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!


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.


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.

Firefly Board Game

firefly_board_game_coverThere has been a ton of board games based on licenses in the past few years. I have been reluctant to try them as the few I have tried have not always been good. The few standouts have been games like Battlestar Galactica and the X-Wings miniature game. Most seem to try to cash in on the name with a game that does not always make sense and may have been rushed to production. I was leery with Firefly. I had heard a few good things about it on the net but nothing from a trusted source. I have not played it as often as I would like but so far I have been rather pleased with the game.

Firefly Board game is a game for one to four people (it does have rules for solo play) that plays in about two to three hours. Each player starts with their own Firefly, chooses a captain, and a place on the board to start. Each captain is different and offers its own advantages. As one prepares the game for set up it seems a lot more complicated than it really is.

The game takes up a bit of space. The board itself is good sized but one also needs room for many different decks of cards and their discard piles. The base game has thirteen different decks. Five of the decks represent different jobs that the Firefly captains can get from different contacts like Badger or Patience. Five other decks represent the different items and crew that can be acquired at different locations like the Space Bizarre or Regina. Two decks show movement one for inside Alliance space and the other for Border space where the Reavers are. The last deck is the misbehaving deck and this deck is used to complete some of the jobs and requirements to win the game.

Each captain starts with some fuel, a few spare parts, and a little cash. They are free to travel around to different places to get jobs or shop and try to find crew. There is a balance that has to be done as getting money from jobs is great but does not always lead one to victory. Finding the best crew and items is always great but again rarely will it in itself lead to victory.

I will admit when we first set up the game and saw all the components and decks it was really a little frightening. About half way through the first game when we started to see all the elements click together and it felt like a Firefly game that we knew we were really going to like this game.

There are Story cards that determine the win condition of the game. There are too few Storycards in the game and even with expansion there still does not feel like there are enough to that they have much variety. I like the concept of the cards and I just hope that someone finds a way to really make some cool scenarios be it the company or some fans. Each card starts with some flavor text to set up the story. Then there are certain goals that have to be done in a specific order. It might to do successful jobs for certain characters, or acquire so much money, or to go to some planet and accomplish something. To be able to do it though one needs to complete jobs and acquire a crew and gear. I like the game because one can just do jobs and become very successful there but if one is not working towards the goals it doesn’t matter how good the crew and gear are and it doesn’t matter how much money you have. Someone can do a few jobs and then try for the goals quickly and that can make for a short game if they win. But if they can’t complete the goals that can really set them back as they might have to replace dead crew members or get better equipment or other actions that have to be done to overcome setbacks.

There are three types of checks that are usually made: diplomacy, mechanics, or fighting. One adds up all the bonuses for whatever check they are about to make and rolls a d6 to try to get higher than a target number. A one is not an automatic failure and the 6 explodes so one rolls the die again and adds that number as well. There is always a chance of success though it might not be very good. Some diplomacy checks are called bribes so one can spend money to increase the chances of success. Some fighting is done with kosher rules so no weapons allowed. Most characters have a bonus to some or all the skills. A well rounded character might have a bonus to each where a really specialized character might have a plus three to one skill. Some characters will just have a plus one to one skill as most of the characters for hire are not that skilled. Characters have a cost that one has to spend to hire them and then that cost is subtracted from each successful job as one has to pay the crew. This is very important and on jobs that pay out in items other than money the crew still needs to get paid in cash.

On one’s turn when moving one either moves one space with no chance of something happening or they move up to five spaces by spending one fuel. There are engine upgrades that can change those numbers. When doing a fuel burn one has to flip over cards from the Alliance or Border space deck for each space moved. This can have nothing happening so the ship keeps flying or there could be an encounter or mishap. Some of the encounters are salvage ops and there captain can stop and end his turn there with the chance of recovering some cargo or other resource or the captain can ignore it and more on. A card can also show the ship has a malfunction so a spare part can be spent or a mechanics check might keep the ship flying. A run in with an Alliance ship or Reaver ship is the worst possibility. With the Alliance ship as long as the Captain has no warrants out for him and has no wanted crew and is not smuggling contra band or fugitives he’s fine. If he some of that then he might lose it or pay a fine. The Reaver ship is much worse. All passengers and fugitives are automatically killed. A weapons check is made to see how many of the crew die. Border space is a dangerous place but such encounters are still very rare making it a good gamble.

