Monday, December 23, 2013

[Adventures in Fantasy] Book of Creatures and Treasure

The final book of the Adventures in Fantasy role-playing game boxed set is Book III: Book of Creatures and Treasures.  This slim, 49 page manual has a Pepto-Bismol colored cover with red letters and the material inside is also presented in red lettering.  I am sure this was done for copy protection back in those days but it can lead to some rough reading.  The cover art depicts a lone dragon sitting with wings spread and one foot on what I can only assume to be a giant’s skull from the size of it.

The words of the introduction take up approximately one-third of the page.  The authors explain their main source for the creatures came from “the myths of Europe and the Mediterranean while some creatures come “from other sources” but those other sources are not mentioned.  The aim of the creature section was “to provide a mythos composed of those creatures that comprise the major segment of our mythological heritage” and to describe them with “the attributes and background they possessed in the myths of their origin”. There are also a few words about treasure in the introduction.  The random treasure tables have been set up for a large amount of variation while not allowing too much treasure.  The sample artifacts included came about from the research of the author.  These artifacts should be rare and the treasure tables have been designed to reflect that. 

The creatures section of the rule book contains 31 pages of information.  These 31 pages are split among 29 pages of creature descriptions and a 2 page list of basic creature information at the end. Every entry contains the name of the creature along with average hit points (hit points without rolling), movement (flying also), alignment, body type (for combat purposes), and hit dice (for when you want to roll for hit points). This information is typically followed by a short paragraph or two describing physical appearance, culture, intelligence, weaknesses, and some encounter notes.  The information seems sufficient enough for game use and, most importantly, the reader is not smothered in a mountain of details and statistics that seems to be the norm in many modern game systems.

The largest entry in the creatures section – and the one that most people will probably find the most interesting – is the one detailing Dragons.  The information on Dragons takes up 9 pages of this section because there is no static list of entries to use.  Each Dragon is unique and must be generated before campaign play.  Every Dragon has 13 Characteristics – Form, Age, Size, Sex, Intelligence, Egotism Index, Greed Index, Personality Index, Alignment, Breath Value, Magic Rating, Interests, and Hoard – that are generated by rolling on a series of provided tables.    

The typical length of most of the other creature descriptions is around one-third to one-half of a page.  Of course, there are some descriptions that fall outside of this range. Bits of mythological information can be learned by reading the creature descriptions.  Bugbears are closely related to Goblins and their name was intended to mean “Goblin Bear”, Ogres are the offspring of the Troll and Trow, if Black Elves are exposed to sunlight they will automatically turn to stone without a saving throw, and Vampires can change into 6 different forms.  It is nice to see some actual mythology used for the monsters and also some connection to stuff like Hammer Horror.  Some players will probably dislike the fact that Adventures in Fantasy is very human-centered because many of the monster races have weakness or other disadvantages that will make them highly unattractive for use as player characters.  The only other negative that I can really see is that this is just the basic game and there were many supplements planned that would have expanded Dragons, the Jinns, and others; nothing more was ever published so one can only imagine what might have been. 

The second half of the book uses 18 pages to cover topics such as gemstone values, miscellaneous treasure, magic items, and artifacts.  Following a brief introduction, there are three pages of charts and explanations.  The General Treasure Chart determines if a treasure consists of coins, gem/jewels, miscellaneous treasure, or magic items.  There is also an individual treasure chart with the results affected by activity, location, and social status for solo encounters.

The next nine pages of the manual cover the subject of magic items.  This section begins with some basic information about magic items.  There are two types of magic items:  natural and artifact.  Natural magic items derive most of their power from the material used in construction while artifacts are granted their power mainly from the workings of the maker during construction.  Characters can even begin play with a family heirloom magic item on a successful roll against their age. 

