Saturday, 29 January 2011

All filler, no killer

Unfortunately gremlins have got into my laptop and killed it, so posts will be few while I get it sorted.

Meanwhile, why don't you check out Ken St. Andre's new Tunnels and Trolls solo adventure, Deep Delving?

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

My sincere condolences to Tom Vasel and family

I've just heard the terrible news at Troll in the Corner that Tom Vasel's son, Jack, has died.

Tom is the enthusiastic and charming face of The Dice Tower whose videos I have watched for years.

My thoughts go out to the family in this dark time. It's something that none of us want to ever have to comprehend.

The good folks over at Board Game Geek have set up a charity auction to held the family pay the medical bills. Please go and check out the great stuff that's up for sale and get bidding.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Have I been too hard on 4e?

Last Thursday my group finally got back to playing our D&D 4e campaign after a brief break due to the holidays. Since I had a lot of time to plan the sessions, I've been writing as in-depth an adventure as possible, even going so far as to emulate the format that published adventures are written in. But I came across a realisation. The structure of 4e adventures are actually really good. Information is presented in an easy-to-digest way most of the time, making it easy to find what you're looking for.

I've begun writing adventures as if they were published modules, even though all the adventures are interlinked. I've started doing a set of three encounters for each 'module', which can vary from skill challenge to combat encounter.

Anyway, I ran the first game of 2011 last week and it went really well. The gripes I had previously were still there, but barely. It pleased me to no end that my players explored the city they travelled to, interacting with NPCs and taking care in what they said and did (harsh legal system). There must have been an hour of pure roleplaying in that game before any combat took place.

Combat is something I've been playing around with too. Previously I talked about how these tactical encounters became hour long wargames where ultimately the PCs would triumph. However, I'm now, like I'm sure many people do, mixing things up in encounters. For instance, the encounter the session ended with saw the players fighting three Cycops and a Winterclaw Owlbear on a moonlit moor. This in itself could have been boring with no effort, but I think combat really shines when you start to add new elements to it. For example, I made it low-light, since the moon was the only light source, which meant the players had to use different tactics that they're used to. I added the usual difficult terrain and cover, but I also created a bunch of squares scattered around that were full of marsh midges. Anyone attacking in a marsh midges square suffered a -2 penalty to attack due to them being distracted by millions of tiny insects flying around them. It was simple, but effective.

So yes, I think I have been a bit too hard on 4e. I still think that it has its flaws, but I think its down to the DM and players to make the game work. There is clearly scope for as much roleplay as ever before, even if it's handled differently. Combat is clearly the focal point of the show, so why not embrace that? Encounters should be exciting and different each time.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Cthulhu Mythic: session one

As I said last week, I've begun a solitaire Call of Cthulhu adventure because I'm a sad, sad loner. I'm using the fabulous Mythic GM engine that does most of the work of the GM, along with the Call of Cthulhu 5th edition ruleset.

My first session lasted around an hour I reckon and it's actually turning out quite nicely. However, I am finding that an investigative game is a bit fiddly to play, since the aim is to unveil stuff as you go on, but since I'm playing on my own it's difficult not to know what's going to happen and who the big bad is.

In a nutshell, here's what happened in my first game. My character, Harold Greengrove, a physics professor in the Miskatonic University (where else?) grew concerned that his assistant, Robert Tapert, had not returned to work in three days and won't answer his calls. Harold went to see Robert at his apartment and found the man a nervous, pale wreck. Apparently he had witnessed a cult of some sort summoning a creature as he was walking through the park. Harold decided to investigate but the park was swarming with police, who were there because of a seemingly unrelated incident, but they weren't forthcoming about it. Harold decided he would come back later that night. Robert appeared at Harold's door that night, appearing to have mostly got over the fright he had and asked if he could help Harold, if only to settle his mind. They set out into the park at midnight but found nothing except a burnt out fire.
The day after Harold went to the University library to check the newspaper records of anything suspicious going on in the park. He only found a story about the police in the park, but there was no other information. After asking around students and staff to see if they saw anything in the park, an art student called Emily Harris had witnessed the same thing and had drew a picture of it. Harold noticed the cultists' robes had symbols on them, so he spent the day researching to find out what they meat. He found that it was the symbol of Yig, a snake-like god that is said to communicate with snakes, sending them after anyone who he sees as a threat to his cause.

To be continued...

Thursday, 20 January 2011

My top 10 RPGs of all time

Clearly I'm running low on inspiration, but I wanted to do a post and dammit I'm going to. I've been playing roleplaying games for the best part of 10 years, but much more regularly in the last year. I've definitely not played anywhere near as many as a lot of you guys have, and I'm looking to remedy that. However, I just wanted to post my top 10 RPGs to show you what my tastes are and perhaps you could give me some reccomendations.

10.Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition

9. Icons

8. Tales from the Wood

7. Risus

6. 3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars

5. Dungeons and Dragons 4e Gamma World

4. Swords and Wizardry

3. Barbarians of Lemuria

2. Call of Cthulhu

1. Tunnels and Trolls 5th edition

Now, I have to qualify these and say that this is from both a player and GM perspective. I adore GMing Call of Cthulhu, but to be honest I haven't played it much as a character.

Minis for Song of Blades and Heroes

I'm awaiting a package today. Check out these babies that I ordered for Song of Blades and Heroes from

This is a Dwarf Skirmish Pack that gives you 20 Dwarves in all different poses for a mere £6.00. Seriously, that's a bargain. I think I'll also start using these 15mm minis in my RPGs, but I'll have to see how they look on the battlemat first.

I also bought a pack of 10 Human Characters, all in different poses. I figure this lot should give me enough to get a good game going. These were only £3.50.

I've also got my eye on some more minis to boost my warband.

You can't go wrong with a couple of ogres in your army. These guys are from the Hordes of Things range, as is this awesome Wyvern:

Yeah, I'm going to have a lot of painting to do.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Song of Blades and Heroes

I want to thank the ever-awesome Bard over at The Clash of Spear on Shield for leading me to a most excellent new game for me and the guys to indulge in. Bard posts up battle reports from a fantasy miniatures skirmish game called Song of Blades and Heroes along with some great photos of the action. I've been looking to return to wargaming but I don't want to spend bazillions of dubloons on minis, but this game, having at max around 10 figs per side, makes life much easier in the wallet department while offering simple yet deep gameplay.

I downloaded the rules yesterday and read through them and was thoroughly impressed. I found a great site that sells really cheap but good quality 15mm minis and ordered a band of 10 humans for £3.50 plus postage.

Ganesha Games have really expanded the game with various books that add new twists to the formula. The one that caught my eye was Song of Drums and Shakos, a set of Napoleonic rules for the game. Since I have quite a few Napoleonic miniatures (British Infantry from Perry Miniatures) I decided to purchase this expansion too.

In future I'll be posting up battle reports and tid-bits on the game, but right now I want to thank Bard for leading me to a great new game.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Call of Cthulhu - adventuring alone

Call of Cthulhu is one of the best roleplaying systems I've ever played. I occasionally get to play it with the guys when we're not doing D&D but I'd love to play more.

Since the system is pretty simple, I had an idea. I'm going to run a short campaign by myself with the Mythic GM emulator when I get some spare time. I'm not sure it would still have the tension of the original game, but I'm sure it will scratch the Cthulhu itch.

I've just rolled up my character, Harold Greengrove, a Physicist working at the Miskatonic University. He's a level-headed individual whose social skills leave something to be desired. Although he can function in social situations, he never really gets out much, prefering staying in the university or at home researching and working on his latest paper on the arrangement of electrons in atoms.

I figure the beginning premise of the campaign should be that his lab assistant hasn't reported into work for three days and Harold hasn't been able to get hold of him/her. This will lead to some horrors etc that will unfold as Mythic weaves its web.

T&T Mounts

The T&T 7.x edition rules set include 5 riding animals for purchase: mule, ox, pony, riding horse and war horse. However, there are no rules on how these mounts are used in the game, including riding speed and mounted combat. I've created some house rules for mounts below and I've included a few more types for more varied travelling. Bear in mind I'm not an equestrian expert on anything, so this is a rough stab.

Speed: 7mph
Carrying weight: up to 300lbs
MR: 8 (1d6+4)

Speed: 5mph
Carrying weight: up to 600lbs
MR: 14 (2d6+7)

Speed: 9mph
Carrying weight: up to 140lbs
MR: 6 (1d6+3)

Riding Horse
Speed: 15mph
Carrying weight: up to 200lbs
MR: 12 (2d6+6)

War horse
Speed: 12mph
Carrying weight: up to 300lbs
MR: 18 (2d6+9)

Giant Eagle

Speed: 30mph (flying)
Carrying weight: up to 400lbs
MR: 24 (3d6+12)

Lleonia Sabercat
Speed: 24mph
Carrying weight: up to 200lbs
MR: 32 (4d6+16)

Bust some clouds in first New Khazan adventure

Last year the good folk at Peryton Publishing released New Khazan, a sci-fi setting for Tunnels and Trolls written by the excellent Tom K Loney.

The first published adventure for New Khazan, Cloudbusting, was released yesterday on Drive-thru RPG, being the first in a series of adventures that form the Quest for the Trollstar campaign.

This is the description on Drive-thru RPG:

A signal from the ancient homeworld of all the species of the 9,000 Worlds? It simply cannot be. But there, in front of your eyes, on the eye-corder is Kharrrghish script. Could this be the key to finding the mysterious and ancient Trollstar?

Peryton Publishing also publish the quarterly Tunnels and Trolls magazine Elder Tunnels and created the Peryton Fantasy Roleplaying Game.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

T&T Con date announced

Rick Loomis has just announced on Twitter that the annual T&T Con will be held on the 14-16th July.

I'm sure there will be more news to come in the near future.

A bunch of T&T items

Pruning Shears of the Damned

Str/Dex Req: 10/8
Dice: 2+6
Magical Effect: If a player prunes a hedge (maximum 7ft tall) they can opt to shape it into a rough humanoid, which comes alive as a Demonic Hedge Monster of MR10 that fights with you. The Demonic Hedge Monster will shrivel up and die after three hours.
Description: It is said that the gardner of the leader of the 17th circle of the hell realms used these pruning shears to create terrifying hedge shapes.

Potion of Oakwood Skin

Effect: Whoever drinks this potion has his or her skin instantly covered in a magical bark. This effect grants them 10 hit armour (no doubles for warriors) but reduces DEX by 3. This effect lasts 12 hours.

Revelation Spectacles

Magical Effect: Revelation Spectacles allow the wearer to see hidden doors in their environment. The wearer sees the world in a green tint and secret doors show up as orange.

Ye Launcher of Rockettes

STR/DEX Req: 40/18
Dice: 25+70
Description: This heavy 4ft gunne fires a single rockette from its rockette hole.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

WotC unloads financial burdens

It's all over the blogosphere. Wizards of the Coast announced in their latest Ampersand a bunch of cancellations and changes in their product line and opinions are flying everywhere.

First off, their pre-painted miniatures line has been thrown out of the window. I don't own a whole lot of their plastic, horrifically painted minis (I actually still use tokens from the original 3rd edition starter set), but I avoided them mostly because of the price, and I imagine this was a factor in their cancellation. £11.99 is a mighty price to pay for a handful of plastic figs and some bits of card. This news didn't surprise me at all.

What surprised me was their cancellations of three books: Class Compendium: Heroes of Sword and Spell, Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium, and Hero Builder’s Handbook. Clearly there's trouble a-brewin' in the Wizards offices.

It was also announced that Dungeon and Dragon would ceased to be released as compiled PDFs, as data shows that more people read articles individually. I sure do. But there has been a bit of aggrivation about this decision as people are seeing it as the death of the magazines. I disagree. First of all, the magazines died when they were discontinued in print. I don't mean the digital variations aren't magazines, but they're a different beast altogether. Where as once these flagship RPG periodicals were dripping with character, now they feel shallow and unimaginitive. However, we are progressing into a digital age where soon most treeware will become a thing of the past, instead put behind a paywall and viewed online. As part of this movement, the definition of what constitutes a magazine will also change. Now, a magazine doesn't have to be collected together in a single format like a PDF because online there is little need to do this unless for viewing offline. Wizards will soon just be putting up the articles with no compilation. The monthly model will cease to be because it's not needed. I'm ok with this. The web is dynamic and we need to learn to adapt.

The final bit of bad news came when Wizards decided that Heroes of Shadow should be pushed back to April from March and released as hardback instead of the intended softcover digest size a la Essentials. This, of course, will increase the RRP of the book. Although this irks me, Wizards is a business and it needs to make a profit. I know we sometimes like to think so, but this company isn't looking out for our best interests, it's out for money. If Wizards is going down the pan then this could be a sign of the endtimes. We'll have to wait and see.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Back into Magic: The Gathering

I've had a lot of rescheduling to do this week for a bunch of reasons, but tonight was supposed to be the first D&D game of 2011. Unfortunately my friend had to pull out to see his cousin's newborn, so the remaining group is going to play some Magic: The Gathering.

It's been quite a few months since I've played. Back in the summer I played quasi-competitively at the university but eventually found this to be too much of a money-sink to keep up with. Although I love the game, Wizards have got a nice little cash cow with Standard play (only using recent sets of cards).

Since most of my cards will become obsolete by the end of the year we thought it would be a good idea to get back into the game, but stay casual. We don't want to be spending insane amounts on cards to keep up, we just want to have fun. Some people I played against in the summer were far too competitive and it's clear that money, rather than deckbuilding skills, won their games for them.

So I'm getting back into MTG. I have boxes of cards from years and years ago when I began playing it as a teenager so now I'm not playing Standard I have massive options for deckbuilding. Also I can now buy tonnes of cheap cards online rather than brand new boosters instore.

I know this isn't anything to do with RPGs, so I'll make up for it with a question:

Would you play a Magic: The Gathering RPG?

Sunday, 9 January 2011

My first solo - Depths of the Devilmancer

I really didn't think I'd get it finished in a week, let alone a day, but I've just completed writing my first Tunnels & Trolls mini solo. It's called Depths of the Devilmancer and it's a lighthearted adventure for 7.5 (but can easily be converted) for warriors level 1-3.

The synopsis is that you are sailing to Galinor in search of treasure. You have heard that there is a cavern there that holds untold riches, and you want to get your grubby paws on them. Except, there's something evil afoot in these caverns. People from the local port have been going missing and it's been said there's a Devilmancer living in there. Devilmancers have the ability to communicate with the hell realms and summon demons and devils to do their bidding, as well as other horrors. There's a hefty bounty on the head of the Devilmancer and you think you have what it takes to kill it and rescue the captives. Be warned, however. Sinister traps and even worse foes await you in the belly of the world. It's unlikely that you'll be returning.

At 40 paragraphs and 12 pages it's a mini-solo, but I'm hoping people will get a kick out of it. Where else are you going to fight a Toadmatician or solve a rubick's cube to set a ghost free?

After it's been playtested by some friends in Trollhalla, I'll most likely be putting it up on Drive-Thru RPG. I hope you'll take it for a spin.

Recent trollish purchases

The great thing about T&T solos is that they don't take up that many pages, making them suitable for printing without using up much ink/paper. Although I do buy hardcopies of some books, the cheap prices of PDFs are very hard to resist. So here are some T&T books I bought in the past week:


Yes, it's sexy cover time. Naked Doom is a classic T&T adventure written by Ken St.Andre, who is notoriously mean with his solos. For instance, in Naked Doom you start the adventure stripped of everything except a loincloth. Based in the city of Khazan, you are sentenced by the authorities to run the Royal Khazan Gauntlet of Criminal Retribution and Rehabilitation, which are a series of underground catacombs. I have yet to play this one, but I'll be putting a review up when I get round to it.

Purchase Naked Doom PDF


Another from the classic T&T era, written by G. Arthur Rahman Sea of Mystery is to my knowledge the first sea-faring T&T adventure.

Here's the copied synopsis because I'm lazy:

When you were small, your elders warned you that the Sea witches would come and take you away if you were bad. As you grew older, you heard a thousand different voices curse the pirates and slavers of the Sea. Your fellows told scary tales of carnivorous plants, the dreaded Mesgegra vampire-demon, and islands of beautiful amazons waiting for lost males.

On the coast below you sprawls one of the port cities on the Sea of Mystery. As you travelled here, you heard of the desert Yajna tribes and their raiding of the Iderian coast; of the Sardur raiders and their attacks upon Merchant ships; but this has not daunted you. You've always felt the lure of the ocean; now you can realize a dream. You shoulder your bag and march towards the take ship on the Sea of Mystery

Purchase Sea of Mystery PDF


This is the most recent solo by Ken St. Andre, released just before Christmas 2010. I actually recieved a copy as a gift from Ken, as did the other members of Trollhalla, but I wanted to buy it anyway in support of the game. This adventure does exactly what it says on the tin - it's a random rainbow maze. Your task is to enter the maze, fight the beasties and exit it, all the while keeping your beady eyes open for treasure. The curious thing about this solo is that, instead of numbered paragraphs they are all lettered. There's also a cool treasure generator that has all kinds of sweet items to find along your way. I'll be reviewing this one soon.

Purchase Khara Khang's Random Rainbow Maze PDF


I actually bought this as a hard copy and am eagerly awaiting it's arrival in the post. Penned by no other than Andy Holmes, The Hidden Halls of Ogul-Duhr is a mini-solo and sequel to Halls of the Gorgon, which pitted you against an evil gorgon who has taken over an abandoned Dwarf settlement. In Hidden Halls, you get to explore the Dwarvern caverns in more detail to try and find the riches within.

Purchase The Hidden Halls of Ogul-Duhr hard copy

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Review: Fabled Lands - The War-Torn Kingdom

As I mentioned before Christmas, I bought the first two books in the re-released Fabled Lands solitaire RPG series and I've just gotten around to reading the first. If you're following me on Twitter then you may have seen me tweeting about my exploits in Sokara, the land the book is set in, and probably realise that I was having a heap of unadulterated fun.

If you want to know a little more about the series then check out my previous post about it, since I'm getting straight into the review. Fabled Lands sets out to create a world that you can seamlessly explore to your heart's content and authors Dave Morris and Jamie Thompson have achieved this in spades.

The most striking thing is that there is only a story if you want there to be a story. The first book is set on a backdrop of war and civil unrest, with treachery and plotting around every corner. The land of Sokara has been taken over by a dictator called General Marlock who rules the land with an iron fist. The rightful king has been sent into exile and is now acquiring forces from other lands to take back the throne. If you want to take advantage of the situation then by all means the book lets you. Becoming a pawn for the authoritarian General will land you riches galore but honour and glory lies with taking sides with the rebellion led by the king. However, you could just as well ignore the war completely and go about your daily business, letting events happen around you.

You begin with a selection of character types to choose from, which have their own stat set. It's all very similar territory if you've played D&D, with a number of attributes that determine how well you perform in situations. Theivery will let you slip past guards and pick locks while scouting shows how well you can navigate and notice things. There are six attributes with values ranging from one to six, as well as defense and stamina. The character sheet is much more complex than say Fighting Fantasy, with boxes for titles, blessings, ressurections and even a ship manifest. Yet, it doesn't come off as complex when you're playing. It flows and that's a key factor in creating a good solo experience. The core mechanic involves rolling 2d6 and adding the relevant attribute. For combat you're trying to beat the opponent's defense and vice-versa. For other tests such as magic or sanctity you have to beat a pre-determined number. It's simple and quick, which is strange in a book that feels like it should be much more complex.

You start out on a boat sailing to Sokara in search of adventure, but are washed onto Druid's Isle, just off the mainland. There you meet a mad old man who shows you some standing stones that can teleport you to various places in Sokara. You also have the option of exploring the forested island, but I went straight to the continent itself, namely the capital city - Marlock. Since this is the main city there's a hell of a lot to do. There are lots of buildings, including four temples dedicated to various deities. Becoming an initiate of a certain religion will get you a certain perk, such as cheaper ressurrections, but you can only become an initiate of one religion at a time, and must pass a test to be accepted into the religion. You can also recieve blessings from the gods, which is especially useful when going sailing, as the sea gods will help you through a storm if it hits.

You also have the option to purchase a house in most towns and cities in the land where you can rest and recover your health without needing to pay for an inn as well as being able to store equipment that you would have otherwise has to discard due to the 12 item limit. The fact that you can own property adds to the feeling that you're living a life in this world and that you can choose where you want to live in the world is even better.

Before long you will come across a few quests that you can usually do at your own leisure. Some will be fairly small and others integral to the history of Sokara, such as assassinating the leader of a city. Money goes as fast as it comes as you gain it for completing quests and selling items, but lose it from purchasing, gambling and plain theivery. If you want to make some money with a little bit of risk involved then you can buy a ship and travel to different places selling goods. You could theoretically live the whole game as a sea merchant, with a goal to make as much profit as possible. There are three ships, each differing in size and cargo space. You also get an average crew thrown in with the purchase, but you can pay extra to get a good or excellent crew depending on which city you're hiring from. Good and excellent crew give you bonuses against the nasty things that you may encounter at sea, but prices can be steep. If you're more of a business person than a sailor, you can invest money in the Merchant's Guild to try and make some profit, although it seems that unless you wait a to collect various codewords then you're unlikely to make much.

