Category Archives: Role Playing Games

Review: GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Boxed Set

Product Summery:
Name: Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Steve Jackson Games
Author: Sean Punch
Cost: $50/$35 for PDF
Pages: 474 (Spread across multiple books)

When the Kickstarter for this product was announced I was pretty excited. GURPS is one of two games I truly love, the other being HackMaster (also known as Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 1st Edition). DFRPG came about as a reaction to the Old School Renaissance in gaming. the OSR was a movement of gamers who felt the old ways were the best ways, they wanted to bring back the simple games of their youth where kicking down doors, killing monsters and collecting treasure was a way of life. DFRPG sought to simplify GURPS so it could be used for this genre. DFRPG was a big hit for Steve Jackson games, the line was PDF only, but since it required GURPS Character book, it helped to sell many of those. The Kickstarter campaign was an effort to bring DFRPG to the print world as a starter set not just for DFRPG but for GURPS in general. The boxed set is not due for at least another month, but this week in celebration of GenCon 50, they released the PDF’s to the Kickstarter backers and I have now had a chance to look at the game.

There is a lot of new art here, which is good, Steve Jackson games is notorious for reusing art. Thankfully they went with a two column format rather than the three column they used in GURPS Characters and Campaigns, this is much easier to read. They also used an orange colored font to highlight options and such, which I think added clarity and readability to the document. The game is well written and I think easy to understand.

I have always liked the GURPS game mechanic, at least in theory I like it. All resolution die rolls are done by rolling three six sided dice, trying to roll under your target number, whether that is an attribute or a skill level. This puts all resolutions rolls on a nice bell curve instead of a flat 1 in 20 type roll. I also like the customization options available for building characters, players can literally build anything they have points for. Of course the problem with that is too many options and a scaling problem. Like all point based systems it is very easy to fall into one of two traps, either your points are spread too thin and the character is really not very good at anything in particular or the character is spectacularly skilled in one or two areas and utterly incompetent at anything else. There also tended to be a lot of character overlap in skills and characters stepping on each other niches.

DFRPG solves this problem by reducing options down to a manageable level and takes a step further by using character templates. The templates emulate the character classes of Dungeon & Dragons, Fighter, Thief, Cleric, and Magic User. Once you have chosen your template there are customization options. This speeds up character creation, makes sure everyone has a niche to follow, while still providing for character development beyond the character niche as the game progresses. The author of DFRPG did a good job of distilling GURPS down to a good workable set of rules, slightly more complicated than GURPS Lite, but no where near and complex as the full system.

DFRPG does not as of yet have a true setting beyond the dungeon crawl trope. This is not really a problem as I think it lends itself well to sandbox games or even adapting something like Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms. The game really does have an old school feel to it. Personally when I get around to running this next year, I will be using the Castle Defiant sandbox I wrote about several months ago, although if I were going to run a lengthy campaign, I would have to develop and alternate reality Yrth where Clerical magic is a thing and pagan gods roamed the world. Frankly I am not even sure setting is even necessary for this type of game, just start everyone in a tavern and move on from there.

Overall, I am very happy with this product. I will be even happier when I have the box set in my hands. If you are looking for an easy introduction to GURPS or you are an old school gamer looking for something that feels like it was written in 1985 but plays like a modern game, this is the product for you. On the other hand if you are looking for a new GURPS source book with detailed background information or a generic game where you can dump cyborgs into King Arthur’s Court, you are going to be very disappointed.

Summery (Scale of 1-5):
Appearance and Layout: 4
Game Mechanic: 4
Setting: 3
Overall: 3.66666666667

Dungeon Fantasy is coming

Last year Steve Jackson Games ran a Kickstarter to fund the production of Dungeon Fantasy RPG. Dungeon Fantasy is basically old school murder hobo style gaming done in GURPS. I went in as a $250 backer so I basically got everything that did not require me to go to GenCon to get. While the actual printed stuff is still a couple of months off, they did release the PDF version today to those who backed the Kickstarter, although I expect in a couple of weeks they will put the PDF’s up for sale to the general population.

Release the PDF’s a head of the printed product was a good call. This gets the product out there and into the hands of players and GMs. In the next few days, we will likely start seeing reviews popping up and forum discussions on Enworld and RPGnet. With a bit of clever marketing, this could easily be turned into momentum for the game by the time it hits the shelves. The set includes a couple of adventures, so I will likely run this as some filler games this fall. I am kind of excited about this, because it reminds me a lot of the early days of GURPS.

