The Dunedain

The Dunedain

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Friday, January 16, 2015

Changed my Blog Title Back

Returned to Ramblings as it were.

Other stuff-

I have written my own more S&W version of Star Trek, it's not polished and ready for public consumption, but it's more or less playable and I hope to test it soon.

Created a mission based Vietnam War RPG D&D hack. This is another one that needs polishing, but it is playable (provided I am at the table to explain the bits I haven't written yet).

Tossed out both my OA D&D hack and my B/X WW II projects, and started over with some of the design principles I came up with for both 'Nam and Star Trek. Got a complete outline and extensive notes for my OA D&D hack (tentatively titled "Samurai!") and planned a supplement ("Ninja!").  I even figured out what I am doing for art for "Samurai!".

Created a new campaign world for OD&D/S&W Whitebox, as it turns out the implied setting of OD&D is different than it is for AD&D. Both have an implied post-apocalyptic setting, but OD&D is a lot more free and easy with sci-fi elements than AD&D. I actually ran a game in my new campaign setting earlier this month and, while it's reception was mixed, it went OK. I was a little disappointed that the party wasn't terribly interested in the travel brochures from the 4th Reich, and that they decided to kill their tour guide in Helltown, but I have some easy fixes planned for this coming Saturday.

Oh, and I created a new game system entirely, I call it "Simple d20 Mechanics for RPGs or Miniature Battles, including rules for Magic". This one is being looked over by my buddy Darryl in case it needs some rules clarifications or whatnot, he became a professional editor after he and I worked on Paul Elliot's 43 AD. I hope to release it soon as a free download from our newly created collaboration "Great Khan Games" once it's ready I'll provide the RPGNow link.

I have a couple of more ideas in the "brainstorm" phase of development too.

Of course, the trade off here is that I haven't written any of my promised reviews, despite the fact that I acquired even more stuff to review. I recently bought several new OSR products on Lulu, first up will be Full Metal Platemail, but I have been writing more than I've been reading for the last few weeks.

Also- is anyone interested in writing some extensive random tables that are reminiscent of the AD&D OA ancestry tables? I am apparently bad at that and it's costing me a lot of time. Just a thought.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Chainmail Bikini Babes & Hot Elf Chicks

Just boosting the signal, although, according to my stats, I should add Great Helm and Crusader Helm if I really want lots of hits. That said "Chinmail Bikini Babes & Hot Elf Chicks" sounds like it could be an RPG all on it's own. I think it would even fly with my group of mostly female players. It's tag line could be something like "The all fantasy female stereotype RPG". Here is a classic Chainmail Bikini Babe, just so you all don't feel cheated-

Red Sonja

I always liked Red Sonja. When I was a kid, reading Marvel Comics, Red Sonja was just a Female Conan the Barbarian to me, I never understood that she was a negative female stereotype just because she wore the skimpy armor, anymore than I thought Conan might be a negative male stereotype just because he runs around in a loincloth. I guess I just thought that, as comic book characters, they needed to have a unique look to make them stand out from the rest of the characters, and that it might be pretty warm in Hyboria.

And a Hot Elf Chick-


OK, she's a Demoness, but in Elf form.

Besides, I think we can all agree that the Drow have the hottest Elf chicks, just because they are all slutty bad girl stereotypes. That I got right away, but puberty had struck in the interim; and who doesn't like a bad girl?

I was going to post some more mini-reviews here, but I am not feeling it right now. So have a couple of Great Helms (as used by Crusaders) as consolation.

A random thought just struck me, has anyone considered that "Lolth" might just be a Gygaxian corruption of "Lilith"? Is this a new thought? Has everyone figured that bit of linguistic evolution out before me?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

5th Edition D&D- My Condensed Review

OK, I've had some time to look at WotC's latest iteration of D&D now, and I have to say that my reaction is mixed. Not just on the aesthetics either.

The Player's Handbook- I think I have made my opinion on the art in the Player's Handbook pretty clear, not a fan. However, the rest of the book, and I am willing to let the art slide if I like the content, still left me with an over all negative opinion. I mean, I realize this is the Player's Handbook, but 170 pages on character generation? Really? OK, that covers advancement too, but in the 1st edition AD&D Players Handbook it's a mere 38 pages, which is far in excess of B/X's 14 pages in the Basic book. I found myself skimming in a lot of places and had to force myself to slow down, go back and reread sections. That was tedious. Sure, I could just pick a "standard" Dwarven Fighter instead of reading through all the class/race choices (which would save me roughly 110 pages of reading), but then there's a bunch of fiddly stuff (that I will likely forget about as a player, not to mention trying to remember all of it as a DM) before I even get to buying my starting equipment. Now, my caveat here is that I have not played yet, so maybe it will all go easier than I think. My personal bias is also irked by the fact that the tallest Humans are now only 6'4", according to the random table. I am 6'6" and I am not the tallest Human I have ever met. Overall grade D.

