Hex Crawl Advances

Mapping by hand really brings back that Old School feeling.

I took the liberty of rolling up the next ring.

After this, I’m only rolling for the hexes as the party enters them. Should be entertaining. I’ve already rolled one hex from the Paraelemental Plane of Mud, two jungle hexes, and and a random desert hex. Mapping by hand really brings back that Old School feeling.

The Hex Map Round 2
  • (Home) The quiet town of Dunbury Glen and its immediate surroundings before they were flung across time and space.
  • C3 Mountains. Dungeon here.
  • D4 Forest
  • D6 Wasteland. Elementals present.
  • C7 Plains/Grasslands. No roads.
  • B6 Fresh water.
  • B4 Plains/Grasslands.
  • C1 Grassy hills
  • D2 Forest
  • E3 Mud from the Paraelemental Plane of Mud. Elemental Chaos!
  • E5 Eerily cold, some trees, some grass
  • E7 Forest
  • D8 Jungle
  • C9 Grassy Hills
  • B9 Jungle
  • A7 Fresh water.
  • A5 Desert/Sand
  • A3 Jungle
  • B2 Grassy Hills.

So far, the group has explored enough to discover the 6 hexes directly around Dunbury Glen. They have not, however, run into sentient beings or any signs of civilization yet. They made a note of the dungeon in the mountains north of town, but decided to come back later. They are currently working their way Northeast through the forest at D4.

Thank you for stopping by. More fun tomorrow. I appreciate you!

What’s OSR?

Old School Gamers typically have been around for a long time. The reason we are somewhat attached to RPGs of the years past is because of the experience with those games/editions. Some of us have had the same Dungeons & Dragons books since they became available back then.

Old School Rules/Renaissance/Revival and what it means to me.

I’ve been seeing more rhetoric from multiple angles on this topic again lately. Maybe Go-oggle and Yu-Tube have picked up on the conversations in the room and my search history, etc. Who knows? But anyway, we’ll talk about what an OSR RolePlaying Game is as opposed to a more modern one.

Disclaimer: This is NOT about one being better than the other. Both schools of gaming thought are valid. Both styles of gaming are perfectly valid. One is no better or worse than the other. Please accept this as strictly my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

Old School Gamers typically have been around for a long time. The reason we are somewhat attached to RPGs of the years past is because of the experience with those games/editions. Some of us have had the same Dungeons & Dragons books since they became available back then.

It’s not 100% just D&D, either. There are plenty of other games and other editions of games out there from the 1970’s -1990’s that are plenty popular. Marvel Superheroes RPG has had multiple incarnations over the years. Star Frontiers has only really had one official edition so far. Middle Earth Role Playing (MERP) was around before the movies breathed new life into an old series.

Some of us OGs have been around even longers still. Remember Chainmail? Remember Warhammer before everything had a $100+ price tag. Some folx (before my time) played the predecessor to GURPS called The Fantasy Trip. (TFT) Call of Cthulhu has been around a very long time as well.

Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

Now that we’ve heard about Old School, what’s considered “New” or “Modern” roleplaying?

My personal definition is anything that would be considered the most recent edition of a game. D&D 5E, for example, is most obvious. Some games such as RIFTS or Pathfinder 2E have just been reborn in newer editions, even under new systems, in the last five or ten years.

Game companies are businesses as much as we tend to forget. We would like to think the writers, editors, and production staff of these games as friends who help facilitate fun with our gaming group. We want them to do well. Unfortunately for our wallets, that usually means new editions, new sourcebooks, or new games.

New games, reboots, or new editions often take the form of a Kickstarter or some other crowdfunding effort. Most new games happen that way these days. If a product can’t pass crowdfunding muster, then it’s probably not going to happen. Some companies do the majority of what they do through Kickstarter and BackerKit almost exclusively as if retail and the PDF market are almost secondary.

Newer games tend to have a newer approach and a different attitude.

For example, D&D 5E bases level gain on Milestones (preferred) or Experience Points. Roleplay and story aspects are emphasized over combat. Older editions of D&D tended more toward smash the monster, grab the loot, gain the XP. DMs could set XP for other types of encounters, but it was quicker to go full on murderhobo if you just wanted to level up.

D&D 5E tends toward shorter dungeons, maybe five or six rooms that usually follow a somewhat logical pattern. Most of the story takes place in terms of interaction with other characters and NPCs. Most Old School NPCs were a means to an end. The loot and the monsters were the real goal and they were usually stashed away in some unbelievably huge multilevel underground complex full of traps, puzzles, and more monsters.

One last example. D&D 5E is sort of a generic system. People have created campaigns and settings for superheroes, giant robots, space opera, and even shoujo style manga roleplaying. The best part is, thanks to the Open Game License, creators can get paid for these efforts. In the before-time (Classic Star Trek reference,) there was no OGL and if you wanted to work for a game company you had to bend over backwards to get printed in a fan magazine and then pray you got picked up to write an article for Dragon. Then maybe get a foot in the door at old T$R or another established company. There were different games for everything, too.

So why is OSR so cool, exactly?

This is still all I need for old Basic D&D.

Game companies tend to drop old products like a hot rock once they cease earning money. I mean, it’s just good business, right? Sometimes they move onto a new edition. Sometimes they move onto another project altogether.

Back in the older editions of D&D we had a class. That class was pretty broadly defined in most cases. Fighter could be anything from a pirate to an axe wielding barbarian. In D&D 5E there are subclasses and even some specialization within the subclasses. There are more ways to customize your character than you can shake a stick at and a rule for every one of them. (This is also why Pathfinder 2E is 700+ pages for just the core rulebook.)

If we didn’t have a rule for something back then, we just made it up. Admittedly, some DMs had entire three-ring binders full of house rules. It was fast, it was loose, and it was fun! Our character’s actions were mostly limited by our imaginations.

