Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Review: Torchlit Adventures

Gallant Knight Games has, in the last few years, published a good number of excellent games. One of these is Torchlit Adventures which is inspired by early editions of Dungeons and Dragons while still managing to tread new ground. 

I was provided with a PDF copy of the game for review purposes and this post uses affiliate links to allow me to buy more games and artwork.

The product is 72 pages with color covers and black and white interior images. The art is very professional and appealing and the illustrations are of a very high quality.

In the Foreword, Alan Bahr, the game's author explains why he created another OSR game. Basically, he took DnD, dashed it against a rock and stood on the shoulders of giants to create Torchlit Adventures.

The Introduction explains that TA will be the foundation upon which future OSR products will be released from Gallant Knight Games. I wonder if that will include the Kickstarter for Michael Spahn's second edition of The Hero's Journey which I believe starts around January 7th (Mr. Spahn confirmed it will not, though he loves TA).

Chapter 1 goes over TA's basics, and the primary rule is that Narrator has the right to modify the rules as they seem fit. It reinforces that "This is your game. Play it your way.", which is a core principal of the OSR. 
   Skill tests in TA, generally, require rolling X or higher on a D6. The Narrator sets what X is and certain class abilities or situational modifiers can lower the die to a D4 or increase it to a D8, D10, or D12. Most Skill tests default to 4 or better while a Skill test's appropriate Ability modifier is applied to the roll, as well. There is no set Skill list, the Narrator and player will determine if your background or class provide any benefits for a Skill test.
   Advantage and Disadvantage, from DnD 5E, are used for D20 rolls.
   Saving throws are a single type modified by level with certain exceptions called out as as Class abilities, they essentially work like Swords and Wizardry.
   A section calls out that a goal of TA is to be able to fit a Character on a 3" x 5"card.
   Torchlit Adventures' Abilities are different from most OSR games, they are: Might, Learning, Insight, Fortitude, Agility, and Charisma. Generating Ability scores is, to me at least, unique. Essentially, you roll 5D6 and assign each individual roll is assigned a number between 1 and 5. A player  then chooses what Ability gets a 12, what two Abilities get an 11, and the remaining Abilities are assinged all 10s. A player then adds the first D6 to the Ability that is a 12. Next you choose one of the Abilities you set at 11 and subtract the first D6 and add the second D6 to it and continue to subtract the previous D6 roll while adding the current D6 roll, it works like this:
Attribute 1 (12) + D#1 
Attribute 2 (11) – D#1 + D#2 
Attribute 3 (11) – D#2 + D#3 
Attribute 4 (10) – D#3 + D#4 
Attribute 5 (10) – D#4 + D#5 
Attribute 6 (10) – D#5
   Ability modifiers range from -1 to +4, with +0 in the 7-14 range. Charisma has additional uses with your score determining how many Hirelings you can have and what their Loyalty is.   
   Additionally, if your Class' Primary Ability score 15+ you gain a 5% bonus to Experience. Having an Insight and/or Charisma scores are 15+ you gain a 5% bonus to Experience for each. Essentially, you can have up to a 15% bonus to Experience with the appropriate Ability scores.
   Lifeblood are your hit points and is determined by taking a character's Ability score and adding their level.
   Player's are encouraged to determine what their Profession is and mechanically upgrades the dice being rolled. For instance if the Narrator chooses the default difficulty of 4 or better and a character must make an Insight roll, first they will apply an Insight Ability modifier and if a Profession or Class ability applies it will upgrade the D6 to a D8, meaning the character would need a 4 or better on a roll of the D8.
   Character retirement is also covered, currently the existing classes only go to 10th level and while the Narrator is encouraged to created rules for 11th level and beyond, having a character retire is an appropriate situation in TA.

Chapter 2 covers TA's Classes which are Fighter, Thief, and Sage. 
   Damage in TA is class dependent, a rule that I'm pretty darn fond of.
   Fighters are what you expect in an OSR game, but they gain extra attacks per round, up to 4. Additionally, at character creation, a Fighter needs to choose between Marksman, Sword and Board, or Landsnecht which grant a bonus and a penalty as, essentially, fighting styles. Additional class features include increased Loyalty for hirelings, weapon specialization, a bonus to Saves against Death and Poison, and establishing a stronghold.
   Thieves again are very straightforward, Thievery works just like any other Skill, the Narrator sets a difficulty of at least 2+ and a D6 is rolled while adding the appropriate Ability modifier. At later the die is upgraded for Thievery. 
   They may establish guilds, use disguises, know how to use poison and a bonus to Saves vs Traps and Poisons
   Sages are a bit of a hybrid of Magic-User and Cleric. They can't wear armor and are restricted by what weapons they may use. They don't start casting spells until 4th level and they max out at 3rd level spells. When casting a spell, a Sage makes a Learning Skill test with a difficulty of 4 + Spell level, if they fail the roll and suffer 1d6 per Spell level in damage, at later levels their Skill die increases. A Sage must choose between Healing Hands or Martial Historian (this lets them be proficient in any weapon and therefore gain access to any Properties it might have) at 3rd level. Additional class features include Scholar, Sense the Unseen, and a bonus to Saves vs Wands and Staves, Traveller's Trinkets (you can produce a small non-magical item with a Skill test).

