Where 5E of the World’s Most Famous RPG Loses Me. Part 2

Maybe you (Wizards) have overlooked the demographic of the 30+ year old gamers, many of whom were around for the older editions. Yes, it’s extremely important to continue to bring new players into the game. However, it’s also important to have people who want to be a DM. Some of us old guys are perfect in that role. Teaching younger generations is something we (“Old Grognards”) very good at.

Open Letter to Wizards of the Coast,

Thank you for coming back. Yesterday I discussed that the current edition of the game has become very player oriented. The Dungeon Master is slowly being pushed out of the process. Anemic creatures, the death of experience points, and a solid lack of encounter building guidelines combined with the official over-buffing of Player Characters is pushing long time DMs away and discouraging people from wanting to DM.

“Just wing it” worked in the early days of the game. Dumping everything in the DM’s lap was fine then when the game was in its fledgling state back in the 1970’s. One D&D is supposedly aimed at getting rid of the concept of editions. Yet, you (Wizards) have seem to have completely forgotten everything before Third Edition. I don’t think it’s a coincidence and it’s the reason why a lot of us “Old Grognards” have gone back to the Old School Renaissance which (no surprise) is based on Basic, B/X, BECMI, 1st Ed AD&D, and 2nd Ed AD&D.

Maybe you (Wizards) have overlooked the demographic of the 30+ year old gamers, many of whom were around for the older editions. Yes, it’s extremely important to continue to bring new players into the game. However, it’s also important to have people who want to be a DM. Some of us old guys are perfect in that role. Teaching younger generations is something we (“Old Grognards”) very good at.

Wizards, you’re growing to the point where you’re forgetting the name of the game. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is the name of the game. So, why are you getting to a point where there are practically no DUNGEONS and the DRAGONS are toothless and weak? But that’s okay, because players have tons of options

Seriously, it’s as if we’re talking about two completely different games now. There’s good old D&D with monsters to fight and underground complexes to explore. There are magical treasures to be found! You can slay monsters, explore forgotten pyramids, and gain fortunes.

Then there’s this kind of weird, overly dramatic, almost completely character focused “game” we see on Critical Role. It’s almost as if it’s scripted. As I stated in Part 1 of this article, if I wanted to watch drama? I wouldn’t be a DM. I’d watch TV, movies or read a book. This newer, evolved version of D&D is more like acting class with some dice.

D&D came from a time when we didn’t have computer games, cell phones, tablets, or an Internet to play games on. I see where One D&D is heading. Virtual Table Top (VTT) gaming is the wave of the future. That’s great. Connecting people via the Internet is a good thing. PDF books, cell phone apps, and conference call D&D became a way of life in 2020 and continues today. Great.

But please remember the origins of D&D. No electrical components needed. It’s about books, dice, pencils and paper. This hobby was born from miniatures wargaming. The original creators of D&D did not have cameras aimed at them while they were playing the game.

People play D&D on camping trips. People play together in person in their parents’ basements, in the back of the Friendly Local Game Stores, and in classrooms. That’s not going away, especially with families of older gamers bringing their kids and students into the game. Please remember the rest of your audience?

Sorry, I know this was kind of a long rant. Thank you for being here and bearing with me. I’m going to put out a Part 3 to this series of articles, but more from my own perspective and my own benefit. I appreciate you. Thank you!

Spelljammer.

#hadozee controversy and a heap of bad reviews. One D&D is around the corner in 2024. Why would I want to buy the new Spelljammer? Space Hamsters?

I kinda saw this coming.

Why didn’t they learn from this?

I’ve heard multiple reviewers say, “Save your money.” Or, “Maybe look at buying other products.”

In other words, even some of the hardcore YouTubers and other Wizards of the Coast/D&D rah-rah reviewers aren’t into it. I mean, it looks cool. The art is amazing. But the content? Like the actual meat and bones of the campaign setting? Having a good concept does not make for a good game.

RPG family, I’m so sorry to tell you this, but the thing pretty much sucked the first time around. What made us think it was going to be better for 5E? The old content wasn’t that great. Fam, a turd by any other name is still… You can’t put a dress on mule. (Original) T$R made so many other good campaign settings.

If the first time around was bad, (and let’s be honest, it was BAD,) what made them think a remake would fix it? I’m sure someone will quote sales numbers, but I was big into this hobby when it came out and I seem to recall a lot of people panning it then, too. The new version seems to not have gotten any better.

Industry timing leaves a lot to be desired on this one.

New! In a shiny package.

It didn’t help that they announced that in 2024 One D&D is coming. So, basically here’s a new edition that is supposedly going to be retrocompatible with 5E, or at least that’s what they’re saying. They want us to keep being good consumers and continue buying things such as Spelljammer and Dragonlance. WotC also wants us to “playtest” the new rules and provide them with so-called feedback. (Anybody else’s bullshit detector going off?)

If I know WotC, they are eventually going to try to get us to switch completely over to this new edition like it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. Right now they (WotC) doesn’t want us to sell off our 5th Ed books because Half Price Books can only handle so much. DMsGuild has to stick around long enough for D&D Beyond to evolve.(*I have a feeling being a third party D&D creator is going to change.)

