Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Encounter Critical news?!?

 So rpg bad boy Venger Satanis has bought the rights to the best game that isn't D&D.

Saturday, June 05, 2021

a very serious game


These boxes refer to nonessential systems such as crew quarters, the mess hall, storage areas, and the bowling alley.

Just over here reading Federation Commander: First Missions, the freebie introductory booklet for Federation Commander, Amarillo Design Bureau's attempt to make Star Fleet Battles relevant to the modern game nerd.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

What if the party were... fruit?

Stumbled across this on amazon: HERO Creations – Epic Fruit Adventurers. Not gonna lie, I am digging the pineapple archer.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

love, dedication, or ridiculous gamer machismo?

I don't usually read the GeekLists on boardgamegeek.com but this morning I stumbled across a nice one that is basically a collection of personal reminisces:

Longest Gaming Sessions Ever

Most gamers of a certain age (old enough to get started before the internet took over our lives) have at least one marathon session story. Especially if you got started as a teenager. Do the kids still get together for allnighter game sessions?

My marathon story involves running the entirety of T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil over the course of a Friday after school, all night Friday, all day Saturday, most of Saturday night (we all fell asleep at some point in the wee hours of Sunday morning) and then the party finally killing Zuggtmoy after lunch on Sunday. Then we all went to high school the next day. 

Man, youth is wasted on the young. Nowadays I can't play any game for more than three hours or so without kinda wanting to take a little nap.

Iuz got away, btw.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

this one goes out to Dick McGee

Here's my attempt to make a Vektrean ship of some sort.


So I made a spaceship

So yesterday morning I stumbled across tinkercad.com, a simplified 3-D modeling tool that is completely browser-based. I signed up for a free account, did a few tutorials, and within less than two hours had made a 1/3000 scale spaceship.

Admittedly, it's not super-detailed, but I achieved the basic shape I was looking for. And the simple lines compare fairly well to the earliest Star Fleet Battles figures, which was what I had in mind as I did this.

With a couple clicks I could export my work as a .STL file. The next obvious step was to go over the shapeways.com to see how easy it would be to get a plastic version printed up. It only took a few minutes to make an account and upload the files.

The based version would cost nearly twice the unbased one. So this is why most Shapeways Marketplace stores sell spaceships unbased (that and a lot of people are fussy about the bases they use). Admittedly, I could bring the price down with further tinkering. My base is 5mm thick, which is way more plastic than is needed. The peg could probably be slimmed down as well.

If I could do this with a couple of hours, no prior 3-D modeling experience, and no real talent for visual arts, then there must be a ton of people out there who could do more impressive work with this tinkercad tool.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

a solo sandbox for Tunnels & Trolls

So I decided to put this together after being inspired by Tony Bath's Setting Up a Wargames Campaign. First I built a matchbox map, using 72 matchboxes and a hot glue gun.

Top-down view. You can get empty plain white matchboxes at craft supply prices, but buying boxed matches in bulk is actually cheaper if you look around a bit. True story: I was looking into this at the end of November, but I got distracted by something shiny just as I found the right thing on Amazon. I meant to add the matchboxes to my cart and come back to buy them later that day, but I put them on my wishlist instead. I dunno how I did that, but it was the end of the semester and I wasn't exactly thinking straight. I then promptly forgot about the whole thing until my sister bought them for me for Christmas. My suspicion is that she likes to order the dumbest thing on my wishlist. Which is fine by me. I have dumb tastes. 

Anyway, the idea is that each matchbox represents an area on the map. When my PC moves into a space, you slide open the draw (pushing from behind is the easiest way to do this). Inside is a chit I made by printing the numbers 1-72 and gluing them to a panel from a Cheerios box.

The chits are mostly randomly shuffled, but I seeded the coastal locations to the easternmost two columns and one "up north" location to the top two rows.

So location 0205 leads to adventure #58. What does that mean? To find out, you look in this little booklet I made.

Major Digression: I decided to lean into the fact that I hate the bloodbats that have killed numerous of my T&T pcs. The cover illo is actually a tarrahook bat by Aaron Arocho and Jennell Jaquays. It appears in the Dungeoneer Compedium, one of the best things published in the early days of D&D. This creature flies up to you and stabs you in the gut with a big hook-stinger on its tail. When I was killed by vampire bats, I tossed out my theory that bloodbats was just the T&T name for those critters. Tarrahook bats popped into my head unbidden. Anyhoo, here's the original tarrahook bat illo:

Terrifying as heck, but only the second creepiest monster in the Dungeoneer Compedium.

So the numbered entries in this booklet come in three broad categories. About one in six of them lead directly to a Tunnels & Trolls solo adventure. Like so:

You have found the entrance to the Dungeon of Umslopagaas of the Shiny Teeth, otherwise known as the Deathtrap Equalizer Dungeon! Anyone with less than 5 levels and 70 combat adds may enter this dungeon.

A bunch of the rest are terrain:

You are travelling through a hilly region. You have a 1 in 6 chance of a random encounter from the table at 75.

All the random encounter tables have bloodbats on them. I don't know why I am doing this to myself. Some of the terrain have special rules. You can get lost in the woods and you must make a Strength roll to climb a mountain or else turn back.

I also wrote a handful of special areas to be discovered, like this:

You have found the Riddling Tree. Will you undertake its challenge? If you can succeed at a level 3 Intelligence saving throw it gives you a reward:

1-2 Random jewel

3-4 Random magic item (See T&T Bonus Pack #1)

5-6 Add +1d6 to a random ability score

If you fail, determine your penalty:

1-2 Teleported into a random Deathtrap Equalizer challenge. If you survive, you return to a random overland map location.

2-3  Lose 1d6 from a random ability score

4-6 You are turned into a nasty little gremlin rogue (undo kin bonuses and apply those of a gremlin, class benefits change as well).

You may only challenge the Riddling Tree once.

So the basic idea is to drop a PC onto either the edge of the map or a randomly generated location and discover what can be found in Bloodbat Country. I made a players map by drawing a 6 x 12 grid onto a sheet of Blackblade extra large hex paper. That way, with a little artistic license, I can make a hexmap out of my findings.

Finally, here's what 72 boxes of matches look like. I only smoke my pipe once in a great while (twice so far this year), so this ought to last me a while.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

this post took an unexpected turn

So the shapeways store called National Cheese Emporium sells a dice tower that is the large wooden rabbit from Monty Python:

I am enchanted by this idea, but I can't tell from the product write-up how many surfaces the dice careen off of on the way down, nor is it obvious where the dice come out. 

Oh, god. It's the rabbit's butthole, isn't it?

Monday, May 03, 2021

in which I show the same illo 16 times

For no clear reason I got it in my head that I wanted to see what the USS Enterprise looked like with its hull painted the colors used by other factions in the Star Fleet Battles series of games. I guess this is what happens when I'm left alone with photoshop and a search engine.

So according to the nice folks at Amarillo Design Bureau (the SFB people), Federation ships are all plain white. Except that at least one official painting guide (for the Federation carrier, maybe?) says that the hull color should be "off white." I'm not sure why one class of ships would be a different color than the rest of the fleet. A whole fleet of off-white Fed ships could look cool, and would make it easy to identify your figures at a distance at a con or something. For the ship on the right I chose the off white hue that wikipedia calls vanilla. That seems appropriate for the do-gooders of Starfleet. I like the results, but they're pretty close to the Lyran colors down at the bottom of the post. 

Klingons in SFB rock either blue-grey or green-grey, so something like these, maybe? That blue looks little insufficiently grey though. But here's the thing: as far as I know there isn't an official Star Fleet Battles paint line like you can get for Warhammer. You've got a painting guide and your own best efforts to mix and/or match the relevant hues. I've seen a fair number of SFB Klingons painted much closer to green than grey, for instance.
Romulan vessels are officially light grey in hue. Pretty boring. Maybe that's why they paint scary birds on their hulls.
The Kzinti of Larry Niven fame show up in Star Fleet Battles owing to their one appearance in the Star Trek: The Animated Series. (Niven took his short story "The Soft Weapon" and turned it into a TAS script by slotting in Spock, Uhuru, and Sulu for his original protagonists.) Kzinti vessels are brick red or dark red, which I love. The bulkier ships look a teensy bit like the Red Dwarf as a result. And I love the sheer ugliness of their ship designs. According to FASA Trek lore, one Federation vessel is actually painted red, the Larson-class USS Richtofen.
According to the official painting guides, Gorn vessels are supposed to be some sort of grey to dark grey. But all the painted figures I've ever seen in person were flat black in color. The SFB Gorn ships and the FASA-Trek Gorn are wildly different designs. I've always thought it would be cool to have a fleet that incorporated both aesthetics. 
Tholian vessels are copper-colored.

The Hydrans are one of the most alien of alien species in SFB. They evolved on floating continents on a gas giant, breathe methane, have three biological sexes, and their ships come in a variety of nifty shapes. Their main hull color is dark blue-gray. The color I used here is also the official blue hue of UCLA. 
The Andromedans paint their ships green. I've usualy seen darker shades than this used, but the painting guide just says green, IIRC.
The Interstellar Concordium is a multi-racial alliance that tries to bring about galactic peace by blowing up everyone else's spaceships. They paint their ships medium or light blue. 

The Lyrans are cat people like the Kzinti. They paint their ships sandy beige colors. A lot of people seem to add tiger stripes, leopard spots, or blotchy camo patters over that basic color.

Friday, April 30, 2021

a side result of some dice math the other day

How To Roll 1d6 When All You Have Are Two Six-Sided Dice

Roll     Result

2 or 6      1

3 or 5      2

4 or 10      3

   7          4

8 or 12    5

9 or 11    

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

those darn gobbos

In the second installment of my recent look at the authors of the Fiend Folio, I discovered that the co-creator of the babbler, Jeremy (Jes) Goodwin, was also an illustrator for some TSR products. Well, today on my tumblr dash a Goodwin illo appeared, shared by one of my favorite gaming tumblrs, Old School FRP.

Here's OldSchoolFRP's caption: 

Esterelle finds the elves’ forest in flames and overrun by goblins on dire wolves. Jeremy (Jes) Goodwin, from D&D one-on-one module O2: Blade of Vengeance, TSR UK, 1984.

A forest fire sounds like a heckuva a place to fight some goblins.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

The coming revolution in role-play games?

LindyBeige here is one of my favorite channels on the youtubes.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Who wrote the Fiend Folio? The Turnbull Epilogue

Just a final note on the editor of the Tome of Creatures Malevolent and Benign. From RPGGeek.com:

Don Turnbull (? - August 5, 2003) was a game designer, writer, and computer programmer who was once the head of TSR in the United Kingdom. He was also the founder of Albion magazine, the editor of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Fiend Folio, an editor of the Games Workshop Ltd. magazine White Dwarf, the designer of Schweinfurt, and the developer for Kingmaker. He is also credited with starting the first postal Diplomacy game in the United Kingdom in his magazine Albion. He died of cancer in 2003.


  • In 1974, inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Charles S. Roberts Awards at Origins I.
  • In 2004, he posthumously won the Kathy Byrne Caruso Award for Lifetime Achievement for founding the United Kingdom Postal Hobby.

Turnbull is also co-author of the class U series of AD&D modules, U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, U2 Danger at Dunwater, and U3 The Final Enemy.

I had not heard Turnbull's name mentioned in connection with Kingmaker before. It's a classic multiplayer game of the War of the Roses that won the Charles S. Roberts Award for best game in the early seventies and was still flagship event at my local convention up into the 2000-aughts. I played in the event several times and always did terribly. I have been unable to find much out about Schweinfurt except that it was a wargame. Along the way to investigating that, I found another game credit for Turnbull for something called Cranwell House, but no further details.

You can find scans of some early issues of Turnbull's Diplomacy zine, Albion, here. I think the importance of the Diplomacy scene to the early development of the rpg hobby isn't highlighted enough. Diplomacy is a mechanically simple game that relies heavily on player negotiation and skullduggery. That created a pool of players who were used to talking themselves into and out of trouble. Furthermore, those cats were organized, with zines and clubs and postal games. The same local convention I mentioned above had a Diplomacy tournament as part of the festivities well into the 1990s. 

Speaking of organized, when I looked up the Kathy Byrne Caruso Award to discover it was given by a central committee organizing international Diplomacy play. Here are the qualifications to get the award:

The qualifications for the Kathy Byrne Caruso Lifetime Achievement Award are that the awardee must have been: (1) Active in the Diplomacy Hobby in at least Three Separate Decades; (2) Multidimensional in their Contributions to the Hobby (e.g. writing, playing, publishing); (3) Taking Retirement or Semi-Retirement from the Diplomacy Hobby; and (4) One of the Hobby’s Unique Personalities Worthy of Being Remembered as Long as THE Game Continues to be Played.  

 I love how every game fandom thinks of its game as THE Game.

RIP Don Turnbull.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Who wrote the Fiend Folio? The final chapter




Author Notes

Oracle, Underworld


Apparition, Death dog, Enveloper, Gibberling, Huecuva

“Underworld Oracle” is obviously a pseudonym. My guess is that it represents the duo of Lou Nisbet and Phil Alexander, who co-published/co-edited the Scottish zine of the same name before a falling out. Lou Nisbet is otherwise a cipher, but Phil Alexander also has a couple Alarums & Excursion credits and one in the UK wargame mag Phoenix.

Patterson, Mary



Some work in one issue of the zine Illusionist’s Vision.

