Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Con on the Cob 2018 After Action Debriefing

First I need to thank everyone who showed up and made this convention special. You guys are the best friends ever!

2018's Con on the Cob was a great success for the Nerds-International crew this year, at least in my opinion. I got to see some new faces and a whole bunch of old ones. Some alcoholic consumption may have been involved also. The daily schedule were games from 9am-1pm and 3-7pm. Afterwards we usually just sat around and chatted while playing pick-up games of Zombie Dice, Epic Spell Wars, Spank The Yeti, and Joking Hazard.

This year I only ran one game and I had a blast running it. I chose to try running Blood In The Chocolate, a Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventure written by Kiel Chenier. This Willy Wonka chocolate factory was fun for everyone who played. The goal is for the characters to collect several items for a French merchant who wants to steal the secret recipe for this addictive chocolate. In this particular scenario, the players never crossed paths with Lucia, the owner of the chocolate factory. They muddled their way around the factory collecting the requested items until the opened a trapped safe where the recipe book was destroyed by a sulfuric acid trap. They also found 40,000 in gold bars so they called it a day and escaped the factory by rappelling out of a window on the second story. During all of this, one of the characters swelled up like a blueberry and another contracted the peanut brittle throat disease. This is one of those adventures you could run several times and still have a blast with.

One of the nights we guilted Gary McCalum into running ICRPG for a few of us. Unfortunately, it was a short-lived game since Gary was still really tired from not enough sleep and James Clarke laying across the table for a photo op. Gary did a great job up until that point. Overall I'm still not sold on ICRPG. When I asked Jaime what he thought of it after playing in it on The RPG Brewery, he said it felt too much like a board game to him. I would agree after thinking about it for some time. I never liked the mechanic of one person at a time taking a turn all the time. When Jaime said board game that hit home for me. It does feel that way. I'd rather play Descent or Dark Tower than ICRPG.

I think the best game of the con that I was in was Tony Fanning's Genesys Deep Madness. We played as characters sent into an underwater complex to recover survivors and an unknown artifact. While the FFG system isn’t new to me, this game did feel different thanks to Tony's madness rules he created. It is much like the critical injury list but is dramatically different. Once you fail fear checks and accumulated 5 insanity points, you would roll on his chart and gain an insanity. This was such a great game even if we players removed some of the feeling of direness due to crazy antics.

Another notable game was Eric Lameroux's Trailer Park Shark Attack written by Karl Keesler. At first I was unsure how this game would play out. I was confident I would like it because it uses Savage Worlds but what I wasn’t sure about was the very nature of the game. Eric told us up front that your character will die. He came prepared with 24 pregenerated characters so we could respawn when we died. This game felt gonzo from the get go where I started out as a midget drug dealer with a Napoleon complex, watching Jerry Springer in my trailer when the levy broke. The trailer park gets flooded and we have to survive electric sharks. Eventually we find out that the sharks are alien inventions and the aliens crashed their flying saucer into the levy. After making our way to the ship we failed to stop the imminent alien invasion. What can I say, it's Savage Worlds, great game. 

I also got to try out Legend of the Five Rings Beginner Game. I had no idea what to expect since I have no prior knowledge of this game. I knew it was made by FFG so it couldn’t be horrible. This was a fun game but I doubt I'd ever get to run or play in this game again. It's Japanese cultural inspiration is amazing but the game felt almost too narrative to me. There is a dice mechanic involved but the game plays more like a story telling session. The world of Rokugan is great and I would absolutely love to read this just for the background info. The dice mechanics were easy enough to pick up that I was able to grasp it within a few rolls. This game definitely requires the right people to play with. I really enjoyed this game and would recommend it even though it lacks solid dice mechanics. It might not be the dice mechanics but there is something about this game that is missing for me.

