What a busy week! The mail gods have been good to me. Got a hard copy of The Blight and the Lankhmar Boxed set. Plus the Tegel Manor PDF is out to the backers. I understand that there have been some server issues but that’s all worked out.
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Yes, I know I didn’t get any blog posts done last week and I was hardly around on social media. Things were busy but I wasn’t idle on the gaming front. I almost have Back Alleys done for Dark Streets and Darker Secrets, I did some more brainstorming on YARC, and the whole reason for this post more mulling on The Blight.
Right now, I mostly messing around with the gods and Gods of Castorhage and thinking of how to make the various game systems. So I figured what the heck, throw out to masses and see what happens. Of all the games I have at my disposal I’ve narrowed it down to these (in no particular order). 1. Swords & Wizardry: It’s easy to do NPC’s. It’s flexible. It’s readily available in PDF form and the players can buy the book if they want. And there’s already a ready made version of it by Frog God Games. 2. Fifth Edition: It’s the elephant in the room. The players are already familiar with it and they already have their own books. It’d be a little tougher to run improved NPC’s off the cuff. The PC’s do have a lot more umph than in the other systems so make it a little grittier will take some house ruling. 3. Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar: Why? Well, DCC is cool and I should have my physical copies from the Kickstarter soon. The players are already familiar with it. The Blight is a city-based campaign so in my mind’s eye, it would make a good fit using the DCC: Lankhmar rules. Yes, I know no clerics and I would have house rule the partrons. So more prep type work on the DM’s part. I’m also aware of how crazy the magic can get. The players are already familiar with DCC and some have the books already. 4. Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Well, you can go weird and gritty without thinking about LOTFP. The players should be able to pick it up quickly. The art-free version is still available. It won’t take much to convert the Swords & Wizardry version over to LOTFP. 5. Something else? Oh. There’s plenty of other games out there. But the above are really my main choices.
So here’s a poll. Leave a comment. Let me know what you think.
Last month Frog God Games ran a contest for fan reviews. I did a couple and did garner some Frog Bucks to spend. I’m still shopping. The Blight was on my list of things review and I just didn’t have the time fully delve into it. But as luck would have it, I just did have some time and dove right in and wish I had done so earlier. Now, if you’ve follow me around social media I’ve mentioned the idea of mixing The Midderlands, Tegel Manor (which I backed), and The Blight. That idea still stands. One more disclosure for this rant. This is based on the 5E version of The Blight and I’ll only be talking about the Campaign Guide. I had grabbed it and a bunch of other really cool stuff from a 5E Humble Bundle.
Let’s start of with a general overview. So what is The Blight. It’s grim/dark, horror, gritty urban campaign location, namely the City-State of Castorhage. It’s mean and cruel place and it’s big. The campaign guide places the population at about 3.8 million. That’s roughly the size of Los Angeles. Not only is the city big so is the book. It clocks in at 890 pages or so. No easy feat reading this thing in PDF form. Castorhage is physically and morally corrupt. Countless alchemical experiments and a lot of sewage have polluted the the main river. The royal family is decadent and insane. To add to this already warped setting, there’s the Between. A nightmarish dimension that can sometimes be accessed through mirrors or other reflective surfaces. And to keep with horror theme sometimes the Between just pops up in those places.
Let’s do a little run down of the book itself. Like I said, it’s huge. It starts off with the usual overview. This can be most easily summed up with the Seven Prayers of Castorhage and the Seven Unspoken Prayers of Castorhage. Basically, the rules and philosophy of the city. One for the low born and one for the powerful. For Example: Only the wise know how to use the dangerous curse of magic, and only a fool would tamper with it./M agic is power, and power in the wrong hands is folly. Only those of high caste know how to use it wisely; the lowborn who dabble with it must be taught a lesson and cleansed as an example to others.
Next up are people. Some of the more important NPC’s as well as options for player characters plus quirks, and new equipment. Then we have a GM’s section with advice and suggestions on how to run the Blight. And there’s even more material about places and people. One of the interesting things about Castorhage is that there gods and Gods. Let me explain. The gods aren’t really gods. They walk around and inhabit the city. They don’t have real religions but they do have cults. They way the are presented in the book I’d call them urban legends to place blame or find cause for any mysterious or horrible thing that might happen. For the 5E version, they really missed the boat on this one. I feel that the gods would make great warlock patrons but alas nothing was written up so GM’s would be on their own.
