Saturday, June 25, 2022

Champions of ZED [An Overview, NOT a Review]

When people find out I have a copy of Champions of ZED, they always want to know about the contents of the rule book.  I answer this question enough that I decided to make a post about it at The Ruins of Murkhill forums.  I'm a big fan of the work being done by D.H. Boggs and I look forward to seeing what's next.  I'm not a professional (or even amateur) game reviewer but just an old gamer with a few few thoughts and observations. I collected the slight edits and have reproduced the updated version below.

Champions of ZED: Zero Edition Dungeoneering is a hardbound 189-page rulebook written by Daniel Hugh Boggs and published by Southerwood Publishing in 2013.  The following is not necessarily a review but may share aspects with a review.  The information below contains my observations from reading through the various sections of the manual.  Off we go…

What’s Inside?
The manual contains an Introduction, nine chapters, four appendixes, and an index.  There is no character sheet example provided in the book, but it shouldn’t be too difficult for one to be designed; honestly, a piece of blank notebook paper like the old days will serve just fine in this regard.  Let’s look at each section in order.

The introduction is a three-page section that provides a description of the game, a quick example of play, and an explanation about the context of CoZ. The game is described as “characters engaged in the age-old war between the forces of Law and the forces of Chaos.”.  The context of CoZ explains the intentions of the game. First, a return of the worldbuilding approach dominant in the original edition but often neglected in later games. Second, to bring together the intentions of both authors of the original edition instead of focusing on just one. Third, the inclusion of an adaptation of the less used default combat method of the original 1974 rules.

Chapter 1: The Worlds of Adventure
This is a 13-page chapter.  Unlike most modern games that begin with the basics of character creation, Champions of ZED expects “the Referee and the players must have some idea of the kind of world they are going to game in.”.  The level of detail and the exact information on the game world is up to the group but the book has information and suggestions on topics including hex maps, physiographics, population centers, adventure opportunities, creature encounters, a home base, the campaign dungeon, and chance cards.  

Chapter 2: Characters
This is also a 13-page chapter.  The opening paragraph explains that “any species of intelligent being can be used by players when it is appropriate to the setting” but also provides the Dwarf, Elf, Hobbit, Human, Orc, and Balarauk as a list of standard races.  Alignment is presented on the traditional three-point axis.  The classes available are Fighter, Cleric, and Magic-user as well as specialists such as Alchemist, Monks of the Green Robes, and Paladin.  Characters have the six standard abilities (called Traits in CoZ) with two methods to determine their scores. The chapter ends with a section on making Trait checks and Languages.

Chapter 3: Character Growth
This is an 11-page chapter.  Similar to other games of this type, characters advance by earning experience points to rise in Life Energy Levels; with these levels split into 4 tiers – Veteran, Hero, Superhero, and Lord.  Each class reaps different benefits from advancing upward.  One distinct difference in CoZ is that the Prime Requisite adjusts the experience points needed to advance rather than the character getting a bonus or penalty to the amount of experience points collected.  This chapter also covers dual class characters, 0 level characters, and aging affects.

Chapter 4: Starting the Game
This is a 29-page chapter that basically serves as the meat and potatoes of the rules with with sections on scale, travel, time, movement, equipment, hirelings, and weather among other topics.  The most interesting part of this chapter for me was the idea of Chance Cards adding “random, major events to a given area.”.  The idea is simple.  The Referee prepares a stack of these chance cards to reflect the possibilities that may occur over a certain amount of time.  The possible events could be something simple like a carnival coming to town, orcs on the move, a dragon has been sighted in the nearby mountains, or whatever else the Referee may imagine.  The area affected could be as small as the local village, the greater kingdom around it, or even a continent or the world itself.  

Chapter 5: Conflict
This is a 24-page chapter covering fighting capability, combat, fatigue, morale, and other related topics. There are two combat systems presented in this chapter, Basic Combat and Strategic Combat.  In Basic Combat, you roll a D20 and make adjustments based on the attacker’s fighting capability and the defender’s armor class and any other appropriate modifiers.  To score a hit, your final result must be 20 or more.  Strategic Combat involves a few more factors and involves consulting a chart to indicate what must be rolled for a hit.  Examples are given for both systems of combat.

Chapter 6: Magic
This is a 35-page chapter all about magic.  The chapter opens up with a list of Cleric and Magic-User spells by level.  Both classes can acquire new spells through scrolls or spell books but while a Magic-User can research new spells a Cleric must rely on a knowledgeable teacher.  Other topics in this chapter include spell descriptions, magical research, and magic items.

