Feb 092015

Why the heck would I pay $10 for a system neutral setting that’s only 30 pages long? Because it’s freaking awesome.
If you’ve been following along with my blogging, I’ve been on a real space opera kick lately. When I heard about this, I thought cool. When I started hearing good things about it then I thought I just have to get this.
Now, I’ve seen plenty of system neutral settings or even settings with a system and so many of them sucked. They were clunky, over complicated or just down right silly. Strange Stars isn’t any of those things. The layout and the information is put forth in a clear, evocative and entertaining manner. While it’s system neutral, Game Masters have enough info to port it into whatever system they want. There’s plans for an official FATE version and an OSR style game. But heck you easily use Traveller, Hardnova 2, d6, Stars Without Number, Machinations of the Space Princess, Star Frontiers, X-Ploreres or Savage Worlds (There reliable rumors of a fan hack coming soon). Any way those would be my games of choice to run Strange Stars with.
The background is interesting. You can see the fingerprints of common settings and tropes without it seeming like somebody just filed off the serial numbers of Star Wars and Star Trek then tried to cram both of them into a crazy fanboy universe. And heck you could just tweak it and mix it with your own ideas.
All in all, Strange Stars has the goods. It’s got plenty of ideas for totally rad Space Opera from days gone by. Now if you more detail about what’s going on in the book, just head on over to Trey Causey’s (the author) blog.
You can get Strange Stars at Drivethrurpg. It’s worth every penny.

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Dec 092014

Here we go, another gem by Zak S. When I think of Zak, I think of the winding streets of Vornheim, snakes as books, crazy imaginative tweaks to old school rules, and a mind like a steel trap. Red and Pleasant continues this trend with another mind blowing product.
So just what is Red and Pleasant Land? At the very basic level, it’s an adventure/setting that’s a crazy mash up between Alice in Wonderland and Dracula. Yeah, you heard that right. It’s a strange place with warped realities and a battle ground for a few very powerful vampires. It’s a whole area where you could base an entire campaign, it’s a place that you could put into your own world, or even add it as an odd pocket dimension. You got lots of options.
I like RPG products that are more than just use it once and then put them aside. I know most adventures are like that but not this one. There’s plenty of little rules, charts, monsters, and a new old school class (The Alice) to keep you coming back to this. Did I mention charts. Plenty of handy random charts you can use again and again. So it’s not just an adventure you run and then put aside. That’s one of the primary reasons I really like Zak’s stuff. He not only writes stuff that gets your imagination going, he makes amazingly creative tools for DM’s to use.
Zak does have one major advantage over the rest of us who scribble down various gaming projects. He’s his own artist and a damn good one too. The words and pictures on the page come from the same brain. Like Vornheim, the artwork isn’t just something to give a visual representation to the reader. It is part of the product. Not only functionally but it blends with the words to create a consistent and unique vision.
Red and Pleasant land is designed for Lamentations of the Flame Princess but can easily be converted over to whatever you old school game of choice would happen to be. Heck, with a little more work you could translate it over to 5th Edition if that was to your liking. There’s already one write up of the Alice class for 5th Edition.
You can pickup Red and Pleasant Land at Drivethrurpg or at the Lamentations of the Flame Princess web store. And don’t be frighten on the price tag. It’s worth every penny.

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 Posted by at 10:16 am  Tagged with:
Oct 272014

