Monday, June 29, 2020

The Lost Continent of Malzthurdän - a Gygax '75 Challenge campaign setting, Part 3 - The Dungeon

Week 3 turned out to be quite a challenge, and frankly I still have some work to do.  When ever I thought of running a campaign before, I always planned on using published material, particularly when it comes to dungeon.  In my mind, there is so much great material that I already own I should probably just use that and adapt it to my campaign. A modified Caverns of Thracia would be perfect for this, but the challenge asked for a new dungeon.  So this ends up being the first dungeon I've created in over 30 years! Crazy stuff huh? 

This is the dungeon located at 12 on the area map. It is a tomb built into the side of a mountain at the end of the ruined city. Most everything in the ruins has been picked clean but the tomb itself is fairly intact. The entrance is an ancient stone gatehouse, now covered in vegetation, and set of double doors leading to the tomb itself.  The tomb is the resting place of a great king from a lost human empire on this continent (yes king, not emperor, I'm going with a Westeros Seven Kingdoms sort of thing here).  The first level is centered on a shrine, and is dedicated to religious worship for the deities of the Empire.  The second level is dedicated to the history of the kingdom.  The third level contains the actual resting place of the king and was dedicated to his life and the history of his family. The King's ghost still haunts the halls.  The Ophidians and Lizardfolk are aware of this and stay away from the tomb generally.  However, a tribe of kobolds have recently moved into the area, and their shaman has trapped the ghost in a binding circle.

Wandering monster table for use on all 3 levels:
 Roll Encounter
 1 d6 giant rats
 2 d3 ophidians
 3-4 d6 kobolds
 5 1 huge spider
 6 1 giant snake

  1. Gatehouse west - empty. debris 
  2. Gatehouse east - debris.  Nest of 5 giant rats in the se corner.
  3. Entrance hall - Doorway has been cleared recently and opens easily, though with noise. Floor slants down from door to first intersection.
  4. Shrine - Permanent Protection from Evil in area.  Evil/Chaotic monster will not enter here. Altar along south wall. Black, red, and white wax residue on alter from west to east.  If candles found in tomb of those colors are lit and placed correctly, the door to the stairs at B will be unlocked.
  5. Waiting area - broken chairs/benches.  Gecko Lizard (3hd) on ceiling
  6. Empty
  7. Supply room - religious items, red candles. 2 Ophidian scouts. One has a gem worth 50gp. 
  8. Waiting area. - Cobwebs and debris
  9. Room of Blessings - 8 fonts of water. One of them will Bless whomever drinks from it.
  10. Supply room - debris, religious items. Black candles.
  11. Hidden room - valuable religious items (500 gp, 50lbs), white candles.
  • A - Stairs down to level 2.
  • B - Stairs down to level 3.

12. Hall of the Empire - Mosaic murals on all wall depicting scenes of the empire.Soft light from continual light chandeliers
13. Waiting room - debris, broken chairs, tables and benches.strong smell of decay. 6 rot grubs in debris
14. Display room - mosaics.  broken statues.
15. Guard room - chairs, table, and bedrolls.  6 Kobolds. one will be listening at the door.
16. Display room - mosaics.  broken statues.
17. Armory - Door is locked (key is lost). Rusted and decaying weapons and armor.  1 magic shield
18. Snake lair - strong stench. much debris. many bones. Giant snake in north end of room. Kobolds feed it.
19. Royal waiting room - Door is locked (key is lost). Rotting couches, chairs, and tables. 30gp, 10pp, and a 300 gp silver ring found in the recesses of the couches.
20. Hidden ante-chamber - purpose unclear.  Secret passage leads to the unknown
  • A - Stairs up to Level 1
  • C - Stairs down to Level 2

Level 3
50% chance that any wandering monster encountered in the halls here will instead be a Gelatinous Cube.Other than 26 and 27, these rooms have be thoroughly converted by the kobolds, and their original purpose is unclear.
  • B - Stairs up to Level 1
  • C - Stairs up to Level 2
21. Guard room - 6 kobolds
22. Living quarters - 8 kobolds. 50% chance of being asleep
23. Chief's room - Kobold Chief and 5 female attendants. 50% chance Chief is asleep. Wields a magic mace.
24. Living quarters - 6 kobolds. 50% chance of being asleep
25. Shaman's room - Kobold Shaman and 2 guards. 50% chance Shaman is asleep.
26. King's tomb - Angry ghost (treat as spectre) bound in circle in middle of the room. If released will attack kobolds. (just break the circle) Nothing of value in sarcophagus, but secret trap door in bottom. Ghost will tell party of secret door and 27 if given magic shield (17) and mace (23).
27. King's true resting place - Actual remains an Crown worth 10k GP. Returning it to rightful heirs will put king to rest.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Orcs, Drow, and Diversity

This recent blog post from WotC has rankled some nerves apparently, which I guess is predictable considering where we are at this moment in history, and particularly in the USA. I find this to be an important issue, so I had a couple of thoughts I would share.

