Saturday, December 3, 2022

Spotlight On Dragonsbane or Drakar och Demoner Beta

First, I've always been a fan of ADnD's D20 roll equal to or under an Ability score and have brainstormed about expanding it into a full blown game for decades. Second, I love how easy it is to teach someone Basic Role Play/Call of Cthulhu/RuneQuest' percentile system. Third, I think DnD can be a bit daunting for new players with some of its concepts.

Dragonsbane (here in the States) or Drakar och Demoner's newest edition addresses all three of those things for me. I think it is an excellent RPG to teach to new players and yet rich enough to hold the interest of veterans. It has the roll under mechanic that older editions of DnD and ADnD utilize and while it doesn't use a percentage system I like how it sets base Skill chances and Trained Skill ratings.

DB or DoD for short, has six Attiributes: Strength, Constitution, Agility, Intelligence, Will, and Charisma. They are rated on a scale of 3 to 18 and are rolled using the classic 4d6 drop the lowest die. Your Ability score sets your base chance to perform a Skill, which range from 3 to 7 and if you are Trained in a Skill you double that amount. 

The game features six Kin: Humans, Halflings, Elves, Dwarves, Mallards (apparently DoD borrowed from Chaosium's RuneQuest and therefore uses that game's Ducks) and Wolfkin or wolf-like humanoids, Dog Men, if you will. Each kin has a Heroic Ability which requires Willpower, a pool of points equal to your Will Attribute, to be used. They are a lot like Feats from DnD and can have a broad spectrum of effects.

After choosing your Kin you choose a Profession, which is not a Class, but a group of Skills, Heroic Ability, Gear, and some form of Personalization such as an object from your past or a series of scars. You must choose to be trained in four of your Profession Skills during character creation and there are currently 16 which range from Swords and Marksmanship to Spot Hidden and Survival. The number of starting Skills is dependent on your age with younger characters being Trained in 5 Skills but a +1 to Agility and Constitution, adult characters being Trained in 6 Skills and old characters being Trained in 7 Skills but taking a -1 to Strength, Agility, and Constitution and a +1 to Will. The developers are planning to add more Skills, going to 25 of them, in the next Beta update and instead of each Profession have a specific Heroic Ability you will be able to choose the one you want.

Character creation yesterday took me about 15 minutes which is ideal, in my opinion and I really enjoy that this is a Skill based game so that while I might not start out with one of the three Magic Schools (Animism, Elementalism, and Mentalism) I can choose to study them at a latter point in the game. Experience is similar to BRP's you put a check next to any Skill you used that session that rolled a 1, called a Dragon and a Critical Success, or a 20, called a Demon and a Critical Failure. Additionally, you also answer the following six questions and put a check by a Skill of your choice at the end of each session. 
   Did you participate in the game session? 

   Did you explore a new location?

   Did you defeat one or more dangerous adversaries?

   Did you overcome an obstacle without using force? 

   Did you roleplay according to your motivation?

For each Skill checked you roll a D20 and need to exceed the Skill Rank with a success adding +1 Rank to it.

If you want to learn certain Skills you will have to seek training for a period of time. Additionally, you gain a new Heroic Ability every 5 sessions.

Armor subtracts from damage unless its from a spell and weapons range from 1d6 to 2d10 with a damage bonus (a D4 or a D6) from exceptional Strength and Agility Attribute scores.

To cast spells you make your Magic School's Skill check and spend the appropriate amount of Willpower Points even if you fail your Skill roll. You can decide to inflict damage upon yourself to gain WPs ranging from D4 to a D20 but you also take damage of the same amount.

I really, really like this game. I'm hoping to run some newer gamers through it and I am really glad I backed it. I even upped my pledge after reading the Beta.

I think it has a lot of charm and really flows into the background during play. 

Late Pledges are currently available on the KS page.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Modiphius' Conan RPG Rights End 12/31/22

I'm a huge Conan the Barbarian fan and, by extension, a Robert E. Howard fan and in fact, Cross Planes is a play on Two-Gun Bob's hometown of Cross Plains, TX. My first exposure to Conan were 3 Comic Packs at our local Zayre store and in many ways Roy Thomas and John Buscema's work for Marvel is my definitive experience. I backed the Modiphius Kickstarter for their Conan RPG and they have produced a very cool game line for my favorite Cimmerian. 

They announced today that their license is coming to an end on December 31, 2022 and Monolith announced they will be brining another Conan RPG to make maybe as soon as next year.

I'm a fan of Modiphius' 2d20 house system, which looked a bit too fiddly for my current gaming tastes, but it's one of those systems that plays much better than it reads. In fact, within about 30 minutes, my group and I had mastered it and you'd have thought we'd have been playing it for years. 

I wish Monolith luck, but announcing a new Conan RPG in the same press release that we learn Modiphius is moving on (or being moved on) felt tacky to me. My further concern is that I expect this new edition to use a variation on the DnD 5E system and I have two problems with that: One, 5E will be old news in 2024 and two, and not all 5E games are created equal. Cubicle 7's Adventures of Middle-Earth wasn't a great version of 5E and time and again I've seen licensed RPGs just kludge some poorly thought out ideas into an existing system, often merely copy and pasted, and just push out as a money grab.