One thing that does slow down the game but I like are the Job and Planet decks. The discard pile can be looked through by anyone and those are available for people to get. Basically a person that lands on one of these spaces that wants a job or wants to buy something can consider up to three cards and get up to two. They can consider cards in the discard pile after looking through it and then draw cards from the deck to get up to three total. Any they pass on gores in the discard pile.

That’s a fair rundown on most of the basics. I did not cover everything but that should give more than a good over view. I wanted to also talk about some of the expansions. Every game has expansions it seems these days and Firefly is no exception. I’ll cover the ones I have.

Artful Dodger: This is a different ship. It adds a fifth player to the game. The ship is also different from the Fireflies. It has a better engine and can hold more crew but does hold less cargo. It means doing multiple jobs at once is a little more difficult.

Big Damn Hero Promo Cards: This small expansion is just five members of Serenity (Malcom, Wash, Zoe, Jayne, and Kaylee) with another ability on their cards. They are each in the main game but these promo cards have it so whenever any of them successfully completes a misbehaving card they receive an extra $100.

Breakin’ Atmo: This is the first real expansion but it is a small one. It is just fifty cards five for each of the job decks and planet decks. It does not add any new rules and I like there being a bit more in each deck so people that want to just go to a place and sit for many turns trying to find the best cards is a bit more difficult to do.

Pirates and Bounty Hunters: This is a good sized expansion. It includes two new ships one that can hold larger amounts of cargo but is a little slower and one that is very small and fast. It has some new captain options. Most importantly though it has player verse player rules. If one gets the right job they can attack other ships. It also has warrants so that ships can go after certain characters that are wanted and turn them in for money. The rules her can change the game nicely and allow for more interaction between players.

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.

Chained Coffin Kickstarter

Chained Coffin CoverMany of my readers have likely already seen the news about the most recent Goodman Games Kickstarter for the Chained Coffin. As some Kickstarters do, this was taken off and quickly grown to be more than just some perks for the Chained Coffin adventure and is becoming its own entity. This is important and the thing folks (DCC fans and campaign setting fans) need to take note of.

But first, for those that don’t know about the Kickstarter I will highlight a few of the initial selling points. If you already know all of these, don’t leave just yet – skip down to the Boxed Set section.

Chained Coffin Kickstarter

So – the Chained Coffin kickstarter was initially to raise some funds for a cool prop. A spinning wheel puzzle. The adventure is already written and coming out regardless of Kickstarter success. But the original $4,000 goal was to get a spinning wheel puzzle made of cardstock. A pretty cool player handout!

But then the stretch goals started.First it was some additional sourcebook material for the area, then it was more random encounter tables. Shudder Mountains where the adventure takes place is a decent sized area. Then it was some more player handouts with Doug Kovacs art.

As those stretch goals have been met, things began to transform from adventure to gazetteer style stretch goals. Digest sized pages to letter sized pages, and more to further detail the Shudder Mountains. Higher levels include an 11×17 poster and the top stretch goal is an actual full-color box set!

All of this for picking up the $30 Silver Foil limited edition version of the module.

Boxed Set Mini-Campaign Setting

Folks – this Kickstarter has turned into a boxed set mini-campaign setting. Not only that, but at a price point that is pretty darn incredible if the stretch goals are hit.

As a host of Spellburn we get a lot of email asking about campaign settings. Is there anything out there for people? What campaign setting do I use for my actual play? The questions pop up on forums and social media networks all the time.

Here is your chance to show Goodman Games a mini-campaign setting is what you want. Because if this Kickstarter hits the goal of $36,000 that is pretty much what you’ll be getting.