GenCon 50 is next week

I so want to go to GenCon this year. I would love to get out of town and put my life behind me for one grand weekend of killing dragons and scrapping clean a dungeon for every last copper piece. Instead of wondering why nazi’s are marching in the streets, I want to be chucking dice with like minded strangers, going to panels and listening to artists and creators talk about their games, and wandering through the exhibit hall looking for old and beloved games or perhaps, new and interesting games. Instead of wondering why I am $200 short on budget this month, I want to play a pickup game Call of Cthulhu in someones hotel room until 4:30 AM in the morning, then rush to McDonalds for coffee and breakfast taco, to make it just in time to an early morning game of Mutants and Masterminds. Oh and Red Sonja cosplay, I want to go to GenCon because I like Red Sonja cosplay.

Death Dealer in 5E

A couple of years ago Goodman Games published an adventure module for D&D 4E which included a fully stated Death Dealer. I never played 4E much, nor would I ever unleash such a thing on a group, but I thought it might be an interesting exercise for a slow Saturday morning to convert him to D&D 5E. Just as a side note, Death dealers attack bonus is +19 and keep in mind all of this is in addition to all of the skills and special abilities it gets from being a 19th level fighter , so it gets such abilities as Second Wind and Action Surge as well.

The Death Dealer

Level 19 Fighter

Str 30 (+10) Dex 22 (+6) Wis 20 (+5)
Con 27 (+8) Int 14 (+2) Cha 14 (+2)
Hit Points 647
Armor Class 22

Special Abilities:
Immune; disease, poison
Resist; necrotic

Regeneration 10: Death Dealer regenerates 10 hit points per turn, if the Death Dealer takes radiant damage, its regeneration doesn’t function until the end of its next turn.

Death’s Helm: Enemies within 25 feet of the Death Dealer must make a DC 16 saving throw versus fear or take a –4 penalty to attack rolls and saving throws until the end of combat.

Impenetrable Bulwark: As an action, the Death Dealer makes an attack roll against an opponent, if successful the Death Dealer inflicts no damage nor takes any damage from the opponent Impenetrable Bulwark was used on, the opponent is pushed 10 feet. Impenetrable bulwark cannot be used with the executioner’s ax and requires the Bulwark Shield.

Field of Blood: Requires executioner’s ax; As a bonus action, the Death Dealer may make an attack roll against any and all targets within 5 feet of it, it may then move up to 15 feet and once again make an attack roll on any and all targets within 5 feet.

Horned Fury: When the Death Dealer’s hit points drop below 323, it can make two additional attacks with the Horned Helm as a bonus action.

Scion of Destruction: The first time the Death Dealer is reduced below 1 hit point, the Death Dealer rises on its next turn with 323 hit points.

Executioner’s Ax: +3 to hit, damage 3d6+9. Once an opponent has been damaged by the ax, the opponent will start taking an additional 10 points of necrotic damage per turn until they are dead or are healed by magical means.

Falcon Scimitar: +3 to hit, damage 2d8+9, on a roll of a natural 20, weapon inflicts 6d8+24 damage.

Horned Helm: +3 to hit, Damage 1d8 + 9, any opponent successful hit with Horned Helmet must make a DC 30 Strength save or be knocked prone.

Scale Mail +3

Bulwark Shield +3

Welcome to Bronzehelm

Last Friday night we started a new D&D campaign. We have started playing 5th edition and we are using our old Caldoom setting. The basis of the campaign is the PC’s are rookie members of the Bronzehelm City Watch and for added fun, they are on the Night Watch. The first game I designed strictly as an introduction to Bronzehelm for those who had never played in Caldoom before. I took them to the Black Shark Inn and introduced them to the local head in a jar Lilly and then sent them hunting orcs in the city dump. Getting use to the system and the various idiosyncrasies of the character sheets was a bit bumpy, but by the end of combat I think things had smoothed out. All in all I thought the game was fun.

Return to Caldoom

In a couple of weeks I will be starting a new campaign. I have chosen to go with Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. I have been wanting to play it since it came out and  the few times we have played it, I have enjoyed. The plan for the campaign is to run a city centric campaign with little in the way of dungeon crawling. I gave my players a choice between a thieves guild based game or a city watch style game and predominate choice was city watch. Some of my players expressed a concern that playing thieves would bring out too many anti social tendencies and make for a difficult campaign. Being city watch on the other hand makes everyone at least pretend to have the interests of the greater society in mind.

