Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Lands of Legend OSR Toolkits


Do you like random charts? Do you like Mork Borg style layout? Then these are the books for you. I recently was sent a copy of Axian Spice’s Lands of Legends – Mundane and Lands of Legends – Grim.  Both books provide you with 100 random encounters (broken up into ten d10 charts) and 100 random area. The encounters and areas and reasonably generic to be used with most games, but the two different books add a bit of flavor. The Mundane book most likely has the most versatility as it could be used in almost any setting. The Grim book has a darker twist that might not be suitable to certain campaigns and fit others like a glove (I am looking at you Warhammer Fantasy). These encounters do not contain specific "monster" encounters or layouts to small dungeons. They are more like seeds for overall plotlines and interesting obstacles that the party must overcome. You will not find an entry like, "You run into D20 Kobolds hauling a chest." The entries are more unique and engaging. 

The layout for these books has a large leaning into the style department. To me, it does really look like Mork Borg and that artistic outlook. Some people absolutely love that style some favor a cleaner layout like Old-School Essentials. Taste will vary on this issue. I find that it increases the experience of reading the entries and is part of the flavor of the text. While flipping through the PDF you get a sense for how the author wants you to feel about a certain section, with the layout.

I will admit, I am not the biggest on using random tables at my game on the fly. On occasion I use them in prep, but I mostly read through them for ideas and then use the ones I like. These books are chocked full of those. Here is an example from the chart labeled Grim Civilization. “NIGHTMARISH EXECUTION. A murderous witch is about to be burned in the main square. A crowd has gathered, as many blame her of all their ills. As soon as the flames touch her, the crone curses the city, laughing and prophesying the death of all those who have gathered within the next new moon. After that, her twisted body becomes a cloud of bats, flying towards the nearest dungeon or Grim area. In the following days, the authorities might hire adventurers to investigate.” This to me is a good plot device that can be used to kick off an adventure. This starts the wheels turning in my head as to what I can do with the witch, who is the witch, or who will come for revenge because of the witch.

Overall, I think these products are good and you can get some great inspiration from the entries. According to the author, these are the first two of a series of Lands of Legends. I cannot wait to see what comes from this company.

If you want to purchase these products, please click the link HERE.


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Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Word of Wisdom from the Past – The Polyhedron Magazine #7

I started reading some of the old Polyhedron magazines and I am enjoying them quite a bit. I seem to like them more than Dragon or Dungeon Magazines. I really like their Living City articles and Rouges Gallery and find them useful. Reading through these lost tomes of yore you get a glimpse into the zeitgeist of the time in a way that is reasonably unfiltered. Many times, people question what people back in the day thought about X issue in the community. The response is usually, “They are still alive, ask them.” This has merit and is valuable, but not a complete story. Often time colors the past with rose-tinted glasses and memories change over time. Seeing these articles give us a clear understanding of the thought processes back in the day and the issues with the games that people were discussing. Here is a hint, it is the same stuff we discuss today. Apparently, the Thief class was always an issue and “fixing” it was always on the table as example. Below are two things I picked out of issue #7 that I thought were interesting and I wanted to share.

A person wrote into the “Dispel Confusion”, the Q&A column for Polyhedron, and asked about their created spell that healed at range. The reaction is stark and not even a bit nuanced, it is a bad idea. They go so far as to invoke the name of one of the creators, Gary, saying it is range cure is too powerful. They discuss it as an issue of balance, and this is the reason that Clerics get any armor is to be able to wade into the front lines and heal. Something of note too is in older editions you cannot move and cast, placing further limits on capability. I do not want this to turn into a 5e bash fest, as I do play 5e regularly, but is there a single heal that is not ranged now? I admit, I am not a 5e expert, though I have played it a lot. I am not trying to say, “See 5e is bad! You are bad for liking it,” but look at the changes to the thoughts of people in a relatively small amount of time. Changing rules like this change the focus of the game (not stating that is good or bad, just a given). When you change the healing mechanics (making range healing possible, using hit dice to heal, healing as a bonus action, etc) the core of the game changes with it. The game becomes less focused on the idea of survival in the face of imminent death, and more about grand champions boldly destroying foes. Am I stating anything new? No. Will people miss the bigger point and most likely argue in the comments about edition wars? Yes.

