31 December 2010

Happy 2011!

Best wishes for 2011 from the glorious Bronze Fonz!

30 December 2010

ICE News

The Crown is Dead, Long Live the Crown! (Or not?!?)
Iron Crown Enterprises (the company that produces the venerable role-playing game Rolemaster (of which there are a few variants, including my preferred version, 'Classic,' i.e., '2nd edition'), and which once produced Middle-earth Role-playing) seems to be undergoing a big change of some sort.

At least it is according to this announcement:
Iron Crown Fans:

First, an apology – For too long, resources have been woefully short to fully meet product and service quality as promised to you, our faithful and patient customers. It’s not that our licensee, Mjolnir LLC, run by Bruce and Heike, didn’t have the best of intentions – they did. But they were beset by difficult market conditions in the gaming industry which I’m sure you are all aware of, and combined with the lack of resources, Mjolnir were unable to fully meet your needs. While it is not our place to manage this situation and we are limited in doing so under the license agreement with Mjolnir, we did provide extreme flexibility in terms of foregoing a substantial amount of royalties which provided cash support for Mjolnir LLC to correct this situation, to no avail.

When Aurigas Aldebaron LLC first acquired Iron Crown Enterprises from bankruptcy, it was with the sole intention of supporting a product loved by many, a contender to rival D&D in the 1980’s, a game company known for its exciting criticals and its “true to art” creation of the first Middle Earth -based role playing games. Sure, I hoped to make a little money on it, but really I just wanted, like all role players at one time or another, to write/work/own a game company. I figured it would eventually provide the perfect outlet for retirement from my day job.

We have worked with Mjolnir since that time, and though there were ups and downs, we appreciate the contribution they made to the further development of ICE products.

It is time, however, for a new chapter to begin.

As such, I am pleased to announce some changes at Iron Crown Enterprises. Firstly, Aurigas Aldebaron and its representatives will manage the website and forums. In addition, we plan to manage more actively the sales and marketing of our products, as well as more closely oversee execution of product development and quality, and product deliverability by our licensees. Yes, all products will still be licensed out to creative organizations and as such, we will still only have limited control over the development of the systems and settings (and that’s a good thing to as we are not game creation and development professionals). But the terms of our agreement with our licensees will ensure better performance, and we think that with the freelancing methods’ fully variable cost structure to be employed by Guild Companion, we solve a critical problem plaguing our business – lack of resources – and instead increase the amount of resources brought to bear on the whole of product creation, production and delivery.

You will find that the ICE website will continue to be a central hub for all things Iron Crown. You will find links on the ICE website directing you to our licensee sites and to where you can purchase ICE items in PDF or print-on-demand physical copies. ICE will no longer operate its own store. You will be able to find announcements and product advertisements for all ICE products on the central ICE website.

We also expect there will be some growing pains and we will make some mistakes along the way – please forgive us and we hope we will get things corrected quickly. At the same time, since this is a new way of operating, we look forward to your suggestions.

As you can see, a lot of things are changing, but many things will stay the same. You shouldn't expect a complete overhaul of the website, or major changes to the forum rules, but we do hope you eventually see some big improvements in product releases, product quality and deliverability.

In fact, we really view this as the next generation of game company management. We are attempting to cut out the middlemen, or as many of the layers as possible in getting the creative aspect of the game to the people that play it. We want to eliminate central management and distribution as much as possible. If ICE can support game developers through some marketing and web-support, these developers can do what they do best, manage their own small expenses and sell via pdf and print-on-demand, eliminating upfront and fixed costs, which lowers risk and allows for more game product creation. It also ensures that if people work on a product, they get paid from the source upon a sale.

We are also pleased to announce that Guild Companion Publications will be the licensee for our HARP, Rolemaster, Spacemaster and Cyberspace game systems, and, as they do now, be the licensee of the Shadow World background This includes the re-involvement of Terry Amthor, the creator of Shadow World, so we expect big things! . In addition, they will take over management of Cyradon setting as well.

ICEVerse as a project is expected to continue, which means RM and HARP fans will have access to a virtual table top program, and hopefully into full-fledged computer games.

We are currently in discussions on Bladestorm and the Silent Death game system license Combat Express, However nothing is finalized and we are looking for interest on this license by other parties.

We are in discussion with third parties with some of our properties and are currently seeking interested parties to manage the pirates-based Run out the Guns! and Guild Companion will be looking for help on the Cyberspace systems as well.

We plan to hold an online Q&A session in the near future and will advise you on the details of this in the near future.

That’s all for now. Thanks in advance for your continued patience and support.

The Aurigas Aldebaron Team

(Original announcement here.)

I've been positively impressed by Guild Companion Publications in the past, so if they're now in charge of the ICE ship -- especially Rolemaster -- that's not a bad thing, in my opinion.

But really, I'm not sure what all of this means for ICE...

28 December 2010

Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2: Some More Info

This post (from December 18) notes that Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2 will include:

· All new Hero generation system, including Talents

· Revised combat system including Armour

· Wizardry, Sorcery and Minor Magic spells

· A brand new reworking of Priests

· and a whole lot more.....