Chapter 3 is Equipment with lists of gear, one thing that I find unique is that weapon charts don't assign damage, because your Class determines the damage you do. What weapons do have are Properties to set them apart from each other. Some of the Properties include Armor Piercing (Armor in TA reduces damage and doesn't make you any harder to hit), Brutal, and Defensive.
   In place of Armor Class, a character has Defense which has a base of 10 and is modified by a character's Agility and Insight.
   Weapons degrade in TA with a simple check by rolling a weapon's damage die with degradation occurring on a 1 or 2. Armor, likewise, degrades after a battle it was used in, until repaired it will reduce 1 less damage in the next fight and this is a cumulative affect. Fixing weapons and armor can be done in towns or during Camp Actions, which I will get to later.
   There is a chart for what types of Hirelings cost for an adventure.
   Magic Items in TA aren't just +1 swords, in fact, they aren't crafted. They grow as an adventurer does through their wielders exploits and triumphs. When wielding a weapon, if you roll a 20 and then invest 100 Experience (you can't lose a level to do this) then you get to assign a Property to the weapon and you can continue to do this while wielding it through your campaign with every 1000 Experience you place into the Magic Weapon. There is even a Magic Item History table to roll upon to shape your weapon's backstory. Magic Armor has a similar cost, but it requires you to survive a critical hit.

Chapter 4 are the rules of the game and covers the particulars of Skill tests, Attack rolls, and Saving Throws. 
   Group Initiative is rolled on a D6. Movement is in feet per turn depending on encumbrance. A character or NPC dies at 0 Life Blood. When a natural 20 is rolled your damage dice are maxed out and doubled and you can do an Exploit, something cool that you and the Narrator can agree upon. Meanwhile, a natural 1 is a fumble and you drop your weapon which has 1-2 chance of breaking on a D6 roll. 
   Special Actions include, Reckless Attacks, Cautious Attacks, Feints, and Disarms. Healing and binding wounds (something I hadn't thought of since ADnD 2E), Invisible Opponents, Morale, Loyalty, Negotiation, and the Environment and it's hazards are all covered. 
   One mechanic I want to spotlight is Grim Effort, which allows you to spend Life Blood to gain a 1 for 1 bonus on any D20 roll.

Chapter 5 Spells and Magic are the sole purview of Sages. They are required to find new spells for their Spellbook so that, starting at 4th level, they may then prepare a number of spells based on level that they want for the day. To cast a spell requires a Skill test with failure meaning damage of 1d6 x the spell's level. 
   There are twelve 1st level spells presented, five 2nd level spells presented and five 3rd level spells presented. You can easily convert spells over from other OSR games if you want expand the options for a Sage. The spells presented aren't the offensive juggernauts in most OSR games, there are no magic missiles or fireball. In fact, cause light wounds is the only damage dealing spell I see, but sleep is presented.  
   At first, I was a bit put off by the lack of damage dealing spells, but the spells chosen reinforce that Sages are more than a fireball and allows a Sage to focus on wondrous effects more modern DnD players don't always choose. Sadly, in my experience with DnD 5E, damage per round is king and I'm glad this paints a better picture, to me the Sage is more Gandalf than Elminster, both are powerful but their tools are different.

Chapter 6 Camping is one of the more intriguing rules presented in TA. When resting characters must consider the usual Camp Defenses, as well as, partake in up to two Camp Tasks such as Aid, Cook, Guard, Hunt, Repair, Rest, Scout, Tell as Story or Sing a Song, and Train. These actions help heal Life Blood, fix equipment,  protect the Camp from danger, and gain a bonus to a particular Skill test during the next day. 
   Essentially, the Narrator makes a Save vs the number of characters in the group, but the various Tasks the characters take modify that number. The Narrator is even provided with a Potential Danger chart to roll upon.
   I'm sure all groups deal with camping and dangers, but I really dig how TA presents it and provides the Narrator with clear tools to use against the characters, while simultaneously, laying out how the players might protect themselves against the Narrator's toolkit.