Codewords are the backbone of Fabled Lands. When an event happens you are prompted to note down a codeword (all words in book one begin with 'a', and are different in subsequent books). Then when you get to a paragraph where you are asked to turn to another paragraph if you have a certain codeword you check if you have the word and then see what transpires if you have. Generally they are proof that you have done something or a certain event has happened. For example, you may be asked by a village to kill a creature that's been kidnapping people. Once you've killed the creature the villagers will react differently towards you than they did previously when you enter the village, such as cheering and praising you as a hero.

While codewords denote personal events, tickboxes are placed on certain paragraphs to show world events that are out of your control. You might be asked to tick a box every time you enter a city, and when all the boxes are ticked something will happen in the city. This mechanic is ingenius as it means the world is constantly evolving, even if you're not having a direct impact on it. Even events in different countries can have an impact on each other.

If you want to explore more of the Fabled Lands world then you're going to have to pick up the other books, which act like expansions to the first book. In fact, the only drawback of the series I can see is that at least one of the quests in The War-Torn Kingdom requires you to own another book. However, since the story spans books I suppose this can't really be helped since it's inevitable that there will be overlap.

Fabled Lands is nothing short of astonishing. It presents a living world that you can do pretty much what you want in. With other books added to your repertoire there is seemingly no end to the adventures that you can have in this fantasy world.

5 Stars

Friday, 7 January 2011

Review: Quests of the Leprechaun

The requirements for Quests of the Leprechaun are level 1-3 humanoids, but no "damn dirty centaurs". Although I'm not sure what writer Max Power's beef with horse-men is (did he get his name from a hairdryer?), but it's safe to say that 'Quests' is another light-hearted solo romp.

Trollhallan purists will no doubt wince when I say that this book was originally released by the notorious Outlaw Press, but let's put this to the side and take on its own merits.

Quests is the first in a series of 'pocket adventures' for use with the 5th edition rules. Like Deathtrap Equalizer, this is a teleport solo, where travel is mostly done by teleporting from one area to another. You arrive in the town of Gnawbone seeking adventure and riches. You are soon pointed to a brewery on the outskirts of Gnawbone where two leprechauns, a boy and his father, who offer to magically send you on an adventure if you give them a gold piece, which they change to 100 copper. Presumably this is to stop you wasting all your money but also have a limited amount of attempts at being zapped somewhere, so in this respect the method works. Once you've changed your shiny piece you must roll 3d6 and consult the book to see which paragraph you end up at. Obviously there are 18 different paragraphs you can end up on and each is very different. One may zap you to a seductive elf looking for a night of passion and another turns you into a mouse, forcing you to avoid owls in the forest. The variety makes for a fun adventure, but because of the length it's unlikely you will be going back to this solo again and again but you'll get a few laughs when you play through it the first time.

The cover art of a confused goblin by Levi Simpson is not bad, but it's pretty bland, as is the block font. The artwork on the interior is mostly good and I especially like the inside cover image of a pipe-smoking man in a turban speaking to a spindly leprechaun sat on a rock.

If you like off-the-wall adventures that don't make a lick of sense, then try Quests of the Leprechauns. Although it's not one that you'll frequent, the adventure nonetheless has some interesting and creative moments that are worth exploring.

3 Starts

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Review: The Dungeon of the Demon Mage

Andy Holmes is a staple in Tunnels & Trolls adventures and one of my personal favourite writers along with Dr Sid Orpin and Ken St. Andre himself. He is known for solo books such as Dark Harbour, Wytches and the immense Castle Death, as well as a bunch of GM advenutures, many of which are free on his site.

The Dungeon of the Demon Mage is definitely one of the more difficult solos he's produced for 5th edition, earning it a Tavern Rating of 'Tough' over at Hobgoblin's Tavern. The story goes that the Demon-Mage, Tsothximek (what a name), who resides in his rotting crypt with his demons and undead nasties, has apparently returned from the Netherworld and is wreaking all kinds of havoc. This news has alerted the Council of Mages in the city of Gull, who all thought that the Demon-Mage was nicely sealed in to his home by spells put in place by a wizard called Biorom. However, delvers see an opportunity to get their grubby hands on some phat lewt before the Demon-Mage destroys the crypt and releases himself upon the world -after all, there is untold treasure down in that crypt. So, you decide to brave the hellish nightmares that lay ahead to grab yourself a fortune in the Dungeon of the Demon Mage.

