Tuesday, February 27, 2018

New OSR Products at RPGNow/DTRPG — February 27th, 2018

Lots of adventures this week, including one by Shane Ward



Dark Places & Demogorgons Jeffersontown Survival Guide - Apparently it's for a game called Dark Places & Demogorgons which apparently came out in January and is an 80s horror RPG (I guess inspired by Stranger Things). Oops.   140 pages, $9.99

Dungeon of the Selenian Conclave -  Weird, I bought (and reviewed this) last year. But apparently it's being released by a new company and at twice the price. $4.00, 24 pages and a middling adventure.

Dusty Door - A Blueholme adventure from Shane Ward of the 3 Toadstools blog  12 Pages and PWYW

Quests of Doom 4: Between a Rock and a Hard Place -   7th level adventure about dwarves and hobgoblins. $7.99, 29 pages.

Quests of Doom 4: Desperation of Ivy -  Sounds like a soap opera episode, but seems to be a house crawl. By a pretty good author, though, Lance Hawersomething. For 3rd to 5th level characters, 24 pages, $7.99

RPGPundit Presents: Hecate's Tomb -  Sounds more like a mystery than a tomb crawl. 18 pages, $2.99

The Cracked Lantern - The 34th module from Creation's Edge games, this one is for 7th to 9th level characters. $1.50 and 11 pages.


Friday Freebie 2-23-18 -  A smaller dungeon this time. $1 for enhanced version

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Dark Fantasy Basic Review — New School Meets Old School. Or Vice-versa.

One of the things I dislike about the OSR movement is the repetition of OD&D and B/X clones, simply republished with minimal house rules (sometimes not even that). Another thing I dislike is the tendency toward simpler characters with no special powers in the assertion that is more "old school" and how the game should be played. Yet the rapid proliferation of character classes in both official magazines and fanzines in the early days argues to the contrary.

Dark Fantasy Basic from Eric Diaz isn't just a rehash of OD&D or B/X, but takes an old school framework and uses concepts from more modern incarnations of the game, particularly 5th edition, but beyond that, new ideas. The basics are the same, character classes, traditional abilities scores (using the B/X scale for bonuses) but most of the details are quite different, and it allows a good deal of character customization without the bloat or paperwork of 3e.

Firstly, character generation uses a curious method where you only roll 3d6 three times, called the yin-yang method. Each ability score is coupled with another (Strength and Intelligence, Wisdom and Dexterity, Constitution and Charisma). The roll is the ability score for the first one, but the second is that score subtracted from 21. So if a character has an 18 strength, he has a 3 intelligence. And so on.

Secondly, although it features the four standard classes (fighter, cleric, magic-user, thief, plus a special one) class abilities are largely built around a single skill system, with a d20 rolled and the skill added to the related ability bonus and compared to a target number based on difficulty (15 being "average" difficulty). The skill level is tied to the class level, with there being primary, secondary, and tertiary skills. Primary skills are at the same level as the class level (so 5th level is +5), while secondary is two-thirds, and tertiary at one third.  Each character has 1 primary skill, two secondary, and three tertiary. Some are mandatory for a class (combat is always) but many are up to the player to pick.

This skill system encompasses pretty much everything, from combat to spellcasting and of course, thief skills. There are about 10 skills in all. It uses the advantage/disadvantage system from 5e (rolling 2 d20s), and for that matter, saving throws also use the 5e method of ability checks (with a bonus of +1 per level).

Additionally, classes have feats to customize their character. These are not the minor ticky-tac things as found in 3rd edition, but essentially character class powers. For instance, fighters can take abilities that are normally associated with a paladin or ranger. There's also a small list of general feats any class can take, though they can also take feats from other classes with GM approval.