Chapter 7 Journeys gives the Narrator clearly laid out information to understand a hex and how quickly or slowly characters can traverse it. A hex is 8 miles and at a normal pace, a person can travel three hexes per day without undo fatigue. Each hex has a dominant terrain, but is not limited to only that terrain. Rules for Provisions and Terrain are provided for use to cover possible starvation and how each hex will adjust speed by its predominant terrain.
   Character Roles are provided to manage the journey and they are Guide, Lookout, Quartermaster, and Guard. During the journey each Role can attempt to gain benefits from the hex they are passing through.
   I've long wanted to run a hex crawl and in 4 pages, I've got the tools do so.

Chapter 8 involves Lighting and what will cause a light source to dwindle and how different types of Lighting or darkness affect the players and their enemies. Something to keep in mind, only humans  are presented and the assumption is that there is no "darkvision" or "infravision" for players.

Chapter 9 covers Legacy, which gives rules for giving a Hireling Experience to replace a fallen player character. Essentially, Hireling benefit from a very streamlined Experience total that can buy levels to replace one of their employers. 

Chapter 10 features Mass Battles and introduces Army Might, which defaults to 10, and is then modified by various modifiers such as, No Option To Retreat, Fighting on Home Turf, and a Unique Relic. 
   Once Army Might has been calculated for each side, we are introduced to Player Actions which can modify the heart of a Mass Battle, the Command Check. 
   Players Actions can generate a bonus from 1 to 3 which, if successful, provides a cumulative bonus to the Command Check. The higher Command Check wins that round and the difference between them is subtracted from the loser's Army Might. When Army Might reaches 0 a D6 roll of 3+ allows that Army to retreat.
   If a Command Check is a 6, then an Army can recover Army Might due to rallying their troops. 
   It's a very straightforward and quick way to add a bit of epic scope to the player's careers.

Chapter 11 covers Threats to your players which each having Lifeblood, Defense, Environment, Attacks, Qualities, and XP value.
   Qualities are special rules that feature things like flying, cowardice, and regeneration. 12 Threats are featured and include dragons, orcs, and skeletons and it will only take a few minutes to convert a favorite enemy from any other OSR game with the provided rules.
   Hirelings are also provided to quickly and easily flesh them out.

In my opinion, Torchlit Adventures provides a familiar, yet innovative approach to the OSR, it treads familiar territory while walking a different path. At it's core, it's a derivation of Swords and Wizardry, but the author has gone to considerable lengths to produce something unique. I love the Camping, Journey, and Mass Battle rules and any OSR game could benefit from them. Additionally, I am excited to see how Alan Bahr and Gallant Knight Games supports it.

Finally, TA includes a 20 page setting called Carinhollow to help you learn and apply the Journey and Camping rules.

Torchlit Adventures is for you if you enjoy OSR games and want a more grounded approach to magic. I feel that it would work best in the Hyborian Age or Lankhmar and isn't as suited, out of the box, for the Forgotten Realms, which was fully the author's intention.

I heartily recommend Torchlit Adventures and look forward to running it soon.

Star Wars: 3 Thoughts

There are mild spoilers for The Mandalorian Chapter Eight, below.

You've been warned.

Saturday night we finished The Mandalorian (wow) and sunday night we watched The Rise of Skywalker (wow, as well). It got me thinking about Star Wars and it's fandom and maybe, just maybe we've gotten some stuff wrong about it.

First, I was 4 or 5 when I saw the first film (yes, it was just Star Wars then, not A New Hope). I loved it. I got all the action figures, I wanted to be Luke or at least a Jedi and I even got a few Marvel comics. I had 3-3/4" action figures, guns (still own my Han Solo Blaster), dolls, lunchboxes, belts, underoos. All. Of. It. I even watched the Christmas Special.

Empire, which is still my favorite film, rocked my world. There was no way, nooo waaaaayyy, that Vader was Luke's Dad. It was absurd. And even more absurd, the bad guys won. They. Won.

Then we had Jedi. Luke was a real Jedi (ha). Vader really was his Dad, Luke and Leia were siblings. It was good. I even loved the ewoks. I even watched both ewok movies.

Then there was the dark age. I remember all three films being on VHS tape, but I don't remember them ever being on HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, or The Movie Channel. I could be wrong though.

Then we had the extended universe, which I never got into. I hated the artwork in Dark Empire from Dark Horse and it just didn't feel like reading a novel could fully channel Star Wars for me.

And then USA began running all three films during Christmas and just like that Star Wars was a big part of the holiday for me.

And then Lucas gave us the Prequels....

I've seen each Prequel once, in the theatre. I, like many my age, didn't care for them. Don't get me wrong, I saw what George was building. He showed us a Jedi Council blind to their ultimate foe, who was literally right beneath their noses. The were too set in their ways and the Republic was obsolete. A youngling had to point out to Master Yoda that a planet could simply be deleted out of it's database. Qui Gon was pretty cool though. Did I mention that Skywalkers are whiney little pricks? That Amidala had a thing for bad boys just like her daughter? Apparently genocide got Amidala where Anakin wanted her.

