What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

When Reaper Comes Knocking...

When the Reaper comes knocking... sometimes you just need to open the door.  In this case, I'm talking about Reaper Miniatures and my large Bones order (from the massively successful Kickstarter) finally came through.  UPS delivered the package mind you but it was a pleasant experience for a change.  I wasn't screwed over by Brokerage fees because of the work and bureaucracy that Reaper put themselves for the benefit of us folks living in the Great White North.  As I quickly found out, I was one of the few and very lucky.  Apparently there was some sort of paperwork snafu which resulted in UPS returning a couple hundred packages to Reaper because the wrong forms were filled out (forms that UPS provided in the first place).

At least this is what I understood from what was relayed to me.  Many Canadians received an initial tracking number (like I did) but most of those numbers are now invalid and this whole process got delayed.  Given the hectic schedule that Reaper is on to fulfill many more orders, I'm not sure when they will revisit and refile said paperwork.  Hopefully sooner rather than later but, with Canada's long weekend which is followed by the 4th of July holiday in the States, I would be surprised if there is much movement this week.

That said, I am overjoyed with the prospect of having over 500 miniatures to paint... in addition to quite a few Warhammer 40k ones as well as others from Center Stage Miniatures (how could I say no to demons and devils?) which have yet to arrive.

The box was fairly sizable as can be seen in the picture below.  Keep in mind that the table surface area is 4x3 feet:

The precise contents were two of the Vampire pledge levels as well as one of each of the add-ons.  There were also two carrying cases in this box.  Here are the contents spilled out on the table without the two cases:

Quite a bit of stuff to paint and I'm not entirely sure where to begin.  I will likely pull out the various skeletons and mummies first.  Their color schemes will be approximately the same (bone and wrappings) as far as a base coat is concerned and even with the application of washes, some highlights, and some drybrushing, these should be quick enough to get done.  It helps when you use a gun or airbrush to apply base coats.  As a treat though, it also means I have a large Undead Giant which will need similar treatment as well as Kaladrax himself.  Kaladrax is one big Undead Dragon and the sheer size of him seems to dwarf the Cthulhu model I have.  That's because of the tail length though -- those two models are the biggest and heaviest models I have now because of this Kickstarter.

Once these bones are done, I'll probably tackle orcs next -- got close to 30 of them but these will take a bit more time but I'll be doing it in a similar color scheme I used for my last batch of Orcs (I did up a painting guide for them HERE).

Between these two sets of models, I'll have tackled between 5 and 10 percent of my Bones made a bit less painful by batch painting.  After I do that, I can easily tackle other groupings like the goblins I have as well as the rats, spiders, and other vermin.  Beyond those, it will get a lot more painstaking and, between these and some of the 40k models I have, we will probably be in 2014 be the end of all of these!  I easily have a couple of years of painting ahead of me but I'm gonna love it.  ;)


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Weekend R&R: Call of Cthulhu

This week's post is an Early Edition just before we fall into the holiday weekend for Canada Day.  With Chaosium's Kickstarter for the 7th edition of Call of Cthulhu now coming to an end (28 hours left as I write this post), I decided to reflect and muse about this fine game.  Now Chaosium has a wonderful and fascinating history which has had more that a fair share of ups and downs.  The company was behind other notable games such as Rune Quest, Stormbringer, and Pendragon.  These would ultimately be eclipsed by their Call of Cthulhu game.

I first came across and played Call of Cthulhu with 5th Edition which features my favorite piece of cover art for the game.  I immediately took to the game though some of my friends didn't quite know what to make of it -- we were primarily fantasy gamers and focused on all things D&D.  The first adventure which was kind of a beginner scenario still saw at one character completely lose his nerve and panic (failed a crucial sanity roll) and one death.  It was a blast.  It was also do to my exposure to this game that I soon discovered the writings of H.P. Lovecraft though I'm sure that would have only been a matter of time anyway.  In any event, I started reading Lovecraft at 17 in part because of the game which was a stark contrast to the Tolkien I had read a couple of years prior.

While some of my friends didn't continue, I persisted in the role of a few investigators I had created and one of the lasting fond memories of this game happened with the 'Horror on the Orient Express'.  So fond I was of these memories that I immediately backed Chaosium's Kickstarter to produce a new and revised version of this campaign box set initially produced in 1991.  We never did finish the campaign but the character in question proved to be very lucky.  He was a shutterbug (a photographer) who had seen a glimpse of the actual world around him and was determined to capture it in black and white.

The system is a percentile based system and is heavily skill based in contrast to a level/class based games like D&D.  It is very easy to create a character and easy to play.

Though I love the game very much and enjoy the system for what it is (aka the Basic Role Playing system), it sits relatively untouched on my shelf.  I never bought too much material for it as a result though I did get a copy of the Complete Dreamlands for the game.  I've also acquired other Chaosium games including Rune Quest, Pendragon, Stormbringer, Nephilim, and of course the BRP book that came out a few years ago.  I figured the new Horror on the Orient Express would be a fine addition.  The interesting thing was that, at the time (almost a year ago), they were already talking about the newest edition of Call of Cthulhu and compatibility with this revised boxed set.

