Friday, March 30, 2012

Premium 1st Edition Books

Wizards of the Coast will be releasing new versions of the original 1st edition core rule books some time in the future. When I first heard the announcement I was very pleased that 1E AD&D would be available to a whole new audience. I like the cover art that they designed, they are a nice nod to the original covers with an updated look, I think they look sharp. The books are going to cost $34.95 for the Players Handbook and Monster Manual and $44.95 for the Dungeon Masters Guide. I was initially going to pick up a set but at those prices I cannot justify spending close to a hundred dollars on books I already own, especially if they are not going to be updated in any way.

Hopefully with their release a whole new generation of players will be able to enjoy the version of the game that I started with so many years ago. Personally I am going to stick with my favorite new retro clone, Labyrinth Lord. The days of spending my hard earned money at Wizards of the Coast are a thing of the past.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Campaign Length

Today I want to pose a question to my readers (the few of you that there are!) I have been running an ongoing campaign for the last three years. My players and I do not have the opportunity to play very often, we live in different states so our gaming time is limited, maybe a couple of times per year.

Whats the longest you have ever run a single campaign, do any of you have campaigns that have been ongoing for more than five years? How often does your group get together to play? I'm been very interested in all the buzz surrounding G+ and the ability to play online, I may setup a Google+ account just to try it out, if I do I'll make sure I keep you guys updated!

So whats the longest campaign you have run?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Stonehell Dungeon - Review

Stonehell Dungeon is an old school mega-dungeon by Michael Curtis. When I say mega-dungeon, I mean MEGA-dungeon, this is one huge adventure packed into a 134 page book. Stonehell is a fantastic product that can be purchased at, there are also a number of other suppliments available for it which I will discuss a little bit later on.

The first eleven pages start off with some general information on Stonehell which give the GM a bit of back story and get him caught up to the current situation, there are also sections on customizing the dungeon and dungeon rumors, then the a dungeon proper starts. Each area or level is shown as a whole and then divided up and dealt with separately. For instance, there is a Surface Level master map and on the following page is the Surface Level overview which provides basic information regarding the maps and then a Surface Level monster list. The next few pages take that master map and break it into separate sections, now instead of the Surface Level Master Map we have levels 0A-Canyon East and 0B-Canyon West, each a smaller section of the master map reproduced and shown with more detail and additional notes, new monsters and new magic item stats. The levels are divided into four quadrants, so you get one overall map that shows how everything fits together and then four small maps that include all of the details you need to run the dungeon. Quadrent example:

The layout is certainly not pretty, it fact I found it to be very cramped and a little tough to read in some sections. That said, I cannot image any other way that this could have been put together without it being 300+ pages, there is SO much information crammed into this book. There is enough material in this book to run a campaign for years, it really is am amazing product. The art is sparse but good, I don't think they had much room for art, this book is all about content. There is a very handy Dungeon Dressing and Container Contents Appendix in the back of the book with 100 separate entries, it seems very useful especially for a dungeon of this size. There are new monsters and magic items sprinkled throughout the book, it would have been nice to see them all pulled together under a New Monsters section, but they are all referenced in the Index under Monsters, New for quick look up.

As I mentioned earlier, there are several suppliments for this dungeon, they can me found here: Michael Curtis Lulu Store. They include a free Stonehell Dungeon Preview, a free Brigands Cave adventure with new monsters and the $2.99 Buried Secrets supplement, which includes adventures for low level characters.

This is honestly one of the best OSR products that is available right now, its packed with information and lots of usable material. Even if you do not intend to run the entire adventure, the individual quadrants can be broken off and used separately in any campaign of your own design. If you do not own this product go out and get it now!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Work in Progress

I just wanted to let people know that I will be changing the look of the blog around a bit over the next few days in my quest to find a format that I like.  Please stay tuned, more content is on the way!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Favorite Artists - Stefan Poag

Our Favorite Artists is going to be a recurring interview with some of the best and brightest RPG artists out there.  To start things off we are speaking to artist Stefan Poag, you may have seen some of his recent work in the fantastic Labyrinth Lord mega-dungeon, Barrowmaze.  Stefan has also done work for a number of other projects including books and magazines published by Kenzer & Company, Goodman Games and Expeditious Retreat Press.  His artwork has a great retro style that brings me back to my younger years.  I'm glad he was able to take some time to speak with us!  Without further ado, here is the man himself!

  • First of all, thanks for taking some time out of your day to speak with me, please introduce yourself and give us a brief bio:

I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, after a childhood in (what was then) West Germany. My mother is German and my father was a teacher of German and a Medievalist, so we always had lots of books of medieval art around the house. At some point, I think my mother started buying a series of illustrated Time-Life books through the mail on different cultures through history --- 'The Neanderthals,' 'The Norsemen,' 'The Byzantines,' etc., and I spent a lot of time looking at those as well as the books of medieval illustrations, plus I loved the Japanese monster movies and TV shows like "Johnny Socko" and "Ultraman" that they used to show on the local UHF channel. A grade school friend of mine, Eric Piccione, and I used to draw our own 'comic books;' his favorite subject was "The Pirate" (a swashbuckling superhero with a cutlass). I don't think the Pirate had any special powers; I think he was just really bad-ass and would swing around on ropes, dodge bullets, etc. My favorite was a hero called (cough) "Ivanhoe." Ivanhoe was secretly an ordinary dude who worked in an office, but he had a special ring with a secret compartment in it that contained a button. When things went bad, the office guy pressed the button and thunder struck and he turned into a guy with a cape and a weird-looking octagonal helmet and a sword and a big "I" on his chest who could fly through the air and shoot bolts of lightning from his eyes. I don't think I had any explanation as to why he was called 'Ivanhoe' or where the powers came from --- my friend Eric, however, was having a great time drawing "The Pirate" and I wanted to do it, too. I barely graduated high school and slacked my way through college and have worked a series of menial jobs, usually doing some kind of creative thing on the side, then got into doing commercial photography (mostly shooting pictures of stuff for newspaper advertisements). My significant other, Annie, got a teaching job in Michigan and we have been up here for years. The bottom fell out of the local commercial photography scene and I got burned out on that, after doing a few other things I am now a literacy tutor in Detroit Public Schools, trying to help high school kids improve their reading skills. Given what a bad student I was, this is kind of ironic, but I always enjoyed reading so this is a good fit for me.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Games I Love - Cyberpunk 2020

As a role player I have dabbled in many systems and games over the years. There was always a few games that stood out for me, ones that I usually stuck with for extended periods of time due to theme or system. I'm going to spend some time over the next few weeks taking a look back at the games that ignited my imagination in one way or another.
First up is Cyberpunk 2020. This game was by R. Talsorian Games and was first released as a box set in 1988, the name at the time was Cyberpunk 2013, but was changed to Cyberpunk 2020 in its second release in 1990. The world has gone to hell and mega-corporations have taken over for much of the U.S. Government. These corps have no oversight and do pretty much whatever they please. Characters play mercs called Edgerunners, people living on the edge of society looking to score the next big deal. Cybernetics, gear, netrunning, artificial intelligence and cloning are all part of the landscape.
I think what I found so appealing about the game was its darkness. Drugs and addiction were were a regular part of our game play, after coming from D&D and always playing the heroes it was fun to play someone with questionable morals. The combat system was brutal and very lethal, If you pulled a gun you had better shoot first and straight or you were on a one way trip to the county morgue. If I remember correctly the system included rules for blowing off body parts, gruesome stuff. I believe the combat system went by the name Friday Night Firefight.
Despite being based heavily on William Gibsons Neuromancer, we never really spent much time netrunning, the system felt tacked on to me, we were much more focused on playing shady scumbags living in the shadows. One of my favorite parts of the game was the cybernetics; want to swap out your arm for a stronger one, sure! Want to scoop out your eyes and get nightvision add to your new cybernetic eyes, you can! There were pages and pages of all kinds of hardware that you could add to your body. The only problem was the more you added the less human you became, eventually succumbing to cyberpsychosis. It helped to balance the gameplay and make sure everyone did not become a hulking machine that could dish out and absorb tons of damage.
If you've never had a chance to play this game, check it out. Its still avalble out there, just stay away from the newest version CP 203X, its a steaming pile of junk.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Barrowmaze - Mega-Dungeon Extraordinaire

To my surprise and pleasure, Barrowmaze arrived in the mail yesterday. I purchased it from in hardcover format, but its available in several different forms, softcover, hardcover and both soft cover and hardcover including .pdf's for a few dollars more. Barrowmaze is an old school dungeon for use with Labyrinth Lord or other comparable OSR products. The first thing that struck me was the cover, its of a group of adventures in a crypt/dungeon looking area, and they all seem to be in a bit of trouble (except the mage). Its a great looking piece by artist Stefan Poag who also did a large number of the interior black and white illustrations. Really great art that's reminiscent of some of my favorite old school products.

Barrowmaze is a mega-dungeon, it contains over three hundred encounter areas and eighty four pages of adventuring goodness. New monster stats, spells, random encounter tables and several pregenerated characters are all included. Its a lot of adventure of a decent price. Having recently also picked up StoneHell mega-dungeon I must say I prefer the format of Barrowmaze, it seems a bit less crowded and easier to read.

Another reason to love this dungeon is the enormous amount of undead included, if you don't like undead this adventure is not for you! Clerics are a must here, more than one would be very beneficial. Being an old school dungeon it's tough and deadly, expect to be running from some encounters and expect death and mayhem from others. A party of careful adventures should do well here though, plan ahead and have the right tools for the job and you can get far.

Make sure you stop by the Barrowmaze blog: Barrowmaze They have lots of added content on the site, including hex maps of the Barrow mound, session reports, character sheets and my favorite; Meatshields! The Classic Fantasy Hireling & Hernchmen Generator. All good stuff that is quite useful.

Overall I'd give Barrowmaze a solid 9 out of 10, its a great product any Labyrinth Lord will love!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Oubliette Magazine - Lots of Gaming Goodness for a Great Price

I recently purchased and received Oubliette Magazine and I could not be more pleased with my purchase. I received issues one through four as a single compiled book and separate issues five through seven. This is a wonderful fanzine put together by Peter Regan that focuses on old school role-playing (with a particular focus on Labyrinth Lord). Each issue is filled with wonderful hand drawn art and a number of articles:

Monster Club - All manner of monsters, tricks and traps.

Various adventures for characters of all levels.

Mouse Watch - A Mouse Guard-esque comic.

Tales from Hell - A comic following the exploits of several Kobolds and their buckets

Goblin Quest - A larger paneled comic following several nasty little goblins.

Articles - From the the various of uses of a 10ft pole or how to grief a Paladin, really great stuff, the meat of the magazine.

The Song of Sithakk - An epic dwarven story.

I would highly recommend Oubliette Magazine to anyone interested in old school gaming, its a great purchase thats loaded with goodness! The eighth issue should be out this spring, once its available you will be able to purchase issues four through eight as a compiled book (like current issues one through four). I'll post a link on the left of the page so eveyone can go check them out, don't forget to support their blog while your there!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Russians Are Coming!

As a child growing up in the eighties my imagination was captured by a little action film called Red Dawn. I recall not being able to watch it in the theater as I was only eight years old when it came out, but I saw it several years later at a friends house on VHS (yes I'm old). I also remember running around the yard after watching the movie playing USA vs Russians.

Last night my wife and I watched the movie and it was the first time she has ever seen it. For anyone who has not seen the movie it is about Russians/Cubans invading America (specifically a small town in Colorado) and a group of young high school kids who form the "Wolverines" and fight back using guerrilla style warfare. The movie has stood up pretty well over the years. Some of the acting is a bit over the top, but Patrick Swayze did a decent job as the lead character. John Milus (the director) has always been able to direct a great action movie and Red Dawn still delivers on that front. I think the most memorable scene for me was the group finding out out that they had been betrayed by a comrade and the repercussions of that betrayal. Another reason to love this movie was the inclusion of one of the great low budget 80's actors, Powers Booth. He turned in a great performance as the shot down f-15 pilot Lt. Col. Andy Tanner.

After watching the movie I was looking online and was shocked to discover that there is a remake of the movie coming out in November of this year. It will be interesting to see how the movie is updated to fit in with the current world political situation as the first movie was at the height of the Cold War and really catered to the average Americans fears.

Hopefully the new version will do justice to the original, it was originally slated to be released in 2010 but was delayed due to financial issues at MGM. The main protagonists have also changed from the Russians/Cubans to the Chinese and then most recently the North Koreans (which was done after shooting using digital effects to change Chinese symbols to N. Korean). The change from Chinese to North Korean was due to pressure from the Chinese after a version of the script was leaked, I cannot imagine all these last minute changes are a good thing.

If you have never seen the ORIGINAL Red Dawn, go out now and pick it up, its a good action movie that's still enjoyable to watch.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


So I finally decided to start a gaming blog. The reasons are many but I'll stick to a few. I love gaming, in all its many forms. I've been playing board games, role playing games and computer and console games for many years now. I intend for this blog to be a cornucopia of gaming related stuff, I will cover whatever my current interest is. This is a way for me to reach out and connect with other gamers as well explore different types and styles of gaming.

My current obsession is OSR, or Old School Renaissance. I have been playing versions of D&D for many years now, I started with the 1st edition set and played through second and third edition. I never quite made it into fourth edition as I was so tired of purchasing the same core books over and over. I have enjoyed every edition that I have played, but lately something has changed. The rules heavy third edition has started to seem clunky and over complicated. I longed for the earlier days of simple gaming, a stripped down system in which the story is more important than the rules. I discovered that there are many other gamers out there that also pined for the good ole days of gaming and that there are a number of systems that support the old school rules. OSRIC, Swords & Wizardry and Labyrinth Lords are the three I looked into. Ultimately I fell in love with LL. it's such a beautiful and simple system, but the addition of the Advanced Edition Companion really sold me. I love that the AEC is completely optional but adds most of the stuff I loved from 1st edition AD&D. Paladin, check. Rangers, check. More spells and equipment, check and check. Crazy weapon speed factor rules and rules for specific weapons vs different levels of armor class, nope. Its a simple system that includes just enough but not to much. I'll be posting more on this later though!

I hope you all enjoy this blog as much as I am going to enjoy writing it. It is probably going to be a bit eclectic, covering old school gaming, board games and the newest video games. Take care and roll high!