics. I love DCC’s style and I think their approach is wild. I like many of their adventures, but I will not be running any straight DCC anytime soon. The game, for me, is a bit too random. Though if that is your thing, more power to you.

DCCs art is rad.

                I brief synopsis of what I call “random” casting (or rolling to cast) is when a wizard/cleric casts a spell the player rolls a d20 to see if it is successful or not. Spells in this type of setting are not automatic (though I would argue that they are not automatic in classic D&D either). Depending on the d20 roll you can have about four outcomes. The spell goes off normally, the spell fails, the spell critically succeeds, the spell critically fails. The other bonus to this system is that spells can be cast an unlimited amount of times, but there is always a chance that the spell will backfire. I am sure that I am underselling the system a bit, but I think this is an accurate rough outline of how this system works.

Here is the video with his house rules. I agree with many, but not "Roll to Cast".

                Here are some of the reasons that I think this is not the best system to use. These opinions are coming from a classic D&D OSE/OSR perspective, so please keep that in mind.

1 – It is already tough being a low-level caster

                I have been running OSE/OSR now hardcore for about the last years and the biggest pile of dead heroes that I have is wizards. In my opinion they have the highest bar to cross as far as gaining levels, with the least going for them. They have bad ACs, they cannot use weapons, they have low hit points, and the list keeps going. The one thing they do have is a spell that possibly can turn the tide of battle once a day. Clerics are similar in that they have earn an entire level before even getting a spell and (odds are) that spell will be crucial in keeping another character alive. I just do not see the reason for having the one thing that makes both the classes unique fail or go catastrophically horrible. Why would people then really want to play these classes? The wizard sits back biding his moment and does little in the combats of the night. The Ogre rounds the corner, the party looks at towards the wizard and the wizard grins. He chants his magic as his eyes glow and casts Sleep. He then rolls a 1 and puts his entire party to Sleep and gets his head caved in by the Ogre. Fun times. They get one thing, let that thing be reliable.

2 – Unlimited casting is not a good option either

                I can hear the comments now, just allow the casters to cast unlimited spells with a risk and that solves everything. I am currently playing in a Microlite20 game where my character can cast not unlimited, but quite a few spells compared to his OSE counterpart. I can drop Sleep like it is nobody’s business. This makes fights boring for the other party members. Since I can cast it roughly 10 times, we can navigate most of a dungeon without many combats. I go out of my way to not cast it because I want other party members have a chance to shine. When you can cast that many spells at low level, even with the chance of failure, it can reduce the dramatic tension of a session a lot. Combat, Sleep, Bash, Next, Combat, Sleep, Bash, Next, Etc. Spells as a limited resource is a good thing and even plays into the fiction well. The wizard is tiring and cannot produce more magic, the cleric is desperate, and their faith is wavering. While I believe low-level casters, especially wizards, need a few more spells, unlimited spell casting just does not seem to fix this problem.


This supplement does have a critical system for magic if people are interested.


                As I said in the beginning, I do not want this to come off as an attack on Dungeon Craft. I love the channel and respect the Professor. This is just one professor sharing his opinion on the subject as well. I would highly encourage you to check out Dungeon Craft as a YouTube station and a FB book group, you will not regret it. I also want to state that I like DCC and Goodman games. I own several products. I encourage people to buy DCC, because even though I do not run it, I have farmed it for many ideas and their adventure modules are some of the best in print now.

This is one of my favorite of his videos and rings so true.

I have previous blog posts on my thoughts on Wizards and possible ways to improve them at low levels. Check them out HERE and HERE.

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Monday, September 21, 2020

Lessons On Using Roll20 - Character Sheet

          With Covid playing such a large part in the world today and D&D groups not being able able to get together, Roll20 is becoming more of a utility. I had plenty of people ask after watching my videos about Roll20 and some of the ways that I use it. I decided to make a video explaining some of the basics of Roll20 and things I have learned so far. This video focuses mainly on setting up a game for Old School Essentials (or any of the games in the BX umbrella) and how to use the character sheet. The sheet that was built for Roll20 is amazing and really does do a lot of the heavy lifting for both players and the DM. I hope you enjoy the video and learn a thing or two along the way.