The neat thing with the game is that the editions are pretty much all compatible with each other -- it's part of the reason I never bothered to 'upgrade' my Call of Cthulhu rulebook.  There was no real need for it.  Chaosium did decide to do a Kickstarter for this new edition at the end of May so I kept my eye on it.  I backed it very recently due to the sheer quality of the work being put into the new books as well as the many additional benefits that were being thrown in.  I also heard about a couple of the new interesting rules for the game so, being a fan and even if I don't have a chance much to play, I decided I would regret not doing so.

So, if you are at least curious, go check out their Kickstarter campaign HERE before time runs out.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Weekend R&R: Free RPG Day 2013 Selections

As promised in my last post, I am briefly going to give an overview and thoughts on my top three choices from last weeks' Free RPG Day offerings.  Now, there are a couple of ideas behind the concept of Free RPG Day.  It is to help bring gamers into physical stores and (hopefully) get them to spend some money.  It is also to give publishers exposure to their games and products.  Free RPG Day is, in short, a great marketing tool.  Keeping this in mind, it is recommended that publishers include Quick Start Rules, Short Scenarios, and Pre-Gens.  Since 2007 though, you have similar participants year after year which usually 'change things up' with a few new participants.  Each offering doesn't necessarily contain Quick Start Rules but, most people who come to this are often supporting the games they already know (in my experience), but new players do happen.  I think it also helps when a store location decides to run events to demo various games because, sometimes, you will have someone who has never played a pen and paper RPG before (as I had happen last week).

My three top picks were "A Pot of Broken Bones" for Castles & Crusades (kind of my default pick since this is what I ran), "Hall of Bones" for Swords & Wizardry, and "Better Than Any Man" which is part of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess line.  There were other great offerings -- I actually missed the chance to pick up the DCC offering but that was probably because of the 'XCrawl' logo that shared the front page when I quickly glanced at what was available.  My three choices though all have one big thing in common -- they all readily be run with any of the three systems put out by their respective publishers.  These games are closely related as they share a common gaming lineage but remained 'old school and rules lite'.  Up to this year, the only constant that could be considered in this category was C&C as far as Free RPG Day was concerned.  This year certainly shows the continuing and growing trend we have already been witnessing as 'Old School' becomes more 'Mainstream'.

Forgive me the use of those terms, but I believe you know where I'm trying to say ... with the nod from Wizards of the Coast and the various reprints of older editions of D&D as well as the success these other games have had, it is starting to feel that what was old is now new again.  That's rather nice when you think about.

Castles & Crusades - A Pot of Broken Bones

This year's C&C offering did not include quick start rules but included pre-gens.  It is 16 pages in all but the adventure text itself is 10.  It makes for a nice and quick single session adventure -- overall, it was fun to run.  The author, Brian Young, is certainly very capable and the text has a nice flow about it.  The scenario itself is very basic -- the premise is that the majority of the inhabitants of a small halfling village have been abducted by a pair of Trolls to basically eat at some point or other.  You are hired to rescue them and kill the troll brothers.  They make their lair in an ancient burial mound/tomb which has an entombed evil.  It is very much standard fare for the genre but, on the upside, it is something that can also be inserted in any ongoing campaign as a side quest or distraction.  The Trolls where quite challenging for the party of four (4th level pregens) but I didn't have to pull any punches.  Ultimately, they party found themselves in a very bad situation when they opened the sarcophagus.  ;)

Swords & Wizardry - Hall of Bones

This is the first year that Frog God Games participates in Free RPG Day and it chose to promote Swords & Wizardy -- a game that has become one of my favorites.  I love the simplicity of the system, even if it is a bit basic at times.  A happy medium for me would be somewhere between S&W and C&C and that's where Ballista will come in (but that is for another time).  I love S&W as resource material and because it is readily adaptable to what I do primarily run and play.

Hall of Bones penned by Bill Webb is really nice.  The freebie totals 20 pages which includes 4 pre-gens, an overview of the rules which spans 3 pages (but could fit on 2!), and another 3 pages which is an 'Old School Primer' explaining aspects of this game.  The balance is the adventure and maps that go along with it.

The adventure portion itself is short and sweet and can also be played through in a session with a very familiar plot: Ruins need to be cleared of evil with treasure abound if successful.  You really don't need anything else to have fun on Free RPG Day and this was the essence of D&D when it first came onto the scene in 1974.

What makes this offering fantastic are the very short and concise manner that the mechanics are covered and the actual Old School Primer.  In my opinion, the Old School Primer was the best part and I read that evening after the day's events.  Bill Webb gives his thoughts and rational behind the many differences between an old school game like Swords & Wizardry and the newer games.  It helps convey a certain mentality for the game... the uses of equipment, character stats, experience and character advancement, and so on.  For most of us who have played variation of D&D for the past 20-40 years (yes... D&D turns 40 next year), some of this information will be hardly new but once in a while, it's worth being reminded.

