Best Selling

Friday, August 24, 2012

Dr. Who Prequal

Starting to create a Dr. Who side theme here on the Vanishing Tower... If you just can't wait for the new series of Doctor Who fear not! Next week we'll be bringing you a mini-series called Pond Life, giving you a glimpse at what the Ponds have been up to since we last saw them. Part one launches on Monday and here's an intro to from Karen and Arthur.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Classic Fantasy vs OpenQuest

The short answer;

"Class" vs "Open"

The Long Answer (explained);

As Newt Newport mentions in his introduction to OpenQuest's rule set, the "Open" in OpenQuest refers to the ability to create fantasy settings and characters in a completely unrestricted manner. This is in distinct difference to Mr. Leary's approach to the genre with "Classic Fantasy", a Chaosium monogram. Classic Fantasy attempts to model Dungeons & Dragons directly to the Basic Role Playing D100 system.

Both authors accomplish their goals well and demonstrate how well Basic Role Playing (BRP) responds to "Homebrew" creation and game play.

Leary hews closely to the Dungeons & Dragons canon by first identifying the types of characters players are able to play. A characters "Class" is all enveloping in the world of Gygax, its game function mainly concerned with resolving the characters combat interactions and whether or not the character survives encounters. Each class has the requisite limitations which define these capabilities as compared to those of other classes. A players choice of race also carries the same net of limitations which further narrow the scope of capabilities, and therefore define the player character.

Newport's fantasy mash up, on the other hand, begins character creation with a brainstorming session, requesting each player to come up with a character concept. As the author explains; "A character concept is a one sentence summing up of what the character is all about." The rule set continues on as a guideline in how to translate the character concept into your fleshed out character sheet.

I love this type of game experience myself where the initial player character, while not all that powerful yet, is still a product of my imagination. This is the element I felt was always missing from D&D; the inability to play a character concept completely of ones own imaginings.

I was quickly able to come up with intriguing character concepts off the one sentence rule. It started to become a game of interest and brevity; Disturbed Wizard, Searching Sailor, Cashiered Ranger, Disgraced Warrior, Hunted Magician, Retired Gladiator, Etc... If you are manic about gaming all the best aspects of fantasy found in literature, or being open to new inspiration you can do this well with OpenQuest

But if you are looking to go Gygaxian, you should go with Classic Fantasy because, well, Leary has already gone through the trouble of converting the standard classes, races, and spells. A lot of hard work, I assure you. Unlike Dungeons & Dragons retro-clones, launching a D&D campaign with BRP's Classic Fantasy does allow much more in personal customization of your character class, mostly do to the use of a skills list, and the players characters are more robust overall. Running some friends through TSR's B10 Night's Dark Terror proved Classic Fantasy characters can chop through goblins and minor undead well. Proper tactics assure swift death to surprised opponents. True to BRP form, once these tables are turned on players, swift death can ensue. All in all, Classic Fantasy will give you a great D&D game without the garbage mechanics of Old School, retro or otherwise. Those who do not like a d100 system should not even bother.

And that is why I use OpenQuest. If you are looking for a great system for your own fantasy creations, classic or otherwise, OpenQuest gives you the tools to go right at it! It does put more weight on the Game Master. The GM will have to be invested in the brainstorming session during character creation with the players. Or the GM can offer pregenerated characters. Either way, it means more hands on time by the GM.

For me, this takes the form of ripping off literary sources, as well as available game aids to create classic "styled" fantasy adventures based off of what the players come up with characters. In case the players come up with character concepts which suggest other genres it is good to have several flavors of opening adventures to plug them into. Like I said, OpenQuest will demand a great GM if the group is role playing complete homebrew campaigns. Otherwise you will be practicing the time worn tradition of converting published adventures to your game :)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Doctor Who’s Day Roundup: Season 7 Premiere Screening In London. Tonight.

Yes I am playing around with the features on the blog. Nothing wrong with pimping the Doctor!

Reaper Miniatures on Kickstarter

Looks like the folks over at Reaper Miniatures are getting a lot of love on their latest product launch. Their kickstarter campaign for these plastic miniatures has raised over $688,000!!! And why not? Seems like you get great sets for decent money.


Why are we doing this?

