Arcane Game Lore

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A Trollers Guide to the Stirge

stirge_coverI would say that it was nice to take a week off, but I was just working on other things (of which I will post later today). I have always loved stirges since running myself through the B Solo quest Ghost of Lion Castle.

Over the years, some of my characters have been deathly afraid of stirges and surprised everyone when they go running from the room in fear. It is always great fun and interesting when others (especially the GM) discover caveats about your character that they were unaware of.

Now you can take your handy trollers guide with you into the Underdark to hunt these pesky vermin and perhaps earn a little gold in the process.

#dnd #dnd5e #dungeonsanddragons #rpg #ttrpg #tabletopgames

bsolo1


Goblyn Chlamys of Gloam

Chlamys of Gloam

Goblyns are an interesting race. I feel they have come more into the accepted society of late. R.A. Salvatore wrote a story on how Drizzt encountered a goblin and it echoed of his own life story. In my world, goblyns are actually cousins of gnomes and generally live under large cities doing the work the other races don’t care for.

Here is one of the magic items goblyns have learned to make.

https://www.patreon.com/posts/goblyn-chlamys-36316324

#dnd #dnd5e #dungeonsanddragons #rpg #ttrpg #tabletopgaming


Advantage vs. Boon

Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) introduced us to a new mechanic called ‘Advantage’. It significantly changes the way I play the game and it makes the game faster and more enjoyable. Instead of calculating and pluses or minuses based on various rules to give your character as much primacy, which I am using in place of the word advantage, in any given situation, a character simply shifts to an advantageous or disadvantageous situation. To use Advantage, you merely roll two D20s take the better of the two rolls. It’s a fairly elegant solution and saves lots of time, but it seems to have lost its luster to me.

Recently, I came across ‘Shadows of the Demon Lord’ a near-apocalyptic dark fantasy game by Robert J. Schwalb. In the system, they use boons and banes. Plus or minus 1d6 added to your d20 roll that adjusts your die roll. I like the idea of this because you can have as many boons or banes that can be justified. You only get to keep the highest d6, so having multiples is beneficial, but you still top out at 6. I’m curious as to how this would play out in a game instead of the standard D&D Advantage rules.


Happy New Year 2019

Bright Moons Walker,

Every year I try to do a New Years Resolution Resolution for gaming. In addition, this year I have created Core Values by which to focus my attention. For those that have not looked into Core Values, I was influenced by James Clear’s article entitled Let Your Values Drive Your Choices. His take on core values and doing an integrity report hit home with me and I am hoping it will drive me more to be more productive in the coming year.

Here is a list of my Core Values.

  1. Authenticity – Authenticity is difficult for me. I often feel that I am not being authentic and have ulterior motives. For example, when I create something for gaming, my hope is to make money off of it. I feel that if I state this publicly, then people would not want to purchase my material. I feel it is better to just be open and if people support my hobby, great. If not, that is fine too. I hope by being transparent, I can feel better about my choices.
  2. Contribution – I like the idea of being part of a greater whole, but like many, I am introverted and hold many of my ideas to myself. I have become opinionated and somewhat of a grognard among my friends. I hope that I can contribute to an RPG community.
  3. Responsibility – To hold myself accountable to carry through on what I start. I used to be very motivated to write gaming material, but never to the point of polish and then share it with others. I think thank in order to complete some task, I need to take responsibility for my own work. As some of my friends know, responsibility is one of my lowest strength. Not because I am not responsible, but because I can see when the responsibility belongs to someone else and it relieves me of having to do it. I would like to take more of that responsibility back and continue when others are unable to assist, or it appears low on my priorities.
  4. Community – Along with contribution, I would like to be part of a community. This seems counter to making your hobby your business. I hope that I can overcome this goal and be more outgoing so that I can reach a balance between the two.
  5. Creativity – I have very strong ideas on how things should be in particular settings/games. I am told that I am a very creative person, but I feel that I fairly set in what I believe. I hope to expand my creativity in new ways so that items that I would normally rail against (grognard mode) I can embrace and perhaps glean new ideas.
  6. Happiness – As hard as it was to narrow down my list of Core Values; and I could not leave out happiness. It is my hope that I can regain some of that wonder I had for gaming when I was young. This is probably my most important Core Value, as we all want to be happy. Too often I see how others play and I get agitated because I think they are playing wrong, even when I believe there is no wrong way to play. I hope I can be a better gamer and be happy in the moment then dwell on how I feel the game should be played.

