A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Third Was the Word in 2001. (Or: How the Internet Archive is AWESOME and Saved My Campaign Notes)

What?  You are both wondering where I have been and what have I been doing?

  Well.. not a lot but that not a lot seems to take up hella time and most of it hasn't involved tabletop gaming of any real note.  A game of the new Magic NOT HEROSCAPE game (it's pretty good, especially for 30 bucks MSRP!), and a little Warmachine/Hordes but.. not a whole lot else.

  Except that might be changing.  Probably not but maybe.  Just this once Rose.  EVERYBODY LIVES.

  Ahem.  Anyhow while looking for stuff for this maybe I was cleaning and going through the rubble of a packrat hoarder that I am but constantly try fighting.  (Also a reason not a whole lot of new gaming things bought.  I don't have the time nor space for most of it, especially until I get what I have now turned into some form of organized and easily accessed non chaos.  Like I am buying shelving and plastic storage bins when I get a few bucks I am willing to burn on something that isn't NEW SHINY.  Though this year's Holiday sales netted me a decent haul of some Mantic gaming.)

  I found a notebook thought lost to time.  A notebook with my campaign notes for one of my best campaigns according to those who played in it.  For a good six months I was firing on nearly all cylinders.  And while I thought about just scanning the notes in my handwriting was bad then as opposed to the nearly illegible scratch it is now.  (And forget about cursive.  Much like long division and more than basic fractions it isn't something I use very much if ever so you forget it.  Maybe it comes back with use and comes back easier than learning it all over again but much like Squad Leader and its more Advanced cousin its a thing that sorta flows out of your brain meats if not used, you know?)

  The Internet Archive and Wayback Machine had my back.  Much like it helped me find some long lost rules to the Gundam 40K Conversion, and one fellow's Dougram Boardgames resources (to varying degrees of completeness.  Even with the Archive file servers and image hosts go away and links die and whatnot), the Archive is a great repository for all sorts of stuff, especially nerdy things like old computer magazines!

So in the interests of having at least one more post up this year and having a more reliable host than Homestead was here we go!  Let's travel back to a time before most people knew about terrorists initialed AQ and those who did were mostly ignored by the idiots in power at the time.  Before WiFi, Smartphones, and GPS were household words.  When a 2 ghz computer with a single core would have been a dream machine.  When the DnD Core Rulebooks were Twenty Dollar Full Color Hardbacks.  Before the D&D Minis were out.  Before 3.5 edition.  Before the pile of dungeon tile and dry erase mapsheets we have today.

I haven't done any real editing of all this and with luck the text and whatnot are legible and organized. This campaign was run at the same time I was in the midst of a nearly 2 year long DnD 3rd ed campaign as a player.  We got to about the same general level (5-6) as this one did in 6 months.

My current 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign is set upon the world of Krynn upon the continent of Ansalon.
We are running this game in Southeastern Connecticut on Tuesday evenings, on a bi-weekly schedule and are always welcome to more players.  (We do paperwork and general gaming on the other week.)

This small section of my website will be devoted to the campaign, listing my house rules and special items and spells we come up with during the game, as well as being a record of what happened during the game itself.

Our original current players are:
Mike, playing a Dwarf Fighter named Dukkonor
Drew, playing a Qualinesti Elf Mage named Atrakan
Kane, playing a Gnome Ranger named Kaner, then a thief, human I think.  Probably joining the joined in and left group.

Our new recruits that show up during play are:
Currently nobody.

People who joined in and then left, wasting our time and generally making me cranky to various levels were:
Todd, playing an Elf Paladin named Silenba.  He was an idiot.  Glad to be rid of him.
Melissa, playing a Human Cleric of Mishakal named Mihoshi.  Too tired to play. Not really into it.
Heidi, playing an Elf Bard named Ariel.  Annoying.  Gone.
Parker, playing a Gnome Rogue named Parkanopiolis (Park for short).  Left for college.  Now back.  Unknown if he is rejoining.
Some dude who showed up for a game or two, then left who played a Human Barbarian named Lothar.  Wasn't there long enough to be annoying.
Mike's friend playing a Kender named Gnorme.  Currently playing with nuclear engines and hopefully staying safe even though our boneheaded president wants to throw our millitary into various meatgrinders the world over for no logicial reason.  Though I think Saddam has more to fear from him than he does from Saddam.  Or that commie bastard in North Korea who is starving his people.
Some other dude who played an Elf Druid.

The campaign begins roughly 6 months or so after the War of the Lance in 354 AC, in the month of Spring Dawning.
(Elf months and days will be used to keep things consistent.)

The location is the small village of Fair Meadows, in Northern Estwilde.

(Game of 12 June 2001)

  Our heroes, all 1st level, are part of a small Solamnic force who was posted in Fair Meadows.
The only actual Solamnic Knight here is Sgt. Ordo Malleus, Knight of the Crown, and various local volunteers, plus a number of people from the various races involved in fighting the Dragonarmies.

  Our band is sent to investigate a beached ship on the coast, The Blazing Star.  No signs of life have come from this small cargo/passenger ship, and none of the locals will go near it.  As our heroes are the best suited to the job, even if they did miss most the action during the war, they go to check things out.

  They manage to climb up onto the ship around nightfall, making things a little darker and creepier than they should be.  Other than what looks to be a dead minotaur lashed to the ship's wheel, the ship is totally devoid of any crew.

  Gnorme, being a Kender, walked up to poke the dead minotaur, sending them crashing to the bottom of the ship, into it's hold.

  On their way to their friend, they take the time to check out the ship on the way down.  In the Captain's room, they find the Ship's Log burned, a letter with only the words "To my love," written on it, and a strange teardrop made of obsidian.  They find a strange medallion with a spiral front with 5 colors of stained glass, held on a platinum chain in one of the guest rooms, and a clue in the First Mate's quarters.

  They find out that the First Mate was a minotaur named Maralak, and they were taking cargo and passengers from Kalaman to Ohme and other places afterwards.  During the trip, the Captain had been spending "Quality Time" with their only passenger, a woman named Aranila, who transferred over to an unknown millitary ship sometime during the journey.  A day or two later, the Captain became ill and died, and was buried at sea.  Then slowly, other crewmen became sick, rotting away and dying.  Some of the crewmen chose to throw themselves at the sea to not suffer the fate of their fellows, the rest just died.  Maralak, with his pride as a sailor, and duty as First Mate, took sole control of the ship, trying to bring it to port, or beach it somewhere safely.  Sadly, he too, contracted the disease, and told of his plan to lash himself to the ship's wheel, and die like a true sailor should.

  Before our band could get to Gnorme, he woke up.

  In a locked brig in an unlit ship's hold.  With a dead and rotting minotaur that started moving.

  Gnorme quickly busted himself out of the locked cell, using skills only Kender seem to be naturally adept at, as Dukonnor made it down to his friend and charged in with his longsword to protect his friend.  Kaner and Atrakan, still being on the top deck, made use of the large gaping hole to send spells and arrows at the thing.  After many useless Kender taunts, a few failed attempts at understanding the moans of the creature, and a few hoopak rocks going where they would do the most good, the creature fell, and turned to dust.

  Their job finished, the heroes went to the inn on the way back to the village to take a well deserved rest, courtesy of the Knights of Solamnia.

  As it is for the forces of justice, evil never sleeps, and naturally, this keeps the heroes from getting any either.

  Around midnight, they were awakened with a big ruckus happening outside the inn.  Draconians had attempted to attack the inn, but retreated once one Baaz Draconian took a fatal arrow to the head.  Our band managed to track them to a small hill mound with what looked to be a small cave system within it.

