Monday, January 31, 2011

In Which Misreading Leads to Creativity

I was reading the paper this morning and quickly glanced over a headline that read “Steep Gun Laws Considered.” In my haste, I read “Sleep Gun Laws” and thus the following was born. Use it in your next weird science fantasy campaign or have it left over from the Elder Race that founded the campaign world.

Sleep Gun: Formed from an unearthly substance similar to glass, yet stronger than adamant, this object is of a fluted, Baroque design. The device features a protruding grip by which to hold it while aiming the object’s tulip-shaped barrel towards an opponent. When operated, the item fires an invisible, soundless beam of slumber-inducing particles, causing the victim to fall into a deep sleep. This beam acts like the 1st level magic-user spell, sleep, but only affects a single individual of up to 4+1 HD. Although the victim does not receive a saving throw to avoid the effects of the beam, the sleep gun must successfully strike its target and requires a successful “to hit” roll on the part of the operator. The sleep gun ignores armor for the purpose of determining a successful strike, but DEX adjustments apply to both the operator’s attack roll and to the defender’s adjusted AC. Sleep guns have 2d10 power charges when found.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Snake + Gator = Dog

I'll be at a game tonight while this is airing, but you can bet your last Swatch and Hypercolor T-shirt that this is being DVR'd. The challenge is figuring out who I should root for: Long Islander Deborah "Debbie" Gibson or "I did a Playboy spread" Tiffany? If only they had figured out a way to work Amy Fisher in...

If I had some New Coke to wash down this cheese, it'd be the perfect 80's flashback.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review of Realms of Crawling Chaos

Part one of a review of Realms of Crawling Chaos is now up on Hill Cantons. My favorite part:
… co-written by one of the better (if not best) current workhorses of classic-play D&D, Michael Curtis.
I think that’s the first time I’ve ever been called a “workhorse.” “Clotheshorse” and “horse’s ass,” yes, but not “workhorse.” And to think that I was just chastising myself for slacking lately…

Check out the review and then go get the book.

Stonehell Campaign Map

Over at The Savage Sword of Scadgrad, there has been a player’s map posted for scadgrad’s online MapTool campaign. Done in the style of “your crazy, adventuring uncle left this to you on his deathbed,” the map shows just how easy it is to drop Ol’ Stony into any campaign world. Check out the post here.

And speaking of megadungeons, Kesher’s posted a great quote over at the Original Dungeons & Dragons Discussion forum, having found it at The Alexandrian. Having been working on and running Stonehell for more than two years now, I both identify with this remark and heartily agree with it.
In many ways, I feel like a megadungeon becomes the DM's character. And I play my megadungeon much like I would play a PC. Before play begins, I don't really know what my megadungeon is going to do: But my random encounter tables generate 2d4 anubians just after the PCs raid the depths, and I know the anubians have sent a team of assassins to hunt them down. Black-eyed cultists are holding a ritual on Level 2 and I suddenly know the sin day they're celebrating. Lizardmen show up in the anubian sections of the dungeon and I know tensions are erupting between their tribes. Then the minotaur shows up to determine why tribute is not being paid and... and... and...

And a story gets told.

New Eldritch Artifact for Realms of Crawling Chaos

I had a lot of fun contributing to Realms of Crawling Chaos, and I’m deeply indebted to Dan Proctor for allowing me to add a little bit to his most excellent supplement. The opportunity to revel in Lovecraft and Labyrinth Lord simultaneously was the most fun I’ve had in some time—even if it did hurt the old noggin at times.

Dan had the book pretty much together when I came aboard and he deserves all the credit for turning out such a horrific, wondrous creation. I merely helped patch a few holes and made sure that we didn’t miss anything obvious along the way. My biggest contribution was what became Appendix One and Two: the rules for deciphering eldritch tomes and creating Lovecraftian artifacts that didn’t suffer from a surfeit of tentacles. I’m pretty proud of both systems and I hope readers get both some use and a kick out of them. Of course, as with any book, not everything makes it to the final draft. Dan’s given me permission to post one of the mystical items that was sidelined during the writing process.