I feel bad for Dragonlance fans right now. Their book is going to be ill-timed at best. Lord only knows what 2023 is going to look like for D&D releases. I mean, we know physical products are no longer high on WotC’s release priorities as far as we’ve heard. Unless we’re talking about Magic cards, then yay physical stuff. Books? Pfft!

What’s the point of releasing products for 5E when it’s going to be on its way out at the end of the year in 2023? Is the next generation of fans going to want to convert all of the 5E material they own into this new shinier One D&D package? What does that say for Spelljammer, Dragonlance and whatever they do in 2023?

One D&D hasn’t even been released and they’re already contradicting themselves.

I know I’m pretty hard on WotC sometimes. They’re the leading company in the industry. With a few brief exceptions, they’ve always been top dog. D&D is pretty much the mother of all roleplaying games. Some would say the industry looks to WotC for direction.

So can someone at WotC or anywhere explain the whole debacle with the Hadozee? Please look up #hadozee on Twitter for the full details. Fair warning: possible racist content. This isn’t the only mistake that was made with the new Spelljammer, but this one came at a really poor time.

Anyone who has been following the sordid tale of Star Frontiers: New Genesis playtest documents knows this isn’t the time to get a bad rep for racism in game publications. It’s bad enough when certain nuts are our there trying to make the hobby look bad. Now the biggest name in the business has to show an utter lack of sensitivity to the topic? Really?

I thought WotC wanted to be progressive. I thought they wanted to set the industry standard. What happened to doing away with negative racial differences in D&D? #hadozee

Anybody remember this little gem from DriveThruRPG/DMsGuild?

Update: D&D Beyond revised Hadozee.

The Hadozee errata.

Good for Wizards of the Coast! They’ve heard the uproar around the slavery element of the Hadozee and removed it on D&D Beyond. At least they’re not completely oblivious to the rpg community. I’m not sure that goes far enough, but it’s a great start.

The only thing that I noticed right away is that it’s still out there in print. Digital media are easy to change. Push the delete button, rewrite a few lines, and poof. Fixed it. But several thousand print copies of the physical book? Oops.

Basically, they deleted all of the content that referred to slavery, removed some offensive art, and issued an apology. Good for them. Better than nothing. I’m sure a LOT of people would have been happy if the offensive text had never made it into the book in the first place.

The other catch is there are still hundreds of print copies out there. It’s still kind of a Public Relations nightmare. Yes, they apologized. The question remains: have they learned anything? At least they’re launching an internal investigation, though…
The apology statement can be found here.

I’m glad no one at WotC actually reads my blog.

Because I’m incredibly disappointed with that company right now. Say what you want about the Old School Renaissance in gaming. At least we knew mistakes had been made well enough to steer clear of them. Call me an “Old Grognard” all day, but I think the kids that put this latest Spelljammer together were seeing dollar signs and little else.

This mistake with the Hadozee has been in print since 1982 by their own admission! How could they have let it slide by? Yeah, I hope WotC’s internal investigation is fruitful.

What are they going to do? Fire the writer from 40 years back? Fire an editor that let it all go by? Pat themselves on the back for a job poorly done? Probably that last part. “Oh, well. Oops. Silly us. Hee hee. Now go buy Dragonlance.”

Editing failure.

I know I drop my share of typos, grammar and punctuation errors here on my blog. I’m not claiming to be perfect. And as an editor, I’m not… uh… Let’s just say dealing with people isn’t my strong suit.

But Spelljammer? C’mon. Really?!? WotC pays these people how much? These “design teams” are so effective. Someone could have walked in off the street and questioned the Hadozee, and yet…

If the McCorporate cultured world of WotC learns anything from this, it’s that the more crap you try to do in committee, the more likely it will FAIL outright. You can hold all the meetings you want. You and have all the little social gatherings in the office you can muster. You can hold hands around the campfire after work. Do you know what matters at the end of the day?

THE F*CKING PRODUCT!!!

It’s lucky for WotC that they have no worries about sucking a loss on Spelljammer. Yay for them. Any smaller company would probably be shitting bricks by now. Not our WotC. They can afford to sweep the whole ugly #hadozee incident under the rug, pretend it never happened, and put out the next piece of trash for all their people to hype up.

DID anybody on that staff stop to think, Hmm. Maybe it’s just possible “Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. ” because they like to remind us of it on DriveThruRPG every chance they get? Seriously? That doesn’t warrant some damn editorial review time??? Which “team” screwed that pooch on this?

I can’t do it anymore. I’m all but done with 5E.

I’m more ready than ever to embrace my old school roots. Pretty sure I have enough OG Dragonlance material to last me a long time should I decide I want to run with it. Don’t even come around me with that Spelljammer business. I’m really looking hard at Old School Essentials again. I think WotC can go a few years without my money again. See you next “edition” on that.

Star Frontiers is welcome. Alternity is welcome. Heck, I’d love to run Amazing Engine again sometime. I won’t be touching Spelljammer with a 10′ space pole any time soon. (*It’s like a regular 10′ pole, only in space.)

