Sunday, 17 July 2011

Inked Adventures - Encounter Lairs 2 Templar Chapel

Sneaky cross-blog ( Inked Adventures main / IA blogger) product-self-promotion post:   ;)

Happy tonight. :)

Chapel by Billiam B.;
Figures by Dryw.
- Available on RPG DriveThru RPG for $2.95
(Review copies available upon request)

Saturday, 16 July 2011


In the corner of the room are some sacks filled with rotting meat and electrum coins.  

Mm meat...

Okay, being random tonight.  Trying to finish laying out Encounter Lairs 2 "Templar Chapel" - but it may have to wait one more day.

Cleaner Wanted
I've just been looking at the exquisite Jeff Easley Art site.  No more evidence is required that he is still a god amongst men.  (Buy the prints on Ebay!)

I keep meaning to do a short profile here on the Escape Velocity Gaming company ( products of DriveThru ) but now is not the right moment.

Fun reads:
- I'm dipping in and out of Ruins & Ronin (Lulu softcover) -plus the essential Ninja class!  I'm also still utterly charmed by the 2d6 simplicity and revisionist originality of Epées & Sorcelerie (Lulu)

Random, but inspirational, print-out I'm carrying around for coffee break reading:  
Pages from the "Round Robin" Q+A of Savage World licensee/publishers (Savage Insider Issue 1)  in which both large and small publishers are asked about methods, their products, work ethics and gaming preferences.  I say it's inspirational because it's really refreshing to see how both the little guys and big corps survive alongside each other in the online publishing industry, despite anxieties and run-away-enthusiasms. :)

Recently made an apron design on CafePress.  I know, I know. Like CafePress needs more designs.

Bought some more Fighting Fantasy game books from a charity shop today.  It's a disease, y'know.

There was something else ... something crawling across my mind's eye, a niggling sensation, uncomfortable, slightly displaced. 

Time for bed, perhaps.

...rotting meat...


Sunday, 10 July 2011

Little Book of Dungeons Vol I & II (CSP)

$2.50 on DriveThru
click on image to see product
I adore the maps on the Crooked Staff Productions site and dip into their blog now and again, so I jumped at the chance to buy these books.

As with all map-only products, I recommend that buyers read the description carefully, view the preview and think about what they need from a "blank" set of maps.  Both books contain 9 full page maps.  These are charming, very slick, textured greyscale maps, which would be absolutely perfect for most dungeon campaigns - especially where the DM suddenly needs a plausibly grand set of underground halls.

Symmetry in some of the designs inspires the imagination to think of amibitious dwarven architects (they also remind me of the dungeon starter rooms in randomised play in the DMG 1st ed - random nostalgia points gained).

The maps feel professional, solid and deliberately absent of filler features (apart from pillars,steps and doors) making these an ideal blank base for stocking with details and denizens.  Also if a DM wanted the PCs to traverse a massive empty area (like in much of the Mines of Moria) perhaps leading only to a couple of encounters, these plans are ideal, creating a sense of a dungeon terrain that will take a day to cross.
$2.50 on DriveThru
click on image to see product
Whether these maps be used to represent the long abandoned halls of a lost civilisation, or a thriving subterranean city, this booklet offers the Game Master a variety of dungeon layouts to suit their needs.
Volume II has a few extra odd features, parts of caverns, a straight sewer/river/canal, but every map is still linking in with standard dungeons which is a compatibility plus.

One wonders if CSP are warming us up to so floor plan tiles?

A talented manipulator of PDFs may be able to zoom, scale and break these pages into 1 inch plans (or even import them into a virtual tabletop game).  However, it needs to be said that these maps would be compatible with most tabletop tiles or systems - especially since they've made the flagstones into a 5ft grid - the staple of all modern plans and battlemats - so a DM could adapt tiles he already owns. :) 

These black and white maps are to the quality and standard of the one page dungeons by WotC used to include in Dungeon magazine and are at a pocket money price.  Their simplicity in detail is their strength, allowing the DM to adapt them to his or her game setting.  If you think that you're that sort of DM, then these are a bargain-"must-buy". :)

Friday, 8 July 2011

ENnies Nominees 2011 and Weapons of War on Google eBooks

I still don't know what "ENnies" is derived from or stands for ("Entertainment" play on "Emmies"?).  I think I read it somewhere, my mind got wiped (help me out here anyone).  Anyhow, quite a few RPG communities get extremely excited about these awards, which sort makes them prestigious, I guess. :)
This year's nominees have been posted up at the ENnies home blog

For gamers who like their RPGs in PDF form DriveThru has posted up a selection of the nominated products which can be bought through their site.