As a myopic reader of strange texts, and most certainly as an undergrad tackling the classics, I could have used a pair of these spectacles. For those of you whose characters dare to peruse the pages of tomes uncovered in a Realms of Crawling Chaos campaign, the following could literally save your soul.

Lenses of Blasphemous Comprehension: This object is usually encountered as a pair of rectangular spectacles with smoked glass lenses or as a prism made of the same colored glass. When used to read eldritch tomes, the lenses grant their user a +2 bonus to all his rolls against a book’s complexity or potency.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ideological Conflict at the Temple School for Young Amphibians

I’m still waist deep in projects this week, but the level of work is slowly dwindling. I have a few things in the pipe for later this week or the next, but until then, here’s a little something I found on my old computer during the Great File Transfer of 2011:

This is also a reminder that The Fane of St. Toad, one of my first contributions to this thing of ours and a tribute to both Dave Arneson and C.A. Smith, remains available as a free download here. If you’ve missed it before, check it out now.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Stars Are Right…And Much Sooner Than Expected

Start off your week with soul-searing revelations and alien vistas of non-Euclidean geometry. Realms of Crawling Chaos is now available as a PDF or saddle-stitched paperback. The tome is expected to go into distribution early this summer, but be sure to tell your FLGS about it now. Orcus…I mean Great Cthulhu commands it!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Radioactive Theatre: The Aftermath

I apologize for the quiescence this week. I’m going through one of my periods where I wish sleep was a choice rather than a biological need. Projects, plans, and general stuff to be done is accumulating like the snow that keeps falling on my little island home. I’ll try to do better next week.

One of the things on my “get it the hell done” list is to clean out all the pieces of obsolete technology that I’ve manage to accumulate over the last decade and a half. Most of this stuff is going straight to the local tech recycling place, but before I do so, I need to make sure that I’ve gotten all the files I might find a use for off those machines. That’s not so easy when you’re talking about transferring files off of a 12-year old bondi blue iMac onto a cobbled together PC. Talk about an epic adventure…

Despite the hassle, the transfer is now completed and I’ve discovered a vast gold mine of intellectual riches that I’d forgotten about. Most of the stuff is in a half-finished form and pretty rough to begin with, but there are some tiny diamonds amongst the stones. My never-completed post-apocalyptic website is one example.

Some years ago, I decided that I was going to embark on an odyssey through my local Mom & Pop video store’s PA movie collection, documenting the journey with reviews of the movies as I went—very similar to what I was doing with Gamma World inspirational media a few months ago. I’ve since found a handful of those reviews and I’ll be posting the better ones here. The titles are pretty obscure, but the reviews have a sense of humor I hope you’ll find amusing. So, as I go back to the teetering pile that is my in-box, let me leave you with a decade-plus old review of the 1982 film, The Aftermath.

The Aftermath (1982)

Cast: Steve Barkett (Newman), Lynne Margulies (Sarah), Sid Haig (Cutter), and Christopher Barkett (Christopher)

Setting: Recent Apocalypse. If we were lucky, it would have been before this film was made.

Violent Mutants Present: Yes

Plot: Three astronauts return to Earth to find it in ruins. A warlord named Cutter and his gang of bandits rules Los Angeles. When one of the astronauts shelters an escapee from Cutter’s camp, the bandits and survivors face off to see who will survive.

Rating: Toxic Waste

Every now and then in Hollywood, there comes along a man or woman with a vision. They have a dream to make a film, a film unlike anything Hollywood has seen. They pitch it to the studios, but the studios laugh at them and say that no one would want to see such a film. But the dream refuses to die. They decide to prove the studios wrong. Gathering their friends and family as cast and crew, hitting up Uncle Sal for a loan and a producer credit, and making sets and props out in the garage, they set out to create the film that they dreamed of. In the end they prove one thing; they prove that the studio was right—no one wants to see this film.

Aftermath (or The Aftermath depending on who you want to believe) is one of those films. Watching the opening credits, I was surprised that the production company wasn’t “Nepotism Pictures Limited.” I think the entire Barkett clan is involved in this picture in one form or another. That’s always a bad sign.

