Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dungeon Saga

I received the game Dungeon Saga: Dwarf King's Quest for Christmas this year. The game is the spiritual successor to Hero Quest. The base game comes boxed in what appears to be a large slipcase story book containing dungeon tiles, miniatures, dice, character cards and rules. It is intended for 2 to 5 players.

The game is well packaged and delivers with over 50 plastic miniatures of heroes, monsters and dungeon dressing. The card-stock components are thick, detailed and well made. The only knock I can make is that the box is a little small one the components have been punched out and no longer stack as easily.

The miniatures are well detailed and are scaled a little smaller than the average RPG line of figures. I would guess they are about a 20 MM scale. They seem to fit nicely one the board and only required a little care to re-glue a handful of feet back to bases and heat and re-position a few figures. They all re-positioned easily using only hot tap water to soften and then cold tap water to reset in the desired pose. I really want to dive right in and start painting them but I want to play a few round first to make sure I enjoy the game-play.

At the time of this game's release there are a host of add-ons available. They reality is that only one of the adds is really new to the game (Legendary Heroes), the rest are extra copies of the game components included in the original game. These would surely be of great benefit to anyone creating custom content for the game. The Legendary Heroes are the leveled up, heroic versions of the characters included in the game.  There are true expansions on the way.

Overall I have a good feeling about this game. The combat uses only regular six sided dice so everyone can get more to boost the number of dice for the players. The included clips for the dungeon tiles will help to prevent board disasters and the plastic doors, chests and furniture will add a nice visual element to the game.

Saturday, September 26, 2015


Wizards of the Coast is going to close down and delete their forums soon. That's right they are going to DELETE everything. I have included the official link so you can read for yourself. Just when you think WOTC is starting to get a clue, too.

WOTC Big news

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Top Coolest D20 Open Source Properties

1> DragonMech
2> Starship Troopers
3> Babylon 5
4> Dragonstar
5> Deadlands

Again, these are my opinions. Note yours in the comments.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Top 5 Old School RPGs that are all but Forgotten

1> Empire of the Petal Throne
2> Chivalry and Sorcery
3> Villains and Vigilantes
4> Monsters! Monsters!
5> Witch Hunt

Many more that could be considered. Are there any you think should go above these?

Bonus: I had an adventure module published for Witch Hunt called "A Tyme of Darkness". Amazon listing below but it is not available.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Basic Fantasy for Beginners

Part I

I have already sung the praises the of the Basic Fantasy Role-playing game. This free RPG is a retro-clone that lends itself to teaching beginners how rpgs work. So, I decided it was the perfect rule set to use to introduce my nine year old daughter, Sydney to RPGs.

The first order of business was for her to roll up a character. We got the dice rolling tray down, she chose some dice and started the process. I had her use the "roll three die six and re-roll ones" method of rolling abilities. There is something about kids and dice luck and she rolled very well. Her worst roll was a 10 and her best was 17. She had rolled it in Wisdom and I told her she could switch any two rolls. This way she would be excited whatever she creates. Her criteria were simple. She wanted to cast spells and wear armor. That made it an easy choice. She would create a cleric.

The creation of the character was pretty quick. The character sheet I printed included the page numbers for each section so it took about 15 minutes. During the time she was creating her cleric, Lusha, I made a party of NPCs to travel with her. The stalwart dwarf fighter, Griff, halfling thief, Perri and magic user, Rags. Now they just needed a task.

Their first assignment was the standard "giant rats in the warehouse" task. A local merchant complained that his entire stock of apples was in danger because of giant rats in his warehouse. He would gladly offer 5 gold each for the party to clear the rats for him. my daughter, speaking for the party, agreed that giant rats were indeed "icky" and should not be allowed to eat the apples. The combat took about 20 minutes mainly because this was Sydney's first experience with a D20 style game. Soon the warehouse was free of large vermin and the party had acquired both a small amount of gold and a little bit of experience. 