  • It's still your game at your table. For anyone that is upset by Orcs and Drow being "just as morally and culturally complex as other peoples" I would just remind you that what you do at your table is your business.  If you want them to be purely evil monsters, so be it. Just because of this decision by WotC doesn't mean you are obligated to change how things work in your campaign.  That's one of the joys of the OSR; we make the game our own and continue to play it differently than modern interpretations.
  • Diversity and Inclusion are a good thing. When I was a kid, D&D was a nerdy thing to do. We were the outcasts.  The LEAST we can do is to remember that and allow people to feel comfortable and included.  Your own table may not be diverse and inclusive, but at least recognize that the official game should be.  
  • Monsters still exist. D&D is a game of fantasy, imagination, and escapism. Part of that is being able to have clearly defined "good guys" and "bad guys".  Not every campaign needs to use that concept, but many of us enjoy that.  I'm sure that WotC will continue to support that, just not with Orcs and Drow. There's 45 years worth of monsters out there that are clearly EVIL that we can continue to use as clear, "kill on site" sort of bad guys.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Lost Continent of Malzthurdän - a Gygax '75 Challenge campaign setting, Part 2

Week 2 of the Gygax '75 Challenge presents us with the following tasks: Make a map of the local area, populate it with important locations including a "base" starting town and a entrance to a dungeon that will be the focus of most of the adventures, and create a random encounter table.  Easier said than done.  I thought that this would be one of the quicker tasks, but I soon realized that it could become quite cumbersome.  I'm not an artist, so I didn't feel making a hand drawn map.  After a few days I came to grips with Hexographer, and was able to create a reasonable map of coastline, jungle region, and main river for the adventurers to explore.While it should have been fairly straight forward to create one random encounter table, I figures that there should be different tables for some of the different areas on my map, such as the swamp, the river, and the mountains.  It was tempting to default to the tables from B/X or the AD&D monster books, but I wanted something custom, so I settled on 4 separate tables. I'll probably update these as I find more/better monsters to populate them.  (I'm realizing that I have a very limited familiarity with the broad spectrum of monsters that have been created for D&D).  Part of wanting custom tables was wanting very specific monsters in this area. I wanted at least two intelligent "monster" factions in the area, and ones that would fit the theme.  Since this is "starting" area I setting on Lizardfolk and Ophidians, and one hidden group that could prove a strong ally to adventurers.

  1. Base camp/town - More on this in week 4, but unlike most starting towns, this is a very small outpost, more of a fortified camp.  Provisions are limited, but it is relatively safe.
  2. Lost colony? -  The remains of a village that could have been a previous human/demi-human colony?
  3. Remains of a ruin - First signs of an ancient demi-human civilization
  4. Lizardfolk Totem - A marker of the Lizardfolk.  Tributes can be found at the base.  Recent activity
  5. Forgotten monument - Another sign of ancient civilization. Some words, possible direction
  6. Trampled clearing - Do the gods walk here?
  7. Overgrown statue - You wouldn't know because of the vegetation growing on it, but this is a bronze statue of a long forgotten Elven hero.
  8. Lizardfolk village - Territorial, but willing to listen to reason
  9. Ophidian village 1 - Aggressive, superstitious, hungry
  10. Ophidian village 2 - Aggressive, VERY superstitious, knowledgeable
  11. Minor ruined buildings -Not much to see.  Possible clues to 12
  12. Ruined city - Dungeon Entrance - Broken buildings, overgrown streets. Doors lead to riches and bitter ends.
I've kept the descriptions of the numbered locations very brief at this point.  I will continue to develop these in greater detail in the future, but going by the example that Ray Otus gave in the challenge the level of detail I have currently is more than enough.

