RPGs as Reading Material

Stack of BooksI’m not sure if these two game lines bring much comparison these days as they are separated by a decade or so between their heydays. Also, this is a very specific aspect for both games I’m comparing and how I use them. It very well may not apply to all gamers and fans of these games. I am also happy to sneak the occasional World of Darkness writings onto my friend’s old school focused blog.

Old, or now referred to as Classic (like Coke I guess), World of Darkness consisted of a number of intertwined games. The Vampire books would reference Werewolf stuff occasionally and the Mage books would talk about Vampires and there was a feeling they might all work in the same world but not really. The rule sets were close enough to make it seem that way, but honestly I never saw it work well at the gaming table. While it was not as fun to play the game that used it all, it was enjoyable to me to read about them.

I like to read the classic World of Darkness books, and their meta-plot made it even better. For a game the meta-plot, a plot that advanced in the world and was occasionally updated in some of the supplements, did not always work well. Sometimes in the game we ran, actions prevented the next wave of the meta-plot to work well or at all. Especially when we killed important NPCs that were supposed to do things later in the plot. But again it made them fun to read.

I don’t have a large collection of old World of Darkness books anymore. I kept my Changeling books because I love me some Changeling and some of the historical books and lines for other games like Dark Ages Vampire and the Sorcerer’s Crusade. They are also fun to read at times, though not as enjoyable as the other modern day lines were. Plus when those product lines ended White Wolf published books that gave different ways for the games to end.  I really enjoyed reading through those if only one or two were something that I would ever use.

I never got to play a lot of World of Darkness but the books were fun stories and ideas to read. Now that seems to be what I am using the Pathfinder setting of Golarian for. We have had campaigns set there but only for adventure paths so far. While the current game is Pathfinder RPG it is in my home brew world so the setting books are not of much use. But they are fun to read. The countries are very different and offer lots of interesting inspiration. The books that delve into the setting offer some great detail and rich history. It is really my main use for them these days. I enjoy reading the Adventure Paths that I have and then reading the setting books surrounding those APs and imagine how great they would be to enhance the campaigns.

Not all the books in either line were great reads. I tend to enjoy the story and setting ones a lot more than the rule oriented books. I do really enjoy the monsters revisited line of books. That was one of the more brilliant ideas for a series of simple books I have come across. I just picked up the Mystery Monsters one today and it doesn’t just present new takes on some monsters but also presents a great new way to use monsters that I had not seem in fantasy games.

This whole idea came today when I bought a small pile of Pathfinder books at a used book store. I then went home and read them or the ones that seemed the most interesting. I used to do that with the old World of Darkness books buy them knowing the most use I would get out of them was to read them. I’m sure some ideas from all these books slip into my games and characters but rarely anymore do I directly reference them.

So, am I crazy? Do other people just buy RPG books to read more then to use in a game? What games books do you find the most enjoyable to read?

Chris Gath.  I’ve been gaming since 1980 playing all kinds of games since then.  In the past year I’ve run Pathfinder, Dungeon Crawl Classic, Paranoia, and Mini d6.  My current campaign is mini d6 and we are using that for a modern supernatural conspiracy investigative game.  On some forums I’m known as Crothian and I’ve written a few hundred reviews though I took a sabbatical from reviewing for a few years as it burnt me out.  I was also an judge for the Gen Con awards (ENnies) six times.  Jeff, the owner of this blog, is one of my players and a good friend.

Review: The God-Seed Awakens

The God-Seed Awakens CoverAuthor:  Paul Wolfe
Publisher:  Mystic Bull Games
Art: Doug Kovacs (cover), David Fisher, Jason Sholtis, Mario Torres, Jr.
Price: PDF $8.99 or Print $15.00 – RPG Now
Pages: 53

The Basics

The God-Seed Awakens is the newest adventure from Mystic Bull Games, written by Paul Wolfe for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG system. The adventure is intended for four to six 3rd level characters.

The cover is graced with the wonderful artwork of Doug Kovacs. The interior has pieces from David Fisher, Jason Sholtis, and Mario Torres, Jr. This review is based on both the Print and PDF versions of the adventure.

A living seed has found its way here from a distant world. A seed from a world-spanning tree where its roots made their way deep to the underworld and branches to the sky above. With the growth of the world-tree unstopped it managed to breach the confines of reality and find ways to other worlds. Two of the creatures from the seed have begun to raise forces from this world to further their own interests.