I hope Monolith doesn't do this, but I am concerned. If it were up to me I think I'd like to see a Savage Worlds version but I don't need an official product to pull that off.

I will check out Monolith's Conan RPG and maybe 30 minutes in it will feel like we've been playing it for years and years.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Race vs Species in D&D

The newest One DnD playtest packet, featuring the Cleric and the Goliath Species, dropped today. Wizards of the Coast also announced that they would drop the word "race" and start using the word "species" going forward. I don't think this change surprised anyone as WotC is just the latest in a long line of publishers within the "DnD genre" to do this and I'm sure many saw this "grand conspiracy" coming and its yet another reason to be outraged about a game of make believe with math.

I doubt I'm going to change anyone's mind but I'm going to roll with this change because I don't want anyone to feel uncomfortable about the lingo DnD uses. If it were up to me 8 Billion souls would be playing DnD so I'd like to be as accessible as possible.

So, in short, I don't want to be a Dick and I encourage all of you to not be a Dick either.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Mechanisms: Sunderbolt for Savage Worlds Adventure Edition

 I love Transfomers. A lot. I picked up Morphtranserbots and I'm working on a one-shot for the eventual future so I'm making some pregenerated characters. Sunderbolt is the first. 

Sunderbolt is a member of the Covenant, an ancient order of Mechanisms who seeks to protect the Polyverse from Escahtron and his Exarchs who wants to reshape reality into a single universe ruled by him.

Sunderbolt devoted to the protection of the Polyverse and wants to honor his Mother's memory as a general within the Covenant's forces. He is a bit immature and believes that he has been cursed by the Exarch warlock Witchlight.


Wild Card


Race: Morphtransorbot

Attributes: Agility d10, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, 

                   Strength d12, Vigor d6

Skills: Athletics d4, Common Knowledge d4, 

           Fighting d8, Focus d6, Intimidation d6, 

           Notice d8, Persuasion d6, Piloting d10

           Shooting d10, Stealth d4

Pace: 6; Parry: 6; Toughness: 13 (4)

Edges: Arcane Background (Gifted), 

            Combat Reflexes Fleet-Footed, 

            Hover*, Flight*

Hindrances: Bad Luck, Curious

Gear: Laser Rifles x2 (30/60/120, 3d6, AP 2, ROF 3, heavy         

          weapon), Mk67 Grenades x2 (5/10/20, 3d6, MBT, heavy 


Vehicle Mode: F15 Eagle 

Special Abilities:

• Armor: 4 (heavy armor)

• Powesr: Havoc, Smite

• Power Points: 15

* Found in Morphtranserbots 

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Shadowdark RPG: Dogman

I'm currently at Cryptid Con in Lexington, KY and so I felt like I should spotlight some of them.

Dogman for Shadowdark RPG

Solidary humanoids who haunt roads.

AC 14, HD 2 (9), ATK 1 bite +2 (1d6), MV double near, S +2, D +1, C +1, I +0, W +2, Ch +0, AL N

Hunter. They have Advantage on WIS checks to detect an ambush or spirits and to track a creature.

Territorial. They have advantage CHA checks to intimidate other creatures.

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Thursday, November 17, 2022

Spotlight: Shadowdark RPG Quickstart

I've written a bit about the Shadowdark RPG from The Arcane Library so I thought I'd highlight what I think sets it apart from other OSR products I own.

The game's author has mentioned she wanted to build the game from B/X DnD's foundation and obviously, with the success of Labyrinth Lord and Old School Essentials, B/X DnD seems to be the most popular, at least within the OSR. Shadowdark does use a unified roll high mechanic, as well as, a Difficulty Class system that we've seen since DnD 3, but I also think Call of Cthulhu, Basic Role Play, and other percentile systems are inspirations too. DC's in Shadowdark are 9, 12, 15, and 18 and since Ability modifiers are the focus (skill just grants Advantage) in it, those map to a 60%. 45%, 30%, and 15% chances of success before Ability modifiers come into play.

When a Wizard or a Cleric casts a spell they roll against a DC of 10 + the Tier (level) of the spell and if successful the spell is cast and some spells have bonus effects on a Natural 20, but if you fail the spell doesn't go off and is lost for the day. I think adding spellcasting to the unified approach to the rest of the system makes far more sense, especially to new players, than the various exception-based and sub-system approach to B/X, its clones, and DnD's "vancian" spell casting as a whole. This also eliminates Saving Throws as a separate sub-system because when a spell requires some kind of roll on the Target's part it is merely another Ability Check.

One of my favorite parts of the game is that when rolling damage you don't add your Strength or Dexterity modifiers to damage. If you gain a bonus it comes from a class Talent or a magic item. I think this slightly speeds up combat as even people that are excellent at addition can take an extra bit of time totaling the die and adding something to it. 

