What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
After Winter Dark Campaign Setting

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Weekend R&R: Advanced Fighting Fantasy

Back in July, I wrote a bit about the the Fighting Fantasy books I had been exposed to (they were French translations) before I got started into D&D.  They certainly gave me enough of a taste for the sort of things that would appeal to me in the myriad of game systems and adventures I would embark playing at the age of 13.  You can check out that original post HERE.

In any event, being ever on the lookout for an interesting game or system, I came across the 'Advanced Fighting Fantasy' RPG during my online browsing at one of my favorite second retailers, and ordered it amongst a few other things a couple of weeks ago.

There is something to be said, and tends to be forgotten, when looking at all the games we have at our disposal.  Simple doesn't mean inferior or make it any less enjoyable.  Before I began flipping through the pages of the book, and thinking back on those days reading those Fighting Fantasy books, I wondered why on earth would an RPG based on this basic system need 174 pages.  As I began reading various sections, my fears were eased somewhat though and the very basics of the game are covered in two-and-a-half pages before giving an introductory dungeon adventure spanning another seven.  The game is just not complicated and can easily be grasped within moments.  There is a lot of unnecessary page use in this book and part of me wishes for a more condensed approach but, what can you do...

The first chapter starts after this quick game system summary and the introductory adventure and predictably covers character creation.  No surprises here though things are simple and limited enough.  You can be human, dwarf, or elf.  You really worry about 4 stats and assign points to base numbers.  You further differentiate with skills and finish off by selected a talent.  All this along with skill and talent descriptions and covered in a dozen pages.  You have then about an equal number of pages with each providing an pre-made archetype set up as a character sheet.

The second chapter gives a more detailed examination on the game rules with the following two chapters dealing with combat and magic respectively.  Once these bases are covered, more material is provided which is perhaps more setting oriented -- topics such as religion and the world of 'Titan' add some substance which may not be of much interest to some but a welcome addition none-the-less.

The book is completed by providing some monsters and treasure as well as some guidelines to running and designing an adventure as well as the inclusion of some optional rules.  The book is nice but, the cover price of $29.99 is pretty steep if you consider what you're actually getting here.  You have an interesting sampling of black and white illustrations throughout the work and the presentation of the book is well done though, it seems like the desire to make this into a bigger RPG than what it really is does Advanced Fighting Fantasy a disservice here.  You need to consider that they have a couple other books to complement this book but, in the end, a more precisely condensed version of the book would have been less expensive and likely of greater interest to anyone who has had fond memories of Fighting Fantasy.  I think the lack of a sleeker and smaller offering is a missed opportunity to get others to pick this up.  Another problem is the lack of a PDF option -- you only have the option of the physical book.  However, they have at least provided a quickstart which is available for fee at RPG Now!  I was fortunate enough to pick it up for about half that price for my secondhand copy.  Of course, you could also try and track down a used copy of the original Advanced Fighting Fantasy book -- the version I picked up was released in 2011 and considered a 'second edition' to the game.

Advanced Fighting Fantasy is, at best, a gateway game or a fast pickup game but could still be used for a prolonged campaign.  Given that there are so many systems that offer a variety of complexities for their characters, it is nice to see a system that can be introduced to novices or younger gamers as well as just to have something to mess around with in lieu of a regular game or campaign.  Also, given the simplicity, the focus becomes less about the rules and more about the story and the enjoyment derived from playing.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Painting Project Revealed!

Well, I thought I would have the chance to post a bit more earlier in the week -- if not finish up my weekly R&R series but things don't always go the way you want.  I also wasn't counting on the bug I caught a couple of days ago putting me largely out of commission.  The staff X-Mas party for the company I work for was on Wednesday (the day after my last post), and I wasn't feeling too well the next morning.  Initially, I thought it might have been due to the heavy drinking I enjoyed the night before but the shivering as the result of the fever and the challenge of keeping food down a couple days later helped form a different theory as to why I was unwell.

Thankfully, I was well enough to enjoy a very late screening of the 'Hobbit' on Friday night (for those curious: 3D at 48 frames / second).  I enjoyed it very much though I am one of those forgiving sorts who had no issue with Peter Jackson's 'Lord of the Rings'.  I won't dwell on the movie on this post but may write about some of my thoughts in the next week or so.

Instead, the time has come to reveal what I had worked on, and finished as well as describe in better detail what went into the finished project.

First things first, the item in question (a set) came to me in multiple pieces in a smaller blister pack.  It was metal and consisted of 9 different pieces.  The base / rock which the griffin sits on had three points of contact with the most important one being the paw which needed to be flush.  Unfortunately and for whatever reason, there was no way to have either of the other two points of contact (the tail and left wing) to sit properly.  I had to modify the base using Green Stuff accordingly and created a better point of contact for the tail.  Using some super glue, I affixed the necessary pieces and filled in any necessary gaps with a bit more Green Stuff and some careful sculpting.  Naturally all this came after a good cleaning and tidying up of the various pieces first.  I primed in black once ready but kept the assembled Griffin and Rock Base separate during the painting process.  Once again, all paints used in the process are from the Citadel line.

The Rockbase was the easiest so I'll get that out of the way first.  I applied a base coat 'of Celstra Grey', I used a wash of 'Nuln Oil' for my shade, and finished off with a dry brush of 'Longbeard Grey'.  The base for the Knight got the same treatment.

The Griffin had more effort go into it... base coat for the body was with 'Steel Legion Drab' and the base coat for the small feathers (including head and feathered portion of torso) was 'Zandri Dust'.
The success rows on the feathers were done in 'Ceramite White' but as you get to the last row and tips of the feathers, I used 'Baneblade Brown', 'Gorthor Brown', and 'Rhinox Hide' blending from lighter colors to dark.

I applied an initial wash of 'Seraphim Sepia' to body and wings of the Griffin which did an amazing job of capturing some the finer details in the sculpt.  I should point at that normally, I would have added some highlights to the body to better show off the musculature but it didn't seem necessary when I arrived at that point given the results of the shading resulting from the wash.

The beak and talons were done using an 'Averland Sunset' with the actual claws down with a layer of 'Screaming Skull' using 'Nuln Oil' for shading.  The final detail were the eyes which is hard to see in the photograph.  I used 'Baltahsar Gold' with regular black for the pupil with a couple coats of 'Lamenters Yellow' glaze.  To finish up the Griffin, I applied more 'Seraphim Sepia' as necessary for the beast as a whole.  I should also point out that 'Rhinox Hide' was used for the tip of the tail as well to match the darkest parts of the wing feather tips.

The Knight was, for the most part, simpler and took less time to do with the exception of the face.

'Ceramite White' for the cloth, 'Leadbelcher' for the armor / chain as far as basecoat was concerned.  The same white was also used for the shield with 'Mephiston Red' for the cross.  On the first attempt, I screwed up the cross and, given the white background, I had to repaint a thick coat of white for the shield which gave it more of a textured look.  This kinda worked though making the shield look a bit more beat up so-to speak which is which I added scratches / gashes on the shield using concentrated 'Nuln Oil' shade in a couple places (as opposed to simply painting on gashes).  The effect worked well enough.  The spear was done using 'Rhinox Hide' for the shaft with 'Leadbelcher' for the tips and the spearhead was further accented with 'Runefang Steel'.  The bottom of the robe got a think touch of 'Zandri Dust'.