Well, there it is, my Core Values, posted for anyone to call me out on. We will see at the end of the year how my integrity report fills out (if I can stick with it this year). And Now for my new year’s resolutions. Some of these are repeats from years past, intermixed with what I would like now.

Grayven’s Gaming Resolution

  1. MMO Less.
  2. Blog more often
  3. Buy something from a local game store
  4. Create more on Patreon
  5. Read a book
  6. Try a new game
  7. Paint more minis
  8. Organize my miniatures
  9. Take my boys to a convention
  10. Create an epic Dragon Slaying Scenario

I did not elaborate on these but intend to share these as I accomplish them. I hope you all have a great new year with many adventures and close calls. As always, take what you like and leave the rest for the next traveler.


The Trollers Guild

the-boy-who-was-never-afraid

I introduced the party to the Trollers Guild. A group of specialized adventurers that go “trolling”. Hunting down creatures for parts is big business in my game. Troll livers are required for making potions of healing, but each potion requires special ingredients. I am planning on making a list of special ingredients that characters can go hunting for to have potions made.
Image: The Boy Who Could Not Be Scared by John Bauer


Role Playing Game Systems

So I have always liked tinkering with game mechanics. I was recently watching a live stream of Matt Coleville when he said something that stuck with me. He said D&D is a robust system for making games. I don’t particularly like the D20 system. I have said that D&D will always hold a special place in my heart, but I don’t necessarily think the system is the best. It’s just easy to learn and they are a lot of resources and players.
Making a system and a setting seems doomed from the start, I have a copy of the Azamar game that I bought into the Kickstarter, I have yet play the game. I don’t see a lot of stuff out there about it, so it seems more of a labor of love than anything else. That being said, kickstarter does provide a venue to get stuff created.

Matt’s Strongholds boom was wildly successful, but he has a number of people in the online gaming circuit to help promote his brand. I didn’t buy into the kickstarter cause I wasn’t convinced I would ever use it, but I digress.

My main point is, do you create a setting based in a known system in hopes of pulling in people with familiarity? Or do you create a whole new game? The new Narrative Dice system is getting a lot of talk now because Fantasy Flight created the system for the new Star wars game. Which means they had a fan base to pull people into the system. They are now releasing it with Terrinoth, which is a world based on the Descent games. So they can pull those people in. I think its a great marketing scheme and hope that it does well. Pathfinder used D&D 3.5 and was also successful.

There are other systems out there that are ‘open licence’, The Open D6 system that Azamar uses was the original Star Wars system from West End games in the 80s. Action! by gold rush games has been out for a while, but I see very little about this. The question is, does one create something new, or just use one of these systems?


Spell: Aetheric Spear

So, I decided to try and do something to force me to post to the blog more. Something small, but distinct. I am trying to come up with some new modular magic rules and listing a bunch of spell names. As such, I decided to try and create a D&D version of the spell. None of these are tested and could very well be game breaking, but I try to balance them with some give and take.


 

Aetheric Spear

1st-level evocation
Casting Time: 1 reaction
Range: 120 feet
Components: V S
Duration: Instantaneous
When you are hit with a spell, you absorb some of the magical energy, transforming it into glowing spear of aethereal energy which you redirect back at your attacker. The spear does 1d6 points of force damage, and you reduce the amount of damage taken by that amount. The spear only hits the caster of the original spell A spear deals 1d6 force damage.

At Higher Levels: The spell creates one more spear for each slot above 1st.

