Tuesday, 26 November 2019


I got a couple of parcels today!  Kay-Karoo!

First up was the fruit of another Kickstarter, this one The Baron's War by Paul Hicks and Andy Hobday (and Footsore Miniatures), which was to produce minis of C13th knights and men-at-arms.  I only signed up in a minor way.

And I'm very pleased with the results.  Everything was on time and communication throughout the KS was exemplary.  There's a fair bit of flash on the minis (oh, how we are spoiled these days!), but they are lovely sculpts and worth seeking out.

I think one of the aims of the KS was to test the market for a range of C13th figures.  It was a big success, and there should be more coming (and, I understand, a rule-set).

And, secondly...

The other parcel was a care packet from one of my sisters.  Bless!

Friday, 22 November 2019

Fruit of the Kickstarter: Old School Essentials

Regular readers may realise that my regular RPG group's system of choice is Old School Essentials (formerly B/X Essentials) by Necrotic Gnome.  OSE is a retro-clone and restatement of the 1981 Basic/Expert rules for D&D.  People who know better than I do have said that it's the best expression of B/X.

Our group were involved in the play-testing of various new bits of the rules-set (readers of my Butcher's Bill posts will appreciate I've had the chance to try out several of the Advanced Classes!) for an edition that went to Kickstarter back in April to great sucess: it funded withing two hours, and finally was over 1000% subscribed.  So this is more than just an unboxing review:  I'm fairly familiar with the contents, and am enthusiastic in my recommendation of them!

Well fulfilment is underway on schedule and my rewards arrived today.  In fact they would have arrived on Wednesday: instead I received the Red Card of Frustration.  The OSE group on Facebook has been full of tantalising photos from across the world while I've been twiddling my thumbs!

Up to now OSE has been published in module form: a series of softback books of 40-60 pages.   This is quite handy as it allows people to buy which bits they need, but not the others.  So for example, as we've been playing over the last year and a half, as a rule only the GM has have the booklets covering monster stats and allocation of treasures but there might have been three copies of the core rules and the character classes volumes at the table.  Another advantage is that the intention is to bring out additional modules covering additional genre rules or other specialisations (word on the street is that Post-Apoc is being planned).

In putting together the new issue, Gavin Norman has continued with this modular system (but now in hardback with new-and-better illustrations).  These are available in a Black Box version, with the five core volumes.

Having said all that, I chose to go for the Rules Tome option, in which these five core volumes are presented in one 296pp hardback volume.  As you'll see from the photos below, the volume has very high production values and great artwork.  From the cover options I chose the Peter Mullen varient, an image I love (and is expanded on the new GM's screen).

The front- and end-papers of all the volumes have quick reference table relevant to the contents.  The Rules Tome has a couple of ribbon markers, a nice touch.

Layout is a module of clarity and well thought-out artwork.  Where possible, Gavin has worked hard to have all the relevant info on a single double-spread - as can be seen with the decriptions of character classes.

And the art-work can speak for itself...  Over two-dozen artists are represented in the Rules Tome.

There were two modules in the Kickstarter aditional to the Core Set or Rules Tome:  Advance Fantasy Genre Rules and a list of Druid and Illusionist Spells.  The major part of the Advance Rules is that addition of another 15 character clases and the option of character races (because this is B/X of course, and the default is race-as-class).  Druid and Illusionist are two of the new classes, so they needed a spell list.   I've played from both these volumes in various drafts, and they work well.  

The small volumes have the same production values as the Tome (without the special colour spreads) and will work well on the table - we all know the problem of POD or other volumes that lose pages after very little use.

Finally, one of the stretch goals for the Kickstarter was the inclusing of an introductionary adventure: The Hole In the Oak.  This was described as "a classic (and quirky!) old-school adventure for 1st level characters, set in the Mythic Underworld that lies beyond the hole in an old oak tree. This odd realm will be mapped by the mycologically inclined Karl Stjernberg and illustrated by the phantasmagoric James West".

Unlike the other volumes in the Kickstarter, this is a softback (staple bound of 32 pages), but the same care has gone into the layout and choice of illustrations.

I'll be immersing myself in this module over the next week, as in an excess of enthusiasm I've offered to GM the module.  My first experience of GM-ing!  I'm going to do a dry run on some close friends and then break it out for the more discerning RPG group.

Necrotic Gnome's next project is a Kickstarter in 2020 for the production of a Campaign Book for the weird and wonderful Dolmonwood setting.  I've played in that setting, and I hope to be be able to sign up for that one too!