Lamentations of the Flames Princess - Better Than Any Man

Wow.  This is simply a stunning effort and outclasses anything else offered for Free RPG Day.  Interestingly enough, I don't have many LotFP products but what I do have I have always adored: Carcosa, Isle of the Unknown, and the (soon to be received) Rules & Magic hardcover -- the PDF of which looks FANTASTIC!  I first came across James Raggi's stuff with his "Random Esoteric Creature Generator" years ago... I think it was early 2008 -- it was the version prior to the Goodman Games edition.  In fact, I give a review about it HERE.

What makes "Better Than Any Man" stand out?  For starters, the page count.  This is a 96 page FREE PRODUCT with quality matching all the recent offerings (going back the past couple of years) from LotFP.  It is a digest sized product, beautifully illustrated with a detached cover that features a color map on the inside.  It also has a rating of 18+ of explicit content.

Jim is no stranger to controversy and some people argue that he is constantly pushing the boundaries of what is considered 'tasteful' by some.  It is no wonder that "Better Than Any Man" came under fire and he writes about it HERE.  I love his stuff -- pure and simple.  I get what he's trying to do and many other people do as well.  The material is stunning and, if you haven't had a chance to grab a copy, it will be available in PDF form at some point in the future.  That is, of course, the content isn't something that will offend thee.  Love the cover though:

What also makes this so noteworthy was how this project came about.  Contributing at any level for Free RPG Day is not cheap.  That is to say, producing enough copies at any given level have their own respective costs -- for this past year, the lowest level (one per store) meant a commitment of 600 copies up to platinum which was 15 per store meaning 9000 copies.  Better Than Any Man was a platinum product and the only other two platinum supporters were for Swords & Wizardry and Pathfinder.  Think about it though, if costs were only $1 a copy to produce, $9000 would be needed.  Of course, this LotFP product cost a lot more to produce -- the cover alone would have been $1 (give or take based on amounts being printed up I suppose) and we're not even thinking about the artwork itself nor any of the work that went into it.  A Kickstarter was what made the difference.  Over $18000 was raised and $2500 of which essentially went to cover art costs and content.  The difference were fees and actual production of 9000 copies.  Since I don't know the actual costs of production, I can't say for certain how much it actually cost to produce 9000 copies but it woudn't have been possible without crowdfunding.  They aren't the first to do it for Free RPG Day though... Jon Brazer Enterprises did it the previous year for 'Shadowsfall' -- a third party product for Pathfinder.  Given this success though, I suspect it will be done again.

Obviously, Better Than Any Man is not something that can be run in a single session...  Unless of course the party gets killed and thus cuts this adventure short.  It is not your standard fantasy and is different from the other two products I mentioned earlier.  It's grittier and darker in tone which can be refreshing in light of what's more commonly available.  At the very least, it can be mined and parts adapted easily enough as it can be played more open than your typical dungeon romp if considering the work as a whole.

In the end, this is my favorite from the pack because of the sheer amount of material and professional quality brought to this product.  Fans of LotFP RPG and those not minding a more mature and dark approach will love 'Better Than Any Man'.

James... great work on another great product!  Thanks for making this a freebie!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Post Free RPG-Day

It's been over a week since my last update but it hasn't been because I wasn't up to it or anything.  The past couple of weeks have been quite busy and I've still been recovering from the back problems and the pain it was giving it since I threw it out a couple of days before the Montreal F1 Grand Prix.  I've had a couple of rough days since then (and my last post) so, I have avoided putting myself in front of a computer for extended periods of time outside of work (when I went to work that is).

The good news is that it is mostly good now and I was able to get my game face on and ran a Castles & Crusades game at the local game store with a minimum of fuss.  First off, let me just say that I like Free RPG Day and I have always supported it by helping to run a game by a contributing publisher.  Since the beginning, Troll Lord Games have participated and every year I end up running a game.  Actually the past couple of years, someone from the store has called me up and asked if I would be willing to run a game.  I've always agreed so long that it doesn't eat up too much of my day since Free RPG Day seems to fall on the same weekend as Father's Day.  Or at least, it has the past couple of years.  Now, I have heard problems and stories every year that this is done -- usually because of how a particular store decides to run Free RPG Day.  However, because I run a commit to run a game, I can also get my hands on the free product for whatever I am running.  This I think is a great help -- it's always better to have a chance to prep and have an idea what you're in for after all.  The other benefit is I usually get to at least peek at what else is available for the day in question.  It also guarantees my the chance to grab an item before they are all gone on the day in question.