The knight's face was a different matter.  For such a small area of detail, it received a base coast of 'Bugman's Glow', a wash of 'Reikland Fleshade', a layer of 'Cadian Fleshtone', with some Edging with some 'Flayed One Flesh'.  The Edge line of paints are new and were just released as part of a 'Eavy Metal gift set this year from Citadel.  Pricey but I really like these paints and the brush that came part of the set is quite nice.  Think of the edge paints as a liquid solution to some of the Drypaint line.  Black was used to highlight the eyes and mouth as necessary.

When the pieces were done, they were sealed with a matte varnish and affixed on a small circular mirror using a combination of super glue and contact cement.

The gift was very well received and admired by the rest of the group when given today -- I am happy that it was liked and happy that I received some nice praise for the work.  Well worth the effort!


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Secret Painting Project and Mishaps

For those who read my post from about a week ago, I mentioned that one of the things I was working on was a new painting project.  I've pretty much finished it a short while ago this evening though I still can't reveal it.  I will be able to show off some pictures... both a few 'work in progress' pics and the the final results after this coming weekend.  All that's left to do is to do a sealant (a matte varnish) to protect it and mount it on a surface that I chose for it.  Actually it's composed of a couple of pieces and they form a sort of diorama.

However, in lieu of my successes with this project, I thought I would share a few mishaps and miscalculations during the production of the project -- for your amusement.

At first, I received the thing in pieces in a sort of plastic blister pack.  The pieces were metal which is nice given the tendency to produce stuff in resin and plastics nowadays.  Obviously, the first step is to clean the various pieces.  By this I mean actually washing them to remove any residue which may hamper the painting process as well as cut and file away any unnecessary bits.

One of those great and VERY sharp tools I use for this is the hobby knife.  I was working with it on and off, occasionally putting it down to pick up and use a metal file.  I work on a very small table (basically a TV tray at present) and the hobby knife is round.  Here's a picture of what happened to the hobby knife after it rolled off the table.

It was a few inches away from my foot but thankfully, the floor took the hit.  So... lesson learned,  put the cap on in between uses!

The second bit of 'lessons learned' was when I came to add the black primer to the pieces.  Now, I live in Canada and this time of year is kind of damp, freezing, and usually involves snow.  We have been fortunate though so not much in terms of snow or ice but we have been seeing freezing temperatures for a few weeks now.  Now my primer comes conveniently (or rather inconveniently) in a spray can.  Never use a spray can in an area that is not well ventilated which pretty much means 'outside if you can'.  Well, I couldn't but what I had to coat in primer was rather small and, this apartment was a rather special characteristic, HUGE WINDOWS that almost completely open up!  Really, one wall of my study is basically windows from wall to wall and ceiling to about 3 feet off the floor.  We also have high ceilings.  So, what do I decided to do?  close the door and completely open the windows.  I basically do three 'runs' of spaying (additional spay contained by a large box)... each very short but extremely effective.  It smells of course (thanks propellant) but the smell dissipates quickly each time thanks to the airflow.  Of course, the windows are left open during all this time as I allow each section I primed to dry before moving to get a different side/angle.  This takes about a couple hours (though I could have done it in half the time) as I wanted to be sure the primer was dry and odor gone before I started again.  At the end of all this, I decide to close the windows as the temperature is starting to drop in the study.  The windows are frozen in place.  I started this shortly after getting off work and the windows opened easily enough but a few hours later, the temperature dropped a few degrees causing some condensation to freeze a bit, and so on...  You get the picture.  Naturally, I can't allow this to go unchecked.  Image a guy, trying to get a window 'unstuck', partially leaning out of the widow / apartment to do so (no worries -- I was very safety conscientious).  Top floor of the building but it's a low-rise and only 5 floors.  Thankfully, it didn't take long for me to get a large quantity of hot water to splash on the window (outside) which quickly got things moving again.  Guess I won't be doing that again anytime soon.  ;)

The last significant bit is not so much something I did or didn't do and more of a case of things just happen sometimes.  There were aspects of this project which would have made an airbrush a perfect tool to simplify my life.  I had held of on using the airbrush up to then since I was also waiting for a conversion kit to use both airbrush and spray gun with a minimum of fuss.  I received it at the start of the project which seemed almost too perfect.  When the moment finally calls for it, I setup my gear, and turn on the compressor.  It's loud but that was expected.  However, it's making unusual noises as well -- not good.  After looking into this further, it seem like there is a problem with the 'relief valve'.  To be clear, this is a diaphragm compressor which means the pressure and airflow is constant as opposed to filling up a tank of air and shutting off.  When there is too much pressure, the excess is 'discharged' -- I guess it was either malfunctioning and/or sticking.  In any event, an airbrush was *not* used for the project.

That said, while the project was a great way to practice my skills and techniques, and while not everything went to plan -- I'm really digging the final result.  It's a gift which I hope will be appreciated and I think I will be a bit sorry to see it go.  The good news is I have another identical model coming in so I can try all of this again for the next one which I intend to keep.  ;)


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Weekend R&R: BareBones Fantasy

Ok, I admit it -- I love checking out different systems to see how they work and how they play.  Part of it is trying to find something to improve or spice up games I have been playing at for many years now.  Part of it is just to find some better options that what I'm already familiar with.  Part of it is simple research which feeds into my own ideas on concepts for what I would deem a 'perfect system' for my uses.

Sometimes, it's someone else that brings this to my attention.  BareBones Fantasy is such a game.

I have been aware of it for a few weeks now and, there's been a lot of good things been said and written in the short period of time since it's been released.  A friend who runs a game I take part in decided to switch to it about a week ago and we played this past Sunday.  At first I was leery of another system change (this is a common occurrence as he too is constantly looking for the 'ideal' system) but I was optimistic given what I had heard and read.

At the end of the day, I can say without hesitation that I like it.  I *really* like it.

This little system runs very well and is easy to understand and grasp.  There are things about it that, on the surface reminds me of a couple of other concepts used in other games.  However, I have to say that the presentation here trumps many other efforts at bringing a rule system into being while keeping it completely accessible.  It is definitely in the Rules-Lite category of games.

What I like about it:  It's an 80 page book (currently only available in PDF for around $10 but with a POD option coming very soon) but smaller in size (looks around 5" x 9" with a large font).  The book has everything you need and a lot of what you don't need has been tossed.  In other words, there is no "What is an RPG" and other introductory sort of material that you will find in the majority of gamebooks.  This game assumes a basic level of knowledge concerning RPGs and runs with it.  It throws in all sort of material beyond the basic character generation and system mechanics!  If they didn't, the book would be a heck of a lot shorter than it already is!  You have guidelines to create magic items and monsters with a nice selection included as well.  You have some stuff for assist in creating adventures and dungeons with some neat tables to facilitate things, with other tables for traps and treasures.  To round out the book, you have a few pages devoted to a campaign setting / world, a glossary, and index!!

Is there anything I don't like about it?  At this point, I'm not sure if I can name something and this is a good thing.

