Category Archives: OSR

The Black Hack – A Review

I am finally reviewing The Black Hack.

A few months back nearly two years ago, I did a review of The Front, before I understood that it was based on The Black Hack. Much of what I liked in The Front are mechanics from The Black Hack.

I backed the Kickstarter for The Black Hack and have had the items to fulfill it for several weeks over a year.

I am pleased with the book, setting, and other things that came with it.

The mechanics are as stripped down as you can get. There are the usual stats with 3d6, but then you do a d20 stat check to do anything. Roll under the ability score on the d20. Combat is quick. The players roll to hit their opponents and roll to dodge attacks. The GM doesn’t have to roll any dice if they don’t want to.

When you use an item, you roll a usage die to see if you use up any of your supplies. An item is assigned a usage die, for example, if it is a d8 for arrows and you shoot and roll a 1, your die type goes down to a d6. As long as you don’t roll a 1, you maintain the usage die. That is, you still have arrows. If you roll a 1 on the d6, it goes to d4. If you roll a 1 on the d4, you are out of arrows. I really like this concept. I suppose you could use other dice, like the d7, d5, and d3, but that just complicates it.

What You Get

  • 2 Rulebooks, each less than 20 pages, digest sized
  • GM screen, 3 panels, digest sized
    • This was a stretch goal.
  • Module/Setting, 4 pages
    • Normal sheet of paper sized cardstock folded to be digest size.
    • It has a die drop table for locations in town and tables to add flavor.
    • It discusses how to create a sandbox for that style of play.
    • This was also a stretch goal.
  • 12 character sheets
    • This was a stretch goal.

There is a robust community on G+ and there is a plethora of *Hack games for different genres. Rad Hack for post apocalyptic, for example. There is at least one such *Hack for every genre, and some have multiple efforts where many have decided to put their spin on it.

You can’t get more streamlined than this other than limiting the number of abilities and dice. This is taking OSR to the extreme in minimalism. One could probably reduce the essence of Black Hack to a page or two. I don’t know if anyone has tried.

There are rumblings about a version 2, but I have not followed those closely.

I have yet to run or play Black Hack. So far, I have only ran The Front at a couple of conventions.

Since this is a rules light system, that is what I like about it. It takes the familiar and boils it down to the essentials. Other rules light systems have boiled down to different essentials. I like it for what it is. Not having put the system through its paces across multiple sessions as a player and GM, I can’t think of anything that is missing.

If you are interested in getting the rules out of the way of playing the game, this may be what you’re looking for.

Old School Gamer Radio: A D&D Resource

Old School Gamer Radio: A D&D Resource has a Kickstarter to help fund a new website described as an index for the OSR. It won’t host the content of others, but point to cool OSR goodness in all the corners of the web, whether blogs, G+, FB, and so forth. There will also be new content on the site.

+Matt Finch of OSRIC and Swords & Wizardry fame, along with Zach Glazer are behind this. Matt has started a new You Tube channel, Uncle Matt’s D&D Studio. He asks that subscribers to his old channel subscribe to the new one.

This sub-heading from the Kickstarter page lays it out: “A unified website for old school D&D, with searchable links to the old school community’s locations, plus content from Matt and others.”

While the Kickstarter hit its initial goal quickly, they would like to reach the $7,500 stretch goal to ramp up the website and You Tube efforts to their maximum potential. This is a shorter run Kickstarter with just 9 days left to go. If you like the OSR and like the idea of having a central place to find the stuff you don’t yet know about, consider backing this. This update video explains it a bit more.

I went crazy and backed at the highest tier to sponsor a video. I can’t stretch beyond that with cash, so I’ll back it with my online efforts.

We had a website a bit like that with the former OSR Today, but its creator had health issues limit his ability to continue that project.

D&D 5e is seen as OSR like by many, so this isn’t a Kickstarter just for grognards from back in the day, or those who like OSR style play.

While Matt and Zach are both connected to Frog God Games, this is an independent effort, although personally supported by +Bill Webb.

Adventure Hooks and Encounters Inspired by Cicadas

Over on G+, +Greg Gorgonmilk shared a picture of a cicada. This got me to thinking, “How would this affect various creatures in D&D?”

What if there were forms of various burrowing monsters, Ankheg, bulette, etc. that had a cycle like the 17-year cicada. There are not just one group of cicadas, but multiples, and not just 17 years. I believe there is also a 13 year cicada. There are both Periodical, every 13 or 17 years, and Annual Cicadas, which have a life cycle of 2-4 years.

