Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Quick and Dirty Guide to Setting up a Ravenloft 5E Campaign

Very quick and very dirty, but you can do it now with almost no effort on your part. As many may know, Curse of Strahd did arrive earlier this year for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, which was cool and all that but it was a tight focus on a Strahd reboot/remaster story line, and focused exclusively on the domain of Barovia, leaving us with precious little to go on in terms of 5th edition's take of the broader Domains of Dread.

Thankfully, entrepreneurial sorts have populated DMsguild.com with lots of useful Ravenloft resources, and WotC themselves have made a print edition of the Ravenloft 3.0 Core Rulebook available. So here's what you need to kick off that fully-functioning campaign in the Domains of Dread using 5E rules now:


Ravenloft 3.0 Core Rulebook and Secrets of the Dread Realms

The POD edition of this book is spot-on, and the only way to identify it as a reprint is by the fact that there's a mark in the back from the printer; it is otherwise an excellent print copy. The 3.0 edition rulebook was useful in that it provided a detailed write-up on the Domains of Dread in great detail, but it is less useful in that it omitted DM-only information for the follow-up sourcebook, Secrets of the Dread Realms. That particular tome is (oddly) not yet available on dmsguild.com but you can find it readily on  Ebay for a decent price. Problem of course is you'll need to convert the lords of Ravenloft yourself to 5E, so you could also bypass the 3.0 edition and go for Domains of Dread, which is the definitive 2nd edition resource for Ravenloft, and also quite useful. For my money I liked DoD the most, but over the years have grown to like the 3rd edition version a bit more.


Ravenloft Bestiary

Leonaru made this amazing resource, which is a couple hundred pages of Ravenloft monster conversions, complete with text details and all information necessary to run the Ravenloft beasts in 5E. Get it, then turn it in to your own POD private document through Lulu like me so you can have a play copy at the table that looks like a real book. Well worth it.

If you have the above books, you are pretty much set. But if you want more specific 5E conversions and options, the next two are also well worth looking in to:


Ravenloft Archetypes I: Nightmares of Barovia

This is a dmsguild.com resource which includes lots of archetypes, spells, races and monster options for 5E characters tailored for Ravenloft. It's a decent resource, and while the rule of thumb on "user beware" for all 3PP applies, I haven't seen anything in this book that is particularly egregious....when I do get around to running Ravenloft soon I will likely be able to report on it with some playtest feedback, though.



Ravenloft Archetypes II: Core Domains Adventurer's Guide

This book expands beyond the first, looking in to several core domains and providing material derived from and attempting to expand on prior Ravenloft resources. It's useful in this regard, and worth looking at, though you may just prefer to host a game with the 2nd edition or 3rd edition core Ravenloft books mentioned earlier. Main problem with this PDF is it is not really optimized and has a huge (200MB) download size. Anyone using PDFs on their tablets know what a pain this can be to navigate.

....So, if you have the above five books then you basically have everything necessary to run a Ravenloft campaign in 5th edition, and the only work you'll really need to do will be to convert the actual dread lords of the domains themselves, using whichever version you prefer (2nd or 3rd).





Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Lingusia-The Age of Strife: The Desert Kingdom of Galvonar:

I have never provided a detailed write-up in depth on Galvonar (in print or online, anyway). Here's a new one to reflect Galvonar in the Age of Strife. You will notice that it is most definitely designed to be a sort of ancient Arabic analog for my campaign, but structured around the unique pantheons of my setting.


Galvonar

Current Ruler: Sarakani Asaran III (Caliph), the Twelve Sheiks (nomads of Sur, Harad and Arahad)

Cultural Groups: Galvonar is divided into four regions: Coastal Galvonar (Albadia), Arahad, Sur, and Harad. The regions of Arahad, Sur and Harad are each a culturally distinct region of the overall nomadic tribal groups, and each has between 3 and 6 distinct tribes in each region, and dozens of smaller tribes. Coastal Galvonar is called Albadia, the name for the “civilized men” of Galvonar.

Social Groups:  Galvonar has a strict caste system with limited advancement. In the civilized regions of Albadia there are slave castes, mamalukes (warrior slaves), and freedmen with no property. Once a man gains property, which is possible if a merchant prince grants ownership or he gains enough wealth, then he may become a landed gentry, merchant noble, merchant prince, or perhaps even a high order title such as grand vizier or Caliph. Among the nomad groups there is far less structure, with most men defined by the horses they own and the size of their families. Polygamy is rampant among the nomads but less so in Albadia. Women are never allowed to own property in Galvonar, and have many religious restrictions on what they may wear, speak or even learn (see deities below).

History: Galvonar is a stretch of territory identified by several cultural groups that are bound by a number of commonalities. The western Galvonarians, the Albadia, are coastal merchants, fishermen and culturally civilized men who propser from the lush coastlands that are a strip of fertile land bordered by a vast desert. The nomadic Galvonari to the east dominate a vast, treacherous stretch of desertland that encompasses much of the southern subcontinent, and borders both the Albadia to the west, Persedonia to the east and the Galonians to the south.

Historically Galvonar traces its root identity back to around 500 AW when the early Saurian Metal Dynasty was identified by antiquarians in the region as the first appearance of a distinct language and culture that is recognized as Galvonarian today.  It was not until 1700 AW that Galvonar was first united by the warlord Asaran I, a personality of such strength that he is still revered as a culture hero by nomad and Albadian alike. By 1850 AW the Galvonarians had disintegrated into the mixture of sheiks and the caliphate that is recognized today, and remained so ever since.

The current Calif of Albadia nominally claims rulership over all of Galvonar, but in truth his power over the nomad sheiks is limited to a measure of influence through trade and gifts. The nomad Sheiks claim no structure of rulership outside of their own tribes, and frequently war with one another. The Sheiks, if anything, maintain better relations with the Takonorian and Cimer to the north than they do with their civilized cousins in Albadia, or themselves.

Galvonarian religion is rife with contradiction. The foundation of Galvonarian belief seems to stem from a period buried in history, during which the tribes of the region were once independent and practices a form of animism comparable to what goes on in Jhakn today. They were conquered and turned into citizens of the empire of Old Galonia, but after the collapse of that empire the nomads were given over to a period of religious liberation for a time, and eventually Eastonian merchants from the north brought the pantheistic beliefs of the Middle Kingdoms to the region. The result is an interesting contrast of pantheistic and animistic beliefs tempered by the memory of the older faith of Galonia.

Religious Beliefs: Today, Galonian cults are dominated by the following deities:

Dhuka (Naril): the god of mankind, the rule of law and the Empire of Hyrkania was adopted in recent centuries by the Galvonarians of Albadia. His aspect of fire and the sun is the most prominent representation in this region, as his status as a “god of kings” is seen as a northern aspect only (such status is reserved locally for Marduk). His fire temples in Albadia and Sur have spread rapidly in the last two centuries, and have replaced the memory of the lost temples of Ailyenarion, the old lord of fire from Old Galonia.

Kamar (Selene): The goddess of the moon, wife to Dhuka, is also worshipped in Galvonar, and was introduced about two centuries ago around the same time Naril was adopted as Dhuka. She is seen as the courtly patron of women, child bearing, motherhood and education. This is in sharp contrast with the traditional feminine goddess of Udena. Most Albadian merchants have adopted the worship of Kamar, and women in Albadia under clans who follow her have allowed women to learn other languages and broaden their education as a result. The traditional tenets of Udena that require great modesty among women are still prominent even among worshippers of Kamar, however.

Galon: the old supreme god of Galonia, after which the old empire itself is named, is still regarded with feverish intensity as the supreme deity in the nomadic region of Arahad. Galon is sometimes recognized by some Albadia clans, but is mostly eschewed in place of the belief of Marduk and Naril.

Marduk: the ancient warrior king is believed by most Galvonarians to have been the first ruler of Galvonar in the prehistoric era before the Saurian Metal Dynasty, and that the first sheiks like to claim Marduk as an ancestor. Marduk is said in Galvonarian myth to have slain the first dragon kings, Tiamat and Bahamut, and to have protected the land in an era predating even Old Galonia. He is considered today to be a strong god of warriors and kings and has several prominent temples in Albadia, as well as a massive ziggurat in his honor built by the Asaran I in the city of Kiddaros.

Set: Set is worshipped as a cult of deceivers in the desert, propagated by the haikyndyr serpent men in the region. Amongst men, Set is publically considered a profane deity and his worship is actively suppressed. Privately some men seek out his hidden cults, seeing set as a god that grants great power over other men.

Udena: Udena is the goddess of women, and may be an old import from Old Galonian belief that has survived to this day, despite the near total destruction of that Pantheon in the War of the Gods. Udena is a goddess of fertility and magic, and has female-dominated cults throughout Galvonar. She is a deity defined as a trinity, with a strong aspect of both virgin, whore and crone in her imagery. Each aspect is given its own unique element, but are considered parts of the same goddess: the Udena’Caliska (virgin), Udena’Haddara (whore) and Udena’Materaska (crone). The dramatic restrictions on women in Galvonarian society are at least partially due to the beliefs of the cults of Udena, which place intense restrictions on female behavior. This includes requiring that all women cover themselves head to toe in public with specially recognized garb, and that they not be exposed to “foreign influences,” such that  they are not allowed to learn foreign languages or even seek out an education equivalent to men (though knowledge reserved for women only is allowed, including herbalism and various forms of oracular divination). Only priestesses of the Udena’Haddara are allowed to dress down, in sacret sacred temples dedicated to the sacred prostitution of that aspect of the goddess.

Nyctaris: the goddess of the night is revered, especially among the nomadic groups, and is considered the goddess of travelers in the night. She is most prominent in Harad, Sur and Arahad but looked upon as quaint in Albadia.  

Nephythis: The benevolent goddess of the dead, keeper of tombs and the wealth within, is considered the modern caretaker of both the Valley of the Gods where the old pantheon of Old Galonia is said to rest, as well as the protector of the necropolis where old pharaohs and modern leaders alike are all buried.  She has taken on a unique level of worship among the merchants of Albadia and the traders of Harad, who see her as the protector of wealth both among the living and the dead.

Ailyenarion: the god of fire and old civic lord of Galonia is believed to be dead, but is also believed to remain as a spiritual guardian of the Valley of the Gods in the brokenlands of Galvonar. He is sometimes given offerings at his fire temples, which are mostly abandoned but still standing throughout the region, in the belief that his spirit still offers blessings. Aside from Ailyenarion, abandoned temples to other dead gods of Old Galonia such as Bashtet, Metatros and Bashtron can also be found in the region of the Valley of the Gods. There may be a handful of scholars and priests that still remember and even revere these dead gods of old.

Tragonomos: this ancient demon god was one of the seven soul-bound servitors of Eskandar, and his cults are found in secret throughout Galvonar, but most commonly in Sur. The belief in Tragonomos stems from the offer of power and the elements of masculine inheritance that the demon god seems to promise. His covens are often found working behind the scenes to undermine the caliphate and create a new reign of power seeking to make Tragonomos the sole god of the land.

Haro: the god of murder in the pantheon of the Middle-Kingdoms found a foothold in worship in Galvonar, believed to have grown popular in the century leading up to the rule of Asaran I. The Fire Knives, assassin-cultists of this god, are said to have a strong presence in the secret cults of Albadia and Sur.

The Dark Pharaoh: The memory of the Dark Pharaoh from Old Galonia, who rose up in 1950 AW to lead the last Great War of Chaos against Hyrkania in the north had a profound impact on the nomads of that time. The Galvonarians were attacked and enslaved by the Dark Pharaoh’s cults, and until their freedom in the twelve years of that war the Galvonarians learned a great hatred for the Galonians who took to the worship of their Dark Pharaoh. When the Dark Pharaoh was revealed to be the reincarnation of Xauraun Vestillios, the Champion of Chaos, and was subsequently banished or destroyed by Warenis, the Champion of Order, certain nomads had succumbed to the dark madness inherent in being exposed to the Champion of Chaos and even in liberty continued to worship his embodiment of chaos. These cults are few and far between, but often quite dangerous when they gain a cult leader who is able to gain a spark of chaos magic to fuel their hatred.







Monday, December 5, 2016

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and The Mummy Trailers

First up is the amazing GotG vol. 2 trailer, which looks like it aims to deliver a great sequel in the unique form we now associate with the Guardians of the Galaxy. For this one my son and I laughed and both agreed Baby Groot is amusingly awesome:



Next up is The Mummy trailer, for the Tom Cruise-helmed franchise reboot, which I think is best summed up by the conversation my son and I had:

"Hey, come check out this trailer for The Mummy. It has a mummy in it." (Me clicking on youtube trailer for the first time)

My son: "Who survives the airplane? Where's the mummy?"

Me: "I am impressed at how often the US military needs to intervene in archaeological affairs."

...watching through the end. My son, "I didn't see a mummy."

Me: "I think I saw Tom Cruise decide he wants to be the mummy, and the dude from Mission Impossible all at once. And apparently there's some new hot model he wants to date. So I guess she's the mummy? That or we're seeing a trend which proves Tom Cruise has a lot of antipathy toward women in his films." (stating the obvious).

Son: "So there's no mummy."

Me: "There may, in fact, be too many mummies directing this film."

This doesn't bode well for the next movie.



In defense of the mummy as a woman: I like Sofia Boutella a lot and suspect if anyone can make it work she can. That said....it's weird to have a Mummy trailer with no evidence of a "mummy" anywhere in the conventional sense.

Friday, December 2, 2016

POD Report: The Secret of Bone Hill, Uncaged: The Faces of Sigil and Castle Amber

Continuing my review of the reprint-on-demand editions of classic D&D books at the dmsguild.com, I'm going to summarize the POD review of all three in one cluster because all three are equally great: the POD versions of Castle AmberThe Secret of Bone Hill and Uncaged: The Faces of Sigil are all fantastic. In fact the extra sturdy paper quality makes the two modules a better purchase overall than the originals. The maps that once graced the detachable covers are now situated within the book itself, but the quality is excellent. Unlike the last batch of books, all three of these tomes are clear and legible with no "faded" feel to them, which makes me wonder if maybe they came from a different print source through Lightning, or if someone changed the toner drums before this print run started.

Uncaged: Faces of Sigil is full color and the version I have is the premium color heavy stock paper. This was an extra cost but well worth it; I think I'd have a hard time telling the difference between this POD edition and the original.....it's crisp colors are as good as the original, and even the block text with a darker background is legible (albeit as annoying as the original).

All three of these are books I owned and used (heavily), so I'm pretty familiar with the originals. These new replacements are well worth it. Absolute A+ on the quality of all three of these reprint editions.



Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Orcish Pantheon of Lingusia in the Age of Strife (slightly NSFW)

I've never exactly outlined the pantheon of the orcs of Lingusia. Time to correct that:


The Orcish Pantheon of Lingusia (in the Age of Strife)

Baragnagor

Creator god, god of beasts and orcs, Baragnagor is a degenerate mad god of chaos who stole the forms of other creation to cobble together his own people. Baragnagor is regarded as the degenerate brother of Dalroth and Slithotep, a beast neither subtle nor graceful in its desire to consume, destroy and hunt. He is the oldest identified deity in the orcish pantheon (though Set is older, orcs did not embrace the worship of the serpent god until much later). Baragnagor’s cults harbor shrines that look like brutal charnel pits where prey from sacred hunts are cast in to carefully tended beasts, usually carnivorous monsters or natural animals such as bears and crocodiles, to feast on the flesh of the kill in the god’s honor. War chiefs of the orcs often revere these beasts as both aspects of their god and dear pets.


Zafethra, the Blood Goddess

The female fertility goddess of orcish women, rarely spoken of as her secretive cults among the orcish women preserve her worship carefully and keep male orcs away. Zafethra was described as the first orcish woman, and in their folktales it was lust for this goddess that prompted Barganagor to seek to shape his own form to lure her to lay with him. In the end, it was their progeny which became the first orcs. Zafethra’s cult teaches a variety of skills such as midwifery, medicine and healing but certain members of the order belong to a subcult of assassins known as the Jagged Blades, and carry out executions against those who would affront the cult.


Baphomet

The demon god Baphomet is identified as the being which first taught orcs the art of magic. Prior to Baphomet’s intrusion into orcish belief, Baphomet was an enigmatic figure, a winged, goat-headed beast which was recognized by demonic witch covens in Hyrkania during the early years of the rise of the young empire, but otherwise a human cult. It is believed that the Thyzzakoni, the red orcs, first embraced the worship of this demon and so were given over to the mystical traditions of chaos magic granted by the demon god. Today, most of the cults of Baphomet can be found in many orcish cultures, but they remain most profound among the red orcs, so regard the demon god almost as highly as they do Set.


Orcus

Orcus is seen as the gatekeeper of the dead, and while Orcus is most definitely a demon god of undeath in conventional human worship, Orcus represents the gateway to the Abyssal legions for the orcs. Orc belief states that one must appease Orcus to gain entry into the gates of the Layers of the Abyss, and to achieve this reward is the highest honor an orc can hope for (short of becoming a true demon in the afterworld). To be rejected by Orcus is to fail, and return to the mortal plane as an undead.


Set

Set is a god worshipped in Old Galonia, Zued and other lands by humans, and a patron god of the serpent men of Hazer-Phennis, but the Thyzzakoni red orcs also worship Set, and seek to promote his religion throughout the many clans of orcs. Set is regarded with suspicion, but the power the god bestows on his clerical followers is given much weight among the orcs, who grudgingly accept that the Lord of Lies is nonetheless also a valuable deity to be protected by. Most orcs get very suspicious of red orcs who will then invite serpent men into the mix, for despite the assertion that the serpent men are the created race of Set, most orcs have a deep mistrust of the serpentine race.


The Kraken

The Kraken, one of the ancient pre-human gods of old chaos (the Skaeddrath) still trapped within the crust of the world, periodically reaches out with dreams and nightmares to gain new followers. The last major incursion of followers happened at Old Chegga, but enclaves of dedicated followers exist throughout Octzel. These orcs throw aside all other beliefs and embrace the Kraken exclusively, almost monotheistically, and seek to appease the dark god by finding portals in the Under Realms through which they can feed the dark beast with sacrifice. The followers gain strange powers,  often mutating in horrible ways as a result.


Seth

Seth is not related to Set in Lingusia but is a deity alleged in the human pantheon to have been born of Amasyr and Enki. Orcs regard Seth as one of their own, and some orcs, especially the Grey Orc tribes to the south, revere him as a protector god who liberated them from the taint of Baragnagor. These orcs continue to engage in their primal ways, but tempered by the teachings of this god who is a lord of weather and the harvests. The orcish version of Seth is seen as a benevolent giant orc, whom they claim was born of Zafethra and Baragnagor as a demigod, but was raised by the human gods Enki and Amasyr as their own child. In the old era before the rise of Imperial Hyrkania Seth learned of writing and civilization, and brought it to the orcs, making them more than the beasts their god had spawned them to be. Followers of Seth believe their kind have lost their way, and believe that the orcish language is proof of Seth’s influence.


Ochraiste


The demonic half-brother of Orcus according to some, this ancient demon lord was banished to the mortal realm long ago, and it is said in his early years of wandering that his amorous ways led to the birth of the first of the Fell Manorg, the black orcs. These demon-touched orcs are exceptionally strong and powerful, sometimes mistaken for ogres except for their charred flesh. Orchraiste is regarded as more of a folk figure in orcish belief, and his current whereabouts as a demon banished to the mortal plane remains a mystery (to most). 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

D&D Reprint On Demand Report: Spelljammer and Ravenloft

Three more books from the POD option at dmsguild.com came in today: Ravenloft II: The House on Griffon Hill, Spelljammer: Goblin's Return and the first-time-in-print Scourge of the Sword Coast. I won't focus on the content, but instead on the quality of these print editions:


Ravenloft II: The House on Griffon Hill

I couldn't resist this primarily because I never owned the original, and I always wanted to investigate the first module to outline Mordent, one of my top five domains in Ravenloft. The cover and binding of this module is great, and it's a bit thicker than the old 1E modules were, mainly due to being perfect-bound on heavier quality paper. The cover and back look great.

However, the interior looks a bit faded to the naked eye, although I noticed it less once I put the reading glasses on. The net effect is that some pages....many....just look a bit "off" in that way a print from a scanned copy tends to be. This is unfortunate. It's not bad enough to make me regret the purchase, however....or the advantage of an inexpensive new copy over hunting for one on ebay. The back contains reprints in color of the handouts and maps for the module, and they actually fare much better, being legible and useful.



Spelljammer: Goblin's Return

I owned this one long ago and ran it once. Like Ravenloft II, the module's color cover looks great, and it's thicker paper and perfect bound spine mean it looks just a tad thicker than the original (which was itself a big book at 68 pages including fold out ship cards. The cards are in the back, and remain in full color, albeit standard, slightly washed-out colors instead of the glossy cardstock of the original.

The print in this module suffers from the same problem as Ravenloft II: a bit light, and feels like a bit washed out in a "print of a scan" kind of way, but the problem once again more or less disappears for me with my reading glasses on so I'm not 100% sure it's me or the book itself. I'm leaning to "book" though because of the next module, which serves as a great control....


Scourge of the Sword Coast

This was the third module to be released in the 2013-2014 D&D Next playtest phase, which means its at once compatible with D&D 5E and also contains some interesting artifacts in its design from that formative phase of 5E, including some interesting monsters stats. The book's never been offered in print before, but it was clearly laid out and designed for print; the POD version looks awesome, and the version I got (the deluxe premium color paper) is crisp and sharp....and the fact that it looks so good and is also so readable is a good test to confirm that the lighter print of the other two books is a real problem, and not just an issue with my eyes.

As a side note this module is a direct sequel to the Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle module, which was a Gencon special with playtest rules and a level 1-10 quartet of scenarios. This is another great candidate for a future POD edition. I actually ran the entire Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle as a level 1-10 campaign in the first half of 2015, albeit ported from the Sword Coast to the Silver Coast of Pergerron. Good module! But not sure how viable Scourge of the Sword Coast is as a direct sequel, since it's aimed at level 2-4, and takes place after the last scenario in Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle, where the PCs would be pushing level 10-11.

Overall

I think for the price all three POD books above were worth it, but if you're a collector I'd keep hunting the originals, especially Ravenloft II and its large map of Mordenshire. For Goblin's Return, this module would be perfect if you want to run it....and more than sufficient if you're collecting Spelljammer for fun, but maybe not ideal if you want a "first printing" level of quality. As for Scourge of the Sword Coast....if you had the two prior print release modules from that era (Murder in Baldur's Gate and that other one with the drow elf and the crystal shards) then this is a must-have, and contains plenty of useful stuff to crib for 5E games.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sick to Death of Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Seriously. I eagerly look forward to not being endlessly spammed about everyone's amazing Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. The five days following Thanksgiving feel like they have hit a new low this year. All of my favorite sites are enmeshed in reporting on the best deals, to the extent that the "best deals" all appear to be an endless, amorphous amalgamation of all deals, everywhere, at all times. Worse yet, they started this at least a week early for most venues, with the actual "Black Friday" deals being specific targeted specials of limited quanity, barely there to justify the specialness of that particular day for a few hours.

I've never (willingly) participated in Black Friday and have never found that the momentary savings of a day's specials was worth the agony of participating in the consumerist feeding frenzy. But seriously....it's gotten worse, especially online, and especially when it seems like every venue I like to frequent for gaming, comic and fiction news is currently dominated by an endless parade of "deals reporting" which all inevitably point you to what are essentially the same sort of deals the internet hammers you with already, every single week.....but now with more trumpets and sparklers.

Okay, just had to get that off my chest!



Thursday, November 24, 2016

13th Age Rides Again (more unabashed praise)


I've been playing lots of 13th Age, which has become the default Wednesday game for now (which is in some ways amazing considering there are a lot of D&D 5E books out now I want to be using), but it's really hard to think about not playing it. 13th Age is just such a smooth, friendly game experience and it accomplishes a great "D&D" experience while also allowing for some excellent flexibility in play style, narration and just an overall "customized/modded-out" feel, thanks to its interesting improv-style rules on stuff like One Unique Things, backgrounds, rituals and the fact that most powers and spells are meant to be evocative but leave the descriptiveness to the GM and players.

It is, in many ways, delivering the stuff I liked about 4E D&D without all the baggage 4E came with, and in a Theatre of the Mind style approach to combat that bakes in abstract measurements so successfully that no one in my group gets tripped up in distances and positioning while playing 13th Age.....which is pretty cool. Even D&D 5E, which we usually do TotM and crib a few notes from 13th Age for has us trying to figure out relative distance and positioning on occasion, but these worries never, ever come to 13th Age.

Not much more to this post than another gushing round of praise for the system. We're on a level 1-10 campaign arc over five plots, and we're wrapping the first major plot (probably next week) to start the second. Everyone has gone from level 1 to 3 so far, and will hit level 4 probably after their milestone next session....with a planned 4 or so sessions advancement between levels, we might wrap this campaign late Summer in 2017.

I've been using my Keepers of Lingusia campaign setting for 13th Age pretty consistently now, and am impressed that such a contemporary system feels so right in my most venerable old school setting, the one I started as a kid in 1980. I've accumulated enough adapted material for Lingusia's Era of Strife that I'm tempted to look in to what it takes to do 3PP work for 13th Age, and maybe release it as a book....I'm waaaaay behind the curve on my self-publishing efforts, and at the rate I'm going by the time my 5E edition of Realms of Chirak is ready D&D 6E will be out, so I'd better get cracking!




Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Reviewing the Print Edition of Hollow World (Updated with Pics)

Hollow World is one of the first reprint-on-demand books available at Wizards of the Coast's dmsguild.com site, and also the first one I ordered to check out the quality of the print. The book arrived today, and here's the lowdown:

What is it?

If you're wondering what Hollow World even is, it's a sourcebook for a literal hollow planet in a D&D setting called Mystara, although the book provides guidance on placing it at the heart of any fantasy realm if you so desire. The setting is one of D&D's more unique visions: a domain of lost kingdoms and fallen empires, a population of each sequestered away inside the hollow planet, with a strange day/night process, in which ancient Immortals have decided they will keep a record of these fallen empires. The many empires of the Hollow World are based on analogs of ancient civilizations of Earth, and in their default setting represent a who's who of the ancient history of the B/X universe of Mystara.

My suggestion is to grab the Duchy of Karameikos from the Gazetteer series to establish a "locale" for PCs to be familiar with on the surface world, then let them stumble upon a means of reaching the Hollow World from there (the core book includes scenarios for just that purpose).

Hollw World contains a lot of useful information for a B/X or BECMI era D&D game, but you could easily convert this to D&D 5E with minimal fuss, mostly through substitution (i.e. use the appropriate D&D 5E monster stat in place of the one in the book). It would also run just fine with current OSR systems like Labyrinth Lord, White Box or Swords & Wizardry Complete with almost zero fuss.

Print/Paper

In the original release it was a boxed set with three books and a fold-out map set. The new print on demand edition is a single soft-cover volume with a full color interior on nice quality paper...the description on the product page says its standard heavyweight, but not premium...but it looks pretty damned good.

Resolution

The resolution/quality is pretty much perfect. This does not look like a print from a scanned copy....it looks as good as any current release. It's got a tiny bit of that POD-level graininess (mainly to color illustrations) you might be familiar with, but I had to really stare at it a while to notice. The readability of this is A+ though. Only exceptions I can note are a couple regional maps in the Player's Section are too dark for my tastes.

Functionality

The core three books of the original boxed set are bound in one volume. In the back are eight full color pages of the Hollow World maps. It's a very usable format. You will want to either grab the old BECMI rulebooks to run this baby, Labyrinth Lord (or similar) or pull out D&D 5E and start converting (my plan).

(UPDATE!) Some Pics:






I have many more of these new reprint-on-demand editions on the way. Hollow World has bolstered my confidence in the anticipated quality!


Monday, November 21, 2016

Loading up: Death Bat Dad get's a hoary hoast of classic stuff in print on demand for Xmas

I went ahead and ordered a medley of print modules today (on top of Hollow World, which is now shipped)....I guess I couldn't wait to confirm the quality of the print editions....anyway, in the order we've got:

Castle Amber --a module I first ran in 1982ish using my hybrid B/X AD&D 1E mashup.

Secret of Bone Hill --a module I ran 1983ish and also led to my second remembered TPK (or nearly so; I recall resurrections were done to get everyone back on their feet from the one surviving cleric who was also a homebrew minotaur).

Uncaged: The Faces of Sigil --a heavily used tome from my mid-nineties Planescape days, and also a lot of fun to read. 

The House on Gryphon Hill --I actually never ran or owned this before except in a free PDF WotC used to distributed in the 3E days.

Goblin's Return --in principle just the existence of a POD Spelljammer module has me buying this. Just need them to release the rest in POD now, please!

Dreams of the Red Wizards: Scourge of the Sword Coast --this was one of the four modules released leading up to D&D 5E as part of the Next Playtest period, but despite the first two modules being in print, the third and fourth were released online only....at long last this corrects that problem; just need Dead in Thay made available in print now.

Anyway.....plan would be to use all of this with adaptations to D&D 5E, of course. I think a revisit of Castle Amber and Secret of Bone Hill are in the near future, and the next time Sigil is visited (as it often is in my settings) then the Uncaged tome will be most useful.