In some ways, part of it reminded me of what Lejendary Adventures tried to accomplish -- except this is much simpler to grasp.  BareBones Fantasy is essentially a classless system.  Instead it relies on skill packages -- warrior, rogue, etc...  These skills feed off of your stats of which are four.  You select a primary skill package and a secondary one and these determine essentially what you are.  So to say this is strictly a skill based game as opposed to a class based one is not entirely correct.  But the manner in which this game does it did manage to keep the game simple and yet still provide a level of detail which a lot of gamers would appreciate.  The other game this reminds me of in a 'backwards' sort of way, is Castles & Crusades or, perhaps better yet, StarSiege.  The reason I say this is with the way that C&C is largely a class based game and not a skill-based one but, with the concept of Prime attributes, essentially help better define and differentiate a character with 'what they are good at'.  A rogue for example gets his prime (equivalent of a +6 in a d20 based game) to checks related to his background / archetype.  StarSiege didn't actually have classes and functioned more on the concept of skill packages from what I remember.  In many ways, BareBones Fantasy will do a better job than the Siege Engine games by TLG will if only by the virtue of the percentile dice instead of a d20 with a greater range of numbers to play with.  Interestingly enough... 0-5 is the equivalent of a critical success and 95-99 is the same as a critical fumble and thus, the same 5% chance you get for either a '1' or a '20' on a 20-sided die.

I highly recommend the game, even if you're just curious and happy with your present system of choice.  You can find it on RPGNow! and associated retailers.  Who knows, you may be tempted to at least try it out if not switch altogether.  ;)

Happy Gaming!


Blog's Been A Bit Quiet

With things on the blog quieting down, it must mean something is afoot!  ;)

The holidays are nigh upon us (or the end of the world if you believe others) and it's been a bit busy.  I've starting a new painting project and temporarily put aside the orcs.  This project is actually a gift so I cannot write much about here but I will be documenting the process with a couple of pics and have a few finished shots once done -- I need to try and wrap this up before next Friday and the priming also starts tonight!

Aside from that, there is the general hustle and bustle which invariably happens to most of us come this time of year.  I've gotten the majority of the holiday shopping done and even picked up a couple of things for myself -- an order from Noble Knight Games came in today for me so I imagine there will be some stuff I'll be talking about in there.

I also had the chance to play and read parts of the BareBones Fantasy game which will be the focus of this past weekend's (and overdue) Weekend R&R article.  Look for that in the next few hours.

I imagine that between now and after the holidays, posting may be a bit more sporadic and perhaps sparse but the blog will keep on getting updated.  :)

Not much new otherwise -- plans and projects continue to be examined and considered, and I've held off some of the work on a couple of the C&C modules that were in development and will see actual publication near the start of 2013 for a simple reason of economics.  The gaming market has changed considerably in the past 18 months but this isn't something new.  As a developer working often with Brave Halfling Publishing we've had many a conversation about what we're doing, what we're about to start working on, and what we need to shutdown to best use the limited resources we have.  But that is something I'll go into detail some other time like after the holidays.  ;)


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Adventures Dark & Deep Player's Manual

Well, true to his word, has started a new Kickstarter to release the first of three books that have been planned and written for Adventures Dark & Deep.  When he first did the KS for 'A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore', his goal was to raise $2500 for artwork, editing, and the production costs related to the print run to satisfy the backers.  I initially thought the goal a modest one and decided to pledge an amount myself.  The objective was reached about two weeks during the funding drive and by the end of it, Joseph Bloch had raised about 3 times the amount thanks to 244 backers.  Of course, the amount raised was before the Kickstarter and Amazon fees.

I gave the book a favorable review when I got the PDF version (the physical copies were in development at the time) and this can be seen HERE.  In the article, I noted a couple of quibbles I had with regards to presentation which, once I was able to flip through my physical copy in October (I received the book on the 24th), I essentially recanted in a subsequent post.  The presentation did look better flipping through the pages as opposed to the PDF despite the whitespace.

While I think the book is a decent book and I'm happy to have it in my collection, I was ultimately disappointed by the pricing I saw when I realized it was print on demand project via a third party.  To be clear, the problem I have had nothing to do with the fact it was POD but the price structure for it.  The creator had disclosed that the goal was to raise money for the art and editing of the text.  However, those people who wanted a hardcover copy when they backed the project had to pony up $60 for the privilege (they also get a copy of the PDF).  Anyone who decided to not pledge but subsequently get it off of RPGNow can get the same thing for half the price.  From a what I have read and heard, I know this was a concern for some people.

I'm pleased to say that the pricing structure is a significantly more favorable with the new Kickstarter though and, if you are the slightest bit interested, it would be well worth your while to take a good look.

But what is Adventures Dark & Deep?  If you read my review or having been keeping up with things in the gaming community and already know, feel free to skip ahead.  If not: Adventures Dark & Deep is basically a 'what-if' scenario.  What if Gary Gygax hadn't been forced out of TSR and was able to bring a Second Edition of AD&D as he envisioned it.  Joseph Bloch did quite a bit of research and culled information from articles and statements that Gygax made and crafted together a possible 'vision' of such a project.  The aforementioned book, 'A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore' was essentially a companion book which could be used for existing systems to bring these options to the table.

For those interested in a stand-alone game embodying some of the options and concepts previously introduced in 'A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore' -- this is what Joseph Bloch is endeavoring to deliver to you now.  The new kickstarter is the first of three books which will embody the core set for Adventures Dark & Deep.  The KS found HERE and basically the key pledge levels are $10 for the PDF, $30 for softcover and PDF, and $40 for hardcover and PDF.  This is great pricing given that it's twice the size of the previous options book and what would expect to see for a similar product in retail.  Other pledge levels are available too.

Will I get it?  Doubtful but only because I feel I have all I need with the earlier book in the line.  I'm still considering it though and may back at the PDF level and if I don't do that, I will at least pledge something since I do believe in what Mr. Bloch is doing here.

At the writing of this post, 118 backers have pledged $4,473 of the $6,500 goal with 17 days to go.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

SALE !! Thieves' World Gift Set

Like the Rod of Seven Parts boxes set I just posted, this is another item which I consider 'high profile' and deserves a mention.  A friend of mine is selling the gift set put together by Green Ronin.  This means this is a d20 set but a fine set nonetheless!  I talk about the set here in a past 'Weekend R&R' post which you can view by clicking HERE.

The gift set as relayed by the seller, is described as:

New/Like Mint in box (some, not all, of the books read once, others are never-read/new).
Contains TW Player's Manual, Shadowspawn's Guide to Sancuary, Murder at the Vulgar Unicorn, Black Snake Dawn, TW Gazetteer. (d20 3.5) (a must-have for any TW fan, this is frickin' sweet and it kills me to part with it)

I'll be honest here fellow readers and gamers, if it wasn't for the fact that I've realized I have the tendency to acquire too much gaming material and the knowledge that shipping to Canada wouldn't be exactly cheap, I would seriously consider it myself.

My friend Bill is asking $69 for it plus applicable shipping to your corner of the world.

If any of you are interested, I encourage them to contact  Bill DeFranza directly at: defranza (at) gmail (dot) com

The notice for this sale was originally posted over in the TLG forums with a couple other items I will be highlighting on the blog.  This can be found HERE.

If you do contact him, be sure to let him know where you found out about the sale.


SALE !! Rod of Seven Parts

A friend of mine is selling a few things and I offered to help him out by spreading the word a bit.  Up for grabs is the 1996 TSR BOX SET Dungeons & Dragons Tomes Adventure THE ROD OF SEVEN PARTS

The set is complete and even has original advertisement flyers inside (only thing missing is the shrink wrap). The Contents are in pristine condition! Looks never-played. The box has rubbing damage on corners and both lids are concave. Box is still sturdy, however. NO musty or smoke odor. Two small bits of tape had been holding the box shut at one point. Overall, it's in great condition (contents like new/near mint). A complete Epic adventure/campaign for characters level 10-12, chock full of beautiful full color handouts and maps with 208 pages (4 booklets) of adventure and references.