The backdrop of this adventure is an area around Mount Welwood. A judge can easily drop this area into their existing campaign world or download a hex-map from the Mystic Bull website for new campaigns. Several rumors (including a rumor table!) and hooks are included in the adventure to help a judge spur the characters to action!

In addition to the adventure a full patron write-up is included, new spells, new magic items, and many new monsters.

The artwork is liberally spread throughout the adventure. When one faces lots of new creatures, the accompanying artwork is a very useful tool for the judge to help describe the creatures to their players.

The included maps are clean and cover the cave system within Mount Welwood and the Seed of the Worldbreaker.

My Thoughts

Mystic Bull Games went all out with the cover on this one! Awesome art by Doug Kovacs. I saw the original to this one at Gary Con when Doug had it with him. It looked great then and it looks great on the actual printed module. The beast on the front with the eyes and mouth of a starfield is an excellent touch. And something about the cultists on the ledge really appeals to me.

As I noted earlier in the review, the module has a good amount of art throughout. While helping avoid any “walls of text” the art is a boon to judges in describing the new creatures the characters will encounter in this module. A definite plus.

The module hits the DCC “feel” by having a dimension traveling tree spreading its seed to other worlds. Couple the very premise with the vast array of atypical creatures and a DCC judge is sure to keep his players on their toes. The beauty of it all is the hooks start with things such as glowing spiders, raggedly dressed people preaching of a new god, and such. Then the characters will find themselves at odds with the creatures of the god-seed. I really like the more “typical” setup that really leads to anything but “typical”!

I also like that a full patron write-up is included for Shaloth. My players have the tendency to pick patrons from various modules I run. Some only have the patron and no write-up to go with them. The full write-up for Shaloth would be of great aid should a character choose this patron. Or if I wanted to borrow it for my campaign even without running the module.

Wrap Up

The God-Seed Awakens is great add to the DCC judge’s bag of tricks. With the ease of dropping it into an existing campaign and the plethora of items to borrow for an existing campaign the latest release from Mystic Bull Games is sure to find some use.

Episode 20: Regrouping

dcc_rpg_cover_smallRegrouping’ is the twentieth episode of a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG actual play podcast. Additional information can be found at http://irontavern.com/podcast.

Session Synopsis

With near devastating casualties on the last folks the party sent to Castle Whiterock it is time to recruit some new ones for another push into the castle. Regrouping in Cillamar the group sets out again to root the monks out of the ruins. A perilous climb up the tower high above the ruins grants the party egress into the castle via a different route. That path is not without hazard however…

 

Download Link: http://irontavern.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Episode-20.mp3

Credits

Intro and outro music is ‘Wrecking Ball’ from 137 from http://music.mevio.com.

 

 

Review: D&D Starter Set

D&D Starter Set Cover

Review by Guest Blogger Kelly Davis

The Dungeons and Dragons Starter Box (MSRP $19.99, Preorder Amazon $12.65 at time of this review) is worth the price for groups wishing to try the new version of D&D.  I would recommend only one box purchased per group, as the Basic Dungeons and Dragons rules are available as free download from the WOTC website.

The large starter box is mostly filled with air, but your printed copy of the basic rules might help fill the empty space. Inside, you will find a 32 page rulebook, a 64 page adventure book, 5 pregenerated characters, one blank character sheet (intended for use in the D&D Encounters organized play program) and a set of polyhedral dice.   The rest of the space is taken up by a cardstock spacer.

The rulebook covers what you would expect. A brief introduction to the hobby of roleplaying, dice conventions and a brief introduction to all the rules, equipment and spells that the players would ever need to complete the 4 adventures in the other booklet.

The Adventure booklet contains 4 linked smaller adventures, each probably playable in two 4 hour sessions depending on how your group operates. They are written to help the new DM, with hints at enemy tactics, hooks on getting your characters into the adventure proper, and the back of the book features a mini-monster manual for any creatures found in the adventures. The four adventures are designed to take a group of 4-5 characters from 1st to 5th level.

The adventures are decent. They give the characters options, it’s not simply a set of encounters done one after the other (like 4E published adventures seemed to be). There are consequences for actions – perhaps being too noisy alerts the enemy, or catching them by surprise allows for some tactical advantages.

