Saturday, 30 April 2011


FEAR of Tentacles!
My therapist told me not to worry about the slithering, tapping and smothering in my nightmares. A fear of tentacles was only natural for a person like myself. After all, he explained, humans for not ready for the truth, not worthy of the dark wisdom, not ready for the future, the beautiful catastrophes. As usual, he told me to leave an offering and blow out the candles on the way out. When I got home, amidst the shadows, I feverishly searched for the sources of my recent dreams:

YOU Have Tentacles!
The Big Hoodoo (PDF)
- 1950s Cthullu-paranoid escapades in the by Pegrane Press for the Trail of Cthullu (in-house system) - it appears fairly adaptable to older systems. A great setting, clever twists.

The Mutant Epoch (PDF Also available in book form on Lulu)
- Post apocalyptic goodness! So many mutations, so much hardware, lots of lovely tables. A fast paced old-style RPG written and lusciously monochromicly illustrated by William McAusland of Outland Arts.  I'll definitely be writing more on this soon.

There's a CGI Tentacle.
Monsters (DVD)
- It's a type of road movie with improvised acting and the occasional glimpse of "the creatures". Enjoy the amazing natural scenery, enjoy all of the "Danger" road signs, but don't expect too much in way or explanation of closure. ;)


They're in there, in my dreams, in the fated future. 

I can't stay awake forever
... can I?

Friday, 29 April 2011

Mongoose Publishing Wedding Weekend Sale

Royal Wedding
being used as
an excuse
for a Sale?
God Save
My attention has just been caught by this Roleplayers Chronicle post 

I think I saw the Mongoose press mail-out but didn't look close enough.
Mongoose is selling some classics core rules at reduced prices:

Over this weekend, until Tuesday morning (UK time), every Mongoose RPG core book will be at half price on our web site. This is your chance to grab some awesome bargains and give one of our popular games a try - or, if you are already a player, get some more rulebooks to go round the table!

Titles on offer include;

Traveller (both hardback and Pocket Edition)
RuneQuest II
Judge Dredd
Strontium Dog
Lone Wolf Multiplayer Gamebook
Elric of Melnibone
Deus Vult
Wraith Recon
Hammers Slammers
Plus all French language core RPG books

There are some good bargains here - the pocket edition of Traveller for just £7.50, or the leather-bound RuneQuest II for just $19.95! You can order them now from their main pages on the web site, but be quick, as they will be returning to their normal price as soon as we get back into the office after the weekend!

The trick is you have to buy them from their website which for me was a bit of a trawl through -so good luck hunting out those bargains!  Click on pic to take you there.
(I'm very broke this weekend ...)

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Flashback to ... 1982, Dicing With Dragons

I'm going to share something with you.  Scans of a cover of a book.  Okay, here's some back-story and filler, but honestly, skip this rubbish and scroll down to the pretty pictures.

No, really, I don't mind!  Scroll! ;)

Some time in the early 80's I was just about already playing D&D (Mentzer's Red Box), amongst other games - perhaps I'd already moved over the AD&D - the peer pressure to play half elf druids and rangers was immense, but to this day I'm still in denial about bards and psionics.  But that's another story.  My entry into role-playing had actually come through the Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, which I have to admit is still unfashionable to mention in some circles.  I still wonder now if those books were really just an elaborate of marketing campaign by the the founders of Games Workshop to get children into buying imported fantasy games.

A few years after (or maybe just months) I'd become a fully fledged DM, playing against real people and buying up every type of game I could afford from Nottingham GW (in the Broadmarsh Centre), but still only ever playing three different systems max as a campaign.  A friend of my father's gave me this book: Dicing with Dragons - An Introduction to Role-Playing Games by Ian Livingstone.  My dad's friend was a psychology academic and had presumably assumed the book was about something completely different.  His loss of £3.95 was my gain!  It was already a little battered - but certainly not to the level it now is (maybe I'd leant it out a bit as well, I don't remember).  Inside, it's illustrated by Russ Nicholson - then a hero of mine and others, because of Warlock of Firetop Mountain. I may have to post some of those pics some time at a later date.

