Published on 5/10/2012 Written by 0 comments

3 Mini Reviews: Costumes, Content, and Posters.

Today we have a fun trio of goodies to look at, including a free system for your superhero needs, a magazine of content for OSR gaming, and a poster handout for your next Pathfinder session!

HiLo Heroes. Jeff Moore. 36 pages. Free.

Ahh, Jeff Moore. If you check his page, he has maybe a half-dozen (maybe more now) mini-systems freely available for download, and most of them are actually worth your time if you're ever looking for a quick, simple system for some beer and pretzel gaming.

HiLo Heroes is no exception. In fact, it may very well be the jewel in Jeff Moore's crown of game systems. It's simple, uses the readily available d6, and does almost nothing to limit the variety of superheroes you can create.

To create a character you need only specifiy three features: Build, Mentality, and Temperament. Each has two options, high or low, and those two options influence all your other abilities. It all boils down to rolling 2d6 and using either the higher die or the lower die.

That's really it. Sure, you can design a couple of powers (to gain +1s on various rolls) but the core rules can be explained to new players in one sentence. When was the last time you said that about a roleplaying game?

But how does it play? Well...I won't lie, having run four games with the system, I can safely say it is very rules lite and narration heavy. Which means those of you who prefer the crunch of Mutants and Masterminds might shrug it off. But those of you who want to HULK SMASH as quickly as possible should give this freebie a try.

Knockspell #1. Mythmere Games. 1st Edition Retroclones. 61 pages. $5.00.

Knockspell is rather renowned in OSR circles for providing a lot of good content for 1st Edition retroclones, especially OSRIC and Swords & Wizardry, and this, its first issue, was released at the start of 2009.

I like retroclones more than the next guy (unless the next guy happens to be James Raggi) so I went in very excited. I mean, how could I not be? There's a cover from Pete Mullen staring me in the face, promising great adventure and terrible death!

And for the most part, Knockspell #1 delivers.

True, we get a few tired old editorials (really? In this day of instant blogging there still need to be opinion columns in a gaming magazine?) and a one page advertisement article (for Ruins and Ronin) but there's also a host of good content, including a delightfully evil necromancer class for OSRIC and a monk and paladin for S&W.

We also get an adventure for the (as yet) still unreleased Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers RPG that's compatible with your retroclone of choice. It's nice and could be worth running (especially with some adaptions for the new Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG).

The other sandbox adventure, Isles of an Emerald Sea, has a lot of really good potential hampered by weak writing and unfinished monster stat blocks. With some elbow grease it might be fun, but it ought to be considered severely unpolished.

And to round the whole package out there are a handful of variant rules, a couple of random tables (my favorite being the How Do You Open This Thing? table, dictating the methods for opening challenging doors or the like), a new character class (the Thrall) and part of Michael Curtis' masterful Dungeon Alphabet.

Is it worth five bucks? Yes, I think so. The character classes are great and the Charnel Crypt adventure looks to be fun. It's only a shame that some of the content feels so unpolished, especially after all the work that clearly went into the magazine (art and editing).

Adventurers Wanted Volume 1. Skortched Urf' Studios. d20 systems. 7 pages. $0.75.

This is not an adventure. I say that because I can see how easy it is to be fooled. I mean, it's a product called Adventurers Wanted, there must be an adventure, right? Not quite.

It's actually an adventure seed. A brief outline of a possible d20 side quest. It's about three paragraphs in length and has suggestions for three different tiers of play (low level, mid range, and high) that dictate the recommended reward and enemies. The basic plot is that a noble lady has disappeared and needs finding. Simple and to the point.

The real selling point are the three Heroes Wanted posters, one in Common (English), one in an Elvish script, and the third written in Dwarven runes. They look good and make for great handouts.

This is a fine product at a great price if your players happen to wrap up their main quest a little early and you find yourself at a loss on what should happen next. Just remember that it'll take a bit of work to make this seed a real adventure.

Another week down, and another three digital products from my collection reviewed. As always, suggestions and comments go below. Until next week, roll those d20s, gamers.

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Published on 5/03/2012 Written by 0 comments

3 Mini Reviews: Adventures, Gunslingers, and Doors

Hey all! It's been a while and, unfortunately, I don't have as nice an excuse for my absence as C.D. had (congrats on the little one, C.D.!). Mostly a new job with a revolving schedule that has sucked my gaming time dry. And with my gaming time so goes my writing time.