AD&D 1st Ed had the Fiend Folio and two Monster Manuals. Anything beyond that had to be created by the DM. Nowadays we have how many official books plus dozens of third party monster books? It staggers the imagination and the gaming budget. That’s why I love Dungeon Crawl Classics (an OSR game,) so much. I end up creating and describing most of the creatures I want.

Another case to be made for OSR games is we know there really aren’t any sourcebooks coming out for the original editions. However, newer replicas of these old games serve two main purposes: to bring back rulesets into an OGL framework and to allow for the publishing of old homebrew adventures under the new (old) ruleset while still keeping it fresh. I truly wish I had hung onto some of my old dungeon maps.

Some modern RPG companies have found ways to cash in on old trademark IP. They’re selling reprints in PDF and even Print On Demand copies of old games. This is great because it gives new players a chance to get the old stuff without having to photocopy some beleaguered book the GM has been using for 40 years. There aren’t as many notes and coffee stains on the reprints, either.

I love both.

Fun old times. New fun times to be had. It’s all good.

I’m a roleplaying game fanatic at heart. I’ll run, write, or even play just about anything. It’s still a game. The rules are superfluous to having fun. I like crunchy bits like no other, but I do enjoy a good story, too. Whatever gets us there is fine.

I like older editions of some games for their charm, nostalgia, and fond memories they hold for me. A lot of old curmudgeons balk at new rulesets or editions. I welcome at least taking a look at them. Sometimes the new rules and art of newer editions draw me in. Sometimes they make me want to stick to the old stuff.

It’s also funny to convert newer RPG creatures and ideas into retro games. First, it makes me look like I made it up. Second, it gives me a reference to fall back on if I get stuck. There’s a lot of stuff we wish we had back then that is commonly available now. Plus, I know some OG curmudgeonly gamers have never picked up any new material. Heh heh heh…

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you regardless of editions or game systems. Hope you’re having fun. See you soon.

New Review of an Old Book.

One thing I’ve always found fascinating about this game is the Basic Rules waste no time jumping right into the action. Here’s the basic races. You’re an adventurer in space. Here’s attributes and how they work. Here’s how to shoot stuff and drive land vehicles. Have at it. It’s a beautifully short, uncomplicated, and gets right into why many of us buy RPGs- fun!

Welcome back to the Frontier!

I recently acquired the reprint copies of Star Frontiers Alpha Dawn, Star Frontiers Knight Hawks Expansion, and Zebulon’s Guide to Frontier Space. They even still have the old T$R logo on the binding. How cool is that?

Yeah, I get pretty geeked about these things.

I’ve been listening a lot more to Tom Verrault’s Star Frontiers Gamer on YouTube. He’s gotten me interested in this old, classic RPG of yesteryear. This game brings back a lot of good memories for me playing with a couple of friends in high school. I think Star Frontiers still has a lot of life in it for being a classic as well as an OSR (Old School Revival) game. I’m tentatively planning on introducing my kids to this game some day, but it may end up being a solo endeavor. Unless I can figure out a time and start a group, which… yeah.

Starting with Star Frontiers Alpha Dawn.

This game was originally a boxed set, back when T$R was putting all of their good stuff out as boxed games. (I.E: Marvel Superheroes, Top Secret S.I, B/X D&D, and Star Frontiers.) I still have my old boxed set minus the dice. The reprint comes as a softcover book and/or PDF from DriveThruRPG. You have to find your own d10/d00 dice. (But how easy is that? I mean they are special math rocks and all.)

One thing I’ve always found fascinating about this game is the Basic Rules waste no time jumping right into the action. Here’s the basic races. You’re an adventurer in space. Here’s attributes and how they work. Here’s how to shoot stuff and drive land vehicles. Have at it. It’s a beautifully short, uncomplicated, and gets right into why many of us buy RPGs- fun!

Beyond some basic equipment, a couple of short scenarios, the basic rules also explain how to design your own creatures and adventures. I always found this kind of odd when the Referee isn’t introduced until the Advanced Rules. It’s kind of an all-in gonzo affair in the Basic game. They give you a character sheet for this game, but even the advanced examples they give later on could fit on a hand written index card.

Alpha Dawn Expanded Rules.

The Expanded Rules are where we get to see more of what we think about when we see a modern RPG. This is where the real meat and bones of the setting lay. Here we get a lot more about “What is a Role Playing Game?” and info about what the various character races look like, etc. There’s a lot more about movement, weapons, equipment and a tiny bit about space travel.

One of the more critical components of the game is introduced in the Expanded rules. Skills are a good thing in any game for helping develop a character. Alpha Dawn said very little about Starship Skills, however. We get Military, Technological, and Biosocial skills. Pick one primary and one secondary skill. Don’t expect miracles in the early levels unless your dice roll especially low.

One thing I really love about this game is the simplicity of the dice. It doesn’t get much more basic that percentage numbers and a roll-under system. You usually either succeed or fail depending on the roll. There’s little ambiguity with the dice system for this game, leaving a lot of breadth to describe a character’s actions. Leveling skills is a bit tedious with this system, but liveable.

The Expanded Rules give us a bit about the setting for Star Frontiers. It’s vague enough for the Referee and/or enterprising third party writers to fill in many of the blanks and customize the game. It’s specific enough to get the Referee and group rolling with some rough-and-tumble space adventures.

One interesting note about the setting- there’s no Earth. Humans are evolved and highly skilled, but their homeworld isn’t Earth. There’s a Planetary Federation, but this ain’t Star Trek. Earth is speculated to have been the home of Gamma World in this setting, but I don’t think it was ever officially confirmed.