The final bit that appeals to me are the Class Talent tables mentioned above, at 1st and every odd numbered levels you roll 2d6 on table with specific Talents for your class. These tables give you bonuses to attacks, ability scores, Advantage with particular spells, and additional uses of class abilities. I know that Shadowdark didn't come up with this idea but I'm really glad they included it and I like that the advancement rate it uses has that Old School feel. I remember when Wizards of the Coast began talking about "dead levels" when your Hit Die was the only thing you got and while I do appreciate mechanic abilities I also like rulings over rules and the mindset behind a game where what I do as a player and a character can be as much as what I and the DM think should happen and not "rule for everything" approach. As a new gamer having a rule for everything did help me out and we have millions of new DnD players that want and need that kind of structure but the OSR's allure, for me, was the DYI approach. With those Talents only coming every other level I think it keeps a lot of what makes a character unique specific to the player and their adventures. This is the kind of game where let's say there is aa character that bargains well through role playing, I'm comfortable not requiring a dice roll to succeed or at the very least give them Advantage on their roll. The fact that the bonuses are fairly bounded and most bonuses will never go above +4 combined with the chance of success the DCs  represent gives me a very tight engine where the math is very clear and I love that.

I know that the Shadowdark RPG is yet another game in a crowded area featuring a number of B/X D&D clones and derivative works but I really feel that the game's author Kelsey Dionne had a similar goal to Joseph Goodman when he published Dungeon Crawl Classics. Their aim was rooted in older editions of DnD as a guidepost and the end goal of both games honors that era while blazing new ground.

Do I own a bunch of OSR clones? Yes. But. I'm going to run the Shadowdark RPG while many of them gather dust.

Right now you can purchase the Shadowdark RPG Quickstart in print or digitally, there will be a Kickstarter for it in March of 2023.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Spotlight: Horror at Headstone Hill for Deadlands & Savage Worlds Adventure Edition

Horror at Headstone Hill is a sandbox campaign for the Deadlands Weird Western RPG for Savage Worlds Adventure Edition.

It presents to you the entirety of Uinta County, Wyoming beginning Mid-May of 1884. The County's important areas are broken down for the Game Master and important people are introduced and statted out. A timeline of the settlement is also presented to help the setting take shape. While there is a central adventure presented here, like many Savage Worlds products, several dozen Savage Tales are included as well. These Savage Tales help the GM fill in information about certain areas, groups, personas, and critters and give them handy smaller adventures.

The level of detail for the setting is pretty perfect for my habits as a GM, which means the basic information is well presented but there is enough left open to easily customize the campaign area. To help bring my tastes into focus I can get very bored of dry descriptions of room after room or dense background information and this product has none of that. I think I spent less than an hour reading over the County and main campaign or Plot Point in SW terms. I then spent another 30 minutes skimming Savage Tales and where they might intersect certain NPCs or locales. I took some notes of less than a page for use in the game and at the table. My prep was less than two hours but when our first session began I felt very prepared. As a 50-something gamer with not enough free time I love that Pinnacle Entertainment Group gets what is important for a busy GM and what isn't though your mileage may very.

Horror at Headstone Hill works so well for me because it gives a light, but solid foundation to use as a springboard so that when my Players inevitably (within an hour of the first session) went for something I wasn't expecting I had enough information sketched out for me that I could roll with it pretty easily. And while about half of the first arc of the Plot Point has been central to the Character's actions I have not missed a beat filling in the other half they didn't pursue.

This product is literally perfect for my GMing style. I'm not overwhelmed but still informed with this area and I can easily pull in or drop out portions of the area depending on my needs that session. The box set and its maps are wonderful and I use my MacBook at the table to quickly look up something in the PDF if I haven't noted it.

I could not ask for a better tool to help wade into Deadlands for a long term Campaign, my first attempt a few years back didn't go as well and HaHH lets me confidently adjudicate unforeseen situations.

I'd also like to state that while I've owned every edition of Savage Worlds, it's newest edition, known as SWADE, communicates information far better than any previous core rules and all of the SWADE products I've purchased have been top-notch. In a lot of ways, I think it took technology and our industry to catch up to what Shane Lacy Hensley originally envisioned with SW (I remember his original format was going to be three-hole punched products that you could print off a new change when errata was made. I'd also like to take a minute to call out how much I enjoy having the SW Power Cards and Status Cards at our table. I tend to forget who is Shaken or Wounded or has what Condition and the cards make that so much easier to remember while communicating the appropriate rules, as well.

HaHHH succeeds as a great product for any GM wanting to run Deadlands. While I think it could be used with other systems I don't think it would succeed as well if the setting did not have magic, weird tech, shaman, and undead desperados. Before choosing Deadlands I did look at Chaosium's Down Darker Trails and I'm sure this would have been a solution if I had chosen those rules. I also love that it is a box set for the nostalgia that brings me from my AD&D 2nd Edition and Role Aids days.

I heartily recommend Horror at Headstone Hill and I'm excited that a similar product will be Kickstarted for Savage Rifts by PEG on Black Friday.  I will wholeheartedly back that project.

Spotlight On Dragonsbane or Drakar och Demoner Beta

First, I've always been a fan of ADnD's D20 roll equal to or under an Ability score and have brainstormed about expanding it into a ...