But now, as things begin to settle, I'm going to crack my knuckles and try and get some kind of regular writing habit going again.

And even though I haven't been running nearly so many games, I've been unable to convince myself to stop buying gaming goodies. And since I like to spread my thoughts (much like Yellow Mold or Green Slime) about what I buy, I thought it'd be interesting to do a semi-review of some of these roleplaying related products, whether they be full games, expansions, or whatever I decide to spend my hard earned money on.

The question is...are all of these products worth it? This week, I look at a group of PDFs, including a Labyrinth Lord adventure, a mini game, and a PDF whose usefulness is eclipsed by its utter pointlessness.

100 Doors and Door Features. Ennead Games. 8 pages. System Neutral. $0.50.

Wow. As much as it should shock me that a product like this exists, it shocks me more that I decided to actually buy it!

This is a case where you get precisely what the cover says, no more, no less. Well...a little less. It would be a little more accurate to call itself 100 Doors/Door Features, as you don't get a hundred of each.

No, instead, you get a basic table (the kind you can whip up in five seconds work with the document editor of your choice) and 100 entries, each detailing a door or door feature that you may or may not find interesting, along with a brief description to help get the creative juices flowing.

Yeah. It's about as useful as you can imagine. Three random examples, rolled with my trusty d100, are: 32-Fake Fake Door, this door looks fake, but is real and is twice as hard to open as a normal door; 34-Fake Lock, the door has a fake lock, the real lock is hidden; 9-Blessing, a powerful creature has blessed the door so that those who pass through are blessed on holy days.

Really? Even for a random table that's kinda random.

Overall, you get exactly what you pay for with this product. A whole bunch of semi-interesting, semi-useless door descriptions. You might be able to scrounge some ideas off them, but this is as bare bones as it gets, and with a handful of spelling errors to boot!

Still, for the price, you can't say it's some kind of devious trick. Maybe it'd make for a good purchase if your shopping cart was exactly fifty cents away from a nice even number and you obsessed over things like that, otherwise I say save the change and use it for a down payment on a Twix bar.

The Curse of Crosskey
. Knightvision Games. 14 pages. Labyrinth Lord. $1.99.

The Curse of Crosskey is an adventure for 4-6 characters of levels 3-4 and is based around the classic "shipwreck" plotline that forces the PCs into a hostile environment and asks them to survive.

Otherwise, it's nothing extremely special. You have a little exposition for the GM, but it's very spartan and has no real backstory other than a few salient points, meaning it will take some work to adapt to your campaign. Of course, that can be useful when you don't want to try and shoehorn in any overly specific fluff.

I haven't had the opportunity to run this adventure as of yet, so consider this only a partial review, but from what I can tell, The Curse of Crosskey should provide a decent challenge for the recommended levels, especially with some of the deadly new fauna introduced, and has enough mysteries to solve if the GM can find ways to work what little backstory there is into the game. It'll probably last no more than one or two sessions, unless the GM can convince the players that it's worth exploring more of the island and brings in some of the hinted at plot points (pirates and weather elementals).

The writing is plain and to the point. You get brief descriptions of rooms and areas, combat encounters (one of which, with a number of hostile crab people, has an unfortunate omission that had me scouring the pdf for stats on an "Elder Crabman" that did not exist), and some sparingly handed out treasure. There's really nothing here to build a campaign on, but enough meat to work into a fun side adventure. And, in a big plus to me, it even mixes in a little sci-fi with a crashed spaceship, although the players need never even realize it if the GM so wishes.

You also get a couple of new magic items and a handful of new enemies. Nothing huge, but definitely a nice bonus.

Overall, you have to be willing to put a fair amount of work into this adventure to get the most out of it. Flesh out the NPCs and backstory and this sandbox adventure is worth the low asking price, so long as you're willing to go with functional over pretty.

Weird West. Stuart Robertson. 8 Pages. $1.00.

Disclaimer: There is nothing very weird nor very western about this mini-game. In fact, aside from the lovely cover and descriptions of skills and "magic", you would be hard-pressed to find anything of any flavor.

That's because Weird West was designed as a Pocketmod, a mini book made out of one sheet of paper and folded like origami, so only the bare bones made it into the final product.