Also, there is an interesting thread on this game over at RPG.net here.

26 December 2010

Swords and Wizardry White Box booklets now available in PDF

Brave Halfling Games has the relevant information here.

If running a S&W WB game, these PDFs should prove to be quite useful.

(Yes, some pretty lazy posts from yours truly on this lovely Boxing Day.)

Check This Out

Over at the 'Beyond the Black Gate' blog, Al has made available (for free!) his 2010 compendium of "new items, houserules, monsters, a new character class, an adventure, PC Events, and more random tables than you can shake a yule log at."

Well worth checking out!

25 December 2010

My Best X-Mas Gift Ever!

I found this fine book under the tree on Christmas day, 1980. I had received the Holmes Basic D&D set for my birthday two months earlier, so I already was addicted. But this book, with its iconic Trampier cover, occupies a special place in my withered heart, as it made me feel as though I had 'graduated' up to 'real' D&D.

Hard to believe three decades have passed since that fateful morning!

23 December 2010

Knockspell abandoning OGL and going over to AD&D

Knockspell seems to be undergoing some interesting changes:
Knockspell Magazine: Will be switching to a non-OGL format and re-focusing more toward AD&D than OD&D. Issue #5 will be a transition, since most of what I have for that issue is still OD&D. I'm doing the layout myself, so it will be rougher in appearance than before. Doing the layout myself is also making it go more slowly.
The above announcement by Mythmere can be found over at the S&W fora here. Later in the same thread, Mythmere elaborates on his plans for KS in this post:
A bit more information is obviously in order on the Knockspell changes:

The main reasons for a shift to AD&D is that Fight On! is already doing a great job on OD&D. Not exactly how I would do it (witness different editorial styles in the magazines), but still excellent. The most difficult task for Knockspell has been assembling enough material, largely (I think) because Fight On! draws more of it. That's especially true after the long gap between issues.

Swords & Wizardry will still have a strong presence in the magazine, but by drawing in AD&D as well, there is a better potential to bring in general articles about gaming as well as articles that are purely resource. This will make it easier for me to put together the magazine.

The other option, which would be to make Knockspell purely for S&W, would make it effectively into a "house organ" magazine, which is what killed the quality of White Dwarf. In the long run, I think that would be devastating for the magazine's reach and quality, plus making it more difficult rather than less difficult for me to bring in a full magazine's worth of articles.

Based on the comments here, I might back water on some of those proposed changes. I can still retreat from the plan at this point, since Issue#5 is effectively all S&W. However, I don't want it to become just a "house" magazine, and it definitely needs to use up less of my energy or I'd be doing nothing but Knockspell all the time. That's what collapsed me on it in the first place.

As a past -- and, hopefully, future -- contributor to Knockspell, my own work will continue to focus on S&W. I've also contributed to Fight On!, which will remain an OD&D-focused publication (although FO publishes articles for a wide range of older games). I'm a fan of 0e/Basic D&D these days, not so much AD&D, so I'm not sure what to make of the new direction that Matt/Mythmere is charting for Knockspell. It looks like both S&W and AD&D will be supported, which is great -- and, of course, it is a snap to use AD&D material with S&W (or the other retro-clones), and vice versa. So perhaps this is no big deal.

In any case, I look forward to checking out the next issue of Knockspell, and wish the best for Mythmere Games.

(Thanks to ChicagoWiz for bringing this news to my attention in this post.)

UPDATE (9:57 EST, December 23)!

It seems that Mythmere has reconsidered abandoning the OGL for Knockspell:
Based on the feedback from this thread, I think I'm going to keep Knockspell as an OGL publication. The various comments make sense, and I suppose the benefit of getting more authors from calling it "AD&D" wouldn't offset the downside of having open game content.

As to the increased focus on (what will now be called OSRIC and/or "First Edition" because of the above), that's still in play with the understanding that it DOESN'T mean S&W won't be in there, it means that I will include material in an OSRIC format if that's what the author wrote or wants, rather than treating S&W as if it's a universal format. A lesson of time is that people for the most part simply don't accept the idea that any sort of format is universal. Or at least, if they do, there is still a much stronger preference than I had thought for having one's particular set of stats used.

If I were to switch Knockspell to a purely S&W format, I'm certain that it would lead to a smaller page count, and when you're selling on lulu you get a worse and worse value as page count decreases. Most of the built-in cost is from their setup fee, not from adding additional pages. I could do a smaller magazine if I were willing to print a digest-sized little 'zine and mail it out myself, but I never handle money or commit to shipping things because those are both areas where my disorders can cause me to drop the ball in a big, big way.

17 December 2010

In Praise of the Original Swords and Wizardry Cover

I recently received the PDF for the Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook, and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the three physical copies that I recently ordered (two softcover, one hardcover). Sadly, it is exceedingly unlikely that I will receive them before the (exhausting and family-intensive) annual Saturnalia and Festivus activities.