The Monster Manual- Not a huge fan of the art there either, but it is an improvement over the Player's Handbook. There is a design aesthetic at work here that seems too homogeneously stylized, but this isn't really new to this edition; just, disappointingly, continued. The stat blocks, ranging from roughly 1/4 to 1/2 page are too much, in my opinion. B/X D&D gave us about 6 monsters to the page, here we might get 2. It's pretty hard to screw up a Monster Manual too bad though, so overall grade C.

The Dungeon Master's Guide- Probably the saving grace of the core books of this edition, the art still didn't appeal to me, but damn, it's a meaty tome. Chock full of real advice that is practically system neutral, I'd have to say it's the best effort on a DMG since 1st edition AD&D- and I loved that one. The overall greatness is diminished by a couple of the things that I find to be anathema to DMing- Tailoring your encounters to your party, and it's ugly cousin; tailoring treasure yields to the party. They are small parts of the book, but they remind me too much of 3e and the reason I quit D&D. They mar an otherwise awesome book, but they are core to the build of the system, as they were in 3e (and, presumably, 4e). Anyway, it's a pretty darned solid book for any GM, but it's weak art and a few later editionisms that were kept drag it's grade down, a solid B.

Other random thoughts-
Backgrounds: I actually thought I would like them, I like the concept, but they left me cold when I read through them. Power Level: Easily as amped up as 3e.

Races: Their proliferation irritates me, but at least it's the DM's explicit say as to whether or not any given race is allowed.

Art: yep, I know, I keep harping on the art. I think they would have done better with LESS art direction. Give an artist a general description of what you are looking for, and let them do it, maybe you take it maybe you don't, but I think that this edition could really have benefited from having different art styles represented. I think too that this edition has taken itself too seriously and has produced a lot of self conscious mediocre art as a result. My wife is an artist, so I have grown, over the years, to appreciate how much of an impact the art has on the product. Early editions mixed it up
with a bunch of different artists, with wildly different styles and levels of talent. Sutherland, Roslof, Dee, Willingham, Otus, Darlene and Trampier (just off the top of my head, and I apologize to the artists I missed and their fans) put their stamp on Gary and Dave's game. Just looking at the illustrations in the Holmes Basic, B/X and AD&D books made me begin to imagine, and still does today. This edition just doesn't. I think it was the love for the game, and the use of their own imaginations that made the early D&D artists so good, they pored their souls into the work. Art is subjective, but I think that these-

are more evocative than this-

So I guess that gives 5th edition D&D a solid C average. My opinion of it may change with play, and again with DMing.

Monday, December 29, 2014

I have some bad news.

So. I didn't really want to turn my OSR gaming blog into a litany of the various woes occurring in my, and my family's lives, but I feel I owe an explanation to everyone as to why I started blogging again and then abruptly quit. I have been thinking about this particular post for about a month, since my wife Mona's “surprise surgery”.

Her surgery was originally intended to stop a copious amount of bleeding. She was transfused 8 units of blood over 2 days and still left the hospital after her surgery dangerously anemic, but worse than that, they discovered and removed a tumor, which was causing the bleeding, and the tumor turned out to be cancerous.

Since then she has been waiting to see an oncologist to find out how bad it is. She finally got an appointment scheduled for Friday, January 9th. The delay has been really driving me crazy, so I can only imagine how hard it has been for her.

She has been super tired for weeks now, and she knows that she will have at least one more surgery in the future, and possibly chemo-therapy and/or radiation following that.

