Category Archives: Art

Review – Rob Kuntz’s Dark Druids

Rob Kuntz’s Dark Druids was on sale a few weeks back. It arrived at the end of April. Since my submission to the 2015 One Page Dungeon Contest involved druids – The Dire Druids of Delver’s Deep, I waited until after I completed my submission to read this module. My planned postings got sidetracked, since I jumped on board the White Star bandwagon.

This module clearly states on the cover below the illustration: “For use with 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons(R)”. Unlike others, it is not afraid to say this and also acknowledges that the name of the game is a registered trademark. It is one of three modules currently available from Chaotic Henchmen Productions.

The blurb from the back cover explains what this module is all about: “Dark Druids includes complete descriptions and maps for an outdoor area and a three-level adventure site, and is easily adaptable to most campaign settings. It also includes an outline for further adventuring, a selection of new monsters, spells, and magic items, plus Robert J. Kuntz’s historical context and commentary on this module’s relationship to his campaigns of the 1970’s”

This module is designed for levels 8-12, so it is not a low power adventure. It has the general look and feel of a module from back in the day. The cover can serve as a screen and includes the 1st and  3rd level of the dungeon. The 2nd level is on the last page of the module. This 56 page module has more maps for the outdoors area and illustrations to compliment the text.

After a forward and author preface, there is a section on Using the Module that discusses party composition and challenges, preparations before play, and how to read and interpret the module text. There is a player introduction, which is a lot of text to read. Lastly there is a half page of rewards and additional party resources.

After a page for the GM introduction, there are just over three and a half pages with the outdoor map, starting text, and key to the outdoor map.

The dungeon’s three levels are detailed on pages 9 through 35.

There are seven appendices, A through F.

A – Deals with further adventuring against the drak druids.

B – Is an article about a Dark God.

C – Discusses changes in this version of the module from the 2006 version published by Creations Unlimited.

D – Lists the 16 new magic items in this module.

E – Details four new monsters.

F – Describes the dark druid variant class.

The module was well sealed in cardboard and bubble wrap and sealed with scotch tape in a clear plastic magazine sleeve.

I like the look and feel of this. The maps are well done and easy to read. The text itself is laid out well and easy to read. However, the “Read-aloud text” is in italics. For some rooms this text is the first part of that room’s description, but for others it is later. Thankfully, while not like some italics fonts that I sometimes have trouble distinguishing from the normal font, there is nothing else to set it apart. When actually running this, it would be very easy to miss a key detail. If I were to run this module as written, I would have to use different colored highlighters and ink to note the important parts. I find this to be more of a concern as my eyes age.

When not in a live game situation and no pressure, it is definitely easy to read. There is a lot of information here, it is dense.

It is something that would require a lot of streamlining to run in a con setting. In a con setting it is bigger than can be handled in the average 3 or 4 hour session. There is enough in here, that it would take one massive marathon session to complete the entire module in one go. I can see this easily taking many sessions depending on the focus of the players, and the decisions and rolls they make.

One can easily place this on a list of possibilities, when players get to that level, and fit it into the campaign. AD&D is not that much different from OD&D and modern clones, that this could easily be used in nearly any OSR game. There is a lot in here, that it will take more than a casual reading to catch all that is in here. This could easily be part of a behind the scenes activity that builds up to this module, or it could be a new stand-alone threat. Because this is so dense, I have not managed to read the whole thing carefully, but I like what I see.

This is an interesting concept and ties in with my articles on druids.

Review – Swords & Wizardry Complete and GM Screen

In the spirit of Swords and Wizardry Appreciation Day, I ordered the hard back Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook, and the Swords & Wizardry GM Screen. They arrived on April 29th, but I have not had time to do more than unpack them and make sure they arrived in good shape, until now.

The Book Itself:

This volume is well put together and the black ink on white paper is easily legible for older eyes. It is 134 pages including three intitial blank pages, cover page, table of contents, Swords & Wizardry license, OGL, and index. There are an additional six pages of supporters, I am guessing from a Kickstarter, These are followed by a full page illustration advertizing a game I have not heard of, a page mentioning the S&W SRD, two pages with a heading of “Notes”, and two final blank pages.