Unsurprisingly, I think that the S&W Complete rules are great (I already was a huge fan of the original S&W Core rules, so much so that I penned a few S&W articles for Knockspell). I have some very, very minor quibbles about some of the rules choices that Matt Finch made for his interpretation of the 'Ye Olde Game' (which I may outline in a future post, time permitting). Nonetheless, overall, S&W remains my favourite incarnation of D&D around these days -- the 'Complete' rules only add to what already was a great game, without creating any unpleasant bloat.

My one real complaint with this new version of S&W is that the wonderful picture created by Pete Mullen (displayed above) no longer graces the cover. Now, don't get me wrong -- I think that the new cover by Rick Sardinha is excellent (and I am, in general, a fan of Sardinha's work). However, the new cover simply lacks the distinctive, quirky charm of Mullen's work. I'm not sure why Frog God Games thought it necessary to abandon the original cover.

That complaint aside, though, I urge you to check out S&W Complete. It's full of great stuff. Fight On!

14 December 2010

Advanced Fighting Fantasy Returning in 2011!

It looks like the Advanced Fighting Fantasy game will be back in 2011! In addition, Out of the Pit and Titan will be reissued.

I still own my copy of the original Fighting Fantasy RPG and about eight Fighting Fantasy solo adventure books (including the original Warlock of Firetop Mountain adventure). However, I missed picking up the 'Advanced' version decades ago. It's great that these books will be made available again!

The announcement can be found here (but, frustratingly, not much additional information).

(Yes, this is yet another amazingly lazy post...)

11 December 2010

09 December 2010

Life and Death

Another fine OpenQuest product from Newt Newport, with another great cover by Jon Hodgson, is now available!

Here is the description at the d101 website. It is available from Lulu here.

'Geordie Racer' has a brief but helpful review here.

I have the PDF of Life & Death, and the print version is in the mail. Based on a quick skim, it looks very cool -- much more of a 'sandbox' than Newt's earlier OpenQuest adventure setting, The Savage North (which I think is also very good). I'll try to post more thoughts once I have a chance to give Life & Death a proper read (which, sadly, will not be for at least a few weeks, as I presently am overwhelmed with end-of-term grading responsibilities).

08 December 2010

Lamentations of the Flame Princess PDF Sale

Lots of good stuff for only 1 Euro (1.34 USD) each. I especially recommend Death Frost Doom. The sale ends on the 12th.

More info here.

The actual sale is here.

07 December 2010

Hawkmoon RPG Thoughts

Last week, James Maliszewski of 'Grognardia' fame posted a 'retrospective' on the Hawkmoon RPG (published by Chaosium in 1986). Since I've been thinking about BRP (and BRP-related games, such as RuneQuest and OpenQuest) quite a bit lately, I thought that I would share a few of my own thoughts on the game and its setting.

I ran a Hawkmoon campaign during the summer of 1989, and found it to be an eminently enjoyable experience. It was the final role-playing campaign that I ever ran for my 'high-school' group (I already had completed my first year of university, as I went a year earlier than most of my peers, but the rest of the group had just finished up high-school). Consequently, my recollection of the campaign is tinged with a bit of nostalgia. It also was the first BRP campaign that I ever ran (although I had been a player in a few sessions of Call of Cthulhu before the summer of '89). And since the Cold War was still going strong -- nobody was expecting the Eastern Bloc to crumble in only a few months -- the post-apocalyptic setting resonated with us and our fears of imminent nuclear holocaust (we were sensitive souls, alas).

I had planned to run the Shattered Isle campaign, which is the only supplement published by Chaosium for Hawkmoon. Instead, I simply ran the scenario included with the core rules, and a few homemade scenarios. Nothing about them strike me as especially inspired in retrospect, but the unique combination of magic and science gave them a distinctive flavour. Indeed, because of the setting's unconventional nature ('science fantasy'), and its familiar 'real world' references (far-future Europe), Hawkmoon was a refreshing change from the Middle-earth campaigns that I had run throughout most of the late 1980s (using ICE's MERP system, of course).

I still own the game, and think about running it again, from time to time. Having lived in Ireland for three years (2005-2008), I would especially be interested in running The Shattered Isle, as it pits Hibernian rebels against the oppressive forces of the malevolent Granbretan Empire (of course, there's more to it than that!). It would be fun to draw on my real life knowledge of the isle (and photographs) to run such a fantasy campaign.

As for Moorcock's character 'Hawkmoon,' I find him to be rather shallow and uninteresting. Instead, I much prefer Corum. Indeed, I find the Corum tales to be superior to those featuring either Elric or Hawkmoon (especially compelling, in my judgement, is the way in which Moorcock draws on Celtic mythology in the second Corum trilogy). Nonetheless, the 'Tragic Millennium' is a great setting: it is familiar yet exotic, and provides ample opportunity for adventure. Moreover, unlike the 'Young Kingdoms,' the players can adventure in the world of Hawkmoon without the knowledge that the whole place is going to be destroyed in a few years hanging over them! Indeed, this difference was the main reason why I picked up Hawkmoon instead of Stormbringer 22 years ago.