  With Gnorme still at the inn resting, the other heroes moved carefully towards the entrance, only to be shot at from an archer hiding in an enclosed area.  Dukonnor charged in on his warpony and lit the support beams in the cave, causing it to light on fire and collapse the entrance.  Sadly, he was charged by a Bozak hiding in the deep underbrush, and knocked off the horse, unconcious.  The warpony went back to the inn, with Kaner and Atrakan in tow.  They were left with a message to be back for their friend by midnight the next day, or he would die, and quite messily.

  During the day, the remaining free heroes rested up, and prepared themselves for a rescue.  Dukkonor managed to find out the black teardrop was capable of making people die in a horrible sickness, and turning into zombies.  This Bozak was rather upset at commanding 3 remaining Baaz out in the middle of nowhere, and was hoping this item would gain him glory in Takhisis' eyes.  Our dwarf took advantage of this, and managed to get himself allied with the Bozak, who was going to leave him tied up, but with a weapon close by.  If he killed one of his friends, they would cement their alliance.

  In the evening, Atrakan, Gnorme, and Kaner managed to find the secret entrance into the cave.  As they moved through it, they found easily to get rid of traps.  They found thier way to the room Dukkonor was (not really) locked uo and undid his chains.  He picked up his weapon, and clumsily attacked Kaner, missing him by a mile.  This upset the Draconians, who used murder holes in this room's ceiling to stab down at our band.  Kaner ran out, managing to hit all new traps that weren't there on their walk through the caves, while Atrakan put Dukkonor to sleep with a spell, and then he and Gnorme started pulling him out of the room, while being stabbed horrendously by the Draconians.  Kaner ran into the veteran Baaz Draconian, who spent a few moments duelling with him, seriously wounding him, then running back through the secret passage he had come through.

  It looked bleak.  Dukkonor was asleep, Kaner and Atrakan were near death, and Gnorme wasn't much better.  As Kaner ran towards the exit, he saw the other 2 Baaz dead by traps.  Leaving the base, he ran into Sgt. Malleus and a millitia band that came to check up on the missing group.  The Bozak had managed to escape, swearing revenge on Dukkonor, the black teardrop in his scaly possession.

  Our band was given a week to rest, and supplies for their next assignment: to take the amulet to Ohme and find out what it really was.  Gnorme then left the party one morning during this week, probably after seeing something shiny pass by the inn.  You never know with Kender...

After Game Report: Well, our first session ran really well, and everyone reached 2nd level with 2000-2250 experience points.  Some players had started out doing really stupid things which caused me to penalize them, but with 10 hours of play, and much Diet Mountain Dew on my part, everyone got into the game, which ended around 6 AM after a 6 PM start time.  OUCH!!  Everyone did have a blast once things got moving, and agreed to keep playing, while trying to recruit more players.

(Game of 19 June 2001)

  Our band, now down to 3, began travelling north to Ohme.  For the first 2 days it was uneventful.  On the third night, they saw this strange fist sized green light in the distance.  On the fourth, the same light appeared again.

  Tired of this, they approached the light, only to see it being a very large skeleton.  Listening to it, they kept hearing the same mantra over and over: "Go Back Go Back Go Back".  Dukkonor moved closer and attempted to communicate with it only to get an even more chilling warning: "Go back.. to DEATH.. Go back.. to DEATH".

  Atrakan chose to move around behind the skeleton to get a better look at it from all angles, as the strange light which was centered around the head was diminishing.  Something rose out of the ground behind him, knocking him out.  Dukonnor charged the skeleton, hoping to slay it and then take out the slightly smaller skeleton that knocked out his friend.  Kaner followed in, shooting his bow, then switching to his Scimitar, going in to help the Dwarf who was now being attacked by both of the skeletons.  They fought hard, but both Dukonnor and Kaner were knocked out.  Atrakan had managed to wake up, and took out the lead skeleton with his crossbow, but merely irritate the other one, who then disappeared, warning him to take his friends and head back.

  Atrakan picked up everyone, put them in the cart, and headed to Ohme, not letting any overgrown skeleton tell him what to do.  There in town, the leading priest, Matthias brought the injured into his small temple which was devoted to Kiri Jolith.  He told Atrakan why the town seemed so empty:  Livestock at some of the farms had been found brutally killed, and some farms deserted, as if the occupants left in a hurry, or were taken against their will.  Many people left the area due to this, fearing for thier lives.  Matthias makes a deal with Atrakan: find out what is causing the troubles, and he will provide free healing, a discount on what little the town can make, and provide them with free room and board.  Atrakan takes up the mission, and goes out in the town to start looking for some leads.

  Other than what the priest told him, he did not find much to go on, other than a very harsh reception from the Half Elven blacksmith Barris, who while blaming Atrakan for all the loss and pain he has had to endure being a half breed, tells him to take his friends and get out of town while he can, sure if the livestock murderer doesn't take out the town, the Red Dragonarmy will.

  Over the next two weeks our band heals up, and makes use of the town's facilities to replenish their arrows, and make some new weapons, preparing to take on whatever is causing the town trouble, and most likely paying back whoever sent those skeletons after them.

After Game Report:  Well, as the game did not run as long, and the party really did not do much, they only got 500 exp this session.  The next week was going to be an off week, as Drew had a family function to attend.  The rest of us spent this day playing Settlers of Catan and Starfleet Battles, getting to meet another player for the game, and me finding out I will be DMing AT least 6 players now.  The guy I just met, Mike's wife, her brother, and maybe 2 or 3 more.  I fear for my sanity.  But the existing players fear my devious mind, so inter-player discussions should give me the time I will need in game to get my bearings.

(Game of 3 July 2001)

  Well, Gnorme wandered back to the band this week, with 2 other recruits in tow, Park and Silenba.  Matthias sends this somewhat larger band to start investigating the surrounding farms, starting with the Brezyinskis.

  At the farm, they find it deserted, with chickens ambling about in the yard.  In the barn they find a number of murdered animals, a scrap of what looks to be armor, and a mediocre short sword, possibly of goblin make.  Atrakan meets up with a quite intelligent rooster who tells him of the monsters that attacked the form, and scared him.  Apparently the rooster was meant to be Atrakan's familliar, and they link up.  Now that this has happened, the rooster's name becomes Duster, and he lost his ability to talk, at least for now.  The team heads back to town with the information on where the monsters went thanks to Duster, and Matthias confirms that the short sword is indeed of goblin make.

 The next day they head out following the trail they found near the farm, which matched the directions Duster gave them.  As they follow the trail, they happen upon evidence of crude deforestation going on, and find a strange severed scythe like arm.  Later that same day, they are ambushed by a Hobgoblin wizardress, and her 4 goblin bodyguards.  The team, lead by Dukkonor's lance charges, made short work of the patrol.  They find that the mage had a Spider Climb spell scroll, and her ring and dagger were magical.

  Moving a little forward, they find the source of the troubles: a crude but effective wood fort.  Needing rest, the team heads back to town, after meeting up with the cleric Mihoshi, who got lost on the way to join up with the rest of the group, and had been observing the goings on here.  She found out that the goblins' commander is named Berk Brainsmasher, and they were apparently killing many of their hostages, as evidenced by the pit full of bodies behind the fort.

 They all head back to town, where the bard Ariel joined up, being one of the last members that Sgt. Malleus was expected to send their way.  While they spend a few days resting up, and preparing for their attack on the fort, Gnorme gets himself lost again, and Matthias arranges for a local druid Slith Gaiaseer to give them some help for their greatest challenge yet.  They head back to the fort, and Slith gives them his plan.....

After Game Report:  There was quite a bit of non game talk that slowed us down, plus we had to end it early thanks to my job calling me in to work the holiday.  The fight went by rather quickly, and the team won their first real fight.  The cleric joined in at the end of this session, and the bard technically joined in the following week, but her inclusion is easily retconned here without affecting anything.  We need to work on our natural talkativeness and apply it to the game instead of endless South Park quotes, but I have yet to see any hobby game where there wasn't at least a little bit of that going on..The exp handed out was 500 for the level 1s, and 100-250 for the level 2s.