Author’s Note: Aether was considered one of the greek elements. This spell is to try and capture that idea. It is an energy that permeates the world and helps spurs transformation.


D&D Creature: Splinter Wolf

Splinter Wolf

Splinterwolf
Large beast, unaligned

Splinter wolves are mysterious brasts believed to be created by an eclectic arch-wizard. They appear to be normal wolves that have grown to unusual size, but have strange crystal splinters growing out of their skin. Encountering a splinter wolf is rare, and there are many stories where a splinter wolf simply bounded away. They have been seen alone or in packs, but do not follow the same habits as normal wolves. Some rangers have tried to capture and train the beasts, but this has proven to be ineffective.

 


- Armor Class 14 (Natural Armor)
- Hit Points 37 (5d10+10)
- Speed 50 ft.


STR 17 (+3)
DEX 15 (+2)
CON 15 (+2)
INT 3 (-4)
WIS 12 (+1)
CHA 7 (-2)


- Skills Perception +3, Stealth +4
- Senses passive Perception 13
- Challenge 1 (200 XP)


Actions
- Bite: 1d20 + 5 2d6+3
- Shard spike: 1d20 +4, 1d6+2 DC 14 Wisdom save or be stunned until the end of their next turn.


Random Encounters: Umbergritt the Archon

Umbergritt was an earth elemental that was summoned to the fight in the Eternity Coliseum, a pit fighting establishment that prided itself on exotic opponents. Slated as a novice fight, Umbergritt was the surprise upset against three mid-ranked gladiators. Slowly, fight after fight, Umbergritt began to understand the coliseum and human ways. He mastered human showmanship and became a favored fighter in the coliseum, which was just an underground cavern with illusion spells to make look more grand. Umbergritt was very content until he was forced to fight a Galeb Duhr. He had never been pitted against his brethren and had no desire to fight him.

This angered Amiaonan Jesit, the owner of the Eternity Coliseum. He ordered several creatures released to fight Umbergritt and the Galeb Duhr. By the end of the fight, the Galeb Duhr lay dead and Umbergritt understood the human’s capacity for hate and pain. Umbergritt broke through the coliseum walls and escaped the coliseum. Amiaonan ordered Umbergritt’s capture a placed a high bount for his return.

Perhaps the party comes across Umbergritt in the wild and decides to help the elemental escape his hunters or the party is hired by Amiaonan to capture one of his prized combatants.

deckFor a while, I have had an old D&D second edition product called the Deck of Encounters. I have used quiet extensively to good results. In a nutshell the deck is just a number of index cards with a short synopsis of an encounter. It doesn’t give you many specifics as to the history of the individuals in the encounter, just what they are doing at the time of being encountered. There are number of other things to help placement, like the habitat, player level, climate, encounter type, etc. These can take your game in unforeseen directions that you, as a game master, has not planned for. In an effort to elaborate on that, I am going to try to emulate this series from time to time and put up random encounters that come to mind.


Review – Print on Demand Hardcovers of Star Frontiers Rules

Okay, I said I wasn’t going to buy any more of the PDFs but I never said anything about the physical, print-on-demand versions.  At least I resisted and didn’t buy them immediately.  I waited until a few people had posted pictures on-line. :-)

In this post I’m going to look at the hardcover, print-on-demand versions of the Star Frontiers Alpha Dawn and Knight Hawks rules available from DriveThruRPG.  We’ll look at their layout, production quality, and how they compare to the originals.  There are lots of pictures and each one is linked to a large high resolution version if you click on them.  This is going to be a long post so settle in and let’s get started!

Exteriors

Side by side comparions of original boxes and new hardcoversThe image to the right shows the two hardcovers side by side with the original boxed sets that they contain the contents of.  These particular boxed sets are my “third” copies.  My originals are almost completely thrashed as I’ve been using them for over 30 years and I left my “second” copies, which are nearly pristine, where they were.

