Saturday, 31 March 2012

Free Shadowrun 3rd edition downloads (Catalyst)

I likes free downloads.  Thems makes me very happy, even when I know the price is potential adiction to a full product line.  It's a worthwhile gamble, especially if you're just looking around for ideas, art and inspiration for the campaign and system you are already running.

An ork with a pipe in a trenchcoat
-sample pre-gen in the
Shadowrun 3rd Edition
Quickstart Rules
Today I re-introduced myself to Shadowrun.  Shadowrun is now in it's fourth edition.  My memories of the launch of the 1st edition were with a mixture of feelings, similarly expressed was the snobbery from Cyberpunk-ers and RIFTS players.  The art looked great, but I remember wondering why anyone would want elves and goblins in Blade Runner.  As I've said before, back then, my view of genres as campaign setting was pretty strict.  Shadowrun looked like something a younger brother would bring to the table - a mix-up of everything they liked from other games.  Parallels could be made with the lazy quasi-humorous translation of fantasy Warhammer into Rogue Trader/40K with it's Squats, Space-Orks, and Eldar - and later the dropping of some races because they just weren't aesthetically cool enough.  However, in contrast to this perception it seemed to take itself very seriously.

In these post Buffy/Angel days (and all of the TV series which followed), where everyday magic, assimilated demons, vampires were explained with ethnic, counter-culture, alternative lifestyle metaphors, I feel more ready to accept the potential richness of the Shadowrun setting.  Possibly, I'm so shallow, that I will not accept a setting unless I've seen it in a film or read the book first.  Shadowrun looked like a derivative "meta"-game, like (the implausibly popular) Blood Bowl - an in-joke between gamers.  Judgimg by the number of products and editions the publishers must have been doing something right.  Looking at Shadowrun now, it looks as though it could have been a real blast to play, either seriously or with humour (again back to jokes vs. apocalypse Buffy and Angel).  So now I'm wondering if I seriously missed out on something.  But at least now, given the chance I could get my teeth into the basics.

Shadowrun: Quick Start Rules: Third Ed
Although a long way away from complete as a rule-set, a handful of sessions could definitely be played through using the following free products...

Shadowrun 3rd edition free downloads on DriveThru/RPGNow:
Shadowrun: Quick Start Rules: Third Edition
Shadowrun: Gamemaster's Screen: SR3
Shadowrun: Critters
(DriveThru links the PDF downloads)

If you're a die-hard Shadowrun fan, but haven't been back there for a while, you might be curious enough to have a look at the platinum bestseller Shadowrun: 4th Edition 20th Anniversary Core Rulebook (Catalyst) -PDF $15. 

Check out also the free PDF quick start rules for 4th edition on the Catalyst website.

Amazon link thingy to printed copies ->

If you have no idea what any of this is and you wouldn't mind a world where trolls splice into the Matrix and tattooed elves tote seriously state-of-the-art guns and all sorts of other strangeness, then the several editions of Shadowrun might be well be worth a gander. :)

Friday, 30 March 2012

Impaling my eyes today: Cthulhu by Gaslight (3e), Steam Craft, Palladium Fantasy GM Kit and Friday Freebie

Can't process information ... too many visuals ... not enough money .... or time ... but want ...

Cthulhu by Gaslight
  3rd Edition

"Good God Holmes, it's a
Ts' ... ... Pth...
...some sort of monster"

EDIT 3.4.12
I've now seen a review copy of
Cthulhu by Gaslight.  The
PDF file has serious display issues!
This is a real shame, and I'm appealing to
Chaosium to fix the problem.
The actual text looks great, but missing
illustrations and missing parts of
player's hand-outs mean that this product
is currently "broken" and not worth
the $20+   

 (You have been warned.)
EDIT: 5.4.12
Chaosiun have now fixed the display issues!
This product sparkles  pretty line art,
and now also includes a large "pull-out"
map of London (jpg file) along with a
separate Victoriana-styled character sheet
for printing. 5/5 stars!
Something big and steampunky
this way cometh...
(Full RPG %r ules)

Palladium Fantasy GM's Kit
- for GMs!

Okay, I'm less sure about this
one - mainly tables, character
sheets, NPCs, some old maps
and posters - but it's currently
very popular on the Small Publisher
lists on DriveThru. ($5)

Friday Freebie Product on DriveThruRPG

If it's still Friday 30th March 2012*
and you are strange enough
to want to download
this (sock-based RPG)
product for FREE:
click here

*Edit 31.3.12:
Apparently the offer is good for the
whole weekend.
Yay for sock kind!

Product Description on DTRPG:

Adventures in the Land of Skcos

Monday, 26 March 2012

Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands (Raging Swan Press)

Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands
(Raging Swan Press)
A few days ago Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands was released by Raging Swan Press.  To my eyes, it's a storming tribute to the low level modules sold with the early D&D boxed sets - but that's an interpretation.  It's Pathfinder and D&D3.5 friendly - although some of the layout for encounters reminded me a lot of DnD4, but that just goes to show what a slick design job has been done on this adventure (or adventures I should say).

There's plenty for a DM to get their teeth into.  There's many "freeze-frame" encounters, but there's guidelines for situational flexibility, should you want to make it a "living" dungeon.

Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands contains b/w maps, drawn by yours truly, similar those I mentioned in this entry.  Oddly, I thought that Creighton (-Broadhurst of Raging Swan Press) would be adding titles to the maps - I must chat to him about this. ;)

I'm extremely proud to have been part of this project, amongst the other artists, writers, editors, play-testers etc.  Also, look out for the character portraits by the mighty Larry Elmore (I suspect that these were originally part of his Dragon Lance art, allowed to live again with new incarnations)  The writing is slick and DMs and their players will get a lot of mileage out of this product.

Available as a purchasable PDF on ...