The plot falls into the classic PA trope “Astronauts Return To Find Earth in Apocalyptic Ruins” or ARTFEAR for short. Believe it or not, this can be a good genre. Just look at The Planet of the Apes. Aftermath is not one of the good ones though. At the start of the film, we find three astronauts returning to Earth from some long mission. When they fail to receive any radio traffic from old terra firma, they begin to get suspicious. During these early minutes of the film, keep an eye out for any scenes that involve shots of the pilot. He’s supposed to be at the helm of an advanced space ship, but instead it looks like he’s flying the ship from an empty closet.

The film just goes downhill from there. Steve Barkett wrote, did half the direction, and starred in this piece of radioactive slag. He is also the reason to rent this film. Get a bunch of your friends together, grab the beverage of choice, and make fun of Steve. His (and to be fair, everyone else’s) acting is wooden enough to outfit the Dutch Olympic Clog Dancing Team. He wanders through the film with his shirts open to the belly button, exposing a forest of chest hair and a bulky, beer-swilling torso. Imagine that your Dad decided to become an action-hero. That’s Steve.

Steve Barkett is also the “Caucasian Jackie Chan”. He does all his own stunts in this film. Of course, most of them involve him jumping over a jeep’s roll bar into the driver seat, or floundering around in the California surf. But, to give Steve credit, he does leap from one building to another…over a gaping two-foot chasm.

I had bigger hopes for this film at first. In the beginning, there is a special effects shot that reminded me of some of Tom Savini’s early work on the Dawn of the Dead. But I think they blew most of the special-effects budget on this one scene. Nothing else even resembles that shot again. My hopes were raised once again by some realistic looking radiation-fried corpses, but that was until the camera got the close up shot. Then, they looked like mannequins covered in gray Play-Doh.

This movie has so many strikes against it that it’s hard to point out all the bad things. One minor saving grace is the presence of Sid Haig. Audiences may recognize Sid from the countless appearances he’s logged on TV and B-movies over the years. Usually, Sid gets the stereotypical Biker or Psycho role. He plays the heavy in Aftermath; a vicious warlord named Cutter. Sid portrays Cutter as just slimy enough that we hate him, but given the choice between hanging around in his camp of cutthroats or moving into Barkett’s manor in the Hollywood Hills, I think I’d go with slimy.

1) Steve is so easy to make fun of in this picture. Perfect for those seeking to parody their first film or give it the old MST3k treatment.
2) Oh. My. God. There is a scene in this film where Barkett’s character takes shelter from Cutter’s gang in a shack. In true Hollywood fashion, he breaks out a pane of glass in the door to shoot out of…despite the fact a pane right next to it IS ALREADY MISSING!

1) Planet of the Bra-less Women. I know that this film was made in the early Eighties, but is the Aaron Spelling Jiggle Style of Film-Making really needed? The three women in this film all go without under-wire support.
2) “A planet where man evolved from paper-mache dinosaurs?” At one point, Barkett enters a museum. While exploring the place, he comes across “The Hall of Fossils.” Either these are dinosaurs made from clay and super-imposed on the screen, or the crew built three half-sized dinosaurs out of chicken wire and newspaper. It is hard to tell since the scene’s shot in the dark.
3) Now it’s in ruins, now it’s not. During the film, we keep seeing a model of ruined Los Angeles. They cut to this miniature every now and then to remind us that we’re still in The Aftermath. But, during other scenes, we catch glimpses of buildings in the background and they all look just fine.
4) Breaking of the Cardinal Rule of Narration. In order to avoid such think like character development and decent dialogue, Barkett is heard in narration throughout much of the film, often speaking in the past tense. We later learn that this is impossible. I won’t spoil it for you, but I’m sure you can figure out why this later becomes unrealistic.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Labyrinth Lord Text Documents Available

After much pleading from the DIY crowd, Goblinoid Games has finally made the text of Labyrinth Lord, Original Edition Characters, and the Advanced Edition Companion available on their website. Here’s Dan Proctor with the announcement:

Hi all, I know a number of you have been waiting for the text files for these books, and they're now up.

An important note about the text files: These files are merely text versions of the books. Therefore they still contain product identity. This may or may not be relevant to you depending on how you use them. FYI.


