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On Realizing the 1980s Have Become a Historical Setting

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Back in my day we didn't have cell phones or text messages or Snapchat. If you wanted to make plans with someone you called their house, maybe asked their parents or siblings to get them on the phone. And you had to plan out where and when to meet like you were planning an amphibious fault. And we liked it. We loved it!

I've been looking through some old 1980s games, either old ones from my collection or new acquisitions. I've realized if I were to, for example, play a game of 1st edition Chill or Top Secret, my inclination would be to run it as a historical game as opposed to running it in the present. Chill has a modern day 3rd edition and a new, modern day version of Top Secret is being made. But to me, those classic games really feel rooted in the eras in which they were made. That's not to say they couldn't be adapted to modern times - and Chill would also work great as a Victorian-era game.

Not all games from that era scream their time periods as much. For e…

Chill 1st Edition First Impressions

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It's very strange doing a "first impressions" type of review of a game from 1984 but Chill was one of those games that I never managed to get ahold of when it first came out. I remember the numerous advertisements in Dragon magazine at the time for Pacesetter Ltd. RPGs - they all looked interesting to me but alas, my middle and high school funds to did not allow me to pick them up. Though for some reason I was sorely tempted to splurge on Chill so I could get the Elvira adventure compilation. I suspect puberty may have had something to do with that...


I've recently had the opportunity go through the original game. It's definitely an old-school game, based around percentile-based ability scores and skills. There are two types of task rolls, general and specific checks. A general check is a straight percentile roll, looking to roll equal to or below your stat. With a specific roll you do a lookup on a table to see how well you did, using your margin of success to …

Saltmarsh in Hyperborea

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In our Hyperborean campaign I've been adapting the AD&D 1st edition Saltmarsh series for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

There's spoilers here for the entire series so if you're unfamiliar with the adventures and have reason to want to stay that way, you might want to hold off reading.

Alrighty... So the Saltmarsh series is marked by a series of discoveries:

A "haunted" house is being used by smugglers.Those smugglers have been selling weapons to a group of lizard men alarmingly close to Saltmarsh. The lizard men were kicked out of their original lair by sahuagin. Who also pose a threat to Saltmarsh...The lizard men have been assembling an alliance of aquatic folk against the sahuagin. So how does this fit in Hyperborea? With its long winters, Hyperborea is a horrible place for cold blooded creatures like the lizard men. I posit they must go into a long torpor as their swamps freeze over. 
In the current 13-year cycle, these lizard men ha…

Adventure Writeup: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh Part Two

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Based on the TSR adventure of the same name written by Dave J. Browne and Don Turnbull. Tweaked to fit in the Hyperborean setting.

Year 576 (Tempest), Month II, Day 26
Cast of characters:

Aaron Cèampach, Kelt WarlockHoom Feethos, Hyberbrean ThiefMorrow, Pict DruidSaratos Ochôziakos, Ixian FighterSarukê thugatêrOchôziakos, Ixian WitchWilliam "Billy" Welsh - Common Human PyromancerHenchmen hired by Saratos and Sarukê:


Tai, Medium InfantrymanZell, Heavy Infantryman
Random tied-up dude found in the upper floor of the house: Ned Shakeshaft, "thief" (or is he?)
See also Part One.
Peeking their heads up in the attic the adventurers didn't find anything of interest (and in so doing, avoided a nest of stirges hiding up there) and went down to the basement. The basement was a wine cellar, though alas all the bottles and casks were broken. Investigating a dead body, Tai was infested by a rot grub which, despite Billy's pyromancy, proceeded to kill him. Searching further, they…

"The Last of Us" from an RPG Perspective

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With a two week break between classes at Brandeis, I had a little bit of time to goof off and make use of the PS4 I received as a birthday gift last month. I finally made my way through Naughty Dog's The Last of Us. This isn't really a review of the game, there's about a gazillion out there on the internet - though I will give a brief overview of it. I'll also note there are spoilers about the game in this post so if you've not played it and want to play it unspoiled, you should read no farther. A bit unlikely for a game released in 2013, but just in case...

The Last of Us tells the tale of Joel and Ellie in a post-apocalyptic world. Joel is a survivor of the original outbreak in his late forties. Ellie is 14 and for unknown reasons, is immune to the infection.

In September of 2013 a mutant Cordyceps fungus wipes out civilization. Cordyceps is a real kind of fungus and is a parasite, with some species able to alter the host's behavior. Luckily for us, Cordyceps…

First Impressions of "The Orville"

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I'd not really been plugged in to the fact that Seth MacFarlane had created a science fiction show until I started seeing people on my Facebook feed talking about The Orville - some people claiming it was the "real" Star Trek show as opposed to Star Trek Discovery. 

The Orville is a comedy-drama science fiction show strongly inspired by the original Star Trek. That's not surprising given MacFalane's well known love of that show. I'm not a huge MacFarlane fan - I've probably only caught an episode or two of Family Guy though I will acknowledge Ted as a guilty pleasure. I'm sure Mila Kunis starring in that had nothing to do with it...

As of this writing, The Orville has aired four episodes, so it's still a little early in the run. It is about the crew of the exploration ship Orville - no big surprise there. Her captain is Ed Mercer, a once up and coming officer whose career stalled after his divorce. The only first officer available to him is his ex…

Actual Play Review: Cthulhu Dark

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With a brief break from our Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea game taking place due to some travel going on in our group, we recently had the opportunity to try out Cthulhu Dark. It was just three of us, myself and two players, which in my experience can work pretty well for horror games.

Cthulhu Dark is designed for Lovecraftian horror. It is about as stripped down a set of rules as I could imagine. Your investigator has a name, a description, and an occupation. He or she has one stat, Insight, which begins at 1. If it reaches 6, your investigator is pretty much insane. Game over, man.

How do you resolve tasks? It's pretty straightforward. If your task is something a human could do you doll a d6. If it is related to your occupation, you roll another d6. Finally, if you are willing to risk your mind to succeed you can roll an Insight Die. You pretty much always "succeed" unless Failure Dice are bing rolled. Your overall roll is the highest of all your d…