Hit points are fixed at 4 per level, plus constitution bonus. There is a feat to improve this by one per level (which the fighter gets). Armor class starts at 10 and goes up. Armor and weapons are handled generically. Light, medium and heavy for armor (improving AC by 2,4, and 6 respectively). Shields also come in sizes, but larger ones improve the armor class by 2. Weapons range from tiny (d4) through small (d6), medium (d8), large (d10), and great (d12), though specific types (sword, spear, axe, etc) get special abilities.

Magic is also tied into the skill and feat system. Each spell is a feat, which means characters don't have many. But it can be cast over and over without limit and encompasses more than a single spell as in classic D&D. Instead, it can be several different ones, depending on the power level being used. For instance, "Healing" is a spell, but it's not just healing wounds, if cast at a higher level it might instead cure disease instead of just hit points.

But casting at a higher level is not restricted by level, but simply a function of making a successful spellcasting skill roll. So a low level character could try to cast a higher level aspect of his spell, he'd just have a difficult time in succeeding (the difficulty is 10 plus twice the spell level). So an average ability 3rd level caster could theoretically cast a 6th level spell, but it would be tricky. And there is a price for failure, damage in hit points equal to the spell level being attempted. And if the roll is really blown (with a 1), the spell is lost until memorized (or prayed for) again.

As it's essentially just a player's book, there's no monsters or magic items or such. The rest of the book does have rules for advancement, encumbrance, languages, and the usual stuff. Advancement is pretty standard, except characters may or may not get a feat when they gain a level, it depends on if a character's abilities bonuses and current number of feats add up to the new level or not. If not, they gain a feat. They probably won't, since at start, all characters have a net ability bonus of 0 due to the yin-yang method.

The PDF is nicely laid out with a lot of illustrations. All old public domain (except the nice cover), but they do not clash with each other, as sometimes is the case, they all look quite nice. On the other hand, at least my copy (which the author actually sent me, not from DTRPG) did not have bookmarks, which made it hard to find what you are looking for, and character creation required a lot of flipping back and forth (to the skills section and the spells section). It would have been nice to have helpful tables at the end of the book.

While the author apparently intended it to be as concise as possible (or so says the introduction), examples would have been really helpful: a character creation example, a spellcasting example, examples of skill uses, etc. In the electronic era, there is no real reason to be concise at the expense of being clear. 

When it seems like every week has a new Swords & Wizardry hack with a smattering of house rules, it's nice to see something completely different, something more radical, but still clearly old school. Dark Fantasy Basic works really well for the most part and is cleverly designed. It's not without its flaws, though they are pretty minor and perhaps somewhat caused by my misreading of the rules.

For instance, some of the classes seem a bit less than optimal. The cleric is probably overpowered in OD&D and definitely AD&D, but here it's not terribly useful with its primary skill (turning undead) only being useful if you have a lot of undead. A third level cleric with one spell can basically only do that one spell (probably healing). Oh sure, it's neat that a low-ish level cleric can heal and cure disease and poison and maybe even petrification, but it's one dimensional.

Similarly one-dimensional, the thief can either be good at thievery or finding traps (perception) since the two abilities those skills uses are tied to each other yin-yang style.

I would probably fix this by letting characters pick feats for 2nd and 3rd levels. Then again, maybe that's supposed to be how it works.

Secondly, there's not enough skill variety and too many skills per character. There are ten skills. There are six skills per character. So there's going to be a lot of overlap among what characters can do. Maybe make some of the skills less broad.

Thirdly, the combat attack progressions mostly follows AD&D, but the hit points (and armor class) for characters follow D&D. This might seem somewhat minor, but basically it has the effect of D&D monsters being too easy (as DFB will hit them easier than same level D&D characters) and AD&D monsters being too tough (as they hit too hard for DFB characters to survive). This is especially exacerbated when you hae DFB characters fighting each other. They have very good "to hits", somewhat poor armor classes, low hit points, and possibly high weapon damages (if they use two-handed weapons)

I would just increase the hit points per level from 4 to 5 (or maybe even 6) to bring them more in line with AD&D.

