Saturday 31 December 2011

Plans for 2012 {Trollish Delver Games}

It's been a great year for the blog and I want 2012 to be even better. 2011 saw my first products being released through Trollish Delver Games, which was a big step in what I hope will turn into a much larger side-business. 

In 2011 Trollish Delver released the following adventures:

  • Depths of the Devilmancer (solo adventure for Tunnels & Trolls)
  • Forest of the Treelords (GM adventure for T&T)
  • Fast Food (GM adventure for T&T published in Elder Tunnels Summer)
  • Cabin in the Woods IV: The Stabbening (GM adventure for T&T published in Elder Tunnels Fall)
  • It Came from Beyond the Stars! (GM adventure for T&T published by Peryton Publishing)
2011 also saw Trollish Delver team up with Peryton Publishing to produce a line of T&T adventures, the first of which launched earlier this month. 

So what's in store for 2012?
  • Continuing the TDG/Peryton T&T line
  • Release Book One of the DemonLord gamebook series
  • Release A Delver's Guide to Peakvale
  • Release new T&T mega-solo
  • Continue with blogging goodness
None of what I've done this year could have been done without the support of my readers and friends, so a massive thanks to you all for making this the best year yet for Trollish Delver. Next year promises to be bigger, better and nerdier than ever.

Thursday 29 December 2011

Adventures in Fabled Lands {Gamebooks}

Yesterday I picked up Fabled Lands again to have another go after my previous two characters were killed (one in a shipwreck and the other by a falling boulder). I created a rogue this time around and decided to dedicate her role to thievery and assassination. 

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, Fabled Lands is a range of gamebooks that, instead of being contained stories, offer a sandbox world to play in. While the characters aren't as memorable as those in say Fighting Fantasy, it's a trade-off for a massive world where you can do pretty much anything.

My rogue, Marana, began in Marlock City, the capital of Sokara. With only 16 shards (cash) to my name I decided try mu hand at gambling. I emerged with 0 shards to my name. Being destitute, I needed a job to get money. I travelled to Yellowport and was given the opportunity to go and assassinate the exiled king who was hiding in the mountains like a sissy. With an offer of 500 shards, of course I took the job.

I killed the king, got my money and was now on my way to success. I started doing jobs here and there, finding thievery work where I could in Sokara and Golnir (the country in the second book, Cities of Gold and Glory) which included stealing a priceless gem from some sailors and doing some sword-for-hire work. I finally had enough for a medium-sized boat, so I bought one and called it The Kraken. I hired the best crew money could by and began trading cargo between Sokara and Golnir, making some nice profit. I even invested money in the merchant's guild in hope of gaining mass interest later in the game.

I eventually decided to take my toughest assassination job yet and travel to the far north (The Plains of Howling Darkness), sneak into the enemy camp and kill the ex-commander-in-chief of the previous regime who were battling in the Steppes. I managed to pull this off and was handsomely rewarded by General Marlock, the new ruler of Sokara. I was feeling confident, so I bought some textiles as cargo and set sail for the south. This, as it turns out, was a mistake.

You see, boys and girls, in the south there are pirates galore and you'll be spending a lot of time in the ocean.  I was looking for a place to sell textiles when one night my helmsman went mad and ran the ship aground. The helm split in two and the ship was destroyed. I was the sole survivor as I drifted for days on a bit of wood, eventually washing ashore on Copper Island, which is where I currently am.

Injured and without a ship, what will happen next in the adventures of Marana? Will she brave the seas once more for gold and glory? Or will she return to Golnir to find more work as a master thief? Tune in next time...

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Let's play: Fangs of Fury {Fighting Fantasy}

In this series, I delve into one of the many bazillion Fighting Fantasy books out there in a romp that will likely claim my life.

OK, so Fangs of Fury. I have to admit, this isn't one that I'd heard of when I picked it up last year at a convention. The cover depicts a two-headed snake and an orc carrying a flaming sword and an axe, so he's probably overcompensating for something. Anyway, let's dive in and roll up my character.

Punchfist Deathknocker

While I lucked out on my SKILL, my other attributes sucked ganjee balls. Punchfist will live up to his name and try and solve all his problems through knocking ten bells out of everything. He's awesome.

The basic concept of the adventure is that the puny kingdom of Zamarra is under siege by the forces of Ostragoth the Grim. They seek to breach the walls and kill the 12 wizards within take over Souther Khul. Punchfist has volunteered to activate the six dragon sentinels to reign fire on the enemy and burn them like armour-clad marshmallows. Oh yeah, and Punchfist is fitted with a bracelet that will kill him in the 14th citadel wall is breached. And there I was thinking I could swan off to some elven forest and live the life of Riley. Damn.

Punchfist heads underground and emerges by a group of goblins with a battering ram. The leader asks for his regiment. There's no option to kill things, so he'll try and bullshit them instead. "Yeah, err, I'm with the Bonecrushers. I just thought I'd come and help you guys out because you're so short-"
 "Silence!" Interrupts the leader, "The Bonecrusher Battalion hasn't landed yet. I think we have ourselves another spy. Cease him!" He thumbs through a book about Zamarra to try and figure out whether Punchfist is anyone important. He's not. "Kill him"
"Woah, woah. I'm sorry but I think you misheard me," Punchfist says, "I want to join the Bonecrushers. Yup, it's always been a dream of mine."
"No, you're going to join the Knuclers Irregulars," says the leader. He calls over Sprikk, a goblin soldier, who swiftly marches Punchfist to the trenches. He meets with some fat guy who demands cash to join the regiment. Punchfist refuses, being a miser, and so the fat guy orders two solders to attack. Excellent! Punchfist makes short work of the two thugs, throwing them in a bloody pile without receiving a scratch himself. He rests his foot on one of the bodies and laughs defiantly. "Seriously dude, a skill 5 and 6 versus a 12?" The captain agrees to let him into the ranks. We soon see why they're called 'Irregulars' as they're no more than a rag-tag band of thugs who are used as a shield for the orcs. Punchfist sees a knight, someone that he knows, fall to the ground, a goblin looming over him with a blade. Helping him could arouse suspicion, so Punchfist decides to take off with his horse instead. Everything goes downhill from here. He takes the horse but gets shot with an arrow in the process. He tries to ride out of the battle but is chased down by orcs. Apparently they want my horse, so I say "Feck off," and one whistles, sending the animal into a frenzy. He's thrown onto the ground and the orcs leave with the horse. "Bugger!"

Just then a cart draws near. A lone rider hands the cart driver a map in exchange for a chest. Weird. PF follows the cart and jumps in the back for lols. He alerts the driver, who attacks. However, his technique is sloppy so PF has no trouble caving his skull in with the side of the wagon. He finds a parchment from the King's new knight, who is apparently a traitor because he says that the 'torchbearer' has departed for the north. Alas, a goddamn Grypvulture snags the parchment and takes off with it.

PF continues to the coast where he spots a woman in peril. She's been harassed by an octopus, so he cuts off its tentacles and follows the woman. She doesn't say a whole lot, but draws a tent in the sand. Fun cryptic times had by all. Funnily enough, he later finds a tent and meets with a spy. The spy gives him some bitchin' armour and he leaves. He's soon followed by a group of soldiers who clearly think he's a captain or something.  He sends most of them away and manages to outrun his apparent bodyguard. He sees that the river is running north, which is where he's supposed to be heading, so he decides to follow it. He meets with two cheery dwarves who let him hire a boat to go the rest of the way. At 1gp it's a bargain.

The boat ride is going so nicely until the vessel is smashed to bits by a giant. PF stabs the big bastard in the hand only to be held under the water and partially drowned. He's then put in a sack and taken to the giant's lair. The giant seems to be a mental case by letting PF help himself to gold, but it looks like he's re-enacting some sick murder ritual. PF takes a handful of coins and runs through a fire and out of the cave. He makes his was across the plains and ends up in a small village where he helps a girl who has spilled her rice and crying because she's late for school. The dick of a teacher starts to cane her when she turns up late, so PF, being the gallant dude he is, marches in, "Enough of this, you knob!" He cries, "Pick on someone your own size!"
"Very well," shouts the teacher, who attacks with his cane. This is all getting a bit surreal. Just an hour ago I was escaping from a giant and now I'm getting spanked in a classroom. PF cuts the cane in half and threatens the teacher. Suddenly a horn sounds and PF rushes outside to see what the commotion is about. Two drunk orcs are ransacking the village and an old man offers 20 gold coins to sort them out. PF would have done it for free, but he'll take the money, suckah! He marches up to the orcs and decapitates them both. He is made of awesome.

