Sunday, 25 December 2011

Musings

Once upon a time friends used to invite me to the sort of parties where you'd spend all evening in the kitchen and on occasion sneak out and push the car to the end of the street before firing her up in order to put as much time and distance behind you as possible. These days, same friends invite me to the birthday parties of small children just before Christmas which, of course, means that I pick up every bloody cold, sniffle and bug that is in circulation amongst small children.

Currently Grandfather Nurgle has lost interest in my nose and throat and decided to take up residence in my sinuses and squeeze them until the pips squeak. Arse.

Not much blogging recently, but ironically lots of gaming it's just that little of the gaming is of fightingfantasist.blogspot.com-style interest.

This season I have mainly been gaming Black Powder using 15mm American Civil War toys. Which is a truly brilliant game but probably of no interest to blog readers. It isn't even worth uploading pretty pics of the toy soldiers as I didn't do the painting (they are all second-hand).

Also Magic The Gathering has been played a lot but that's with the standard pre-made decks so of no consequence to blogging whatsoever. Last night, friends and I got in games of Ticket to Ride Europe and Condottiere, also of zero blogging interest.

Perhaps this is a corollary of some kind - the more I game, the less I blog. The more I blog, the less I game. Blogging perhaps fills the gap created by not gaming.

Anyway, I don't really have anything to blog about, can't think of all interesting projects to blog about and don't know when this will change. Normal service will be resumed at some future point presumably.

Monday, 5 December 2011

My Neighbourhood Dungeon


"So you leave the sanctuary of Coop Towers II and walk for a half a mile or so along the sides of the artificial waterways built by The Ancients as their transportation network. After a few minutes you descend down a staircase alongside an old aqueduct near some cottages and follow the black waterway to the dungeon entrance, a great brick wall in the side of the hill with an arched tunnel amidst it. The waterway flows out of the tunnel mouth although at barely perceptible speed. There are narrow muddy paths on either side of the waterway leading into the darkness. From deep within the bowels of the tunnel you hear drips, mysterious splashes and creaking noises. Party order?"

Coop Towers II is sited near a real-life dungeon. It's the Netherton Tunnel Branch Tunnel which runs for 2.4 miles (4km) underground to allow canal traffic to cut through the limestone hills to the east of Dudley Castle. (Underground tunnels, a castle destroyed by siege and a warren of limestone caverns - it's a real fantasyland in this part of the Black Country. Even the name Netherton and that of neighbouring Netherend sound like they've come out of someones homebrew RPG campaign).

Tunnel excavation started in 1855 and completed in 1858. It's accessible to walkers (and water traffic of course) although unlit so a torch is required. It's also absolutely as spooky as fuck.


The whole structure is arched and lined in brick although there are some modern repairs in concrete. Periodic vertical ventilation shafts cast eerie pools of dim light down upon the water's surface causing rippling reflections on the walls akin to that of sunlight on the ceiling of a swimming pool but considerably grimier and more atmospheric. This has the quality of a will-o-the-wisp illusion in that upon looking into the tunnel it appears that you can see the daylight of the other end - but it's just the sun shining down through the closest shaft. When you get to that one you'll think you can definitely see the end this time. And you'd be wrong again. Nothing like a light to tempt someone in...


Rainwater seeping down through limestone rock overhead creates the usual lime formations but rather than hanging down from the roof in the traditional manner, the water follows the arched roof downwards creating great curtains of rippled sediment on the walls, translucent white with orange streaks where it has picked up rust from decaying Victorian ironwork.


Puddles are everywhere on the towpaths but the water is usually warm having filtered down through soil and rock that maintains the sun's heat.


The bottoms of the three still-extant ventilation shafts are ringed with great cast-iron circular girders, covered in various green moulds, weed, slime and bird excrement. Up at ground level the shafts are topped with what are locally known as "pepperpots" structures akin to traditional wells but capped off with iron bars to prevent people and animals (horses roam wild locally due to a local populace that thinks it's still socially acceptable to graze horses in the front garden of a small council house) falling in.


Later urban development has had to work around these as you can see here.

http://local.google.co.uk/maps?q=tividale&hl=en&ll=52.508516,-2.055173&spn=0.014392,0.042272&sll=53.800651,-4.064941&sspn=14.327693,43.286133&vpsrc=6&hnear=Tividale,+Oldbury,+Sandwell,+United+Kingdom&t=h&z=15&layer=c&cbll=52.508508,-2.055302&panoid=fIV0lGfuWCcxBRrzOwBCng&cbp=12,270,,0,0

Somewhere within the hill above the tunnel there are clearly areas of sealed off open space that collect rainwater and slowly leak into the canal tunnel below. The last time I walked this tunnel was after several days of prolonged rain and there was a steady deluge at points along the ceiling. The nature of constructing a tunnel like this meant that many shafts both vertical and horizontal were sunk in order to remove spoil during the excavation so I strongly suspect that some of these were capped at top and bottom once they had served their purpose. It would be typical of underground excavations in this part of the world for there to be no record made of where there are huge chunks of the Earth missing just a few feet below the surface.


Horizontal shafts were all closed off but their exits into the tunnel remain in the shape of features that resembled bricked-up fireplaces - once crawlspaces or possibly minecart railway tunnel runs.

So for a single, one-route under-the-hill subterranean feature we have a whole load of secret or concealed spaces with horizontal crawlspaces and vertical shafts. And that's before we realise that the water is opaque and absolutely anything could be beneath it and burrowing into the sides of the canal walls.

When you arrive blinking into sunlight at the South portal (I live near the North portal), this is what you find - a pumping house built to drain mines. Clear Dwarven or Gnomish handiwork.


The tunnel was built to bypass an even spookier canal tunnel from the previous century when traffic queues there became measured not just in hours but in days. This tunnel, the Dudley tunnel, was not only a traffic tunnel (2.9 miles long) but also a mine, tunnels being excavated to allow barges to travel straight up to the workface of a limestone mine. This is a canal run underground to collect the stone straight from deep within a drift mine. You need to steal this idea and dungeon it.


As an earlier tunnel, Dudley has no footpaths. The water laps up against the arched brickwork of the walls. In it's heyday Netherton was lit by electric light from a dynamo (no longer in use - modern barges have their own electric lights). Dudley was never lit except by a few candles where mining work was occuring. The tunnel would originally have been pitch black and is water-filled from wall to wall throughout it's length. Much of the original traffic problems were caused by it's narrowness, allowing only one barge through sections at a time. And a narrowboat has a maximum width of 7' to conform to the locks - that's how narrow we are talking.


Pre-20th century barges had no engines and were towed by shire horses (hence the name "tow-path". When tunnels like this were reached, lacking footpaths the only form of locomotion was the human leg. "Leggers" (at Dudley, professional leggers could be hired for the transit from portal to portal) would lie on planks on the barge and push against the walls with their boots, "walking" the barge along. (There is a good illustration of this in the From Hell graphic novel).

With no headroom worth speaking of and no light source other than what candles and lanterns could be brought in with the travellers, this was a physically exhausting job lying in the dark, using your leg muscles to prevent a heavy barge from striking the tunnel sides and getting slowly dripped upon and then lying in the rainwater which has picked up a trace element of carbonic acid during it's slow filtering through the limestone rock.


Dudley Tunnel branches into three lines, two of which serve limestone mines/quarries. Some of the limestone faces are underground, others resemble sinkholes whereby a huge section including the roof has been removed leaving the tunnel emerging into small areas of daylight, but daylight that is a long way overhead and inaccessible. None of the tunnel is accessible by foot unless one abseiled through one of the "sinkholes" and even then there is nowhere to land other than into the water. The open-to-the-sky sections are all heavily overgrown lending them a real Lost World feel.


You can partially ride the Dudley Tunnel from the Northern portal on an organised trip from the famous Black Country museum.


If Netherton is spooky then Dudley is even worse. The Southern portal is located at one end of a wide grassy area where two canals meet and an old disused railway is carried overhead on a great, multiple-arched brick viaduct. As you approach, the surroundings seem to close in on you in a claustrophobic fashion. It's a very noisy portal and all manner of strange splashes, echos and cracks come from inside echoing from nearly 3 miles of direct tunnel and another couple of miles of side tunnels. All the caveman "Fight or Flight" instincts come out when looking into the tunnel.

For many people in 18th and 19th century people in Britain, the canal was not merely a means of transport or work, it was a home with some families (called "bargees") living their whole lives on the water in barges that were homes, living nomadic gypsy lifestyles and rarely venturing much further inland then the towpaths. Britain's boat people if you like. In a fantasy world where underground canals serve mines it's easy to picture troglodyte races that live on canal barges and never see the sun.

I hope that gets the creative juices flowing. If it doesn't, well I dunno hand in your DM's card. :)

(Pics via Google Images as I can't find the CD with mine on at the moment).

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Three Totally Unconnected Things

Call me slow on the uptake, but I've only just noticed that if you play a DVD through VLC Media Player you can snapshot any frame.




This could be very useful (not to mention time-sucking-up) for Zak-type pictorial dungeon design.

Secondly and totally unrelated to the previous erm, thing, one of John Blanche's original pieces for Clash of the Princes is up on eBay, starting at £129. Were it from Sorcery! I'd be very interested, I'm less enthusiastic about CotP having never owned the books. Props to Zhu for noticing this.