The price for this little gem?   $69 plus whatever the shipping is to your corner of the world.  This is a set can sell for more for with the condition of the material being less than ideal.

If any of the my readers are interested, I encourage them to contact  Bill DeFranza directly at: defranza (at) gmail (dot) com

The notice for this sale was originally posted over in the TLG forums with a couple other items I will be highlighting on the blog.  This can be found HERE.

If you do contact him, be sure to let him know where you found out about the sale.  Here is a spread of pictures below:


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Weekend R&R: Wildscape

When you consider the 'Dungeoneer's Survival Guide', the 'Wilderness Survival Guide' will also come to mind for more than a few people.  And like 'Dungeoncraft', the Legends & Lair also has its wilderness related response in 'Wildscape'.

The 'Wildscape' book follows the pattern established in earlier books in the series which also happens to be a book not overly bogged down by d20 crunch beyond the initial section of the book.  Most of the material in here can be easily adapted in a variety of other D&D type games whether one prefers older game systems or the newer incarnations.

The book's first chapter is dedicated to character classes once again though this time, focus is given to druids and rangers and the addition of a handful of new wilderness related feats.  Unlike other books in the series, this chapter is actually smaller since little is done beyond the two aforementioned archetypes.  The second chapter focuses on running a wilderness based campaign with some material written on how to use the book and some considerations for wandering encounters in a wilderness setting.  Basic advice and solid material.

What follows though is another nine chapters -- each dealing with a different environment.  Chapters cover deserts, mountains, plains, waterways, swamps, arctic terrain, wastelands, and perhaps most importantly, weather.  Each of these chapters dealing with a different terrain cover various traits which are most prevalent and how they affect those traveling and living in it.  Consideration is also given to each terrain as it relates to combat and there is text covering various creatures which may frequent the area in question.  Some of these traits also function as hazards the way that Dungeon Craft deals with hazards.

The final chapter as previously mentioned, deals with weather.  A small host of tables are included for all sorts of weather conditions and effects which prove quite easy to use and navigate through.

The book in it's scope tries to do two things: cover a lot of different types of environments while remaining devoted to principally to terrain and weather.  While the book is well put together, depending on what you are looking for, the book could either be a perfect reference or fall drastically short of expectations.  For example, beyond terrain and weather, no consideration is really done about various types of magic and impact of spells out in the wilderness.  There are no rules for a forest fires, earthquakes, or other forms of natural disasters though some can be discerned in weather section if you want to see what effects might be for trying to do something in, say a hurricane.  Likewise, not much is given to considerations brought on by temperature such as hypothermia and frostbite for example.  What the book will give you is information on how to run the basics in a given area which will be, at the very least, a solid foundation.  I find that that Wilderness Survival Guide from 1st Edition ends up being a nice complement to this d20 book due to the approaches and sort of material that both books contain.

The book has about 168 pages of material with a few additional pages showing a preview for a different book.  Like the rest of the series, it is out of print but still readily available if you turn towards the second-hand market.  That said, it seems to command a higher price than some of the others in the series: $18 - $20 depending on the condition at Noble Knight Games and, oddly enough, doesn't seem to be available as a PDF.  As a d20 product, I'm not sure if I would be willing to spend more than $10 used for this book.  It's a good book and, like the rest of the series, I do like it a lot and the chapter breakdown make it simple enough to use.


Painted Orcs (WIP)

Well, as I thought, I was quite busy the past few days and didn't have much of a chance to get much writing done since my Thanksgiving note from last Thursday.  Among all the hustle and bustle, I did manage to do a wee bit of painting.  Here are half my batch of orcs with some base coat (only two colors) on them -- Work In Progress stuff:

After the primer, I elected to do a basecoat of 'Leadbelcher' (citadel line of paints) given the armor and weapons.  I used a spraygun as opposed to my airbrush to quickly do the job on all 10 of the orc miniatures I had.  I should specify that the spraygun is also from the Citadel line and many believe it to be a low quality product.  I did pick it up before I got my hands on the airbrush but I figured it would be adequate for spay a good basecoat in a rapid amount of time.  That said, I had very little problems using the gun though I think a lot of the problems come from how some people use it and lack of maintenance once done with it.  The gun is designed to connect to cans of 'propellant' (basically cans of compressed air) and I think that this is part of the issue -- the gun works decently enough if there is enough pressure going through and if your paint is properly diluted.  When I first mixed the paint/water for the gun, it probably was still a bit thick which gave me some initial problems but I quickly sorted that out by adding a tad more water.  It's possible that the nature of the paint had a bit heavier pigmentation which is why a needed a bit more water.  As for the can of compressed air -- these are very much like the cans of compressed air you use to dust off electronics and such.  Using them will cause the can to get 'cold' really quickly and the amount of air and pressure coming out of the can becomes and less as a result.  This means that the pressure coming out of the can may no longer be adequate for what the gun needs to work optimally.

I didn't have too much to spray so once I had the right balance for the paint, spraying the basecoat was very easy.  The best part is I didn't actually spend money on the can -- a friend who moved on to a compressor had some left over and passed it along to me.  Of course, I have a compressor as well though I do need to get proper sized fittings for it -- something that I'm already looking into.

This past Saturday, I ended up waking a bit earlier than I had anticipated and, realizing I had a couple hours to kill, I decided to do some more painting and decided to add the basecoat of green for the orcs skin.  Given the size and nature of the miniatures, it took me a bit more time to do so I only managed to get 5 of the 10 done.  The next painting I do will be to do the other 5 miniatures before moving on to other colors.  The green color I used was 'Waagh! Flesh' with one of the newer/higher quality brushes I recently picked up.

In any event, I like how these are starting to shape up.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Wishes

To all my American friends and readers to the south of the Canadian border, I hope you have a great Thanksgiving weekend!

Next post from "Under Siege" will likely be towards the end of the weekend if not Monday evening depending on how the next few days progress.  It's looking pretty busy but I'll try to squeeze one in earlier if possible.

Thanks for stopping by!  :)


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Funny Story...

Well news has gotten out about a new magazine on the horizon: Gygax Magazine and from what I gather, it could be an impressive piece of work should everyone work out and go well for them. For those not yet in the know... the magazine is being put out by TSR (a new company which bought the old trademark that had abandoned with include Ernie and Luke Gygax among others).

For those who have read my thoughts on Kobold Quarterly recently, it looks like this magazine is going to provide more of the type of material that I would have wanted to see.  A focus on many games -- both new and old of various genres and with a list of people collaborating which sounds promising.

This was originally posted on facebook by Tim Kask:

Here's a snippet from our ad prospectus.....so now you all the official word there is at this time.

Gygax is a gaming magazine for new and old players alike.

We are looking forward to the games of tomorrow and today, while preserving the traditions and history that got us where we are now.

Our articles and features cover current independent and major publisher games such as Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, The One Ring, Shadowrun, Godlike, Labyrinth Lord, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, Warhammer 40k Roleplay, Traveller, and others, as well as classic out-of-print games with a modern following, like AD&D, Top Secret, and Gamma World.

Our features include comics by Phil Foglio (What’s New With Phil and Dixie), Jim Wampler (Marvin the Mage), and Rich Burlew (Order of the Stick). Contributors include Jim Ward, Cory Doctorow, James Carpio, Ethan Gilsdorf, Dennis Sustare, and many more.

Publishing quarterly in print as well as PDF and iPad editions, we hope each issue of Gygax will be an anticipated and treasured addition to any gamer’s library.

