Sep 24, 2009

Review of Den of the Wererats

Robin Ashe has put together a well researched and thoughtful review of Den of the Wererats.

You can read the full review here on

Too bad this set is out of print, because I'm sure after reading this review you'll want to run out and buy a copy or two.

Sep 21, 2009

Geek Do

To RPG's what is to boardgames

I highly recommend registering, then go rate Swords & Wizardry.

Sep 15, 2009

Best and Worst of TSR

I disagree with some of the choices, but Teague Bohlen posted an interesting best/worst list on his rather enjoyable Topless Robot blog.

Inevitably Indiana Jones is on the worst of list. My high school gaming group and I must be the only people who enjoyed this game. When we got the Judges Pack accessory and were able to roll up our own characters we had a blast. The system was light, fast, and captured the movies effectively enough. The modules were particularly well done.

TSR 10 Best, 6 Worst

I'd never put Boot Hill on any best of list.


The Dungeoneer RPG does not have an alignment or moral system, but it does have a way of encouraging certain roleplaying opportunities that is tied in with the Quest system. This is your Calling.


Your choice of Calling defines your motivation, it explains why you are a Hero.

When you create a Dungeoneer Hero, in addition to specifying how they fight and explore the world of Tarniss, you also choose why your Hero is on such an adventure. Your Calling determines your initial knowledge of what Quests are available as you start a level. Heroes earn a special bonus when they work to complete Quests associated with their Calling.

Belief: Live according to your calling, you specialize in Sacrifice Quests.
Curiosity: Explore the Map, you specialize in Chance Quests.
Honor: Eradicate evil, you specialize in Slay Quests.
Justice: Save those in Peril, you specialize in Escort Quests.
Renown: Gain Glory, you specialize in Threat Quests.
Revenge: Find and destroy a foe, you specialize in Search Quests.

Your actions are dedicated to serving your beliefs no matter what the cost. Your faith is strong and you know that life and limb are less important than your cause. You work to teach others what it is you believe, spreading knowledge and wisdom wherever you go. You would give up your life if you knew it could help fulfill your cause.

Role-playing: Choosing Belief as your Calling provides firm guidelines for how your character will behave. Be careful to clearly define your set of beliefs early on in the game, but do not hesitate to allow the moral dilemmas you will encounter along the way to further flesh out the Character of your Belief. Whatever the source of your belief, take care to make it clear to the other Heroes. Make sure the other Heroes know what it is you believe early on, and encourage them to work with you on implementing your goals. It’s fine to have a bit of dramatic tension between Heroes during the game. You may present yourself as a person of firm conviction, or as a mindless zealot who is unable to listen.
Famous Heroes: Moses, Zoroaster, Gandalf

BONUS: When you complete a Sacrifice Quest, recover a Boon Card from the Discard.

You are driven by insatiable curiosity. You love to learn interesting facts, solve strange puzzles and resolve mysteries. You are infatuated by new spells, odd maneuvers, cryptic blessings, weird skills, undecipherable sigils and ancient mysteries.

Role-playing: Playing a curious Character is always fun. You help keep the band moving forward because you must know what is underneath that last unexplored Map Tile, or what is needed to fulfill the next Quest. With a Curious Character, you do not need to be afraid to make mistakes, as you can always consider them a good learning experience.

Getting Along: Curious Heroes can get along with just about any other Calling. Make sure you spend some time in the Role-Play Phase asking the other Heroes why. This will let you express your curiosity, help them clearly enunciate their position on issues and lets each band member reveal their agenda.
Famous Heroes: Merlin, Bilbo

BONUS: When you complete a Chance Quest, recover a Treasure card from the Discard.

You are filled with contempt for evil. You seek to destroy all vile Monsters and scheming villains. They shall be given no quarter. There must be no hesitation.

Role-playing: You are a shining example to the rest of the world. Act like it. Your excuse for destroying the Monsters and villains of the world is your contempt for their lack of honor and goodwill. The maintenance of your own honor is of great importance. Treat the innocent with courtesy and respect. Comport yourself in an irreproachable manner at all times. You do not always need to lead, but when given the opportunity you excel at leading the charge. You know that whatever dank dungeon you end up in, you will have foes enough to confront. Stand bravely beside your allies and face the terrors of the world without fear. Once the battle is done, celebrate victory without pity or remorse
Famous Heroes: Beowulf, Achilles

BONUS: When you complete a Slay Quest, Gain 2 additional Glory.