I’ve been pretty much enamored by Fifth Edition for the last few weeks like so many folks (plus been really busy). But it’s great to see something come out for one of favorite retro-clones.
The Swords & Wizardry Player’s Companion from Barrel Rider Games is pretty handy little PDF and it’s only $2.99. And you guys know what a cheapskate I am.
Basically, it’s a few little add-ons for Swords & Wizardry.
Chapter One: Attributes. Cool things here are the modifiers for race. And (I know some don’t like it) the optional addition of Luck and Appearance Attributes. Those can be useful depending on your game. There’s also an extended chart for Attribute scores higher than 18.
Chapter Two: Classes. OK, now this is very handy! Alternate/additional abilities for the standard classes (from Swords & Wizardry Complete). This could be a real good add on for your game. There’s also the write ups for Anti-Paladins and Bards.
Chapter Three: Races. This chapter adds gnomes, half-orcs, and dark elves. They’re pretty standard and fit with the other races mechanically. Of course, fluff-wise in your campaign world it might be a little different.
Chapter Four: Equipment. You’ve got some stats for more types of weapons and armor. Because, the player characters want more ways to kill things and not get killed. Plus there’s some handy magic items in this section also.
Yes, I know. It’s a short little review. But hey, it’s a short book, only 35 pages. But it’s got a lot of things I like in product. It’s simple, inspirational, reusable, tweakable, and affordable (Do I need to say only $2.99 again?). So go ahead and pick it up.

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Sep 222014

Let’s face it gamers don’t like change. We get into ruts whether its our favorite rules system or genre. So it’s nice to mix things up every once in a while. That’s one of the reasons I’m looking at HardNova ][.
As you may already know I’ve been on a Space Opera kick as off late. I’m working on my own little OSR hack called Blasters & Blackholes, and I picked up and am looking seriously at Slipstream for Savage Worlds. And paged through my old D6 Star Wars games and d6 Space. While I was kicking around ideas I heard many good things about HardNova. You see I’ve had this long quest to find a SciFi RPG that didn’t suck. So let me look at HardNova first through that lens.
Too many SciFi RPG’s get tied too heavily to their own setting and it’s a pain to try to convert them to something original. This problem is even worse with licensed games. HardNova comes with a setting and it’s pretty cool but not quite exactly what I had in mind. The good news is that it is incredibly easy to morph into whatever setting you want. Big time bonus points there.
Ship-To-Ship Combat. Now this is where so many SciFi RPG’s fall flat on their faces. Either the system for ship combat is so detailed that it actually becomes a totally separate game (and in many cases a war game) or it’s so abstract that it’s almost hand waved. Good news again. HardNova’s Ship-To-Ship combat works just about like character combat. It doesn’t add too many extra bits, only what you need for the space battles. And of course you could also easily use it for vehicle combat.
That’s all great. Now let me get to the nitty gritty of the system. HardNova uses the updated Genre Diversion system and it’s pretty easy. In a nutshell, roll 2d6 less than Attribute+Skill. Of course, there’s other little modifiers here there but that’s the basics. When I think about this I know it’s a bell curve but kind of short one with a range of only 2 to 12. But hey, that’s something that’s completely cool. But I do have a couple of concerns. That is about damage.
Characters (and ships) have Wound Levels. I’m OK with that. Heck, I love Savage Worlds and have did my time in the World Darkness. But what I do have some concerns on is that weapons do static damage. I just like that bit of randomness when something gets hit. Also, the damage is pretty hefty making the core game really gritty i.e. don’t get too attached to your character. But good news there a couple of options in the book to make characters more hardy so one whack with a plasma saber (wink) doesn’t kill them. I’m still brain storming on how exactly I’d do it but the system is light enough and tweaking friendly.
Back to the positives. Gimmicks are cool. Characters have them and even ships have them. These are little abilities and so forth to add a little more depth and variation to them. This is also how you go about building various alien species. It’s simple and easy. Bonus points, there.
So how does HardNova stack up against the other SciFi games I’m considering? Well, pretty good. Both Savage Worlds and OSR stuff have familiar rules but the learning curve for HardNova is not that steep. Now there’s tons of source material for OSR games. Yes, I know it’s mostly fantasy but it’s really easy to reskin and adjust something. But familiarity can also lead to boring routines as well.
So if I happen to end up running a Space Opera game in the future, HardNova is still solidly in the the running. Yes, I’ll do some tweaks to the rules. Probably around damage and I want to have a little bit of the Heavy Metal Swords & Blasters feel too. And that’s tweaking just about any system you use.
So if you’re looking for fun, easy, and complete Space Opera game pick HardNova. Oh, I did mention that it comes with adventures too? You can pick it up at DriveThruRPG.