Pulsipher, Lewis


Bat (giant), Denzelian, Elemental princes of evil [x5], Poltergeist

One of the more prolific article writers in the early days of RPGs, with numerous pieces in Adventure Gaming, Alarums & Excursions, Dragon, White Dwarf, Chimaera, Different Worlds, The Dungeoneer, Dungeoneers Journal, Gameplay, Games International, The Hobbit Hole, Imagine, News from Bree, Pegasus, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Space Gamer, Trollcrusher, and probably other mags that I missed. I can’t find any RPG product credits for him beyond articles in periodicals.

Several boardgame design credits include Britannia, Sea Kings, Hyborian Risk, Valley of the Four Winds, Stalingrad Beseiged, and Dragonrage

Author of Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish. Teaches game design at the college level. Has his own youtube channel on the subject. Also has his own webpage.

Reynolds, Colin



Some articles in White Dwarf.

Riggs, Nicholas



No further info available.

Roberts, Mike


Hound of ill omen, Tentamort

No further info available.

Schick, Lawrence


Aarakocra, Kelpie, Khargra, Tabaxi

Former head of development at TSR. Hired Tom Moldvay. Most famous D&D credit is the module S2 White Plume Mountain. Had his hand in several other TSR projects, perhaps most notably the Slavers modules and Star Frontiers. Also wrote the adventure Eternity, Inc for the DC Heroes rpg and Divine Intervention, one half of Double Adventure 6 for Traveller.

Author of Heroic Worlds, A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games, which is my favorite reference book on the early hobby.

Later went into video games. Worked for Coleco during the first video games boom, later went to MicroProse. Former America Online executive. Did work on The Elder Scrolls Online.

Scurfield, Bob



Contributor to Treasure Chest article (ongoing reader submission column for magic items, NPCs, and other small bits and bobs)  in White Dwarf #12.

Shaw, Simon



Contributor to Treasure Chest article in White Dwarf #14.

Shearer, Guy



No further info available.

Shepherd, Rik


Dark creeper, Kenku

One credit in the Call of Cthulhu fanzine Dagon. I cannot confirm that the same Rik Shepherd is responsible for this delightful website.

Stollery, Martin


Mephit [x4]

Contributions in a couple of issues of The Beholder zine.

Stross Charles


Death knight, Githyanki, Githzerai, Slaad [x7]

White Dwarf #33 contains his write-up of Zytra, Demon Lord of Mind Flayers.

Hugo-award winning sci-fi/fantasy author best known for his Merchant Princess and Laundry Files series of novels. The latter was turned into a licensed rpg by Cubicle 7.

Sweet, David


Dragon (oriental)[x6]

A.k.a. Dave Sweet. Article on Chinese undead in Dragon #26. At least one article in e-zine Chaosium Digest. Later did art for the Fading Suns rpg line.

Taylor, David


Ettercap, Goldbug, Hellcat

Created the Mindweb, a gestalt monster appearing in White Dwarf #14.

Tilbrook, Simon


Flail snail, Necrophidius

Also wrote up the Phung, a mantis-headed monster from a Jack Vance novel, in White Dwarf #18. There’s a retired history teacher with this name whose twitter account has a still from Monty Python and the Holy Grail on display, so I’m going to assume that’s our man.

Torchia, Andrew



No further info available.

Waring, Dave



A.k.a. David Waring. Contributor to Alarums & Excursions, Trollcrusher, Demonsblood, and the Diplomacy/postal game zines Gallimaufry and The Tinamou.

Waugh, Ian



Created the Pervert character class published in White Dwarf #1. Another credit in wargame magazine The Phoenix.

Wells, Jean


Caryatid column, Giant (fog)

TSR employee from ‘79 to ‘81, during which time she answered questions in Dragon’s Sage Advice column, among other things. Edited B2 The Keep on the Borderlands. Perhaps best known today as the author of the original version of B3 Palace of the Silver Princess, which WotC published as a free pdf back in 2000. Print copies of this rare item now go for thousands of dollars.

Her PC Ceatitle, a 10th level magic-user, appears in the accessory The Rogues Gallery. Wells did the layout for that work.

Died in 2012.

White, Neville


Qullan, Shadow demon, Stunjelly

A.k.a. Alex White, a.k.a. Neville Alexander White. Article in Trollcrusher. Operates a one man game company called Plane Sailing Games.

Wood, Steve



There are a couple of Steve Woods with credits in the hobby. Not sure if the Fiend Folio author is any of them.

Wormell, David


Mantari, Sheet ghoul, Sheet phantom

No further info available.

Wyndham, Jeff


Dire corby

No further info available.

I'm thinking someone needs to write an adventure where the two-headed Oracle of the Underworld sends the PCs on a quest where they encounter Apparitions, Death dogs, an Enveloper, Gibberlings, and a Huecuva.