26 November 2010

Swords and Wizardry White Box X-mas Sale

Another lazy post...
I thought that I would mention that Brave Halfling Games is having a sale on box sets of the third printing of the 'White Box' version of the Swords & Wizardry RPG (the 'retro-clone' of '0e D&D').

Here is the blurb from the BHP site:

THIRD PRINT EDITION – November 25, 2010.

Fewer Rules, More Imagination!

Prepare to be introduced to the old style of free form gaming! Swords & Wizardry: WhiteBox is inspired by the original 1974 fantasy role-playing game created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. These rules are flexible and open to interpretation – designed not to cover all conceivable situations, but to allow good Referees and Players the freedom to create and play games of their own design.

This Boxed Set Contains everything you need to play:

  • 6″ x 9″ Game Box (This is an actual game box manufactured for just this purpose)
  • Four Rule Booklets (Characters, Spells, Monsters, & Treasures)
  • A digest-sized copy of Matt Finch’s, “Quick Primer for Old-School Gaming”
  • Ten digest-sized Character Sheets
  • Set of Polyhedral Dice
  • Pencil

The First 50 orders will also receive two complementary modules – “The Vile Worm of the Eldritch Oak” & “The Ruins of Ramat!”

I already own a copy of this box set, but I'm tempted to get a second one, given the low price and the fact that the third printing fixes a number of minor typos and mistakes in the earlier printings (I'm somewhat uptight about such things).

18 November 2010

“Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea” Preview

If you look under the ‘Classic D&D links’ on the right side of this blog, you will see a link to a company called ‘Northwind Adventures.’ This company has only one product available so far, ‘The Charnel Crypt of the Sightless Serpent’ (a very fine adventure, as I note here). However, it seems that their rules and setting book, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea,” will be available in early 2011.

Over at the RPGsite, a preview of the contents of AS&SH is provided in this thread. I’ve reproduced this preview here:

Originally Posted by Ghul

What is Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea?

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea is a role-playing game designed by Jeffrey Talanian and illustrated by Ian Baggley. The rules are derived from the works of Gary Gygax and David Arneson. The setting is inspired by the pulp fiction of Robert Ervin Howard, Howard Phillip Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and others.

AS&SH might be classified as a “simulacrum” or “retro-clone” game, but it does not “clone” any specific rules system. While some retro-clones seek to emulate specific traditional systems as closely as possible, AS&SH takes its inspiration from a variety of 0e and 1e related sources; also it is interwoven with its own alternative procedures.

Hyperborea the campaign setting is brimming with locations filled with adventure, conflict, weird horror, and intrigue. It comprises environs, cities, men, and monsters inspired by pulp fiction and mythological resources, but also a mix of traditional RPG monsters hand-picked to best fit the milieu; consequently, describing Hyperborea as “pastiche” might not be inaccurate.

Here follows a brief overview of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea:

Attributes: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma. These attributes are generated using one of five different methods. While attributes can modify a character’s capabilities, these are handled on a flat progression curve. Example: A 16 strength provides +1 “to hit” and +1 damage, 17 strength provides +1/+2, and 18 strength provides +2/+2. On the whole, AS&SH takes a minimalistic approach for handling modifiers to rolls.

Classes: There are four principal character classes.

Fighter: a swordsman, bowman, or other warrior type.

Magician: a sorcerer who studies magical tomes and casts spells.

Cleric: an armed and armoured fighting sorcerer of mystical nature.

Thief: a nimble swordsman possessed of numerous specialty skills.

Subclasses: There are eighteen subclasses.


Barbarian: an outland warrior possessed of feral reflexes and instincts.

Berserker: a rampaging shock trooper renowned for his unbridled battle rage.

Cataphract (Knight): a mail clad horseman and warrior elite.

Paladin: a champion who crusades for Law.

Ranger: a righteous borderland fighter and wilderness warrior.

Warlock: a mail clad fighter who wields steel and sorcery interchangeably.


Illusionist: a sorcerer who manipulates light and evokes illusions and phantasms.

Necromancer: a sorcerer who practices black magic and communicates with the dead.

Pyromancer: a sorcerer who manipulates the elemental power of fire.

Witch: a sorceress who brews potions, divines portents, and lays curses.


Druid: a mystic sorcerer empowered by ancestral, elemental, and animistic spirits.

Monk: a warrior-priest who strives for physical and mental mastery.

Priest: a chaplain mystic sorcerer of enhanced spell casting capacity.

Shaman (Witch Doctor): a primal sorcerer who divines portents and confers with spirits.


Assassin: a thief who specializes in murder and intrigue.

Bard (Skald): a versatile warrior, scholar, sorcerer and word weaver.

Legerdemainist: an adept thief who also commands the power of sorcery.

Scout: a lightly armed explorer, intelligence gatherer, and stealth master.

Alignment: Alignment is governed by the opposing forces of Law (Civilization) and Chaos (Barbarism). Law and Chaos are subdivided by the ethos of Good and Evil. Thus the four alignments of Lawful Good, Lawful Evil, Chaotic Good, and Chaotic Evil define the world view of most intelligent beings, whilst Neutrality forms a nexus of behavioural indifference.

