Just unwrapped – Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls

A long, long time ago (in August 2013) I backed the Kickstarter campaign of Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls by Richard Loomis. Honestly, at that time I didn’t know anything about this RPG and never played any previous editions before. Up till today I still just got impressions of the game, I wanted to get to know this RPG as I receive the book and read it through.

Finally, after waiting more than 2 years I received my package with all the goodies inside. At the backer level of $28 (plus postage) I got the softcover book of Deluxe T&T, plus some cool little things, like an official pencil, some printed character sheets, a nice poster of the City of Terrors, a deck of cards with the logos of the vendors from the 2014 Origin Game Fair, and also a poster of the Fellowship of the Troll.

The softcover book itself is huge. To tell the truth, I’m not too satisfied with the quality of the binding, this kind of books usually falls apart after a little intensive reading. Still, I hope it will last and I will try to be as gentle as possible with it. The whole rulebook feels so old-school upon reading, which is amazing I think. Mostly it’s because of the artwork of course, Liz Danforth did an amazing job with the illustrations, and there are some colored pages as a bonus as well. The style of drawing reminds me a bit of the first RPG I ever played when I was about 14… Good old days!

After the first quick read-through the rules seem really straightforward and easy to apply, I hope to run a test-adventure in a month or two to try the system. It seems like a great RPG for one-shot adventrues, but if I wanted a campaign I would probably go with another system and setting. Still, Trollworld seems so original and vivid that from time to time I would love to get the rulebook out and take my friends to such a rich world ripe with adventure. Also I will definitely try one of the solo adventures by myelf to see how it goes, I think it will be something like reading a Fighting Fantasy book.

Altogether I think I got a really nice game, it was worth backing this project and I hope I will be able to run a few adventures on Trollworld for my friends. It wasn’t an easy project for the Fellowship of the Troll as I read from the updates, they had some major setbacks, but in the end, everything turned out to be well, and that’s what really matters!

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Rappan Athuk II. – This level stinks!

Finally we managed to hold our second session of Rappan Athuk, the party managed to explore the first level of the dungeon before deciding to head back to Holden and rest for a day or two.

This is what happened on the very first level of the dungeon:

  • As the odors of the level struck him, Nim had to step back a bit and get rid of his breakfast discreetly
  • The party disappointedly acknowledged that there is almost nothing left to plunder in the first few rooms, although Father Magnus found some alms among the bones
  • The priest was adamant on purging this place and burned the bones and rotting coffins they found as they advanced from room to room
  • Galidian searched every inch of the dungeon for secret doors and traps, and his efforts paid off, he found the collapsing staircase, the enterance to the latrines and also a secret door to some loot and an overly excited ghast
  •  They found the “legendary” dung monster in the latrine (where else?), after a couple of unsuccesful attempts to find its weakness, the party decided just to take the needed sample and make a run for it. Fortunately Dungie was busy munching on Malakai’s spare hand axe and didn’t pursue
  • Two wererats, Fiilaar and Jarvik were waiting for them with their giant rat minions just before the stairs down to the second level, but all of them perished against the fierce warriors and the magic of Father Magnus and Nim. Victory came at a price though, Malakai got cursed with lycanthropy, but Galidian and Nim found the hoard of the wererats, most of which they kept for themselves
  • The party decided to call it a day and returned to Holden to collect the reward for the dung sample, Galidian managed to negotiate 4 healing potions out from the alchemist
  • He also paid Rex the remaining 30 gold they owed him… in coppers
  • Malakai headed to the shrine of Tymora to get the curse removed. The priest agreed to free the dwarf from lycanthropy, but only if he vowed to recover the bones and shield of Saracek, one of the greatest paladins of Tymora. Malakai agreed and was bound to this quest before the altar of Lady Luck

Loot: 3151 cp, 901 sp, 143 gp, an broken ivory statue of a horse (worth 25 gp), a scroll of Counterspell, Helm of Comprehending Languages, Lesser Robe of Blending, 2 vials of purple worm poison

The DM’s note: I descaled the strength of encounters and made less wandering monster checks than it was recommended in the adventure, since I wanted to get on faster with the exploration of Rappan Athuk and rather had my players enjoy the unique features of the dungeon and let them roleplay. With this I made the place a lot less deadly, but that’s something I can live with, we all had good fun, and that’s what matters. My players are rather cautious, which is great, since they could have died still, despite the fewer dangers. Of course, the lower levels will challenge them more than this one…

A DM’s review – The Shannara Chronicles

I have been waiting for this series a lot. Not that the trailer stunned me (although it looked mostly good), but there is a serious lack of fantasy series nowadays and this seemed to be something that could fill the void. I waited seven episodes to write about The Shannara Chronicles, so I could see more of it and watch it develop. If you haven’t watched it yet, you can still read on, I will try to be as spoiler-free as possible.

After having seen most of the first season I still can’t decide whether I like it or not. At least twice per episode I ask loudly “Why it had to be MTV?” There are some pretty irritating scenes which are clearly intended for teenagers, which I wouldn’t mind, if I didn’t feel that they wanted to make an epic fantasy at the same time. If they wanted younger audience, then they should have made it Twilight-ish, so 30-year-old geeks like myself wouldn’t even think about watching it.

But they brought half-epic fantasy into play, so I keep watching it still and roll my eyes every now and then. The three young protagonisits don’t add too much to the quality of the show unfortunately (and I was very diplomatic with this, I think), if we didn’t have John Rhys-Davies (King Eventine), James Remar (Cephelo) and Manu Bennett (Allanon) I probably would have abandoned Shannara already.  The world itself, the CGI looks great, a huge plus for this one, it kind of saves the show. Oh, and the demons too! The same can’t be said about the costumes and props unfortunately. The weapons are very sterile, and look like toys more than an actual weapons, most of the armors would protect from a butterknife, and clearly have no practical use, they are only intended to look cool. The only thing I liked was Allanon’s outfit, although he looks more like a warlock than a druid, but I don’t mind. I also liked the idea that the “old civilization” was today’s world, it doesn’t disturb the fantasy feeling, it adds some flavor instead.