I discovered that learning all of the mysteries weren't as satisfying as I wanted them to be and when you know who lives and who doesn't it's not very dramatic. The Prequels were merely exposition with some terrible actors and way too much CGI, in my humble opinion.

I get that George isn't a very good director, he's proven it to me.

However, the Clone Wars animated special by Gennedy Tartakovsky was the bomb. Man, I loved that.

I didn't get into the second Clone Wars show.

I liked the Force Awakens, yes it is the second time that A New Hope has been reshot, but maybe we needed that pallet-cleanser? I loved the new characters. I really did. All of them. I was cool with this new chapter.

I didn't get into Rebels or the Resistance.

I'm one of the people who really loved The Last Jedi. Luke changed. He wasn't impetuous anymore. He'd learned. He outwitted his foe and he finally learned Master Yoda's lessons. The whole Finn/Rose storyline was strange and Poe was really a terrible leader, but I loved breaking from tradition.

I've just seen the finale, for me, the Saga is complete. I loved it too. It was a bit jarring to ignore TLJ, but well, Abrams took us to the end and I like him. I loved 8mm. I loved Alias and Lost. I even liked his first Star Trek film and enjoyed his second. I even liked his Mission: Impossible.

I've spent the last day reading articles from people who claim to love Star Wars but don't like any of the new Star Wars, except The Mandalorian. The crime? I read them all. I commited the crime, not the authors. Why would I devote time to something I claim to love when the articles are all about hating the final film? Why do "fans" do that?

Let me say that Favreau reached into my 8 year old brain (the age when I saw Empire) and made a Space Western out of it. But as much as I love it, it got me thinking.

People my age, generally, didn't care for the Prequels, but the kids did. They bought all the merchandise just like I did. And I did too, to a certain extent.

Maybe George realized that he didn't need to please the existing fanbase (and could he really?)

He just needed to hook the next generation. Which he did. He. Fucking. Did.

And maybe he knew that he'd rather have 4 billion dollars than to hook the next generation?

And. Disney. Did. They hooked the next generation and sold the merchandise even though was a shortage of Rey figures and too many Rose figures left unsold.

Maybe part of Solo's failure was that it didn't target the kids? I didn't go see it because of the track record for prequels, personally. I thought Rogue One was great, but it didn't target the kids either.

Remember, after the Prequels, George produced the Clone Wars TV show. He was still targeting the kids. And who do you think the two Ewok films were targeting? I didn't care that logs shouldn't be able to disable an AT-ST or that soldier in powered armor were beaten by Care Bares. I was 11. I just wanted more Star Wars.

And once Disney got rolling the produced both the Rebels and the Resistance.

I think what too many Star Wars fans miss is that maybe this Saga is really for kids. It might not have been planned that way, but what if George saw first hand the power of merchandising. And to support this, the Prequels weren't merely exposition for the younger generation first discovering Star Wars. They were dreaming about being Jedi now, real Jedi, not like Luke.

Second, I loved The Mandalorian, but there were moments, actually many, in the middle that I started wondering: What if Star Wars can't support a galaxy outside of the Skywalker line? What if Star Wars isn't meaty enough or properly treated to be more than merchandise and a viewer's favorite trilogy? What if it was played out and George realized he'd beaten a dead horse long enough and was ready to cash out?

I loved how The Mandalorian ended, how breezily Moff Gideon reveals who each of the people holed up were so matter of factly. How we finally saw Jin's face. But the moment where Jin is saying good bye to his friends...it looked and felt campy to me. Now the darksaber moment saved it, don't get me wrong and I'm going to buy Baby Yoda merchandise and see Season 2. Maybe Disney realized they could have their cake and eat it too and they were capable of better serving the Generations of Star Wars fans who separated most of the time by when their Trilogy was released. If they have, then we all need to watch out. Keep in mind that the Obi Wan show will definitely appeal to the Prequel crowd. Disney is always marketing. 

Hell, for all I know, they may want Kathleen Kennedy out, George hand picked her, after all. Maybe a couple of missteps are acceptable to hand the galaxy over to Filoni, Favreau, or even Kevin Feige. Especially when their selling Disney+ each month and Disney World and Disneyland let you visit that galaxy. They have enough money to play the long game.

Third, I really liked Rey, Finn, and Poe. I wanted to see more depth from them. I want to know what happens to them next. Just like I did with Luke, Han, Leia, Lando, and Chewy. But, in reality, I had the same amount of screen time for the Original Trilogy so why am I surprised to get less time with this generation of actors? It's because I'm not 5, 8, or 11 anymore. Star Wars is far more than my love for it and the imagination that gave it life far after the end of the Return of the Jedi. I don't know for sure what the next Trilogy is about. Maybe it will bring Rey and the gang forward. Maybe it will be Knights of the Old Republic. I know one thing, if George really understood merchandising, the only company that probably understands it just as well, if not better is Disney.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

A Star Wars One-Shot

I've got another one-shot coming up this week and I've got the roadmap for a Star Wars adventure, but I'm trying to decide which system to use.