The Alpha Dawn cover is a near perfect reproduction of the AD box set cover.  It should be noted that this isn’t the original cover – you can see that at this link.  This version of the cover was introduced to match the styling of the Knight Hawks cover when it was released and it makes sense that they kept with this version for these products.

The Knight Hawks cover has some variations from the box cover.  First, the color of the Knight Hawks title is lighter on the hardcover.  Also, the text on the book, both above and below the picture, call out that this is an expansion to the Alpha Dawn game.  The text on the box doesn’t make that distinctions.  Finally, the TSR logo is slightly different.  Now the reason for this is that there were actually two different printings.  The boxed set I have is most likely the original.  And then TSR realized there might be some confusion and reworked the cover to make the expansion nature of Knight Hawks explicit.  My other two boxed sets actually have covers that match to hardcover book.  I actually never realized there was a difference until I started writing this up.  Looks like I need to stash away this boxed set as well.

Contents

Alpha Dawn

Opening up the book, all the material from the boxed set is included in the following order:  Basic Rules, Expanded Rules, SF0: Crash on Volturnus module, the maps, and finally the counters.

Comparison of covers of the basic rule setThe picture to the right shows the cover of the Basic rules in the hardback (left) and the original (right).  The color in the hardback isn’t as rich and vibrant as the original but that due to the fact that it is non-glossy and that they used the Standard Color option to keep the cost down.  This is true for all the book covers.

The book is laid out exactly like the originals:  cover, inside cover, content, inside back cover, back cover for both the Basic and Expanded games rules.  The printing on the inside covers are blue just like in the originals as you can see in the picture to the right which shows the last page and inside back cover of the Expanded Rules book.  The original is at the top and the new one at the bottom.  You can see the aging of the original as it is a bit yellow.  The rest of the book, just like the originals, is in black and white.

The layout of the module is slightly different since the cover of the module consisted of a pair of two page maps, one on the inside and one on the outside.  The image to the right shows the reproduction of the outside cover map (bottom), the deck plan of the Serena Dawn spaceship, compared to the original (top).  The one reproduced in the book is just slightly shrunk compared to the original to make sure it fit in the margins of book.  Of course since it is bound into the book, you can’t pull it out and use it on the table, but that’s to be expected.  Otherwise, the pages of the module are presented in order with the center pages, that in the saddle-stitched module were designed to be removed as handouts, right were they were in the original printing.

Next we come to the maps.  The next picture shows the big city map as compared to the one reproduced in the book.  Obviously it wasn’t going to be possible to reproduce a 24×36 inch map in a 8.5×11 inch book so it is significantly shrunk down. Otherwise, the color and quality of this reproduction is great.  (If you want a full sized version to print, I created a remastered, digital version that you can use.)

After the big city map, the book contains all of the little maps from the back of the city map.  These maps were mostly a single panel, approximately the size of a sheet of paper so they fit nicely into the book.  However, they did have to be shrunk down just slightly to fit.  The image to right shows a pair of the maps in the book compared to the ones on the original poster map.  If you want a digital copy of the one two-page map from the back of the poster, which represents a small compound and is used in the module SF1: Volturnus Planet of Mystery, you can grab one I made on the Frontier Explorer website.

Finally, we have the counters.  This is a single page at the back of the hardcover (left) that reproduces the counter sheet (right).  My counter sheet from this “third” set is missing a few counters.  This is the one reproduction that isn’t actually shrunk.  The counters are the same size in the book as there original sheet.  Of course they are just printed on paper instead of cardboard.

Knight Hawks

The interior of the Knight Hawks book is very similar to the Alpha Dawn book.  It starts with the Tactical Operations Manual, which contains the rules for the boardgame and ship combat, then the Campaign Book, with contains the RPG rules for starships, then the SFKH0: The Warriors of White Light module, then the maps and counters.