The game comes with 5 pregens. 2 very different fighters, a dwarven cleric, an elven wizard and a halfling thief. Each character has a few sentences that describe their personality, background and some character flaws that, if roleplayed, gain minor advantages later on. The reverse side of the character sheets feature info on the race and class  of the given character and the pre-selected improvements that occur with each new level. This takes a lot of the guess work out and allows people to play without even looking at the basic rules or the forthcoming Players Handbook.

I really like these pregens! They are likable characters who are well thought out. Some of your players may want to keep them rather than build their own once you get into the Basic rules.  There is also one single sided blank character sheet with a blurb about the Encounters program on the other side. With the popularity of Living Campaigns and Pathfinder Society, can you blame WOTC for starting 5E’s organized play program before the Player’s Handbook is out?

The dice are nice, too. They are a marbled blue with white inking. They are slightly more ‘precision edge’ than your typical rounded/polished dice, although they are very light – perhaps made of a cheaper plastic?

All of this in a study box (like the old days!) for a small price.  What could have been added? Maybe some stand up cardboard minis?  Sure, but the new approach to D&D makes ‘theater of the mind” OK again, so don’t want to send the wrong message.   I would have liked the two booklets to have more substantial, cardstock covers , too.

So, I recommend this as a purchase for your group. Everyone doesn’t need one. Only one box – for the DM of your group , should be fine.

Kelly Davis has been playing roleplaying games for most of his 40 something years. Most of that time has been spent as a game master.  He works as a contract system analyst for General Motors and is happily married with two creative kids who he is hoping will take up his hobbies.  His favorite games include D&D (all editions), Gamma World, Savage Worlds and Dungeonslayers!

Behind The Curtain: Shorter Adventures

Iron Tavern Press LogoThis post is part of a ‘Behind the Curtain’ series for Iron Tavern Press. They are intended to provide some insight to design decisions made for current and future product lines.

Gamer’s time is limited these days. A lot of us have taken on responsibilities of families and careers. These responsibilities cut into our free time and can often lead to playing shorter or more infrequent sessions – if we get to play at all. Even the younger gamers, still new to hobby have a plethora of other interests bidding for their recreational time.

Today’s Gamer

An informal poll of G+ users several months ago indicated the average length of session hovered in the 2 to 3 hour range. This informal poll holds true to my experience as well. My online sessions are 2 hours long and my weekly face-to-face session is only about 3 to 3.5 hours of actual playing time. A far cry from how the sessions of my youth used to be!

Not only are sessions shorter, but for some they are more infrequent. Maybe every other week or once a month. Sometimes that is simply the schedule and other times cancellations make that the more realistic gaming interval.

So What?

What does this shorter and sometimes more infrequent session time mean? It means trying to play through long sprawling adventures can be a chore. Either you can’t get enough accomplished in a single session to feel meaningful or it takes months to close a story arc. Sometimes you just need a short side-trek to fill a session or two where only part of your gaming group can make it.

GMs also tend to have less time to prep for sessions. Or sometimes they need a quick option for a night of gaming. Something that doesn’t take hours of preparation, but rather a brief read through and a small map for an evening of entertainment.

And that is where the Pocket-Sized Encounters line comes in…

Pocket-Sized Encounters

The Pocket-Sized Encounters line from Iron Tavern Press aims to fill this gap. The products are written to be played in sessions that last 2 to 4 hours. This makes is easier to pick one up and finish it in a single session while providing a fun night of play. Something the players and can feel good about accomplishing contributing to the fun of the session.

In addition they purposefully try to keep themselves adaptable. Towns are not explicitly named. Directions to the mountains or hills or plains are kept loose, only that there are some nearby. This helps make it even easier to drop into any campaign world on the spur of the moment. The intent is to drastically reduce the GM’s prep time by not being overly detailed with the backdrop forcing the GM to adapt entire villages or regions he has already taken efforts to detail.

Several adventure seeds are provided in each product so a GM can pick one and integrate with their campaign world. And for a GM that wants to expand the scenario beyond how it is written a ‘Where To From Here’ section is included with suggestions on how to get even more gameplay out of the scenario. So while remaining highly portable from one setting to another, there is information in each PSE to turn it into something bigger.

Each product includes a random table to further help a GM add detail on the fly. Tables from random treasure hordes, to random items found, to rumor tables. All are there to help a GM have the answers to those unpredictable twists and turns a players like to throw at you!