He leaves across the plain and heads down a well-known trade road. He's suddenly caught in a trap and a couple of rogues ask for all his money. "Not likely, mate," he spits. He hacks his way out of the trap just narrowly escaping being hit by an orc-driven chariot. He then heads into a forest where he finds a warrior being attacked by a horde of Garks. PF helps her out by slaying three of the blighters and in return the warrior guides him to the Wazzari Bastion, that has been devastated by war. PF's shown a map and told he has to traverse a maze and put some cubes in the right order. What came next was about an hour of my time wasted wandering around the maze before I realised the solution to the puzzle. Once PF leaves the maze he can smell the endgame. He fights a mage, who is pretty tough and passes through a bunch of rooms that chucks lots of fire at him, burning out all his black cubes he used for fire protection. He enters a room where the evil mage Jaxartes stands. PF takes a bit of a beating, but he shows resolve and fights until the little magic bitch runs away. He eventually comes to the core room where the so-called 'fangs of fury' are. Jaxartes is there hurling some abuse, but he grows like 15ft tall and starts hurling fireballs. No fair! But a huge cube appears with 49 keyholes in it. PF knows which one to choose because of a clue back in the maze and unlocks it. The fangs of fury ignite, Jaxartes screams and dies and the six dragon sentinels reign hell upon the evil forces.

So PF gets back, is promoted to mega-ultra general of the world and lives happily ever after.

All-in-all, Fangs of Fury wasn't a bad book but there was nothing that really stood out as memorable. The characters were fairly bland and the puzzles were so-so, especially the maze which was kind of annoying. I liked the use of new mechanics, like pursuit and jumping, and the fights seemed fairly balanced.I quite liked the fact that there was time limit, as the 12 walls were constantly falling (I finished with 5 intact). Not a great adventure, but satisfying nonetheless.

Though I never did find that orc on the cover.

Monday 26 December 2011

DemonLord: Book One ideas {Trollish Delver Games}

I hope you all had a great Christmas! Inbetween scoffing mince pies and turkey, I've been sketching some ideas  for the first book in the DemonLord series.

The first thing that I realised was how unoriginal I am. The ideas I have are taken from various existing gamebooks, mainly because they work really well and provide a great solo roleplaying experience. Here are some of the ideas I'm implementing:

The world of DemonLord is split into four factions: The Swordhand, The Brotherhood of Light, The Flametouched and the Nightstars. Each has their own background and way of working, such as the Swordhand being crusading warriors and the Flametouched having harnessed demonic power. Each faction can be joined (one at a time) and each offers a unique trait for your character. In addition, the inter-faction tensions allow for new paths and opportunities in the game.

While there is a main story, each book will feature randomly generated dungeons called Lairs. Each lair has a difficulty rating and an end boss, but each will be different every time you enter one. What I'm aiming for here is to allow for endgame content, where the player has finished the main quest but can still explore the more difficult lairs that weren't possible earlier in the game.

There will be a number of sub-quests to undertake, from killing a certain Lair Boss to transporting cargo to a new town. I envision there being 5-10 different quests per book and even book-spanning quests.

Collectable Cards
Each book will have its own set of cards to collect that tells the player more about the world. Collect them all for a special prize!

Saturday 24 December 2011

Vikings & Valkyries {Reviews}

Sword and sandal epics like Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans are some of my favourite genres of film and when I stumbled across Legendary Game Studio's Mazes and Minotaurs a couple of years back I was over the moon. 

Mazes and Minotaurs is, and I use this term loosely, a 'retro-clone' designed to feel like the RPGs of old but set in a version of ancient Greece called Mythica. It's not a direct copy of OD&D, but definitely shows its influences and it works really well.

In January the first in LGS' range of World of Adventure series was released called Vikings and Valkyries, unsurprisingly offering a Norse mythological setting for the original game. The supplement isn't a stand-alone product, but can be found for free like all the Mazes and Minotaurs books on the LGS website. Instead it offers a new background, classes, weapons, magic and combat options for a Norse setting.

The writer's tongue-in-cheek style is still oozing from the pages and the books still retains the same easy-to-digest format from the main game. At only 51 pages, you'll get through it pretty quickly, which means you can get playing as soon as possible.

Like the revised M&M rules, the supplement offer 12 classes to choose from, under the three familiar categories of warriors, magicians and specialists. Warriors now include the likes of half-giants and berserkers while Skalds, Elves Hunters and Thieves fall into the other classes.
Part of the time, V&V feels like an acetate overlay for M&M, treating most of the new classes as exact copies of their Greek counterparts but with a few new traits thrown in. For example, the Skald is exactly the same as the Lyrist but instead of having Orphan's Voice, they have Skaldic Gift. This is great if you want to get the game off to a quick start, since you already know the classes, but if you're looking for brand-spanking new characters you're not going to find them here.

However, there is a lot of new stuff to play with and it's all really good. Take the new combat options that give characters and major NPCs the ability to main their opponents by cutting off a hand, skewering an eye or even flat out decapitating them. This blood 'n' guts approach captures the feel of classic Viking literature and movies and makes for fun, visceral fights.

When players are not hacking each other to bits, they can now take part in a range of Viking games like arm wrestling, braid cutting and shield running, all of which are given rules. Drinking contests are even included, with rules for intoxication. Awesome.

There's a hefty amount of setting information, from gods to geography, which will help anyone unfamiliar with Norse mythology and Viking life. This also includes new monsters such as troll and giant varieties, but many creatures can be taken straight from the M&M Creature Companion and given a lick of paint.

Vikings and Valkyries is a great addition to the Mazes and Minotaurs game system, including everything you need to start playing in a Norse setting. While it would have been nice to see brand new classes rather than carbon copies of old ones, it's a very minor gripe.

Monday 19 December 2011

The hill giants of Peakvale {Campaign Settings}

In It Came From Beyond the Stars! I established some of the creatures that inhabit Peakvale, specifically the wilderness between Thornguard and Willowmoss as well as the Greyshades.

Those who follow the relatively safe roads are only likely to come across either bandits or wayward urooks, but there are more sinister dangers, especially at night, such as giant eagles or the bane of merchants - Hill Giants.

There is one particular giant family who lives in the foothills of the Dhezereth Mountains, close to Willowmoss, who sometimes venture out onto trade routes in the hope of finding some dinner in the form of horses and people. Those who survive these harrowing ambushes tell tales of 16ft tall brutes carrying crudely-made spears and clubs, who are able to rip a horse apart like a person tears paper. It's said that the hills where the giants make their home is full of riches that they have stolen from merchants.

Hill giants generally have a monster rating of 90, but larger ones can go as high as 120. They aren't intelligent in the traditional sense of the word, but have created close-knit societies and look out for one another.

Hill Giant
Level 6
ST: 45, DX: 19, LK: 10, CN: 61, INT: 5, SPD: 17, CHR: 50
Personal adds: + 45
Weapons: Giant Spear (10d6), Sling (4d6)
Spite: 1/1
Equipment: Giant clothing, giant sack, giant boots

In appearance, hill giants resemble humans with short tusks jutting from their lower jaw. Their hair is often tied back into a ponytail, secured by rope. Typical names include Hram, Hron, Brot and Dreg for males and Vran, Freg, Vross and Krin for females. On the last day of the year, giants from around Peakvale meet to bring in the new year, celebrating with food, a roaring fire and stolen alcohol. They exchange gifts with one another and dance until the sun rises. The new year's celebrations take place at Black Rock, in the Dhezereth foothills and travellers have been warned that venturing there at this sacred time will almost always result in their bloody demise.

Sunday 18 December 2011

The future of DemonLord {Trollish Delver Games}

I've been quiet recently on the subject of DemonLord. That doesn't mean that it hasn't been on my mind, far from it. I've been thinking about how to best deliver DemonLord as a game that people will want to play and in its current form I don't think it holds up. 

There are people out there making games far better than my original vision for DemonLord. I've been thinking about the merits of releasing a completely new system that feels a lot like other RPGs already on the market. What's the advantage of that? Am I really delivering an experience that people want?

So I've decided that rather than scrapping the project, I'm refining it. I stated from the beginning that DemonLord was going to be compatible for solo play and now I want this to be the sole focus of the game. Instead of releasing a core rulebook, instead there will be a series of standalone solo adventures that incorporate the rules. What's more, each adventure will act like an expansion, adding new rules as they go.

I feel that there are very few systems out there targeting solo play and I think I can create a more innovative gaming experience in this format.

Fight On #13 - T&T edition is out

Online OSR periodical Fight On has just launched its new edition dedicated to Ken St. Andre, creator of Tunnels & Trolls. 

Fight On #13 delivers all the usual D&D oriented goodness with a splash of T&T, including an article on Variant Kindreds and Top Tips for Tunnels & Trolls. I haven't picked up a copy yet but I'll be reporting back on the awesomeness that no doubt lies inside.

Wizards given up on Gamma World {Publishers}

It probably seems obvious by now, but the latest iteration of Gamma World emerged with a bang and left with a solemn whisper. 

With three product releases: Gamma World, Legion of Gold and Famine in Far-Go as well as the booster packs, the game has seen minimal support from Wizards of the Coast and their future products list is devoid of mutants.

Initially there was a flurry of good articles on the WotC site and fans hoped they would keep up the trend for such a well-received game. While 4e divided people, Gamma World was almost universally accepted as a great RPG, with its 4e-lite mechanics and random elements.

Granted that I haven't played the game for some time now, but I would like to know that WotC didn't put it out to make a quick buck and dump it. But it sure seems that way.

So it looks like it's up to the fanbase to keep the game alive. Folks like David Flor have done a great job coming up with new adventures (David specifically writing 'Gammacore') which is great to see, but on the whole there's a dearth of material for the system, which is a huge shame.

While WotC may have given up on a fantastic game, that doesn't mean that we should. I plan on writing up an adventure for a free release. Watch this space, mutant.

Thursday 15 December 2011

The Dhezereth Dwarves of Peakvale {Campaign Setting}

In the Peakvale campaign setting I want to shake up the common conceptions of kindred and give them a fresh new look. This includes turning battle-hardened dwarves into more gentle and caring creatures. Don't get me wrong, these guys were born warriors, but they have a soft side to them too.

The dwarves of the Dhezereth Mountains form the major dwarvern community in Peakvale and create the backbone of the kingdom's coal and ore trade. The middle-class of the capital of Peakvale, Thornguard, tend to look down on the dwarves as they march into the city every week to deliver their commodities. The general view is that dwarves are filthy creatures who love to wallow in dirt and hit each other with blunt weapons. The dwarf traders, also called 'Rock Merchants' by Thornguardians, are often humiliated as they enter the city and actively try to avoid making the journey there.

However, Dhezereth and the city within (of the same name), is a society build on trust and kindness. The city is ruled over by Councillor Ghazamm Rrockcracker, who is known for his loyalty to his people and his caring disposition. Although a member of the Peakvale Council and therefore answerable directly to the king, Ghazamm leads a double life - one with his people and one in the halls of government where he must appease the king.

Ghazamm has a great secret that has been kept from the king and other councillors since the great banishment. He has given asylum to many urooks who were cast out of Thornguard and other places in Peakvale, offering them a safe haven from the king's Storm Soldiers who would see them dead. This deed has earned the councillor the utmost respect among urooks, even in the Greyshades. Many urook shamans even predict that Ghazamm will become the rightful ruler of all of Peakvale and a new age of peace and prosperity shall fall on the kingdom.

More about the Dhezereth Dwarves will be found in the upcoming book 'A Delver's Guide to Peakvale'.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Bonefiend {Steal This Monster}

Lurking in some forgotten tomb amongst the detritus is the Bonefiend, a spectral humanoid who covers itself in the bones of the long dead. The creature lures its prey by casting an illusion of a room full of priceless treasure before pouncing.

Level 3
ST: 18, DX: 30, LK: 12, CN: 50, INT 6, CH: -6, WIZ: 20, SP: 16
Personal adds: +28
Weapons: Claws (4d6)
Spite: 1/1
Special Abilities: Spooky Touch - If Bonefiend does damage with his claws, the target makes a L3-SR on CON. If target fails, she cannot move for 1d6 rounds but can attack as normal.
Spells Known: Mirage

Sunday 11 December 2011

A dungeon can change a guy {Gaming Philosophy}

Dungeons are arguably at the heart of any fantasy roleplaying game. They are generally the hub of action and adventure, where the most fearsome foes lurk and the most valuable treasures are unearthed. 

But dungeons should be seen as much more than places where monsters live and traps are built. They are opportunities to build narrative and develop characters. Players should emerge from a dungeon having learnt valuable lessons and obtained new goals. Dungeons are powerful tools in a game and you should use them to your advantage.

Dungeons should change characters
Say a group of delvers has to go and rid the Waterdeep mines of an undead scourge. They might expect a couple of fights with zombies and skeletons, a few puzzles, a boss and some treasure. This is all fine and dandy, but it doesn't sound all that memorable. If they emerge 1000gp richer and that's it then they're exactly the same as they are when they went in, but with a bit more cash and more experience points. I argue that every dungeon should have an impact on the party. Perhaps one of the delvers is cursed to feed on the flesh of the living every full moon as a result of a trap, or one is impregnated with a demon child that will burst out in a matter of days. In these examples, characters will emerge from a dungeon different from when they went in and so the game has taken a step forward and evolved beyond just having more money or xp.

Complications create opportunities
It's likely that the reason the delvers went into the dungeon in the first place was because there was an overarching quest they were trying to complete. A change that creates complications, like the cursed player, forms a new opportunity for adventure and offers a less railroaded narrative. Now it comes down to whether they complete the quest now, or whether they venture into the Ironstorm Foothills to search for a cure. This can end up having a chain effect where the complication is removed by venturing into another dungeon, but another one or two are added when they emerge. What began as a set adventure has now turned into one that is spontaneous but that the GM can plan for. After all, she's the one making the complications.

Dungeons can develop character
Delvers don't necessarily have to emerge from dungeons with new personal quests. Their personalities should be tested and sometimes altered throughout the dungeon through puzzles, encounters and traps. Obviously it's not a good idea to go around completely changing characters, because that would be no fun, but including parts where it's optional for a character to tweak their personality will serve to create great roleplaying opportunities. For example, in my current campaign the party has recently found a gauntlet that can turn the wearer evil for a limited amount of time. It's optional whether they use it or not, but if someone did then it would not only change them, it would present a new roleplaying opportunity and a chance to expand that person's character.

So don't think of dungeons as just a series of rooms full of monsters and traps. They are tools that can develop the adventure, give the players some free will and alter the characters in a meaningful way.

Plans for 'A Delver's Guide to Peakvale' {Campaign Settings}

It Came From Beyond the Stars kicks off a series of adventures set in the kingdom of Peakvale, a campaign setting contained in Ken St. Andre's Trollworld. 

There's a severe lack of settings for T&T and I want Peakvale to be familiar but at the same time unique (whether it will be the latter remains to be seen). I've given a short introduction to Peakvale in the new adventure through the story rather than a bunch of exposition.

In essence, Peakvale boils down to a satirical look at current British politics and attitudes. The hobb king, Hobbletoe, is loved by the rich hobbs and humans of the land for his dismissal of the urooks from the 'fair' lands and the privatisation of many services, including the healing house. Different towns and villages in the kingdom have differing attitudes towards the king's rule. The capital, Thornguard, is the most divided, with 'uncommon' kindred inhabiting the slum district while hobbs and humans live it large in the King's Ward. Willowmoss and Lowhollow are very much royalists, agreeing with the King's sentiments for getting rid of the urooks, sometimes to the extreme.

While you have all these politics going on, there is some strange stuff happening at Lake Bloodmoon and the town of Redmarsh. The lake and town are located on the site of a fracture in reality where strange creatures sometimes emerge, but Hobbletoe has dismissed these strange occurrences as a result of vapours from the lake. Others in the kingdom have come to call this location 'The Wyrd' and it's said that beneath the lake is a network of tunnels spanning many miles harbouring the strange things that emerge through the Wyrd.

So that's a very quick primer to Peakvale. I will be producing a campaign guide with the working title 'A Delver's Guide to Peakvale' to accompany the adventures and allow you to create your own adventures in what should be a rich setting.

Saturday 10 December 2011

It Came from Beyond the Stars! out now! {Trollish Delver Games}

My latest GM adventure for Tunnels and Trolls, It Came From Beyond the Stars!, has launched. You can get it from either DriveThru RPG or RPGNow, whatever your preference. 

The adventure, published by Peryton Publishing with awesome artwork by Jeff Freels and Simon Lee Tranter (see the new Trollish Delver logo), is set in Trollish Delver Games' campaign setting, Peakvale, and involves mysterious Lovecraft-tinged adventure.

Urooks are shunned by the ruler of Peakvale, King Hobbletoe, and have been exiled into the Greyshades, a dangerous and forbidden land. When a mysterious object falls from the sky and lands in the Greyshades the king seeks assistance from local delvers to enter urook country and retrieve. But the adventurers will come to find a nightmare unravelling as they venture deeper into the forbidden land.

The adventure is for delvers levels 1-3 and should cover one or two sessions.

Thanks to Tom K Loney, Mari Volmar, Jeff Freels and Simon Lee Tranter for bringing the first in the Trollish Delver Games series to life.

Friday 9 December 2011

Turn your wizard into a Lifekeeper {T&T}

Some wizards are born to destroy, others to create and some to preserve life. Lifekeepers are experts in the latter, using their powers to heal and prevent others from harm. Lifekeepers are also bloody useful people.

Keeping away from the front lines and casting spells on their allies, Lifekeepers are a rare breed of philanthropist, who spend her money on potions and spell books in order to help others. A party of delvers who happen upon a Lifekeeper would do well to hire her because she might mean the difference between emerging from the castle with piles of treasure and getting crushed by several trolls.

The Lifekeeper is very much based on intelligence, but a little charisma can go a long way too (call it bedside manner).

Past first level, Lifekeepers will choose to learn mostly spells that will benefit others, such as healing and redirecting damage. The following spells are ideal for this kind of wizard:

Level 2: Poor Baby, Hidey Hole
Level 3: Healing Feeling, Shield Me
Level 4: Protective Pentagram
Level 5: Resist Magic
Level 6: Blue Shirt of Life
Level 7: Invisible Wall
Level 8: Zapparmor
Level 8: Pygmalion
Level 13: Born Again

As well as spells, the Lifekeeper must know a thing or two about preserving life manually. Here are a few ideas for talents:

Medical Marvel (INT), Herbs are my Forte (INT), Potion Brewing (INT), Bedside Manner (CHA).

In terms of equipment, the usual staff and light armour will do. Make sure the Lifekeeper has a good stash of healing potions as well as any ingredients to make potions. A scalpel and foldable stretcher may also come in handy for those battlefield wounds. Oh, and don't forget the bandages!

Thursday 8 December 2011

Turn your warrior into a Godsword {T&T}

Tunnels and Trolls has always lacked a cleric-type character like in many other popular fantasy games. To be honest, this makes complete sense because Trollworld technically doesn't have deities. Instead it has the God-Wizards of ancient times who were beings with such immense magic that they were, for all intents and purposes, gods. 

But that isn't to say that people in Trollworld don't worship and pray to higher powers. The sea-faring Cyruks are obedient to their god and ruler Zweetz, the serpent wizard and of course Gristlegrim is the creator of the dwarves. It's only natural that different cultures will worship whichever god-wizard brought them into being.

I have always thought clerics and paladins to be in the realm of D&D, so I think a better term for them in T&T would be 'Godswords'. Why? Well, mostly because it sounds way cooler than cleric but also because it follows the simplistic aesthetic of the T&T universe. These guys worship and hack.

So what does it take to turn your default warrior into a steel-toting preacher (how bad-ass is that)? Godswords are people who don't back down from a fight and will battle to the death for their cause, so armour would be a good place to start. Full suits, helms and shields will aid Godswords in their struggle against the unholy terrors that plague Trollworld. It's not uncommon for a single Godsword to take on many enemies at once, so she needs to be clad to the teeth in steel.

Weapon-wise Godswords prefer to fight valiantly in close quarters with the wretched enemy, so a sword or hafted weapon that delivers as much damage as possible is a must.

So far, you could have made a generic kitted out warrior, but now let's get to the meat of the Godsword. Preferred stats are strength, constitution and charisma, as they have to be both handy in battle but able to persuade others to join their ways. Make sure you carry at least enough healing potions for each of your party members, as Godswords are sworn to heal as well as smite. Likewise, make sure you have spare rations for the needy you made come across on your adventures.

Recommended talents are as follows:

Medical Knowledge (INT), Preach the Word (CHA), Can Take a Beating (CON), Everyone Trusts a Priest (CHA), Calming Demeanour (CHA), I Know Evil When I See It (INT).

As you can see, Godswords are very charisma-based warriors, relying on both their might and words to win the day.

Let me know what you think of the Godsword and whether you will give one a shot.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Turn your warrior into an assassin {T&T}

We all love the reliable warrior but let's face it, he's a bit boring. Sure you can add whatever creative fluff to his back story in order to make him stand out from the thousands of warrior clones out there, but sometimes you need some extra mechanics to make him extra special. Here's how to create your very own assassin. 

Fantasy assassins typically stick to the shadows and attack without warning, often using poisons to dispatch their targets. Because of this, assassin warriors will generally have higher than average dexterity. Swift blades and ranged weapons are their forte, so don't equip them with anything too cumbersome. Wielding dual katars only requires 16 dex and has comes with that badass Assassin's Creed aesthetic as a bonus. 4d6 + 8 at a relatively cheap price of 36 gp is a thrifty purchase that packs a punch and feels very 'assassiny'. Similarly, ranged weapons should be light and easy to carry, so a hand crossbow is a good one to go for.

Obviously an assassin doesn't want to be weighed down by plate mail and fortunately warriors' double armour means that they can wear relatively light armour and still take the hits. Consider not going for a full suit and instead patching different pieces of armour together. This will be more expensive, but it will offer maximum protection without the weight.

Of course, weapons and armour can only get you so far, so you'll need to throw some assassin talents in with the mix. As a starting talent, I recommend taking something like Sneak, based on dexterity. Later on you could go for the following:

Poison Making (INT), Knowledge of the Streets (INT), Balancing Act (DEX), Acrobat (DEX), Stone Calmness (INT), Blend in with the Crowd (CHA), Intimidation (CHA)

So there you have it, a quick guide for turning a mundane warrior into a death dealer from the shadows. Hope you enjoy!

Sunday 4 December 2011

Peryton Fantasy Role-Playing Game review {Reviews}

Recently Paizo released its Q2 sales figures, which showed that Pathfinder was beating Dungeons and Dragons 4e in sales, which is a pretty big deal. More people are being drawn to the new old hotness and for good reason: it's a streamlined, well designed game that ironed out most of the problems inherent in 3.5. While 3rd edition still splits opinion, there's no doubt that Pathfinder rekindled people's love for the system. Enter the Peryton Fantasy Role-Playing Game, a creation by Peryton Publishing that seeks to take 3rd edition and trim the fat. Is the game a valiant champion or just another adventurer who's just run into a Gelatinous Cube?

The first thing that becomes apparent with PFRPG is that it's not just a carbon copy of 3.5. While the core OGL system that we know and sometimes love is there, there is a variety of creative differences. Classes have been cut down considerably to: Berserker, Fighter, Rogue, Mystic, Wizard and Templar. Sure there are a few familiar faces, but what about the new guys in the hood? The Berserker is a Barbarian for all intents and purposes and the Templar is a Paladin-Cleric cross breed. The most interesting is the Mystic, who is like a non-martial Monk with a thirst for knowledge. These guys shun armour in favour of dexterous combat and mind powers, becoming immune to all sorts of effects at higher levels. 

Another change and a more 'indie' addition to the system are 'knacks', which are a more evolutionary version of skills. Instead of presenting you with pages of skills and feats, PFRPG has the knack system, where successful checks in the game can lead to new skills applied when levelling. Say your character had done a good few days research in the library and succeeded in finding the whereabouts of an ancient treasure, the DM would note down these checks and come up with a new knack for the player, such as 'Gather Information'. This freeform skills system works well, but it does require more book-keeping for the GM, which could be a pain. However, it makes the game quicker to get into and provides a more logical  method of acquiring new skills. 

The usual class abilities are present here, as well as all the spells a growing wizard could ever need. In addition, PFRPG has a cool alchemy system that lets players brew their own potions in a unique way. Alchemical mixtures are made from essence, oil and salt, of which the first two need to be harvested from plants and minerals. For instance, Black Moss contains Oil of Wisdom and Essence of Intelligence as well as a mundane salt. Using a solvent will extract one required aspect and render the other useless in the process. Putting an essence and an oil of the same type together will create a potion that gives a limited attribute bonus, but certain salts allow different oils and essences to be matched to create something completely new. It's a great little system that doesn't need pages of rules and lets players and the GM let their imaginations run wild with new concoctions.

Of course, the game wouldn't go anywhere if the rules weren't clear and fortunately the system is well-presented and easy to understand. The book contains everything needed to play, including a GM section, monsters and a run down on how to create adventures. Illustrations, although infrequent, are generally of high quality but there are some the stand out as fairly amateur. 

Combat rules are kept relatively simple, tossing out much of the tactical crunch found in the original game in lieu of letting the GM decide what's best in a certain situation. Those who prefer a more tactical miniatures game may be put off by this, but if combat is sped up as a result of a) not having to flick through the book or, b) incessant rules-lawyers, then this more rules-lite approach can only be a good thing. 

If you're looking for that 3rd edition vibe without most of the fiddly rules and a dose of indie inspiration then PFRPG is well worth picking up. It doesn't take huge leaps with the system, but the streamlined rules and versatile skills system make this a game that's easy to pick up and play. 

It Came from Beyond the Stars! update {Trollish Delver Games}

I've just sent off the final revision of It Came from Beyond the Stars!, a low-level adventure for Tunnels & Trolls. I also received an email the other day from Simon Tranter, an awesome fantasy and sci-fi artist, with a very cool design for the Trollish Delver logo that will appear in the book. 

It Came from Beyond the Stars is the first of hopefully many professionally produced products from Trollish Delver Games and Peryton Publishing. I think we're really close to the finishing line with this, so watch this space.

Saturday 3 December 2011

Character types: Musicians {T&T}

From the smoke-filled corner of a dingy inn to the festive halls of the King's court, musicians are at the heart of entertainment in Trollworld. They sing tales of heroic feats, great battles and lost love, captivating all who stop to listen. 

Musicians come in all shapes and sizes, from the pipe-playing elves of the Sinderwoods to the urook drummers of the Grey Mountains. However, none are as legendary as Fenrick Waterborn from Gull. Fenrick was a human who, at an early age, decided that he wanted to see the world, so he packed his bags and left home taking his famous harp 'Alelia' with him. Over the years he collected stories that he put into songs, such as the time he was almost trampled on by a family of rock trolls and that time when a bear challenged him to a drinking contest. Now thousands follow in his footsteps, journeying through Trollworld to discover the best songs inspired by adventure.

Character type: Musician
Prerequisites: 13+ CHA
Prime Attributes: CHA/DEX/INT/LK
Recommended Talents:  Musical (CHA), Storyteller (CHA), Live to tell the tale (LK), Improvisation (INT)
Special Abilities: Song of Inspiration - Once a day you may sing a song to inspire your allies. Each ally gains +5 to their next SR.

Monday 28 November 2011

Tuck in! Magic food in 4th edition {4e}

Food glorious food. If you run a campaign anything like I do, you're undeniably lazy when it comes to the micromanagement of PCs' dietary requirements, so you just chucked a hamper full of unlimited rations at them mid-heroic tier and assumed they ate on the way to whatever hell-hole they were valiantly relieving of its inhabitants.

 But here's some news for your eyes: food can be fun! Well, magic food that is. Throwing some mystical noms into your game will not only make dinnertime a joy to roleplay, it could create an adventure in itself.

Genderswitch Apple
Level 8   Uncommon
Pink on one side and blue on the other.
Wondrous Item   50gp
Power (Consumable): Minor action. You become the opposite gender for 2d8 hours.

Firecatch Berry
Level 4+   Uncommon
These devilish red berries pulse heat through your body, allowing you to lash fire at your foes.
Wondrous Item
Lvl 4   +1   20gp
Lvl 8   +2   90gp
Lvl 14 +3   200gp
Lvl 18 +4   460gp
Power (Consumable): Minor action. You inflict 1d6 extra fire damage per plus until the end of the encounter.

Mead of Angelic Favour
Level 18   Rare
You take a swig and drain the rest on the ground as an offering to the angels above.
Wondrous Item   1,000gp
Power (Consumable): Minor action. 1 creature with the angel keyword (your level +1) appear in spaces adjacent to you. After your turn it make a Move and a Standard action. The angel does not provoke attacks of opportunity. The angel disappear at the end of your next turn.

Cursed Wine of Hazzan
Drinking a flask of the Wine of Hazzan is said to give you extraordinary strength, but at a price.
Level 15  Uncommon
Wondrous Item  1,000gp
Power (Consumable- Necrotic): Minor action. Gain +6d8 necrotic damage to your damage rolls until the end of your next turn. At the end of your next turn you are dazed, immobilized and blinded (save ends all).

Stew of Giant's Growth
Large pieces of goat meat float in this thick brown stew.
Level 10 Uncommon
Wondrous Item  600gp
Power (Consumable): You become a large creature for 1d4 hours. You gain +2 intimidate and strength checks and +4 to melee attacks.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Guild mechanics in 4th edition {4e}

Grognardling has done a great job outlining some rules for guilds in a recent post and it's inspired me to find some way of incorporating guilds into 4th edition using its inherent modular mechanics. 

Guilds are likely something that will come into play in PCs' downtime, but there's no reason they can't play a part during the adventure. I think treating guilds like items is a good way to go in 4th edition, as they can be as simple or complex as you like. The stat block gives the bare bones of the idea, which can be fleshed out through roleplay.

Thieves' Guild
Con artists, pick-pockets and burglars walk the halls of the Thieves Guild, swapping tips and receiving training from the Guild Master.
Entry Cost: 5,000gp
Prerequisites: You must be a Rogue of at least level 5.
Advantage: You gain a +2 to Thievery checks.
Power (Encounter): Gain a +2 to Stealth checks until the end of your next turn.
Power (Daily): Free action. Gain a +20 to Thievery checks until the end of your next turn.

Merchants' Guild
Traders from around the kingdom join together in the exclusive Merchants' Guild to teach each other about this noble profession.
Entry Cost: 7,000gp
Prerequisites: You must be at least level 5.
Advantage: You gain a +2 to Diplomacy checks.
Power (Daily): Free action. You automatically get 50% off the value of one bought item. Alternatively, you persuade the buyer to purchase one item for 25% more than the market price.

Sailors' Guild
Veteran ocean travellers come together to trade stories and gain access to vessels. 
Entry Cost: 10,000gp
Prerequisites: You must be at least level 11.
Advantage: You gain +2 to any check related to sailing.
Power (Daily): Free action. When at a port, you gain access to a small 6 person vessel for free for 2d6 days.

3 slottable sigils {4e}

You know how it is. Sometimes you're not sure whether to get rid of your awesome current armour and go with this new hotness you've wrenched from a fireball-trapped chest; after all, it has some nice powers but it might not suit your character as well as the current one. Well, why not just take powers that you like from other armour and slap them on your own using slottable sigils? 

Sigils are usually carved into small stone tablets and applied to armour or weapons. Once slotted they're in there permanently unless a Sigil Removal ritual is performed (see below). Sigils augment your items in different ways, giving them new and interesting abilities and upping their resale value.

Sigil of Inferno
Level 8      Common
This sigil glows red in the shape of a roaring fire and feels hot to the touch.
Wondrous Item          1000gp

Requirement: You must apply to armour. Imbuing the armour with the sigil is permanent.
Property: You gain resist 5 to fire damage.

Sigil of Soul Reaping
Level 13+  Uncommon
Your weapon is encased in a swirling black mist where agonised faces melt in a out of existence. 
Wondrous Item
Lvl 13 +1   5,000gp
Lvl 18 +2   9,300gp
Lvl 23 +3   20,000gp
Lvl 28 +4   40,300gp

Requirement: You must apply to a weapon. Imbuing the weapon with the sigil is permanent
Property: Gain +2 Fortitude
Power (Daily-Necrotic): Minor action. Your weapon devours souls of dead enemies per plus. For each plus regain a healing surge.

Sigil of Frost
Level 10  Common
Your shield frosts over, freezing all who hit it.
Wondrous Item   3,000gp

Requirement: You must apply to a shield. Imbuing the shield with the sigil is permanent.
Property: Gain resist 5 cold damage.
Power (Daily-Cold): Immediate reaction. When an enemy attack against you misses, the enemy becomes immobilised (save ends).

Sigil Removal

Level 15   Component Cost: 700gp
Category: Arcane  Market Price: 1,400gp
Time: 5 minutes  Key Skill: Arcana

You remove a sigil from an item. The item loses all the sigil's properties and powers. If you have a stone tablet you may transfer the sigil to it, which returns the sigil to its original form.

Saturday 26 November 2011

Hardcore D&D items {4e}

I can't believe I'm so late to the game. There's something that's been floating in my periphery for some time now and it's only just recently occurred to me to check it out. What the hell am I talking about? Well, Fourthcore, of course.

Most of you reading this will have more than likely heard of Fourthcore, the 'revamp'of 4e that ups the challenge of the game in true AD&D form. Puzzles are frequent, traps deadly and encounters sophisticated. Personally, I fell in love with it as soon I started reading Save Versus Death.

One of the aspects of Fourthcore that really inspired me was the items. Gone are the days of +1 Magic Bow (yawn), as we now live in the Fourthcore age, a time when items have multiple powers that now only change the encounter, but can change the course of a narrative as well. In my eyes, these items are far more interesting than one that just allows you to regain a healing surge, or lets you teleport 5 squares. So, using that inspiration, I've had a go at creating a few of my own items in this style.

Mask of the Eight Moons
Level 17 Rare
This ornate bone mask is imbued with the magic of the Eight Moons of Anthara, allowing the wearer to see their opponent's strengths and weaknesses and use them to her advantage.

Item Slot: Head          30,000gp
Property: You know the immunities and vulnerabilities of any creature within line of sight.
Power (Daily - Psychic): Minor Action. All damage you deal this encounter is the damage type equivalent to the vulnerabilities of every enemy in the encounter. For 1d4 hours after the encounter you gain these vulnerabilities.

Tome of Demon Pact
Level 15 Rare
The pages within this flesh-bound book whisper of a demonic entity that can be summoned into battle.

Wondrous Item        19,000gp
Power (Daily-Arcane): Standard Action. You make a summoning pact with a demon creature (party level + 5) who appears in an adjacent square. The demon fights for you and is considered an ally in battle. At the end of the encounter any PC that was bloodied in the encounter must make a saving throw. If failed, the demon will return to claim their soul in 1d6 weeks, killing the PC.

Potion of Necrotic Sight
Level 8+ Uncommon
The hollowed out bone vial contains a swirling green liquid that gives the power to sense the presence of undead creatures.


Lvl 8   +1 120gp
Lvl 13 +2 390gp
Lvl 18 +3 1,600gp
Lvl 23 +4 3,200gp
Power (Consumable): Minor Action. You can see any creatures with the undead keyword within 10 squares per plus. When not in line of sight, the creatures appear as green silhouettes of their size and shape.

Pendant of Bear Form
Level 14 Rare
The golden pendant is carved with the figure of a Dire Bear. A low hum emits from the carving. 

Item Slot: Neck     30,000gp
Power (Daily): Minor Action. You become a Dire Bear until the end of your next turn. You may not use any powers. Gain Bear Rage (Aura 2) - Any enemy within the aura takes 2d10 + 5 damage and is knocked prone. Once you have regained your normal form you must eat at least 1lb of meat per hour for 1d4 hours. If you miss one hour or more then you are considered an enemy in combat for 1d4 days.

Sunday 20 November 2011

Some cool armour for T&T {Items}

Darkwarp Helm
This steel helm is imbued with an ancient magic that allows the wearer to teleport to any location they have previously been to. 
Worth: 9000 gold pieces
Hits: 3
Wiz cost: 10
Effect: If the wearer spends 10 wiz, they may teleport to any location they have visited in the last year.

Trollskin Bracers
These bracers were expertly crafted from the hide of Hill Trolls.
Worth: 1000 gold pieces
Hits: 3 per bracer

Frostbite Jerkin
Enchanted by the Ice Wizards of the Ka'Zzagh Mountains, this jerkin has the power to freeze those who attack its wearer.
Worth: 2000 gold pieces
Hits: 5
Effect: If attacked in melee, there is a 2/6 chance the attacker will freeze for 1d6 rounds. When frozen, the attacker cannot make any actions.

Lighteningblast Gloves
Imbued with the power of lightening by the God-wizard Grundora
Worth: 800 gold pieces
Hits: 2 per glove
Effect: When in hand-to-hand combat, the wearer has a 5/6 chance to electrocute the opponent, doing an extra 1d6 CON damage and paralyzing them for one round. When paralyzed, the target cannot make any actions.

4 ways to play roleplaying games on the cheap {Frugal RPGs}

These are hard times we're living through and many of us are having to watch the pennies,so I thought I'd list a few ways that you can save money but still have all that lovely gaming fun we all crave.

1. Quick start rules

Never underestimate the humble quick start rules for a system. There are tonnes of them out there and they're all free. If you're looking for a one-shot or even a few sessions, or you don't quite want to commit to a game without trying it first, then quick starts are for you. From Shadowrun to Vampire to Dungeons and Dragons, most creators will have some form of quick start rules to serve as a bare-bones tutorial to new players.

2. Free independent RPGs

There are plenty of full systems out there that you can get your nerdy paws on for absolutely gratis. In fact, I already listed a top 10 free RPGs earlier in the year, so check it out. There's likely something there for everyone's tastes.

Image source:
3. Play at your local gaming store 

Often gaming stores run their own campaigns or allow you to set up your own game to play. Usually this costs  a small fee since, well, they're stores after all, but these games are a great way to play on the cheap and meet some new friends along the way.

4. Create your own

You have to be really creative with this one, but if you have the know-how you can create your own system, simple of complex, and run it with your friends. The best part of this is that you make absolutely everything, so  you won't have to buy pointless splatbooks and such. Of course, this may take some time and a hell of a lot of creativity, so good luck!

Monday 14 November 2011

Setting or no setting? {RPGs}

Up until recently I've been a big fan of setting-less games, such as Dungeons and Dragons and Tunnels and Trolls. I know there's a bunch of campaign books for the former and a loose historical and geographical setting for the latter, but by default both of these games are bare bones systems that you can weave your own world around. I love the creativity inherent in these games, allowing you to come up with whatever world you want, its societies, history and notable people.

The trouble is, while I think I'm quite creative, there's only so much I can come up with. Sure, I can constantly build on the mythology of my setting as the campaign continues, but things can get a little uneven and continuity can get a little screwed up. If you have a campaign world all packaged up for you with a nice nerdy bow on top then at least there's consistency in your game.

My sudden change of heart came from reading Shadowrun 4th Edition, which I picked up the other day. I drank up the setting like a cool cola on a hot day and loved every part of it. As I read I was constantly coming up with ideas for adventures, from the exclusive VR clubs you have to hack into to thwarting gangs of astral ninjas. Maybe it says more about Shadowrun as a game than it dos about general settings, but it definitely made me want to write a full on setting for Tunnels & Trolls.

So what do you guys like? Setting or no setting?

Sunday 6 November 2011

5 tips to make you a better GM {GMs}

It's tough being a GM. You're expected to do a whole bunch of downright scary things each time you play, including adjudicating rules, keeping the flow of the game and building a world and all characters therein. But like any skill, game mastering can be improved with practise. Here are 5 ways to help you become a better GM:

Image source: Marvel Comics
1. Be flexible with your campaign

As a GM, you have a vision as to how you see the campaign progressing and sometimes it can be difficult to stray from that foreseen ending. The thing is, the players usually have no idea where the adventure will eventually take them (unless it's very 'by the numbers') and may have different ideas. You have to remember that players want free will in their games, so you must accommodate. If instead of going straight for the quest they want to explore a nearby town for new leads or perhaps more quest opportunities, let them. You can't be prepared for every eventuality so you can either improvise if you're good at that, or make a list of places in your world and notable NPCs to make a skeleton that you can flesh out if the players choose to go astray.

2. Take a notebook everywhere

GM's have to be creative and sometimes a great idea pops into your head but later, when it comes to actually putting pen to paper, you've completely forgotten what the fantastic idea was. Therefore, always carry a pen and notepad around with you so you can jot down your ideas. Inspiration for adventures, NPCs or events within your game can come from anywhere, so you must be prepared. This way, you will always have a new idea for your campaign.