Chapter 7: Luck and Skills
This short chapter is only 6 pages. The opening section covers Saving Throws and their use. Rather than having descriptive names, they are labelled Type I through VI.  Feats are handled in an old school manner and are more like tricks such as landing in a saddle after dropping from a balcony or other flashy maneuvers.  Skills are also covered in an old school fashion that is tied to the character’s background rather than picking from a long list of options.  There are also several sections covering various saving throws such as Undead against getting turned, Magic, and other situations.

Chapter 8: The Underworld
This is another short chapter at only 7 pages. The contents of this chapter include dungeon design, exploration, wandering monsters, and dungeon ecology among others.  The inclusion of some "Common Dungeon Tactics" may be the most useful part of this section.

Chapter 9: Prizes
This is a 14-page chapter.  As the name implies, this chapter details treasure, magical weapons, and magical items of all sorts.  The final 4 pages of this chapter, the Afterward, offers up a designer commentary on the thought process behind CoZ.  This is a fascinating look at what the author intended and how it developed.  I used to really enjoy similar sections in games in the past and I wish more game authors would include them today.
The Appendixes
The final 27 pages before the Index consists of the Appendix I through IV.  Appendix I is a listing of monster statistics, Appendix II outlines critical hits, Appendix III details construction costs, and Appendix IV lays out the “alternative combat method” presented in the original rules that rose to use among many groups. 

The Final Contents
The last 5 pages of the rulebook include the Index, a copy of the Open Game License, and the list of backers for the kickstarter campaign.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

A to Z 10 Year Update: W is for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

This post has been updated since it was originally published on April 26, 2012.

A to Z 2012: Gaming in the 1980s

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

Here is one more game that I owned but never played.  I got it hoping that I could add on to the A/D&D material - races, classes, etc. - that we used during play.  I got it and at first flip through I was somewhat disappointed because the material did not readily lend itself to immediate use within the A/D&D rules.  In other words, to be used the material would have to be converted from one rule system to the other.  Plus, there was some resistance against learning another new rule set at that time among members of the gaming group.  I put WFRP away for years and never did get around to running or playing in even one single session of the game.  I wonder what it would have been like. 

I got rid of the original Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay rulebook in one of my game purges over the years. I did the same thing with 2nd edition, and I never did get an opportunity to play either one.  I skipped 3rd edition because of the semi-board game setup.  There are now two options available to scratch your Warhammer Fantasy itch.  You can get a retro-clone known as Zweihander RPG or buy the official 4th Edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

Note: This post will be my last post in the 10-year update series.  My original X, Y, and Z posts were filler, and I was never happy with them.  I considered replacing these three posts with completely new posts, but I felt that went against the idea of updating the old posts.  Rather than piling more filler upon more filler I am stopping with the updates on the W entry.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

A to Z 10 Year Update: V is for Villains & Vigilantes

This post has been slightly altered since it was originally published on April 25th, 2012.

A to Z 2012: Gaming in the 1980s

Villains & Vigilantes

Villains & Vigilantes 2nd edition is a game of several firsts for me:

  • V&V was my first non-A/D&D rpg purchase.
  • V&V was the first supers role-playing game that I ever bought.
  • V&V was the first game I bought at a convention.  It was Conjuration I in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  My uncle David - the one who passed down his A/D&D stuff to me - took me with him.
  • V&V was the first rpg we played that had a continuing campaign with recurring characters and an evolving time; EVERY game of V&V we played was somehow connected together through characters, organizations, or some other connection.
Other super games were played by our group over the years but none of them had the staying power of V&V.  Marvel caught quite a bit of play but not nearly to the level of V&V.  Marvel did not really pick up until the Advanced set was released.  Heroes Unlimited was played a little bit but the class and level system did not match our expectations of the genre.  DC Heroes looked interesting but was a little beyond our young minds at the moment.  Champions offered excruciating detail and options but often felt like work instead of play.  GURPS Supers just really never got out of the gate because most of the group did not want to mess with "all those GURPS books".  V&V was our go to super game.  I still have my battered copy of the second edition rule book.  V&V is now back in the hands of Jeff Dee and Jack Herman and they have released version 2.1 of the rules.  I know that V&V 3rd edition is being developed now and I wonder if 2.1 is worth snagging or if I should just wait for 3rd edition?

For anyone interested, Monkey House Games has the following Villains & Vigilantes products available on lulu:

V&V 1.0 - softcover

V&V 2.1 - softcover

Mighty Protectors (V&V 3.0) - softcover

Mighty Protectors (V&V 3.0) - hardcover

Living Legends (V&V "sequel") - softcover

Monday, April 25, 2022

A to Z 10 Year Update: U is for Ultima

This post has been altered since it was originally published on April 24, 2012.

A to Z 2012: Gaming in the 1980s

The Ultima games and me go way back.  I was first introduced to Ultima at an old friend's house.  His older brother had a Commodore 64 and a huge stockpile of games - Rings of Zilfin, Adventure Creation System, and several Ultimas to name just a few.  One afternoon we did not have any D&D adventures prepped to play so he told us he "had something that we could play that was almost as good." 

I am not sure which Ultima we sat down and played that afternoon - somewhat irrelevant because I have played them all by now - but it was not difficult to see that this game was different from the computer role-playing games we had played previously.

There were several things that stuck out immediately about Ultima.  The world was open and available for exploration instead of forcing your character down a strict path.  There were many options for interaction in the game.  In the earlier entries, your character could ask the citizens their name, job, and other information.  In later entries of the series, you could basically have your character carry on a full conversation by using keywords that are highlighted.  There was also a morality mechanic, recurring characters, and an overarching narrative to several of the entries.  If you have never played any of the Ultima games, do yourself a favor and find one now. 

If you're interested in buying any of the Ultima games, they can be found at Good Old Games for $5.99 each but there are several that are free.  I waited for a sale and bought them all for no more than $20 for the complete collection.  I will be doing a playthrough of each game at some point in the future.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

A to Z 10 Year Update: T is for Talislanta

This post has been updated since it was originally published on April 23, 2012.

A to Z 2012: Gaming in the 1980s


I saw this ad in Dragon magazine countless times during the 1980's.  You know, back when Dragon magazine was good by having articles that were truly useful and were not completely focused on just A/D&D; there were actually articles about non-TSR games included at times also.  The point being that the ad caught my attention and made me wonder what this Talislanta game was all about.  My gaming group was all about fantasy games at this stage and would pick up any new fantasy  games we ran across to try out.  We had played enough of the available games that it was time for something new and something different for the group.
I remember that none of us were old enough to drive yet when I bought Talislanta.  I was over at my buddy Jamie's house and there was a game store about a mile down the road.  We were dedicated and would walk to that store every time we were at his mom's house; at least, until I was driving.  We were browsing the games on the shelves and then we noticed the Talisanta Handbook and Campaign Guide with the tattooed Thrall Warrior standing in a combat ready pose on the cover. 

Our custom at that time was to split the cost of any new games we purchased to just try out.  If both of us liked it, then we would get another copy.  If one of use liked it and the other did not, the other person would buy out the other half or just go half again on the next purchase.  If both of us did not like it, then we were only out half the price of the game.  With the modern prices of these types of games it might not be a bad idea to get some like-minded people and arrange a purchase arrangement like that again. 

I could go on and on about the coolness of Talislanta but I think anybody reading this could be better informed by going to the Wikipedia entry and then going to the Talislanta Library to check out the official Talislanta products that Stephan Michael Sechi has made available for download.  It's a true shame that there are no new Talislanta products to grace the store shelves but the creator has ensured that Talislanta will  never "die" by making the game available in this manner. 

Since the original post there is a new version of Talislanta available now using several different rulesets.  The promotional video from the kickstarter gives a basic overview of Talislanta: The Savage Land.  DriveThruRPG has several versions of the original rules system available plus 5E/ d20 version and a D6 version as well.

Friday, April 22, 2022

A to Z 10 Year Update: S is for Shadowgate

This post has been updated since it was originally published on April 21, 2012.

A to Z 2012: Gaming in the 1980s


I remember the game Shadowgate because it was nothing like any of the NES games we had played up until that time.  I picked the game up at one of those game stores that are located in the mall of any big city.  I believe it was after receiving Christmas money one year and several of us loaded up in my buddy Larry's car and headed to the mall to spend our loot. 

I know we stopped in on the music store, book store, and several other places in t he mall but I believe I waited until the game store to make my big purchase.  I know I bought several games but the one that sticks out in my memory is Shadowgate.  I know that the artwork on the box caught my 
attention as I was browsing the games.  I immediately made the connection between this game and Dungeons & Dragons so I bought it.  I believe I also got Wizards & Warriors at this time also but I can not be sure. 

After we finished spending our Christmas money, all of us piled back in to Larry's car and headed back to homes.  Of course, when we got to my house we decided to give the new games a spin to see how they played. 

All of us went back to my room and got ready to play.  As was customary at this time, there were several pronouncements of "cool" and "lame" when the Shadowgate title screen popped up on the television screen.  Of course, using the title screen to judge game quality is a perfectly sound method of doing so to the teen age brain so I guess it works; not really - because there were many times that one of us changed our mind after the title screen was gone and actual game play began.  Hey, we were willing to let the game play change our first impressions so no harm, no foul.

There were several things about Shadowgate that made a lasting impression.  First, it was not a button mashing game but more like a Choose Your Own Adventure book done as a video game.  Second, it was a game that we truly played as a group.  As we faced new obstacles, every one of us in the room made suggestions and had ideas on how to advance.  Third, it was the first game that we used the Nintendo Tip Hotline to get clues on how to get through certain areas.  Fourth, WE - not just one of us - beat this game after several months of play.

If you are interested in a video of game play, check out the video below:     

Shadowgate is still one of my favorite games for the NES.  I own a copy I play on my Retron as well as a Gameboy copy for my son.  More information can be found at the following links.

The Wikipedia entry includes some basic information about the game, the world, and the legacy of the game.

Shadowgate is available on Steam in the original version and one with updated graphics.

The trailer for a new game, Shadowgate VR, is available on the Oculus VR system.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

A to Z 10 Year Update: R is for Rogue

 This post has been updated since it was originally published on April 20, 2012.

A to Z 2012: Gaming in the 1980s


Several members of our gaming group took an introductory computers course together in high school.  I honestly remember very little of what was taught in that class; with time passing and things changing it is a whole new world when it comes to computer programming.  The one thing I do remember from that class is discovering the computer game Rogue. 

One of the guys in the class brought it to school on an old floppy disk.  A few minutes later and it was loaded on to every computer in the classroom.  One by one, people immediately started it up and began playing the game.  Some people did not care for it but most of us enjoyed playing and would do so every spare moment we got in class.  At first, we would just show up early and sneak in a few minutes of game play before class started.  Then we started sneaking in some play time after the teacher gave us our assignments and retreated to her office.  There were a few times that one or more of us got caught playing when the teacher returned, and we could not get the game shut down quick enoughI have downloaded a new version of this game recently and it has a "fake DOS" button that you can push to avoid that issue.  That sure would have helped out years ago.

Rogue is not overly complicated in presentation or game play, as you can see from the picture above.  It is just an old-fashioned dungeon grind with a small slice of a story.  Your character enters the randomly created dungeon collecting gold, fighting monsters, and improving in other ways.  The goal is to find some sort of amulet and escape the dungeon.  I do not know whether you use the amulet on some sort of monster boss or just escape with the amulet to win.  I do not even know what the lowest dungeon level is in the game.  I do know that none of us ever reached it.  Maybe next time... 

If you are interested in more information about the Rogue game, you can learn more about it at the Wikipedia entry for the game.

You can play the game in your browser for free at the Internet Archive.

An entire genre of similar games, known as roguelikes, has grown from the original game.  A healthy list of other games is available at this Wikipedia list.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

A to Z 10 Year Update: Q is for Quest of the Ancients

This post has been minimally updated since it was originally published on April 19, 2012.

A to Z 2012: Gaming in the 1980s

Quest of the Ancients

 I am doing one more post about a game that our group never played.  It was not from a lack of interest or availability.  There were several times that I picked up the first edition rulebook at our local game store and wondered about buying the game.  In retrospect, I completely understand why none of us bought the rulebook.  We had a good variety of fantasy games to choose from in the various collections in the group.  I know that we had AD&D, D&D, Fantasy Hero, Palladium Fantasy, and Middle Earth Role Playing.  That is just from memory and I am sure that we had more.  Just like the Living Steel post, what is the point of a post about a game that was never played in my gaming group.  Quite honestly, sometimes I still wonder about this game after all of these years...

  • Does somebody reading this post own this game?
  • Is it worth picking up? 
  • Am I missing something out of the fantasy genre by not having this game?
  • Can anyone just give me an honest evaluation of this game?
Thanks for any answers in advance.  I will definitely respond with other questions if somebody is willing to share their opinion...   

I don't have much to update on this post, but I do have the following.

I still don't own a copy of the game but I'm still interested.

More information can be found at the Wikipedia entry for the game.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

A to Z 10 Year Update: P is for Palladium Books

This post has been updated since it was originally posted on April 18, 2012,

A to Z 2012: Gaming in the 1980s

Palladium Books
Ok, I admit it, I somewhat procrastinated on this post.  I actually thought of several P words - print magazines and player character, for example - before deciding on Palladium Books.  I should have thought of that much sooner because they provided many hours of gaming fun for my old gaming group.  I have talked about Palladium Fantasy and some general thoughts about Palladium Books in my blog before.  Rather than repeat much of what I have already said I will advise any interested parties to follow the link above and read that post for the main points.

It's been a rough two days at work so far this week and I admit that I procrastinated and put off doing the P post.  Suffice it to say that Palladium Books provided several games for our gaming group:
  • Robotech - It all started with this.  I bought the core book and one of my buddies bought some of the old Robotech VHS tapes because we used to rush home to watch it after school.
  • Palladium Fantasy - Jamie bought the original first edition black cover rule book.  I would probably pay top dollar for this today because we had so much fun with it.  Yeah, it's basically a very heavily house D&D but our campaign switched to this system for a long time.
  • Heroes Unlimited - I got the first editon and would be interested in playing the second edition.
  • RIFTS - The awesome! Look for R is for RIFTS to hear some thoughts...
R is for RIFTS did not happen back in 2012 because I checked ethe date and it was published in e. That fact means RIFTS falls outside of "gaming in the 1980s" so I went with something else.  I'm still a big fan of RIFTS and still have several of the supplements.  If only I could find a group...

I forgot to mention Valley of the Pharaohs in my original post.  It was an ancient Egypti role-playing game and was published before Palladium started using their Megaversal system.  I answered an ad in Dragon magazine for a free copy if you paid postage.  History was always my favorite subject in school but this game didn't quite scratch any gaming itch we had.  It was an interesting read.

I do have a copy of Palladium Fantasy 2nd Edition and Palladium Fantasy 1st Edition Revised so I just need to get a copy of the original edition.  There are several supplements that might be of interest so I may pick up some of them.

I have also added Dead Reign to my collection.  It is a zombie apocalypse game with some differences from the typical setting of that type.  I have the complete line except for the last two supplements but I will be picking them up sometime "soon".  I am also working on some Dead Reign specific house rules to implement a few of the standard zombie tropes such as getting infected by a bite.

Unfortunately, it's been years since I've seen any Palladium products on the store shelves locally. I remember having a wide variety of Palladium products to browse at the local gaming stores in my teen years.  There might be good changes in the future for Palladium Books according to a video I watched the other day.  They have hired a new creative director and it was claimed that "nothing is off the table" when Kevin Siembieda was asked about a new edition and other subjects.   Hopefully, they can get headed back to the on shelf presence they once enjoyed.

Monday, April 18, 2022

A to Z 10 Year Update: O is for OGRE

This post has been updated since originally being published on April 17, 2012.

A to Z 2012: Gaming in the 1980s

Since the subject of this post is "Ogre" it could be about several things - one of the monsters your character can encounter in many fantasy games, something about Shrek, the big jock from Revenge of the Nerds that goes by that nick name, a super villain from the Champions universe, or any of several other options.  Well, this post is not about any of the things I have named.  This post is about the old war game, OGRE, designed by Steve Jackson.
OGRE was one of my two favorite non-rpg games; both were designed by Steve Jackson.  I have enjoyed several of his designs over the years.  I cannot honestly say that I remember much about the rules of the game - it's been about 20 years since I played - but I do remember how much fun we all had playing OGRE.  It was one of our go to games and was played pretty steadily in our group. 

So, what is so great about the OGRE game?  OGRE has a simple premise for play.  One player controls the OGRE - an almost unstoppable war machine - that is intent on destroying the headquarters of the othe player.  The second player has an assortment of various units at his disposal to stop the OGRE and defend his headquarters. 

There is an immense replay value associated with OGRE due to the selection of units available.  If you take a look at the picture to the left, you will note that the price is $2.95.  This was probably from 1977 or within a year or two but the point is that OGRE was relatively cheap in all of its' microgame or pocket box versions.  There have been other versions available over the years and I owned several of them; I never did buy OGRE Miniatures but I would have liked to have owned the game.  I hear through the grapevine that SJG has a Kickstarter under progress for an updated version expected to be released in November of 2012.  I have also heard that it is estimated that the price may be $100!  That is quite a big difference from the price of the sets I bought over the years.  Who am I kidding?  I've started putting money back now. 

I never did back the kickstarter for the OGRE Designer's Edition because we were putting in so much overtime at work that year that I lost track of time and it completely slipped my mind.  I did, however, buy the co and nice re box of OGRE Sixth Edition during the Black Friday sale at Wizard's Asylum for half price! The old pocket box game had small counters and a paper map while this huge box comes with a fold out cardboard map and nice 3D cardstock playing pieces that must be punched out and easily assembled.  It's a great update to an old classic. If you're interested in more information, you can find it at the OGRE page of Steve Jackson Games.