Thursday, March 8, 2018

FREE Post Apocalyptic Wargames Rules!!!


So, what we do with blogs and forums is, we share things, right?

Preferably free things right?

Cause the Man, bless his pea picking heart, he has no end of "Stuff- He'll-Industrialize-Tightfistedly"...(You do the acronym)...for your sweat earned buckaroozies.

Well,Pffft to that.

Because some super cool gamers have PUNK sensibilities!

They give the Man a pull by the short hairs by creating games from the goodness of their game loving hearts and providing them free of charge for any like minded gamer-- who puts fun ahead of posing for glamor shots at the game table--a community guerdon!

So, rather than drop your sweat earned coin for expensive bling to impress folks, you can get back to the heart of fantasy role-playing and play the same stuff for free! 

We've done that very thing here at the Mazes in offering free dungeon content (and there is more of that in writ and soon to be published RIGHT HERE) and now I'm proud to say, I've found some Post Apoc genre lovers who have done the same thing with Wasteland Wargame Rules for everyone who secretly yearns for an Apocalypse, soft or hard...or, barring such a horrible wish,seeks to simulate it... with a very beautiful set of FREE post apocalyptic wargames rules. 

Come on Baby, Light My Post Apocalyptic Fire

No, they didn't start a Kickstarter. 

They didn't want a dime of your sweat earned coin.

They just said "Here, Brother, take these rules I made and go forth and kick mutant ass...or, if you are a mutant, kick some Normies' asses."

Now, am I knocking my gamer brothers and sisters who have cobbled together a project to sell on the Internets or funded a Kickstarter to bring their worthy visions to life for the gaming community!? 

No, far be that from me!

I've enjoyed too many lovely games that had their humble start as a labor of love by fellow gamers-- and I have projects in the works myself!  

What the Man does with a call to the bank and a flick of his cigar, we do with love, and sweat, and passion! I'm always down to honor people who do that!

And I may want to stick it to the Man but I confess to a degree of fondness for his green inked hand bills...never seems to be enough of them, eh?

But everyone appreciates people who "DO IT FOR THE DO!"

Therefore, I am proud to share this blog from SKANK GAMES that not only offers FREE wargames rules for Fallout or Mad Max style gaming, but TONS of modeling and figure tutorials, genre reviews, and links to everyone whose ever fantasized about  crawling around in the Aftermath...

You will love this blog, all of it's free goodies, and sticking it to the Man by playing for free all the games he would charge you for tooth and tongue!

I share with you that which was shared with me:



Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Play By Post RPG Rules In the Works

I am working on a tentative action list for a PbP Message Forum RPG set in the world of Skyrim; Elder Scrolls. 

Disclaimer: I have no intellectual ownership over Skyrim and this is a fan work. Any setting could actually be used, of course.

Players have a number of points per turn they can use to undertake actions in addition to dialogue and storytelling. 

Below is a list of Actions and their cost in Action Points. These numbers are added to Skill and Attribute scores and set against an opposing roll by the DM to determine success of failure.

The great bane of PbP Games is failure of some people to post or update in a timely manner. 

The rules I am working on would enable players to continue in the game regardless of what other players do, and in a sandbox setting at that.

I chose Skyrim as a setting because so many of my table top associates are familar with it.

Anyway, updates to follow, here is the Action List:

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Runnin' Original Dungeons and Dragons White Box Using the Chainmail Combat System

My wife's fourteen year old asked me to run a D&D game for her and her friends and cousins and I used the opportunity to run OD&D using the Chainmail combat system.
Honestly, it was a blast.

The previous game I ran for them had run a little flat, I think because being videogamers to their core, roleplaying in a town setting as a leadup to adventure kind of bored them. One kid enjoyed it but the others were kind of "meh." So this time I decided to go for something quick and full of action.

I ran off copies of the Fantasy Creatures Table from Chainmail, blank character sheets, and cleric and magic user spell lists from OD&D and let them examine these to decide upon a character or characters. I said you have 100 points (from the Chainmail point values) to either run a single 100 point value character (Superhero, High Priest/Priestess or Wizard) or you create lesser point characters and add followers or a run a group, maximum four per player as I had five players and arbitrarily decided four was enough per player. I treated the Priest as a Wizard but used Turn and Undead tables and Cleric spell list. I assigned a Magic points system, they had a set number of points and each spell cost a number of points equal to it's spell level to cast.

As for HD, I gave them a HD equivalent to their titular level in the OD&D handbook but did not restrict spell levels as to casting. For both characters and monsters, HD was actual number of hitpoints, a d6 for all damage rolls. I used a d20 for order of initiative and for savings throw, otherwise we used the Chainmail combat matrices, troop type and fantasy combat table and rolled d6 for all attacks.

The party they assembled was a Superhero named Lucas, a High Priestess of Athena named YoYo, a Wizardess named Mad Meg, another Superhero named Pingus the Brave, and one player ran a Hero named Cragalanch the Mighty with a Dwarf and a Halfling for loyal men at arms after he had saved them from death in the War of Irony.

