Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The End of Year Post

Holiday plans went awry when my wife had an accident at work where she broke a bone in her foot...now for the next month I am playing the role of chief clothes washer, shopper, and child taker carer while she has very limited mobility.

Still, 2013 has been a good start to Darkshade Publishing with the first release in the review mirror and some more things planned for 2014.

Look for the first volume of Meandering Monsters to come soon: Summer 2013, Winter 2013, Winter 2014...

Also, been having some good play sessions for SA! with the kids and have changed, unchanged, and readjusted a few rules here and there. Waiting on some artwork and then the Zombie Edition should be coming out in early 2014 as well.

After that, I am looking at a few projects that could materialize, but will let fate drive that a bit.

BASH Con is coming up in February, so if you are in the Toledo area, stop by and play some games.

Happy New Year!


Friday, December 6, 2013

Proof Copies and other Meandering Thoughts

Over the Holiday Break, I worked on the Print version of the Lite Edition. I have to admit, it was more exciting than I thought to get my first book back in its printed glory. Read it from front to back and made some needed changes...gave the first ever printed copy to the boy.

Doing a search on RPGNow/DriveThruRPG reveals that I seem to have had some moderate success with Stay Alive! Lite within the  "Tunnels & Trolls" menu of items. I also updated the electronic version on those sites with the new one.

I was worried that the images I created for the tables would not show very well in the printed form but they actually turned out quite well. I am experimenting with using word based tables for the Kindle version, but also want to first see how it looks once I get the word document formatted correctly and with the existing images. I am most concerned about how the images would work within the Kindle formatting.

More learning to come that will be very beneficial to future projects.

I am working on Meandering Monsters Volume 1 and still am hopeful to get something done before the end of the month...otherwise I have to update all my ads to Winter 2014. Hoping to meet Mike Hartlieb this weekend in the Land of Cleve. I am still waiting on one piece of artwork for MMv1. He is also working on 3 originals for the SA! Zombie Edition I have on the radar as well.

Tentative Schedule for Darkshade Publishing:

Meandering Monsters Volume 1, December 2013
Stay Alive!: Zombie Edition, February 2014
More Days and Nights in Baru-Kesh, April 2014

There also may be some other items to work into the schedule to support Stay Alive!, but still talking to the Kopfy on that.

For the three of you that read this - thanks for paying attention.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Fun with Publishing

I have seemingly conquered DriveThruRPG/RPGNow and now CreateSpace, as I have an official preview sample being mailed to me after finally figuring out how to properly format the cover image for my print version of the book after more than a few rejected reviews.

Next on the plate, I am going for the Kindle formatting...since I started with a word document, this may be a bit easier than it seems.

Have not tried to deal with Lulu yet...that will happen after the Kindle.

The good news is that I am creating working templates that should make everything a bit easier going forward. Now if I just had some more money for original artwork...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Next Up: Holiday Game Bash 2013

For the 3rd straight year, I will be joining the North Coast Gamers at their annual Holiday Game Bash. In 2011, the event was at a nice location, but not much ease of access to food and such. Still love the elementary school room chairs for the RPGs.

Last year, a much better location was found...a banquet room attached to a bar and grill on the outskirts of Cleveland, the Rock City Taphouse.

Tom and Robin will be there this year and running some RPGs from the Peryton Pub line. I was just planning/commited to running some board games: Acquire, Aladdin's Dragons, and Rheinlander. I will take a break from the RPGs this year. I did run a game of T&T last year that went over well enough. I will be done in time with my board games to play in Tom's Crawlspace game to end the night.

So for the time being, I can focus on getting some work done on the next Darkshade Publishing release, and also make the tough decisions on which raffle prizes to go for this year.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Character Sheets Anyone?

Updated versions of the T&T and the SA! character sheets I created are now available as PDFs. They are formatted to print on a half sheet (2 on each page).

Please feel free to utilize for your personal use...permission would not be granted to remove the references to the artists, Flying Buffalo, and/or Ken St. Andre and then post as your own. Artwork is used with permission.

Darkshade Character Sheet - Stay Alive!

Darkshade Character Sheet - Tunnels & Trolls

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Darkshade Publishing Logo

Quick note - the new Darkshade Publishing logo has been unleashed - big thanks to Kayla for that. Now I can spend some time tonight updating everything...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Stay Alive!: Lite Edition, Now Available!

Now available on RPGNow and DrivethruRPG

Here is a look at the back cover that features the SA! character sheet and Jeff Freels zombie art.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Darkshade Publishing - New Gallery

Greetings Delvers!!!

I added a Gallery page to show off the amazing work that Mike Hartlieb has been doing for me.

Check out my Darkshade Publishing page and let me know what you think.

Should have some information on the Stay Alive! Lite Edition very soon....I am new to this publishing thing so I am not seemingly very good at keeping to my own self imposed deadlines.

More to come...

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Where has all the time gone?

Maybe it is just that time of year where I get lost in sports on the weekends...between college football, real football (soccer), and pro football, my focus is very thin right now. Add on to that additional pressures from work and the family life, it is definitely a time where I should be doing more.

The prospect of the running a game this weekend with the boy and some of his friends fell through, but a sudden cold, an unexpected funeral (are they ever expected), and a few birthday celebrations take over the rest of the week and weekend.

On a more positive note preparations for Penta Con (November 2013), the Holiday Game Bash (December 2013), and BASH Con (February 2014) seem to be in full swing.

I will be running a few T&T games at Penta Con, some board games at The Holiday Game Bash, and more than likely a mixture of T&T, AD&D, and board games at Bash Con.

The Bashcon website is looking good...they always seem to be in a state of redesign every few years, but that is what you get with a student run organization/convention. I have to say, I do like the theme and artwork this year more so than years past.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Darkshade Publishing - New Artwork Preview #2

Got some more art from the talented Mike Hartlieb...this one is a group sketch of the main characters in my Darkshade Chronicles/Adventures.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lost Blog Files #1: Zombies in my subconscious

I was going through some blog posts that I had started at some point over the last few years and never completed. I cannot recall why I never posted this one as it seems fairly well put together, unless I wanted to add some artwork...

I must really have zombies on the brain.

Sunday October 21, 2012
Had a really cool dream last night (after watching the new episode of 'Walking Dead') where myself and an indeterminate group of companions fought our way out of a a zombie infested area only split up and run into another such building. I also remember my group jumping into a car and letting our other group know we were jumping on Highway 88 I think...is there a Highway 88 anywhere?

On the way from point A to point B, we passed a crowded restaurant or some kind of party where the people were oblivious to the situation. My dream then started playing classical music as a wave of zombies slowly but surely tore its way into the unsuspecting crowd with no other sound effects - very cool for a dream. I cannot remember if I have ever specifically can recall sounds before in a dream. It was quite eerie.

OK - back to that building we somehow got to...

I remember a zombie coming up to me after running down a flight of stairs and it was like I was watching myself in a dream (pretty weird, a dream within a dream). I could do nothing as a I did not react to a zombie slowly grabbing me and and getting ready chomp on the exposed flesh of my arm. Somehow, I came to my senses and was able to pop the deadite in the the cranium with whatever it was I had in my hand.

Next, a figure comes tearing around a corner with a 2x4 and I am able to stop him from caving my skull in. He says the building is not safe and is just too big with too many infected. We begin grabbing some desks and other furniture to set up a barrier so that it is easier to keep them at bay while we fight them hand to hand. While doing this, I see a group of zombies coming at our group from behind.

Then my daily call to wake up for work interrupted this story. Since I do recall having this dream before, I can look forward to this one to play again sometime soon. I would like to get more details on the whats and wheres.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Stay Alive!: Gaslight Edition

Years ago I experimented a bit with the 'Savage Worlds' system. Overall, I thought it was an OK game, but it ended up not being totally my cuppa tea. The campaign I played around with in Savage Worlds was the 'Rippers' game, where players were members of a secret organization that fought against monsters that were just rumored to exist.

The basic concept is nothing unique. Television shows like X-Files, Supernatural, and Grimm all had the same basic premise. I did a large amount of work on the background of the campaign I developed, separate from the Rippers campaign.

As I work my way to completion of my Stay Alive! Lite Edition, I included a short section on different types of campaign seeds. I am bringing back all that work I did and calling it Stay Alive!: Gaslight.

Here is the original character creation idea I had when my group was creating their characters for the game. I will implement this in some way into my future Gaslight Edition. My campaign was taking place in 1890's America, so the timeline below is definitely biased towards that angle.

*     *     *     *

You can earn some bonus experience by completing a short background on your character. The basic idea here is that in some way, you have had contact with something that goes bump in the night.

Maybe your sister was kidnapped and found dead with some puncture wounds in the neck.

Maybe your parents were killed by an unknown animal attack.

Maybe you yourself encountered something that the authorities dismiss as your active imagination.

Think of something, but keep in mind we are dealing with the early 1890's. As a frame of reference, here is a historical timeline for you to review.

1857 - George Pullman invents the Pullman Sleeping Car for train travel.
1860 - Pony Express begins.
1861 - Confederate States of America (the Confederacy) established in Montgomery, Alabama.
1862 - Richard Gatling patents the machine gun.
1863 - Battle of Gettysburg
1865 - Robert E. Lee surrenders on April 9. The Civil War ends.
1866 - Alfred Nobel invents dynamite.
1867 - Alaska Purchase from Russia
1869 - Golden spike nailed in, completing the First Transcontinental Railroad (North America)
1871 - Great Chicago Fire
1876 - Alexander Graham Bell patents the telephone.
1877 - Thomas Edison invents the cylinder phonograph or tin foil phonograph.
1879 - Thomas Edison invents light bulb.
1885 - Harim Maxim invents the machine gun.
1888 - Nikola Tesla invents the AC motor and transformer.
1890 - Wounded Knee Massacre
1892 - General Electric Company founded
1893 - The Columbian Exposition - Chicago Worlds Fair

Friday, September 6, 2013

Do you hear that?

That is actually the sound of pen scribbling on paper...or at least keystrokes energetically gathering and dispensing random thoughts from my overzealous mind. There is movement I can say, a momentum that is gaining ground with an actual hope of producing something that was promised many months ago.

Stay Alive! is really my second born, bastard child of an idea. I wanted to run a modern game using T&T rules. The boy wants to play games with spies and guys with guns, so I attempted to go back to 'Top Secret' once again. IMO, Top Secret is a system that implodes onto itself - from the calculus needed to figure out a successful missile attack, to the totally unusable experience tables. I was pointed towards an article from a now defunct and hard to find magazine (Sorcerer's Apprentice #7) that featured 'The Lovecraft Variant'.

Having not tracked that down, at least for a cost I was willing to pay for it, I then reached out to FBI to get a copy of Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Eyes by Michael Stackpole. MSPE is basically T&T with some tweaks and changes. I cannot comment on any T&T system prior to 7.5 being such a newbie, but the 'talents' are basically 'skills' that can be chosen for your character based on your INT attribute (the value) and other pre-requisites based on the skill you are looking to have.

MSPE also ventures a bit more into the abyss of 'hard to play' because of the separate tables for missile attacks (based on the type of weapons), the ambiguity of how damage can and should be applied, and the way experience (AP) is tracked based on total experience for the player as well as individual experience for each skill (or is it trait?) every time it is used.

In the latter, it is very similar to 7.5 and its Talents in that the level of the skill (trait?) is your modifier when attempting the saving roll for the skill (I am just sticking with skill at this point). I did like the fact the missile adjustments were created based on shooter movement, target movement, and range. Melee combat is basically handled the same as T&T - roll the damage, compare the totals, and apply the difference as the adjustment to health/CON.

So what the heck am I doing then? Nothing that is too trailblazing I guess. I created a few things that I can hopefully say are my original ideas. Not having every seen the 'Lovecraft Variant' or reading everything that has ever been written in article or blogs for T&T, I cannot truly know if it is a purely original idea. I changed some things with missile combat (based on a combination of MSPE and T&T) that has grown from play testing online, games at conventions, and the home play test group made up of the boy and the girl. I have also added to, updated, and changed some weapons and their combat values. I figure it is better to go basic than deal with specific automatic weapons or shotguns or handguns - if you want to add more detail as the GM, that is your prerogative.

I am also going to add some additional rules on using miniatures with the T&T system. I know Ken is offering something up in the upcoming Deluxe rules regarding miniatures, but being a guy who has been using miniatures from day 1 with all my T&T games, I think I do have something to offer in this regard for those that would be interested. Obviously, miniatures are never a necessity, but I think they make things work better when dealing with range and line of site.

Why 'Lite Edition' for the rules? My plan was to originally make an entire book with rules and supplemental material for running a Zombie campaign. That is still in the works, but I want to get something out there at a very low cost that just encompasses the rules that I am envisioning. The Zombie Edition, Weird West Edition, or the Gaslight Edition - those will come later. Hopefully. Maybe.

We shall see...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Gen Con 2013: What I bought

Just the stuff I bought in this post...

Update (08-27-13) - also got an original Tom Wham art - will post that later today...

I am a sucker for games that I already have and know I could easily give away as gifts to my many board gaming friends. All three of these I bought in the auction. Elfenland ($12) is just a great game and this version of Rheinlander (German version - $9) visually is much better than the Rio Grande Face 2 Face one I already had and both at crazy prices. Both are out of print and I was surprised at how low they went. The Jedi game ($5) - the contents of the one I had was better, but this one had a near perfect box (top), so I swapped them out and will give this to a friend as well.

Every year I try to buy something from the charity auction. I arrived late and missed much of the stuff I would have bid on, but I did pick up the googly eyed dragon thingy ($25) and a t-shirt for a steampunk game ($5).

As a Gen Con volunteer, I get a free t-shirt every year. I give them to my dad who really loves to wear them everywhere.

I eyed this boxed set all weekend and it finally came up for auction on Saturday. My intent was to take it to the Dealer Hall and get Ken St. Andre to sign it, but he was not at the booth when I walked by. In hindsight, I already have many items with Ken's scribble, so not too disappointed. Whether or not $22 is a good price for Stormbringer (2nd printing) I don't know, but the contents are near perfect, complete with the lovely opaque dice.

The Kentucky Fried Gamers are a wonderful group of people. They run games on Wednesdays organizing sessions at different area restaurants. This was the t-shirt they were selling for 2013 and I bought the additional pack that  included dice and a few other things ($30). I had to cancel for the 'Outbreak Undead' game I was scheduled to play in, so Draven tracked me down in the auction to get me my shirt and dice. He is always too good to me, but then again, he does know where to find me year in and year out.

D&D Next with the promotional miniature. Have not had a chance to look too closely yet, but I would wager that I will still be playing AD&D 2E at this time next year instead of whatever D&D Next turns into, and of course T&T. The pre-order that could only be picked up at Gen Con was $30.

The WWX (Wild West Exodus) was probably a Kickstarter I should have just stayed away from. The game does look cool and comes with some amazing looking miniatures. I stopped by their booth and talked a bit on Friday and put off buying the 'special release' miniatures they had available. At $13 and $22 respectively, it was a purchase I should have passed on, but with money in my pocket and the dealer hall about to close down on Sunday at 4pm, I decided what the heck. The t-shirt was only $10.

One of the many benefits of working the auction is that you just see a lot of items go across the stage. I could not resist picking up these Birthright sourcebooks that were still in the shrinkwrap. One is an Arab themed domain, which I have always been interested in. Both were not being bid on, so I got them for $3 each.

And another situation that I get into at the auction - something reasonably priced that is just not getting bids. I love the old AD&D buildings - still use them today. Now I got the Castles set, for only $10. I just need to track down a few more of the 'Flames of Falcon' Greyhawk modules that came with buildings. Reminder to send that email to Harold..

From Peryton Publishing, Robin's magnum opus - Qalidar. Looking forward to cracking the spine on this one, a pre-release edition of her game.

The Grendel resin terrain miniatures are just great things to get when you can find them. I got these from the auction store and only $5 each. Since you probably cannot see the printing on the blister packs: 'Snake Pit', 'Necromancer's Study', and 'Boat & Quayside'.

(Not pictured - I got a d20 dice ring from Crit Success. They had a special for GM's to get a ring for only $5.)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Gen Con 2013: A brief synopsis

Gen Con has once again come and gone. It is an equally tiring, fun, and exciting event for me every year. I do tend to stress myself out when I am running my games for strangers. However, I am year after year rewarded with wonderful players and like minded friends that I look forward to meeting and trying to connect with the following year.

At Gen Con, you are surrounded by brothers and sisters. For the most part, because there are always exceptions, everyone is friendly and genuinely respectful and energetic. I meet people every year that I have no hope of remembering names, but I remember faces and conversations. It is truly a magical thing to see these people that I have connected with 1 or 3 or even 7 years ago, and we still recognize each other, have a quick conversation, and part with well wishes.

On my blog, Insecure Delusions, I will recount a day by day tally of activity. On the Delving Dwarf, I will try to make at least one more post regarding the T&T related activities of the weekend.

Here is a picture of my box of goodies...more to come.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Darkshade Publishing - New Artwork Preview

Mike Hartlieb's amazing work has graced the pages of Peryton Publishing's projects for the last few years. I am fortunate to have a chance to work with Mike to create some new stuff for Darkshade.

Here is a preview of one of those sketches that will be featured in an upcoming publication...

Friday, July 5, 2013

Mail Call - Dungeon Heroes Advanced Kickstarter

Kickstarter: Dungeon Heroes Advanced Upgraded Edition
Estimated Delivery Date: July 2013
Received on July 3, 2013 (Spot On!)

This was a board game that looked a bit interesting. I have not played it yet, but one of the unique things about it was an offer to get a giant meeple of one of the designs from the game. I also got 4 dice instead of the promised 2. Can never have enough 6 sided dice.

Just in case the above photo leads you to believe those are very small dice and boxes...that is one giant necromancer meeple!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Mail Call - Torn World Miniatures Kickstarter

Kickstarter: Torn World 28mm Miniatures (Center Stage Miniatures)
Estimated Delivery Date: June 2013
Received on July 1, 2013 (when promised, I won't complain about being 1 day late)

I love Center Stage Miniatures...this KS was not so much appealing to me, not because of the quality but because of the high entry price with very little real value. The only reason why I jumped in for $50 was when the choice of existing giant miniatures were offered to be included, which I chose the Firbolgs.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Mail Call - Reaper Bones Kickstarter

Kickstarter: Reaper Miniatures Bones
Estimated Delivery Date: March 2013
Received on July 2, 2013 (only 3 months late)

I think more than anything, everyone knew the value that was being presented in the Reaper Bones Kickstarter. I guess any campaign that raises over $3 Million and has over 17K of backers had to have something going for it.

In review, $100 bought the supporter the 'Vampire Level' pledge, which ended up being over 200 plastic miniatures, most of which were existing sculpts from the reaper metal range that were being converted to the plastic Bones material. Additional add-ons were available for more miniatures as well as some larger monster  types. Most of these ended up being only a $10 add-on to your existing pledge with some 'huge' miniatures added in the latter stages that have proven to be quite amazing values.

My support level: Vampire ($100) plus the following:
  • Spider Centaurs x2 $20
  • Frost Wyrm x1 $10
  • Frost Giants x1 $10
  • Griffon x1 $4
  • Kaladrax Reborn x1 $10
  • Fire Giants x1 $10
  • C'thulhu x1 $10
  • Mister Bones x1 $1
  • (Traded the Biker Sophie miniature for $25 credit)
My total cost was $150. I had some experience with the Bones miniatures after picking one up at Origins 2012 in Columbus. I was not very happy with the way the miniature took the paint and the loss of some details between metal and the plastic. I figured that my aim would be to get the larger miniatures that I really liked since the detail would be a bit better with the larger ones, and the kids could get alot of miniatures to paint. I recently got my niece and nephew painting and I promised my step-daughter all the Bones that I already had in metal

So talking about value, here is the reciprocal 'MSRP' for the miniatures I received:
That is a total of $605.85 MSRP.

Just the size of the Kaladrax miniature is amazing. That is a lot of plastic.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Kickstarter Rewards - Torn World and Reaper

Last week I received the shipping confirmation from Reaper of my 'Bones' KS rewards shipment. That is arriving later today (Tuesday, July 2). Yesterday I received the 'Torn World' rewards. I am also getting my KS shipment for the 'Dungeon Heroes'.

Three KS shipments in one week...quite amazing. There is still two others I invested in that are running very late (estimated February deliveries).

I will have some pictures of both coming up soon.

Anyone else out there there getting the Reaper Bones lots and wanting to trade, I posted this a few months back regarding the items I would be looking to trade away/for. Let me know by chance if you are interested.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Darkshade Publishing - Initial Projects

I previously posted a few teaser images - here is the last of them.

Darkshade Chronicles I am hoping will feature larger scale GM or Solo Adventures, modules if you will. My first release for Chronicles will be the continuation of what I started in Peryton Publishing's 'Elder Tunnels - Spring 2012' issue.

Check out my website for Darkshade Publishing. I have Twitter, Google+, and Twitter accounts all set-up if you want to join up at those spots to get more information as it comes. As I work to get Stay Alive! finished before Gen Con, I will also draw up some submission guidelines as well for those interested.

Thanks for reading this - much appreciated!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

T&T Miniatures Rules, My stab at it...

There was some discussion a few months back regarding miniatures rules for T&T during the Kickstarter. More than likely, it was from a contingent of backers more used to the D&D system where the miniatures have been integrated into the game, more so than even AD&D (1E and 2E). 3rd Edition and greater saw WOTC really try to merge the miniatures battle game with the RPG where they could cross pollinate and hopefully appeal to both groups.

I believe Ken St. Andre did mention on Trollhalla that he would have a short section regarding the use of miniatures in the dT&T. He was also quick to point out there would be no specific rules, just some ways to use miniatures.

I agree if this is the direction he is going. The combat system is not of the "blow by blow" variety like D&D. A combat round in T&T spans over the same time it would take to do more than a few D&D rounds in game terms. I think there are a fwe very distinct places in the T&T combat round where miniatures could really enhance play, if you are a GM that even uses miniatures that is.

The T&T Combat Stages:
  1. Surprise Attack
  2. Magic
  3. Missile Combat
  4. Choose Your Melee Target
  5. Roll Your Combat Dice
  6. Calculate Your HPT
  7. Figure Hits of Damage
  8. Adjust for Armor
  9. Adjust Attributes
  10. Evaluate the Round
Using miniatures for positioning during stages 1-4 would be very useful. Setting the seen visually is always something I have found to be worthwhile, even for those players who never use miniatures in their own games. Targeting for Magic attacks also makes loads of sense for area of affect spells - it clearly identifies who is where. Likewise for missile attacks, you know if someone has line of sight and if they are in 'range'.

Range modifiers in T&T are listed in feet. The standard measurement for 3E or greater in D&D is 1 inch = 5 feet. This is something that could easily be adapted for T&T, mainly because it is what most people would be used to. I can say it took me personally a very long time to get used to switching from the 1E/2E standard of 1 inch = 10 feet. But, in relation to the size of miniatures today (most being 32mm anymore, or the heroic 28mm), 5 feet is about right when looking at the ratio between the miniature and that space.

I think the big thing for T&T and miniatures is - what constitutes a movement rate? there is no reason to totally base it off of SPD since that attribute is more reaction time rather than actual speed of running. Using D&D again as a point of reference, every race could have a base movement rate. Or, each size character has a base movement rate to make it even more simple.
  • Base Movement is 30 feet (6 inches)
  • This is modified by the kindred HT modifier (rounding up)
    • Human = 6 inches
    • Elf = 6 inches
    • Dwarf = 4 inches
    • Hobb = 3 inches
    • Leprechaun = 2 inches
    • Giant = 30 inches
    • Mountain Troll = 24 inches
At this point, it becomes a matter of the GM wanting to add complexity or to just keep it simple. For most of  us, the end of the round will be very organic where Ser Borus the Blunt charges and deals some damage to a few bugbears, than turns to face anyone else still standing. Or, all the characters can move and attack in the round. After attacking, you can still move up to your movement rate, or half your movement rate. At that point, we are getting very close to what D&D is.

My preference: I would use movement rates where it made sense. If Ser Borus wanted to engage in combat with a bugbear that was far enough away that I did not think he could reach it, then I would apply the movement rules. I use miniatures to determine line of sight and ranges. I would use movement if I needed to add that level of detail to a given situation.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Preview for Meandering Monsters from Darkshade Publishing

I have not posted anything relevant for some time, but I have been working on some things for my upcoming Darkshade Publishing projects.

I am still waiting on my logo artwork, but I could not resist to get something out there, so here is a quick teaser. I would like to put together some submission guidelines as well, though I have reached out to some people already (you know who you are). Needless to say, if you are interested in contributing, please let me know. I will reach out to you and give you an idea of what I am looking for.

The websites are still a work in progress, but moving along on those as well.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Darkshade Publishing

The name is officially registered with the state of Ohio. The URLs are purchased. The logo artwork is being tackled by one of my favorite co-workers/artists. I am lining up another great artist for some work for my upcoming projects.

I have some exciting things planned for 2013. When I have some artwork and logos to share, I will be doing that here first.

For now, as of May 2, 2013 - Darkshade Publishing is officially on the record.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tunnels and Trolls at Gen Con 2013

Ken St Andre has added 4 events (10am each day of the con) and most are already sold out. These will be the first official events running the new Deluxe T&T rules. Get the remaining tickets while you can...and check out the other T&T games by Peryton Gamers as well.


You will need to have a Gen Con account to view the above link.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Will McLean Artwork from the TSR 1E Rulebooks

Tom over at the 'Alchemy Gaming Blog' got me searching for the artwork that is well loved from the 1E rulebooks...

This one was always my favorite....

...and another one that Tom had mentioned :)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Gen Con Update - Events in the ICC this year

All the Peryton Gamer events this year will be in the ICC (Indiana Convention Center), Room 107. If you are familiar with the convention center, these are rooms right across from the registration area, maybe a 2-3 minute walk from the Exhibit Hall.

The good news - we are right in the middle of everything being a Premier Gaming Group this year.

The bad news - Kopfy will not have the quick access to the Marriott bar like he did last year when all our events were over there.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

How "Big" is Big Revisited (Ode to the Giant Ant)

The below transcript is from a topic I started on the Peryton Publishing forum just over 2 years ago. At the time, I was an inexperienced and naive T&T player and potential GM. I had many questions that needed answers and Tom and Robin graciously accepted the challenge.

For whatever reason, I thought of this as I was driving back to work after my lunch break. I have not really posted much of anything lately, and I have always thought this was an entertaining conversation.

I am not changing the names of those involved because we are hardly worth protecting and far from innocent. I have corrected a few misspellings here and there, but this is otherwise left intact from the original posts that can be found here.

OK - the solo mission that came with the boxed set - 'Strange Destinies' - is it a typo, or does the wandering monster table actually have the Giant Ant correct with a MR of 100 each???

So - when I rolled the number appearing as 3 - my lone dwarf Jerry the Great (nay Good) had a snowballs chance in hell to even damage something that is rolling 11d6 + 50 combat adds for a single ant. So technically - Jerry the Great (nay Dead) - has been killed, while he was able to dodge two of the ants while fighting the third - he was quickly ant food - in the FIRST DAMN ROOM!!! (my weapon and adds are 4d6 + 49)

A Giant Ant is almost as powerful as a MR110 Troll; or more threatening than a MR78 Basilisk with the ability to turn you to stone?

And forget about that 9 foot tall Bigfoot with a measly MR of 42 - the Giant Ant and his MR100 rule the ant hill. That is one GIANT ANT!"

Well I won't speak for the solo dungeon, I haven't read it. But I will speak to the quirkiness of designing encounters and the initial difficulty of thinking in unfettered T&T-ish versus translating it into another game.

First off, I could see where an ant that comes up to my waist would be as powerful as an adolescent troll as well as a worse encounter than a sasquatch. Given ants' abilities and characteristics, this thing could crew through cars and have armor as touch as a thick wooden door. And chopping off its bowels wouldn't slow it down, as well as its lifting ability (a leaf weighs 100 times more than most ants).

Now as a scenario designer, I generally stick to GM dungeons... err scenarios. I have a matrix for my MRs that runs a little too easy for my PC level, so that I can add points, or, my favorite, special quirky attacks or traits to create a challenge or nifty special visceral effect for the group to hear described.

Understand that the Monstrum Codex and in the box set that you have is best read once and forgotten by the working GM. The ranges and whatnot provided by the editors' format is like taking a picture of baby of a person and using that in a 90's year-old's obituary. T&T with its lack of structure is designed for the enterprising GM to tell his tale, as well as incorporate increasing levels of challenge for the players as he sees fit.

Aside from all that, solos are notorious for being highly unbalanced, but there are a few out there that make solo sales what they are for T&T. City of Terrors is one that I do not remember being too unbalanced.

OK - so here is my frame of reference...

AD&D - Giant Ant (Worker and Warrior) - is a 2 or 3 Hit Dice Creature (fairly week in AD&D terms - about 2nd or 3rd level creatures with 16-24 Hit Points) - does 1-6 (warrior does 2-8) on a bite for damage.

The Warrior Ant (3HD) has the ability to sting on a successful bite attack (additional 3d4 damage)

So my conversion of a Giant Ant from AD&D to T&T would be:
  • Giant Warrior Ant
    • 60 MR (7d6 + 30 Combat Adds)
    • Spite Damage: 1/2 (Stinger - spite damage - each '6' results in 2 Spite damage)
  • Giant Worker Ant
    • 40 MR (5d6 + 20 Combat Adds)
D&D in my book has always gotten it wrong. Bigger bugs need bigger boots in the Gygaxian mind frame. In T&T we want to either express their toughness or explore of the insect versus the mammalian or what has one.

I had a whole scenario leading to the major battle with a gargantuan cock roach. I patterned the creature after an M-1 tank.

Sure - but what you are describing is Gargantuan or Humongous - not just Giant.

A giant ant for me is knee high....an ant the size of a dog would be something I would not want to tangle with.

An ant the size of a freaking car - that is more than giant - that is Gargantuan. And something that would be tank like and very much representative of such treatment.

What you call T&T's greatness (its ambiquity) is what I see as a weakness.

Giant Ant was simply described as MR100 that is it.

You see it as the size of a Volkswagon; I see it as the size of a large dog.

As someone totally new to the system - is it up to my interpretation? What is my frame of reference? It is an MR100 Giant Ant - so it must be 20 feet long???? Where would I get that information?

Sorry but I have to get into this. This is some good dope. I suppose in my scale of things a knee-high ant is a "monster" size and a waist high ant is a "giant." A car-sized ant would be "gargantuan." In terms of fierceness, I'd say the giant ant would be about as bad as a smallish troll. The gargantuan ant would be a little tougher than a young dragon. Now besides using an over-generalized MR, I as a GM could use specifics to demonstrate the "little" horror that the giant ant is, luckily only my mind.

  • Giant Ant.
    • MR 100 (11d plus 50)
    • Specifics:
      • St 45
      • Cn 200
      • Dx 10
      • Sp 20
      • In 5
      • Lk 5
      • Wz 12
      • Ch 5
      • ADDs: +39
      • Armor: 15
    • Special: Bite (5d plus 23 weapon) against a single delver, can use 2 of its 6 legs as Blunt weapons (2d plus 100 weapons) against two PCs. The rest of its body is a group combat weapon, essentially ramming into them as an MR 100 opponent, though only with its "39" ADDs. 
    • No "head shots" possible against it. Even its "soft" bits, two antennae and its eyes are armored. The creature can be blinded only if its eyes and antennae are removed, but this only reduces Sp by 6 points, because its armor can "smell" and "hear."
    • Description: They don't usually travel alone.
"What you call T&T's greatness (its ambiquity) is what I see as a weakness."

And many gamers, I think I've heard the term "simulationists" used, would agree with you. Of course many of these same guys have spent two weeks painting a miniature and collecting cards before braving a chance to get to the table. A few other sorts, possibly called "narrativists, find that T&T's few core rules are a bit too structured for them. And even a few LARPers would argue that anything outside of playing a variation of 'Cowboys and Indians' with hand signals is simple-minded.

I am enough of a simulationist, hopefully I am not just now making up that word, to where I can see where the structure that the additional books, like the Monstrum Codex, in the box set are trying for has a bit of mass appeal. I often lament that T&T at higher levels gets a little tough on me as a GM. Except for a couple kablooey-scaled solos, which most ppl's first-level PCs died in back when they first began, there is not the definition and well-known allusions that D&D has. No Bahomets or Demogrogons for me to describe to the casual listener, for everyone within ear shot to recognize as very high level encounters.

What I do get at the higher levels is some great notes that I can publish as my own, if in a very idiosyncratic (maybe idiopathic) setting with established campaign-conventions, I don't overdo "house rules," but derived from a coherent rules set. And the players seem happy too, I often get the experienced player saying something like, "You're not throwing a pack of Piltdowners at us again, are you?" And I have to smile involuntarily as I made those little buggers up.

A few random tangential thoughts from Robin:

I think there's good and bad to the one-number MR concept.

  • Good: It encourages GM's to fill every adventure with interesting new creatures because it's really just a matter of deciding how tough you want it to be, then coming up with the flavor and maybe a few special abilities (like the "spite effects" in the stapled monster book). Among other things, this helps keep jaded players from going, "oh yeah, that's a galumphamorph, page 87. Use wooden weapons and cut off the tail or it'll regenerate."
  • Bad: As you've seen, lazy adventure writers can leave you going "what the hell is this supposed to be?" by saying things like, "Five gurkgaks (MR 73) attack at this point. See how clever I am? I said, 'gurkgak'." One could, I suppose, look at it as a prod for spontaneous GM creativity, but I think it's reasonable to expect more information in a scenario, especially when the writer clearly had something specific in mind and just didn't bother to tell you. 

The giant ant thing specifically: One thing to consider is that MR could account for more than size. Think of all the things that go into your combat adds as a player character. Or there's always the classic dodge - it's a maaaagic ant! :-)

So let's take this one step further...

What else would actually separate two different monsters that have an MR100?

They both would roll 11d6 with 50 combat adds

They both would do Spite damage on a natural '6'

I understand that the 'Spite' bonus damage can be catered a bit to add some personalization, but what is truly the difference between an Ogre with an MR100 and a Giant Ant with an MR100?

If I created an adventure and decided that 'I need a MR 100 monster here', I just decide what the monster is called (an ogre, and ant, a gurkak), but no matter the flavor text I create, it rolls 11d6 and I add 50 for combat adds.

"I understand that the 'Spite' bonus damage can be catered a bit to add some personalization, but what is truly the difference between an Ogre with an MR100 and a Giant Ant with an MR100?"

Well, you've got that and maybe some other special abilities, and the GM might make different decisions about what kind of player actions would work based on what the monster is supposed to be, but yeah, you're right. The combat in T&T is very very abstract (when I first started playing, it felt more like Risk than an RPG fight to me) and the monster stats are often more abstract than they should be. It certainly wouldn't have killed the writer in that solo, for example, to explain why that giant ant was such a badass all by itself. I think that's more a problem of execution than principle, but I guess the guy who wrote the game should really set a better example.

By the way, from listening to people who play a lot of solos, it seems to be common practice to sort of GM yourself, but the books never tell you that. And they really should, because how else would anybody know that they can run away when confronted with an absurdly overpowered ant? I would have been frustrated with that encounter too. Heck, it wouldn't be all that hard to provide some impartial mechanism for doing things like this, right at the front of the book. All they'd have to do is list the difficulty levels and general purpose consequences ("you get away" vs. "you take x damage and have to fight another turn") for some common saving rolls that might come up.

"...If I created an adventure and decided that 'I need a MR 100 monster here', I just decide what the monster is called (an ogre, and ant, a gurkak), but no matter the flavor text I create, it rolls 11d6 and I add 50 for combat adds."

If you go straight Monster Rating, yes that is it. But it is kind of unfair. In the rules there is a format of individualizing "monsters." And within the text itself there is the mention that a GM can indeed do so. It's not like there are absolutely no instructions on how to vary creatures from one another. But it's written in a single sentence; without ten pages of charts to point out specifically how to do it, complete with a approved format. That isn't a weakness, it's a choice made by the author.

I am glad that Peryton jumped in to explain things, it took her a couple years before she got T&T. I've either corrupted her with my T&Tness or she has developed the mental flexibility that T&T requires, while amazingly enough remembering specifics about the various editions, and widely-changing, of the game system that T&T is not designed to be like.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Brief History of GMing

In my group, we refer to each GM as running his or her own game. We have never allowed characters to cross pollinate. In other words, a new GM requires new characters. In all honesty, I really do not know how likely it is to happen that a person has his character that he would carry around and bring to games for different GMs.

My first game was started way back in the summer of 1989 and originated in Amherst, OH. All of my AD&D games have been based in Ed Greenwood's 'Forgotten Realms'. I don't really remember too much about this game, other than it was my first real experience with running a game. It was based in the city of Waterdeep, which is the largest city in that world.

When I moved to Toledo, we continued playing during the summers and on weekends during the school year when I was back home. At some point (between 1990 and 1991), I started a new campaign that we would call my 'Good Game'. This was also known as the 'Hillsfar' campaign, named after the city that was the base of operations for the group. All of the characters were from the core group back in Amherst. The main characters were two brothers of a strange race of elves that were naturally psionic and the rest were a good mix of other mostly goodly characters. This game eventually transplanted to the Toledo group that started right around 1997 or 1998. A few of the characters from that core group also lived in Toledo, and they were supplemented by a new group of guys that would become the Toledo group.

I bought a house in 2000, and to celebrate a new place to play, I started a new game we would call the 'Evil Game'. Obviously, we took a 180 degree turn and decided to run with a group that would not always save the maiden, but be the ones that could be stealing away the maiden in the first place. I based this one in a city that was known for its slave auctions and feuding families. I also added some Thieves and Assassins guilds that were feuding with each other. This was a game that we had as many as 10 players at the table at times and we played almost every week.

"Whose game are we playing?"
"Jerry's Game."
"Which one?" 
"The 'Good' Game."

When I was the GM, I would bounce between the two different games. For a few weeks, I would run the campaign for the good characters. Then, another guy in the group would run his game, giving me the rare opportunity to play. Then, it would be back to me and I would run the campaign for evil characters. At one point, I had the grand plan to run a story line that involved both groups of characters somewhat intermingled and on opposite sides of the plot. It did not work out all that well and I abandoned it in the end.

Then, like all good things, it all slowed down. Some guys moved away, others lost interest. My house was almost destroyed in a storm of the century and subsequent flooding in 2006. We moved to a different house to continue playing when we could, but the group had been whittled down to only a few guys at that point. The remnants that remained fiddled around with a few different things. We played a bit of 3rd edition (all of what we played prior was AD&D, 1E and 2E mixed together), and in that time I created a 3E game I started in the arabic-like city called 'Calimport'. We picked up a few new players and that game ran for a bit before I grew tired of 3E and wanted to get back to 2E. We converted the characters back to AD&D and moved the group up the coast of the realms and to Waterdeep. I had  also grown tired of the Arabic themed stuff as well. We really just needed a jump start.