Weapon Skills: Any AS&SH character can use any weapon. However, several classes begin with a favoured weapon list. Learning a weapon that is not on the favoured list may occur at specific level gains. For instance, your low level magician may begin play with dagger, dart, and quarterstaff familiarity, but should he wish to take up the long sword in the future, he may well do so. Fighters and fighter subclasses have weapon mastery, which means they enjoy a +1 “to hit” and +1 damage bonus with player chosen weapons, and also an increased rate of attack.

Armour and Weapons: Includes 10 armour types that are broadly classified in groups of light, medium, and heavy. Medium and heavy armour types provide damage reduction. There are 35 melee weapons and 12 missile weapons from which to choose. Each melee weapon is assigned a “weapon class” which may determine first strike when melee is first engaged; e.g. a long spear wielder (WC 5) will beat short sword wielder (WC 1) when two such combatants first clash.

Sorcery: AS&SH features over 400 spells presented in six spell levels. There are six spell casting schools, including magician, cleric, druid, illusionist, necromancer, pyromancer, and witch. Other spell casting types draw from these lists. For example, the bard draws from the druid and illusionist lists.

Task Resolution: Many character classes have special class abilities that are resolved, for example, by using a d6, a d12, or some other resolution method. For actions not specifically covered by the rules, two different resolution methods are presented: a d6 method in which the referee determines a probability of success (1:6, 2:6, etc.); and an attribute check method in which the attempted action is associated with a specific attribute: 3d6 for a moderate difficulty check, 4d6 for a heroic check, 5d6 for a super-heroic check in which the player must roll at or under the associated attribute.

Time and Movement: Rounds = 10 seconds. Turns = 10 minutes. Movement rules are included for land and sea travel.

Combat: An attack matrix is referenced to determine what AC the modified d20 attack roll hits. The combat sequence features an innovative 5-step phase sequence that covers movement, melee attacks, missile attacks, and magic. At each phase, each side in the battle takes turns, though combat movement is simultaneous, which is to say two respective closing sides will meet in the middle before engaging one another.

There are 21 different combat actions presented. A few require mastery in a specific weapon, some are available only to fighter types, though most others can be attempted by any character. Combat actions include arrow setting, charging throw, disarm, dodge, double arrow shot, firing march, indirect fire, off-hand weapon parry, parry & block, pike hedge, pommel strike, ready shooter, reckless fighting/conservative fighting, recumbent fire, running dodge, saddle fire, shield bind, shield cover for ally, shield wall, spear charge, and two-weapon fighting.

An optional critical hit system presented. It is simple and intuitive. It does not, for example, allow a magician to “crit” as well as the fighter can; i.e. fighters, upon rolling a natural 20 have a greater probability of delivering a larger amount of bonus damage.

Saving Throws: There are five different saving throw categories. Each character has a base saving throw determined by character level. Each character class (fighter, magician, etc.) has modifiers to two of the five saving throw categories. Attributes can also modify some saving throws. For example, Death is a saving throw category that includes death ray, death magic, paralysis, poison, and radiation. A high constitution score can provide a bonus to poison and radiation saves, but not all death saves, per se.

Other Combat: Other combat types include aerial combat, underwater combat, naval combat, and warfare & siege.

The Hyperborea Campaign Setting: The setting is treated in full, though brevity is paramount; this intended to provide the referee with digestible chunks of information and leaving plenty of room for individual development. That is to say, it is my belief that a campaign setting should not be the game designer’s attempt to satisfy the urge to write a fantasy novel. The Hyperborea setting includes a brief history, calendar, physical geography, position in the heavens, climate & seasons, and population examination.

Hyperborea is a hexagonal shaped flat-earth campaign setting with a diameter of about 3,200 miles. It is hemmed in by the boreas (North Wind) beyond which lies the illimitable Black Gulf (space). The map for Hyperborea is a large, hex based (each hex = 24 miles) affair developed by cartographer Andreas Claren.

There are nine races of men. These are Common (men of mixed ancestry), Amazon, Atlantean, Esquimaux, Hyperborean, Ixian, Kelt, Kimmerian, Pict, and Viking.

The deities of Hyperborea are a non-pantheon mix of otherworldly beings that include Apep, Apollo, Artemis, Aurorus, Boreas, Helios, Kraken, Krimmr, Kthulhu, Lunnaqqua, Mordezzan, Rel, Thaumagorga, Tlakk-Nakka, Ullr, Xathhoqqua, Yikkorth, Ymir, Yoon’Deh, Ythaqqa, and Yug.

Bestiary: Nearly 200 monsters are included, these inspired by the pulp fiction creations of noted authors as well as a liberal selection of traditional RPG monsters hand-picked to best fit this sword-and-sorcery milieu.

Magic & Treasure: A listing of magic weapons and items that might be found in the course of adventuring, including some displaced high-tech items such as ray guns, etc.