And finally there's also the danger of the system being too streamlined. You basically just roll the same thing over and over, which gets monotonous. Especially for thieves. Thievery encompasses basically everything but climbing walls and finding traps. Maybe there doesn't need to be an separate skill for every aspect of thievery, but one skill is probably too broad.

As I re-read this, it seems like my complaints are longer than the praise, but that's just stuff that came up while playing in a one-shot. But it's a game you'd actually want to play (or run) and that's really the best praise a game can get.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

New OSR Products at RPGNow/DTRPG — February 20th, 2018

Slowish week, though many of the products are rather pricey. 


Quests of Doom 4: Awakenings -  1st to 3rd level S&W adventure from Frog God, presumably converted from 5e. 19 pages, $7.99

Quests of Doom 4: A Little Knowledge -5h level adventure. $7.99 and 29 pages.  By Tom Knauss, so presumably originally for 3rd edition.

SO7 Shrine of the Titans -  Apparently a giant (er, the tall humanoid) adventure, actually, not titan, but still probably for higher levels. 14 pages, $2.50

The Folio 16.6 Pirate Lords of the Dark Sargasso -  Side adventure for the Folio #16. $1.99 and 6 pages (yikes).

The Folio 16.6 The Ogre Magi of Jade Rock -  Side adventure for the Folio #16. $1.99 and 12 pages.


Keeps & Towers -  Very short (6 page) guide for costs and such. Probably covered in may old editions anyway. 99 cents.

Most Monsters  - I have to admit, this is a subject that hasn't really been covered. 10 pages, $1.99


Friday Freebie Enhanced Map 2-16-18 -  Looks like an underground shopping mall or something. $1 for enhanced version.

RPGPundit Presents #20; The City of Arkhome 2 -  21 pages, $2.99

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

New OSR Products @ RPGNow/DTRPG — February 13th, 2018

Somewhat interestingly someone has created a retroclone of the WEG Ghostbusters game and released an SRD for it.


Advanced Adventures #39: The Dark Tower of Arcma -  Looks like it's time for another AA compilation! This module is for 6th to 10th level characters and involves them exploring a mysterious and odorous (oh wait, not aroma) dark tower. 14 pages, $7 which is a little pricey, but usually these have tiny print and are a good bang for the buck, even at a low page count.

Kidnap the Archpriest - He'd just cast Word of Recall, though.  $4.99 and 54 pages with a lot of background material

SO6: The Bloody Barrow - For levels 6 to 8. 28 pages, $7.50

Two OSR Dungeon Crawls -  This is much more imaginative than the name. While basically the author (John Battle) as just filled out keys to some of Dyson Logos's maps, he's done so rather creatively with a dungeon in a snow globe and a witch's dream. Worth a look, especially as it's PWYW. 29 pages.


Classes of Fantasy: Assassin -  Because playing 1e or 0e with Greyhawk is just too hard, I guess. PWYW

Classes of Fantasy: Gnome -  This might be interesting, though gnomes can be anything from tinkers to lawn protectors to tricksters. PWYW.

Classes of Fantasy: Treant - Seems like a treant character would be even more of a stick in the mud than a paladin. PWYW

Gregorious Notes on Weird Fantasy - More like a grab bag of stuff for LotFP.  9 pages, 50 cents


Friday Freebie Enhanced Map 2-9-18 - Looks like an alchemists lab. $1 for enhanced version

RPGPundit Presents #19:  Frabulous Gonzo Robot Generator -  14 pages of silly robots $2.99

Wormskin Issue 8 - B/Xish zine from Gavin Norman, $4.99 and 44 pages.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Sleeping Griffon Productions goes Pay What You Want

I recently reviewed one of their adventures, The Witches of Hagswallow and was intrigued by the rules it used, Battleaxes and Beasties so put it on my wishlist. And so looking to buy something else, I noticed it and the rest of his products are now all Pay What You Want

The above adventure is definitely worth a look. B&B isn't as interesting as I hoped it would be, it's basically another White Box rehash, but try it and make up your own mind.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

One of the Merciless Merchants is making modules on Patreon

I don't follow Patreon much, much like I don't follow G+, Instagram, ham radio, the Kardashians, etc. I vaguely know they exist and are popular for reasons I don't grok, but I normally just let it filter in and out of my consciousness without it registering.