So, that's why I haven't gotten around to writing anything really since around Thanksgiving; well that and moving to the new house. It's been a really slow move, we still don't have all of our stuff here, but at least we own the place we left, so there's no real hurry.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I recently moved

I recently moved and had 4 days without any internet, it gave me a bit of time to read through some OSR stuff and the 5e DMG. I will most likely be blogging about all of them soon, the list of coming reviews is -

Swords & Wizardry White Box Rules
Swords & Wizardry Complete
Delving Deeper Reference Rules Compendium
"Realms of Crawling Chaos"
"Red Tide", "An Echo, Resounding" and "Scarlet Heroes" (lumped together because they all cover the same campaign setting)
"AX1 - D30 DM Companion" and "AX2 - D30 Sandbox Companion" (same author, similar subject matter)
"The Dungeon Alphabet" (expanded 3rd printing)
"Malevolent and Benign"
5th edition D&D "Player's Handbook", "Monster Manual" and "Dungeon Master's Guide" (complete system)
"VA1 - Valley of the Five Fires"

and last, but not least, "The Basic Fantasy Field Guide of Creatures Malevolent and Benign"

 I thought I should show everyone my new S&W campaign at Obsidian Portal too.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

5e edition D&D: My first impressions

Old School DM                                                          New D&D

I finally got around to opening up my Player's Handbook today and started reading. I had been putting that off for I don't even know what reason, but I figured I'd better familiarize myself with the new rules, as I am kicking off a new D&D campaign (probably) this coming Saturday. I decided to let my players vote on a rules set to use out of every RPG I own and 5e D&D seems to be a front-runner, it seems that some of them want to try something new (my inner grognard protests).

So, my initial impressions-

The art: I can't say I am a big fan, but I am only about 50 pages into the book, so that's one caveat. The art seems dark and somewhat uninspired. Technically the art is only mildly proficient, with many anatomy errors throughout. The subjects of the art range from mildly homely to butt-ugly, with only a few standouts that could be referred to as average looking. There is a distinct tone to the art that speaks to me as having a lack of inspiration among the artists, as though they were art directed to near death. I say all of this knowing that some of my favorite D&D art is somewhat amateurish at best, but in first edition AD&D and it's contemporaries (B/X, BECMI) the art was, at least, inspired; it was D&D fan art, and that made it subjectively good, despite it's technical imperfections. I know that art is subjective, so your mileage may vary. Zak S. was a contributor so why couldn't they have used him for some of the art?

The rules: I went through every phase of the public play-test, so I had an inkling of what to expect. I am not going to say I like everything about them, so far, but at least where changes were made they were either building upon the legacy of previous editions, or they were pretty well thought out. That said, I had an initially good impression of 3e, and I ended up hating it because it was a pain to DM and a playground for rules-lawyers. I have said before on this blog, probably more than once, that I don't like any rules set that takes away the power (and creative spontaneity) of the game master. I am a little gun-shy as a result of 3e, and that's probably why I have had this book for months and not cracked it open before now. All of that being said, I am willing to give it a shot, it still (despite the funky looking Gnomes, Dragonborn and Tieflings) feels like D&D. I just hope it retains the agency of the DM.

Funky looking

Too dark in the book.

See, I didn't even notice the Dwarf until I saw the lighter version

Poor anatomy, at best average looking people, dark and not inspiring.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

New Campaign Idea

Here is my latest idea for a new D&D or AD&D campaign.

This campaign that Starts in England in 1066. I know what you are thinking here- another military style campaign with a different historical period. That is only half true, my 1066 campaign would be set during the conquest period, but not really be a part of it. Just straight D&D adventures, with dungeons and all the other stuff (within the context of the setting); my thought is that the PCs are NOT members of either the defeated Anglo-Saxon or Norman armies, but rather the type of rogues and scoundrel that follow any military undertaking, opportunists taking advantage of the chaos generated by the multiple invasions of 1066. Maybe your character is a Norwegian that got stranded in England, for whatever reason, or maybe he's a Lithuanian trader with a taste for high risk, high reward opportunities

William the Conqueror's England was not really all that stable, pretty much for the rest of his life. In 1066 England was invaded by two major north/west European powers, major battles were fought in the north and south of England. Additionally, the Scots, Welsh and Irish made major raids into England that year. The Anglo-Saxon nobility had fled to the Scottish court looking for help, Edward the Aetheling was the last surviving real heir to the English throne; his sister Margaret would eventually marry Malcolm Canmore, the Scottish king, thus cementing a weak claim to the English kingdom for the Scots. Edward would go on to join the Byzantine Emperor's elite Varangian guard, like so many other defeated English lords and warriors, which changed the ethnic make up of the Varangians to mostly English from nearly totally Scandinavian within a generation. Anyway, it was a really chaotic period of time to be in England for more than two decades.

