The new and improved defender of RPGs!

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Wild West Campaign Update: Snake Oil and Backshooters

This was one of those sessions where you start, as a GM, with some ideas of what's going to happen, and then a significant chunk of the adventure gets swallowed up by something completely unexpected.  And man, was it unexpected.

The session started out with Kid Taylor deciding to build off his reputation gained last session as a kind of hoodoo-medicine-man, to make up a batch of Snake Oil and start to sell it.

He purchased a large supply of alcohol from Other Miller, who had just started up a side-business as a brewer. He added a mix of some local herbs, and then he made up a label for his 'miracle cure'.  For whatever reason, not feeling totally confident that his own good name would be enough, he named his concoction "Jim & Miller's", giving the impression that he was in a partnership with Crazy Jim Miller, the local magnate (owner of the East Vegas bank and two brothels as well as some businesses back in Dodge City).

He made a pitch on Railroad street, with a good number of the town coming out to see what he was selling, and he started making some initial good sales. But Crazy Miller had come along to see what was up, and he was NOT amused by the attempt to conflate his name with this product. At first, he demanded that he either get half the profits or that Kid Taylor change the label.  Kid Taylor pointed out that his own first name was also "Jim" (though he usually goes by James) and that "Miller" referred to Other Miller (his alcohol provider); but this did not satisfy Crazy Miller. He went on to demand that Taylor change the labels, but Kid Taylor again refused.

So Crazy Miller walked off to one of his brothels, picked up club, came back, and started destroying Taylor's bottles of snake-oil!
To say that Kid Taylor took this badly was a huge understatement. He drew on Miller, in spite of Miller not being armed with a pistol. Other Miller tried to intercede but Kid Taylor is incredibly fast and used his trademark 'Hip shooting" tactic; he honestly meant to shoot Crazy Miller in the hand, but his aim was off and instead he ended up grazing the top of Crazy Miller's head, leading everyone to assume he'd been trying to blow Crazy Miller's brains out!

At this point Sheriff Dirty Dave Rudabaugh and Deputy Jackson showed up, and very promptly arrested Kid Taylor. Both men were very heated, but Taylor surrendered himself while Crazy Miller went off to Las Vegas to get his wound looked at (fortunately for him, his hat took more damage than his skull).  Obviously, the whole situation demands that Judge/Mayor Hoodoo Brown decide what if anything to do about all this; it's a huge problem when two major members of the Dodge City Gang (one the acting town doctor and Hoodoo's own 'spiritual protege', and the other the richest merchant in town and the guy handling all of the Gang's ill-gotten wealth) seem to be looking to murder each other. 

In the end, however, clearer heads prevailed. By the time they went before Hoodoo Brown, both men agreed not to press charges, and swore that they wouldn't try to do each other any more harm for however long they remained in East Vegas at least. Hoodoo also ordered Kid Taylor to change the label on his bottles. It was clear, however, that their relationship was now very very strained.  Crazy Miller had a memorable quote when he said "I always say I would take a bullet for my friends... this one was yours, Taylor".

Crazy Miller even tried to manipulate his promise, hinting to his friend (and the infamous murderer) John Joshua Webb that he wouldn't mind seeing Kid Taylor dead. But Big Nose Kate (Webb's business partner in Kate's Saloon) overheard this, and browbeat Webb into agreeing not to do anything about it no matter how much he might want to. The last thing she wanted was for their to be trouble with Hoodoo Brown.

Meanwhile, what was originally meant to be the main plot of the adventure, dealing with a trio of brothers who were all utter dregs (Joshua, Leroy and Drey Green) causing some serious trouble stemming from Joshua having backshot two Mexicans who'd offended him, getting arrested, and then his two brothers dangerously trying to break him out of prison, became largely secondary by comparison.

Still it led to some interesting action, chases, and a few funny moments of misunderstandings. In the end of it, Leroy was dead (trying to break his brother out), Joshua got hung, and Drey managed to get away.

As for Kid Taylor and Crazy Miller, it's hard to say how things will turn out. Both of them are fairly nuts, but like many of the wild personalities of the wild west, they make and lose grudges fairly easy. In a couple of sessions they might be fast friends again, or they might end up at each other's throats again. We'll have to wait and see.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Quiete + Peterson's Old Dublin

Friday, 19 January 2018

What's Actually in Lion & Dragon (still Rising the Top-10 Charts!)

