Category Archives: News, Rants & Reviews

That Old School State of Mind

Well, I opened my mouth and the gang answered. So looks like it’s time head back into the DM chair. Sure I’m an old-school guy and that’s what I prefer but about half the players are brand new and their only exposure is to 5 E. So I figured I break them in gently and run 5 E. I know. Like many others, I’m still a bit miffed about a bunch of the crap that WOTC has pulled but I’ve already got the core books so what the heck.

When 5E came out there was a rush to make it more old school. I even was thinking that way. Thinking more and more about it. There’s more than just game mechanics when it that old school style of play. There’s rulings not rules. Flying by the seat of your pants and making up thing as you go along.

Many of us old timers complain about the reliance on skills. It’s OK to hit those skill uses with the rulings not rules. In general, I go towards the “Tell me what you’re doing and then I’ll tell what to roll”. If the description is good enough then there might not even be a need for a roll. And how difficult is that check? Well, it depends. Just think about: “I search the room for traps.” “I search the desk for traps.” “I search the desk drawer for traps.” And “I search the strange box that we found in the desk drawer for traps.” So make it up.

The other complaint is about the social skills. That really falls into the “Tell me first” category. Do something cool enough and there might not even need to a roll. Then there’s also the complaint that there’s no need for them. Well, I do like them but I don’t few them as “hard” skills. It’s not just roll. It’s always a description. If there needs to be a roll then I view it as a measure of those things that the player may not be able to articulate like subtle intonations, body language, and timing.

But what about healing? It’s so fast in 5E. OK. Just google it. There’s plenty of options out there. Personally, this I’m leaning for the idea of characters gaining a level of exhaustion every time they do to 0 HP. Characters end up with penalties without screwing around with a lot of underlying mechanics.

All those crazy class abilities and feats and stuff? What about that? Well, that’s a tough one. In the hey day of 2nd Edition, there were all those crazy Kits. So I’m kind of bring up those memories and how to deal with it. It’s either learn all of it. Be like most players and just know the rough abilities of each character. Or just make it up as you go along. Yeah. I’m saying that one a lot.

And sure there’s thing about “balanced” encounters and long and usually tragic back stories. Get all that crap out of the way at beginning even before you start.

Yes, I know things are different when you run at a con, FLGS, or some other public venue. However, private games. Just talk and explain to the players. Some may like it. Some won’t. Some might whine or stamp their feet and walk out. It’s always been opinion that it’s not the public and organized play that really makes the “game”. It’s all those private games that you never hear about.

No matter the edition. Remember. Roll Dice. Kill Monsters. Taker their stuff. And have fun.

Xoth, Not Forgotten

It’s been way too long since I wrote anything about Xoth and it’s coming back to my mind with a vengeance. In case you’ve been keeping up, I’m trying to get the old gaming group back together.

I’ll admit that I have nothing against the Standard D&D type game and I can even tolerate the Cantina Scene type parties. But then there’s times when I want to go all Swords & Sorcery. For me, that means Conan and Robert E Howard. So it’s back to Xoth as one of my pitches.

I had picked some of the stuff way back when during the days of Pathfinder 1St Edition. Sure I played Pathfinder but I never would want to run it. But I liked the writing and changes so much that it always stayed in the back of mind.

This gets me to where we are today. I was searching the Internets and lo, there’s a 5E Player’s Guide for Xoth. Now this could be interesting and it is. This takes the 5E rules and makes them perfectly friendly to a grimmer more down to earth type of campaign.

Let me break the basics down for you. First, Races & Classes. It’s all human but there’s still various “cultures” that replace the mechanics of Race. There’s the Savage, Civilized, Enlightened, Decadent, and Degenerate. Each gets a stat boost and some neat skill-boosts/tricks. But each as a disadvantage. And their pretty big disadvantages. Like the Savage. +2 Strength, +1 AC, Advantage on Perception Checks. Cool right? Oh wait. You also take disadvantage on attack rolls against aberrations, undead, and fiends. It’s a cool tweak.

Then there’s classes. Of course, all of the classes aren’t allowed because they just don’t fit the setting. So, there’s no Bards, Clerics, Paladins, Wizards, and Sorcerers. The remaining have some tweaks. No archetypes that have any magical or “super” abilities. No Eldritch Knights or Arcane Tricksters. Rangers don’t have spells but they get some other tricks. And the Druid and Warlock have some additional tweaks to them. And there’s three new classes: Conqueror (sort of the Paladin replacement), Cultist (as close as you’re going to get to a cleric), and Courtesan (Bard/Social class).

And of course there some rules tweaks on spells, magic items, healing and combat. All of it giving the campaign that Howard type feel. Oh and the best part the Players Guide to Xoth is free. Available on and DrivethruRPG. Note: On DrivethruRPG, you’ll have to login since it’s behind the adult filter because there be boobies.

If you want a more detailed review you can check this one out.