Current players of DCC know the game has a regional feel to it. It doesn’t work under the assumption of needing a continent spanning area, a region can be the start to a very long running game. The Shudder Mountains is this regional setting.

More Kickstarter Info

Goodman Games has provided several ways to help them meet this goal. $30 gets you the silver foil limited edition. There is also a limited edition gold foil for $60. They are also selling print modules at a discount, so increase your pledge and help fill out your DCC adventure collection while helping to get us to that $36,000 stretch goal.

Now some links in case you want more info.

The Kickstarter:

Spellburn Talks to Michael Curtis About The Kickstarter and The Chained Coffin

Michael Curtis’ Blog – Your Fantasy Appalachia Campaign in a Box

In Defense of Roll20

Roll20 LogoEarlier this week a blogger posted Five Ways Roll20 is a PITA. A rather inflammatory title and one that certainly caught my eye. I’ve been using Roll20 since about August of 2012 I believe. I run a weekly Dungeon Crawl Classics game on it with folks from a variety of geographical locations. I’ve also played in several semi-regular games during the same time period.

Roll20 has been nothing but excellent to my group and I. Unlike other VTTs I have used in the past we rarely have technical issues that prevent us from gaming. I can think of one instance where Roll20 didn’t work (it was right after one of their larger upgrades), but we played that session anyways. Beyond that one instance technical issues have been minimal.

I do run Roll20 integrated to a Google Hangout though. So audio and video relies on Google, my experience with Roll20’s audio and video is non-existent. Google Hangouts has that covered for us and has some cool low bandwidth options for one of our players or when someone’s cable connection is poor. I’ve played with Roll20 on slower 1.54Mbps connections all the way up 15Mbps connections.

Either case – I did want to address each of the five points in the Five Ways Roll20 is a PITA blog post. I do realize just because I don’t have issues, doesn’t mean others don’t. But if one person can paint their experiences with a broad brush, I can do the same. Of all the VTTs I have played on, Roll20 has been the best and it just sort of gets out of my way when we play.

5 – Really, I work in IT

I am always wary when things start out declaring credentials. But overlooking that, this sound more like computer issues than something to do with Roll20. The post says most of the issues are on the author’s side. He then says he only got in an hour of game time.

My sessions are two hours in length. We’ve never had a technical issue consume more than 5 minutes of time on anyone’s side. There was the one occurrence after the Roll20 upgrade, but we still managed to get 1h45m in of playing that night with ease.

With that said – for my weekly game, I do get logged in about 5 to 10 minutes ahead of time and make sure my headphones and sound work on the computer in general (largely because I switch headsets from the set the kids use to my nice set).

4 – Where is that setting again?

This looks to have been fog of war being enabled. And mention of the author’s kid messing with settings.

I just checked – fog of war isn’t enabled by default on a new map. So the setting must have been changed. I surely hope someone spoke up pretty quickly that they couldn’t see things. There are only a handful of spots to check settings in Roll20 (the map and the general settings). We could usually sort things out pretty quick in our early Roll20 days.

As for the audio settings. As I noted above, I run from a computer my kids use and swap headphones. I usually check things out about 5-10 minute before the game to be sure all is well. Sometimes I need to replug in the headphones.

3 – It’s not me, it’s you

I can’t comment on this one as we use Roll20 integrated with G+ for audio and video. My best advice here is to do the same. Frankly I think Roll20 should drop the audio and video option and focus on the VTT. Between G+ Integration which works great, Skype, Ventrilo, Mumble, etc, etc, there really isn’t a need to try handling that piece on their own. Of course as soon as they dropped it, I am sure folks would complain.

Either way – my suggestion for this is to use it integrated with G+ Hangouts. We’ve had good experience that way. (Just listen to the actual play recordings to hear it).

