Saturday 26 March 2011

The Future of Table Top Gaming . . .

I've published this on my Pulp Planet Blog to, because these thoughts interest me so much.

Looking to the far FAR future - you could be playing games with tiny nano-robotic machines that you collect and paint yourself - that could be used to fight actual battles on the table-top using your tactics.

Each "battle" the robots took part in and survived without being "taken out" (I envisage a sort of "laser tag" micro system, with a central computer calculating the hits and damage) - they would learn and improve, with the ones that "died" being returned to play as basic units.

That way you utilize modern and advanced technologies, whilst keeping the "hobby" aspect.

No doubt some of you are thinking "it would cost way too much" - but when you think how much a CD Player cost when they were first introduced to the retail market ($900 in 1982 - as compared to today when you can pick a PORTABLE CD Player up for less than $20 that has more features than the 1982 version LoL) to what you can buy today, I'll bet its not that far fetched given enough time and imagination upon the part of the designers/manufacturers.

What amazes me is the Tech we have today actually (sorry to digress) TAB computers from Star Trek - WE NOW HAVE THEM!!

So, that's what I envision - tiny robots, you collect and paint yourself - that fight battles set up by human players - computer controlled in a table top environment.

Possibilities and Perceived Reality

IMHO ALL Fictional Universes exist somewhere, somehow in our limitless extra-dimensional multi-verse.

Think of any video game that you've played or movie watched. Think of any fiction book you've ever read, or table-top game (both miniatures games and RPG's) you've ever enjoyed.

Those ideas and concepts exist sometime and somewhere in tangible form.

Maybe not on our planet, not in our galaxy or even in our universe but somewhere they do. There's no such thing as fantasy - because space and time (and therefore reality) is infinite.

I'm no sage or scholar (well, I suppose I'm kinda the latter - or so some of my friends insist LoL) but I know deep down this concept has more than a little legitimacy.

I can't prove any of this (by the sheer nature of thought and imagination, such concepts are subjective at best - and other thinkers cannot disprove it either) but I am certain some of you have already though this (or something similar) already.

And yes I have a vivid and overdeveloped imagination, I'm kinda famous for it . . . . . .

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Dragon Lords of Melnibone

One of the BEST D20 RPG Books (IMHO) of recent years was the Chaosium "Dragon Lords of Melnibone" - I much preferred this incarnation of the Elric saga, not just because I am a fan of the D20 system overall - but because the whole presentation of the Book was more "Elricy" to me.

I spent my teenage years (when I wasn't rehearsing with the various Bands I was with or DM'ing) - lying on my bed listening to Kiss (for the most part) and reading Moorcock and Lovecraft. I even wrote a song called Tanelorn once . . . .

See, I never got into Tolkien till much later on, so the Lord of the Rings (though I enjoyed it) never had the impact on me it had on a lot of people - whereas Elric, Hawkmoon, Erekose, and Corum did.

Don't get me wrong, Dragon Lords of Melnibone has its problems - mostly due to the "cut and paste" nature of the writing/editing of the book - but they are EASILY solved by converting it over to AD&D or Castles & Crusades proper.

Rather than do a wholesale cumbersome (and lets face it boring to read) conversion, I'm just going to present some rough notes from time to time.

Law And Chaos

The battle between Law and Chaos is an ongoing theme in all Moorcock's fantasy works, involving as it does
both gods and mortals. Above and beyond these warring forces is the Cosmic Balance, which swings in favor sometimes of Law, sometimes of Chaos.

In a perfect world the two are stabilized, in delicate equilibrium. The harmony of the Balance is all too lacking throughout the multiverse. Although the Balance rules unalloyed in places, most universes are in a state of Chaotic turmoil or Lawful stagnation. Without its opposite, a plane of pure Law is as deathly and sterile as one ruled by Chaos.

