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Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Last Sun: Arkhome!

Hot on the heels of last week's issue, RPGPundit Presents #16: The Great City of Arkhome is the SECOND sourcebook, and one of my personal favorite areas of the world World of the Last Sun.

This is really a city sourcebook, for one of the weirdest cities on a pretty weird setting. The City of Arkhome is built in the shells of ancient rockets, inside an enormous canyon, in the middle of a brutal desert.  It has a strange, post-apocalyptic-fantasy type of vibe to it, and the book details all the various factions and people who run the city: the Assassin King, the Snake Witch, the Old Families, and the Gangs!

Also, and super cool, is a set of tables to let you create random Arkhome towers and some adventure-seed/random-encounter levels. It's great fun, and only $2.99 for an 18 page supplement! That's cheaper than a marvel comic, and they're total garbage!

So please check it out, over on DrivethruRPG or on the Precis Intermedia Website.

And while you're at it, be sure to check out all the other awesome titles in the RPGPundit Presents series:

RPGPundit Presents #1: DungeonChef!

RPGPundit Presents #2: The Goetia  (usable for Lion & Dragon!)

RPGPundit Presents #3: High-Tech Weapons

RPGPundit Presents #5: The Child-Eaters (an adventure scenario for Lion & Dragon!)

Stay tuned for more next week!


Currently smoking: Brigham Anniversary + Image Latakia 

Monday, 22 January 2018

Last Sun: The Northern Wildlands... now in English and Spanish!

So I'm a bit busy just now, but let me direct y'all to the fact that my RPGPundit Presents issue from last week is now available in Spanish. Yes, if Castellano es tu idioma preferido, you can now get:
RPGPundit Presenta: Ultimo Sol: Atlas de la Central De Las Tierras Salvajes Del Norte!

Man that's a long title in translation!

It's the introductory book (aside from RPGPundit Presents: Hipster Elves) for the Last Sun game world, the setting of my infamous DCC campaign!

So, if you prefer English, and you missed it last week, pick up Gazetteer of the Middle-Northern Wildlands today!

And be sure to check out the rest of the RPGPundit Presents series, in English and Spanish alike!


Currently Smoking: Castello 4k Collection Canadian + Image Latakia

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Some More Great Lion & Dragon Reviews

So Lion & Dragon, INCREDIBLY continues to keep climbing back up the Top-10 list of RPGNow's Bestsellers, after the fiasco at the start of the month where RPGnow had booted it off the list altogether. As of the last time I checked this morning, it is now at #& on the Bestseller List.
This is, by far, the best payback.

And if you haven't looked at Lion & Dragon yet, you really want to check it out! You want to see what everyone is getting excited about. Why everyone has gotten to thinking about how to make D&D more medieval. Why a small-press OSR game has managed to hit Silver Bestseller in one month, and climb all the way back up to the top-10 list from a computer "error" that had wiped it off just a couple of weeks ago.

Need more info, though? Check out these two reviews of Lion & Dragon, both posted originally to Google+:

First, from Rikhard Von Katzen:

I'm finally looking over Lion & Dragon in between some prep work for other games. A few of comments:

1) Numbered rules. Yes. This is an old, old practice in war-gaming that very few RPGs do - I have no idea why. It makes finding and referencing specific rules much easier, and briefer.

2) Like Arrows of Indra, the traditional rewrites of old pseudo-Vancian magic is eschewed. This is a good idea, aside from thematic reasons because there is no reason on Earth to keep re-writing near duplicates of D&D. All of the spells and magic items from any version of D&D could be easily imported into any other, and if someone wanted to use them in L&D it would take like no effort. So I am glad the author opted to create his own magic system. Anyone who's dead set on using Magic Missile in their L&D games will have no difficulty doing so, if they have an IQ above 80. Not only does this differentiate the game, it saves us from having yet another repetitive collection of exactly the same information.

3) Critical hit system that's a bit more than just 'dubble damage', another good thing. I am firmly against critical hits that do nothing except double up on damage, since I think this aspect is adequately covered by the fact that you are rolling a damage die to begin with. (You know what a critical hit on a longsword is? Rolling an 8 for damage.)
I personally prefer critical hit systems that are based on hit-location and resistance tables ala RuneQuest, but that would be too complicated for L&D. The system of rolling on a table is a reasonable compromise between that kind of complexity and the pointless dice-doubling standardized in 3.5.

