Five Star Review of Crypts and Things Remastered over at Drivethrurpg.com

Although Crypts and Things has been out a good five years now, once in a while it gets a 4-5 star view over at DriveThruRpg.com. As quoted below, this one was especially useful since Patrick Y, the reviewer, had just finished a campaign.

I just concluded a six-month campaign, taking a party up through level five. Everyone had a blast and would have been happy to continue. My experiences track with the previous reviews. Crypts & Things is an excellent OSR game that captures everything I like about the Sword & Sorcery genre, without including tropes that more properly belong to high fantasy settings.

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

This essay is included with The Sorcerer Under the Mountain, a decidedly old school dungeoneering adventure for 5th Edition adventure. It details my own journey from died in the wool OSR DM, to confident 5th Edition DM.

I started playing in the mid-80s, with using the D&D Basic (Red Box) and Expert (blue box) sets, which were commonly available from UK toy shops at the time. After about two years I graduated to AD&D 1st ed which I bought from a friend’s brother. In the early 90s, I bought 2nd Ed but it never really gelled because it felt like too much of a rewrite which made the game bland in tone and execution, and I wasn’t keen on the endless player options books. I bought 3.5 multiple times, wanted to like it but too much like the Collectable Card Game of RPGs because of the way Feats worked for players. As I was raised on the much simpler B/X, it was all too much. So, I embraced the OSR in the early part of the last decade, because it’s what I know and even where it progresses it’s in a logical way that D&D would have gone if they had only done cleaned up versions.

I found 5th ed initially confusing. My initial assessment was that it was very much a museum piece to satisfy all fans of all editions.

But would it please me?

To find out, here’s the full essay.

Five Flavours of Fantasy D100 gaming

This is my personal take.

Even though I’m the author of OpenQuest, which being one of D101’s main gaming lines takes up a lot of my energy (writing, developing and promoting), I like to play different styles of D100 Fantasy gaming

RuneQuest is the grand-old standard of D100 gaming. It’s where D100 has its start.  RuneQuest 2 (now sold as RuneQuest Classic) is my white box.  The new version RuneQuest Glorantha is an updated version of RQ2, with new rules, Such as characters now have their own Runic associations, which provide the basis of their magic, and Passions that reflect their relationships with their communities and their enemies. It’s a perfect match for Glorantha, not only for nostalgia reasons but because it’s been designed for it. But it does come at the cost that some of its systems are a bit clunky and a bit old school that sometimes you question whether or not you should just house rule the damn thing. Strike Ranks come to mind directly. But as a long time Gloranthan fan since the 80s, it is lovely to have an edition of the game which is easy to share with the players, both in terms of presentation, playability and clarity of setting.

Mythras on the other hand is the slick generic system I would have died for during my early RQ 3 period, when I was making up my own settings, in the late 80s. Now it’s here, it’s no surprise that with a complete all in one rulebook – sans setting and adventure – its spawned a series of setting books, some of which move outside the genre of Mythic Fantasy, and with the release of Lyonesse last year, its own standalone games. I need to get more hours in running Mythrasm get my own Isle of Death adventure/setting book out there and a series of blog posts about the various supplements that are available for the game is in order.

OpenQuest is my take on Fantasy D100 gaming, pairing down the subsystems to an almost minimalist “one roll then meaningful effect”. I was a big fan of the all in one rulebooks that Games Workshop released Call of Cthulhu and Stormbringer as in the 80s – effectively they were the main rules + the companion set, that were boxsets in those days collated into one book, with new art and colour plates.  Stormbringer is my Swords and Sorcery gold standard and in many ways my favourite BRP game, but not one I’d play on a regular basis because I think it’s not balanced in any way shape or form 😀  So OQ is a tribute to that format, in so far that the printed version had a section of colour plates. Its also allowed me to explore and give structure to the rather rambling campaign structure of other D100 games, something as a fan of Basic/Expert/Companion/Immortal D&D which had a very clear view of where the characters were heading has annoyed me previously.  Since OpenQuest is close to my heart, I ramble on about it on its own blog on openquestrpg.com.

Skypirates of the Floating Realms, IS the minimalist D100 game that I’ve designed from bottom-up, keeping only the rules that are completely necessary for this rather light-hearted (think post-Monty Python films, Jabberwocky, Time Bandits etc) fantasy game. It’s always a nagging thought in my mind when I play other D100 systems, that my GMing brain is overburdened by subsystems and magic effects that I simply do not need. If you are familiar with the Black Hack (which is d20 fantasy-based), this is my attempt to downsize d100 into a short 6 x 9 format book. I’ve been playtesting it since spring of 2021 and our party of Argyll the Dwarf and Boris the Bear, Priest of and I’m aiming to get the game out to crowdfunding later this year.