However, they made a few layout choices that seem a little strange.  I actually called this out in the review of the Knight Hawks PDFs I did a while back.  This is nearly just a reproduction of that layout in printed form. Instead of putting the pages in the same order they appear in the originals like they do in the Alpha Dawn book (cover, inside cover, content, inside back cover, back cover), the first two books are present in a slightly different order: cover, back cover, content, inside front cover, inside back cover.  I found this really strange.

Just like the module in the Alpha Dawn rules, the cover of the module included in the Knight Hawks set consists of a pair of two page maps.  In this book those are presented after the module text instead of before it.

The poster map included in Knight Hawks consisted of two full sized maps, one of just a giant hex grid for starship battles and the other containing a deck plan for part of a space station and two sets of deck plans for assault scouts.  Both of these maps are shrunk down to fit into the book just like the big city map from the Alpha Dawn set.  They are good to reference but you can really use them.  Hex maps are fairly easy to come by if you need them and if you want remastered versions of the station or assault scout deck plans (blue, green), there are version I’ve created which you can print and use as needed.

Finally, there is a page that reproduces the counters from the Knight Hawks game at full scale.

Print Quality

Overall, I was quite happy with the print quality.  It’s obvious that these are reproductions from scans but the product pages on DriveThruRPG explicitly say that so you know what you are getting.  Despite that, the printing is crisp and clean and easy to read.  The art is well produced and clean as well.  The image to the right shows a typical page from the books (bottom) compared to the original (top).  This particular page is from the Basic Rules book.

My older copy has yellowed with age and the new one is crisp and white.  The one thing I did notice is that the margins in the new one are a bit smaller than the original.  There isn’t quite as much white space around the text in the hardcovers.  It’s not an issue but after looking at the originals for 30+ years, it is something I noticed immediately upon opening the book.  This is also more true for the Alpha Dawn book than the Knight Hawks one.  The margins in the latter are much closer to the originals.

Some people have posted pictures on-line of some alignment issues of the printed pages where the text was right up against the top of the page with no margin at all.  I specifically checked the pages in question and my copies didn’t have any issues.  So either there was a problem in the original PDFs supplied to the printer for printing which have been fixed or those particular copies just suffered from a bad print in the print-on-demand process.  My copies are clean and consistent all the way through as far as I can tell. (I thumbed through them but didn’t look at every page.)

For the maps that span two pages in the hardcover, whether they were the large ones shrunk down or the two page maps from the module covers, are laid out properly so that nothing is cut off in the binding margin.  This is just the faintest bit of white space between the pages so you can see everything that is on the map, nothing is missing.  I was quite happy to see that they went to the effort to get that binding margin size correct.

This is only the second hardcover print-on-demand product I’ve ever ordered from DriveThruRPG (the first were the Player’s and Referee’s Manual for FrontierSpace) so I can’t comment on how well the binding will hold up but it looks fairly solid.  And to be honest, these won’t see a lot of use.  I still use my original copies from when I was 12 and these will mainly sit on my shelf as collector’s items.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I was quite happy with the printed books given how they were created and what they were trying to reproduce.  The only thing I’d really change is the page ordering in the Knight Hawks book so that the covers and inside cover pages were in the correct order.  Otherwise the books were fine.

The price was reasonable as well.  The Alpha Dawn book was $29.99 which, if you adjust for inflation, is effectively the same price as the original $12 I paid for the boxed set back in 1984.  The Knight Hawks book is only $19.99 so it’s an even better deal.

If you are going to order these, I recommend spending the additional $2 to get the PDF versions as well if you don’t have them.  The reason (beyond having PDFs of the books) is for the digital files of the maps.  All of the two page maps from the module covers are reproduced in the the digital files as single maps.  The big poster maps are not all stitched together in the PDFs but I’ve already recreated those (links above) so that’s not really a worry.  And you get digital versions of all the small maps from the back of the city map in the Alpha Dawn set.

So if you don’t have the rules and want a hardback set, or just want a copy for nostalgia’s sake, these are a solid product.

Did you grab a copy?  What were your impressions?  Let us know in the comments below.