I haven’t read Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara Trilogy, so I can’t compare the book to the series, which is a good thing I think, since Game of Thrones was a bit disappointing for me having read the books years (twice) before the TV show launched. So far I have no major problems with the plot and the story, it has some original ideas (for me), like the elfstones or the concept of the gnomes in this series. The plot twists and “big” surprises are predictable, has many clichés, but still, altogether it’s one of the things  because of which I still watch Shannara, it’s exciting enough to keep me engaged in the storyline, also a good for inspiration for later campaigns maybe.

As a DM, I think it’s a great plot for an epic campaign, although I would probably just borrow the starting concept and would introduce the grand scheme slower then the series, but of course, things have to go faster on the screen than at the table. Also I would definitely set the tone of the game somewhat darker, more hopeless. In Shannara I fell there is just too much hope, I can’t feel real desperation in the characters. Still, I’m going to hold on and watch the show, since there are no real alternatives in the fantasy genre.

 

Becoming a better-rounded gamer: dabbling in CCG

A friend of mine recently “infected” me with a new interest towards a collectible card game (CCG), called “Cards of Power”. It’s a Hungarian CCG, only printed in my native language. The game got 20 years old in 2015, and is still going strong.

When my buddy told me that he is buying a pre-assembled deck to try the game, I said why not, I would give it a go as well. I have never been really into CCGs, but lately I started to expand my horizon of geekdom, and this was the push I needed to get invested into this one as well. So far, we are both just trying to build a collection and understand all rules of the game, getting to know our cards, trying find a concept we can build our decks around. I won’t go into details regarding this, I would like to focus what this means to me as a gamer, as a roleplayer.

I think playing a little casual card gaming is doing good to me, getting my mind off tabletop RPGs for a while, helping me reset a bit and start fresh when I get back to campaign or adventure writing. It also inspires me with the artwork (illustrated by some great Hungarian artists) and flavor text of the cards. Unfortunately, Cards of Power doesn’t have such a rich and extensive backstory as Magic: The Gathering, not many books to read to get to know the world, but still a pretty good resource for inspirtaion.

Another aspect of playing a certain CCG besides roleplaying is that you have to get used to new rules, it’s not the usual rulebook you already know by heart. It just keeps you on your toes mentally. It’s also interesting to see that with every new booster a new icon or some new rules are introduced to the game. This is a curse and a blessing. On the plus side, the game stays interesting and you need to find new concepts to stay on top of the competition. The downside is that after 20 years there are so many icons, phrases, rules that a beginner like myself has a really hard time to absorb, understand and apply. But that’s just how CCGs go I guess. Still, it’s a nice challenge to build a deck and understand the rules well enough to be able to compete in the Beginner’s League effectively. That’s a goal I set for myself, to enter a few tournaments and not suck entirely. We’ll see how it goes…

To keep myself motivated (and also to have a good laugh) I watch The Gamers: Hands of Fate every now and then, it grabs the concept and characteristics of CCGs perfectly. It just makes me want to have an own Gamer Shop and organize tournaments!

What keeps them going?

Reading some discussions on forums and blogs lately reminded me of some things why a story can get flat, and how some campaigns just run out of steam after a while. It happened to our group as well several times, and it probably will happen again in the future. I think one of the main reasons can be the wrong type of campaign for a certain type of characters.

I usually run two types of games, either I want the characters to go through a full, detailed story I wrote, or I just create a setting where they can go after their own heads, only throwing in adventure hooks every now and then. I usually prefer the latter, to see what interests the players. If they bite on one of the hooks, that’s a good start, maybe even to build a campaign on. In the first case I rather ask for characters fitting the adventure, so I wouldn’t have problems keeping the players on track.

The reason why I try to figure out the players’ or their characters’ tastes is to tailor the adventure to them. Even with the regular players around the table, the dynamics of the team and the motivations of the characters vary. Just a few factors that can make any great idea fall off a cliff:

  • Alignment: you wouldn’t really want to ask the mostly chaotic party to enforce the laws of the local lord, would you?
  • Religion: some players just don’t like religion involved, some would go on a holy quest. You can determine it with a simple adventure hook from the local priest.
  • Class: it’s great that you have everything lined up for the local noble’s quest, too bad the bard decided to lay his daughter last night…

The list goes on, but these are the most common factors in the party I think. It’s worth to have some adventure hooks prepared, but depending on your players and their motivations you can go for a complete sandbox if they are proactive enough, or if you are running a megadungeon then you should just toss them a few quests and let them loose. It’s all about keeping the players motivated, whether it is loot, story, uncovering secrets or having their own tavern. If you find the thing that keeps them going, you can build a whole adventure or even campaign around it and your players will be more than happy to play along with your plans. I think many DMs neglect this, and just focus on telling their own story, making the players feel it’s more about the DM than them.

I usually try and focus on my players and their characters, so everybody could have a great time, all characters can have their time to shine and be the hero of the day. And it’s true for darker settings, it’s worth to let the paranoid character play out his affliction and just wave a torch at every shadow, because “something moved there”. It all adds up to the flavor and atmosphere of the game. And it should be the players who add this with their own words and their actions, not just the DM narrating everything they do. This helps everyone feel more being part of the story, and not just being a pawn on someone’s chessboard.