(Game of 10 July 2001)

Slith put his plan into action, revealing himself to not only be a druid, but a Draconian, albeit one of a type they have never seen before. Slith used this to get them to open the gate in the wee hours of the morning, with him leading a band of tired goblins out to aid "The Master", someone who made Berk rather nervous to hear of.  The team rushed in, and Atrakan cast an illusion of a giant meteor slowly descending upon the fort, which caused most of the well defended archers to cower in terror, as only goblins and the occasional hobgoblin can.  Mihoshi began untying the 7 hostages they found tied to crude poles in the ground, Ariel started her bard song to bolster her comrades' fighting spirits, while Dukkonor sent his warpony back to watch over the concentrating mage while he engaged the gobbos up close and personal, with the rest of the team backing him up.

The team's luck kept up, as the goblin wolf riders were having quite a bit of trouble getting the wolves ready for battle, while their comrades were being taken out of their perches by nearly everyone not busy, one of which was dropped on the head of the now fully awake goblin trooper members by Park, showing that goblin archers can indeed kill things quite effectively.  Silenba went into a frenzy of combat, wiping out a half dozen goblins on his own, and freeing Mihoshi to save the poor captives.  Sadly, this let the two gnomes have a free thought, which caused Kaner to open up the small room where Berk and his 2 hobgoblin bodyguards were ready to take on all comers, and for Park to try to light up the crude wolf pen's hay with a torch, with the harried wolf riders inside.  Park's little fire was stamped out, and he got knocked unconcious by a couple of dagger hits in return for his pyromania.  Kaner, being in the doorway, kept the hobgoblins fighting him 1 at a time, which made Berk choose to make his own door in the wall with his greataxe.  Sadly, Kaner's combat skills were poor today, and he had to run for it, but Silenba took up the slack, sending both hobgoblins into next week, but not till he felt the sting of their longswords.

Dukkonor made sure Berk could not rally the troops by fighting him through the rather large hole in the wall till Silenba could aid him in fighting the massive hobgoblin commander, while Mihoshi aided the 2 soldiers with healing to
take care of their wounds after sending the hostages outside to join Kaner and Atrakan.  Ariel managed to flub her bard song while trying to pick off the goblin archers before they realized they were cowering from a crude illusion, and ended up being taken out by some of the gobs that came to their senses.  Once Mihoshi got mad and joined the fray against Berk, all it took was one big slam from her heavy mace to finally bring down the monster.  Atrakan and Kaner switched to range attacks to pick off the last two goblin archers not dead or cowering, and the wolf riders took off on their wolves, barely holding on to them as they bolted out the gate.  Everyone healed to a wakeful state, they interrogated the remaining 2 goblin archers that surrendered, one of which was killed by Park, even over Silenba's protests.

They found out that the goblins came from the northwest, where they were pushed out of their lands by strange monsters that had come from a comet a few months back, and were told to form a new base here to capture humans to serve them, and then to be sent to the Draconian "master" who was fighting back against these monsters.  In Berk's room, they found a letter from this master, who calls himself Galthik, and of how Berk's forces would either serve him in death or life.  They also found a strange monster head, similar in structure to the arm they found.

The team took the rest of the day to rest, learning that Berk was using the captives as a food source instead of sending them to Galthik when they were too weak to be of any use.  Slith came back and congratulated the team on clearing out the beasts that were defiling his lands, and gave them a golden infinity symbol that was in a simple wooden box.  He told them how he had a dream vision of some of them, and was told these words: "The seeds of the future lie buried in the past."  Upon awakening, he found this box next to him, and knew they would need it.  Why, he would not say.  He then left them to their rest.  Using some of Berk's gems, Atrakan identified the magic items they now had: A +1 Handaxe that was hiding in Berk's bed, a Dagger +1, and a Ring of Protection +1.  When he tried identifying the amulet, he was blinded by light, and knocked unconcious for 6 hours of their travel back to Ohme.

  Heading back, they found the locals mumbling about being tired, and that they should talk to the priest.  Upon reaching the Temple, they found a grisly sight: Matthias sitting on the ground, his hand around a dagger plunged into his neck, the other so tightly gripping his holy symbol it had blood dripping down it.  On the wall written in blood was some instructions to find something, which was blurred out, and a more crudely written message saying " You were warned to go back".

Then one of the rescued people outside the temple screamed, and all could hear a loud THUNK as the only gate into the town slammed shut......

After Game Report:  Well, we got started a little late again, with character generation taking away some time.  We did have a reduced chatter volume, and got in a good 5 hours of play, most of which was the battle.  Drew really lucked out when I rolled the goblin archer saving throws, as almost all of them failed.  This saved the party's ass.  The battle against Berk himself had Berk, Dukkonor, and Silenba all fumble once, but thankfully Berk only got one hit in, but it did 16 points of damage, really making Mike sweat!  Exp was 1250 base plus another 350 for saving the captives, plus the 10-50 point kudos I gave to players during the game for clever actions, or things I found funny.

(Game of 24 July 2001)

  The team rushes outside to find out what is the matter, only to see a horde of zombies approaching them.  Gathering the civillians up, they run into the temple, and secure the door.  Only to realize their supplies and horses are outside!

  They find the barbarian Lothar tied up, and as he is another member of the now rapidly growing 3rd Freelance Reserve Unit of the Knights of Solamnia, they untie him and put him right to work.  They scour the temple, getting a number of healing potions, and the church funds, which causes an unearthly roar to be heard.  Underneath the pulpit, they find a trap door leading down into a cellar, which they proceed into.  Downstairs they find 2 secret doors.  1 lead them past a small river, an into a small shrine now guarded by the ghost of Matthias.  He ordered Dukonnor to repent for stealing the church funds by rescuing his one remaining student, who was to be a sacrifice of the other to some dark god.  He had been set up.  Like everyone else in the town.  And our now trapped heroes.  To the less greedy members of our band he gave a +2 enchanted whip called "Belmont", which he himself used in his youth.

  The other secret door lead past the river as well, and was yet another hidden shrine, this one to some dark god.  Our band fought and defeated the dark acolyte,(Who killed himself rather than die to our band.) but managed to let a strange humanoid fish man escape.  They rescue the other acolyte, named Cullen, who tells them how he was to be sacrificed to some dark being called "Cthulhu".  Apparently the fish man was a servant of this dark god.  They found a map to an island town named Innsmouth, and a letter from Galthik to cement an alliance between his forces, and that of Innsmouth's darker inhabitants.  They bring the civillians down with them after the dust had settled.

They rest up here, and hope the zombies don't break into the temple.

After Game Report:  Well, other than the fight being rather entertaining, I don't remember much about this one.  Alot has been going on, and I forgot a bit of it.  Anyhow, they got 1200 exp each.

(Game of 7 August 2001)

  Rested up, they explore the river north, which ended in a waterfall leading to fresh air and sunlight.  Sadly, it was also letting dead rotting zombies in.  After inadvertantly getting the zombie's attention, they rush upstairs to see hordes of zombies were now within the temple itself.  One of which nearly bit off Kaner's face as he popped his head through the trapdoor!  He dropped down, only to have the weight of many zombies crash the trapdoor shut, as well as the head of the zombie who thought Kaner's face looked yummy...  They choose to go swimming south through the river, even with the waters being far more dangerous.  But they forgot that Cullen and the civillians were still in the room to the north where they had rested.  DOH!!  Cullen managed to hold the zombies at bay with his holy symbol, but Silenba got the zombies to chase him when he attempted to purify the river, which did little more than piss off a horde of slavering zombies hungry for flesh.

  The band runs back through the secret door to the cellar for the second time in an hour, which holds the zombies off, as figuring out a secret door isn't their strong suit.  Mihoshi, Dukkonor, and Kaner choose to head through the other door and go for the southern swim while the rest spent their time bickering about how to save the civillians while being beset by the living dead in need of a McHuman.  Mihoshi and company choose to head back, only to see the invisible forms of Ariel and Atrakan slogging up the river to the zombies, which they do to sneak the innocent people out while the zombies try to figure out how to open a door.  Everyone then makes a run for the river, and swim south, where a number of them nearly drown when they have to dive through a water filled tunnel.

  Making it to fresh air, they find themselves in the pond in front of the temple, which itself leads into a small stream that feeds another stream going through the town itself.  Our 2 still invisible elves go to the thoroughly ravaged cart, where they recover what they can from it now that the zombies had ransacked it and eaten all the horses, rations, and one whimpering goblin.  They then sneak to the town gate where they push the zombie gatekeeper to the ground and start raising the gate.

  Everyone runs for the exit, while Park heads north getting most of the zombies to follow him until he jumps into the stream and swims out of town.  The rest of the team run through the gate while Dukkonor takes over the control of it, cutting the ropes then jumping over, taking some considerable pain.  But the zombies are trapped inside the town.

For now.

  Everyone joins back up, and they rest a few miles away in an abandoned farmhouse before heading off to Wheatley, the closest town to them.  And for some reason Duster the Chicken Familliar looks different.  And it isnt because it had to swim through an underground river either...

After Game Report:  They made it.  Instead of fighting through a horde of zombies, they chose a route of action not involving combat.  And it was fun and exciting.  I try to run my games in as cinematic a fashion as possible, and today's adventure was like a classic movie chase scene.  They earned 1500 exp for their use of skills other than "BEAT THEM LOUD" which brings them all to level 3 and 4, where PCs begin to be interesting and not killed in a single hit or two anymore.

(Game of 21 August 2001)

  After resting up for a day or two, our band heads to Wheately.  Other than a rather strong trio of Ogres in the hills waking them up early one morning, it was smooth sailing.  Ok, smooth walking.  Once they reach Wheatley, they spread out looking for information, a warm bed, and a cool mug of ale.  Atrakan is approached my a mysterious robed man who sets up a meeting for them at night some days later.  Right now, he is given a medallion to delay his test at the Towers of High Sorcery till a more suitable time can be found.  A drawing of the 5 colored amulet is made so that it can be checked up on.  He is also informed to bring the mysterious monster claw with him to this meeting.

  Cullen takes back the church funds from the party, and uses it to set up the poor survivors of Ohme, getting them transport to towns where their remaining families are, or to buy homes here.  Park tells the team of his Infinity Symbol tatoo that is on his wrist, and matches the strange item Slith gave them a few weeks ago.  They also learn of the caverns underneath the well, and how it used to be the well itself until the nearby dock construction caused it to drain of water caused them to dig another well inside these caverns.  Not the most convenient well, but decent enough.

  At Atrakan's night meeting, he is told nothing is actually known about the 5 colored amulet, save that is is vitally important it be kept safe, and how many forces both benign and hostile are now paying attention to the party, who now seems to be in the middle of quite a bit of trouble.  The mysterious man takes the monster claw to be inspected, giving his word as an elf that he will return it, and giving Atrakan 100 steel pieces in return for taking it off his hands for the time being.

  The morning before the party is about to leave, they find the town in disarray.  The innkeeper, who is also the town's mayor, asks them to help him.  His daughter went out early in the morning for water and did not come back up.  The few people awake heard a scream, but nothing more.  As it was around 5 AM, there were no guards or other people down in the caverns to help get water, and nobody is too excited to go down there and find out.  Dukkonor takes up the mission as a member of the 3rd Freelance Reserve of the Knights of Solamnia, and takes his team down into the well while the innkeeper readies the town millita and any sailors in port to back them up outside the caverns in case of something more powerful than they can handle..

After Game Report:  Well, this was a simple RP day mostly, with more information given out to the party, and time for them to rest and refit after a long hard campaign.  They haven't had a safe place to rest since before they went to fight Berk Brainsmasha, and needed some R&R as it were. 300 exp was given out, and time for more danger next week.  Sadly, this was the last day Parker got to play, so I filled him in on what will be happening shortly to him.  Lothar's player chose not to show up, or give a good reason why not, so he is most likely gone next week.

(Game of 4 September 2001)

  Our team climbed down into the well lit tunnels in search of the girl, ready to do their duty as representatives of the Solamnic Knights.

  While exploring, they come across a trio of large skeletons they defeat, rescuing the mayor's daughter who was tied up behind the undead.  They return her to her father, but decide to go back and continue exploring the tunnels, just to be safe.

  One door was locked.  Curious.  The band broke the door down, only to have a trap arrow hit Dukonnor, and a gibbering and insane cleric of Takhis sitting on the floor covered in some green goop.  They knock the babbling man out and carry him up to the guards, who take the man away for questioning.

  These tunnels are looking more and more suspicious to the team, so they go back down, intent on exploring every nook and cranny.  Ok, Park and Lothar hadn't come back up, and they had to go back and get them.

  They found them looking around an Alchemy room, where more of the green goop the cleric had on him was on the floor, and spattered on the huge kettle built into the floor.  Seeing no other leads, they opened up the door across the hall, which lead into an Alchemist's workshop.

  As they do this, they hear a loud splash from the Alchemy room, and Lothar screaming for help.  When they turned to leave, something grabbed Park and pulled him into the water!  Lothar tried grabbing for his friend, only to have something grab HIM!!  The team would never forget what they saw next as a horrible claw shot through his head, and then started pulling Lothar's corpse into the kettle.

  While this is happening Kaner and Atrakan hear things gnawing their way through the shelves and workbenches in the workshop, causing them to light the wood on fire, and get out of there, slamming the door shut behind them.

  Whatever it was that was in the pot climbs out and its sickly armored and four armed self is killed by the team, who is then forced to destroy these little chitinous monsters that ate through the door.  They notice a Draconian scale on the ground on their way out of the Alchemist rooms, and continue exploring, wondering what horrors they will run into next.

  They thankfully get a bit of respite, finding a secret room hidden in the corridors.  In this room they find a sleeping pallet and a suit of Bazz Draconian armor, along with a letter and a partially built coffin with a white robed mage inside it, a stab wound to his chest which was fatal.  The letter was from none other than Galthik himself, ordering the white robed mage's death for higher ups in the Dragonarmies.  They find a drawing of the 5 colored amulet hidden in the mage's robes, deepening the intrigue.

  Continuing on, they meet another chitinous monster, this one MUCH bigger than the ones they met so far, standing over an unconcious kender dressed in strange clothing.  They defeat this monster after taking serious damage from it, and it's screams echoed throughout the tunnels.  For some INSANE reason, Silenba tries urinating on this monster, apparently deducing it to be related to the comet monsters causing so much trouble in the region.  In its' last act of defiance, it tries to slice him, giving him a scar mere inches from making him an it, if you know what I mean...  Dukkonor stabs the thing again to make sure it stays dead, and Mihoshi gets the kender on his feet.

  They find out the Kender's name is Doremon Ikari, and he tells of dispatching the Baaz during his travels down here, and that he is a "Security Specialist".  His accent and mannerisms are very different, but in this madhouse, help IS help after all.

  They continue on, finding a room full of rubble.  Upon further examination, they see more of those monsters they fought digging UP through it!!  The band locks the door as best they can, and run out of the well.  Doreamon gets the mayor to evacuuate the town into the nearby ships, as our band and the town millitia set up defensive lines to hamper the monsters.

  The band makes it on the last ship mere minutes before the creatures reach the docks, and they head to the safety of the open sea.

  But their respite is short lived as a giant shark fin is spotted behind the ship, coming right for them...

After Game Report: We finally got to use my brand new dry erase boards today, which made mapping a big dungeon pretty simple.  The monster fights were cool, though some of our team had trouble contributing in the narrow confines of the tunnels.  This week is the open sea, so that shouldn't be a problem.  700 exp was handed out.

(Game of 18 September 2001)

  Looking on in horror, the shark began ramming the ship.  But that is not all it had in store for them.  From underneath the monster, small creatures similar to the aliens the band just fought jumped up on the ship, and began attacking our heroes and the ship's crew.  With heavy crew casualties the smaller monsters were slain, their scythe armed bodies laying limp on the deck.  During this, Kaner had dropped down into the hold to fight the shark attempting to ram through the hull and sink the ship.  The rest of the team came down to help once the alien creatures were killed, and had to fight the shark in the hold before the water rose enough to sink the ship.  When it died, it slipped back out of the hole it had made for itself, since it had not totally gotten inside the ship yet.

  Everyone pitched in to shore up the hull, and worked to get as much water out of the hold as they could.  The ship's captain informed everyone that they would have to put in to the nearest port.  An island town known as Innsmouth.

After Game Report:  This was mostly a fight game that took much longer than it should for reasons I now forget.  It went well, and the players did much better than I expected against the shark, and worse against the alien monsters.
1000 exp was given out today.

(Game of 2 October 2001)

  The band pulls into the deserted port, and ties up the ship so the remaining crew can fix up the ship.  Standing about on the pier they see some strange looking crustacean things in the water, which they harrassed and left alone after they realized the creatures were getting irritable.  Kaner got irritated at Ariel asking silly questions about the electric wires and other gnomish technology that they spotted in the town.  They find a map of the town in a long abandoned warehouse which helps them figure out where they want to explore in town.

  They moved on into an alchemist/potion shop and met the first person they had seen in this run down town.  Morgan Elliott was a very mean and ugly man and tried to seriously overcharge the party on healing potions.  When pressed for information, he mentions the town's leadership as being members of the Marsh family and the religion responsible for the impressive if somewhat run down town as the Order of Dagon.  He lets the party know about the town's only hotel, and how all other churches in town lost popularity.

  The team enters a greasy cafe where more ugly people were working.  Kaner manages to irritate the cook and owner by looking over the counter.  When a few drinks are bought the cook mentions a few strangers staying at the hotel, and that the Marsh family brought the Order of Dagon to the town many generations ago.

  Looking to talk to a member of the Marsh family, they head to the nearby offices of the Marsh Refining Company where they meet Jacob Marsh, the friendly owner of the company.  (By friendly I mean friendly like a used car saleman. Nuff said.)  They talk about the town a bit, and possibly buying some of the ore and refined gold the company has, and Jacob mentions how the War of the Lance took a toll on the prosperity of the town, which was saved by his ancestor, a sea captain named Obed Marsh.  They ask for information about the Order of Dagon, and Jacob gives them directions to their temple.

  Dukonnor heads to the Gilman Hotel, where he gets the band 3 rooms which are on the 5th floor, due to work being done on the lower levels.  He meets one of the guests at the hotel Lucas, a friendly middle aged man doing some paperwork in the lobby.  Lucas tells Dukonnor a common Solamnic Knight phrase in Solamnic and went back to his work, hoping they can talk again sometime soon.

  Silenba headed to the variety store, where a Mr. Waite seems more interested in an old locket and keeping the back room of his store closed than actually selling anything to Silenba.  Silenba does find many useful things to buy here to pay back some debts he has to Dukonnor.

  The band meets back up and heads to inspect an old run down church.  They find out from records in the basement that the church was a Seeker church that had been abandoned for 50 years, and hadn't had any followers for nearly 100.  The cleric who had penned most of the records seemed to have nothing but bad things to say about Captain Marsh and the religion he had brought with him.

  Dukonnor and Atrakan left the rest of the party at the hotel to rest up while they went out.  Their destination was the Order of Dagon's temple.  Finding the lights on, they listen as best they can and hear mention of "Shoggoth" followed by laughter.  Seeing torchlight approach they hide in an alleyway, seeing the town guard show up and some of the temple's inhabitants come outside.  These inhabitants looked even uglier than the townspeople they had met so far.  In fact, they looked almost like the fishman they had fought underneath Ohme!!  Atrakan's Detect Magic spell had shown many sources of magic within the temple, and these man things might be the cause.  One that obviously looked like a high priest of some sort told the town guard to be on the lookout for the nosy outsiders who they spotted in this area, and that if they proved to be too nosy to make them sacrifices, with the females kept as breeding stock.  Dukonnor and Atrakan manage to sneak back to the hotel, and let everyone know what is going on.  They set watches for the night, which passes by uneventfully, save for footsteps by the doors every now and then.

  In the morning, Dukonnor talks with Lucas again, who shows him his logbook.  Written on a corner was a small amount of writing asking him to meet with Lucas around 3PM at the abandoned train station just outside of the town.
Everyone steels themselves for the dangers they now know are present, and head out to look like simple travellers...

After Game Report:  Well, I FINALLY got the players to Innsmouth so I can use a converted Call of Cthulhu adventure I have owned for years!  I wanted to try a scenario where roleplaying and investigating mean more than killing MOBs for their Ph47 L3w7, and letting the players explore and find things out on their own as opposed to my usual action/adventure style.  It came out pretty good so far.  Let's hope it keeps up!  No EXP was handed out this session, but it will be combined with the overall adventure the party is on at a later date.  Sadly, Ariel's player has to go do mandatory EMT training for the next few months, so we will be going on a 3 weeks D&D, 1 week general gaming session for the time being.  Little did I know my simple D&D 1 shot would take off and have people who never played D&D before dying for more and more.

(Game of 16 October 2001-December 2001)

  Short version of what happens afterwards:  They find out about the evil fishman (Deep One) cult infesting the town, escape (barely) to a boat and get to Palanthas, losing Kaner and Arielle in the process.  Get money and cool stuff.  Meet Raistlin and Astinius of Palanthas.  Join a force of Solamnic Knights going to Innsmouth to kick Deep One ass.  An Elven Druid sent by Slith joins the group.  They attack the Deep Ones at their leader's family estate, where the group that went there botches things up horribly and runs away, with the Elf Druid dying.  (Her body is found later with what looks to have been massive cranial damage via a Draconian's foot stepping on her head in a crushing manner.)  The other group attacks the temple where the Deep Ones do foul things.  A battle is raged, with this group of heroes winning, letting some of the Deep Ones escape back into their underwater city, vowing not to cause trouble for the surface world or form their alliance with everybody's favorite Draconian asshole, Galthik.  The Deep One's God/Leader, a gigantic Deep One known as Father Dagon, arrives from the deep and goes all Godzilla on the heroes, and the surviving Solamnic Knights.  Silenba distracted Dagon long enough for the rest of the good guys to shoot the bejeezus of it.  Sadly Silenba died doing this, being stepped on.  Atrakan tried to rescue him, but was unable to.  (I am retconning here.  Really Todd had Silenba do something really frickin stupid, which made everyone hate him more than they already did.)  With help from Doraemon Ikari on the back of a good dragon, they took down the gigantic monster.

  Now the group must prepare to depart for the Necropolis, which is being besieged by the Comet Monsters, which is only giving Galthik more bodies to turn into his undead hordes....

Well, that was a trip down memory lane!  I'll eventually maybe go back and tweak it a bit for spelling, grammar, and the like but this will do for now!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Little Fun With the Dreamcast.

Ahh the Dreamcast.  That gloriously failed experiment that basically finished off Sega as we know it.  Between the utter mistakes and disasters Sega had foisted upon itself from roughly 1993 till then, it had very little chance.

  Such things as a bunch of ill conceived and unworkable gimmick controllers for the Genesis (Menacer and Activator), too many different hardware versions and tricks that both confused and annoyed the consumer (three models of Genesis, the Nomad portable, two Master System models plus the Mark 3 JPN original, CDX, and some things like combo computers or TV sets or even in flight models and the Laser Active), and even a couple of hardware add ons that split the market and had dubious qualities to begin with!  (32x and Sega CD, the latter of which itself had two models!)