Some are reporting not being able to see the videos above, if so, here is a direct link to the YouTube channel. Click HERE.

My Twitch channel for live videos is HERE.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Stonehell - A Megadungeon for the DM on a Budget


       Stonehell is one of the neo-classic OSR megadungeons that I am currently running on Roll20. This has given me ample time to study the book(s) and see how I am planning on implementing it into my current shared universe. I am trying to weave both Stonehell and Barrowmaze together into one grand cohesive area and it think it will go over well. I have already reviewed Barrowmaze and I gave it quite the kudos for its quality and abundance of play material. Stonehell and Barrowmaze are similar and vastly different in many ways. I believe with both games you are getting some amazing products, but the devil is in the details on both.

What is Stonehell?

Stonehell is a megadungeon that has been constructed in a clever manner. It was designed for Labyrinth Lord Revised, so that means it is easily compatible with all TSR/OSR products, like Old School Essentials. All dungeon levels are made up of four separate smaller dungeons that when combined make a super level. Each of the areas has its own flavor and its own unique traps and denizens, but the game has some lovely theme going on here. The full dungeon is separated into two books, basically the first 5 levels, and the last 5 levels. As the dungeons go deeper, they get not only more dangerous, but more and more unusual. There are some gonzo things that can be thrust upon the players, and the survivability of the dungeon is grueling. 

        Stonehell in the fiction was a social experiment gone wrong. It was designed to be a prison that the prisoners dug for themselves. Eventually the prison became filled with so many people, it took on a life of its own. The prisoners dug deeper to escape the prying eye of guards and rules and set up mini-domains in the dungeon’s depths. Eventually the prison was liberated, but many decided to stay, and many were driven so mad by their time they had no choice but to stay. Time has passed and it is now the gathering place for many a strange group of people and humanoids. If I had to give it a feel from a video game, I might suggest Bioshock.

        There is an overall thread/plot happening in the dungeon, in fact, besides the main plot there are a bunch of mini-plots that can be latched onto as well. The players can slowly over time see the danger Stonehell presents and choose to stop it, or just steal its riches and run far away. I find the plot to be interesting and quite fun, but I am not going to spoil it here, buy the books and find out. 

This section would be 1/4th of a level in a dungeon.

Good and the Bad

I think the biggest feature you receive with Stonehell is a lot of bang for your buck. For people that were turned off at the price tag of Barrowmaze, this is a much easier pill to swallow. The first book, Down Night-Haunted Halls, is $13 for a printed copy. The second book, Into the Heart of Hell, will run you $18 for a printed copy. You get roughly 40 dungeons for $31 which is an amazing deal. The print quality is good for the price and comes in a black and white paperback format. I love the fact that I can just take a small chunk out of these books and make my own dungeon out of it. In fact, you do not need to run Stonehell itself for this to be useful. Want to throw your players into a snake cults ancient temple? There is a dungeon for that. Want to have a dungeon out-of-time? There is a dungeon for that. Want to have a lair of trolls? There is a dungeon for that. It is a grab bag full of goodness.

The thing people might not like about this dungeon is that there are not a lot of bells and whistles as far as production value. The book is straight forward and does not have a lot of amazing art or a town with which to venture from into Stonehell. You get a basic background and a plot thread, then it is straight into the meat of the project. Not a lot of frills to go with it, but in general it is not needed for many DMs. I connected this adventure to Barrowmaze and now Bogtown is the base of operations for going into Stonehell, simple and effective. We all have a “base camp town” in our back pocket we can use for an adventure like this. Whether is a Keep on the Borderlands or a Village named Hommlet, it is easy to get around this perceived negative. 


Overall, you are not going to get a much better dungeon for the price. This product is for the thrifty DM, that does not want a lot of extras, but a lot of meat. I think comparing it to Barrowmaze is fair and to say they are similar products. Some people will want the car with a lot of extras and a shiny coat of paint. Some people will want an affordable car that certainly gets the job done. Let’s face it, many of us will want them both! 

