Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

BluffsideI recently had the opportunity to take a look at a new Castles & Crusades adventure conversion. It’s called Interludes: A Brief Expedition to Bluffside. It was written by Jeff quinn, converted by Peter J. Schroeder and published by Samurai Sheepdog. For those who are not familiar, Bluffside is a mini setting originally designed and written for OGL D20 systems. Here is the marketing blurb from 2002:

“Civilization is still picking up the pieces from an asteroid strike hundreds of thousand of years ago. The epicenter? Bluffside. Only 200 years after being rediscovered, Bluffside is a boom town boasting the most precious metal in the known world adamantine. From the ancient ruins, to the vast Undercity, to the floating port of Sordadon, Bluffside: City on the Edge is a city that promises to become the home port for thousands of adventures.”

Sounds pretty cool right? I’d certainly want to have an adventure or two there. And in the Castles & Crusades ruleset? Even moreso! Ok, so let’s see if this adventure lives up to the promise of both Bluffside the setting and C&C the game. (more…)


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Adventurer Conqueror King SystemAdventurer Conqueror King System.


Being an old-timer means that I find lots of the OSR world interesting.  In most cases it’s not enough to make me ditch the new shiny(4E), but sometimes I wonder if that’s not simply because I have a group that consists of gamers with slightly more modern sensibilities.  To that end, I’ve always looked at retro-clones with the angle that I’d like to see not just a clone, but an actual modernization of the systems of the past. They had so much going for them that has been lost with the march of time, with the evolution of the modern gamer. Their themes are no less relevant, no less graspable than they were 30 years ago. Demonstrated by my repeated and successful attempts to introduce modern young people to classic RPGs. These RPGs don’t need to be wildly altered. They just need a fresh coat of paint and a cohesiveness that was lacking from a system that was essentially designed piecemeal by non-designers. They need more references outside of 1970s fantasy fiction combined with a liberal helping of myth. They need to approach the critiques of those systems without unmaking their brilliance. (more…)

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I may have mentioned before that I’m slowly but surely trying to coax my current 4E group to give Castles & Crusades a try. We’re currently very happy with 4E but we all agree it’s a good idea to intersperse other experiences just to make sure neither the game, nor the group starts to feel stale.  For my money, C&C is the perfect option. The rules-lite system and streamlined game mechanics line up nicely with the goal of getting a good experience in just a single night of gaming or over the course of a short “vacation” campaign.  Since there’s not a lot of rules overhead and because what rules ARE there are based on previous editions of the game, familiarity should come pretty easily. I’m confident that a good session could be had right out of the gate.

To this end, I’ve started some pre-prep for when that happens. I’ve started boning up on my C&C rules and resolution. I’ve been familiarizing myself with the old-school stat blocks and spell mechanics. It’s been a real blast. Recently my preprep has included the search for some published material to run. Since this won’t likely be a long term campaign, I’ve decided not to customize too much, or put a large amount of design time into the game. The first adventure I’ve had the opportunity to take a look at is Shadows of The Halfling Hall by Mike Stewart. I chose this adventure for two reasons. First is that I’ve seen it in many places, including Amazon, Ebay and the Troll Lords site. It seems to be a successful module for entry level play. Second is that I listen to a podcast called SaveOrDie and Mike Stewart is one of the hosts whom I very much enjoy listening to. The podcast is dedicated to Old School D&D boxed sets, specifically, the Holmes set, Moldvay and Mentzer. Mike appears to be a guy who knows his stuff. Keep reading for my review of this very old-school C&C adventure. (more…)

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I suppose, based on the name of this blog, that it was only a matter of time before John Flanagan’s popular franchise of young-adult fantasy novels came to my attention. The series is called Ranger’s Apprentice and chronicles what I like to call, “The Birth of a Ranger”. The first entry is titled The Ruins of Gorlan. It introduces us to the protagonist, Will, the eponymous apprentice of established Ranger of the realm, Halt. Halt takes Will in as his apprentice but only after Will is basically refused as an apprentice by all the other stewards. Will is a ward of the barony, a child without a parent and the book starts off shortly before “The Choosing”, the day in each wards life where they both choose a profession and are likewise chosen as a student by a craftmaster.  In Will’s case, he wants desperately to be a Knight.  Knowing little of his father other than that he died a hero, Will imagines his father must have been a valiant Knight and looks to follow in his footsteps. The Ruins of Gorlan is 300 pages of Will learning that his childhood fantasy is far from the truth. (more…)

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This summer I decided I would try to go back and read some of those novels that looked so interesting when I was younger, but that I never had the opportunity to buy or read. These are novels that are either direct tie-ins to the D&D world, or are heavily influenced by it.  I remember seeing them on bookstore shelves, often positioned next to D&D source books and wondering if they were as good as the game I was playing. However, with limited funds at the time (most of my early D&D books were purchased with paper route money), I had to choose between game books, Dragon Magazine and D&D novels. Generally, it was the novels that got passed by. Now that I’m older and have a bit more disposable income, I’ve decided to make a concerted effort to go back and find those books that called to me but that went unanswered.  The first book in this little summer series was The Verdant Passage by Troy Denning. (more…)

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Lately, I’ve been thinking about The Nentir Vale. As I’ve mentioned, the main campaign I’m running takes place there and my group has really enjoyed fleshing out the details of the setting, both by using published materials and through the collaborative process. In many cases, the former is what has informed our use of maps.  There are lots of fun maps out there that are designed to be used in the base D&D world.  The latest of which is a tileset produced by WotC called Dungeon Tiles: The Witchlight Fens.  If you’ve been following WotC products releases as all, you’ll likely know the last year has been spent releasing The Essentials line of products. Included in this “evergreen” product line were a series of Dungeon Tile Master Sets. They covered, The Dungeon, The City and The Wilderness.  The Dungeon was a solid product, hitting the sweet spot between generic usability and inclusion of added details. The City was a bit weaker in design, burning too much tilespace on completely barren indoor buildings and not enough tiles for city streets (the box tops were building roofs), alleys, markets and other urban areas. The Wilderness was an outlier in that it really did exactly what it needed to do while staying focused on the most typical outdoor and woodland settings found in The Nentir Vale.  While these 3 tilesets do mostly what they set out to do: give a DM the ability to quickly map out the most common settings, they simply can’t do justice to all the little niches that are built into The Nentir Vale setting. Things like The Cairngorm Peaks, The Gray Downs and The Witchlight Fens are nigh unmappable with The Essentials tilesets. Yet, these areas represent some of the most interesting locations in the setting.  With the release of the latest tileset for The Witchlight Fens however, it appears WotC is looking to remedy this glaring omission.


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The Nentir Vale is ALIVE!

That’s how I felt as I poured over my most recent WotC purchase, Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale.

So, a little background. I’ve always liked the points of light design. I like the idea that safe places of the world are few and far between. Whatever security is to be established in the world, the players will have to work for it. Nothing can be taken for granted.  It’s particularly fitting when you consider this world design is being laid over the top of an RPG that is a significant departure from its previous incarnations.  Take nothing for granted.  That’s the theme I’ve gotten from WotC over the past couple of years. Ironically enough, over time, the opposite occurred. (more…)

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Sometimes…..it actually makes your game better.

Two weeks ago, I probably wouldn’t have taken that statement seriously. Two weeks ago I would have told you that dice bags are all about function, bringing your “tools” to the table so to speak.  Don’t get me wrong, much like many table top RPGers, I have a bit of a dice bag fetish.  They can bring luck, or they can be “cool”. I’ve seen all sorts of make shift bags, boxes, sleeves and containers used to house the tools of our trade. I’ve used most of them through the years, from the ubiquitous clear plastic tubes that new dice are sold in, to the almost “official” feeling Crown Royal bag seen at game tables across the country. In every case, dice bags were utilitarian at the least and mildly interesting at best.  That is, until I received my first hand-crafted dice bag from Dragon Chow Dice Bags. I had heard the name dropped a couple of times on some of my favorite podcasts. The bags seemed to be held in high esteem by gamers I both admired and respected.  I thought, “Hmmm, this may be worth a look”. (more…)

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Daggerdale Game ArtSo I just downloaded the most recent incarnation of digital Dungeons & Dragons. It comes via XBOX LIVE Arcade (or PC download) in the new game from Wizards of the Coast, Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale.  The game is set in the Forgotten Realms setting and is developed by Bedlam Games. It’s published by Atari, holder of the D&D license for some years now. It pits 4 archetypal heroes against Rezlus, a cleric of Bane who now occupies the evil ediface known as The Tower of the Void.  You work your way through underground caverns and mines and eventually through the tower itself, on the the journey to defeat Rezlus and save Daggerdale from his heinous scheme. (more…)

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