Rejoice, oh ye who hath dreamed of making a "Rules Compendium" of your very own for your home game or just wanted to cut and paste the rules you use and leave out the ones you don’t. Quite frankly, I’d love to be able to make my own “house rules” version but I don’t have the time right now. Put it on the “to do” list.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

An Idle Question for Francophones

What would be the French translation of "Ravenloft"?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Krang the Steel God & Quintessential Items

Steel screams when it's forged, it gasps when it's quenched. It creaks when it goes under load. Steel is alive, son.

Krang the Steel God, sometimes known as Krang of the Hammer or the Ever-Smith, is a minor demi-power, but an important one. Krang rules over the tensile strength of steel, the durability of iron, and the ability for those metals to hold an edge. Smiths and soldiers are his usual devotees, but many who rely on metal for their trade or survival will speak a brief prayer to Krang before using an item under his influence. Krang’s holy symbol is a piece of razor sharp steel or iron etched with unusual symbols that spell out the deity’s name in Smithik, the secret trade language of smiths. Krang is aligned with Wonder in the Old Pantheon.

Although Krang has no true priests (spell-casting ones that is), he does possesses a small group of fanatical smiths who are able to invoke the god’s power when crafting an item. This group is known as the Ferrumic. Each Ferrumic smith is a migrant crafter, travelling from settlement to settlement to trade, teach, and, most importantly, search for veins of hematite especially blessed by Krang, for it is these special strains of ore that they need to create the quintessential weapons and armor they are known for.

Quintessential Objects

Ferrumic smiths can create objects using the rare forms of iron ore infused with Krang’s essence. These items are known as quintessential pieces, being superior to even masterwork items. Each has a minor magical effect of limited duration, but is not a true magical item such as one enchanted by magic-users and elves. As such, quintessential objects cannot usually strike creatures only affected by magic item (but see below).

Quintessential objects enjoy the benefits of masterwork items (+1 to attack OR damage rolls in the case of weapons; movement rate improved by one step for armor). Additionally, there is a chance that a quintessential object gains a random magical ability during its creation process. This base chance is 20%. However, the smith can attempt to improve the chance of attracting Krang’s attentions to the crafting process by using rare or exotic substances during the item’s forging. Such materials are expensive and they require an additional expense on the part of either the smith or the one who commissioned the piece. For each additional 100 gp spent, the chance for the weapon developing a spontaneous quality is increased by 10%. The probability may never be increased above 80%, however, and the money is spent regardless of whether the object develops special qualities or not.

Krang is an enigmatic god and even the Ferrumic cannot predict what qualities he might bestow upon their work. If the check reveals that the object is imbued with a special quality, the referee should roll on the table below to determine what power the item possess. Note that each of these abilities can be invoked only a finite number of times, and that, like a wand; each use reduces the number of “charges” the item contains. Each quintessential item has 2d10 uses when first crafted. After all those uses are gone, the item is treated like a regular masterwork item. The object’s owner can attempt to have a Ferrumic smith re-consecrate the item, but such a service costs a flat 500 gp and has only a 50% chance of success. If this attempt fails, the item’s power can never be restored. If it successful, it regains 1d10+5 charges. A quintessential weapon can only be re-consecrated one time.