I want to find a nice, quiet, smaller company to work for where my work might be appreciated. Give me the peace of mind that I never have to sit in a meeting with a bunch of freakin strangers ever again. Oh, and never will I ever reprint something from the 1980’s without at least reviewing it first.

Onward and upward. Back tomorrow with more gaming excitement. Thank you for stopping by.

Book of the Dead for Pathfinder 2E Review.

As Pathfinder books go, I give it a 5 out of 5 stars in its own arena. As an RPG book in general, I have to knock one star off because of the heavy PF2E influence, some of the fonts were hard to read in places, and there is a heavier amount of gore than some players might be able to handle. I’m definitely mining this book for some 5E and DCC ideas. Lots of great ideas here!

Someone probably rolled their eyes when they saw that title because they think it’s just 52 new flavors of undead.

It’s pretty cool, actually. Then again, I’m a Game Master that prefers Undead (or un-dead if you prefer) as one of my go-to bad guy monster options in most fantasy games. To be completely honest, I grabbed this book to mine it for ideas to use in other fantasy games as well as Pathfinder 2E.

This book has a lot going for it. As a friend of mine says, it has a lot of fluff as well. I call it flavor text. It’s not really a negative if you like PF2E, Golarion, and so on. There’s a lot of world background there to be used.

Another defining quality of this book is the way it makes the macabre and morbid seem like an everyday occurrence. It even goes so far as to detail undead gods such as Orcus. There are also entire lands of the dead, including an Isle of Terror. To top that all off, there are plenty of undead character options. (Probably wouldn’t fly in my campaign without a phenomenal backstory, but…)

There are a lot of parts of this book aimed at the players, but GMs can benefit greatly, too.

There’s the old GM paradigm that if the players can use it, so can the GM. There are spells and feats in the front matter of the book that would work just as well on NPCs as they do for PCs. GMs who create their BBEG just like they’re making a regular character. Use Feats, new spells and abilities to the villain’s advantage and now the regular run-o-the-mill lich becomes a level 20 necro monster with the Reanimator Archetype, an undead companion, and some pretty gnarly spells.

I’m sure a lot of people, GMs like me maybe, got this book for the 100+ pages of undead monsters. It’s tempting to skip right to Page 71 and dive in. However, I found it especially worthwhile to go over the other parts of the book, too. The art is the usual phenomenal job we’ve grown to expect from Paizo’s other PF2E books. The adventure is definitely worth a look as well.

It’s really all about the monsters, right?

I know a lot of people probably saw this book and thought, “Oh, it’s just another book of reskinned zombies with bat wings. There’s nothing new here.”

And those people are what I like to call “wrong.” True to Pathfinder tradition, creatures of myth from all over our world’s cultures are represented. Of course they have the Pathfinder spin on them, but Page 71 does a lovely job explaining which cultures some of them came from.

Full disclosure: they do give the undead adjustments for the “regular undead.” So, if you want to make a mummified dragon or a vampire kobold, you can do it. Yes, there’s even a way to doctor up a zombie and give it bat wings, but that’s not the point of the monster section! (*LOL!)

There is some straight-up nightmare fuel for the PCs in Book of the Dead if the GM chooses to pull it out. There’s everything from ooky spooky things that go bump in the night all the way to cunning, manipulative, and hella evil. A couple of the beasties in here can pretty much touch off their own zombie apocalypse if they wanted to. I don’t want to drop too many spoilers, but I’m truly glad some GMs/DMs maybe won’t pick this one up. Yeek.

It’s more than a standard book with more Skeletons and Zombies.

As Pathfinder books go, I give it a 5 out of 5 stars in its own arena. As an RPG book in general, I have to knock one star off because of the heavy PF2E influence, some of the fonts were hard to read in places, and there is a heavier amount of gore than some players might be able to handle. I’m definitely mining this book for some 5E and DCC ideas. Lots of great ideas here!

I can’t see Wizards of the Coast ever putting a book like this out officially for 5E or “One D&D.” It’s just not quite as warm n fuzzy as most WotC books. DMsGuild has a lot of fan-made undead sourcebooks already.

Not that anyone from Paizo would read this, but I think they should do a whole series of books like this. Golems/Constructs, Dragons, Elementals, and so on would be pretty cool. To the best of my knowledge they didn’t do any PF 1st Ed books in this vein, but it’s possible. I also think pulling some of these undead into Starfinder might be pretty cool, too.

Thanks for taking the time out to read my little review. Please go check this book out in PDF or at your FLGS. It’s definitely worth a look if you’re into horror roleplaying. I appreciate you stopping by.

Company Spotlight: The Arcane Library.

Designer Kelsey Dionne is one of the most imaginative, outgoing, creative professionals out there in the RPG market today.

Designer Kelsey Dionne is one of the most imaginative, outgoing, creative professionals out there in the RPG market today.

The Arcane Library has been putting out solid, playable, fun 5E adventures for years now. That said, I highly recommend checking out the website. On top of all of that, Kelsey is working on her own take on D&D called Shadowdark. One other thing I’d like to mention is that Kelsey is highly approachable, or at least more than many other RPG designers/writers.

I was actually introduced to the Arcane Library and Kelsey’s work through a 5E book called The Monstrous Lexicon. If you follow along The Arcane Library website, there are also free adventures such as Temple of the Basilisk Cult along with the email newsletter. Did I mention the YouTube Channel? Kelsey walks you through some of her modules as they come out and gives really great advice on RPG topics.

Needless to say, there’s a lot going on.

I get to exchange emails with Kelsey once in a very great while. She’s been a bastion of good advice and is super helpful to new writers and RPG designers. I was lucky enough to chat with her through email during the year which shan’t be named. Now that Shadowdark is taking off, and it really is, The Arcane Library is super busy.

If you follow the YouTube channel or if you know Kelsey a little bit from convention gaming, you know that horror is kinda her thing. A lot of The Arcane Library adventures have a horror theme to them. Some of them are definitely not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. They remind me a bit of AD&D 2E Ravenloft. (Which is to say, “AWESOME!”)

As a side note, I invested in the mini-DM Screen and the Combat Cards bundle back when I was still working full time. They’re awesome and I’m still using them when I run 5E.

SHADOWDARK holds a lot of promise.

You can download the quick start rules now. I know I’ve talked before about having a reason for an elaborate dungeon crawl, but Shadowdark really gives adventurers cause to prowl around underground in search of glory and loot! It’s also got a lot of that Old School look and feel to it. I would almost go so far as to say OSR, but without all of the Old Grognard stereotypes attached.

The art, which most writers struggle to find, is exceptional. It’s very old school BECMI with some Call of Cthulhu thrown in. I would also add that if you liked the old FASA Earthdawn RPG, then Shadowdark is well worth checking out.

I’ve even run into people online who mention The Arcane Library and Shadowdark specifically pretty much out of the blue. I was actually surprised when someone who I didn’t think had heard of The Arcane Library was talking about it kinda out of the blue one day. I can’t say who it was out of confidentiality, but I was pretty impressed. Kelsey definitely makes an impression.

The Arcane Library is also active on Twitter and Instagram.

Twitter: @arcanelibrary

Instagram: @thearcanelibrary.

Please don’t just take my word for it! Go check out all of the amazing work for yourself. The Arcane Library RPG experience awaits!

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you. I appreciate you taking time out to read what I have to say. Have a great day!

New Review of Another Old Book.

As a basic starship combat game, it’s a great place to learn. For beer-n-pretzels space game action, it’s okay. Your crew might die or go broke fast, but as long as you’re not worried about it, you’ll be fine. However, if the character you’ve been playing for years suddenly eats it on a lucky assault rocket hit? That’s grim.

Let’s talk about Star Frontiers Knight Hawks.

Star Frontiers Day is August 19th. The game is 40 years old this year! To celebrate, I’m giving a review of the classic Knight Hawks Expansion to the Original Star Frontiers game. I have a lot of good things to say about this book and this part of the system.

If you missed out on the first printing, it’s okay. Wizards of the Coast has you covered. It’s still around as a reprint book on DriveThruRPG minus the maps, counters and cool box. You can still print the counters and the maps from the PDFs, though. If you want to go all out, I hear the lead miniatures for the ships are still floating around out there in the world, but may be decaying slightly.

It’s a classic head-to-head space battles game on top of being an RPG supplement.

I’ve played a lot of space games over the years. I think my favorite is still Starfire, but I also enjoyed Silent Death, Babylon 5, Battlefleet Gothic, Starfleet Battles, and Starfleet Tactical. Reading the Klingon Tactics in Starfleet Tactical prepared me for space battles later in life. Lol! I would say Knight Hawks ranks right up there with the best.

Overall, it’s a simple combat game. I kinda feel sorry for the RPG crew if their ship gets blown to smithereens during a tactical game. Knight Hawks can definitely be lethal to ships in terms of space battles.

Its rudimentary movement and damage systems are great for beginners.

For those unfamiliar with space battle games, Knight Hawks offers up a great starting point. Movement is straightforward. Ships have a maneuver rating and an ADF number to determine how much it can speed up or slow down on its turn. There are optional rules for planets, gravity wells, etc.

Shooting weapons and raising defenses requires a bit of reading. Not all guns shoot in all directions. Some have different ranges than others. Some work better against certain defenses. It pays to know the capabilities of one’s ship before the start of the battle. This system is simple enough that it can handle large fleet engagements once players get to know the rules a bit.

The advanced rules contain tidbits such as variable damage table, fires aboard ships, repairs, and new ship types. It gives a great basic spread of ships and how to fly them. The rules do not require a PhD in Rocket Science to know how to use them. Basically, make sure you read the ship’s stat block. The rest is fairly intuitive.

Cover of the RPG and galactic content half of Knight Hawks.

What about the roleplaying aspect?

This is what some of us old timers think was missing from Alpha Dawn. Until Knight Hawks, most campaigns were ground based. It was all away team missions and no real flying around, to use Star Trek as an analogy. The Campaign Book Expansion Rules fix a lot of what was previously missing.

With this expansion, ship design and construction become options. The freedom and independence every spacefaring adventurer dreams of are available at a hefty price. Acquiring a ship for the group could potentially involve mortgaging the family farming planet to the hilt. There are other suggested methods aside from buying a ship, but all of them come at some price to the characters eventually.

My biggest beef with the system so far are the skills.

Starship skills don’t require the standard Primary and Secondary classifications that the main Star Frontiers uses. That’s good because the space game came after Alpha Dawn and it would have been more confusing. However, starship skills cost more experience points. Yeesh. It’s almost as if they didn’t want player characters having a ship.

I’ll discuss this further when I talk about Zebulon’s Guide to Frontier Space in another article. I think the writers realized that the skill system didn’t quite work out. Unfortunately Zeb’s Guide didn’t quite fix the whole thing. Knight Hawks just introduces the starship skills. It’s an okay start I suppose.

I think there’s a bit of a divide between the tactical game and the RPG.

For one thing, ships are pricey in game. If the group’s ship gets into a battle with much of anything larger it might well not survive. That means there’s a pretty good chance the crew might get squished in the process. It makes most space combats an escape or chase situation similar to the Millenium Falcon vs Star Destroyer scenario.

The wargame portion is great for what it does. The RPG portion is great for interstellar travel and background information about the setting. I don’t know if it would run scenarios from other games well. For example, I don’t think Battlestar Galactica or Babylon 5 space battles would work well under the Star Frontiers Knight Hawks rules. The scale of battles ramps up very steeply and rapidly becomes more prone to Star Trek style battles with the capital ships/space stations.

I still give it 3.5-4 out of 5 stars. It’s a good start.

As a basic starship combat game, it’s a great place to learn. For beer-n-pretzels space game action, it’s okay. Your crew might die or go broke fast, but as long as you’re not worried about it, you’ll be fine. However, if the character you’ve been playing for years suddenly eats it on a lucky assault rocket hit? That’s grim.

Thanks for stopping by. Keep rolling on the Frontier. I appreciate you!

EZD6 RPG Review.

The art and system for this game are phenomenal. The art is pretty old school, much like I have grown to expect from other Runehammer games. It’s a very simple, easy to teach, fast, light rules game. Combat can be complex with minis on a grid or theatre of the mind with ease. Jump in and play!

The easiest rules-lite game you’ll ever love.

I haven’t been this impressed with a new RPG since ICRPG came out several years ago. By no coincidence, it’s another game by Runehammer. This company just keeps on putting out the hits.

My friend on Twitter, @justinarevolution put me onto this game. Her tastes in RPGs are somewhat similar to mine and her skills as a game master are above and beyond exceptional. Of course, other people in the RPG community have said good things about this book as well. It’s a 110 pages of pure awesome!

Price is a major selling point for some gamers these days. EZD6 is worth every penny in my opinion. It’s up on DriveThruRPG in PDF and print. You can also go to EZD6.com for more about the book and some pretty sweet looking swag.

What’s all the excitement?

Unlike scores of other RPGs on the market, EZD6 has a very short, straightforward character creation system. With just a handful of lines on a sheet of paper, your character can be ready to go. No lengthy tables, no fancy stat rolling procedures, and no long lists of skills and feats to pour over. Anyone can knock out a solid fantasy character from scratch in minutes.

It’s obvious the author of this book, DM Scotty, has a lot of experience in the RPG field. There are cameo spotlights throughout where Scotty leads us through his intentions and what his thoughts are behind some of the various mechanics. Keep it simple and fun is a running theme throughout this RPG.

It’s well-produced in much the same manner as Cartoon Action Hour Season 3 by Spectrum Games is. There are little excerpts from a couple of characters throughout leading one through the various facets of the game. Some of these little snippets are hilarious, but no spoilers here.

It’s a simple, rules lite game that players can jump into, make a character and be playing in about 5 minutes.

It’s easy enough that most 6-10 year olds can pick it up and play probably faster than learning D&D. Answer the basic questions of what you would like this character to do and you’re off to the races. As you may have guessed, the simple six-sided cube is the core mechanic. (Raid your mom’s Yahtzee or Monopoly dice.) It can use other fancy role player dice, but they’re not necessary.

I love it because there really isn’t a lot of crunchy bits. You character IS their concept plus a little flavor that you provide. Much as has been done in other popular lite games, two of your character’s “stat” lines are two aspects, sentences by the player describing something interesting about the character like, “Corndog eating champion,” or “On the run from a farmer because I spent the night with his daughter.” Yeah, I’m sure it may lend itself to abuse if the Rabble Rouser (aka Game Master) isn’t paying attention.

EZD6 Aspects examples better than mine.

Creatures in this game are a breeze to create.

I think Scotty might have taken a page out of ICRPG when he created the monsters and magic items for this game, which is totally cool. Creatures are more than a heap-o-stats and a pile-o-loot. I can have a literal field day with this. Monsters are basically the number of Strikes they can take, how hard they are to hit (from 1-6) and then what can they do? It’s purely description.

Here’s an example:

EZD6 Troll.

There isn’t a ton of numerical manipulation here. Boons are like Advantage in D&D 5E. Roll a second die, pick the higher roll. Trolls are obviously melee combatants. They’re just better at it.

I could add one line in the description to give the Troll another head or have it breathe fire. Everything I love about making monsters quick and easy in other games is right here. I’m very impressed by this plan.

As a side note, the creatures designed for the game itself are straight up nightmare fuel in places. Again, no spoilers, but <shudder.> I like it. My own various plotting and scheming aside, this game offers some tough battles for unwary characters. It’s kind of Old School that way.

Character growth and magical loot are as simple as monster creation.

Unlike other games, EZD6 has no advancement tables or experience point system. Character growth is purely narrative. The RR might rule the character gains a new trait, aspect or boon to something after a specific milestone or story arc. It’s very subjective. Magic items are also a good way to improve a character.

You may have guessed by now that magic items are also descriptive in nature. A magic sword might grant a Boon to hit in melee, sing loudly, and shoot a lightning bolt once per day. Oh, and it talks to the wielder telepathically, constantly. Needless to say, even basic magic items might be fairly hard to come by and very special to the character who owns them. Weapons could be as simple as “Grants a Boon in melee.” There’s really no such thing as a +1 longsword in this game.

There’s a lot of wiggle room for the RR to add more complexity to the magic item system and tons of random rolls if they wish. Weapon and artifact traits from any number of other RPGs are out there to be ported-in if desired. The RR is cautioned against doling out too many magic items too fast, however.

Overall, 5 out of 5 Stars!

The art and system for this game are phenomenal. The art is pretty old school, much like I have grown to expect from other Runehammer games. It’s a very simple, easy to teach, fast, light rules game. Combat can be complex with minis on a grid or theatre of the mind with ease. Jump in and play!

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you. Please go check out EZD6.

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!

G.I. JOE the RPG Review.

In honor of our hard workin, hard fightin real life American heroes, I thought I’d do my long overdue review of GI JOE the RPG from Renegade Studios. I have literally waited 40 years for this game to be made officially.

HAPPY FOURTH of JULY!

In honor of our hard workin, hard fightin real life American heroes, I thought I’d do my long overdue review of GI JOE the RPG from Renegade Studios. I have literally waited 40 years for this game to be made officially. It’s at the top of my list next to Power Rangers and Transformers. I was so stoked when I saw these three games on Kickstarter a couple of years ago.

The dream has been realized minus Transformers. I see it’s been moved to Q04 of 2022. (What the heck, guys?) I mean, how many of us want to someday realize the GI JOE/Transformers crossover we’ve been dreaming about for decades? I know I’m not alone.

I think nostalgia is the primary appeal of GI Joe. All of us who ever ran games from other systems who always wanted an official Joe RPG for the last 40 years or so finally got our wish. I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of my old favorite characters, vehicles, and weapons from the action figures and the cartoon in print.

This has been four decades in the making. YAY!!!

Essence20 keeps getting better.

Renegade is becoming a very solid company when it comes to game design. I still think Power Rangers RPG is a little shaky under the same system, but the writers have gotten better with GI Joe. Everything flows together with the system so far and I’ve had no hiccups creating characters thusfar.

Renegade also provides downloadable character sheets and prefilled sheets for some noteworthy characters such as Duke and Scarlet. My hat’s off to the writers for being more ready up front with this game. It’s very well put together.

Combat can be as cartoony or as meaty as you’d like.

I was glad to see the discussion of weapon damage being a group consensus. The group can decide to treat it like the 1980’s cartoon with the pew-pew lasers set on stun and parachutes that always deployed. Or they can make it gritty and realistic like a more modern military style game where getting shot is serious business and vehicles can explode with all occupants aboard.

Combat is a key element in this game and I’m glad to see a fairly thorough treatment throughout the book. Weapons are customizable. The vehicles are as cool as any toy playset ever made. Personally, I’m excited to see characters in jet packs and Trouble Bubbles.

The diversity of character options is stunning.

If you ever saw a character in the cartoon that you wanted to emulate or have a particular fan fiction character you want to play, this system has it covered. The same goes for Cobra, though. Anything the GM ever wanted to see Cobra get correct, they can do now. No more incompetent Cobra Commander or bumbling minions unless that’s how you want to play it.

The other neat thing is the sheer amount of character volume included in the core rules. You get to fight alongside Joe luminaries such as Duke, Snake Eyes, Sgt Slaughter, Jinx, Quick Kick and so many, many more. They even went so far as to give a full page treatment to the ones they didn’t have room for in the Core Book.

Oh no! They missed my favorite character! No worries.

One really nice touch they did throughout the game was the “Knowing is Half the Battle” segments that further define a rule or clarify a lot of potential questions. Another great moment came when I found the Perk: Kung Fu Grip. They even mention the historic origins of the name and Yo Joe! is a legitimate battle cry with in game effects. (Kind of like saying It’s Morphin Time or Autobots, Transform and Roll Out.)

I know I've mentioned before that art sells RPG books. The GI JOE RPG has some of the most gorgeous artwork of any RPG ever produced. Admittedly, they might have had a slightly easier time given the volume of art for the animated series and comics that accumulated over the years, but still. This game looks great! Good job team! 

If I was ever waffling on whether or not to by this book, the layout and presentation along with the gorgeous artwork sells it. 

