Category Archives: News, Rants & Reviews

Phylactery No 1

Let’s face it when Zine Quest 2 was running on Kickstarter, this cover sold me. While Phylactery No 1 isn’t available to the general public yet, Kickstarter backers have gotten the PDF. And boy am I glad I backed this one. Phylactery is an old-school zine with a fun grind house vibe. It’s weird. It’s quirky. And just enough grind house to be interesting and weird without going for an edgy ick factor.
So what’s in it? Since it’s a zine it’s set up to use whatever old-school rules you happen to favor with little or no conversion. I’m attempting to do without any spoilers. Let’s see off the top there’s a the Chaos Throne which is sort of like a Deck of Many Things but you get to sit down while things go crazy. There’s a whole host of magic items. Everything form holy relics to potions. Each with a neat little twist. Plus there’s NPC’s to help or hinder (some really nice bad guys in there) the player characters. And there’s a little dungeon and a small hex crawl. Plus more little bits and bobs to make things interesting in your campaign.
Here’s what I think is best about it. Everything has just enough description that a GM can easily fit the stuff in their own campaigns. And like I said before the stuff is weird and just off the norm enough to be really interesting. This really zine really fits my tastes and style. Pulpy, weird, and just enough out of the box that it’s different and interesting and still be familiar. So yes. Most definitely highly recommended.
I’m not sure when it will be available to the public so keep an eye out for Phylactery No 1 from Planet X Games. And oh yeah, planning is underway for Issue 2 already.
Remember folks. Roll Dice. Kill Monsters. Take Their Stuff. And Have Fun.

Things are crazy

Like so many others, I’m posting a little update. Yes, I’m working from home but at time when work is really busy and the current crisis didn’t alleviate any of that. Instead more work just from home.
I did get about half of Gazebo Gazette No 3 written last weekend but I’m not sure when that will get done. I just may quickly change gears and throw some other stuff out there for folks during this crazy time. I’m still adjusting to the new schedule so blog posts, podcasts, and videos might happen just not on the normal schedule. I may do some crazy ramble casts while I’m working from home. I dunno. We shall see.
Now more than ever, it’s time to take use for what’s it’s best for. Escapism. Stress Reduction. And just laughing with friends even if it is via an Internet connection. That’s been my plan with this blog and every other creative outlet that I employ.
So folks. Let’s have fun out there. Roll Dice. Kill Monsters. Take Their Stuff. And Have Fun!

Faraway Land Totally Awesome Revisted

Not only am I thinking about what run next for my group but it’s a good time talk about some pretty cool games that you may not be hearing much about.
Faraway Land is a rules lite and pretty darned gonzo and original fantasy RPG. If you’re a fan of Adventure Time then you’ll probably enjoy Faraway Land. The important thing to note is that Faraway Land isn’t Adventure Time with the serial numbers filed off. I see that way too many times. It has it’s own original setting but still has that some quirkiness and odd factor. I mean two-faced psychic nuns who ride grizzly bears into combat and worship the ancient robo-bear. Yeah, that kind of stuff. Way cool. But heck if want some more “normal” fantasy dungeon fare then you can do that too. No problem. The rules are lite and flexible.

Grizzle bear riding telepathic Agnun

About the rules. Just grab a few d6’s. That’s it. Characters have three stats: Brute, Dexterity, and Wits. Roll a number of d6’s equal to your stat and take the highest number. Boons let roll more d6’s. That’s it. Quick and simple. Characters are simple enough they could fit on an index card. This is one of those non-d20 based games that has a real old school vibe to it. COmbat can be very dangerous. Character creation and mechanics are quick, simple, and flexible. Monsters are weird and unique. It’s a game you could play with your kids, new gamers or grizzled grognards. This one gets a big thumbs up from this grognard any way.
You can grab it up at Drivethrurpg. Yes, pdf is a little on the expensive side for me but I thinks it’s worth it in this case.