The magic items included in the game are split into five basic groups: swords, armors, amulets, talismans, and miscellaneous. The magic items avoid the straight up “sword +1” and similar labels that seem to plague many games these days.  Swords are very individualized with attributes such as unbreakable, pierce rock, magic dispeller.  Swords may even turn on a character if found instead of inherited.  Armor has an enchantment level expressed as a percentage bonus to defense and only one armor bonus can be used for improving defense.  Amulets function like armor because they are “always on” when worn and Talismans function like swords and have to be put into use.  These items grant the user abilities such as increasing saving throws, increasing strength, warding against magic, granting future knowledge, or an assortment of other benefits.  I did not notice any cursed items but maybe that was planned for a future expansion.   

The final five pages contain details for artifacts in the game.  The largest part of this section is an alphabetical listing of 24 miscellaneous artifacts.  Some examples of the artifacts include The Bow of Locksley, Waters of Life, Flying Carpet, and the Wand of Light.  The descriptions seem pretty clear and easy to comprehend.  I get the impression they would be quite fun in play with sense of discovery and a little bit of unpredictability in some cases.  This section closes with a sample campaign artifact table that one can use to randomly determine which artifact is discovered. 

This was the easiest book in the Adventures in Fantasy boxed set for me to fully grasp.  I admit that the other two books had me scratching my head in spots.  I do not think it is necessarily because they were difficult reading but because they seemed vague and even contradictory to me at times.  After making it through this manual with relative ease I am really interested in going back through the other books and giving it another shot.  Maybe I will do that sometime in the future…

Okay, I am not quite done yet.  I do have some other stuff I would like to do with this game including:

I have searched for a character sheet for Adventures in Fantasy and have had no luck at all.  I have some published stat blocks provided by a fellow blogger that will help me design a character sheet to make available for download.

There were three reference sheets in the boxed set.  I am in the process of cleaning these up and making them available for download.

I am interested in going back through the rules and noting some house rule decisions that will help me understand this game better.  If I am successful at this task then I will make those notes available for download.

If I get really motivated then I would definitely be interested in developing a new game based on my perceptions of Adventures in Fantasy.  This game would be written in the same way that Tunnels & Trolls was written as a reaction to Dungeons & Dragons.  I make no promises…



Saturday, December 21, 2013

State of the Blog...

It has been almost two weeks since I last posted.  Work has been pretty hectic with extra hours and extra days recently but it always picks up during the winter in the bus industry.  I am just thankful that I have one of the “easier” jobs instead of the back breaking labor that others are doing all day.  We are on holiday leave until Jan 6th so I plan on getting back to regular posting.  In an effort to do some catching up, here are some snapshot thoughts on various subjects.

Posts & Traffic
My last post was the 300th post to this blog and there have been almost 45,000 page views since the start.  I know some of the traffic is the result of random search results but there are others that could be considered faithful readers and I appreciate it.  Thank you all for stopping by and also for commenting when the mood hits.  Even if we disagree, I enjoy reading the other viewpoints and experiences.

A Look Back
Starting this blog was a random thing for me.  I have always enjoyed writing but it isn’t always easy for me.  Once I get started it seems like words flow pretty easy but getting started is definitely the hardest part for me.  It often feels like I drag the words out while they are holding on kicking and screaming the whole way.  If I can keep up the writing it is much easier but if I go weeks on end then it becomes difficult again.  I would assume that – like any skill – you have to exercise it to keep it up to snuff.

The Way Ahead
I began blogging with real no plan in place.  I just started posting about Adventures in Fantasy and went off in other directions for the content of other posts.  While random ideas and concepts served me well for some time, there is something to be said for having a plan with a goal in sight.  I am going to try to get back on track with committed posts planned out – not sure of the frequency – to eliminate the mostly random nature of my blog posts.   

Adventures in Fantasy
I started this blog by examining Arneson’s Adventures in Fantasy game.  I got sidetracked and I still owe any interested readers the final post or two for this game.  I stated the same thing earlier this year and have yet to fulfill that goal.  I am making a commitment to complete that series of posts before the end of January 2014. I also have other resources for this game that I would like to make available – reference sheets and a character sheet, specifically. I have even tossed around the idea of making a game in reaction to Adventures in Fantasy similar to the way that Tunnels & Trolls was written largely as a reaction to D&D.