I finally got to try out Dungeon Crawl Classics. I've had the book on my shelf for a few months but haven’t had the time to read it yet. When I heard there was a slot open for this game ran by Harrison Hunt I jumped at the opportunity. As is usual for Harrison, he put on a great game. We started out by taking a job to help out a tavern owner by getting rid of a small problem for them. Then when we kill the perpetrators we find a sealed talking coffin. The mysterious man in the coffin tells us that there is an enormous amount of wealth and jewels in a far off cave. Of course we will save the world for you. Now I have to drag around this coffin all over the place because we can't open it. Finally, we make it to the cave where some dude touches an obelisk and grows like 50 times his normal size. Needless to say, we saved the world. The only problem I had with this system was the Deed mechanic and my unfamiliarity with the system in general. I kept getting confused on what to roll and when.

I'm a fan of FFG's dice system in general but it does have its shortcomings. The next two games I'm going to mention both use it. Jaime Pearson ran us through some Realms of Terrinoth using the Gen Con adventure from last year. This was a fun game and I'd say this would replace D&D 5th edition for me if I could find a game to play in or run. I'm not a huge fan of 5th edition much anymore. It is a good game but it just feels like the same old game that they keep changing and resleeving to make more money. Enough on that though. Terrinoth feels like a great high fantasy setting and the magic system from Genesys is unrivaled in my humble opinion.

The last game I played in was another one of Tony's concoctions. His Star Wars game was a continuation of last years Vanguard Squadron game. Vanguard Squadron was one of his campaigns he ran for his home group and he loved the characters so much that he started his own convention game. In this episode, the squadron is sent to recover survivors from a cave on Hoth. Well, we ran into a few Wampas. In fact, one threw me against a wall and nearly killed me at the beginning of the game (Tony had fun getting revenge on me from last year). Once we saved a couple of survivors we find out that Vader is landing and we need to provide support to fleeing transport ships by escorting them past the blockade. Once in our ships we had no problem escaping the star destroyer’s gravity well after our ace YT-2400 pilot caused a rebellion on the star destroyer (a special talent of his). This game took second place for me behind Tony's other game. Tony is truly a remarkable GM. If you have a chance to play one of his games don't pass it by.

There was also a Stephanie sighting. Our friend Stephen Dragonspawn did some cosplay on Saturday night and stole the show. This was definitely the pinnacle of the weekend. Thank you Stephen. I think some pictures will say it all for me.

Monday, October 22, 2018

A Look at Stars Without Number Revised Edition; Part 1

Captains Log: Stardate 96407.88

Just this last Friday I was preparing to write a review on Stars Withou Number Revised Edition by Kevin Crawford but when I got to the sector creation chapter I got really, really sidetracked. It took me about an hour to roll up my own sector and organize it into an excel spread sheet. Then I started looking around for a standard 8 by 10 hex sheet online and saw some unique ideas. This got my imagination going and I said screw it, I'm gonna make my own.

Here you can see my creation and use it for your own if desired. This 30 page pdf took me most of the weekend to create because I was also learning a new tool, Affinity Publisher. Now, I should mention that the document is not finished. For the most part it is complete but I still need to add layers for the map. That is one shortcomming of Affinity Publisher. Creating a layered pdf seems to not be an option.

Another option that I would have like to have seen is the ability to create text frames on a "Master" page and be able to edit each pages master text frame. Hopefully that makes sense. As an example, page 30 is the clean version of this master page. Pages 4-29 all have text in the upper right box that would have been much more simple to edit if the master page allowed a generic editable text frame on each page. This was the most tedious part of creating the document.

You might be asking yourself why is he talking about some publishing software. Thats because about a month ago I cancelled my subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud where I had access to all their tools. I now only have the photo suite of Adobe's tools. I was paying $50 a month to use 3 programs. Fuck that. Now I'm paying $10 a month and thats only because my wife needs Light Room. Otherwise I'd have canceled all of it. Now that I've found Affinity Serif, I'm looking at replacing photoshop with their version. It's a one time payment of $50 and you will still get updates to the software. Remember those 3 programs I said I use? Well, unfortunately Affinity Serif can only replace 2 of those for me at the moment. The last one that I need is a replacement for Adobe Acrobat Pro.

Anyway, back to the SWN sector map. I think I'm going to do this review in a slightly different manner. I'm going to look at the tools provided to the GM first. Then we will go back and look at the player options for the game. So obviously I'm going to start with the Sector Creation chapter. It's a really simple process and Kevin Crawford did an excellent job presenting it. The first step is to figure out how many star systems are in your sector. Roll a d10 and add it to 20. These are your star systems. I rolled a 6. Generally speaking each star system will have 1 major inhabited planet and that is all we are concerned with at this point. Next up we can roll d100 for two world tags and 2d6 for each of the remaing tags of atmosphere, temperature, biosphere, population, and tech level.

EDIT: I almost forgot one crucial step. We need to figure out where the stars are located. Roll a d8 for the column and a d10 for the row for each star. When I did this I came up with 7 duplicates so I just re-rolled until I had 26 unique locations.

Each tag has a short description so lets take a look at one of the worlds I created. If you would open the bookmarks tab on my pdf you can then click on "0501 SESH". The first tag you see there is STAR TYPE. I'll get to that a little later. Next up is Atmosphere: Breathable mix. "Breathable mix atmospheres can support human life without additional equipment or gengineered modification. Any world that has a human population in the millions or more almost certainly has a breathable mix atmosphere."

After that we have Biosphere: Human-miscible biosphere. "Human-miscible biospheres are those in which some substantial portion of the native life is biologically compatible with human nutritional needs. The local plants and animals may not be tasty or terribly nourishing, but they can support life without the serious importation of Terran crop seeds and livestock."

Following that is Temperature: Variable Warm, with temperate places. "Variable temperature worlds tend to show a greater distribution of climates than other worlds, either ranging from cold to temperate levels or temperate to hot levels. This may be a climate that changes world-wide when a long, slow orbit brings the planet into proximity with a stellar primary, or it might be a world that has substantially different climatic zones spread across its surface. The north pole of one world might be a sun-blasted desert that moderates to a cool, wet equator, or an icy world might be warmed here and there by complex channels of geothermally-heated subsurface rivers. Variable temperature worlds tend to have savage weather. The mixing of hot and cold air can send ferocious cyclones and raging hurricanes across the surface of the world, some large enough to consume most of a hemisphere."

Moving on to Population: Outpost. "Outposts are rarely composed of more than a few hundred or few thousand colonists at the most. Outposts are either very new colonies that have not have the requisite time to grow or they are uncolonized worlds that just happen to have a naval or corporate base on the surface."

Here we can also see the most common Tech Level: TL4; modern postech. "Tech level 4 worlds are the most common in human space, and their technical expertise is the baseline for modern post Silence “postech”. These worlds can create spike drives rated up to drive-3, fusion power plants, grav vehicles, simple energy weapons, and medicines that extend human life to a hundred years of vigorous good health. They can manage sophisticated gengineering on simple life forms, and some tech level 4 worlds have even attempted to improve the genetic structures of human life itself."

And of course my favorite part about Sesh, World Tags: Pleasure World of Beastmasters. Each of the world tags has a short description and some inspirational plot hooks. "Beastmasters: The natives have extremely close bonds with the local fauna, possibly having special means of communication and control through tech or gengineering. Local animal life plays a major role in their society, industry, or warfare, and new kinds of beasts may be bred to suit their purposes. Pleasure World: This world provides delights either rare or impermissible elsewhere. Matchless local beauty, stunningly gengineered natives, a wide variety of local drugs, carnal pleasures unacceptable on other worlds, or some other rare delight is readily available here. Most worlds are fully aware of the value of their offerings, and the prices they demand can be in credits or in less tangible recompense."

I really enjoyed making 26 worlds for this document but I needed slightly more. What kind of star did these worlds orbit? Seeing nothing in the book I decided to make my own 2d6 table for this.

Star Types roll 2d6
Binary Stars (roll again to find out type)
Red Giant
Red Dwarf
Yellow Dwarf
White Star
Blue Giant
Variable Star (roll again to find out type)

I'm almost done with sector creation now. Well, essentially I'm done. The only thing left is to fill in the details of each planet. As you can see on my pdf that I didn't fill in the bottom section. This is because I will fill it in as players explore those worlds. It makes more sense to me to do it this way. Perhaps the players will have some influence on details of these planets or other star system details. Within the Sector Creation chapter there is a section on Additional System Points of Interest. This will help flesh out the details of the individual star systems. It includes topics such as adding other worlds and other points of interest, as well as random tables for each topic.

Next time I'm going to take a look at Factions so stay tuned!

P.S.  Please feel free to criticize and comment on the blog about the pdf. I would appreciate any feedback and suggestions. Also, please go over to John Polack's Mr. Mean Speaks Youtube channel. I hear he's going to do a new video on the game Faith 2.0 soon.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Tales from the Loop post game thoughts

This past Friday I was blessed with the opportunity of running some friends through Tales from the Loop: Roleplaying in the 80's that never was. The game turned out great in my mind and I had a blast running this for The RPG Brewery. The players were fantastic and they all got on board the train. I devised this mystery myself and just thought I'd share my notes with everyone. At first I made a different mystery that was more Lost Boys themed but I quickly scrapped that as I wanted more of a Halloween themed adventure. Luckily the game got posponed and I had time to come up with another idea. I'm so glad that happened eventhough it sucked because I was really hyped to run the game two weeks ago.

If you haven't seen the video yet, I suggest you go watch it here on Youtube. The basic premise of the game was the 1982 classic Poltergeist movie written by Steven Speilberg. Overall I'd say the game went fairly well. I planned for 3 clue scenes but the third one wasn't needed. I did think the game could have gone a little more smoothly but that might just be my own perception. The players said they enjoyed it so it was a success in my books. There was one image near the end of the game that couldn't be seen in the video because we did it all theatre of the mind so VTT's were not used and Skype can't do screen sharing. The players had just crossed through the portal and as they turned around to look at their envrionment they see a tribe of native american warriors on horseback charging straight at them.

If I were to run it again I'd shorten the name of the ride to Troll Tunnel or Troll Twister. A mistake I made during the game came near the end in the showdown. Kelly decided to use her Lead skill for the showdown in order to add dice to the other players dice pools. What I did wrong was let her keep her successes for the total showdown accumulation. The showdown specifically requires the Lead skill to either add to the total success or give additional dice to the other players, not both. At least I know now for future reference. As you can see below, my notes are rather short and just give the truth of the mystery. Everything else was more or less adhoc. I had some ideas but I wanted to see where the players took the game.

Next time on Thoughts Of A Barbarian I think I might do a bit of a science fiction RPG review. I have Stars Without Number by Kevin Crawford in mind but there is another I might do first. I'd also like to mention that the weekend of November 30th Hobbs & Friends of the OSR are hosting an online gaming convention called Hobbsapalooza. Check out this video for more information.

Don't forget to come out and join the Nerds-Interantional at Con on the Cob in Richfield Ohio this November. Our tables will be located in the Atrium near the swimming pool. I'll be running some Lamentations of the Flame Princess and the new Judge Dredd game. I had an amazing time last year and this year should be even better.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Contest Winner and Blog Update

Before I get to the contest itself I'd like to take a moment to update you on this blog. With the tumultuous advent of our Google + milieu disappearing in the next 10 months, I've been contemplating the end of the blog. Let me rephrase that. I'm anticipating Google's blogger platform to go by the wayside soon after Google + shuts down. Why you may ask? Because Google is a money making enterprise and it makes good business sense to stop spending resources on products that don't make a profit. I don't see how Blogger makes Google any money, unless some of them are providing some sort of advertising revenue. Therefore, at this stage I'm trying to figure out if I should start moving the blog over to WordPress, start my own web page, or give up entirely. At this stage I'm working on backing up all of my articles for archival purposes. Whether or not I jump ship to another platform is yet to be seen. So what this means to you right now is absolutely nothing. You won't see a change for some time to come but I just wanted you to be aware. Well, at least the 9 of you anyway.

To be honest, I was worried that choosing a winner would be extremely difficult but that isn't the case. I thought this contest was broad enough and interesting enough that I would have to sift through quite a few submissions. I was wrong. I don't know if its just lack of interest, too lazy to make an effort, or afraid of looking bad that people didn't submit anything. Maybe they thought the prize was crap. Only you can tell me what went wrong. Please do tell me so I can make it better next time. I mean, who doesn't want free stuff?

Any who. On to the winner's. Yes I said winner'S. When I said it wasn't difficult to pick I wasn't kidding. All three submissions are winners in my book. This was a last minute change because it was clear that the people who submitted entries put in a bunch of effort. While first place will get the aforementioned prize, second and third will get a pair of custom dice, a sticker, and an iron on patch. Second and third place will also get one of Thaddeus Moore's OSR patches (randomly determined by me).

On to the submissions.

The first submission I received was from Marco (I'm not sure if he wants his full name here). At first glance it looks like it was just whipped up in a few minutes but clearly some thought was put into it. I really dig the pumpkin layout of the wizard laboratory.

The second submission I received was from Harrison Hunt of the famous Tabletop Twats (or infamous, depending on how you look at it). His submission was a little more unique than I envisioned. As a matter of fact I'm still unsure if his is a joke or not because I asked him to provide me with a brief write up of how he did it and what his inspiration was. I've yet to hear back from him on this. Any way, his submission can be found at https://sinemora1.bandcamp.com/track/labyrinth-lord-single

Last but not least, Eric Lamoureux from The Wild Die Podcast submitted an entry. His submission stood out to me as I thought he followed the guidelines more rigidly than the others. He took the time to snap in-progress pictures and teach us how to do what he did. You can find his submission on his blog at http://goodbadskinny.blogspot.com/2018/09/tabletop-crafting-tower.html

And the winner is... Drum Roll Please...

Eric Lamoureux

Congratulations to everyone who participated and thank you for your efforts. I really enjoyed seeing them.

Don't forget to come on out to Con on the Cob in November and hang out with some Nerds. We will have our own section with a few tables in the atrium near the swimming pool. Who knows, maybe you can meet some famous people like Stephen from The Dragons Toolbox or the elusive beer drinking bird watcher from Imaginary Ramblings

Thursday, August 30, 2018

It's Contest Time

Some of you know that I like to do RPG craft projects. Whether its painting miniatures, making foam board projects, or anything else crafty to do with the RPG hobby. For the entire month of September I want to have a contest where people can show me their crafting skills. With the fall just around the corner and Halloween coming up, one of my favorite times of the year, I want to see some spooky crafts.

What I'm looking for are a classic Halloween monster or scary terrain project you made yourself. It could be a miniature you painted, some terrain you made and painted, an adventure module you wrote, or even a drawing you made. I want to see pictures of the project from start to finish and a brief write up of whats going on in each of the photographs. Pretend you're writing a how to blog post for someone who has never done any crafting before. If it's an adventure module I want to hear your thought process on how you came up with the idea and how you worked out the writing process.

The contest deadline will be October 8th or Columbus Day for the folks in the United States. I will then select a winner and announce them on this blog. The winners entry will be showcased on the blog and will also get some cool shit. I'll send them a brand new set of Ultra Pro roleplaying dice and I'll throw in a pair of extra d6's to make it an OSR set. But wait, these extra d6's arent just any old ordinary dice. No, they are exclusive Thoughts Of A Barbarian custom dice. One translucent blue and one smoke colored dice. To go along with the dice, you'll also get a softcover copy of White Box: Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game. Then on top of that I'll throw in a card game. That's right. You will get a freaking cool card game, Tournament at Camelot. That’s nearly a $30 value.

You can send your submissions to ThoughtsOfABarbarian@gmail.com. Make sure to put "Fall Creativity Contest 2018" in the subject line. You don't need to provide any personal information as I will contact the winner after the contest is over. I've also just created a G+ community for my blog where you can share your thoughts and ideas. You can find that right here. If the email file is too big, you can always put it in a Dropbox or Google Drive and send me the link via email.

I look forward to seeing what you guys and gals come up with.

Be sure to head over to the Nerds-International Google + community and don't forget about NIV Con on September 15th and 16th. You don't need to be a member to sign up to run or play in games. So head on over to the sign up page here. I look forward to hearing some new voices or even seeing new faces during the online convention.

Oh, and one more announcement. Come join the Nerds-International at Con on the Cob this year. It’s in Richfield OH, at the Days Inn & Suites. We will be in the Atrium by the pool. I’ll be running an OSR game on Thursday afternoon and a yet to be determined game on Friday morning. Both of my games are off the books so come over, say hello, and join us in some fun games.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Can you hear the Lamentations?

As I’ve been getting into the OSR scene, I noticed that there was some controversy over a game called Lamentations of the Flame Princess. To be honest, at first I made a snap judgement that this game was not for me as it appeared to be predisposed to an attempt to shock the readers with graphic images. I had only read a few posts on a forum up to this point so when I saw the book in my FLGS I picked it up to look at it. I put it right back down into the bin because I saw a $25 price tag on this thin little book. I know, the cost shouldn’t have been a factor and I know several publishers that would scold me for making this statement but I’m being honest here. That thought made me think twice about it and picked it back up before I was heading out the door. As I flipped through the book, I was astounded by the amazing artwork and construction quality of the book.

Even though this book is 176 pages, its A5 size and page thickness made it look like a puny little thing. I think this is where my cost vs. matter kicked in and I bought it. This book is a hardcover with a smyth sewn binding that lays flat easily and every part of the book is expertly utilized. The inside front and back covers have charts and tables that continue on to the flyleaf and include artwork on the normally blank backside. The quality of this book is A+ top notch. My only wish would be to have a ribbon bookmark included. To me this would set it apart from the rest of the competition. Well, that and an edge index. Speaking of an index, this book is missing one. Not to fret though, the table of contents is very thorough.

As soon as I got home, I started reading this gem. Right away, I noticed that there wasn’t any kind of theme or background info included. Before I continued reading, I needed to do some more research. That means trying to find interviews of the author James Edward Raggi IV. What I found out is that the overall feel of the game was intended to be a weird horror set in the real world 17th century Earth. When I heard that, I was like oh, ok, that makes sense now and the choice of art throughout the book resembles that. I think the fact that there isn’t a setting included in the book is a good selling point for me. This is the rules and magic book and the lack of a setting allows me to use this in any setting I desire.

Also of note is that the support materiel for Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP) is not a unified product line. This is much like Savage Worlds in the fact that new supplements don’t use the same setting and are vastly different. For more information on this go to the LotFP webpage ABOUT tab or just click on the hyperlink. As far as I can tell, LotFP is based off the D&D B/X rules with his own twists included. For more information on B/X, see my previous post. It should also be noted that I saw recommendations on line to be a little familiar with the B/X rules because it would help me to understand the LotFP rules better. I decided to forego this advice because I wanted to see how well the book stands alone on its own.

Back to the book. The first criticism I have that jumped out at me were the page numbers. Say what? What do you mean the page numbers? I know that seems like such a trivial thing to criticize but it really, really, irritates the shit out of me. The book has two different locations on the page where the numbers can be located. On most pages they are on the top outer edge. At the start of a new section they are at the bottom center of the page. Then you have instances where the pages don’t even have numbers on them. Why did this irritate me so much? It’s because every time I flipped through the book to find a certain page number I didn’t know where to look. Scanning the page to find the number makes me feel lost. Sometimes I even had to count pages backwards to find the right page.

LotFP character creation is straightforward and shouldn’t surprise anyone. They did change the Thief class to a Specialist and allow the Specialist to start with points to use for improving skills. All classes start with a 1 in 6 chance for all skills. Some classes like the Dwarf will increase a skill. Yes, they are still using race as class in this game. Even though the game is intended to be real world 17th century Earth, he included Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling classes. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the race as class of D&D old but you can remove it or ban its use if you want to in your game. There also appears to be a typo in the description of the Specialist on page 17. It lists the skills and that everyone starts at 1 in 6 but they omitted the 1 in 6 next to the sneak attack skill. This did confuse me a bit at first but luckily, there is an excellent cheat sheet for character creation in the back of the book on pages 166-167. This cheat sheet is invaluable. If you’re starting a game up, I suggest you copy these two pages and give them to each player.