You cannot stand unfairness and act to remedy all inequities. You are a champion of the weak, an upholder of the law, dedicating your life to the rescue of the defenseless and the protection of the meek. Defend those in danger, aid those in need and bring down the hammer of justice upon those who seek to harm the innocent.

Role-playing: Justice is a straightforward Calling that gives your Hero a simple set of rules to act upon. It’s a great Calling to choose if you want to act as the moral compass of your group and be their leader. When you role-play a Hero motivated by Justice, do not forget to apply the standards of fairness and consistency to the band itself. The focus of your attention should be on those who need your help. Dealing with the other Heroes is a secondary priority for you. However you can make friends by making it clear that when they are in need, you will not hesitate to do anything you need in order to keep the band safe.
Famous Characters: Robin Hood, Spartacus

BONUS: When you complete an Escort Quest draw 2 cards, then discard a card from your hand.


You seek Glory and understand that engaging in the most Perilous of Quests is the best way to do so. You would not turn down any Quest presented you. One day your name will be sung by bards in taverns across the land. Onwards to Glory!

Role-playing: Seeking renown is great fun. Do anything to get more Glory, and don’t worry too much about how. You cooperate with the band because you know it is the best way to gain Glory, and that bad behavior will be punished with Peril. Playing a Hero with a calling to renown creates great motivation for the band to march onward to great adventure. Do what gains you Glory, while taking care not to attract too much Peril. But then again, more Peril means more Monsters, and more Monsters means more opportunities to gain Glory! Keep it light, jump in to help other Heroes when they need it, because if they fall, who will be around to tell the tale of your extremely awesome and generous behavior and the great sacrifices you make.
Famous Heroes: Conan

BONUS: When you complete a Threat Quest, gain one additional Glory and discard one Peril.

You seek to find and punish one who has harmed you, your family or your people. Your single minded devotion to this task propels you to search the world for your foe. No matter how long it takes, you will track them down and extract whatever punishment you see fit.

Role-playing: A grand Quest for revenge allows you to help weave the various adventures you and the band have together into one large coherent narrative. When you choose revenge as your calling, you agree to help the Dungeonlord weave a tale overlapping multiple dungeon levels and wilderness areas. Do not expect each twist and turn of plot to relate obviously to your grand Quest for revenge. When you choose revenge as your calling, you should specify a nemesis. This nemesis is the villain who wronged you in the past. You have no lofty goals or rarified aspirations. Your motivation is tangible, palpable and reachable. However, to reach your nemesis, you know you must have help. Once you have revealed your chosen foe to your allies, you will need to help them with their goals if you expect to be able to receive their help.
Famous Heroes: Inego Montoya, Batman

BONUS: When you complete a Search Quest discard two Peril.

Sep 13, 2009

Dejah Thoris

How do you draw the most beautiful woman on two planets? This is my feeble attempt using my regular technique of combining reference from several sources. Most notably Olga Kurylenko, but also some other models and a dose of my imagination. I'll probably do several more studies before I settle on a version I'm happy with, then I'll do the full color treatment on her.

Dejah Thoris
Princess of Helium
20th Level Alien Noble Red Martian
Lawful Neutral

Str: 9
Int: 13
Dex: 14
Con: 12
Chr: 19

BHB: +11
AC: 9
HP: 47
Saving Throw: 6

Retainers: 14 (Morale 10)
Make Request 98%

Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, Daughter of Mors Kajek, Jed of Lesser Helium, and granddaughter of Tardos Mors, Jeddak of all Helium. "I am the daughter of ten thousand jeddaks...I trace my ancestry straight back without a break to the builder of the first great waterway."
Captured by the Tharks, she was rescued by John Carter, only to fall into the hands of Sab Than, Prince of Zodanga. She was again rescued by Carter, this time with the help of the Tharks, and, shortly after, became the wife of the Virginian. When Carter disappeared (his involuntary return to Earth), she waited and searched in vain, eventually setting out on a pilgrimage to the Valley Dor at about the same time Carter found himself back on the Red Planet. After a long series of adventures ranging from the south pole to the equator to the north pole, the two were reunited and returned to Helium. All this is covered in the first three books.
In the next four books, Dejah Thoris plays very minor roles, but in Swords of Mars she is kidnapped and taken to Thuria, the nearer moon of Barsoom, by a Zodangan scientist and an assassin, only to be rescued again by her husband. Later, she is seriously injured in an air crash and Carter has to enlist the services of Ras Thava, the Master Mind of Mars, to restore her to her former self. Some years later, both the Warlord and his princess are captured and taken to Jupiter, where the Morgors of that world attempt to secure information toward the conquest of Barsoom. Unfortunately, our chronicles end at this stage and, until further communications are received from Barsoom, we are unable to state just how Dejah Thoris, Princess of Mars, was returned to her beloved Helium. (-from A Guide to Barsoom by John Flint Roy)