Some of it holds up as very clever. I especially liked how you roll for your HP at the start of each new session and keep the total if it's higher, giving the heroes more of a tough-guy sort of build without needing to overbuff them with special abilities.

That said, it's very rules lite, uses all your favorite polyhedral dice, and would be child's play to adapt to any setting. There are no rules for sanity or really anything aside from hitting your foe and the most simple of magic systems, but it wouldn't take long to house rule anything that's missing.

It won't be for everyone, but if you have a lone dollar burning a hole in your pocket and you need a new generic system, but demand something light on rules, then Weird West ought to be added to your shopping list.

Well the first round up of three is done. What's for next week? I'm not sure, I've got a large list to go through. If anyone has any suggestions on cheap gaming products (preferably digital ones) I ought to look into, post in the comments. I'm always looking to expand my collection.

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Published on 3/27/2012 Written by 3 comments

Teaching My Son About D&D Using Facebook

(Sorry I've been gone so long. If you read the following post very closely, you'll understand why.)

Last night was an auspicious event. I didn't plan for it to happen, didn't expect it to happen, it was just one of those things that come out of the blue but in hindsight is one of those days that can change the course of your life, like the assassination of a political leader or the day you realize carrots really aren't that bad.

Yesterday, I tried for the first time explain to my son this "Dungeons & Dragons" thing.

I sat him down next to me in front of Facebook. I have only just discovered this Heroes of Neverwinter game, and while I usually treat Facebook apps with all the disdain usually reserved for murderers, politicians and Sydney Crosby, I'm kinda digging HoN simply because it lets me play a pretty reasonable facsimile of 4th Edition all by lonesome in whatever free moments I can muster.

My audience was enraptured as I explained that "This is a fighter. He slays things with a sword," and "That's a Magic Missile spell. Don't listen to what the current rules say. It ALWAYS hits." Then of course I had to explain the higher functions of the game, about the stuff you can't really get in a Flash game. The social aspect, the make-believe role-playing, the problem solving and mathematical calculations, the team work, imagination and story-telling. It really touches on a whole bunch of skills kids need to learn. (Except maybe the physical fitness portion, but I guess you can get that LARPing).

My son continued to stare at me with his big blue eyes, amazed and saying nothing. He drooled a little bit, then he reached out and tried to pull my beard. I think he was just trying to say, in his own way, that he wanted to play a dwarf with a big face full of hair.

I should probably point out that my son is only 9 weeks old. It may take a little while for him to pick up on all the intricacies of gaming, but I believe it's important to start him young.
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Published on 2/27/2012 Written by 3 comments

Help me not suck at Google+

After my last post I've been using my sorely neglected Google+ account more and have realized that that's where all the cool kids are hanging out. It seems like the whole rpg gaming community is all on Google+ and I've more or less missed it all.

So help me not suck and look like such a noob and be so kind as to add me to your rpg circles, and I will add you to mine.

Maybe I'll get it together sometime soon and run a game in hangouts... I'm thinking AD&D homebrew.

Click on the picture above or click here for my profile.

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Published on 2/17/2012 Written by 3 comments

If you use Google+ for gaming this looks very promising

Just saw this over at the ConstantCon Blog, and it looks really cool.

I haven't done any gaming on Google+ yet but things like this inspire me to try. Feel free to add me to your Google+ circles - just leave a message saying you're a reader of the rule of the dice so I know why you're adding me (social networking still kind of scares this old Luddite).

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Published on 2/16/2012 Written by 0 comments

Woodland Supplements

Last week, I talked a little bit about Woodland Warriors, a fun rules-lite adaption of Brian Jacques animal adventure novels. Today, I'm going to look at two of the expansions available for that game. Each expansion is written by Simon Washbourne with art by Darrel Miller.

The first is called Greyrock Isle. It's a short, 19 page, book that details a new setting and several new classes.

The main meat in this supplement comes in the form of a new island, new map, and new locale: A Robin Hood-esque England where the inhabitants are terrorized by a big bad bandit king.

It's a bit weak overall and not that different from the original Alder Vale setting. And there's no sample adventure, which hurts the overall product. No matter how many plot seeds you provide, you can't beat a full-grown adventure to help a GM get a feel for a setting.

You also, however, get two new races to play as: hares and otters. Neither provides a wildly new experience, though both are welcome additions to the game.

Then we get two new classes, the Talespinner and the Wayfarer.

