Wednesday 28 October 2015

[Map] Space Wizard's Fort

A map I drew for SL&VL zine issue 2. For +Mikael Tuominen's adventure.

[Review] Return Of The Mad Hermit

What Is It?

This adventure is for Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox and designed for a bunch of low lever characters with total level amount of 12 by +Pete Spahn from Small Niche Games.

The pdf is 26 pages with three pages of OGL and seven pages worth of maps. Two first pages are the title and cover pages.

Layout is one column, nothing special, but easy to read on computer or mobile phone screen. Dimensions are 6x9" what makes it a nice booklet print, too.

Only illustration in this pdf is +James V West's really nice cover picture.

This adventure is part of a WhiteBox One-Shots line of short wilderness side treks, dungeon delves, and other brief encounters. Sounds perfect line of products for those days when you are out of your Gamemaster juice or not all players could arrive to game.

The Adventure

The premise is good, dimension hopping romp with dungeon crawl elements with different monsters and challenges. Setting agnostic too, so you can use this in any campaign you are currently running!

The backround story is nice, but in my opinion adventures need more what is happening now and why are they going to get involved in it than what happened in the past no one can be involved in anymore. Basically the few last sentences in the background are what matter to begin the adventure, and rest is just for Gamemasters to enjoy. I don't call this a flaw, it is just something I am not into that much. Backgrounds are important to get Gamemaster into the mood, but also might contain nice details you can use to flesh out your own campaigns. I am a guy who likes short descriptions and bullet point type ideas to harvest. Sure the adventure history is something player characters might hear, but it's still a bit longish to explain to the players as it is. A shorter version would serve my gaming style way much better. But hey, this is not super long, only two pages.

The adventure is really easy to throw in any part of your campaign involving camping. You don't need to build the beginning, it just happens. Also it is quite easy to get the player characters to the next part(s) of the adventure, unless the players try to ignore anything going on around. If the players continue to ignore the adventure altogether, there are some suggestions how to make it work anyways.

The fun part begins in the wizard's tower (yes, this is one of those adventures where everything happens because of wizard(s)), where multiple items are actually portals to other dimensions. There are several places to end to, all different from each other. These are not tricks or puzzles to solve, just ordinary items to interact with. The party cannot be separated, as all the characters are transported to the dimension based on which item was interacted with.

It might be that after exploring and getting out of one of these pocket dimensions characters don't want to explore the others. I think that's okay, but the adventure has ways to force characters to check out the rest of the dimensions too - they might even be assassinated if they don't! Well, I am okay with this, because it is up to Gamemaster and the group should they explore every bit of it or not, so this is just a hook to keep player characters involved in the adventure. It's everyone's personal decision how much they force players to the right direction, or to complete (any) adventure.

The pocket dimensions are short, only with few encounter areas. But that is good for a short adventure. Each of the dimension is different from sewers to a forest.  My favorite of these pocket dimensions is either lost world type place (because dinosaurs) or the volcanic environment, because lava is just so damn cool - and dangerous! Also the special item in the volcanic cave is lots of fun.

These pocket dimensions are not something with a story, they small palaces you visit and explore. Perfect for one-shot but lots of variety in locations. The pocket dimensions can be really atmospheric if the Gamemaster has any effort to describe the places.

I really like them all!

The ending of the adventure is a little lame. Well, this is not world-saving adventure, but a side quest, so it is understandable. The exploration of this adventure is the reward, not the conclusion in my opinion.

There are new monsters in this adventure. They are not weird or special, quite ordinary, but very, very nice. I think all monsters of this adventure could make a great lost world random encounter table entries on their own!


This is a short-ish adventure, but there are quite a few pages so a table of contents could have been cool addition. The adventure is pretty straightforward, but still. There are trap like enviromental tricks, monsters, and treasure. Everything needed!

Things in adventure text that refer to other pages of the pdf are in bold, what makes it easier to navigate and understand the structure and what might happen next.

I like some explanations why something is like it is: because old school. Because dinosaurs.

The maps are many and simple. I do like how there are some illustration on the first map to easily visualize the location. Other maps look computer made, really simple and traditional in layout. The maps are not special nor crappy. They serve their purpose very well and are easy and clear to read.


For little less than two bucks you'll get one night's worth of adventuring. Because the adventure is interesting in content and has lots of neat little places to visit, I do recommend this. Re-play value for the same group is not that high, but I think this can be an adventure you keep in your OSR folder to pick up when the game for some reason is not advancing in the campaign. Great adventure to keep around - just in case!

Buy the pdf at RPGNow, current price $1.99

Tuesday 27 October 2015

A glance at the Monster Skeleton Creator

This is the illustration page for my next Patreon material. The second page will contain more information and details.

If you want to get the second page of this before Halloween, support me at Patreon (starting from $0.10 per creation). If you would rather wait, this will be published at Crypt of D-oom next month.

In the comments, share your favorite Halloween RPG material!

Monday 26 October 2015

[Maps] Tavern and Pub

Here are two generic maps for a project me and +Shane Ward are working on. A tavern, and a pub. There are not labels for these (yet), but I think these two are more or less self-explained.



Thursday 22 October 2015

Lost Caverns and Lord's Stronghold 5x5 geomorphs

I created these two 5x5 geomorph sets for Inkwell Ideas' competition. If you want the empty templates, you'll find them from the previous post HERE.

Lost Caverns

Lord's Stronghold

Tuesday 13 October 2015

5x5 Geomorph templates x2

Here are two 5x5 Geomorph templates I created for a contest by Inkwell Ideas. 5x5 is a challenging format, because there is not that much space and I keep thinking, that one square equals 10 feet!

Feel free to use!

You can also download it here:

Monday 12 October 2015

[D&D 5E] Leveling without experience points tracking

Adventurer party from
+David Rollins made an interesting blog post about a campaign, where he would use Lamentations Of The Flame Princess material in Known World setting using 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons rules.

This is what David wrote in his post:
"My big challenge will be adapting the experience awards in the adventures to suit 5E. I'm reading through my new DMG in the hopes that I can figure out a fair way to assign experience since the adventures I'm using where [sic] designed to use treasure as the main source of XP rather than the conflict."
This is what I would do! This is not my original idea. I've read this somewhere, probably many times from different sources. But I like it.

The number of adventures/modules you play is how fast you level.

Rule of thumb: You level when you've completed number of adventures/modules equal to your current level. First level character needs to complete one adventure, fifth level needs to complete five adventures. Fifth level character has completed total of 15 adventures.

Some adventures are shorter or easier, some longer or harder.

Easy fix. Easy or short adventures equal 1/2 or even 1/4 of a "normal" adventure. Hard or long adventures might equal to two or three normal adventures. You might need four very short and/or easy adventures to get to the second level. From third to fourth level you might need only two longer or harder adventures.
If the adventures are hard enough to earn you more than just one level, just ignore the rest. You cannot skip levels, same thing with gold-xp.

Works best with unified experience charts.

Old-school games usually have unique experience charts for each character class. More modern D&D versions have same experience advancement chart for each of the classes. Easy to adapt for modern versions, might need tweaking for older versions, as the classes are balanced with experience point requirements.

Do you have a way to convert B/X or 1E (or even more recent) experience points for the fifth edition, or vice versa?

Share your method in comments!

Disclaimer: I haven't read 5th edition rules (yet), so I don't know what I am talking about!

Friday 9 October 2015

Checking out Chthonian Highways part 1

Here's their website:
Here's the free alpha 0.3 release:

Because I am busy at the moment, I won't read the whole file. It's 63 pages (including the covers) and that's too much at the moment. I just check it out and comment what I see! This is a free pdf, so you should check it out yourself!

ATTENTION! I did write this p/review while reading the file, so here are some mistakes about the rules. I didn't quite get every concept how things work. This review is my opinion of the game and doesn't tell is the game good or not. Only you can tell it! I do think this is going to be a good thing, for people who like mechanics like this. Johnny blaze in his review (link) wrote: "More than FATE, less than D&D".

Hans Zenjuga is good artist. It's all his work in this product.
Chthonian Highways is a post-apocalyptic setting with Cthulhu Mythos. Sounds good, doesn't it? For me the setting is interesting enough to rip for other games, if the rules of this suck. But if the rules are good (well, You like them), you can probably ignore the setting. I am most interested in vehicle rules.

There's an one-page short story, I didn't read. There's information of the world, I didn't read either. But I think they are cool read, as they are quite broad. Not exhaustingly long this-and-that I don't like at all. Of course this is a demo, so it's hard to say how detailed the world description and the history part are going to be.

I do approve long world descriptions, if the necessary information is easy and quick to read to get a good idea of the world. The history part is usually quite boring for me, because I focus on what will happen, and not what happened. Naturally it's nice to know how the hell we and up here and why things are like they are, but I don't enjoy reading pages after pages of that kind of information. Easily skipped and as I said, I don't know what these parts are going to be in the final product. This was just an opinion of world and history texts in general in gaming products.

Ironcore Engine is the system used in this game. It is similar to d20 system (Pathfinder, D&D 3E) and Cypher System (Numenera, Strange). I am not familiar with Cypher, but being compatible with 3E style games means, it can also be quite easily compatible with old-school rules (OSR, yo!). HD, AC, that's basically what you need for stats, amirite?

System is easy enough; d20 + Skill + mods versus Challenge Level (CL). Edge and handicap work just like D&D 5E dis/advanteges; roll 2d20, keep other.

Special rules and whatnot: With pushing action you can add Fatigue points to your Ability. Some might like this, but I find it unnecessary addition. Stunt effects you get when you get 5 or better result against the CL. These are kinda like criticals. There's a list of effects like bonus to initiative or better/quicker result of an action. Velocity points you get from extraordinary successes and failures, and can be used to things like re-rolls and boosts. Strain is different kinds of damage, a penalty to your ability. Strained abilities can lead to exhaustion and exhausted abilities cannot be pushed.

My opinion on the rules? D20/3E is easy, if you keep it easy. 3E without feats and shit is quite simple to learn. Roll d20 and add stuff. In Chthonian Highways the core is that simple, but I don't quite like pushing, stunts, strain etc. They feel like a gimmick and extra things you have to keep track of. Maybe for more modern players (I was a modern player, got exhausted, began enjoying old-school) these are normal things to include and keep track of, but I am perfectly happy without stuff like this. I mean, Game Master and players can (and are encouraged to) describe stuff like this and apply rules as needed.

But the real question is, whether I like the rules or don't, are they good? I'd say the rules are quite solid. D20 (3E) has been, and still is extremely popular and familiar. People like 5E dis/advantage system. All the additional stuff more modern players might enjoy getting some moving parts to just rollin the d20. What's best, the rules are easy to strip!

Road warriors, the characters have an ability range of 1 to 20, but normal people's abilities are 3-5. Quite-a-range! Skills range is 1 to 10. Each skill is connected to an ability, what means which ability is used when the skill is pushed. It would be more interesting, if the skills-ability-connection wasn't determined, but could be fit for different situations. This way players are encouraged to use their character stats in a creative way. Easy fix, just decide it and nothing is broken.

Character creations has three familiar methods, using 2d6 instead of 3d6: divide points, roll 5 sets, discard lowest, and 2d6 in order for "hardcore players". Does Cypher use 2d6 and why doesn't Chthonian Highways use 3d6 is a mystery to me. But yeah, me likes.

Different roles give you different skills, starting gear and money (Barter Bitz). The character roles are broad archtypes which cover everything needed in my opinion.

I thought "choose a drive" meant this!
When reading "choose a drive" I was all fuck yeah! But it is actually your character's passion, motive, or reason. What the heck, I want to drive around and blow shit up, with a real drive made of metal and stuff, that's my drive. Whenever my drive relates the situation I get Velocity. Not for me. Yet another thing you have to keep track of (and remember) what actually doesn't improve anything in my opinion. Then you choose a vice, your dark side.

Skill list isn't bloated, what is a good thing. I hate long skill lists, because they don't add anything. I appreciate this. 20 points can be used to skills. Max 4, except class skills 6.

Experience points are not only to make your character better, but are also used to remove some ill effects like recovering or removing a point of Madness. I am not quite sure I like how your achievements are used to keep your character in order - but in the other hand, it's not that bad meta-game resource at all. Experience points keep you going, what fits the post-apocalyptic-mythos-world.

Junk section has stuff you can get. Weapons first. Weapons have traits like area of effect, automatic, blunt, difficult, entangle, heavy, impact, long, long reload, loud, pierce, pistol, quick, range, rending, scatter, single use, stun, thrown, and two-handed. These are basically special rules and descriptions of the weapon in question. Knife is quick what means "a character wielding a Quick weapon can attack the same target with an Edge if he used his Reaction in addition to the Action." Blunt weapons "cannot be used for cutting. They have Damage Handicap against Hard armors, but Damage Edge against Light armors." I see what they do there, but the implementation is a bit clumsy. OR it's just me being grumpy.

There's plenty of other stuff to get you in the mood. Nice list.

Combat: There's plenty of little things in combat, and most of it I'd ignore. I can make up stuff on the fly depending on the situations. I just need a core system to run some dice. Bonus thing is, though, if you appreciate things you got lots of topics covered here, so you don't have to guess things. Problem is, more things are covered in a rulebook more you have to rely on the book and that makes game slower. Unless you know the rules well, though.
More is less here, because you can always strip the stuff you don't need, so different things covered is not a bad thing at all.
Armors  have Armor Value what is damage reduce. You don't attack against AC, but 10 (small 5, lare 15) + athletics + mods. If and when you hit and roll damage, then armor reduces it this and that much. I am okay with this, even though I want games to work the way when you hit, you hit. No extras after hitting, it's straight damage. In Vampire: the Masquerade soaking sucked the fun out of everything. You hit well, but deal ridiculously low damage. Same problem here, you might end up hitting your opponent for 1 damage with each hit, making things boring. Well, in those cases when your opponent is too well armored, you need to figure another way to conquer him.
In D&D style games Armor Class as to-hit-target versus Armor Class as damage reduce has been debated a lot. For firearms this might be better, though. I mean you shoot someone, you hit, you better have that vest to stop the bullet, right?

Wheels, this is the chapter I am most anticipated of! This is the chapter I am going to read very well, and cover in part 2. This is the chapter I am most likely to use in other games (Mutant Future, I am looking at you, why didn't you include damn vehicle rules).


Conclusion: A solid game, but there is too much stuff for me. It is familiar with some core mechanics from 3E with added modernisations. I like stripped down version of 3E, or old-school style rules. So basically this game, in rules, doesn't give me anything I needed to use or anything that I cannot do already with my favorite systems. Except possibly vehicle rules I am very excited of!

The setting is interesting (what little I shuffled it) and easily used in any system.

It looks good. Layout is very Finnish. It's good, but looks very... this! Illustration is very, very good. I've seen old works of the artist, Hans Zenjuga, and he's come a long way to this.

Can I recommend this? Absolutely. Why? Three simple reasons:

  1. The beta is free, so you lose nothing if you check it out and make your own opinions.
  2. Post-apocalyptic road warriors and Cthulhu Mythos? Hell yeah!
  3. Rules are quite simple and don't try too much. They take the popular format and add stuff they like. Not a single thing there which removing would cripple the system.
My objective evaluation of a product that is not directed rules-wise for me ends here, and continues with part 2 covering vehicles and vehicle rules.