4) I like the different magic items, though I'd prefer less flavor text.

5) Nice art. It is woodcut themed and fairly realistic, which is how I'd prefer it. No bug-eyed hobbits or break-dancing barbarians, thank you.

6) The random trial outcome table is a nice touch, it reminds me of some Judges Guild material I have.
Overall, this system game is a good way for me to make use of my HARN and Pendragon supplements without trying to get people to learn an extremely complex 30 year old game.\

Second, from Stefan Skyrock:

My impressions of Lion & Dragon

I'm done skimming the PDF. I have skipped the parts that are probably just par of the course for OSR games (such as rolling ability scores, basic combat or wilderness survival) and focussed on the things that are unique.

High points:

+ The 400 pound bugbear in the room making L&D unique are of the course the medieval supernatural elements - magister "magic", cleric miracles and magic items. I recognized a few things such as talking heads or mandrakes harvested from where the seed of hung criminals lands, but I also picked up plenty of ideas that were new to me.
Even if you don't use the Lion & Dragon system, or even run fantastical medieval Europe in something other than an OSR system (such as Ars Magica or WoD Dark Ages) there is a lot of gameable stuff to pluck and harvest from L&D.

+ Social status being more than just the amount of starting gold, but a very important trait that governs the character's rights and duties, legal equipment and expected behaviour. I haven't seen game designers paying attention to this since The Riddle of Steel.

+ Primitive firearms! Hand cannons and cannons were an integral part of the era, and I have become sick and tired of uninformed gamers and designers getting their panties into a twist about how introducing black powder and guns would ruin the "medievalness" of their settings. It's nice to see a medieval game that gives primitive guns their rightful place acknowledging their strengths, but also their shortcomings.

+ Thief's Tools for once not being super-pricey, super-rare items that can only be created by the best of the best artisans.
Lockpicks aren't as complex as most gamers believe, and especially not in medieval Europe where rather simple and crude ward locks prevail. It has always peeved me that a class associated with poor petty criminals is expected to need a 100+GM item by default to fulfill one of its core functions.

+ The Trial subsystem. I was getting a very Blacksand!ian vibe from it, with trial by combat and by divine judgement as welcome additions fitting the time.

Things I would do different at my table:

- I like the idea of background skills, but I think they are too little pronounced with just a +1-bonus on a narrow set of rolls. I would probably change it to a d4 or d6 rolled along with the d20, which is very noticeable and also sets a visual reminder on the table that this the character's unique shtick he has grown up with.

- I very much like the idea of the random character advancement tables, but I find the execution too swingy and the results too wildly different in power. I would definitively tweak the tables before using them, either by rolling multiple dice to create a bell curve that makes desirable results more common, or by powering up the weaker results such as skill bonuses. Rolling three times and picking two of the results might also work as a quickfix.

- Scots and Cymri are very place-specific. I would have liked to see some suggestions on how to adapt those two classes to other parts of medieval Europe.
Scots are obviously easy - there are plenty of barbarian peoples on the outskirts of civilized Europe depending on the exact time of the game, such as Vikings, Saxons, Huns, Mongols and so on that can use the same stats.
Cymri are a bit trickier, as their most obvious continental counterpart - Rroma and Sinti - didn't enter the European heartland until the 15th century, and Yenish did emerge even much later.

So, check it out. And if you already have L&D, please SHARE THE LINK everywhere. Let's see if we can get L&D back into the TOP 5!


Currently Smoking: Mastro De Paja Bent Apple + Peterson's Old Dublin

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Wild West Campaign Update: Snake Oil and Backshooters

This was one of those sessions where you start, as a GM, with some ideas of what's going to happen, and then a significant chunk of the adventure gets swallowed up by something completely unexpected.  And man, was it unexpected.

The session started out with Kid Taylor deciding to build off his reputation gained last session as a kind of hoodoo-medicine-man, to make up a batch of Snake Oil and start to sell it.