The game itself was quite entertaining... I had three players and the only other game that was going on to promote Free RPG Day was a Pathfinder game.  It almost seems like the store dropped the ball this year... kinda like they did last year actually.  Previous years seemed to always be busier but the store still attracted some people but I think the store was also running some other event elsewhere in the store.  Anyway, I was happy to have my three players.  One of them had played in last year's game I ran and was more than happy to sit at my table for another game.  The other two were two lovely women -- one who had some experience with Vampire and the other who had no experience with a pen-and-paper based RPG.  Thankfully, the gist of the C&C made it quick and easy to pick up and we were having a blast in no time.  For the most part, I stuck with the scenario, though I added an extra challenge involving a rope bridge that the party needed to cross.  While I liked the scenario that Troll Lord Games put out, I felt it didn't provide a good concrete challenge to showcase the Siege Engine and checks early enough on.  As for the rest of it... the final encounter with the two trolls proved very entertaining!  The adventure didn't quite have a happy ending ... I decided to have the circumstances of their victory turn sour and have the session end on a cliff hanger of sorts.  You see, they came across the sarcophagus and couldn't leave well enough alone.  Actually, it was the newest player... playing the Rogue... that proved to be too curious.  I took a bit of artistic license to close up the session...

The open the sarcophagus which releases gust of stale air.  Cut to the village... the halflings are already celebrating having been freed earlier on and await for the return of the heroes.  The sky darkens... and a host of riders carrying banners bearing the symbol of a certain and long deceased archmage yelling a battle cry descends on the village in full charge, killing any standing in their way.  Cut back to the tomb... the party is surrounded by the walking dead... and a powerful undead magi with glowing staff in hand raises from the sarcophagus.  I announce to the players that their characters are about to fight for their very lives.  End Scene.

The players loved it.

At the end of the day, I began to gather up my gear to clear out.  I managed to grab a few more things that hadn't been picked up -- probably due to the less-than-stellar advertising for Free RPG this year (at the store anyway).  Interestingly enough, I also picked up an item or two from last year's event.  They still had stuff from last year and at the end of the day, they basically packed it up to use for this year.  So what did I grab?  Besides the C&C one which I had early access to, I *had* to pick up 'Better Than Any Man'.  This was my first pick and made sure I grabbed at the start of the day.  Between Troll Lord Games and Lamentations of the Flame Princess, I was good to go since I also believed others should have a chance to grab some stuff.  At the end of the gaming afternoon and seeing the lower-than-expected turnout, I made sure to grab the 'Hall of Bones' scenario from Frog God Games.  The rest was gravy... the Dice Tower was raffled off and I was lucky enough to win... the two Pathfinder modules were among several copies left so I grabbed those two (one from 2012 and one from 2013) -- I also grabbed the 'Shadowsfall: Temple of Orcus' which was also designed for Pathfinder by a third-party publisher from 2012.  Finally, there was the Cosmic Patrol quickstart as well as the dual Shadowun/Battletech quickstart I made sure to get as well.  A nice haul and certainly more than I grabbed compared to previous years though it's always nice to check some of this stuff out.

This weekend, I will review my 'top three picks' of this batch for the Weekend R&R.

Happy Gaming!


Monday, June 10, 2013

Does This Come Off As Fun?

Sorry for missing this past weekend's R&R post.  If time permits, I'll try and get something out later in the week and, if not, it will have to wait till the next one.  Despite throwing out my back last Thursday morning, I still had a great weekend (with the assistance of a lot of pain killers) at the Montreal F1 Grand Prix.  Despite being mostly away from the house this past weekend (Friday through Sunday), between the various events, I was still able to keep up to date with the various musings and blogs I follow.  Well, while I was having a blast at the Grand Prix, others were having fun at the North Texas RPG Con.  While it's a bit far for me, it was nice to see some news coming out of the con but one post kind of bothered me -- it was "Matt's First Game".  To quote directly from the blog:

"There's a fish in the wall opening and closing it's mouth" Matt explains.
Johnny says "I stick my pinky in".
Matt exclaims "a dagger shoots out and slices it off".

Now, I'm sure there will be many readers out there that won't see an issue with that.  Maybe I'm just taking it the wrong way but, if I was one of those players, I'm not so sure if I'd be very amused.  Granted, I am not the type to just stick a finger, hand, or arm into weird holes and experience and knowledge of a certain Tomb of Horrors reinforces that wisdom and precautions one should take.  Swords & Wizardry is decidedly very old school in terms of play and feel and it is the ref's right to be as arbitrary as he wants to be.  However killing or maiming indiscriminately is nothing to be taken lightly.  That said, I could be taking this out of context -- Matt could have rolled a save for the player and, if so, fine.  I can certainly accept this better if there was the inclusion of the 'luck factor'.  Here's another quote:

A little while later. A player states "I want to try to break the diamond armor"
Matt states "You may try".
"Okay what do I roll" questioned the player.
Matt declares "A million sided dice. what, I said you could try"

This other passage also bothers me a bit if only because Matt seems to come across to be as a bit smug.  Context as always is everything, but if I didn't know the GM and was participating in a game at his table during a con, I'd be annoyed here too.  Not because I couldn't do something in the game but rather how it was handled.  Sure... have him roll a d20 with a near impossible chance of success or even no chance of success but don't toy with the player for the benefit of delivering a cheap joke.  Maybe, in the old school spirit, have the player describe how he will go about to breaking the armor and then decide and describe the results of his attempt.  Who knows?  The player may have come up with an interesting idea if given the chance and been encouraged to do so.