  Add in how Sega of Japan was largely angry at the US division basically taking Nintendo head on and for a short time BEATING THEM and the mistakes made with Shenmue and the very creation of the Dreamcast project and you now have a company most famous for making terrible Sonic games and publishing an infamously awful Aliens title.

  (Yes the Saturn was basically a boondoggle that effectively killed Sega in the US.  Oddly enough it was really the only Sega platform that was popular at all in Japan.  Funny that.  Yet the US release was a disaster that all but gave Sony an opening to score that Nintendo's Games Workshopsian-like ego and insistence of doing it their way turned into a two generation lead for Sony.)

  But the Dreamcast had that SOMETHING to it.  In the time before Steam and iOS/Android stores and GOG.com it was the place for fun and interesting games with personalities and quirks.  Not always great but always INTERESTING.  And sometimes that is all you need!

  It was a system with an integrated modem (sadly in the last days of dial up.  The broadband adaptor is apparently sought after), four controller ports.  Options for VGA resolution output through a monitor.  Memory cards with LCD screens in them.

  Yet this same quirky spirit also makes the machine a bit of a pain.  The design requires you to open the machine every year or two to clean and adjust some metal prongs.  A ton of recessed lines in the machine and controllers that get gunk in them.  Many games all but demand a now hard to find gimmick controller to play properly.  The main controllers are wired from the bottom and only have a single analog stick and only a single pair of analog shoulder triggers not to mention losing one of the two memory card slots if you want a rumble or microphone accessory plugged in.  The damn thing is nearly as loud as an X Box 360.  The white/grey plastic gets yellowed over time.

  But I cannot help but like the thing!

  And that is what has lead me to this little post.  You see a couple weeks ago I ran into a cheap copy of the Dreamcast version of my favorite arcade racer Daytona USA.  Then last week I went to a further away nerd shop and having not found much I simply HAD TO HAVE at that moment I picked up a little device:

This here is a modern made VGA box so your Dreamcast can output 640x480 SVGA graphics on your modern monitor or HDTV if not an old VGA monitor if you want a CRT type to play light gun titles on.  My monitor I use my PC on actually has a VGA and a DVI input so I can use both if I want to, but honestly my HDTV is my main console space and it only has a DVI input.  Luckily either one of my graphics cards or the monitor had a little adaptor dongle so my VGA will still work.  (Even if it didn't want to work initially.  Don't know exactly why.  Maybe it just needed to warm up or a plug wasn't properly in?)

Also lucky for me my HDTV has a headphone jack input as VGA doesn't have audio output.  So a cable I had purchased from Five Below a while ago for another use now is put on audio duties.  A trip to Wal Mart for an S Video cable (plus I already have the composite/audio cables for it's audio needs) and I can plug it into my set that is old/good enough to have S Video inputs and the few games that don't work with the VGA still do.  (Or in the case of Dino Crisis I can start in TV mode, get the game loading, switch back to VGA and play, only having to swap my TV input back to the S Video input for the cut scenes.)

  And that isn't the only fun bit of hardware I played with.

 This little thing allows me to use Playstation 1, Sega Saturn, or PS/2 Keyboards with my Dreamcast.  I got this back in the day so I could use one of my PC keyboards with the DC for Phantasy Star Online gaming instead of buying an expensive DC only keyboard.

I am not sure all the controllers will work with all the games but it gives me more options and possibly makes some of my sillier peripherals a lot more useful.  For comedy I could even plug a power adaptor in to this for rumble features and have a giant spaghetti plate of cables and dongles coming out of my Dreamcast.  USB to PS/2 dongle for modern keyboards!  CATS AND DOGS LIVING TOGETHER MASS HYSTERIA.  Some Serial Experiments Lain stuff.

  The Saturn Racing Wheel didn't seem to work with Daytona but the normal Saturn pad worked lovely with Capcom SNK.

These are just photos of the screen so they won't be perfect by any means but even as they are it ought to show you how nice it looks.

 One of my four VMU memory cards.  This one has my only Japanese game (Macross M3) on it and shows to my shame that some of these games I haven't played in nearly 15 years in some cases.

 It is really hard to get a good Resident Evil Code Veronica shot.  And it is basically the reason I bought a Dreamcast.  MY CLAIRE BEAR!!! 

 I actually played Code Veronica for a good 3-4 hours while doing these photos and the like.  I quite enjoy it still to this day.

 Dino Crisis was a game I got free with a second Dreamcast I bought when the first had the infamous RESET PROBLEM I mentioned.  This one got it while taking these photos and lead to me fixing both of them then playing an hour or so of Daytona to make sure it was working.  I also used this time to do some cleaning of the machines and some compressed air for the interiors.  

 This controller still needs some more cleaning though.  I have to take a teeny tiny precision flat head screwdriver and run it through those nooks and crannies and then a cloth through everything else to get those bits of dust out.  Some foresight was needed I think.  But you can see the VMU memory card in action.

 Cool!  A choice!

 Except it really didn't matter so much.  Just like this game is almost a complete port of the PS1 original up to and including the "Z Buffer" texture issues that so many PS1 games had!  SHAMEFUL CAPCOM.

 This Sega collection was a fair value back in the day although modern collections have things like save states and the like that this one does not.

The output is pretty damned good though and now I can play it with a Saturn controller!

 The legendary Phantasy Star 2.  That is a damn good screenshot I got.

I have gotten a little better at Daytona's second track since this image but not better enough or something.

  Hopefully this will inspire some of you to take some old games out of storage and play them for a while, either electronic or tabletop.  Still a ton of fun to be found and lots of neat things you can do in the modern age that in many cases make them MORE fun!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

(Operation Game Collection) Ridin Solo: RPG Solo Modules

  Ahh yes.  The Solo Module or Game Book.  Take Choose Your Own Adventure and add in RPG rules to presumably make it the 80s version of a JRPG as opposed to the CYOA's Adventure Game.

I have a handful of them so let's see what we have eh?  Lots of these products will show up in or have already done so in other Operation Game Collection posts but for completeness' sake they all get shown here.

(Well all that I know that I have.  When actually looking for something else I discovered game supplements I never knew I even OWNED.  That is when it is time to seriously cut the hell down on buying this nonsense!)

As usual click for larger.  If you want.
Here we see one of my Car Wars solos, a Fighting Fantasy game book from an entirely different Steve Jackson I got for like two dollars but havent played yet, and two solos from the indie joke RPG Kobolds Ate My Baby!

The Car wars one looks pretty good and fun.

Fighting Fantasy gamebooks are rules integrated CYOAs with simple RPG rulesets.  This one is about being a pirate captain.  I want more of these books which were a lot more popular in the UK than in the US.  Nowadays it is almost easier to just buy the iOS versions of some of these books which add in redone color art, digital dice, and all sorts of neat quality of life bits.

The Kobolds solos are obviously micro niche indie press ones before the modern internet publishing revolution happened.  Gotta love the dig at FASA.  

Now Tunnels & Trolls is rather famous for having tons of solo adventures.  It being a simpler RPG made it a lot easier system for this.  (And TnT being far less popular than D&D means you were probably more likely to play through solos than get a group of people willing to play something other than WHAT GARY WROTE FAAAART.)

Yes City of Terrors is by THAT writey man Mike Stackpole in his pre Star Wars novel days.  There has been a PDF reward of that book for the current TnT kickstarter that thankfully modifies some of the artwork which in this book has.. issues.

Another TnT solo and a solo for the Pulp Adventure Novel RPG using the same basic ruleset as TnT known as Mercenaries, Spies, & Private Eyes that has the best game cover EVER.  But whenever I properly cover TnT stuff we will see it.  (Also KAMB! will get it's own day in the sun.)

TnT solos are big and meaty.

Grimrock Isle is an absolutely MASSIVE solo adventure and RPG campaign for Call of Cthulhu.  Insanely so.

It is by a smaller company so it has a bit lower production values than a larger publisher would but they do a solid job.

Yet another Car Wars solo, and a FASERIP system Marvel Superheroes solo, the latter of which kind of inspired this post.  I got it a few weeks ago for 7 dollars still sealed!  I didn't even know MSH had solo modules!

This Car Wars solo is like the last one only in a bigger book format and thus roomier!

About half the TSR made solo modules for their game lines used a piece of red cellophane to reveal otherwise mostly hidden parts that were printed in a way the red would obscure the text.  Kind of like the old Tech Spec Reader thing 80s Transformers toys had.

This is actually one of two solos here I have actually gotten around to playing.  Well, at least the first scenario.

Something look familliar?  GURPS/Fantasy Trip anyone?

Given that this company also does solos using proto GURPS rules it makes me wonder the legalities and IP rights of Mr. Jackson's original RPG wargame thingie...

It even comes with counters and a generic but modded battle map for fighting battles on.

Even the Mayfair Games DC Heroes Exponential Game System I will talk about more whenever I cover my Supers RPGs had at least one full solo!

Sadly its for HIS HOLY LAMEASS WORST GREEN LANTERNNESS himself, Hal Jordan.  Hal Jordan sucks y'all.  Can I play it and pretend to be John Stewart or Kyle Rayner or maybe that New 52 Lantern who is Muslim?  (Probably wouldnt logically fit to be original 30s Green Lantern, alien Lanterns, Jade, or Guy Gardner.  Even if a Guy Gardner solo would be FUN. AS. HELL.)

And the other solo I have played through, Ghost of Lion Castle!  I played this one sometimes onboard ship in the Navy on a watch post that was basically sitting in an aft steering compartment that was closed off, noisy as hell, and effectively DOING NOTHING FOR 4 HOURS.  Because unless something went wrong you weren't doing anything at all!  Just sitting there staring at walls and looking at backup ship controls.  Well this is what I did when one of the engineering department people also on watch for mechanical reasons weren't being a wanker.  They weren't doing anything EITHER really.  

The DnD ones look nice as was the wont of TSR.

The same guy also did ADnD solo(s) using that red reader thingie.

It seems a lot less like a CYOA styled solo however.  I haven't had time to read through it properly but it has a bunch of odd special rules and stuff plus some massive poster maps.

There are a few other TSR solos but most of them used this odd ass Invisible Ink system which basically made these solos a single use deal.  And you know, even if not the pens are long since dried out and unusable.  If I run into them cheaply I might at least see if you can use them with the HONOR SYSTEM like the normal numbered entry solos that most games were.  Luckily losing a tiny slip of red cellophane is easily replaced.  Heck just a set of old blue/red 3d glasses will cover you!

 TSR even did a small series of system agnostic solo gamebook RPGs in their Catacombs line.  They were probably trying to appeal to more general book fans and people who like me weren't permitted to play D&D for whatever generally dumb reason our idiot parents had.

 This book is HUGE.  Tons of entries and even virtual dice in the corner!  Though you would still need a pencil...

In this one, you are in the Dragonlance setting helping TINKER GNOMES fight off a Draconian army.  As a human baker in a gnomish made steam powered armor.  Your name is.. Rye.  *sigh*  It is a really fun setting and scenario where you go hunting through these crazy gnomes' absolutely bonkers hive city looking for artifacts and working machines that can help fight off the Draconian army.  Nice.

Now you may be wondering WHY you would want these things today?  Well, what if you don't have a game group but want to physically PLAY an RPG and not just have a videogame handle all the mechanics?  Well there you go!  Maybe you like CYOA books but want some RPG mechanics?  What about a way to have some practice in a game system before you try running it for friends?  Hell, maybe even use the solo as the group adventure or as a simpler example of how you do these RPG thingies?  (Though the latter is basically removed as we now have Youtube.)

  Heck, some solo RPG game books like Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf (I could have sworn I owned the first Lone Wolf book but it seems to have been lost to the Ether.) ended up getting full tabletop RPGs and even electronic ports both then and now.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

(Operation Game Collection) Dungeons and Dragons: Original Edition and Friends!

  Ah.  The original RPG.  The game whose inception can almost be credited with creating the "Adventure" Games market as we know it today.  (I call it Hobby Gaming but the other term works fine.)

  See back in the late 60s to early 70s a bunch of miniature wargames nerds in the midwest were making their tiny niche products and sharing and evolving them as best as they could with the technology and networking available for the time as opposed to our modern and more interconnected methods where an idea from Russia can be translated into English in hours and spread all over the place to be morphed into something else in Japanese ow what have you.

  Well some guys got together, smooshed miniature wargames together with a more freeform style of play and RPGs were born!  Dungeons and Dragons is (sadly) the Alpha and the Omega of it all, largely being the main RPG of the English speaking world for about as long as I have been alive.  (Almost 41 years now.  OH GOD I AM SO OLD WHY HAVE I WASTED MY LIFE ON DUMB NERD CRAP?!)

 (No Pathfinder's short run as king doesn't count because it is basically DnD 3.5 with a couple of tweaks.  Which is the only reason anyone cared about it.  DnD players seem to have issues playing anything other than DnD ruleset RPG Fantasy genre games.  Only a massive departure like 4th edition, the previous publisher (TSR) being shut down for a year, or Games Workshop levels of customer abuse seem to make the game take any form of noticeable hit in popularity, most of which is short lived.)

So, let's see what old books full of rusting staples I have for the first RPG as we know it?

(As is my wont, feel free to click most images for a larger one.)
 It took me many moons to get my "White Box" reprint set from the late 70s-whenever they stopped printing them in the 80s for a sub 100 dollar price but I eventually got it for like 50 bucks shipped.  It merely looks like the box got ran over multiple times.

 And what you got inside of the box!  Three softback stapled books and a set of reference sheets.  So even as early as 1974 we were getting cool box sets full of goodies and books in conveniently digestible booklets as opposed to these terrible monster coffee table books we have now.  

(To be fair the Iron Kingdoms core rulebooks could probably knock someone the hell out if swung hard enough...)

 And this is what the books looked like inside.  As we generally know, the rules don't make a whole lot of sense and all but require house ruling, made worse given how few examples there are in the booklets.  Not ugly in general though.

 Well ok, the art is mostly AWFUL inside these things.  But keep that last statement next to the swordy man.  We shall see it again in this post.

 If you want a retro laugh, here is the price TSR had for things in the mid-late 70s.  Given that no ADnD books are listed this is a 1976-early 77 price list.  For inflation fun purposes as of this writing One 1977 dollar is worth 3.85.  While I do not completely agree with inflation dealies like this, it gives one a ROUGH idea of things.  So a 10 dollar set then is worth 38 bucks or so now.  Which is kind of close I guess?  But a comic book at that timeframe was about 40 cents then, or worth 1.55 now.  As opposed to how much most comic books cost now which is FOUR DOLLARS.  Yeah.  Inflation is kind of a troublesome thing.  You can't just say WELL IT WAS  X DOLLARS THEN AND SHOULD STAY THE SAME NOW but you can't go the other way either.

 The sheets have lots of the charts you would want in a suite of loose sheets inside.  

 But unlike today where expansion products are designed to be bought for your game whether tabletop or electronic from the start and nigh unusable without them, back then they were merely cool options and add ons.  Much of what would become standard core elements of DnD long term first appeared in these books, more Greyhawk than Blackmoor.  

And yet even the Thief in Greyhawk is whined about by some idiot purists as being where DnD went off the rails.  I will talk about that later in the post..

 One of the first published adventures for DnD was in Blackmoor!  The legendary Temple of the Frog which is closer to what many JRPGs on consoles do (as well as oldschool Ultima) where both Sci Fi and Fantasy were combined and worked together as opposed to the more stringent division so many nerds seem to insist on nowadays.

Because nerds are dumb.

 And the next two supplements!  Eldritch Wizardry is a collection of more epic stuff for the game.  I have the little censor thing there because while you don't actually see any nipples on this picture THAT WAS DRAWN BY A WOMAN BY ALL REPORTS some people now as back then were rather puritan and OMG TEH CHILDRENS about it all.  To be fair I don't much see the point of the image being there but nerds gonna nerd I guess.  

Swords & Spells was basically a replacement for Chainmail which was the set of miniatures wargame rules Mr. Gygax and Perrin had made that was one of the initial default combat rulesets for DnD now that they discovered not too many people were using Chainmail for their DnD games or miniatures period!

(I also do not have the fourth supplement to Original DnD as it tends to go for much more than I want to spend for a mere historical artifact I have no real desire to actually PLAY GAMES WITH.  And a semi recent deluxe ODnD rerelease WOTC did?  Yeah I wasn't paying that when I am merely missing one book, awesome box or not!)

(I would also be remiss as to say I am missing an Avalon Hill boardgame that honestly serves no real purpose other than being a map board DMs could use to run overland campaigns on.  Which is a cheap thing to buy but.. I am not sure I really WANT it, you know?)

 Eldritch Wizardry added in some now legendary magical artifacts.

 Swords & Wizardry is merely only worth getting for the really cute art in it, with the images basically being miniature models on their bases getting up to adorably amusing shenanigans.

But as the game spread throughout the English speaking world the mixture of semi amateur level writing and the sheer oddness of this new game would cause it to not just be people teaching it to others and sticking more or less to the styles of play the creators intended.  People who simply weren't into Adventure Gaming would start picking it up and trying to self teach it to themselves and then their friends.  And like the Telephone Game things would be "Lost in Translation".  So an educator named Holmes would convince TSR to let him make a set of starter rules to ease folks in.  (Again something that would basically become a fixture in the market.)

 The very first Basic Set!  This rulebook, dice, and tutorial adventure would help to introduce unconnected and antisocial nerds of the mid-late 70s how to play this weird new game!

 The hobby and industry was in fact so new that TSR couldn't even source enough of the funny dice people would need back then so they made chits you cut out and drew out of a cup to get you by!

 And even Gary Gygax got into the tutorial scheme with The Keep on the Borderlands which is a now legendary adventure module.

 The main book looks VERY similar to the design of the then in development ADnD and in fact is some weird hybrid of Original and Advanced, kind of ending up as it's own thing.

 Obviously things are evolving and the company is becoming more and more professional.

 You can see in this edition of the module it is full of things of use and help for a beginning RPG player, even including some explanations of odd terminology most people wouldn't know back then or now!  And plenty of reference material and advice through the book to help you understand how to do this game stuff.

 LOOK AT THAT FAT WIDDLE STIRGEY-WIRGEY!!  WHOSE DA FATTEST BWOOD SUCKA?  IS IT YOU?  YES IT IS!!  :3   Anyhow, you can tell this is the Holmes edit version by the stat lines you can see as in entry 64.  This module will show up again when BX/BECMI DnD would be born in the early 80s.  But that is a tale for another time..

Now we must get into a hot topic.  THE OSR which stands for Old School Renaissance/Revival.  With 3rd edition and later 4th changing much of what the Original through 2nd edition DnD rulesets had as sacred cows, these aging people who refused to move on now had access to each other through the Internet.  Add in the Open Game License which gave people the ability (with limits) to basically redo and rebuild early DnD and modern advances in desktop publishing and we had a storm of people both reviving, adding to, and enhancing the editions they preferred as they formed communities dedicated to it.

 This has lead to things like fans making free fanzines and enhancements like this small one designed to expand the Holmes Basic set into a fuller featured RPG that doesn't really require anything else for those who have decided HOLMES EDIT IS MY GAME AND THE ONE TRUE D UND DEE and want to just run it and not really go beyond.

You see, this is one thing with the OSR.  Many of them sadly have their heads shoved firmly up their own asses, insisting whatever version of DnD they grew up with is the only good one.  This has lead to such inane things as the dismissal of even the Greyhawk supplement for Original DnD, or anger over the BECMI DnD over the BX one even if they are 95% exactly the same in rules and charts.

It gets even more absurd with AD&D and 2nd edition.  This is why people keep getting into smaller and smaller niches of Internet Echo Chambers where they just encourage more "partisan" forms of thought.  And I REALLY need to cover this sort of partisan thinking on consumer products in a post all to itself.  So let's just say people like to get a bit too invested in a memory that is probably not even entirely real.

But for our purposes, ODnD got it's own rather well regarded rewrite called Swords & Wizardry.  Being three formats with varying levels of adherence to the ODnD rulebooks and expansions, it makes the original books both unnecessary but even allows people to play for FREE.  And thanks to Print on Demand services like Lulu you can have reasonably priced physical copies!

 I have more properly covered Ruins & Ronin a few years ago here: http://wargamedork.blogspot.com/2010/01/review-corner-rpg-review-of-ruins-ronin.html and a bit more about Swords & Wizardry here:  http://wargamedork.blogspot.com/2009/04/retroclones-primer-and-swords-and.html  .

Sadly I never did get the game beyond that one play session and the RPGsite became such a miserable and hateful place I have left it far behind.

For a free or inexpensively purchased physical product, Swords & Wizardry looks quite good.  I actually printed out the entire rulebook.  Of course as these ongoing projects tend to do, things have been updated and improved which almost makes buying a physical version or wasting ink and paper printing them out kind of pointless.  Luckily modern portable phones and tablets are fantastic for holding PDFs to read and use on the go.  (And laptops of course.)

 There are even a lot of great fanzines you can either download for free or buy such as this one, Knockspell!

 Knockspell is more or less for ODnD primarily, while the other big paid fanzine

 Fight On! (Told you that would come back!) is more ADnD focused but still heavily supporting the original.  Fight On! has far more issues out than Knockspell and even will release massive collated editions like the first four issues combined into that one massive book to the left.  

 Again, our modern technology makes these fan driven projects look better than even the pro ones they were inspired by.

Yet the best thing is not merely when fans remake the old rules as an excuse to shove in their house rules or make them as a way to rationalize releasing new adventures and support material for sale.
(Some claim it is because the older books are difficult or expensive to find which is honestly incorrect.  Between RPGNow/DrivethruRPG, Ebay, and WOTC's own reprints only the ODnD we are covering here is expensive to acquire in some legitimate form.)

Some folks take the OGL and make all new games, like one of my favorites:
 X-Plorers is basically retro DnD but Sci Fi oriented and with some modern touches to make it FUN.  Sadly it never seemed to take off and just got spread from publisher to publisher and mostly just farted out.

 See?  All one really needs for a quick and fun Sci Fi RPG!  It works so well I made some posts allowing you to use it instead of more complicated and boring RPGs like Mechwarrior or Prime Directive or Gurps.

If you want to see more about it and some of what I came up with:  http://wargamedork.blogspot.com/2010/01/review-corner-review-of-rpg-x-plorers.html


This ought to give you something to go on.  (I had quite a few early 2010 X Plorers posts but I think those two links are enough to start you on your path!)

  So there we go!  My Original 1974 White Box/LBB DnD collection!  Eventually I will get those two final products I mentioned above and more of those fanzines but I am mostly set!  I have the Dragon Magazine Archive CDs somewhere around here which is full of support material for early DnD and the RPG download site I mentioned above sells some of the third party support material as well such as that from Judges' Guild.

  But....  ODnD really isn't my jam.  I like it for being fast, light, and flexible but it is too confused and scattershot, plus it not being the system of my rose tinted nostalgia goggles.

  Whenever I move on to the next DnD Game Collection post I might cover it eh?


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