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

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Review: Engines & Empires

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).

Engines & Empires is an old-school steampunk fantasy game. It has seen multiple iterations over the years (the first version saw the light of day in 2008, I think). This review concerns itself only about the most recent edition released in 2017.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

XP for Exploration in Hyperborea

This is a fairly lazy post about adapting Jeff's eXPloration idea to Hyperborea. I'm a little behind with finishing my reviews due to editing a fantastic (and quite gigantic) book. Nevertheless, I'll try my best to squeeze one in before the end of the month.

In this variation of advancement, XP is awarded solely for visiting major cities, studying the Great Obelisks, and finding hidden wonders. The XP awards aren't divided among party members, and each character can earn XP for visiting a given location only once. I would probably use my own set of hexcrawl procedures to run such a thing.

Visiting any one of the twelve great cities of Hyperborea is worth 2000 XP. The great cities are the following:

  • City-State of Kor (Fields of Vol)
  • City in the Clouds (Floating Island of Paradoxon)
  • Gal City (Gal Hills)
  • Krimmea (Kimmerian Steppe)
  • City-State of Khromarium (Lug Wasteland)
  • Pandoros (New Amazonia)
  • Fidib (New Pictland)
  • Fazzuum (Scythium)
  • City-State of Orcust (Skarag Coast)
  • Erikssgard (Vikland)
  • City-State of Yithorium (Zakath Desert)
  • Port Zangerios (Zangerios Islands)

Studying any one of the Great Obelisks for a week is worth 5000 XP.

Lastly, every region has 4-6 hidden wonders. Finding them earns the characters a progressively larger XP reward within a region (that is, finding two wonders in two separate regions nets 200-200 each, while finding two in the same earns 200+500). The rewards are as follows:

  1. 200
  2. 500
  3. 900
  4. 1400
  5. 2000
  6. 2600

For instance, the Gal Hills might have the following hidden wonders:

  • the burial mound of King Arlan the Wolf
  • the sacred grove of the blackthorn druids
  • the spring of beauty
  • the menhirs of the elements
  • the pool of visions
  • the slumbering evertree

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Lessons Learnt Running Megadungeons

Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links (meaning I get a small percentage of sales without extra cost to you).

I have been running megadungeon products a lot. I've run Barrowmaze (the first volume) for two regular players in person, I am still technically running Dwimmermount for a face-to-face group (although we only played like 3 sessions each year, and none so far this year), plus I am actively running Rappan Athuk online (we spent about 20 sessions down there, but the campaign is on the cusp of turning into something very different).

I have tried to summarise my thoughts about running megadungeons, focussing on some of the issues that I have. I must add that I immensely enjoy reading and running megadungeons, so these concerns aren't about invalidating the concept but rather things that if solved would make it an even better, smoother, and more rewarding experience. I should also add that these issues may come up in other types of adventures as well; they just seem exacerbated in megadungeons.

TL;DR: (1) consider the costs and benefits of grids and gridless dungeons; (2) add environmental cues around branching off points on the map; (3) use observable warning details around traps consistently; (4) secrets doors should always be interesting; (5) random encounters should have details that you can build on