As with most solo dungeon crawls it's advised that you draw a map out as you explore this wretched crypt, since it's more than likely you're going to get lost. The adventure is for a single delver level 1-6, but if you think you're going to get through with a common kindred of a low level then you are in for a face full of death. It's not advisable to bring your campaign character into this dungeon unless he or she is pretty damned good. Warriors are definitely recommended but since there is a magic matrix in the book then you can take a wizard in too. You will see what I mean when you come across the random encounters, which are all pretty deadly. Take the Giant Tomb Beetle for example. On the surface an MR10 monster is a pushover, but you then read on to discover that you roll 2d6 too see how many there are and that they all attack at the same time! Yikes. The Tomb Guardian is also a bitch to defeat, since it has an MR30 but CON of 60 and you die instantly if you fail a L2SR on LK when you're hit by it.

The dungeon itself has some really memorable moments such as the Titan that can score 20d6 hits on you if you're not quick enough, or being taken to a demon realm where you remain for as many years as your level +1, losing charisma and gaining strength every year you are trapped there. Although you will eventually emerge, you won't be the same person as when you went in. You'll be a twisted, ugly creature, and if you spend more than 10 years in the demonic realm you become a demon yourself.

If you ever reach the final battle with the Demon-Mage then you're in for a tough fight. Not only does he have a massive monster rating, he gets stronger depending on your level. Not only that, he'll be chucking spells at you and trying to push you into a pool while he fights you. It's insane.

The Dungeon of the Demon-Mage is a deadly but fun dungeon romp with some great moments. The cover artwork by Simon Lee Tranter is very nice, as can be expected by the guy. All I can say is: newbies need not apply.

4 stars

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The balancing act

RetroRoleplaying posted an article today about balance in RPGs, saying that he doesn't think designers should have the primary goal of balance when designing a game. I have to agree, and this is one thing I wasn't so keen on when 4th edition D&D was released, although now Wizards have redeemed themselves slightly with Essentials. I, like most people in the history of ever, found 4e classes too balanced to the point of blandness. What's the point of a wizard existing when a fighter can perform a daily power that looks and feels like a magic spell without all the arcane muck thrown in?

As Randall says, it's up to the GM and the players to figure out how balanced they want their campaign to be, rather than have it dictated to them by the rules. Tunnels and Trolls is a sterling example of getting things right in design. Those who have played will know that there is very little in the way of balance in T&T. The fairy is an incredibly fragile creature that can die with a single hit, whilst a dwarf can withstand a number of blows, and deal them out, without falling. If your GM allows it you can even play as rare kindred such as the Naga or Demon, which are way more powerful than common kindred. Hell, you can play as a dragon if you want. A goddamn dragon!

The point is, roleplaying games should be about roleplaying. How can you be expected to roleplay what you want when you're shackled to the notion of balance? Yes, you could be a super strong minotaur, but through roleplay you can figure out where your weaknesses are. Are you sick at the sight of blood? Do you have trust issues?

I can see why rules want to balance the game, but if it only serves to make all characters too similar then what's the point? Roleplaying, for me, comes first, and I'll stick with playing as a Balrog if I feel like it.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Delving into 2011

Happy New Year, my beautiful and intelligent friends. I hope you had a waist-expanding Christmas and a squiffy New Year. It was a pretty quiet holiday period in the troll household and I've been raring to get back to posting on the blog.

So what do I expect to achieve this year roleplaying-wise? For starters, I want to play more T&T. 2010 was the year I introduced my regular group to the game and I want to play more of it with them. I'll also start doing solitaire adventure reviews as well as occasional reviews of GM adventures. I'm planning on adding more games to my roster too, so I'm looking forward to what this year has in store for us gaming nerds.

I'm still planning on releasing Gauntlets & Goblins during Q1 of this year, but progress has been slow due to work committments. Still, I'll be getting a playtest version ready soon.

Anyway, here's to 2011. Let's hope it's a good one.