3. Recognise when you're wrong

 You may play a bunch of different games and so have to learn a hell of a lot of rules. Often we can't remember all the little details and we make a mistake, which is pointed out by the group or a player who does remember the rule. Just because you don't know or don't remember doesn't mean they are wrong. There's nothing worse than a game devolving into an argument when the GM is trying to save face, so recognise when you're wrong or don't know something.

Image source: Merinid-de (Deviant art)
4. Accommodate for different types of players 

Very rarely does every member of a group enjoy the same aspects of an RPG. Some will prefer combat over social interaction, others will relish the thought of trying to get a king onto their side of a war and still others will be in their element with puzzles. It's important that you gauge what each of your players likes and make ample room for their preferences in your game. If you have a group who loves combat, then make a combat-heavy game, but if one person in the group gets bored in a fight, include other things they can do during combat, such as negotiate with a bad guy or research the totem for any source of magic that could sway the tide of battle. This way, nobody will get bored when it comes to combat.

5. Read lots of roleplaying blogs

There is a bazillion blogs out there about roleplaying and most of them offer really good advice on GMing. Read as much as possible, see how others GM their games and find your preferred style. Note GM horror stories and accomplishments so you have avoid the same mistakes and emulate the same successes in your own game. Reading blogs will definitely help you grow as a GM. If you need help finding any, here's a pretty good place to start.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

It Came from Beyond the Stars! submitted {T&T}

Phew! I've just submitted my first Trollish Delver Games T&T adventure to the publisher. It's called It Came from Beyond the Stars and it's designed to be played in one evening session.

The story is that a strange object has fallen out of the sky into a forbidden part of the Kingdom where the urooks make their home. Sensing that the object may be worth something, the King orders a group of guards to go and retrieve the object from the forbidden Greyshades. When they don't return, the King puts an advert out for delvers to go and find out what happened to the guards and to fulfil their initial mission.

What happened to the guards? Why are the animals near the impact crater acting strangely?

Monday 31 October 2011

De Profundis - an overview {Cthulhu}

Right, it's no secret that I love H.P Lovecraft and the Cthulhu mythos, so when I came across Cubicle 7's De Profundis at my local game store I knew I had to buy it. Not only do I like collecting Lovecraftiana, I was also incredibly intrigued by the premise of the game.

In essence, this is a game of letter writing. Yes, that thing we used to do before email. It forces you to actually become a character in a Lovecraftian story, writing to other players in order to uncover some sort of mystery. While the rules are badly laid out and written in needlessly convoluted prose, when you get to the nuts and bolts it's a hugely immersive experience.

You have the option of setting the story in the 20s or present day. You're also encouraged to send parcels, photos and journals as props in order to create an authentic atmosphere. Another aspect that attracted me to the game was that it's possible to play it solo. You can create a journal and use dice and tables as well as logical questions in order to progress the story.

A really interesting part of the game is that it's part LARP. The author encourages you to go out and experience things instead of just sitting and writing whatever comes to your head. If you want to go and explore a dark ruin, actually go and do it - experience it. This will allow for a much better account in your writing - or so it's claimed.

I really want to get a game of De Profundis going. I've signed up to the official Yahoo Group, but it doesn't look like there's a whole lot of activity on there. I have posted a scenario idea to see if there are any takers, but I figure I'll open it up to you guys too, so let me know if you fancy playing and we can sort something out. Here it is:

The Horror in the Trenches

Convention: Weird Fiction/ Historical

Time and Place: Europe 1918 and 1920-1921

Plot: The Great War seems like a horrific nightmare for a group of ex-soldiers who fought in it, but the horror is only just rising to the surface. One member of the group receives a letter and a journal from the wife of his friend Jonathan Cook, a friend who served in the same platoon and has suddenly died. While the wife does not know the significance of Jonathan's journal, he had always told her that if something happened to it, he was to send it on to his friend. 

The journal contains odd entries regarding the war, especially in 1918 during the battle of Amiens. Jonathan makes suggestions that high ranking officers were up to something and he had recorded evidence of it in his journal - particularly of the strange markings he found around the trenches and the blasphemous artefacts he came across after much prying. 

The game will seek to uncover what exactly Jonathan found in the trenches and how he came to die so suddenly at the age of 28. His journal from 1918 will be referenced in letters by his friend, who will seek help from the men he served with in the war. Preferably the ex-soldiers will consist of a journalist and academic researchers - but occupations can be fairly loose. 

I wouldn't mind taking on the mantle of the friend who receives the journal from Jonathan. Just let me know if you're interested because I'm looking to get this kicked off soon. 

Thursday 27 October 2011

The Whisperer in Darkness at Leeds International Film Festival {Lovecraft}

It's coming up to that time of year again when my home-town becomes a buzzing hive of celluloid activity with the Leeds International Film Festival. 

In 2006 the HP Lovecraft Historical Society screened their debut feature film The Call of Cthulhu and this time they're back with their 'talkie' adaptation of The Whisperer in Darkness, which will be screening in the Hyde Park Picture House on 14th November. I'm totally hauling my arse over there.

Check out the trailer.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Here, have some random horrors {T&T}

Shrieking Zombie
MR 26
Special: 1/1
Abilities: Cry from the Crypt - If the Shrieking Zombie wins combat the targets must make a L2-SR on LK or take 1d6 INT damage.
Stats: ST 14, INT 2, CHA 1, DEX 5, WIZ 9, SPD 4, CON 26
Treasure:  1d6 gold pieces

Shadow Vampire
MR 38
Special: 1/1
Abilities: Blood Drain - If the Shadow Vampire wins combat, the targets must make a L3-SR on ST or have their ST and CON reduced by 1d6.
Stats: ST 21, INT 16, CHA 17, DEX 11, WIZ 10, SPD 9, CON 38
Treasure: 3d6 gold pieces

Hulking Ghoul
MR 45
Special: 2/1
Abilities: Head Crusher - If the Hulking Ghoul wins combat, the targets must make a L4-SR on ST or take 2d6 CON damage and reduce their combat adds by half next round.
Stats: ST 32, INT 8, CHA 4, DEX 16, WIZ 7, SPD 15, CON 45
Treasure: 4d6 gold pieces, or 1d6 gems worth 10gp each

Sunday 23 October 2011

Let's Play: House of Hell {Fighting Fantasy}

It's almost Halloween and to celebrate this most chilling of days all week I'm going to be writing about spooky stuff. So let's kick off Halloween Week on Trollish Delver with House of Hell.

Steve Jackson released House of Hell in 1984 as the first modern horror addition to the Fighting Fantasy series. Rather than starting out as a semi-proficient warrior with weapons and armour, your character is a regular schmoe with nothing. Also, you have to avoid being frightened to death by trying not to rack up a fear score as high as your fear attribute. It's sort of a sanity mechanic similar to The Call of Cthulhu but much simpler.

At the start of the book you're driving through torrential rain while pondering whether the sinister old man who gave you directions actually told you the right way to go. Suddenly a figure appears in the road and you veer the car into a ditch, Fearing you just gave someone the old Audi smackdown, you rush out to find there's no body. However, you remember the face of the figure - the face of the old man who gave you directions. What's even more of a buggeration is that your car won't start. You see a bedroom light flick on in and old house and decide to go there to get help. Good move.

So let's roll up my character:

Joshua Delaney
Skill: 8
Stamina: 19
Luck:  12
Fear: 7

Ah crap. I rolled a 1 for fear, making this guy a complete chicken. Good job he's lucky though.

Ok, so I make my way to the door. I'm pretty concerned about waking anyone up since it's 5 minutes to midnight and I have the option of rapping on the door, ringing a bell or checking out the light at the left side of the house. The bell will probably wake everyone up and I don't really want to be peeking into someone's room, so I'll go for the rapping.

Some gaunt dude in old-timey attire answers. I ask if I can go in and he obliges, saying that his master has been expecting me. Creepy. Maybe he saw me crash into the ditch. I hope they have pop-tarts in there. While Jeeves is off to get his master, I decide to check out some interesting paintings on the wall. Ah, great - their eyes move. He's looking at a door as if he wants me to open in. Um, no thanks mate - I'll just stay put for the time being.

After a while, the master, Lord Kelnor comes downstairs and introduces himself. He's rocking the High Hefner look so I hope there are some playmates around. Maybe they can warm me up, nudge nudge, wink wink. He says he'll help me and sends Franklins, the butler, to get the cook to make me some grub. He then comes back with a brandy each. I decide not to drink it because, y'know, I could be driving later, but Kelnor doesn't seem happy about how nervous I seem. He smiles at me in an eerie way and BOOM, that's 1 fear point on my tally.