I have to say it made my job really easy and flowed awesomely. I started them off simple : You have been summoned by scroll letter to the Iron Tower of Zelligar the Wise, a wizard famed throughout the realm and highly paid by kings and queens for his astrological and spellcasting powers. He has learned where a relic he wants is, the Crown of Command (as per Talisman board Game). He cannot go himself because he is in the midst of thirty day magical ritual he cannot leave before completion, thus having heard your fame, he will pay you handsomely to visit the labyrinth and seek the Crown--warning them with a little roleplaying by everyone that they had best not even consider keeping the Crown or, an even more dire warning, trying to use it since the Crown destroys any person it deems weak upon them trying to use it. He assures them he only wants the crown to keep it from the wrong sort. :)

So from there they took a boat journey to the isle where the ruins where and within 15 minutes were into the dungeon. They discovered a lower Shrine where a human priest led Goblins and Trolls in worship of an ugly idol, Magubliyet the Goblin God from Deities and Demigods, to the sound of drums in the deep. They managed to snek past and enter the lower level, where they found a bricked up chamber warded with goblin curses (the Wizardess used Read Languages), behind it was a fountain statue of a maiden holding a sword. Drinking from the fountain gave them an extra HD temporarily and upon speaking the statue it came to life, challenged them to a riddle, and upon answering correctly the Lawful Superhero could claim the magic sword, it was +1, had a Light Spell once per day, and could answer one question of a divinatory nature once per day but in only in cryptic rhyme.

At this point some of the more restless ones prevailed on the party to go up and simply crash the church service, they did and wonderful melee ensued. Cragalanch's men at arms almost died but they used healing potions provided by Zelligar. It all ended with most of the goblin force wiped out, the Wizardess used Polymorph Other and turned the Evil Priest into a slug (but not before he had cast Cause Disease and Cause serious Wounds on some characterrs). With their leader a slug and the trolls and most goblins wiped out, five goblins begged for their lives and were granted this if they would answer questions about the ritual and the dungeon. Turns out they were only on the isle because they use the lower shrine bt are actually from a large goblin enclave in the forests on the shores of the Great lake. They were sent packing, the spell casters rested and regained some spell points (the priestess did some healing), and then Mad meg dispelled Polymorph and once the Evil priest was bound she set to trying to torture information out of him, which led to the lawful characters engaging her in moral and ethical debate.

At one point the priest offered mad meg a place within their order, which she was wanting to happily accept but was disappointed to learn that it would mean her character leaving the instead, she cast Charm Person on the Priest, he failed his saving throw on a 1, and became her loyal and devoted friend, happily sharing information with her. Turns out they are all in league with a Queen of the realm who pretends to serve Law but is as Chaotic as they come and wants to see humanity fall to the Dark Gods. So got a plot hook in for further adventures! It ended on a high note with Fred the High Priest on the Wizardesses good side which these kids intend to fully exploit next session :)

They also got some loot and are ready to plunge ahead in the dungeon. Mad Meg got an evil magic sword from the priest and potions, spell scrolls and treasure was found in a secret compartment discovered by Lucas.

One of the most enjoyable games Ive ever played. I used the spell complexity table from Chainmail and all spellcsters had to roll to succeed at a spell, but sentient targets also got a d20 saving throw. I also informed them that spellcasters always had the option of casting a counterspell against an enemy priest or wizard but to do so they had to roll equal to or higher than what the opponent rolled in the casting, counterspells nullified the incoming spell attack.

It worked pretty well, and one thing I liked was how quickly combat was resolved. There were almost thirty combatants in the Shrine melee but the whole battle only lasted 7 or 8 rounds, about twenty minutes of game time. I let players use individual d20 initiative, then I broke the forces up into units, so I rolled initiative for trolls, then goblins, then the priest and we kept the same order throughout the battle. Goblins were one hit wonders anyway--players were delighted to discover you only had to hit one to make green and red mush. The trolls and the evil priest proved much more challenging.

Anyway, just wanted to share this. Ive always wanted to try it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Old School Game Review: The Compleat Spell Caster Fantasy Role-Playing Game Supplement by S. Michael Sechi and V. Taylor

The Compleat Spell Caster is a fantasy roleplaying game supplement written by Stephen Michael Sechi and Vernie Taylor, published through Bard Games in 1983.

This book is somewhat rare; it appears that it is unavailable through PDF download at this time. A limited number of copies are in circulation on used books sites and those in decent condition command a fair price, from thirty to forty dollars before shipping.

It was a companion volume to two other books by the same authors, The Compleat Alchemist and The Compleat Adventurer. The Complete Alchemist is, like the Spellcaster companion, a book that has limited availability, although the Adventurer companion (which dealt with rogue and fighter classes) is somewhat more common.

These books were intended to be used as supplemental works to other full game systems, most notably 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. As such, they provide new classes, magic spells, and magic items to an AD&D campaign, among other things.

The Compleat Spell Caster is broken down into six basic sections and I will deal with these individually. 