The “alien” beings in the setting aren’t warm and fuzzy by any means. The Dralasites, Vrusk, and Sathar are far from humanoid in the traditional sense. There’s also a D&D style collection of creatures, so we can travel to new planets and potentially be eaten by them. Woot!

The Expanded Rules include a really nice Referee section. It covers/expands on creature creation, world building, and adventure creation. There’s a short bit of basic advice on running a game here which is still solid even today. The adventure creation section, although brief, is also packed with a lot of good basic advice.

They give you everything from the boxed set except the dice.

There’s a really nice adventure with this book called, “SF-0 Crash on Volturnus.” The introductory adventure would go onto become the first in a series of modules for the game. It’s a good starting adventure. Authors included T$R luminaries, Tom Moldvay and Doug Niles. It’s a good starting adventure for starting Referees to really get their feet wet in the game system.

There’s a really nice reading list included in the game. Much like the one you see for D&D elsewhere, it’s got a lot of books to really get the reader into a sci-fi gaming mood. I also had to laugh because there are old ads for the RPGA, Dragon magazine, and Amazing Stories listed. Ah, nostalgia.

Overall, I give it 5 stars out of 5. I think a lot of modern games could take a page or two from Star Frontiers. It’s a good old school game that encourages a LOT of imagination on the part of all players and the Referee.

If anyone ever brings this game back officially, I hope they keep the flavor similar to this old game. It’s so open and easy to work with. If you didn’t have a specific creature or game mechanic? You just make it up. Good times.

Reviews of Knight Hawks and Zebulon’s Guide are in the works. I’m also working on a review of Paizo’s Book of the Dead for Pathfinder 2E so people don’t think I’m a stuffy old codger who only does OSR retro gaming. (LOL!)

Thank you for stopping by. Hope your week is going well. I appreciate you!

For Free Speech, Against Racist Publications.

The same could be applied to someone in the RPG industry who have hardcore racist opinions. Sounds crazy, but think about it. Create it, print it, and distribute it among the “we-hate-everybody club” meeting. That’s perfectly legal, Constitutional, and I’d even say reasonable. (Again, assuming it doesn’t espouse violence against anyone or any specific group.)

I would argue the two are not mutually exclusive.

In light of recent events in the Role Playing Game industry, I feel the need to clarify some things. I’ve recently spoken out against what appears to be an overtly racist publication. Whose job is it to police such publications? Where does “Cancel Culture” fit into all of this? What does it mean to be an “Old Grognard” in relation to all of this?

It so happens I have a print media journalism background. I absolutely, positively LOVE the Constitution of the United States, specifically The Bill of Rights. I’m a huge fan of that whole First Amendment.

Constitution of the United States. First Amendment.

We might not like “hate speech,” but…

It’s a slippery slope. If the Supreme Court were to rule something to be considered “Hate Speech,” and said speech warrants government interdiction, our country is going to get ugly in a hurry. Well, if “X” is considered hateful, then why not “Y and Z?” Historically, the Supreme Court has been very hesitant to go anywhere near this issue.

What it basically means to any publisher of any document or broadcast, is it might be legal to say it, but that doesn’t mean one should say it. There have been certain exceptions to the First Amendment over the years. The age old example of yelling “Fire” in a crowded movie theater comes to mind. Anything involving child porn would be another example.

A more awkward position than playing Twister with a giant octopus.

I might not like when people spew ageist, ableist, racist, transphobic, homophobic crap in their publication. But, as much as I might hate it, I’ll still defend their right to say it all day. However, I’ll also defend those who would shout it down just as vehemently, maybe more so.

You might not like what I have to say. I get it. But I’ll still respect your right to say it. We can’t have the government stepping in every time someone takes offense to another’s print statements. This country would have never made it this far if one ruling party could put the smackdown on something they find disagreeable.

But we live in the age of social media.

If you ever think no one cares about your social media posts? Try saying something half your friends are going to disagree with. It can be the smallest most innocuous thing.

“Chocolate is the bestest flavor evity-ever!”

Watch twenty people out of hundreds become very vocal about vanilla, strawberry or butterscotch.

“What about mint?” because there’s always some troll that doesn’t even follow you normally that has to chime in.

Where it gets sticky fast is when the people running the platform get involved. For example, my wife recently commented on a senator’s post on Facebook and then got hit with a 24 hour ban for allegedly violating the Terms of Service. They couldn’t tell us which rule, but she was banned anyway. She didn’t espouse anything violent or immoral. All she did was disagree with someone. (*Eighteen hours later, her comment was restored on review.)

Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you did. If you get reported, the automatic ban for review can be bad enough. The point is, you have the right to free speech as long as you are using your own platform. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc are all platforms. When one signs up for a platform, they agree to the terms of service. Shockingly, the same thing technically applies to Internet Providers and Web Hosts. If they take offense to someone’s site and their TOS says they can ban it? The whole site can be taken down.

Self censorship is the best way to go.

TVs can be turned off. Phones can have apps uninstalled. If there’s something you don’t want to hear? You can ignore it. I’ve been ignoring the mainstream news for years. It’s easy. Living off-grid is not unreasonable sometimes.

For example, if I belonged to a club that exclusively talked about one specific type of flower and I knew all of my friends and family have heard absolutely enough about this orchid, I might create and print a specific newsletter and email/snail mail it out to the fan club. This is more discretion than censorship.

The same could be applied to someone in the RPG industry who have hardcore racist opinions. Sounds crazy, but think about it. Create it, print it, and distribute it among the “we-hate-everybody club” meeting. That’s perfectly legal, Constitutional, and I’d even say reasonable. (Again, assuming it doesn’t espouse violence against anyone or any specific group.)

Where it gets really ugly is when someone tries to sell something that includes hate speech. First, who’s going to want to buy that? Second, how many people are going to call someone out on social media for doing that? No major publisher online or elsewhere in their right minds is going to take a chance on that because they’re afraid of losing other paid clients and customers.

Cancel Culture is kind of a misnomer.

It’s actually a subculture last I checked. I would argue anthropologically that it’s a subculture containing members of the Internet, political, media, and business communities. I would argue the majority of people at a local or even national level might not entirely agree on what to cancel or why.

This again seems to be a phenomenon that centers widely on social media. One person decides someone is a bigot so now all of their “true” friends must ostracize, block, and ignore this person. Sometimes it’s well meant and legitimate. Other times, maybe it’s personal or political. Personally, I check people over if someone says, “Hey. Unfollow this person.”

Admittedly, my friend is usually right. If I dig into a person that has been accused of being a bigot, I find the evidence that makes me wonder why the heck I ever followed that person to begin with. I recently went through and cleaned out my Twitter list when I found a lot of people I followed when I was new on the platform and looking for friends. Oops.

Not everyone looks into the accusation as well as I do. Sometimes someone gets shunned by an entire community for making one or two offhanded, untoward comments. Sometimes people end up backing a loser and become guilty by association. I’ve seen it happen on Twitter. Not everyone exercises discernment the same way.

On the other hand, if someone does prove they are a card-carrying Nazi? Well, they’ll retain their like-minded friends. That’s on them. I’m a fan of unfollow, block and in many cases reporting racist statements. Most social media platforms don’t tolerate that sort of thing.

Another example is if someone is outed as being physically or sexually abusive toward women in the RPG community. Word gets around freakin fast. I can’t get into specifics (sorry,) but I have seen it happen on Twitter. The “alleged” abuser was pretty much gone from the platform within 24 hours of his misconduct being reported by multiple former female players in his group. The moral of the story is: be nice or be gone.

The “Old Grognards” are beginning to police themselves.

This is a sticky subject for me as I kinda fall into this particular subculture of the RPG community. A lot of us OGs have a bad reputation for being old fashioned, bitter, gatekeeper types and very unaccepting of anything new. It’s make life hard on people who don’t generally deal well with changes in their society and its overall culture.

I’ve heard well-known, long time gaming celebrities basically admit to being racist, transphobic, homophobic, ableist, and sexist. For crying out loud, the 1980’s are gone! Let them be gone. We don’t have to think like that any more. OR, if that’s too much to handle- stay in your basement with your same, likeminded, narrow minded little group that probably hasn’t changed much in 30 years.

If we’re talking about people who don’t accept change well, or at all for that matter, why would they want to run games in public? Again, I say you can tell your views on the real world all day. Just remember, the venue you’re in may have rules against racist, anti-LGBTQIA++, and other such speech. They can ask you to kindly pack up, leave, and never return.

Personally, I welcome the opportunity to engage in conversations about RPGs with just about anyone genuinely concerned with the topic. We can talk new editions, older editions, indie games, mainstream games, or even house rules. I love roleplaying. As long as I’ve got time to spare, we’re good. What I won’t put up with is people who hate.

This all comes back around to the notion that if one wants to hate, that’s on them. Keep it in their own little groups with their like minded friends. Great. Just keep it away from the rest of us who don’t appreciate that crap.

People can change.

I used to say some things that I regret now. My opinions have even changed a lot over the last six months or so when it comes to gaming. My opinions of people have changed a lot over the last six or seven years for the better. I’ve even become more accepting of opinions differing from my own.

I’m more than happy to give people second chances most of the time. I still have my limits. But if they can demonstrate and continue to demonstrate new behavior, then welcome back. Carry on.

I still steadfastly denounce those wishing to harm others, especially children. The same can be said about people who are intolerant based on race, sex, gender identity, age, ability, and so on. I firmly believe we weren’t put on this planet to hate and hurt one another. We’re here to learn and maybe find joy before we move on.

Everyone in the US is free to speak their opinion out loud. But, any given platform can drop the ban hammer. The lesson here is: be careful what you say because your audience is listening!

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you! More tomorrow.

1d12 Reasons Ships Drop Out of Hyperspace

Drive breakdown! Somebody missed something during the last maintenance cycle. The part that broke requires replacement.

Sometimes the Jump Drive shuts down mid-run.

Roll 1d12 to find out what went wrong with the long jump.

  1. Uncharted, unexplored planet! Group may wish to reconnoiter.
  2. Hyperspace particle waveform cloud. Ship must travel through regular space to get through the phenomenon.
  3. Life forms detected! A large life form or cloud of life forms that live in space.
  4. Another spacecraft in distress. Just close enough to cast a hyperspace shadow.
  5. Wreckage from a battle. May be pretty old.
  6. Pirates with a hyperspace shadow generator. Prepare to be boarded!
  7. Drive breakdown! Somebody missed something during the last maintenance cycle. The part that broke requires replacement.
  8. Binary star gravitational well.
  9. Astrogation malfunction! The drive is fine, but the computer controlling it has malfunctioned. Reprogramming requires skill and time.
  10. Hyper-intelligent cosmic energy being.
  11. Rogue comet or planetoid. Unmapped, unsurveyed chunk of ice, a moon or planet flying through space.
  12. Black Hole! Still time to maneuver out of it.

For use with any space RPG. Have fun with it. Thank you for stopping by.

Wayward Chimera

Something large has left a trail of blood and disturbed the ground as it crossed the trail. A little while later, there is a rustling in the brush. It almost sounds as if three animals are nearby together- A lion, a goat, and a dragon. What do you do?

Short Scenario for Dungeon Crawl Classics

This encounter works best is a wooded environment, but can be adapted to most other terrain types. Suitable for Characters Level 2 and up. The Judge will have to create his/her own maps or make use of theatre of the mind.

Read to party: You’ve been hearing commotion in the distance for most of the morning, but the morning’s fog and dense brush make it hard to discern exactly where from other than somewhere up ahead. It sounded as if two great beasts where having at one another. As you travel onward, the noise dies down to the horrible sound of a great wounded beast occasionally yowling from pain off in the distance.

Optional: [Something large has left a trail of blood and disturbed the ground as it crossed the trail. A little while later, there is a rustling in the brush. It almost sounds as if three animals are nearby together- A lion, a goat, and a dragon. What do you do? ]

Behind the Scenes (For the Judge.) Earlier in the day an enraged Manticore and a Chimera engaged in a bloody battle in the sky above the forest. The two creatures came into dispute when the Chimera stole an egg from the Manticore’s nest.

The great beasts tussled in mid-air and the chimera got the worst of it. It is now lurking in the underbrush with a broken, torn wing, foaming at the mouth from a venomous sting, and waiting for an easy kill to try to recover some strength.

Chimera: Init +0; Atk lion bite +5 melee (2d4) or goat gore +4 melee (2d4) or dragon bite +6 melee (1d10+2) or claws +4 melee (1d3) or breathe fire; AC 18; HD 5d8+8 (Currently 24hp) ; MV 30’ or fly 30’; Act 3d20; SP breathe fire 3/day; SV Fort +4, Ref +2, Will +2; AL C.

The chimera is a winged creature with the body and head of a lion, a second head of a goat, and a dragon’s head. It is a flying predator that hunts the lowlands where the livestock it preys upon typically gather. Each round, it has
three attacks, one from each head. The lion head bites, the goat head gores, and the dragon-head can breathe fire 3/day in a cone measuring 90’ x 30’, causing 3d8 damage (DC 15 Ref save for half).

The chimera might wait, hiding out until it can take down a party member separated from the group or possibly one or two of the pack animals, horses, etc if there are any. If the group is too large or too dangerous-looking, it might attempt to limp back to its lair. It will take great care to avoid the manticore. (In which case- skip the second paragraph of the Read Aloud text.)

Meanwhile, the Manticore has gone off in search of its egg. It is only slightly damaged. It has gone to ground to search for the chimera’s nest. There is a 30% chance it will hear any combat the group engages in and come to see if there is an easy meal. It is watching from the not-too-distant treetops to see if the chimera attempts to return to its lair.

Manticore: Init +5; Atk bite +6 melee (1d8) or claw +4 melee (1d3); AC 16; HD 6d8+6 (Currently 41hp); MV 40’, fly 50’; Act 3d20; SP barbed tail; SV Fort +5, Ref +4, Will +6; AL C. The other 50% of manticores have barbed scorpion tails. In combat, they can use an action to lash out with a single tail strike per round at +8 melee (1d10 + poison). The poison requires a DC 16 Fort save or the target loses 1d6 Stamina with each strike.

Additionally, the group may wish to find the Chimera’s lair, a hole in the ground not too far from their current location, surrounded with rocks, sticks and assorted offal. A careful search will reveal a +1 shortsword, a potion of Strength, and a torn suit of +1 chainmail.

The manticore’s egg is also lying in a heap of bloodied rags and grass. It is undamaged. The manticore will continue looking as long as she is able.

Usable with other OSR games.

Please enjoy this short scenario. Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate it.

Key to Some of My Terminology.

OSR: Old School Rules, Old School Renaissance, or Old School Revival- a movement in Role Playing Games to go back to prior editions or out-of-print tabletop games. Sometimes by way of reprint, other times by way of new books/rules that strongly resemble those older editions.

I posted an article a while back that used a lot of community/industry jargon.

It’s time to explain what I mean. Here’s a short glossary in no particular order:

  • OSR: Old School Rules, Old School Renaissance, or Old School Revival- a movement in Role Playing Games to go back to prior editions or out-of-print tabletop games. Sometimes by way of reprint, other times by way of new books/rules that strongly resemble those older editions.
  • OSRIC: Old School Rules Index Compilation- intended to act as a sort of open gaming license for writers who wanted to create new content for older editions of D&D. Also refers to OSR games that aren’t necessarily D&D.
  • SRD: System Reference Document- the parts of the Open Gaming License useable by the public.
  • OGL: Open Game License- legal permission granted to use the intellectual property contained in the SRD for one’s own publication. Contains a lot of legalese and usually a copy accompanies whatever product it is used for.
  • RPG: Role Playing Game- I talk about these a lot. See also TTRPG: TableTop Role Playing Game. A cooperative game played around the table with dice, characters, usually with friends. Ex: Dungeons & Dragons, Call of Cthulhu, and FATE.
  • “Old Grognard:” Someone who has been around the RPG industry for many years. Sometimes labeled as a bigot, gatekeeper, bitter old man, crotchety old fart, opinionated, closed minded and ignorant. OR Someone who has been around the RPG industry for a long time and welcomes fresh talent and new ideas.
  • D&D or DnD: Short for Dungeons and Dragons. Commonly written as Dungeons & Dragons as shown on various books, boxes, etc.
  • TSR or T$R: Stands for Tactical Studies Rules. The company that originally created Dungeons & Dragons and many other renowned early RPGs. Some replace the letter “S” with a dollar sign because the company’s early logo had what appeared to be a dragon in the middle. Others used it because the company developed a reputation for being seen as greedy. I use T$R to distinguish the old company from this new TSR that sprouted up a few years ago.
  • “NuTSR:” The company that currently controls the rights to the name TSR.
  • WotC: Wizards of the Coast- the company that currently produces Magic: the Gathering, D&D, and other games. Bought the original TSR. The company that still controls many of the intellectual properties created by the original TSR such as Star Frontiers, Boot Hill, every edition of D&D, and Top Secret S.I. among others. Parent company is Hasbro.
  • IP: In this case, Intellectual Property. This comes up a lot in relation to various trademark and copyright issues within the tabletop game industry.
  • PC: (*I get how this one is confusing.) Player Character- A character at the table controlled by one of the players of the game. Pretty much a standard term throughout the industry and in some video games.
  • NPC: A Non-Player Character. This is a character run by the Game Master. There are hundreds, even thousands of NPCs in a given game world. They are every family member, shopkeeper, monster, and bad guy in an RPG. Literally anyone the PCs interact with outside of themselves.
  • GM: Game Master- the person in charge of the game. Usually the person who creates the game world for the Player Characters to interact with. See also: Dungeon Master (DM), Keeper, Judge, Storyteller, and Narrator. Different names, all the same job. It’s the person at the head of the table behind the big screen who describes the world the characters see, hear, touch, smell and even taste. They are also the voice of all of the NPCs the PCs run into.
  • PHB: Players HandBook- This is the core rulebook from which the entire game springs to life. There are rules contained therein for character generation, movement, travel, spells, combat, equipment and so on.
  • GM’s Guide or DMG: Game Master’s Guide or Dungeon Master’s Guide: a useful book for the person running the game that usually includes how the game is set up, how to run a game, plus magic items, loot, and tons of advice about the game.
  • MM or Monster Manual: A book containing a veritable encyclopedia of monsters for use with the D&D game. Often gets used to describe the bestiary or creature compendiums for other different games.
  • OG: For my purposes, it means “Old Gamer,” “Old GM,” or “Old Grognard.”

This is just a start. It may end up becoming a page unto itself on this site. It is by no means intended as legal terminology or even a technical set of definitions. If you see me referring to one of these terms in an article, this is what I am talking about.

Disclaimer: Statements expressed in this article are strictly my opinion. If you disagree or have a different opinion, that’s okay. I’m not an expert on everything. I’m not always right. I’m just writing from my experience as I know it. Your mileage may vary.

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you. Have a good one!

Cortex Prime: A Review.

Like many other games before and after it, Cortex is adaptable to almost any genre. A GM can put together a fantasy game under this system as easily as a sci-fi game with some effort. Some mods added in and a lot of writing on the part of the GM might be necessary for some genres. Eyeballing it and coming up with SFX and descriptions on the fly might be a tad challenging unless one has a very good grasp of how the system works.

A brief history of the game.

Many of us were introduced to Cortex RPG and Cortex Hacker’s Guide back when Margaret Weis Productions was still publishing it. Cortex has been the base system for Battlestar Galactica, Serenity (Firefly,) Leverage and the Marvel RPG (One of four incarnations of the game. It was very short lived.) Weis announced her retirement and Cam Banks ran with the company under his own label for a brief time. A few years after that, Fandom landed Cam Banks and the rights to Cortex and are now putting out Cortex Prime.

A more detailed version of the history can be found here.

Cortex Logo.

The Cortex Prime website.

Solid mechanics on which any setting can rest.

Cortex Dice Symbol Chart.

Cortex players build pools with various combinations of Traits, Gear, and situations. Cortex dice range from d4 all the way to d12s. Pools are formed with the various dice and the top two are added together and compared to a number rolled by the GM. Players of other games might recognize some of the mechanics such as the GM rolled Opposition/difficulty checks, assets, complications, and Plot Points. These aren’t new mechanics in the industry necessarily, but Banks does a nice job presenting them in Cortex.

One thing some of my players have pointed out about games that use dice pools is more dice = more 1’s. Ones are a Hitch in Cortex, meaning there’s a complication. All ones means you’ve botched. That’s bad.

Statistically there’s also an issue I’ve discovered that bigger dice don’t always help. You can still roll a 1 on a d12. Yet that’s a very strong trait in Cortex. Suddenly my world class weightlifter falls on his face like a toddler holding a bowling ball? What?!?

Yes, the odds of rolling something higher than a one is better with a larger die and hopefully most GM’s are smart enough to adjudicate situations where common sense is in order. Pools of dice added together are slightly stronger. Even then, the potential statistical spreads in this game are potentially mind-boggling. Pray the GM doesn’t have particularly hot dice on any given day or it’s gonna get painful.

One quick fix to the system involves a mod. These are basically house rules or hacks on the system. They’re a group’s or a GM’s way to change something they think might be off about the system. (Like the uphill battle against the law of averages.)

This is a multi-genre capable game.

Like many other games before and after it, Cortex is adaptable to almost any genre. A GM can put together a fantasy game under this system as easily as a sci-fi game with some effort. Some mods added in and a lot of writing on the part of the GM might be necessary for some genres. Eyeballing it and coming up with SFX and descriptions on the fly might be a tad challenging unless one has a very good grasp of how the system works.

I’ll also add in that like a multitude of other RPGs past and present, I feel like this game is not well built for modern combat situations (guns) as well as I’d like. Most games designed by primarily fantasy gamers aren’t. As long as you’re not going for meaty, realistic, modern combat scenes, Cortex has you covered. Some settings will require a lot more front-loading of effects and SFX than others, however.

The Cortex Prime book does an excellent job of laying out three settings and fodder for coming up with endless more. “Pick three and add Cortex” is an excellent strategy for coming up with a new setting if the GM doesn’t already have one in mind. I think if I didn’t already have plans in mind, I’d be tempted to tinker a bit with their examples.

Lots of work up front for the GM.

A Cortex Game Moderator (GM) has to put in some work up front. Yes, the system is modular. It adapts well to most campaign settings with some tweaking. The kicker is- someone has to take the time to do the tweaking.

Having a campaign setting all ready to rock and just needing some baseline rules is great for Cortex. Porting a world in from another game where you like the setting and and maybe don’t care for the rules works great for Cortex. If you have lots of time on your hands and want to build the setting and integrate a new rules system like I do, then Cortex is your game. Brace for lots of work.

The GM has to set up character sheets from the ground up. Then stat up all of the weapons, gear, vehicles, SFX (Re: Magic, psionics, superpowers, toon antics or whatever.) Then some text to at least describe the BBEG, major NPC’s, locations, complications, obstacles, plot stuff, politics, equipment prices, and so on.

My point with all of this is not to disrespect the system, but rather to point out the fact that there are major components of the system left intentionally blank for the GM to fill in. Again, a Romantic, Spy, Action setting is going to have a bit more going on than a Comedy, Low Magic, Fantasy setting. Cortex Prime may be considered less a game system and more of a game design system.

Photo by Kampus Production on Pexels.com

It’s all fun and games until lawyers get involved.

No, I don’t mean rules lawyers. I mean actual lawyers. One would imagine a system aimed at game designers would have a fairly simple, easily accessible and flexible Open Game License, right? That’d be great. We’d all love that, I’m sure.

This article from 2019 casts a pretty dark shadow on the whole thing. The community was in uproar over the first take on a community license. Having read some of it, I see why people were upset. However, Fandom and the community seem to have calmed down and a more recent article explains the new take on the license.

I know a lot of us in the TTRPG community don’t like the idea of having our intellectual property yanked out from under us. That goes for both ends of the spectrum- game companies don’t want someone to run with their IP and take credit for work they didn’t put in. It might lead some would-be TTRPG developers to run with another system and overlook Cortex.

It’s also fair to point out that almost all of the controversy is tied to commercial use of Cortex Prime. If someone wants to run a game at home and has no plans to sell anything, then there are no issues. The problem comes in when game designers attempt to sell derivative works based on Cortex. Fandom is trying to protect their mechanics, copyrighted art, specific setting info, etc. Everyday, free use of Cortex, even on little blogs like mine, is fine under pretty much any license.

Overall, I give Cortex Prime 3 out of 5 stars, mostly because of the front end loading and licensing controversy. It’s a great buy depending one what one wants to do with it. Your mileage may vary.

I became interested in this system again thanks to WrightWerx.

I know one company that is rolling with Cortex Prime. Mecha Vs Kaiju! 202X I’m glad to see MvK getting a fresh coat of paint. Jonathan Wright mentioned he was switching to Cortex Prime for the newest rendition of Mecha Vs Kaiju (One of my favorite settings ever!) I always get excited when any new material comes out for MvK.

The old version of MvK was based on FATE Core/Condensed by Evil Hat Productions. I love FATE, and I’m a little sad to see MvK go from it. I think Evil Hat is riding an all time high in their corner of the industry with Thirsty Sword Lesbians, and this might have been just as good a time to run with a Revised Edition of MvK. (Just my opinion, though.) But, I like Cortex in terms of mechanics, so it should be good times.

Until tomorrow, game on. Thank you for being here. I appreciate you!

Staying Home for the Big Convention?

I know Gen Con is coming up starting Thursday. Anyone involved in #ttrpg social media probably knows it’s coming. It’s one of the biggest if not THE biggest gaming convention of the year. It’s like a yearly pilgrimage to Mecca for roleplayers, cosplayers, wargamers, and sci-fi/fantasy fans.

Things to do when everyone else is out of town.

I know Gen Con is coming up starting Thursday. Anyone involved in #ttrpg social media probably knows it’s coming. It’s one of the biggest if not THE biggest gaming convention of the year. It’s like a yearly pilgrimage to Mecca for roleplayers, cosplayers, wargamers, and sci-fi/fantasy fans.

Some of us, and guessing by the number of folx with family commitments, jobs, lack of jobs, and concerns about a certain plague; maybe some of us are staying home this year. (Gen Con is requiring Proof of Vaccination AND Masks.) Gen Con is four days of fun and frivolity all around. Most conventions for that matter. (*Gen Con is going on my vision board after this. I miss conventions.)

What gamer doesn’t want to go?

I know some of us don’t get to go.
Tis sorta sucky, but that’s reality for ya. However, there are a lot of awesome alternatives. First, you can watch a lot of events, panels, and speakers via Twitch or Gen Con Online. (That’s a lot of what I go to conventions for, anyway. Unless I’m running games nonstop.) Second, if you’re not planning to watch or participate online, there are several things you can possibly do at home that are still gaming related. Last, but not everything, there are plenty of non-gaming activities most of us can do at home.

For those staying home that still want to game.

I expect that might be more of us going than in some years prior, but who knows? This list is by no means all-inclusive, but here are some suggestions for gaming at home:

  • Find other gamers staying home and run a game. Good time to learn to be a GM or try being a player if someone else is willing.
  • Try out a card game like Magic: the Gathering.
  • Find other players online or reconnect with other gamers you might have hung out with online during COVID lockdowns.
  • Try out Solo Roleplaying. Lots of articles out there on this topic.
  • Organize your books, dice, and/or PDFs.
  • Work on character portraits if you draw.
  • Catch up on Actual Play podcasts.
  • Binge on Critical Role.
  • Try out a MMORPG or RPG related video game.
  • Find some friends and have a board game night.
  • Hang out at your local FLGS and keep others gamers or staff company. (Without being a pest, of course.)
  • Watch non-Gen Con Twitch streamers.
  • Go to other gaming events in your area. (Yes, they do exist.)
  • Teach your spouse, children, and/or pets how to play RPGs if they don’t already.
  • Write down that adventure you’ve always wanted to run.
  • Write down that campaign you’ve always wanted to run.
  • Finally organize your DM notes for your home campaign. (*I’m not the only one, right?)
  • GMs/DMs- go over your players’ backstories to see if there’s anything you can add to your campaign.
  • Players- reorganize your character sheet onto a new, cleaner copy and organize your character notes, binder, etc.
  • Generate mounds of new characters for the RPG of your choice.
  • Read up on a new RPG or an old one that you want to try.
  • Catch up on back issues of zines.
  • Catch up or start reading RPG related Blogs.
  • Lots of YouTube channels that offer everything from GM advice to Actual Play.
  • Build terrain for wargaming or miniatures combat.
  • Work on painting all of those minis that need finished.
  • Ignore old painting projects and start a new one. (Some of y’all know.)
  • Try out a facet of the hobby you haven’t tried. (RPGs if you’re a wargamer, board games if you’re a role player, etc.)
  • LitRPGs.
  • Sit in the corner and roll dice while talking to yourself and laughing maniacally for four straight days. (Mostly kidding. I mean, who’d do that? besides me…)

I’m sure there are dozens of things I probably forgot. It’s just a few suggestions. I recommend avoiding social media if it stings that you’re not going. Personally, I’m pretty indifferent, but I expect my social media to be blown up with convention news to the point where I’ll want to avoid it.

Last, here are some more mundane things you can do/catch up on while everyone’s out of town for the big convention:

  • TV? Remember TV? Maybe there’s stuff on to watch?
  • Binge on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, or whatever streaming thing you prefer.
  • Sports. Either participate or watch them. Not for everyone, but it’s possible.
  • Clean your house, apartment, or other dwelling.
  • Spend time looking at art or go to a museum.
  • Volunteer for overtime at work. Yay money, I guess…
  • Invite non-gamer friends over and throw a party. Try not to get arrested.
  • Eat regularly, sleep, meditate, and do all that stuff you miss when you’re normally gaming.
  • Talk to friends and relatives you haven’t connected with in a while.
  • Go online and learn a new skill or brush up on an old one.
  • Read a book.
  • Spend time with non-gaming friends/significant others.
  • Go to a movie in a theater.
  • Go to a stage play.
  • Go camping for the weekend. No books, no technology. Just nature.
  • Paintball, Airsoft, Laser Tag, or some other shooting sport.
  • Practice archery, ax throwing, or target shooting.
  • Catch up on old YouTube podcasts and movies you may have missed.
  • Take pets for a long walk.
  • Get a house plant and nurture it.
  • Take up a new non-gaming hobby.
  • Put a fresh coat of paint on the garage, shed, or dog house.
  • Catch up on home repairs.
  • Sit on a park bench or at a bus stop and watch people go by.
  • Surf the internet.
  • Play new video games or maybe break out the old ones.
  • Take a mental health break, maybe even a spa or lazy weekend.
  • Attend a local farmer’s market.
  • Join your local CE-5 or MUFON group.
  • Pace back and forth in the yard mumbling incoherently to yourself. (I do this regardless. LOL!)

Again, this wasn’t close to being an all inclusive list. I don’t believe in being bored. There’s always something to do. Just please be safe and maybe follow the law as best as possible.

Please remember you’re never completely alone. We’re all in this together. Gen Con is cool and all, but it’s not the only thing going on.

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you being here. Please be safe regardless where you end up this week/this weekend. Have fun. See you tomorrow.

Shifting What I’m Working On… Again.

I’m putting my Monster of the Week and GI JOE RPG plans on the back burner for the time being. I love both games, but time constraints are kind of an issue and I want to be able to give my full attention to both when the time is right.

In light of recent events, I’m putting a couple of things on the back burner.

I know what it probably sounds like. It’s okay. There’s a plan in motion here.

First, I’m changing my offerings on Fiverr. I haven’t pushed to get my offerings on the page just yet because I’m trying to figure out what Gigs I can use to make money with.

Second, I’m putting my Monster of the Week and GI JOE RPG plans on the back burner for the time being. I love both games, but time constraints are kind of an issue and I want to be able to give my full attention to both when the time is right.

Third, I’m planning to continue working on my OSR fantasy projects for Dungeon Crawl Classics and other Old School material. The Ogrenomicon will be appearing on my Projects Page sometime in the near future. Other plans include a “Book of Lairs” style publication of short adventures and small dungeons playable in one or two sessions.

Fourth, Power Rangers RPG Super Lightning Force Campaign Season 2 adventure highlights and bad guys are on the way. I’m also going to try to showcase some of the new Ranger abilities I’m working on and their new Zords. I can’t go without running some kind of superhero campaign.

Fifth, there is a possibility of me making some videos for YouTube. We’d be talking about current issues in gaming as well as reviews, GM Tips, planning sessions and more. I’ll be posting more on this if/when it develops.

Sixth, I may be finally exploring Patreon. I’m not sure what to produce that people will want to pay for monthly, but we’ll work on it. Patreon is a popular platform and I see a lot of good coming from it. There’s also my Ko-Fi page.

Next, I’ve been wanting to do some Sci-Fi/Space gaming again. While I love Shatterzone dearly and there are so many other possible games to choose from, I may be creating a 10 episode mini campaign for Star Frontiers IF I can get away with it. As long as I’m not charging for it, I think we’re safe? Otherwise, work on my own brand new space game will commence. Alternatively, I might possibly be making it a generic sci-fi game.

Also, I’m putting most of my 5E creator ambitions on hold until we see what the next evolution of the game looks like. D&D is a-changing again. Until then, there’s plenty of Old School Revival gaming to be found.

Fear not, I’m still going to be doing game reviews of new and old products as I get my hands on them. Transformers RPG is coming from Renegade as well as Spelljammer for D&D by WotC. I’m also going to rock out some reviews of a few old favorites and why they mean so much to me.

Last, (then I promise I’ll stop,) I’m going to work even harder to promote myself on Twitter, Instagram and some other platforms. I haven’t been putting myself out there 100%.

Thank you for listening. This list was as much my sounding board as actual planning. I have a lot on my mind. Lots of stuff to explore. Til then, stay safe and keep rollin. I appreciate you.

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