Final Word: AS&SH draws close to completion, and should see publication by early 2011. The preceding information does not cover the entire scope of the rules and setting. I have tried to touch on some of the points that may be of interest to the reader. I am willing to answer questions on any of the above, including that which may have been excluded in this summary. As the final beta is soon to go out to my readers and idea contributors, some of the preceding may be altered before final publication. As I continue to gather printer quotes (admittedly, an exercise in frustration), the final physical format is not yet set in stone. I prefer a boxed set over a hardcover (with map insert), but there is much to consider. A final decision should be made by the end of 2010.


Jeff Talanian

Although I’m not really in the market for yet another FRPG based on D&D/AD&D – I already own all of the original games, most of the ‘retro-clones,’ and, in any case, am feeling somewhat ‘burnt out’ with such systems these days – I have to say that this variant looks quite intriguing.

Far more intriguing, though, is the setting: author Jeff Talanian’s version of ‘Hyperborea.’

Talanian (a.k.a. ‘Ghul’) worked with Gary Gygax on the two best ‘Castle Zagyg’ products: Castle Zagyg: The East Mark Gazetteer, and Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works. So he certainly has excellent ‘old school’ credentials. I look forward to reading his vision of ‘swords & sorcery’ fantasy!

And the art by (fellow Torontonian) Ian Baggley looks simply stunning – as the picture at the top of this post attests.

25 October 2010

In Limbo...

... is where this blog will be for at least a week, as I'm swamped with 'real life' matters (travel, work, etc.).

21 October 2010

Clockwork and Chivalry Reviews

I’ve been working my way through the core Clockwork and Chivalry book over the past couple of weeks, and I think that this is the best new setting for any RPG in years.

But don’t take my word for it. Read this review of the core book.

There also are now reviews of the first two adventure modules for the setting: The Alchemist’s Wife and Though Shalt Not Suffer.

I can hardly wait until this guy makes an appearance in a C&C adventure:

Hopefully the lives of the characters will not be too "poor, nasty, brutish, and short"!

17 October 2010

Resurrection Survival Roll Failed

Alas, it would seem that the recent resurrection of the Classic D&D fanzine ODDITIES is to be short-lived. L

But it in its place we have Tales From the Dusty Vault, a blog with high-quality reviews of the products of the OSR. J

13 October 2010

17th Century Oxford Space Programme

I mentioned in an earlier post my fascination with 17th Century England, especially the Civil War era. This fascinating article describes the views of one Dr John Wilkins, a 17th Century Oxonian scientist, on a possible lunar mission. Here is a short excerpt:
Incredible as it may seem, one of the greatest scientific minds of the time, Dr John Wilkins, a founder of the Royal Society, was planning his own lunar mission four centuries ago around the time of the English Civil War.

It wasn’t hot air either. Inspired by the great voyages of discovery around the globe by Columbus, Drake and Magellan, Dr Wilkins imagined that it would just be another small step to reach the Moon.

Wilkins, who was a brother-in-law of Oliver Cromwell, explored the possibilities in two books. Records show he began exploring prototypes for spaceships, or flying chariots as he called them, to carry the astronauts.

The Jacobean space programme, as Oxford science historian Dr Allan Chapman calls it, flourished because this was a golden period for science. Huge discoveries had been made in geography, astronomy and anatomy. Seventeenth century scientists were riding a wave.

I wonder if the thoughts of Dr Wilkins on space travel form the basis for the forthcoming 'Quintessence' Clockwork & Chivalry adventure module? Below is the cover for that module (from here).

17th Century gentlemen journeying to the Moon, clashing with hostile native 'Selenites'? Sounds like good fun!

09 October 2010

Fight On! Number 10 now available...

A very lazy post from yours truly to announce simply that issue 10 of Fight On! is now available.

Here is the cool blurb from Calithena (with the relevant links inserted):
Once again, Fight On! returns to unscroll the Runes of Chaos and conjure the mighty titans of yesteryear! Dedicated to Tom Moldvay, this BIG issue contains three BIG undercities and lost worlds by Gabor Lux, James Mishler, and Chris Robert, right alongside the rules supplements, mini-adventures and modules, villages, one-page dungeons, spells, monsters, NPCs, tricks, traps, geomorphs, reviews, and tables you've come to know, love, and expect from our fantastic fanzine. Illustriously illustrated by Patrick Farley, Jennifer Weigel, Lester, Kelvin Green, Jason Sholtis, Peter Mullen, Mark Allen, Anthony Stiller, Steve Robertson, and more; puissantly penned by Jeff Rients, Calithena, Jerry Stratton, Tim Snider, Geoff McKinney, Patrice Crespy, Peter Schmidt Jensen, Paul Stormberg, Geoffrey O. Dale, Tim Kask, and a whole gang of garrulous grognards trying to take it (their PC, that is) to the next level. We hope you'll roll the bones on this issue and check it out - but either way, keep Fighting On!