Very interesting and I wish the magazine all the best.  I signed up to be notified of the first issue's release HERE and those of you interested can do the same.

Of course, what makes this announcement bitter-sweet is a series of dialogues I began with a few people a few weeks ago.  This was before the announcement that Kobold Quarterly was shutting down -- which is very interesting timing given the announcement of Gygax Magazine.  It was also a few weeks before I even wrote about Kobold Quarterly and, part of the reason I was looking at KQ was because of some of the ideas I had brewing in my head.  It's been at least a year since Fight On! had a new volume released and there seemed to be a good lack of a solid and regular publication focusing on the things I, and many other gamers, love.  For long time readers of the blog, this is not the first time I considered putting out a regular periodical either.  A couple of years ago, I had begun work on a journal but set it aside to work on other things.  As time went on, those plans got completely revamped but it was a series of little things that got me thinking about the importance of giving smaller games and systems and a segment of the gaming community another voice.  Ideas just grew from there since, it's hard to kill a good idea.

Up to this past weekend, I had figured out the finances of what was needed to put out a digital and print magazine for the first year, meaning four quarterly issues.  The format of the magazine was becoming finalized with some thoughts to go about using a crowd-funding platform like Kickstarter to raise funds and see interest..  I was looking at taking Arcana Creations in a slightly different and more focused direction since I believe that sometimes, it's just better to focus on the one thing in order to do it very well.  Of course this would have been after I wrapped up a couple of projects and the first issue of this 'unnamed' magazine would have been Summer 2013.

Then I get an email suggesting I check out a link this morning for Gygax Magazine and what little news there was trickled through to me (I was at work) during the course of the day.

C'est la vie.  Arcana Creations will turn it's focus to something slightly different and we'll see current projects through and embark on a different route altogether.  ;)

Now, with Gygax Magazine, I certainly have my 'wishlist' of things I would really like to see.  It's something I see I might like contributing to though so who knows ... wishes and dreams do sometimes come true.  Maybe I'll finally have a magazine I'll be happy and exited to subscribe to and read once again!


Monday, November 19, 2012

Weekend R&R: Dungeoncraft

Several months ago, I kicked off my (mostly) weekly series of the 'Weekend R&R' posts -- my Retrospectives & Reviews of various gaming books and things.  The first post was "Cityworks" which was part of the Legends & Lairs series of d20 books publishing by Fantasy Flight Games in the d20 boom.  You can check it out HERE.  I've always had a soft spot for these particular books over most other d20 books by various third party publishers for a few reasons.  I find that they are practical and, despite some of the invariable crunch you'll find, it seems to be less about mechanics and more about crafting one's campaign.  It also helped that I got all these books for a steal when the publisher decided to clear their stock!  :)

It should be no surprise that a book titled "Dungeoncraft" deals with dungeon oriented campaigns and, as with other books in the series, it follows a similar format from book to book.  The first chapter deals with characters -- how your various classes / archetypes can play out in the dungeon environment, new prestige classes suited to this environment, and of course some new feats as well.  There is material written on equipment, both new and old as well as their uses and some further considerations of being in a dungeon-type environment for extended periods of time.  All this material takes up 37 pages.

The second chapter is simply entitled 'Magic' and offers new spells and items which are, once again, suited to the book's theme.  Pretty standard fare.

The third chapter is more interesting and is entitled 'Dangers'.  A few pages are devoted to what are termed Environmental Hazards -- explanations and samples are given.  Guidelines are also given to create your own but just the samples alone will be of cruel inspiration to the enterprising GM.  You have some new monsters but, more interestingly, is a section dealing with wandering monsters and encounters with some simple system alternatives to give variety to the standard 1 on a d6 check or the like.

The fourth chapter is where some of the fun begins for someone who wants a system to help them design something.  A simple but robust system is provided if someone wants to basically roll a dungeon up but there is advice given as well.  The system is also modular enough to use only parts if one chose to or they could ignore that completely and consult the chapter for some of the detailing and stocking.  There is a nice section on Monsters which examines reasons for them to be there and provides helpful tips to being more cohesion to the placement of these denizens as well as the social geography of your complex.  This chapters also has some ready to use monster tables and rules for monster morale, and a section on traps.  This chapter draws to a close by offering several dungeon templates as well as a section dealing with dungeon-themed campaigns.  Chapter 4 is the gem of this book and is 75 pages.

The final chapter takes what was touched upon in Chapters 3 and 4 to craft 'Encounters' -- unusual rooms / areas / challenges which are ready to be taken right from the book and dropped into your campaign.  The appendix which follows are a handful of tables which is then followed by a basic index.

The book is 172 pages in all and a decently considered and written book.  There have been several others of course, including one by WOTC but I prefer this one above other d20 publications on this subject.  Actually I do prefer it to the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide from 1st Edition but they are both very different when you consider their respective contents.  I prefer to think as them complementing each other.

The book is, not surprisingly, out-of-print but if you were to try and track a copy down, it wouldn't be that hard or expensive.  At Noble Knight Games, there are a couple of used copies for about $10 (NM) which is a good price for the book.  If that's too rich for you, a PDF copy on RPGNow! is half that and can be yours for a mere $5.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Painted Goblins

Around 6 weeks ago, I began painting miniatures in earnest.  I don't always have the time but after trying my hand at it, I realized how much I was enjoying it.

I had showcased some Goblins and Orcs and posted a variety of pics of what I titled 'Phase One'.  You can go back and check it out HERE.

Well it took me longer to get the work on these than I thought it would but I suppose that's my own fault.  In the past 4 weeks, I've been busy -- both with work and appointments as well as a chance to catch a concert, a couple of movie premieres, and even some gaming here and there.  I also stopped the work on this batch of miniatures to customize one other for a character belonging to another player.  However, I did manage to get an uninterrupted day yesterday where I did some writing, product planning, and paint me some goblins on and off during the course of the day.  Please forgive the quality of the pics in today's post... lighting was just not the best this morning so some of the colors and effect may not come through as well as I would have liked.

The armor basecoat and shading was done about mid-October and I used Citadel's 'Ironbreaker' for the base and some 'Argrax Earthshade' for the wash.  It was during this initial basecoat that I also realized I might run into some problems.

I realized that a some of the models (pretty much the spearmen) weren't as well defined in the back.  Now this could be one of two reasons.  All the the spearmen are hunched over with their spears so it could be that the detail for these were just not as well defined, or more likely, not a pronounced.  Now these goblins represent the first batch that I've worked on so it is entirely possible that I was a bit too heavy on the black primer I used.  I'm surprised a bit by this because if this is what happened, the other 8 goblins ... and 10 orcs on top of that don't have the same issue.  These were all primed at the very same time and the goblins were still on the sprue.

That said, it's amazing what one can do to correct this by just painting what's needed.  The other advantage here is that, being goblins, I figured some of the details could be a bit 'ragtag' which made things all the easier.

I used a 'Death World Forest' green for the skin, 'Mephiston Red' for some of the cloth, 'Rhinox Hide' for Bows, Quiver and strap, and spear.

I also made liberal use of the 'Steel Legion Drab' which is used for the arrow shafts in the quiver as well as the straps/wraps for bracers and shin guards.  I also used the same color for more 'cloth' which I also shaded with the 'Argrax Earthshade' I used earlier.  Finally, the Mechanicus Standard Grey was used for the fletching for the arrows, gloves/hands, and I used them for the feet as well.  The same wash was used on the feet in particular to 'dirty them up'.