Are you lacking a town to run Stonehell out of? Try Niklas Wistedt's free town HERE.

You can check out my full review of Barrowmaze by clicking HERE.

You can purchase Stonehell HERE.

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Thursday, September 10, 2020

Old School Essentials (OSE) - Barrowmaze #3 and Stonehell #1 on YouTube


               This week I am dropping two more videos for my Old School Essentials campaigns. Yes, the plural is correct. I went ahead and added a second game to my OSE list, this time it is the also infamous Stonehell. I am actually setting the two games in the same area and allowing them to effect one another. I am hoping to base one game out of Helix for Barrowmaze and I am setting up the other to be out of Bogtown for Stonehell. This way, down the line, I might have some crossover in the games and allow players to jump between them. We will see how it goes.

Barrowmaze #3

               This week the Magic-User was not able to show, but the group did manage to make it to the Barrowmoors and open another mound. They were waylaid by a set of zombies and almost did not make it out alive. I did have a GM mess up that I remembered after the game, Zombies always go last in combat. This could have changed things greatly for the party, so I plan to retcon a bit next week and give a special bonus to the group. I hope you enjoy it.

Stonehell #1

                This is an interesting situation. I was running a game for this group for about 6 months before the pandemic hit. We have not played since, because honestly I was a bit overwhelmed and also not comfortable with Roll20. This group consists of a Dwarf, a Half-Orc, and a Cleric. All of them are 3rd level and the only "new" character is the Cleric. The Cleric rolled AMAZING stats and was watched by all of us. I use 4d6, drop the lowest, in order and it was something amazing to be seen. I allowed him to carry over half his XP from a previous character that was eaten by goblins. 

               We had some technical issues and some learning curve with the players that are new to Roll20, but I think the game went smoothly. We got a late start due to having to get are ducks in a row and transferring characters into the Roll20 platform, but that is all before the recording. I am really excited about the Stonehell campaign and I want to see how it compares to Barrowmaze.

Some are reporting not being able to see the videos above, if so, here is a direct link to the channel. Click HERE.

You can check out my full review of Barrowmaze by clicking HERE.

My Twitch channel for live videos is HERE.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Old School Essentials - Barrowmaze on YouTube

     I have started a Twitch/YouTube with my current games. I am running OSE as the rules and Barrowmaze as the setting. The games are being conducted via Roll20 and they are nothing fancy. You see them from my perspective as the DM and you can see many of the resources I use throughout the games. Also, I play in a 5e game with my longtime friends that got me into AD&D when I was about 10. That game I am not running, but I am playing with my friend Mike as the DM. 

Here is episode #1, it was a little bit of a technical mess. We were getting use to the new technology. I have played on Roll20 a decent amount, but running games was a new proposition. We got into the story a bit, but if you want to skip to #2 you will not be too lost.

Here is episode #2 and I feel much better about this one. We get into some real action in the game and you can see how OSE and Barrowmaze really play out. I have run Barrowmaze in person before for about a year and have been running D&D most of my life. I hope I have a least some skill in the area. 

    As many know, I am a college professor and advisor. I also run a gaming club at the college for students. They were playing in my Barrowmaze campaign and we are going to try and pick up the game after a 6 month hiatus due to the virus. I plan to merge the games and have what happens in one, effect what happens in the other. We'll see how that works. I plan to let my group in the videos above have a bit more time in the Barrow Mounds before the other group comes back. My students will therefore be on a separate adventure for awhile before heading back to Helix.

Some are reporting not being able to see the videos above, if so, here is a direct link to the channel. Click HERE.

You can check out my full review of Barrowmaze by clicking HERE.

My Twitch channel for live videos is HERE.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

OSE Gamers Helping OSE Gamers


Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy: Rules Tome - Necrotic Gnome ...

