Thursday, 17 January 2019

Review: Tar Pits of the Bone Toilers

"A new trade route is being sought through the Dalgarian Canyonlands, pass the friendly Kharazan, Village of Plenty. But the last two expeditions have never returned and the merchants are getting anxious for the new route, causing bags of gold to exchange hands.

Meanwhile, the ancient portal, the Maw of Ghormaug, has opened once more and invaders, ‘bone men’, are beginning to take over territory. No one is safe. Left unchecked, these lands are destined for horror and ruin, unless a brave party steps up to the challenge.

An adventure for Levels 5-8 for Labyrinth Lord and other OSR rulesets."

Disclaimer: I was sent a PDF coupon on OBS to review this product. The link below is also an affiliate link to help me buy stuff to review. Some spoilers ahead!

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Announcement - The Village and the Witch

It occurred to me that I haven't shared the release of The Village and the Witch here. What follows is Davide Pignedoli's announcement on Google+.

The Village and the Witch is now available on DriveThruRpg and in print on Lulu.

The Village and the Witch is an OSR Module compatible with Lamentations of the Flame Princess, the Black Dogs, and other OSR adventuring games.
Editing by +Sándor Gebei.

This adventure is designed for low-level characters and is intended as an encounter to run in one or two sessions, between other adventures.
This module is designed to generate a Village, a Witch, and some additional weirdness: two pages with die-drop tables to outline the village (map and content), and two pages with a series of random tables to generate a Witch and its connection to the village.
The rest of the module contains some instructions, random or less random NPCs and other weirdness, some digression about alignment and so forth.

Print on Lulu

This product is an independent production by Daimon Games and is not affiliated with Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Lamentations of the Flame Princess is a registered trademark owned by James Edward Raggi IV.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Mini-Review - Blood & Bronze

This one is another mini-review I originally wrote for EN World, slightly edited.

Disclaimer: I edited one of the adventure modules for the game (Across the White Marsh). Furthermore, the article uses affiliate links.

Blood & Bronze is a sword & sandal game by Cyclopean Games set in a mythic Mesopotamia. The players portray daring adventurers seeking gold and glory in a realm having just recovered from a cataclysmic flood, where monsters prowl the wilderness, resources are scarce, and the gods literally rest in ziggurats.

The setting is painted in loose strokes only. There is a pretty map (with hexes added to help measure distances), and a couple pages are dedicated to the cultures and people of the area, but it's all about providing a tonally consistent feel for the world rather than laying out precise details.

The system is a fusion of the old-school adventuring mindset and a more modern approach to rules. The mechanics are easily recognisable for most gamers (ability tests, damage rolls, saving throws, etc.); however, skills work more like Basic Moves in Powered-by-the-Apocalypse games, as they are available for all characters, and they sometimes offer choices (for instance, if Force is rolled, damage may be avoided if the target yields).

There are six classes (Mercenary, Rogue, Mystic, Desert Farer, Courtesan, and Seer) that come with unique ability choices and starting equipment. Magic is resource-based (lotus powder for Mystics and bone salt for Seers), and it is geared towards utility rather than firepower. Tests are rolled with a pool of six-siders (a handy probability chart is included to ensure clarity), whereas saves are made on a d20. Endurance is a combination of “hit points” and “encumbrance allowance”. Combat doesn’t require a grid, as distances are abstracted into zones. Advancement is based on offering wealth to a god or ruler (collectively called "covenants"), and it may provide advantages outside of one’s class abilities.

The rules are simple and generally worded clearly, and the layout is extremely good (there are a handful of typos, but they only hurt the text’s aesthetic value). Another strong point is how much advice is packed into the otherwise slim book detailing the responsibilities of referees and players (again, similarly to Agendas in PbtA games), how to get the maximum out of the light-weight system, and how to adjudicate situations where no clear rules apply (much of which is applicable to other games, too).

It is a complete game in the sense that character creation, the resolution mechanics, and a general description of the setting are included (the part of the rulebook that pertains to players is also available for free), although enemy stats can only be inferred from a sample random encounter table. There is a neat starting dungeon, Slave Pits of Sippar, while Wonders of the Wild describes a couple wilderness zones (mostly through unique random encounters) – both free. There are also a couple adventures released that you can even get in a bundle along with the core rules.

Blood & Bronze is probably not your game if you prefer tactically deep combat systems, carefully crafted character builds, or vanilla fantasy adventures. I recommend it to those who like loose rules and pulp fantasy, and those really into the DIY attitude, as many cool things are only hinted at (such as the potentials of the covenant-based advancement).

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Mini-Review - Romance of the Perilous Land

I actually wrote this post for EN World about a year ago, but since it never made to the site, I thought I might as well share it here. I have two other similar mini-reviews, but I wanted to start with RPL, because I just saw a post on MeWe about an updated release coming in August 2019 from Osprey Games, that will hopefully have more inspiring setting details and gameable material (with 160 pages, it can go either ways, really).

Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links.

One of the most iconic releases of 2016 in OSR circles was The Black Hack. It is an elegant framework that simplifies some of the burdensome aspects of D&D-esque games (cf. ditching attribute modifiers and using a roll under mechanic, advantage and disadvantage instead of assigning modifiers, or usage dice in place of unit-based resource management). Since its entirety was released under the OGL, there has been a surge of TBH-based games and supplements. Romance of the Perilous Land is one of these games.

Romance of the Perilous Land is published by Trollish Delver Games (Quill, In Darkest Warrens, Tequendria, Wired Neon Cities, English Eerie). It is inspired by British folklore and tales of romantic chivalry. These things have been part of the D&D experience, of course, but there has only been a few games that really focus on the Arthurian legends and British folk tales, especially if we only consider D&D settings and its derivatives.

There are six classes: Knight, Ranger, Cunning Folk, Thief, Barbarian, and Bard. As in most D&D-esque games, classes are differentiated by HD, armor and weapon proficiencies, and class features. Each class also has three skills that provide advantage on tests. The class features are largely what you would expect: Knights are good in melee, Rangers are fine archers, Thieves get sneak attacks, Cunning Folks have spells, Barbarians rage, and Bards have access to various buffs and debuffs through song. The mechanics are fairly straightforward, although some classes seem less interesting than others (Barbarians mostly just deal more and more damage while raging, for instance).

There is an optional background system that provides extra skills and equipment, but only five backgrounds are detailed (Artisan, Outlaw, Priest, Seafarer, and Aristocrat). It seems like it was an afterthought, which is a shame, because it could have been used to introduce additional setting flavor.

Magic uses a spell point system. Spells have individually defined spell point costs, as well as a level (casting a spell higher level than one's own may result in weakness, severe HP loss, or even self-paralysation). The spell descriptions are brief and focus on the mechanics (e.g. "The Miracle of Levitation, level 6, cost 10, The caster levitates up to 100ft for 1d10 minutes." or "Rot Flesh, level 10, cost 22, 1d6 near targets with HD7 or below rot and die.").

A 3-page gazetteer describes a few places within the Perilous Lands (such as Dinhelm, Penbridge, or Larnbrooke Castle). Nothing revolutionary here (cf. "A headless phantom rider has been seen in the small hours searching for his long lost bride." or "A Red Etin lives in a lair close by. Sometimes one can hear his singing on the wind and see his tracks in the snow."), although I liked how the interesting bits are presented using bullet points (I love bullet points!).

I really wanted to like this game. The source material begs to be used at the gaming table, and the genre is severely underrepresented among D&D-esque games. The uninspiring prose combined with the lack of proper editing, however, leave Romance of the Perilous Land a mediocre product at best. It is not completely useless, to be fair, but a genre-hack of a game should include more tools and gameable material than just reflavouring the already available ones. Its potential saving grace is that it is a PWYW product, and a short one to skim through (roughly 13k words on 52 pages).

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Excellence from the Blogosphere (Aug-Oct)

Following the steps of Humza K, I present to you a collection of blog posts (mostly from August and September) that I found inspirational.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Review: Dark Places & Demogorgons

This review is part of a series on thematic OSR games (as defined here). Also note that some of the links below are affiliate links (meaning I get a small percentage of the sale without extra cost to you).

The subtitle of Dark Places & Demogorgons is "It's the 1980s and there are strange things happening everywhere!" (emphasis not mine), and it surely is accurate. In this game the players portray teenagers from a small town (the default setting is Jeffersontown, Kentucky), solving mysteries. The game is built on the familiar old-school rules chassis, but the game completely focuses on investigating strange occurrences. There are combat rules, but fighting monsters isn't sustainable for teenagers.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Network System Success Rates

The following table summarises the chances of success (in percentages) for various Target Numbers in the Network System (used by Sertorius, Servants of Gaius, Terror Network, and Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate (all affiliate links)). The resolution mechanic is "compare highest result of Nd10" (except for 0d10, where the result is the lowest of 2d10). I have included probabilities only up to 6d10 as it is a soft cap in Ogre Gate.

0d10 1d10 2d10 3d10 4d10 5d10 6d10
TN 3 64 80 96 99.2 99.84 99.97 99.99
TN 4 49 70 91 97.3 99.19 99.76 99.93
TN 5 36 60 84 93.6 97.44 98.98 99.59
TN 6 25 50 75 87.5 93.75 96.87 98.44
TN 7 16 40 64 78.4 87.04 92.22 95.33
TN 8 9 30 51 65.7 75.99 83.19 88.24
TN 9 4 20 36 48.8 59.04 67.23 73.79
TN 10 1 10 19 27.1 34.39 40.95 46.86