The Compleat Spell Caster Introduction

This section of the book details how to plug the supplement into the existing fantasy campaign of the DM. It assumes three basic types of R.P.G.'s the DM might be running but being unfamiliar with two of them, I will simply discuss the 1st Edition AD&D conversion.

In a nutshell, the six spellcaster classes in The Compleat Spellcaster are to be treated as sub-classes of 1st AD&D classes or sub-classes. Experience point progression and spell acquisition are the same for each new class presented here as it is for the "kindred" AD&D class. The witch and warlock class, for example, use the AD&D Druid class XP and spells known table per level table, but have their own unique magic spells and abilities as detailed in the supplement.

This section also sets up an armor class conversion system for the supplement's bestiary monsters (all summoned beings or familiars), as well as a table for the turning or controlling undead abilities of newly presented classes. It also suggests a novel savings throw modification rule which takes into account the levels of spell casters in magical combat. Basically with this rule, the difference in levels between mages in magical combat create a bonus or penalty to savings throws against spells by a defending mage. So if a fifth level sorcerer was casting a spell at a seventh level sorcerer, the seventh level sorcerer would receive a +2 to saves against his opponents spells that have a saving throw, while the lower level mage would save at -2.

I give this section a total thumbs up for clarity and ease of adaptation. 

The Spellcasters

This section of the Compleat Spellcaster outlines the new spellcasting classes and their spells and class abilities. You will likely have a LOT of fun including these in any D&D game you are running, particularly 1st Ed AD&D but certainly Original D&D and older or retroclone Basic and Expert systems as well. I will deal briefly with each one.

Witch/Warlock: This book assumes that witches and warlocks derive their powers from Nature and may be of any alignment. Class abilities are that they can identify plants, pass through wooded areas without leaving a trace, and, at seventh level, read magical inscriptions. Like the AD&D classes, witches can, at middle levels, attract followers and, in their own unique case, form a coven. As the leader of the coven, the PC witch can hold a special full moon gathering monthly where his or her followers can join together to enable the head witch/warlock to cast a spell at much higher levels than the caster's actual level. Witch spells conform in some respects to Magic User type spells from AD&D but there are many notable differences that give the class a unique flavor. Most of their spells reflect the powers of witches in traditional fantasy literature and occult terms. They can, for example, cast a psychic shield spell which lasts 24 hours and makes them nearly impervious to any mind altering spell.

Mystic: A mystic is considered a clerical subclass but uses the clerical XP progression and spell acquisition. The difference is that a Mystic is completely pacifistic and cannot, without serious penalties, inflict harm upon another living being. This prohibition does not apply to demons and the undead. However, the mystic is given very strong defensive powers. Their nonviolence code does not mean they cannot cast certain offensive spells. They are experts in runes and magical inscriptions and can create a runic staff which can hold certain enemies completely at bay. At a certain level, they may create runic or symbolic powered scrolls, as well as receive a personal spirit Guardian to defend them. At middle levels they can build a shrine and attract a group of followers, and although they cannot personally use violence, no such prohibitions are upon any warrior who becomes a follower and pledges his or her self to the mystic's cause. They have many interesting spells, some very clerical in nature, others unique, such as the upper level spell, Mystic Flame, a magical fire which can be set to burn in a brazier or other area and can never be extinguished except by the mystic or his or her Deity. It can also be set upon a staff and used a perpetual light as well as deter undead. Mystics are able to turn the Undead, in cleric fashion, but are subject to the same alignment and faith requirements as a cleric to retain their powers.

Necromancer: This one is perhaps the Jewel of the book's treasure chest. It could not only be a PC class in a campaign with evil characters but a Necromancer as presented in the Compleat Spellcaster would be a most formidable and colorful NPC villain in any campaign. Treated for all intents and purposes as an anti-cleric, the Necromancer uses the same XP and spell acquisition rules as their holy counterpart. Necromancers have powerful class abilities: beginning from level one, they can communicate with any undead. Because they are of evil alignment and serve infernal powers, this can make for some interesting exchanges and situations if agreements can be reached.  Obviously, as per evil clerics, they can gain control over undead entities. They can see in darkness, even without infra-vision, but suffer very poor eyesight during the day. At upper levels, they can construct golems. At middle levels, as most AD&D classes, they can attract followers and construct a base, but in this case the followers attracted are undead servants and the base is an "accursed temple", created in a crypt, catacomb or ruin! Perhaps the most interesting class ability of a Necromancer is that if he or she is killed, they comin' back! They will return as an undead being the 13th day after death. The only thing that can prevent this is a successful exorcism of the body immediately after death by a cleric or mystic.

Here is one place I will offer a suggested change to the rulebook: a table is provided for rolling a d10 to randomly determine what sort of Undead being that the Necromancer comes back as--a 1 being a Skeleton and a 10 being a lich, lesser undead beings being represented by lower numbers on the table. I think it should be based on level of the Necromancer upon his or her demise--a level 1 Necromancer comes back as skeleton, while a level 10 character or higher returns as a lich. The interesting thing about this class ability is that even if the Necromancer only comes back as a skeleton or zombie, they still retain their former intellect as well as all of their spells, experience and abilities! The caveat is they cannot progress further in levels until they kill the agent of their death. 

