Monday, 14 November 2011

Review: The New Death and Others

This is going to be an odd review not because I am going to write strange stuff but due to the genre this book belongs to. It's not an adventure, a rules supplement or a role playing rules system... it's an anthology of short stories and poems. On the other hand, inside the 94 pages of this book there is some obvious role playing gamer-interest material incorporating in horror or fantasy stuff, so "The New Death And Others" is a product I have to review in Beasts & Dwellers blog nevertheless. I am not going to criticize the talent of the writer, but the inspiration this book may offer to the role players. And personally, as a Dungeon Master, I think that James Hutchings pleasantly surprised me.

"The New Death And Others" has some great ideas inside. Mr. Hutchings has an extremely creative mind and passion for writing. I fell in love with his poems based on well-known stories like "Under the Pyramids" (H. P. Lovecraft) or "The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune" (Robert E. Howard), but ever the shortest stories like "The God and the Poor" (it's just 16 lines!) offer an enjoyable reading. Some of the stories will make you smile with their humorous approach and others will give you a grimace. Some tales are light and some others more serious. And that's the strongest point of this book: variety! Everyone shall find something for his likings in "The New Death And Others".

In the pdf version I own the text is clear, the formatting does nicely its job and there are links for every story for fast switching. The cover illustration is magnificent and incorporates the main characteristics of the book: a taste of macabre and a lot of humor.

I have enjoyed reading this book. I fell in love with the twist endings and the strange characters. Make yourself a present and get it for just $0.99 from Amazon or Smashwords... it should cost more for what it is offering!

(Special thanks goes to the writer, James Hutchings, for sending me a copy of his great work.)

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Pathfinder Beginner Box Revealed!

It seems like a nice product. I always liked intro boxes and this one is full of nice stuff. Can't wait for it!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Review: Lamentations of the Flame Princess (Grindhouse Edition)

I am a huge fan of old school role playing games. I love them. I adore them. "Lamentations of the Flame Princess" got my attention on first sight. I don't know if it was because of the great art or the odd title (no more "Monsters & Heroes"-like titles please… ok, except Beasts & Dwellers!), but I knew I had to buy it. And I got it immediately!

Ah! I mentioned… art! It's SICK! SICK! SICK AND GRUESOME! And I adore it! I have seen great "R-rated" art in "Vampire: The Masquerade" and "Call of Cthulhu" books but "Lamentations of the Flame Princess" is far beyond them. It's magnificent and… not for the weak!

"Lamentations of the Flame Princess" (LOTFP from now on) comes in a sturdy box including 3 books, a pack of tiny dice (I love them!) and 10 character sheets.

The first book called "Tutorial" is a great introduction to old school role playing games. There is a nice introduction and advice to new and old players alike. It includes two solo adventures: the first is quite simple introducing some basic concepts and the second is more of a "choose your path" adventure with an intriguing story, fights and enough of exploration (I played it twice… died during my first attempt!). There is also a 20-page (yes, TWENTY!) actual role playing experience that is well written and offers an enjoyable reading. The book ends with a nice chapter full of recommendations for known and lesser known authors. Overall it's a nice introduction to LOTFP and old school gameplay in general.

The second book called "Rules and Magic" is the backbone of LOTFP. It's the bigger book and offers all the rules you need to create characters and play the game. There are seven different classes: Cleric, Fighter, Magic User, Specialist (actually the Thief), Dwarf, Elf and Halfling. As you see, those are the standard classes of an old school role playing system. The rules are written simply and clear, covering most situations you will meet during a game's session. There is no a setting for LOTFP but actually a 16th century European fantasy-like world with swords and magic. I like this fresh idea and it is incorporating nicely through the item and weapon lists and spell descriptions.

The third book called "Referee" offers advice to new and old game/dungeon masters. There is some great stuff in there: advice for creating adventures, campaigns, traps, NPCs, monsters, magic items and more. No more tables with thousands and thousands of numbers. Just advice! It's a great reading and gave me great ideas although I play role playing games for more than 15 years. In the end there is a great introductory adventure with advice to help new referees run it smoothly. "Referee" book could stand as a separate product and it is by far the "best dungeon master guide"-like book I have ever read.

"Lamentations of the Flame Princess" is a great product. If you love old school role playing games then go and get it now. If you are just a role playing player/referee playing DnD 3.5, 4e or Pathfinder then give it a try… it's a great addition to everyone’s collection!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Review: Idol of the Orcs

"A sinister demonic voice whispers instructions from the darkness… and a band of bloody orcs are there to obey!". This is the main storyline of "Idol of the Orcs", a 16-page adventure module from Goblinoid Games.

You will not find something new here, but on the other hand everything is well written and organized: rumor tables, nice dungeon art, puzzles & traps and of course a lot of orcs (I love those creatures!). The adventure is actually a 3-level dungeon crawl. The first floor is a classic dungeon that will test the military tactics of the players against a well organized orc tribe. The second one is a lot more atmospheric with ghostly traps and strange artifacts. In this floor the adventurers will meet a nice NPC that, if roleplayed nicely by the Dungeon Master will remain memorable for a long time. Finally, the last dungeon level is a complicated labyrinth that will drive the players mad. The use of collected information throughout the adventure are mandatory in this dungeon level for the clever players to stay alive.