Since the launch of Bones in March, a full third of the figures we ship are Bones Gaming Miniatures.  We have 8 pages of Bones suggestions going in our forum.  It's clear that you, our fans, want more of these Bones figures.  And why not?  They're awesome sculpts at a terrific price!  What's not to love?

International Journal of Role-Playing

This seems like a relatively new web site with some intriguing aims. Just follow this link and review. Feel free to post any thoughts on the merits of the site here. As this blog will mainly focus on one man's attempts for face to face play, I will add my formal review later...

Monday, August 13, 2012

B10 Night's Dark Terror, First game out west was back east...

I truly saw hope for a face to face RPG this summer when I went back east to see family. It took insistent Facebook posts to many former gaming friends and a willingness to go anywhere at any time, but I achieved it. I managed to get two other players across the table with Player Character Sheets in one hand and polyhedral dice in the other!

What follows is the after action report I generated to commemorate the occasion. We played TSR's B10 Night's Dark Terror with BRP's Classic Fantasy rules by Rodney Leary.

From the private diaries of Princess Illiria:

A tale of bold adventure as written by Lady Illiria Callathian of House Callathian in the month of Klarmont this common year of 978 from the home of my father, Lord Callathian. May his spirit always lend light to the protectors of the realm. This is a tale of the brave clansmen of Sukiskyn Steading and their valiant defense of their homes against a rising tide of evil which threatened East Karameikos, if not all of the great Duchy itself. Guided by the steady hand of Ethan the Pure, relying on the forest lore of Darkin Youngshanks, and aided by the strength of the mighty Traldarian warrior Udoben I am able to relate to you all the dark days of adventure which befell us all…

PC’s have no trouble holding the steading against the goblin squads which attempt to overrun the buildings. Assessing the damage the attacking monsters wrought the clan’s leader, Pytor, is completely despondent. With the theft of his entire herd his successful horse operation is ruined. He begs the PC’s to try and save his animals from the clutches of the goblin hordes. He reminds the elf princess that the pregnant mare is amongst the captured. The pressure to rescue the herd of whites is indeed great. The cleric uncovers religious fetishes carried by the goblin dead which indicate the two goblin tribes worship the ancient beast lords the Dog, and the Bear.

The party consists of the elf princess who is always accompanied by her ranger body guard, the visiting cleric feels compelled to investigate the threat of the beast lord cult, while the fighter who is under Pytor’s employ is ordered to lead the expedition. The four will be able to travel on the horses they arrived on. They leave by early afternoon quickly on the heels of the retreating goblin horde.

Knowing they were only hours behind the fleeing horde, the PC’s take deliberate care to stay just off the monster’s heels. The ranger mostly ranged while the party stayed put, bringing them up once he had scouted many leagues ahead.

The frightened herd of Sukiskyn whites is spotted across from a wooded hillside with a rocky brook trickling along the front. The primitive paddock is constructed of thorny bunches of brambles grown into a thick, dense mass approximately four feet high. Two wargs loiter outside the one opening. The horses are too frightened to attempt to run or leap the thorn bush walls. The horses have the capability. They could easily leap the paddock walls, and outdistance the wargs, but they are too gripped with fear. 

The PC’s count the number of horses in the paddock, and look for the pregnant mare amongst them. They notice it is only half the herd. 21 total horses are in the thorn paddock, and the pregnant mare is not among them. 

The elfin princess cast forth arcane symbols in the air breathing strange words of power and a white wisp, tendrils of delicate smoke begin to rise from the earth around the 2 menacing dire wolves. Unaware of the subtle clouds enchanted qualities, the fearsome creatures doze gently into a sleep. With the only outside guards neutralized, the party boldly approaches the goblin’s front door. The stout wooden door has a crude lock keeping the handle from working. The elf’s lock pick set does not have the appropriate tool to unhinge it so the ranger, and the fighter?cleric? jointly kick it down. The warriors force their way into the entry. After lighting torches one of the party members (I believe it was either the ranger or fighter with spear) moves down the passage way. Confronting the goblin blockade they quickly overrun the position, and continue on.

They push their way into the main hall of the underground goblin lair. Here the goblin shaman with the rock pythons has assembled his personal guard to meet the attackers. He immediately throws two squirming snakes and one manages to wrap around the elf’s arm. The guards rush the party. While the elf struggles with the crushing grip of the rock python, the warriors make quick work of the goblins. It takes a moment to stab the aggressive snake, but not before the elf’s arm received significant crushing damage. Chance to cast spell has been reduced by 25% until healed. The party takes a moment to attend to the wounds received in the two quick melee sessions. The cleric and the elf received wounds which require attention. While administering the triage, the party forgets about the other Rock Python the dead goblin shaman had hurled. It strikes from the shadows and bites down on the elf’s leg causing a wound. With this minor annoyance dealt with the party investigates the room a bit. Here they find a small box with three bottles of potion, jewelry, and coin. They also turn up a wounded goblin (or one of them surrendered?) and do a fast interrogation. Confirming that the goblin raiders are making for the Lake of Lost Dreams the fighter kills the goblin. 

The party is now confronted with the issue of the split herd. The pregnant mare is believed to be essential in the goblin’s plans and whatever the goblins are up to should be stopped. Unchecked goblin aggression and sorcery can only spell doom for countless Traldarian homesteaders. But to forge ahead onto the lake would mean leaving the current horses they just secured defenseless and lost in the Dymrak forest.

The ranger smartly asks if he knows any helpful information about the Dymrak and wants to roll against his wilderness lore, and folk lore skills. Scoring a good roll, he knows of Loshad, a centaur. He is rumored to be a self appointed keeper of the Dymrak and the creatures which inhabit it. Surely if he could be summoned he could be entrusted with the safekeeping of the horses. The fact that they wish to pursue even more horses and save them from the black goblin beasts should say the woodland druid to their cause. There is a glade in which the Vylari elves pay homage to the keepers of the forest not far from here and the ranger recommends they make an attempt to contact Loshad. The elf and the cleric agree to accompany the ranger and try and call the on the centaur while the fighter chooses to stay and guard the horses.

The ranger knows the fabled greeting verse but says he is not good at such things. The cleric steps forth and gives his best oration in the woodland glade. Presently a centaur appears flanked by three majestic war horse and gives the group a greeting. The centaur listens intently  to what the PC’s have to say and offers a bargain.

Loshad agrees to take the 21 Sukiskyn horses under his protection but if the PC’s would like them returned to Sukiskyn Steading they will have to destroy the earthly champions fighting on behalf of the Dog and the Bear. These two loathsome servants of evil crave power over the Dymrak and wish to feast on the blood of its denizens. Upon delivering their heads to this glade Loshad will release the horses from his care. 

He does forewarn the party they lack the weapons of power to face these demons. That they are men transformed by the disease of lycanthropy and will take special care to defeat. The path to the lake will bring you face to face with danger, but also on this path will you find the tools you need to be victorious. None have called on the vanquished beast lords of old in countless centuries, and the goblins should not be allowed to try herald their return. All this Loshad discloses to the PC’s. 

“Ask the Vyalia elves who watch the lake for where such weapons of power can be found. Ask for the weapons of the huntsman because the beast is loose.” And with that the mighty centaur vanishes into the forest with his body guards and the herd.

Upon returning to the Viper’s lair they find the fighter bereft of horses. He explains three magnificent war horse came galloping into the glen and led the herd away. He was transfixed by the brilliant singing which emanated throughout the surrounding forest. While the language was not intelligible, the effect was exhilarating as it was calming. He assumed the negotiations with the magical centaur went well.

Resuming their journey now on foot (as all the horses went with Loshad’s heralds) the PC’s arrive at the Lake of Lost Dreams .

Travel Times
48 miles from Sukiskyn to the Viper’s lair.
27 miles from the Viper’s lair to the Lake of Lost Dreams.
27 miles from the lake to the Tombs on the Hill.
63 miles from the tombs to Sukiskyn.
21 miles from the tombs to the Were beasts lair.
59 miles from the lake to Sukiskyn

At the Lake of Lost Dreams the PC’s are confronted by a much larger goblin horde than they had encountered during the fight for Sukiskyn steading. The Viper, Red Blade, and Wolf Skull tribes are joined by at least one other goblin tribe. Maybe more. The number of goblins is over two hundred and fifty with at least a quarter of them mounted on dire wolves. The additional horses captured in the raid are held against the edge of the forest under the surrounding gaze of 4 wargs. The horses have been hobbled so they cannot run away. On the shore the goblins are roasting horseflesh over great fires while the goblin kings argue with a thin man clothed in yellow . The angry man is backed by a group of fearsome hobgoblin bodyguards. A smaller squad of goblins is finishing a raft which they are loading the pregnant mare onto. The raft is adorned with horse skulls and markings of the beast lord cult. 

While the PC’s deliberate on what to do five elves make their appearance out of the night. They are a group of Vyalia elves and they believe the yellow robed magician intends to summon the beast lords by performing an ancient ritual at the temple on the island found in the lake. The goblin horde has been gathering on the lake shore for the past several days seemingly in anticipation of the blood ritual. The elves implore the PC’s to aid them in their attempt to thwart the summoning ritual.

While the Vylia elves are forbidden to step foot on the island itself, they can show the PC’s a secret stone path which leads across the water to the island. They inform the PC’s that there is a temple at the center of the island which was dedicated to the Grey Gods, the gods of the Vylian elves. But the beast lords were ascendant, and the Grey Gods were cast out of Mystara. Not until the coming of man, and the High Clerics where the beast lords and their demon allies cast from the realm and the age of man established. But the temple on the island had been desecrated and a great evil laid over it. Insanity and death befell any of the Vyalia who dared tread in the once hallowed halls of the temple. The great artifact, the White Mirror, was turned toward the summoning of evil. The “Black Mirror”, under the hands of mad necromancers of old, would  call forth the black beast lords to walk the earth among elves and men. Great sorrow poured forth from the mirror and only after the total annihilation of all the sordid priesthood’s acolytes and the dark knowledge they possessed were the beast lords stopped. The elves fear the magician is going to try and open that long dormant gateway once again.

The elves promise to help free their white horses from the clutches of the goblins if they make an attempt to stop the summoning ritual. 

Once upon the island the party sees the magic user leading a group of 4 hobgoblins and the pregnant mare. At the temple 4 hooded acolytes are positioned around a central alter. Torches adorn the temple, while the hobgoblins have each a torch as well as a rope attached to the horse. 

The party wastes no time on the attack. Conjuring another sleep spell the elf is successful in knocking 2 of the hobgoblin guards unconscious. The ranger sinks an arrow into Golthar which brings him to his knees. Additional volleys are sent at the nearest acolyte striking home. Suddenly the temple is shrouded in a cloak of darkness yielding no more visible opponents. 

The 2 hobgoblin guards on their feet howl in anger and charge the party wielding large broadswords. The sword play is protracted with the charmed hobgoblins shaking off the sleep spell and joining the fray. Fortunately the party is able to maintain a 2-1 advantage and cut down the guards beneath multiple attacks.

Approaching the darkness enveloped temple the cleric boldly runs up the steps and in. Satisfied the mist only affects vision he is shortly joined by the rest of the heroes. A visible blood trail leads to an iron ladder leading into a stone lined chamber below. Two acolytes standing in the shadows attack the party with knives. The mad eyed fanatics are dispatched and their robes turned out. They are inscribed with Dog and Bear symboligy while the sleeves have stitched in an attached pair of gloves made of tough layers of leather. The fighter and the elf don the robes in an attempt to appear as the cultists. The elf listens at the opening before descending. Exploring the level they notice the original motifiefs to the Elvin lords is scarred and overwritten by much more primitive hieroglyphs. Inanimate skeletons found in the anti chambers leads to party to conclude that they are burial chambers. And who is to say they are not?

The elf makes a successful dodge roll after grabbing hold of the stair without using the gloves inside her robes. A critical success avoids all damage while a blue white crackling discharge erupts in the room. After much discussion about being careful, the fighter and elf head down the next ladder. Once on the deepest level of the temple the elf once again leads the way down the passage. A failed spot roll leads to the dart trap being triggered. Failing the second consecutive dodge roll the elf sinks to the ground unconscious with a dart in her ankle. The rest of the party decides to leave her there and press the attack. Bursting through the door the fighter? and cleric? Fail sanity rolls and are immobilized by the sights before them. The elf is protected from the maddening inducing properties of the mirror by the fact she is rendered senseless by the dart venom. The remaining upright character gets entangled with the two remaining acolytes while Golthar pleads for aid from the appearing Dog and the Bear. Without the blood sacrifice of the unborn stallion the Dog and Bear could not step through the mirror. Without the consummation of the blood pack their powers are diminished, but they would send what aid they could. The beast lords tell the magician to look to their champions Balikask and Kalakask to lead the goblin tribes and return the Dymrak to the domain of night. The beast lords urge the magician to strike soon as his path is now being thwarted by the will Lords of Light. With that they fade and Golthar, wailing in anger, departs the underground chambers in a foaming black comet. 

The chamber is left with the bodies of the two dead acolytes and the smoldering black mirror. The party smashes the mirror with their weapons and departs, but not before the elf regains her senses. The elf is on the verge of attacking the party when the mirror is smashed. She is immediately released from her increasing madness. Fleeing the lower chambers they find the mare roaming the island and return to the mainland. 

Here the Vyalia elves approach the successful party again, and suggest freeing the horses from their hobbles. With the goblin band unaware of what has transpired on the island they could charm the dire wolves, and give the horses the break they need to flee into the forest. With the protection of Lorshad being extended to the creatures of the forest once again the elves feel once released the horses will find themselves to Loshad and come under his protection. At least they will be free of the goblins and the stew pot. The elves urge the princess to bring the mare back to Sukiskyn as soon as possible. One of the Vyalia leads the PC’s safely away from the lake and on the path to Sukiskyn.

The party makes the journey back to the steading with only the mare in tow. The journey is uneventful. There are no further encounter with roving bands of goblins, though signs of their passing can be found by the sharp eyed ranger.

Pytor is relieved to see the mare returned in good health. He had already given her and the unborn foal up for lost. The lack of any of the rest of his herd has him totally despondent though. He doesn’t see how they will ever recover the lost herd. If the heads of the were-beasts are truly required to earn the horses release Pytor laments such a task could be accomplished. The steading has no such weapons of power to thwart such evil. The idea of melting down silver into weapons is discarded as impractical as what little silver could be gathered no one on the grounds possesses the skill to manufacture. It would seem the Tombs on the Hill as suggested by the Vyalia would be the only known place in which to find enchanted items.

The party sets out three days later after the new young stallion is born. They do not now have the luxury of riding on horseback. Pytor refuses to lend any more to the PC’s. The journey on foot takes five days as they skirt the edge of the Dymrak forest. This is to avoid being spotted on the open plains to the north while keeping as much distance between the party and the goblin horde. 

Upon arriving on the rocky hills where the tombs can be found the party examines the portals on each. They all appear to be blocked up with a stone door sealed in with mortar. Choosing the tomb of the warrior they look for traps before chiseling away the old mortar. The PC’s do not intend to let the terrible visions inflicted by the evil presence of the tomb turn them away from their labor. Once inside and they resist the stench of death the PC’s penetrate the length of the tomb and confront the two weirds. Successfully turning the undead terrors, the cleric strides forth and claims the silver tipped spear gripped in a statue of human warrior. This propels the globe wielding fiends at the rest of the party who have fun engaging the elusive shades. The battle is over quickly though. The characters combat skills so far have kept them from serious harm. They return to the outside, and rest for the night. 

In the morning they tackle the next tomb entrance. This one leads them to a crystal coffin containing a mummified corpse. The presence of the PC’s and the close inspection in which they give all the frescos is too much for the starved ghoul and it leaps out at the characters. It is brought down under a flurry of sword strokes leaving the ghoul in shreds. The crystal coffin is shattered without trouble and the jewel encrusted mace is taken up by the lusty cleric! Successful incantation of a perceive spell reveals the ancient weapon has magical properties.

This leaves one more tomb to be braved. Close inspection reveals an additional entrance from the main. Upon receiving the seductive and pleasant visions delivered by the unknown enchantment surrounding the main entrance, the PC’s decide to proceed through the newly discovered secret door believing it to be the “safer” of the two choices. Once inside the damp, rough hewn chamber beyond they are immediately set upon by the living statue guardian inside. The acidic ooze which spills from the creature manages to ruin a spear and a broadsword before the creature is reduced to a bubbling, caustic pool. Reaching the finished stone chambers beyond they come across the last weapon in which to provide the edge they need, the Huntsman’s Knife. An enchanted, silver edged short sword worn by rangers who fought against the were creatures and demons in the beast lords dark armies of old. After realizing they had avoided any traps by entering the tomb from the secret entrance the party retreats back out the way they came. 

Standing once again in the daylight the characters agree to rest and discuss their next move. 

The elf princess will want to eliminate the were-beasts so as to secure the release of her father’s new stallion. She holds no illusion that Pytor will not give up the new born without the return of his livelihood. The cleric would like to inspect the room in which he retrieved the mace and the mummified remains of the body which held it. His scientific interest has been piqued. The writing on the mace is entirely foreign and the mummy had unnatural physiology which he had no time to examine in any sort of detail. The fighter is concerned for the safety of Sukiskyn steading and wants to know what to do about the goblin horde at large. He is extremely anxious to return and see to the homestead’s defenses. The ranger will want to see the centaur’s task completed as quickly as possible. He wants to get the princess back to Rifflian as soon as he can. Baby horse or not.

What does the party do?

And so 7-1/2 hours were spent most pleasantly. Look forward to my next trip back east, maybe a game session once every two years?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

OpenQuest 2 now available for pre-order

Everyone should be well aware of D101 Games releasing OpenQuest 2 and you can pre-order the game at the company's web site here!

Get it, love it, play it!

Here is a link to a review of OpenQuest from way back in 2009.

OpenQuest and why I'm using it...

My first gaming years were spent under the magic and poor game mechanics of AD&D.  This led to the rest of the TSR line; Gamma World, Top Secret, Boot Hill, and GangBusters. While the different genres afforded great flights of fancy for my regular teen game group, there was always the nagging disappointment that I was unable to create a player character to my exact tastes.

This led first to Space Opera, Flashing Blades, and Pirates & Plunder. Then GURPS and Champions. The only thing which increased was complexity while game opportunities shrank and shrank. I eventually found my way to Chaosium and Elric! which introduced me to the D100 system for the first time. But by then it was too late. Gaming was now just an interesting shelf on my bookcase. Or instant death to dating if left out!

So this OSR is flaring up everywhere and my discriminating taste has landed on OpenQuest, from D101 Games.

This is the game which gets fantasy role playing right. It has won me over. It has resisted every attempt to tinker with the mechanics. When I mean resisted I mean after some reflection I would abandon the proposed fix which would pop into my opinionated GM head. Studying the rule set (as there is no one yet to play with) I could not help but feel I was being well cared for as a player. Hopefully this means the Game Master load should be very manageable, because I am positive I will have to shoulder this burden as I attempt to uncover RPG players in the rural Rockies.

It is an excellent introduction to role playing games for newcomers as well as the long dormant player. This is because of the simple entrance point provided by the insightful author by "Starting Character Generation with a Character concept. A character concept is a one sentence summing up of what the character is all about."

Anyone can do this!

The only issue I have yet to resolve is Literacy. A required eighty percent or higher is required to be literate in the specific language skill. This means many illiterate magicians with a maximum of 75% in any starting skill.

Otherwise I'm going with no House Rules!

Reason for The Vanishing Tower

The Vanishing Tower is a mad attempt to enjoy face to face RPG's in the rural west far from any concentration of mature gamers.

There is an obvious proliferation of old gamers reminiscing, playing, and exploring the path this great interactive hobby has taken. A reflection on what joy was found burning so many hours  around a table with creative friends.

And the obvious challenge of continuing the narrative art with the real world demands, and the disapproving attitudes civilians direct toward this geek activity.

Those who find themselves in a more urban environment have tremendous opportunity to locate and create numerous gaming opportunities. Those who do not have a steep hill to climb when it comes to creating a fun gaming group. Level of interest, number of available players, and distance all conspire to thwart the success of anyone looking for Face to Face gaming.

My hope is to blog about a creation of such group here in the high Rockies and the adventures it will share.

Initial Post During Design

This is an initial post to take up space while I design the blog for public consumption.

First issue is uploaded image for Header does not appear. Hmmm.....

Got that figured out. Now for "correct" color, and layout.

Happy with the current arrangement. This will be the template for The Vanishing Tower.

And if anyone can tell me how to eliminate the large space between posts please let me know!

Got that figured out as well!