And finally – the maps included with the product are provided in GM’s versions, Player’s versions, gridded, and gridless. More tools to help a GM to be able to pickup a PSE product and be up and running with a limited amount of prep time.

Summary

The changing landscape of gaming are some of the driving factors in creating useful adventures for today’s GMs. The Pocket-Sized Encounter line is there for busy GMs, shorter sessions, and the infrequent gamer to provide an evening of entertainment at a moment’s notice.

You can check out one of the products in the PSE line at RPGNow.

Did you like this Behind the Curtain post? Don’t miss Default System Choice or Cover Art – Or Lack Thereof.

Episode 19: Trouble in Castle Whiterock

dcc_rpg_cover_smallTrouble in Castle Whiterock’ is the nineteenth episode of a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG actual play podcast. Additional information can be found at http://irontavern.com/podcast.

Session Synopsis

This week we check-in on Meffridus, Kpnooney Klaus, Tsanth and the others. From them we learn there has been a possible attack on the Temple of the Moon through the sewers. With precautions put in place we return to the exploration of Castle Whiterock.

With the monks having retreated further into a defensible portion of the ruins, the new crew works on ferreting them out. Their position turns out to be much more defensible than originally thought.

Meta Note: This episode includes a little bit of meta discussion at the end of the session. It frames some of the future direction and felt it should be included. Also – the end seems an abrupt cut-off due to me accidentally cutting the good-byes I normally leave in there.

Download Link: http://irontavern.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Episode-19.mp3

Credits

Intro and outro music is ‘Wrecking Ball’ from 137 from http://music.mevio.com.

Zedkiel’s Chapel Now Available

Zedkiel’s Chapel, written by Dustin Clark, is the fourth release in the Pocket-Sized Encounter line from Iron Tavern Press. This and the other releases in the line are available at RPGNow and shop.d20pfsrd.com.

Two brave adventurers rescued Zedkiel the scholar on his way home from the tavern. A large bat-like creature had attacked the man and certainly would have slain him had Ulad and Frango not intervened. A month later reports of another large bat-like creature surfaced as several townsfolk were killed one night under a full moon. Ulad and Frango grew suspicious and discovered something horrid had happened to Zedkiel. The man eluded them until the pair of adventurers discovered the strange abandoned chapel Zedkiel was using as a hideout. The characters have a choice to make – seek out and destroy Zedkiel or aid him against the vigilante townsfolk.

A Pocket-Sized Encounter compatible with the Swords & Wizardry rules system for 2nd to 4th level character.

Pocket-Sized Encounters from Iron Tavern Press are shorter scenarios designed to be dropped into an existing campaign with minimal preparation. Use them for shorter sessions, provide your players with choices that won’t derail your campaign or even as a launching point for a new campaign path.

Zedkiel's Chapel Cover

Included in this adventure are:

  • New Werebat Monster
  • Multiple adventure hooks
  • Location based encounter area map (grid and gridless)
  • Seeds for expanding the adventure
  • Rumor Table

Episode 18: The Replacements

dcc_rpg_cover_smallThe Replacements’ is the eighteenth episode of a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG actual play podcast. Additional information can be found at http://irontavern.com/podcast.

Session Synopsis

The green group of adventurers begins their exploration of Castle Whiterock at the behest of the seasoned party. Talking their way in, they do their best to poke around the ruins of the castle while under the watchful eye of the order of monks. Put to work helping excavate ruins within the remains of the castle reveals things are not the way seem!

Meta Note: The players decided to use some lower level characters to explore Castle Whiterock under the direction of the higher level characters. 

Download Link: http://irontavern.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Episode-18.mp3

Credits

Intro and outro music is ‘Wrecking Ball’ from 137 from http://music.mevio.com.

New Pathfinder Campaign

pathfinder_core_coverThe week before Origins a new campaign kicked off for my local gaming group with the Star Wars Edge of the Empire game coming to an end. There was a bit of discussion, I pitched an OSR game (Swords & Wizardry or Labyrinth Lord). Well, I sort of pitched an OSR game. I pitched a rules system. The other GM in the group pitched a full on game and dangled his homebrew world out there for it, Tellus. The rule system would be Pathfinder.

