Aug 252011

I actually started this review over a month ago but fate has been really nasty this last few weeks and now I’m finally getting around to posting it.
So what the heck is this. Well, it’s a one of Postmortem Studio’s Six Pack Adventures. What is a Six Pack Adventure? Well, it’s a nice little bundle that has just about everything you need for a quick adventure for an evening. Kiss of the Frog God is written By Mike “The Crazy GM” Garcia for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Since the adventure is relatively short you could easily be adapted to other old school games or most modern iterations of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game. But you would have to redo the pregenerated characters and do a little tweaking on the monsters but more about that later.
The Meh: Six Pack Adventures have everything you need. That includes tokens for the monsters and pregenerated characters as well as a map tile. I got plenty of miniatures and plenty of map tiles and various bits of terrain. Not too handy for me personally but I’m sure some folks will like this.
The Adventure: Because that’s what’s it’s really about. And probably why you are here. It’s difficult to write a really substantial review without giving too much away since the adventure is relatively short. It’s designed to be played in one sitting. How much time that exactly will take will depend your group. Some folks might scream through it in about an hour while others might be messing around and take a whole evening or more.
It starts off in the village of Morbury which is fleshed out in enough detail to let DM’s play with it and possibly throw some other adventures at the characters. Or you could easily plop the adventure down in a different location in your own campaign world.
The adventure itself is pretty straight forward. The party gets sent to search for a pair of star crossed lovers in a pretty creepy swamp. Bad things live in the swamp. Bad things happen the swamp. And in fashion with Weird Fantasy, there is not a “happily ever after” type ending. See no real spoilers there.
There are six pregenerated characters that come with the adventure. So unless you have a huge group everyone should be covered. The thing to note about the pregens is that they are like you actually rolled them old school style (You know, 3d6 straight down the line). This is very important because when I looked at the boss monster, my first thought was, “Damn this thing is weak to go against a 3rd level party.” Then I realized that I was looking at it through a Pathfinder lens and not Lamentations. So OK. The boss could really lay some hurt on a 3rd level party.
It’s available thru DrivethruRPG and for just under $2. Not bad for a tidy little adventure with all the bells and whistles. Hell, a cup of joe costs more.

Jun 082011

On the slim chance that you haven’t heard Goodman Games has released the beta the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG.
Since I’m a fascination with Old School games, I figured I’d have a look. There’s some stuff that pretty cool. There’s a neat old school feel to it. I like the mechanic with the Luck stat. In theory, I think starting off as bunch of 0 level nobodies might be fun. I like the ways the cleric has been tweaked a little. And still wrapping my head around some of the mercurial magic stuff but it looks very interesting and very tweakable.
But really, I just can’t get over the funky dice. Sorry. The DCC RPG also riles up one of my pet peeves. Too many damned charts. A chart for every spell? It feels like the basic mechanic of the game should be “roll some dice then check a chart.” Don’t get me wrong random tables can be fun but every time the wizard casts a spell.
I still think that this game is going to provide a lot of nifty inspiration, despite my misgivings. But don’t let my opinions, stop you. Just head on over and give it a look yourself and make your own decisions.
And, yes, I know they are taking comments on their forums. I just don’t need yet another forum that I sign up for and then post one or two times and then move on.

Jun 022011

Actually I’ve had the free edition for quite a while. I quickly read over it and kind of shrugged. But with new found interest in the older style of games, I decided to grab the full Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Grindhouse Edition and give it good read.
What the hell was I thinking when I just dismissed this game on my first read through? Now, since it’s been out a while, I really don’t feel like I need to explain the mechanics too much. Crunch wise, it’s a retro-game. There’s a couple of neat things. A very simple “x in d6” skill system. There are just four classes (fighter, magic-user, cleric and specialist). Fighters are the only ones who progress in combat and the specialist is your basic rogue/theif/skill monkey.
Then I started reading the spells. Wow, just. Wow. There’s the usual array of spells but there are a few that caught my eye. There’s a nice little re-work to the good old standby Bless. An interesting spell called Strange Waters that probably should only be used in emergencies. And then there’s Summoning. I’ve read through this spell for times. Each time grinning wider and wider. It’s just a first level magic-user spell and it replaces all those Summon Monster I, II, III and so on. Unlike the regular spells, the character isn’t walking up to the counter at some sort mystical Starbucks and ordering a dire badger with the celestial template. No foam. OH NO. This spells rips through the walls of reality and brings something into the world. Hopefully, it will something you can control and it won’t rip your face off or worse. Pretty damned cool. And that’s what makes the game awesome.
Lamentations of the Flame Princess isn’t about your standardized, run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter fantasy. This is Weird Fantasy. There’s no stock list of monsters. You aren’t fighting yet another tentacle slime monster from the outer planes whose stats everyone has memorized. You’re fighting THE tentacle slime monster. Monsters are unique and scary. Spells don’t always work like you’re pushing the buttons on vending machine. Shit happens. Characters die or worse. I’ve grown tired of character death being just a financial burden. Like I posted earlier this week, sometimes it feels like we’re playing a very elaborate game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
Even if you aren’t into Old School games, Lamentations of the Flame Princess is worth a look. No matter what edition of the World’s Most Popular Fantasy Roleplaying Game you prefer these something that can be tweaked and twisted to make your game a little more interesting. Even if it’s as simple as viewing a fantasy campaign world in new and intriguing way.