Then there’s a whole section on the Between. Like I mentioned a nightmare dimension that personally reminds me a bit of Lovecraft’s Dreamlands. But that just maybe me. I don’t want to say too much on this part since I feel it’s a good venue for GM’s to throw in some mystery and exploration in an otherwise urban based campaign. But it is detailed as basically it’s own world. Oh yeah and the Between can corrupt characters and so on. Nasty stuff.
Then come a huge bestiary. I’m seeing why this book is so long. All sorts of new and interesting monsters as well as some of the major NPC’s. Oddly enough, enterprising GM’s will find a few other player character options like the Undying. You’re only sort of undead.
Then there’s a very small section of inspirational random tables and then the books goes into another more detail breakdown of each of the districts of the city. There’s a ton of information and detail about these districts. It’s not as crazy as City-State of the Invincible Overlord but still there’s a lot. Almost too much for your average GM to digest and remember.
Finally, there’s an adventure path, The Levee. I don’t want to put any spoilers but looks pretty good and if you want a sneak peak of what it’s like then stop by and listen to Swords & Misery, an actual play podcast.
So what do I think? Overall, pretty god but it doesn’t mean there a few problems. First there’s a few editing errors that make the 5E conversion seem almost like an after thought. There’s a few places where the explanation of crunchy is worded more akin to the Pathfinder rules rather than 5E. Like I said before, there’s lots of information and I fell it wasn’t always presented in the most efficient fashion leading to page flipping and head scratching till find another bit of information to tie it all together. Also, some of the NPC’s have powers or abilities that are mentioned in the fluff text but not even mentioned in the stat blocks. For example, one powerful NPC “borrows” the skin of an underling when needed. Yeah. Nasty stuff. And I suppose I should mention that if you aren’t ready for a decadent, horror-filled setting then just walk away. Also, going through the setting if you are the type to doesn’t like the Cantina Scene type set up then you may just house rule the extra races and racial options out. However, I would say this, it all seems to fit without seeming forced or “let’s just make sure that any player can play whatever they want”. There may be prices and/or consequences based on the character’s race or class.
Do I still want to run it. Hell yeah. But I’ve got some thoughts on that. 5E: While the version I have of the Blight is for 5E. I just don’t feel the game as written doesn’t play well as for a horror/grim dark setting. There would have to be some house rules. Sure all the races are ready made but there’s nothing about Tieflings which fit well and would have their unique problems in the city IMHO. Swords & Wizardry/White Box/Old School Essentials/OSR: This could be done with little or no conversion and only some minor tweaking. I know there’s a Swords & Wizardry version available but it’s so easy to convert into Swords & Wizardry. There’d me minimal house rules plus there’s is much good old school stuff out there it would be easy to find other tools that would fit. Now, I can’t mention the old school games without thinking about Lamentations of the Flame Princess. The vibe fits almost perfectly but there’d still be some tweaking. The real gem in LOTFP is the spell list which could be easily substituted for the original or vanilla lists. Dungeon Crawl Classics: Lankhmar This already give a set up for running urban adventures with a more Sword and Sorcery flair. Conversion would be a little more difficult and then there’s the fact the magic can get really swingy. So that would be a consideration. Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells: It’s no secret that I love this game. It’s rules light and very easy to convert into. It would work great. If you want to add non-human races then that might take a little work. Zweihander: I admit that I haven’t played this yet but I do have the PDF. And it would work danged perfectly. It’s fits great with the tone and atmosphere of the setting. There are a couple of problems. First, it would be a pain in the butt to convert all the monsters and NPC’s. I’d also be faced with teaching the group a whole new game system.
I’ve rambled long enough on this. I haven’t brought it up the gaming group yet so we’ll see what they say. We’ll see what happens.
Lankhmar for Dungeon Crawl Classics will be hitting the shelves some time soonish. The PDF’s have gone out to Kickstarter backers (Yep, I’m one) and the physical copies should be in my grubby hands in a couple months or so. One of the new mechanics added was Fleeting Luck which has been around a while for public consumption and comment for a while. I’ve used in Dungeon Crawl Classics and Mutant Crawl Classics and the players loved it. Then I got to thinking why not use it other games.