Free Section on RPGNow

Raging Swan Press

(Cross-posted to http:/ and

Sunday, 25 March 2012

2300AD (Mongoose) and older editions

2300AD for Traveller (Mongoose Publishing)

2300AD in PDF
Mongoose Publishing
Sourcebook for Traveller rules

This is not really intended as a thorough review, more of a "first impressions" and "that reminds me of" type of entry.

One of the nice things about being on a reviewer email list is that you get free products, to either critique, promote or both.  Often a lot of these free products are single pages of clip-art - which are hard to review because clip-art is something you have to be actually using (in a publication) to have an opinion on.  Also when whole RPG games are sent, you have to imagine what play must be like, because immediate playtesting with friends is not always an option.   Many products are part of a series, some are for systems with which you are not always familiar.  Sometimes the product is written in an unfamiliar language!  This are very minor downside.  I can see how reviewers can become very jaded, also their sense of what they'd pay might become distorted by all the free downloads codes.  I'm finding that my own tastes are usually so select that I'm still spending a customers share on the sites (mainly to buy facsimiles of aolder games I might add)  Despite this every once in a while, a freebie is sent out that is actually really exciting to receive (i.e. exciting like "It's Christmas morning!").  You might even already considered buying that product, but maybe not at the current price, perhaps, maybe if their was a sale ....  I feel this way about the Mongoose Publishing's 2300AD source book.  Even when bundled on the OneBookShelf sites with the Traveller main rules it still feels like just too much to pay for PDFs files.  Perhaps PDF prices like these are linked with the printed copy prices, but it all seems pretty arbitrary to me.

In saying all this, I am really grateful for seeing the 2300AD source book, as it reminds me of a campaign setting which I used to think was excellent, whilst being visualised through the prism of the today's Traveller rules.

Just as a little back-story, let me explain that I was never assured by the new dice mechanics of Mongoose's Traveller, although it was invigorating to see that they very loyal to original Traveller universe ("OTU").  Last year I went on a bit of an Ebay-spree and bought up old adventures and supplements for GDW's first version of Traveller, since I had only owned the Starter Set plus a couple of adventures in my early years of gaming, and by being terrifically under-read when it came to classic sci-fi, some of the conventions and assumptions in Traveller were lost on me.  Let's face it, to my young mind "Imperial" equalled "Darth Vader and stormtroopers".  More recently, the OTU setting made more sense to me and the vast potential of GDW's Traveller has become clear.  In fact, a similar "Imperial sci-fi" styled setting is depicted very well in Grognardia Games's A Thousand Suns (which I adore because it's fairly complete as an all-in-one purchase - It concerned me that Mongoose, after GDW, was continuing down the lines of needing extra supplements like "High Guard" and so forth).

T2300 on DriveThruRPG

"Mankind discovers
the stars"

Traveller: 2300 products
at Noble Knight Games
When Traveller:2300 came out in '86, stores and magazines made considerable effort to clarify that it was not linked to the GDW Traveller and that the Twilight:2000 game was part of the history of T2300.  Rebranding it simply "2300AD" was an astute move, although replacing "Mankind discovers the stars" with "Mankind's battle for the stars" still divides players on the forums today.  Traveller:2300 was very specific in its setting with nationalities of Earth making slow progress in establishing new colonies, infringing, enclaving and warring with recently met aliens.  It was the cover art of T2300 which sold it to me, because at the time it's military hard plastics and battered gun metal screamed "Colonial Marines!" from the Aliens film.  This seemed a world apart from the hi-sci-fi of Traveller with it's generic laser rifles, patrons and trading merchants.   For Mongoose to fuse original (old-school) far-future Traveller with it's broad Foundation style brush strokes with this, Earth's hands-on tentative steps into space, employing chunky, clunky gadgets and tank armour, seems, at first glance, almost heretical!  Hats off to Mongoose for bravery.
2300AD (GDW)
on DriveThruRPG

"Mankind's Battle
for the Stars"

2300AD products
at Noble Knight Games
There are few generalisations flying about the web regarding the older games, so I feel the need here to bust some myths (IMHOpionated and all that).  In the first edition, the emphasis was on a selection of aliens (one reviewer claimed that the focus was all on the Kaefers - which the Americans start to fight in what may become a type of Vietnam in space).  There isn't much about cyber enhancements in Traveller:2300.  T2300 isn't very "urban" either  - a Cyberpunk style source book changed that later.  At the time I remember feeling that this was a competing product with the re-released Cyberpunk RPG (2.0).

The universe of 2300 is described as gritty and sourced from contemporary cinema. Apart from the vehicle, spaceship and weapon hardware, the original editions were incredibly vague with description and there was a real need of very specific scenic environment descriptions, or even just actual "locations".  War with the Kaefers?  Pentapod enclaves?  These were several-line  throw-away statements in the original game, and there were very few illustrations to speak of. This was frustrating, because you were forever aware of a hidden canon and naturally you'd seek out the supplements, sometimes only to be disappointed further.  My understanding of the Earth space-elevator or anything about the Earth actually came from the Beanstalk adventure set on Beta Canum.  The main mission was a bit of a who-dun-it with deadly surprises.   Another adventure I owned was "Bayern" which was clearly very influenced by films like 2001, 2010 and books like Solaris, but the campaign leading to the big reveal was an extremely open explore-map-and-catalogue planets mission.  Again there was something, if not, a lot, missing in the details.  Nonetheless, the pictures of shotguns with LEDs, pulse and gauss guns were welcome, as were the "interface" spaceplanes, blocky hovertanks, even if the rules system was a little stranger than other games.  There was a real near-star-list with colony names, but all very broad.  Games like this need plenty of smaple building maps,  pictures of flora and fauna, cultural commentary and world terrain maps...  So it was a "mixed bag" to say the least. 