And lastly if you are the guy who keeps coming to fightingfantasist looking for (quote) "hinpo porno" (unquote), no it doesn't turn up anything interesting for me in Google Images either and it took me fucking ages to work out why half the results are mine.

(Because of the old Barrabang Hinpo Garrabang chant in Temple of Terror. Told you Mr. EIDOS man was sneaking something dodgy in there).

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Dreadfulfleet and the New Random


GW did a weird one-off game release recently for something called Dreadfleet. I didn't buy it because I objected to a load of things.

1 - It was £70
2 - It was another Space Hulk-style "teh limited" thing whereby they'd do one print run and then take the backup tapes with the manuscripts on and microwave them or something, trying to artificially create demand.(*)
3 - Their bizarre and secretive nature meant that they wouldn't tell you anything about it, clearly relying upon a docile herd of ruminant fanboys to go out and buy it anyway (which they didn't), either failing to realise or just not caring that Space Hulk was a known and much-loved quantity and Forthcoming Mystery Game isn't.

So, whilst I lack sales figures for it, it doesn't seem to have been much of a success and to be honest - if it hasn't been they fucking deserve that.

Anyway, when I found a review online that claimed it was the worst game that GW had ever put out (the review didn't put full stops between the words Worst, Game and Ever put may as well have done) my first, and somewhat smug thoughts were;

"What, worse that Trolls In the Pantry? Oii, That's My Leg? Combat Cards? Those cut-down versions of Battlefleet Gothic, Blood Bowl and Advanced Heroquest where you rolled the dice in the box lid? Reviewer is probably a 12 year old who started with the last edition of 40k."

I didn't expect to be morally chastened by the reviewer immediately explaining why the aforementioned GW miscellanea where all, in their own ways, better games than Dreadfleet. Colour me intrigued.

What I didn't realise was that quirkworthy.com is actually Jake Thornton, pro games designer and ex-WD editor. This is clearly pretty serious stuff if somebody like him is prepared to go public with opinions like that.

Jake's review highlights something about Dreadfleet and by extension GW that is starting to concern me. He's massively critical of it's randomness in that the randomness is moving control and tactical choice away from players. Dreadfleet effectively plays the players. (Yeah, I know - In Soviet Nottinghamshire Game Plays You!) and as a man who knows game design, Jake points out that this is a leveller between veteran player and novice.

Something I am picking up from Warhammer players at Stourbridge is that random charge moves and the randomness of magic is working to the detriment of the game. And we're a bit atypical at Stourbridge in that nobody played Warhammer until the last days of WFB7. I know that a lot of clubs and playing groups that had stuck with WFB for years have stepped away from 8 bemoaning the random nature of it and the the fact that it's suddenly inflated unit sizes seem a marketing decision, not a gaming decision.

Bang these three factors together - increased randomness in WFB, DF's totally random nature and a clear example of ledger sheet bottom line interfering in the design process and I'm starting to wonder if GW shirts have hit upon the random factor as a deliberate policy with which to make GW games more attractive for a beginner. Trouble getting started because everyone else is a veteran player with a well-tuned army? No problem any more as we'll remove player tactics from it and an good day you can easily beat "that guy".

If I'm right, then I suspect the forthcoming release of the next version of 40k could kill the game dead at Stourbridge. And that's a worry, not just for club numbers (we need a certain minimum to break even with the cost of room hire) but for GW's position within the market as "price makers" which might make other manufacturers follow this lead. Less of this tactical choice and rewarding skill please, but of this random bollocks whereby anyone can win.

(*) Everyone remembers the odd way that they found about 60,000 copies of SH in a warehouse a couple of weeks after the launch. Nearly all GW branches have some in the backroom if you ask nicely and the shop isn't full so we have the idiot and self-inflicted situation whereby they dare not lose face by admitting that it didn't sell out so would rather not sell surplus stock.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Coopitsu - Work In Progress


Nothing special, but I'm doing something I haven't done for years which is to paint for the sheer bloody hell of it. For years, I've been painting in a very regular and mechanical fashion and with one aim in mind, which is to churn out figures for wargames with as little effort as possible. Such as these Victrix 28mm Napoleonic Wars Austrians which are sharing space on the painting table with Brother Hornhead and his mate up above.


The Austrians use what I call my "Airfix Homage Technique" which is essentially, if the plastic is a usable colour (as it was in a lot of the Airfix HO scale boxes of toy soldiers) then damn well use it, since Victrix cast these in an off-white why not use that as your basecoat? Some details slapped on and the whole lot covered in Devlan Mud and two coats of Citadel Gloss Varnish. Airfix Homage Technique is even more blatant in my abandoned WFB7/8 Night Goblin army which mysteriously uses grey as its base colour...


...and these EM-4 Miniatures re-releases of the old Grenadier Space Rangers which are cast in silver plastic.


So yeah, it's fair to say that for years I've treated painting as some form of industrial product line and then tried to see how more and more efficient I can make it in some form of demented Deming-like analysis.

And this is cool for wargames but I realised I was missing the creative, artistic side of things.

So the two plastic Chaos Marines above have been painted in a totally different and almost organic process. I've been influenced recently by a lot of John Blanche's modern figure painting which differs dramatically from the "paint like this" instructions that GW throw out.

JB's figures are dirtier and heavy on the texturing with a realistic muted look to them and he uses inks as a primary painting mechanism. How to do this? Well, a while back I noted a brief aside in Dave King's kingsminis.blogspot.com blog about painting with inks. Basically prime grey, drybrush white, wash with Badab Black and you have a primed, pre-shaded model. Then just layer on successive glazes of ink.

So that's I've done with Daler and Rowney acrylics inks for the red with the odd glaze of different ink to break up the uniformity of colour (another thing I've noticed in JB's work - all colours are mottled or randomly faded in some fashion). Precise ink-lining with Badab Black and Devlan Mud to get that soft blend between colours.

Anyway enough with the technical stuff. This is a slow process and has reminded me of a few things I'd forgotten about splashing paint on figures.

1 - Painting is inherently a pointless and daft activity

Wherein lies it's genius. There is nothing, nothing like sitting up at two in the morning adding a small highlight or extra glaze to a tiny part of a tiny 28mm figure and realising that you can't see it, but you know it's there and the sheer insanity of all this pointless idiocy is keeping you sane.

2 - Speed-painting for wargames is inherently a chore.

Even if it's a enjoyable chore. It is artless, all artistic expression has been removed. You are painting to order, because you need 10 Space Marines, one with flamer, one with missile launcher and one with a chainsword and you paint those and exactly those with no extras and tight control over the contents of the squad because that is the squad for your wargame.

3 - Painting figures for a game you have no bloody intention of ever playing again is weirdly liberating.

It is. I like the look of the Chaos Marine with the melta-gun so I painted him. This is anathema to painting-for-gaming which only uses the melta-gun if it's an "efficient build". Normally when I speedpaint, I have the idea in my head that as a figure or batch of figures are completed, there's a milestone towards a new unit or an army or a game. With this, there's nothing. You did it, because frankly you enjoyed it and the slower it is, the more of the enjoy paint time there was.

I mentioned above the word "organic" in regards to this sort of painting for paintings sake and this is what I mean - the Austrians and Goblins each followed a rigid and "tuned for speed" recipe. Each colour was planned in order based up experience painting a couple of test shots and the recipe was then tweaked and tweaked (do I need to paint this? can this be seen in the finished article? are these two colours similar enough to mean I could just use one of them?) to require the least effort for best result. This painting is different, it's a lot of spending ages looking at the model and trying out little odd touches of colour to try and change the direction the model is travelling in. Going back to the recipe analogy, the speed painting is like trying to measure out exactly 200 grams of rice or butter whereas the slow painting is more a case of getting halfway through and thinking "I might chuck half a can of chopped tomatoes in".

Haven't enjoyed painting so much for years. Can see it becoming a new hobby interest.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

owlandweasel.blogspot.com

I have no idea who does owlandweasel.blogspot.com but I do know that it's a fantastic name for a Brit Old School blog, it turned up in my referrals history and it collects RSS links to lots of Brit OSR and White Dwarf alumni blogs. Worth bookmarking.

EDIT - Oh hang on, it's Zhu Bajiee.

Monday, 14 November 2011

d20 You're Evil So Why Do The Others Tolerate You In The Party? Table


You're an evil PC, they aren't. How does that work? (d20)

1 - Ancient evil hieroglyphics to be translated? Working knowledge of the undead? Intimate knowledge of the sacred names of the 1048 Devil-Rat Children of Phraamfaze the Mother of Bastards? They need you and diplomacy means they choose to overlook the other stuff.
2 - Greed for gold is more important than philosophical differences.
3 - If you are going to band up with people who have thief and assassin and necromancy skills, nobody should be surprised to learn that they didn't learn these skills in Sunday School.
4 - It's a yin-yang thing, philosophically we need the complete, rounded nature of humanity in our party to be successful.
5 - Somebody has to appease the evil deities. Hastur knows, if the odd virgin sacrifice stops and it wakes up, all manner of Hell on Earth will break loose. Unpleasant? Yes, but so is cleaning sewers and digging the plague pits but somebody has to do it.
6 - The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
7 - They go down into holes in the ground, kill things and steal their stuff. It's hardly their place to split hairs upon social niceties.
8 - They think you are full of shit and doing it to gain attention.
9 - You are self-interested to the point of being Evil but respect honour (archetypal Lawful Evil thing).
10 - You hide it, very, very well.
11 - You believe that these fools are bound to your superior will. They might be happy to keep up the pretence.
12 - Your presence means that the Paladin doesn't have to dirty his hands with the tasks that he'd find difficult - everyone's happy that way.
13 - Compared to what's waiting down there, you're merely a badly behaved boy.
14 - They are cretins and think that they can "cure" you.
15 - They are too frightened of your evilness to object to your presence.
16 - Deep down, everyone is like you. Or would be if they weren't so weak. And they know it.
17 - Evil is sexy. They like you for it despite themselves.
18 - They are secretly fascinated and living out their impulses through you via proxy (*).
19 - None of you are friends - nobody gets close to other people in this line of work in case the inevitable happens. So why would they care?
20 - They think it's just a phase and you'll grow out of it once you meet a nice girl.

(*) Any single man with married friends will be familiar with this one.

d20 So Why Are You Doing This Idiocy? Table

A quick and dirty d20 table to explain why a PC has ended up as an adventurer.

So why are you doing this idiocy? (d20)


1 - Attempting to prove doubters wrong
2 - Deluded belief in self's glorious destiny
3 - Does not have realistic views of risk involved (and unlikely ever to)
4 - Extreme thrill-seeker
5 - Feels there is no other suitable role in life
6 - Fleeing previous life
7 - Forced into this life by others
8 - Hatred of underground race/species
9 - Homicidal tendencies
10 - It belongs in a museum!
11 - Protecting other party member
12 - Refusal to fit into preordained role in life such as peasant or urban worker
13 - Religious motives (bash undead, die in battle for deity)
14 - Searching for somebody - believes clues will be found underground
15 - Searching for something - believes clues will be found underground
16 - Sense of duty
17 - Suicidally desperate for cash
18 - Wants to be immortalised for heroic deeds
19 - Wants to be immortalised for heroic demise (WFRP Trollslayer Syndrome)
20 - Suitable cover for criminal tendencies (theft, violence)

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Advanced Fighting Fantasy Random Mapping Technique

I've been playing with the random dungeon map generation system from this...


Graham Bottley's redo of Advanced Fighting Fantasy. (Graham probably remembers me not buying the game off him at Expo - well I ultimately bought myself a copy from my FLGS).

This is a brilliantly simple and fast idea. Put a piece of A4 or Letter-sized paper in a similarly sized box (I use some slim red thing from about 1983 with a warrior fighting a Red Dragon on the front - it seems appropriate somehow) and roll a bunch of d6s into it, one per desired room.

Read each d6 as a d3 and that marks the position of a room and the d3 score the number of exits from the room. Join it all up and you get a semi-random map that doesn't suffer from the "Snap-to-Grid" effect like drawing on graph/construction paper does.

Here's the first effort from this evening.

Click to embiggen...

The example in the AFF rulebook just draws little circles around each number and links each with lines. I've adopted the idea of assuming that dice that fall cluster in close proximity represent rooms that are adjacent to one other, dice seperated by distance are linked by corridors. This produces dispersed clumps of room such as in The Shithole of Sardonicus above.

The downside is that dice tend to hang at the edges of the paper where they hit the box sides creating a sort of "drawn to fit a rectangular sheet" effect, which you see can in rooms 10,11 and 12 above. To get around this I experimented with closing the box and vigorously shaking it but this produced worse results, whereby all the dice were clustered together in one area. Maybe a taller box is required.

It also can only produce rooms with 1,2 or 3 exits so in the first attempt I swapped out some of the d6s with d8s, reading them as d4s. By changing the types of dice and how you read them you can seed the generation towards lots of exits or few of them.

Again, click to embiggen...

(I apologise for crappy digital photos rather than scans but have you seen the price of flatbed scanners these days, at least the ones that don't come attached to a cheap and nasty inkjet printer? I remember when they were about £20 even in PC World).

As it happens only one of the d8s came up with the maximum number of exits but both maps are the sort of thing I wouldn't have ended up with just by getting the pens, ruler and graph paper out.

A good technique, especially useful for sandbox DMs caught on the hop and needing a dungeon within the next 5 or 10 minutes.

Two questions

1 -
With an AD&D beastie like this, that states hp, but not Hit Dice...

How do you run this in combat? Is that 88hp supposed to be a maxxed out HD11? I have never understood how this is supposed to work in gameplay and it's bugged me for about 20 years(*).

2 -
Mentzer Fighter needs 2000xp to get to 2nd level.
B/X Fighter needs 2000xp to get to 2nd level.
OD&D Fighting Man needs 2000xp to get to 2nd level.
Swords & Wizardry Core Rules Fighter needs 2000xp to get to 2nd level.
Swords & Wizardry White Box Fighting Man needs 2000xp to get to 2nd level.
Labyrinth Lord Fighters needs 2035xp to get to 2nd level.

What?

Where does that 35 come from and more importantly, what's so significant about it that it justifies changing something of a tradition in D&D? Why did somebody think, I know it's important to change that 2000 to 2035? In fact, what is up with LL xp anyway? And the required amounts to level up are all to cock so that a Dwarf requires the bizarre figure of 2187 to reach level 1 and a Magic-User requires 2501 just to be bloody awkward.

What on Earth is the thinking behind this?

(*) EDIT - Suddenly releases that 20 years ago is only actually late 1991. Make it more like 25.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Deathtrap Dungeon d20


(As we know, Coop here won't be able to review Myriador's 2003 d20-isation of Deathtrap Dungeon properly because nostalgia would take over. Accordingly I decided to cast around for a more naive-level reviewer. So, here we have a first for fightingfantasist in that we have a guest reviewer in the form of Gene, my 12 year old nephew. )

Thanks, Uncle Coop.

Deathtrap Dungeon is a module for 3.0 d20 which is unfortunate because that's really, really old as because we know (I Googled it) apparently that was a 3.0 but that was great until it became shit because 3.5 came out. There's no need for either shitty 3.0 or good-in-it's-day 3.5 because now we have 4.5 and obviously that's the shit because it's newer. So I don't know if I'd be interested in this old shit but Uncle Coop asked me to look it so here goes. I'm not entirely averse to old shit, I did once play Super Mario 64 at Coop's but the graphics were shit and there weren't even any fucking Gamer Achievements to scorewhore.

Deathtrap Dungeon is based upon a book by Ian Jackson or someone and I'm really disappointed in the background fluff which is really immature. You are told to go through some illogical dungeon by a guy called Baron Sukumoff or something and then he'll give you money and honestly this is a style of inferior roleplaying that should have been consigned to history back when they did away with compact discs.

Honestly, when I was 9 I was roleplaying in a far more superior and noble fashion than this, this is pathetic and baby-like. Back when I was 9 I had a VtM character called Jack Cockhard and he had been embraced when he was a member of Ghengis Khan's Mongol horde and he wore this leather trenchcoat and fought with two katanas that were tipped with mono-molecular edges, the technology for which he'd stolen from a top secret Black Ops Area 51 lab and he had a cybernetic arm with two Desert Eagles and an Uzi built in and he was really angsty and suffered from ennui and we spent a lot of our time doing really hardcore in-depth roleplaying, so hardcore that we spent long hours in roleplaying sessions acting out what we were doing with prossies before embracing them and – (that's enough - Coop)

Anyway this is a immature dungeon of 57 rooms and maybe it would keep you entertained if you were 8 or something.

It's also only for one PC and one Storyteller (Dungeon Master – Coop) so I imagine it could be useful if you are too old to have a regular gaming group – say you are like 22 or something. There is a token effort made at saying you could run a party through but little said about whether Baron Sukedhimoff might notice this was cheating when the other entrants all turned up on their own.

There's new stat added called LUCK which can be used like in the original Fighter Fantasy gamebooks but shittily, you have to roll it and can't point build so there is no way to optimise your build! This is total wank and means you may get laughed at for having a sub-optimal build. Totally unacceptable in this day and age. I felt completely raped by the system.

Much of the artwork is reused from the original book back in the 1950s or whenever it was which is OK considering it's old and crap but a few are redrawn for this scenario. Uncle Coop lent me the original book and I noticed that there was a pic not found in this version of a hot Elf bird being strangled by a giant penis snake which was quite hentai and -

brb fapping.




For the purposes of this review, I did cheat my way through Steve Livingstone's original book and the scenario is pretty close but wimps out a little bit by adding lots of little notes with cryptic clues throughout the dungeon to tell you what to do (I would have just allowed a Wisdom skill check and if the player makes it say, so “OK, you were clever enough to collect the right number of gems during your passage through Deathtrap Dungeon, you can have 5000xp”). I think the problem is here is that Ian Steve's original book was designed to be Nintendo-hard and take many attempts to get through (there's no Save points for fucks sakes) but nobody wants to make a killer dungeon that can't be beat on your first play-through otherwise fat cunts like Jordan in my gaming group will burst into tears when their Planetouched Tiefling Paladin-Bard gets poison-gassed to death by Igbut the Trialmaster and then Brooklyn will throw him out of his bedroom because he stinks because he never showers because it's too much effort to lift his Slipknot t-shirt over his man-boobs.