           With the worldwide pandemic happening and a worldwide recession also happening for some I must imagine this Kickstarter has come at the worst time. What if those of us that are fortunate enough to still have a job chipped in to help those that are having a rough time? I honestly do not know what this looks like, I am just spit-balling an idea. In general, this would help the Kickstarter by adding money to it and possibly help some OSE gamers who have fallen on hard times. While I do not have piles of cash laying around my house, I am sure that I could afford a set of the new Advanced books to send to someone.



               I am an idea man, not a logistics man, so pulling this off would take some ideas from the community. I am sure we would need a way to pool the funds, place the orders, find those in need, and possibly vet those people as well. I would be interested to hear any ideas people have that are interested in the idea.


                I feel rather helpless during the pandemic. I live in Florida and I am a diabetic. I never venture from my house and it can really get you down. I guess this idea springs from the part of me that wants to try and do SOMETHING.

Friday, August 7, 2020

A Review For The Adventurer’s Guide to The Yol’Najj Forest


          Zine Quest 2 was a few months ago and many of the products are starting to reach the public. This week I received The Adventure’s Guide to the Yol’Najj Forest by Zeshio. I was not familiar with Zeshio before this project, but I was pulled in by the evocative art that many have mentioned has a Mike Mignola feel. I also knew going in that it would be a micro-setting that would be system agnostic. Other than that, I was just taking a $10 chance on a product. I am happy that I took that chance, because dollar for dollar, this was one of the best products I have purchased in a while.   

What You Get In The Book

-          37 pages including the interior of the back cover

-          3 maps (1 valley, 1 city, 1 fortress)

-          10 new pieces of gear/magic items

-          9 factions

-          15 NPC character descriptions

-          Lots of new creatures and plants

-          Plenty of lovely art

-          A ton of random charts

-          More stuff I did not mention

As you can see quite a bit is crammed into 37 pages of content. The one thing you cannot blame Zeshio for is not giving you plenty for the price of admission.


The Concept

                The setting for the book is about a magical forest and the surrounding areas. Besides the forrest itself there is the Cutting Fields, the Mycon Swamp, the Yol’Najj Jungle, the Votari Vertical Caverns, the Oldwood, Volax – The Crystal City, and the Crystal Crevice. Each location has a section in the book and gets a few pages of description, factions, monsters, and interesting inhabitants. The magic forest also sits on an ancient ley line that gives it power. The ley line is corrupted and causes an explosion in the mountain nearby raining magical crystals all over the area. These crystals are influencing the local flora and fauna in various ways. There are several factions in the area, and each are reacting to the magical crystals and the disease it creates, in different ways. As time goes on you can form relationships with different factions and completing missions for the factions will help in shaping the world around them.

Stuff I Like

                I have other articles that I talk about my love of “plug and play” mini-settings and this is just that. I could easily plug in all or part of this book into a larger campaign like Barrowmaze. If you are a reader of mine, you might have seen me compliment Thunder Rift as a product, and this is a smaller version of that. I also like that the art truly gives you a feel for the setting. Zeshio seems to have on their website different art projects and seems to be quite proficient in their craft. It would be easy to snip pictures from the PDF to create an art book for the players to look at during game or make tokens for Roll20 and the like.

                The game is completely system agnostic and I do mean completely. There is not a stat in the entire book, just suggestions on powers or effects that should happen. I find myself automatically figuring out how I would make this magic item in Old School Essentials, 5e, or even Savage Worlds. This can literally be used with any system and is like Rocketship Empires in that respect if you are familiar with that game. Here is an example of a magic effect from an item in the book.

“Those hit with the bow are stunned briefly and take decay damage. Shadowy, ethereal tendrils cover the bow.”

                In OSE, because OSR rules are a bit brutal, I would have it be a +1-bow doing d6 damage, plus a save vs paralysis or suffer an additional d6 damage from dark energies.  If I were running it in 5e, I would have the have the bow be a +2 and do D8+2 damage plus a Constitution saving throw. On a fail, the victim is slowed the next turn and takes an additional 2d8 necrotic damage. As you can see it is completely flexible with whatever system you are planning to use and since I run a host of different games it is useful in my entire collection. 