The first is a bard-like class, except in place of spells it has a handful of special abilities, including a Sanctuary-like ability to protect them. Unfortunately, the really good ability, Charm, only comes in at level 4, making Talespinners seem underpowered and somewhat useless when compared to the other classes.

The second class, the Wayfarer, is essentially a monk with fur. Unable to wear armor it's AC advances per level and it receives a bonus to unarmed damage. It's nice, but nothing special.

So overall, this is an underwhelming expansion. Aside from the two less than stellar classes, you get a setting that does little for an experienced GM, and a couple of extra races to play as.

The second supplement is called Out West and clocks in at 30 pages. And it is radically different from the first expansion.

Transporting the furry little heroes to the American West circa 1880, this supplement changes some of the WW fundamentals.

Armor, for instance, is unnecessary as each class gains bonuses to their AC per level. And, of course, there are the guns. It wouldn't be the Wild West without six-shooters and scatterguns. And that lovely equalizer, dynamite.

You also get re-skinned versions of all the main classes, including the two from Greyrock Isle, so you'll need that if you intend to play Talespinners and Wayfarers. There are small alternations, but nothing that significantly changes the gameplay.

And there are two new races, prairie dogs, which take the place of Native Americans in the setting, and raccoons, which are just adorable. You also get a handful of new spells.

The setting itself is fairly well-written and different enough from the previous two that it becomes worth a look. It presents a valley where the order of Good has less of a foothold and even the more "villainous" creatures take an active part in the growth of the valley. However, with the loosening of the strict Good and Evil mindset, it opens up a whole new world of gray area to play around in. Scoundrels and villains abound and fortune can often be found with the barrel of a gun.

Frankly, that leads to the biggest disappointment of Out West. With the emphasis now on less definitively Good characters, you would think that new races would be introduced allowing for play as Foxes or Rats or any of the traditionally "villain" roles. Unfortunately no, although from what I've read they are added in the recently released At Sea supplement.

So, are these two alone worth purchasing? That depends on how desperate for new settings you are. If it weren't for the new classes, I'd say that skipping Greyrock Isle was a safe bet. As for Out West, well if you really like a Western theme, then this one is a more palatable purchase. In fact, my group has almost exclusively used Out West during our Woodland Warriors games. Still, both require you to at least be interested in the setting material, as there's scant new content you can drop into your own campaign setting.

Of course, you could just purchase the PDF bundle and get the core game plus all three of its expansions. At that price, it's actually a really good deal.

You can buy Greyrock Isle and Out West in PDF form from rpgnow, in a PDF bundle that includes the At Sea supplement and the core game, and in a spiral-bound print copy from LULU.

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Published on 2/09/2012 Written by 1 comment

Woodland Warriors Review

It might seem a little hard to fathom that the creator of Barbarians of Lemuria, one of the most unapologetically sword & sorcery games I can recall, would also craft a game based around the idea of medieval animal adventures, in the same vein as the late Brian Jacques and his Redwall series of novels, but here it is.

Woodland Warriors, the 114-page core rulebook by Simon Washbourne, is a game that tries to emulate Jacques light-hearted yet serious setting with a trimmed down D&D ruleset. Or, more specifically, the 0E retroclone Swords & Wizardry. Except it does away with most of the S&W base to create something that seems a lot like D&D, but using only d6s and simplifying virtually everything.

Instead of your usual fantasy races you have hedgehogs, squirrels, moles, mice, and badgers. Each has interesting abilities, from a Badger's Rage attack, to the Hedgehog's natural armor.

As for classes, well it's pretty much standard D&D with some name changes. Warriors, scouts, friars (in place of clerics), and wizards. They each do about what you would expect from the names.

In fact, the entire thing would feel like just D&D with animals, but for a few key differences.

For instance, this is now your Dwarf.

Mainly, everything is handled with a plain old d6 instead of the classic d20. From an armor class that can range from 2 to 6 (with a handful of opportunities to push it to 7), to your attack die, saving throws, and hitpoints, everything is done with a d6. This radically changes the way the game flows, altering the odds on everything. It makes combat even shorter and makes saving throws a little more tense.

Of course, this means there is very little mechanical customization of characters. There is no laundry list of skills, just a handful of special abilities that each class can do (from incredible feats of jumping, to tunneling, and things of that sort).