Now you are thinking “But there are no monsters in England!”, au contraire mes amis, England has a rich tableaux of mythology, tradition and history to draw upon, from the ancient Celtic Britons to the Romans that conquered them to Arthurian myth and legend surrounding the post-Roman period in Britain and the Nordic type religion of the old Anglo-Saxons, as well as the actually Nordic mythology of the Norsemen themselves who invaded and settled England in the preceding centuries. All kinds of Christian stuff can be thrown in there too, check out some of the stories about English saints.

Add to that flavorful mix of northwestern European myth and legend the fact that this is a D&D campaign world we're designing, and you can throw in pretty much anything from the Monster Manual if you want. Humanoids? My take on this is that they are just men that have been tainted by the chaos and evil of the Norman Conquest period. Petty, tricky men might become Kobolds; brawny, bullying scavengers might be twisted into Gnolls. Dragons are all over the British isles in myth, St. George the Dragonslayer is the Patron Saint of England (although not yet, he has to wait until the 14th century). Dungeons can be Roman ruins, or ancient Celtic sites, or simply a manifestation of the world reacting to the conquest itself. Then mix in the undead, plenty of reason for the unquiet dead to be poking their restless spirits around Conquest period England.

Plus, all of this stuff falls directly into the middle of my college major, History with an emphasis on the medieval period and my minor, Medieval Studies; so I think I can pull off the atmosphere of this campaign pretty well. Big Darryl always says that I majored in D&D at college and I don't think he's really wrong.

I might ditch some of the more anachronistic stuff, like plate mail, but maybe not, I can see an argument either way on that.

 See- They are wearing plate in this medieval depiction of the battle of Hastings :)

But not in this one :(

Lack of local players may necessitate  going a non-standard route to run this campaign, like PBEM or even Google+, despite my Luddite ways; anyone who is interested in going one of these routes should probably comment here with their preference or email me here

Even if you aren't interested in playing,I'd still like to see any commentary that might help me improve the experience for my prospective player, thanks!

Minor edit: I also wanted to mention that no one won the Celtic Halloween contest, because there were no entries. I noticed that as soon as I hit publish.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


So I was just checking my email and I saw the date, I am 20 days into my new contest and I don't have a single entry. I think to myself "I haven't posted on my blog since I announced the contest, maybe it's lack of visibility?"; then I look at my blog post announcing the contest and I see that I didn't tell anyone where to send their entries. I will rectify that now, send them here. I sincerely hope that this was the issue, and not just me being lazy about getting back to regular blogging.

I have been doing a lot of reading lately, I bought the new D&D- even though I said I wouldn't. Everyone blogging about it had such nice things to say. I haven't tried playing it yet though, so I am going to hold off on reviewing it until I have test driven it, so to speak.

I also have been prepping a pretty cool Carcosa campaign, it involves the Soviets using Tesla technology and Nazi occult secrets and their own ESP experiments. I set the whole thing in 1980, so it's kind of got a Twilight 2000/Carcosa crossover feel to it. KGB, Cosmonauts, Spetsnaz and Scientists on a wacky trans-planar adventure.

Now, enjoy this creepy banshee I found on the internet as inspiration for the adventures you all want to write!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A new contest

First, I'd like to say that falling out of the habit of regularly blogging blows; it's like taking a break from college, or quitting exercising for a while- it is so very hard to get back into the habit. Second, yet another apology to David, my wife has been driving around with your loot from my contests in the back of her minivan for something like a month now. Mea culpa, I should have taken care of it myself.

Art by Todd Lockwood.

Now, on to the contest, generously sponsored by Warlord Games (so far), I have a box of their Celtic Warriors, from their Hail Caesar line of products ready to send to the winner. I'll also throw in a copy of the AD&D 2nd edition "Celts Campaign Sourcebook" for 2nd place and, I guess, a pdf of same for 3rd place.

The contest, since it is October, is to get something Celtic and/or Horror themed (better if it's both), short adventure, long adventure, monster(s), anything that fits the theme and is OSR related, anything from B/X to AD&D to Call of Cthulu will be welcomed. Adventures will be judged by my small, elite group of players and myself, anything that can't really be classified as an adventure will be judged by the Council of Central NY Game Masters.

All entries should be received by midnight EST,October 31st and the winner(s) shall be announced sometime in early November. Authors retain the rights to their work, so feel free to publish it on drivethru RPG/RPG Now, I also make no claim to any art created for or used in your contest entries. Enter as many times as you want, at the end of the contest I'll put all the files together in a zip file and upload it to Dropbox or some other storage site.

Happy October!