Monday, 12 February 2018

Review: Quarrel & Fable

Disclaimer: I was provided a review copy by the author.

Quarrel & Fable is a simple and concise game that tries to emulate the mood and feel of the Fighting Fantasy books (so in a sense it is a cousin of Troika!). Systemically, it is a hack of Maze Rats (which started as a hack of Into the Odd itself).

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

OSR Games in 2017

I have made a number of posts concerning available and upcoming OSR/D&D-esque games in the past, and I decided I will continue making these summaries, as they are low effort posts that help me keep focussed on writing and creating.

In 2017 a total of 70 OSR/D&D-esque games were published in English (81 in 2016).
16 were variations of The Black Hack (24 in 2016).
8 were second or revised editions of previously published games (9+ in 2016)
In terms of genres (where stated explicitly), there were 2 sword & sorcery games, 4 sci-fi games, 2 zombie survival games, and 4 post-apocalyptic games, and a number of other genres were represented by at least one game as well (such as cyberpunk, espionage, fairy tales, prehistoric fantasy, pulp adventures, steampunk, superhero, and western).

Sadly, none of the games I posted about here were among them. There still were other highly anticipated releases, such as AS&SH 2E, Blueholme Journeymanne Rules, SWN:Revised, and White Star Galaxy Edition, and a handful of happy surprises (at least to me), chiefly the new version of Engines of Empires and the revised edition of Wolf-Packs and Winter Snow.

There already have been a number of OSR releases this year, but I intend to make a separate post about the scene's current state in early April. A list of previously unmentioned upcoming games will hit the blog soon, too.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Review: Five Ancient Kingdoms

This review is part of a series on thematic OSR games (as defined here). Also note that some of the links below are affiliate links (meaning I get a small percentage of the sales without extra cost to you).

Five Ancient Kingdoms is an old-school D&D-esque game focussing on adventures in a vaguely Middle Eastern fantasy world. The terms and game mechanics closely resemble those of D&D, but there are a couple differences as outlined below.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Thematic OSR Series

I have talked about thematic OSR games in the past. What I mean by the term are D&D-esque games that are not merely clones (e.g. Labyrinth Lord or Delving Deeper) or house ruled variants (e.g. Dungeon Questing or Blood & Treasure), but rather games rebuilt to serve a niche setting or campaign structure (e.g. Wulfwald or There is Therefore a Strange Land) or very particular genre conventions (e.g. Arcana Rising or Silent Legions). It definitely isn't an objectively measurable property of games, and it's more of a continuum than a binary attribute (that is, the easier it is to simply reskin the game without changing the mechanics, the more abstract it is, therefore either more divorced from its theme, or the less unique its theme is). I would like to note, though, that virtually any mechanical change introduced will result in a slightly different game, and I'm not arguing the opposite.

In the following weeks, I will take a closer look at some of the games I consider thematic to some degree and discuss how they tweak the rules or call attention to the specifics of the genre or setting through the mechanics and procedures (including adventure generation tools).

These reviews are compiled from extensive notes I took while reading (or often rereading) the games in question, and they follow the same formula. First, I describe the game system and its most significant departures from the original games. Then I list the things I liked the most about the game (be they design choices, layout, or just a clever little tweak), then the things I didn't like. There ought to be a lot of subjectivity involved in this, but I try my best to make the list as relevant as possible for those who feel otherwise (and for them, the whole thing should be a simple list of features). Finally, I write about how the game approaches its premise and whether it falls short in some areas (again, in my humble opinion). I plan on releasing one such review every other week, and I have written a handful of them in advance, just in case. I have identified more than 20 games that fit this series (a few of them are yet to be published at this point).

My main goal with all this is to shed light on some of the more neglected games and present the state of a particular segment of the OSR. I don't intend to bash on products, but I will obviously point out their shortcomings (again, from my point of view). Familiarity with the structure and terminology of D&D-esque games is assumed (e.g. HD, AC, saves, etc.).