So many possibilities with your game with this sort of character. Imagine your players killing him or her only to face them again in undead form and having to seek out the knowledge and means to fully destroy the Necromancer's spirit! Or a PC who returns as an undead being...

Necromancer spells are very much like reversed cleric spells but chock full to the brim of unique spells related to summoning, conjuration and cursing.One favorite of mine is the Curse of the Living Death--the target who fails it's saving throw will begin to waste away into a rotted form resembling an undead creature but still have full memory and intellect intact. Gross!

Sorcerer: The Sorcerer class is a nod to the scientific and alchemical dispositions of the medieval wizard. Think Issac Newton, Roger Bacon, and company. They are a kindred class to the Illusionist of 1st Ed AD&D insofar as XP and numbers of spells, and in fact, they are able to use many Illusionist spells. The Sorcerer believes the arcane forces to be wholly natural forces which will one day be mapped out by learning, and he learns spells in a progressive manner, i.e., the principles leading to levitation must be mastered before one can understand flight. Alchemy, lab and tome research, these are the mana and the meat and drink of sorcerers. One should assume they are of upper class as such research is not cheap! Sorcerers have, as a class ability, the knowledge of reading magical inscriptions, any and all languages but the most obscure, and all manner of arcane texts and magical writings. If not very obscure, this ability is automatic and a reflection of the Sorcerer's intensive studies. If any such writ is significantly ancient and/or obscure, the Sorcerer still may roll a "save vs. Intelligence" to be able to decipher. The spells listed for a Sorcerer are highly unique, a mixture of spells related to magic users, illusionists, enchantment of of magical items (including scrolls) and the manufacture of potions and alchemical elixirs, and conjuration and summoning. At middle levels, they can construct a major lab/learning center and group of followers interested in such. They tend to be of neutral alignment as they do not highly regard the neat classifications of "good" and "evil" common to most beings.

Sage: I have no idea whatsoever how a Sage character would play out in a fantasy campaign. I think with patient and thoughtful players, if a DM used the guidleines for Sages in the 1st Edition AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, a sage could indeed be an interesting character choice, certainly a formidable and useful NPC. The Sage as presented in the Compleat Spellcaster can basically treat the magical spell lists of the foregoing classes (or those in the AD&D Player's handbook) as "fields of study", and as such, he can learn magical spells in the manner of a sorcerer from such studies, alignment being a major qualifying factor in what the Sage can acquire as to magical powers. Only a Sage of evil alignment will be interested in Necromancy, for example. Combinations of magical fields of study are open to him or her, but the sage can learn only up to seven levels of spells and while learning a particular field fo study they are subject to the XP requirements of that class. So a Sage can learn spells from any casting class. Sages can learn higher levels from class spell lists when they are higher level with the caveat that these higher level spells may only be created as scrolls. The only class ability a Sage possesses is very good skill at reading magical inscriptions and languages. They can never gain any class abilities of the classes whose spells they learn through intensive magical study but neither do they have the restrictions of these classes. For example they can cast clerical or mystical spells without serving a Deity. Make your own assumptions as to what this says about where divine magic comes from as to the minds of the authors of The Compleat Spellcaster!

Magical Inscriptions

In the hands of a clever DM, this section can provide hours of campaign material. It deals with three matters: runes, magic symbols, and circles of power. All three are accompanied by illustrations, and while you may simply assume that gaining levels in a spell casting class unlocks access to them (it does), you can just as easily decide the knowledge must be found "in-game", that is, a certain rune, symbol or power circle must be discovered in a tome or scroll or be taught by a higher level spellcaster. Runes and Magic Symbols are primarily the domain of the Mystic Class and the source of much of the Mystic's power. Power circles are used in summoning rituals and WOE unto the spell caster who constructs or draws one improperly.
This to me is one of the greatest gems of this book--it adds a depth to magic-using or clerical classes that D&D lacks. Games like Harn went there, the how and the why and the study of magic, the classes and orders built upon the traditions, but D&D went for a simpler path. And that path is good, but there is certainly more to add with this book. 

The player who is controlling a spell casting character can feel that their character really is learning and acquiring magical and arcane knowledge, not simply getting access to new spells. It could certainly add a very fresh and long lived element to any campaign when the game is not simply about getting new "Bang" powers but the quest being the process in actually gaining such powers.

In a nutshell, this section provides runes and symbols that represent various defensive and protective magical effects and details what sort of circles are used to protect a spell caster when communicating with or summoning beings from the planes of existence.