Are the goblins perfect?  No... I really didn't relish the thought of doing much in term of high detail work and even with some of the very fine detail brushes I picked up wasn't enough to give me the incentive to work more details on the face ... notably the eyes and mouth.  The goblins, being smaller than other figures were really a pain in the ass to do at times.  I used some shade (a wash) as well so that the face details would stand out a tad.

Being my first set of miniatures, aside from the robed figure I did for a fellow gamer, I am relatively pleased with my efforts.  The next batch of minis -- the orcs this time, have had their primary base coat applied this morning using a gun.  It was quite a time saver and given that they wore a lot of armor, I chose to use this as my starting base instead of a green for the skin.  They are also fairly bigger than those blasted goblins so I think painting them will be a treat!  However, given the smaller size of the goblins and the interesting shading and highlights I practiced on the robed figure, it gave me plenty of practice to build upon when I start the details of these orcs in earnest.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dead Kobolds

Well, little did I know how the weird timing of last week's 'Weekend R&R' when I considered the Kobold Quarterly publication that I was doing so in it's final moments.  Wolfgang Baur announced yesterday that the magazine was being discontinued and issue 23 was the final issue.  You can reade the original announcement HERE.  Other publishing projects are still moving ahead and I'm certain Open Design will continue to thrive on that front.  I believe that the focus on some of these other projects may have been a factor in the magazine shutting down.

It lasted over 5 years which was a good run and, aside from issues of content -- or rather not the sort of content that would please everyone in the gaming community, why did this happen?

Well, one of the longest running gaming magazines was Dragon magazine (of course) and it was hugely successful for a few reasons.  First and foremost, for a couple of decades, it didn't have to compete with something called 'the Internet'.  I remember being a much younger gamer, relatively new to the hobby and Dragon magazine was *the* place to go to for my gaming news.  Of course, my gaming largely consisted of what TSR but I love the fact that new products would be talked about and the neat ads for various products was a great way to spread the news back in the day.  That didn't mean I wasn't aware of non-TSR products since I did see some when I went to pick up a new book or module.  Plus there was still word of mouth from other friends interested in gaming.  Call of Cthulhu, Shadowrun, and MERP were all introduced to me from a friend.  Now, my main source of news is the 'net and not from company websites either.  Gaming blogs, gaming forums, as well as other forms of social media keep me in the loop.  Frankly, it's nice to have interesting news and articles as accessible as things have become and I wouldn't want to give any of that up.  Also, because of the 'net, there is also so much high quality material that is being shared online which invariably has the possibility of reaching a much larger audience.

The other factor why Dragon magazine worked so well is that it was pretty much considered 'official'.  It's a weird thing and, despite the explosion of published materials with the creation of the OGL with 3rd Edition, people today are still hung up on what is 'canon' and what is not.  I remember, not too long ago, the views of a surprising amount of people who are fans of Castles & Crusades not caring overly much for 3rd party material for the game if only because they didn't consider it 'official'.  This wasn't a reflection of quality or lack there-of, just the lack of the TLG logo though the nature of the material was also a factor.  Adventures and gaming scenarios for instance were acceptable but other types of rulebook and supplements seemed to be 'less popular'.  I admit that I was guilty of that mentality myself when it game to TSR and D&D related products when I saw things like the Role Aids line.  When they first were released, I kind of sneered at some of the stuff.  A mistake I corrected years later when I tracked down a bunch of it.  I know some people had little respect for Judge's Guild for the simple fact that it wasn't TSR and I think the general consensus of that view has (thankfully) changed.  Dragon magazine on the other hand, was produced by TSR and people had no problems in using this material for their games.  By the time that Paizo took it over, it also inherited a loyal fan base that went along with it.

The problem is that times have changed.  Many a gamer will look on the internet if they want to find out something of interest.  This will range from reviews and previews to general news.  Sure, not everyone gets their news this way but enough do.

Aside from that, any magazine who want to reach a wider audience can't ignore the fact that, since the OGL happened, there are now even more games and systems available -- flavors for just about everybody as well as all other systems which are not d20 based but equally accessible.  Today's gamer is more discerning and technically have more choice than what was ever available before.  Of course, you also have the gamer that prefers a certain classic or 'vintage' rule set and the same OGL has made it possible to release rules that capture the spirit, nature, and system once available in print some 30 years ago.

The fact that even WOTC has reprinted or are in the process of reprinting 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Edition material once again.  Just further illustrates the need and desire for choice and a publication to be more representative of tastes and interests while remaining a viable and distinct option that what is available online.

This situation just isn't simple considering all the other challenges that a regular periodical has to overcome.  A new edition of Dungeons & Dragons can't help matters either.  It's a tough nut to crack and a magazine of significant page count and color is not cheap to produce.  Factor in costs for art and content, a regular schedule, while worrying about additional revenue from advertising and keeping such a product afloat becomes a monumental task.

Given the situation and times and the other projects Open Design and putting together, the decision shut down the magazine will certainly help bolster the other projects and is probably the right decision.

Best of luck with all those other projects -- I will be keeping an eye on them.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Weekend R&R: Kobold Quarterly

Kobold Quarterly.  Some consider this to be the spiritual successor to Dragon Magazine and for what it is, it is quite good.  I've always liked magazines usually I have some sort of subscription going on.  My most recent subscription to a (video) gaming magazine has run its course and normally I would just renew it or try a different one.  I should clarify that my latest subscriptions have been digital as well -- very convenient depending on the sort of magazine you are dealing with.  When it comes to 'tech', I don't find there is much value in holding on to physical copies of magazines so a less expensive and paper-free option for my tablet was a no-brainer.  The point is, I am currently without a magazine subscription and sadly, my current Crusader subscription can't count.  We haven't seen a single issue this year and, I believe there was only one issue released in 2011.

So, with that in mind, I decided it was time to give Kobold Quarterly a good look-over and the magazine is impressive enough.  From the modest first issue, there was been careful devotion to quality and hallmarks which are very reminiscent of classic Dragon Magazine.  I was also impressed at the pace the magazine grew and expanded from the very first issue.  By issue 4, it had more than doubled in page count and its subscriber base surpassed the 1000 mark with distribution happening world-wide.  The magazine is nothing but a success.

It has several interesting articles of course -- various Ecology articles... book reviews... and other regular columns and interviews of writers and designers in the industry.  There was also a great series on the Princes of Hell when the magazine first started off.

As the magazine matured, the look became more and more polished but the content, while still solid, interested me a bit less than the first few issues.  There's a lot of crunch in the pages of the magazine given the fact that there is a lot of 3.x, Pathfinder, and 4th Ed. material.  There were also articles I hated such as 'Optimizing Power Attack: The Mathematics of Combat'.  This sort of stuff simply bothers me and screams power gamer -- something I got relatively sick of when I played 3rd Edition.  I'm not saying these articles don't have a place in this magazine... the magazine certainly caters to a segment of the gaming crowd and others will won't be bothered by having a few articles they won't care for.  It's a magazine after all and it should have something for everybody.  The question I have is simple if the magazine offers enough for me.  The price of a digital subscription is reasonable enough given page counts they are delivering ($16 for 4 issues) though I wouldn't consider the print version  being comparatively steeper.  While I remember Dragon Magazine and it's various ads, I find the ads in Kobold Quarterly less interesting and somehow more intrusive given a couple magazines had roughly a quarter of the page space available devoted to ads for stuff I have next to no interest in.