You can check out the print version

the EBook

...or check the link in my sig for the whole store and all the issues of the magazine from beginning to present. Also, look out for our first fantasy fiction anthology, Roll the Bones, due out this Fall (Halloween? Could happen…) Here’s the TOC to whet your appetite:

Table of Contents
Fast Company (Alex Schroeder)…………………………...3
Wear and Tear (Mátyás “Urban” Hartyándi)....…………….5
Catwomen and Lion-Men (Calithena)…………...….….…..5
The Time-Displaced (Tim “Sniderman” Snider)…....…..….7
Cult Leader (Lee Reynoldson)……………………………..9
The Familiar Spirit (James A. Smith)……...……………...11
Knights & Knaves (Duncan Jones & Sean Still)…..…...…14
Khosura, Part II (Gabor Lux)………………...………….15
Killing Monsters You Can’t Kill (Jeff Rients)……...……..39
Creepies & Crawlies (various)…………….………...……40
The Godzillas Will Breath On You (Geoff McKinney)…..43
Futa-kuchi-onna (Ian & Andrew Baggley)…...….…….….47
Urgent Care Cleric (Jonathan Linneman & Kelvin Green).48
Education of a Magic-User (Douglas Cox)……………….49
Trolls will be Trolls (Heron Prior)……………………..…50
Time For Tea (Clarabelle Chong)…….…………...…...…51
Heart of Darkness (Lord Kilgore)…………………...…...52
Laboratory of the Asmodean Techno-Mage (P. Mullen)....53
Special Properties of Gemstones (Wayne Rossi)……...….54
The Coinage of Ilthar (Calithena)………………...………55
Artifacts, Adjuncts, & Oddments (various)……….……...56
Lost Dragonia (James Mishler)…………………….......…57
Tables for Fables (Age of Fable)………………………....79
Weird Treasure Containers (Telecanter)……………...…..81
Moldvay-esque Adventure Generator (Michael David, Jr.).81
Dungeon Modules (Geoffrey O. Dale)……..……….……82
Hobgoblin Halls (Joshua Mackay)………………………..83
The Shrine that Glittered (Patrice Crespy)………………..86
Moulin Rouge 1955 (Jerry Stratton)……………………....94
Random’s Assortment (Thinker, Random, and Jensen)…..98
The Darkness Beneath (Chris Robert)……………….….100
Merlyn’s Mystical Mirror (Hargrove/Hewlett/Pookie)….121
Everyone is Here to Have Fun (Paul Stormberg)…….…129
One-Off Con Adventures (Tim Kask)……………….....133
Dougal Must Die! (Steve Robertson)………...……..…...135
Dungeon Geomorphs (Tim Ballew)……………...……..137
Looks awesome, as usual!

And, interestingly (given my current BRP quasi-obsession), it looks like issue 11 will be focused on RuneQuest...

08 October 2010

Swords and Wizardry 'Complete Version' Preview

A few weeks ago Mythmere Games and Frog God Games announced that they would be producing a new, expanded version of 'Swords & Wizardry' -- namely, a 'Complete' version (see here.)

At that time, the fellow in charge of S&W, Matt Finch, noted that the following things would be included in the 'Complete' version:
It includes the ranger from SR, the paladin, thief, druid, assassin - character classes from the supplements. Still no illusionist, though, which was disappointing, but the SR illusionist just couldn't legally be duplicated. The game still runs on the 0e rules, not 1e. It includes two optional alternative order of combat systems in addition to the standard one from the WhiteBox era: the one from the Holmes Blue Book and one that's based on the EW system. Those are the main differences, although there are little things like adding strength modifiers to the amount of weight that can be carried, ala Supplement 1, etc. Virtually all of the additions are in the player section, not the referee section. It's compatible with the Core Rules, and the Core Rules will stay in place as the archetypal "three class" system.
One especially nice thing is that our Druid class description is written by Dennis Sustare (the original author who invented the druid character class - think, "Chariot of").
We now have some additional information from Matt on what will be included:
Here's the basic scoop, though I may have forgotten something:
Siege rules
Aerial combat
Mass combat (already there)
Naval combat

Order of combat - splits movement and attacks, but very close to Core Rules
Holmes Basic order of combat as an option
Eldritch Wizardry order of battle method (revised) as an option (rotating initiative based on what characters are wearing and doing)
Core Rules order of combat as option

More descriptions of things like wolfsbane
Wilderness adventuring, including getting lost, and monster encounter tables
Dungeon encounter charts now have specific monsters instead of just a CL listing
Dungeon encounter charts can also be used to generate mixes of different monsters (the orcs have a pet gelatinous cube! Run!)

No more wild boards in the monster listing

Building strongholds - prices for walls and keeps and such
Original saving throw numbers are listed as a chart in a side-box in case people want to use those.
Can't remember what else.
(Original post here.)

This all sounds great to me. I can hardly wait to see the final product! (Even if I do seem somewhat fixated on BRP-powered games these days.)

07 October 2010

OpenQuest Middle-earth?

I’ve long been a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth (as evidenced by past posts like this one and this one). I’m also a (relatively new) fan of the d100 game OpenQuest (see, for instance, my comments here).