 This short section of the book deals with rules for summoning and controlling familiars. In most respects, it resembles the first level magic user spell "Find Familiar" in 1st Edition AD&D. There is a table for finding a familiar from among animal kind or from among three classes of minor demons. In fact, this book assumes that an animal familiar is possessed with a demon that is so low on the pecking chain in the demon hierarchy that it will gladly choose service to a mortal mage over the torments it endures in the nether world. It will even gladly conform to the commands of a caster whose alignment is diametrically opposed! As with AD&D, the familiar confers not only service but shared sensory perceptions with it's master. If seriously wronged by it's master, however, a familiar can break it's bond pact and seek revenge! To make matters more interesting, the spell caster can have a familiar who inhabits an object or space rather than an animal or demon body. A cauldron, for example. A disembodied familiar is subject to going insane, however. Chances are low, but still....

Summoned Creatures

This section of the Compleat Spellcaster is both a bestiary and a magic tome.Again, in the hands of a creative DM, it can add a TON of campaign material for him or her as well as a depth and color for spell casting classes...and any companions foolish enough to be involved with them.

The DM using this supplement will include in his game the assumption among spell casters and persons acquainted with magical lore that there is an "Ancient Pact of Summoning", and the book states that "While the origins of this pact are lost to antiquity, the conditions have remained the same over the eons of time."

What the Pact amounts to are some common conditions for the process of summoning and conjuration that will be known to a spell caster, or, if the DM is devious, learned by them through magical research and discovery and ancient tomes.
Basically, magic circles must be properly made, as well as incense of a certain Gold piece value burned. Knowledge of the offerings demanded by summoned beings must be possessed. In the case of higher infernal powers, true names must be known. If these precautions and requirements are seen to, the summoned being is bound to one act of service to the spell caster.

Serious perils are attendant if one should fail in their magical preparations. Demonic possession, insanity, trickery and demonic deception, imprisonment on another plane are risks taken. But if a mage knows and follows all the guidelines, he or she stands  a very reasonable chance of getting what is desired.

There are three basic classes of summoned beings in the Compleat Spell Caster: Demons, Guardians, and True Elementals.

Guardians are, for lack of a better description, generic angelic beings who serve lawful good and chaotic good deities. They resemble biblical angels as winged beings with swords and are primarily included in this section because of the Mystic Class, whom they are special guardians towards. Obviously, summoning them is not as perilous as trying to do sowith their infernal counterparts, but if the Mystic is careless as to WHY he summons them and they "die" as a result, the Mystic loses the power to call upon them for as long as a year. They only appear to and serve Mystics who strictly follow alignment and faith restrictions.

True Elementals are of four types: Earth, Water, Fire and Air. They are somewhat like demigods, are True Neutral beings, and do not mind being summoned provided either the cause or the offering is good enough. For example, a Water Elemental will be more than happy to destroy a ship of profane sailors who have acted impiously in their comings and goings upon his or her sea road. True Elementals are sometimes worshiped as gods and goddesses.

The Demon hierarchy provided in the Compleat Spellcaster is very interesting. It is not meant to be used in conjunction with the 1st Edition Monster Manual Demon descriptions, but rather, to replace it. It assumes a different cosmology altogether, and is actually congruent with the setting detailed in the Bard games trilogy of Atlantis; the Lost World. There is no order of devils, and none of the named  demons of AD&D are present. A demonic being named Mephistopheles in perhaps the highest and most mysterious lord of the nether realms in this supplement. A description and stats of lesser demon types as well as all the greater demons and arch demons is given, along with the demands of each according to the Ancient Pact of Summoning. "Pleased to meet you, can you guess my name..but what's troubling you is the nature of my game..."

The Major Arcana

This section of this interesting supplement deals with several spells and artifacts that are of a special nature and could be used as the object of campaign quests. One of my favorites is the spell called Sorcerer's Gate. It is essentially an AD&D Dimension Door but is of a permanent nature and can be set in any place chosen by the caster, such as the hollow of a tree in a forest, to lead to a certain destination. 

This concludes the sections of the Compleat Spellcaster.

Overall Review

If you are able to acquire this somewhat elusive tome, it could add much to your game, either as an actual supplement or as inspiration. The writing is top notch, clear and very in line with the period of gaming from which the Compleat Spellcaster was born.
Like all Bard games books I have read, the intelligence, education, depth and dedication of the authors is evident at all times. 

Aesthetically, it is a joy to read and view. There are several full page illustrations by the same artist who drew the cover, one Joe Bouza. My initial internet searching produced no information about this artist or any other attributable works, which is a shame, because he has a special touch. There is also an abundance of very good pen and ink illustrations accompanying the bestiary done either by one Tom Doran or the author, Stephen Michael Sechi. 

The writing is done in old school game type font with occasional calligraphic embellishments.

I definitely plan to not only incorporate the Complete Spellcaster classes into my next D&D campaign, but to use it's depth of magic knowledge and it's demonology as plot structures and PC quests and goals. If you can grab a copy, I highly recommend it to you if you DM any class based rules system!

Back Cover

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

In Memoriam: Wyatt Ferris, Fellow Gamer and A Beloved Son

Wyatt Ferris

This post causes me more reflection than any other I have ever posted.

The young man pictured above is Wyatt Ferris.