The only thing I hope and pray for Renegade to do-

Renegade folx, if you see this, please hear my pathetic begging. There needs to be a sourcebook with more of the original Joes statted up. Of course there needs to be an extensive book of all the Joe vehicles. Please, please, please give us a solid Cobra sourcebook complete with characters, vehicles, weapons and cool science projects. If you really wanted to make this fanboy happy, please make a Sigma 6 sourcebook.

I give it 5 stars. Keep up the awesome work! Can’t wait to see Transformers.

Thank you all for stopping by. I appreciate it. Have a happy and safe holiday!

Some Sci-Fi Games Off the Beaten Space Lane.

I wanted to go with some that are maybe not as well known as Starfinder. With Spelljammer coming for D&D in August, I wanted to throw some alternatives out ahead of time.

In the mood for a Sci-Fi RPG? Please take a look at these games.

May Fourth’s article got me in the mood for a space game again. There are heaps I could mention. I wanted to go with some that are maybe not as well known as Starfinder. With Spelljammer coming for D&D in August, I wanted to throw some alternatives out ahead of time.

I wish DwD would keep going with this!

Frontierspace by DwD Games. With a new (*highly controversial) version of Star Frontiers on the horizon, Frontierspace is a beautiful tribute to the original Star Frontiers. There’s also a Star Frontiers magazine called Frontier Explorer that was producing exciting new content for Star Frontiers/Frontierspace until it came to a screeching halt recently with Issue 36 Spring 2022 being the last one.

Frontierspace is a solidly written game by fans of Star Frontiers. It’s a bit more of a hard sci-fi game as opposed to space opera in my opinion. Although it is far from the hard sci-fi game that Traveler is. Frontierspace has just enough science crunch without being a lesson in astrophysics and aerospace engineering.

The only kind of downer about this game is that DwD has been quiet for a couple of years now. With Frontier Explorer ending, there’s really not much going on in terms of new material. Many players really enjoyed Star Frontiers and this game really brings back that nostalgia.

Galaxy Prime. A unique specimen.

Galaxy Prime by Epic Age Media. This game actually reminds me a little bit of the original Star Wars RPG. I love the huge selection of playable races in this game. The thing that drew me to this game is the simplicity of the game. There are a lot of neat supplements and scenarios, too.

This game is also beautiful because exploration could be a big part of the game. Space is infinite. One doesn’t necessarily need to stick to the known galaxy. Player Characters can go explore as much as they wish in any game.

The game has kind of that harder Aliens edge in some ways. The politics and racial interactions are a cross between Babylon 5 and early Star Trek. The core book is open enough that the GM could literally determine everything and just play the game as desired. I miss Babylon 5, personally.

I know. ICRPG makes me drool with delight.

ICRPG by Runehammer Games. Specifically Warp Shell. The system is phenomenal. The campaign is very well designed. It’s got kind of a Farscape vibe to it. Warp Shell goes epic if you like. I know I talk about ICRPG a lot on this blog, but it’s because the quality of this game is so good!

System beauty aside, your ship, aka the Warp Shell, has a mind of its own. I once played in a Shatterzone game like this and it was awesome! So, you may never know where you’re going to end up each week. Plus there’s a cool element resembling the Classic Star Trek episode, “The Doomsday Machine.”

Runehammer also has a game called Viking Death Squad which reminds me a bit of Mutant Chronicles and Warhammer 40K.

Hunt the Wicked. Love bounty hunters!

Hunt the Wicked by Sigil Stone Publishing. If you like Mandalorian and/or Cowboy Bebop and want to chase criminals all over known space, then this game is for you! The system is okay. I just like the basic premise of the game.

What’s not to love when you’re running your own company of bounty hunters/mercenaries? Keep bringing in the big bounty heads and keep your crew and yourself afloat. Please, this time- No Disintegrations!

Added bonus: The Quick Start Rules are FREE on DriveThruRPG.

Shatterzone Reprinted by Precis Intermedia. This game was originally produced by West End Games as part of their Masterbook line. One of the main premises of this game is the nigh impenetrable barrier separating the Core worlds from the rest of the galaxy. However, ships have recently figured out how to get through the ‘Zone.

Sign up for a corporation or the mighty Fleet and explore the galaxy. Powered armor, cool starships, interesting species, and fun gear are all part of the adventures. It’s a little bit like Star Wars, and a bit of Cyberpunk. Well worth checking out. Ownership of the MasterBook Rules is helpful, but not entirely necessary with the reprints.

I mentioned Shatterzone because it’s an old favorite that was given new life by Precis Intermedia. These folks have been doing a great job of breathing new life into old games, much like our friends at Epic Age Media above.

Masterfully reprinted- ShatterZone.

I may have to do another article on this particular subject as the five I’ve listed barely scratch the surface of the planet when it comes to sci-fi space gaming. I like talking about some of the smaller games because they’re easier on the wallet, especially in pdf. Off the top of my head, I can think of a dozen more games. I didn’t mention some of the big ones or some of the indie games that cover this subject so very well.

Hope you’re having a great weekend. There’s a whole summer of gaming ahead for many of us. Thanks for being here. Have fun!

Does the Number of Books Matter?