FEAR COUNT: 1 - Unnerved

Funny, I thought that PAINTINGS WHOSE EYES MOVED would scare me more than a smirk, but hey - I'm a chicken. I'm taken into a luxurious dining room and offered either red or white wine. Red is always blood, so let's go for white. Brandy and wine within like 5 minutes of each other? I bet in half an hour we'll be doing jager shots. My wine arrives, I drink it...and I'm out cold. Yup, the bastard drugged my wine with asprin.

I wake up in an empty room, bound at my hands and feet. Dammit, I've seen Hostel and I know what comes next. I guess I'm not going to see any playmates after all. I decide to break a window and use the shards to cut my bonds. After a positive Luck test I manage to cut myself free.

LUCK  - 11

Fortunately the door's open and I head out onto the landing. Here's where I get annoyed, because I'm faced with a 'left or right' situation. I hate these because my choice is entirely random. I grumble and go left along the landing where there are 2 doors - one with the name Balthus. Wait - wasn't Bathus an artist who essentially painted porn? I guess it's someone's room and I don't fancy creeping into it. He might be an axe murderer, or worse: a politician. I go for the unmarked door which opens into a hall that ends in a window. There's another door here that reads Diabolus. Well, 'Diabolus in Musica' was a pretty poor Slayer album, so I'll give that door a miss. Also Balthus Dire from Citadel of Chaos wasn't exactly a nice chap. However, that window may be a way of escape! Ah crap, it's heavily barred - but what's this? A message in condensation reading "Mordana in Abaddon". That could be useful  apparently - so I must remember to turn to paragraph 88 when the time comes. of course, Abaddon means 'place of destruction', so maybe I have to find Mordana in a place of destruction. Fun.

I leave the hall and go downstairs. I get the choice of left door, right door or front door. I'm going to try front door. I open it and AH CHRIST! There's a bloody goat man with blood dripping from his mouth here.

FEAR COUNT 4 - Cacking my pants

I slam the door and decide to try another one. I choose left and enter a drawing room where I get to choose between exploring the room, leaving through another door or getting wasted on brandy. I decide to look at the ornaments and AHA! a dagger that gives me a +2 to SKILL rolls.

EQUIPMENT - a groovy dagger

I leave the room and enter a study. There's a piece of paper on the desk with writing appearing on it "Find Shekou". Scary stuff.

FEAR COUNT: 5 - laughing madly

I decide to look over the books to see if there's anything that might be able to help me. Oooh, a book aobut hypnotism - sweet. Except the cover has some weird eye on it and...oh great, I'm hearing agonising screams and seeing hideous things in my mind.

FEAR COUNT: 7 - Rip my own eyes out

Well that's it, I've been frightened to death. I didn't spend a long time in the house and didn't get to fight anything. Damn my rubbish FEAR result. Anyway, that was House of Hell - a spooky adventure that tries its best to get you drunk.

Saturday 22 October 2011

Why Dungeons and Dragons was the BEST movie ever {Movies}

In 2000, a film emerged that would change the movie landscape forever. The film was so beyond its time, so well-acted and had such an intricate plot, I'm quite comfortable in calling it the greatest film of all time. What is this monumental celluloid achievement?

Dungeons and Dragons, my friends.

I know what you're thinking: Scott, you're on acid. Maybe, maybe not. However I'm here to defend this masterpiece to the death. So let's get started.

The main protagonist is Ridley Freeborn, played by Justin Whalin, well known for popular movie Serial Mom. He is a thief and along with his best friend Snails, decide to break into the magic school to steal whatever they can get their hands on. Right off the bat we get a likeable sidekick in the form of Snails, whose charm shines through the entire movie. There they meet a beautiful librarian mage called Marina and get into a heated but comical exchange. The dialogue is as sharp as any Kevin Smith film and it just goes to show that fantasy can be oscar material. Of course, the three must make a quick escape when Damodar,  the henchman
of main antagonist Profian, played by Jeremy Irons, comes in and tries to get a wizard to tell him where a map with the location of a magic artefact is. The artefact in question is a red rod that can control red dragons - which is an interesting and well thought out plot device.

Irons plays a subtle and intelligent villain

Irons is an incredible villain and plays Profian with subtlety and panache. He can portray an emotion with the tiniest facial expression and his annunciation is impeccable. Bruce Payne as Damodar is amazing too, with his intimidating demeanour. Some people were confused by his blue lipstick, but it's obviously supposed to represent coldness.

Ridley and Marina get sucked into the magical map and when they emerge they realise they must work together to find the Eye of the Dragon, a ruby that opens the tomb where the red sceptre is kept. The special effects are stunning, especially when the two are being sucked into the map. Ridley has to then navigate a maze in a den of thieves, which is full of traditional D&D traps.

"A special effects extravaganza"

Marina is captured by Damodar and tortured in a grotesque and gritty scene. Ridley and Snails meet an elf called Norda who is loyal to the good Empress Savina (Thora Birch). Thora makes a stunning performance and at one point she made me shed a tear.

A harrowing interrogation scene
Then comes an intense scene where Ridley and Snails break Marina out of her prison. SPOILER ALERT: Snails is callously murdered by Damodar in one of the most emotionally intense death scenes I have seen in any film. I never cry at films but by now I was bawling my eyes out, curled up on the floor and reaching towards the TV in desperation. Snails was gone and I couldn't take it.

I still weep to this day
Ridley and Marina fall in love in a heart warming scene before finding the red sceptre but having it stolen by Damodar. They chase him to the Empress's castle where Profion uses the sceptre to summon an army of dragons to do his bidding. What follows is perhaps the best battle in any film, where dragons fly around the skyscape and Ridley and Profion battle in the castle. My heart was pounding so hard and I was phyiscally rooting to Ridley to take Profion down. Eventually SPOILER ALERT a gold dragon eats Profion and the world becomes peaceful once more.

Memorable characters
I won't give away the ending, but it does leave it open to my favourite character, Snails, to stay alive. I really hope they make another movie where Snails is the main character. He may be the best actor of our generation.

In summary, Dungeons and Dragons was a triumph of film-making and belongs in the same category as classic such as Casablanca and The Godfather. Incredible acting, special effects and script. You MUST see this film.

3 common misconceptions about RPG gamers {Community}

There are few geekier past-times than getting together with some buddies and imagining you're a face-crushing barbarian called Konanz. But the hobby has always had negative connotations in the mainstream, although it's becoming a little easier to be a nerd nowadays. At least we're no longer called devil-worshippers (I worship the great Cthulhu) by a hefty number of nitwits. Misconceptions are still rife though and I want to dive face-first into them.

1. Gamers have no social life

This one is probably the most common and possibly the most absurd. Think of more mainstream hobbies such as crafts and scrapbooking. There are so many hobbies that are solitary but aren't picked on the same way gaming is. Roleplaying games are social games. You get together with a group of friends and spend a good 3-6 hours talking to each other. In fact, RPGs are a great tool to build social skills for the more socially awkward. Besides, we have huge meetings with hundreds and hundreds of like-minded individuals called conventions. Try telling me that's not social.

2. Gamers can't get women/men

This one is ridiculous. I don't know of a single roleplayer who isn't currently in a relationship or hasn't had a bunch in the past. In fact, most gamers who add me to Google Plus are married. This misconception is repeated time and again in TV and film - somehow we can't cope around the opposite (or same) sex and all we can talk about is our level 20 elven druid. Also the typical representation of a geek is usually fat and ugly, and while I don't think of myself as handsome, I definitely wouldn't call myself ugly and I'm certainly not fat.

3. Gaming is their life

How many times have you seen a TV show or film where the token geek is wearing a cape (like all GMs, of course) and relates everything back to Dungeons and Dragons? Yeah, pretty much all the time. Kids, this just doesn't happen. Like all hobbies, we take part in our spare time. Sure, gaming is more absorbing than many other past times - hence why so may of us write about it and get involved more professionally, but we won't just randomly bring it up in conversation.

I think in the past few years us self-certified geeks have gained a little bit more respect, mostly due to mainstream shows like The Big Bang Theory and films like Role Models, which, although they have stereotypes, they also show that being a gamer is pretty cool.