This flux of opposites snares the Eternal Champion, but he does not give up the fight against it. In the final battles, Law and Balance join forces against Chaos, for Chaos has grown too strong. Elric's death brings the plane toward the Balance. When the world reforms, there will be magic, but much less of it. Our own world will then be born.

In the saga, Chaos attracts because it has great beauty and power even while it wreaks havoc. Elric realizes that Law similarly confounds the notion of good and evil, though we do not see it conquer the world.

We imagine that Law should provide security, but it brings with it rigidity and sterility. What is right is not always easy to know. Sometimes the wrong person dies, or a quest goes unfulfilled. Sometimes the adventurers are cursed for doing good, or blessed for their evil doing.

The reversal of expectations is an important notion in understanding the saga.

This whole "topsy turvy" concept is one of the most enthrawling (for me) themes running throughout the books, that Chaos can bring about good and Law and Order can bring about evil is (nowadays) showing itself in the real world even as I type (if anyone has their doubts of the voracity of what I write, you need look no further than your TV or Newspapers - its all there if you care to see it).


All spells function as written, but spell availability is determined by the religion to which a character belongs - for the Gods of the young Kingdoms have a powerful influences over Magic and Magical Powers.

Powerful individual Sorcerers do exist - but the most powerful Sorcerers are so because of rituals and summonings not because of Spell Knowledge and Power.

A few spells are restricted in their availability - among them wishes, commune, and consecrate. The functions of the first are available through divine intervention-the asking of and receiving the attention of the gods themselves. The use of the latter spells is available only to an actual priest of a religion.

The Young Kingdoms is a vast and fascinating place, well worth exploring!

Next - The People of Pan Tang!

Friday 18 March 2011

Beholder Miniatures

Coming soon from Otherworld Miniatures - 

Its meant to be an "Eye of Terror" for the Labyrinth Lord RPG, and is a multi-part kit consisting of of 2 head sections, 2 sprues of eyestalks, 2 arm tentacles and 2 sprues of body fronds. The kit has been sculpted by John Pickford

They are available to Pre-Order at just £14.00 and contain enough bits to build either a "Classic" "Eye Tyrant" or a Labyrinth Lord Eye of Terror.

I am blown away by this, absolutely gorgeous!

D&D For Kids

RPG's for Kids, not Teenagers - Kids. Whilst there is the rare child who can play RPG's in a collective and co-operative manner (I've known just one) there seems to be a real trend (especially with 4e D&D) to run games for very young children.

Uri Kurlianchik has been posting articles on the official D&D Website, about his experiences running games for Kids - and whilst his intentions are no-doubt good, I don't think they are entirely realistic.

The OLDEST player he has been running games for is 11, and (to me at least) 11 is the YOUNGEST (unless they were exceptional) aged player I would run games for. His youngest Player is 7 (and doing surprisingly well according to Uri) which is really REALLY young to cope with the concepts of even the simplest RPG.
His lastest article D&D Kids: Punishment made me really smile, as its a perfect example of why running D&D for young children is NOT a good idea.

The article basically deals with controlling the players behaviour when they "act up" - and Uri categorizes them into different types -  

The Astronaut - A kid whose oblivious to the "rules" of the game world, forgets what he can and cannot do - probably because his attention span is poor. 

The Crybaby - The Kid who always looks like he is on the verge of tears or a tantrum, ALL the time over everything. 

The Cheater - I think this needs no descriptive explanation. 

The Serial Character Changer - Who constantly wants new characters, either because he finds something cool in the Manuals or is bored. 

The Hyperactive - Constantly "in motion' and won't stop still. 

The Joker - Actually a misnomer for what this Kid is, a malicious little bugger out for a "laugh" all the time. 

The Chaotic-Stupid - A Kid who's behaviour "in game" gets his party killed repeatedly. 

The Antagonist - The type of Kid who ALWAYS argues with authority figures.