01-03: Item can throw magic missiles as if it were a 5th level magic-user (3 missiles per use)
04-06: Item unlocks a single, non-magical lock within 5’.
07-10: Item causes any single attack against the owner to be rerolled.
11-13: Item allows the owner to levitate for 1 round per use expended. Movement rate is 20’ per round.
14-17: Item allows the owner to reroll any failed check against fear. This is a reflexive power and requires no action on the part of the owner.
18-21: Item produces a small flame (candle-sized) up to 30’ away.
22-25: Item allows the owner to affect creatures normally only struck by magical weapons. This effect lasts for 1d4+1 rounds.
26-28: Item produces a shocking grasp effect when striking/struck by an opponent, doing d8+1 damage.
29-33: Item allows the owner to ignore the effects of a web spell or giant spider webs.
34-37: Item turns undead as a 2nd level cleric
38-41: Item detects poison within 15’ radius.
42-46: Item can produce light as the clerical spell (12 turn duration)
47-50: Item reduces any fire-based damage taken by half. If the damage allows for a saving throw and it is successful, only one-quarter damage (rounded down) is suffered.
51-53: Item has a 4 in 6 chance of detecting secret doors within 15’ radius.
54-57: Item negates the effects of a sleep spell on the owner only. This is a reflexive power and requires no action on the part of the owner. The owner is still included in the # of HD affected.
58-62: Item resists the effects of corrosive attacks from creatures such as rust monsters, green slime, grey ooze, etc. This is a reflexive power and requires no action on the part of the owner.
61-64: Item cloaks the owner in gloom, increasing his ability to surprise opponents to 3 in 6. The created shadows only affects owner and the surprise chance is cancelled if accompanied by others.
65-68: Item grants the owner a +1 bonus to any single saving throw.
69-73: Item creates water as a 1st level cleric.
74-76: Item allows the owner to blink for 3 rounds.
77-81: Item grants the owner infravision for 2d6 turns.
81-83: Item creates an arcane eye which lasts for 1 turn.
84-87: Item deflects non-magical missile attacks with a successful save vs. breath attacks.
88-91: Item grants the owner a boost of speed that allows him to automatically wins initiative for the next round. It has no other effect. The rest of the party must roll for initiative as normal.
92-95: Item allows the owner to read languages.
96-99: Item prevents the owner from losing his footing. This is a reflexive power and requires no action on the part of the owner.
00: Item becomes a true, permanent magical item of +1 power.

Cost of crafting a quintessential item

The base cost of materials and labor for a Ferrumic smith to create a quintessential item is the item’s normal cost plus 400 gold pieces. This allows for the base 20% chance of the item developing special powers. Additional funds may be spent to increase this percentage as noted above.

Crafting times

The time required to forge a quintessential item depends on its size and complexity. A quintessential weapon can be created in one week’s time. A quintessential shield requires 7+1d8 days to complete. It takes a full month to create a quintessential suit of armor.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I am a Meta-Gaming Referee

When WotC announced that they’re introducing the new Fortune Card marketing gimmick, some folks took it to be the final nail in the coffin of a game they once loved. Others saw it as the long-delayed inevitable step and wondered why it took this long to happen. I read about it on the blogs, shrugged my shoulders and went back to what I was working one.

I did this for two reasons. The first is because, other than the re-issue of Gamma World, nothing WotC does anymore affects my game playing or purchasing habits. As such, I’m no longer involved in any customer-publisher relationship with them, and outside of making the older editions available in PDF format again, I’ve no opinion on what Hasbro and the Wizards do with their products, money, and time. I do wish they displayed greater employer loyalty to their designers though.

The second reason was that I beat them to the punch by almost a year.

I’ve made note that I will sometimes award players with a certificate of commendation for reaching certain milestones or displaying exceptional growth in play. What I didn’t mention is that these award letters are accompanied by a chit or card good for use in game. All of these cards affect the mechanics of the game in some manner and they do so in a meta-gaming manner. It is the player who steps in the apply these award cards, much like using a “Get Out of Jail Free” card to avoid an unfortunate dice roll in Monopoly.

I make no apologies for this behavior. I find them enjoyable and the players love having this additional resource at their disposal when things start going incredibly wrong for them. Such an obvious “gamist” element might not meet with everyone’s approval, but if you are the kind of referee who likes giving the players another factor to consider when deciding their actions, you can download a PDF copy of the chits I use in my Labyrinth Lord campaign here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

“Roont Urt”

Roont Urt The mental auditions to choose what game I intend to run after Watchfires & Thrones runs its course continue. It was my original intent to run Gamma World, but, although that continues to be the front-runner, a few dark horses have entered the race. Whether these go the distance or are mere phantoms conjured by Gamer A.D.D. remains to be seen.

Assuming I continue with the Gamma World plan, I intend to run it as a wide-open sandbox. My re-acquaintance with the rules has shown me not only how suitable Gamma World is for this type of campaign, but it actually seems to be the default setting for the game—something that escaped me in my youth. With more wisdom and greater experience in this type of campaign, I foresee a heck of a lot of fun in exploring a post-apocalyptic sandbox.

