Chainmail introduced the fantasy genre to wargaming, and gaming has never been the same since.
Mar 26, 2021
If there is anyone out there who has excelled at the nostalgia game beyond wildest expectations it is Goodman Games. They seem to nail the aesthetic just right. That marriage between the amateur press quality of old school RPG's from the 70's and early 80's and modern production values.
It is with great interest I've noticed their Original Adventures Reincarnated line, while resisting purchasing any of them for as long as I could. But the temptation proved to be too great and I recently picked up Castle Amber. And it's a beauty.
Clocking in at 268 pages it is chock full of material from a history of the module, the influences of Clark Ashton Smith, loads of new art and fold-out maps, a perfect clean reproduction of the original module, a 5e conversion, and lots more.
Overall I'll say it is a good purchase and a good deal, and an opportunity to play one of the great old modules using the 5th edition rules.
On a side note at the same time I also picked up the Neon Knights DCC adventure.
Because Black Sabbath is my favorite band and the cover and name were so enticing. It is a little weird that the cover is an homage to Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (Ozzy era) but the title is from a Dio era song. And the adventure seems to have nothing to do with the music, not even a wink and a nod. It makes me want to make a real homage someday. Alas, I have enough plates spinning.
Mar 13, 2021
Feb 18, 2021
John Carter of Mars was a comic-book serial adaptation of the Martian novels written by Paul S. Newman and drawn by Jesse Marsh. First published by Dell Comics in 1952, the series was released under several different imprints (Four Colors, and Gold Key; Gold Key printed the comics out of order). Later it was republished by Dark Horse as "John Carter, the Jesse Marsh Years".
This creature sheet from the comic, designed to inform the readers, is a fascinating early interpretation of the strange inhabitants of Barsoom. Creature design has come a long ways since then.
Dell's adaptation mostly followed the original books in terms of plot, but the art deviated considerably from what was described in the books. For one thing, John Carter was no longer a former Confederate soldier; now he was a US Army soldier fighting in Korea. Also, he and his Martian allies were all trapped in "strange, unsightly pieces of cloth" - comics were still considered a medium for children, and so the scant sword-and-planet dress code was traded in for attire that appeared to have been lifted from Krypton. Additionally, Marsh portrayed the Black Pirates not as warriors with jet-black skin but as vaguely Asian or Russian-looking men in black costumes, with a helpful Jolly Roger emblem across the chest to inform the reader of their profession. The Therns became Germanic, and the Okarians became cousins to the Black Pirates, and thus also ambiguously Russian or Asian. (-from the Encyclopedia Barsoomia)
Feb 9, 2021
The grand master of fantasy illustration would be 93 today. His work is a never ending source of inspiration for imaginations everywhere. Here are a few of his great paintings not as commonly posted as some of his other more well known classics.
Here is a warmhearted video put together by his granddaughter who carries on his legacy.
Feb 3, 2021
Short Princess of Mars update.
My taste for the design of the alien cities of Mars runs more towards the Al Williamson and Frank Frazetta aesthetics rather than much of the modern sci-fi that is being done these days. While I am amazed at how incredible futurist concept designs have become, especially with modern 3d tools. I still like that old time rock n' roll.
When it comes to designing something new, yet interesting and believable I always like to look to real world objects and see how I can use them for inspiration. In this case brass decor and other miscellaneous household objects come in a wide variety of shapes that I could imagine being alien cities. And it also reminds me of the sci-fi architecture in the art of Williamson and Frazetta.
Here are just a couple of pages from my sketchbook of ideas for Barsoomian city buildings. And then I took one of them and designed it further into an adventure map.
Here is a sideview of one of the buildings. Reminiscent of those sideviews in the original and Basic books that were so good at stirring up ideas for adventure locales. I'm considering whether the buildings should be keyed with descriptions, adventure hooks, creatures, tricks, and traps or left more open sandbox for the GM to customize. Probably a mixture of both.
The elevator shafts could be powered by some strange tech that the players will have to figure out how to activate. Or natives may know and just have to get it up and running in ruins, or solve the security code to active. In this building the shafts are put at opposite sides of each floor to encourage exploration.
I still need to work out the plan (top down) views of the levels. This task could turn into an overwhelming challenge with hundreds of designs and maps, so I will necessarily have to keep it reasonable in scope and only draw what is needed for the GM to be able to run the adventure. And this will set a template for the creative gamer to use the format to come up with their own great alien city adventure maps.
Feb 1, 2021
Swords and Super-Science of Xuhlan is a campaign setting for use with the Warriors of the Red Planet Roleplaying Game. Published by Swedish RPG makers Svartkonst. It is quite good.