So the next thing I had to decide was where to place the game. In the last couple of campaigns I pretty much made shit up as I went along. For this campaign I felt I needed something that would feel familiar to the players. The city should be almost like a home town and the best way to get to that was by returning to our old game world Caldoom. We left Caldoom behind several years ago to experiment with new settings, the primary one being Edgewood and cyberpunk Billings. BronzeHelm is the largest city on the continent and has a very long and sordid history in the game world and this seemed like a good pick. In the past when I have used BronzeHelm, I have based it on Judges Guilds City State of the Invincible Overlord.

To give an overview of what has been happening in BronzeHelm over the last few years. In 2009 Arbusto the Invincible Overlord, turned out to be not so invincible, the city was attacked and subsequently sacked by the Army of Arcanis. The battle lasted only a single night, with the BronzeHelm City Watch surrendering in the first 15 minutes. Arcanis stepped over the dead body of Arbusto and became the new Invincible Overlord.

Since that time, Arcanis has solidified his power base in the city. He once again outlawed the Thieves, Assassins and Beggers Guilds. He raided all three guilds and had all known member arrested in a single night, effectively eliminating them for several years. He also cleaned up the notoriously corrupt and incompetent city watch, turning them into a very effective force of law and order. Arcanis has also created the worlds most complex bureaucracy, there is said to be buildings dedicated to housing all the rules, regulation and laws governing everyday life in BronzeHelm.

Arcanis’s newest project to revitalize the city watch and build up the defenses of Bronzehelm centers around building a special task force unit comprised of unique individuals who can be developed. Arcanis realized years ago that there was a small percentage of people who were capable of rising beyond being one of the “Little People”, he recognized that he himself was one of those people and the history of the world has been scorched by such individuals. Arcanis’s plan is to build a special Boot Camp designed to find and exploit these people, then provide them with additional training and equipment that would allow them to deal with anything that might harm Bronzehelm.

This is where the campaign will start.

Monster Boobs (its not what you think)

PezWitch asked me about the latest twitter shit storm around Dungeons and Dragons yesterday and I had to admit that I had not idea what was going on. I have really moved away from social media over the last month or so, while I re-opened my accounts for the sake of convenience, I really do not pay much attention to them these days and even when I do, I tend to loose interest pretty fact. So I had to go and root around a bit to find out what the deal was.

Apparently Cecilia D’Anastasio wrote an article for Kotaku analyzing Wizards of the Coasts move away from overly sexualized monsters on D&D.

I have to say, I am not sure why this is a thing. This has been happening since AD&D 2nd edition, it is not new. I don’t think this has been about “Political Correctness”, I honestly think this is about making the game available to wider audiences and making modern parents more comfortable buying their 12 year old boy or girl the books. I see nothing wrong with this. Frankly, I have to say I like the shift in art, the Dungeonpunk style of 3E and 4E just did not appeal to me much, I prefer the more natural colors and softer tones of the current edition.

When all is said and done, this is just one persons take on the current state of D&D. For every person out there screaming “Political Correctness!” there is also a person screaming “Objectification of Women!”, so I am thinking they probably got it just about right.

Review: Adventures in Middle Earth

aimeProduct Summery:
Name: Adventures in Middle Earth
Publisher: Cubical 7
Author: Staff
Line: 5E
Cost: $40/$20 for PDF
Pages: 224

Frankly this was a bit of a disappointment to me, however this was probably due to my own inflated expectations. Cubical 7 previous attempt at Middle Earth gaming, The One Ring, was really really good. There was nice art, good layout, interesting game design. The whole thing came together as a top notch product. So my expectations were that the conversion of the One Ring to the 5E rule set would be just as well put together, unfortunately this was not the case.

First off, I did not like the cover art, I get what they were trying to do, but the picture just does not inspire me at all, it is flat and bland. The interior art is pretty much everything we saw in the One Ring, there may be some new pieces in there, but I have not done a side by side comparison to know for sure. So while I like the style of the art and it is very good, it does have the “Haven’t we been here before” vibe, so it again fails to inspire.

The game mechanic is a heavily modified version Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. The classes are different, the races are different, and they have added some new mechanics to make the game flow more or less the same way The One Ring does. My problem here is, if you are familiar with D&D 5E, this game will be easy to make sense of. If you are coming in from another game, never having played D&D 5E, you will find this game confusing. For instance there was no effort to provide a way to generate attributes, nor do they have any real explanation for the attributes or how they affect the game. This game assumes previous knowledge of D&D 5E and if you do not have it, this will come off as an incomplete game to you.