I’ve started doing the initial planning for a Gamma World sandbox by following Rob Conley’s incredibly useful step-by-step process. Although certain other projects got in the way of progress, I have completed the first step: the initial conceptualization of the larger world in which my sandbox will be located. Although a simple one-page sketch map is suggested, I’m more of a poster paper/colored pencils man. After all, why settle for sketching when you can create art!

I didn’t worry too much about pinning down scale at this point and size. This map is more in preparation for the day the characters find a bubble car and start zooming around the lower atmosphere (intentionally or not) and set down in some unknown region of the world, henceforth known as “Roont Urt” rather than the more prosaic “Gamma Terra.” If things look a little askew, that’s completely intentional…and part of the fun of exploring the campaign world. The initial sandbox would likely be set in the orange region in the lower left-hand portion of the map, right around where that mountain chain ends in a “Y”.

Next step: Naming regions.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


As a rule, I do not fall into the category of a Monty Haul-type referee. I can be downright stingy, in fact. My players can attest that they’ve gone into Stonehell and come back out with the pocket change that a pair of sentries had on them. Sometimes they’re even operating at a loss when they go delving.

Not today though. At our first session since the holiday break, the party found two of the largest treasure hordes on the second level of the dungeon. The amount of money and experience they hauled out was damn near obscene. Because of this, they actually ran into the rule that stipulates a PC can never advance more than a single level as a result of an adventure—something which has occurred only one or two times in my games in the three decades I’ve been playing.

Watching them deal with the logistical problem of getting the sheer amount of coinage they stumbled onto back to the surface was extremely entertaining. Rations went flying, coils of rope were discarded, torches jettisoned, and all that dungeon trash that adventurers tend to accumulate (“I take the orcs’ longswords! We can sell them back in town.”) got dumped without ceremony. When all was said and done, only two of the six PCs had a weapon in hand—the rest had their mitts filled with sacks.

They crawled back to the surface at the breakneck speed of 30’ a turn, were almost robbed by a gang of bugbears, dodged kobold javelins, crossed the Pit of Great Annoyance on a rickety ladder, and faced a mass of seven zombies that stood between them and the stairs to the surface, but they made it out alive and filthy rich. Of course, the next time they might not be so lucky, but this uncertainty is one of the more enjoyable factors about the old style of gaming. There are few attempts to balance risk or reward in the early editions, so any trip could end in a windfall or a wipeout. It is that uncertainty that makes me come back for more, both as a player and a referee. I wonder why anyone would want it otherwise, but it takes all types I suppose.

After all the PC deaths that have occurred and the near poverty the adventurers endured since the campaign began, it’s great to see them have a big win. The power level of the campaign is slowly growing, which not only adds to the survivability of the PCs, but also gives me greater leeway with what I can introduce into the campaign—and I have some interesting plans…

All in all, today was a good day for gaming and it was precisely what I needed to get me to refocus after the three weeks off. I’m looking forward to next week’s session. I see an overland journey on the horizon, something we haven’t done since the original campaign world. The sandbox is waiting for the PCs…and some hexes are hungry.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


At long last I can break my silence since Dan Proctor has officially announced it.

Without saying too much about the supplement just to be safe, this is an incredibly cool book and I’m honored that I was asked to be a part of it. My response on seeing Dan’s manuscript was, “It’s like you took the Cthulhu Mythos chapter from the unexpurgated Deities & Demigods and turned it into a sourcebook of its very own!” Dan did an amazing job on this one and I think a lot of folks are going to impressed by the stuff in there. You’ll find it awful stuff, by which I mean you be both “full of awe” and hopefully disgusted too. I know I blew out the “weird gear” in my mental transmission doing my section of the book and I hope the pain and madness comes through in the text.

Pick this one up when it hits the market. The psionic system is worth the price of admission alone. Your players will hate you for it.

Modern Map Suggestions?

In light of my own advice, I’m giving some serious second thought as to what RPG I’d really like to run after (or even before) my Labyrinth Lord game winds down. There are a few candidates, all of them having the common factor that they are not fantasy-based titles. I need a little break after living, breathing, and most importantly, writing fantasy stuff for the last two-plus years.