But wait you want to stick to something that’s more OSR. Something with rules that you’re already used to. Got you covered.
So in case you missed it, there was a Kickstarter for an OSR version of Far Away Land. Far Away Land has been out for quite a while and uses it’s own system which is pretty cool.
It’s pretty sweet. Setting-wise it’s still the same but many of the creatures, races, and spells have been converted over to an OSR system. And yes I know there are many OSR systems. In this case, Dirk used White Box or more specifically Swords & Wizardry Continual Light as a base for the rules. So most of the rules should be pretty much familiar to many.
The biggest change for FALOSR is the magic system. It’s pretty simple in a useful sort of way. First, there technically aren’t clerics in the game. There are Light Mages which are sort of like clerics and Chaos Mages which are more like your standard blow-stuff-up Magic-User. Spells are broken down into three categories White, Gray, and Black. Gray spells either of the classes can cast. However, a Light Mage casting a Black Magic spell takes a penalty to casting. And vice versa for the Chaos Mage casting White Magic. They can do it but there’s a penalty. Also, the number of spells a mage may cast is simplified. It’s Level+3. And no preparation of spells. If you know it then you can cast it. Basically. Once again there is a little exception and difference. Spells are broken down by level which corresponds to character level. This makes what level a spell is totally different than other OSR games that mimic the original sources. So a 2nd level character can safely cast second level spells. They can try to cast higher level spells but it’s pretty dangerous. Like I said, the actual spell levels have changed because of this and FALOSR’s own internal logic. A prime example is that Sleep is an 8th Level spell. You read that right. But there’s plenty of new and interesting spells to play around with.
So in case you were wondering, the other two classes are Fighter and Thief. That’s it. Just the classic four classes. For races, you have the standards less Halfling and then the Far Away Land specific races: Agnun, Blonin, Clockwork,Exions, Glacerian, Numan, Orka, Poomkin, and Simian. Plus there’s a few of the monsters you can easily convert. FALOSR has a whole host of little rules tweaks and mini games as well. Want to do 0-Level funnel. No problem. Collaborative wording building? It’s there too. Plus there’s vehicles and naval combat. Special weird powers and training montages. There’s a ton of little useful bits in there.
And yes. It’s on Drivethru too.

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Write Adventures Like Lester Dent

I know I don’t mention it very often but I’m a big fan of the good old 1930’s pulps. This is fiction that I spent so much youth devouring and of course one of my favorites was Lester Dent’s Doc Savage. According to Wikipedia, Lester Dent cranked 159 of the Doc Savage stories and they averaged around 6,000 words. On average he wrote about one a month. That’s a pretty tough undertaking. But he had a formula that’s been widely published on the Internet. So why not take that formula and apply it writing adventures.
Published adventures are great and like rules I use them as guidelines and as starting points for adventures that the player characters get interested in. So that means coming up with a lot of adventures on my own or on the spot. Now, let’s look at this formula with my own little annotations and thoughts.
1. Villain is killing somebody/something in a odd way.
2. Villain wants something special.
3. An exotic location: Dungeon, ruins, pocket plane.
4. Personal threat to the player characters.

Just ask yourself these questions: Who’s the villain? What’s special about them? What weird thing do they want? Where is their lair and why is it cool? What allies and minions does our villain have? Does the villain have some connection with the player characters or an NPC that they are fond of?
Pull in at least two of these ideas. Maybe the villain wants something that the PC’s have? Maybe the villain is killing villagers to gain magical power to summon some boss monster. Maybe a strange monster is stalking the area and everyone thinks that it’s something else. Mix and match.
Now the normal formula breaks the fiction down into four 1,500 word blocks. Since as GM, you’re not really thinking about word count. We’re grab up the handy Four-Act Movie formula.

Start in the middle of things and introduce the main players of the adventure as soon as possible. You’re laying the foundation for the rest of the adventure. Make sure you end ACT 1 with some sort combat encounter.

Add complications for party. Use traps or other obstacles that party has to overcome that aren’t combat encounters.
Throw in a plot twist based on The Hook. The villain might take a hostage. Maybe a rival party. Or how about betrayal by an NPC?
And of course, another combat encounter.

The PC’s make some progress at resolving the plot.
But there are even bigger obstacles and/or complications than in ACT 3.
And as before. Another combat encounter.

The final conflict and obstacles and plot twists.
Keep the players guessing and heap more challenges on the PC’s until the very end.
Resolve the plot hooks.

And that my friends is a wrap.