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 Posted by at 1:49 pm
Sep 092014

While I may be able to afford to back every Kickstart I want to, I try to keep with what’s going. This one totally slipped by me but I grabbed it up on Drivethrurpg.
hangingcoffins Now I’m not sure this is also an homage to Palace of the Vampire Queen but heck you could tie it in if you wanted.
The Hanging in Coffins of the Vampire Queen is a module designed for OSRIC (which means you can easily convert to the retro-clone of your choice) for 10th thru 14th level characters. It’s good to see a module for high level characters.
This is an old-school killer dungeon. I can see a player saying, “We should have played something easy like Tomb of Horrors.” There’s killer encounters, nasty traps, a little bit of off beat humor, and a riddle or two thrown in there. Tons of treasure for those poor souls who try take it. Did I mention killer encounters? There’ll be lots of hacking and slashing just for the player characters to survive. If you happen to like Liberation of the Demon Slayer then you’ll probably like The Hanging Coffins too.
The basic premise: The Vampire Queen has captured the party. If they can survive her dungeon then they can escape. That’s the standard hook. But have you ever tried to capture a party of adventures alive. Those murder hobos won’t give up anything and would rather die than get captured. But smart DM’s can work around that. Because dang. The Vampire Queen seems like a pretty cool villain to throw into a world and cause all sorts of mayhem. So put in the world and let the party wander where they may. Of course, warped and twisted DM’s might find way to do a little tweaking and just maybe create a tie-in with say, Death Frost Doom. Remember you don’t have to use the rules as written and you certainly don’t have run modules that way.
For the product itself,and take note PDF publishers. I really liked that there was also a separate PDF of the map. It so much easier to reference things on PDF that way. OK? Now I’ll admit there were a couple little editing errors here and there. That’s no biggie for me. But I did find the map seemed to number in an almost random fashion. But once again that’s a minor complaint. Now, the art is way old school and just enough gore to keep things interesting.
So yeah. It’s pretty cool old module. Go and pick it up. And should I mention that Maximum Mayhem has started their second Kickstarter?
More gonzo old-school stuff. So go check out The Secret Machines of the Star Spawn. Got grab up that one too for my next little RPG shopping spree.

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 Posted by at 10:19 am  Tagged with: ,
Sep 082014

Rafael Chandler is at it again. The evil genius who brought us the Teratic Tome. now unleashes the Obscene Serpent Religion (or OSR. Get it?) on an unsuspecting world.
Let’s get the easy part out of the way. It’s designed for Lamentations of the Flame Princess but suitable for any OSR game. It’s warped. It’s naughty (at lest some of the art is). And it’s gory. So it goes in that NSFW or no kiddies file. It’s for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. What are you expecting? Rainbows and Unicorns?
With that being said, it’s damn cool little supplement (only 32 pages). Start off with a run of the mill snake cult and then just go through a series of simple and quick random tables to make it special and unique. It could be a villainous cult or just maybe fanatical or misunderstood. The player characters can be working for or members of the cult. Or they can be fighting against them. Hey DM’s. It’s world. Do what you want.
Like so many books of random charts, Obscene Serpent Religion is a great springboard for a DM’s imagination. No need to keep it just to snake cults. Gather up your imagination juices and make more cults. Take the little ideas here and there and run with them. Not only that but it’s one of those supplements that you can use multiple times. Starting a new campaign or story thread. Need a new cult. Well, let’s roll some dice and see what happens.
This little PDF hits all my sweet spots. Flexible, reusable, and just a bit warped. Get if for old school game and throw some wild stuff at the players. You can pick up the Obscene Serpent Religion at Drivethrurpg.

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 Posted by at 10:02 am  Tagged with: