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Thursday 31 August 2017

RPGpundit Reviews: OWB: Allied Missions I

This is a review of the OSR book "OWB: Allied Missions I", which is a sourcebook for the OSR RPG, "Operation WhiteBox", which I have previously reviewed.

This review is of the print edition, which is in the form of a softcover  of smaller size, 120 pages long. It has a full-color cover featuring some men landing at Normandy during D-Day, or the likes.

The interior has very few illustrations in spite of having a mix of B&W and color element, mostly the interior art consists of maps or floorplans.

So as I mention in the review, Operation Whitebox was a surprisingly good mod of the OSR standard rules for running WWII Special Forces adventures. Now, Allied Missions I provides 9 different scenarios for use in that type of campaign. All these missions are generally for lower-level play, and they are in a variety of different theatres of war: Norway in '41, North Africa in '42, and France in '44. So not all of them may be a fit for a pre-existing campaign, though they could also be wound together in some way for a campaign based on running these particular adventures.

In fact, the very first section of this book covers some of the possible stumbling blocks to running some of the adventures: for example, playing American characters before the USA actually entered the war, or if they're playing resistance fighter characters, or if they're playing characters whose specialties are very different from those of the unit involved in the scenario, or even difficulties from being in areas where they don't speak the language.  Frankly, it sure sounds like the easier thing to do would be to make characters for these scenarios; but I guess it is helpful to include some hints as to how to handle it if a GM is already running OWB and wants to incorporate these adventures into their campaign.

The nine adventures are divided into three different sets: "Norway Ablaze" is three adventures set in Norway 1941. "Desert Raiders" are three missions set in North Africa in 1942, and "Normandy Breakout" are three missions set in France in 1944.

The Norway adventures feature a raid on a relay station to blow up a radio tower, a mission to blow up a fish oil depot (fish oil was used to make a key ingredient in high explosives), and a mission to neutralize a German bunker in order to allow commando forces to escape.
The missions in North Africa involve a raid on a Luftwaffe airfield in Libya, a search through the desert to locate the location of a Panzer batallion, and a mission to meet with a German general.
The Normandy missions involve taking out a German pillbox, a mission to act as forward scouts and secure a farmhouse, and the kidnapping of an important Nazi officer.

Each adventure is presented with a background, a detail of the briefing the PCs receive, a clearly-stated mission objective, details of preparations for the mission (including special equipment), details on their insertion into the field of operations, pre-assessment, execution, extraction, and post-assessment. They also include details (usually with maps or plans) of the location, opposing forces, and any other special elements of the scenario.

I'm going to avoid going into any further details about the scenarios, so as not to spoil them. I will say, though, that I personally like the desert campaign ones the best (especially the last scenario), and the Normandy ones least (with the exception of the last scenario). The writing is good in all 9 scenarios, though, and the production values high, particularly with some nice mapping.

So, is "Allied Missions I" worthwhile?  Well, if you are into the premise of OWB, it certainly could be. If you are a huge WWII buff and full of your own ideas for special missions for your player characters, then maybe this won't be all that worthwhile. But if you're just someone who loved the idea of OWB but aren't quite sure what to do with it besides trying to rip off war movies, you'll find this mission book very useful.

And if you're in-between, neither a future History Documentary presenter nor a guy whose best idea is "Saving Private Ryan", odds are you'll find at least some of these 9 scenarios worthwhile to use in part or in full.


Currently Smoking: Winslow Crown Cutty + C&D's Crowley's Best

Wednesday 30 August 2017

Check Out This Dark Albion Article!

I'm still trying to catch up on work since I got back from my trip, so for today, just check out this awesome OSR post by Eric, where he talks about using Dark Albion material (especially the material from Cults of Chaos) in campaign work for a Sword & Sorcery campaign.

So again, check it out!

Tuesday 29 August 2017

Classic Rant: The REAL Reason I Don't Work at Wizards of The Coast

So a couple of things happened in the last couple of days, not connected to each other as such but that I found a connection to. The first is that I've been reposting some of my archived blog entries over on my Pundit's Forum in theRPGsite. Specifically, the ones from about a year ago when "consultantgate" was happening.

As a result of this some people, some of them well meaning and perhaps some of them snidely, were remarking that my ongoing condemnation of the Pseudo-Activist Outrage Brigade for what they did during Consultantgate was justifiable because "due to consultantgate the RPGPundit might never work for WoTC again".

The second thing that happened is that a minor brouhaha erupted when Ryan Macklin posted a list of advice for would-be writers for Paizo. Said advice included tips like "don't be too clever or you'll intimidate your potential employers", and "don't make stuff so smart that you'd never actually see it in a (paizo) publication". And understand, he wasn't being critical of the company, or joking; Ryan Macklin was the staff editor for Paizo from 2012 to 2015. He was being dead serious. 

A lot of people got pissed off at him for it. But you know, Ryan Macklin is absolutely totally 100% right.

Which brings us back to Consultantgate. 

The thing is, I never expected to have a WoTC gig to begin with (I admit, I didn't expect them to be that smart), I didn't expect to be taken on as a consultant, and when I took on the consulting job for 5e I had no intention of ever working for WoTC in the future. Note: not after gamergate, not after the consulting job was done, but right from the very start.

I never had any plan to ask for any WoTC job after the 5e consulting, and had Consultantgate not happened I wouldn't have had any expectation of doing any future work for WoTC. Any future offer of work would have to have met some very specific circumstances for me to be interested. The fact is, I never saw myself (nor do I see myself in the future) wanting to write an adventure module or mechanics book where whatever I would have to fit very strict criteria of design that are not my own. I want to spend my time making games and settings exactly the way I want to make them, not the way the WoTC corporate board thinks would be most profitable to be made. It's not what I'm into.

So Consultantgate really sucked for a number of reasons, but the notion that "I might never be hired by WoTC again" is not one of them, because I never had any plans of being hired by WoTC again. Not that I would categorically rule it out completely, but it would have to be very special circumstances that granted me a latitude that just wouldn't be very typical for WoTC to grant anyone.

I had no assumption of working for them again, at no point did I express any such expectation to WoTC, nor did WoTC or Mike Mearls at any time make any kind of suggestion that they would hire me again; and I suspect that Mike Mearls (who has been a reader of my blog from Year One) knows me well enough to know that even if he wanted to make such an offer it couldn't possibly be to write some adventure module under the careful control and supervision of Wizards' executives.

Ryan Macklin is absolutely right: if you want to be a writer for Paizo OR WoTC, you need to be willing to do work that will be less clever, less original, and that cannot in any way intimidate the suits. My RPG-writing is way too interesting to be able to feel comfortable to the top brass at WoTC (or Paizo for that matter). My methods, and the stuff I produce, would not tick the list of boxes of what they want, of middle-of-the-road products that are broad enough to be enjoyed by everyone without making things difficult for anyone to use. Not just me, mind you, that applies to a lot of the independent OSR designers (and a few non-OSR designers too). Note also that I'm not in any way saying that WoTC or Paizo's products are bad products. Not at all, just that they are products made with a corporate mindset of being the most efficiently broad-spectrum and generic enough for the mass audience.

Consultantgate sucked ass because people made up vicious lies about me, and did so with the intention of harming my career. But Consultantgate didn't affect my relationship with Wizards of the Coast in any way, shape or form. They were completely impotent in that regard, because I had already finished my work for WoTC before Consultantgate ever started, and had no expectation whatsoever of working for them in the future.

And really, why would I ever need to? Lords of Olympus, Arrows of Indra, and now Dark Albion have all been big successes for me, and all of them were me writing exactly what I wanted to write, on my own terms. My consultancy with WoTC was a dream job because it was precisely because of this differentness from their typical employee and absolute refusal to compromise anything that I was perfect for the Consulting job. Mearls knew I would pull no punches.

And really, in spite of the total shittiness of what the Outrage Brigade did during Consultantgate, they lost.
D&D has become exactly what I said it should become. The OSR has become exactly what I said it should become. Nothing anyone does now is going to change any of that. They're mine now. 
You are all living in Pundit's World now, and it's working, and it's beautiful.


Currently Smoking: Italian Redbark + H&H's Beverwyck

(Originally posted August 15, 2015)

Monday 28 August 2017

Wild West Campaign Update: The Royal Gorge Rail War

The latest adventure started out with Bat Masterson putting together a very odd team, something that everyone realized very quickly was not going to be some kind of posse of lawmen. In fact, most of the people he hired were on the shady side: Dirty Dave Rudabaugh, Doc Holliday (just returned to Dodge from Las Vegas, where he'd been fined for running a poker table - gambling being strictly illegal in Las Vegas), and John Joshua Webb.  At Webb's request, he invited Crazy Miller too, and Bat brought Kid Taylor with him, the kid being the only Dodge lawman he figured would be shady enough to join in.

Their mission? They had all been hired by the Santa Fe Railroad company to act as strongmen in a dispute that company was having with the Rio Grande Railroad, over a highly-valuable pass known as the "Royal Gorge".

The Rio Grande men had driven out the crew of the main waystation in the gorge, and now Santa Fe hired bat to put together a gang to take the station back and hold it against all comers.

Before they rode off, on Jeff Young and Wyatt Earp's insistence, Bat made Other Miller a deputy Sheriff; mainly in the hopes that it would keep Bat's gun-loving younger brother Jim (the de-facto Sheriff in Bat's absence) under some modicum of control.

The Masterson gang rode off to Royal Gorge, and after some initial uncertainty about how to approach the station (wherein Webb brutally murdered the two lookouts that they spotted coming into the gorge), the party decided on trying something they hoped would avoid any further violence: Bat, using his gift of gab, would claim the group were reinforcements sent by the Rio Grande company, and then capture the real Rio Grande men and the station, hopefully without bloodshed, when they were invited right in.

Incredibly, the plan worked. The Rio Grande men weren't happy, but realized that when the Masterson gang got the draw on them they wouldn't stand a chance in a fight, so they decided to head out. All but one fellow, a mulatto named Johnson, who was the only Rio Grande man to take Crazy Miller's offer to get better pay if they switched sides.  Johnson wasn't being very well treated by the Rio Grande men, and felt quite happy to have been offered an equal stake by Miller and Bat, both of whom were quite progressive for the times.  Of course, some of the others in the group were not quite as pleased, particularly Rudabaugh and Kid Taylor, the two serious racists of the bunch. But they weren't in charge.

Meanwhile, in Dodge, Jim Masterson had started to get buzzed with his newfound authority, in what some players called the Judge-Dread/Officer-Cartman school of policing.  When a pair of slick gamblers approached Jim and Young to offer them a cut of the profits in exchange for protecting their planned crooked gambling operation, Jim made use of the Dodge City ordinance empowering him to (very dramatically, in Jim's case) "Banish" them from Dodge.

This didn't turn out to be the smartest move, because the gamblers clearly felt very humiliated at their public roughing-up at Jim's hands.  So a few days later, they sent a shootist into town with the intention of killing Jim Masterson in a duel. The shootist in question turned out to be Chris Smith, a former lawman himself, and an acquaintance of Other Miller's back when Miller had been a sheriff in the small town of Mancato. Other Miller and Jeff Young intercepted Smith first; on interrogation they found that Smith was apparently motivated by a serious need for money, but he also had a pesky kind of honor code which he felt obliged him to follow through with the contract he'd agreed to fulfill. Other Miller and Wyatt Earp were not partial to interfering, though they didn't like the situation, but Jeff Young was very determined that neither man would die on his watch, so he arrested Chris Smith in an attempt to prevent any duel from taking place.

There was still the problem of Jim Masterson; it was obvious that the second Jim found out about Smith and what he was in town for, he'd demand that Young liberate Smith and eagerly fight the duel, where he'd either end up killing Other Miller's old friend or getting himself killed. So Young came up with a plan: he faked a message from Hays City, claiming that there were cattle rustlers causing great trouble up there, and as Jim was the acting county Sheriff, it was his duty to go deal with it. They sent Bill Tilghman with him, along with orders that Bill slow down and distract Jim for as long as possible; the hope being they could keep Jim going around in circles on a wild goose chase until Bat got back, at which point the whole thing would become Bat's problem.

Meanwhile, at Royal Gorge, Bat's gang end up being visited by a band of 20 men from the Rio Grande Railroad.

The party hunkers down in the stationhouse, expecting that they'll have to face a serious shootout, or at least a siege. But Bat isn't out of tricks yet: he tells the Rio Grande men that if they go to see his contact in the Santa Fe line, he'll pay them more than the Rio Grande is offering, without having to risk their lives.  Some of them are a bit reluctant, having had bad prior history with the Santa Fe line cheating them out of their land, but Bat reasons that this way they're screwing over both railroads, and really what better way is there to get revenge? Certainly a better choice than getting themselves killed for the sake of the rail barons.

Over in Dodge, Marshall Young found himself obliged to let Smith the shootist go free, with no charge to really hold him on; he hoped that the full-day head-start and the fact that Smith didn't know which way Jim Masterson went would be enough to keep them safe.  Chris Smith, for  his part, was too smart to go off looking for a needle in a haystack; he planned to stay right there in Dodge, waiting for Jim to get back.

Other Miller decided to make use of that to have a chat with his old friend. After several drinks while listening to some of Big Nose Kate's stories about Doc Holliday, Smith finally relaxed enough to let slip some of his tale.

He'd retired as a lawman to get married, and started a little farm; but a farmer's life is very hard, and they were in danger of losing it all, so he found himself obliged to take on a job at the one other thing he was ever good at: gunplay.

Other Miller played on their friendship and made Smith a counter-offer, for what was undoubtedly more money than the two crooked gamblers had proposed; and then pointed out to Smith that if he ended up dead, even if the gamblers kept their word and got the money to his widow, what would happen to her and his infant son once those few hundred dollars ran out, with no man to provide for them?

Although he was reluctant to break his contract, Smith realized that his old friend was making a very good point, and was finally convinced to agree.

Through the process of deduction, Other Miller managed to work out that the two gamblers were holed up in Elcadur, so Jeff Young sent Wyatt Earp over there.  He made himself threatening enough to scare the pants off them and send them rushing out of Kansas to less dangerous climates.

As for Royal Gorge, the Rio Grande Railway decided they were not to be outdone. They came back into the gorge with 50 men and a gatling gun, and for a second the party feared they might just end up dead. But there was also a company man with the thugs, and he had another idea: he'd brought with them a carpet bag containing $10000, which he'd give to Bat's gang in exchance for them peaceably abandoning the stationhouse.  Bat and his group didn't need more than five minutes or so to agree. They all decided that the slight shame of giving up their job would be more than made up by a $1700 take each.


Currently Smoking: Missouri Meerschaum + Rattray's Bull's Eye Flake

Sunday 27 August 2017

Good Kitty!

Today, just before my DCC game started:

I love how my cat not only caught a bird out in the lane, not only brought it in for me, but laid it down on a bill that was on the floor, taking great care in her presentation.

She's a great huntress, and the smartest cat by far that I've ever owned.


Currently Smoking: Dunhill Diplomat + C&D's Bayou Evening

Saturday 26 August 2017

DCC Campaign Archive: I Plea-Bargained Them Down From Feces

In our last session the PCs had found themselves an ancient (albeit a mentally deficient one). But they were still inside the Brain-Eater-infested ancients' complex. The question now is whether they can get out without killing their prize.


-"The Ancients we get are never actually competent examples of their grandeur. First we found a little child, and now a mental defective."
"The next two will probably be a sexual deviant and then a vegan."

-"Well, it's not like any of our PCs were ever competent!"
"huh... truly we ARE created in their image!"

-"The Dwarves are kind of competent!"
"Yes, they're a very intelligent people, and if the Dwarven Holocaust hadn't completely fucked them up they'd be great. But as it is..."
"Well, it was only a short holocaust!"
"Bad pun, man."

-The canyon wall collapses on Sammi while she is still inside the skyship.
"should we try to rescue her?"

-"Do you think the Brain Eaters will be trying to find Mongo?"
"Let's hope his stupidity buys us some time."

-Vizi climbs to the other side of the canyon, and gets a vision of Brain Eaters. So the party goes the other way and runs straight into... a brain-eater!

-Vizi hits the Brain Eater, and it responds with a psychic attack!
"Vizi, you now feel confused; you may end up acting irrationally."
"Like anyone in this campaign ever acts rationally!"

-"He's thrust himself into my mind!"
"He's using Mind Thrust, that's a psychic attack."
"Yeah but he's thrusting real deep!"

-Roman blows the Brain-Eater to bits with his psychic attack, doing 136 points of damage.
"OK, what the fuck is this guy?"

-"I'm only 18xp away from level 3, so I'll probably die soon."

-As the group moves on, the party continues mocking Mu about his having been 'raped by ghosts', an event that never actually happened.

-When they get back to the main promenade, the party runs into Publio, who is hanging from a cage. He was left there by feral Dwarves.

-"Who's the new guy?"
"This is Vizi, our replacement Publio, except this one was properly trained."
"Yeah, he has a laser-sword and he force-hit a Brain Eater. He's basically a Jedi."

-"Can I get a new weapon too?"
"Sure. Now you already had a sword, Publio, but then you lost it. It's time for a more advanced weapon for you now... a shovel!"

-As the party is crossing the area affectionately named 'garbage island', they hear the pitiful high-pitched squeaky cries of a Dark Elf pleading for help.
"please...? someone? I'm still alive here but I can't move... I'm in horrible pain!"

-They check it out and find a Dark Elf trapped in a water-logged room, his legs totally shattered.
"Holy shit, he's even more pathetic than normal Dark Elves!"

-"I've got a medibot but I'm not wasting it on him."

-"How are we getting out of here?"
"Jaluddin is going to pick us up."
"Ok, I'll send a message for a skyship to Lol."

-"So this Sunstaff, it can get us to the Crown of Creation. But then what?"
"We can use the Sunstaff as a weapon."
"Wouldn't we need a wizard for that though?"
"I'm a wizard!!"
"Mu's a wizard?"
"HAHA, I seriously forgot Mu was a wizard, even out of character."

-"So Jaluddin was going to pick us up?That was seriously your plan?"
"Dude, he's not coming."
"No, but... son of a bitch."

-"Do the Dark Elves have any useful wizards who could get us to Lol?"
"Soon all the world will see our dark powers!"
"Never mind, that squeaky voice just robs your people of all dignity."

-"We should go see the Azure Wizards. Maybe they got our stuff back."
"I think you're grossly overestimating the Azure Wizards."

-"why don't you want to go see the Azure Wizards?"
"Because they're failures."
"You're a failure, and we let you stay here with us."
"That hurts."

-"Lol isn't responding. We may have to get out of here on foot."
"Are there any friendly countries around?"
"Sure. The Dark Elf kingdoms are to the north, and the south has a large forest that may have some friendly mutant tribes."
"Fine. As long as there's no badlands on the way."
"Well... we're IN the 'badlands'."
"Oh shit."

-"Are we seriously going to the Dark Elf kingdoms? I mean, they are the most advanced culture around these parts but they're still freaking medieval... well, not so much 'medieval' as dumb-ass fantasy sword & sorcery."

-"Look, the Dark Elves will probably at least have wizards, right? One of them could help us."
"I bet you anything all their wizards are lame-ass summoners with skullcaps."

-The party puts the Dark Elf Cripple on a hoverboard, and ties him to Mu, basically reducing Mu to the role of a pack animal.
"Mu's finally useful!"

-After failed attempts to take the hoverboard-cripple down the mountain path, the party finally prevails on Roman to use the medibot on him. Roman pulls on Mu's rope.
"Whoah.. woah there.."
"Hey! I'm not some kind of cow!"
"I hate you guys so much."

-"What's your name?"
"Verigoth the terrible! And for healing me, the sword of Verigoth the Terrible will be yours! Well... as soon as I find a new sword."

-That night, while on guard, Vizi prevails on Verigoth to show him his 'awesome fight moves'. While Verigoth is fooling around in that way, a Griffin swoops down out of the darkness of night and viciously savages the Dark Elf.

-"Roman! Use your vibration hammer!"
"It doesn't work that way!"
"Hah, he knew what I meant."

-The Dark Elf tries to fight back, but only ends up breaking the Tormentor's sword, which Heidi had been letting him use.

-Vizi lays a killing blow with his laser-sword.
"You're coming along very nicely... I'll be watching your career with great interest."
"Yes, chancellor."

-"I'll heal the useful people first."

-The next day, the party has an encounter with 8 moose... mooses? meece!

-The mooseload are enemies of the Dark Elves.
"They are unbearable!"
"Well, at least we know these Mooses are an intelligent species."

-"This dark elf isn't with us!"
"He's just our servant now, that's why we only let him use a broken sword."

-Mongo shouts menacingly in Ancient.
"What did he say?"
"Oh, don't mind him, he's simple."
"Yeah, he's totally not the last surviving Ancient, that's for sure..."
"Shut up, Mu!"

-The Meese decide to make friends with the PCs, as long as they get to tie up the Dark Elf and throw rotted fruit at him.

-"You should not trust these mooses!"
"They have no honor!"
"That, and also they want to hurl fruit at me."
"Hey, at least I plea bargained them down from feces."

-"When we get to the Dark Elf Shadowlands you must not speak of this."
"We promise, just like we promised we won't tell that you broke the Tormentor's sword."
"Yeah, or how Mu was raped by ghosts."
"Stop it!"

-The Mooses prepare a lovely picnic for the PCs, while they tie the Dark Elf to a tree.
"Wait, how the fuck do they tie him up? They're Moose, they have no hands."
"They use their mouths."
"They're surprisingly dextrous, disney-style, in spite of not having hands."

-"We will now use you as our weapons against our enemies!"
"The dark elves?"
"No, the Vegan Mutants; who we hate even more than the Dark Elves."

-"Why should we help you with your vendettas?"
"The food from our picnic was poisoned! If you want the antidote, you will destroy our enemies."
"Damn. Well, I'm mad, but I'm not opposed to exterminating vegans."

-"Will you be joining us, mooses?"
"No. We cannot be seen to have broken our peace treaty with them."
"Wow, you meece really are bastards."

-The PCs try to explain to the mooses the significance of Mongo.
"He's special...I mean in more ways than the obvious."
"I thought you said he was a simpleton?"
"Simpletons can be special!"

-"Never trust woodland creatures."
"Yes, a surprising number of them are total assholes."

-The Moose give Heidi a bag of weapons they'd captured from past victims.
"The vegans, what are their arms and armors?"
"Sharpened sticks and hemp coats."
"oh, good."

-"These mooses are total assholes, and they poisoned us; and still, in spite of never having met them, already  hate the Vegan Mutants more than them."

-"I was denied the only thing of worth I could have taken.."
"Your dignity?"
"No, the Dark Elf's armor."

-The PCs head off to commit genocide, but Heidi, remembering again that he's a pacifist, flies ahead and meets the Vegans. He concocts quite the tale to them, about an incoming disaster and that he's an agent of the Azure Wizards, and that they have to leave their home for another valley across the mountains.  Incredibly, they believe him.

-"So you convinced them to fuck off to the mountains?"
"You realize you just sent them all to their near-certain deaths anyways, right?"
"I won't be responsible for their deaths, though. Not directly, anyways."
"You have an interesting way of justifying yourself."
"I'm just letting nature take its course."
"Wow. I don't give a shit about these guys, but that's cold."

-"Now can I have the Dark Elf's armor?"
"No, you're not ready for that."
"I hate all you guys!"
"Hey look, Publio is at that rebellious age."
"Well he is at that level of maturity where he thinks dark-elf stuff is cool."

-"The Vegans had nothing of worth?"
Of course, Heidi avoids mentioning the literal ton of weed they took with them when they left, feeling sure that Vizi and Roman would hunt them down for it.

-"This has been the worst expedition ever. All my brothers in arms are either dead or dishonored, I was tree-bound by mooses... at least I wasn't raped by ghosts."
"That didn't happen!!"
"Oh, it did."

-Just when they thought the trip couldn't go further south, the party runs into a band of Dark Elves! It's lead by Azenabraith the Slayer, brother of Asiliath the Tormentor.
"You slew my brother in combat, so I honor you. What is your name?"
"That is a warrior's name!"

-"So if you're elves, do you guys live in domes?"
"No, we have no need of domes, like our pale and pathetic cousins. We live in fortresses! Impressive dark fortresses! With many spikes! Needless spikes!"

-"Do you have wizards?"
"Yes, we have many mighty summoners."
"told you so."

-One of the Dark Elves stands guard with Mu.
"So, what are you?"
"I'm a wizard."
"Oh yeah, well what are you guys?"
"Show me your moves."

-As soon as the Dark Elf gets distracted showing his 'badass' moves, a band of orcs attack in an ambush!

-Roman utterly destroys an orc with his mind.
"Ok, what the fuck is Roman??!"

-Publio is "inspired" by the Dark Elves. Like any adolescent, he thinks drow are really cool.

-"Publio, you should prove yourself to the dark elves by acting like them!"
"Don't fucking encourage him, Mu!"

-"Maybe you should paint yourself black?"
"Shut up, Mu!"

-"The Dark Elves are like really pathetic klingons."

(unsurprisingly, this was the very first image to come up when I searched for 'pathetic klingons')

-The next night, while Vizi convinces yet another Dark Elf guy to show off his badass "moves", the party are attacked by a giant porcupine!
"Be careful! It's almost as lethal as a giant weasel!"

-Mu uses his Telepathy to enter into mental communication, only to discover the porcupine appears to have an Italian accent.
"Hey, what-a you-a doin makin-a noise near my nest?!"

-Mongo gets hit by a quill, and runs away! Roman runs after him.

-The Dark Elves also fail their morale check and run from the bombardment of quills, leaving only the PCs to face the deadly Italian Giant Porcupine.

-Vizi is taken down by the porcupine attacks (but he will survive). Mu and Heidi manage to kill the porcupine. As for Publio, he threw his shovel in a random direction, and then fell on the ground.

-Roman corrals the runaways and brings them back.
"There, see? It's dead. Any chance you had of proving yourselves mighty warriors has long since passed."

-"Is that healing robot working?"
"No. It broke down healing Mu."
"If it makes you happy, I too am almost dead."
"Why would I be happy about that, Publio? If you died I'd go back to being the most useless party member."

-"Ok, from now on, NO encouraging the dark elves to show off their 'cool combat moves' while keeping watch, damn it!"

-After a couple of more days travel, and no more 'cool combat moves', the PCs finally reach the end of the mountains.
"Behold, the Dark Elf Shadowlands!"
"It looks pretty arid and sunny for being 'shadowlands', I think."
"They are called the Shadowlands because they are the lands of the Dark Elves."
"Then why aren't you called the Shadow Elves?"
"...some people call us that.."
"No one calls you that!"
"I'll call you Shadow Elves.."
"You honor us!"

-They reach the biggest fortress, with the plan being to present themselves to the king. They're met there by a powerful-looking dark elf warrior with a voice as squeaky as all the other Dark Elves.
"I am Mereigoth Darkshadow, commander of the King's Guard."
"Oh, nothing.. I just have a cold."

-"Behold our King, Arianis Blackdragon; also our High Summoner Verminard the Sorcerer."
"Well, these guys won't be helpful..."

-"Maybe Jaludin did't come to get us because he caught Sezerkhan-aids?"
"And Lol has fallen?"
"For Jaludin's sake, I hope so."

-"Could anyone in your whole kingdom help us find a way to get to the city of Lol, high up in the floating islands?"
"Perhaps... only the Witch-Shaman."
"Which Shaman?"
"The Witch-Shaman."
"Is she a witch, or a shaman?!"
"There's two things you have to know about the Witch Shaman..."

-"She has studied not just sorcery but also the ways of the spirits."
"Been there!"
"So has Mu!"
"I have not!"

-"This warrior, Publio, wants to be like you Dark Elves, your Majesty."
"I really just want dark elf armor though.."
"Dude, you have trouble when you wear a barrel."
"Shut up! None of you understand me!"

-"Guys, when I get to play Bill again, if any of your PCs are still alive you have to tell me about this place; so I can come back and fuck it up beyond belief."

That's all for today; we leave off with the party taking some time to recover and then planning to go visit the Witch-Shaman, in what will almost certainly be either another side-quest or a complete waste of time.
Stay tuned!


Currently Smoking: Ashton Old Church Rhodesian + C&D's Crowley's Best

Friday 25 August 2017

Pictures From Uruguay

I have just been through a long legal process here (which I'll tell y'all about in a future blog entry; basically, I got to actually identify a criminal in a police line-up), so I'm feeling like pointing out some nice things about Uruguay. Time for more pictures!

Here's the view from inside an artisanal ice-cream shop. Now, I took this picture several months ago, and that ice-cream shop no longer exists. But no worries, there's like two more that took its place. Lately, one article has described my neighborhood of Montevideo, called "Cordon", as the "Soho of Montevideo" (I think more like the Brooklyn of Montevideo, myself).

So in the summer months, a new place opens up pretty much every week. Of course, not all make it.

This was the decor in the interior of the ice-creamery.  It was neat. Also, they made spectacular milk-shakes. Unfortunately, their prices were high and the milk-shake portions were too small.

On my recent trip to the USA and Canada, I did not eat much ice-cream. That's because Uruguayan ice-cream is amazing. It's all italian-style, and super flavorful. Mind you, you don't get as many VARIETIES of flavors as you'd be used to in a North American ice-cream shop, but that's more than made up for by the quality of the flavors you do get.

And unlike in North America, you'll find some ice-cream shops sell beer!

In this case, a local craft beer.  When I first got to Uruguay, there were pretty much only 3 brands of beer you could even buy in most places, and a lot of places only had one or two of those.  But these last couple of years all kinds of small-production craft beers have started popping up. A lot of them crap, but some of them quite good.

Anyways, that's it for today!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Egg + Blue Boar

Thursday 24 August 2017

Classic Rant: How Does Dark Albion Handle Magic?

Dark Albion presents a lower-magic and generally 'grittier' world than the standard for old-school D&D adventuring. So naturally, some people have been asking how that parses with the standard magic level of most OSR games? In the book's magic section, I detailed some changes to the basic magic rules to serve as guidance for how to make this work.

