Tomb of Horrors is quite possibly the most infamous D&D module of all time. It’s an adventure that has been credited with annihilating campaigns, and is claimed to be the most broken and unfair adventure ever put out by TSR. However… I think this reputation might be because people are approaching the scenario the wrong way. Continue reading → Adventure Review: S1 – Tomb of Horrors
I off and on have been reviewing the parts of the first AD&D adventure path – Against the Giants (in two parts – Part 1 & Part 2), and Descent into the Depths of the Earth. Well, now the time has come to the conclusion of the Adventure Path, and while for an inventive ending, it’s kind of a rough one. Continue reading → Adventure Review: D3 – Vault of the Drow & Q1 – Queen of the Demonweb Pits
A while back, I reviewed G1: The Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, an adventure that launched AD&D’s first real adventure path, and had some really interesting adventure design concepts. The other two adventures in the series – G2: The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl and G3: The Hall of the Fire Giant King, are much more conventional dungeon crawls, so they’re worth discussing together. Continue reading → Adventure Review: G2 & G3 – The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl & The Hall of the Fire Giant King
Back when I was getting actively into gaming again, I started reading Knights of the Dinner Magazine, and some issues of Dragon Magazine when I could. In those issues of the magazine, I encountered ads for Dwarven Forge, a company making miniature dungeon terrain out of really durable material, what I presume is plastic resin, called Dwarvenite. It was incredibly well sculpted, beautiful to look at, and as a high school and later college student, I couldn’t even begin to hope to afford it, never mind to have space for it. But I really wanted to be able to be in a game that used it.
Fast forward to a few years ago when I finally got in a long-running game again, and much to my delight, my GM owned pretty much all of the Dwarven Forge terrain that had come out to date – so I was able to play with it and experience using it first hand – and it was great. And then I learned about a documentary on Netflix about the guy who started Dwarven Forge, and I decided I had to check that out. I didn’t know exactly what it’s tone would be. However, thus far Netflix had not steered me wrong on the documentary front, so what the hell?
The Dwarvenaut is a interesting documentary – as both an character study of Stefan Pokorny, the founder of the company and one of the sculptors of the terrain the company puts out, and a brief snapshot of what draws people to Roleplaying games. That said, the film is tends strongly more towards the former than the latter. Stefan talks about what drew him to RPGs and we get some interviews with people, often industry luminaries, about what drew them to RPGs – but while the documentary goes to GenCon and other locations we don’t get much of an opportunity to talk to newer roleplayers about why they play, and what draws them to the products that Dwarven Forge makes.
The framing “narrative” as much as there is one, is based around the launching of Dwarven Forge’s third kickstarter, for their City Terrain set, after their earlier “Dungeon” and “Cave” sets. In particular, there are some concerns that due to overpromising on the kickstarter, if they don’t raise $2 million, they will end up going bankrupt. The “will they or won’t they make the goal” part of the
The profile of Stefan is far more engrossing – getting into not only what motivates him as a person who is into roleplaying (specifically designing a product that would motivate people to play in person instead of online), but also as an artist. There’s an scene in the film where Stefan goes back to Venice, where he spent some time after he graduated from art school, and he talks about the wear on the stones and about the stories those buildings must have scene – and that speaks volumes of the artistic motivations behind the Dwarven Forge terrain.
The film also does an amazing job of presenting Dwarven Forge’s terrain, visually. We get some really well shot closeups of the terrain, with lighting and dry-ice fog that makes it look like a miniature from a fantasy movie (and that’s not a bad thing – this is a product that you can buy after all). It kinda makes for a really strong advertisement for Dwarven Forge’s products, which is not what I expected from this documentary.
It’s an engrossing film. I don’t know if it’s one that I’d necessarily add to my collection, but it was definitely worth watching. The film is currently available for streaming on Netflix, and also on Amazon on DVD and Digital.
It’s time for another RPG Roundup video. This time I’m making my recommendations based on Anime series!
13th Age: Amazon, DriveThruRPG
Maid: Amazon, DriveThruRPG
Champions: Amazon, DriveThruRPG
Icons: Amazon, DriveThruRPG
Mutants & Masterminds: Amazon, DriveThruRPG
Wild World Wrestling: DriveThruRPG
- Sailor Moon – Toei
- Serial Experiments Lain – Pioneer
- Neon Genesis Evangelion – Gainax/Studio Khara
- Armored Trooper VOTOMS – Sunrise
- Bubblegum Crisis – Pioneer
- Log Horizon (Season 1) – Satelite
- Hayate the Combat Butler – Manglobe
- Tiger & Bunny – Sunrise
- Goseiger – Bandai
- Tiger Mask W – Toei
The concept of the “adventure path” – a series of adventures or vignettes strung together to form a larger campaign – has become increasingly more prevalent in tabletop gaming. Even standalone adventures, like some of the adventures for Dungeon Crawl Classics, are built around the idea of being part of a larger world, with the idea that the player characters would have further adventures brought on by the events of this adventure.