For a game amongst regulars, you can argue that the gloves come off and that's fine.  Everyone has a preferred style of play and I certainly don't want to fault Matt here as those two snippets were the only ones I read and I wasn't there.  Here's the original LINK.  I do think that caution is warranted though.

You see, the hobby in general has its share of challenges if it is to continue to survive and possibly thrive.  We need new players and, for some of those players, they need to learn to approach many of these games like S&W different than how many a third or fourth edition game of D&D was played.  In other words, through interactive description and role playing as opposed to beat a set of numbers with some dice.

Encouragement and positive reinforcement is needed -- especially if you are dealing with some potential new players to the hobby.  I only mention this now because Free RPG day is less than a week away and, hopefully, there will be many game demos being down at local game stores across North American.  No matter if the game is old school or new, the approach you take to run the game may impact possible sales and further interest in the game you're promoting.

So, for those of you who are running a demo this coming weekend or in the near future, happy GMing and be kind but fair as you are the ambassadors for the hobby.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

For Sale: Dungeon Crawl Classics lot

Before I added this to the regular list of clearance items I have listed on the blog (HERE), I thought I'd highlight this first ... for Sale is pretty much the entirety of the d20 run of Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics modules.  I saw pretty much since it covers all the regular releases but there are a couple of the more elusive 'x.5' modules which are not part of the set.  One that immediately comes to mind is DCC 3.5, "The Haunted Lighthouse".  Here is the list and note that I am trying to sell these as a set *but* am willing to break up the set in a very specific manner (more about this after the list):

DCC 0 - Legends are Made, Not Born
DCC 1 - Idylls of the Rat King
DCC 2 - The Lost Vault of Tsathzar Rho
DCC 3 - The Mysterious Tower
DCC 4 -  Bloody Jack's Gold
DCC 5 - Aerie of the Crow God
DCC 6 - Temple of the Dragon Cult
DCC 7 - The Secret of Smuggler's Cove
DCC 8 - Mysteries of the Drow
DCC 9 - Dungeon Geomorphs
DCC 10 - The Sunless Garden
DCC 11 - The Dragonfiend Pact
DCC 12 - The Blackguard's Revenge
DCC 12.5 - The Iron Crypt of the Heretics
DCC 13 - Crypt of the Devil Lich
DCC 14 - Dungeon Interludes
DCC 15 - Lost tomb of the Sphinx Queen
DCC 16 - Curse of the Emerald Cobra
DCC 17 - Legacy of the Savage Kings
DCC 18 - Citadel of the Demon Prince
DCC 19 - The Volcano Caves
DCC 20 - Shadows in Freeport
DCC 21 - Assault on Stormbringer Castle
DCC 22 - The Stormbringer Juggernaught
DCC 23 - The Sunken Ziggurat
DCC 24 - Legend of the Ripper
DCC 25 - Dread Crypt of Srihoz
DCC 26 - The Scaly God
DCC 27 - Revenge of the Rat King
DCC 28 - Into the Wilds
DCC 29 - The Adventure Begins
DCC 30 - The Vault of the Dragon Kings
DCC 31 - The Transmuter's Last Touch
DCC 32 - The Golden Palace of Zahadran
DCC 33 - Belly of the Great Beast
DCC 34 - Cage of Delirium
DCC 35 - Gazetteer of the Known Realms
DCC 36 - Talons of the Horned King
DCC 37 - The Slithering Overlord
DCC 38 - Escape from the Forest of Lanterns
DCC 39 - The Ruins of Castle Churo
DCC 40 - Devil in the Mists
DCC 41 - The Lost Arrows of Aristemis
DCC 42 - The Secret of the Stonearm
DCC 43 - Curse of the Barrens
DCC 44 - Dreaming Caverns of the Duergar
DCC 45 - Malice of the Medusa
DCC 46 - The Book of Treasure Maps
DCC 47 - Tears of the Genie
DCC 48 - The Adventure Continues
DCC 49 - Palace in the Wastes
DCC 50 - Vault of the Iron Overlord
DCC 51 - Castle Whiterock
DCC 51.5 - The Sinister Secret of Whiterock
DCC 52 - Chronicle of the Fiend

I should not that 9 of these modules are part of the two box set compilations that Goodman Games released.  These modules were simply repackaged in this manner and there is nothing to distinguish these from those that were sold separately.

Anyway, it's a lot of material ... so much that it would probably HAVE to ship in two boxes.  Shipping in North America for the size and weight of this material is ALSO costly.  Let me clearly state that the cost to ship all of this (in two boxes) will cost me over $100.  So, how much am I asking for?  Originally I priced all of this INCLUDING shipping for a total of $450 (or in other words the value of the books themselves are in the $300-350 range).