The fifth flavour which I often forget – because I’ve not played it since the late 80s – yet has an immense effect on me are Gamesworkshop’s Warhammer RPGs of the 80s. This is basically Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st, which is the ultimate doorstop of complete RPG, and their Judge Dredd RPG, which is very much Warhammer lite. Broadly speaking both games have percentile skills as characteristics and talents which add bonuses to skill rolls, or allow you to do new things with a skill. Warhammer Fantasy complicates matters with a career system, which sees sewer-rat zeros progress to high-level heroes. Although I never got to the high-level characters, I suspect they play more like AD&D 1st characters, where low-level characters are charmingly scummy and more akin to Call of Cthulhu characters. One of the writers of the Enemy Within Campaign said as much, saying that his direction on the early parts of the campaign was effectively along the lines of go write D&D adventures mixed with Call of Cthulhu.  As much as I liked the Old World setting, it vibed off familiar British Grimdark sensibilities and played a good chunk of the highly impressive Enemy Within Campaign. Like Warhammer FRP, GW Judge Dredd comes with an immersive world which the rules support fully, the crazy post-apocalyptic near-future sci-fi of 2000 AD comic’s most popular character. It has a much simpler character structure, effectively it has four career types (Street, Tech, Med, Psi Judges) which you stay within for the entire course of your game, but where it jumps into the deep end is a complex Action Point system for Combat. It looks good on paper but fails apart as a solution to everything in play. I had a recent re-read of GW Judge Dredd, and actually remembered that it was my first d100 game, before even Call of Cthulu and RuneQuest!

 

More Tales from the Sorcerer Under the Mountain

Before the Covid times, I ran a Kickstarter for the Game/Adventure of this Blog Tales from the Sorcerer Under the Mountain – available as an OSR rulebook with adventure and 5th Edition module.

As well as the headline adventure/rulebook the Kickstarter funded three adventure modules. The Curse of the Emerald Swan by Neil Shaw, Fires From Below by Paul “Age of Arthur/Liminal” Mitchener and Ruinous Jungles by Guy “Burn After Reading” Milner.   The ball was dropped ever so slightly during the first lockdown, but it’s been picked up very quickly over the last month. My plan is to have one or more out before Christmas, with the others following very quickly in the new year.

Here’s the cover of Guy’s Ruinous Jungles by Jon Hodgeson and Scott Purdy.

Reboot the System Kickstarter opens Monday 1st November

A quick change from our usual diet of Fantasy gaming here.  I’m bringing my cyberpunk RPG, Reboot the Future, to Kickstarter this coming Monday (1st November).

The Kickstarter page is currently a prelaunch page, where you can sign up to be notified when it launches.

And if you want to learn more about the game, I’m posting a series of preview posts over at the Sorcerer’s sister sci-fi blog, To the Stars.

Under Dark Spires, Character Generation

And so it begins, our run through Under Dark Spires, my mini-campaign for Crypts and Things starting with 1st level characters.

It’s been a while since I’ve played C&T and an eternity since I’ve run an ongoing campaign of it. In between, I’ve been on a steady diet of D100 games (OpenQuest mainly) and new modern D&D variants like 5th Ed and 13th Age. So it was a shock at first going back to C&T’s very old school OD&D base + tweaks from 80s White Dwarf/Fighting fantasy. Any doubts that I would not enjoy this style of play anymore were quickly dispelled. The players are certainly very enthusiastic about playing it 🙂

The Crypt Keeper awaits you in the Room of Zoom!

The Crypt Keeper awaits you in the Room of Zoom!

I explained a bit about the dying world of Zarth, the demonic Others who have come to feed. We discussed that it has elements that require maturity due to themes of violence and oppression and the safety tools we would use if the game moved outside of what people were comfortable with.

The immediate set-up is that the characters are 1st Level and are many treasure hunters who have gone to a region called the Ash Plains. Where the Gods buried an Empire under volcanic debris for their hubris hundreds of years ago, hence in places, you can literally trip over the treasure that was left behind (or so they say).

We did character generation pretty much as written in the rulebook, the exception being that we used 3d6, rerolling 1s and 2s, which leads to more heroic characters. Part of me thinks I should make this the default for Crypts and Things.

The characters are:

  • Bodak Slashingspear (male fighter) played by Tony.
  • Xara (female Theif) played by Al.
  • Torsten Dagsson (Female Disciple) -played by Ginger Matt

We’ve also had another player, Jason, join us since the character generation session, and he’s currently considering a Sorcerer for his character.

I’ll post more about these characters, including starting character sheets, once I’ve got Jason’s character in a future blog post.

Under Dark Spires is currently in development. This run-through is meant as a final playtest of a set of adventures that were previously run individually as convention games. As well as making sure there aren’t any places where there are unavoidable Total Pary Kills, I’m also seeing how experience point allocation and levelling up works when the adventures are run together as a campaign.

We are playing again in just under two weeks when we get stuck into an adventure called Blood of the Dragon.

Look, it’s us rolling up characters!

My Verdict on RuneQuest Glorantha

RuneQuest Glorantha? I’ve come to the conclusion I like it.

When it came out, I plunged right in and ran it several times as a convention game. The epic Lunars on the run from angry animal riders, looking for the last moon boat home that is Dry Run in Prax. I even ran it online as a mini-campaign with a mix of newbies and old hands. All the new subsystems and new lore overwhelmed me, to the point of overload. And I’m a Gloranthan GM of 30+ years experience! So when the OpenQuest Kickstarter blew up in my face with its success, I switched to running that. Partially because I craved simplicity system-wise, I also had to take care of business and get some last-minute play-testing done. Since then, OpenQuest Thursdays, as that group is known, has firmly established itself as a long-running home campaign 🙂

On reflection, though, it was very clear that the players had a great time because those new subsystems gave them options and power at the table. I’m thinking Runes and Passions especially. They can read all that new lore in the rulebook or when I shove the Gloranthan Sourcebook in their direction. We were playing Lunar Tarsh characters, so we had whole sessions discussing Lunar Theology and mythology since the players were curious and it was relevant to their characters, who are questioning their faith after the downfall of Pavis.

I’m making a small return to RuneQuest via conventions, and when I do, I shall be keeping things simple on my side of the fence and letting players focus on all the bits I find fiddly. If you want to use Passions in my game, great, but you work out when you want to use them and how.

Finally, I love the fact that Gloranthan Fandom has got a shot in the arm due to its release. People are picking up RQG and are staying and running campaigns. Lots of fan-made stuff on the Jonstown Compendium, and while the official releases are slow, in a sense, there’s no regular release schedule, there’s still a large chunk of playable stuff out there already.

This post came about because of this thread over at the RPGPub forum, where I chime in on page 2. Also, it’s in lieu of a long-overdue review of RuneQuest Glorantha itself, which is this long epic thing in my head being a long time RQ/Glorantha fan 🙂 

 

Wyrdworld Recreated Minitures

As a roleplayer, I don’t do miniatures. It has its roots in my start with the hobby, where it was a choice between RPG books or minis blister packs for my pocket/paper round money. RPGs won out and the rest is history.

Recently I’ve been dipping my toe in minis, mainly through supporting Fenris Games, a British manufacturer who put out some fiercely originally and fantastic work.

I’ve just backed their Wyrdworld Recreated Kickstarter. It’s a huge amount of anthropomorphic fantasy animal characters, full of characters without being twee. Its based on the Wyrdworld Play By Email game (remember those) that they ran when they started up their company.

Oh look they do a Newt figure, that knows Kung-fu (well that’s what I’m assuming the double clubs are for) 😀

Here’s a selection of the figures available 🙂

Piqued your interest, here’s the link again.

The Dee Sanction Adventures

Creator Paul Baldowski has brought bringing five short adventures for his game of occult investigation in the Age of Elizabeth I, The Dee Sanction, to Kickstarter.

It’s funded successfully, and there’s also the chance to pick up the main rulebook and the special limited edition hardcover as well as other high-quality add-ons for the game. I’ve got my eye on one of the A2 cloth maps of Tudor London 😀

 

Lucky Friday 13th!

Who said Friday 13th is unlucky?

Glynn Seal of Monkey Blood Design has just announced another Handy Maps Kickstarter.

Pelgrane Press has just put out a new 13th Age Quickstart rules.

Peter Regan has just started a very quick, nine-day long Kickstarter to fund a 2nd Printing of the Black Hack 2nd edition. If you missed it the first time around, or want the deluxe box sets with lots of extras, like foil-stamped covers, mugs etc, now’s your chance.

This is a fine award-winning British OSR rules set, that I personally highly recommend. I liked it so much that I used it for the base for a self-contained Crypts and Things reimagining.