Probably one of the first examples of this to be published, though, is the G-D-Q series of adventures published by TSR for AD&D 1st Edition. The adventures were originally created to be run as a series of convention scenarios, but even then, the narrative of the three series of adventures were designed to be strung together into an ongoing story. In the interest of that, I’ve taken a look at the first scenario in the G series – The Steading of the Hill Giant Chief.
G1 is significantly different from Keep on the Borderlands in several very dramatic ways. The most obvious one is that it is designed for more high-level characters, and not a normal sized party either – the recommended party is nine 9th level characters, with less players being viable if the players are more experienced. Not if the overall party level is higher or more powerful, but if the players are more experienced and can consequently metagame better – which is especially interesting that the general vibe with modern roleplaying is in favor of less metagaming.
The other major difference is that Keep on the Borderlands is a more conventional dungeon crawl, though one designed with the concept of a bunch of monster apartments around a central hub. G1, on the other hand, has a much more cohesive structure. To make a comparison to modern video games, I’d compare it to a level from Hitman – you have an objective (Break the back of the Hill giants), and a living breathing environment that you have to navigate to accomplish that objective. Just rushing in and killing everyone all willy-nilly will get you killed, so you have to sneak through the environment trying not to get noticed. Indeed, the main set-piece of the environment, the ongoing feast between of the Hill Giant Chief and his supporters, is a location to be avoided if possible, because if you draw their attention you’re going to get squashed flat.
Further, there are several elements of the set-piece encounter that can be picked off if they show up as random encounters. A DM who wants to put some more work into this can change this from being triggered at random to setting up a guard schedule for some of the roaming portions of the set-piece. This makes it more like a Hitman sandbox level, and depending on your players might make the level more accommodating than approachable than the level as written.
As in Hitman, the preferred way of approaching the problem is to skirt the perimeter, finding a disguise if possible, and picking off guards quietly along the way. The adventure does have room for a more conventional dungeon crawl, mainly within the literal dungeons beneath the steading – where the Hill Giants keep their orcish slave labor. This isn’t a case of wiping out the orcs – but rather wiping out their guards – a few slaves upstairs will tip the players off to an earlier uprising and where the leaders are held, and in turn that if someone can take on some of the guards downstairs they can launch a larger uprising – something that sadly nobody has based a Hitman level around.
My complaint around the adventure is actually the framing narrative – that the band of adventurers are sent by their King to accomplish this task by pain of death. This makes sense within the context of a convention tournament scenario, but not within the context of a home game. Once you start approaching Ninth level, you’re starting to approach name level, and with it the responsibility of staking out land and maintaining it. So, I’d adjust the framing narrative to accommodate that – accomplishing this quest will include not only fame, riches, and glory, but also a land grant from your King that you can use to build your Name Level buildings – with the catch being that in the course of this adventure you learn that to pacify this area you will not only need to take out the Hill Giants, but also the other two groups of Giants as well (with the players learning of the Drow involvement partway through pacifying their new territory).
Overall, G1: The Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, is a really well structured adventure that provides a great break from the conventional dungeon delve, and with a few adjustments to the structure of the adventure overall, and the initial adventure hook, will make for something to keep your players adventuring and engaged once they hit Name Level.
I recently took a look at the Dragon Age RPG from Green Ronin, along with the more generic Fantasy AGE RPG, and I want to give a few thoughts on those. Continue reading → Thoughts on Fantasy AGE
This week I’m doing a book review, covering a collection of short stories featuring R.A. Salvatore’s most famous creation – Drizzt Do’Urden – and also covering the audio book release by Audible.com. Continue reading → (Audio)Book Review: The Legend of Drizzt – The Collected Anthology
This time I’m reviewing the fantasy anime series “Record of Lodoss War” from 1990.
- Actual Play – Star Wars: Edge of the Empire – by WhyCalibur
- Titansgrave: Ashes of Valkana – by Wil Wheaton
Both used with Permission
- Record of Lodoss War – by Kadokawa Shoten
Used under fair use.
“Little Lily Swing” – Tri-Tachyon
Used under a Creative Commons License.
Notes: Matt Walton suggested that I cover some of the material I’ve previously covered in my fanzine on the show – this is meant to be a part of that – I did an article on Western Fantasy in Anime that covered Lodoss and several other shows that I’ll get to in future episodes.
This time I’m revisiting a concept did a video on a few years ago – recommendations for Tabletop RPGs for people who play video games. Continue reading → Tabletop RPGs for Video Game Fans II
This week I’m giving my belated thoughts on the dissolution of White Wolf Games at the hands of CCP.
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This week I’m doing a list with 6 tabletop RPGs you might like, based on your taste in video games. If you’re interested in any of the tabletop RPGs mentioned, lists to the games can be found below.
Also, the weekend of June 15th, 2013 is Free RPG Day! Stop by a participating game store see about picking up one of these games, or many others that might strike your fancy! You can find participating stores here. Continue reading → 6 Tabletop RPGs for Video Game Fans