I kicked back in my spare time and did a little binging. I couple of weeks ago I mentioned the failed Conan Red Nails. From what I could I find out, the production company just ran out of money but I was feeling nostalgic and just wanted to sit back and enjoy so I dug around the internet and started watching the old Conan the Adventurer. The animated one that is. I know there’s a live action one too and might rant about that one in a couple of weeks.
I’m about half way through the first season and well it is Saturday morning fare. There’s the obligatory annoying, comic-relief sidekicks for Conan and the main villain, Wrath Amon. Speaking of Wrath Amon. Doesn’t he look like he should be working for COBRA?
So here’s the gist of the series. Rocks fall and everybody wants them. It’s the “Star Metal”. It makes a mean sword plus our main villain wants it bring Set back. In the process, Wrath Amon turns Conan’s family into stone and our barbarian goes on a quest to reverse the spell and gathers a bunch of sidekicks along the way. Of course, Wrath Amon can’t take over the world all alone. He’s got an army of serpent men to help out. Yep, sounds like Kull story, The Shadow Kingdom. And that’s not the only wink to Kull. Early on Conan gets a mighty shield that once belonged to a might king of Atlantic, Kull perhaps. Of course being Saturday morning toon, there had to be toys. I mean that’s why they made the cartoons is to sell the toys. And there’s enough weirdo villains to full up your toy chest.
So what about the stories? A few things I noticed that the writers really snuck under the censors. Sure when Conan hits a serpent man with his sword, it just gets sucked up into the Abyss. Cause we can’t have the little ones seeing that. But I guess a city ran by cannibals is OK. Or that even on Saturday morning, Conan is willing to follow a dancing girl out the back door and down a dark alley. It’s not any real conversion of the literary works and softened up for the little ones. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t just a little bit of a guilty pleasure. Oh and of course there has to be catchy theme song.
Well, up this week is Low Fantasy Gaming. Ive already done a couple of more indepth reviews of the Free and Deluxe editions. It’s a damned good game and bears another rant in this series.
First like many others, it doesn’t attempt to emulate a specific old edition. Instead it takes a lot of the best various editions and retroclones and throws them together in a coherent and fun game. Low Fantasy Gaming takes a much more Sword & Sorcery approach than High Fantasy. Magic is dangerous. The world is a little rougher and tougher. You know the drill.
Low Fantasy stands on its own as a game but of all the one’s I’ve ranted about so far, it does have the most amount of material that can be imported into your game of choice. The Dark and Dangerous Magic system and random charts are a fun and simple additional. Luck mechanics. Yep. Got those too. And the neat thing is the “Unique Feature” for player characters. In a nutshell, take some feat or feature from another game and convert it. It sounds simple but it’s the easiest way to customized characters without having a long list of specific abilities. Like I said, it’s a really nice addition to any game.
The classes are all geared more towards the Sword & Sorcery vibe. Instead of Clerics, there’s Cultists which are handled in a much neater way. Instead of normal spells and such, the Cultists has Blessing plus specific benefits and restrictions based on their god. Sure most of the Blessing do emulate the most common Cleric spells and abilities but they are handled differently than the standard pseudo-Vancian cleric magic. Races are pretty much the standard except for Half-Skorn which are basically Half-Orcs.
If you haven’t added this your collection, I highly recommend it. You can grab Low Fantasy Gaming at DrivethruRPG. If you want to just check it then there’s the original Free PDF available.
This week on my trip down memory lane, let’s talk about Dungeon Crawl Classics. I’ve had some friendly debates on whether DCC is “old school” or not. OK, sure it does default to ascending AC. It does use the same three saving throws as Third Edition. And it does do its own thing. But it sits firmly with the ideas of rulings not rules, 3d6 in order, and your characters can drop like flies. So at the very least, old school is strong in this one.
You can’t talk about DCC without mention the funky dice and the funnel. The game does use all sorts of funky dice in addition to your “normal” polyhedrals. I’m not talking the funky kind of dice with symbols (looking at you Star Wars). No these are weird sided dice. d3, d5, d7, d16, d24, d30. And they are actually used. How exactly depends mostly on your character. Hunting down and shelling out for the dice can be a pain but hey support your FLGS. The other thing is the so-called funnel. This could be considered part of character generation. Players start with (usually) four 0-level characters. You suck. You don’t have a class and end up going on an adventure. They die. A lot. Your 0-level that survives; ends being your character and you get to level up to first level in something. Now’s also a good time to mention that DCC uses the four basic classes (Fighter, Magic-User, Cleric, Thief) and the three racial classes (Elf, Dwarf, Halfling). And yes, there are supplements out there that have more races, classes, and options.
I enjoy playing and running DCC. It’s a really fun game and it’s the only game that I can think of that has rules that allows the game to basically participate in the adventure. By that I mean there’s a chance that a well-cast spell or a crit on an attack as well s fumbles of those can really change the game and possibly even the game world. It keeps both the players and the GM on their toes. I like that. As a GM, I like to be surprised too. But this is also the same place that I get annoyed. The game has so many freaking random charts: Fumble charts, multiple crit charts and each spell has its own chart. That’s a lot of charts and page flipping which can slow down the game. So it’s very much a mixed blessing.
Even if you aren’t planning on playing or running DCC, there’s a lot of inspirational material there. The specific crit tables for various types of monsters can give a DM some inspiration on interesting things to happen when a monsters crits. Better than just more damage. There’s also random tables for generating unique demons, dragons, and magic swords. These are nice. Another great thing is that some of the DCC adventures are great and well worth running even if you happen to be using a different old school game. The conversion wouldn’t too difficult.
Now if you are planning on running it or playing it there a couple really great resources that highly recommend. There’s the DCC RPG Reference Booklet. This little tome has the most commonly used charts for easier reference that the using the core book. The other is the Purple Sorcerer website. This site has all sorts for very handy generators for players and GM’s. I know it’s made my life a whole lot easier.
You can grab up DCC stuff on DrivethruRPG, on Goodman Games site, and most importantly you can probably order thru your FLGS. Plus there’s a healthy community of third party publishers creating content for DCC with all manner of options, genres, and settings.
Somebody says that you can’t wear white after Labor Day. Whatever. Nobody says you can’t play White Box after Labor Day. So yes. It’s been a long weekend and for some strange reason my mind has wandered into White Box territory. Sure I touched on it a bit on my Swords & Wizardry Retrospective post but I want to rant a little more about it.
I think there’s a couple of things driving my mental wanderlust. First of all the retro-clones out there this (IMHO) has the easiest and most flexible rules which means fast play and fast character generation. A lot of times I look at games as a blank canvas that let’s me tweak to whatever happens to strike my fancy at the time. When the rules are efficient, the possibilities are nearly endless.
Part of the ease of the game is that it doesn’t use a lot of dice. Only d20’s and d6’s. How simple is that? Of course, there’s nothing that says the DM can’t use others if the situation applies.
Another thing that makes it a fun alternative, the light rules means that it’s a breeze to run and if you’re experienced with old-school games then it’s even easier. And if you’re breaking in a new player. Well, they don’t have to fumble around with a pile of strange dice and the rules for their character are pretty straight forward. A long time ago, I had this crazy idea for a campaign. Just start with a city or village for an adventuring base and just make up the rest as we went along like we did in the days of yore.
I may be preaching to the choir here but hopefully this post might snag a few new fans or at least draw a little bit of interest in the White Box style games.
You can find more over on Seattle Hills Game’s site, pick a hard copy of Swords & Wizardry White Box on Lulu, or if you just want to dip your toes a bit into it then grab up Swords & Wizardry Light which is available for free on DrivethruRPG and Frog God Games.
Adventurer Conqueror King AKA ACKS by Autarch is another those old school games that I’ve had for a long time but never really played as much as I wanted to.
At it’s core ACKS is another of the old school games that doesn’t try emulate a specific edition or version of D&D. It takes bits and pieces and sows them together into a unified system. There’s a total of 12 classes in the core and race is class but there are different classes for your common races. And there’s a good variety of classes too.
There’s on optional Proficiency system that is sort of a cross between a Skills and Feats. There’s the usual things you would expect for skills but there’s also other Proficiencies that act more like Feats such as Black Lore of Zahar (necromany type stuff), Combat Trickery, Divine Health, and Swashbuckler. While I find it inspirational, I personally think it’s a bit cumbersome. I’d much rather have the two split into two different things.
ACKS has the usual array of spells, monsters, and campaign and dungeon construction advice. ACKS goes into much more detail into so-called domain level play than most other games. You know your character now has a tower or is leading an army, a thieves’ guild or something like that. This is probably why I never played it that much. I’m just not into domain level play. I’d much rather be crawling through dungeons than messing around with accounting and stuff. That doesn’t mean that it’s wrong, it’s just not my cup of tea. That being said, ACKS does have a strong built-in system for domain play with extensive price lists, tables and charts. So if you like domain play, it’s worth it to pick this up for that resource which you could easily use no matter what other game system you may be actually playing.
So how do I use ACKS? Well, as I mentioned the Proficiencies are also sort of like Feats. It’s great inspiration on how to build or add special little abilities for characters. There’s also out of the norm classes like the Blade Dancer which can easily be converted over to your game of choice.
And of course there’s plenty of adventures and sources books. My personal favorite is Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu since I more into sword and sorcery than high fantasy. And bonus Barbarian Conquerors has got a little gonzo built into it with alien technology.
Like very other game that I’ve ranted about, YMMV. But there’s plenty of material there to be inspirational and convertible to your rules of choice. You can check out their products on DrivethruRPG and their own site.