There's three big ways in which magic is different: first, the magic chapter outlines how one should alter/restrict the spell lists. There will be less explosive-style combat spells, as well as certain other types of spells that are some of the more power-house spells of a magic-user, without completely depleting the magic-user's usefulness.
On the cleric side of things, there's no 'raise dead'.

Second, magic items are rarer than in many settings (certainly rarer than what new-school D&D would be used to, but also rarer than more magic-rich old-school settings). It's practically impossible for modern wizards to make magic items other than scrolls or potions. Magic weapons and armor are either incredibly valuable family heirlooms or only ever likely to be found in unexplored tombs/cairns/barrows from prehistory. The default magic sword is a "Sword +0", which means that it can harm creatures immune to non-magical attacks but offers no other bonuses.

Finally, there's the demonology rules. They're inspired by real medieval demonology (the Goetia, etc.), and can allow magic-users to access a lot of power, if they can obtain the right seal and name, and dare to do a battle of wills with a demon. Since these are new rules, they can pretty easily be added to whatever OSR rule-set you're applying.

Dark Albion is currently available in hardcover from Lulu (with an exclusive variant cover also available), and on PDF from RPGnow (with a PoD softcover and PoD+PDF deal soon to follow!).


(Originally Posted July 15, 2015)

Wednesday 23 August 2017

RPGPundit Reviews: Operation Whitebox

I've seen a lot of OSR products out there. Clones, creative new rulesets, sci-fi, horror, dark fantasy, non-European D&D settings, gonzo, medieval-authentic, and more.  This is the first time I've seen the OSR rules adapted into a World War II game.

WWII:Operation Whitebox is an OSR RPG, written by Pete Spahn, published by Small Niche Games.  The version I'm reviewing is the print edition (as always), and it comes in a lovely smaller-than-average height hardcover.  It features a full-color cover of a typical WWII scene, with the interior in black and white featuring appropriate art (plus a color map of occupied Europe in 1944). It's 166 pages long, not counting the ads at the back.

The book starts out with a brief "what is roleplaying" type of deal, which I would normally consider a waste of time in an OSR game, but in this case I guess it might be appropriate; I could envision someone who otherwise never plays OSR games picking this up because of the setting.

The game is set up to be "Swords & Wizardry" compatible.  I mean, being OSR it's basically compatible with any OSR product, but it's specifically made to fit the S&W ruleset.  Not that you need those separately to play, all the rules are included in this book.

After rolling attributes in the basic way, you roll next for nationality.  The options are American, British, Canadian, German, French or Russian.  It's a bit odd to me that German is included (the assumption is that it's Germans who were living abroad or the "Uberlaufer" (the turncoats who defected to serve the allies).  I think this is a weird inclusion when the Polish Free Army was excluded, in spite of being the 4th largest Allied force in the war, after the USSR, USA, and Britain. There were more of them than there were French, for crap's sake!

Your nationality affects which languages you speak. Then you roll for social class ("blue collar" or "white collar" are the only two options), and your former profession on a table appropriate to your social background. This grants you some basic skills.
Then you roll for Military Rank, which has a 4/6 chance of being enlisted (with ranks ranging from PFC to Sgt) or Officer (ranging from 2nd lt. to Major).  Prior background does not affect the roll.

In any case, the assumption is that the PCs are playing a "special forces unit", so the highest ranking character might not necessarily be the one actually in charge, and in any case it will be assumed that lower-ranked PCs will at least get a bit more say than in the normal military unit.

So, what are the character classes here? You've got the "Charmer" who are basically charisma-guys (some of their abilities actually involve targets making saving-throws to believe them; so some OSR gamers might have a problem with that, even though it's basically charm-person, only non-magical). Then there's the "Combat Engineer" who knows stuff like mechanics and demolitions. There's the "Grunt" who's your basic soldier and good at fighting. There's the Maquis (the French resistance) who have some stealthy talents and contacts. Snipers, who are pretty self-explanatory; and Tacticians, who are great at making plans and rallying troops. That latter class also jumps into the meta-game; one of his abilities is to come up with great plans, and the GM is encouraged to basically suggest changes or improvements to whatever his player comes up with. So again, something that might not sit well with extremely traditionalist OSR guys.
There's also the Wheelman, who are crack drivers; and the Uberlaufers, who are the aforementioned 5th column/deserters from Germany who are fighting with the allies.

The classes only go to level 5, avoiding jumping into highly unrealistic levels of play.  But there's also optional rules for making more heroic or "inglorious" levels of play; the former replaces the standard hit die with a d10; the latter with a d20.

The equipment chapter has all the kit you might need for WWII action. Weapon damage is fairly uniform (in the S&W style) with most hits doing either 1d6-1, 1d6 or 1d6+1. Of course, that's enough for a bullet to kill someone at 1st level, so that's OK.  Amusingly, ancient armor is included in the equipment, even though no one wore it, and its armor bonus isn't better than standard heavy clothes against bullets and modern weapons. Helmets don't add to AC, but they grant a +1 bonus to saving throws.
Armor Class is given in both descending and ascending values. PCs, being special forces units, start with a base AC7 (or 12 ascending), to reflect their higher level of training. DEX optionally modifies AC; I suspect it's optional because of S&W/0D&D rules, even though obviously in a WWII game you want Dex to modify armor class, since no one is going to be otherwise wearing armor.

The rules follow with mainly the basic rules found in S&W's version of the OSR format.  One important change is experience: you don't gain any XP for treasure.  Instead xp is gained for beating opponents, using class abilities to complete the mission, completing side missions, and completing assigned missions. In any case, the rate of XP gain is likely to be slower than regular, but that's in following with a game that only goes to level 5.
Optional rules are provided for a "gut check", a kind of exceptional luck check in a hail-mary situation. Also for "trial by fire", which is this rulebook's version of a DCC Funnel (make various PCs, put them through a highly deadly scenario, the ones who survive are the final characters).

In combat rules, the basic to-hit roll doesn't seem to scale with level (unless I misread it), though some classes get certain bonuses. That's OK too, given that without D&D style armor PCs will be far more vulnerable. The way the rules are set up for cover and concealment makes taking these options much more important than in standard D&D play, because they're a big help to making it harder for people to hit you (considering that by default, on average, PCs will be hit on a 12+ on a D20, and a bullet is quite likely to kill you).  By default, a PC dies at reaching 0hp, though there are some optional rules that can be used to mitigate that. Healing is slow (1d3 per day to start out).