I strongly considered Basic D&D, literally just Basic as opposed to OSR or all of the variations on OSR. I considered Pathfinder 2E, but the rulebook is pretty hefty and there are so many character options. And last, there was good old 5E. So many options, but what would work best for me?

I submit to you 4 systems, one dungeon.

I’ve wrestled around with what system I want to write in as my primary game system for fantasy dungeon crawls. I mean, technically I could pull out more than four. Open Legends, Mythras, ICRPG, Bare Bones, FATE, and more all got pulled up as possibilities. But I was determined to go with what I know best.

My latest dungeon effort, one room at a time on my blog here, The Catacomb of the Wolf Lord, is done with Dungeon Crawl Classics. I strongly considered Basic D&D, literally just Basic as opposed to OSR or all of the variations on OSR. I considered Pathfinder 2E, but the rulebook is pretty hefty and there are so many character options. And last, there was good old 5E. So many options, but what would work best for me?

So much source material to choose from.

My meager Pathfinder Second Edition collection. But is it good for dungeon crawls?

One thing I love about D&D 5E is that it is probably the single most expanded upon RPG in the history of games. I thought I had a lot of 3E monster books from various publishers. Some folks in the community call it “bloat.” Regardless of what it’s called, there are hundreds of variations on classes, monsters, spells, etc. Given the amount of options, I decided to go for something a little simpler.

Let’s be clear, though. The amount of options isn’t as negative as the Old Grognards Society might have you believe. The massive amount of options is less daunting as long as the DM and the group agree on what can be used or not used. At some point, there just comes a point when the group agrees this far and no farther. The same applies to homebrew.

Too much material sort of my issue with PF2E, but not the only one. Paizo has printed some seriously impressive books, especially monsters, for Pathfinder 1E. PF2E has three bestiaries to date. Their conversion of 1E source material has been fantastic so far.

Recently Paizo announced a new title that would be 5E compatible. PF2E sales are not as stellar as maybe they could be according to some. If I were going to try to make some cash on DriveThruRPG from this dungeon, maybe PF2E isn’t the way to go? I’ve also never been a fan of the Pathfinder’s campaign world. It’s okay, just not my jam, maybe.

DCC has a whopping two books of official content, not counting modules, zines, and Lankhmar. Basic D&D has surprisingly few monster books as well. T$R was pretty good about not flooding the market back then. Of course, back then it was presumed DMs were creating their own homebrew monsters. Third party companies weren’t going bonkers with anything but modules as far as I remember. DCC is pretty much built for modules.

It’s not so much quality over quantity.

DCC Annual Vol 1.
So far the only major DCC sourcebook of note.

There are other factors at play. Sure DCC is extremely homebrew friendly and pretty easy to publish modules for it. Sure it’s familiar from the 3E D&D days. (Yes, I’m enamored with it as of late.) It’s got a lot going for it!

What D&D and Pathfinder both need (IN MY OPINION) is a narrowing. At its very core of any game is a basic set of stats, abilities, weapons, spells. The wheel can only be reinvented so many times over, right?

DCC offers that exact notion that rules can be narrowed. I’m not spending endless hours as the GM trying to dig through classes, subclasses, feats, skills, and so on. DCC is pretty basic Fighter, Thief, Cleric, and Wizard. The races are classes unto themselves. Nothing complicated.

I can go nuts (re)creating monsters, spells, items and even demigods all I want. Goodman seems cool about everything. But DCC isn’t bloated, either. The field is wide open like back in the Basic D&D days. Which is not to say the Internet isn’t absolutely thick with expansion material. But the DCC Core and Annual are all I’m using, plus whatever I can borrow, steal or create on my own.

D&D Basic is inspirational for DCC because of its classes, spells and weapons. Races were still considered classes in DCC and the monsters translate from Basic to DCC freakiness pretty well.

The best part is I can look at all the other books for PF2E and D&D 5E for inspiration. Outright plagiarism is not cool. NEVER EVER directly copy something and claim it as your own. It’s not fair to other creators.

The only two Basic D&D books I will ever use. These are reprints because my original Rules Cyclopedia fell apart after years of service. You can still get these titles from DMsGuild.

Borrowing concepts and abilities from other games is legit. Out-and-out plagiarism is not.

However- you can re-skin, change abilities, reorganize and rename creatures any time the situation dictates as long as you’re doing most of the above at the same time. An Orc by any other name is a Klurg, hailing from the far desert, with orange skin and wielding a khopesh made of solid obsidian. (Steal at will, I don’t mind.) Orcs in my campaigns typically behave like Star Trek Klingons, anyway. You can be original without doing all of the legwork over and over. (Remember that whole thing about reinventing the wheel?)

I see DCC has a Werewolf Lord, so why not a Wolf Lord? They compete with one another. One represents nature in three different aspects. The other represents the horrible abomination of man and nature. This will be fun! Clerics and Wizards will both benefit.

Thanks for stopping by!

The homebrew potential in DCC is immense. Plus it can always convert to other games quite easily. ICRPG is an easy conversion. D&D 5E and PF2E are also possible with a little time. I think the in-depth systems are awesome for more serious role-playing where DCC is great for beer-n-pretzels dungeon crawls.

Game on, family! See you soon. Hope you’re having a fabulous week.

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