Of course, the magazine is completely devoted to fantasy which is fine but I think I would like to see more varied material in its pages as well.  It's certainly not the perfect magazine for me but then again, such a magazine has yet to exist.  Kobold Quarterly is a solid offering nonetheless.  I will have to consider the magazine a bit further before I make a decision.

That said, I have heard there was some C&C material (a collection of 4 critters) in a recent issue (number 22) so this also reinforces that what is published in the magazine is dependent on the material actually submitted.  Maybe if there was some OSR related material in the mag (some Sword & Wizardry stuff maybe), it could endear itself to me further.  And if there already was, I am just not aware of it but I think it's a good idea to have.  ;)

Do any of the readers of my blog have had much exposure to Kobold Quarterly?  What are your thoughts if you have and would you recommend it or not?  Should I go back and read my classic Dragon magazines (thanks to the Dragon Magazine CD archive) instead?



There are times when I walk into a stocked gaming store but feel more than a bit tired of it all. It's a feeling of being a bit apatheic and dejected about the whole array of products I see on the shelves and how so little of it actually interests me. It's a bit strange actually but I can usually pinpoint what led me down this path.

I think part of it started with the difficulties in trying to reach Troll Lord Games as a customer. I had been having problems with an outdated download link to the newer and revised 'Amazing Adventures' PDF at the very start of October. With increasing misfortune, my actual physical copy came in damaged just last week. During the entire month of October, I was just not getting and word back from TLG. They finally did contact me but only after I took to explain my problems in getting a hold of them on the forums. I was polite, which helped, and the fact that a few other people saw this and probably pointed this out to the company really must have helped.

During the month of October, I was also putting the latest Domesday together -- a labour of love but one that gets little recognition and no mention.  Admittedly, it's a C&C / SIEGE Engine fanzine and, in the past, we've always taken what we could get.  I say we because, once upon a time there were more people involved in putting out an issue.  However, it is something that is time consuming and few people are willing to devote their time for such an effort.  After the fourth issue was put out, there was an aborted attempt to put out a fifth and, it was dropped and largely forgotten till earlier this year where I put together a 5th and just recently a 6th issue.  Admittedly, as much as I enjoyed putting it together, in the back of my mind I recognized the reality that a handful of people would actually appreciate it.  It didn't help that I've not been the happiest TLG customer around these past few weeks either.

In any event, the past month, I have spent more time towards the miniature aspect of the hobby and I'm accumulating more tools and paints to keep me going (5 months or so to go before my Reaper KS order drops).  I keep up on what's happening and what's new as far as RPGs go and I love keeping on top of the news and what other people are doing.  This is something that usually brings a smile to my face and a twinkle in my eye as I think about gaming possibilities.  I also had a friend lend me a bunch of issue of Kobold Quarterly (which may very well be the subject of my upcoming Weekend R&R) which I started flipping through.

As I did so, I realized that there was little in that magazine that truly interested me.  Some of the new things being developed left me 'cold'.  With a bit of irritation, I decided to take a bit of fresh air (it was a quiet day for a change) and take a trip to one of the larger game stores in Montreal which I only visit once in a while (probably about 4-6 times a year).  I like checking out the used section as well as the new but today, I clearly saw signs of what the store was working towards,  a third of the RPG material was 'gone' and while the remaining section was still HUGE, I found that there was nothing there that I care for or wanted.

I picked up a few tools for my miniatures -- a small curved set of files, a bit of contact glue (for plastic), and a nifty desk magnifying glass.  I was happy about my purchases but couldn't help but wonder about what I was feeling after what I've been seeing.  Was it me?  Am I the problem?

I considered this for a bit, considered my tastes of gaming material, the genres that appealed to me, the authors I prefer...  Thinking about Kobold Quarterly, I also gave some thoughts to the old Dragon Magazines and the reasons why I loved those issues of Dragon so much more in comparison.

You know what?  It's not me.

Despite the cool reprints and some of the various OSR efforts that are still going on, I find there is less and less that is interesting me.  There are still gems being produced but I'm simply finding it harder to come across something that touches more upon the things I like and care about.  The material being put out and advertised is just different that the sort of material that drew me into the hobby in the first place.

I think the solution if probably simple though: I just need to do some good ol' fashioned gaming and just ignore the rest -- at least for now.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Dungeon! Theft!

This past weekend kinda sucked for me and the group I play in.  A game was planned and I starting playing a knight in a friend's campaign which would have been the third session for this group.  Being friends that have gamed before and shared a few laughs, the suggestion of going of for breakfast was made.

On my way to the agreed upon meeting place, I was scooped up by a couple of friends and we drove over to the restaurant.  Food was had... jokes made... laughs shared.  We settled up and made our way back to the car with a couple other people leaving us.  We focused on getting to our next destination, our local game store, where we booked a gaming room for the afternoon.  We get to the car, and found the passenger window was smashed and belongings were grabbed.  More on that later...

After cleaning up the broken glass, we make our way to the store but, as one would imagine, no one was exactly in the mood to play our regular game.  The person running the game was one of the people who had their stuff stolen from the car so you can probably imagine how angry the person was.

Thankfully, as we get our bearings, we notice the Dungeon board game.  I didn't pay much attention about it at first since I already knew that WOTC has re-released it.  I had good things about the remake as well as the original which I never had an opportunity to play before.  What did get my attention was the price though.  At $20, it was an easy decision to make and proved to be an excellent game to try out and take our minds of of things.

We played three games of it, taking a break for supper between the second and third game.  We had a lot of fun and, while there isn't anything much to it, it's something to pull out if a player is late and we have to wait on them before we start our regular game.  It's simple enough that children can play (the box says 8+) which makes the game a possible 'gateway drug' into the hobby!  Much like those Fighting Fantasy books were my own introduction to the hobby.  Oh... and can play up to 8 players which is always a nice plus.

Production values is simple enough with a WHOLE WHACK LOAD of chits ... the tomb markers are the most numerous but need to be since you drop those on the board for the places you clear in-game.  Suffice to say that a few small snack baggies to keep the box in order will be handy.  Everything needed for the game is pretty much pouch out -- including the character figurines.  On top of that, you have cards for treasures and monsters for levels 1 through 6.

Being the group that we were, cracking jokes though out the game, we started houseruling after the second game when we say the game was going to end with certainty because the Thief got all the treasure he needed and started heading back to the Great Hall to take the game.  Not that there is any problem with that but, given that there were no obstacles to stop him or slow him down with no one in a similar position, we introduced a simple house rule for the third and final game:

Wandering Encounters.

In short, when the possibility of endgame is triggered and a character reaches the needed amount to win the game, the Dungeon is on alert!  From this point on till the end of the game, anytime a character ends their move in a corridor, a 1d6 is rolled.  On a roll of a '1', the character encounters a random monster of the adjacent level / zone.  No treasure is gained by defeating a wandering encounter but, depending on how fickle the dice are being, it could mean the character will lose treasure, a turn, or even their lives opening the possibility of a different winner.  In play, we found the rule worked very well.

Well, with three games done, we called it an evening slightly earlier than usual but we already began talking about other possible house rules.  I'm sure there was something in older Dragon magazines about some options as well which may be worth looking into.

The game is well worth it at $20 and probably cheaper online.

Back to the smash n' grab.

Three passengers with stuff left behind in the vehicle.  Among what was lost was a bunch of electronics -- an ipad, an asus tablet, a netbook.  Beyond the tech, there were a few irreplaceable things of sentimental value that happened to be in those bags.  The losses also included dice.  Now... dice might be a weird thing to lament about but consider that one of the bag of dice (the GM's dicebag) had well over 100 and much dated back three decades.

