Thursday, December 29, 2011

d24 Reasons You're Destitute at Level 0

You know, I was very excited about the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game (uh, which was news back in the Summah) because it claimed to be a return to pulp roots, and because Joseph Goodman's posts about reading Appendix N were inspirational. (I hope inspiration keeps--I still haven't cracked the spine on any of those books I bought during my transport of 'inspiration' except The Dying Earth.)

I'm less excited now that I've, finally, with all deliberate speed, read some of the public beta rules. My impression so far is that it's D&D 3e with a bunch of clunky funk on top. I don't like, in an Olde Schoole leaning product, the Will/Fort/Reflex save system (remind me to post about saving throws, or direct me to someone who has abstracted the bonuses by class in OD&D and Holmes and such). And I don't like ascending AC--don't you know Delta's Target 20 system is objectively the best? And I don't like that it uses the Zocchi Funky Dice--even though I like the idea of polyhedral funk, I don't want to have to buy them. Which I don't have to do, but you know I'm going to, right?

But I like the art a lot, the funky spells business looks neat (and a giant headache), and the Level 0 funnel is worth a try.

All of which leads me to today's table. When your DCC RPG characters start at level 0, they have an occupation but at the same time no possessions. Maybe that's how it was in the Fake Middle Ages, but it seemed odd to me that one would be employed but own nothing, so I jotted down this table. I made it d24 because I was feeling the funk, but now that seems self-contradictory. Oh well.

d24 Reasons You're Destitute at Level 0

1) Cursed (witch, sorcerer, prophecy, ill-starred?)
2) Hornswoggled & Scammed (maybe it was too shameful to report to the Law)
3) Runaway (reset starting age to adolescent)
4) On the Lam (state the nature of your crime __________)
5) Shunned & Ostracised (race, color, creed, plague?)
6) Run Outta Town for Dalliances (is the mayor's daughter compromised?)
7) Employer Eaten (wolves, snakes, spiders, teenage hyenas?)
8) Taxed Outta Hearth & Home (swear you're paid up?)
9) Robbers, Highwaymen or Burglars
10) House Burned Down (did you lose family too?)
11) Prolonged Illness (feeling much better now?)
12) Caught Being a Cheat (who'd you rip off?)
13) Slander & Rumors (how far does your Bad Reputation stretch?)
14) Horse or Ox Went Lame (did you shoot it? This ain't the Wild West!)
15) Bad Investment (like Mark Twain and the Paige Compositor)
16) Foolish Generosity (get some, give it away--at least you have good friends, right?)
17) Drank It All Up & Pissed It Away (I'll bet you've got some good enemies)
18) Spendthrift (you just bought shit, but where did it go? Probably ate it.)
19) Never Had Nuthin' To Begin With
20) Mine or Well Ran Dry (both might cause a village to disappear)
21) Injured on the Job (and no TV commercials telling you how to get money for it.)
22) Got on the Boss's Bad Side (or the Boss's Spouse's)
23) Crops Failed or Supplier Vanished (might be the same as #20)
24) Your Trade Is Banned By The Goddam Gubmint

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

$3 Wednesday: The Sanctuary Ruin

The Sanctuary Ruin, the excellent first module from Ludibrium Games, isn't exactly new: Grognardia reviewed it in October of 2010 and Tenkar's Tavern reviewed its sequel, Ironwood Gorge, in February of this year (there are also video reviews on Youtube, but I didn't watch those), but it is good enough for me to spend some time with it now. Sadly, it seems that Ludibrium Games has been dark since the beginning of the year and only those two modules from the Blackmarch series and one more separate 1st-level adventure, Kingmaker, have been produced. I would like to see more work from Eric Jones, as The Sanctuary Ruin is first-rate.

It's presentation makes it a joy to read--it looks as good as any OSR release I've seen (I haven't seen this year's two big ones from Jim Raggi yet) and better than many. My impression is probably helped by the simple layout and the attractive illustrations--and the absence of the embarrassing pieces that every OSR release seems to have at least one of.

As for the content, I do have to agree with Grognardia's assessment that "Unfortunately, what Eric Jones got right is something lots of other people have gotten right repeatedly since the dawn of the hobby" but I want to add that The Sanctuary Ruin makes up for its rather dull familiarity by being very well designed. The encounters are interconnected in simple ways that I imagine would greatly aid referees who are using it for those games when they haven't got time to write their own adventures. Many in the blognardosphere say (and prove it by publishing their own!) that they can write their own adventures and don't need to buy them, but there are plenty of other points of view: there's no shame in admitting that I'm not sure I could write an adventure as good as The Sanctuary Ruin, and there's no reason to assume that every referee would prefer to write their won adventures. I mean, we all buy adventures right?, and many of us love them.

I'm a recent convert to the Old Ways, in case you're just joining us: I haven't refereed or played The Keep on the Borderlands or The Village of Hommlet, and I really only started playing D&D for reals in the 3e era, so my perspective is much different from the Old Guard.

To recap, I think The Sanctuary Ruin is very well done, if too familiar, and I'll consider running it the next time I want to start a new campaign in OSRIC or Labyrinth Lord or LotFP or even D&D. I want to buy Ironwood Gorge and Kingmaker (which might be the subject of the next $3 Wednesday, given its price) as well, and anything else Eric Jones should publish in the future. Maybe I should send him an e-mail.

