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Showing posts from September, 2017

Thoughts on Final Frontier Gaming

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It's been a very long time since I've played a Star Trek RPG - around a dozen years I'd estimate. I'd flirted with the idea of playtesting the new Star Trek RPG but we were in the middle of a campaign I was rather enjoying. With Star Trek Discovery about to premier I've been flipping through some of my old Star Trek stuff as well as the new RPG.

There's a lot to recommend the Star Trek universe for RPGs. The original Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation are great examples of episodic adventures. While I often dream of a 200-part campaign of tightly interlinked adventures, reality tends to make such things difficult in the extreme. A Star Trek campaign offers characters a mobile "town" that can visit adventure locations. One adventure can be high-octane adventure, the next can be an exercise in diplomacy, the next a murder mystery.

Deep Space Nine showed that a 173-part campaign is possible in the setting of Star Trek, as an outpost becomes the…

What's Shiny? September 2017 Edition

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Continuing the occasional series of shiny stuff that is capable of distracting me...

The fortunate thing is there's a new edition of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea that just came out. It's good when the shiny is actually what you are currently playing - and that it's backwards compatible.

We're going to be down to just three of us for a few games in late-September early-October so we might be doing a standalone adventure/two-parter. I've been giving some serious consideration to Cthulhu Dark as I'm curious how we'll find the extremely lean rules system.

I've been doing a lot of espionage viewing and reading over the past month or so. It's resulted in me flipping through Top Secret a lot - though I am finding the hand to hand combat rules a bit tough on the brain. I've also been thinking about Cthulhu and company in such a setting. There's a bunch of games and/or supplements designed just for that... I've been reread…

First Impressions of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea 2nd Edition

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I just received my backer PDF for the 2nd edition of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Often when a backer PDF is released I'm playing something else so sometimes it may take days or even weeks until I get around to downloading it. Since I'm actually GM-ing an AS&SH campaign currently, I actually downloaded it right away.

I've given the original version of the game a review as well as a more recent actual play impressions. This isn't a full review of the new edition - I've only had time for a quick skim. But from that skim it's worth noting that the game hasn't changed - there's some rearrangement here and there, some tweaks, and a bunch of additions. So it's important to note that my earlier reviews are still very much applicable. Indeed, unlike many games, the fact that this is a new edition isn't even advertised on the cover. This reminds me of the way revisions to the D&D Basic and Expert sets were released in the…

Film Review: The Falcon and the Snowman

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I was discussing grittier spy movies with a member of my gaming group and this film was recommended to me. It's one of those movies that I have a vague recollection of - it might be from hearing the basics of the events this film is based on or it might be from catching it on television. Released in 1985 it is based on events that happened in the 1970s (which is when it takes place).

Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn play Christopher Boyce and Daulton Lee, young adults who have a friendship going back to childhood back when they were altar boys together. Boyce has just dropped out of the seminary and his father gets him a job at RTX, a government contractor. Despite having only a high school diploma, Boyce is very bright and does well at the company - and having an ex-FBI guy as father helps. He eventually gets assigned to the "Black Vault" stores top secret documents and receives secret transmissions. Boyce becomes very disillusioned as CIA teletype transmissions are occasi…

Reflections on the 9/11 Memorial and Museum

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A few weeks ago, my older daughter Victoria and I paid a brief visit to Manhattan. Vicki's been giving some thought to going to New York's Fashion Institute of Technology (still a few years to go for that) but one thing we wanted to make certain of was that she'd be comfortable with the city itself - she'd only been there once before, and that almost ten years ago.

Overall it was a great trip. She fell in love with the city. I got to meet someone from my virtual gaming group for coffee - it's always nice to really meet with people I initially get to know via email, social media, and webcams. I'm looking forward to meeting a number of people next June at North Texas RPG Con.

One thing I wanted to make certain we did was spend some time at the World Trade Center. For Vicki  (and her younger sister, Jasmine, who chose to stay home in Massachusetts with mom), 9/11 will always be a matter of history. We first found out Vicki was on the way on the Saturday after 9/1…

Adventure Writeup: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh Part One

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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 Pyromancer Henchmen hired by Saratos and Sarukê:
Tai, Medium InfantrymanZell, Heavy Infantryman
Zell told his employers about the legend of a haunted house near his hometown of Saltmarsh, a fishing town located about.a day's sail from Kromarium. There might even be a reward from the town council.

Seeking adventure, the band traveled to Saltmarsh, a moderately sized town of approximately 2,000. To quote the original adventure...


Four miles east of Saltmarsh, just inland of the old coast road and looking out to sea, stands the Haunted House. Until twenty years ago it had been the residence of an aged alchemist/magi…

Random Thoughts on Stale Beer Espionage Gaming

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“Intelligence work has one moral law - it is justified by results.”
― John le Carré, The Spy Who Came In from the Cold
With John le Carré's A Legacy of Spies coming out this week I've been rereading his George Smiley novels. Doing so has been getting me thinking about espionage RPGs.
I don't have a ton of experience running or playing in espionage RPGs. I've been involved in a number of one-offs using Top Secret, Top Secret S/I, and James Bond. Back in my middle school and high school days of the 1980s such games tended to emulate the James Bond movies - some investigation/information gathering, with a lot of thrilling chases. 
A lot of Call of Cthulhu gaming over the past several years has taught me that gaming can be quite exciting with a high degree of tension with minimal combat. In Call of Cthulhu combat is dangerous. If you need to fight someone, your best bet is to ambush. A fair fight is dangerous, even for someone with a high degree of military training.
I…

On the Use of Henchmen in OSR Games

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When I first starting playing D&D in the 1980s, Charisma was the most common dump stat. We pretty much ignored the rules on hirelings and henchmen.
From what I've read online, our experience was not unique. However, I've also seen for many groups henchmen were an important component of the early game and the 1st edition Dungeon Masters Guide bears this out, with considerable space dedicated to the acquisition and loyalty of henchmen.
In our AS&SH game, one of the players had two characters, both of whom had high Charisma scores. He decided to use some of his starting cash to hire some mercenaries. It wound up being an extremely good investment - giving the party additional firepower while at the same time giving the monsters additional targets to aim for. I suspect should the henchmen survive up to the point where the characters make it to second level, I might allow the henchmen to gain a little bit of experience and reach 1st level, with an eye towards allowing them…

RPG Review: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh

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We're currently working our way through The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh in our AS&SH game. It adapts pretty well and at a later point I might write up about adapting the series. This post however is simply a brief review of the adventure itself. If you're in my group it's probably best to hold off in reading this until we're done, though I'd not be surprised if some or all of you have played or run this in the past, as it is a fairly common adventure from the 1st edition...

The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh is an adventure from the UK branch of TSR, copyrighted to 1981. It has a bit of a different feel from most adventures of the period. It has a bit of a heavier plot than most adventures back then - it's not like later adventures which sometimes go so far as to render player decisions moot. Rather it has a set of NPCs with their own agenda who aren't likely to sit waiting for the PCs to arrive.

Saltmarsh is a two-part adventure as well as being the firs…