That's a huge chunk of change EVEN if it is a fraction of what these originally cost.  DCC 35 alone is sought after and I have seen it sell for $150 (though personally, I find that ridiculous).  Some of you may even have some of these which make the investment less than appealing and I realize that is the big problems with trying to bundle sales.  There are some items that also hold some value to me as well.  With this in mind I offer two options.

Option A) You get the majority of the set.  Excluded are DCC 29, DCC 35, DCC 39, DCC 48, DCC 51 and 51.5.  In other words the two hardbacks, the DCC screen, and the two significant box sets are not part of this option.  The value of this option drops considerably as a result and the total (with shipping) I'm asking for is $225.00.  That's half the price of the complete lot with included shipping.

NOTE: If a buyer accepts this option by midnight on Wednesday (EST), I will let this go for $180.

Option B) DCC 35 added back in for an additional $60 more.  Attempts will be made to ship it in the same box as the rest of the stuff though there is a chance it could ship separately if I can't find something big and sturdy enough.

Option C) The whole lot *but* by committing to buying by midnight on Wednesday (EST), the entire lot can be yours for $350.

Honestly, I think it's a pretty good deal though I will have to restrict this to Canada and the continental USA. If you live abroad and are interested, feel free to contact me and we can look at the possibility.  I will accept Paypal only for this and I can be reached at:

patbellavance (at) sympatico (dot) ca

Feel free to ask any questions or email me to accept any one of these options.  Payment and address confirmation will be handled subsequently.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Weekend R&R: The Arcanum

Yesterday, I spent some day contemplating the Cleric and the possibilities and directions one could take it.  I also made a point to re-acquaint myself with a book entitled 'The Monks of War' which details with the various martial/militaristic orders of the church such as the Templars, the Hospitallers, and the Teutonic Knights for some additional inspiration.  I also decided to look through some of my other gaming material for some inspiration and that's when I spotted my copy of the Arcanum (the first book in the Atlantis Trilogy).  I subsequently thought that the Arcanum would make a great post for this week's Weekend R&R entry.  And so here we are.

The Arcanum system has had an interesting history and it's origins are rooted in supplements for fantasy role-playing games.  These were the Compleat Adventurer, the Compleat Alchemist, and the Compleat Spellcaster and they were often used in conjunction with AD&D.  These supplements were essentially the seeds which eventually grew into the Arcanum RPG -- a game that took many queues from but sought to improve upon what was offered in some of the RPGs of the time.  Particular focus on skills and magical systems helped the game stand out.  The game grew and acquired a following with some fans adopting the rulebook as a comprehensive collection of house rules.  Others accepted the game wholeheartedly and adopting it as their game of choice.

The result of all this was Talislanta.

Looking back at the Arcanum though reveals an interesting shift and desire to clearly define a gaming experience but retain a simplicity and familiarity while providing a more detailed system.  In some ways, the game was ahead of its time and it offered people familiar with D&D options which were otherwise unavailable. As a game system (by today's standpoint), it's far from perfect but there is much still valid today -- especially given the popularity of the OSR.  Marrying some of the rules in here and, say Swords & Wizardry, would be to the delight of many gamers.

The book itself covers many of the things one would expect from a game that is clearly inspired from D&D -- there are over 30 professions (classes) and the character is very much defined by attributes as well.  The difference here is that there are 8 (not 6) but 5 of which will be instantly recognizable.  Characters gain skills based on their class as well as their background.

Combat and Saves are all done with a d20 with appropriate mods from attributes, level, and other modifiers. Many other types of actions are also done in a similar manner which probably makes the Arcanaum the first d20 game.  In relation to combat, there is a chance to defend and any hit that goes through is soaked by the armor with the difference impacting on a characters health.  In other words, wearing armor does not make it harder to hit you.

Of course, many of these concepts have brought brought into the D&D games we know in subsequent years since the Arcanum's release.  The first two editions of the Arcanum were released prior to the arrival of AD&D2E.  I suppose that, to a degree, this does invalidate some of the Arcanum's wonderful charms.  The book is also not that well organized in my opinion.  But it remains an interesting work and -- if nothing else, the section of magic and alchemy helps give a flavor that most of the D&D games sorely lack.

To date, the Arcanum has seen three editions with the third being released by Death's Edge Games.  This third edition is essentially a reprint of second edition with some minor layout changes.  The cover for the third edition does not look anything like the previous editions and, while there is some dislike of the new cover, it is decidedly cheaper and still possible to get a new copy if you look around online.  Older used copies of the first and second editions run easily for $30 to $40 for a copy in fair condition.  Compare this to $20 for a new copy at Noble Knight Games.  Unfortunately, I don't believe a PDF edition is available for purchase.

There are only two additional footnotes I can give for the Arcanum:

1) Some time ago, the IP was secured by Khepera who managed to put out 'Atlantis: The Second Age' game thanks to a successful Kickstarter.  While the system has changed -- it is updated to use the Omni system which is still 'd20-centric' it is very much based on the Arcanum game which was part of the 'Atlantis Trilogy'.