Recently I’ve been wondering about possibly using OpenQuest to run a Middle-earth campaign. However, it looks like I need not expend the effort of revising the OQ rules to do so, as Kristian Richards already has combined Middle-earth peanut butter with OpenQuest chocolate in his ‘The Age of Shadow.’

Yes, the setting is not ‘officially’ set in Middle-earth, but it clearly is inspired by that world, and especially the tales of its First Age, as detailed by the good Professor in The Silmarillion. (As an aside, I don’t see any reason why the rules could not be used for campaigns set in later ages of Middle-earth.)

So if you like Middle-earth and OpenQuest (or any other BRP/d100 game), check out The Age of Shadow! (Hat tip: Sorcerer Under Mountain.)

(Above is another amazing picture by the late, great Angus McBride. It depicts Celebrimbor forging a ring of power in the mid-Second Age.)

01 October 2010

The BRP Renaissance

The ‘Old School Renaissance’, at least with respect to D&D and AD&D, is a well known and (by now) a well-established phenomenon within our strange little hobby.

However, it seems that the gaming community is in the midst of another renaissance, namely, a renaissance of ‘Basic Role-playing’ (‘BRP’) or ‘d100’ games and settings.

BRP-based games never ceased being published altogether by (at least one) professional RPG company, unlike ‘classic’ D&D and AD&D (0e, Basic, and 1e). And even though Chaosium, like many other RPG companies, had a ‘near death’ experience during the 1990s, it never actually went under.

Impressively, Chaosium’s role-playing games always have been ‘powered’ by BRP, the essentials of which have remained largely unchanged for three decades now.

Things looked pretty grim for Chaosium and BRP early in the twenty-first century. As far as I know, the only BRP-based role-playing games still being published were Call of Cthulhu and Stormbringer (5th edition). (Although I believe that Pendragon also saw sporadic support.) Stormbringer was barely supported. Only one supplement was produced for it during the 0s, namely, the superb Corum book from Darcsyde Productions. (Although Elric! supplements were fully compatible with Stormbringer 5e, those all had been produced during the 1990s.)

These days, though, things look dramatically improved for BRP!

Chaosium published a complete ‘core book’ for BRP in 2008. It includes the core BRP rules, as well as most of the optional rules found in various BRP games and supplements published by Chaosium over its long history.

Call of Cthulhu, of course, continues to be supported by Chaosium, as well as some other companies, such as Goodman Games.

Alphetar Games has published a number of books for BRP, including what I believe must be the best single RPG book on ‘Rome’ ever published.

Cubicle Seven has just come out with The Laundry RPG (as well as a few CoC books). I recently purchased The Laundry PDF, and my first impression of it is very favourable indeed. I’ve only read Charlie Stross’s first Laundry book, but I liked it very much, and plan to read the rest in the series. It strikes me as a great setting for a (not-fully-serious) CoC-flavoured game. (Alas, Yog-Sothoth only knows when I’ll be able to give the Laundry RPG a proper read…)

And although out of print, most of Chaosium’s back catalogue of Stormbringer (first and fourth editions), Elric!, and Hawkmoon materials are now available in PDF (thanks to an arrangement with Mongoose Games).

Then we have Mongoose Games’ RuneQuest II. My impression is that Mongoose’s first attempt to resurrect RuneQuest was something less than a ringing success. I know that I decided against purchasing anything for MRQ when I skimmed through the initial book. Subsequent reviews confirmed my early negative judgement. Moreover, Mongoose’s long record of poor editing and spotty quality control in their books made me decide against giving MRQ a shot.

However, based on some favourable initial reports, I decided to give Mongoose’s second effort at RuneQuest a shot. I’m very glad that I did, as the core book avoided the usual Mongoose missteps. Moreover, the system looks very, very well designed. I think that Lawrence Whitaker and Pete Nash did an excellent job! (Sadly, I suspect that MRQII is too ‘rules heavy’ for my regular players. But perhaps I might eventually convince them to give it a shot…)

Probably my favourite new BRP setting produced in recent years is Clockwork & Chivalry – a MRQII campaign book published by Cubicle 7 that describes an ‘alternative history’ version of 17th Century England. I drooled in anticipation over this setting in this post. Now that I’ve received the book and looked through it, I believe that my earlier enthusiasm has been entirely vindicated.

Last – but certainly not least! – there is RuneQuest’s ‘lighter’ and ‘simpler’ cousin OpenQuest, written and supported by a friend of this blog, Newt Newport. I’ve raved about OQ in past posts here, so I shall refrain from doing so again now. However, interested readers may want to look at my comparison of MRQII and OQ.

So, lots of cool things are available for BRP these days! Among them:

· The glorious golden BRP corebook from Chaosium

· The usual wide range of Call of Cthulhu material

· The brand new Laundry RPG

· Mongoose’s RuneQuest II

· The Clockwork & Chivalry Setting for MRQII

· OpenQuest

For such an old system, BRP looks to be in surprisingly good health! J

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
I'm a Canadian political philosopher who lives primarily in Toronto but teaches in Milwaukee (sometimes in person, sometimes online).