I must admit, after a cursory glance nothing is jumping out at me as an industry-changing product.  However, there's a few items I don't recognise that might just be that - and my fatal flaw is that my attention is always caught by the old (or imitators of the old) rather than the new, so perhaps I'm an enemy of genuine gaming innovation. ;)

me no like change 
me like stuff to smell same
me also like cheap

I had some fun the other night having a browse about on Google's new eBook service.  In the free downloads there's quite a few gems, mainly of the 19th century variety.  I highly recommend the following book because it's packed with black and white illustrations of helmets, shields, swords and so forth.  No doubt there's a few anachronisms and errors since there's quite a few new discoveries and theories on warfare proposed since 1870, but it's certainly worth a browse! 
Tip: skip the first hundred pages or so (no pictures ;) )

If link broken try here

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Dungeon! Boardgame

Picked up a nice package from the post office today. Dungeon! - Fantasy Boardgame (the latest date on the box is 1981) Looks pretty complete.  The Trickster-Gods of Ebay have been kind today!  For 99p +£5 packaging they were very kind indeed.

Did you see the white crayon?  Kids, go ask your dad what the crayon was for. :D
(That's not my joke, it can't be, I think I stole it)
I'm avoiding Googling "Dungeon! boardgame" at this moment.  I think I remember there being a few web sites about which board design went with which box.  Feel free to abandon these ramblings and seek out true collector knowledge.

Still here?   

Fool!  Thalt shall certainly perish of ignorance in the Torture Chamber!

I think I remember this box or later designs in the local toy shop, but by the time I was aware of Dungeon I was already playing D&D.  It felt to me that it would be a gaming step backwards, perhaps, and besides, although we had a few board games at home, it really wouldn't be my parents' "cup of tea".  Board games appeared at Christmas -  Ludo type games, backgammon, chess, L'attacque (Stratego), Connect 4 (? maybe that was later?),  hmm, Bermuda Triangle was the strangest "themed" game I think we owned - with that crazy magnetic storm cloud roaming the board whilst you tried to sell bananas for timber or rum or something...

I couldn't really imagine mum taking the Elf through a secret door on  Level 2 and dispatching a Vampire.   Maybe I should I have shown them the back of the box (see below).

Behold the squidgy wonders of the late Roslof!

Iconic stuff.  Not sure about the dragon demon thing in the middle though... but check out the warriors!

The pictures on the box sides remind me now of the way the Gauntlet arcade game was marketed, except there's something a little odd about this line up of characters: "Hero", "Elf", "Superhero" - "or Wizard!"


Then it falls into place.  Superheroes were  in Chainmail and OD&D.  There's also a  "+1 Sword" and the rare "+2 Sword" in the treasures.  The uniqueness of these phrases make them stand out from the standard fantasy cliché fare. Was this just D&D boiled down, or was the language an introductory ploy?  Okay, it's wrong to over intellectualise this one I reckon, it's just when some of the language (without trademarks) is so specific to another game it's hard not to imagine TSR's big picture game plan. During the red box years, and possibly quite a while before, people went to great lengths to explain that D&D had "no board", so to refer to Dungeon! as a D&D game would have been just crazy, and possibly offensive!

I remember that the D&D box sets epitomised the paradigms of adolescence, it was a game in a box (boxed boardgames are for kids), but it had no board in that box (mysterious, perhaps it's not a kid's game after all? They look like books!)

