Frank Mentzer’s 0D&D Game At Gary Con IX

I managed to get a gold badge for this year’s Gary Con, which means that you get into two special event games.  This year, one of them was Frank’s game. I had interacted briefly with Frank at Gary Con last year, and at Gamehole Con IV last November.

This year, I made it to Frankenparty IV, a party that Frank and his wife Deb host in their home. They only ask to follow their wishes about parking and a small donation to offset the costs of food. I touched on this in my Gary Con wrap-up post.

Frank’s game was very informal and I found it enlightening to see how one style of original play was handled. We only needed three dice, d6, d10, and d20. He provided pregens, which speeded preparations/play. Being 0D&D d6 for all damage, and d20 for combat.

He had us use the d10 to resolve things that had a chance of failure. through mutual negotiation and explanation of what our characters did, Frank would have us call high or low before we rolled the d10. Frank said that that is what they did before they started developing rules for things. He also had us use THAC0, which he said started in Lake Geneva and he thinks is a quick way to know if you hit.

I really like that. That is something that many in the OSR are going back to, such as Swords & Wizardry Light, and others. I have a love for AD&D, but there are so many rules, that rules lawyers bog down play if a DM doesn’t have the skill to move things back to the game. I’m slightly guilty of that, but I try to ask clarifying questions, and shut up, since I believe each DM/GM has the right to run their game to their preferences.

With old school, you only need a roll where there is a chance of failure, such as combat, or leaping over a pit in full armor. This gives more focus on roleplaying and moving the adventure along.

Frank also talked about four levels of crosstalk at the table. I tried to take notes, but don’t have it exactly as he described it.

They are:

  1. Players
  2. Characters
  3. Meta(game)
  4. Meta(world)

Old school play is reliant on player skill, so what many call “metagaming,” is encouraged, at least by Frank.

The scenario was set in the world of Disney’s Maleficent. That description of the movie/cartoon set the tone and we all had a mental image. No minis, just a written marching order on a 3×5 card.

Frank did use 3 six-sided weather dice and used the average for weather. Very quick and easy. He also told us when we were doing something that might get us killed, and commented on our choice of tactics. He gave us a chance to adjust, but we could have easily gotten killed in a fight.

At one point, one of our magic users used sleep on an opponent and all the crows in a tree fell down. I really liked the “rain of murder”. A day or two later I mentioned to Frank how much I liked that. He said that I was the only one who laughed at his jokes. Some were pretty subtle, but that’s a style of humor I also like.

Frank also shared his original campaign maps, which will help inform Darlene when she does the maps for his upcoming Kickstarter. I’ll be bringing that to your attention when I get word of its launch.

Frank Mentzer - Original Campaign Maps on Judges Guild Maps
Frank Mentzer – Original Campaign Maps on Judges Guild Maps
Frank Mentzer - Original Campaign Maps on Newer Judges Guild Maps
Frank Mentzer – Original Campaign Maps on Newer Judges Guild Maps

After the game he signed my character sheet and name card. I played a dwarf, so I named him after the dwarf in the AD&D Roll20 campaign that hit three years and 148 sessions last week. I shared that on our Google Community page for the campaign. The guys like that.

Dwarf In Frank Mentzers Game
Dwarf In Frank Mentzers Game

 

Gary Con IX Wrap Up

This year’s Gary Con was awesome. Other than some trivial issues it was all good.

I arrived Wednesday, picked up my registration pack and saw a few friends. I also wandered around the vendor hall during setup. Black Blade Publishing/Goodman Games had a spot inside the door across from registration. I immediately say a lot of things I wanted. After going to our hotel (NOTE: Don’t wait, if you want to go, call the Grand Geneva now. We had rain the last few days and walking in the rain to the con is no fun.), we went to Frankenparty IV. Frank Mentzer opens his home to attendees, and just asks for a small donation towards the food.

Frank had out a painting that was suggested for the original red box cover with a full adventure party, and not the lone fighter facing the dragon. That picture had not been made public before. He also has Gary Gygax’ old TSR desk. I got to sit next to Darlene the artist while I ate. Later, while I was in Frank’s office listening to him tell stories Darlene walked in to say her goodbyes and Frank told her things were a go. Then he turned to us and said that he is launching a Kickstarter in a few months for his campaign world. Darlene will be doing the maps. (So much for avoiding Kickstarters….) Frank says that he has a letter by Gary Gygax that says his campaign is in a certain location in Greyhawk. Obviously he can’t use any names owned by WotC, but this should be cool!

Red Box Alternate Cover
Red Box Alternate Cover - Info
Red Box Alternate Cover – Info

We stopped by the Grand Geneva and met a few friends and had a drink before going to our hotel.

Thursday before my first game, I wandered by the vendor hall. The doors were open early so I went in and picked up my Epsilon City Kickstarter and the one for How To Write Adventure Modules The Don’t Suck. I also bought Dungeon Alphabet, Monster Alphabet, and the OSRIC Monstrosities book. I also saw these cool map pads that I knew I’d be back later.

Across from that I visited with Jeff Talanian of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. He managed to easily sell the last of his first edition boxes.

He was next to Frog God Games, so I stepped over and met Erik Tenakar. Nice guy. I also saw Zach Glazer & Bill Webb, and met Mike Badolato.

Erik Tenkar
Erik Tenkar

My first game was in Ernie Gygax’ Hobby Shop Dungeon. He had a laminated copy for us to see. It is a HUGE dungeon. He put up some video on Facebook, where you can see me scribbling notes as he reads his intro.

Posted by Ernest Gary Gygax Jr. on Monday, March 27, 2017

 

I didn’t have anything else scheduled until 6, so I wandered around, bought more stuff, got some signatures, etc.

From 6-8, I attended a Seminar by Satine Phoenix and Ruty Rutenberg where they explained how they do their Maze Arcana livestream. They explained how you can do it with good enough webcams, but you have to be careful not to overload the computer. Very informative. It was also great to catch up with Satine. I had no idea who she was when we met at last year’s Gary Con, also her first time there.

Ruty, Satine, A.J., and me
Ruty, Satine, A.J., and me

Friday I started off with Mark Hunt’s Gangbusters. The premise was that “The Masks” were putting on too much pressure, so it was time for one last job. He gave us Penguin, Two-Face (who had to flip a coin), Poison Ivy, Riddler, Flat Top, Joker, and two characters he generated. We found out that we were up against Dick Tracy, The Shadow, and Batman. We laughed so hard that I got a headache. Flat Top managed to kill Dick Tracy and take his watch, hat, and coat and drive away. Sean, who played Two Face got tails like 11 or 12 times in a row, which was hilarious!

Mark announced his Gangbusters Kickstarter this summer. He had a mockup of the rules which is complete with place holders for art. Mark had one game each day for 8 players and each had a waiting list. He asked me to run two games next year. I and others told him to go to Gamehole Con. I told him that I planned to run at Gamehole Con this year, and will run a session of Gangbusters. I will also run at UCon in Ypsilanti, MI.

Gangbusters - Mark Hunt
Gangbusters – Mark Hunt

That night, I got to play in Satine Phoenix’ first time running a convention game. It was my first real time playing 5e. She did great and kept us entertained and busy. We had something happen that initiated a timer, so we had two hours to get a resolution, and we made it with 1 minute and 22 seconds to spare! We had one character die, which was also the first time one has died when Satine ran the game. Later at the bar she told me that she was glad I was there for a friendly face, and moral support. Zing! Straight to the feels! She took a picture of our group that got re-tweeted by Geek & Sundry, which was cool!

Saturday morning, I played in a party of adventuring monsters who went “Against The Dwarfs”, for taking out their allies the giants. Ryan, the DM plans a sequel to that for next year. His premise, plot, and NPCs and the voices were all memorable. I have to get into that sequel next year!

AD&D - Against The Dwarfs
AD&D – Against The Dwarfs

That night I played in Michael Shorten’s AD&D game set in his campaign world. He had a very interesting setup. At one point we ran into a cave of shriekers and he started wailing, he can really hit those high notes! Every other table in the room stopped what they were doing and imitated him. He then said, “And that is what you hear.” It was epic! It is one of those moments that you wish you had it on video to share with the world!

AD&D With Michael Shorten
AD&D With Michael Shorten

On Sunday, I played Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. It was a scenario by Goblin Punch, The Meal of Oshregaal. We failed in our mission, but had a blast.

Sometime during the week, I also talked to Pat Kilbane a couple of times. He was getting in several final interviews for the documentary. It was so cool that he was appreciative of my banging the drum to bring attention to the Patreon. This movie will happen, and if you can give something towards the Patreon, it will speed up that process.

I took a bunch of things to get signed, because Jeff Dee was there, but I never saw him when he wasn’t running a game or I didn’t have the books with me. I picked up the Holmes Blue Box rulebook a couple years ago, since I gave my original to my youngest brother when I went to college. I asked Tom Wham to sign it and he said, “I didn’t do anything in that.” I said, “You’re in the credits,” and handed it to him. He flipped through it and said, “That picture looks familiar, I guess I did.” Lots of fun moments like that.

James Ward made it and looked OK and was always his pleasant self. He signed a book I bought and the two Kickstarters I picked up. I sat and watched the final moments of the last two characters in his Metamorphosis Alpha game fall resulting in a TPK.

MA with Jim Ward - TPK
MA with Jim Ward – TPK

 

Tim Kask recieved the second annual E. Gary Gygax Lifetime Achievement Award, which James Ward had received last year.

The E. Gary Gygax Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Tim Kask this weekend at Gary Con IX, and deservedly so….

Posted by Jim Wampler on Sunday, March 26, 2017

On the way home, we stopped by Lake Geneva Games and had a tour from Mark Clover. He encouraged us to come early next year and game. We then went 30 miles out of the way for my passenger to pick up a package at Noble Knight Games and save on shipping. They have a small storefront with a huge warehouse in back. The storefront was unimpressive. If you are local, or in the area, go pick up a package. Otherwise, see their booth at a con, like Gamehole Con, or order online.

Lake Geneva Games
Lake Geneva Games

 

Noble Knight Games
Noble Knight Games

When I woke up one morning and had the half awake thing where an idea can come, I had an idea for a card game, so I sat up and typed all the high points into my phone. I think it might be good enough to Kickstart. It depends on how well I can execute the mechanics….

I always take off the Monday after a con to rest up and run errands. While out running errands, I had an idea for another card game, that is even better than the first one. It is also more clear in my mind, and the mechanics just write themselves, it seems. When inspiration strikes, it often comes in truckloads. More about both ideas later.

I still have a lot to write about, and a lot to write about once it is OK to go public.

Last year, there were about 1250 attendees. This year there were about 1300 pre-registered, with over 1700 total attendance. At some point, we will reach the limits of this largest venue in Lake Geneva. I hope they always keep it here. Time will tell.

I am so ready for next year, where I know I’ll be running two sessions of Gangbusters. Not sure I’ll run anything else, as I also want to play.

I almost left out playing in Frank Metzer’s OD&D game. I’ll have to write about his old school mechanic for everything.

Frank Mentzer - ODD
Frank Mentzer – ODD

Until next year!

Getting Ready for Gary con IX!

I’m excited about Gary Con IX. One more day of work before I can hit the road.

If you can’t make it to Gary Con this year, maybe you can find a local convention.

I wrote about sites where you can find conventions in your area here. Small local cons are a great place to run your first convention game. That was my experience, and I had a blast.

I’m jumping in and trying the YouTube thing, so here’s a video where I talk about Gary Con.

Review of Into The Mournwood A Module in The Ice Kingdoms Setting

Links to RPGNow and DriveThruRPG are Affiliate links. A portion of your purchase price supports this blog and helps buy products for use and review.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed The Ice Kingdoms campaign setting. Along with the setting, Yesterday, I reviewed the first of several planned modules, Lair of The White Wyvern.  Today I review Into the Mournwood by James M. Ward, $8.99 on RPGNow.

There were several modules possible for unlocking in the Kickstarter, but none of the stretch goals were reached. Into the Mournwood was part of the base Kickstarter funding.

The Mournwood is one of the areas mentioned in the campaign setting book, The Ice Kingdoms. As with the setting book and the White Wyvern module, it fits together and fleshes out the setting a bit more.

This 56 page adventure is for 4-6 characters of levels 3-7. There is a linked index, and three major sections: Introductions, Adventure, and Bestiary.

The Introduction is composed of background and history of Mournwood, Where does the GM start, and 6 pages of More Notes for the GM. In the history, we learn why the Mournwood is also called the Hag Wood. This ancient forest is “full of monsters, fey creatures, and ancient evil.” This forest is so evil that there is a d10 table for curses that afflict those who enter it, if they fail a saving throw.

In the GM section it is specifically mentioned that the GM can use the adventure hook or not, and come up with their own adventure to start things. I really likes that, so that someone new to old school style of play encounters the idea up front.

The adventure section is composed of 35 encounter areas indicated on the region map. I must have missed something, as not all 35 adventure locations are on the map. If there is mention of this, I didn’t catch it, and I tried to read the entire thing carefully. It almost feels like a page with a map is missing. The map is a color map with 5 mile hexes. It would be easy enough to do 6 mile hexes if that is your preference. [EDIT: C.S. Barnhart pointed out, “Page 18, treasures of the fallen explain why encounters 4 to 22 are not on the map and how to use them.” See his other comment and my reply below.]