I keep looking at Fantasy Flight Games' Edge of the Empire and have been reading through the Beginner Box. I actually, ran this several years ago and it went pretty darn well, but I'm just not really down with the weird dice and trying to remember what symbol means what. I'm not saying it's a bad game or even poorly implemented but I just might be too old of dog to learn new tricks. It's the same reason I don't go for FATE or Apocalypse Games. 

I do appreciate that Fantasy Flight rereleased the West End Games' Star Wars 1st Edtion as a slip-case. And I really love that game, but it doesn't have Hit Points, so I'm not sure how I feel about that. There are options for Hit Points in both Mini-Six and D6 Adventure, however.

I've looked quite a bit at White Star too. It would give me a chance to play a White Box game and feels pretty right. At the same time Stars Without Numbers is an option, as well. It would be nice to run any type of OSR game for a change.

Heck, I've even been looking at Traveller/Cepheus Engine, which I've never run or played.

Additionally, I've dug out my Star Wars Saga Edition books published by Wizards of the Coast.

Finally, I'm knocking around Tiny Frontiers for TinyD6. It's pretty attractive because we could pick up and start playing pretty darn quick. 

I'd be glad for any input you might have. I'm trying to have my mind settled by Monday to have time to fully prep everything. If it's WEG d6 or TinyD6 I won't worry with pregens.

Whatever I do, Jedis will not be an option. I'd like to run something grittier to honor The Mandalorian (Chapter 8 was amazing). Also, I won't see The Rise of Skywalker until Sunday night, so no spoilers please.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Gamers of a Certain Age

Venger Satanis talked about "being an outsider" recently and it got me thinking.

I am 47 and didn't start gaming until I was a sophomore in College. We had moved from Northern KY to Southeaster IN when I was 13 and I only found one other person that read comics in my entire time in High School. 

In my experience, geeks were often forced to practice their hobbies in secret because our hobbies were rooted in being the outsider in the 70s, 80s, and 90s

From my perspective the older a geek is, the more, in my opinion, they faced bullying and "socialization" from families, schoolmates, and often mentors.

And now, in a matter of a few short years, we are not only mainstream, but cool and the types of people who did bully us are now sitting at the table with us. On top of that the younger set of geeks may have faced a different path to get here. And it's good for them, I wouldn't wish the bullying I lived through on anyone, but some of us aren't ready to be cool or we'd have done it when we had the chance to conform. And all of this is compounded by an assumption that if I play D&D and you play D&D then we can be friends, which is often not the case. Finally, fandom suffers from within because one way to be an outsider as a fan is to take your "favorite" subject and to hate it and wish X would take it over, or to fully believe that no other fan or group of fans loves X as well as you and yours do. 

These are just the thoughts of someone who is pushing 50 and I'm 1000% certain that, to some of you, I got it all completely wrong. As a gamer and a merchant I want 8 billion people to enjoy what I sell, I think role playing helps, with the right group, people blow off steam and have fun, but I think some of us have some old wounds that we either can't or won't let go, and that has nothing to do with age.

Counter Culture: Beginner Boxed Sets

As I stocked RPGs for the Holiday Season in our store, I gleefully ordered as many Beginner Boxed Sets as I could and realized how lucky that we have so many of these products in 2019.

For years, the industry had all but abandoned the Boxed Set and I get it, a Publisher has to make money, but these days we have Beginner Sets for Pathfinder 1, Starfinder, DnD 5, Mongoose Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, Warhammer Fantasy Role Play, Star Wars, Legend of the Five Rings, Cyberpunk Red, Numenera, and Star Trek. 

And I'm really glad these products are in the market both as a Retailer and as a Customer. I especially love that Wizards of the Coast uses them to bring new Players into the Market with the Starter Box and the Essentials Box and use synergy to bring in Players who enjoy Stranger Things and Rick and Morty.

Looking back, I really have to give some love to Green Ronin for using Boxed Sets for their Dragon Age RPG using the Adventure Game Engine. I know we had a Red Box Starter for DnD 4, but in my opinion, having another publisher go that route with a high profile intellectual property was a big risk that paid off and showed other publishers it could still be done. And I don't want to leave the Pathfinder Beginner Box out in the cold. Paizo made some excellent decisions with the contents of that product and streamlined Pathfinder for Players and Dungeon Masters alike.