2 – If you just look right here

I don’t really get this one. Back to fog of war and comparison to meatspace. The handouts option in Roll20 is a great way to show props, bits of text, etc. Just click Show to Players and you are all set. For the Barrowmaze game I had a whole series of handouts lined up for the start of the session – a handout map, the scene of descending into Barrowmaze and some of the interesting structures inside. Roll20  facilitated handouts wonderfully.

1 – It’s all just a setup

There are lots of features to Roll20. Some complex, some not. But yes, it could be overwhelming if you feel like you need to use them all right out of the gate. Shoot – even now we don’t use all of the features. So start small! Fire up Roll20, and toss a map down. Skip tokens for now – or use them just to represent movement. Character journals and character sheets aren’t required, use them later if you want.

At this point my online group uses the map feature, fog of war, minimal token use, the integrated die roller, chat, handouts, and some of the drawing tools. That’s about it. It works great and if you don’t want to get hung up in too much technology the way to go.

Some might think what we use is too much. Use Roll20 only for its die roller if you want. Or die roller and a map. Roll20 can be very, very simple to use or become more complex. But your group makes that decision. Roll20 can facilitate either style of play.

Wrap Up

Either way – Roll20 has been great for my group. I’ve made lots of great friends online and had a great time gaming. I hope the author of the original post sticks with it and after getting used to the tool has an equally rewarding experience. I think Roll20 is an excellent tool for folks with busy schedules trying to game!

Wisconsin Death Trip

Flag_map_of_WisconsinThis is based on truth. I am not talking about the way Fargo or Texas Chainsaw Massacre is either. As far as I have seen the pictures are authentic and the newspaper articles accurate. That makes this book disturbing and a little like a car wreck that one can’t help but stare at.

Wisconsin Death Trip is a nonfiction book published in 1973. The author found a collection of black and white photos all from the same small Wisconsin area dating back to the 1890’s. He then researched newspaper articles from that time and found a place haunted by death and destruction. I don’t know if this was common at the time, and it seems unusual because I don’t have knowledge of what life was like in the 1890’s in a small Wisconsin town. Or this could be the outlier, the one place that had unusual deaths and events going on. Either way a creative GM can take this book and make it into an awesome prop for an adventure or campaign.

“George Kanuck, a laborer, is alleged to have sold his seven year old boy to Italian peddlers who have been working at Manitowoc. The sale is said to have taken place at Kanuck’s house during a drunken orgy that all participated. The Italians, two women and a man, left the town the next day with the boy.”

That is one example of what one will find within the pages of this book. The book just presents the stories. It does not answer any questions. That is what makes this the perfect prop. Are you wanting to run a Cthulhu by Gaslights campaign? There can easily be cultists and something dark and mysterious going on here. Perhaps you want something modern and want the events from the past to be repeating themselves. This would be a great book to present news stories to the players that their characters find in research. Granted, not a lot of written RPGs work well in rural Wisconsin of the 1890’s. That is why I only mention the one so far.

“Eight of the Kaukauna public schools have been closed by order of the district board on account of further spread of diphtheria epidemic. Five or 6 families are now quarantined, and in one of these, 8 of its members have the disease.”

It would be more difficult but this could also serve for a good adventure or arc for a time travel game. There is something odd going on here, there has to be. So of course the TARDIS would show up here. Or perhaps the agents of Timewatch are sent here for a darker type of adventure. I think this approach would be a challenge as the feel of those games is a bit lighter than the events the book describes.

“At Stevens Point an incendiary fire destroyed sale stables and 13 fine draft horses the property of the green brothers….This is the ninth incendiary fire in the city in a week.”

I think it would work well as a historical Hunter the Vigil game. Something wicked is happening in the area so it is up to a small cell of townsfolk to investigate and try to stop something. Not everything has to link together either. Perhaps the fire was just an accident but that doesn’t mean the other eight were. Some of the stories though are much darker. There is an article of a ten year who commits suicide. There are stories of people killing their families and children. There are stories of people being committed into insane asylums. There are stories of wild men living in caves, and bands of hooligans that terrorize towns. Some of the stories are just weird like the owner of a lumber company that started yelling crazy things and then his one thousand employees started to mimic what he was doing.

