Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Road of Kings now Free on Android

Road of Kings was removed from both Google Play Games and iTunes back at the end of 2014.  I still to this day get the occasional message from a fan wondering what happened to the game.  It’s especially bad for fans who bought the game, but since have upgraded their device or for some other reason can no longer recover the game from iTunes or Google Play.  Sadly that end of it is out of my hands, how those two markets deal with legacy games is entirely up to them.

But what I can do is now that some time has passed, I can put together an official, totally free, off the market version of the game.  Unfortunately Apple does not allow for any reasonable way for me to distribute such a game to players short of paying $100/year to maintain an account on their distribution channel.  Fortunately Android is far easier to deal with, so I present to you, totally free of charge, Road of Kings 1.3:

Download Road of Kings 1.3 for Android

Enjoy, redistribute, do what you like.  I’m just happy to see people play the game again.

D&D Radio Show

A really nice find over at Playing at the World, I had no idea this existed.

The D&D Radio Show Pilot

EDIT: Just finished listening to it.  Really it’s highlights punctuated by analysis from Jon Peterson, which actually makes it even more interesting in my mind.  That said, the actual action of the radio show is about the best presentation of D&D play of anything from the era in my opinion.  It’s a shame it didn’t catch on, and instead we ended up with stuff like the D&D cartoon and a terrible series of movies.

Experimenting with OED

At a recent gathering Delta and I were discussing rulings we’ve used in how we run D&D, and laughing about how similar our play styles have become.  Someone asked “What is the difference between your games?” to which I answered “They only differ in which book we each keep behind the screen.”

That’s basically accurate.  Though Delta began with the three LBBs of white box, or original edition, or whatever you want to call that first version of D&D that is only actually labeled “Dungeons and Dragons”, and I began with what is called red-book or B/X or Moldvay/Cook Basic D&D, we’ve both house-ruled our games into pretty similar beasts.  And I suppose that’s not surprising given the fact that we play together regularly and often discuss our house rules in detail with each other, and have the same basic goals in mind of what makes good D&D.

But it’s not really true at all, there are some rather big places where we differ.  Delta has streamlined saving throws and thief skills in a way I have not.  Delta has demi-human level limits, whereas I charge extra XP for demi-humans to level and reserve level limits for multi-class characters only.  We both do not use 0 hp is dead, but have come up with different death-mitigation techniques.  And of course Delta does not have clerics.

To be honest, I find the no-clerics idea really fascinating.  If I were to eliminate a class my first choice would actually be thieves, as it fits with the original book (thieves were not introduced until supplement I), and I dislike their tendencies towards a skill system.  My favorite anecdote on thieves is the OD&D DM who told a player disappointed to find there were no thieves “if you want to be a thief, then steal something.”  Still, Delta makes an excellent point that the class simply does not jibe with the source inspiration material.  Search your Leiber, Vance, Howard, de Camp, heck even your Tolkien, and find me an example of a holy warrior with divine healing magic.  Oh sure, there are plenty of evil cults lead by dark priests with powers granted by evil gods, but by and large heroes do not go in for that sort of thing.

The other rule that Delta uses that really struck me as pretty cool recently is that magic-users can only memorize one copy of any given spell.  Now that’s not in any version of D&D either of us are familiar with, but it does fit the source fiction pretty darn well.  And frankly, I love what it does to play.  Each spell becomes unique and interesting.  Suddenly there’s a reason to examine the full spell list instead of just packing in a full array of magic missiles and fireballs.  It also kind of adds a neat aspect to magic wands.  Sure, your level 10 wizard is pretty impressive with his 10-dice fireball, but he can only do it the once.  Having a wand that shoots 6-dice fireballs by comparison feels pretty weak, but when you can shoot a dozen in a day, now it’s looking pretty sweet.

OK, 500 words in and I’m only just getting to my point.  Sorry everyone.  The deadline for game submissions to Carnage on the Mountain is looming, and I’ve been thinking about what to run.  I like running a lighter faster game in the Sunday late morning slot, as I don’t like Sunday being a wash, but I also know I’ll be burnt out by then and so will my players.  A quick easy dungeon crawl is kind of perfect for that time.  But every game is an experiment, so what can I do that is interesting?  Hm, perhaps I should try running it by the book — by Delta’s book that is.

In the past I’ve avoided taking on too much of Delta’s stuff because my games have been rooted in a consistent world since I started running them in 2010.  I’ve made changes here and there, but generally leaned towards not completely disrupting the continuity.  But convention games are a perfect environment for experimentation, so perhaps this is a good chance.  I don’t expect this will change how I run games regularly, but it may cement some ideas (like the 1-each spell idea) that I kind of like but am not totally sure I want to commit to just yet.

So let’s take a look at spells.  In fact, both Delta and I have written up little spell books that we use during play, though mine are really just for convenience while Delta’s are a serious project which you can find on Lulu.  I was curious though to compare our spell lists, and see where they differ.