I did not know Wyatt. Before this week, I had never even heard of him or seen his face. But being a member of  Facebook community which I love very much, DM Scotty's Crafts and Games, I happened across a post which gave me pause.

Rather than attempt to describe it, I will simply relay the post to you in the words of Wyatt's mother, the original poster:

Last week my 17 year old son Wyatt Ferris took his own life after suffering a traumatic brain injury. He was very active in the gaming community, both as player and GM. In order to show our endless love for Wyatt and to honor his countless hours at the gaming tables, we're asking GMs and storytellers around the world to add Wyatt as an NPC in your games. Wyatt was a paladin, cavalier, war priest, rogue, swashbuckler, investigator, Hellknight bodyguard, and more. Please see the photos here of Wyatt and use the hashtags #Play4Wyatt #WyattNPC so we can follow his continued adventures. Thank you for helping this broken hearted mother mend after this tragic loss. I love the gaming community for starting this for my son. My Twitter is @baddicebad.

I asked Wyatt's mother if I could share her posting here and she asked that I would do so.

Being a parent, I can only imagine Wyatt's family's pain, but their love of life...and evident in this request and the beautiful pictures of Wyatt his mother has shared.

So if you can, please honor Julie's request and let's make Wyatt's love of adventure live on.

If you are a blogger, please, by all means, post Julie's request in your own way at your site.  

Rest in peace our fellow gamer! 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

MazeCraft: Setting up Simple Dungeons for Your Game on a Budget

Nothing fancy, but very inexpensive and should prove a lot of fun with the kids. 

The pictures are of a dungeon board I've been crafting this weekend. My aim was a different aesthetic than the traditional scale and realism of my D&D games, something a bit abstracted and fun. 

I am preparing a game for Halloween night since I've been asked by some family to do so for the cousins and their friends who are too old to trick or treat, and these are the elements. It will play something like a board game version of D&D, a bit like Hero Quest. I was inspired by the magic cat encounter in the dead village of Maajula in Dark Souls 2 and so in my game, if a cat is randomly encountered, giving it a treat results in the grant of a magic spell that can be used once. That should tell you how serious the game is!

I want to make a game that is exciting and fun for our younger ones and one which can be learned easily enough in one session that any of them can run it and they can play it together whenever they want.

However, the mat would work just as well for the traditional miniatures as well for a normal game of D&D. 

The fun part is instead of the arduous and meticulous painting of metal minis, I can recruit my heroes and monsters from the toy bin at thrift stores! See the cleric with his mace below? He cost me a quarter and was fully painted. I have over 100 game pieces like the ones pictured here. You can see I cut of Maleficent's horns--she is going to be painted and re-purposed as the Elf Sorceress in my game. 

The Jenga Blocks are going to be scored to look like heavy stonework, roughed up on the edges a bit with a drimel, and painted to serve as moveable walls and arches. I'm also going to weight them down so they stay in place. A lot less work than modular dungeon tiles, and they can be arranged in endless patterns for every game and stow away like Lincoln Logs.

I ran into some difficulties with the foam core material I used, it was a triple panel that separated during the process and also warped, so I'm going to mount the panels on thin plywood with hinges. I pressed a square perfume lid over and over (and over) into the foam core and it left a relief which then guided me in painting. Yeah, about five hundred pushes and my wife wasn't thrilled with that idea with her perfume lid...

I could have drawn a grid but I wanted a little bit of relief edges on my tiles.

The squares aren't perfectly sized but for my game purposes they will work as game board spaces for movement rolls...the Elf Sorceress mentioned above gets a +1 on movement, incidentally, but she has less life tokens than her fellow adventurers. Still, she gets several spells to choose from at the start of the game and if she should meet a cat in the dungeon, she can have spells restored!

Now get you unto the Mazes!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Old School Game Review: Tekumel Source Book; the World of the Petal Throne, Swords and Glory Volume 1 by M.A.R. Barker

"Kor'unkoi hiGard'asisayal Ko'lumelan hiTirik'eluda'lida'lisa"

The above words are the English character rendering of the Tsolyani language title of the Book of the Mighty Imperial Deeds of the Great and Glorious Petal Throne, the royal decrees of the Emperor of the Petal Throne which are published upon leaves of gold and kept in the mysterious Hall of Blue Illumination at the chancery in the Royal city of Avanthe. I don't have a Tsolyani font generator unfortunately, or I could show you the beautiful, fluid exotic calligraphy of the title in Tsolyani script in all of its lush, vibrant movement on the page.

Now unless you were born upon the planet of Tekumel to one of the nobility clans of mighty Tsolyanu and are of sufficient rank, you are not even permitted to enter the Blue Hall, let alone touch or read the Book of Mighty Imperial Deeds. 

However, you can acquire and read the Tekumel Source Book from the Tekumel Foundation through DriveThru RPG and obtain an in-depth survey of the origins, races, geography, cultures and mythologies and religion of Tekumel, brought to you by the hand of the late Professor M.A.R. Barker,  creator of the fascinating world of the Petal Throne.

