21 September 2015

Review: Star Gods Help Us

Sometimes, your gaming table just needs to take a break from the relentless grimdark.

Peter Spahn of Small Niche Games has released Star Gods Help Us, a collection of humorous new classes for the White Star science fiction companion to the Swords and Wizardry RPG.

Observers of pop culture from the 60s, 70s and 80s should recognize the inspiration for the twelve new classes contained within. Some of these go together thematically very well, like the zombie-like Zeddines and the butler like Gurches. For those players less concerned with achieving missions and more interested in silliness, a party of Radiobuddies, Gloops and Giltors will have trouble just getting organized to leave their own ship.

This collection strongly evokes a lot of the sci-fi silliness found in abundance within the pages of Dragon magazine and TSR's early catalog. The content and illustrations within this supplement are pitch-perfect. At $2.99, the PDF is a non-brainer. It would not be too much of stretch to adapt these classes into NPC monsters for fantasy settings, like Labyrinth Lord.

Don't wait for P/S-900 robot to make you do it; get a copy of Star Gods Help Us today.

16 September 2015

Review: The Necromancer's Wish

Here is a good reason to support an artist through Patreon.

Michel Prescott's super-tasty 1+ page adventure The Necromancer's Wish is a stripped-down, location-based adventure that packs a substantial punch of characterful details in a system-neutral way that all content generators should envy. Here's what you get:

  • a gorgeous, isometric map
  • a rich, multi-textured backstore
  • new creatures
  • a rumor table
  • new magic items

This adventure details the ritualistic happening occurring inside a multilevel cavern system. The caves are under the control of goblin-like creatures called the Ricalu who are lead by an aged necromancer named Nandoleeb. The great work of Nandoleeb will be discovered by clever players who do not tarry long in these storied caves. More details of what can be found within this adventure might spoil the surprises for players. The tone of the setting is dark and foreboding. The PCs will be at risk at all times while exploring this area, but not in an artificially hokey way.

As a short, self-contained location, this adventure can be easily dropped into an existing campaign, or even combined with other short cave-based adventures to create a multi-layered campaign setting that lasts many game nights.

As a free resource, it is well worth the time to download and read this surprisingly dense work. It is gems like this that make DIY publishing in the OSR community so exciting to be apart of. Since the adventure is not ruleset-specific, the game master will have to spend to some time providing appropriate stats to monsters, magic and traps. This is a small price to pay for the wonderful content contained within.

You can find more of Prescott's work (and become his patron) on Patreon

Review: The Cliff-Lair of Heeter

Small is beautiful.

Corey Ryan Walden's twelve page The Cliff-Lair of Heeter is small, location-based adventure written in a system-neutral way that demands to be dropped into an existing campaign at the first appropriate moment. As the title implies, this adventure details the working home of the curious entity named Heeter, who is of a species apart from those traditionally found in Old School rules. Part tyrant, part child, Heeter is surrounded by "manlings" that recall the Oompa Loompa's of Willie Wonka. And he has a weird, fanged cat-thing to boot.

The cliff-lair could be used a throw-away, low-level encounter, but that would be a waste of a good, characterful NPC. Heeter seems like a natural fit to be a source of adventure lore or a quest-giver. One could trim some of the friendlier eccentricities away from Heeter and his home to create a darker, more dangerous encounter with an alien thing, whose desires are quite unintelligible to the party.

It should be noted that this work is vague on game mechanics, so be prepared to fill in those blanks with specifics from your preferred ruleset.

At under $2, this PDF provides a solid value of RPG content and is a solid resource for those game masters who enjoy cobbling together adventures from various bits.

02 September 2015

Think of the Children!

The written word is a powerful thing. Books have motivated people to revolution, to explore the moon, the find a little happiness in the brief time between birth and death. I am firmly and proudly in the pro-book camp.

Somewhat paradoxically, some books, perhaps most books, are uninteresting to me. I don't read romance novels, spy thrillers or celebrity gossip, to name a few of my least favorite things. When I see those sorts of books, I use an ancient technique taught to me by my parents. It is called ignoring. Since this seems to be an increasingly lost art, I thought I might give a quick primer about it.

To ignore something, you willfully stop thinking about the thing. You don't look at it. You don't talk about it. You do not engage in it. Simple, right? But wait, it does require determination and discipline on the your part to make it work.

The good news is that ignoring books is really easy! Books are inanimate and very few of them talk.