2) It's Priest... in continuation to what I was looking at yesterday, Arcanum presents a priest which has the abilities to convert and to turn undead.  As spellcasters, they do not wear armor and their combat training is considered 'untrained'.  Spells (from memory) are 2 per day plus 1 spell per level and casting level is half their actual level (so a 6th level priest can not cast more higher than 3rd level spells).  This last bit is the same for all spell casters in Arcanum actually.  It should be noted that the spell lists don't really have any offensive spells


Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Problem With The Typical Cleric Class

I have a problem with the cleric as typically presented in D&D and other similar games.  I know I'm not the only one.  Years ago, I thought about completely revamping the class and now, with some of the work I have been doing for Ballista, it has served to remind me of some of the issues with the class.  That problem is magic.

The cleric is a class is quite formidable -- especially when you look at what the class evolved into as far as mechanics when with Third Edition.  We're talking about a class who is second to a Fighter in many regards.  They two can typically wear any type of armor and weapon restrictions (classically being able to wield anything considered blunt) with exceptions of a preferred weapon appropriate to the deity he served was a joke.  Beyond that, he can cast a boat load of spells!  Sure, he may not be able to fight as well as a warrior (but still better than other classes) but he is almost as resilient!

A few years back (before I stumbled upon C&C), I somehow got involved in a third edition game.  In the spirit of third edition ... the game was about power and builds to ensure survivability.  The DM running the game needed the cleric and I obliged after being suitably bribed.  The bribe in question?  Being able to play a 'non-standard' race in the setting and, in this case, it was a 'High-Minotaur'.  The closest equivalent would be the minotaurs you could play in the Dragonlance setting.  Slightly smaller in stature that a typical minotaur one would find in the Monster Manual, he was Medium sized for the purposes of combat.  Bonuses were given to Strength and penalties to Charisma and Intelligence if I remember correctly.  I remember getting a couple of awesome rolls for the character's ability scores which were placed (we allocated the rolls to the stats) in Strength and Wisdom.  Due to the racial bonus, his Strength was the highest stat.  As we campaigned, he quickly ascended levels along with the rest of the party and as he rose in level, the 'power' output of the character proved to be exponential.  The campaign was pretty brutal and, part of the reason of the brutality was in the manner that the characters put down any challenges.  The cleric, a devotee to some sort of god of war, had a tendency to skew game balance and with similarly thought out character builds in the party, it clearly demonstrated some of Third Edition's flaws.  I think the cleric, as designed, is one of the problems though I'm sure the minotaur bit didn't help.

That is probably an extreme example and I'm certain the manner the game was run and the way I chose to play the character didn't help -- he was a very offensive character and just as formidable as any of the warrior classes in the party if not more so.  If you cut out his spells completely, he would still have been powerful but he would have been held in check a lot more.

When you consider the evolution of the Cleric in the game, it is important to remember that the class wasn't always this way.  There was a time that a Cleric couldn't cast any spells at first level and at second level, the abilities were such that he could cast a single spell once per day.  At much higher levels they could do a bit more but even the spell selection was not all that stellar.  There were of course some favorites like Hold Person but really, a cleric's duty was to aid and heal.  That was back in the B/X sets (Moldvay/Cook) for D&D and you'll see similar material in the Holmes D&D set as well.  However with AD&D, spell casting accessibility was lowered to first level and the nature of the spells began to broaden somewhat.  Just consider Spiritual Hammer / Spiritual Weapon and then the addition of Sound Burst later on.  As a class, I feel that the cleric has 'lost its way'.  I feel that it might have been the need to turn him into more than a magical medic in the eyes of fans that resulted in this power creep.

The solution?

For starters, strip him of the majority of his 'magic'; no more spells in the traditional sense in D&D.

Any spiritual 'gift' or 'blessing' he needs to impart should need some sort of ability roll or check.  The cleric wants to impart a blessing (like the 1st level spell), then he needs to roll to see if he succeeds or not.  For that matter, toss out the ability to Cure / Heal wounds on demand spells.  If hit points are an abstraction, then maybe they should be dealt in a better fashion -- see my Death's Door rule for a suggestion.  The spells you wish to keep, well, they are rituals now and something to be performed out of combat.  Maybe limiting 1 per day per level would be sufficient and an appropriate difficulty for each one appropriate to the power scale.  These should be viewed as miracles and NONE should be an automatic success.  Allow for minor things such as Blessings as a minor boost as some sort of character ability and a more powerful Raise Dead or Healing / Disease Removal to be more along the lines of a ritual / miracle.

Obviously it's a work in progress but a shift from a cleric begin considered a spell caster to something a bit more mundane could be a great shift away from a tired (and broken) paradigm.

Perhaps I will throw up an actual proposed class replacement later this weekend.


Problems with the Second Hand RPG Market

The past few weeks, I've attempted to sell and thin my gaming collection -- something which can be a huge pain to get set up and organized.  I've opened up with a selection of items and, while I've had a couple of inquiries, not much success recently in terms of closing a sale.

