Thursday, February 28, 2013

Adventures Dark and Deep G+ Community Now Open

With the imminent release of the Adventures Dark and Deep™ Players Manual (final layout this weekend, and then off to the printer it goes!), I thought it would be a good idea to set up a Google+ community so folks could get together and discuss, ask questions, plan online or convention games, etc. It's where all the cool kids hang out nowadays, dontcha know. :-)

Everybody's welcome; see you there!

Review: Tempest's Gate

Caution: Spoilers

Today I delve into a bit of Greyhawkiana that is often overlooked; comic book tie-ins. In the early 2000's, Kenzer Co. put out several comic book series set in the World of Greyhawk. I'm going to start with Tempest's Gate, published December 2001 - March 2002:
  • Book One: Born of Fire
  • Book Two: Forged in Tears
  • Book Three: Tempered in Fellowship
  • Book Four: Sheathed in Justice
The story takes place in and around Bissel. No date is given, but the capital of Bissel is seated in Castle Overlook (which is given as Castle Oversight in the LGG and other official WotC material-- a bit of a conundrum in and of itself; are there two different castles with near-identical names?). That places the story sometime after CY 590, when Pellak became the capital of Bissel: probably CY 591, given the publication dates and references to Lord Evard, who is also mentioned in the LGG around 589.

The story begins in the border town of Tempest's Gate, right on the edge of the Barrier Peaks near the Realstream River, but the action takes place in the capital and under the Barrier Peaks as well. There's a lot of good interplay between the characters, although the "the two magic-users who used to be lovers but are now bitter enemies" thing was a trifle forced.

The plot revolves around a scheme to replace the current Margrave with one of the petty nobles of Bissel, apparently a continuation of Lord Evard's failed coup in 589 (according to the LGG). The action begins with a raid on the eponymous town of Tempest's Gate, moves on to a duel of honor and attempted assassinations in the capital, and finally a revisit to the site of an adventuring party's greatest triumph, although the remaining members of that party are now split between those fighting against the coup, and those who are plotting to overthrow the Margrave.

The writer, Sean Smith, isn't afraid to kill off characters, which is good, but the ending seemed very rushed; the big climactic battle between Mistress Flame and her former companions only takes four pages (which, in comic book format, is really short). The writing is okay; some of the plot twists are clever, some are... baffling. Everything seems rather rushed, but I will admit that I'm not a big comic book reader any more, so perhaps it's more the genre than this specific series.

There are a lot of useful bits in these comics that can be utilized in a game, mainly in the form of NPCs to be found in the area of Bissel; Aidus and Vail are given stats (in 3.5 format). Book 1 actually gives game statistics for the humanoid oghs (who are a special type of orc found in the Barrier Peaks), which is a nice touch. On the whole, some useful stuff for your game and a not-awful story.

I give it three wizards out of five.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Don't Call Them Clones

There are a few conversations buzzing around Google+ right now about retro-clones and other OSR games. Rather than comment on the particular issues in those conversations, however, I'd like to take a minute and discuss the misuse of the word "clone" in a gaming context.

A clone (aka retro-clone or simulacrum)  is a game that emulates the rules of another game. It's not a statement of style or aesthetics, and it's not a catch-all for any game produced under the nebulous umbrella of the OSR. A clone tries to recreate the play experience of an earlier game. The differences between the clone and the original are usually organizational, but occasionally a few clean-ups of ambiguous or outrageous rules are introduced which, while making it not a true 100% clone, leave the play of the original intact (especially how the game was actually played back in the day, in many cases) sufficiently to count for all practical purposes.

Examples of true (or fairly true) clones include Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, and OSRIC. They don't rewrite character classes, or change the combat system all around, or replace Vancian magic with a spell-point system, or whatever. They try as closely as possible to emulate D&D or AD&D (other clones could emulate other games, of course).

This leaves us with several entire categories of games that don't fall into the definition of "clones", but for which no standard nomenclature has yet been adopted. They include:
  1. Games based on older games, but which introduce rules changes so significant as to alter the play experience to the point where it is subjectively different from the original.
  2. Games which have new mechanics but which consciously attempt to emulate the "play feel" of games from the 1970's and 80's. 
  3. Games which attempt to create games which where never published or made public in the 1970's or 80's, but whose substance can be at least partially intuited or otherwise (re)discovered through research. 
Note that I am consciously omitting things which are not stand-alone sets of game rules such as supplements, settings, and adventure modules. In the first category, I'd put games such as Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Myth & Magic, etc. In the second, we have games such as Castles & CrusadesAdventurer Conquerer King, Spellcraft & Swordplay, Barbarians of Lemuria, etc. And in the third category we have Dragons at Dawn and my own Adventures Dark and Deep

Trouble is, if they're not clones, what to call them?

This is a question I've been struggling with myself for some time. I've seen various suggestions; nostalgia games, neo-clones, etc. but nothing really clicks for me. Here's my attempt at systematizing the whole thing.
  • Retro-clones emulate older game mechanics and feel.
  • Retro-builds have an old-school feel, but either use new mechanics or alter the old mechanics to the point where cross-compatibility is difficult. There can be sub-types, but I'm not going to try to get into that level of detail here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review: Descent into the Depths of the Earth

Caution: Spoilers (both of the novel and the modules it's based on).

Today's foray into somewhat obscure Greyhawkiana is a direct sequel to the last post in the series. Paul Kidd's Descent into the Depths of the Earth is the second in his trilogy of novels set in Greyhawk featuring the Justicar and his companions. Published in 2000, the novel picks up only a few weeks or so after the previous novel, White Plume Mountain, ends.

In this novel, Kidd takes the same approach with the original source material (the adventure modules D1-D3; Descent into the Depths of the Earth, Shrine of the Kuo-Toa, and Vault of the Drow) and uses them as the backdrop against which he tells an original story. I find this a terrific way to showcase the versatility of the adventure modules themselves, demonstrating that they don't only have to be used as the follow-up to the Giants novels, and that adventurers can have all sorts of motives for hitting the tunnels and caverns of Oerth's underdark.

In this case, the Justicar, his sentient hell hound pelt Cinders, faerie Escalla and Polk the drover have a double mission. First, to clear the name of Escalla, who is suspected of murdering a faerie prince she was to marry (against her will) and also to track down and rescue a village full of innocents who have been captured in a raid and taken underground. The two plots interweave nicely, and the mystery of who is behind the murder/frame-up is handled well.

The novel has more depth to it (pardon the pun). Where the first in the series was more light-hearted and sacrificed some complexity in the name of introducing the characters and establishing their relationships, this novel is definitely more layered in its narrative. There's a lot going on, between the politics of the Seelie Court, the various plots that involve the drow and their demon queen, and the budding romantic relationship between the Justicar and Escalla, and Kidd handles it all adroitly.

That's not to say there's not humor, which is one of the things I like most about his books in this series. For fans of the Greyhawk setting itself, there's a lot of new material that can be directly adapted for one's own campaign with the Seelie Court and its various clans and factions, and the description of the party's movements through the underdark is a model of how a group of player characters should approach the place.

This is quite an enjoyable read and I'd recommend it to anyone, especially if they enjoyed White Plume Mountain. I find myself very much looking forward to the final book in the Justicar trilogy.

I give it four wizards out of five.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ogre Miniatures at Dreamation 2013

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to run two games of Ogre miniatures at the Dreamation 2013 convention in Morristown, NJ. Unfortunately, I didn't run the scenario I had originally intended to run; there was a mechanical issue with the scenario I never could get over (how to have a submarine firing cruise missiles at the attackers without completely unbalancing the scenario), and I didn't get the submarine model done in time to use as a prop on the table. I could have worked around the second issue, but the first was a showstopper.

Anyway, I ended up running a Ceasefire Collapse scenario on Friday, and a Raid scenario on Sunday. As always, click the images to embiggen. The Ceasefire Collapse was straightforward. Both sides started with equal amounts of vehicles and infantry, a Mk-III Ogre, and had at it. Both sides had some towns for the other to turn to rubble, too.

The PanEuropeans (top/left) went for a static defense with three howitzers centered on the towns in the corner of the board.
Most of the early action was on the left flank, as a force of Combine GEVs sweeps towards a lightly defended town.


The PanEuropean Ogre charges over the bridge to try to pick off some Combine units,  but gets mauled for its efforts. The attack on the left flank went really, really slowly as a few squads of infantry (which are tripled in defense in towns) held off five attacking GEVs.

The town was eventually turned to rubble and the GEVs swept right, and the PanEuropean MK-III retreated back over the river, to hide under the cover of the howitzers.





The Combine player begins his big push.

This is what we like to see. Ogre vs. Ogre, nose to nose.

This was the last picture I was able to take before my camera died. Short version; the Combine force off to the left circled around the woods and attacked at the same time as the red Ogre did. Since the PanEuropean Ogre had gotten pretty damaged, and there were almost no PE units left besides the howitzers, the battle was won by the Combine.


Sunday's Raid had a combine MK-III Ogre and a squadron of 10 GEVs attacking a PanEuropean industrial complex which was guarded by another MK-III, some infantry, and a handful of GEVs and light GEVs. The defenders got random reinforcements on every turn, so there's definitely a time issue for the attackers. Futz around too long, and the defenders have so many units you can't win. Note the great orange paint job on the defending forces; one player brought his own Hollanders to the fray.

The Combine attackers (top) split their forces; GEVs on one flank, an Ogre and a pair of GEVs on the other. The PanEureopan defenders (bottom) are more spread out, with their Ogre in the middle.
The Combine GEVs (top) come around the flank and start sweeping everything before them.

The defending GEVs and light GEVs try to pepper the attacking Ogre (in red), but inflict relatively little damage.
The Combine player through more ones on his attack rolls than I have ever seen in any game. It was unreal. (In Ogre, you want to roll high. Ouch.)

The expected duel of Ogres never materialized. They danced around each other, but never had the toe-to-toe slug match I thought would happen. 
Most of the defending buildings and units destroyed, the Combine player retreats and wins a comfortable victory on points.

Review: Curse of the Weaver Queen

A few weeks ago, I got a free copy of Tim Kask's new adventure module, Curse of the Weaver Queen, published by Eldritch Entertainment and available through RPGNow.com (and elsewhere) for $7.50 in pdf format. It's 48 pages, b&w interior, two-column format.

I think this is a nifty adventure. The premise is a simple one; hordes of giant spiders and other arachnid-type creatures are despoiling the area, and the adventurers are sent to investigate and stop them. Despite the cover image (which has thematic similarities to AD&D's driders and Lolth), there's not a drow to be seen, but there is a lot of interesting background, motives and history for the PCs to unravel, and an interesting buried temple complex for them to explore in the process.

The module uses a generic system for creature and NPC statistics, so anyone using D&D or its many mostly-compatible systems will find it pretty easy to use off the shelf. Most of the interior art is or utilizes clipart, but there's some very nice original cartography in there as well. The module is site-specific, but does rely on some campaign background that might need some adjustment or retconning to bring the adventure into a home campaign.

I won't give spoilers as to what the adventure itself entails, which is a nicely done dungeon crawl with a good balance of combat and problem-solving. The only flaw I see is that most of the rich backstory seems to be intended to be blurted out by one of the creatures; I would much rather have seen the PCs required to piece it together rather than having it handed to them. But on the whole that's a minor quibble in an otherwise solid adventure module.

Overall, is it worth buying? Yes. This is a solid location-based adventure, with new monsters and magic, and no glaring flaws.

Thieves' Tools

Ever wonder what those "thieves' tools" are on your equipment list? Well, wonder no more:


And the best part is, that lovely set (made from old saw blades, in fact) can be yours for just $62, case included. 


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Legendary Realms Terrain Kickstarter

I've largely gotten out of the business of pimping other peoples' Kickstarters unless they're pretty dang special, but this one definitely qualifies. Legendary Realms Terrain is kickstarting a major expansion to its dungeon and wilderness terrain pieces with themed room sets.

I like this for two reasons. First, it's a terrific product. I've seen it before at various conventions, and they keep bringing out new and cooler pieces. It's gorgeous, pre-painted, and has the bonus of being lighter, more durable, and less expensive than some of the alternatives.

Second, the guys at the company are really great. They're gamers, and really support the OSR. They've taken to running old-school games like Labyrinth Lord through enormous displays of their terrain to show off the pieces. They could have chosen to run D&D 4E or Pathfinder, but they don't. I like that they share my aesthetic sensibility game-wise.

So do consider supporting this one. It's a great product, a great company, and you get some terrific rewards for your pledge. If you like minis at your game, this is definitely the way to go.

Dreamation 2013 After-Action Report

I just got back from the Dreamation 2013 convention, and it was, as always, a wonderful time!

I ran the three "Giants" modules, using the AD&D rules, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. A couple of players went through all three, while there were some newcomers in the later sessions as well.

The Steading of the Hill Giant Chief went like clockwork. The party snuck around, killed giants in their sleep, charmed one to get information, and eventually found the treasure room and the teleporting device that took them to The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl.

Best... yarmulke... EVER
By the time they got there, however, they took a decidedly more aggressive approach, lobbing fireballs and lightning bolts around, killing lots of giants but not getting any information (or treasure, as they kept slagging anything worth taking).

The Hall of the Fire Giant King was more of a mix of the two approaches. They started off great, sneaking around invisibly, but found themselves having to take out a band of gnolls and two fire giant guards. Things could still have worked out for them, but they left the bodies where they could be found, alerted the wily Obmi that something was afoot, and lost two of their band to some poisoned arrows. They weren't helped by being fooled by a trio of rakshasas impersonating the lords who had hired them. Once the remaining adventurers were cornered by fire giants and hell hounds, the rakshasas also struck, and the party either teleported away in ignominy or used haste to run for the hills.

Thrilled that her wedding
reception was in the same
hotel as a gaming con full
of LARPers in costume.
Really!
Still, everyone agreed it was a grand time, and I certainly had a lot of fun running the modules. I hadn't run them since I was in high school, and never in a real tournament situation. Loads of fun.

I also ran two sessions of Ogre Miniatures, which I'll recount in a separate post.

The rest of the convention was a blast as always. Lots of great games being played, over 1,600 gamers packing the hotel, and a really great staff putting everything together. If there were any foul-ups, I was unaware of them.

Definitely highly recommended (along with the other cons put on by the same outfit, Dexcon and Metatopia) if you're anywhere in the vicinity of New Jersey or even farther afield.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Well *that* sucks...

I had approached the agent for an author of a series of books that I thought would make a spiffy RPG, but got a letter back today saying, "Sorry, we just concluded a deal for an RPG with someone else."

Grrrr...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Review: White Plume Mountain

Caution: Spoilers (both of the novel and the modules it's based on).

Today I'm going to take you through another piece of Greyhawkiana that not everyone is familiar with; the novel White Plume Mountain by Paul Kidd. Published in 1999 to coincide with the release of the adventure module Return to White Plume Mountain, this is the second in the series of "Greyhawk Classics" novels and is better by far than its predecessor Against the Giants.

Although this novel is based on the original module of the same name, it doesn't make the mistake of simply being a recounting of the plot thereof. Indeed, it even references the events of the module as having taken place in past history (this novel takes place in CY 588) and shifts the action to the County of Urnst, which is teeming with Tenha refugees after Iuz destroyed the Duchy in the recent wars. We see the enchanted weapons Wave, Whelm, and Blackrazor, but they are now found in Trigol, and two of them are given some more interesting backstories than merely "powerful magic weapons in someone's collection." Wave, we find out, is sacred to Geshtai, goddess of rivers, and Whelm is sacred to Bleredd, god of metal, mining, and smiths.

Although the plot of the novel eventually takes the characters to the famed mountain, what I like about it is that they spend as much time along the borders of Urnst, or in the city of Trigol, as they do inside the mountain itself. That gives a lot of opportunity not only to explore the characters and build up their relationships, but also to define some of the setting itself, especially in places that haven't gotten a lot of attention, such as Trigol. There's also some interesting background on the political situation with the refugees in Urnst and the temple rivalries they've brought with them.

Even once we do get into the mountain itself, it's not a straight retread of either White Plume Mountain or Return to White Plume Mountain. There are certainly similarities, but things are subtly different to account for the intervening years, and the real villain's plot is subtly different from those in the adventure modules. I liked that; if one was using this as source material, there are some neat ideas and alternatives to be had.

What I really like about this book, though, are the characters. The novel's main character, a ranger called The Justicar, is certainly memorable, and would make a great NPC for a game. The same goes for his companions Cinder (a sentient hell hound pelt), Escalla (a perky and quirky faerie/pixie sorceress), and Polk, a kindly but annoying old wagon drover who is bound and determined to teach The Justicar what "real" adventurers are like.

There's no small amount of humor to be found, but the novel as a whole is serious. With some very memorable characters and nice background that fleshes out aspects of the Flanaess that we've never seen before, I am very pleased indeed with this entry into the Greyhawk novel arena.

I give it four wizards out of five.




A Definition of "Old School"

Well, not Old School in the RPG sense of the term, but did you know that there was an Old School/New School divide in the miniatures wargaming community too? Ayup, and Steve of Steve's Random Musings on Wargames and Other Stuff has a pretty interesting definition that I think has some striking parallels to the role-playing crowd as well. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

ADD Game Masters Toolkit - No Kickstarter


I view Kickstarter as a way to, well, kick-start my projects. It's not an ATM that I want to go to every time I've got a book to publish, just because I don't want any risk. Publishing should incur some risk, and I should be willing to put up some of my own money to see my vision come to pass. It's only when I don't have enough to get the ball rolling that I want to use Kickstarter, and I'm glad it's there for that purpose. 

That said, my announcement is that, having run the numbers, barring any unforeseen circumstances, the Adventures Dark and Deep™ Game Masters Toolkit will be coming out in the May-June time frame, without any Kickstarter. The first two books, A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore and the Players Manual, have primed the pump enough that I can put out the GMT on my own. (I think!)

Looking at the project plan, it does seem like I'll need to Kickstart the Bestiary, but it's also bigger than the first two books put together, and I want it to have literally about 8 or 9 times as much art. But the Game Masters Toolkit is, I think, doable without another trip to the Kickstarter well, and for that I thank everyone who's bought or supported the first two books, the Darker Paths booklets, and the first adventure module

Kickstarter Thoughts

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Kickstarter is rapidly becoming ensconced as a key component to many new RPG projects. The ability to raise funds without recourse to traditional pre-order systems (although many people feel, not without some justification, that some Kickstarters are just that) or bank financing is a huge boon and has yielded some great stuff. Heck, I've used it twice myself to raise funds for Adventures Dark and Deep™.

However, it's not without its pitfalls.

As we've seen quite a few times over the last year or so, gaming projects that are funded through Kickstarter have a pretty crappy record when it comes to delivering rewards on time, and that record is starting to give a lot of people pause when it comes to funding projects through Kickstarter at all. I see these problems stemming from a variety of causes:

Problem: Underestimating the amount of work left. This is huge, and is caused by starting the real writing of a game after the Kickstarter campaign has ended. Don't do this! If you're doing an RPG, at least have the rules written before you ask for money to get it in print. If you feel you deserve to be paid for your writing before a single book has hit the shelves, you might want to consider submitting freelance work for an established publisher, rather than self-publishing.

Solution: Front-load the work. Have it written before you Kickstart it, and only ask for the money you need to get it in print (art, layout, editing, printing, etc.).

Problem: Getting distracted.
I'm starting to see this more and more; a Kickstarter really takes off, and the game designer starts throwing in all sorts of tangential bonus rewards. Mugs, computer programs, Minecraft servers, conventions that a dozen people will realistically be able to attend, etc. None of these things are really connected to the actual project, and end up being enormous distractions because the game designer fools himself into thinking that the Kickstarter supporters actually pledged their money to get a some iPhone or Android app, rather than the dungeon that was at the top of the page. 

Solution: Stay focused. Concentrate on getting the core product out the door first, and worry about the tchotchkes after. Except in rare cases, people aren't supporting your campaign for the extras. They want the main item.

Problem: Underestimating costs.
I've heard horror stories about people who forgot to include shipping in their calculations, or who offered a bonus stretch goal that ended up costing more than what they raised in the campaign to begin with. Some even need to do a second Kickstarter campaign to pay for the extras in the first one! 

Solution: Know your costs! Keep the extras cheap and simple and for Zilchus's sake make sure you have accounted for every cost you're going to incur. Pantomime going through the entire process if you need to (literally-- physically go through the motions so you know you're not skipping anything), from typing to mailing, and track the costs along the way.

Problem: Life gets in the way. It's hard to plan for this one, granted. But if a project is the brainchild of a single person, rather than a creative team, then an illness, computer problems, etc. can be devastating. 

Solution: Teamwork. Don't try to be a one-man band.

Now, this isn't a comprehensive list by any stretch. I've been pretty good with the first three bullets so far, but I'll confess I'm opening myself up to the third pitfall, and am working on mitigating it. I do think that if people who are considering Kickstarting their game are cognizant of those four pitfalls, the whole process will work a lot better for all concerned. 

Dreamation Convention Schedule Now Up

The schedule for this weekend's Dreamation convention in Morristown, NJ is now posted. Here's what I will be running:
  • Thursday, 8:00 PM: R155: AD&D 1st Edition; "Steading of the Hill Giant Chief"
  • Friday, 2:00 PM: W465: Ogre Miniatures; "Last Sub Out of Bristol"
  • Friday, 8:00 PM: R222: AD&D 1st Edition; "Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl"
  • Saturday, 8:00 PM: R304: AD&D 1st Edition; "Hall of the Fire Giant King"
  • Sunday, 10:00 AM: W772: Ogre Miniatures; "Last Sub Out of Bristol"
Hope to see some folks there!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Help Out Ernie Gygax

Ernie Gygax, who should need no introduction to old-school D&D fans, lost his home today to a fire. Apparently no one was injured, but obviously it's a trying time for him and his roommate.