It's a good time to be a gamer, we're cool all of a sudden and we have some wonderful tools to share our love of a game with others who will, hopefully, love them too.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Mad Magics of the Turned God for TinyD6

Last week we had several people who couldn't make the game so we decided to try out the Tiny D6 system.

I downloaded the Mad Magics of the Turned God, a QuickStart for Tiny Dungeon 2nd Edition.

I printed out the Heritages and Traits from Tiny Dungeon and printed out the adventure to read over while we made characters. The four of us were basically brand new to the system, but character generation for all three players only took, at most, twenty minutes. The players really responded to the eclectic options available like the Karhu (bearmen) and Treefolk (ents).

The Mad Magics adventure is concise and to the point and we all had fun. Combat was pretty harsh, with enemies getting two actions per turn. But everyone made it out alive and the accomplished their mission.

We all had fun and I'm looking forward to running the system sometime in the future, probably with Tiny Supers.

TinyD6, in many ways, gives the kind of game that I always wanted Savage Worlds to be. I prefer TinyD6 because it has Hit Points and I think it's more consistent in my opinion.

I really recommend the game and I'm blown away at the amount of support the game has in a relatively short period of time.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Came Early This Year

It's just about to hit midnight here in Kentucky. Our gifts are all wrapped and we're getting people ready for bed and Santa's visit.

This has been a long year, we've all gone through a lot and I'm honestly not sorry to see it go (though I am pretty sure 2020 with a Presidential election will be awful).

I have some really good friends that I play DnD with. They are good people and they make my week brighter. There were several times this year, where getting to hang with them really got me through some stuff.

I was really excited because we had all chipped in and got our DM, AJ, this beautifully painted miniature of Cthulhu (which, of course, I forgot to take a picture of). AJ is a great DM and he stepped up to run when I needed a break.

However, my friends got me something, as well:

Those are the Dungeons and Dragons Anniversary dice set that is limited to only 1,974 (I got number 500). They are beautiful and I was speechless and I almost wept with joy. I'm incredibly blessed to have such people as friends. If they read this I hope they know how much their friendship means to me.

But they weren't finished yet:

That is a Wyrmwood Claro Walnut Dice Vault.

I hope all of you have great friends, they can make all of the difference in the world.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2019

5 Best RPGs of the Decade

It's hard to believe that 2020 is right around the corner. In a lot of ways the world is both better and worse off than Mike Pondsmith wrote about in R. Talsorian Games' Cyberpunk

I'm sending this decade off with my five favorite Role Playing Games.

Shadow of the Demon Lord is, probably, my favorite RPG of all time. I like how it takes elements of both Dungeons and Dragons and Warhammer Fantasy Role Play and runs with them. I like that it has a ton of supplements, sometimes with a weekly release, and I love that it's adventures are, generally, less than five pages. I cannot recommend this game enough.

Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition is pretty darn close to how I would have designed the World's First Role Playing Game. I like that the bonus equality has been fixed and think bounded accuracy is a welcome change of pace. I also like that they aren't killing us with splatbooks.

The Hero's Journey Fantasy Role Playing game by James M. Spahn is a derivation of Swords and Wizardry and a continuation of Swords and Wizardry White Box. I think it's a great game for new, veteran, and returning players and is inspired by Professor Tolkien, himself.  Honorable mention goes to White Star, also by Spahn.

13th Age by the legendary Jonathan Tweet and Rob Heinsoo takes Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition and removes the requirement of miniatures and adds in some elements of "story games". This would probably been my number two game if Wizards hadn't nailed DnD 5E.

This was a tough one, but I'm going with Numenera by Monte Cook. The setting and set-up of Eath a billion years in the future and the system has some charm to it, but there are some strange bells and whistles and I'm kind of soured on Monte Cook Games. But when I loved this game I loved it a lot. Honorable mention goes to Savage World Explorer's Edition and TinyD6 (which, IMO, is what I always wanted Savage Worlds to be).

Friday, December 20, 2019

TinyD6: Manaconda

Manaconda for TinyD6
HP: 5 (Medium)
Description: Snake men who worship Sss'vir, the Great Slayer and hail from the bayous of Murk.
• Cold-Blooded
• Opportunist

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019


I recently found about Gallant Knight Game's TinyD6 system and, thankfully, I have a buddy that has Tiny Dungeons 2E and Tiny Supers in print. After borrowing them, I've become pretty infatuated with the whole line pretty darn quickly.  

What's cool is that there is a Holiday Blowout Bundle on DriveThruRPG with nearly everything that has been released for the system for just $49.99 (two products from Fat Goblin Games which came out after the Bundle went up).  You get $340 worth of PDF products for that price.

It's an amazing deal and I went ahead an bought it with my Christmas Bonus and I'm really happy I did.