May 092011

I don’t normally do things like this but what the heck. I’m going to dedicate this week to a bunch of posts about Castles & Crusades.
Why would I do something crazy like this? Well, the game has been out quite awhile and I finally got around to checking it out in detail. So I feel I have a bunch of catching up to do. Plus, I feel really inspired by the game. That hasn’t happened in a long time.
I admit there were something things that just bugged the hell out of me in the old games and I’m not above taking a good idea from a game then beating into submission for another. Our group is really used to Pathfinder so it will take some tweaking (and I’m all for tweaking) to put the rules in a happy place between the core C&C rules and Pathfinder.
One of the things that has really enamored me to this game, is simplicity. It’s got enough rules to get the job done but not too many that it over complicates things and makes each gaming session an exercise in cross referencing and research. Just roll some dice and kill the monsters. Move on. Talk to some NPC’s. Do some roleplaying. Roll some dice. Crack a few jokes. Have fun.
There are couple of things that have gotten me really inspired about this game. I thought I’d never say this but I know of miss Save or Die. It’s a crazy notion but having the reaper standing over your shoulder adds a bit more excitement to the game. The other thing is more than just three saves and this leads to virtually no dump stat. Six saving throws, six attributes. You could have a dump stat but chances are it would kill you.
I know that it’ll be a few months before the dice actually hit the table on this but I like working on things at leisurely pace. It gives me time to think and digest. Plus it gives me chance to throw out some ideas to the throngs on the internet and see what happens.

May 052011

I found some neat stuff in the closet that should never be opened or named and that got me really thinking about Old School Games.

old school games

When you hear Old School just about everybody first thinks about the old editions of D&D. But for me it means more than just that. It’s not about a particular sacred cow game mechanic or rules system, it’s more about a philosophy. I have fond memories of the so many games from those innocent days.
I’ve heard some folks say that old school games are “incomplete”. Not really, It just doesn’t hold your hand and tell you the obvious crap. You know stuff like a dead character can take no actions. RPG’s aren’t supposed to be a cut throat competitive games. They’re about escapist tales. I just want my rules to be a loose framework that can I mold as needed. Rules lawyering, min-maxing, power gaming, number crunching, cross referencing splat books and general munchkism are bull crap. A decent game is flexible enough to be interpreted by the GM for the situation at hand. You don’t need rules for every damned little thing.
At a while, it actually becomes a burden. Let me explain. It’s not remembering all that crap. It’s once you do, you start playing more based on RAW (Rules As Written) rather than WCMCD (What Could My Character Do?). I’ve seen players (including myself) try to solve problems and challenges based on the way the rules work not by what is creative, cool or interesting. I’ve seen folks dive for rules books over imagination. Just think dammit!
I know somebody out there is thinking, “Who the hell is this guy trying to tell me how to play?!” I’m not. Just simmer down. Play however the hell you want to. You gots your game and I gots mine. Playing different doesn’t mean playing it wrong. But that’s a whole other bitch session.

Apr 282011

I mentioned earlier that I was thinking about some old school stuff and looked at the major contenders. The one that just seemed to hit my sweet spot for old school feel, crunchiness of the rules and general over all mechanics was Castles & Crusades. I got my copies of Castle & Crusades Players Handbook and Monsters & Treasure last week and I’ve digesting them over the past week. And, damn, this is better than I thought.
Here’s what I like about it. Simplified rules that still familiar. Our group has been running Pathfinder since the beta rules came out and we’ve been pretty satisfied with it. But hell. I’m never satisfied. But the rules just like in 3.5 have gotten tedious to me. Yes, before any one asks, yes we did look at 4th Edition but this ain’t about the Edition Wars.
Castles & Crusades is at it’s simplest is the 3.0 rules rolled back with an earlier edition feel. No skills. No feats. No pile of rules for every possible no matter how unlikely occurrence. Race, class, monsters, loot. It’s more involved than that but you get the idea. Here’s what I really like. Back in the old days, you had a bunch of saving throws against all sorts of things. In C&C, you got six. Hey, that’s a neat coincidence, you’ve got six attributes. That means no dump stat, kids. Oh I suppose you could but you just might really end up paying for it. Yeah. Save or Die, bucko. Like I said, there’s influence of the old school and 3.x versions are there. The rules are flexible enough to easily house rule or bring in some the mounds of 3.x stuff that is piled up in the back of closet. So in summary, the rules are easy if you’re used to the rules of pretty much any edition. They’re easy to tweak, house rule and import stuff from other sources.
Here’s basically how stuff works. You’ve got prime attributes and secondary attributes. For saving throws and skill like checks on primary attributes the DC is 12 + challenge level vs 1d20+attribute modifier+level. For secondary attributes, the DC starts at 18. Combat pretty much works the same as we’re used to with 3.x. Determining, all that stuff is obviously explained in much more detail in the book but you get the idea.
Now for some advice or at least less positive things. I decided to save some bucks and picked up the digest versions of the PHB and Monsters & Treasure. My advice, shell out for the other versions. Really, I’ve seen EULA’s that don’t have print that fine. It’s danged near impossible to read with my aged grognard eyes. Also, I do some searching on C&C, you’ll see lots of comments about poor editing. Yeah, there is a mistake here and there but it’s no biggie.
And then there’s the PDF’s. The good news is that I think just all of the C&C stuff is available as PDF’s unlike that other major RPG publisher (Sorry, I just had to throw that dig in there.) The bad news is that some of them are priced just about as much as the hard copies. Ouch. But never fear. Just stalk Troll Lord Games on Facebook or Twitter. They have regular sales. I picked up the Haunted Highlands And Black Tooth Ridge bundles for just under $10 a piece. That’s a total of 13 adventures plus some extras. I got enough there to run one even two campaigns. Plus I got a good discount on their first installment of the new adventure series: Dark Journey.
So if you’re still on the fence about this there’s plenty of support and fan created material available plus the quick start rules. So go ahead and check out the Troll Lords site. I’ll let you know what I’m planning doing with this later.