Inspired By Cicadas

Their base stats would be the same as in their source book. Keep it simple, right? Each monster type would just need to kill a certain number of HD of “food” in a set period before burrowing for the next sleep cycle. Say 2-3 weeks, each HD of creature needs to “eat” 2-3 HD for every HD it posses.

Solitary creatures would emerge to eat and mate. Eggs would hatch for laying species, making voracious babies needing several times their HD in food for the rapid growth that occurs before they burrow to hibernate.

Placement & Cycle

To place the groups lay out your campaign map and drop a die indicating how many are in that location. the number could represent either groups or individuals. Roll a d12+6 to see how many years in the cycle for each group.

Of course, there is nothing to say that the cycle is in years, that would put them in living memory. What adventurers wouldn’t want to go out and find the fresh burrows/dens to slay monsters, find treasure, and collect parts for wizards? Better yet, have the cycle in decades or centuries, depending on which race’s living memory will lose track of them. That way, they emerge suddenly and unexpectedly. Only some dusty old tomes might mention it.

By being outside of living memory, it would make even more sense for the crazy weird creatures to emerge when and where they do.

Duration of Last Cycle

To determine how long since the last emergence, either roll those same dice , or 2d6, if using years. For decades or centuries, use what suits your campaign. For worlds that evolve over many campaigns, this would be another aspect to help it come alive.

Alternatively, assign a percentage chance that this year is the end of their cycle, or that they emerge early, as some 17-year cicadas emerged 4 years early this year.


For sandbox games a burrow of say, hibernating bulettes, could be placed on the map and set to emerge when the party reaches that hex. Or you could have a random encounter prepared to come up when the party is travelling.  Here, the term burrow or den is used loosely. Some monsters are not found in groups, if you want to go by the book, so a den or burrow would be a generalization for an area where the creatures congregated before burrowing. For bulettes and other very large creatures, they might be spread over many square miles of territory.

If you have a creature you really want to show up in your game, use this to make it happen.


Players that encounter such a variation on the usual type of monster might get the bright idea to go dig up these slumbering creatures for “easy” XP. That is easily solved when these creatures curl up and secrete a substance that encases them in a hard shell that disguises their identity and also protects them from scrying. This will make it impossible to determine what kind of creature is in the “shell” if it is found, and reduce the ability to find it.

The secretions will reduce the ability to find it via scrying by 5% per day for the first week. 5% per week for the next month, and 1% per each subsequent month. So 35% after 1st week, and 55% at the end of the month after that, and 67% the year after that.  If one sticks with an additional 1% per month, after an additional two years and seven months it would hit 100%. I would say it shouldn’t be 100% effective. Based on how your preferred rules handle scrying, there should at least be a chance. Rolling 01 on a d100 should find it, unless other modifiers make it impossible.

Earthquakes, floods, new construction, wizard battles,  wars, and battling titanic monsters, like dragons, are some of the things that interrupt the normal cycles. Character wants to build a stronghold, assign a chance that they happen to pick a site  near or over a “burrow”. For example, 10% chance to be near (1d6 miles, hexes, etc.) from a burrow, and 1% chance to be over one. The GM can roll for it, or make the player do it.

Change It Up

To make them different from the book descriptions, make them a different color, smell, size, or flavor of meat (if the party eats its kills).

Where’s the Table?

This should be something each GM can make their own table. But for starters, here is what I am thinking for my own table.

CREATURE BASE CYCLE (Years, Decades, Centuries) TIME SINCE END OF LAST CYCLE PLACEMENT NOTES (Map Location, Treasure, etc.)
Ankheg d6+d12 2d6 Grab some d6’s and drop on the map. Numbers indicate number of groups/dens. Under farmer Bob’s barn
Bulette d6+d12 2d6 Grab some d6’s and drop on the map. Numbers indicate number of groups/dens. Under, within, or next to the dungeon

Keep going with each burrowing monster, or monster you re-skin as a burrowing monster.

Make a new table for each genre you run. Of course, some creatures could easily be used across genres.

Vary the cycle units (years, decades, centuries) and number and type of dice used to set the base cycle and time since last cycle.

For placement set one color of dice for each creature and roll all at once. Vary the number of dice used based on the size of your campaign map. If you have a world map, use more dice than a map that is only a portion of a continent.

Make a spreadsheet to keep track of all this, especially the location. Once you know a location, how can you make it interesting? If a location is a far off place, be sure to have the party encounter that cluster of creatures, especially if you haven’t used this variation yet.