One on a while though something makes me notice and in this case, it's that Malrex, aka Aaron Fairbrook of the Merciless Merchants is now making modules on Patreon.

If you aren't familiar with them, they have released a small number of modules for the 2e retroclone For Gold and Glory. I reviewed one of them, Nevermore Mines, but have the rest. They are really quick good adventures (if a bit heavy on the stock art), not just interesting adventures to read, but ones you might actually run (which is kinda rare among OSR modules, IMHO).

Anyway, it's only a $1 a module and seems to put out one every month or two (hard to see how many he's made so far, 3 or 4 it seems) so worth a look if you like adventures. He's got a very good track record.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Issue 14 of & Magazine is out

Lots of zines, but this is about the only one that supports AD&D (or even OSRIC), and best of all, it's free

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

New OSR Products at DTRPG/RPGNow — February 6th, 2018

A number of adventures from The Folio.  I am not a real fan of the Folio stuff because they are often railroady, but they are at least written with 1e/OSR in mind and then converted to 5e (usually with the author complaining about 5e being dumbed down) which is more than most multi-system adventures, even by supposed old school companies where they are written for Pathfinder/3.5 or 5e and back converted.


The Folio #15: WS2 The Forgotten Plateau - Second module in the "White Ship" campaign, which is somewhat inspired by the Isle of Dread. Levels 3 to 5, 32 pages, $5.99

The Folio #15.5 The Ruins of Alaxar -  Adventure for 3-5 level characters involving a ruined pirate fortress. $1.99 and 8 pages

The Folio #15.6 Lost Among the Crystals - Follow up to above, only it seems the party's pet triceratops is having some sort of problem (as I said, a bit raidroady). 8 pages, $1.99

The Folio #16 WS3 Distant Turtle City - Continuing the White Ship adventures is a trip for 5th to 7th level character into the Orient, where the PCs must save a city. 32 pages, $5.99

The Folio #17 WS4 Samurai's Fall - While the 4th part of the WS series, it's pretty much standalone, a dungeon crawl set in an Asian castle. Inspired by B3. For levels 6 to 8. 36 pages, $5.99


B/X Advanced (no art) -  Want AD&D mashed with B/X? Well, here ya go. PWYW

B/X Essentials Cleric/Mu Spells No Art - Descriptions of the spells for B/X, in case LL wasn't good enough for you. Free

RPGPundit Presents #18: Advanced Authentic Medieval Astrology - I am skeptical that any astrology actually believed in astrology, but eh. $2.99


Dungeon Room Generator -  4 pages of tables. PWYW

Hydra #1 - This seems to be a Swedish OSR zine. Maybe. The text is sparse and not very helpful but it mentions OSR. 32 pages, $2.49

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Monsterarium Review — Two Handfuls of Monsters, One Handful That Is Useful

Monsterarium is a short monster book from Knight Owl Games, written by Ahimsa Kerp and illustrated (and written) by Nahid Taheri. Although usable in pretty much any OSR game, it's really meant for Lamentations of the Flame Princess and so the creatures tend to be low powered, with most hit dice being 5 or less.

The eighteen monsters are a mix of real work monsters from Persian folklore as well as some made up stuff and some re-imaging of existing monsters (the faun and night hag).  They are separated into two different sections, "Monsters" and "Creatures of the Wood", the first being likely encountered anywhere while the latter are in an enchanted forest type deal. Though there is some overlap, a "Peri" from Persian folklore is in the "Monsters" section, but its rules is in the "Creatures of the Wood" section.