The pen and ink art fits the tone and mood of the setting, and are well done. There is only the one color map and it is quite nice. The remaining maps are black & white and are simple utilitarian maps. That is, they don’t have any embellishments like cross hatching and the like. All of the maps could easily be used in Virtual Table Tops (VTTs), like Roll20.

There is boxed text indicating read aloud text. There is one that is the initial setup for the adventure that is two pages. The GM can give each player a copy of the player handout to read themselves. The read aloud text is in a plain black box. I was momentarily confused, as there is some boxed text that has a gray background, that is obvious one would not give that information to the players. I don’t see anything explaining the difference. Further adding to the confusion, is the player handout is boxed text with a grey background. I would prefer to see a quick explanation of the two kinds of boxes, and being consistent in which one has grey shading.

This is a tough adventure and players need to play it smart. There are also adventure locations where players find items to help them as they go.

Finally, the Bestiary has 23 monsters and plants, most are familiar for those who play AD&D/OSRIC. Most notably, some of the named monsters are used with permission from WotC.  There are a few new creatures or modifications of old standbys to fit the setting.

What I Liked:

  • This adventure does a good job of giving the players a feel for the setting.
  • This is definitely old school. – Not all encounters are balanced, encouraging players to think before they rush in.
    • Having played Metamorphosis Alpha with Jim at a con, I can definitely see his style even in a different genre.
  • In the GM section is points out that the GM doesn’t have to use the included adventure hook. The GM is encouraged to make this material their own.
  • The maps could easily be used online, such as in Roll20.
    • One map is the only color art in the book.
  • The pen and ink are is all very good. I feel it is all more consistent than in the campaign setting book.
  • The layout is clean and simple.
  • After my previous reviews and commenting about the need for more editing, I received an updated PDF. Serendipitously, about the time I was preparing to read the module. I am pleased that instead of one or more errors per page, there are perhaps 5 or 6 in total.

What I’d Like To See: (This is almost exactly the same as my review of Lair of the White Wyvern.)

  • There are a lot of text boxes for read aloud text.
    • In my case, I have to know a module very well to be able to read such text at the right time.
    • Some of it is a bit long.
    • I think an experienced GM could give this one thorough reading and a couple quick reviews to get it straight the best way for them to run this.
  • There are two kinds of text boxes, but it is left to the reader to notice the difference.
    • The player handout has a different background than the rest of the read aloud text.
    • This should be noted at the beginning, and have consistent format for read aloud or asides for the GM.
  • While the layout is clean and simple, there is very little white space between the columns in this two column layout. It is still readable, and seems OK on my monitor.

Conclusion:

If you like this setting and are a completionist, this module is for you.  There is enough material here to easily fill multiple game sessions.

Review of Lair of The White Wyvern A Module in The Ice Kingdoms Setting

Links to RPGNow and DriveThruRPG are Affiliate links. A portion of your purchase price supports this blog and helps buy products for use and review.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed The Ice Kingdoms campaign setting. Along with the setting, I received the first of several planned modules, Lair of The White Wyvern, by Ryan Lynn and C.S. Barnhart $8.99 on RPGNow.

This module fits the tone of the setting, a modified Viking land and mythos. The PDF I received is black & white, with no cover art. The art is well done pen & ink pictures.

Within we have an Introduction containing a table of contents that are linked to the pages, a background, four adventure hooks, and the village of Ainhild. There is also a general area encounter table, and two area specific encounter tables.

Next comes a seven part adventure. Each part leads to the next in logical succession. There are “timed” events and set encounters that happen if the players do certain things. There is an area map and maps of the village and other locations.

Finally, there is a bestiary with 14 creatures, four of them are new. One, the mountain ape, is mentioned in the Ice Kingdoms Setting, but its stats are in this module. Some of the creatures are slightly modified from the standard old school version. For example, the bandits have 1st level thief abilities. As many bandits as there are, I wonder if this doesn’t overpower them. It would probably depend on the GM and how the players interacted with the bandits.

The central theme is that the characters need to investigate the source of a mysterious and deadly illness that has beset the village. Is it a curse, a punishment, a plague, or something else? I don’t like to spoil the specifics, but it has a nice twist in it so that it is not what one might expect.

This is a 50 page booklet for 4 to 6 characters of 3rd to 5th level. There is a place for combat, but fighting in the wrong places will leave the party worn out. A party without a cleric would be at a disadvantage in some situations.

