Monday, December 29, 2014

Not Waiting Anymore

Came in Saturday after I got home from shopping. Now I have more stuff to review.
Quick shipping note: left Finland 12/18 and made it to Tennessee 12/27 during holiday shipping. And that's economy shipping.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

REVIEW: Ruins of the Undercity

Ruins of the Undercity
Ruins of the Undercity - random DM-less dungeon generator for one player and more - by +Kabuki Kaiser .  72 pages, of which 2 are OGL and 4 are full pages of art, so say 66 pages of actual game content.  Book size is weird to me; according to Lulu, 5.83 x 8.26 inches.  I believe this is the A5 size common anywhere but the US.  The front cover states it is Labyrinth Lord compatible and the first page indicates it is compatible with LL and the Advanced Edition Companion or any Basic or Advanced type game.  Based on my reading of the text, I would state it is specifically LL/AEC designed; I would think OSRIC would require a good deal of conversion work for me.

On to the interior:  probably my single biggest complaint is one of the fonts used on the inside is called Gothic Hijinx.  All you who hate Comic Sans?  That's how I feel about this font.  Based on how I am reading this text and the "sequel" Mad Monks of Kwantoom, it is a "commentary" font, but it is atrocious; I find it very difficult to read.  I wish Herr Kaiser would go back and fix this one thing; it may very well result in the best interpretation/implementation of Appendix A of the Dungeon Masters Guide I've ever seen.

That is fundamentally what this book is:  first, a relatively clean implementation of Appendix A and a good solo play generator.  For someone like myself, who grew up in a small town and then lived further away from said town, a good solo play generator like this would have been a godsend.  I did test it out as part of the review and I really like it.  As a general rule, I'm not one of these people who is very good at dungeon drawing and stocking; most of my dungeons come out fairly linear.  With the generator here, you get good sized dungeons and also most of the descriptions you would need.  Here's a rundown of what's in the tables:  doors (5 types, 3 locations, 4 behinds); corridors (7 illuminations, 8 constructions, 27 features including 2 subtables for 16 random items and 6 special features, and 12 layouts); chambers/rooms (8 sizes including subtable of 4 specials, location of exits, 26 features, and 5 contents); treasure (8 types including 2 subtables for 14 gems and 10 jewelry, 6 containers, 6 protections); and stairs, traps (21 types), and magic effects from pools/wells (24 results).  Wow; that's a lot.  One of my favorite things is the treasure tables which are full of evocative descriptions like "precious conch shells" and "earrings made of red coral".  This is the kind of thing I usually suck at and has now been removed from my clumsy hands.  One minor complaint about the tables:  there is a small typo on p. 23, the features table is referenced as F but is a duplicate E.

So, there's the dungeon side; there is also a city component.  Basically, where the traditional game would have town/dungeon/wilderness with town being relatively safe, dungeon being predictably dangerous, and wilderness being unpredictably dangerous, this game has no wilderness so town becomes unpredictably dangerous and safe at the same time.  There are random encounters that are not keyed to player level based on how long you stay in town, so for first level players town could be very dangerous.  The solo version uses your favorite character and what is known as an Adventure Log; I wish there was a PDF of this easily available.  The AL allows you to dictate marching order for 10' and 20' corridors and indicate forward scouts, who detects for what, what watches characters take during rests, and XP and treasure collection.  I think this is a really good invention; my default would be my own character and henchman adventuring.  You could have more than one character and then some henchman, but it may be more unwieldy.  I did not test this out specifically so now you have homework.

That leads to the how does it work; basically, there is an Average Level of a party that is the sum of all levels of all characters (including henchmen) divided by 3 and rounded up.  This indicates what level of monster table to use and how to adjust the number of monsters encountered.  This is where I feel the book necessitates the use of LL/AEC, because it often refers to them for stats or In Lair treasure tables.  However, the author does include about 40 new monsters in the tables and stats them out following; some of them may be "conversions" of Fiend Folio monsters, and thus not exactly new, but still NEW MONSTERS!  :)

Other minor quibbles include for the doors, I think the location table should be first not second (it's more important for me to know if the door is to my left, right, or front when I'm mapping than to know what it's made of).  Also, the monster tables have an In Lair column that sometimes has an N/A entry with an asterisk.  However, I can't seem to find where there is an explanation of what that asterisk signifies.

The art is sparse but good; there are about 4 illustrations that are not full page, one of which does double duty as the cover.  I do wish there was a better cover image, but I don't think I can pick one out from what is inside, so maybe it is the best.