My next bout of confusion comes on page 35. Here we see rules on some hazards such as ability score loss, aging, and diseases. My problem comes from the table in the upper right corner of the page. Here we see a chart that references the aging rules, which could be important if magical effects cause a character to age rapidly. The chart gives the starting age that a character must make a saving throw versus Paralyzation, at what age there are penalties, and how often they are made. The table has all the information except that the interval, or how often to make a save, is just a number. It doesn’t tell me what the number means. Am I supposed to have the player make the save every round, every day, or every year? I suppose I’d just make something up during the game but I would expect this to be defined in the rules.

This next little bit is a slight departure from the old skool D&D, at least I think so anyway (I’m probably wrong). Character death doesn’t occur at 0 HP. Instead, you are unconscious at 0. When your character reaches -3 HP, it is mortally wounded and will die in 1d10 minutes. If your character reaches -4 HP it is dead, dead, dead. Another great little feature is the language skill. Even if your character doesn’t have a known language listed on the sheet, you can always roll to see if you understand it. There is a 1 in 6 chance your character can understand a foreign language. This roll is also affected by the characters Intelligence modifier. A +1 Int modifier means that your character has a 2 in 6 chance of understanding the language.

I’m not going to go into detail on all of them but there are a total of 9 skills available for everyone to use. They are Architecture, Bushcraft, Climb, Languages, Search, Sleight of Hand, Sneak Attack, Stealth, and Tinker. Tinkering is important for the specialist because this is what is used to disarm traps and unlock doors. There is a caveat of course, the character must be able to see the device they are trying to disarm or unlock. Things like a pressure plate can’t be disarmed because the only way to see the mechanism is to activate the trap. “A character gets one attempt to use Tinkering on any particular object. If that one attempt fails, the character must gain a level before attempting to manipulate that object again.”

It’s refreshing to see that I’m not the only one who wants maritime rules in their game and Mr. Raggi does too. Next up is a four-page spread on Maritime Adventure rules that start on page 43. Here we have ship stats, water conditions, manning the ships, and encounters at sea. Encounters at sea include chases, ship-to-ship combat, ramming, and boarding. It’s in the ramming rules where I came upon another oversight. The ramming rules are separated into two categories, small and large ships. The problem is that these categories aren’t defined. I didn’t see anywhere, where he says these ships are small and these ships are large. This is important because smaller ships do less damage than larger ships when ramming. If I had to make a judgement call on the spot, I’d say ships that require a crew of 20 or less are considered small but that’s just my opinion and others may say that 75 or less is small.

It wouldn’t be D&D B/X if we didn’t have retainers, or cannon fodder as it’s more commonly known as. LotFP has five pages of retainers including a chart on the first page followed by a short description of each type. There are 27 different retainers detailed here and their loyalty/morale rules confused me a bit here as well. This confusion was short lived though as I kept reading these particular rules were better defined nine pages later. I’m not really sure why people do this because this happens more that you’d think. It’s kinda like acronyms, first you define the acronym then you can use it. Same goes for rules. First defined the rules then reference back to them later.

Following the Retainer section is one on property and financial investment. This is an interesting idea to include in the rules but these really should have been put in the appendix. Even though they seem fun, they would rarely be used. Characters with a substantial amount of disposable wealth can buy properties and make investments that will have an annual return/loss. With the roll to see how it turns out only happening annually in game, I would certainly forget about it and would rely on the player remembering for me.

Next up are some encounter rules. Again, I haven’t brushed up on the B/X rules so if this is standard fare forgive me. Spell casters in particular will have a slight problem if they plan to cast anything in combat. Casting the spell takes an entire round and the caster can’t move. Then at the start of the next round, before initiative, the spell activates (unless the spell is labeled as instantaneous, then it goes off immediately). This only works if the spell caster doesn’t take any damage during the round of combat, as this will negate the spell. Does it use up the spell slot if my caster took damage during the attempt? I don’t know the answer to that one. As a referee, I’d say no.