What You Might Not Like About It

                I can see that some people might not like the fact that the game is completely game agnostic. There are suggestions on how monsters and items should be, but if you really want stats, this is not the supplement for you. I have been playing RPGs and especially D&D for 30 years and coming up with things on the fly are not difficult for me, but I know some people do not want to put work into a product for which they are paying money. I understand that feeling.

                The game has a subsystem in it that needs to be tracked if the setting is to be used fully. There is a mechanic that tracks Order, Health, Chaos, and Death. The actions that players take need to be tracked and they effect how the forest and the area react. Over time the meters will build, and the forest changes and different factions will take different actions. It is a bit of a clock mechanic that allows actions to happen in the background and make the world feel more alive. To be completely fair and honest, the mechanic is not that difficult to track, but I know some people do not want to have anything extra to do when running a game.


Where Can You Get It

                I do not think that it is currently available in print format, outside of the people who backed the Kickstarter. It is available in PDF format for $7.99 from here. For the price I do not think you can beat it. Possibly if there is enough demand another run of the physical product can be done.

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Thursday, July 23, 2020

Old School D&D Trove Found

Was browsing the 5e PHB index when... - Imgur

                I am from Florida and I have been riding out many of the heavy Corona weeks up in Maine with my in-laws. My wife decided to go digging around in the attic for some of her old stuff and stumbled across my brother-in-law’s old D&D collection. I thought I would share the photos of what I have found so far, I heard there might be more. I have several of these, but many I do not have, and I love getting to look through the older collection. Many of these I did not even have back in the day, so it is a real treat. Hope you enjoy the pictures.

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Friday, March 20, 2020

Novels to Get You Through the Novel Virus

         A lot of us have more time on our hands these days. We can possibly catch up on some reading and audiobook listening. These are some of my foundational readings that heavily influence my running of all my RPGs. These are not your typical Vance or Lovecraft suggestions, which are great suggestions. Many of these were produced in a post-D&D world, and one directly shows that. I hope maybe you can find a little bit of comfort in these books and I am happy to share them.

Guardians of the Flame

This is my #1 suggestion for a few reasons. This is what would have really happened in the D&D cartoon, if it were not for kids. This is the story of a group of college kids that are placed into their D&D characters and have to survive in that world. The world they are placed into is brutal and harsh, and the combat is deadly. This is not about high adventure, but abject survival. Another advantage is that there are many of these books. If you enjoy them, you will have plenty to read. Lastly, they are cheap nowadays. They have a combined edition of the first 3 books for $9.99. One word of caution though, these books are brutal. Death, torture, sexual assault, and slavery are all in these novels, so please be warned.

You can find The Guardians of the Flame HERE.

Sword-Dancer Series: Books of Tiger and Del

These books were some of my favorite as a kid/teen. They are a different type of fantasy novel and the setting is interesting. Looking back, these books slightly dip into romance novel territory, but the fantasy content is great. Sword-Dancers are hired warriors that solve disputes between rivals without full on war. Both the protagonists, Tiger and Del, are Sword-Dancers, but from different backgrounds and methods. In the beginning, Del is from the North searching for her stolen brother in the sands of the south. She hires Tiger as her guide, as he is a former slave that knows the lands. Then the stories travel all over the world, with magic and adventure.

You can find the Books of Tiger and Del HERE.

The Kingkiller Chronicles

This might be a little better known since the author is a prominent figure in modern D&D. The first book in this series, In the Name of the Wind, was a complete breath of fresh air to me. My father-in-law actually gave it to me the first time I visited them in Maine. The story is told almost in three layers. There is the current day, with the main character telling his story. The past, with the character recalling his life. Then the legend, you keep hearing about legendary feats of the protagonist. It paints the picture of a beautiful world with its own rules and magic. If you have not, you should check it out. 

You can find The Kingkiller Chronicles HERE.

Honorable Mention

Throne of the Crescent Moon

       The only reason this is not a full recommendation is because it says it is book 1. It is a complete story, but leaves room to continue. There does not seem to be a future book coming. This is the story of a Ghul hunter in and fantasy Arabian setting. I think the story and the characters are amazing, and it puts you into a truly foreign culture. No goblins, no elves, but and great story.

