Showing posts from August, 2017

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea: Actual Play Impressions

Including a character generation session, we had our third session of AS&SH last night. I reviewed it over four years ago but sometimes there's a world of difference between reading a game and playing it. So how does it play?

As I've mentioned, as far as the rules go it is in many ways a cleaned up version of AD&D. A bit more complicated than Swords & Wizardry but nothing anyone with gaming experience would have trouble with.

Having played it a few sessions there's a few things that I've noticed in play. First, despite being based on AD&D, the lack of demi-humans makes a big difference, even when you aren't going for deep immersion characterization. It definitely gives off the swords & sorcery vibe that the game is going for. While it lacks multi-classing, it does give some sub-classes that represent a number of fantasy and swords & sorcery tropes. For example, it is possible to play the traditional fighter/magic-user as a warlock. They fav…

Adventure Writeup: Rats in the Walls

This writeup isn't designed to be a work of fiction, it's primarily an aid to my group to summarize what transpired in our adventure. Based on Jeffrey Talanian's adventure of the same name, which was in turn inspired by HP Lovecraft's short story "The Rats in the Walls".

Year 576 (Tempest), Month II, Day 4
Cast of characters:

Aaron Cèampach, Kelt WarlockHoom Feethos, Hyberbrean ThiefMorrow, Pict DruidSaratos Ochôziakos, Ixian FighterSarukê thugatêrOchôziakos, Ixian WitchWilliam "Billy" Welsh - Common Human Pyromancer Henchmen hired by Saratos and Sarukê: Tai, Medium InfantrymanZell, Heavy Infantryman
Our bold adventurers had paid a visit to the dockside tavern of the Silvery Eel in Hyperborea's greatest city, Khromarium. They'd heard it was a place to find adventure - even that the tavern keeper might have work he needed doing.
They learned that Xill Vuntos, tavern keeper, was dealing with an unusual rat problem. Rats, many of these rodents b…

#RPGaDay 2017 Instrument of Surrender

I thought I'd be able to catch up on this year's RPGaDay upon my return from Manhattan but I've come down with a cold that I'm fairly certain is Captain Trips from The Stand. I've been alternating between sleeping and painful coughing. This has also caused me to miss out on some grad school work. Once I'm feeling a bit better that will need to be my priority.

Star Wars D6 Lives

On August 11, when describing the Dead Game I'd Most Like to Return I nominated the original D6 Star Wars. Yesterday, just five days later, while waiting for a subway train I received an email from a player in our gaming group sharing with me the news that Fantasy Flight Games had just announced a limited edition reprint of the original D6 Star Wars game and its first sourcebook.
I'm going to live with the illusion that someone at Fantasy Flight Games read my post and made the arrangements in record time.
In all seriousness, I'm quite happy with this news. I've played D6 Star Wars recently and it has aged remarkably well. 

#RPGaDay 2017 Day 7 - Most Impactful Session

I'm going to be a little loose with my definition of impactful. I've made some friendships in games that are older than my kids, and that's certainly impactful. Though friendships grow and diminish over time typically.

Probably for me though was when a bunch of us got together in the apartment my wife and I used to live in in the late 1990s. It was me, her, and two of her co-workers, gathered together to play Star Trek by Last Unicorn Games. Though I'd gamed off and on throughout the 1990s with family and friends, I hadn't had a regular gaming group since the 1980s. That game kicked off a series of campaigns that has had me playing pretty much constantly, albeit with hiatuses here and there, since then. The members of the group have changed and it's transitioned to a pure virtual group, but I've been fortunate to have regular gaming since that point.

#RPGaDay 2017 Days 14-17 - Catching Up From Vacation

I just spent a few days with my eldest daughter in New York City and was way too exhausted to write at night... So here goes a super-quick catch-up...

Day 14 - RPG For Open-Ended Campaign Play I like Call of Cthulhu for an open-ended campaign. While characters do advance, they tend not to ever get so powerful that they have nothing to fear. Indeed, as characters learn more magics they may find themselves close to insanity. Death, insanity, and retirement take many characters out of play but it is possible to add replacement characters to a group, to the point where there may be no original characters yet the campaign continues.
Day 15 - RPG I Enjoy Adapting the Most I've done well using Fate for Star Wars and I've begun thinking of other ways it could be adapted.
Day 16 - RPG I Enjoy Using As-Is I've found Call of Cthulhu works incredibly well as it is. It fits its genre well and has begun adding dials to make for pulp style experiences.