So Lion & Dragon is still gaining ground in the RPGnow Bestseller list! As of this morning, it had climbed back up to #8! This is amazing for a product that got knocked out completely due to RPGnow's "mistake", to not only make it back on the chart but to make it back all the way to #8.  And it's all thanks to you, dear readers! Thank you to everyone who bought the game and to everyone who reviewed the game and to everyone who shared the link. That last one is SUPER important and the very best way you can help me (aside from buying the game itself) because that lets other people get a chance to see the game!

So please, share the product link!  Let's see if we can somehow make it into the top-5! Man, that will piss certain people off. And if you're a fan of my books, you're probably not a fan of those people. So come on, let's get some people salty!

Now that my beautiful hardcover L&D book has arrived, cracking it open reminded me of something I wanted to share on here: the table of contents. I figure that might help some of you work out just what's in the book and in what proportions. So, here it is:

(click the image for a clearer view)

At some point I'll write up a full authors-notes review of the book, but for now, remember that if you have any questions about Lion & Dragon you can always feel free to ask!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario + Blue Boar

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Classic Rant: "Real Magick" in RPGs: Spellbooks

I've posted previously in this series (on the old blog, but archived here), about some of the misconceptions about how 'occultism' is handled in a lot of allegedly-occult RPGs, and how GMs can modify things to more closely model the reality of the occult scene (a reality that is filled with posers, fakers, and lunatics, but also some truly fascinating stuff). One of the big ones in modern games is about how occult knowledge is somehow rare or very difficult to access (the classic Call of Cthulhu scenario where magical knowledge is only available in the most obscure places), when the fact is that the problem is not access to that knowledge at all, but the ability to differentiate between the useful and the useless. I also made a post about how and what a magician's diary looks like, and how these will often be the most important "grimoires" available in a setting.

Now on the whole I've been focusing on modern settings, but I heard something interesting today on theRPGsite in reference to the "unrealistic" nature of D&D magick. Someone pointed out that the idea of a magician going around with a spellbook and memorizing spells made no sense. Magicians should study their books at home, and their spellbooks would be kept safe within lock and key in their towers.

But the truth of the matter is a bit trickier than that.

A magician may very well carry around his magical diaries with him (remember: a grimoire is really nothing more than a heavily-edited magical diary); for two reasons.

First, not to memorize spells but to potentially remember correspondences. There are big tables of correspondences (which are important "components" for magical practice, divination, etc) that someone might be able to memorize, but there's so much to be memorized that a lot of students won't. A good magick student will know the symbols and order of the zodiac, the planets, elements, PROBABLY the Hebrew letters and their number values, and things like the names of gods, elemental signs, the pentagram rituals and hexagram rituals. If he does all that by heart, he's a pretty advanced student (even among serious practitioners; remember, 99% of supposed 'magicians' have barely studied anything at all and don't actually practice any magick).
But even that kind of expert student may not memorize what type of plant corresponds to the moon, or the name of the Angel of the 20th degree of Leo.

Second, you never know when there's going to be new things to write in the diaries!

A magical diary is practically a part of a magician's body; it's been repeatedly described by almost all of the great occult authors as the single most important tool of the magician. You can almost always use it as a litmus test to tell the difference between a serious occultist and a dabbler, dilettante, or fraud: not everyone who keeps a diary will necessarily be doing serious occult work, but anyone who doesn't keep a magical diary is almost guaranteed NOT to be doing serious occult work of any kind.

Thus, the diary is far from an neat and tidy book of instruction (though sometimes material from said diaries are heavily edited to become actual commercial books); they are the frantic scribbles of a madman, and a seriously-obsessed occultist won't be trusting his own recollection to write down some insight or discovery long after the fact, if he can at all help it. He'll want the diary close, so he can record his studies, discoveries, findings or experiences as quickly as possible.


Currently Smoking: Dunhill Amber Root Bulldog + C&D's Crowley's Best 

(Originally Posted January 17, 2014)

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

They're Finally Here!

So while I've had great pleasure in hearing about tons of other people receiving their copies of Lion & Dragon in the mail, I had not yet received my own author copies in all this time. Six weeks after the launch of L&D, a huge amount of the OSR were enjoying their L&D books, but not the guy who actually wrote it!

But no more!

I have to say, the hardcover looks just magnificent! And yet, the softcover is also really fine as an alternative.

Anyways, I've now joined the club of people who actually own Lion & Dragon, why don't you? You won't regret it!


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Virginia

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Last Sun: The Gazetteer of the Middle-Northern Wilderlands

Today, I present to you not just a new RPGPundit Presents issue, but also the first setting supplement for my Last Sun setting, taken from the annals of my infamous and much-blogged-about DCC campaign!

RPGPundit Presents #15: Last Sun: Gazetteer of the Middle-Northern Wilderlands presents the very first descriptive introduction to the very first area explored in my DCC Last Sun campaign, about four years ago. In this small supplement you'll get an overview of the region and its many wonders and dangers.  Learn what wiped out the human race in this region. Find out about the Feral cannibal-halflings of the Last Sun, learn about the Hipster Elves of the Rose Dome, and much more!

Note: you also get a large (75-entry) 0-level occupation table tailored to this area, though it could probably be used in any hipster-elf heavy gonzo post-apocalyptic fantasy setting!

So be sure to check it out! Your first hit of the Last Sun campaign setting will only cost you $1.99! That's cheaper than a shitty coffee and like at least $2 cheaper than a super-shitty marvel comic!

Pick it up on DriveThruRPG or on Precis Intermedia's Web Store.

And while you're at it, be sure to check out all the other awesome titles in the RPGPundit Presents series!

RPGPundit Presents #1: DungeonChef!

RPGPundit Presents #2: The Goetia  (usable for Lion & Dragon!)

RPGPundit Presents #3: High-Tech Weapons

RPGPundit Presents #5: The Child-Eaters (an adventure scenario for Lion & Dragon!)

Stay tuned for more next week!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Egg + Blue Boar

Monday, 15 January 2018

Lion & Dragon is Back in the Top-10!

So, Lion & Dragon is the little rulebook that just keeps winning.   In spite of having had, at the start of this month, gone through a crisis when RPGnow (accidentally?) erased the original URL of the book, with the help of just MASSIVE fan support, we made our way back. We had been in the top-10 of RPGnow's Bestselling Titles from the first few days the product came out, only to have it vanish when the URL was erased, but within a bit more than 24 hours from that terrible setback, the huge word-of-mouth campaign done by all kinds of great OSR gaming fans brought it back into the top-15.

Yesterday, L&D became a Silver bestseller, just barely a month after its release.

And now today, we've finally pushed our way back into the #10 spot on the Top-10.  My victory is complete.

So again, thanks to all of you who bought the book. And if you haven't bought it yet, go buy it now!

And either way, please share the link on your social media if you want to do me a solid. It is very, very appreciated.

Finally, a product note: RPGPundit Presents #14: The Secret Order of the Red Lady, is now available in Spanish!  So if you're more comfortable with Castellano than Ingles, please check out "La Orden Secreta De La Dama Roja" on Drivethru, or over on the Precis Intermedia shop!

Of course, if you're an English speaker, you can pick up the original.  It's an exciting Lion & Dragon adventure scenario (but playable in any OSR setting), about a cult with a surprise twist.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Quiete + Peterson's Old Dublin

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Lion & Dragon Has Just Gone SILVER BESTSELLER! Check Out These Reviews!

So, the first and obvious big news: as of today, Lion & Dragon has managed to hit Silver Bestseller status on RPGnow!

This almost exactly one month from when it was first released. Clearly, we're a big big hit.

So, today is a great moment to share some of the works of others, in the form of awesome new reviews of Lion & Dragon!

First off, while L&D has had several very nice reviews on its product page, there's a fairly detailed one that's very interesting, by Geoffrey S:

Summary : a nice OSR RPG, which delivers its promise, albeit on a high fantasy tone for something "medieval authentic". Four stars as a game, the fifth is earned on the reuse potential for most elements. I have reviewed the pdf version.
Content description : Inside, you get : a complete set of rules, including : character creation, magic (divine , profane, and summoning demons), fight, NPC reaction rules, morale rules to deal with followers, equipment list, medieval poison list, magic item list, adventures seeds, a bestiary… List are displayed in the form of random tables. Art is a strong point. More than one drawing per page, with a medieval and / or OSR product vibe in all of them.
What I liked :
  • most if not all of the content can be used outside of this product.
  • simplicity of the rules. Grab and roll your D20, apply the modifier (generally, one from skill and one from level...) and roll it against difficulty.
Could have been even better with :
  • "default setting" of the author, aka Dark Albion, is still very present is this product. This is a design choice, as explained early in the book, but I feel at least a comparaison table between "real world" and "Dark Albion" could have been useful. Perhaps even a few pages. Or a complete removal of it.
  • the default fantasy level is high, which surprised me a bit, for an "medieval authentic" experience. Some optional rules or rules tweaking advice to tune it down a little or completely could have been great.

Second, coming from the official G+ Dark Albion + Lion & Dragon Community, a review by Stefan Skyrock:

My impressions of Lion & Dragon

I'm done skimming the PDF. I have skipped the parts that are probably just par of the course for OSR games (such as rolling ability scores, basic combat or wilderness survival) and focussed on the things that are unique.

High points:

+ The 400 pound bugbear in the room making L&D unique are of the course the medieval supernatural elements - magister "magic", cleric miracles and magic items. I recognized a few things such as talking heads or mandrakes harvested from where the seed of hung criminals lands, but I also picked up plenty of ideas that were new to me.
Even if you don't use the Lion & Dragon system, or even run fantastical medieval Europe in something other than an OSR system (such as Ars Magica or WoD Dark Ages) there is a lot of gameable stuff to pluck and harvest from L&D.

+ Social status being more than just the amount of starting gold, but a very important trait that governs the character's rights and duties, legal equipment and expected behaviour. I haven't seen game designers paying attention to this since The Riddle of Steel.

+ Primitive firearms! Hand cannons and cannons were an integral part of the era, and I have become sick and tired of uninformed gamers and designers getting their panties into a twist about how introducing black powder and guns would ruin the "medievalness" of their settings. It's nice to see a medieval game that gives primitive guns their rightful place acknowledging their strengths, but also their shortcomings.

+ Thief's Tools for once not being super-pricey, super-rare items that can only be created by the best of the best artisans.
Lockpicks aren't as complex as most gamers believe, and especially not in medieval Europe where rather simple and crude ward locks prevail. It has always peeved me that a class associated with poor petty criminals is expected to need a 100+GM item by default to fulfill one of its core functions.

+ The Trial subsystem. I was getting a very Blacksand!ian vibe from it, with trial by combat and by divine judgement as welcome additions fitting the time.

Things I would do different at my table:

- I like the idea of background skills, but I think they are too little pronounced with just a +1-bonus on a narrow set of rolls. I would probably change it to a d4 or d6 rolled along with the d20, which is very noticeable and also sets a visual reminder on the table that this the character's unique shtick he has grown up with.

- I very much like the idea of the random character advancement tables, but I find the execution too swingy and the results too wildly different in power. I would definitively tweak the tables before using them, either by rolling multiple dice to create a bell curve that makes desirable results more common, or by powering up the weaker results such as skill bonuses. Rolling three times and picking two of the results might also work as a quickfix.

- Scots and Cymri are very place-specific. I would have liked to see some suggestions on how to adapt those two classes to other parts of medieval Europe.
Scots are obviously easy - there are plenty of barbarian peoples on the outskirts of civilized Europe depending on the exact time of the game, such as Vikings, Saxons, Huns, Mongols and so on that can use the same stats.
Cymri are a bit trickier, as their most obvious continental counterpart - Rroma and Sinti - didn't enter the European heartland until the 15th century, and Yenish did emerge even much later.

And finally, Scott Shafer has written a top-notch comparative review of Lion & Dragon vs. Maze of the Blue Medusa vs. ASSH on his blog. Here's some of the highlights as it refers to L&D (where he also praises Dark Albion, The Child Eaters - the first adventure for L&D, and Cults of Chaos, the sourcebook on Chaos Cults):

"Lion & Dragon is much more down to earth. This is what Pundit’s Dark Albion should have been. By that, I mean that these are the rules that should have been in the book. No system notes from the campaign, no conversion notes from Fantastic Heroes and Witchery. These were good things, but they pale in comparison to the rules in this slim book. This is a medieval authentic OSR rules set. One that is true to the material, and that does a wonderful job of preserving player agency. For example, at each level you can either roll twice for your level benefit, or you can choose once from the table. Which will it be? The choice is the player’s."

"Pundit gives you an overflowing box of ideas that just keep leaking all over the place. Dark Albion has multiple small dungeons that you can place anywhere in your home campaign. They fit into the Dark Albion campaign very well, but they are almost modular in that they can be dropped into your campaign almost at will. His scenario The Child Eaters is one of the simplest and nastiest scenarios I have come across. This isn’t some fake cosmic horror, but down to earth terror that explains just why Dark Albion’s society is the way that it is. Cults of Chaos is designed for Dark Albion, but can put chaos as a horror front and center in your campaign in ways that Games Workshop hasn’t done in years! This is great stuff!"

So, if you want to find out what all the fuss is about, buy Lion & Dragon today! And if you want to show your liking of the book and do me a big favor, you could always write a review of your own, though if you don't have the time or inclination, you could still be a BIG help very easily by sharing the link to L&D's product page in all your social media. Thanks so much for your support, and keep spreading the word!


Currently Smoking: Neerup Bent Billiard + Image Latakia