Finally, what can you say about the setting, it is Lord of the Rings, it is the Hobbit, it is well J.R.R. Tolkien. Cubical 7 does an good job of translating Tolkien’s work to a gaming setting, from the class descriptions to the flavor text, this is the best part of the book.

Overall, this is not a bad product, but it is not a great one either. If you plan to use it, you will also need D&D 5E, although the free download from Wizards of the Coast, would fill in the gaps well enough to play. Perhaps as they release more products for the line I will become more enamored with it. Hopefully they will not just recycle all of the old One Ring stuff and they will produce some original content for this title.

Summery (Scale of 1-5):
Appearance and Layout: 2
Game Mechanic: 2
Setting: 5
Overall: 3

HackMaster: Desert Dreams

So as I have mentioned earlier, Bruce is running a a HackMaster game for a while to give me a break from GMing. Chad has volunteered to play the cleric. This does not have me worried particularly. The worst he can do is be a dedicated follower of Shiva the Destroyer and he will make the rest of us convert before he will heal us. However, I think that is very unlikely.

I think we are going to see a new riff on Father Guido Sarducci. Back in the old days, Chad played a Top Secret character named Father Guido Sarducci of the Vatican Secret Service. I could definitely see a young Brother Sarducci leaping out of Chads brain and into our game. Of course this is also a possibility.


Jack Chick Dead at age 92

On Sunday, October 23, 2016, it was that Jack Chick passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 92. For those of you who don’t know who this is, he created what is known as the Chic Tracks, small christian comic books designed to tell us all we will burn in hell. The most famous of these tracks was the Dungeon & Dragons track which helped fuel the D&D is satanic panic in the early 1980’s. So long Jack, while you did not intend it as such, you gave us hours of hilarious entertainment.

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Adventures

As I was considering my Castle Defiant sandbox game, I went looking for published DF adventures. The Pyramid adventures see fairly short, probably good for 1-2 sessions unless the GM expands on them in some way, Mirror of the Fire Demon is longer and is probably good for 3-4 sessions.

Pyramid DF Adventures;

  • 3/38 The Golden Geniza of Ezkali
  • 3/50 The Caverns of Willowdeep
  • 3/56 Caverns of the Chronomancer
  • 3/80 Gog and Magog
  • 3/89 The Titan’s House

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Series

  • Adventure 1: Mirror of the Fire Demon

If I were going to run this campaign, this would be a pretty good start to it. I have a map with some history and background and I have plenty of adventure opportunities without much work. I am sure there are some DF adventures out there by 3rd parties, perhaps I will go digging for some as my next project.

RE: Castle Defiant Sandbox

So I have spent a little bit of time on this, although I doubt I will put much more in as I do not really see this campaign ever coming to fruition. This is the larger 300 mile by 300 mile map showing Balgaren’s Crater to the north.


What I have in my head at the moment, is dividing the map 3 by 3 into 9 sectors. Each sector would have one major adventure location, and probably two to three minor adventure locations. For instance, in the center where Castle Defiant is located, the town itself is an adventure location as is the swamp on the north end of the sector. Obviously in the center-north sector the crater is the major adventure location. I am inclined to place Mirror of the Fire Demon in the left-south sector, changing the town Wadi Al-Sheik to Castle Defiant. The Titan’s House could probably go in the right-north sector, especially if that sector was made more mountainous. Caverns of the Willowdeep could be easily placed in any of the eastern sectors.

There were some concerns in the forums about how magic, specifically healing magic was done in Dungeon Fantasy (DF) as opposed to Banestorm. In the Banestorm setting, there is no divine magic and healing can be done by anyone who knows the spell. In DF, only those with Divine Favor can use healing spells, which is separate from arcane magic. In my view point, this is DF game first and a Banestorm campaign second. So either this is an alternate Banestorm world where pagan beings walk the earth granting divine favor or keep the setting the same, keep DF the same and hand wave the whole thing away with a hillbilly “Thats just how we do it here!”.

HackMaster Future

Bruce is running a HackMaster game. He says he will do it until he gets tired of our shit, which is fair. I have not been a player is about 3 years, maybe a bit longer. My last decent character was Zymmer, a halfling thief. Prior to that was Abarat, who I think died like 4 times. I rolled my stats, 3d6, straight down. I then blew most of my Build Points pumping my Strength up to 17 and my Constitution up to 15. Since this is going to be a desert, India themed game, I went with a dual wielding Scimitar’s as my weapon of choice.