Strangely enough, when it comes to modern setting games, my biggest hang-up is mapping. My modern games are more character-driven than location-based, and I’d prefer to spend time diagramming the relationships between various factions and individuals instead of detailing the office that the players operate out of. When such detail is needed, I can always draw upon real-life experience if necessary, quickly sketching out an old work place or what have you to use in a pinch.

The problem with that, however, is that, after a time, all the offices start looking the same, the churches have the same layout, and even the corner store get repetitive. So to combat this, I’m looking for suggestions on gaming resources filled with modern location maps. I see that there are a few such things on, but the reviews on them are not great. Does anyone have something they can recommend based on actual use?

My only requirement is that it has to be either a PDF (I’m not buying actual books this year) or a web resource. It should also have the widest range of locations possible from the mundane (convenience store) to the uncommon (funeral parlor). I don’t need them to be usable with miniatures, but being able to print them out and keep on hand for the next time the PCs chase the bad guy into a construction site would be a bonus. Cheap or free is always appreciated too.

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG Now Available for Pre-Order

Today is Dungeon Crawl Classics Day over at the Goodman Games website.

Glory & Gold Won by Sorcery & Sword

You’re no hero.

You’re a reaver, a cutpurse, a heathen-slayer, a tight-lipped warlock guarding long-dead secrets. You seek gold and glory, winning it with sword and spell, caked in the blood and filth of the weak, the dark, the demons, and the vanquished. There are treasures to be won deep underneath, and you shall have them.

Return to the glory days of fantasy with the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game. Adventure as 1974 intended you to, with modern rules grounded in the origins of sword & sorcery. Fast play, cryptic secrets, and a mysterious past await you: turn the page…

Rules Set: DCC RPG, an OGL system that cross-breeds Appendix N with a streamlined version of 3E.

Designers’ Diary: Learn more about the RPG design in our regular entries.

Community: Discuss the DCC RPG on our forums!

Open Playtest: The core rules for the DCC RPG will be released in a free, open playtest in mid-2011. Watch this page for more details.

Support: Goodman Games will support the DCC RPG with an extensive line of adventure modules and select other materials going into 2012. More details coming soon!

Licensees: Select publishers will be offered licenses to publish supplemental material for the DCC RPG. If you are a publisher interested in learning more, please contact us.

Designer and writer: Joseph Goodman
Additional writing: Harley Stroh
Cover art: Doug Kovacs
Interior art: Jeff Easley, Jason Edwards, Tom Galambos,
Friedrich Haas, Jim Holloway, Doug Kovacs, Diesel Laforce, William McAusland, Brad McDevitt, Jesse Mohn, Peter Mullen, Erol Otus, Stefan Poag, Jim Roslof, Chad Sergesketter, Chuck Whelon, Mike Wilson Special thanks to the playtesters at DunDraCon, CondorCon, GenghisCon, GaryCon, North Texas RPG Con, Mount LeConte, GameFest, SaurusCon, Anaheim Mini-Con, Tacticon, Fal-Con, Dicehouse Games, Comic World, and elsewhere!

GMG5070, hardcover, $34.99. Pre-order now!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Anyone Need a Motto for 2011?

Some years ago, I worked in a wine & liquor store (two of them, actually, but never mind that). I had to acquaint myself with various vintages of potables to better serve the customer base that would come in looking for the perfect grape to accompany their dinner. In the process, I gained some familiarity with both the Wine Spectator and oenophiles (or as we called them, “grape nuts”). And although my palette never quite developed to that of a connoisseur, I did acquire a working knowledge of the grape.

There is a saying amongst wine aficionados that goes, “Life is too short to drink cheap wine,” and one must admit that there is a certain wisdom in those words regardless of whether you imbibe or not. Our time here is limited and we already spend much of it doing things we’d rather not have to. So why on Earth would we settle for anything less than the best when it comes to the things we do enjoy? It is with this mindset that I present to you a motto for 2011:

“Life is Too Short to Play Bad Games”

I’ve spoken briefly on this subject previously, but I think it bears repeating, especially with a brand new year ahead of us. You should all be out there playing the game you want with the group you want and should never settle for anything but the best in your gaming entertainment. You can be playing the title you want with the players you prefer—provided you’re willing to put the effort into making it happen. Some games might be easier to find groups for than others, and you might get lucky with the first gaming group you build, but it’s much more likely that you’ll eventually find who and what you want to be playing with if you keep up the effort.