He purchased a large supply of alcohol from Other Miller, who had just started up a side-business as a brewer. He added a mix of some local herbs, and then he made up a label for his 'miracle cure'.  For whatever reason, not feeling totally confident that his own good name would be enough, he named his concoction "Jim & Miller's", giving the impression that he was in a partnership with Crazy Jim Miller, the local magnate (owner of the East Vegas bank and two brothels as well as some businesses back in Dodge City).

He made a pitch on Railroad street, with a good number of the town coming out to see what he was selling, and he started making some initial good sales. But Crazy Miller had come along to see what was up, and he was NOT amused by the attempt to conflate his name with this product. At first, he demanded that he either get half the profits or that Kid Taylor change the label.  Kid Taylor pointed out that his own first name was also "Jim" (though he usually goes by James) and that "Miller" referred to Other Miller (his alcohol provider); but this did not satisfy Crazy Miller. He went on to demand that Taylor change the labels, but Kid Taylor again refused.

So Crazy Miller walked off to one of his brothels, picked up club, came back, and started destroying Taylor's bottles of snake-oil!
To say that Kid Taylor took this badly was a huge understatement. He drew on Miller, in spite of Miller not being armed with a pistol. Other Miller tried to intercede but Kid Taylor is incredibly fast and used his trademark 'Hip shooting" tactic; he honestly meant to shoot Crazy Miller in the hand, but his aim was off and instead he ended up grazing the top of Crazy Miller's head, leading everyone to assume he'd been trying to blow Crazy Miller's brains out!

At this point Sheriff Dirty Dave Rudabaugh and Deputy Jackson showed up, and very promptly arrested Kid Taylor. Both men were very heated, but Taylor surrendered himself while Crazy Miller went off to Las Vegas to get his wound looked at (fortunately for him, his hat took more damage than his skull).  Obviously, the whole situation demands that Judge/Mayor Hoodoo Brown decide what if anything to do about all this; it's a huge problem when two major members of the Dodge City Gang (one the acting town doctor and Hoodoo's own 'spiritual protege', and the other the richest merchant in town and the guy handling all of the Gang's ill-gotten wealth) seem to be looking to murder each other. 

In the end, however, clearer heads prevailed. By the time they went before Hoodoo Brown, both men agreed not to press charges, and swore that they wouldn't try to do each other any more harm for however long they remained in East Vegas at least. Hoodoo also ordered Kid Taylor to change the label on his bottles. It was clear, however, that their relationship was now very very strained.  Crazy Miller had a memorable quote when he said "I always say I would take a bullet for my friends... this one was yours, Taylor".

Crazy Miller even tried to manipulate his promise, hinting to his friend (and the infamous murderer) John Joshua Webb that he wouldn't mind seeing Kid Taylor dead. But Big Nose Kate (Webb's business partner in Kate's Saloon) overheard this, and browbeat Webb into agreeing not to do anything about it no matter how much he might want to. The last thing she wanted was for their to be trouble with Hoodoo Brown.

Meanwhile, what was originally meant to be the main plot of the adventure, dealing with a trio of brothers who were all utter dregs (Joshua, Leroy and Drey Green) causing some serious trouble stemming from Joshua having backshot two Mexicans who'd offended him, getting arrested, and then his two brothers dangerously trying to break him out of prison, became largely secondary by comparison.

Still it led to some interesting action, chases, and a few funny moments of misunderstandings. In the end of it, Leroy was dead (trying to break his brother out), Joshua got hung, and Drey managed to get away.

As for Kid Taylor and Crazy Miller, it's hard to say how things will turn out. Both of them are fairly nuts, but like many of the wild personalities of the wild west, they make and lose grudges fairly easy. In a couple of sessions they might be fast friends again, or they might end up at each other's throats again. We'll have to wait and see.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Quiete + Peterson's Old Dublin

Friday, 19 January 2018

What's Actually in Lion & Dragon (still Rising the Top-10 Charts!)

So Lion & Dragon is still gaining ground in the RPGnow Bestseller list! As of this morning, it had climbed back up to #8! This is amazing for a product that got knocked out completely due to RPGnow's "mistake", to not only make it back on the chart but to make it back all the way to #8.  And it's all thanks to you, dear readers! Thank you to everyone who bought the game and to everyone who reviewed the game and to everyone who shared the link. That last one is SUPER important and the very best way you can help me (aside from buying the game itself) because that lets other people get a chance to see the game!