Other things that make WW stand out from D&D include a very lenient death system where, unlike most iterations of 0E, you don't die after being reduced to less than 0 hitpoints. Instead you have to fail two additional rolls for your character to expire, meaning almost no character will die from a single instance of bad luck.

Combat is also different, with each combatant rolling a number of d6s equal to his/her level to mark multiple attacks, or burning off one or two dice attack dice to add an extra bonus to a single attack roll. It helps add some strategy to the otherwise simple combat by asking players if they should take the extra attacks or go for a guaranteed hit.

It also does away with even the vaguest hint of an alignment system. All PCs are good and all their foes are evil.

While this might seem a broad generalization, it does fit with the overall theme of the game, which is that of light-hearted adventure. It's a game that tries to be simple enough even for children to grasp and run, yet detailed enough for adults more used to deeper systems.

It doesn't always work perfectly, but for the most part it played solidly. I don't think I actually needed to look up a single rule while GM-ing and found dropping in NPCs to be a breeze.

Essentially, pick an animal, add a sword, and bam! You're done.

The pdf file (which is what I am using as reference) is clean and well-formatted for the most part. It is single-column with a large font, making it easy to read. There is not an overabundance of artwork, though Darrel Miller's illustrations of woodland adventurers proves to be very setting appropriate.

The book contains a limited beastiary and spell list, keeping it short and simple, but the rules make it a snap to add new content. And older edition D&D content could probably be ported with a minimum of effort.

It also contains a nice setting with plenty of plot seeds, a lovely map, and one sample adventure.

So is Woodland Warriors for everyone? No, probably not. But I've played several games with young players and with adults and both had fun. If you can tolerate the animal-based setting, and don't have any hangups about using a sole d6 for your gaming, I would heartily recommend Woodland Warriors.

There are also three expansion books, two of which I will talk about next week.

You can buy Woodland Warriors for $5.00USD at rpgnow.com, for $12.00USD in a bundle pack with its expansions, or in print for $13.16USD at lulu.com.

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Published on 1/12/2012 Written by 5 comments

What Does 5th Edition Mean to Me?

As you may have heard (and if you didn't, welcome to the Internet fellow gamer!), the 5th Edition of the World's Most Famous Roleplaying game is definitely in progress. At least according to Wizards website. And everyone has an opinion about it, with a lot feeling that Wizards didn't give enough support to 5E, a lot feeling that this will be just as bungled unless they do this or that. I have thoughts and opinions on it as well, but why add to the mess of sound when it would just be redundant?

Instead I had to ask myself, what does this mean for me, a gamer who got into roleplaying well after 4E had come out? I mean, I'm a spring chicken compared to most gamers. I didn't cut my teeth with 1st or 2nd Edition rules. Heck, I only had a passing knowledge of 3rd Edition thanks to the D&D PC games. And though I got into roleplaying at what might be called the height of 4E's popularity I never really took to the 4th edition ruleset.

I suppose that's why I'm a little excited over a new edition, even if, under the coat of glossy big words and all the hype a redesign brings, the game turns out to be a massive letdown, at least I'll be here for its debut. I'll be able to be there day 1, with everyone else, deciding whether or not Wizards succeeded at their nigh impossible goal of making a game that plays well enough for fans old and new to accept.

Me? I'm not beholden to any particular system. 1st Edition, 2nd Edition, 3rd Edition, 4th Edition, Redbox, Rules Cyclopedia, none of it means D&D to me. To me, a kid who grew up without Dungeons & Dragons in his early life, watching others play this mysterious and strange game, filled with arcane rules and funny dice, D&D took on a shape that it could never, ever live up to in my mind.

For me, when I got into roleplaying, I'll admit that I was a little disappointed. Over the years of watching others play, I had my own ideas of what that strange game with the elves and dwarves and dragons was all about, and 3rd Edition didn't really capture that image. And so far, nothing has.

But you know what? After my initial disappointment, I was okay with that. I was having fun, whether it was with 4E, 3E, a retroclone, or something else entirely. I learned the rules only facilitated the game, not defined it, and like every single roleplayer who has ever picked up a d20, I began adapting those rules to suit my games.

So yes, while a part of me feels certain that WotC is going to create some kind of bastardized amalgamation that I won't want to play, another part of me is hopeful. Even if it's not the D&D everyone wants, maybe it'll turn out to be fun.

And isn't that what this hobby is supposed to be about?

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