TinyD6 works like this:  

The Player makes a Test by rolling 2d6, if either of the dice comes up a 5 or 6, you succeed. If the task is easier, the Player gets Advantage, so they roll 3d6, however, if the Test is harder, the Player gets Disadvantage and rolls 1d6.

For Initiative you roll 2d6 and add them together, with characters acting from highest to lowest.

Your Heritage (Race in other games) determines your Hit Points.

Each Character has Traits that they choose and which come from their Heritage. The Traits are like Feats in DnD and use exception based rules to define each Character.

It's that straight forward.

In many, many ways it's what I wanted Savage World to be and I hope to get a chance to try it out soon.

There are already genre books for Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Super Heroes, Post Apocalypse, Zombie Apocalypse, Pirates, and the Wild West with Cthulhu coming early next year. 

There is an official group on Facebook where the authors are very active and responsive.

Plus, you can try out their Quickstart which is Pay What You Want.

I cannot recommend this system enough. Gallant Knight Games has achieved quite a bit in a short time, in my opinion. They've done some OSR work (Torchlit Adventures and For Coin and Blood) and Kickstarted a Zorro RPG using the D6 system last year.

I'll be posting more about this system soon...and the Review of Torchlit Adventures.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Devaronian Brute for White Star

Devaronian Brute for White Star

Armor Class: 7 [12]
HDE: 5/240
Total Hit Bonus: +4
Movement: 12
Special: +2 to Saving Throws vs Poison, fire resistance
Attacks: Fist (1d4) or laser pistol (1d6+1)
Hit Dice: 4 + 4
Saving Throw: 14

"The species has two sexes, male and female,which are dimorphic. The males have short horns growing from the top of their heads, while the females, are hornless, with small vestigial bumps on their foreheads. While females have a full head of hair, males are bald.

Devaronians have black blood, and are silver-based due to the unique blood filtration and cleansing system of the species. Processed through two livers, their bodies are constantly cleansed of toxins and carcinogens which allowed them to be highly resistant to poison and consume foods toxic to other species. To this end, sulfur is used as a stimulant on Devaron to enhance speed and strength, because inhaling it causes the substance to enter the bloodstream rapidly. Their livers struggle to eliminate sulfur from their system, meaning that long-term use could be dangerous."

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Starfinder, Amazon, & Alexa

It was revealed today that Amazon's Alexa will guide a group through playing the adventure contained within the Starfinder Beginner Box, including sound effects and background music.

I'm not a huge fan of Starfinder, but I have to say that is a genius move.

I know many people love watching people play RPG and that has certainly served our hobby pretty well, especially DnD. But this is a pretty major milestone, in my opinion. 

I'm surprised they didn't announce this for Pathfinder 2, but it doesn't have a Beginner Box yet.

Wizards of the Coast is still the 800 lb. gorilla in the room, but they just got upstage by Paizo.

This almost makes me want to run Starfinder, almost.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Swords & Wizardry

I can't say for sure where I discovered the OSR, it might have been Grognardia, Dragons Foot, Basic Fantasy, or Swords & Wizardry.

The OSR taught me how to quit worrying and love D&D.

And while I love B/X Dungeons and Dragons (or Old School Essentials/Labyrinth Lord), there is something about Swords and Wizardry that really hums for me. I do know that very soon after discovering SnW, I found it's White Box adaption.

Between the two, I prefer White Box (both as White Box Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game and The Hero's Journey).

I've been on a big SnW kick in the last few weeks, looking through what I own and finding new things I had missed.  I really would love to run it sometime and I might use it to run White Star for a Star Wars game this weekend. It's between White Star and FFG's Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Starter Box. I think FFG's Star Wars is a neat game, but those whacky dice are hard to say "yes" to.

Part of the reason I like SnW and its derivatives is the single Saving Throw mechanic, its use of Base Attack Bonus, and it's use of ascending AC. I can still calculate THAC0 but I've grown pretty comfortable with BAB and Ascending AC.
But beyond those areas I find that it cuts out extraneous rules and hums along like a well-oiled machine.

I'm sure Swords and Wizardry doesn't need me to plug it but sometimes when you love something you just need to tell the world.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Sleestak for Apes Victorious

Sleestak for Apes Victorious

No. Enc.: 1d6 (3d6+)
Movement: 30' (10')
Intelligence: Low
Psionic Potential: 3d4, inactive
Hits: 1d8
Armor: -2
To Hit: 12
Save: U1
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d3 or by weapon
Morale: 9
XP: 19

"The Sleestak are a reptilian bipedal humanoid species. They have a thin but wide-set mouths and large, round black eyes that are averse to light. Covered mostly in green scales, their bellies are yellow. Sleestak also have claws on their feet and on their hands, with a horn protruding from the top of their heads. They breathe with a pronounced hissing sound as if breathing through congestion. This is probably due to their wide set mouth and flat nostrils.