Name: Alhazred, Race: Half-elf, Class: Fighter 1, Alignment: Lawful-neutral
Height: 69, Weight: 136 lbs, Age: 20, Sex: Male, Handeness: Left

Ability Scores
Str: 17/12, Dex: 9 /17, Con: 15/64, Int: 9 /37, Wis: 11/9, Cha: 8 /52, Com: 11/37 Honor: 14

Hit Points: 32

Melee Weapons
Sword: Scimitar +3 to Hit, +7 to Damage | S 1d8 | M 1d8 | L 1d8 |

Weapon Proficiencies
Advanced Two-Weapon Fighting – Basic, Sword: Scimitar – Specialized


Survival, Desert 14%, Language, Modern: Elf 100%, Language, Modern: Common 12%, Riding, Land-based: Horse 16%

Alhazred’s was raised in the deserts by his father who belongs to a nomadic tribe of elves. His human mother died many years ago. Alhazred is not terribly smart, pretty or coordinated, but he is sturdy, strong willed and disciplined. Although often he comes across as awkward and anti social due to his heavily elvish accented speech, he is actually good natured and easy to get along with. Alhazred has a twin brother named Jouni, whom was sent to train as a hunter after their mother died. Alhazred remained with the tribe to become a tribe guardian.

Castle Defiant Sandbox

I have written before about the Dungeon Fantasy (DF) boxed set Steve Jackson Games (SJG) has kickstarted. It looks like it will fund very nicely and will be released mid 2017 sometime. The one thing it will lack of course is a setting, their stance on this is all DF games start in a Tavern somewhere. This to me means “Sandbox” game and fortunately SJG has already given us something we can use. In their already published fantasy setting Banestorm, there is a nice isolated area called Castle Defiant.

Castle Defiant makes for a classic sandbox area, the human colony gives the adventurers a place to go to spend their money, the Lord of the castle gives them someone to assign them missions and or a foil, depending on your preferences. To the north is Caustigus’s swamp and Bulgaren’s orc’s beyond that. To the east is the steppes of the Orclands where all manner of foul creatures live. To the west is a dark forest where the elves are battle hardened from centuries of conflict with orcs and lizard men. To the south lays a mana rich area stalked by wizards and demons. In other words, plenty of places for hapless adventures to get into trouble.

The idea is the Caithness civil war is now over and a new age of prosperity is being ushered in under King Connall and Queen Bronwyn, in other words, everyone in Caithness is now pretty bored and eyes turned towards the Orclands for adventure. A small army was sent to retake Castle Defiant from the rogue dwarf Bulgaren, who retreated back across the swamp to the protection of his crater fortress to plan his next steps.

As my first step in this process I have laid out a map of the immediate area, roughly the 50 mile area around the castle, as is standard for hex crawls, each hex is 5 miles. I did the original map in about half an hour cribbing information from Orcslayer and the Orclands entry in Banestorm. I them posted it in the SJG forums and got a few suggestions to add some detail. This is the map that I came up with.


This is a small area even for a sandbox game, I think the suggested area is something like 200 miles by 200 miles and this is about half that size. However, I view this as the center of a much larger map about 300 by 300 miles, giving plenty room for dungeons, towers, caverns, tree fortresses and all manner of other adventuring locations. The next step is to outline the political and social structure of Castle Defiant, name the lord and other significant persons. Perhaps map out the town and name local establishments like the earlier mentioned tavern, where all the adventures start.

Repost: How to be a good RPG player

I am re-posting this because of a forum thread I read recently, where a player was complaining about how bad the game he is playing in is. From his own description of what was happening, it was obvious he was failing at 3, 4 and 5. This is something that needs to be gone over again. I think most of us, including myself, fail at one of these, or occasionally two, but by god, if you are failing at 3 of them, the problems with the game are probably you.

1. Know the rules of the game you are playing. You don’t have to memorize every book, but you should at the very least be able to roll up a character and understand the basic dice mechanics of the game.

2. Know how to make a decent character, know what constitutes a good character. Building a D&D character that averages less than 1 point of damage per turn is a useless character, on the other end of that scale, a Call of Cthulhu character whose primary skill is shooting/punching things, is likewise useless.

3. Know your group. Try to get to know everyone in the group, try to find out what they want out of the game and what their strengths and weaknesses are. If you are not a good fit for the group, politely drop out of the game.

4. Know your GM, know what kind of game he wants to run. Find out what his expectations are, does he like a fast paced shoot em up game, or does he prefer a slow burn plot. Build characters that play to your GM’s strengths, don’t build characters that exploit or highlight the GM’s weaknesses.