Sometimes, you will find yourself in a bookstore. The store will try to group books by subject for the express purpose of helping you ignore subjects of your choosing. Pretty sweet, right?

Sometimes, you will find yourself at an online book-selling website and it will show you books that you want to ignore. Now, I will admit that ignoring a thing when it is right in front of you is more difficult. You may have to quickly find a link to click that takes to a different page. Or, more drastically, you may have to avoid that website all together.

You have the responsibility of curating the information you want to process.  You cannot offload that duty to others. That is not fair.

In conversation, it is only polite to avoid topics that any participant finds distressing. 

If the mere mention of rape in book title is more than you can bear, you have my sincerest empathy. I do not take past trauma lightly. No one should force you to engage with the topic is your pain against your will. But you have no right to tell me what topics I can engage in.

When I think of the children, I realize: the kids are alright.

02 August 2015

New Creature: The Jackdaw


No. Enc: 1
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 180' (flying)
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 7
Attacks: 3 (bite/claw/claw) or special
Damage: 2d4/1d4/1d4 or special
Save: F7
Morale: 6
Hoard Class: VII

The giant jackdaw is a member of crow family, clocked deep black feathers and eyes featuring penetrating clear-blue iris. This bird with a 12' wingspan is sentient and can speak the Common Tongue as well as up to three more, the selection of which is up to the Labyrinth Lord.

Like their normal-sized cousins, Jackdaws are inveterate thieves. Shiney items, like jewelry or ornate weapons or armor, will attract the jackdaw. If the object is not worn or otherwise restricted by the party, the jackdaw will swoop down and steal it (no saving throw). If the object is carried externally (like a sword), the jackdaw will still try to steal it, but the owner may save against petrification to thwart the theft.

75% of all giant jackdaws have stolen magic tomes and can perform 2 first-level and 1 second-level magic-user spells each day. The Labyrinth Lord should determine these.

Jackdaws are also somewhat lazy. A common tactic of theirs is to trick a party into a quest to retrieve something shiney for them. In return, the jackdaw may award them a random scroll, wand or potion (to be randomly determined). Or, 50% of the time, the jackdaw will renege on its promise and attempt to flee with the proffered item.

In combat, the jackdaw will fight with its sharp beak and claws. If the jackdaw can cast spells, it will do so first.

See the Jackdaw of Rheims for a folkloric reference.

02 July 2015

More nonstandard wilderness rules

More hexcrawl confusion from TSR can be found in I5 The Lost Tomb of Martek. 

Wilderness hexes are 2 miles. 

The module rules: 12" movement rate = 1 hex per hour.  Only 10 hours of movement per day.

Unpacking that, you get 10 hexes of movement per day, which is 20 miles. 

B/X rules that a 12" movement rate should yield 24 miles per day,  but desert travel is only 2/3 of that, yielding a 16 mile travel day.

Random encounters, in I5, are checked every four hours, which sounds like 6 checks per day. That is significantly more frequent than my reading of the rules. We're I play testing this module, I would have asked Hickman if this was necessary. 

Now, Hickman's module rules are not far off from the canonical rules, but why bother writing new rules at all? Standardizing wilderness rules makes it far easier for experienced GMs to use the work. I feel the hobby is still groping toward this kind of standardization.

Does this mean every module must follow the standard rules? Of course not. However, rule deviations should be used only when there is a compelling design motivation to do so.

13 June 2015

New edition of Manse on Murder Hill now available

If you have never picked up The Manse on Murder Hill, a low-level adventure for Labyrinth Lord RPG, then now is a fantastic time to do so.

Featuring additional art by David Guyll, new cartography by Tim Hardin and a stunning layout from Matt Hildebrand, this edition of Manse is available as a PDF download and softcover print version.

From the inside:

«One night fifteen years ago during the harvest night festival, wild screams and sardonic laughter were heard coming from the lone mansion perched atop Farview Knoll, ten miles north of the village center. Unaccountable lights and high winds worried the knoll. The lightning was fierce and odd-colored.

In the morning, the last sod who had my job found the remains of the occupants, a well-respected cleric and his staff, slaughtered by an unknown adversary. The mansion has remained empty since then.

Most people in the village now avoid talking about what happened that night, except for calling Farview Knoll 'Murder Hill.'»

One reviewer has said of the new edition:

I am serious. It's amazing. The layout, artwork and the writing are top notch. From now on this is one of the modules I am going to go to when I'm designing my own.

Pick up a copy today!