If the location is within a dungeon, perhaps the builders of the dungeon avoided waking the creature(s) through blind luck, or build around it on purpose. Another way for creatures to get into a dungeon when “it doesn’t make sense.”


Have you ever placed creatures in this manner? Is this something you would use in your game?

Simple Bombs In Fantasy RPGs Without Gunpowder

I try to think of ways to use my real world knowledge to add things to the game. Last November at UCon, +Del Teigeler played in the Delving Deeper game I ran. His character poured his water down a tunnel that sloped gently downwards away from the party, then poured oil on it, which floated, then lit the oil. Del is a firefighter, so quickly used his actual knowledge to benefit the party.

A few years ago, I wrote an article about using the Rule of 9’s for hit placement, from my training as an EMT.

I decided to write about BLEVEs today. A Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion is why pressure cookers have relief valves. Fill a pressure cooker with war oil and no relief valve, and you get a device that will cause a lot of damage. However, it has to receive constant heat until the vessel fails.  If you don’t want to read the linked Wikipedia article, see the video at the end of the article.

In a fantasy setting, these will require decent quality metal and the skills to craft them. They will have to have an airtight seal that will hold until the vessel fails. Poor quality metal and/or in adequate skills will lead to leaks that may cause a gout of fire on one end, but it won’t explode. Slightly better materials and/or skills could result in an explosion while those intending to use it are still in range. The fire has to be stoked and kept burning until failure.

The requirements for decent quality metal and adequate skills to manufacture would limit this to “higher” civilizations. for example, dwarves and gnomes could be expected to have such things. Some human nations may have them, as well as others with the adequate stuff. Goblins might try to use them, but have as much chance of hurting themselves as their victims.

Wizards might have them constructed and use heat and fire based spells to set them off quickly. This would depend on the GM’s ruling. A fireball with one or more “supplemental” fireballs  from these devices would be devastating in a battle.

These devices would work better as traps or “mines” to hold an enemy at bay while retreating. For example, a cluster of them could be placed in a building that is abandoned and burned to cover a getaway. A trap could cause a room to seal and a fire to light that heats such a device. If the party can’t extinguish the fire or get out of the room in time, they suffer the effects.

A dragon could have its minions construct these devices to be placed in all the narrow entrances to its lair. A blast of dragon’s breath would be sufficient to cause instant failure of the vessels.

The size of the vessels would indicate the area/volume that is affected and the damage.

The formula for the area of a sphere is: (4/3) [pi] r3  Here is a link to a calculator from Google. It shows that a 20 foot radius (40 foot diameter), as from a fireball, has a volume of 33,510.32 cubic feet. A 10x10x10 room has a volume of 1,000 cubic feet. Thus a fireball will fill 33.5 ten foot sections of room/dungeon/underground.

Therefore, if your pressure vessels are spheres, you will need this formula to figure how much oil, or other substance, is in them. A 12 inch sphere (6 inch radius)  has a volume of 904.78 cubic inches or 0.52 cubic feet. A BLEVE would hurl heated vaporized and boiling oil plus shredded metal at least 100 feet, if not confined. (I don’t have any facts to back this up, but it seems reasonable. ) Within a close distance, in addition to burns from fire, one would have burns from boiling liquid.

Using water instead of oil will result in shrapnel, and scalding from steam and hot water.

If a metal with a melting point lower than that of the failure point of the pressure vessel is used, one has shrapnel and molten metal to deal with.

A 24 inch sphere (12 inch radius) has a volume of 7,238.23 cubic inches, or 4.19 cubic feet, basically 8 times the volume of a 6 inch sphere.

18 inches for the radius (3 feet diameter) equals a volume of 24,429.02 cubic inches is 1.77 cubic feet.  This is 27 times the volume of a 6 inch sphere (3 inch radius).

I built this spreadsheet so you can run the formula on different size increments. As you can see, a 60 inch sphere (5 feet, with 30 inch radius) is 1,000 times the volume of a 6 inch diameter sphere! If you plug in a different number in the yellow box (cell C2) the only thing that changes is the volume, all the other cells are steady. NOTE: The spreadsheet has been shared as read only, so you will need to copy it to make changes. I also left out the units, so you can plug in your numbers and get the results desired, just add units.

Damage would decrease with distance. For simplicity’s sake, let’s use 1 die of damage per 6″ of diameter within 100 feet. With half damage out to 100 feet.  Combine with a save for half, and one can easily take no damage at 100 feet. I would limit the size of a sphere to six feet in diameter. Time time and cost to construct larger and larger spheres makes it extremely impractical.

Here’s the Table:

(Note: Save for half damage.)

Diameter of Sphere Cost in GP Construction Time Damage within 50’ Damage within 100’
6 Inches 1,000 1 week 1d8 Half
12 inches 8,000 2 month 2d8 Half
18 inches 27,000 6 months 3d8 Half
24 inches 64,000 1 year 4d8 Half
36 inches 125,000 1.5 years 5d8 Half
72 inches 216,000 2 years 6d8 Half

The type and number of dice used can easily be modified to suit your taste. Such as, d6 instead of d8.  One can easily modify this to have separate damage dice for shrapnel and the contents. For example, 1d6 for shrapnel and 1d6 for fire damage per 6″ of diameter.  If you want you could use different sized dice for each type of damage.

For more verisimilitude, pick the size of dice to role, such as a d12. Orient the d12 with the 1 up and the 3 facing you. Determine if this is facing the NPCs/monsters or the characters. Roll another d12 and determine which side on the first d12 is indicated. That would be the side that failed first. This would indicate the direction the contents go. The majority of the vessel would go in the opposite direction. If you roll 12, this indicates it fails on the lower right area.

I based the cost and time on how much bigger each size sphere is than the base 6 inch sphere. Since this is the OSR, you can adjust any part of this to suit your needs.

About my experience:

Way back in high school I was a Junior Firefighter. I took the EMT class in the Spring of my junior year of high school. When I turned 18, shortly after my senior year started, I received my EMT license and became a volunteer firefighter. I achieve firefighter II certification, via training at the station. I was not able to maintain licensing and certification when I went off to college.

Instead of getting the approval of the teacher who was on the board of the fire district to respond to fires and accidents, I got to make my own decision. I never had a call while at school my senior year. Once while still a junior firefighter, I got out of school to help with a major grass fire.  I don’t think they’d do that today.

I think this is a clip from one of the training films we had, or they re-used the narrator’s track. That guy narrated everything!

DISCLAIMER: This article is not an endorsement of making devices in the real world with the intent to harm others or otherwise break the law. It is merely a thought experiment using a snippet of my real world knowledge for inspiration to enhance a narrow aspect of fantasy role playing games (FRPGs). If you are not capable of understanding this, then you are not qualified to be part of any organization or agency overseeing such things.

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


Dungeon Grappling Final PDF Reviewed.

I was honored to get an advance copy of the PDF based on my review of Grappling Old School, in +Tim Short’s The Manor #8. Check out Tim’s blog, Gothridge Manor. Based on comments in my review of the advanced copy, Doug made changes. He did this based on feedback from all the reviewers. He went above and beyond and even though the Kickstarter was just shy of the final stretch goal for a custom cover, he did it anyway.

The PDF comes in at 53 pages, it has awesome art, and the table of contents is hyperlinked. The index also contains hyperlinks to the page numbers. Color coding of the section headers is continued in the table of contents and the index. There is a background image, but unlike most of them I have seen, here it is faded out so I can actually read the text. Attention to the details of both usability and legibility in the text is awesome!

There is an in-depth overview of the core concepts for a cleaner, simpler, and easier to run grappling system. It covers generic concepts that will accommodate any older rule set, as well as many clones. There is also special focus for both D&D 5e and Pathfinder. Monstrous grappling is also discussed. Finally, there is a reference section with three reference sheets, one of my suggestions, to reduce the need to refer back to the rules.

One can take all of this system, or just the parts they need. I play AD&D, and its grappling system is so cumbersome that few dare try it. I plan to implement this in the games I run and an upcoming special project game on Roll20.

Along with the release of the PDF, there is an eBook format in both mobi and ePub formats. I’ll also fire up my Kindle and review the eBook as soon as I can.

This was Doug’s first Kickstarter and he is delivering way ahead of schedule. The PDF was slated for February, and delivered in January. The printed book was planned for April delivery, but has shipped in January. His constant updates were to the point of wishing it would ease up a bit. But unlike some notoriously failed Kickstarters, that is the kind of problem a back wants. the books have shipped and I’ll be getting mine any day now. Look for a review of the physical book soon!

Doug took one reviewer to heart about the art and has published a book of just the art. The cut is for the artists to get a bonus, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and towards a bit of the overhead. You can buy Dungeon Grappling On DriveThruRPG and on Doug’s website, Gaming Ballistic.

Mixing It Up

The whole concept of making a dungeon, adventure, town, or wilderness interesting requires that the DM know the audience, i.e. the players.

Players who have never played D&D don’t know what to expect from the standard monsters from the Monster Manual. I DM AD&D and my sons and oldest son’s girlfriend were entertaining to me to see their reactions to standard creatures. First their were zombies, they were freaking out because their experience was that if you get bit by zombies you become one. Next they encountered a troll and it wouldn’t drop. Those and so many other things tell me that standard monsters are OK for new players.

However, if they are seasoned players or get tired of all the standard monsters change them. For example, instead of a room full of orc guarding piles of copper pieces, you have multiple options.

  • Keep it as is. Potentially boring unless you add some other twist to the room, such as an illusion or them being under a spell to compel them to stay in that room.
  • Swap the monster and the treasure for something totally different. Simple. Just pick any other creature and swap out. Or pick two other creatures and have them in the middle of a battle over a pile of gold, or whatever they both value.
  • Give them the appearance of orcs, but they are really something else, like a shape shifter, or polymorphed dwarves. The piles of copper are really gold coins that have a spell on them that makes them look like copper.
  • Be bold and randomize it all. Use Appendix D for Random Creatures From the Lower Planes for the appearance of a creature with the same stats as the original creatures.
  • Or pick a tough monster with a puny treasure, or a massive treasure with a puny monster.
  • Re-skin the monster. It might be a puny goblin, but change it’s appearance and abilities to make a new monster. Your world may not have goblins, but they have whozeewhatsis.

Treasure can be varied based on the few mentions above, or as follows:

  • Treasure is easy to roll up something else. Throw in something from a different genre’s treasure table.
  • Have a mundane looking item actually be magical. Perhaps it appears as a broken pitcher to hide its true nature.
  • Have the monsters be the treasure and the treasure be the monsters. The 5 orcs are actually fine art statues of orcs or any other creature. They are guarded by an army of copper disk automatons.
  • Hide the treasure in interesting ways. Make it invisible, or hidden in a secret room and it is invisible. Hide it by an illusion that reacts to the party. Hide it under a statue or in a hollow pedestal.
  • Have a lever that when pulled releases the treasure:
    • Into a viper filled pit, or better a mound of vipers on top of the treasure.
    • Into a sewer guarded by an otyugh or other refuse loving creature.
    • Onto the party requiring saves to avoid it or take damage.
    • After multiple rooms of treasure being released by the lever, have a room that actually delivers it into fresh large sacks and ties them off.
      • Decide how easy it will be for the characters to get homewith it.
        • Antigravity on the tied off sacks
        • Roll bend bars lift gates check to lift the sacks. If they set them down, roll again.
        • Cursed sacks that polymorphs those who touch the sacks.

Ask some questions. What is the motivation of the monsters? What about the motivation of the treasure? Is their an intelligent sword the orcs have managed to avoid picking up? Or has the sword waited for the right moment to get out of this dungeon to fulfill its purpose?

One can do any number of things to mix up a published module, or to make one’s own adventures more interesting.

Be creative not just in the treasure, but in the rooms/locations and their appearance and furnishings. There are tables in the appendix of the AD&D DMG that can give ideas, but put a twist on them. Various retroclones have similar tables to assist.

A dungeon can be a simple as a one room tomb to a complex megadungeon. Every room doesn’t need an elaborate description. Every dungeon need not have such a specialized list of descriptions. A “vanilla” dungeon with “vanilla” monsters is OK too. Maybe throw in a jalapeño, totally unexpected in the context. Such a thing would cause the players to wonder why the odd twist, so be prepared with a backstory to explain it.

This is why reading a lot gives good ideas. It doesn’t have to be fantasy. It can be non-fiction or even technical. Put on your DM’s RPG frame of mind hat and mine those things for ideas. Take notes on any off the wall ideas that come to mind.

If you feel your well run dry, read RPG related blogs, G+ pages and communities, FB pages, Reddit, or RPG related forums. Some blogs put out regular tables of ideas for encounters, treasure, new monsters, etc.  Take a break if you need it, whether you need to play for a while, or just need a session off.

Re-frame the pressure of game prep. It is supposed to be fun. If you have young children or grandchildren, take the funny things they say and work it into your game. There is a product called yogurt bites that when my granddaughter says it, sound like “ogre bites”. I decided that is a good name for a dish served at inns and taverns.

It doesn’t take much to add an interesting twist, however small that will engage your players. Given enough variety your players will be on their toes and not know what to expect at every turn.

What is an Adventure?

Yesterday, I wrote about the term campaign. While I was writing that article, it occurred to me that the term adventure has some shading to its meaning.

For example, some use the term adventure to indicate a single session. Others mean it to indicate a set of a contained story, plot, or location. Sometimes the adventure can be played in a single game session, other times, it might drag on for weeks, if it is the looting of a large replenishing dungeon.

I think commercial modules had a big impact on the use of the word adventure. The module is a self-contained whole, and the DM does not have to do anything beyond become familiar with it. Of course, customization is always an option. A series of adventures, like the Drow series could each be considered a single adventure, or the completion of the entire story arch within could be classed as an adventure.

A series of adventures, whether interrelated or not serve to make up a campaign, whatever one means by campaign.

Like so much of language, a lot of it is dictated by convention, experience, and preference. All of the above uses are correct. I supposed there are those that like to argue the fine points of any use of a word. However, that is an academic exercise that does not interest everyone. The point is to get together and play!

All terms with multiple meanings can confuse new players, so one should work to minimize the jargon, or define it on the go. The key to growing the hobby is helping new players want to play again.

How else have you used or encountered other uses in the RPG context of the term adventure?

Of course, no matter how you use the term adventure, an adventurer is one who has or goes on adventures.

Inspiration From Real Places – Ronda, Spain

Ronda, Spain has some cool bridges across a gorge c. 100 meters (c. 328 feet) deep between parts of the town. It first came to my attention as a screensaver on my Win 10 PC, so I had to look it up.

Playing with the Google map Earth view and the 3-D features gives a very cool view of the “New Bridge”, Puente Nuevo.

I have in mind a walled city atop the cliffs, split by the gorge, with one part surrounded by steep cliffs, and the bridge across the gorge is from an area that slopes away, providing the only ground access. Massive gates with a drawbridge to prevent direct access to the city would deter all but the most determined and well-equipped enemy.

The citadel area would not have room to spread out, but could grow up, and have sewers and passages carved out of the stone beneath. Over time, these clandestine ways in allow thieves and smugglers their own way in and out of the city. Over time, the knowledge of these ways may be lost to officials and laxity in patrols could lead to enemies or creatures getting in unobserved.

The other half of the city across the bridge would have room to grow beyond the walls, limited by the cliffs and the gorge. There would be fewer tall building and less digging below, since it is easier to just spread out here. Tall buildings and excavations below would only appeal to those that have nowhere else to spread out. However, the city government, local noble, etc. would prevent buildings being too tall to prevent them being an archery platform in the event of an invasion or siege.

I wish I had time to dig into developing this right now, but I’m gathering notes for the four games I’ll be running a UCon in a few weeks. I have to get it done now since I will be at Gamehole Con the weekend before UCon. So I also have to gather the stuff for the games I am signed up for at Gamehole.



Mini Review – Apes Victorious

There’s a new RPG in town, Apes Victorious. It’s built on the standard RPG engine of so many other games based on the original RPG. The focus is on a world like that in the Planet of the Apes movies and TV show. Release on Monday, it is now the top seller on RPGNow.

It takes the “standard” RPG rules and comes up with a game that is its own setting. It is faithful to the cinematic world, and lays out the different types of apes, with the addition of bonobos. Humans can be time travelling astronauts, humanoids (regressed non-speaking humans), and underdwellers. It postulates a 1970’s era technology far in advance of what it was, but using the films as a starting point for what happened.

The nuclear apocalypse and subsequent ice age to wipe away most of past humanity’s efforts sets the stage for the rise of apes. The movies’ world setting is well presented, and suits many other apocalyptic settings.

One could argue that you can just use Metamorphosis Alpha, Gamma World, or other science fiction/apocalyptic RPG. However, the authors have anticipated this argument and made a case for multiple ways to make this a stand alone campaign of more than just one-shot adventures or convention play.

They also present a sample map and scenarios and creatures to encounter in the wilderness.

As someone who loved the original movies back when they finally made it to TV, and acted out scenarios with brothers and friends before we found RPG’s, it feels like the movies.

There is a free no art version available and two variation on the character sheet here. You can get the complete PDF at RPGNow for $4.97. Print options are forthcoming.

I tried to think of what is lacking in this game. The main reservation I had, of making it a campaign worthy game, were addressed by the authors. A niche game in a niche hobby, it is good to see the developers acknowledge what some will see as shortcomings.

I am curious about the art, so I may give in and get the art version.

There is a G+ Community that started back in the spring when they first announced the summer release of Apes Victorious.

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