Now I just had to wait to see if she really enjoyed herself. I didn't have to wait long. The next day she asked when we could play again! Now I just needed an adventure.

I have painted miniature to represent this party. I have linked pictures of them below:

Saturday, July 18, 2015

More Games Workshop Fun

So, some time ago I wrote about changes to the way GW retails its products and what that did to the stock price. It really spoke to what their idea of customer service and loyalty was all about. I posted updates to the blog entry for a while and their stock never fully recovered. This week GW decided they had not done enough damage to their customer loyalty and reputation. This week they decided to kill off Warhammer Fantasy Battles (WHFB).

GW pulled an end of days to their story. Chaos destroyed everything. The Lizard men left the planet. The Elves sunk their city and everyone else just died. Then the god of the world captured a spark of its essence and created a new game. A skirmish game. Similar to 40k called Age of Sigmar. The new game features no point values for army selection and advantages to any ranged unit.

This action has touched off a firestorm of negativity in the WHFB community. There are many folks out there who have invested a great deal of time and money creating armies for this game. All of the miniatures can be used for the new game but they must be re-based onto round bases to fit within the new rules.

Some have even take their displeasure to the extreme. There are videos on youtube of people burning their WHFB armies. I have watched a few of these and while I could not destroy hundreds of dollars worth of miniatures the videos are fun to watch.

It will be interesting to watch the stock price. On Friday 7/17 it dropped to around 504 before rebounding to 506 by the end of the day. We might even see a short term rise as people snatch up all of the models they had always wanted for WHFB but soon will not be available

If you have a large army or two for WHFB what do you do now? You can still play the game with your friends. GW cannot take away what is already out there. You could try the new game but skirmish is already out there in several other competitors games and if that was your thing you'd already be playing it. Really, the only thing your are losing here the GW certified play. if that is your thing then you are really hosed but f you've only played at your FLGS for fun you can continue to do that; GW cannot stop you.

Oh, and if you are curious about the game here is the link to the rules: GW also has stats for every miniature ever made for WHFB in the scrolls section. You can read these rules for yourself and decide if a four page pdf for a skirmish game can really replace 28 years of development and thick hardcover books.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Getting Started

A recent blog entry about the Basic Fantasy RPG got me to thinking about where I really started with gaming and miniatures. In 1977 Rankin/Bass (the Rudolph and Frosty guys) released the Hobbit animated movie. The same year Ralph Bakshi released the animated movie Wizards. This set up a movie release of epic proportions that many thought would dwarf Star Wars. In 1978 Ralph Bakshi was set to release the animated version of  The Lord of The Rings. The film was going to feature unbelievable animated sequences along with rotoscoped animation to assist with the creation of the battle sequences. The film was at best a mild success and covered a little less of half the trilogy.

In 1978 video games existed but they were an expensive toy that not everyone could afford. I was an avid comic fan and I liked to read fantasy and science fiction. One day in the summer of 1978 a friend and I were at the downtown location of Lazarus, a regional department store in the area. We decided to visit the 6th floor (toys) to see if they had video games set up to play. They did not have video games but there was a display that floored me. There was a large table probably about eight feet wide by twelve feet long covered in armies. The Battle of Five Armies from the Hobbit was depicted on the table. There were hundreds of painted 25 MM figures on rail road style terrain and a large figure of Smaug for good measure. This was a display for a new licensed miniatures line from a company called Heritage Miniatures who was promoting the upcoming Lord of the Rings movie.

Heritage was well ahead of their time. They had aggressively licensed multiple properties for lines of miniatures and rules to create battles from these properties. The properties included John Carter, Star Trek and Lord of the Rings. This was a jaw dropping discovery. These small metal statues that could be painted to look exactly like the real thing and rules to govern play. Wow. Sign me up!  I didn't have a lot of money that day but I walked out of the store with a package of hobbits, the hobbit companions, Frodo and Golum, a green martian warrior, and John Carter and Deja Thoris.

I took them home and painted many of them using acrylic paints I had leftover from other projects. I knew nothing about how they should be painted but just a general idea based on my imagination from reading the books. I now owned my first fantasy miniatures but no rules to go along with them. I had always enjoyed board games and recently we had played a lot of Risk but for now I didn't know exactly how to play these games.

On the blister packs of the miniatures I had purchased was an address for requesting a catalog. So, off went my fifty cents and I awaited my catalog. When it arrived I poured over the lists of miniatures that were availible and plotted out what rule set I would attempt to acquire. Then while going through a normal every day Sears catalog I discovered the licensed SPI War of the Ring board game. I received it as a gift for Christmas that year and spent the next four months convincing people to play the character version of the game (the simplest version). The joy of watching Aragorn equipped with both the Sword that was Broken and the One Ring kill the Witch King and all the Nazgul was amazing. Good times but still no miniatures.

Now early in 1979 I started talking to a classmate about gaming. He revealed that he had played a new type of game called Dungeons and Dragons. I had seen the game available in mail-order catalogs but until now I had never met anyone who had played it. I pushed and pleaded until finally I got invited to a game. The game was starting on Friday night at about 7:00 PM. I didn't know what this game would be like but I was sure I would like it. I got there early and started creating my first character. Now I was the creator! Then I got to see the crazy, wonderful dice. They were chipping and hard to read, nothing like the dice of today but I thought they were the coolest things I had ever seen. The best part for me came when we organized the party for travel and formed a marching order...using unpainted lead miniatures! Now I was sure, this was for me.

Within a few weeks of this first game I learned that there was a local wargames store called "The Soldier Shop". The place was fantastic. I walked out with my very own set of polyhedral dice and two relatively new books. The Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual and the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook... and a wizard miniature. I was also able to sign up for a fantasy miniatures battle* the very next week in the shop. In the days before the internet it took about a year from first encounter with miniatures to actually playing in a fantasy battle containing hundreds of miniatures. 

Notes: More information about all the things I mentioned this time.

Wizards: I loved this movie. The second link is the full movie on youtube.

The Hobbit: I still love this today.

LOTR: This movie was ok but it followed the books more closely than the more recent trilogy.

Heritage Miniatures: The company is long gone. Many of their sculpts were done by a gentleman named Siegfried...also known as Duke Siegfried. Duke was a huge advocate of the hobby before he died. I met and thanked him just before he quit traveling a few years back.

TSR Hobbies: A garage company that changed gaming.

Wizard Mini: a very early paint job for me.

*The battle was played out using a blend of traditional fantasy races (Lord of the Rings, etc) and races from a game called Empire of the Petal Throne from the mind of  M.A.R. Barker. The rules were mostly home brewed with a dash of Dungeons and Dragons and a little Chainmail.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Just Tried: Robinson Crusoe

I had the opportunity to try a new board game last week. The game is Robinson Crusoe : Adventures on the Cursed Island by ZMan Games. It is a cooperative gave for 1 to 4 players where the object of the game is to survive long enough to get rescued. This involves gathering food, supplies, building items and finally creating a signal fire to call for help.

Full disclosure; I am generally not a fan of cooperative games. Most people love Pandemic but I find it excruciating. I thought Defenders of the Realm was just okay. I do really like Arkham Horror but I think that it mitigates the punishment inflicted on the players more than the others. I like that the players have more choices and they seem to really make a difference.

So, back to Robinson Crusoe. You and your team has been shipwrecked. Working together the island must be explored, supplies must be gathered and items must be built to allow you to survive long enough to build a signal fire and win the game. Each player gets two actions per turn which he can play on one or two items. When all players have placed their actions they are resolved in a specific order until the turn is completed. Two actions on an item is essentially an automatic success while one action requires a roll of dice to complete and there could be complications (see below).

The game has a mechanic where the environment gets an event card once per turn. This card almost always does something bad. The card then goes into the threat box and if it is not dealt with it gets shuffled back into the event deck and does something worse when it comes back up again. I am not a big fan of just having a punishment card every turn but at least you can minimize its effect on the game.