To find Throne of the Crescent Moon go HERE.

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Monday, March 16, 2020

Rolling Ability Scores – DMG Delve Part 2

        You would think with all these years into the hobby, and all the characters that have been created we would know a few solid truths. One truth that tends to get circulated is that stats should be 3d6 straight down the line, no exceptions! This is not the case in the AD&D 1e Dungeon Master’s Guide. We come to a section early in the book about “Creating The Player Character” and the first sub-section is “Generation Of Ability Scores”. This section gives you information not only on the generation of PC stats, but NPCs as well. While many in the OSR movement claim that modern D&D has a tendency towards super heroes, it seems clear from Gary’s writing that the PCs in Dungeons & Dragons should be “a viable character of the race and profession which he or she desires”. 

Gary admits that it is possible to generate playable characters by rolling 3d6, but only after “an extended period of attempts at finding a suitable one due to the quirks of the dice”. This shows too that rolling over and over again to get a character’s stats at least was a thing. He also discusses how creating lower quality characters can often lean to characters having a short life and this in turn discourages new players. I think this is a great insight and I have argued this for a while online, people (in general) don’t like their characters dying. This can drive people from the game before they ever really try it. One of the best parts of the game is the ability to create a character that is “yours” and getting to play that character. This is not to say that characters should be immune to death, which is going too far. Without a solid threat of consequences, you are robbed of a sense of danger and accomplishment. We should though strive to have characters that are viable for their profession. Thus the rolling system used to create them must tilt slightly in the PCs favor. This should create adventuring folk, not monster bait. With this in mind Gary discusses four methods for rolling attributes for your PCs.

Method I: 

All  scores  are  recorded  and  arranged  in  the  order  the  player  desires.  4d6 are rolled, and the lowest die (or one of the lower) is discarded.

Method II:

All  scores  are  recorded  and  arranged  as  in  Method  I.  3d6 are rolled 12 times and the highest 6 scores are retained.

Method III:

Scores rolled are according to each ability category, in order, STRENGTH, INTELLIGENCE, WISDOM, DEXTERITY, CONSTITUTION, CHARISMA.  3d6  are  rolled  6  times  for  each  ability,  and  the  highest  score  in  each  category  is  retained for that category.

Method IV:

3d6  are  rolled  sufficient  times  to  generate  the  6  ability  scores,  in  order,  for  12  characters. The player then selects the single set of scores which he or she finds most desirable and these scores are noted on the character record sheet.

All of these methods allow you to either arrange your stats, roll more than 6 times, or roll more than 3d6, some of the methods allow for combinations of these. Whichever way you choose to go about it, you are certainly going to get more options than the 3d6 in order. 3d6 in order seems to be the method for generating commoners and people of little renown. Gary mentions making NPCs (which he seems to mean powerful NPCs), which he seems to recommend them getting high scores because, “how else could these figures have risen so high?” General characters need to be average, so he recommends considering and 1s rolled are treated as 3s, and any 6s rolled are considered 4s. For special characters, not high NPCs, but not commoners (like henchmen) he recommends using the same system as the PCs, or doing the 3d6 method, but adding 1 to each dice rolled.

It seems clear that the idea behind the rolling systems is to have characters that are decent at their profession. This seems reasonable to me. I want competent characters and that can accomplish their goals like professionals. I do not want characters that are sickly and gross with little reason to be in the field. This seems to be the appeal of DCC, which is not exactly my cup of tea. There is nothing wrong with it, but it does not suit my style. What do you think? What method of rolling do you use? 

      This is some of the interesting stuff in the 1e Dungeon Master's Guide. I will continue the series Delving into the original DMG. If you are interested in the purchase of the book, please see the links below.

If you are interested in getting a copy of the AD&D 1st Edition Dungeon Master's Guide you can get a PDF or Print on Demand HERE.

If you are interested in an original copy try HERE.

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