Jungle (and Hills)
 2D4   Encounter  Hook
 2 Stirges 
 3 Lizardfolk Scouting/Raiding party in Bullywug territory
 4 Giant Snake 
 5 Ophidians Guards/hunters from 9 or 10
 6 Jaguar 
 7 Baboon 
 8 Treant If encountered within 1 hex of 6, party encounters a Moot 

Jungle Mountains
 2D4   Encounter  Hook
 2 Roc 
 3 Giant Snake  
 4 Gorillas 
 5 Kobolds Guards/Hunters coming from 12, or 2 in 6 chance party has found a Lair
 6 Giant Bats 
 7 Su-monster 
 8 Tiger 

 2D4   Encounter  Hook
 2 Giant Anaconda 
 3 Giant Insect, Flying 
 4 Piranha 
 5 Bullywugs  
 6 Giant Turtle 
 7 Crocodiles 
 8 Hippos 

 2D4   Encounter  Hook
 2 Giant Leech 
 3 Ophidians Scouting/Raiding party in Lizardfolk territory
 4 Giant Frog 
 5 Lizardfolk Guards/hunters
 6 Giant Snake 
 7 Giant Insect, Flying 
 8 Will-O-Wisp Only at night, otherwise, no encounter

I have not included hooks for every entry as so many of these are animals.  Number appearing etc is also undefined, as it makes sense to scale that to the party to some degree.

Next week is the biggie: Three levels of a dungeon. I'm going to go ahead and do this as part of the challenge and as an exercise, but I'm a big believer in using published adventures, adapting them, and plugging them into your own campaign. If I were to plug in a pre-made dungeon at this point (such as the classic Caverns of Thracia) I would spend the extra time on the map locations and wandering monster tables.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

The Lost Continent of Malzthurdän - a Gygax '75 Challenge campaign setting, Part 1

This is the first post on a new campaign setting I am designing based The Gygax '75 Challenge by Ray Otus. The core of the idea, as originally outlined by E. Gary Gygax in the April 1975 wargaming newsletter Europa, was to develop a campaign setting quickly in a five-step process. Ray has further structured this process into five weeks of work, with clear goals and examples for each step. I'll be documenting the creation of this setting in three ways: The physical journal where I am writing down the information needed to run the campaign at the table, this blog where I am recording most of the information in the journal with additional explanation and notes, and finally my first attempt at some Vlog posts on Youtube where I will provide even further explanation and context. 

Step 1 and the focus for this week's post are the core concepts. This step involves creating a core concept, writing down 3-7 "pitch points" used to describe the campaign and "sell" it to potential players, and documenting several sources of inspiration. Along with these is an optional "mood board" I'll be using Pinterest as a way of documenting images that help evoke the setting.  Without further ado, here's week 1 of The Lost Continent of Malzthurdän.

The Lost Continent of Malzthurdän - A rules agnostic OSR campaign of exploration and conquest in a land long forgotten by man, filled with dangers and riches from age lost to time.

Pitch Points
  • The campaign takes place on a 'lost' continent. Malzthurdän has existed as nothing more than a myth, even among the elves and dwarves. Recent mysterious events have led to its rediscovery, and rumor has it there are fortunes to be made in the new world for the bold and adventurous.
  • Spellcasters and Magic are rare.  The small number of wizards that exist are reclusive academics.  Those that can wield divine magic, such as Clerics, are seen as prophets, saints, and the chosen representatives of the gods.  High level magic is almost always based on rituals.  Most all known magical items are of ancient origin.
  • Technology is equivalent to late 15th/early 16th century Europe. While gunpowder and guns do not exist, the rest of the campaign's technology is based on the Age of Exploration. This indicates the "peak" tech available, and it will often be hard to come by. The inhabitants encountered will be using stone age tech, though this can vary in particular instances.
  • Rumors and cryptic evidence of lost cities persist.  Demi-human powers believe that their ancestors may have originally come from this continent. Cryptic writing and artefacts push this belief, and rumors among the humanoid tribes that inhabit the land seem to support it, as there are tales of powerful guardian, forbidden ruins, and vast treasures to be found.