“A wild man is terrorizing the people north of Grantsburg. He appears to be 35 years of age, has long black whiskers, is barefooted, has scarcely any clothes on him, and he carries a hatchet. He appeared at several farm houses and asked for something to eat. He eats ravenously, and when asked where he came from, points to the east. He secretes himself in the woods during the day and has the most bloodcurdling yells that have ever been heard in the neighborhood.”

Reading through this book is an experience. I am not going to say it was a good one as there are many sad entries in here as well. This is not a book for everyone and is definitely a Cult Classic of literature. There is also a movie made about it and it has influenced other novels and even music.

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.

Delving Into Barrowmaze

Barrowmaze CoverA week or so ago I posted about prepping for the two week run into Barrowmaze I was going to be running. These sessions happened during a two week break from the normal Dungeon Crawl Classics game due to a few scheduling difficulties.

I ran the game “open table” style, meaning I wanted people to be able to play for one session or the other without much difficulty. The biggest stipulation I made for the game was that when the session was ending for the night, the characters had to head back to town. This made it easier to bring new folks in the next session.

Barrowmaze in Two Sessions

Barrowmaze is a massive and sprawling dungeon. How in the world does one approach running Barrowmaze in two sessions? I mean the place is way more than a party could ever hope to explore in two sessions. How does one make it a little more than just delving into the dungeon in search of treasure? Which doesn’t mean as much if the characters are only going to be used for two sessions.

Easy – I came up with a reason the party needed to head into the dungeon. A more attainable goal than just gaining treasure or learning the mysteries of the place which would take more than two sessions.

I concocted a story of a noble youth rebelling and taking off on his own with some friends to find their fortunes. They ended up in the town of Helix and were last known to have entered the Barrowmaze, but they never returned.

The noble family learned of this and sent an agent to offer a reward to any who would aid them in learning the fate of the noble individual. The agent had a map and regal emblem that helped guide them into the Barrowmaze and allow the party to identify the noble individual should they find them.

This gave the party a reasonably obtainable goal and a reason that folks playing for two sessions might want to venture into the Barrowmaze.

How Did It Work Out?

I think it went pretty well. The first session the group lost a party member on the first encounter. This made them very cautious that first session. They explored a bit, found some clues that gave them a hint about where the person they were looking for went. Their cautious exploration pretty much wrapped up the night.

The second session had several of the same folks playing, though we did bring in two new folks. Because the main group was back in town, it was easy to work them into the game.

The group has pretty good success this time. Lilith the magic-user went down to some giant fire beetles very quickly, but smart play got the group well on to the right track. Exploring a few rooms, finding the friends of the noble they were seeking dead, the group finally found the lost noble boy, turned into a zombie with a handful of minions.

A tough fight ensued, a fighter was lost to the cause, but in the end the group learned the fate of Myron the noble boy and returned to Helix to claim the reward.

Barrowmaze Impressions

I’ve run Barrowmaze before in a family Swords & Wizardry game. This was my first time running it for my normal group and others in the G+ community. I really like Barrowmaze as a megadungeon. By coming up with a quest or goal for the party to obtain while in the Barrowmaze I felt it worked well for these shorter sessions.

I debated once prepping a megadungeon for con games. After running Barrowmaze for this two session stretch I think this could actually work. The key would be to come up with short, obtainable goals – probably several of them and then be prepared to run each one of those. They could use different entrances or even the same entrance with different hooks.

Barrowmaze has re-stocking rules, so the place could actually evolve over time and be run for the same group of players with a different goal and still be a little different from one session to the next.

I definitely feel the Barrowmaze mini-delve was a great success!

Episode 17: Settling In

dcc_rpg_cover_smallSettling In’ is the seventeenth episode of a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG actual play podcast. Additional information can be found at

Session Synopsis

The adventurers awake in the town of Cillamar at the Inn of the Slumbering Drake. Baptist scours the town for a suitable location for a possible barber shop business, while Meffridus passes the challenge at the library and secures access to a private study.