5. Be a player that other players like to be around, play characters other characters want to be around. If you find yourself uttering the words “I am just playing my character!”, you have failed this one.

GURPS and Me Part II

I was a pretty early adopter of GURPS. I remember being introduced to it via Man to Man in 1985. We played through most of the combat scenarios and OrcSlayer prior to the full GURPS rules coming out in 1986. I was a GURPS play tester for several years as well. If you look in the first edition of Tredroy, Space and Martial Arts, you will see my name listed, I did a couple of others, but my contributions were too small to be of note. In those first 4 years, I was a very active GURPS player, we did Fantasy, Autoduel, Supers, Horror and Cyberpunk. I think we may have even dipped our toes into Swashbucklers for a few games.

Then came the 1990’s, where I played a grand total of two games, neither lasting more than 6 months. When I assembled the first players of my current group, I was way more interested HackMaster and AD&D 1E than I was in GURPS, although over the last 14 years we have played GURPS a few times, we (or maybe I) gravitated back to our old standby’s. I think the reason for this is GURPS had by this time become overwhelming, even in just a single genre, there are too many options and even a set of experienced players got confused by the sheer weight of it all. It did not help that now I have a full time job and a commute, so writing my own adventures is difficult, so I rely on a steady stream of modules to fill in my campaigns, which GURPS never had enough of.

With the new Dungeon Fantasy boxed set coming out, I admit I am kind of excited. Steve Jackson Games hope is this will reinvigorate their print RPG product line, which has been sidelined by Munchkin for the last several years. This is really a good time, as the market has been expanding for the last couple of years since D&D 5E came out. It is my hope that this will lead to some actual adventures being published, even if they are PDF rather than print, which would make the possibility of my running a long term campaign much more likely. However, even if this happened, we would be talking about a game I will not be running for at least 2 years, so there is plenty of time to see what happens.

GURPS and Me

Steve Jackson Games today launched a new Kickstarter for Dungeon Fantasy.

I have contributed my $50 to the cause. I have written off and on about GURPS since the beginning of this blog. The 30th anniversary of the game is coming up and it is hard to believe that I jumped on that bandwagon so long ago. For a good 4 years, it was my game of choice.


At this point I kind of have a love hate relationship with the game. On the one hand, at its core, it is an extremely flexible system that lets you build any type of character that you want, with a unified and well balanced game mechanic. On the other hand, it is a monstrosity of a game, with way too many options that leave players and GM’s dazed with confusion at times. I am currently using it for my CyberPunk game and in the last several years I have used it for the odd fantasy game as well. Some of these games went well and some of them went very badly.

I think I like the theory of GURPS more than I like the reality of playing GURPS.

Looking to next year

The current plan for my game group at this moment is, I will be wrapping up this GURPS Cyberpunk game towards the end of October. At that point Bruce will run a short campaign through the end of the year, giving me a chance to play some. Chad is also planning to run a “Last Friday of each month” Traveller mini campaign.

It is at this point in time that I need to start planning my next campaign.Six to eight months is a pretty normal development cycle for me unless I am using a canned campaign. I have a couple of choices here;

First I have all of the Wizards of the Coast hardbound adventures, there are six of them and it would probably take me six years to run them all. This has some appeal to me, first it is very easy for me to do, very little prep time, second these will be the “Shared Experience” modules of the current generation of gamers, the games they fondly remember are being played right now with these modules. The downside of course is, anyone can buy them and cheat their way through.

Second, I can develop something from scratch, perhaps another sandbox game similar to the Edgewood campaign I finished up last year or perhaps a return to Caldoom, giving me a chance to update the world once again to make some new history in a campaign world with its roots spreading back 40 years of gaming.. This is far more time consuming, but I ultimately get more satisfaction out of these games and I think my players do too.

Third, Adventures in Middle Earth is coming out in September, this is the 5th edition adaption of The One Ring RPG by Cubical 7. This would give us the chance to answer age old questions like, how did Gandalf, a 6th level Magic User defeat a balrog by himself, or why did Sauron’s tower collapse when the ring was thrown in the lava. or how did two 2nd levels halflings just walk into Mordor. The answer to those questions is, “Something else was happening in the background”. Campaign premise; Fellowship of the Ring: The B Team!


