Sunday, December 25, 2016

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Great Greyhawk Survey

I'd like to get a feel for how my fellow Greyhawk aficionados see the potential future of the World of Greyhawk. To that end, I've put together a little survey, and would heartily encourage everyone to let me know your thoughts.

Just a few things to preface this...

Do not read anything into this. I am doing this merely for my own curiosity, and have absolutely no knowledge of what Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro might be planning for the setting.

The following things are off the table. Please don't include them in your survey responses:

  • Gary Gygax's original Castle Greyhawk dungeons. We all want that as our #1, but it just ain't gonna happen.
  • Living Greyhawk material. There are so many issues with rights and legalities and such, it's just not a realistic option. 
  • Computer games. This is solely intended to gauge interest in tabletop games.
Thanks, very much, and feel free to spread this far and wide!

You can find the survey here.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Who doesn't like ice caverns?

Photo courtesy Legendary Realms
Legendary Realms has just launched a new Kickstarter for their new line of terrain. This time, the offering is ice, beautifully cast from semi-translucent resin. These pieces are perfect for any sort of ice cavern, arctic dungeon, or glacial rift of a frost giant jarl you might happen to e gaming in. The pieces are scaled for 25/28mm, and look to be compatible with most other terrain pieces (and most certainly with  LR's other, more mundane, offerings). Plus, they're offering A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore as a stretch goal.

I've gamed many times with their terrain, and it's really first-class stuff. I can't recommend it, or them, highly enough.

You can back the Kickstarter HERE
Full disclosure: LR includes an ad for Adventures Dark and Deep with their orders, and they have an ad in the back of all my ADD books in return. This post isn't part of that arrangement.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Happy 50th Birthday, Star Trek

I was just a bit too young to remember watching Trek when it was in first-run on television (but I was alive then, and it's certainly possible that I was present while the TV was on), but I vividly remember watching it in reruns in New York City, on channel 11 right at dinner time on weeknights (sandwiched around The Odd Couple and Beat the Clock, at least for a time). I don't know what it was about that show that struck a chord with me, but something definitely did, and I tried to never miss an episode. My parents didn't think anything of it, and happily indulged my passion with Star Trek toys, model kits, and action figures (back then we had the big 8" action figures, with uniforms made of real material, not just molded plastic, and removable phasers, communicators, tricorders, etc.). I had almost every one of those things you could get (in some cases more than one, and I would put the uniforms on other figures to beef up my team of red shirts to go down to the planet and get vaporized). I remember getting up extra early to watch the Animated Series once I discovered it, and being bewildered when I couldn't find it any more.

I had the earliest of the books; one of the first book reports I remember doing was on "Spock Must Die!" The old James Blish adaptations of the original Trek scripts were favorites, and I devoured "making of" books like "The Trouble with Tribbles ("the book on how to write for TV," as the subtitle claimed), "The World of Star Trek," and "The Making of Star Trek." I got several copies of the Star Fleet Technical Manual by Franz Joseph, and still have a rather large collection of 1st printings, for which I scour used bookstores when I have the opportunity. I have no idea if they're worth anything, but I like having them and other things, like the original Star Trek Maps, blueprints, and so forth.

In the aftermath of Star Wars, Trek became once more a hot property. Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out, and with it a slew of new novelizations. From the awfulness that was anything by Diane Duane to the ultimate coolness that was the John Ford Klingons, it was a great time to be a Trek fan. (Trekkie? Trekker? I didn't, and don't to this day, consider one cooler or more derogatory than the other.) Wrath of Khan followed, and things were rolling. A few friends in high school shared my passion, but not to the same extent as me, and it wasn't until college that I actually met others who were into Trek as much as I was. My best friend Bob and I took in our first Trek convention together that year in Boston, and I was in hog heaven. Bob had even written his own Trek novel, set on a ship other than the Enterprise (which at the time was a novelty), and even had insignia made up for the ship (I still have one, Bob, if you're reading this).

Over the years my love of Trek never diminished, and gradually turned into full-blown fandom. Conventions, uniforms, Trek-related games, fan clubs (I performed a wedding at a Shore Leave convention in Maryland, dressed as a Mirror Universe chaplain; "Let us prey... upon those who are weaker than ourselves..."). In fact, it was while in a Star Trek fan club that I met my wife*, and to this day some of my closest friends stem from those grand days of friendship and fellowship, built around our mutual obsession. Sure, I'm a fan of most if not all science fiction that comes down the pike, and Star Wars holds a place dear in my heart, Dr. Who is mostly great, but to this day I'll watch Star Trek if it's on in any form; whether it be one of the series (yes, I even like Star Trek Voyager), the movies, or even a special on a channel like Biography. My wife and I spent a great few months having our "can't miss together time" around watching Star Trek Deep Space Nine on DVD from start to finish.

Trek's made a lasting impression on my life, and made me some of the best friends I've had. And I don't think it's any odder than being able to quote baseball statistics or spending hundreds of dollars on football tickets.

* The first year we were married, we both tried to get the other a print of "New Borg City" for Christmas. Trouble is, the store only had one, and we were both trying to do it behind the other's back! It was a hoot once we and the guys at the store all realized what was going on.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate now available

This is something that I've been looking forward to for a long time. Back when I was writing The Golden Scroll of Justice, my own take on a fantasy wuxia/Chinese folklore based RPG supplement, I came across Brendan Davis's Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate RPG, which covers roughly the same sphere. We exchanged some emails, since we obviously shared common interests, and now he's ready to show his work to the world.

In fact, you can buy it here at It's PWYW, and the main version clocks in at a mighty 492 pages! The table of contents alone is 20 pages long.

Of course, there are bound to be differences in our approaches, and the most significant is that he's written a completely new RPG system to support his vision, where I went with a supplement for OSR type games.

I've just downloaded the book, so this won't be a full-blown review, but there is a lot in here that looks very interesting for fans of the kung fu / wuxia / Chinese fantasy genre. There are nearly 200 martial arts moves, different "sects" which are set up as threats to the PCs, and a pretty well-developed setting to go with the rules. I heartily encourage anyone who's interested in this sort of fantasy to check it out. Even if you don't end up playing the game entirely as written, there's tons of material here to mine for your game. I'm looking forward to getting elbow-deep into this book soon. A more in-depth review may well be forthcoming, but for now, buy it.

You can buy it here at

Friday, July 29, 2016

Worldographer: Hexographer 2 Kickstarter

The new Kickstarter for the next generation of Hexographer, now christened Worldographer, is now live. You can find it here.

Looks like there are a ton of great new features, a whole new selection of isometric icons and terrain features, an undo/redo feature, a really easy to use coastline generator (where, oh where was that when I was using Hexographer to make my Beyond the Flanaess maps???), and a lot of other neat stuff.

Hexographer is my go-to tool for wilderness mapping. I can't recommend it highly enough, and the new version looks like a great improvement on an already great product.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Shore Leave 2016

So I got back from this year's Shore Leave convention and had an absolute blast. The highlight for me was getting to meet Michael Forest, the actor who played Apollo in the classic Star Trek episode "Who Mourns for Adonais?" and reprised the role in the Star Trek Continues episode "Pilgrim of Eternity" this past weekend at the Shore Leave 38 convention.

He was really great to talk to, very nice and patient with all the attention he was getting from everyone, and had some fun behind-the-scenes stories. I saw him Friday night when the crowds weren't there, and got an autograph on a pic of him as Apollo crying with regret at the very end of the episode (one of my favorite scenes in any Trek series).

There was a game room open for the duration of the con, of course, and to my surprise, my daughter actually got really into playing Warhammer 40k. They did a scenario called "King of the Hill", and she was really into it. Heaven help me; my daughter might be getting into minis. If only it wasn't Games Workshop...

Anyhoo, here are some pics of the con, including the gaming and a lot of excellent cosplay. Enjoy!

A presentation about restoring the TV model of the Enterprise for the Smithsonian

Monday, July 11, 2016

Fantastic Worlds of Grenadier Kickstarter

Hey all!

Just wanted to give a very quick plug for the Fantastic Worlds of Grenadier Kickstarter. It's a book basically describing a nigh-unknown corner of early RPG history; Grenadier miniatures, which were quite the staple in our gaming group in the early 1980's and beyond.

They seem to be stuck in the mid-KS doldrums, but it would be a shame if a suitable spotlight wasn't shone on this corner of the early days of our hobby. So much attention has been spent on TSR and other publishers, I'd love to see a really good in-depth treatment of the minis side of the house.

Do check it out:

Friday, July 1, 2016

Thoughts on Q2

Timothy Brannan over at The Other Side blog has an interesting post about the never-extant module Q2, a hypothetical sequel to the (in)famous Q1, Queen of the Demonweb Pits. He makes an interesting point that, as published, Q1 sort of stands out as a sole solitary example of its series; even the intentionally stand-alone S series had several entries.

He proffers several possible stand-ins from published works, mostly looking for something that brings the action back to the material plane and involves more drow, even postulating a possible civil war. It's an interesting idea, but I wanted to explore it a bit in light of what we know Q1 was originally supposed to be.

I've discussed this before, in the context of the Temple of Elemental Evil and possible tie-ins between the two adventure lines, but in a nutshell, the original Gygaxian concept for Q1 had nothing to do with mechanical spiders or invasions of other worlds. It dealt specifically with the god of the Eilservs, the Elder Elemental God (EEG). Indeed, it was the worship of that eldritch deity, rather than Lolth, which set the whole chain of events in the Giants series of modules in motion, and most specifically set the vast majority of Lolth-worshiping drow against the renegade EEG-worshiping faction led by Eclavdra Eilserv.

Originally, the module was supposed to set up a possible confrontation between Lolth and the EEG, as the players attempted to complete the latter's banishment to "a distant star":
I had what I consider a much more interesting plan for the conclusion of the G-D series, one in which the PC party could loose the Elder Elemental god or send him into deeper isolation, thus assisting Lolth to become more powerful. By very astute play, they could have thwarted the designs of both evil entities. The Demonweb Pits were indeed envisioned as maze like, but there were to be no machines therein. -- Gary Gygax on EnWorld, August 2006
So in Q1, originally, the PCs would either help Lolth by increasing the shackles on the EEG, free the EEG inadvertently, thus setting the stage for a final confrontation, or thwarted both. Players being players, that last outcome is doubtless unlikely in the extreme. Ahem.

But this does give us an intriguing idea as to what a potential Q2 might have been. Assuming that "Q" in the name refers to Lolth as the "Queen" of the Demonweb pits, what we inevitably end up with is the ultimate climax to the adventure as a whole; a showdown between Lolth and the Elder Elemental God, with the PCs being at the exact point of the balance between the two, trying once more to thwart both mighty beings, possibly by playing one against the other (that's how I'd set it up, anyway).

This also works with the larger meta-narrative that seems to have been originally intended for these modules. If the low-level T1 was the start of that meta-narrative, and Q1 (or a hypothetical Q2) was the capstone, that leads us from Hommlet to the Temple of Elemental Evil (first introducing us to the EEG, although not in the published version), to the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth and the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, to the three "giants" modules, to the Descent into the Depths of the Earth series, to the final confrontation with both Lolth and the EEG, who are the true protagonists behind what's been going on all along, and who are at odds, as Lolth was either responsible for the EEG's original imprisonment, or for his continued confinement by her protection of the keys to his release in her Demonweb.

A drow civil war would certainly be possible in such a scenario, as the newly resurgent EEG would be able to flood his followers with power, while the followers of Lolth would be scrambling to contain them. The PCs, flung back to the Vault of the Drow after their misadventures in the Demonweb Pits (having inadvertently freed the EEG) would have to deal with the mess and try to defeat both. It's entirely possible that the conflict would have the PCs going far afield; maybe even returning to the Temple of Elemental Evil, or the caverns beneath the Fire Giant's hall or the Hill Giant Steading, where shrines to the EEG still exist.

Basically, Q2 would be a second chance for the PCs to stop both Lolth and the EEG, if they failed to do so in Q1.