Need proof? Look no further than fetish websites and forums (and by “look” I mean that figuratively if you’re at work right now). There are a whole bunch of people in this world whose freak flags flutter in some pretty bizarre winds, yet they’re finding people to play their various games with. By that measure, your desire to play that wonky home-brewed Castle Falkenstein campaign you made up that time you dropped acid isn’t quite so unlikely now, is it? You might have to make a few attempts to get the perfect mix, but nothing comes easy in the world and you’ll find the effort is far outweighed by the reward.

I’ll mention that when I say “bad games” I’m not making any value judgments on what title you enjoy. What gets me going might not do the same for you and vice versa, but all that means is we probably shouldn’t be playing in one another’s groups and be out finding our comrades in dice (or chips or cards or whatever). In any case, I wish you luck and may you find your perfect group of gamers and most excellent campaign in 2011.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Portents, Plans, and Expectations

A fresh year. Is there anything else so full of possibility?

Having had a few weeks to recoup, catch up, and prepare for 2011, I’ve made some plans, decisions, and resolutions like many of you. Some regard my gaming, others are more personal improvements, but all are intended to make 2011 at least a moderately better year than 2010. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, shall we?

The biggest decision, and also the one that most impacts you, the reader, is that I’m 99% certain that this will be the last year of The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope. For several reasons, I’ve come to the realization that I’ve taken this particular blog as far as I can based on its original mission statement. Rather than slowly grind it into the muck of mediocrity, if not outright suckitude, I’d prefer to call it a night while the Society is still a shadow of its once-pertinent self.

As it stands at the moment, I suspect that I’ll keep the place running long enough to finish off the Stonehell sequel, my Labyrinth Lord campaign, and the one last project of mine that has been shuffled to the backburner so many times I can’t remember what it was that I started cooking. The blog’s 3rd anniversary would be in August, and ending the blog after a respectable three-year run appeals to me greatly, so we’re looking at the “Closed” sign going up towards the end of the year and not tomorrow. I hope that is a some consolation.

This is not a decision I made lightly or in anger. It’s just that time. I never signed up to keep this place running in perpetuity and I’m feeling anxious to try the next thing in my life. I’ll be continuing to create material for other venues and I’ll likely keep Secret Antiquities running, but the Society is entering its twilight months—unless something changes dramatically. One should avoid saying “never” or “always” after all.

Speaking of the Stonehell sequel, this will be the year for it. I hate leaving projects unfinished and despite my tendency to take up other people’s offers of work in lieu of my own, I will get the sequel completed and available by the time the year or blog winds down (whichever comes first). I will do my best to keep the quality of the sequel equal to or better than its predecessor. To do anything less would be an insult to you fine people. Remember though that quality takes time, so don’t expect the sequel out next week. And no I don’t have the slightest idea when it will appear yet either. You’ll be amongst the first to know if you continue to follow this electronic fish-wrapper in the coming months.

Expect to see my name attached to at least one project put out this year by another entity. I’ll speak more on it/them when I’m allowed, but all you need to know now is that they are very cool things.

Perhaps my most outrageous resolution for this year is to not buy any books until I’ve finished the humongous backlog that accumulated last year. As a bibliophibian, this will be a difficult one to adhere to, but I’m pretty adroit at keeping to things I put my mind to. I’m allowing myself to purchase a tome or three if I get a gift certificate or the like to a bookstore, but other than that, I’m on the book wagon until the box of to-be-reads is empty. And yes, this includes game books too.

I’ll be trying to reduce my backlog of unpainted miniatures as well, but that’s what every mini painter says at this time of year.

That’s where I stand on this warm January afternoon here in New York. I’m looking forward to the coming year not as a time of endings but of new beginnings. I hope that you can join me in this outlook. I’ll miss this place from time to time once it’s closed, but I expect whatever comes next will be at least equal in its utility, coolness, and all out funkiness. But that’s a long way down the road right now, so let’s have some fun while she lasts.