One thing that Mongoose 2300AD does do well, is that it provides planet maps.  Ace!  The colony planets feel like solid, real places.  The addition of DNA modifications as a norm seems a little unnecessary.  Colonists on one world may commonly have gills.  Now, I'd prefer to make it hostile to the point that everyone carries a battered aqua-helmet.  I'm not certain what the future 300 years hold, but big gene mods may not be the absolute that the writers feel they are, especially beyond the core worlds where perhaps life is about survival with manufactured technological, but limited, resources. The catch-all here is that DNA-mods are an inevitable result of trading with the bio-tech Pentapods race (although with guns that fire teeth - which is just a little too Cronenburg for my liking - kind of cool though ...).

I'm a little fixated on the visuals here but the vehicle pictures in these Mongoose rules are not good.  Some of them look very much like computerised net models - which will date a lot faster than the 1980s technical drawings of Dietrich and others in GDW T2300/2300AD.

Mongoose Publishing's edition needs
more pictures of guns- like these!
(from GDW's Traveller:2300) 
Where are the gun pictures?  Surely the look and feel of the equipment is really important to distinguish this source book from the main Traveller setting?  The descriptions are there, but show us some eye candy!

And what's all this rubbish in the promotional blerbs about "no anti-gravity" and use of "helicopters"?  Surely there's a better genre description for this type of science-fiction which isn't reductive?  Okay, it's not "near-future" and it's not "far future", but come on! 

I think the problem here might be because this campaign setting is being resold to Mongoose Traveller players as the low tech, small-reach option.  This feels wrong.  2300AD should be about wonder and survival.  It looks outward and upwards from the ashes of the Twilight War, but this source book somehow inverts this vision.  Psionics?  No, sorry, neuro-splice?  Limited jump drive capability?  Yup, the small craft do the stutterwarp limp.  Low TL? Certainly, slugthrowers and stun-batons, barely above the invention of fire!  Of course, I'm paraphrasing here. ;)

In saying this, the authors do a good job of actually acknowledging the roots of the setting.  The inspirational reading list at the back is one of the better ones I've seen to date.  Fans of futurology may enjoy the differences in mankind's assumed path in this edition and from that of 25 years ago.  The changes make me wince just a little.  The cause of the devasting Twilight War could have been left out, but instead, "terrorists" now trigger the conflict, as opposed to the conclusion of the Cold War (or "Faltering Leader System").  Thank god, they didn't write in an eco-apocalypse - that other contemporary media obsession.  My point is that if you want an alternative-history-proofed background leave some details out.  I know that the actions of Napoleon and Wellington effected the politics of today, but the where and when escape me now.   I think my point is that there were plenty of flaws in the original game, but somehow Mongoose is happy to add a few more...

However... as a sourcebook for today's gamer, the potential for the 2300AD setting is HUGE, the supposedly gritty feel on the broad backdrop of newly settled worlds will make for a great campaign - and many styles of game are possible from espionage to battlefield war.  I do suspect that if this product is successful that a 2nd edition will have to come out because it really needs a lot more illustrations to emulate the grit-and-bulk atmosphere implied in the text. Illustraions aside, the whopping 312 pages are packed with background information and game material.

In summary, 2300AD it's a bumper book with plenty of details about many of the colonies and enclaves in the 2300AD near-star sphere.  How it fits with Mongoose's Traveller will be up to individual players to interpret.  The good news is that if Mongoose Publishing don't produce more 2300AD products that there's the so many older T2300/2300AD products out which can be "mined".  What players may discover however, is that the Mongoose edition has already gleaned the best of the basics, presented them in a complete and succinct form which can't be found in the original product range.

Currently the PDF bundle of the Traveller Core Rules and 2300AD  is great value when compared just the 2300AD on it's own (DriveThruRPG links).  At the normal prices, I'd probably I'd probably invest in buying the hard-copy rulebooks. it's a shame that their isn't a deal to combine the books with the PDFs, since it's not uncommon for players to pick up rules in PDF form that they already own - if only for quick-searching at the gaming table.

As a general note: 2300AD is implicit in its need of the Traveller Core Rulebook.  The introduction also suggests that Supplement 5: Vehicles and 6: High Guard "would also be useful".

Mongoose Publishing's 2300AD is out now 
- available on DriveThruRPG (and RPGNow) as a downloadable PDF:

Bundled with the Traveller Core Rulebook$34.99 reduced)

As printed book:

Older Editions - Available To Buy (originally published by Games Designers' Workshop)

DrivethruRPG GDW Traveller:2300 (1st ed) PDF
Noble Knight Games 2nd-hand GDW Traveller: 2300 range

 2300AD at Noble Knight Games

Select Supplements:

Complete collection:

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Dungeon Run (Plaid Hat Games) Lords of Waterdeep (WotC)



Lords of Waterdeep

I thought that this might be of some interest to folks. It's fresh off the emails and feeds and all that...

The new boardgame from Wizards, Lords of Waterdeep is set in the D&D city of Waterdeep (see how much I've researched this one!).

Lords of Waterdeep is a strategy board game for 2-5 players. You take on the role of one of the masked Lords of Waterdeep, secret rulers of the city. Through your agents, you recruit adventurers to go on quests on your behalf, earning rewards and increasing your influence over the city. Expand the city by purchasing new buildings that open up new actions on the board, and hinder—or help—the other lords by playing Intrigue cards to enact your carefully laid plans.
YouTube clip:

I like Rodney. :)

I think it's monopoly-meets-risk. As a result, I can't work out whether or not it'll be exciting to play, or frightening dull! Production wise everything looks good quality.

On Amazon:

Remember to double-check different sellers for prices.

Product Details and free rules downloads at Wizards

Lords of Waterdeep at the Paizo Store

Dungeon Run

 Or should I say ...

Dungeon ... RUN!

After spying photos of this on Mythplaced Treasures Facebook page rather than buying from a store in another continent I settled for buying this good looking boardgame through (because they are my Masters, whom I must serve, who tempt me with super-saver-delivery and then leave it in my neighbour's shed....)

It doesn't look too complicated. My only worry is the fact that apparently players can turn on each other! Whatever happened to honourable dungeoneering?!