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Barrowmaze #13: More of the Butcher's Bill

I don't have the heart to write up the notes of all the sessions since I last reported on Barrowmaze back in July (and in any case some of my notes are a bit sketchy).  However, since the casualty rate with my characters is now so legendary that it's forming part of a charity fundraising special, I think I will update on them.

The fates of my first seven characters (including the legendary B'Loxi) can be read here and the next here.

Decimus Stonehythe (Gnome) - Number 10

When I last reported this gnome and his fierce friend Dachs the badger were still alive and on their seventh delve into Barrowmaze.

The journey out for their ninth was an eventful one.  After being attacked by a crocodile in the swamp, the party was surprised by ghasts, which left Decimus down and unconscious.  Dachs bravely stood over his friend's body and fought fiercely.  However, he himself was taken down and killed as the party retreated taking the wounded Decimus with them.

Death of a trusted companion
For months afterwards there were stories of badgers roaming the moors on moonlit nights having their revenge on the undead.

The grief-stricken Decimus didn't out-live his friend for very long.  On the next delve the party explored a flooded barrow.  Decimus promptly put on his Ring of Walking on Water and was swanning around when his coleagues triggered a pit-trap.  Water rushed into the hole, Decimus surfing the wave only to be impaled on the spikes below.

Grandinfel (Druid) - Number 11

Grandinfel made two delves.  The highlight was his first, when he recovered a pair of Elven boots (of silent movement).  On the second he was killed by a giant scorpion.  I don't recall what happened to the boots.

D'zen (Elf) - Number 12

D'zen fell victim to a pit-trap on (I think) his third delve.

Falnarkin (?) - Number 13

Falnarkin (who's class I can't remember) was killed in a rather epic battle with fire beetles in which our wizard famously levitated and dropped Molotov Cocktails onto them.

Edit:  I am reminded that Falnarkin was a Half-Elf.

Silgar (Gnome) - Number 14

Silgar took part in a fight where the party was trapped in a burning room by a group of necromancers, who then sent in their zombies.  One escape route was into a room full of giant flies, the other required a wall breaking down.  Sadly Silnar didn't live long enough to find out which choice was made.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Recent Gaming

After a summer during which the only gaming I've been doing has been the solo campaign that I've been posting about, in October I got back into visiting my FLGS, The Games Table.  Indeed (because I'm now avoiding pubs), I'm now going a little more often that I did before.

Norwich being a small place, it turned out that there was some social overlap between my work colleagues and my gaming chums.

Board Card Games

I've had a couple of sessions in which I've been playing board/card games with work colleagues.  We've taken advantage of Board Game Night at The Games Table, with opening until 11pm.  Nothing exciting to report I suppose.

We tried a couple of new things...

First up was Endangered Orphans of Condyle Cove.  Phew!  We just couldn't get our heads around this one.  The rules/instructions just didn't make sense to us (probably made worse because an expansion had been inserted into the store's copy).  After 10 minutes of fafffing around we gave up and moved on.  Frankly, I'm surprised that it's got such a high rating on Board Game Geek.

The second new game was forgetable, and I promptly forgot it's name.  It was basically a version of "draw what's on the card" charades.  The "twist" being just how obscure some of the phases were.  Is was daft fun to end the evening, but I wouldn't want to play too often.  The production values were quite low, for one thing.

Much more fun was had with old favourites:  Battle Sheep, Exploding Kittens, Unstable Unicorns (with the Dragons Expansion pack) and Catan.  Catan is, of course, brilliant; that and Unicorns are my favourites of what we've played.

If we carry on going as a group (which remains to be seen), we're going to make an effort to try more new stuff and more 'big box' games.


Blagging our way onto the villan's

I've posted separately about the games-test of the Not-Bond game The Spy Hack that I went to at the end of October.  Read more about it here.

How Dachs the Badger met his doom

Our on-going open table Old School Essentials (B/X) campaign is still in full-swing.  Our default is to go down the Barrowmaze, but if our regular GM can't make it (or if so many players turn up that we have to split into two games!) another GM jumps in and we take our characters on a little trek to explore the Lost City Under a Pyramid (I'm not sure of the title of the module).  So, Barrowmaze twice and Pyramid once.  Mortality remains high, particularly for my characters (I gave up counting when my fifteenth died).  Tomorrow I'll be rolling a new one.   I have a backlog of notes on our Barrowmaze delves: I don't know whether to continue my old practice of posting write-ups.

And as a bonus, last week there was a Dungeon Crawl Classic session, in which we played the Shadow Under Devil's Reef module.  This was released in 2017 as a Halloween special, and I think that it's fair to say that there was more than one unsubtle nod to the Lovecraft Mythos.
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