New character races: Mutant, Robot, Rogue Formian, Rogue Formiankin, Lizard Folk.
Rules for Psychic Combat and Super-Science Research.
Wyrd Stones, mysterious artefacts that let you manipulate the matrix of Matter, Energy, Time and Space.
18 new creatures including Spectral Walkers and Winged Squid.
Seven strange Alien Godlings.
Campaign map with 100 detailed hexes.
The city state of Yankara.
The Vaults of Illumination, a 22 room starting dungeon.
Jan 21, 2021
One of the last iterations of the basic D&D game before TSR was purchased by Wizards who abolished the basic line for a unified 3rd edition, the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Game has just been made available on DriveThruRPG at no cost.
It has two books; a fairly minimal Rules Book, that packs quite a bit in it for the size. And an Adventure Book with 3 decent adventures.
Character progressions are described for 1st-5th levels. It has 7 character classes with 8 pregenerated characters:
The print set had character folders for player convenience. The classes are far from complete, like there is little in the way of spell descriptions. The DM section has nearly the most minimal set of rules possible and very little in the way of treasures.
The monsters section is an eclectic collection that is almost as random as those from the Holmes' Basic. Including a level 9 Dragon!
For adventures it has a much cleaned up Random Dungeon Generator reminiscent of the tables from the DMG. The three adventures are:
- The Mystery of UnderTown. A classic evil lurking in a peaceful village trope.
- The Haunting of Black Isle. An old abandoned temple on an island.
- To Find the Dragon’s Lair. A Dragon predating on the local farms. A surprising inclusion for such a basic low level adventure set.
It also has a DM's screen and a large fold out area map of the town of Haven.
I missed out on this set when it came out and it is one of the few Basic sets I didn't already own, so it's a pleasant surprise to be able to pick the PDF up for free. I may even run the adventures in my home game.
How does it rate? Well at a price of $0 it is a must buy, worth downloading it just for the adventures. Other than that it doesn't come close to comparing to the Moldvay red box. Though I think it may be an improvement over some of the later basic sets. Not a terribly bad sendoff for the basic line.
Update: it's been pointed out to me that this is more of an introductory set for 2e Advanced Dungeons & Dragons than it is a Basic set. Having read through it I agree that there are some 2e like elements such as THAC0.
Jan 13, 2021
Maps of Barsoom are always fascinating. Given the way the original books were written ERB didn't adhere strictly to an accurate map and instead chose to go wherever the narrative took the story. This resulted in locations and distances that don't match up when plotted out on a map.
To further complicate matters, no accurate map of the actual geography of Mars could even begin to be constructed until 1971 with Mariner 9, and it took decades to map out the planet in any detail. So combining this knowledge a lot of interpretation has to be made.
Since working on Warriors of the Red Planet and attempting to make sense of all of this in order to make a useful and semi-accurate map I've become a bit of a connoisseur of Barsoom maps, gathering from wherever I can find them. So I was pleasantly surprised to find this map of Barsoom from Punch Magazine 1956. In many ways it is the best way to tackle the subject as it is very illustrative and conceptual without trying to be too precise in any way. And it has a great aesthetic.
Jan 4, 2021
A few years back I participated in an art challenge called creatuanary where you post a drawing of a creature each day of the month of January. Out of that came the popular Norse Beastiary that sold out of 2 print runs in just a few months. (thank you to everyone who got a copy!)
I've been meaning to participate again but last January got away from me. This year though I've put together a great list of Cryptids that I want to draw, so I'll be posting them on my social media.
Some of them could be fun creatures for your OSR game, so here is the Ahool with stats.
AC: 16 
Atk: 2 claws (1d4x2), 1 bite (1d6)
Move: 12" flight, 3" crawl
Special: piercing shriek, save or be deafened for 2d8 rounds. Pick up and drop.
The Ahool (or Athol as it is called by some) is a flying primate with bat-like wings. Their name comes from its loud distinct cry; "AHOOooooOL!".
Ahool live in the deep jungles, and can be found across tropical and sub-tropical climates. They have a distinct face that has features of both a spider monkey and a bat's, with large dark eyes, red-orange skinned wings, large claws on its forearms, and covered in grey fur. They have a wingspan of 18 to 28 feet (6 to 9 meters). They mainly eat local fauna; such as large fish, they will occasionally attack humans. Most likely because they're extremely territorial and opportunist and will attack larger prey under the right circumstances.
In combat they will start with their blood curdling shriek. Then they can pick up a medium sized or smaller creature, lift it up to 100' in the air and drop it. As a last resort they will engage in melee attempting to claw and subdue potential prey.