Rules are provided for burst fire and suppressive fire. Also explosives.  There's also vehicle combat rules, though these are mainly done from the perspective of characters, don't expect a tank-fight mini-game out of it. Likewise, although a couple of planes get stats, and there's rules for a strafing run, the game rules don't really cover material for detailed aerial combats.

There's a chapter with a sample play scenario script, which could be useful for total beginners. It's 11 pages long.
After this, a chapter on NPCs and animals, which gives templates of various types of NPCs (civilians, soldiers and officers of both sides) and a few animals one might just run into in the European/North-african front. There's  also a section on Special Forces equipment, stuff like matchbox cameras, gun sleeves, and disguise kits.

Then we get into the section on running a WWII campaign. It writes almost from an assumption that the reader might know nothing about the war, explaining the basic situation ("who is at war?") and the various areas of conflict. Fortunately, that section is not very long. It goes on to explain the different types of campaigns you could be running. There's also advice on things to make srue to do in your campaign (stuff like how to use vehicles, background scenery, and atmosphere. There's sidebar about the holocaust, again explaining it in brief as though the reader might never have heard anything about it. But it omits mentioning that in fact most people DURING the war had no idea the holocaust was happening (though in fact, some special forces operatives might discover just such a horror).

There's a section breaking down the different types of real-life special forces units that operated during the war, on both sides. This section is detailed and actually quite useful, as it is certainly material that people who don't have a highly detailed knowledge of WWII history won't already know.  There's also a section mentioning other types of adventures that can be had besides the list of typical special-forces missions. This includes stuff like 'shore leave' adventures, games where the PCs are all crewmen of a tank or other vehicle, games where the PCs are Red Army, or German Commandos if you want to play the other side; as well as alt-history scenarios. It's also noted that the game is compatible with S&W and White Star, so you can add fantasy or sci-fi elements quite easily to create an alternate-world version of WWII.

There's a short but sufficiently useful timeline of the period, ranging from 1933 to 1945, mostly focusing on military and war events.  Curiously, the Spanish Civil War is completely left out of the timeline, which I think is quite the omission as it was a very important pre-war event for both the Nazis and the Soviets.
Then you get a very detailed chronological list of the major special forces operations, ranging from Operation Collar (1940, the first mission of British Commandos), to Operation Varsity in March 1945.
This list is gold, since it basically presents a chronological set of events for a special forces campaign.

There follows a 14 page introductory scenario "Resistance at the Ponteville Bridge".  It is a decent enough introductory scenario, but my main complaint, which may not actually bother some people at all while bothering others quite a bit more than me, is that the scenario (and even the town it takes place in) is entirely fictitious. This when there would have been tons of actually historical scenarios that could have been used.

After this, in what I might consider the last normal section of the book, there's a very short (couple of pages long) set of Mass Combat rules. They're made to be very abstract, reminiscent to me of (in terms of complexity level, not in any way suggesting copying) the mass combat system I used in Dark Albion; and I think they're just fine for someone who wants to have easy and general rules to handle large battles that happen during a session.  That said, I think GMs who might want more detailed battles could probably do so by pausing the game and using their favorite wargame rules to play out the big battle (assuming they didn't just want to railroad-in the historical results).  If you went the wargaming route, I couldn't sufficiently recommend the excellent Memoir '44, which I think is a great complement to this game (and the battles only take 25-45 minutes to play out a battle, so you don't have to pause the game for six hours to run the wargame).

This is not the end of the book, however what follows I think is more along the lines of 'appendix' material. It consist of alternate-scenarios, each various pages long. The first is all about WWII with Nazi Superscience. It's short and basically presents some weird-science nazi supermonsters.

Second, is Nazi Occult. It's OK, but I feel a bit hobbled by sticking to D&D-imitation; the monsters are Monster Manual stuff and the magic is just slightly-modified D&D spells.  I find this less satisfying than going the Cthulhu route, and way less satisfying than having gone some kind of authentic-occult route.

The third is "Space War 1939", and is based on the premise that space-flight was developed in the 1920s. It's got some interesting sci-fi ideas, including weird technology (including 'space rails') and bio-engineered alien creatures.

So, on the whole I have to say that I am fairly impressed.  I had come in with serious doubts as to whether the OSR, much less the specific S&W rules-structure, could credibly manage to handle WWII as a setting.  But at this point, I'm convinced. The system, with the careful alterations made by the author, should work nicely. Particularly for a grittier and realistic sort of WWII special forces campaign. Any mis-steps or omissions are really quite minimal. The material in the book is ample enough to give the GM what they need to set up the campaign and run it effectively.

You might never have expected to use OSR rules to run a WWII commando campaign, but with Operation Whitebox, you definitely have that option now.


Currently Smoking: Dunhill Classic Series Rhodesian + C&D's Crowley's Best

Monday 21 August 2017

Coming Home

Well, what a long strange trip this has been.

I've just spent the past three weeks on a mystical voyage through space and time, which has also been interesting and profitable.

But man, I'm gone from standard reality for 21 days and look what the fuck happens!

Anyways, the Occupied Zones were very interesting but I sure am glad to be heading back home now, richer in many ways for the experience.

I suppose I'll have some blogging to do, but first I will be needing to see if The Abbey is still standing, pet my cats, get some rest, consult a lawyer, do some business, change phones, hopefully get two RPG projects back on track,  see which major right-wing shitlord site I feel like working for, and watch 4 episodes of Game of Thrones.

I'll see y'all soon though.


Currently Smoking: nothing, as I'm still in the Occupied Zones

Wednesday 16 August 2017

On the Keyboard Liberation Front

So, I'm going to preface this by saying that this is NOT sponsored content, and that I'm in no way getting any kind of compensation from the ZAGG corporation.   I feel I have to note that, because this is going to sound so much like an infomercial it's almost sickening.