Monday, 8 January 2018

Review: Stalkers of the Elder Dark

This a reading review of the recently published Stalkers of the Elder Dark. It is a game of cosmic horror in the veins of Call of Cthulhu and Silent Legions. It is a small game (roughly 12k words on 94 pages of 6×9 inches) with very few mechanical widgets, set in the 1920s, and the cosmic creatures, grimoires, and alien technology greatly resembles the Cthulhu mythos (although it also alludes to another product by the authors, Opherian Scrolls).

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Mini-Dungeon #1 - An Exercise in Gridmapper

This is a mini-dungeon that I used in my AS&SH campaign (you can check the play report here). It was accessible through a trapdoor in a storage room in a Dagonite village. I redid the map in Gridmapper (my very first attempt using it) and typed the key verbatim from my notes. Where not noted, assume doors can be opened without much hassle.


Dungeon Key:
  1. half-empty barrels of sour wine
  2. rats, guano
    rusty equipment, decayed barrels
  3. locked
    carvings of fishy motifs
    copper candelabras, no candles
    tunnels to the underground temple
  4. broken mirror, blood, meat
    silver chandelier (600gp)
  5. ajar
    2 guards sleeping (HD 1+1; AC 7; 1d6; ML 7)
  6. locked
    rebellious villager (prisoner)
  7. 2 guards sleeping (HD 1+1; AC 7; 1d6; ML 7)
    oubliette → chains, manacles, a young girl (werewolf)
    (HD 4; AC 5; 1d4/1d4/2d4; ML 8)
  8. locked
    old rug, chairs and benches knocked over
    old clock → inside a topaz (500gp)
  9. ajar
    coffins → 4 ghouls (HD 2; AC 6; 1d3/1d3/1d6 + paralysis; ML 10)

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Upcoming OSR Games

It has been quite some time since I made a list of upcoming OSR releases. Here are a bunch of games I am looking forward to reading.

Avatars & Annihilation
I have talked about Van Noa's game in my first "upcoming OSR stuff" post already. Since then, refinement of rules and editing has taken place, as well as some playtesting over Google+. There is no release date set, though.

Beyond Dread Portals
A game/setting to be published by D101 Games, sort of reminiscent of Planescape. There's a baroque, corrupt city with gateways to many other worlds. Intrigue and dimension-hopping adventures are to be expected.

Break!! RPG
A recognisably OSR game influenced mostly by JRPG and anime tropes. D&D-esque in mechanics, although not a proper clone. You may want to check the dev blog and the game's website for further information (and I suggest you do).

Chanbara
A Japanese-inspired OSR game, built off the Swords & Wizardry chassis, from the author of the Flying Swordsmen RPG. Check out his blog for further information.

Eldritch Tales
An investigative occult game by Raven God Games, similar to Silent Legions and Black Books. Uses the S&W:WB chassis.

Faerie Tales &  Folklore
A game set on a historic but mythological Earth. It is mostly notable for being Chainmail/OD&D-based, and for its design goal of borrowing directly from mythology, rather than through secondary sources. The author has made a couple previews available on Google+.

HMS Apollyon
I don't think there is anyone in the OSR who is unaware of Gus's HMS Apollyon setting: it's an imaginative horror megadungeon environment in the bowels of a gigantic ship full of weird shit. Not long ago a Player's Guide was published - and now we have this.

Lost Songs of the Nibelungs
A gritty Dark Age game not long after the fall of Rome inspired by Germanic legends and mythology. The author has been posting a lot about his design process that you might find interesting.

Monster Dungeon Quest
A game that truly wants to capture the adventurous and gonzo spirit of old-school games. Uses a descriptors (things are Powerful, Useful, or Cheap; pick two) and stunts (like Wushu) for resolution. Check the website for further information.

Wulfwald RPG
A continuation of Raedwald, Wulfwald is an Anglo-Saxon game about a bunch of outlaws doing missions for a Thegn in exchange for his protection. Basically, black ops in a fantasy world reminiscent of the early middle ages. There is a Google+ community dedicated to the game.