So far all I can say is that the quality of the box and print is excellent, but the figures could be a little better moulded - actually they remind me of green toy soldiers one could buy in a massive bag for 50p  - you get heroes only, by the way. Rooms are basically encounter areas, but there's no "grid" to speak of as with tradition dungeon crawler / board RPGs (by which I mean the really old games like MB HeroQuest and Warhammer Quest)  Overall, looks like good value for money.  I am happy with my purchase and look forward to a few minutes browsing the rules and imagining friends to play with.

Photos so far!

Dungeon run is produced by Plaid Hat Games - better known for their Summoner Wars range.  Dungeon Run Product Description Page.

If you can't find it your Friendly Local Gaming Store here's the Amazon widgetty linky things:

  ... RUN!!

Friday, 23 March 2012

More Mars! ERB Shadows of a Dying World (d20 OGL Skirmisher Publishing)

Man walks into a Bar(-soom) ... 
Barman asks "Why, the four arms?"

I was going to delete much of this (badly-written-brain-blah) post since it revealed far too much about my own fetishes.  Instead I shall leave most of it in as "filler" between product pictures and links, and I ask you, dear browsing reader, dedicated player, to treat it as thus.  Do not worry.  My family and doctor have been informed.

Free eBook, Sir?
A Princess of Mars at the Gutenburg Project
Over 30,900 downloads in the last 30 days.
Incidentally my local Waterstones doesn't seem
to be stocking any E R Burroughs at all.
And suddenly I'm a "".

Curse you Google!  And now the masks are off!  The English are exposed!  Hmpf.  Oh well, blogger is free I suppose.   ... For now... Mwhahaha .... Evil Capitalism always wins!  Google's stormtroopers are boarding their Boolean AT-ATs as I type.

(...and breathe...)

Back to the Mars!

This whole Mars settings thing is feeling like quite a fad for me, no doubt next week I'll be rattling on about how super Buck Rogers is or "Why won't my friends play Dungeon! with me?"  I'm even wondering whether it's worth going to see the John Carter movie at the cinema, when I know I'll acquire it on budget DVD in four months time.  I'm looking forward to it, it's just my life moves in slow time, but also since starting to read the original A Princess of Mars novel (I have a decaying 1920's copy - acquired by accident with a bunch of Tarzan books which I passed on as a gift for a friend) certain simple discrepancies have made me realise that there's just no point even having the "What Hollywood does to Literature" debate, when the planet Mars in the books does not even have dust, and everyone wanders around naked in a sort of naturist get-back-to-primal-basics fantasy.  Also, since the Green Martians ("Tharks") lay eggs, why is it that every illustrator in comics, books and fan-art they have breasts (all be-it sometimes covered with armour)?

On the subject of exposed boobies it would be amiss not to refer to the politics of attire regarding the, aforementioned princess, Dejah Thoris.  When talking to Carter in A Princess of Mars she implies that Earthmen are somehow perverse in their insistence to "cover their bodies with strange, unsightly pieces of cloth" and that Carter's origins are confusing due to his "absence of grotesque coverings" I mention all of this because I was surprised to read secondhand of a legal challenge by the Edgar Rice Burrough's Estate over Dynamite Entertainment rights to publish Tarzan and 'Mars related publications.

At some point the sexy covers of Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris has come in for criticism for being pornographic - I sort of doubt that this is the main thrust of the fight (just that we're all enjoying citing it ;) ). The irony here is that even with bejeweled thonged-kickers on she's still dressed more formally than in the book.  Perhaps out of this comes the idea that being a Disney movie, the John Carter franchise may be in need of a more wholesome, family-oriented image.  I doubt Burroughs was ever writing for the whole family, I doubt that he was even writing for women readers.  To be honest, the lawyers might as well be arguing about the number of legs different alien animals have and whether those numbers are loyal to the books.  But who knows what the original truth here is because I forgot to read any actual news threads because I had a lovely night in, Google searching Dejah Thoris with "Safe Search" turned off. :)  Not quite work safe, you probably wouldn't get fired, but it's harder to explain to the girlfriend though.  My guilty thoughts are currently being assuaged by me saying "this could be worse, I could Googling the Gor covers..."  Dirty, filthy, dirty boy!  Actually, I'm still in the doghouse for trying for being caught with the Red Sonja cosplay photos on the screen - I'm innocent m'lord!  They was in a game blog!  I'm still not convinced that they could claim "Armour Class 5" on the character sheet ...

Again, I need to say that I hadn't realised that in the original books that there is "no dust" on Mars.  In place of dust, soil or sand is soft coloured fungal flora covering the vast tracts of dried ocean.  So my visions of sword-fights in dusty deserts may have been misplaced.   (I wonder, did Disney at any point consider not to have Mars as particularly desert-like?)  But hey, I don't mind having deserts on Mars -reminds me of Tatooine.  Time for a skiff fight!  (I could have said "Deserts remind me of Frank Herbert's Dune", but no really, Star Wars bounces up and down in my brain first... I know, I know...)

On the subject of monsters with too many legs, I'm finding myself warming now to many RPG monsters of my past which I thought were somehow "improbable".  Come to think of it, the extra limbs on Displacer Beasts and Basilisks are pretty mundane compared to their other powers.  This also reminds me of the fact that two-legged wyverns made better "evolutionary" sense than four legged dragons, but then I was dissapointed that wyverns in D&D didn't breathe fire (okay, I was a bit of a doofus logic-wise and I still am).  I think it was some sort of four-limbed "believable aesthetic".  Burroughs on the other hand (pun! did you see that?) uses extra limbs to remind us that the environment is utterly alien, but then adds aspects of Earthly familiarity, like referring to a creature as a "white ape" (it just also happens have six limbs and a really weird face).  Slowly, I'm getting used to the fact that "many legs" and arms is okay, and I'll be honest Burroughs is way more fun than Wells whose writing 15 years before often tried to justify the look of things with scientific explanation.  Burroughs just goes for it: tusks, extra arms, green ... next!  Suddenly I'm remembering Volturnian monsters in Star Frontiers - no longer do the creatures they seem absurd, but now they are homages to writers like Burroughs.  This is a strange journey I'm on.  ERB is making me appreciate the naffly mutated!