Also I think if you are playing this and didn't read the original old book you won't really get it and if you did, you know how to win and will have to pretend you don't while saying things like “Oh wow, a sapphire. I'm so glad I found this and I'm sure it won't ever be needed in a contrived three-gem-door-lock puzzle later on in this dungeon.”

Apart from the dungeon you get a little splatbook about Fang, the town where Deathtrap Dungeon is sited but it doesn't answer a really important question I have about the place and without a canon answer I wouldn't be happy to run a game in Fang.

Basically is Fang AZN? I ask because in the original book Sukumclit appears to be wearing clothes from Natalie Portman's wardrobe on Naboo and the people of Fang look like AZN kids or something. And we know that Steve Ian was a bit of a weeaboo and named Suksumballs after a street in Bangkok's red light district so I think he meant Fang to be all AZN and the scenario here doesn't really go into that and assumes it's like European Middle Ages like the 1910s or something back in the days when Germany bombed Hitler with the A-bomb.

What I need to know is, and I need a proper canon answer here from somebody who has read all the fluff, are there chickboys in Fang? Because if it's AZN I think that would fit and we could have some good games there.

It's like if an AZN guy made a load of money by inventing Pachinko or Pokemans in Asia and then he came to Europe on a shop-lifting expedition like all those Spanish schoolkids you see in Birmingham city centre and then when he went home he decided to create an RPG book and named his BBEG Lord Reeperbahn or King Singelgebied or Baron Hagley-Road-Between-Bearwood-High-Street-And-Five-Ways then we'd know what he was talking about.

My verdict – It's kind of OK if you want this kind of old shit or you don't have enough friends and have to play D&D with just one player and aren't bothered about whether are there are any newhalf lady-boys in the tavern the PCs stay in.

Apparently there's a sequel to the old book called Trial of Champions and a d20 version of that too, which I haven't read but I guess it must be better because it's the sequel.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Random stuff

Stuff thought about whilst dozing under the fever dream influence of cold remedy, ibuprofen and Deep Heat.

- I now have a 2nd Edition DMG which cost me £5, mint. Late model WotC "stopgap" printing on shiny toilet paper. While it's no reflection upon the quality of the material therein, I have to declare 2E DMG to be the least inspiring rolegame rulebook I've ever seen. Dull illustrations, no sense of wonder. Nothing leaps out and tells you that you want to play this game. Clearly CHA was used as a dumpstat.

-Also in my possession is the d20 adaptation of Deathtrap Dungeon. Review following at some point in the future.

-The Pathfinder starter set covers levels 1-5 and looks to be such an ideal RPG starter set so that it's once again made painfully obvious that Pathfinder is the shittiest name ever given to an RPG and is totally devoid of all mass-market appeal. For Christ's sake, buy the D&D name from WotC (you'd be doing them, us and yourself a favour), rebrand it and make sure it's in WHSmiths and the Argos catalogue for next Christmas).

(Yeah, I know, pipe-dream city and probably the crack pipe at that. But I'm an ill man so let me dream awhile...)

- I've forgotten to mention that I've had the Advanced Fighting Fantasy RPG for a few months now and it's a nice little package. Maybe review following in a bit. It has a very nice Zak-esque random dungeon generator whereby you drop a bunch of d6s on a piece of paper, each dice fall showing the rough location of a dungeon room with the score read as a d3 to indicate the number of entrances and exits.

- On the subject of Zak-esque dungeon generation, a quick browse through Deviantart turns up all manner of useful stuff for such generationey.




- For the base picture for Zak pictorial dungeon design, try here http://darkbooks.org/gallery/gallery.html and scroll down to Magical Pictures and the assorted Magical Landscapes n galleries. I got this image from there which would be a really good portal to about 17 or so one-page dungeons, Caves of Chaos style.


- Finally, I can't remember where I found this, and can't be arsed with tineye-ing it, but they deserve statting up and placing in a dungeon along the Wheelies from Citadel of Chaos.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Wumpus Dungeon


As we all know the OSR regards the concept of balancing a dungeons denizens to the levels of the PCs as being for bedwetters and lightweights. The acme of OSR brilliance is for a group of experienced Grognards to run a party of Level 1 milksops through a dungeon of 15HD creatures and Save versus Death traps and to get away with it.

So, why not a dungeon designed specifically for this style of play?

Here's the idea which has been germinating in the back of my mind for a couple of months.

A dungeon with just one denizen - anything else is just the usual dungeon scavengers, rats and the like. But that one denizen is practically obscene in terms of strength and the idea is for the party to get in, achieve their goals and get out without having to face the beast.

(It's probably an idea to not make the denizen some form of antediluvian uberdragon - heroic players tend to think that offing them becomes their task and we want to concentrate their minds on avoiding it, not playing at being Billy Big Balls).

So the big bastard (which I dub The Wumpus after the single-denizen dungeon of the 1970s computer game) is a total TPK'er - Save versus Death attacks that sort of thing. The party should not be able to get into some form of fisticuffs with it, nor get trapped by it without losing party members.

The trick to setting this thing up strikes me as requiring the following

-A deserted dungeon with plenty of entries on the rumour table .
-The Wumpus, whose puissance is well known to all NPCs who have words put in their mouth by the aforementioned rumour table.
-Something achievable within the dungeon that does not require slaying of The Wumpus.
-Potential to allow the players to use their intelligence to minimize the chances of meeting The Wumpus so that the more intelligence they display, the safer they become. This could a weakness of The Wumpus - for example it can't get through the boreholes less than 6' in diameter that criss-cross the dungeon so the potential is there for the party to plan out their routes.

It doesn't actually have to be a dungeon dedicated to just this Wumpus, it could be a single level within the megadungeon but then obviously the players need to know what they are getting into it. It's no good having the party discover a trapdoor down to a level, entering it with no idea of what will be there and then getting crucified by your Black Dragon/Purple Worm hybrid. When they know it's there in advance and have a reason to go to that level and the information needed to make a proper plan, then we have a Wumpus Dungeon.

Worked Example - The Castle of the Hydra of Two Score and Four Heads

Big old castle. I've been playing Ico HD on the PS3 so it's a titan structure on an unfathomable scale clinging to dizzyingly-high sheer seaside clifs. Cyclopean and all that. The Wumpus is a 48HD, forty-eight-headed Hydra with Save versus Death venom on the teeth of each head. It gets +4 to attack and damage rolls when the Moon is full, or is immune to the blows of mortal Man or can only be struck by silver weapons. Local villagers know this.

(This game gave me vertigo. I don't even suffer from a fear of heights IRL)

Players should soon twig when a villager tells them "The beast has two score and four heads, each drooling steaming venom and legend states no mortal Man may no so much as scratch it's flanks! Now buy me another pint."

The Hydra permanently sleeps dreaming it's black dreams through which it gains sustenance in lieu of food (so it's effectively immortal). It wakes when mortals enter the castle, perhaps because a network of statues set in the walls whisper to it to wake. This is probably known to the rumour table as well.

Apart from the Hydra there are traps, but only really from the hazards of navigation (cave-ins, collapsing floors, general structural crapness and a few one-way doors).

The only real "fighting" threat to the party is the Hydra, other fauna are just rats, spiders, snakes etc. These could be nasty out of all proportion to their size if venomous/diseased. There's also the potential for NPC adventurer groups with conflicting aims to the PCs.

There are plot hooks aplenty

-There are piles of gold and shiny-shinys because such stuff coalesces out of the ether in order to tempt adventurers into megadungeons.
-Somebody entered and presumably died and somebody wants you to recover their remains or an heirloom they were carrying.
-Somebody entered and presumably died and they had something you want.
-Kudos awaits (i.e. xp) he who can sneak into the castle and recover a scale from one of the Hydra's necks to prove the size of his big brass balls.
-A wizard wants something for a magical/mystical gee-gaw that is only found within the castle (plantlife, spoor of The Hydra etc.)

Potential to minimize the risk

-What can we do about statues that alert the Hydra through their demonic whispering?
-An upper level of the castle is broken and smashed and open to the elements and much of the floor is missing and accordingly the Hydra can't reach it. Travel is possible across this but at some point the party will need to descend to the Hydra's level and look for another route back up to the upper level.
-Decoy NPCs, willing or otherwise
-Weakness to silver means that the party might be able to minimize the movement of the Hydra by meaning of silver-plated caltrops or similar.
-Looking for squeezes and crawlspaces that the Hydra won't be able to follow the PCs in.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Gary Chalk Interview at DFB Studio Blog

Unfortunately all I seem to be doing these days on this particular blog is linking to interviews elsewhere! Anyway DFB Studio has a brief interview with Gary Chalk here.

I particularly like this bit...


I find the modern Warhammer worlds mind-numbing dull, but since they have been specifically designed to appeal to twelve year old boys, rather than sad old gits like me, that’s not really very suprising. As for White Dwarf, it isn’t really a magazine, it’s a monthly product catalogue and a very well designed one at that.

I don’t think that Workshop products have been made to appeal to adult gamers for years. Adults are no longer their target market. If adults want to buy their products, no doubt they are pleased, but their buyers are adolescent boys who buy boxes of orcs for about two years until they discover girls.


Mr. Chalk tells it like it is.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Dear Cousin Jonathan...
















Please don't do any more gamebook covers. Thanks.