Finally, there is no overt message of what the world this generator creates is like, but I feel a covert one.  It reminds me of Lankhmar.  The city is dangerous and you don't want to stay there to long; there are a ton of tables for the different shops and what they stock (how much/how many).  You have to look for these places and if they have what you're looking for.  Same thing with the henchmen.  I like this; it's hard to describe why.  It is almost on the cusp of being a city generator like Vornheim.

I'm glad I bought and own this.  With it and Vornheim, you could pretty well generate everything but wilderness adventures.  I look forward to reviewing the author's other works.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pre-Surgery Lulu Purchases

So, I have to have a second septoplasty next month; YAY!  Last time, I did get some reading and rough freehand writing of reviews of OSR stuff, but I was too out of it to put it online.  I'm vowing to do better this time, and since I'll be off work again for a week, I pulled the trigger on the two sales.
First, the overall 35% off sale includes Warriors of the Red PlanetTomb of the Iron GodMad Monks of KwantoomRuins of the UndercityWizards Mutants Lazer Pistols, and Stonehell.  Tomb of the Iron God is my current campaign adventure; I got the pdf via the first OSR Bundle of Holding and fell in love with it.  Picked up Stonehell via the same manner and feel like it may make its way into our campaign.  WMLP has been on my radar for some time, but I never could get around to ordering the zines.  Warriors of the Red Planet is something I discovered some time ago and really speaks to the science fantasy part of my imagination; I'm really looking forward to it.  As to the other two, seems like I read some review and really liked the concept of random dungeon generation, so that's what I hope I get.
Now, onto the hardcovers.  I did the math, and to purchase two of the following three books in softcover was only going to save me a dollar.  Fantastic Heroes and Witchery is kind of a splurge; I have found my favorite ruleset (Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea).  However, +Venger Satanis and some of the writers on the Hyperborea message board sold me on its science fantasy spin.  I grabbed The Dungeon Dozen pdf when the author put it up for free for a limited time, so I felt I could finally afford to pay him back.  It is just a lot of fun to read and use at the table; very inspiring.  Finally, Encounter Critical is just awesome; go get the pdf if you don't have it and then go give him some of your money before the Lulu sale ends!
Hopefully, this stuff will get here by the time I am recovering from surgery.  I promise I am going to do reviews this time.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Some Thoughts on Influences

I'm starting up a group with my son and his friends.  Basically, the players have zero tabletop RPG experience.  I know what I have in my mind and have communicated some of the setting to them during character creation.  What they bring to the table remains to be seen.

Many fantasy RPGs that I am familiar with seem to focus on some sort of pseudo-European setting.  Even LotFP, which I really like, is stuck in a "real" Europe.  I am an American and know little about evoking European fairy tales.  I decided to use the North American continent as a starting point.  Next, many fantasy RPGs have a "points of light" focus; I used western films to inform my take.

One of the first influences in my mind was Stephen King's Dark Tower series.  It also provided some answers to using all the settings in which I was interested.  So I began laying out my canvas geographically:
-Canada = Hyperborea from Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
-Northeast/North US = Vornheim
-South/Southeast US = ???
-Western US = Athas from Dark Sun
-Mexico = Carcosa
After the release of Qelong, I'm not sure whether to put it in Baja or south of Mexico.

I wanted the traditional fantasy RPG races, but I wanted to bring them more in line with Dark Sun races.  To the north, High elves ruled; to the south, the Dark elves, who had more in common with Athasian elves than Drow.  Dwarves were a race created by the elves as slave labor and halflings were an aboriginal race like in Dark Sun.

This has turned into more of a tangent on setting than influences; quickly, I don't directly conceive of the world as postapocalyptic.  Instead, the magic of the elves has fractured reality with the "thinnies" of the Dark Tower books.  Each setting area can be conceived as a bubble and where the bubbles touch, that is a thinnie or way to cross over.  The southeast area is as close to "vanilla" as I could get it.  I've been using the Lesserton & Mor setting to inform my players.  We've had one session so far, and hopefully will be able to pick back up again soon.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Adventure Dungeons and Dragons

Look in the upper left corner of that image.

What does that say?  "Advanced D&D Adventure Game"
Not "Advanced D&D Role-Playing Game"
THAT is what I want my game to be:  an adventure game.  I want adventure.  I crave adventure.  I don't want to role-play; I want to adventure.