Next, was a piece for “Notes for the Dungeon Master”. In this article the writer, discusses an old topic in the community, “What do you do with a player when their character dies?” A big point of pride for many in the OSR/Old-School community seems to be when a character dies the player makes a new character and builds from level 1 again. I am generally for this, up to a point, and I agree with the article. Once the group gets its feet underneath it and starts to grow in levels this becomes silly. If the party is averaging 7th level making a veteran player start over at level 1 seems silly. The article sets some ground rules and recommendations on how to handle this. The author tends to focus on levels, whereas I would focus on total XP instead. The article also recommends on how to possibly handle magic items and gear. I used the exact same system in my games before and it worked perfectly. I only mention this piece because I hear in the “meta” around the game online stories about how this was not even a thing “back in the day”. Death equaled reset always. It is the way the founders intended it. Etc. According to this, that is not the whole story.

The real focus of this piece for me is that even back in the day there was a plethora of ideas and ways of play, not one dogmatic “old-school” way of play. Odds are people in the comments will argue the merits of healing and starting PCs at level one, but there is not much I can do about that. Hell, odds are that people will comment without even reading the blog post. That is all for this issue. I am really enjoying reading these articles and I might write another of these if I find anymore gold.

I run Old School Essentials weekly and post our games to YouTube, click HERE to see.

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Monday, June 7, 2021

In the Shadow of Tower Silveraxe Review


Have you seen this module? It is a bit of the alright.


This zine was a part of Zinequest III from this past year and it is the type of module that I love. It hits the low to mid-levels of your favorite fantasy-based RPG (OSE), it is a sandbox, and it is wonderfully organized. This is akin to Thunder Rift of days-gone-by with a small setting that is infinitely expandable. Coming in at 64 pages it is jammed with wall-to-wall dungeon delving action with roughly 15 locations to explore. The module has a just enough backstory to push the DM off in the right direction but allow them to do their own thing with it. For me these would be low-prep dungeons to run, and you can even take the dungeons and sprinkle them in another setting if you wanted.

The basics of the setting is that at the heart of the area is a dwarven settlement. The area was once occupied by and ancient race that is no longer with us. They left a great tower in the woods that the elves dedicated to protecting. For some reason, the creatures of the great woods are now fleeing and that is leading to conflict with the local settlers. Throughout the area is old ruins and places of power to explore and there is even a plot brewing under the surface if the players want to engage with it. There are numerous rumor charts for different areas and the players are truly free to go where the please and seek their fortune. This is certainly going to go into my circulation at some point.

The book is $15 and comes with the PDF. You can also tack on $3 more and get a lovely map of the region printed out as a small poster. My hats off to Jacob Fleming for this little piece of brilliance. You can purchase the physical copy at or you can get the PDF by clicking HERE.

I run Old School Essentials weekly and post our games to YouTube, click HERE to see.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Killing Save or Die Mechanics

 Hello. My name is Ryan and I do not like save or die mechanics.


                I know the reason why they exist. That does not mean that I must like it. The game, in general, is dangerous enough without this mechanic, so why do we need it? Does this mean that I am abandoning the principles of old-school gaming and going to convert over to 5e? No. What it does mean is that I am going to steal other people’s good ideas on the subject and apply them to my own game. I do not want the threat of death to leave my games and player death should happen, but I prefer to mar and cripple my PCs over death. At times death is letting them off too easy.

                I saw an alternative rule that I am tending to lean towards that is still extremely deadly, but also not a binary result. When someone has a save or die mechanic (i.e. poison, death ray, etc) they take the creatures hit dice in damage. Example: the character is struck with a death ray from an Eye of Terror (Beholder). The character fails their save and would take 11d8 points of damage. Odds are the character will still die, but there is always the chance that the damage roll is low. In addition, if the character fails the save, takes damage and lives, they will have an appropriate permanent effect. In the example above I might have the death ray destroy part of the character’s health and they take 1d3 CON loss.

                You could have a character that fails a save against a medusa gaze and live. They then might have some calcification of the joints and they lose 10’ of movement and are just slower the rest of their career. That effect could in theory be removed with a Stone to Flesh spell which would in theory cure them if they were turned into a statue too. This also is the same with poison. A character can fail a save and take huge amounts of damage, but if Neutralize Poison is used, they instantly regain that hit point loss.

                Lastly, I use a Death & Dismemberment chart for my characters because again, I like to mar and injure the characters. I would skip this step though in the case of a save or die mechanic. If you hit zero, from a failed save, it is lights out. This adds another level of danger and still makes those save or die mechanics scary, but not cheap.

                I do not judge people who use the mechanic and like it. It is certainly a preference. I think it is a little more acceptable at lower levels, but as you put time into a character the thought of losing it to one bad die roll tends to sting more. Might just be me?

I run Old School Essentials weekly and post our games to YouTube, click HERE to see.

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