Spells in B/X Missing in OED:

  • Cure Light Wounds
  • Floating Disc
  • Purify Food and Water
  • Remove Fear
  • Resist Cold
  • Ventriloquism
  • Know Alignment
  • Resist Fire
  • Silence 15′ Radius
  • Snake Charm
  • Speak with Animals
  • Cure Disease
  • Speak with Dead
  • Striking
  • Create Water
  • Cure Serious Wounds
  • Massmorph
  • Neutralize Poison
  • Speak with Plants
  • Sticks to Snakes
  • Commune
  • Create Food
  • Dispel Evil
  • Insect Plague
  • Quest
  • Raise Dead
  • Part Water

Not a lot of surprises here, as they’re mostly off the cleric list.  The cure spells (wounds, disease, poison) are not surprising and Delta compensates for this by making potions of such readily available.  There are a fair number of spells like resist fire/cold, create/purify food/water, and know alignment that feel fitting for a cleric but honestly I can’t say I feel like I’ve seen used a lot in game.  Also there are a few spells that feel redundant with other spells — commune is just a better version of contact higher plane,  quest is just like geas, and raise dead can be replaced with the magic-user reincarnate spell.  There are also oddly a couple magic-user spells that fit that same bill for me.  Massmorph just feels like a crappier version of invisibility 10′ radius.  Sure it can hide a lot more people, but they can’t really move.  Likewise, why do I need part water when I have lower water?

I’m surprised at there being no floating disc — that feels like a classic to me.  Ventriloquism I could live without.  Striking is a cool spell, and would be easy to translate into a magic-user spell.  Being able to temporarily make a normal weapon magical is pretty sweet.  And though I’ve really gimped the silence spell, I still find it to be a very useful spell that my players quite like to use.  Also I love the speak spells, even to the point of retrofitting speak with dead (B/X has plants and animals but not dead).

Spells in OED missing in B/X:

  • Magic Mouth
  • Pyrotechnics
  • Strength
  • Clairaudience
  • Rope Trick
  • Slow
  • Suggestion
  • Extend Spell
  • Ice Storm
  • Wall of Iron
  • Legend Lore

OK, a shorter list here.  Magic mouth always struck me as a weird spell.  It’s kind of cool, but I found used chiefly by NPCs whose dungeon you are exploring, rather than by actual players.  Do you really need an official spell for that?  I mean, there’s no explanation for any of the other random magical effects we love to litter the dungeon with.

Pyrotechnics, eh, no strong feelings.  Clairaudience is cool but slightly less good than clairvoyance.  Slow I could live without as I’d always rather haste myself than slow my enemy.  Rope trick I find to be a weird one.  It seems awful high level for something that just helps you climb somewhere and gives you a temporary hiding spot.  Though I did see it put to good use recently in conjunction with an extend spell to have a safe place to sleep the night, I almost wonder if a day shouldn’t just be its normal duration.  Suggestion I likewise am not impressed with – it feels to me like a weirdly vaguer version of charm person.  Legend Lore is a neat spell, though I’ve not seen it used very much, and it feels just a little less flavorful than contact higher plane.

OK, Strength is a great spell that we use all the time and is very notably lacking in B/X.  Extend Spell is also a very cool tool for the inventive caster.  Ice Storm nicely completes the missing damage type started by fireball and lightning bolt.  Finally wall of iron I like just for the idea of a spell that can actually create a permanent object.

So, when all is said and done, I can’t say there’s anything on those lists that feel like major deal breakers for me.  There are some spells I will be very interested to see introduced into my game, and a couple that I will be sad to not see as an option, but it feels more or less like an even trade.

Perhaps I’ll spend some time analyzing other elements of OED vs BX in a future post.  As of right now, I am feeling somewhat intrigued at the idea of running a pure OED game just to see what works for me and what doesn’t.

 

Monster Cards

This weekend Delta came up and gave me the best birthday gift I can ever ask for – a weekend of D&D with my brothers and friends.  We played G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King, which Delta ran for us a couple of HelgaCons ago and we failed miserably at.  I think we saw all of 2 rooms and ended the game in a TPK.  With more time on our hands we hoped to do better this time.

As Dan set up his material he discovered I had left nearby my copy of the AD&D Monster Cards, and started flipping through them to see what might be useful.  On getting to the Giants section he discovered the Hill Giants, Frost Giants, and Stone Giants, but no Fire Giants.  In fact, we weren’t surprised, both Delta and I have complained in the past of the odd choices in the composition of this set of cards.

monster_cards

At first blush the cards seem really useful – a nice full color picture on the front so you can show your players what the thing looks like, and all the pertinent stats on the back.  What a great idea.  But who picked these monsters?  Goblins and bugbears are here, but no orcs or ogres.  We get the Luecrotta and the Mihstu, but no troll or owlbear?  What the heck?