Sources of Inspiration
  • Conquistadors, by Michel Wood.  The exploits of Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizzaro are the primary inspiration for overland adventures and challenges to be represented in this campaign. Wood spins a wonderful tale using multiple sources to present a reasonably balanced view of the conquistadors. One must marvel at the hardships they overcame and what they were able to accomplish, and yet be horrified by the destruction they left in their path. Available in print, ebook, and audio book through your library or Amazon. There is also a 4 part TV series which I have not seen yet.
  • Aguirre, Wrath of God.   The first feature film from acclaimed director Werner Herzog (aka the "Client" in the Mandalorian) is a story of historical fiction based loosely on the accounts of Gaspar deCarvajal which detail an exploration of the western rain forests of the Amazon basin, and the eventual first navigation of the Amazon river by westerners.  This film goes a long way in setting the mood and giving a good visual representation of the type of equipment and environment the party will be working with. Currently streaming free on Tubi
  • Lost City Z. - While this story takes place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it describes in great detail he difficulty in following clues left by others, retracing your steps in a harsh environment, and the struggles to stay healthy when even the environment is trying to kill you. It’s another tales that takes place in the western amazon basin.  Available in all book formats through your library or Amazon.  The movie is available to rent on various stream services and is currently included in Amazon Prime Video.
  • The Lewis & Clark expedition While this occurred several centuries later, it provides background on adventures in a different climate with different geography.  It also is a clear example of how befriending and negotiating with encountered peoples can be vital to the survival of the party.  The number of books and videos on the topic are too numerous to mention, but it is notable that their journals are freely available. There are also day by day breakdowns of the events of their trek which would be a valuable resource for any hexcrawl campaign.
  • The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan & The Tomb of Horrors These modules exemplify the type of adventures and challenges that the party should expect to face in the dungeons of the campaign. The party must be prepared and quick witted. Fighting the humanoid inhabitants of Malthurzdän will yield limited plunder, but the vast treasures await in the lost tombs, shrines, temples, and cities of the continent. If you don't have these, you know where to get them.
  • Indiana Jones These movies typify the whole genre of swashbuckling adventure archaeology which probably started with H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines and continues to this day in video games such as Tomb Raider and Uncharted.  While these stories are filled with the sorts of trips and traps that you would expect, they also carry another theme that will carry into the campaign: Indy was always in a race, always competing for his prize.  So will the PCs be competing with others for the treasures that they seek.

Mood Board - Malzthurdän on Pinterest

Next week, a map of the surrounding area for the start of the campaign.

If I have done my job correctly, you should already have a pretty clear about of what the campaign is about. As I mentioned in describing the book Conquistadors, when I heard the stories of Cortes and Pizzaro as told by Wood, I was truly inspired.  These were tales of men in desperate, deadly situations that somehow overcame the longest of odds to carve out personal empires in a hostile new world. While what actions that they took, particularly Pizzaro were often downright evil, their adventures are simply amazing. What really struck me though was the small size of the groups that they led.  At many points they had but a small, core company of men, and they supplemented that at various points with hired men-at-arms and allies. The similarities to a D&D party and their hireling was immediately apparent to me. It almost directly followed the sort of campaign outlined by Gygax in OD&D. My only challenge in trying to turn this into a playable setting was to try to invest some sort framework where I wasn't putting the PCs into the same morale situations that the Conquistadors face.  I was not going to allow my campaign to turn into a genocide.

So I decided that "my" new world would be a lost continent, overrun by evil forces, with no humans or demi-humans having stepped foot in these lands for millennia. I'm still not completely happy with that change.  Simply replacing Native American with Orcs could be viewed as equating the two, and that is not my intention.  There's more to the story that I am not revealing at this time but suffice it to say that the humanoids of Malthurzdän are not the original inhabitants of that continent and are not innocents in this story.  Not that one of the potential inspirations for this setting is Maztica campaign developed for 2E AD&D.  While there were some ideas there, I quickly dismissed it as I wanted to make sure that I was merely inspired by the events of the exploration of the western hemisphere, not mimicking them.

The one concession that I am going to make in designing this campaign is that I will be creating a minimum of new dungeon levels.  Most of what I will use is published adventures that I modify to fit this setting.  There is such a wealth of great material that is available to me I figure that this is the best time to use it.  The strategy also allows me to populate my world with ready dungeons very quickly, so that no matter where the PCs go I can be prepared for them and avoid Quantum Ogre situations.