I think we let the rules system get the better of us and 3E is really so much more complicated than its predecessors. Over time, we played less and less. Where we used to play every week, turned into every month. Every month turned into every few months. If we started a good run, we would then come across November and the holiday when we would be lucky if we regrouped again in February.

Since then, I have been married and now share my love for the game with my wife's kids. I started a game for the boy almost 4 years ago. This 'Kids Game' turned into a chance to involve some other guys in the group and their kids. The kids play the role of the majors, while the grown-ups play the support characters. We try to meet at least once a month, but I still run that game separately with the step kids as well. This game takes place in the same city as the 'Good Game', which allows me to re-use adventures and characters that have been around for almost 25 years. 

There is a second kids game that has started since the boy wanted to play a thief. This game takes place in the same city as the 'Evil Game', throwing the characters into the same mix and the ability to re-use and repeat once again. To differentiate the two games, we use the last names of the boy's characters. The 'Darkshade' campaign (his barbarian) and the 'Starr' campaign (his thief-acrobat) are what we go by.

It is truly a beautiful thing.
"Can we play D&D tonight?"
"Sure, which game?"

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Starr Campaign

A new AD&D game has now developed in the household, the boy wanting to play a thief character. Lennon Starr is a Thief-Acrobat who is a half-elf and member of a noble family in a feuding city where 3 families struggle for control. He is a psionic and has a handy Dimension Door ability which aids in his ability to perform his breaking and entering thieving jobs. His first adventure, he was hired to steal a jeweled dagger and ran into a another pair of thieves  going after the same prize.

Feldon, Dink, and Joseph the Half-Orc

Feldon and Dink had a good plan, complete with a manufactured 'fake' that could be left behind as a decoy. They decided to work together and split the profits, and soon the new party was in action. Feldon is a wizard while Dink is a seemingly short-minded dwarf who only says one word, his name "Dink" in various tones and inflections when he tries to communicate. Like Han and Chewbacca, only Feldon seems to comprehend what Dink is saying.

The girl has started playing as well. Her character is a mage named Rose who always seems to have the spell needed for the situation. She is just beginning to role play and it has been fun seeing her actually start to be more and more involved. In one recent adventure, she charmed a half-orc that was fighting with a group of orcs. It would later play out that he was actually not charmed and was happy to get away from his evil brethren. He has now joined the group full time as well. The girl says his name is Joseph and he is happy to go along with that.

I finally got a few of the miniatures painted - Feldon, Dink, and Joseph. The boy painted Lennon.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Recreating the Wheel

A few years ago, a small group met in Upper Sandusky, Ohio to play some games. At that time, my experience with T&T was still in its initial stages. Kopfy was the only person that ran a T&T event. I ran a 'Game of Thrones' adventure I was prepping for Gen Con that year. Robin ran a 'Doctor Who' game while Trevor ran a sci-fi game from his developing system.

I have been running AD&D games for well over 20 years now. Early in my GM days, I leaned heavily on published adventures. In many cases, I made some changes here and there to spice things up or make things more in line with what I wanted to do. Over time, I gained plenty of confidence and started writing longer and more complex adventures that were my own material.

Most of the material I have is in printed form, back from the 90's and those pre-home pc days. I actually kind of marvel at my neat handwriting and some of the attention to detail that I impress my future self with. Others works are printed versions of long lost electronic documents that are either archived on an almost unusable floppy disc, or lost on some erased or abandoned hard drive.

The underlining reality that I have come to accept is that some of my best work comes from these tomes of past glory. I draw upon them when running games for my kids and my current group. In some cases, I have rewritten and added to the existing text in hopes of both improving on the concept as well as get an updated electronic version saved away.

The first adventure I wrote for T&T was my 'Days and Nights in Baru-Kesh' which was featured in Peryton Publishing's Elder Tunnels. While primarily influenced by the Arabian Nights stories, there was a few encounters in the group of 6 that were influenced by my AD&D games. While mechanics are slightly different and certain things need to be changed to accommodate the system, it is still about the story and basically utilizing something that has been play tested and ripe for a new interpretation.

We prepare to meet once again with good friends and play some games. I am looking forward to finding another such example from my archive that can be given some new life in the world of T&T. While I would really love to have the time and the creativity to be able to come up with new stuff, it is always a good thing to remember that you do not always have to recreate that wheel.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Wild West Terrain

I am still looking to spend some money on the WWX miniatures game. I really like the theme and the game play appears to be fairly promising. There are some others out there that have been working some Wild West buildings, so I figured I would take a shot.

I really like the idea of buildings that can be used inside and out, so I am definitely trying to make the size that allows a 30mm base to be utilized. Also, I like the idea of having a walkway that can allow for two miniatures side by side instead of just one. My walkway below seems a bit wide, but again, it allows for some more dynamic use during the game.

This is my attempt...kind of learning and trying figure out what this building should be. Maybe a general store or a jail.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Homework Assignment #1 - What's in your trunk/boot?

Gathering some information for my 'Stay Alive!' scenarios. I am looking to create some scavenge tables and was just looking to get some input.

The first thing I would like to know - what is in your car trunk?

What is in mine?

  1. Emergency Roadside Kit which includes first aid kit, rope, and road flares
  2. 2 screwdrivers
  3. 2 Bowling Balls
  4. Blanket
  5. Pads of paper and numerous pencils, markers, and crayons
  6. Ice Scraper
  7. Spare Tire
  8. Tire Iron