For "Family Boardgame" read "buy it for the kids" or "safe enough to let the kids play" - Parents play games with kids, it's good for them, quality time or something, since WWII being nice to offspring was in vogue. Grown-ups in the 70s and 80s sometimes played chess, but they didn't really know the rules so it was probably just part of drunk foreplay.  Grown-ups would also get drunk and play strip-poker.  They used to play cards with grandma, but grandma wanted to play for hard cash, and strip-poker seemed like a bad idea with Grandma for lots of crazy reasons.  Evil masterminds also played chess.  That's when they weren't playing Mastermind.

For those of us who are new to Dungeon! (I know I'm almost alone in not having played it before) the way the characters "win" is by amassing a high treasure count in gold coin value.  The tougher Superhero and Wizard need considerable more gold coins to win than the Hero and Elf.  These are variable values in multiples of 1000s.  Sounds a little like XP by class level. ;)

Okay, no doubt about it, this was TSR's "gateway" game.  It's certainly much easier to understand than Sorcerer's Cave (oh god, those rules melted my head), but that's for another post, another time.

The back of the box makes me grin.  

Here's that fantasy game playing family (certainly not my parents from the time, who'd be much more happy with a simple game of Sorry!). Look at their smiles.  It's healthy, it's fun.  Your fundamentalist neighbours won't disapprove and brand you as witches.  Go easy on the fizzy soda-stream cola, son! Even your sister looks interested.  That's right, make her play an Elf (Elfs are a bit girly cos we never read that big Lord of the Hobbits book and discovered that Elves are seriously bad-ass until Orlando's hair made them girly again)  no wait, she's finding the secret doors and getting more gold than you...!

Are those AD&D rulebooks on that top shelf?  Quick, this family are witches, somebody call the neighbours!  That's what TSR mean when they say "Will you survive the fun?"  It's a moral thing.  Will you survive the social embarrassment of admitting to playing or survive a real-life lynching?

Or maybe it's Twiglet thing.  Those are Twiglets, right?  Fairly tame by 70's-80's standards, but Twiglets are clearly what the discerning middle classes kept on their tables in case of a sudden attack of board game mania.

BOARD GAME MANIA!!  Ayeeee!  Is nowhere safe from the MB Monster?!

Maybe TSR knew what they exactly were doing... 
...Everyone in the photo suddenly ages, the coke turns to beer and the twiglets become pretzels. 
(Okay, I have to admit that all that beer and pretzels sounds rather like an American thing, but I get the idea if I substitute cups of tea and plates of scones.)  

Naturally, mum in the photo is on very high levels of valium. She'd been seeing the goblins for years, that's why she's moving a playing piece, it's all making perfect sense to her (shush! the piece is moving her hand, not the other way around). Dad's a bit drunk, naturally.   Possibly wondering why the kids weren't in bed and why he wasn't pretending to understand chess as a way of getting it on with mum.

Secretly, the kids really wanted to play Pacman, Swingball, eat Angel Delight from the packet, harass vagrants in wastelands from the safety of their chopper style bikes, or argue about Jaws and forthcoming Star Wars 2 (and whether or not lightsabers worked underwater cos Vader could take down a Great White easy-peasy).

Oh dear, my retrospective make-it-up-it's-better-than-the-real-memories time machine as burnt out.  Better wrap it up for the night.  

I think I took these pictures to show off the art in the instructions.

Cool, eh?  

Now all I have to do is find some soda-stream cola drinking players. :)
And there's loads of little cards.  

You get the idea.
It's a board game. 
Not really D&D, but your family might have considered played it, because MouseTrap was too fiddly to set up.

(Twiglets not included)
(Wax crayon included)
(Go on, ask dad about the crayon)

Friday, 1 July 2011

Goodies from Mr Postman

Since Facebook is moving like a brick-laden dog this evening, I'm going to babble into the blog.

My relationship with Mister Postman is positive again.  He's brought me gifts and even agreed to send things to Canada.  Some of you may know that I've been selling a few Fighting Fantasy gamebooks through Ebay.  Two separate Canadian buyers really opened my eyes to the power of a labour strike.  Industrial action by postal workers in Canada, meant that our own humble Royal Mail / Post Office Counters (UK) would not even accept parcels to send to Canada (it's easier to send stuff to war-torn corners of Africa!).  Parcel Force took one parcel off me at a 10 times the original price of postage.  Even at that price there was still no guarantee that the post would arrive.  My sympathies goes out to all Canadians waiting for post, it takes tough character to put up with nearly a month of disruption. (Happy Canada Day, by the way).  I'm hoping now that the packages will arrive, and that my ebay feedback is positive.