One last important note about this setting.  It is currently system agnostic, but that could change.  I don't like to choose a game system until I know the players that will be in the campaign.  I could run this as 1e with some groups, B/X with others, or some OD&D variant with others.  It really depends on what the players are familiar with.  While I've made many friends online playing B/X and 1e games, more recently I've been wanting to play games with my pre-existing friends that may not be that familiar with D&D rules, in which case something more simplistic like Delving Deeper or S&W may be more appropriate. Separate from the base rules, I'm making a study of all the hexcrawling procedures outlined in early rules and modules, and well as the multitudes of blog posts on the subject. As this campaign is focused on exploration, the details of the procedure used to track and resolve travel are a key part of the game.  Another hidden inspiration to this campaign is the board game Lost Expedition, which uses simple, categorized resources and skills to track how your group is able to overcome challenges along a journey. Such a structure may be a great way to quickly resolve wilderness encounters, and I'll be writing more about that in the future.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Grogcon 2019 after action report

Wow, what a weekend!  My work and career often keeps me away from playing games on a regular basis or attending conventions, so I used some vacation time this past weekend to attend GrogCon, which was part of the Crucible 8 convention in Orlando. I got to wander around the convention and take a look at some amazing miniature wargame displays, participate in my first 5E/Adventurers League game, as well as play in four 1e adventures.

First a little about the con.  It was probably 80% focused on miniature wargmaing tournaments.  As one would expect 40k, Age of Sigmar, and WarMchine/Hordes were the most popular.  Infinity was well represented, and I saw some BloodBowl, Bolt Action, and other various games being played.  On the Roleplaying side, most of the events were D&D Adventurers League games from the new Descent to Avernus campaign. Grogcon itself was a small part of the overall con with only a game or two running at any one time, but while it lacked in size it certainly delivered in quality.  I should also note some real positives about the venue.  The hotel didn't seem like anything to write home about, but they had multiple food options that were pretty good, parking was not a problem, the bathrooms were great and the air conditioning was a true blessing. Yes people thought it was cold, but there was not a whiff of BO. (seriously, if you've ever been to a con you know how much of an issue this can be.)

Friday night started with a 1e adventure written and run by Victor Dorso called the Keep at Blood Red Falls.  It was a classic military raid style adventure for higher level characters (8-10).  The scenario reminded me of some of the original "Giants" or "Slavers" modules and proved to be even more difficult. Ultimately the group was not successful (to date, nobody has according to Vic), but we created a ton of chaos, came up with some innovative ways of dealing with certain situations, and had a really fun time.

Saturday afternoon was D&D Adventurers League Descent to Avernus- Escape from Elturel.  While I have 5e, this was my first actual game as well as my first exposure to Adventurers League.  This was a level 1-2 adventure that focused on the immediate aftermath of the town of Elturel being swallow up by the first layer of Hell.  Sounds pretty scary, but the scenario was not very challenging.  It was fun and engaging, and the players had a great time. After playing this event I wish I had the time to play some of the follow ups that were offered, but there were 1e events to attend.

Saturday night was the main event: The Grogcon 1e AD&D tournament.  Three teams ran through the same module, Gnomeskull, with a 5 hour time limit.  The team that earned the most XP wins. The scenario was a raid by a party of Gnomes (levels 5-8) on the keep of Kobold God/King on the first layer of Hell. (Yes, Hell and raids were a theme this year). The module was written by Dan Gormanski and our table was DM'd by James from the GrogTalk podcast.  As everyone was a gnome, we were limited to fighters, thieves, illusionists, and multi-class variants.  For a tournament module the adventure offered the players a lot of options and choices.  There were multiple ways to attack and enter the keep and each team ended up using completely different strategies.  Despite the large amount of racial, illusionist, and thief abilities that the party had much of exploration felt like 0e. We used a lot very detailed descriptions of what and how we were doing things to gain advantages. My team ended up tied for second, but we had a great time.

Sunday morning's game was an adventure called Citadel by the Sea, run by Dan Gormanski and first published in Dragon in 1983.  This was a low level adventure (we were all level 3) that involved exploring ruin near a remote town that believes that they have been curse when an archaeologist disturbs something in the ruins.  Things are not as they seem however.  Dan did an amazing job with his acting and characterizations of the NPCs, and it turned out to be a great little adventure.  Not only were we successful in finishing it, we avoid almost all the traps and unnecessary monsters.  By this time of the weekend all the players were on their game.