NOW - it's difficult enough running games for Teenagers and/or Adults, without the added hassles of Kids misbehaving. If you are spending a large chunk of your time (as a DM) controlling your player's behaviour, you don't have time to focus on NPC's, Encounters, World Events, Weather, Environment, etc . . . . . 

The list of in-game "Chores" for a DM is a long one!

One of the things I love about playing in an RPG is the sheer amount of freedom a good DM can give you, by having to "Crack the Whip" (Uri's term, not mine) over his Kids is cheating them of that freedom - if they don't (or can't) understand its meant to be a co-operative experience, constantly messing about or screwing things up for the group they shouldn't be playing IMHO (and that applies to grown-ups too).

So, my point is this - if D&D (or any other RPG NOT specifically designed with Children in mind) were suitable for Kids that young, you wouldn't need articles like the one's Uri is writing - would you . . . . . 

Sunday 13 March 2011

What makes a Good Dungeon-Crawl Good?

If you strain, and think back to the (no doubt MANY) Dungeon Adventures you've played in and/or run down through the years - whether purchased (or indeed home grown, I've read some amazing unpublished dungeon-centric adventures).

What makes a Good Dungeon-Crawl Good? (or hopefully even Great). What makes a Dungeon an enthralling place to explore and adventure in - a suitable environment to "Fight the Good Fight" - rather than it being some boring repetitive exercise in monster bashing and door breaking . . . .

1- A Goal

The PC's need a reason to be there (outside of the obvious Treasure and Glory). A mission - often one of the three "R's" (Rescue, Retrieval, or Revenge).

2 - A "Hook" or Theme

Its important that the Creatures/Monsters have a common link - Whether it be they all work for a Villain, or come from the same (or related) families of Monsters.

3 - Style or "The Look"

When describing the environment, remain consistent. If its Medieval, keep the descriptions as such. If its Egyptian styled, don't start throwing in Renaissance Torture Chambers in - suspension of disbelief is really important during FRP games - if you break from your internal consistency, you can ruin it for your players.

4 - Pacing

DO NOT allow your players to pause for breath, keep the descriptions coming - and the encounters rapid. The minute they finish with one problem, introduce another. It seems a daft thing to mention, but the more you keep your players on their toes - the more they will enjoy it.

5 - Traps, Tricks, and Puzzles

A lot of modern DM's don't like including Traps, Tricks, or Puzzles - they find them trite or old fashioned. BUT when a Player beats/circumvents such an encounter they will be bouncing with excitement MORE than if their Character had slain the biggest of Dragons.

Resource Materials

Here is a list of some great books to pic up for reference, all are useful and are non system specific so any DM can get good use from them.

Central Casting Dungeons
A dungeon random-generation kit, with piles of very specific details. Great if you want to generate random (although illogical) dungeons. Now out of print (Originally Published by Task Force Games), if you search around you can generally find it somewhere to Download.

The Dungeon Alphabet 
Billed as an A-to-Z Reference for Classic Dungeon Design - The Dungeon Alphabet compiles twenty-six classic dungeon design elements in one place to assist the game master in creating subterranean challenges. A is for Altar, B is for Books, and C is for Caves and so on. Its one of my all time favourite books. The Dungeon Alphabet is available in both Print and PDF format - produced by Goodman Games.

Engineering Dungeons
Similar to Central Casting Dungeons, but more streamlined and logical is Engineering Dungeons from Troll Lord Games. Though formatted for Castles & Crusades its easily usable with any edition of Dungeons & Dragons (even the dreaded 4th Edition). Engineering Dungeons brings the DM the tools to entice the imagination, to create, wholesale, from scratch, a varied array of dungeoneering experiences. You will find the means to determine monsters, their treasures, their lairs - who, where, and why a dungeon exists, and even flavorful aspects of the dungeon environment, such as light, air condition, and odors. Traps, of all sorts, designed to function as a universal difficulty system, are included.

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Network Blogs

We're listed on NetworkedBlogs now too!

So please follow me, plenty of things to convert and ideas to put forth!