The book is clearly written for an older audience and covers a much broader spectrum of games, than say What is Dungeons and Dragons? (see retrospective review at this blog) A fair bit of it is reads like a catalogue of games and fanzines up to 1983.  A real gem in the book is an introductory "Fantasy Quest" solo adventure named "Eye of the Dragon" (134 sections with a system based on rolling 3D6). In recent years Eye of the Dragon has been reborn as an FF gamebook.  It has had mixed reviews, and to be honest, the original is very much like a boiled down Warlock of Firetop Mountain, with almost identical situations and challenges.  It's also a very "classic" or archetypal dungeon. Naturally with illustrations by Mr Nichsolson, it is impossible not to compare it to Warlock of Firetop Mountain.  Those illustrations can be scanned on request. ;)

Incidentally, the monster stats are provided in brackets within the paragraph text, in a suspence-killing revelation of their strengths (which reminds me of old T&T solos).  The abbreviations are suitably confusing, as if Ian is saying "Oh, you want to play role-playing games?  Get used to indecipherable shorthand. It's not a six sided die, it's Dee-Six!" etc.

Par Example:
"They are too involved with ...
[looking up the RPG style abbreviations] notice you."

Gosh, I've managed to get this far without using the phrases "old school" or "dungeon-crawl".

Anyhow, all that is really an aside...  this is what I'm really posting about:  It's the cover, you see.  The cover had a massive impact on me.

I present the cover of Dicing With Dragons (the Revised edition) from 1983 (Routledge & Kegan Paul 1982)...!

Dicing with Dragons, RKP 1983 (1982)
Miniatures, funny shaped dice,
Dungeon Floor Plans and a pencil!
In fact when I was telling a friend all about my Inked Adventures Cut-Up Dungeon Sections, he pointed out that I was really just trying to recreate the cover of this book.  I think he is right.  Back then when I was playing, I think I had already bought the GW Floor Plans (Set 1), but my "ideal" of role-playing and tabletop gaming was very influenced by this picture.  I don't remember there being many close-up colour photos of actual play or mock-ups (my main references here are White Dwarf and Imagine magazine).  Even the dice were posher than the ones I already had. Funnily enough, this combination of nice floor plans with painted figures is what drew me to Warhammer Quest later, but I say all this with unease, because deep down I still prefer the fact that in a well played RPG, the figures and scenery will struggle to get close to the pictures in the mind's-eye, and also the fact that it became apparent very quickly that it would be difficult to match a very limited range of unpainted metal figures with many of the monsters I was plucking from AD&D MMII.  However, at the time, pre-printed cardboard plans with a few PC figures were infinitely more sophisticated than a scrawlly pencil on graph paper with "x"s to mark where everyone was. 

All of the items depicted are accessories not provided
with the rules or in the actual boxes of RPGs from the early 80s.
Here's the whole scene, with the figures, which wraps around the back of the book cover.  On the back, there's chairs, tables, a balrog, even an umber hulk!  The dungeon floor plans worked best on a dark surface.  A black table was ideal ("Mum, can I paint the table ...?").

Ian Livingston, pre-Eidos upgrades.
My first hit was certainly not free.
(Photo on inside cover, circa 1982)
Where in Middle Earth (UK) could one buy all these lovely things?  Why, at Games Workshop of course!

Years later, I now think of Ian Livingstone (and his sidekick, SJ) as a sort of charming brotherly drug dealer, who still manages to take my money in other ways. I just hope that there was some genuine wonder there and that I've not just been just a complete gimp for over 25 years to cynical marketing ploys.  Surely, not?  Hey, even the art-nouveau decoration and lettering is cool. :)


EDIT: Scans of early floor plans can be seen in this thread on Lost and the Damned Forum.

EDIT 8.5.11 Dragon find! :  Mortis from the above forum tracked down that dragon on the book cover as a Ral Partha "Cold Drake". :)

EDIT 21.05.11 Italian Cover.
Marchomer on Lost and the Damned also found this Italian cover!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Lord of Tyranny - Ripped From the Headlines (RC)

Ripped From the Headlines: Lord of Tyranny
by Aaron T. Huss
Roleplayers Chronicle

"Ripped From the Headlines is a series of system-less adventure modules inspired or derived from real events or stories and given a role-playing game appeal. Each adventure is meant to be played in one or two game sessions as stand-alone storylines. They can be inserted into ongoing campaigns, used as encounters in longer adventures or simply played as one-night gaming scenarios."

This product reminds me of the better written scenario articles in Imagine and White Dwarf, back in the days when magazines were still edited to appeal to players of a broad spectrum of games.  Despite being systemless, the author addresses how to adapt the scenario to different genres of fantasy games* as well as tips on how to insert it into a current campaign.  (*Aaron Huss has already won my fawning respect as a specialist in game genre awareness in his highly informative Gamers’ Guide to Tabletop Role-playing Genres)

This product is well structured, the main characters are outlined, plot elements are clearly defined, a cast of opponents is also described in "The Bestiary".  The NPCs are generic enough to be suddenly rustled up for an evening game from any rules appendix (nobles, elite warriors and so forth).  Although the trigger events are urban, the scenario can include a dungeon-chase for the climatic encounters.  It's recommended that the location is a small province, or small town in a remote location distant from the main action of the referee's campaign. In my own game I would probably put the politics and events in a town on the way to another quest location - remember, that town's aren't just for taverns and shopping. ;)  The plot is rich enough to be played out as a "backdrop", whilst there would always be the option of the players getting their hands dirty by influencing local events, just by protecting one of the main protagonists.

Premise: a corrupt decadent leader is on the verge of being deposed by a peasant revolution, led by a focussed hero, who has yet to survive rooftop sniper archers and dedicated denizens in the form of a feared "honour guard"...

Without wishing to spoil a plot twist, if played in a certain way, the scenario presents some ethical dilemmas which may be at odds with codes of conduct or principles with which they align themselves.  If this is the case, then some seriously interesting, challenging and engaging role-playing from the players has to occur.  That's my interpretation - much of this scenario relies upon your chosen style of play.

Clearly inspired by the Iraq War, Lord of Tyranny is a post modern deconstruction of events in our own world (or media representations of), broken down and efficiently translated into playable fantasy game elements.  The "Ripped From The Headlines" series will hopefully bring us a refreshing alternative to the usual tombola mix of plot elements derived from film or novels.

Well written, well presented with inset gaming suggestion text boxes and easy to digest sections, this is a small and perfect springboard for several gaming sessions.  It is adaptable to a variety of gaming styles - appealing to storytellers and dungeon crawlers alike.  Ideal as part of a larger fantasy campaign, whilst being as "self enclosed" as the referee wishes.

Available in two flavours:
1. Black and white, very printer friendly;
or 2. Lush on-screen version.

Buy this.  It's a bargain.
I defy you not to gain something for your game by just reading it. :)

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Second Hand Gamebooks and misc

Tonight I've added a few extra pages to this blog - including a Second Hand Gamebooks page (I've been updating the old ebay list - curse those insertion fees!); plus the usual cross-links to Inked Adventures dungeon sections, which have become woefully neglected in the quest to create dice mugs and sell old books.

I've promised to write lots of comments and tiny reviews for a few people, so be prepared for splash of select RPGDriveThru and Lulu product links. :)

I wish I could bring you wit, gaming observations and declarations of self discovery tonight, but I'm too busy selling my soul for pennies across the broken wastelands of threads on decadent forums.

Ooh look!
A big site about dice:
No, really, if you like dice, there's everything there (be prepared to lose a few hours browsing in that place, mwhahaha).
Dice are cool. The spin, roll and clatter.
Cool. :)