An Ernie Gygax Fire Relief page has been set up on Facebook. Keep an eye there for further news and details on how you can help out. Once something is posted on how to donate to the cause, I'll have it up in the upper-left corner of the blog under "worthy causes".

One of the things the RPG world is really good at is helping out one another. Let's not let him down. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Review: Against the Giants

Caution: Spoilers (both of the novel and the modules it's based on).

I thought I'd take a tour through some of the lesser-known works of Greyhawkiana, starting with some of the Greyhawk Classics novels of the late 1990's and early 2000's. The first I'm going to cover is Against the Giants by Ru Emerson, published in 1999. The novel was originally released in conjunction with the compilation module Against the Giants, which itself was a compilation of modules Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, and Hall of the Fire Giant King, with additional material.

The novel itself cleaves very closely to the plot of the original Giants modules. Hill giants are ravaging villages in western Keoland and southern Sterich, and a band of brave adventurers is sent off to stop them and discover what is behind the raids. It takes place in CY 585.

There are several problems with the novel, both from a Greyhawkian perspective and a literary one. First and foremost, the characters are completely forgettable. There's a paladin, a barbarian, a fighter, a magic-user, and a pair of half-elven rangers, but at times it was very difficult to figure out which character was talking, because there was almost nothing to distinguish them. The only halfway-interesting character in the party is killed almost right off the bat, but his death has no discernible impact on the others. The stock "awed farm boy who was trained by his warrior father and survived the massacre of his home village" seems unchanged by his adventures.

The plot lingers on the first of the three giant strongholds, where various prisoners are released, some of whom join the party. However, the attention given to the Steading seems to come at the expense of the other two, as almost no time is spent on the frost giant stronghold, and the foray into the fire giant hall is rushed to the point of feeling almost perfunctory. In fact, the characters even go out of their way to say that the glacial rift of the frost giants is only a means to get to the real destination; the fire giants' hall.

One big reason for the unseemly haste is the fact that the party's mage conveniently was a slave of Eclavdra (the drow ultimately behind the raids) and knows the layout of both the rift and the fire giants' hall. If he had been selected for the mission because of his knowledge, it might not be so bad (although still way too convenient), but the fact that it seems to come as much of a surprise to him to see Eclavdra's signature on a scroll strains one's credulity. He knows of the teleporting devices that allow quick movement between the strongholds, and becomes the deus ex machina for any knowledge the party needs to hasten along to the end of the book.

A bigger problem structurally lies with the fact that the novel ends with the destruction of the drow priestess Eclavdra (in a very blasé presentation that compares poorly with the ones we will see in other places) and a couple of her henchmen. There is no final confrontation in the drow city, just a quick and easy death for the villain and voila! Mission accomplished. This obviously raises some canon problems; not her death, which is actually dealt with as a possibility in the adventure modules, but the fact that there isn't anything beyond the single drow priestess pulling King Snurre's strings.

On the whole this is a very forgettable book. Other than adding a few place-names and possible NPCs (none of whom seem particularly compelling), it reads like an account of a game run through the modules that featured a player who had already read them and knew exactly where to go.

I rate it two wizards out of five.

Friday, February 15, 2013

"The Treasure of Welthorp" Now Available

Within the last few minutes, the first adventure module for Adventures Dark and Deep™ went live over at RPGNow.com. Yay! It is written by yours truly, and features fabulous cartographic illustrations by Jason Sholtis (who did the covers for the Necromancer and the Witch).

The Treasure of Welthorp is an adventure for 3-6 characters of level 2-3, and is designed to be played purely by role-playing and problem solving (although an option does exist for those who prefer their game with more mayhem). Can your players discover the location of the treasure using only their charm and wits?

Written for the Adventures Dark and Deep™ rules, The Treasure of Welthorp can be played with most Basic and Advanced compatible rule sets with little or no conversion needed. Here's the cover description:
Coming into possession of a treasure map that purports to lead to a cache of treasure hidden by the famous brigand and adventurer Morvan Blackmane, your party sets off on the journey, which lasts several days and is relatively uneventful.
When you arrive at the destination, a stream crossing unmistakably marked on the map, you realize something’s very, very wrong. There shouldn’t be a village here!
NOTE: If you were one of the many people who backed the Kickstarter campaign for A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore, you don't need to buy this adventure. You should have already gotten a coupon code for a free copy. This is the first bonus reward for the backers. This is also one of the bonus rewards for backers of the Dwimmermount Kickstarter campaign, so if you were a backer, you should hold off buying it, too.