That said, I have not been reaching the widest of audiences either and I've avoided popular destinations (at least they were in the past) such as Ebay.  Decisions to avoid commercial marketplaces such as that was simply financial.  Ebay will take a cut and, the last time I used them to try and sell something, they will still nominally charge for posting in the first place -- even if the items doesn't sell.  In the end, Ebay always wins.  Now, I know my prices are good, very good but the cost of shipping is always an issue for me.

You see, I'm proudly Canadian and reside in this country.  However, the cost of shipping is high and this seems to be a major deterrent when your primary consumer base is in the United States.  This is not to say that postal rates is higher than other countries.  Most countries seem to have comparable rates... with the exception of the United States it seems.  Their shipping rates to international destinations are high, and a bit higher than others but domestically speaking, their rates are ridiculously low compared to, well, Canada for example.  Obviously, I can't compete with those shipping prices and, despite low prices on the items I try and sell, when you factor in shipping, the deal rapidly loses its appeal.

How do I try and offset this?  Bundling several items together.  Usually, these are thematic or just part of an existing series, but the goal is simply to provide a better bang for the buck where shipping becomes less a concern given what is being offered.  It doesn't always work though.

But those are just small factors when we look at trying to offload second hand books.  Simply put, the market is FLOODED with material.  We can certainly thank WOTC and the OGL for this if we look at anything connected to D&D 3.x and d20.  Some venerable RPG shops still have tons of NEW d20 product which have been essentially sitting on store shelves for the better part of a decade!  Many stores have done what they could to sell this material off and the smart ones saw this coming.  In other cases, distributors got stuck with this burden of material and many ran into difficulties along with a large number of new d20 publishers hoping to ride the wave brought about by the OGL in the first place.  Need to sell some third party d20 material?  Best of luck with that -- it will be a challenge unless it's from a recognizable and sought after product typically by one of the few of those startups that managed to weather and survive the d20 collapse.

Speaking of start-ups.  The companies that have sprung up and continue to do so with the flowering of the OSR movement is also something of an issue.  While there are some that stand up from the crowd, I couldn't help but notice new announcements of new publishers and imprints in any given week it seems.  I don't always have the time to frequent Google+ but, I did a couple of times in the past week and I've noticed 3 such announcements.  Of course, this still goes back to the idea of: "Do we really need another clone"?  In the end, Arcana Creations is just another example of one of the many start ups that have come up over the past few years but the pace and number of these has certainly increased.  Why would this be an issue?  Well, if we consider the primary goal of some of these new companies, it's to develop something similar to what we've seen before.  These are the so-called retro-clones.  Interestingly enough, this was a positive thing and made compatible rulesets a lot more available than what have been a long time out of print.  I think this is a positive thing and when WOTC pulled the plug on older PDF versions of their gaming library a few years back, the interest in these games probably surged.

The reprints we have begun to see for the past year and the re-release of these PDF materials is probably due in part to the success the OSR has been experiencing.

The result of this?  Older material are no longer sought after the same way it perhaps once was.  The reprints are cleaned up but unabridged versions of the texts and those older books were also so massively produced back in the day that they can be gotten very inexpensively (barring a few exceptions).  In some cases, these reprints may be even more desired such as is the case with the Unearthed Arcana which actually corrected the errata.  Unless you are a collector or completest of sorts, PDFs may also suit you just fine compared to tracking down a physical copy.  Then there is the offerings available thanks to the OSR.  I think it is a safe thing to say that there has been a general shift in attitude towards these offerings and some are just as happy if not happier with what's being offered now.  As for a second hand market for the OSR -- frankly I haven't seen much evidence of one.  Why?  Because 9 times out of 10, the product is POD and unless there is a limited factor 'built-in' to such a product, there is no reason to believe they will suddenly disappear.  Even if they did, there would be another small publisher to step up and take it's place.

The print on demand model coupled with affordable desktop publishing and Kickstarter have all create shifts in the RPG hobby and these effects trickle down in one way or the other to the decline of a healthy second hand market.  The constant demand and flood of all this gaming material continues to come in at a rapid pace and older releases are just pushed aside.

Imagine what things will be like when 5th Edition is finally released.

So, in short, unless you have an item that is greatly sought after, selling them may be more difficult than one might originally think and it's more likely that three-quarters of those books will earn you pennies on the dollar more often than not.  Sadly, large used gaming retailers won't offer much more than that either which begs the question... what other option is there?

There isn't much of one at the moment or at least none that I can think of.  Much like comic books, it might be easier to just sit on them for years before trying again.  There was a d20 collapse and I expect there will be the something similar happening soon though the impact will be entirely different (a topic for another day).  In the coming weeks, I will try once more to offload some stuff (some which hasn't been listed yet) and, once done, I will consolidate what I have left and be satisfied or accept pennies on the dollar just to clear some shelf space.  Who knows?  What is old may once again become new and desired.