As a writer and journalist, I find myself spending a lot of time in front of my computer, but I wouldn't necessarily like to.  Right now, for example, I'm taking a bit of break (as you've noticed) from writing regular blog entries.  The impending "Civil War II: This Time It's Cultural" happening in the USA prompted me out of my torpor but I actually found myself 'away from keyboard' at the time.  As much as I love the modern convenience of Android devices, the one problem you face as a writer is that you can't really write a big blog entry (much less an article for a website, and much much less an RPG product) using screen-tapping and auto-correct.

I had, in the past, remembered with fondness a PalmPilot I had, which had a keyboard you'd plug it onto.  I actually wrote a significant part of my Thesis on that thing, while hanging out in my favorite cafe at that time (the Cafe Le Gare, in Edmonton, which sadly has long since vanished).   So naturally, when I got my first tablet I thought of trying to reproduce the experience with a bluetooth keyboard.

The problem is they are almost all utter shit.  I had one keyboard/case hybrid device for my old Google Nexus 7, and that was great.  I got a lot done with that.  But after I retired the Nexus I never manged to find any portable keyboard that worked.

There were many that were too big. What's the fucking point of having a PORTABLE keyboard if you can't carry it around with you easily?!
There were a ton of others that were just generally pieces of crap; they would fail to connect, had batteries that quickly died, would suddenly and spontaneously lose their bluetooth connection or even had to be re-linked.   The cheaper ones never lasted long, and worse they often looked and felt like shit (if you spend a really serious amount of time typing, like thousands and thousands of words per day, you know what I mean abouut the difference between a keyboard that feels like your fingers are touching mush and nice powerful keys that make you feel like you're a piano player or something).

At one point, a couple of years back, I tried to shell out nearly $100 for a Microsoft Portable Keyboard.  It seemed great because it folded up and took up literally less space in your bag than an old CD would. But it too was complete crap.  The thing was advertised as being multi-system (Apple, Windows, Android), and I have no idea how it did in the other systems (one would kind of hope they could at least get it to work right with Windows, but you can never really tell with Microsoft), but with Android it never worked right for me even once. It would take 50 tries to get it to connect, then minutes later would disconnect and you'd have to resynch it to your device from scratch.

So I'd practically given up.  But I really needed something to use if I was going to write a blog entry, and so I went and decided to take a chance on the Zagg Universal Keyboard.

Man, what a world of difference. First, it's freaking pretty.  It's also small and super-slim. You can use its protective cover to work as a stand for your device (convenient).  But mainly, the most important thing is that it FREAKING WORKS!

It had no-hassle connection, like, none at all. and it's great to type on and responds fantastically well.

This, for someone like me, is potentially life-changing. Now, I'll be able to rant abouut how people are wrong on the internet from almost anywhere, not just the comforts of The Abbey.

Hell, I might write my next book on this thing.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Rhodesian A + Image Latakia

Saturday 12 August 2017

Clarification on Charlottesville

Just to be clear:

If some Nazi wants to march at my side at a Free Speech rally, I'm no one to stop him. So long as he doesn't try to turn said march into a Nazi rally, obviously.

But if someone wants me to march with Nazis, in support of them, because we "must unite the right"?

Fortunately, almost all the right feels exactly the same way. The New Right is a massive populist movement. It doesn't need to "unite" with about 2000 assholes who hate Jews and want to purge the impure for "blood and soil" bullshit.

You know who really needs that, though? The Left. If you watch the coverage of this shitty little rally at Charlottesville (dwarfed by 2nd Berkeley, and countless Free Speech rallies, or any Trump rally ever), they will desperately want you to think all the New Right endorses the gang of inbred cunts who were doing seig heils.

So remember that: don't fall for Fake News.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Diplomat + Burlington's Dublin

Tuesday 8 August 2017

The Perils of Technology

I have a plane to catch.  I wake up with one hour till I have to be at the airport.

I usually make my coffee at home with an old fashioned hand grinder & a Vietnamese coffee filter. No electric parts.
But where I'm staying, there's one of these demonic capsule machines.  I have seen it used, & this one looks as straightforward as possible; put in capsule, press big button, coffee comes out.

I put in the capsule. I push the button. Nothing comes out.
There are no other buttons. The screen shows no errors. I figured I might have put the capsule in wrong. I try again. Nothing.
I unplug the machine, thinking maybe it hung & needs rebooting. No change.

Soon I'm thumping the sides of the damn thing like a Neanderthal, violently opening & closing it, howling at the damn beast to give me my fucking coffee! But it refuses, the fucking monstrosity just will not work.  So I head out to the patio overlooking the majestic woodland scene I've been enjoying these many days, trying to see if I can smoke my pipe, sans coffee, before we have to rush to the airport.

My travelling companion is up now, & comes out, & I warn her about the monstrous machine that fails to make coffee.

She tells me "did you press the touchscreen?"

TOUCHSCREEN?! Why on Kek's green Earth does a fucking One-Button coffee machine need a fucking touchscreen?!  What is this monstrous dystopia of first-world futurism I have stumbled into??!

She quickly makes me a coffee, and then as we head out, slightly late, to the airport, I thank Kek that back home I can still follow the simple ways, where so long as my arms don't fail me, & I have beans and hot water, I will always have coffee.

Seattle was lovely, by the way.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Billiard + Image Latakia

Saturday 5 August 2017

A boy & his dog

You may ask why I haven't been writing.

This is why:

This is Opal, who has been a constant companion these last few days.

She's pretty much the best dog in the world.


Currently Smoking: Neerup billiard + Image Latakia

Wednesday 2 August 2017

DCC Campaign: The story so far

I've been posting my DCC updates here every couple of weeks for the last long while.  So much so that I got to thinking: there's probably regular readers of this blog now that weren't here when this campaign started, over 4 years ago.

It's also possible some of you newer readers also don't frequent the Pundit Subforum of theRPGsite. So, for all of you, and anyone else who wants a laugh, I give you the Whole Fucking Trainwreck.

That link goes to the official archive of all my hilarious DCC Last Sun campaign logs, dating from 2013 until August 2016 (the archive posts 1 year behind, so for all the more recent clusterfucks you'll still have to search here).  You can also see how both my campaign & my posts about it evolved, becoming more Gonzo and complex and hilarious and frankly spectacular as time goes on.

So, enjoy! And stay tuned for more!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti half volcano + Burlington's October Morning