Day 17 - RPG I've Had the Long…

#RPGaDay 2007 Day 13 - A Game Experience That Changed How I Play

For me, possibly the most transformative experience was shifting from a physical to virtual table. It's something we did in stages, but the first stage was probably the most important - a simple webcam connecting us with a player who moved away but wanted to keep gaming.

Over time we added bells and whistles - discovering tools like Fantasy Grounds and Roll20 but the actual act of managing a remote game for the first opened a doorway for me and my group - a group which has people scattered east of the Mississippi River now...

#RPGaDay 2017 Day 12 - RPG With Most Inspiring Interior Art

This is more of a "show, don't tell". For me, the 1st edition Dungeon Masters Guide has the most inspiring interior art. From dramatic to goofy it sets the stage for an AD&D game. An almost-but-not-quite medieval society, with the influence of magic and monsters clearly evident.

#RPGaDay 2017 Day 11 - Dead Game I'd Like to See Return

There is still a Star Wars RPGbeing published - three actually, by Fantasy Flight Games. I ran a campaign with Edge of the Empire and found it to be a perfectly enjoyable game. But for my money the incarnation I've the fondest memories of is the D6-based RPG put out by West End Games in the 1980s and 1990s. I literally played my first game of it the day I got it. It was so easy to play and so easy to GM - and it felt like Star Wars.

The system wasn't perfect - I can see areas where a 3rd edition might have cleaned some things up. The Force rules worked well for wanna be Jedi type characters like Rey and Luke prior to being trained by Yoda. It required a bit too much dice rolling in combat. I found the stats for major film characters to be a bit over the top.

But I played a game a few years back and it still played just fine. I know sometimes licensees get permission to republish old versions of products that they didn't make. For example, Marvel has republished Star Wars

#RPGaDay 2017 Day 10 - Where to go for RPG Reviews

Well in the 1980s I was fond of Dragon Magainze's RPG Reviews column. In the 1990s and early 2000s I often went to I still pop in to every once in a while but I tend to get a lot of my opinions off of Google+. Often there will be links to blogs and other websites for more details. Yog-Sothoth is a pretty handy source of reviews and opinions for Cthulhu. You can decide if I mean the god or the website...

#RPGaDay 2017 Day 9 - Good RPG For Around Ten Sessions

Ten sessions isn't a bad length for some campaigns. But from my recent experience Fate Accelerated works really well for something around ten sessions. The characters are pretty competent to start with - if you wanted to you could pretty much ignore advancement. If you do go for advancement your characters will advance pretty quickly, a nice way to model Luke Skywalker going from a farm boy to a Jedi Knight in a few sessions.
I think Fate Accelerated would work fine for something a bit longer, though you'd want to slow down the default advancement. Dresden Files Accelerated gives some options on how this might be done.

#RPGaDay 2017 Day 8 - Best RPG For Quick Sessions

I've managed to play in a game or two of No Country For Old Kobolds, based on the Apocalypse World engine. It was a fast-paced game - we made our setting, characters, and played a quick scenario in under an hour. I died a horrible death. It's fun being the little guy.
It's probably worth noting that nowadays most of my sessions are around 2.5 hours long...

Film Review: The Dark Tower

I liked it.
I have to be honest, I wasn't expecting to. The reviews and word of mouth for the film adaption of Stephen King's The Dark Tower were not just bad, they were awful. But King' Dark Tower series is one of my favorite reads of all time - I was going to see it for myself.
I was feeling rather under the weather on Saturday, still getting over some nasty head congestion, but with such awful reviews I was a bit concerned the film would be in for a very brief engagement. My 12-year old, Jasmine, was very interested in seeing it. She's just about finished reading The Gunslinger. Of my two daughters, she's the geeky one, the one into comics, the one who has already read some Jack Williamson. 
Much to my surprise, I really liked it. Idris Elba made for a great Roland and Matthew McConaughey was a villainous delight as Walter/The Man in Black. It was critical to get someone good for Jake Chambers and Tom Taylor did a fine job.
These were not quite the characters w…

#RPGaDay 2017 Day 6 - I Can Game Every Day For a Week - What Would I Do?