But quick!  To the actual content, man!

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars:
Shadows of a Dying World

$5.99 on DTRPG

Skirmisher Publishing
I've been particularily enjoying reading a review copy of the re-launched  Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars: Shadows of a Dying World (An OGL Guide to Monsters, Races, and Beasts) - Skirmisher Publishing.

The OGL system in this case is the d20 SRD (D&D3 friendly).  Whilst going crazy for mining customized OD&D books and the Savage Worlds MARS adventures (see blog post), I'd overlooked this well made gem.  A quiet voice is whispering that this probably isn't an "official" Burroughs' Estate approved document, so it might be worth buying it soon, in case it quietly goes underground, but maybe we're just too over cautious these days, after all, some of the actual book texts appear to be out of copyright - hence free ebooks.

Shadows of a Dying World is loyal to its source material.  Excerpts from the novels are used as part of the monster descriptions.  I especially like the fact that some of the monsters can be used as characters (using the Racial Ability Scores Modifiers - a hallmark of 3.5e).  I'd love to play an 8ft tall four armed green-skinned Thark.

But what about armour? Look, the characters in the books barely wear clothes, so D&D plate-mail doesn't really have a place here.  Also, no matter what flavour of D&D armour class you use, there is very little incentive for fighters not to strap metal and leather to exposed parts.  Appendix III in Shadows' provides us with Class Defence Bonuses - which give players just enough of a level-linked boost to AC so that even when they're standing still characters may still survive the slings, arrows and radium guns of outrageous Barsoom.  Loin-clothed barbarian-types are welcome here.

With Feats descriptions and Random Encounter Tables, this product comes over as a succinct, settings based, Monster Manual with extras.  It's all generic enough to make the Mars milieu your own.  Skirmisher Publishing have also included a document built from select tables and text in the SRD to assist with creature building and modifying what's already provided in the text. 

Because this is an OGL product, in theory all you would need is the d20 Source Reference Document and this product to play campaigns on Mars (but if I remember right, the SRD doesn't include character generation so you'll probably enjoy this more if you actual own the rules for Pathfinder, core DnD3/3.5 rule books or d20 fantasy-equivalent).

The many interior illustrations are in a variety of styles, black and white and printer friendly.

For many DMs who are fans of this genre, who use a d20 system, this document will be perfect starting point for encounters with monsters based on adventures from one of the grand-daddies of fantasy.

I'm really grateful that I've had a chance to see this product. It's certainly worth the $6.  It is definitely worthwhile considering if d20/PF/DnD/3-3.5 is your preferred system and you're dying to try out some classic, but brutal, sci-fantasy. :)


Rare TSR Warriors of Mars
for OD&D -Taken from the
entry on the Noble Knight
Games site
.They can email you
if they get one in stock,
so they can torture you hope
before  they finish you off
with an asking price ;)
Other Burroughsian Martian ("Barsoom") links for sourcing your campaigns:

A Princess of Mars - free book download at Project Gutenburg (other books in the series also available there, but sadly at the moment, no "Venus" books - not that I can find)

Mars/Barsoom settings for Tunnels & Trolls on Trollbridge forum:  "Trolls on Barsoom"

John Carter/Mars settings OD&D / Whitebox/ S&S -see my post here (inc. Grey Elf links)

Also see this respective look on Grognardia at the rare Gygax/Blume Warriors of Mars

> Edgar Rice Burroughs Martian Books - full list on <

Not quite ERB...
Dejah Thoris
Warlords of Mars
(Dynamite Comics)
-She's a very modern girl!

You may also want to see the new film.   Disney's website for John Carter.  Ah, look at cute Woola!
Blimey, a film?

Not sure, if I'm ready, myself, I'm too busy speculating on different archaic game systems, and shopping for new ones ... What a life, eh?

Thanks for reading, browsing, clicking, whatever.

Shopping is good for you - it's your duty to spend in the Recession!

RPG shops need your food vouchers.

Now get on that thoat and bag yourself a red-tinted princess!

EDIT 25.03.12
Pulp adventure Mars fans may also like:
 Cavaliers of Mars (Free Quickstart Rules)
Tales of the Space Princess RPG (Lulu Print Copy) / Tales of the Space Princess RPG E-Book

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Khazan City Chaos for Tunnels & Trolls (by Stuart Lloyd)

Khazan! Possibly the most famous city in the Tunnels & Trolls universe! Chewing up and spitting out players in countless adventures.

Khazan City Chaos
Khazan City Chaos may appear to be a small solo, but you will find that if you're playing this thoroughly enough that you will pass through a good many of it's 56 sections. A lot of the scenes provide the reader with the opportunity to test different abilities with Saving Rolls. This gives this solo a high "replay" factor, so believe me when I say that you are getting more than your value for money.

That's what this solo is all about: -money. Lucky fortune -and a fight- at the beginning will provide your low level character with more cash than they will see in a entirety of adventures. It's a pity there's no option to walk away at that point (not to mention that if you're a freshly generated character the introduction will provide you with a sack of cash). Now, I've played too many shoot-em-ups to know that free health and weapons usually means something big is around the corner... So let us a assume that a fool and their money is about to be easily parted. But you, the player, are no fool because this solo will probably cost you less than a dollar.