"Idol of the Orcs" is a well presented dungeon crawl and will please demanding Dungeon Masters and players. I have already added it in my old school campaign. It’s nice, well written, simple and cheap. Give it a try!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Review: The Village of Larm

"The Village of Larm" is a nice adventure module from Brave Halfling Publishing (using "Labyrinth Lord" system but it is easy adaptable to other old school RPGs). In its 27 pages you will find a detailed description of Larm, a medieval village with more than 30 locations plus three small adventures to kickstart your campaign.

Larm is a nice starting sandbox area with lots of interesting NPCs, rumors and hooks for further adventures. Inside the village the players will find 2 or 3 side quests to do plus the rumors for the three adventures included. The first adventure is a fast and easy dwelling in village’s mill cellar. It’s a great introduction to the old school RPGs system and combat rules for new players. The second adventure is a harder dungeon crawl as the players will visit a cursed temple. Be ready to face some undead hordes there! Finally, the third adventure is a wilderness encounter against a group of goblins that will test the military tactics of the players. There are some new magic items, too, including a holy weapon, sacred books and more.

Overall, "The Village of Larm" is a decent product. It is a great way to begin a full scale campaign and includes some nice hooks (plus some great old school art) for further adventures. The only downside is the luck of statistics for the monsters, although there are full statistics for every single NPC in the village.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Female armor sucks!

This is funny! No more chainmail bikini for female characters :-)

Congratulations to Old School Hack

Congratulations to "Old School Hack", the great winner of "Gold Ennie for Best Free Product". This happened the last weekend at GenCon.

Go, grab your copy and start playing! It's one of the best free RPGs out there!

Congrats Kirin!

Monday, 8 August 2011

Queens of Fantasy

And lo, I present you my Queens of Fantasy: my inspiration for female characters or important NPCs. Do you agree with my choices? Who would you like to have at your gaming table?

Sandahl Bergman (Conan the Barbarian)

Brigitte Nielsen (Red Sonja)

Lana Clarkson (Barbarian Queen 1 & 2, Deathstalker)

Lucy Lawless (Xena - Warrior Princess)

Ellie Chidzey (D&D - Wrath of the Dragon God)

Felicia Day (The Guild)

TPKs are always memorable

Yesterday I introduced a friend of mine to the old school gaming. He is playing mostly DnD 4e and I had to teach him how harsh, wild and dangerous is a dwelling in a dungeon of the old school RPGs. No more superheroes! I had to be fair but also a bit of “evil” to achieve that.

We decided to have a fast one shot session before going to a full scale campaign along with other players. I grabbed my copy of "The Tomb of Sigyfel", a great introductory and fast module of "Labyrinth Lord", perfectly balanced for new players. My friend rolled three characters (a fighter, a cleric and a wizard) and descended into the darkness of the cursed tomb.

Lesson #1: Don’t forget to buy hirelings!
Lesson #2: (for the DMs) No mercy for the absent minded!

The heroic party entered the tomb of Sigyfel.
"There is 50 feet corridor in front of you."
"My party walks down the corridor."
"Ok. Suddenly the fighter and the cleric step on a plate and a great scything blade swings down from the ceiling. Roll a saving throw for these two characters."
"Ops… I rolled a 8 and a 12."
"Ok they didn’t manage to avoid it. I roll 1d8 for damage aaaand… it’s 8!"
Both characters died in a bloody mess!
The wizard returned to the village shocked and two new characters were rolled. Back to the tomb now…

Lesson #3: Don’t forget to buy hirelings! (again)

The party entered a room containing six sarcophagus. Six skeletons attacked the party. The cleric tried to turn them but failed miserably. The wizard was the only left alive (along with five skeletons), so he ran back to the village again (poor wizard). That was so fun!

Lesson #4: Don’t forget to close the door!

This time no more characters were rolled. The wizard (with a very very bad Charisma) tried to get some hirelings with no luck. Finally he decided to buy some ale for a group of ruffians in the tavern. Three of them joined him and… back to the tomb!

As the party was approaching the tomb they listened a man screaming "Help me! Skeletons!". Yup. The wizard run away from the tomb and forgot to seal the door. Five skeletons were out in the forest for their walk beating a poor logger. The wizard and the ruffians managed to take care of them once and for all.

Lesson #5: Capture humanoids and interrogate them!

The party managed to enter the room of an evil cleric accompanied by two orcs. Wizard’s magic missile and an arrow of a ruffian killed the cleric and the other two ruffians managed to kill one orc.

"Pleaz humie! Dan’t kill da poor Ugru!", the orc cried in front of the party.
Show now mercy!", the wizard responded.
The orc won the initiative and tried to run out of the room to his freedom. On his way out he made a final attempt to hit the wizard… a 20! Wizard is down! TPK! The ruffians of course run out of the tomb after looting the cleric, the orc… and the wizard! They had a story to tell while laughing and drinking ale and beer around the fire…

That was a great and fun session. My friend had a great time and he can’t wait for more old school awesomeness. He even talked about his wizard’s death with his girlfriend later on.