   The Sleestak now are a degenerate race that have lost much of their knowledge and culture. They have come out of the Era of Intelligenceand into the Era of Solitude. The Era of Intelligence was the period in time when the Sleestak first arrived at The Land of the Lost. The Sleestak also built these temples that are now called Pylons. There was a period when there was only darkness, before the Sleestak built the Time Pylon, which controls the light and dark cycles of The Land of The Lost."

(If you like this post and others like it and have an extra $1 a month, please consider becoming a Patron of Cross Planes on Patreon.)

Back This: City of Solstice: Low-Magic Urban Fantasy RPG

Chuck Rice of Apocalyptic Games has brought back his Kickstarter for the City of Solstice.

It features new classes, an alternative low-magic spellcasting system for the setting, and it's compatible with you favorite OSR engine.

Chuck's a great game designer and this setting rocks, I've been lucky to see it and you don't want to miss it.

Here's the set up:

"You are not adventurers.

They’re dead.

Just like His Royal Majesty, Prince Roth, Earl of the City of Solstice and his wife, the Princess Sirena.

Their killers were the Star Society, five rival criminal organizations who joined together as one. They are: the Church of Mother Moon, led by the Shadow Shroud, a mysterious prophetess, the Nizari, most ruthless mercenary company in the known world, the shadow archers of the Sagittarius Sect, the mysterious elven executioners of the Order of Antares, and the martial arts masters known as the Five Forms.

The city is now theirs in all but name. The Royal Chancellor, Lord Toren, Her Majesty’s Lord Protector, is officially in charge of the city. But everyone knows he’s a tired old man who looks the other way while terror rules the streets.

You are members of the Vigilant, a thoroughly corrupted effigy of a once proud guild, charged with keeping order in a chaotic city of 100,000 souls. You are not adventurers. But you have a duty.

Welcome to the City of Solstice"

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Nostalgia: Battletech

It was summer of 1991 and my buddy Barry was having his 18th birthday party. He was going to join me at Mount Saint Joseph University in the fall of my sophomore that August.  We had been friends since he was in 1st grade and I was in 2nd grade.

A bunch of his buddies from his high school were at the party, as well as me and one lone young lady.  I was trying to flirt with her when I started talking to Todd about role playing games and I asked if he had ever played the Robotech RPG (whose ad I saw in numerous comic books). While he hadn't played Robotech he told me about Battletech. I didn't get anywhere with the young lady, but the next day we all tried Battletech.

I was hooked from the moment we started playing. However, we didn't use a squad of Mechs, we only controlled one Mech and we were treating it almost like an RPG. In the first couple of games I used a Wolverine and really enjoyed it. But even more than that was the fact that the game included most, if not all, of the Robotech Mecha.

The next day we all got together again and made a Pilot and Todd, a notoriously strict Game Master to the point of punishing, made us roll for our Mech's weight class on percentile dice. I ended up with a Hermes, which I wasn't too keen on. We spent the whole day playing and having a blast. To the point that the next day I went to Comic Book World, our local comic and games store (where I now work) and I bought a Hermes miniature. I was so excited, I was even contemplating painted it.

We never played Battletech again. Seriously, as much as I love the game, I haven't played it once in the last 28 years.

Apparently, Battletech was their groups big fad at the moment, but it was about to get replaced by Champions 4th Edition from Hero Games.

It would be November of the same year before I would try my first RPG session and I would be added to the group.

I've thought about picking the game up (I do have at least 1 edition of Mechwarrior), but have never gotten around to it.

I think I need to teach my kids how to play it.

Friday, December 6, 2019

2019: The Year That Broke Me

I've been absent from blogging due to the fact that I woke up Thanksgiving Day with a pinched nerve in my shoulder causing extreme pain and numbness in my right arm, hand, and fingers. In truth, it's the most pain I have encountered in my life thus far. By Sunday, I ended up going to Urgent Care who directed me to the ER because my heartbeat was so rapid. 

But it was just the pinched nerve.  I've had X-rays and they are clear and I have an MRI and Physical Therapy schedule for next week.

Right now, my pain is closer to a 3 or 4 and I can sleep, which is very important to me.

Strangely, 2019 opened with the same problem in January, it just wasn't as painful and I'm hoping to stop this from recurring.

Then by late April I had my various insomnia and anxiety issues which basically took me until October to mostly resolve.

Don't get me wrong, things could be much worse, in fact, I'll be going to a Celebration of Life for a dear friend who lost her battle to cancer this weekend.

I'm just hoping for a fresh start in 2020.

Thundarr the Movie

As a life-long comics fan and a retailer with a quarter century of experience, I was today years old when I discovered that Buzz Dixon and ...