The author explains in the preface that he his developing his own standardised solo rules for Tunnels & Trolls – in this case the 7.5 edition. It's perfectly possible to play a warrior without spells talents and maybe even a character from 5/5.5 or earlier editions, but you'd be missing a treat, because Khazan City Chaos is extremely comprehensive in the instructions as to how to employ Talents and Spells from the 7.5 lists. T&T 7.5 in many ways encourages improvisation and special moves in combat -but this requires a creative and judicial GM to be on hand, which is not possible in solo texts. Less confident players also like to be led by the text in the section as to what they are able to do (despite some T&T solos claiming that the broadest interpretation of the text should allows player to do whatever their characters feel like). Mr Lloyd's genius here, in addition to all of the spell guidelines, is the implementation of “stunts” in combat – these are special saving rolls based on attributes or talents, which allow for dramatic and memorable moves. Many of the stunts are totally optional, which may come as a relief for fast-play players – just give 'em the MR and let 'em get on with it! ;)

The extra options reminded me a little of gamebooks, like Lone Wolf, where the character has options to use skills to effect the outcome of an encounter – they was always something strangely satisfying in this (when compared, to say, standard Fighting Fantasy). The stunts add a lot of flavour to combat. These along the many tests in the adventure result in a sense of ingenuity and achievement of behalf of your character – even when some of the trials in the urban world may seem without the thrill and zap of combat (although combat is only ever a section away).

Stuart Lloyd's narrative style is impeccably balanced between the do-or-die thrill of the quest, peppered with light hearted commentary about the characters and their environs, which fits perfectly with the traditional style of T&T solos. He appears to be planning a whole series. So be warned! By purchasing this you may find yourself collecting all of his titles as soon they hit the press!

This solo will entertain new players and be refreshing for the veterans too. GMs of all editions of T&T may like to take a look at this solo since talent guidelines, the stunt descriptions and many options to use attribute (or talent) SRs makes for inspirational game-planning.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Creator of The Empire of the Petal Throne dies at 83

I am less familiar with his later works, and have only recently become familar with his most famous and influencial game, Empire of the Petal Throne - which for it's time, and still is, a masterpiece adaptation of the D&D rules into the most intense of Sci-Fantasy settings. Renaissance man, Professor M.A.R. Barker has many fans from all around the world, and his works are now entertaining a new generation of players.

Today's press release from the Tekumel Foundation (PDF)

Recent blog post about my own discoveries in the world of Tekumel
Facsimile PDF of Empire of the Petal Throne RPG rulebook on DriveThru - a real pleasure to read.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

20% off RPGs on Lulu in March (random list of titles on Lulu)

EDIT: New links being added from comments below - please feel free to suggest interesting RPG titles you may have seen on Lulu in a comment below.

I know it's halfway through the month already, but the code is still good for a while.
Books & eBooks from 20% off- Enter code
MARBOOKS12 - Save up to $25

I haven't tried this one myself yet - sometimes the codes I get are for US customers, but it still might be worth a try if you're from elsewhere, EDIT: Tested and it works for me as a UK customer. :)

Here follows a selection of role-playing game rulebooks and retro-clones on Lulu:
- OSRIC 2.2 - (AD&D retro-clone)
- Basic Fantasy RPG -
- Epees & Sorcellerie
- Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox
- Strands of Power
- Tombs and Terrors
- Ruins & Ronin (S&W Wb)
- Starships and Spacemen
- Mutant Future
- Spellcraft & Swordplay

EDIT: recommendations from others and games which I like and have just remembered!

- Labyrinth Lord
- Tales of the Space Princess RPG
- Metamorphosis Alpha (James M Ward - reprint of '70's1st edition)
- Encounter Critical (spoof retro? sci-fi RPG)
-The Mutant Epoch RPG

- Tunnels et Trolls (French 8th Edition)
- Spirit of the Century (FATE) 
(in expensive hardback only?)

Feel free to comment with any RPG favourites sold through Lulu which I should be drawing people's attention to. :)

Thanks for browsing!


Sunday, 11 March 2012

OD&D Mars and Conan supplements (plus Moebius and AD&D Reprints)

Lost on a strange planet?
Got extra muscles?
Don't get on with the locals?
(But like the babes?)
Really hate Giant Apes?
p4 (non-TSR edition)
D&D Warrior's of Mars
I've been having some fun raid-mining some links from the OD&D Discussion boards 

Original Dungeons & Dragons* supplements and similar are a wonderful resource for fans of any fantasy system, because they illustrate how a confident DM can remaster their prefer system to suit alternative settings.  They're also of great use to retro/nostalgia/simulcrum clone market which is the closest many of us get to early fantasy role-playing.  Given a choice to adapt sci-fantasy at the moment my head is stuck somewhere between Tunnels & Trolls, S&W Whitebox and Epees & Sorcellaire, since these all offer fastplay combat with magic whilst being simple enough to adapt to any setting.  By the way, I'm avoiding T&T New Khazan here, since the conversion to sci-fi is almost too high-tech - "hi-sci-fantasy"?  We're just talking swords, axes, clubs, maybe low powered rifles (like slow loading cross-bows) - simple armour types.  As far as I'm concerned I'd be happy for the stats of orcs to represent green skinned aliens - maybe add a couple of arms and tusks ... carnivorous apes and dinosaurs can pretty much fill in for all sorts of classical beasties.  I'm certainly not that worried about vehicle-to-vehicle combat when the action is mainly about leaping pirate style from one platform to another and beating the living daylights out of a tribal enemy with a hand-to-hand weapon. -Think Conan on a Tatooine skiff - no lightsabers please, we're sci-fantasy Cimmerian!

*OD&D is generally used to refer to the very original Dungeons & Dragons rules printed in 1974 from TSR (ref Acaeum) which also required the earlier Chainmail rules to play.