More conversions tomorrow!

Thursday 3 March 2011

WizBro Logic

One of the "mainstays" of "Modern" Dungeons & Dragons is the use of a Battle Grid and Miniatures.

So why have they cut their own throat by stopping the miniatures line?

It's going to interfere with the Rules as they stand, and make things difficult for DM's too.

The whole dynamic of the game "shifts", pushing counters around a grid detracts from whats going on in my opinion - whereas miniatures, used well can enhance a game.

The OFFICIAL line is that the miniatures range ISN'T profitable any more - of course it isnt. You stopped it being a CMG for a start, re-issuing new packs whilst removing the collectable and competative elements - bang goes a large chunk of revenue.

Co-incidentally (well, I actually believe its NOT a co-incidence) WizKids sales have taken an upturn - so the CMG D&D collectors have obviously switched camps fairly quickly - and WizKids aren't missing a trick either - releasing LotR Clix and Star Trek Clix - to recruit even MORE customers/collectors from the void created by WizBro.

If the miniatures weren't selling that well in the absense of the CMG format, does that mean 4e isn't either - if the rules as they stand require miniatures. Then surely both DM's and Players (at least in theory) should be buying them, or are they buying other companies (superior) miniatures and painting them.

Reaper Miniatures do everything Player Character wise, and a fair chunk of monsters too.

Otherworld Miniatures produce a really BIG range (and its growing) of D&D Monsters with a lovely "Old School" feel to them.

I just feel like this is a really bad move for modern D&D, heck the D&D Franchise in general - alienating a large chunk of their customer base like that.

On the plus side, I think its going to recruit more players for games like Labyrinth Lord and Castles & Crusades - games that are more "old school" and economically accessible.

WizBro Logic . . . .

Wednesday 2 March 2011

The Dark Creeper

Another conversion to C&C today, one of my all-time favourite Fiend Folio beasties - "The Dark Creeper"!

The Dark Creeper (a folk name  or the race since the race name is unknown and the race language  incomprehensible to linguists) is a humanoid, slightly-built creature about the same height as a dwarf.
Members of the race always dress in sombre, darkcoloured clothing, concealing as much of their pallid skin as possible. They detest light and dwell deep underground - usually leading a solitary existence though there have been rumours of underground villages inhabited by as many as 80 individuals, including 20-25 females. These villages are always ruled by a Dark Stalker.

NO. ENCOUNTERED: 1 (20-80)
30 ft
20 (or 12, see notes below)
1 (Dagger) 1D4
See Notes Below
Average (Human) Intelligence
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Neutral
See Notes Below

The dark creeper is particularly fond of small magical items such as rings and magic daggers -  solitary individuals will carry 25% of their treasure in the copious  pockets of  their cloaks, so  there is a 15% chance of  a magic dagger, 5% chance of a magical ring and 10% chance of 1-4  gems or 1-2 items of jewelery on any individual encountered.  

In a Dark Creeper lair multiply these probable treasure items by the number of male individuals resident, in addition add 1-100 platinum pieces and 50-500 gold pieces. 

A Dark Creeper has all the abilities of a 4th Level Thief in addition to the ability to Detect Magical Items at a range of 15 feet. A Dark Creeper Attacks with a normal (or, if one is possessed - a magical) Dagger. A Dark Creeper also has the innate power to Create Darkness three times a day - when this power is used, all torches, lanterns and other non-magical sources of illumination within 50 feet are extinguished and cannot be re-ignited during the next hour of in-game time (the duration of the Dark Creeper’s power). During this time the Dark Creeper has two main objectives. First, to destroy lanterns and tinderboxes, break flasks of oil and so on - any act which will inhibit the creation of light and illumination. Secondly, to steal any small magical items detected. Self-preservation ranks only marginally above such objectives. 