That’s old school gaming my friends. Unfair, harsh, perilous and full of dangers… but at the same time so fun and so memorable!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Dragon Age RPG - Session #6

Yesterday we finished our "Dragon Age RPG" ongoing campaign session #6. Me (Volrath, a human circle mage), Garoth (surface dwarf rogue), Robin (city elf rogue), Padrik (Avvarian warrior) and Kelsie (Fereldan freewoman warrior) were searching for the bandit camp and the lost loggers of the village’s lumbermill inside the forest.

After a bit of tracking and searching, we managed to get to the lumbermill where a terrible scene unfolded before our very eyes: a bloody mess of slaughtered and scattered people along with some hanged from an old oak tree! Unfortunately we were not so fast to save the poor loggers... Their death has to be avenged! There we met Dalia, the innkeeper’s daughter who was following us all the way in the forest shadows. She asked to be and adventurer so we decided to let her join us.

We kept tracking along a small steam we found inside the forest and finally we reached the bandit camp. We were lucky to find the guard sleeping so we got him easily. We spend some time waiting for the rest of the bandits to go for sleep (they were about 25 of them plus their boss). When about seven of them left around the campfire, we got battle positions. Robin (with his longbow) and I stayed on top of the small hill so that we could unleash chaos with arrows and spells. The rest of the party was just ready to attack. I casted a Mind Blast and got all of the seven bandits prone and defenseless. In the same time Robin unleashed a flame arrow and boss’ tent was on fire. Time for the rest to attack! It was a bloody hell! Suddenly a mabari war dog appeared, helped us defeat the rest of the bandits and got boss down eating his head (grosh!). It was the mabari we met in our previous session for sure and the local barn’s pet.

After we got victorious we managed to loot the camp finding the entire lost villager’s stuff. The boss’ diary unveiled important information: he was working for the local barn, the same man who sent us after him! Preposterous! We decided to get back… to the old barn, reveal the truth and help him get his position back.

We returned to the village and found the old barn. We got a rest there and the next day we accompanied our new master to the new barn’s castle. He was prepared with his guards ready for battle. When we revealed him the diary he seemed confused.

“I have nothing to do with those bandits! That’s why I sent you after them!” he responded.

“You liar! That’s why you send your mabari killing the boss so that we could not interrogate him!”

The mabari started to run. I managed to Mind Blast it and Garoth got it with his rope. In our very eyes, the mabari transformed in a beautiful naked woman! What the hell!

“Get her!”, I screamed and everyone was after the girl.

Everything was fixed and revealed. The girl was an apostate mage trying to put the barns fighting each other so that she could get the control of the village. She was mindcontrolling the new barn with a special item allowing her to transform into a mabari as well. As a circle mage I had to deliver the girl to the justice of the Circle (along with the cursed magic item of course).

“You are Volrath, right? And your mom is called Mara.”

“What the… How do you know all these, apostate?”

“I am your sister Volrath. I am your sister, Xena”

SHOCKED! SHOCKED! SHOCKED! (Ok you got it! Let’s continue…)

“But… I was searching for you all these years! I though you were dead…”

I had to get a difficult decision… I decided to follow the laws of the Circle and deliver my sister.

“It was not an easy decision. I really didn't want it to end like this…”

I kissed her and left the Circle to meet my party downhearted and baleful…

And that was the end of session #6 of our "Dragon Age RPG" campaign. We leveled up to level 3 and as I finished my side quest (finding my lost sister) I got some more experience! Next week… next session!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Why Beasts & Dwellers?

..because this is the name of my homebrew role playing rules (still in the making).

"Beasts & Dwellers RPG" is a tabletop old school fantasy role playing game. It is following a simple ruling (like all the old school RPGs): less reading, more imagination. The rules are simple and short compared to the huge modern RPG books with tons of rules and tables. In "Beasts & Dwellers RPG" you’ll find all the classic races and classes, a simple system of battle and resolutions and no skills. The imagination and the discretion of the Game Master after all is what matters the most.

I have not reinvented the wheel with "Beasts & Dwellers RPG". This role playing game is using stuff from classic DnD versions and other old school RPGs ("Swords & Wizardry","Microlite D20", "Labyrinth Lord" and more) along with my personal touches. It is made as a simple role playing system that anyone can incorporate his rules and stuff in it easily.

As I said before it is still in the making.

What is ready:
- Character creation rules
- Classes and races
- Equipment lists
- Divine magic

What is to be written:
- Arcane magic
- Rules of playing
- Tips for the Game Master
- A monster manual
- Treasure and magic items list

Stay tuned!

Beasts & Dwellers

So this is my new blog and this time it has nothing to do with heavy metal music and that stuff. No. It is about home geeks this time. Role playing geeks to be exact! And yes, I am a proud one of them playing RPGs for more than 15 years.

Here it is then... Another blog about swords, spells, monsters, mythic kingdoms, evil lords... about Beasts & Dwellers! :-)