In it, you will find all the setting information you need to run a plausible Tekumel campaign. The book contains no maps or playing rules--it is strictly setting material--but these are easily enough obtained through online order. In fact, there are playing rules available for free download at and artist Jeff Dee, of TSR fame, has also recently published a set of rules called Bethorm if you are interested in the latest Tekumel rules.

There also exist online conversion guidelines for playing Tekumel with AD&D, Savage Worlds, GURPS, and even Runequest.

I am extremely happy with my new copy of the Sourcebook, which is available in watermarked PDF or black and white hardcover. The book arrived very promptly and appears solidly bound, the ink so fresh and crisp that it actually still shines. It ran me around $30.00 after shipping.

It is not heavy on illustrations but what art it contains consists of very elegantly inked renderings of the various Tekumelani non-humans by a capable artist named Craig Smith, two historical scenes from Tekumel by Professor Barker, and a couple pages of the diverse Tekumelani scripts.

On of the more interesting features of The Sourcebook--a number of pages dealing with pronunciation and writing of Tsolyani and other Tekumelani languages. These will allow a game master to create some very interesting props and gradually, word by word, introduce enough actual Tsolyani words to really add flavor to a game. M.A.R. Barker invented these languages, and he had the credentials to do so: he was a professor of Urdu and South Asian languages and the Chair of the Department of Asian Studies at the University of Minnesota. He authored a book on the Urdu language and had articles published on the language of the Klammath Indian Tribes of Oregon as well. He also traveled to many countries on anthropological and linguistic studies and also because he loved to see these places. The Professor had very interesting perspectives to bring to the world of gaming and fantasy world building.

An illustration by M.A.R. Barker depicting the Wizard Ny'elmu gazing upon Princess Ma'in in his Globe of Distant Discernment. The faded appearance is actually light glare from the super fresh ink!

If you are unfamiliar with the world of Tekumel, it has a long and storied history in the annals of gaming. It was the one of the first Dungeons and Dragons games, published in 1975 by TSR as the boxed set Empire of the Petal Throne (EPT). Prior to it's debut as a role playing game it had existed for many years as an intricately detailed fictional setting created by the Professor as a basis for a series of fantasy novels he later wrote which have seen major publication. Tekumel has been the subject of a score of professionally produced game materials published at various intervals from that time until now, including lines of metal miniatures, boardgames, roleplaying games, and wargames. A very rich body of fan and player produced material in zine form also exists, as well as an extensive internet archive of articles, correspondences with M.A.R. Barker. In short, there is no want of resources for an enterprising Gamemaster who wishes to convey his players to the strange and wonderful world of Tekumel.

The Tekumel Source Book is my personal favorite resource.

Weighing in at 150 or so pages and containing a very extensive index, nearly every detail of Tekumel history or society is at the GM's fingertips, and it is not a dry read. Aside from the T.S.B. being artfully written, you can feel Professor Barker's enthusiasm and energy coming through every line. 

The book is broken into numbered sections and subsections and contains a very detailed historical overview. Tekumel actually has a science fiction basis, having been an alien planet settled by starfaring Earthmen as well as other galactic races. A great cataclysm buried Tekumel's technological pasted and frayed the inter-dimensional boundaries, allowing the influence of powerful entities who were destined to become the "gods" of Tekumel. Their energies also became a means of power to the peoples of Tekumel--energies that on the basis of intent, purpose and effect constitute what any rational person would call magic.

Tekumel is one of few games to offer a scientific rationale for it's Deities and spellcasting! 

After the cataclysm, the races of Tekumel found themselves sundered from the galaxy they had known, trapped in a dimension all their own. Soon, the technological marvels of the Ancients had become only legends and relics, the superiority and relevance of technology being eclipsed by the practical uses of the new magic.

From the ashheap arose new civilizations and empires, the first notable one being the ancient and mysterious Ilyan, a culture largely only known from buried inscriptions. Then came the Three States of the Triangle, a civilization whose foundations were laid upon three great cities of antiquity and their trade routes. This civilization was swept away by unnaturally tall and fiercely warlike barbarians called the N'luss, riders of Dragons, history being unclear as to whether these Dragons were strange beasts now unknown to Tekumel or technological relics of the star-faring ancients. The reign of the Dragon Warriors would in turn give way to the Fishermen Kings, powers so named because of their great sailing ships.

The end of the time of the Fishermen kings was occasioned by a 13 year old slave girl who was to eventually become concubine to a king, then a queen, and ultimately, by various intrigues and well planned marriages and assassinations, one of the most powerful royal personages of all time. From the kingdom of Queen Nyari would arise the First Imperium which flowered into a Golden Age that saw incredible religious and cultural innovations. The Golden Age was to be followed by another terrible decline, the Time of No Kings, brought about by physical cataclysms and terrible wars, but this has been followed by the glorious Second Imperium. 