 Magical sources of illumination may also be affected by a Dark Creeper’s darkness abilities.  In effect, they obtain a saving roll against magical frost, and if the item makes such a save it is not affected. If the item fails to save, however, it is extinguished for the next hour, after which its property returns to normal. 

During the darkness, even infravision becomes useless; however a Dark Creeper will not use its power against parties not using artificial illumination, so Elves using infravision, for instance, will usually pass unmolested. 

Magical sources of illumination may also be affected by a Dark Creeper’s darkness abilities.  In effect, they obtain a saving roll against magical frost, and if the item makes such a save it is not affected. If the item fails to save, however, it is extinguished for the next hour, after which its property returns to normal. 

During the darkness, even infravision becomes useless; however a Dark Creeper will not use its power against parties not using artificial illumination, so Elves using infravision, for instance, will usually pass unmolested.

The darkness power may be countered by spells such as light, and if a Dark Creeper is attacked in normal illumination its AC is lowered to 12. If a Dark Creeper is killed its body undergoes spontaneous combustion of such intensity that all within 10 feet of the victim are blinded (saving against magic permitted) for 1-6 full turns. All traces of the Dark Creeper are destroyed - though metal items will normally (5+ chance on a D20) be undamaged; magical items, metal or otherwise, will lose their enchantment if they fail to make a save against magical fire.

Tuesday 1 March 2011

The Necrophidius

Back to some conversions whilst I finish my Cthulhu Mythos notes - first up "The Necrophidius".

The necrophidius, called the "death worm" by some, is an artificial creature, built and animated by a wizard or priest for a single task, such as protecting a particular treasure or assassinating a specific target.

The necrophidius resembles a bleached-white skeleton of a giant snake, topped by a fanged human skull with constantly whirling, milk-white eyes. The death worm's bones are warm to thetouch. The necrophidius is nearly undetectable to most senses. It is absolutely silent; it may open a door and cause the hinges to creak, but it makes no noise whatsoever even when slithering across a floor strewn with leaves. The necrophidius has no odor. The necrophidius keeps up a constant motion, moving with a macabre grace.

30 ft
1 (Bite) 1D8
Eye Magic, Darkvision 60 ft, Anti-Magic
Average (Human) Intelligence


A necrophidius is created for a single purpose. It may be created in one of three ways.

The first is via a magical tome, akin to a manual of golems can provide secrets of the necrophidius's construction (the Necrophidicon, as it is sometimes called, must be burnt to ashes, which provides the animating force for the monster).

Alternatively, a wizard can create a necrophidius by his own means. This process is long and complex, and requires that the wizard be able to cast limited wish, geas, and charm person spells.

The third method enables a high-level priest of some Powers to build a necrophidius. Again, the method is long and tedious. It requires the spells geas, neutralize poison, prayer, silence, and command.

Whichever method is used, the monster requires the complete skeleton of a giant snake (either poisonous or constrictor) slain within 24 hours of the enchantment's commencement. The construction takes 500 gold pieces worth of herbs and ointments per hit point of the necrophidius; and ten days are required. 

A necrophidius is built for a specific purpose (which must be in the spellcaster's mind when he creates it), such as "Kill Ragnar the Bold" or "Keep the Scepter of Trystom safe on this altar."

The necrophidius has a reasonable intelligence, and does not seek to twist the intent of its maker, but its enchantments fade when its task is done or cannot be completed, for example, when it kills Ragnar, or when the owner decides to use the Scepter of Trystom. 

The crafter must want the necrophidius to serve its purpose. He could not, for example, build a death worm to "Sneak into the druids hut and steal his staff," if the crafter really intended for the necrophidius to merely provide a distraction. He could not build more than one death worm and assign each of them to kill Ragnar, since he could not imbue in the second death worm a task that he intended the first one to complete. For this reason, ne-crophidii are almost never seen working as a team. There are rumors, not well-founded, that there were once methods to make a necrophidius that conformed to all current specifications except that it gained 1 Hit Die every century it was pursuing its purpose.