Perilous Journeys & SteamCraft
I am a fan of both of these games from Perilous Journeys Publishing.  I converse with the author on a pretty regular basis.  I am hammering out some fan support for both of these games and will post them on my blog in the coming months. 

I am a fan of the movement and I definitely appreciate their efforts.  The professionally published games I have really been drawn to lately are Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG and Swords & Wizardry Complete; I plan on putting up some resources for both of these systems in the coming months.  Those two games really show both ends of the clone spectrum as far as I am concerned – one is closer to “by the book” and the other is closer to “by the spirit” – and I will probably hold off on purchasing any more of these types of games unless something really knocks me off my feet. 

That does not mean I am not interested in other clone games.  I really need to take a closer look at Raven Crowking’s work and I would be really interested in seeing a full blown game by Venger Satanis after seeing some of his other work and through conversations we have had.  I am also currently working on a Toldara sourcebook for the Back to the Dungeon RPG by Eldrad Wolfsbane.  For the most part, however, I believe there are probably enough of the core retro-clone systems available at this point.  I hope the movement starts spawning more supplementary material, more speculative material, and more neo-clone material.

D&D Next
I saw earlier that D&D Next will be released in 2014.  I will definitely do the cheapest buy in possible to check out the final design.  I am interested but I am also a little standoffish about the final product.  I am not confident in their “one system to unite all D&D fans” goal and I am pretty skeptical about how this will work in application.  It will be interesting to see how it plays out next year.  I am sure that it will sell like crazy initially and will most likely knock Pathfinder off the top spot for a short while.  Let’s see what happens after the hype dies down…

Other Games
Now, more than ever, I am curious about breaking out and playing other games.  I want to see how USR handles in actual play.  I am also interested in breaking out my copy of RIFTS and giving it another go.  After reading the game reports from Venger Satanis I am really interested in picking up the Vampire:the Masquerade 20th Anniversary edition because I missed the original wave of popularity and I have become increasingly interested in the game over the years.  Unfortunately, most of my gaming experience these days is purely academic.  It is rather difficult at times to coordinate schedules to get people together and my wife works on the weekends at night so online gaming can be a real challenge with two young children at home; my 7 year old is autistic and that can be demanding at times.  Please, don’t forget about me when sending the Google+ Hangout game invitations because one of these days I am going to make it!

Board Games
I do not have a tremendous amount of experience with board gaming; I enjoy RISK and Axis & Allies.  Even though I have relatively little experience with board gaming, I do have some concepts for board games that I am working on with other bloggers.  Progress is going to be slow and there is a high probability that neither will ever get completed.  As much as the idea intrigues me, I am falling short on expanding ideas.  I have learned that when it comes to board games I can come up with concepts and ideas for the game but when it comes down to the nuts and bolts design there is something not clicking.

The End

That should just about cover it for now.  I am curious to see what the next year brings to the blogosphere.  I enjoy reading your posts and I hope to continue to produce more “good” than “bad” posts.  I know not every post is going to be gold and that is fine with me.  It is beneficial to get the clutter out of my head so I can move on to writing the next post.  I have put you through enough of my rambling and now it is time to post this so I can catch up on some of blog reading…

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Wake The Dead is now Available at DriveThruRPG

For anyone interested, Wake The Dead is the newest product available at DriveThruRPG from Perilous Journeys Publishing.  I was impressed by the core game and this adventure continues to deliver and it's only $4.99!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Venger's The Baleful Sorcerer of Tsathag'kha is Pure Gold!

Due to the recent Oklahoma snowstorm my internet has been a little spotty but my repeated attempts paid off.  I downloaded The Baleful Sorcerer class by Venger Satanis from DriveThruRPG.  For more information, check out Venger's old school gaming blog: The Baleful Sorcerer of Tsathag'kha: If you've ever wanted to play a swarthy, silk-clad sorcerer from a Clark Ashton Smith or Robert E. Howard story, then look no will be IMPRESSED!