What I Liked:

  • This adventure does a good job of giving the players a feel for the setting.
  • It occurred to me as I read it that it would be a great location to build upon and the authors acknowledge this and give suggestions to make this happen.
  • There is enough detail for sub-plots in the adventure. Some are detailed by the authors, others came to mind as I read it.
  • The modular design of the seven parts of the adventure make it easy to skip, such as in convention play.
    • One could also lift a part to use as a piece of a home brew adventure or other module.
  • This is definitely old school. – Not all encounters are balanced, encouraging players to think before they rush in.
  • Stats and opportunities for several skill checks are mentioned for those who play using rules that have them.
    • This is not my style, but I can see the value for those who like them.
  • It is generic enough that it can easily be used in any rule set. There are few stats.
  • The maps could easily be used online, such as in Roll20.
    • Some of the maps are the only color art in the book.
  • The pen and ink are is all very good. I feel it is all more consistent than in the campaign setting book.
  • The general encounter table is 0-9 using a d8, and is -1 if in forest, and +1 if in mountains. This is an interesting way to get two tables in one.
  • The layout is clean and simple.

What I Would Like to See:

  • As with the campaign setting, this needed another pass by a proofreader. Extra words, missing space between a couple words, correctly spelled but incorrect words etc.
    • I don’t know if this is the final copy or just the review copy.
  • There are a lot of text boxes for read aloud text.
    • In my case, I have to know a module very well to be able to read such text at the right time.
    • Some of it is a bit long.
    • I think an experienced GM could give this one thorough reading and a couple quick reviews to get it straight the best way for them to run this.
  • While the layout is clean and simple, there is very little white space between the columns in this two column layout. It is still readable, and seems OK on my monitor.

Conclusion:

This is an adventure that I’d like to play in. I can also see me running it. If you like the Ice Kingdoms campaign setting, you might find this a helpful piece for fleshing out a small area.

147 Consecutive Sessions

Tonight is session 147 of the Wednesday night AD&D game I play in on Roll20.

We’re into our third year on the calendar too!

This will be the last game in my streak of not missing a game, as I will be at Gary Con 9 next week.

I’m the only player to have played in this many sessions, and with the same character since the start. A dwarf, now maxed out at enough XP for level 8 fighter, but not until he can gain a point of strength. There is a mad scientist type who has offered a risky chance at improvement…. That is on hold until after we save the world.

We’re in a dangerous situation tonight. Hoping to resolve it so I don’t miss the resolution….. (I’d rather my character die when it’s me rolling the dice.)

Looking forward to lots of game time next week/end!

I wrote an article about a year ago on session 100.

And I interviewed our DM.

EDIT:

Wow! We ended the session so close to achieving our goal. My dwarven fighter is keeping the monster occupied. Very tough, we’ve done a lot of damage to it, so far none of us are hurt. DM & other players nice enough to move the game to Tuesday night next week, so I won’t miss the game. All since my player has the greatest chance of death. AWESOME!!!

Hex Kit – Kickstarter & Sale

+Cecil Howe is running a Kickstarter to add more tiles to use with Hex Kit. Today, he pointed out that with a GM’s Day sale, one can pick up Hex Kit on DriveThruRPG for $6.99 and then back the Kickstarter at the $10 and get the same value as the Kickstarter at the $20 option. As of this writing, there are 26 hours to go.

This was good timing, as I had planned to back this Kickstarter at the $20 level, since I didn’t have the original Hex Kit.

I already have Hexographer, and I backed the soon to be released Worldographer update to Hexographer, but at that price, another option for maps is affordable.

If you like maps, this might be something for you.

I’ll post a review once I make the time this weekend to play with it.

NOTE: Affiliate links help fund the blog and other online efforts.

Here’s the info from Cecil’s G+ Post, with edits to the links:

Hex Kit has less than 30 hours left on Kickstarter!!! Because of the GM’s Day sale at DriveThru you can pick up Hex Kit Fantasyland for 6.99, then back the Hex Kit Kickstarter for 10 bucks. That will get you the desktop app, Fantasyland tiles, and 3,000+ more tiles for 16.99!!

Hex Kit is a multi-platform, map painting tool that comes with hand-illustrated tiles. It does lots of really cool stuff: you can paint hex maps with a huge variety of detail, export your maps to print or save them to share with yer Hex Kit usin’ buds, store information about your world in the map, and even run a player facing version of the map on an auxiliary display. You can import your own custom tiles, as well as generate random maps.

Check out the Hex Kit Kickstarter here:

Check out Hex Kit: Fantasyland here:

Thanks everyone who’s backed the project so far! You’ve made a few nerds into very productive people.