I crawled out of bed this morning at 1:30 AM to attend the the opening ceremony of Roll20Con. It was probably not worth getting up for. The follow up panel was on API programming. This was very interesting, but it was buffering terribly and was basically unteachable, so I went back to bed. I then got up at around 6:00 AM, at this point they were playing Fiasco, but it was not in English. At about 7:00 AM they started playing D&D 5E, this was kind of interesting. The problem with D&D is, D&D is kind of boring to watch, but these guys did try to keep it entertaining as best they could.

At 11:30 AM I started “Let’s Raid the Temple of Elemental Evil” D&D 5E game. The basis of the game, was to play through the best part of the Prince of the Apocalypse adventure, which was the Air Elemental dungeon. This was a fun time, I like Con games because there are no expectations, everyone is there to play a one shot and you are probably never going to play together again. This makes for an interesting dynamic between complete strangers, trying to work together through a problem. This was the first time I had played in at least 3 years so my hopes were very high, and this GM certainly delivered.

I then attended the GMing on Roll20 panel, which introduced me to some features that I was unaware of, like the GM map layer which lets me lay down a map that only I can see, then lets me hand draw the map the players see over the top of it. There was also an interesting feature request segment, which discussed how horrible the Roll20 Market Place is.

Finally, I watched a Dungeon World game GMed by the creator of the game. This was a really painful game to watch. This game was 3 pompous players working at cross purposes and a 4th player who was trying to keep it all together while the others mocked him and treated him like a pet. Now you could throw this off as a “Well we were just playing our characters” thing, but it sure felt like this poor bastard was playing with three Ed’s. I did stick with it though just because I wanted to see the train wreck at the end, which never quite came.

I plan to attend again next year, if they do it again. Next year, I would like to see better organization around the games. Define start and stop times with short breaks in between blocks. I was only able to get one game in, the second game I signed up for folded before the Con started, but even if it had happened, the D&D game went over by 2 hours and I would have been playing two games at the same time.  Of course the argument against this is, all the tables are virtual, so this does not have the same limitations that a real world game convention would have, so there is no reason to have time blocks.

Anyway, it was fun and I hope next year I can get a couple of the guys to attend with me.

Re: Roll20Con

So the D&D5E game I applied for went south, so I withdrew my application and found a different one. He requested we build 2 characters, a primary and a backup. My primary is a basic wizard, Fireballs, Lightning Bolts and other heavy artillery, if I say I am casting a spell, its a good idea to wait before running into the room. My secondary character is a straight forward Rogue, Pick locks, Find/remove traps, sneaking silently through the shadows. If you see me standing behind someone, they are either about to loose their purse, or get a dagger in the back.

Anyone who has seen me as a player, knows my preference is for fighters, and that was definitely my first choice. The problem was, when I looked at the other players, I saw at least one each, Fighter, Ranger and Paladin, so there were sword arm a plenty. I did see another person who wanted to play a spell caster, but I figured if necessary, I could always fallback to the Rogue, seeing as no one else has as of yet chosen a Rogue as their primary.




On June 3rd, is having an online gaming convention. I have decided I am taking the day off and I am spending the day playing D&D online. I really want to play, but every time I look at the available games, nothing jumps out at me. I have been back several times and watched new games get posted and older games fill up, but still nothing really grabs me and says, lets go. I think I have the same basic problem I have always had. I prefer to game with a very specific set of people. I think I have to force myself to game with people I don’t know. In the past when I have done so, I have always had fun, so I don’t know why I am so reluctant to do it.

Edit – Update: Okay I broke down and signed up for two games; here is my tentative convention schedule;

12:00 AM Opening Ceremony

5:00 AM VIP Streamed Game (I may not make this)

9:00 AM Panel, Publishing in the Digital Age

10:00 AM The Ruins of Efreeti (D&D 5E)

3:00 PM Mutants & Masterminds 3E Game

9:00 PM VIP Streamed Game

11:30 PM Closing Ceremony

Playing the game

It has been the better part of three years since I have participated in a role playing game (RPG) as a player. The last time was an ill fated forum based game, Bruce was running a great game that I was enjoying a lot, but we ran into two problems. First, I was trying to install and maintain the forum software myself and so when things went wrong, they went really wrong. The second problem was, forum games develop way too slowly and you have to remember to log in everyday and check progress. Unfortunately it is way too easy to loose momentum. I really should have learned my lesson about this when we were trying to use to run some of our games.