So please, share the product link!  Let's see if we can somehow make it into the top-5! Man, that will piss certain people off. And if you're a fan of my books, you're probably not a fan of those people. So come on, let's get some people salty!

Now that my beautiful hardcover L&D book has arrived, cracking it open reminded me of something I wanted to share on here: the table of contents. I figure that might help some of you work out just what's in the book and in what proportions. So, here it is:

(click the image for a clearer view)

At some point I'll write up a full authors-notes review of the book, but for now, remember that if you have any questions about Lion & Dragon you can always feel free to ask!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario + Blue Boar

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Classic Rant: "Real Magick" in RPGs: Spellbooks

I've posted previously in this series (on the old blog, but archived here), about some of the misconceptions about how 'occultism' is handled in a lot of allegedly-occult RPGs, and how GMs can modify things to more closely model the reality of the occult scene (a reality that is filled with posers, fakers, and lunatics, but also some truly fascinating stuff). One of the big ones in modern games is about how occult knowledge is somehow rare or very difficult to access (the classic Call of Cthulhu scenario where magical knowledge is only available in the most obscure places), when the fact is that the problem is not access to that knowledge at all, but the ability to differentiate between the useful and the useless. I also made a post about how and what a magician's diary looks like, and how these will often be the most important "grimoires" available in a setting.

Now on the whole I've been focusing on modern settings, but I heard something interesting today on theRPGsite in reference to the "unrealistic" nature of D&D magick. Someone pointed out that the idea of a magician going around with a spellbook and memorizing spells made no sense. Magicians should study their books at home, and their spellbooks would be kept safe within lock and key in their towers.

But the truth of the matter is a bit trickier than that.

A magician may very well carry around his magical diaries with him (remember: a grimoire is really nothing more than a heavily-edited magical diary); for two reasons.

First, not to memorize spells but to potentially remember correspondences. There are big tables of correspondences (which are important "components" for magical practice, divination, etc) that someone might be able to memorize, but there's so much to be memorized that a lot of students won't. A good magick student will know the symbols and order of the zodiac, the planets, elements, PROBABLY the Hebrew letters and their number values, and things like the names of gods, elemental signs, the pentagram rituals and hexagram rituals. If he does all that by heart, he's a pretty advanced student (even among serious practitioners; remember, 99% of supposed 'magicians' have barely studied anything at all and don't actually practice any magick).
But even that kind of expert student may not memorize what type of plant corresponds to the moon, or the name of the Angel of the 20th degree of Leo.

Second, you never know when there's going to be new things to write in the diaries!

A magical diary is practically a part of a magician's body; it's been repeatedly described by almost all of the great occult authors as the single most important tool of the magician. You can almost always use it as a litmus test to tell the difference between a serious occultist and a dabbler, dilettante, or fraud: not everyone who keeps a diary will necessarily be doing serious occult work, but anyone who doesn't keep a magical diary is almost guaranteed NOT to be doing serious occult work of any kind.

Thus, the diary is far from an neat and tidy book of instruction (though sometimes material from said diaries are heavily edited to become actual commercial books); they are the frantic scribbles of a madman, and a seriously-obsessed occultist won't be trusting his own recollection to write down some insight or discovery long after the fact, if he can at all help it. He'll want the diary close, so he can record his studies, discoveries, findings or experiences as quickly as possible.


Currently Smoking: Dunhill Amber Root Bulldog + C&D's Crowley's Best 

(Originally Posted January 17, 2014)

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

They're Finally Here!

So while I've had great pleasure in hearing about tons of other people receiving their copies of Lion & Dragon in the mail, I had not yet received my own author copies in all this time. Six weeks after the launch of L&D, a huge amount of the OSR were enjoying their L&D books, but not the guy who actually wrote it!

But no more!

I have to say, the hardcover looks just magnificent! And yet, the softcover is also really fine as an alternative.

Anyways, I've now joined the club of people who actually own Lion & Dragon, why don't you? You won't regret it!


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Virginia