At the risk of sounding blasphemous, I don't know if this is actually something I'd want to do - if I had that much free time I'd probably use some of it for gaming, but I'd also want to do other stuff with that time. Some stuff with family, some geeking out - I think I'd be sneaking in a marathon Civilization game... Don't get me wrong, it's a hobby I enjoy a lot but it's hard for me to imagine having that much time, which might make answering it a bit difficult.

But to stay to the spirit, I'd probably be interested in running a session of whatever regular campaign I'm currently doing and then finding time to sit in a variety of other games. I'm going to want someone to teach me how to play Shadowrun...

#RPGaDay 2017 Day 5 - Which RPG Cover Best Captures the Spirit of Its Game

For me the RPG cover that best capture the spirit of its game is from the game that got me into the hobby - the Erol Otus D&D Basic Set cover. The treasure. The weird environment. The bold adventurers. And the dragon emerging from the water. It was very clear what the game was all about. 
I've two close runner-ups. The first is the first edition AD&D Players Handbook. Like the Otus drawing above, it captures what the game is all about. These aren't necessarily heroes, they're after the gemstone eyes.

Finally, Call of Cthulhu has had some great art. My own favorite is the cover to the third edition.We've got a mysterious castle/house the investigators are approaching. These aren't hardened warriors. Even without the slithering horror it's a creepy scene, full of menace.

#RPGaDay 2017 Day 4 - What RPG Have I Played Most Since August 2016

Yog-Sothoth is the gate folks. The past year has been a little bouncy, but I believe if I tally all sessions it'd come out with the most for Call of Cthulhu. That said there's been some variety. I finally had some success at GM-ing a Fate game, using Fate Accelerated for Star Wars. I also had a chance to GM the old D6 Ghostbusters which was great fun. I've had a chance to actually play some Apocalypse World Engine games which was a nice change of pace for me.

#RPGaDay 2017 Day 3 - How Do I Find Out About New RPGs

This is going to be a shock, but I find out about new RPGs mainly through the internet.

I suppose I can be a bit more specific. Once upon a time the answer would probably have been sites like and I remember visiting Eric Noah's website to get news about the upcoming 3rd edition of D&D (there was much talk about this "attack of opportunity" thing, though I believe I first encountered the concept from FASA Star Trek).

Probably I see the most from Facebook and Google+. Also within my gaming group we'll often share RPG news - the Top Secret Kickstarter caught me that way...

#RPGaDay 2017 Day 2 - RPG I'd Like to See Published

As a fan of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin novels, I'd love to see an RPG published that captures this series. There's a few Age of Fighting Sail RPGs out there, but I haven't yet found the "perfect" one. I'd want something that captures the feel of life at land and at sea, the social aspects of the era, and provides for exciting ship combats. It would need to manage the advancement of characters while also having a way to keep a group together. It would need to handle the passage of years, though for gaming purposes I'd be fine with it also making the year 1813 last as long as it needed to, much as Patrick O'Brian did. And it would need to appeal to people who aren't perhaps a tad obsessed with the genre.

I keep thinking that Pendragon could be reskinned for this purpose. A game that expects a campaign of many game years. Perhaps living long enough to see your son take your place might be a bit much, even with a long 1813, but one coul…

#RPGaDay 2017 Day 1: Published Game I Wish I Was Playing Now

We'll take this for a spin again in 2017, though I imagine my posts will be a little briefer than last year's given my grad program has shifted its schedule and I'm in the middle of a class this August...

Given I've just kicked off an Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea game that's in one sense my answer - I'm not so flighty as to immediately wishing I was doing something else. I've probably clocked a ton of AD&D in my life so I'm looking forward to playing a game with a setting inspired by my favorite authors (Clark Ashton Smith, Fritz Leiber, HP Lovecraft, etc.) with some rules based on AD&D.

However, let's assume the answer is something I am not not currently playing. I've begun receiving material from the Cthulhu Dark Kickstarter that I'm really itching to try. To be honest, if I ever have a game with just two players I think I'd whip it out for a one-shot, something Cthulhu Dark seems very well suited (thoug…