I am shocked at the power ebay feedback holds over me, it turns me into a sickening fawn!

Lulu came through.  I had a bad experience the first time I ordered from Lulu, but in retrospect all of the evidence points to a package getting lost by the DPD couriers, and then I had some of those infamous "printer marks" on the books, which I have since found are not typical.

Todays Christmas size haul contained:

  • OSRIC- neo-AD&D goodness in shiny hardback form
  • Morgansfort - the Western Lands Campaign (for the Basic Fantasy RPG by Chris Gonnerman)
  • Ruins & Ronin - oriental S&W from Sword +1 Productions
    ... and the flavour of the moment ...
  • Epées & Sorcelerie by Nicolas Dessaux trans/ed. David Macauley
    -which is much nicer in soft bound form than my print-out.

20% off books - Enter code JULYBOOKS11 - Save up to $25 - Offer ends 7/31/11

So in terms of retro-clones, I'm pretty loved-up today.

Incidentally, I had a scan to share of a E&S character which I'd rolled up in a notebook and preceded to doodle over the character stats, in a way that would have probably got be banned from a gaming table for not paying attention to the DM - but DropBox is telling me that I failed to upload it on the computer across town.  It was a type of Templar Knight using the Priest class - I was letting him use a sword on the proviso that he wouldn't be allowed to use missile weapons unless they were blessed with powers relating to fighting evil or the vanquising the undead. Like a religious thing, not a phobia thing, an awkward Cleric thing, y'know?

I may have already typed this, but I was thinking about drafting a sort of Thief class but since the skill checks in E&S are linked to level, there seemed little point to start listing different Thief skills per level.  Also the high-Dexterity-in-place-of-armour-class rule naturally encourages agile warriors to travel light, a definite plus for the Conan types and appropriate for Elvish rogues.  Suddenly I'm reminded of the way I play the rangers in Baldur's Gate - stripping down from plate to leather so that they can go scouting in the undergrowth with the thief.  For a Thief class in E&S (should it be needed) perhaps just some guidelines written for managing thief skills are needed.  The experience / hit dice / attack bonus could be estimated from the Priest table.  Musings aside.

It was very therapeutic to roll up a character so quickly, and with 2d6 for each ability makes you double-take slightly - a value of "8" is an average-to-good score. :o

It's a shame that I won't get to play this game in the near future (group play is just not in the schedule atm), because I suspect that with all really simple systems the true positives and limitations are only revealed in play.  Tunnels and Trolls pretty much survives though (despite the MR vs. stats divide).  Definitely for a DM  E&S an less than daunting game to prepare adventures for, whilst for the players the simplicity might be be liberating, especially for beginner players (if you overlook the high probability of instant death which is common and apt in an old-school simulacrum ... Perhaps with very new players one could substitute Constitution for HP which ever is higher - remember that Constitution is only a range of 2-12 mostly superseded at 2nd level as a Warrior, 2d6+2 HD, for example...?).  I'm also very fond of games which would adapt well to solo text based play (in the absense of group play, I can fantasise about returning to authorship... long story).

I'll add that character sheet as soon as I re-acquire the file or the notebook. :)

EDIT 4.7.11 *inserts scan of E&S character*

More shopping...!

I actually bought a rulebook from a real shop in a high street yesterday.  I know!  There was a small corner devoted to RPG's and boardgames (in Forbidden Planet, Leicester).  D&D mainly, but there was also a shelf given over to Munchkin.  For the moment I'm avoiding Munchkin because I know I'll probably love it and I'll have to buy all of the expansion packs.  The one non-D&D rulebook was a slim volume of Savage Worlds: Explorer's Edition. 

Since I've only seen this (or a primer) as a PDF and have a new-found curiosity for Savage Worlds, I decided that this was a sign sent by the Gods of Hobby, and made the purchase.  Part of my offering to the same said gods was to buy some more dice (sets of black and white, poly, opaques).

A man can never have too many dice.