Links copied from the Grey Elf's page of classic editions:

Dungeons & Dragons Warriors of Mars, (PDF)
"a Barsoom OD&D supplement by "Doc" from the OD&D forums--based off of the original Warriors of Mars Miniatures Battles game put out by TSR in 1974! He did such neat work I decided to format it to match the other OD&D booklets and offer it here (with his permission, of course"
And since we're talking about Conan...
The Age of Conan (PDF),
Age of Conan II: Secrets of Acheron (PDF)
3-panel DM Screen for the Age of Conan (PDF)

(Grey Elf is also responsible for Elf Lair Games who produce retro-clone Spellcraft and Swordplay -see also my blog post here)

Further expansion Adventures on Mars posted by Gloriousbattle (on Scribd)

For more goodies from where D&D and Mars collide, be sure to visit the Warriors of Mars board on on the OD&D Discussion forum

I'm terribly under read, and I'm aware there's a lot less snogging in the very original books (I've rediscovered a 1920 antique copy of Princess of Mars... but the pages are so yellow I can barely read the text...I'm sure the "princess" is actually the big lizard thing...) but, just for testosterone fueled fun and giggles - here's a Yahoo image search of "Frazetta + Mars" (not always safe for work and hard to explain to the girlfriend) - some of the art are tributes to good old Frazetta.

Moebius- an eternal dream loop is cut

Okay, I know that's a bit cheesy, but hey.  Whilst I'm on the subject of artists, I was slightly touched by the news that Moebius had died, whose work is just to vast to describe, so many favourites to list - and to be honest I was less aware of his superhero art, but I knew of graphic novels and film designs.  Google, wiki, and tumblr him - be swept away by the dreamlike imagery, ignore photos of eternal loops.

First Edition AD&D "Premium" Reprints

Look if you haven't heard about this yet, you really are reading all of the wrong pages!  Wizards of the Coast appear to be receiving pre-orders for the reprints of the 1977 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules.  This is a really interesting move for Wizards and raising money for the Gygax  Memorial Fund seems like a really sweet idea.  I always think that when WotC say that they looking back at earlier editions it's just a ploy to convince players of older editions that they'll like the new unrecognisable ten book system. "It's zee same game"

As Dr Seuss would say:
"Old Hat, New Hat!"
-in a general approval way-
if you now what I mean. :)
The original covers for
the MM can be seen here
So if you're not sure about buying smelly old editions from ebay or a shiny Lulu copy of OSRIC has no interest for you, then this is your opportunity to read the texts many of us worshipped back in the way-back salad-years hazy-70s-80s day.

If they truly are identical, and you only want to buy one book, I really must recommend the Dungeon Masters Guide, which is organised is the strangest of ways, but is a delight to read - also note that in the appendix is a full list of monsters stats -if you don't have the Monster Manual to hand. On the other hand the Monster Manual would make a perfect gift the players and non-players alike, it's not everyday you get the see so many unique descriptions of so many creatures from so many different stories in one book, also Gygax claims to have started work on the MM first.  It has been mooted on a few blogs and forums that it is possible to play many games with the player's guides alone, in this case maybe playing original AD&D is workable with just the Player's Handbook - after all, it contains all of the classes equipment, spells, classes and rules for combat.

The forewords are always quite interesting.  It took me years to realise that when Gygax refers to "Dungeons & Dragons", that he means the rules before the "Holmes" and the coloured box sets (B/X and BECMI et al), and that he clearly saw Advanced Dungeons & Dragons as an expansion (replacement) and continuation of those rules.  This may seem obvious, but the development of the boxed sets was a journey of D&D in a slightly different, parallel,  direction - debates are still had about this, and it's hard to summarise here.  Friends and I started with the purple and red Basic boxes - that was "Dungeons & Dragons" to us, we knew that they weren't just an introduction to AD&D, but it was pretty clear that Advanced D&D was written earlier, and some of the gaming conventions and assumptions didn't always tie up with Basic/Expert.  But these observations are down to subjective interpretation, the more you dig into the history of editions the more confusing it gets.  AD&D is a sort of culmination and zenith of the rules which survived for a significantly long time in that edition, which probably indicates it's success and popularity.  However these rules were rarely played in isolation, they were endlessly adjusted, amended and supplemented by articles in Dragon, White Dwarf and Imagine magazine. It was popular, it was informed.  Players knew the difference between a dungeon-crawl and character story led games. The appendices for converting AD&D to Gamma World and Boot Hill also tell you a lot about the broad mindedness of the author and editors (if not, at least an awareness of cross-franchise marketing ;) )

In many ways, by buying the reprints of AD&D (1st edition) its as far back as you can get to the original ideas and dice mechanics without going down the ebay-collector and retro-clone routesin that search for OD&D.

My only problem with the Premium editions (and I know I'm not alone here) is that they could have used the original art as opposed to these new tributes, but maybe they are actually trying to sell it as a complete game for a new generation, or maybe it's an art "rights" thing.  The new art pays loyal tribute to the originals, though.  By the time I was playing, the covers had been revised and replaced with the Jeff Easley art (with the exception of Fiend Folio).  I was playing in a group which was borrowing from the, then frighteningly modern, Unearthed Arcana (and later Oriental Adventures) which was the first serious reorganising of the rules before the much needed and overdue 2nd edition AD&D was released.

So buy em before they change their minds and bury the original AD&D forever! ;)




AD&D Forever!!

(Just don't talk to me about Psionics ...)

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Sky-Tyrant of Mars, Sell-Swords of Mars, Blood-Legacy of Mars (Adamant Ent - for Savage Worlds) and DriveThru 20%off March Code

Look, just stop gawping and concentrate
on the text. (Blood Legacy of Mars p16)
MARS!  Swords, guns, strange coloured tribal aliens,minimal clothing, alien tech, brutal classical empires.  Looks like we've all got the red-fever at the moment.  In my aging hard-copy collection the closest I've been to these settings is with West End Games' Space: 1889 - where Venus and Mars are in the process of being tamed by the jolly forces of European colonialism.  In Pulp Land, away from Verne and Wells, there's a more brutal free-for-all where those barbarian "skills" are used to liberate enslaved princesses - that's if a generation of Franzetta covers are to be taken literally.  Of course, I know that it's all just a little bit more sophisticated than that, and some of the women turn out to be pretty tough, but hey, from Gor to Carter there's been some images that have had some formative effects on my perverse mind.  The covers of three new adventures from Adamant Entertainment are definitely tributes to fine works of Mr F.  I've acquired some review copies of newly released ("March" is "Mars"-month -themed launch) Sell-Swords', Blood Legacy' and Sky-Tyrant of Mars, all designed for the Savage World system, but haven't quite taken the plunge by buying the core settings book (MARS: Savage World Edition).  As I type, the actual prices for the PDFs are miniscule ($2.50), which explains where they've been shooting up the charts on RPGDriveThru and RPGNow - that, and possibly a certain Disney film coming out...