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BareBones Fantasy Revisited

I ranted about BareBones Fantasy many years ago on the old blog and for some odd reason it popped back into my head. Maybe it’s all my thoughts about non-D20 based games of late.
So the first thing that some might say, “Hey, I thought you just rambled about old-school games.” Well, yes and no. I ramble about what ever happens to catch my fancy at the time. But I will say this. I consider BareBones Fantasy an “old-school” game. Why? Well, first remember StarFrontiers? It’s basically the same system.
So let me give you the low down. It’s based d100 rolls and d10’s. That’s it. Attributes are ranged from 1-100 and the “Skills” actually correspond more to “classes” So there’s skills such as Warrior, Spellcaster, Cleric, Thief, etc. So yes. Thief is one skill. How old school is that? Races give bonuses to Attributes and/or skills. And some races give a bonus only to specific uses of a skill. Characters do game levels in their skills and there is an abstract level system to gauge a character’s overall competency. And that’s the basic of the system.
It’s not more difficult than most games. I wouldn’t call rules lite and it a little more involved than many of the D&D retroclones. But it’s not overwhelming and the learning curve isn’t that steep. Most players will be able to pick it up rather quickly if they are used to role playing games.
I only had the chance to kick the tires on it once. I ran a little one-shot when the game first came out. It was fun but there a little resistance based on the good old “but in D&D we do…” It’s nice little compact game. The basic book clocks in at 84 pages and there’s a few supplements and other little handy things available on Drivethru.
So yeah. It’s another one of those games that got buried on the harddrive but it’s still a good little game to pick up if you want to do fantasy but what a different rules system.

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Listen Up You Primitive Screwheads!

I had been cruising around the internet and stumbled upon Carbon 2185. To put it simply, it’s a Cyberpunk RPG using the 5E rules.

And this where the fun begins. I mentioned at our last game session and one of the players, “Haven’t we already played a Cyberpunk game?” Nope. “But what about the one that I played that tree guy?” Mutant Crawl Classics? Nope. That’s post apocalyptic. “No the other one.” Then it hit me. He was talking about the space opera game I had run a long time ago and that he no idea what cyberpunk meant as a genre. Welcome to the future, chummers.

Oh boy. Let’s talk a little Appendix N type stuff first. I know there’s a really long list but I think this whole genre while dated is still good fodder for a game. So let’s get on with the inspirations. Or at least the one’s that I think are key. And you can’t talk cyberpunk with out mentioning Blade Runner. This movie defined the whole looks and feel of the genre.

Also, leading up the move/TV list has to be Max Headroom, the original Robocop, Total Recall, and Running Man. Just look those up in case you don’t happen to know. And of course, bridging between books and movies is Clockwork Orange. It’s all about a screwed up future. But I want to go on about more stuff that has inspired by view of the genre. And the comic book that rolls the most, IHMO, is American Flagg.

OK. Enough about inspiration. Let’s talk gaming. Let’s face it there two “big” cyberpunk games. That is of course Cyberpunk and Shadowrun. I admit that back in the day, we played the crap out of Shadowrun. I know as written it’s basically cyberpunk D&D but our sessions leaned more towards just cyberpunk with magic. While the Cyberpunk RPG is just humans, guts, and machines. But you could go off to the supernatural path with Night’s Edge or hunt up the old Interface Magazine that converted Call of Cthulhu to cyberpunk. And a great book and where I got the title for this post, Listen Up You Primitive Screw Heads! Yes I still have hard copies of all this stuff floating around some where. But if there’s one book you might want to grab up, it’s Listen Up You Primitive Screw Heads! It’s just a GM guide and inspiration book and even if you aren’t running Cyberpunk, you just might find something useful and interesting in there.
So back to where I started this rant. Carbon 2185 looks pretty good based on what I’ve been able to dig up online. I do think the PDF is a little pricey so I’m a reluctant to dive into it right away. But if the players want to down the crazy world that is Cyberpunk and they still want to keep to 5E rules (which they seem to want) then this might be an option for something a little different. So we shall see. And yes I know this has been a pretty ranty post. But hey that’s also what the blog is for.

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It’s Time For the Swords & Wizardry Rant

The Swords & Wizardry Kickstarter is going strong. I like that and I like the game. It was a no brainer to do this video. Yes, I’ve had the idea for quite a while but the Kickstarter for the boxed set made it the perfect time to do it.

Check out the Swords & Wizardry Boxed Set Kickstarter. It runs to March 4, 2020

You still want to learn more about Swords & Wizardry? Well, just hang on. Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day is making a big comeback. It’ll run February 28 to March 1 and be hosted on Tenkar’s Tavern. So stay tuned for that.

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Roll dice, kill monsters, take their stuff, and have fun!