As gamers, there is a lot of sentimentality with some of the books we have, the miniatures we use, and the dice we roll game after game.  At the gaming table as we were discussing the loss of the dice and other things, one of the gamers pulls out 4d10 (inked gamescience dice) which he had received a few weeks earlier.  Though also impacted by this, I didn't lose my entire dice collection so I decide buy him a set.  A couple of his friends through facebook read what happened and are in the process of sending him some dice.

Somewhere along the line, he gets an idea for what he calls a social experiment: The Good Gamer Karma Project.  He's basically accepting dice from whomever and whatever single die anyone may want to send him.  He writes about it all HERE but you get the idea.  If it reaches 100, he pledges to do something to 'pay it forward' though he's still unsure what.  It will likely be something gaming related though.


Weekend R&R: Castle Zagyg

For fans of Dungeons & Dragons, the 'crown jewel' of mega-dungeons has got to be Castle Zagyg.  It is also known as Castle Greyhawk.  Sadly with the passing of Gary Gygax a few years ago and with issues of IP and legalities, this Mega-Dungeon has only been shown in bits in pieces but the whole picture was never revealed.  It is perhaps the greatest of them all because of the stories that surround it shared by those who were fortunate enough to sit down in one of Gary's games.  It has also seen various re-imaginings over the years which only serves to cloud this even further.

Castle Greyhawk was special.  It served as a testbed for the Dungeons & Dragons game in the early 70's and was Gary's own personal campaign.  Publication of Greyhawk material didn't see much in terms of the Castle and its dungeons but there were occasional hints -- though never any real detail.  Some modules were even linked to the Castle such as 'Dungeonland', 'Land Beyond the Magic Mirror', and 'Isle of the Ape' but yielded no real information to the Castles itself.

The first published treatment of 'Castle Greyhawk' was done in 1988 and was unfortunately something of a farce (some consider it an insult to Gygax having left TSR).  The company revisited Castle Greyhawk in the 'Greyhawk Ruins' in a more serious attempt to create something more akin to what fans had been waiting for.  Having tracked down a copy of the Greyhawk Ruins, I do think it is more quickly dismissed than it should be.  Some people must have considered the material good though since it did get updated for the 3.5 ruleset in the 'Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk' book.  Of course, none of these match Gygax's original mega-dungeon -- I mean how could it?

Enter Troll Lord Games.  When Gygax began working and publishing material through TLG, this was also a chance to see some of the Yggsburgh (aka Greyhawk) and the Castle itself.  Like most things from the small company, certain things did not get developed in the pace that fans would have liked.  There were other problems earlier on as well -- Robert Kuntz was on the project early on but that just didn't work out.  Eventually, the city began taking shape a piece at a time in a line of accessories to complement a wonderful book on Yggsburgh.  This was 'Volume 1' of the Castle Zagyg series.  A folio was released, entitled the East Mark Gazetteer and along with it, a module reminiscent of the 'Keep on the Borderlands', which served as the introduction to the surrounding and entry to the Castle.

It was during this time that work seemed to begin in earnest to produce the rest of the material and Gary Gygax guided and worked with Jeffrey Talanian to produce a definitive version of the Castle.  The Upper Works was released in the last quarter of 2008 but with Gary's passing earlier in March of that year, the licensing agreement for the material was dissolved and the material was no longer available as of December 31st of that year.  No PDF version was ever produced for electonric distribution and there were stories of a lot of damage to the few numbers of box sets that made it overseas and a number of these may have been 'pulped'.  In North America, some made it various stores but numbers were slim.  Simply put, the demand was higher than what could be supplied in the limited amount of time TLG had.  It became instantly collectable and sought after which led to some buying multiple sets if they could manage it which they would turn around and sell for a profit.  Just looking on ebay now, I see a copy for $325 and Noble Knight Games have a couple of copies for around $290.  In the past year or so, the cheapest I have seen for one of these box sets was for $165.  Retail price was originally $44.95.  Kinda depressing when you think about it.

I was fortunate to get my copy for two reasons: Originally, I was under the impression that the box set would at least sell into 2009 giving TLG at least a few more months to meet the demand of those who wanted a copy. Because of that, and with the ludicrous pricing of shipping TLG was asking to ship the box set to me (it was around $30), I decided to wait and get a copy at my local retailer and left my name with the store instead.  As it turns out, the store was only able to get 2 copies in and the distributor was unable to supply anymore.  One of the two is the one I got but the other box set sold within hours.

Castle Zagyg (as it was renamed) effectively met with swift end and all of the Yggsburgh material -- a lot of it still in developmental stages is now just 'gone'.  It's a shame because the Upper Works as well as the rest of the published material were all top-notch.  The Upper Works set itself was fantastic and Jeffry Talanian should be commended for all the hard work he had put in.  The contents of the set include 'The Mouths of Madness' (previous published in the Gazetteer), the 'Ruins of the Castle Precincts', the 'East Wall Towers', the 'Castle Fortress', and the 'Storerooms' which is the first level to the dugeons.  You also got an illustration booklet and maps in the box.  And this is where it 'ends'.

Many think this to be a huge problem but, I find that in a weird way, it's probably fitting.  The Upper Works does a fantastic job to set the tone and there is plenty material available to borrow from if you truly aren't the type to go at it 'on your own'.  However, the most 'obvious' choices may not be the best fit for on reason or another.

For a while, you could freely download the 'Castle of the Mad Archmage' by Joseph Bloch.  He designed this with admirable the goal to supply the remaining levels as he interpreted and envisioned them.  It is a nice piece of work which is unfortunately also unavailable now due to an agreement made with Black Blade Publishing to publish it.  Black Blade had a press release in April of 2011 which stated that they hoped to have it out by December of 2011.  We're coming to a year late with the once free alternative no longer in sight and the latest news provides a hopeful 1st quarter release in 2013 but may end up slipping in the 2nd quarter for a May 2013 release.

Heh... I don't feel so bad about the delays Arcana Creations has had developing certain projects with that bit of news.  ;)

So, what else is there?  Well -- when I first looked at Castle Whiterock, it struck me as the perfect solution to for the levels beneath the Store Rooms detailed in the Upper Works.  In fact, a lot of mega dungeons with a minimum amount of work could be fitted to work with the Upper Works.  You could even go a step beyond that though.  Scrap the multiple levels and create a couple to bridge the Upper Works with some of the material you can find in the 'Halls of Many Panes'  -- another interesting box set which could work given how 'Dungeonland', 'Land Beyond the Magic Mirror', and 'Isle of the Ape' were linked to the Castle.

Of course, you could also track down the Ruins of Castle Greyhawk and rework some of the material there to use with the Upper Works.  No matter which way you look at it, there will be some work involved but given how many of the levels in Castle Whiterock work independently of each other as well as the obvious tribute that Castle Whiterock is the classic D&D and Castle Greyhawk, it seems like a natural choice.

If you don't like any of those options, take Castle Zagyg or Castle Greyhawk and just make it your own.  This is what Gary did... he made his game and his campaign truly his own and I think this is the best way to go about it.  There is no reason the dungeon even has to stop at level 15 -- it could be as long as you want or need it to be.  The goal with all of these is to have some fun after all.

Anyway, sorry if this was a few days late.  I originally intended to post this for Halloween but with everything else, it got pushed a few days.