The focus turns to Umberwood’s Coffins as they seek to learn about its possible involvement with Leotah or her agents. The group also learns of a monk order reestablishing themselves out at Castle Whiterock in an attempt to rediscover the Halls of Forgotten Lore. A second group of adventurers are utilized to check out the Castle.

Back in town the gang is up to their old tricks as they “talk” to an Umberwood Coffin’s employee at the local pub.

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:


Intro and outro music is ‘Wrecking Ball’ from 137 from

Worst Module Ever

Castle Greyhawk CoverOver the years there has been hundreds of modules made and it would be impossible to get people to agree on the worst. For me there is just one that is head and shoulders above the rest. I know for many people the Forest Oracle ranks as the worst D&D module. While that one is badly written in pales in comparison to the farce that is Castle Greyhawk.

The year was 1988. Greyhawk was a setting we had been playing in for years. At the time I had the box set and a few modules and we read about different aspects in Dragon magazine. There were hints and little blurbs about the majestic Castle Greyhawk. It was the one area of the work that we wanted to see more than any other. What we received were thirteen different levels that have basically nothing to do with one another. It was written as a joke with more puns then a Paranoia adventure and not nearly as well thought out. There really isn’t anything salvageable in here.

It starts with a decent enough premise. The old castle has been rediscovered and they are looking for people to explore the monster invested basement. Except there is no one that can explore it. The entrance to the first area is successfully hidden away. Only the PCs when they are approached as dopes by a kid can they learn the location to get in there. But even before that we have the weather. The druids around the castle are pissed off so the weather of any day is randomly rolled. It could be hot, it could be snow, and it could be anything. One would think this would be a problem to be solved but it is barely talked about. It is just poorly planned out and not a lot of it makes sense. I would get used to that as it is one of the few inconsistencies through this module.

The setup to the first dungeon is really odd. A crying kid asks the PCs to help find his dad. But it isn’t his dad it’s who he works for. Basically some guy found the entrance to the dungeons that everyone wants cleared and hid it so he could turn it into a zoo. So, the PCs go on and explore an underground zoo. It has all kinds of weird creatures to kill, but it tries to be funny and fails. The worst part is this is probably the best part of the dungeon.

The second level is also on a level the PCs can get to. It says the door is secured and no one can get through, but how others get through the Zoo when no one knows about the zoo is baffling to me.

Anyway the second level is one that gets built around a simple idea of irony. What if a group of orcs, trolls, goblins, and such all got together and made a plan to find someone to serve? So, they get this big banquet planned so that whomever shows up will be impressed. This is the plot of the second one. It doesn’t matter what day the PCs explore this area that is the day that the whomever is going to show up. There is party planning going on and all these monsters are busy. They assume the PCs are there for the party so they don’t fight the PCs. And if the PCs fight them there are too many. If things go bad for the PCs they get captured and tossed into a sewage pit for punishment.

The PCs have to explore everything here so they get the clues as to what is going on. What is really going on is that the PCs are spectators. They do nothing here that changes anything. The party happens, Asmodeus shows up. Yes, the real Asmodeus one of many demon lords who apparently regularly hangs out in Castle Greyhawk. He basically is unimpressed and tries to kill everyone. Wasn’t that fun?

It just gets worse from there. The next level has been taken over with plotting chefs. The creatures here are food puns and one of the only workable NPCs Poppinfarsh Doughboy. Fourth level has a three dimension quality that doesn’t work well. They tried and failed at doing something. The whole point of that level is to give cryptic pointless clues at the other levels. The fifth level is a role playing game. They have a paranoia take off, some characters loosely based on Marvel Superheroes, and other shake your head it is so pathetically bad encounters.