So here’s a real brief outline how Fleeting Luck works. The PC’s each get a Fleeting Luck Point at the beginning of the session. If player rolls a Natural 20 or does something cool then they get another point. If any of the players roll a Natural 1 then ALL of the players lose all of their Fleeting Luck.
Since other games don’t have a Luck Score like DCC, I looked around and thought what could I use? Oh yeah. Hello, Fifth Edition. Inspiration Points. So if you don’t Inspiration Points let the player roll two d20’s and take the better for checks. And there you go. Use Inspiration Points with the Fleeting Luck mechanic.
There is one change that I would make for Fifth Edition, I wouldn’t let characters use Fleeting Luck to heal. There’s plenty (almost too much) healing in 5E.
Another episode and I talk about lots of stuff.
I rant about Grimtooth’s Trapsylvania for Dungeon Crawl Classics. The PDF’s went out to Kickstarter backers and yes I backed it. Great dark murderous fun!
I also talk about Dirk Stanley doing a Swords & Wizardry conversion of Far Away Land. Great Idea. Can’t wait for that one.
And the wrap up of my Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells game. Enjoy! Here’s the link.
Yeah I know Kickstarter backers got the PDF’s a couple of weeks ago. Heck I backed it and am so pleased and I’ve been going over it as time allows. And yes for the few who have given the podcast a listen, I mentioned it there too. Now, I’m also going to mention here that I hate doing reviews and this isn’t going to be the normal review. Chances are if you’re a DCC fan then you probably backed the Kickstarter or you’re waiting anxiously for it to hit the shelves and your mind is already made up. This rant is more for the folks who aren’t DCC fans. Because the boxed set has stuff you can use not matter what your favorite set of rules may be.
Up first, there’s Lankhmar: City of the Black Toga. Coming in at 48 pages, it’s about 80% system neutral. Heck, a lot of could be considered setting neutral. It’s mostly various tables and charts for city events, street names, encounters, and the flavor text. So if you mix it with Vornheim, you’re going to have an interesting city for the players. Now there some NPC’s statted for DCC but it’s relatively a small section of the book. And because of DCC similiarites with other d20 based games conversion shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Next up! The Judges Guide. AKA GM/DM’s Guide. So yeah stat heavy. There’s still fluff but this deals with world overall. There’s some DCC specific spells and Patrons along with bestiary. The Carousing table is here and pretty good but does have links to DCC mechanics (but if you’re play something else that’s easy to ignore.) So if you don’t play DCC, this would probably be the least overall useful but could inspirational at least. As always, YMMV.
Finally, my favorite. The Compendium of Secret Knowledge. Why? Because it’s all the rules tweaks to DCC for a much down-to-earth and less gonzo type of Sword & Sorcery game. The big thing that’s been the buzz for a while is Fleeting Luck. Yes, it works the mechanics of DCC but once again can be easily adapted. My first thought is borrow Inspiration Points from 5E for games that don’t have a built in Luck mechanic. Oh and the thing about Fleeting Luck. It’s just that. Any of the PC’s roll that Natural 1 and they all lose it. There’s also an interesting take on the Unarmored Warrior. And nifty little thing called Benisons and Dooms. Benison is special extra for a PC. How a Magic-User that’s just a wee bit better with sword. A stealthy fighter and so on. And the Dooms. Well, they are called Dooms and there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. There’s Spell Stipulations which replace Mercurial Magic. For those who don’t play DCC, this is a catch or side effect when Magic-Users casts spells. Like I said, Lankhmar is less gonzo than your standard DCC. And of course, there’s Corruption too for when spell casting goes really wrong.
Let me say this again. YMMV. But for me, I can see using this for 5E, Swords & Wizardry, or any other retroclone. But deep down, I think really want to throw this stuff into Lamentations of the Flame Princess game. But hey. That just may be me.
Here’s a pretty lengthy rant about how I’m going about making my D&D/OSR/whatever world.
And here’s the “working” map of Zoong including mistakes and other sloppiness. But it works for a DM’s notebook. Where are the Elves and Halflings from? Hasn’t came so haven’t worried about it yet.
And here’s the zoom in hex map from the 5E Campaign. You may recognize some thinly veiled hints about what modules I had on tap.
And you know the drill. Subscribe to the podcast. I don’t always post every I say over here and vice versa. And if you’ve already subscribed. Thanks.