Last but not least I had the privilege of playing in The Porcelain Sword of Queen Eshalla written and run by Carlos Lising of Casl Entertainment. This was a well hones mid-level tournament module with wonderful middle-eastern theme and a diverse set of challenges. Carlos is well known in 1e circles as a great writer and DM and I was not disappointed.  The adventure was still in the playtesting phase, but it taught and well balanced between combat, exploration, and puzzle solving.  Again the team avoid traps and other mistake that every other group of  had fallen prey to.  This game also produced the highlight moment of the con:
Bugbear: I surrender to you, holy man!Brother Harun of the Black Lotus: I accept the surrender --of your soul! *shooting crossbow into eye socket at close range*
Remainder of group: 😲
Completing that adventure felt like a true accomplishment, and after 21 hours of D&D I was wiped out. 
It was truly a great time and has really inspired me to continue playing on a regular basis and make the extra effort to go to more gaming conventions.  It's really a wonderful hobby we have.  I just showed up with some dice, pencil and paper, and my original 1e Player's Handbook and I had the time of my life.  

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

RPG Review: The Tingleverse - The Chuck Tingle RPG

You can't judge a book by its' cover they say.  I think the same adage applies to a title.  If you are familiar with Chuck Tingle, then "The Tingleverse: The official Chuck Tingle Role-Playing game" could be a few different things.  Is it a table-top RPG? An adult bedroom game?  I'm happy to report that it is in fact an OSR RPG rule-book with some great ideas and unique setting, but some serious structural flaws. 

Chuck Tingle is best known for being an author of gay erotica featuring Bigfoot, unicorns, dinosaurs, and even anthropomorphized objects and concept.  I haven't read any of Dr. Tingle's stories, but he has been nominated for two Hugo awards and has a huge following.  My first concern was that this game would be some sort of erotic RPG, but it turns out that is not the case.  The Tingleverse can be completely non-sexual/erotic, so this game will work with your normal open minded RPG group.  The Tingleverse is a strange setting though: I strange cross of South Park, Twin Peaks, and Dr. Tingle own bizarre imagination.  It's a world filled with crossed timelines, chocolate milk, and Buckaroos.

The 270 page softcover rule-book is available through Amazon (Dr. Tingle's own website redirects purchasers to Amazon) and appears to be a print on demand.  My copy denotes it was printed in Middletown Delaware, "30 September 2019", which was the same day I placed my order.  This also appears to be completely self published, with all work being done by Dr. Tingle himself as there are no credits for art, graphic design editing, etc.   Other than the cover, illustrations of the included monsters are the only pieces of art on the book.

The book starts with a brief introduction , then jumps into eight pages of background on the setting including an overview of the Tingleverse and the default starting location of Billings Montana. The next section of the book adheres closely to the standard RPG process of character creation.  Here we discover that game uses six ability scores which be familiar to anyone that has played an RPG. Here they are named Strength, Dexterity, Fortitude, Book Smarts, Street Smarts, and Charm.  Players can chose from human, bigfoot, unicorn, or raptor as their 'type' (race) each with their own unique advantages and ability modifiers.  There are 5 classes (called 'trots') to chose from: The Bad Boy, Charmer, Sneak, True Buckaroo, and Wizard.  These mirror traditional fighter, bard, rogue, cleric, and wizard classes, but with some significant differences.  There are 3 categories of saves, attack bonuses are separate for melee and ranged combat, and each class has its own defense score in place of armor class.   Next each character get some "unique ways" which are similar to perks, and then character creation is rounded out with equipment.

The bulk of the book (114 pages) is taken up with descriptions of "Cool Moves" which are effectively spells or spell like abilities.  Every class has their own list of cool moves and uses the same table for determining how many cool moves of each level they have available per day.  

There is a brief section on experience outlining xp for personal and group actions. No specific xp rewards are mentioned beyond those for defeating monsters, only general suggestions of an xp reward for solving a puzzle or completing a quest.  Dr. Tingle suggestion personal xp rewards for good roleplaying and achieving character objectives.

The following chapter details the rules of combat.  The rules are simple and abstract.  This section also covers Void Madness which serves the same purpose as Insanity from Call of Cthulhu.

There is one page discussing treasure followed 25 pages of magic items; some fairly standard, others unique to the Tingleverse.   

Lastly, there is a sampling of 20 monsters from the Tingleverse. As previously mentioned, each of these are illustrated and are fully statted and described including xp value.