At this point I really did not want to read anymore. I wanted to make a meme with the picture of the module and warning label over top the whole thing. I did read more but it is not something I want to go over in any more detail. I don’t know the history of the product. I don’t know what vindictive person thought this version of Castle Greyhawk was a good idea. It is just a bad module that fails to be funny, fails to be clever, and fails to do anything but insult the Greyhawk name.

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.

A New Kind of Pathfinder Character

pathfinder_core_coverWhen I DM I always like to try something a little bit different. Perhaps a different take on the campaign or the way the characters are built. Some of the ideas work and others do not. I liked it when I started having the players choose the ability scores for their own character. When I tried to have the players describe their character and then have the other players choose the attributes based on the descriptions did not work out as well. I do some different things behind the screen but I don’t keep track of them as thoroughly. I see the more important aspect of the game as player interaction with the rules. It is also very possible I am finding a complex solution to problems that do not exist.

Before I go on to this idea I must stress it is not something for every group. It might not even be a good idea for my own group as this will be the first time it has been brought up to them. For it to even have a chance of working one needs a DM that has a solid understanding of the rules and system mastery. It has to have players that will not abuse the system. The players also have to trust the DM in being fair with his rulings and trust the other players that no one is abusing the system. It does not require system mastery for the players and would probably be better for players who do not have it.

The Pathfinder system stays intact. Characters still have hit points, AC, base attack bonus, saves, etc. The way we get there is going to change though. Before one picks a race, a class, feats, and spells. Depending on what they were it would govern what the numbers were and the options the player had to select from for the character. What a player would do is come up for the concept for their character. It could be as simple as Knight to something very specific like Street Rat raised by a Fire Wizard. A player could have a short concept like that or flesh it out with a few paragraphs of backstory. Then the player would work with the DM to assign all the aspects that a class normally does. It will take a little more work but I think it will get a player more involved in his character and help create a character exactly like they want. Many times in Pathfinder and other similar systems I see players make compromises because they can’t find exactly what they want.

It doesn’t end there, this is just the beginning. I would throw out the skill list and come up with player created skills. A player would just name what they want the character to be able to do again with the DM overseeing everything to make sure it comes out ok. It would help keep the number of skills down and allow for broader skills to exist like Acrobatics. That could cover climb, jump, tumble and similar skills. Or a player could have a skill called Parkour which has some similarities to acrobatics but some specific differences as well. By using the language to pick out these different skills one can add a fine nuance to the game and what the character is able to do.

Each character would get feats, but once again they don’t have to pick off the insane list of all feats in existence. Feats now can also cover things like class abilities. Weapon and armor training would be included here. A character concept of weapons master might know how to use any weapon he picks up. But a concept like Spearman would have a more limited selection of weapons known but would have greater ability and bonuses when using a spear. If the player has trouble thinking up ideas then he can peruse the books and find thousands of different examples in all the classes, archetypes, and feats that are in existence.

Spells is where we really get crazy. Like feats there are just too many spells in the game so we do the same thing and just have the player name his own spells. Or maybe the DM playing the NPC Wizard who the PC is apprenticed to creates the spell. We might have one called Fire. It can be used to create light, spark dried tinder to make a fire, be used as a fire projection like burning hands, or even an explosion like a fireball. Damage would all be minimal since the caster is only first level. But anyway the character can think to use fire the spell can potentially do. As a limit I would probably introduce a spell casting skill or have a spells per day like the standard game.

It will take more work by the players but it allows them to be creative instead of ordering off the menu so to speak. If the player does not like it or is not feeling creative enough to do it then they can use an existing class, feats, and spells. There will be differences between a character done the old way and this way but if the DM is doing his job correctly they should coexist just fine. This system is very abusable and I like that it is. I trust my players with that kind of power and it has yet to blow up in my face. I don’t feel like this is an original idea and I am sure other games approach character creation more like this.

Would a Pathfinder player actually want to do this? I don’t know. It could bethe catalogs of options is what drives players to Pathfinder. I know I might be solving a problem that doesn’t exist but something in thinking on gaming this is what happens.

What do you think, Sirs?

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.