Likewise when you are building something or gathering resources if the players don't put full manpower on the project then dice are used to resolve the outcome. This determines if the player takes damage, builds the item or if a card must be drawn. Here the cards are almost always bad and they usually get shuffled back into the event deck for nastiness inflicted on the players late.

Our group took a very cautious approach to the game. We took two actions on nearly everything we attempted. This kept our party damage down and the number of cards down as well. This was a conscious choice by the players where other groups might risk more while attempting to build more items and gather more resources.

Overall, I found the game enjoyable and would play it again. It would never be my first choice of a game to play with a group and will not purchase my own copy. However, if the "gang" wanted to play I would sign up. I think I still prefer Arkham Horror because of the Lovecraft theme. I would give it a solid 3 out of 5 stars (or coconuts in this case).

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Basic Fantasy Round Up

A week ago I posted a link to get free PDFs for the Basic Fantasy RPG. I downloaded the free basic rules and started reading them. I liked them so well I invested in the hard copy version which was under six dollars on Amazon. I have been reading the rules more in depth since then and I am sorely tempted to dump 5th and Pathfinder. I probably won't do that but I did teach my nine year old daughter this game and we had a blast playing it.

When I first started playing DnD in 1978 there were few options and most were incomplete. I remember playing for the first time and begging the DM (or moderator as Jerry liked to be called) to borrow the white boxed set of books. He relented after a couple of games and I poured through the books to discover their secret. I was surprised to find there was just the barest of bones to these rules.

The Basic Fantasy RPG is a razor thin rule set. Creating a character, the four basic character classes, equipment, spells, monsters and magic items crammed into 170 pages. Even in this thin state, by today's standards anyway, this book would have ruled in 1978. It still rocks today.

It has a familiar feel. Like I have read it before. Since it is a derived ruleset that is not surprising. What is wonderful about the rules is that they feel as if they would be easy to pick up and remember.

The system is based on the D20 system that WOTC introduced with DnD 3rd edition. The rules have been slimmed down and modernized. This leads to a mix of new and old mechanics. For example, a high Armor Class class is better just like the modern versions but the Thief skills (and Thief is old school as well) come from a table just like the old days.

The rules as just right for introducing new players to Fantasy Role playing games or if you miss role-playing and don't want to spend much to try it again. The rules are cheap and modules, aids and accessories are plentiful. What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Random Game Report

When Super Dungeon Explore came out and I first played it I was very critical of the game. I felt the cutesy Chibi style of the game components was mismatched to the slogging, punishing style of the game play. I know that everyone did not agree with that assessment but there must have been more than a few others that felt that way.

Then Soda Pop Miniatures did a Kickstarter for additions to the game and they added a completely revised rule set. It is like they were reading my emails to my friends about the rule changes I'd like to see. The original boxed set still comes packaged with the original rules but an add on with the newer version of the cards and rules expansion is usually sold with it.

A few weeks back a group of us tried the "Arcade Mode" cooperative version of the game. The five of us successfully played the entire adventure. This was the first time anyone in our group had been able to successfully complete a game of Super Dungeon Explore, A console game that ran a few weeks before that was called before completion because it was late and the majority of the players had to leave. This time the game did run late but we actually killed the final boss. More importantly the game was now fun.

The cooperative version of the rules removes dice rolls from the monsters. These are replaced by fixed values. If a monster attacks with "2 Stars" then that is what you need to roll for your defense. Simple and it made the game move more quickly. They are also introduced a "wrath" system whereby the characters actions earn them wrath points and the monsters will attack characters with more wrath first. This opened up a strategy where we beefed up the defenses of one character and made sure he also had the highest wrath. This worked similar to the way "aggro" works in an MMORPG.

They have also added rules that speak directly to the fun factor like a card that grants an extra attack die when the player is laughing maniacally before he rolls. More treasure, faster combat and fewer (generally) monsters means that the game plays faster and looser than before. A game that formerly had great components now has great rules as well.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Cool Free Stuff

So, you want to run an RPG but have little spare cash. Well Basic Fantasy Role-playing may be just what you are looking for. Everything is free as a downloadable PDF or available via Amazon as a paperback. It is a D20 like system with an old school feel. Enjoy!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Origins 2015 Report

Overall a great show. The vendor hall was humming with lots of new products. I believe everyone has figured out where WizKids and some of the large companies have moved. Some of the card only vendors have moved into the hallways outside of the area where the card tournaments are taking place. Strangely, the oyster picking place was still there.

Maybe its just because I am getting older but it sure seems like there are fewer places to sit and congregate than in years past. The other major issue is that registration is still way slower than it needs to be, especially the on-site registration. Both registration lines move slower than Ohio BMV lines (number 1 baby!) but the BMV is doing way more than getting you a badge to play games.

Overall a lot of fun. I saw Rodney Smith of "Watch it Played", Tom Vassel, and Zee Garcia (the Dice Tower) as well as all the normal vendors (Lou Zocchi had fun talking to my 9 year old daughter).  I think the people I meet there are my favorite part.

See you next year!

What I bought

Cthulhu - Hastur la Vista - Twilight Creations
Q Workshops Cthulhu Dice Set
Epyllion - the Drake Edition
Run, Fight or Die!
Roll for It!
Zombicide Scenario Book
Zombicide Plastic Counter set
Mice and Mystics: Dornwood Tales
Hobbit Tales
Strike a Pose
Dice Ring

What I almost bought:
Collapsing wood dice tower and tray combo
Sergeants Miniatures Game

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Is this thing on?

Wow, long time since my last post. What can I say but time has been limited since we got Sirius our now 7 month old German Shepard puppy. He is 64.5 pounds of love and stink.

Origins is next week so I hope to post a description of the event and snarky comments about the organizers.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

More free stuff from WOTC

WOTC has just posted a link to download the "Elemental Evil Player's Companion" PDF.  I have not had a chance to read it yet but it looks really cool. Did I mention that its free?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Dungeonpocolypse lessons learned

The forces of good were overwhelming. Each person controlling a party of six miniatures was too much. Even though there were casualties along the way there is still enough power left to make the last two tiles a forgone conclusion.

The old school pace of the dungeon allow the party time to regroup and heal between doors. This kept them marching forward altogether as an unstoppable juggernaut. Next time have the doors to the next area open at the most inopportune time bringing evil in before they are ready.

The last point would be to add more pathways to the adventure. The way I designed this dungeon there was essentially only one way through it made things easy to keep track of for me but predictable for the group.

Take a look at the list below of everything they have killed so far.

2 Fiendish Trex
2 Troll Slashers
2 Bullette
1 Behir
3 Fiendish Girallon
1 Purple Worm
2 Goblin Underboss
Lareth the Beautiful
1 Drow Cleric of Lolth
2 Teifling Blademaster
2 Yuan-Ti Half-blood Sorcerer
Half Orc Executioner
King Obould Many Arrows
Bugbear Champion of Erthnel
Trogledyte Barbarian
Dark Moon Monk
5 Flame Skulls
6 Hobgoblin Archers
5 Hobgoblin Sargents
1 Demonic Gnoll Archer
1 Clay Golem
2 Stone Golems
2 Berserk Flesh Golems
1 Iron Golem
1 Blood Ghost Berserker
1 Cleric of Lagozed
1 Drow Guard
2 Drider Sorcerers
2 Formorian Giants
4 Feral Minotaurs
1 Beholder
Aspect of Nerull
Boneclaw Impaler
Death Priest of Orcus
2 Terror Wights
King Snurre
Fire Giant Raider
3 Orc Maulers
2 Tanarack
Half-fiend Ogre
Blood Hulk Fighter
Githyanki Fighter
3 Ogre Skirmisher

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Dungeonpocolypse part 3

Last night was part three of the Dungeonpocolyse game. The party started where they left off a few months ago. So, with great enthusiasm they opened the door to the next room and waited to see what was next.

The Undead

The first room of the night contained undead nightmares. The Death Priest of Orcus was an unwelcome surprise but the teams were able to push through.

Old King Coal

King Snurre and  an Erinyes demon awaited them in the next room. The group finally overcame the fire giants and their allies. No one felt her was a jolly old soul.

The Balor

Not much to say about this room. The Balor gave and took a pounding before the group advanced.

The Marilth

There is something about a six armed snake demon that gets the party excited. Multiple disintegrate spells later she was down. The Vrock in this room did not last much longer.

Monsters killed
Aspect of Nerull
Boneclaw Impaler
Death Priest of Orcus
Terror Wight (x2)
King Snurre
Fire Giant Raider
Orc Mauler (x3)
Tanarack (x2)
Half-fiend Ogre
Blood Hulk Fighter
Githyanki Fighter
Ogre Skirmisher (x3)

The bottom line is that the group did not finish. They had only two tiles left to explore but it was getting late. So far the it has taken 15 hours to get through 16 tiles.

The Party prepares to face the undead.

 The Allies muster in front of the doorway.

The battle rages. The Aspect of Nerull holds the forces of good at the door.
 The battle continues....
 King Snurre and his forces.
 The Marilith is already gone. The ogres try to hold the line.

Monday, February 23, 2015


I love Tactical Role Playing Games or TRPGs. I loved the Ultima series, Disgaea Series, Final Fantasy Tactics and currently I am re-playing Dungeons and Dragons Tactics for the Playstation Portable. If I could I would love to create my own.

The reason I would like to create my own is that every TRPG I have ever played has had some things that they just did not get right. Sometimes its a technical limitation like the lack of elevations in Ultima III. Other times its there is no way to ensure the plot advances without the device like the traitor in one of the Krynn games in the AD&D gold boxed games. There is always something.

In the Dungeons and Dragons Tactics game the controls are clumsy and the rules of DnD 3.0 are simplified but it seems true to DnD. That is until I finally encountered two trolls with a 6th level sorcerer. The distance was right so I nailed them both and did 30 hit points each to them. Then on the first troll's turn it moved towards the party and regenerated 5 hit points. I nearly quit right there. I could understand a mistake like this from a non DnD game but this was a licensed game.

I kept playing. I like the game and it gets many things right. That and there are not that many good TRPGs out there and DnD versions are rare. So does anyone else have a favorite TRPG? Any other flaws that drive you crazy?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

My subscription is expiring...

A few years ago a new company sprang up under the name of TSR and offered subscriptions to a new magazine called Gygax. There was controversy from the start because Gary Gygax's widow did not want his name used this way. The name endured because Gary's sons Luke and E. Gary Jr. were involved in the production. The list of contributors was impressive so I purchased a subscription.

The format of the magazine was very similar to the old versions of Dragon magazine. The heavy paper cover and high quality pages filled with art, text and comics in the back. The first few issues were good but I felt they were redundant. They seemed to focus more on the history of roleplaying than its present or future. There were good non-nostalgic articles in each of the first four issues so things still looked promising.

Last night when I got home issue 5 was waiting and a pink slip packaged with it that stated "This is your last issue". I still have not read all the articles I intend to but I can already tell this is the best issue so far. There are several features that are beautifully illustrated and grab your attention right away. There is a story about a character type that makes an effort to include every version of Dungeons and Dragons. There are great comics in the back including "Order of the Stick" and "Full Frontal Nerdity". A cool one page dungeon from a contest. Pull out game materials as well as an adventure to go with them. And a Kaiju stat block!

The publishers at TSR are sure making it difficult to walk away from Gygax Magazine. It is definitely a throwback to a bygone age when all your news about role-playing was delivered in the form of a monthly magazine. They have made PDFs of each issue in attempt to modernize the concept but its the magazine that makes it. Its the smell of the ink and the feel of the paper as you sit down and immerse yourself in gaming goodness.