Oh, and firing missile weapons into a melee combat with your friends is an easy way to gain more enemies. Everybody in the melee has a chance to be hit by the missile. The referee randomly assigns a number to each combatant and rolls a d6 to see who is hit. If the shooter takes a full round to aim then the enemy combatant counts as two people for the purposes of determining who gets hit. I’m pretty sure this rule is in B/X.

The oil and fire rules seem a little too conditional to me. When you throw a lit oil flask and hit the opponent, you roll 1d4 damage. If you rolled a 4 for damage then the enemy has to make a Breath Weapon saving throw. If the saving throw fails then the victim must take an additional 1d4 damage on his next action. If this comes up a 4 again, they are engulfed in flames taking 1d8 damage every round thereafter.

After the eight pages of full color, full-page illustrations, we come to the start of the magic section. Just like the rest of the book, those color illustrations are fabulous by the way. The magic section pretty much rounds up the rest of the book except for the appendix. First up are the Clerics, they can cast any spell on their spell list and don’t use spell books. A first level Cleric can cast any 1st level spell. Each day they must pray for their divine powers at a rate of 1 hour per casting level (otherwise known as memorizing spells). Once they cast a spell, it is lost from memory and must re-memorize it.

Magic-Users start with 4 spells in their spellbook, which are Read Magic and 3 more randomly selected (roll a d20 three times) first level spells. Elves start with only Read Magic in their spellbook. Just like the Cleric, Magic-Users must prepare their spells. They must study their spellbook for 1 hour per casting level at which time they have memorized their spells for the day. Again, once the spell is cast, it no longer is available for use until re-memorized the next day.

These magic rules effectively make casters useless for the first few levels. 1st level is 1 spell slot, 2nd level is 2 spell slots, and so on. This really sucks and it would pretty much make the supplement Vaginas Are Magic (VAM) a requirement in my game. VAM allows casters to use unprepared spells even if they are out of spell slots for the day. This comes a risk though. Hence, Risky Casting, the caster must make a Magic saving throw or suffer random consequences. The rest of the magic section is dedicated to the spell lists and descriptions of the spells. I’m not going to cover those but there are some really fun ones like summon. You never know what you’re going to summon or if you’ll even be in control once it gets here.

The last section of the book is the appendix, which contains a glossary, an 8-page section on firearm rules, and the character creation cheat sheet. I’m glad the firearm section was moved to the appendix. That makes if feel more like optional rules than if they were in the main rules section. No, there aren’t any modern firearms included. They’re all of the muzzle loading variety.

Would I recommend this book to anyone? Absolutely! The production value of the book alone makes the price worth the purchase. The pdf is thoroughly bookmarked and easy to navigate. With a digital edition only costing $5, I say you should not be without it. There are some minor issues I have with it but I can overlook them. The writing is concise and easy to understand. It adds more crunch than the White Box Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game (WBFMAG), but that is to be expected since they are based on different versions of D&D. I would say LotFP could almost be my favorite OSR version. That spot still belongs to WBFMAG. There are some free supplements on the LotFP webpage, which I suggest you grab if you’re interested in this game. There are two I suggest at a minimum; the old Grindhouse Edition LotFP Referee Book and Vaginas are Magic.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Weird on the Waves, a LotFP supplement book by Kiel Chenier. He is currently taking pre orders for his weird sea adventuring rules which sound like fun. As far as I know, he’s only planning on releasing a digital version which only costs $5.99.

Be sure to head over to the Nerds-International Google + community and don't forget about NIV Con on September 15th and 16th. You don't need to be a member to sign up to run or play in games. So head on over to the sign up page here. I look forward to hearing some new voices or even seeing new faces during the online convention.

Oh, and one more announcement. Come join the Nerds-International at Con on the Cob this year. It’s in Richfield OH, at the Days Inn & Suites. We will be in the Atrium by the pool. I’ll be running an OSR game on Thursday afternoon and a yet to be determined game on Friday morning. Both of my games are off the books so come over, say hello, and join us in some fun games.