Pathfinder won out. I was a little nervous. Frankly, Pathfinder has taken on a bit of an overwhelming feeling for me. Lots of feats, wacky character races, character classes – some of the same things that burnt me out on D&D 3.5.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Pathfinder. Just a lot of my recent interests have been with the OSR type systems where things feel a little lighter. But the group had spoken!

Character Gen

I decided to put a self-imposed limit on myself and stick to just the core rulebook and the Advanced Players Guide. That helped keep things a little more manageable for me. Way fewer rulebooks to peruse and I already have strong familiarity with those two books.

I am not into the more unusual races or even character classes for the most part. So I went with a Dwarven Paladin for this game. We were allowed to have legacy characters that tied back to some of our characters from previous campaigns in this world (the current group started in Tellus back in 2005, the GM that runs it for much, much longer than that).

So I whipped up a Dwarven Paladin (thanks Hero Lab!) and started to get excited for the first game night.

The Campaign Begins

The first night has us running some errands for Lord Phillip (the offspring of a character run by a player who has since moved away). Check on the status of a village, cement relations there and just general get a feel for the lands to the south and bring some stability to the region.

Before the night was over we ended up in a quarry which I quickly recognized as the Caves of Chaos from Keep on the Borderlands. It was a fun romp and I appreciated that the GM was running some of the old school modules.

It looks to be a promising campaign!

I will post periodic reports from the campaign and how it feels putting the old Pathfinder gloves back on!

Summer at The Iron Tavern

Wow! It has been almost a month since the last post at The Iron Tavern. Certainly one of the longest gaps in posting since I started The Iron Tavern a couple of years ago! Let’s see what I have been up to!

Moving

Most of the past several weeks have been filled with moving to a new house. I think things are finally getting settled in freeing up a significant amount of time. As part of stocking the new house I ended up with a sweet dining room table that will easily seat 8 folks and is going to work wonderfully as a gaming table for the Thursday night group (and hopefully a kid’s game soon).

This move really has consumed the vast majority of my time for the past 4 weeks. It is good to be getting settled in at the new place.

Origins

This past weekend was Origins. Last year we seem to have started the tradition of getting the folks from the DCC Actual Play game to meetup for the con. This year we had all the players from the actual play game and another who plays in the weekly Dungeonslayers game Kelly runs.

It was great seeing the guys again. It was four days filled with gaming! We played Dungeon Crawl Classics, Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, Paranoia, and Zombieslayers! We all had a really good time – be sure to check out my G+ stream for photos from the Con.

I did pick up a few things at Origins, though really – the dealer hall was a bit of a disappointment this year. I purchased another small Chessex battlemat to hopefully replace the one I bought the previous year that didn’t hold ink well at all. And I also bought the card game Boss Monster. I played Boss Monster at Gary Con with Joseph Goodman, Doug Kovacs, and Rick Hull. It was enough of an intro to warrant the purchase.

Iron Tavern Press

Iron Tavern Press is doing well, though it would be hard to tell by my lapse in release schedule! I have Zedkiel’s Chapel by Dustin Clark through its last round of revisions. I just need to drop in the two pieces of artwork Frank Turfler did for me (have I previewed any of those yet? They are awesome!) and let my proofers give it a glance. I hope for it to see the light of day within the next week or so.

I have PSE #5 written. Just a couple of tweaks and then it will go off to the editor for the first pass on it. Still artwork to be done for it as well, but should be well on track for my more normal 4 to 6 week release schedule. We did playtest this one at Origins last weekend.

A surprise author is writing another PSE adventure for me. The pitch was awesome and I am looking forward to seeing that turnover. More details to come on this as we get a little closer to release time for that one.

While at Origins we also playtested another adventure from Dustin Clark. This one is more of a full sized adventure, so it will deviate from the Pocket-Sized Encounter line’s format. There is a good chance this one will be the first release Iron Tavern Press does for Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. Should be a good one!

So there has been lots of behind the scenes work and action going on with Iron Tavern Press!

DCC Actual Play Podcast

I am behind on releasing AP podcasts! I have a bunch queued up – one just needs mixed, the others need some editing. But in either case the DCC group is going strong and plenty of shows recorded and ready to be released. Expect to see these start coming out in the next week or so as well.

Wrap Up

And that’s why it has been so quiet around here the past several weeks! I appreciate your patience while real life has distracted me. Things should start to return closer to normal over the course of the next week or two.