What It Is/Isn’t:

Inside you will find almost AD&D/OSRIC. It has all of the classes from AD&D, except for the illusionist and the bard. There is no mention of psionics. The hit dice are different than OD&D, but not quite AD&D. Magic users and monks have d4, clerics, druids, assassins, and thieves have d6, and the fighter types have d8. As in AD&D, the ranger starts with 2d8. Monsters are d8 as in AD&D.

Armor Class:

Armor class has the two options of ascending, AAC, or descending AC, with descending starting at 9. There is a single saving throw, with a mechanic for the saving throws for each type of peril. I am drawn to the simplicity of AAC and knowing what you need to hit based on the AAC number.

Spells:

The spells described go up to 7th level for clerics and druids, and 9th level for magic users. There is, as with other sections, a house rules section, where Matt Finch describes how he handles spells above 6th level. The spells are presented in alphabetical order for all spells. For old grognards, like me, who like the spells arranged by level within each class, as in AD&D, this takes getting used to. Page 73 marks that last page of spells and the end of the player’s section.

GM Section:

The “Referee” section has an introduction emphasizing the need for Rule 0 [Is there a better link for this?]. It then moves on to how to design an adventure with a basic dungeon map with key and a wilderness map with a key. The discussion then moved on to discussing monsters in the dungeon and challenge levels/ratings. There is just over one page listing all the following monsters by challenge level up to 13.

Monsters:

Before it gets to the monsters, it discusses wilderness encounters and has encounter tables. It then discusses mass combat, siege combat, aerial combat, and ship combat. The monsters presented are most of what I consider the most common/favorite of the genre. The monsters are followed with a page and a half listing of challenge levels up to 17. Finally, there is a concluding page to this section on creating your own monsters.

Treasure:

The treasure section has ten pages of the various types of magic items. It begins with one page on generating a random treasure hoard. Other than the index, the last game worthy page is the sample character sheet. It is only one side of the page, the other side holds the S&W license and the OGL statement. Since this is not the pre-internet age, and the PDF is free, you can print this from the PDF. As always, you can just write your information on a piece of paper, making your own as you go, or find one of the many available online. If not for the internet and the availability of the PDF, this page should be perforated for easy removal, and the licenses would need to be on a different page.

Packaging:

Unlike other resources I have ordered online, the packing job did not cover the entire back of the book with bubble wrap. There was a small area about two or three inches square that was not covered in the center of the book. The cardboard did cover the entire book. I did not have any damage to my order, but this was the only weakness in the packing job. I only noticed this based on the packing jobs of all the other OSR products I have received. This is minor enough that it may just be one of those things that happens when there is a flood of orders. I didn’t get a good picture to illustrate it, like I thought I did. In the grand scheme of things, since the order arrived in perfect condition, not a problem.

Content Of The Book:

In addition to being easy to read and having a solid layout, there are many illustrations of various sizes, including full pages. There are a few corners, or nearly half the side of a couple of pages that were empty. Because the majority of all of the other pages filled the page to all the corners, the white space stood out. Some seemed to call for an illustration, or an illustration to fill the entire space available. There were only 5 or 6 pages in the whole book like this, again a minor issue.

There are suggested house rules and rules variants. As with S&W Core and White Box, there is lots of room to house rule to make it your own. I especially like the forward by Tim Kask, that the rules are only a framework and are not meant to bog the flow of play down into paper shuffling and arguments, and the GM has the final word. The main thing is to have fun! See Rule [-1].

Since the PDF is freely available, one can modify the PDF to include only the player information for use at the table or in online games. Be sure to include the S&W and OGL if you do so in a product you plan to market.

The GM Screen:

The GM screen has the usual charts for attack matrices for characters and monsters, turning undead, indoor and outdoor movement, saving throws, and information on melee and missile weapons. This is on four pages on the GM side of the screen. The player side of the screen are covers of the various iterations of the printed rules. This accordion folder screen is one piece. It is laminated to protect it from wear and tear and spills. It is a light card stock, so not as thick as my AD&D DM screens.

If you use AAC, then nearly two pages of the screen are not needed. You could easily use a binder clip to place information over that portion that you need such as the map or note on the current adventure, or other rules needed frequently during play.

The accordion fold is determined to make the screen look like an ‘M’ when viewed from the GM side. I supposed with use, or a strategically placed small binder clip, one could get a shape that is more suited to use at the table.

Takeaway:

Since we are encouraged to make the game our own, we can hack it to make it closer to AD&D if we choose, to make the character class hit dice the same, and if one has the AD&D manuals or OSRIC, one can easily have all the creatures, spells, and items that are there.

Whether you are old, like me, or just like to have a physical book, it is well worth your while. You could just get the free PDF and print your own, but the issue of binding a hardback is a challenge few wish to face.

I like the simplicity and brevity of Swords & Wizardry Complete. It has enough to do more than get you started. A creative GM can make the creatures in this single volume cover years of play. I have played for over 35 years and have not encountered all the creatures in the AD&D Monster Manual either as a player or a DM.

I am also very into the AAC and how easy it is to calculate without needing a chart. The single saving throw may be tough for some, but it does bring simplicity.

I like the simplicity and don’t like when play bogs down to look up a rule. I mind it more as a player than as a referee, but as a DM it does not take long to feel all eyes upon me, and get frustrated. That long pause of a grinding halt interrupts the momentum. Either mark every page you need for rapid access, make detailed notes, or memorize it, if you don’t want to make it up on the fly. Keep the game flowing. Play should only stop when there is a natural break in the action for a bathroom break or it is the end of the agreed upon ending time, after the last extension runs out.

The GM screen is not a must have for play. One can easily make their own by printing the necessary information from the free PDF, if you even use a screen. I tend to use a screen when I run AD&D for two reasons, tradition and the need to look up combat and other tables. The AD&D screens would be better served to have other information on them than the psionics table, unless there is a lot of psionic activity in a game. I find that distance and a book or clipboard or sheet of paper is enough to cover maps and notes from prying eyes.  Unless your game space puts players right next to the DM, I don’t see much use in a screen. I do still like them for the mystery it conveys by hiding something “secret” and “mysterious” from the players. I think the decision to use a GM screen is up to the individual GM. If you are comfortable with the rules, and don’t need it to add to the aura of mystery to game play, then you probably don’t use one.

New Goodies!
New Goodies!
Barely shows gap in bubble wrap.
Barely shows gap in bubble wrap.
Book and Screen
Book and Screen
Inside of GM Screen
Inside of GM Screen
Back of GM Screen - Shiny!
Back of GM Screen – Shiny!

White Box Omnibus – A Review

I won a copy of White Box Omnibus, by +James Spahn of Barrel Rider Games on the Happy Jacks Podcast for Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day.

Things have kept me busy since then. After White Star came out and I reviewed it, I figured I better hurry up and read through the Omnibus and do my promised review.

James’ own introduction to the text explains it well:

White Box Omnibus is a compilation of six previously published
products: White Box Companion, White Box Bestiary, White Box TreasuresWhite Box Adventures: The Wererat’s Well, White Box Adventures: The Wizard’s Tower and White Box Adventures: The Dragon’s Hoard. But a few extras have been added. In addition to cleaning things up a bit, there are a few new things you’ll find.

The Monk has been added as a player character class. It is written in the spirit of Arneson’s Supplement II, but streamlined to fit WhiteBox. You’ll find simple, easy to implement rules for introducing powerful magical artifacts into your campaign along with new monsters in the bestiary.

The three adventures featured in White Box Omnibus have now been augmented by an appendix – The Willow Valley Gazetteer. It’s a mini-campaign setting which can be used to tie the three adventures together, or even continue having adventures in that region.

Section 1 – Class options  Contains variations on standard classes that give bonuses in one area, but limitations in another. Such as the “sub-class” of cleric, the healer, who can use a healing touch once per day but has a -1 on to hit rolls.

Bard Class – This is a simple class designed to work within Swords & Wizardry and other D&D clones, instead of the kludge of AD&D.

Druid Class – A version of a cleric with a Forestry ability that allows tracking, passing without trace, or dealing with wild animals.

Monk Class – Similar to the class in AD&D, with house rules suggestions to make it more like the AD&D monk.

Paladin Class – With the exception of leaving out the warhorse, this is the paladin we recognize.

Ranger Class – With the Forestry ability, like the Druid.

Thief Class – Single skill called Thievery using a 1d6 mechanic based on level. This covers all the thief skills in a big separate table in AD&D. There is a house rule for climbing that add a bonus to the roll.

Section 2 Magic Items – A list of very interesting armor and shields.
potions, scrolls, rings, staves, wands, weapons, and three pages dedicated to miscellaneous magic items. The miscellaneous items has a house rule about “purposed magic items”, i.e. Artifacts.

Section 3 – Bestiary – This includes many creatures that are well-known from other versions of OD&D & AD&D.

For example, Brain Lord – Squid headed humanoids p. 39-40.

Section 4 – Adventure – Wererat’s Well 15 pages including the introductory illustration and map by Matt Jackson.

Section 5 – Adventure – The Wizard’s Tower – 20 pages including the introductory illustration and map by Dyson Logos.

Section 6 – Adventure – The Dragon’s Hoard – 18 pages including the introductory illustration and map by Matt Jackson.

Appendix – The Willow Valley Gazetteer – 22 pages including the village map by Matt Jackson, and an area map done in Hexographer. There is a d20 rumor table for the village and a couple of pages on communities of halflings, dwarves, and elves. This mini-campaign setting has a detailed village, and the area map ties it all together into the three adventures and several of the new creatures and items.

I am a big fan of AD&D. Mostly because it is what I knew and played for so long. I am growing to be a major fan of simple. Less rules and less “fiddly bits” that get in the way.

This large collection of material that supplements Swords & Wizardry White Box to give it many of the things I like about AD&D, or supplemental material from the later LBB’s. It also streamlines them and makes them easy to use, like the bard. In AD&D, the bard class is a mess. I don’t know anyone who started as a fighter, changed to a thief prior to getting the benefits of a 9th level fighter, etc.

The simple bard class presented here, plus the simplified single skill abilities for druids, rangers, and thieves make it easy to avoid paper shuffling and digging through the manual.

The magic items are new and interesting. They have given me many ideas.

I also like how James separates out ideas for house rules in grey highlighted text.

The simplicity of what is presented here is also modular, so that one can pick and choose what you want to use, and easily house rule things that you feel are missing or “not your way of doing things.”

I only skimmed the three adventures. They are clearly presented and to the point. There is enough detail to help out the DM and enough openness to easily supplement the material or drop it in to an existing campaign.

The gazetteer is a village with a map of the village and an area map that ties the three adventures together with the setting. This could easily be the start of one’s own sandbox campaign, or be dropped in as a new area to explore. It is a good model of one way to build a sandbox.

The layout is well done and the whole thing is easy on the eyes and easy to read on a screen.

Just as with the recent White Star, I recommend the White Box Omnibus!

Gaming Paper Review

I bought a roll of hex Gaming Paper a couple weekends ago. Here is a quick review and some ideas I have for using it.

I had heard of Gaming Paper a few years ago, and I like the idea. One can use it for instant terrain maps for use with miniatures. It is also useful to cut some out and use to generate a hex crawl area map and take notes.

It is designed to write in pencil and be able to erase it. I tested and dry erase markers will wipe off, just like an ink pen, if you do so right away. I drew an X with a purple dry erase marker and waited for it to dry. It mostly wiped off, but left a faded X. So if you want to write something that it not permanent, do it in pencil, a high quality eraser is key.

I like the idea of cutting out a piece big enough to generate a hex crawl area map, and use it to write notes. Rather than writing or typing a list that then has to be translated to a map, one can do the initial notes in pencil, and then use ink when plans are solidified.

A similar sized piece can be cut and given to the players and let them map things out as they go.

The FAQ states that it did not feed well through printes when they tried it. Most likely because of how thin and slick it is. The rubber rollers need to get a good grip on the paper for it to feed properly. The blue color of the lines is the kind of blue that probably won’t scan or photocopy well. If you are using pieces larger than a standard scanner, you would not be able to scan it easily.

The only time I really use miniatures at the table is for marching order and placement in combat. Gaming paper is a much less expensive option to a battle mat. The paper is generally spill resistant, and it is designed to be rolled up and re-used.

It is tear resistant, so there is not much worry about frayed edges. It tries to roll itself up, so a means to get it flat might be needed. I tried blue painter’s tape and it did not take away the surface when removed. I even put a piece of Scotch Tape on it and it did not pull away the surface.

I cut a piece about 18 inches wide, and was going to use it to re-do and clarify the peninsula where the players in my AD&D campaign are running around. I then realized, depending on the scale for each hex, I didn’t cut it wide enough. So remember, measure twice, but once….

From my experience, very sharp scissors are better. The paper resists tearing so you can’t just slide your scissors along to make a quick cut.

Below you can see the piece I cut and how well it covers my work space.

Gaming Paper
Gaming Paper

If your FLGS doesn’t have it, you can go to the Gaming Paper website and order direct. They have free shipping on orders over $50.00.

Painting Hero Forge Mini – Part 1

Here are the in-process pictures of my painting efforts for my Hero Forge Miniature of Griswald, my representation of my favorite AD&D character, from my brother Robert’s AD&D campaign.

While I was at it, I also painted my miniatures that I have had from back in the day and not yet painted.

I began with washing them with warm soapy water and gently scrubbed the non-painted ones with an old toothbrush.

After letting them air dry a few hours, I painted them with a coat of white Testors acrylic as a primer. I know there is a special primer, but my hand is not the steadiest for this detail work, and my eyes don’t see those small details so well. I finally have the patience to do a good job, but my hands aren’t as steady and my eyes aren’t as goo up close. Well, I have been nearsighted since junior high, and now have bifocals, but I have to take of my glasses to see anything closer than about 6-8 inches, like the back of my hand or when I am shaving. So I am curious to see how well this turns out. So we’ll call it an experiment. I don’t think I’ll have people seeking me out to do their miniatures, unless their eyes are in worse shape than mine.

There aren’t enough hours in the day to paint and let dry and repeat to get each part painted. I focused on the big parts, the cloaks. I let them dry overnight after each step. So instead of one article showing all the progress and the final result. I will break this up into multiple postings.

It takes up my work space to spread out my game materials. I have to use that space because I can close the door to keep my son’s cats out. The last thing I need is cats breaking or hiding these.

So here are the before and after priming pictures. Yes, those are blue shop towels under them. Much thicker than regular paper towels and I can wipe off excess paint from the rush without it soaking through.

CAM00632
Hero Forge
CAM00631
Hero Forge
CAM00633
Oldest Minis – Example of the ones I pained decades ago vs. one unpainted.
CAM00634
Oldest Minis – Example of the ones I pained decades ago vs. one unpainted.
CAM00635
Oldest Minis – Example of the ones I pained decades ago vs. one unpainted.
CAM00636
Oldest Minis – Example of the ones I pained decades ago vs. one unpainted.
CAM00628
All my minis
CAM00629
All my minis
CAM00630
Hero Forge
CAM00637
Dwarves with mattocks painted vs. unpainted. There were six in the original package. I’m not sure why I only ever painted one. Perhaps I was going to make each one look different.
CAM00638
Dwarves with mattocks painted vs. unpainted.
CAM00639
Dwarves with mattocks painted vs. unpainted.
CAM00640
Dwarves with mattocks painted vs. unpainted.

 

Here are the after painting the cloaks & boots pictures. Yes, I know, that black is really dark, but it is a work in progress. It is only paint after all, and I can just start over if I goof it up or don’t like the end result. I had to take off my glasses so I could see the details when I had to hold them close. Do I get extra XP because I didn’t get paint on my glasses?

CAM00641
Long shot – all primed.
CAM00642
Hero Forge & Dwarven Mattockers primed.
CAM00644
Hero Forge & Dwarven Mattockers primed.
CAM00643
Ral Partha Three In One Pack Half-Elves Primed.
CAM00645
Hero Forge & Ral Partha Three In One Pack Half-Elves cloaks painted.
CAM00646
Hero Forge & Ral Partha Three In One Pack Half-Elves cloaks painted.
CAM00647
Hero Forge & Ral Partha Three In One Pack Half-Elves cloaks painted.

 

 

Clean up of New Purple Game Science Dice

I tried using my camera for better pictures to show the burrs on my new Game Science dice, but it is a cheap camera and better suited to taking pictures of people and larger objects.

The burrs turned “white” and did not come off in big pieces, so what I ended up with were flecks that barely showed up. I did not have a dark background to place them against.

Below shows the transition in brief.

I have had this X-Acto knife for a couple of years, but only now took it out of the package.

I had to buy silver Sharpies. This was not a fine point, so ink was both in the groove of each number and on the face of the die. As soon as I filled in the number, I used a napkin to rub the face and only the ink inside the numbers was left.

I have about five reams of paper that is printed on one side, from moving to working at home. I use it for taking notes when I am on the phone or when working on a data issue for a client. I folded over about ten sheets of paper and slowly shaved off the burrs. The burr on the d24 was huge. A large piece of it broke off and I heard it bounce off something, so I don’t know where it went. NOTE: An old catalog or phone book or magazine also works well for a surface for using an X-acto knife.

I like the final results, and it makes these dice usable. Without coloring them in, I had to pick them up to attempt to read them. Certain rolls, you don’t want to pick up without others verifying. Older eyes make reading un-inked dice quite the challenge. I used to be able to do the fine work, like inking these dice with my glasses on, but now I have to take them off to see clearly such close up work. Let that inform your purchases and products going forward.

Exacto
Exacto
Exacto
Exacto
Silver Sharpie
Silver Sharpie
Burrs
Burrs
De-Burred
De-Burred
Inked Dice
Inked Dice

 

The Passing of DAT – One Year Later

I saw mention of it on a post on the FB page, David A. Trampier Fan Club.

I jumped over to Wikipedia and confirmed it.

Wow. One year.

So many enjoyed his art. For me, his images are iconic and when I see them I am instantly transported to thinking of all his various RPG art and all the books and modules, and of course, Wormy, and The Dragon.

I wish I could make it to GaryCon. Such remembrances make me nostalgic. I thought it would work out this year. Now, my goal is for next year. I met several from back in the original TSR days at GenCon last year, but I always wanted to go to GenCon when it was in Lake Geneva. I hope GaryCon doesn’t get too big by then. There are a lot of the original creators and movers and shakers still around that I want to meet. Perhaps even get a chance to play.

 

Laminating My Hommlet Map

In February, I ran Village of Hommlet at Marmalade Dog 20. I was very much over prepared. The map in my original module is very faint, and the blue of the ink is the kind that does not copy well. I purchased the PDF from DriveThruRPG, but the map did not print very clearly. So I got a couple sheets of tracing paper and traced it. I then ran by Kinko’s and made copies to regular paper and taped them together. The map did not feature very much in play, but since I put so much time into it, I wanted to preserve it, in case I ever need it. I am sure I will run Hommlet again someday.

Note on this process. Make sure the ink side of the tracing paper is facing down when you go to make copies. I didn’t realize the error of my ways until I got to the con and the map didn’t line up right. One page was correct and the other was not. I had to find a back lit window by the doors to trace the other side of the paper so that it was legible. I then ran by Kinko’s and made a correct copy of that part of the map for the last two days of the con. I later grabbed my colored pencils and colored my map.

01Hommlet
Colored and ready to be preserved.
02HommletBack
My map face down on the Contact Paper. Center it and apply pressure from the center out.

 

So I made a trip to the craft store and bought some clear contact paper. I cut some off a bit longer than the map.

Contact Paper
Contact Paper

After getting the backing off, I spread the contact paper on my table sticky side up.

I then laid the map ink side down. I cut out the corners of the contact paper and folded it over to wrap around the back of map. I used the scraps to cover the seam where I stitched the paper map together into one.

Map Face Down On Contact Paper
Map Face Down On Contact Paper with the edges folded over.

Rather than try to cut a piece of contact paper to fit, I used packing tape to cover the bare paper on the back of the map. (I know some might cringe at this. However, this is copy paper. It is NOT acid free paper, so using packing tape plus keeping it out of the light, will make it last longer. Unless I get a light table and acid free paper to trace a new map, I can’t make it last any longer. This is just a tool, even faded it will still work, and that might add a bit of character to it.)

Packing Tape Dispenser
Packing Tape Dispenser
06BackOfMapWhenDone
Clear Packing tape on the back so all the paper is covered.

04EdgesFoldedOver

Now, other than sitting in a spill, someone being deliberately destructive, or a disaster, I have a map that I can write on with dry erase markers and use for years to come.

08Finished
Finished
09RolledUp
Rolls up nicely.
10UnrollsWell
A couple of angled views.

07Finished