Full disclosure; I haven't read The Tingleverse cover to cover, but I feel safe in making a preliminary review based on what i have read and seen in the book. It's clear that Dr. Tingle is amazingly creative and funny. Even where he derives his content directly primary sources he puts his own 'tingle' on it.  For example, the traditional Magic-User spell 'grease' is now called 'Lube'. Magic missile is 'Magical Balls'.  None of the mechanics are revolutionary but that's OK.  The game sits clearly within the OSR /traditional RPG space without copying a ruleset and placing a gameworld on top of it.  Strip away the setting and you still have a competent set of rules with some innovation ideas that you can mine for you own games

There are serious weaknesses with this product however, which is unfortunate.  The layout sets RPG rulebook design back 45 years.  It is somehow actually worse that the original D&D books from Gygax in 1974.  There are no graphic design elements.  The tables are pure text and are often split over two pages.  The book looks like it was typed up in a Word doc and sent to the press without editing of any type.  There is blank space all over the place just begging for artwork.  The index for the Cool Moves comes AFTER all of the moves are described! (even Gygax put the list before the descriptions).  These complaints may seem a bit nit-picky for a self-published title but this is not Dr. Tingle's first book, it is only available in print, and is priced at $19.95  He may not have published an RPG before, but its clear that he has read other RPG books and should have a basic understanding and respect for the importance of layout and design.  The layout is so poor that it interferes with its usefulness.  In order to run a game of Tingleverse I would have to create copies of important tables for my own use.  I wouldn't even be able to photocopy them because they are on two different pages and difficult to read.  It's unfortunate that the book was published this way, though if it is in fact print on demand one can only hope that Dr. Tingle gets some feedback and chooses to work with a professional graphic designer that can quickly address these issues so that future purchasers get a better quality product.

My second major complaint is what is missing from the book.  There is no introductory adventure. No tips on running a campaign.  The only info the TM (Tingle Master) has to go on is the eight pages of background material at the start of the book and the implied setting described in the rest of the rules.  This would be fine if the book was billed as a Players Handbook, but then why include the section on Monsters?  Apparently Dr. Tingle is working on an expanded Monster Guide, which is needed, but without further setting materials I find it difficult to run a game in this setting.  It's possible that details on the setting are found in Dr' Tingle's other writing, but if this is so it would have been nice if he had suggest a couple of titles to read. (seriously, which would be more informative: The Complete Guide to the Void or Bigfoot Pirates Haunt my Balls?)  To my mind this is not an all-in-one rulebook and the marketing needed to be clear on that.

Despite the flaws, I still recommend the game for those looking for something different. The game does need more info on the setting and explanation for the TM as well as an improved layout. However, the implied setting of the Tingleverse is amazingly creative, and the differences that these rules offer are worthy of examination and potential use in your own OSR campaign.  The magic items, monsters, and spells also offer some new creative material to spice up your game. Love is real. Resist the Void. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

To each their own

The things that get written in the OSR/RPG community never cease to amaze me.  I shouldn't be surprised at my age, having been around online communities and gaming for 15 years, but it still does.  It seems to me that most OSR bloggers are GMs, and experienced GMs at that.  In general they have a lot more experience at running a game than I do, so it's always worth my while to listen to what others have to say and learn from their experience.  That said, don't EVER tell me how to run my game.

If you don't like boxed text in your modules, fine, don't use it.  Don't buy the products. You want to point out that a product has boxed text, and lacks simple concise descriptions, fine.  But don't tell me that I shouldn't be using it.  You want to let publishers know that you won't buy a product that has boxed text, fine.  But don't pretend to speak for everyone.  It's some text.  In a box.  For a game.  That's supposed to be fun. Lighten up.

On the other hand, if you don't like minimally detailed, seemingly random hexcrawls, don't use 'em!  You may think it's a crappy idea, and you are entitled to your opinion.  But that same product may be exactly what someone else wants for their campaign.  And if they do, that doesn't make them a bad GM, it just means you have different tastes and different opinions.

The great thing about the OSR is that we as GMs and players have the power to run games how we want to run them, and play in the types of games we want to play in.  There is room for ever variety and permutation under the sun.  As writers, artists, and publishers we can make the games and supplements that we want to make.  What actually gets used is up to the consumer.  It's a beautiful thing and should be encouraged, not beaten like a dog through the streets of the OSR blogosphere because a product didn't conform to YOUR standards.