So back to what I might do with this. Of course, I could just use it with 5E. It’s the RPG that most of the players are familiar with. But then I’m a crazy OSR guy. So I can pull up Swords & Wizardry, Crypts & Things, or even my own Forgotten Tales of Sword & Sorcery and run with that. Sure I’ll do some tweaking and house rules and all of those rules are kissing cousins. But since I’ve got a bunch of Pathfinder and now 5E stuff, it’s really easy to convert that material into an old school game. But then Barbaric! is another of my newly found favorites. Sure it’s easy on the rules crunch and character generation but conversion will take some doing.

What’s actually going to happen? I dunno. But I’ll keep posting about it here and we’ll see what happens.

Temple of Dagon & Death Ship of the Roach Princess

In case you don’t follow the blog regularly, I am a big fan of Swords & Wizardry. It’s my go to game for old school play. Also, Frog God Games via Necromancer Games have been doing quick crowd funding projects for adventures on Indiegogo. Well, I backed these two and got the PDF’s fast enough that putting my random thoughts on these into one post. As usual, I’ll try to do this without spoilers.

Temple of Dagon. I mean just look at the title. I had to get this one. The plot on this one is pretty straight forward. Ancient lost temple. Grab some artifacts and loot. Fight evil. So nothing to surprising there. Also, large parts of the adventure occur underwater. I’ve never been a fan of underwater adventures and I knew this going in. It always seems that the party needs to grab a bunch of specialty magic items to complete the adventure. But that’s just opinion. YMMV.

The good thing is it’s pretty easy to move some of the dungeon environs to not completely underwater. I really do like the adventure. There’s some real inspirational and useful material in there. Namely, I can see it as the groundwork for making the Cult of Dagon a regular villain group. It would still take some fleshing out by the DM but that’s part of the job.

Of course, there’s some new monsters and magic items. Overall, it’s a good adventure. It’s available for Swords & Wizard, Pathfinder 1E, and 5E. You can grab it up on DrivethruRPG or Frog God Games.

The second adventure to hit my inbox is Death Ship of The Roach Princess. This one was written by Matt Finch and when heard that players at conventions were getting the creeps when he ran it then I just had to get this one too.

This is one is pretty hard to describe without at least giving a little bit away. But the title gives you the biggies of the adventure. The Death Ship and the Roach Princess (Teratashia).

Let’s talk a little about Teratashia first. She’s the demon lord of roaches and she’s into all the nooks and crannies. Even those between dimensions and plans. And then there’s the Death Ship. Well. Death Ship pretty much says it all. Oh and it’s cursed.

The adventure starts off easy. It shouldn’t be any problems. The characters from some reason have to go an investigate a mysterious ship in the harbor. Things quickly go sideways. Remember, cursed death ship? Well, the real adventure isn’t kick in the door, kill the monster, and take the treasure. It’s get off the the cursed ship. It’s going to take some brain power on the part of the players to get off the ship. It’s no easy task and there are plenty of places where they could easily end up as just another cursed soul. Sure there’s treasure if they plan well.

Death Ship is really much creepier and challenging adventure. And if you don’t like cockroaches then you are going to squirm like crazy. This a creepy and really challenging adventure.

Of course, you can grab this up on DrivethruRPG or Frog God Games’ site as well.

With these adventures and the recently funded Blood Lagoon, I can’t help but think that these would be a perfect fit for a Razor Coast campaign.

Magic & Shit

Hey, don’t blame me. I didn’t come up with the title. If you’ve grabbed up the zines by Levi Combs of Planet X Games then you’ve been missing out. This is wild stuff and in the good way.

Magic & Shit is a little booklet with crazy heavy-metal inspired magic items. So if you’ve followed the blog then you know that I’m no metal head. I’m more of a Ramones type of guy. This doesn’t stop me from liking Magic & Shit. While it’s heavy metal inspired, none of the items are tied to music. They’re just weird and creepy items.

Each item has it’s back story and lore. And it may take a bit of tweaking the fluff to fit into your game but that’s about it. Another thing, there’s no just plain old +1 items. Nothing boring or blah.

This little book has 29 magic items everything from rings to weapons and the other items. I’m not going to go through each item in detail but let me give you some of the really cool names and let your imagination wander from there: The Blasphemous Eidolin of the Outer Void, The Mummified Hand of Gilly Yonder, and the Staff of the Howling Wastes. Like I said, these aren’t your average magic items. So if you want some weird stuff to throw at your players or have them have some weird stuff in their arsenal then grab up a copy of Magic & Shit.

While designed around old-school games, it is easily adapted to later editions. And it isn’t designed for any specific old-school game.

Now, I got my copy as a Kickstarter backer. From what I understand , Planet X Games stuff will be available on Exalted Funeral and many titles are available on DrivethruRPG. And if you haven’t looked at the Phylactery Zines then you should really check those out too.