So I said to Dan, “we just need to make set 5 that fills in all the weird gaps.”  It seemed like such an obvious idea.  I grabbed my Monster Manual and the list of what’s in the cards and started my own list of what was missing.  I was looking for anything that really shocked me that it wasn’t included.  I skipped the weird stuff I tend not to use, and tried to limit myself to just what felt like “classic D&D” and/or that I use myself a lot.  Sure, this is pretty subjective, and of course I’m in terrible danger in doing just what the original authors did: leave out something someone else would feel is obvious.  But it’s a start.  So here’s my list of the cards I’d like to add:

  1. Chimera
  2. Dragon, Brass
  3. Dragon, Bronze
  4. Dragon, Copper
  5. Dragon, Blue
  6. Dragon, Green
  7. Dragon, White
  8. Elemental, Air
  9. Elemental, Earth
  10. Elemental, Fire
  11. Elemental, Water
  12. Gargoyle
  13. Giant, Fire
  14. Golem, Clay
  15. Golem, Flesh
  16. Golem, Iron
  17. Griffon
  18. Green Slime
  19. Hobgoblin
  20. Lich
  21. Lycanthrope, Were-bear
  22. Lycanthrope, Were-boar
  23. Lycanthrope, Were-rat
  24. Manticore
  25. Minotaur
  26. Men, Bandit
  27. Men, Buccaneer
  28. Ogre
  29. Orc
  30. Owlbear
  31. Pegasus
  32. Piercer
  33. Purple Worm
  34. Roc
  35. Skeleton
  36. Stirge
  37. Spider, Giant
  38. Toad, Giant
  39. Troll
  40. Unicorn
  41. Wyvern
  42. Wight
  43. Wraith
  44. Zombie

The two that gave us pause were Dragon and Men.  Do we really need all the varieties of good dragons?  I honestly never used them, but the original set of cards has two good and two evil, so it seems like we should complete the set.  And what about Men?  There are a ton of sub-types of men in the Monster Manual.  It seems crazy to not have any, I mean, players are always being beset by bandits, right?  But do I also need Berserkers?  Merchants?  Pilgrims?  Dan suggested the two I listed (Bandit and Buccaneer) as the most useful, so we limited the list to just those.

Looks like we need more than just one extra set.  In fact, the original sets were 20 cards, so I kind of feel like I want to trim out 4 entries so we can do sets 5 and 6 and follow the original pattern.  Once we have a list I’m sure I can dig up the right font and lay out the cards, but then I’ll need to find some artwork.  Do I just swipe scans from the internet or my books and make this a personal pet project?  I wouldn’t mind making this publicly available to the world, but then I need artists.  We could put the call out for submissions, but I don’t know if between Dan and I we have the pull to get 40 pieces of unique art.

But let’s start at the beginning.  Tell me what you think I missed that should really be on the list.  Or what you think is most prime for cutting it down to 40.  Once I have the list of cards I’m sure I can figure it out.

Origins Numbers

Found this on Origin’s official Facebook page:

What an great Origins! We want to say a huge thank you to the fans who come out and support us each year. So from the staff, volunteers, exhibitors and our show co-sponsor, Mayfair Games, THANK YOU!

· Unique attendance 15,480

· Turnstile attendance was 52,561

The article I linked a couple days ago counts Origins 2015 attendance at 15,938, which means this year attendance actually dropped a small amount (~ 3%).  Personally, I see this as very good news.  A small but steady growth would probably be better, but maintaining the current size is vastly preferable to the explosive growth GenCon has seen in the last 5 years (GenCon has literally doubled in size between 2010 and 2015 [src]).

Books and Movies

Dungeons & Dragons 2: Electric Bugaloo

Dungeons & Dragons 2: Electric Boogaloo

Jenn and I recently watched the second Dungeons & Dragons movie.    We didn’t see it when it came out because, let’s be honest, the first one was truly awful.  Poor Jeremy Irons, how did they make him do that?  But anyway, I was re-reading my copy of Cheers Gary and someone asked his opinion of the movie and he was generally favorable towards it.  More importantly though, he ragged on the first one, enough that made me think that just maybe if Gary didn’t think the second was awful that it might not be so bad.

That was the general response I remember of it: it wasn’t as bad as the first.  And honestly, that’s what I came away with too.  That’s a pretty low bar, so let me be more specific.  The FX are pretty bad, the overall production value is not great, and the actors are not fantastic.  The script is mediocre, but as a D&D nerd, I can say at least they got the general feel correct.  Specifically I rather liked how much they beat the crap out of the characters.  Out of the five members of the party, only two made it back whole.  With a permanent death and a limb loss, it did rather feel like one of my games.

Critical Failures

Coincidentally, Audible recently recommended Critical Failures by Robert Brevan, and as I like to have something to listen to on my commute I picked it up.  It’s really quite good.  The humor can sometimes border on the puerile, but I think this is more a reflection on the characters he’s lampooning.  They read just like tons of gamers I’ve met in the past, and it makes it that much easier to delight in their misfortune.

The trope of gamers getting magically sucked into the world they play in is well trodden, and ultimately I think Joel Rosenberg did it best in his Guardians of the Flame series, but I think Bevan provides a pretty fresh take on it.  It’s a light book and sadly doesn’t really resolve, or not so sadly if you like it enough to purchase the numerous sequels and spin-offs there appear to be.  Definitely worth a read.