Sep 7, 2009


The Dungeoneer RPG treats the race/class matrix a little differently than traditional fantasy RPG's. First is the addition of Cultures. Nearly as important as your innate abilities acquired through your character's race, are the things she learned in the culture she was raised in. You choose the culture for your character at the beginning of the game. Or the Dungeonlord can deal culture cards out randomly.

Ancient: the ancient civilizations, thought to be long lost, remain in various hidden and isolated regions of the world. They hold forgotten knowledge, but are also somewhat naive to the modern world. +1 MG

: from the mysterious lands beyond the seas, esoteric people have unique skills and customs that seam strange and fascinating. +1 BL

: people from the conquering nations of Dolmar, Ilbor, and Baulephor may seem to have a sense of supremacy to others. They are citizens of powerful nations and accorded the rights that come with citizenship. They are often trained professionally for the military. Beyond the borders of their lands though, they are often hated and despised. +1 ML

: these are simple folk, peasants and farmers that come from regions far from cities. They may seem uneducated, but they have a wisdom that comes from a sense of community and making a living through hard labor. +1 TL

: far from the civilized lands are people that live in tribes and forage for a living. They are hardy and have valuable survival skills in the wilderness. +2 ML vs. chosen foe

Is this the final list of cultures? I don't know, playtesting continues, things are revised and improved. This has been pretty stable for a while now and works well in play.

Sep 4, 2009

Skills vs. Classes

The first RPG I was exposed to that used a skill system was GURPS. We played quite a bit of it while I was in the military. Because of the circumstance of being stationed at a base with a bunch of other guys and a LOT of free time a lot of gaming gets done. This was during the long dark period of 2nd edition - which had caused me to virtually abandon D&D.

On the surface a generic RPG that does everything sounds like a great idea. Well, so does a spork, which is neither a good spoon or a good fork. I thought at the time that a skill based RPG was superior to a class based RPG, it modeled real life better after all, right? And it allowed more specific customization of your character so it must be better. The skill system in GURPS turns out to be quite granular, and it has a complicated web of if your proficient at this then you'll be kinda proficient at that.

If I have skills in battle axing then I should also be able to use a mace or swing a sword to some degree, right? So I have battle axe level 3, and mace and sword around level 2.

In a class based game I'm a level 3 warrior. I can use any melee weapon as a level 3 warrior.

On a d20 this means using a mace my skill based character misses 1 in 20 times more often. This is a negligable 5% difference that in practical gameplay has little meaning for considerably more complication.

The only benefit I see is for those who like the post and pre game noodling of their character. Fiddling with all the possible choices. But, if like me, the fun for you is in the actual playing of the game a class based system is arguably superior in addition to being less complicated.

I can see the fun in endless customization choices for your character. I enjoyed 3rd edition's various prestige classes and feats quite a bit, until after the 30th supplement when the combination of choices became astronomical, and stat blocks practically became one-pagers (the OSR crowd can describe an entire dungeon in that space!). And to some degree the balance of class and skill was ok, though the skills were unnecessarily numerous. Bluff, climb, listen, move silently, search and spot covered 90% of skill use (YMMV).

I've come full circle on the issue. With my first RPG experience playing D&D, then migrating to GURPS, Call of Cthulhu, Gamma World, Star Frontiers, Champions, Deadlands, L5R, several "indy" games, and so on. I can say D&D was the most fun to be had in general. (the one exception is a Pendragon game I played once that was probably the best gaming session ever experienced)

Skills are not superior to classes. Where the rubber meets the road: actual gameplay. Classes do the job admirably well.