Before looking at these I remembered mentioned in a few places, on forums and in some blogs, about the ease at which fantasy RPGs can be adapted to these and the more high-tech Flash Gordon style settings.  Older style systems, like OD&D and it's clones S&W Whitebox, EetS and others, fair especially well because all weapons perform the same damage (1d6 for example).  This means that choosing between a sword and a raygun is not an issue - so let the sci-fi swashbuckling commence!  I think the first thing I would adapt in a D&D style system is the availability of plate mail - perhaps the equivalent is some sort of alien gladiatorial armour.  The other armours would be changed aesthetically - to represent a lighter types, more as armour as pieces on flesh, chest plates, greaves etc.  If one simply replaces bows with guns and rifles but just about keeps the damage the same, there's almost no effect of the balance of the game. T&T5-7.5 is perfect for sci-fantasy since it deals with guns and different ages of fantasy worlds - including the future. With very little work game mechanics wise many games would adapt quickly to these settings.  At the low tech end the Dark Sun campaign world is pretty similar to pulp-sci-fantasy, certainly with a theme of desert-exotic it resembles Burroghs/Marvel-Carter Mars visually speaking. Maybe Glorantha RQ or HQ could be wedged into the Mars setting?

So when I'm looking at the new adventures from Adamant Entertainment, half of me is already adapting them to my favorite RPGs.  This could be considered as ironic since Savage Worlds clearly took the crown from GURPS many years as the multi-genre adaptable-system of choice - and here am I talking about shoe-horning other systems into square holes when Savage Worlds players will probably shrug and wonder why I'd want to make all that work for myself.  Did I mention that Adamant Entertainment also sell a d20 MARS RPG?  :)

MARS: Savage World Edition
-core setting and rules-
Sometimes optional!
These three new releases are each very different from one another.  I'll come straight out with it, that my favourite is Sky-Tyrant of Mars by Umberto Pignatelli.  This is partly because, being the budget shopper I am, I can see that Sky-Tyrant requires only the Savage Worlds main rules to play (in my case that's the Explorer's Edition).  Its scenes rush forward into each other with the excitement of Star Wars or Indiana Jones.  Pre-generated characters also help greatly in implementing the setting, which is just about generic enough to not require the core settings book.  This adventure jumps from straight-forward encounter survival to being part of politics (but still with action).  Sky-Tyrant is for the more "cinematic" action favouring players.  The accessibility of the scenario means that it is also perfect for conversion to other systems (or maybe different settings).  Summary: Fast-action pure-pulp sci-fantasy, awesome.

Blood Legacy and Sell Swords are definitely written for games masters who like a longer, broader campaign, but again both are very different.

In Blood Legacy of Mars the background reads like a Roman/Borgias/Hamlet paranoid love, daggers and intrigue story.  This paragraph from The Advice for GM sums up well how-to-use-this-book - making it very different from, say Sky-Tyrant:
"This adventure is organized differently from most Savage Worlds adventures. The plot is convoluted, and has several potential branches. Because of this, the main NPCs are given extensive writeups in the Dramatis Personae section in the last chapter, along with a list of their personal plots, plans, and goals. Locations which will be visited more than once during the course of the adventure are detailed in the last chapter as well, for convenience. Refer frequently to that section as you read through the adventure.  In addition, a relationship diagram has been provided, showing the main NPCs and their conflicting intentions, to help you
keep it all straight."
I really, really, really want to post a picture of that "relationship diagram" - it is truly a masterpiece of interconnected PC motivation and all that intrigue and double-crossing stuff (which makes my brain hurt - but in a good way) - but since it's such an integral part of the product it would be wrong to do so, I reckon.  If you straightened out a bowl of spaghetti and added square meatballs, that's what the diagram looks like.  Excellent.  The line-art art in this adventure is absolutely superb.  Definitely an adventure for the readers, talkers and thinkers, spiced up with sexual intrigue and disputes resolved in drunken viscous brawls.    Tell the players to keep notes on everyone they meet!  Suggested additional rules are the main MARS rulebook for the descriptions of Minor NPCs.  Also, if you're enjoying the setting and need equipment resources etc, it's probably near-compulsory to buy the MARS rulebook.  Summary: Compelling!

Very different in purpose and play is Sell Swords of Mars, and not for novices!  You may have to check your library first:
"This adventure requires both the Savage Worlds rule book and the MARS setting book in order to play. For best results, the GM should have access to the Savage Worlds ‘Showdown’ rules (available as a free download from the Pinnacle website) and the supplement WARRIORS OF MARS. In the event that you do not wish to run the larger encounters using the ‘Showdown’ rules, it is possible to stage them using the Mass Battle rules on page 120 of
the Explorer’s Edition of the Savage Worlds rule book."  (p2, Sell-Swords of Mars)
Got all of those?  Then you'll do just fine. :)

This adventure is truly epic in scale.  It's a war, with heroes, troops, vehicles (airships and alien tripods!), some political ramifications, glory and salvation. There's a useful flowchart in the back of the adventure, where the variety outcomes of the battles and decisions will still lead to the final showdown. I'm guessing that there's plenty of hours of play here, but again, definitely for veteran players who'd like to branch out into mass combat.  Summary: Exotic 40K with a decent plot. ;)

Special offer news

There's 20% off cost at checkout at RPGDriveThru on the following products when this code is used:

The code implodes on April 10th, 2012.  Only the foolish will perish.