Chad has said he would run a Top Secret or a Traveler game if he got enough people interested, but neither of those games particularly interest me. Fantasy is my preferred genre in RPG, although I would love to play Call of Cthulhu or Mutants and Masterminds (or any horror or superhero game for that matter). But alas, none of my other players seem terribly interested in running even a short term game, so that pretty much leaves me on my own to find something. Of course here in lays one of my other problems, I don’t really want to play with a group of strangers or even acquaintances, I’d rather play along side the people I ready play with.

RE: Dogma!

We once again find ourselves play a bit of AD&D 1E. My favorite style of play is of course Dogma!. Here is the basic rules for this style of play, somewhat house ruled by myself for the sake of faster leaner games.


You have 10 minutes to roll up a character, if take longer than that, you will not be able to enter the game until after the first combat.

Roll 4d6 for each attribute, taking the best three.

Attributes are rolled in order in which they appear in the book and you
play what you get: Str, Int, Wis, Dex, Con, and Chr.

You get max hit points for first level and roll hit points for all
levels after that.

You get max starting gold for your class to equip yourself.

You are not allowed to name your character until you reach 3rd level

You are not allowed to choose an alignment until 3rd level, unless your
class requires it.

The dungeon, monsters and treasure will all be generated randomly using the table in the back of the Dungeon Masters Guide.

Experience points are awarded on the spot for all kills, treasure and
magic items.

When you get enough experience points to level, you level on the spot.

If your character dies, you have 10 minutes to roll up another
character. If it takes you longer than 10 minutes, you will not be able
to enter the game until after the next combat.

The idea behind this style of play is fast, furious and hilarious.

The original intent of the group that developed Dogma! was a way to power level characters. They wanted to play high level modules like the Tomb of Horror, but did not want to risk the characters they had spent months or even years building. What they discovered was a unique style of play that had the feel of a 1980’s video game.

Original Article –

Is the OSR movement dead?

The Old School Renaissance (OSR) started in 2001 when HackMaster 4th Edition hit the stands. This made a lot of people realize there was still a nice cozy niche of older gamers who liked the way gaming was in the 1980’s. HM4E was followed by Castles & Crusades, which adopted the Open Gaming Licence (OGL) rules to a more old school feel style of game. From there things exploded, over the next several years retro-clone after retro-clone appeared. Basic Fantasy, Labyrinth Lords, OSRIC, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, BlueHolmes Project and many Many MANY others.

The Cons: My basic problem with this movement is there was a lot of re-invention of the wheel. If you go and look at all these projects, most of them all do the same thing and come up with nearly identical rule sets where the only real difference between them is the writing style. Functionally Basic Fantasy, Labyrinth Lords and Lamentations of the Flame Princess are the same game. Rather than settling on 1 or 2 rule sets, or even 2 or 3, practically every person interested in publishing OSR material, created their own retro-clone. So now there are at least 20 variations of the same game, none of which can claim any significant audience.

The Pros: Along with all those retro-clones came a lot of support material. You can now buy piles of modules, supplements and setting material from different companies that are all more or less compatible. This movement also caused Wizards of the Coast to start selling their OD&D and AD&D catalog again as PDF’s. They realized as did those clone makers, that there is a market for this stuff. WotC even reprinted many of their core rule books.

Is the OSR movement dead?

As I have stated in previous posts, I have embraced the digital revolution. I have a very extensive PDF collection of gaming material. My PDF game books exceeds my physical gaming books by at least one magnitude. The only physical books I buy these days are Dungeons & Dragons 5E. As a side effect of this, I have all or most of these retro-clones in my collection. Most are free, but I have actually paid for a couple of them as well. The problem is, I don’t need any of them. All of the versions of D&D that these retro-clones are emulating are now available from at very reasonable price. If I wanted to publish my own module WotC has setup some very nice guidelines for doing so. The OSR started as a way to publish old school material, that is really no longer necessary. Combine this with the fact that nothing innovating has come out of the OSR in a couple of years and you begin to see the picture.


We are bad asses plain and simple. Each of us has trained for years in a variety of skills for the purpose of killing other people. All six of us have survived countless black operations, none of us even remember most of the people we have killed in the last few years. Then we met him, he is genetically modified to have a constant flow of adrenaline into his body, he is faster and stronger than an Olympic level athlete. His bones have been replaced with carbon fiber, his sight and hearing have been enhanced beyond the ridiculous and into the impossible. We punched him, we clubbed him, we stabbed him, we set him on fire and we shot him, still he would not go down. In the end, the only thing that saved us was we ran. Next time I see him, I am going to shoot him with a bazooka or ram him with a semi-truck, and I hope it does more than just piss him off.