All of this is but a taste of the history you find in the T.S.B. along with the names of the names of each Seal Emperor of the Petal Throne, the duration and hallmarks of their reigns, and the contemporary political climate in Tsolyanu (home nation of the player characters) and it's four neighboring kingdoms. At the commencement of a game campaign set on Tekumel, the players will begin in the year 2,358 of the Second Imperium. There is an abundance of resources given to a GM who might wish to run his or her Tekumel game based on politics and intrigues as much as monster killing and treasure winning.

You will find no Tolkien here--Tekumel as a setting is an amalgamation of science fiction pulp magazines and swashbuckling films concealed neatly in a lavishly painted milieu that evokes Mesoamerican, East Indian, and Dravidian mythological patterns. A pantheon of Gods which consist of Five Gods of Stability and their polarities, the Five Gods of Change, provides the rich and elaborate Temple life of the cities of Tsolyanu. Each God or Goddess also has a Demigod servant and attendant known as a Cohort, each of whom are honored in their own name along with that of their master or mistress. Religion plays a major role in every player character's life in a game of Tekumel, and magic using characters normally acquire their spells from the Temple teachers.

The nonhuman races of Tekumel are as richly detailed as Tsolyani culture. There eight non human races available to a player, one of my favorites being the hulking Shen, reptilian "Demon Warriors" from arid wastes who are among the most feared warriors on Tekumel and hence highly sought after as mercenaries.

A pair of Shen in full regalia, probably portrayed to denote military allegiance. Shen actually possess natural armor and weapons that are just as fearsome as their blades, and they accept cannibalism in their culture as a means of weeding out weak offspring and dispatching Shen born from egg clutches with a different smell than one's own....

Tsolyani culture will be something quite different to players used to the quasi-medieval setting of D&D. It is not politically correct by modern standards, to put it mildly. Slavery is a punishment for crimes as well as an aftermath of losing in battle and well established as a caste. The Stability Gods generally do not favor humans as sacrifice but they sometimes do and one of them, the war god Karakan, is served by a priesthood who routinely offers him the captured warriors of foreign campaigns. The Change Gods delight in human sacrifice, some more than others, and it is routine in their Temples and an accepted facet of Tsolyani society. A player character's highest loyalty is most always to his or her clan and it's interests and reputation--if a player is role playing properly in a Tekumel game, the interests and reputation of the clan are even more important than the private and individual concerns of the character.

Also, Tsolyani society is patriarchal, albeit, not empirically so; a woman may declare herself "Aridani" at any time in her life she wishes, and as Aridani she enjoys complete equality both socially and legally. Polygamy being a male prerogative in Tsolyanu, Aridani women may also follow that path as well. Aridani women can rise as high in the Temples or Imperial government as any man--acceptance of the custom is universal. Homosexuality and multiple partner relationships don't raise an eyebrow on Tekumel. The class system, closely related to the status of a clan, is accepted without question and people who speak or act disrespectfully to those of higher status may find themselves in serious trouble. 

Honestly, if you have a player in Tekumel who insists on trying to relate to Tsolyani culture in terms of traditional D&D, that player's character will probably not live long. If they speak to the Imperial legionnaires as they are used to speaking to town guardsmen in other settings or try to pickpocket someone, they could simply be killed--impalement is the usual method. The Legionaries are the direct representatives of the Emperor, and stealing is considered base and dishonorable. Not that no one steals, but there is no acceptance of a thief class or guild.  Tekumel is great fun but it requires being willing to really commit to being Tsolyani. Players who can do so will find themselves richly rewarded with the unique gems that gaming on Tekumel has to offer.

Still, Professor Barker often offered this caveat in his writings: in the end, the Gamemaster is free to develop with his or her players any Tekumel that pleases their taste. He encouraged people to take what appealed to them and set aside the rest, so actually, a GM could run Tekumel much as they run other campaigns. Still, I feel that people who put a little effort into gaming on Tekumel in accord with M.A.R. Barker's vision of his setting will find it very much worth the adaptation.

A great illustration of one of the Priests of Ksa'rul, the God of Change who prizes knowledge and occult wisdom for purely selfish means. Ksa'rul was such a threat to the other gods and goddesses that even his fellow gods of Change allied with the Stability Gods and aided his imprisonment in a state of eternal slumber in a strange dimension known as the Blue Room where he sleeps and dreams even to this day; his Priests and Priestesses, however, will assure you that he shall not sleep there forever..

I encourage any Gamemaster to read Professor Barker's books, particularly Man of Gold and Flamesong. These were published by DAW and are very gripping swords and sorcery reading as well as great insights into how to run a Tekumel game. I can also highly recommend the Tekumel Sourcebook as being a great addition to any GM's bookshelf. Even if you never run a Tekumel campaign, rich mines are here to be plundered to add incredible flavor to any D&D campaign you may be running with even a little adapation--the Tsolyani culture could neatly be inserted into any non Tekumel fantasy setting, even as an exotic foreign culture far across the sea. If you do wish to GM a Tekumel game, this book contains all you need to know if you also have the accompanying maps, which are available for sale and also are archived at 

Swords and glory await you!

But beware the smell of cinnamon in the Underworld...