I should also mention that I found The Sanctuary Ruin on the sidebar of Gothridge Manor (um, I had already bought it, it turns out, but never read it. That's about par for the course.) I think his "Gaming Purchases" list is a great resource--especially, for someone looking or $3 or $4 dollar modules to review--and I want to make one of my own for 2012, if I can figure out how to do it. Thank you, Tim!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Three-or-Four Dollar Wednesdays!

Do you have a comic book habit? Well, you should. New comics are delivered to a shop near you (if you're lucky to live in one of those quanit bourroughs that still hosts those brick-and-mortar relics of the Age of Handicraft), so go there today and buy something.

Meanwhile, I propose to seek out one new OSR product in the, perhaps rather narrow, $3-$4 price range, the price for one new 20-page comic floppy, every week and snatch that sucker up. There's a slim change I'll even review it, though it seems odd to review an adventure without running it, even if that is de rigueur* round these parts.

Up this week is The Blasphemous Brewery of Pilz  by Dylan Hartwell, the Digital Orc ($2.99 at RPGNow). It's been reviewed already by How To Succeed in RPGs or Die Trying, (who was involved in the module's production) Tenkar's Tavern (where I learned about it) and B/X Blackrazor (which I learned after buying it--good thing JB gives a positive review, I was worried for a second that this was a whole nother Sacrosanct Games situation.) Also, JB's review is nearly as long as the module.

Here's what I think of it: While the premise of the Blasphemous Brewery is hard to believe, and the illustrations give the module a homemade appearance, the game material itself is good enough that I consider my $2.99 well spent. It details, in brief, two-or-three-sentence entries the rooms of three small dungeon locations, which are pretty standard fare but work together to flesh out a mini-setting, aided by some details of nefarious elves, several NPCs with useful personality descriptions, and a couple of cool new monsters (I particularly the magical spiders--they even look really cool in Hartwell's illustration). Oh, and a very deadly artifact. I think it's a pretty good adventure and I might consider adapting it for Gamma World 7e (that's the D&D IV version, yeah) becaus ethat would also be blasphemous. My review isn't much, so be sure to read the three I mentioned above, and get to know the Digital Orc blog, which seems to have many useful links to OSR tools that I wasn't aware of.

*Oh, de rigueur means 'strictly required by etiqutte'. I thought it meant 'customary'. Pretend I wrote 'customary' up there. Have I ever mentioned that I love dictionaries?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Remember when Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser were in Wonder Woman?

In Issue #202 of the first Wonder Woman series (a new series started at #1 in  '87, I guess):

(image taken from there and buy stuff)

I hate to admit it, but I haven't read any Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories, except two aborted attempts to read The Snow Women. I know there's some kind of difference between the gods in Lankhmar and the gods of Lankhmar, but that's the extent of my knowledge. Therefore, I will begin my reading of this seminal contribution to pulp fantasy and the D&D hobby with this no doubt exemplary entry in the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser canon: a Wonder Woman comic from her Dig This Feminist Kung-Fu '70s period.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Don't forget to buy Weird Adventures today

Hat tip to Chis Sims via Twitter for bringing this to my attention--which is sure a weird way for me to find out about a product from From The Sorcerer's Skull. Or maybe not--I read Chris Sims's Twitter all the time.

Anyway, Weird Adventrues by Trey Causey. Buy it. I did.

Here's the product desription from Drive Thru RPG (which is also the immediate source of the above image):

Weird Adventures is a setting where traditional rpg fantasy meets the Pulp era. It's a world where hobogoblins hop trains, gargoyles nest on art deco skyscrapers, and celebrity sorcerers hawk cigarettes on the radio.

Doesn't that just sound swell?

Friday, December 9, 2011

2011: the Best Of

Twenty-Eleven wasn't just the year when I stopped blogging, it was also the year during which I consumed some pop culture in several media. What was the best?

Oh, and it looks like few of these things actually came out in 2011. What can I say, I'm slow.

Best RPG product: Anomalous Subsurface Environment. It's the dungeon I wanted to write.

Best Videogame: Skyrim, big surprise.

Best Movie: How to Train Your Dragon (I submit that this is the best D&D movie ever.) I also liked Bridesmaids a great deal, if you must have somethign from this year.

Best Wedding: Me and K.

Best Book: All Clear by Connie Willis (it's the second half of the story started in Blackout, and it probably came out in 2010). It gives more of sense of beingn transported to the past than Stephen King's otherwise very engaging 11/22/63 (which I'm 70% through).

Best Comic Book: Wonder Woman #1 by Azzarello and Chiang or maybe it should be Habibi by Craig Thompson, if it wasn't so detatched from reality.

Best Board Game: 7 Wonders . . . it's fantastic, if not from 2011. I bought a few games that came out this year, like Sun of York and Sekigahara (though those might be reprints.) I'll have to let you know how I like them . . .

And since the only value of a list like this is that it might draw your attention to something you missed, I hope that you'll share your own list, maybe even in the comments below, but on your won blog is good too.

I hope to be here more often in 2012--hey, I may even start up an Old School campaign again!

And there's no Best Music category because I don't really listen to new music. What can I say, I think I'm old. Oh wait, I'm really digging the new Megadeth: