Saturday, December 31, 2022

Dungeon23 Part 0: Ready to Begin

I keep a few notebooks and journals on hand for when ideas hit so I can start collecting all of the information together in one spot.  Plus, it allows me to easily carry one in my lunch bag at work so I can add to it if the mood strikes. When I read about the #Dungeon23 challenge a few days ago I thought it was a perfect opportunity to break one of these journals out to use for storing my ideas on the megadungeon I would create in the process.  I had four of them available, so I looked through them and decided to use this Navy Blue digest-sized dotted journal for my work.

Even though I was intrigued by the idea of the challenge, I was having a little issue with getting started.  Back in the day, we used to just roll with it and go on, but I haven't made a dungeon in years because I haven't played face to face in a LONG time.  I have done some play-by-post gaming but nothing "live".  I do have some notes on a campaign world, Toldara, that I've been working on so this will be a chance to incorporate some of that stuff into the challenge, but I was still mentally "locked up" until a few days ago.  

It dawned on me what I was doing wrong in this instance.  I wasn't breaking up the information into bite-size portions, but I was trying to figure out everything all at once.  The ideas started flowing pretty freely once I broke down the information.  This doesn't mean that I will complete the challenge.  I may get 2 months end and run out of steam.  I hope not but I do intend to complete the challenge.  In addition, I'm not strictly sticking to only a megadungeon during my posts.  I'm going to post about the surrounding area and other places of interest.  I may do one large dungeon and several smaller ones.  I honestly don't know yet, but I did make this cheesy, hand-drawn title page for my journal.

Good luck to everyone participating in the #Dungeon23 challenge.  I look forward to seeing what develops in your posts as well as mine.

Friday, December 30, 2022

[Fan Film Friday] Puppet Master: Revival

I don't recall seeing many Puppet Master fan films but this one is good.  They seem to respect the lore while adding to it AND the effects are much better than most of the fan films that feature small puppets or beings of some sort.  The puppets in this fan film are even done smoother than several of the official films.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Maintenance & Plans

Just a quick update about some blog maintenance and plans for the coming year.

I deleted my other blogs because they were dead in the water.  I went through a divorce years ago around the time they were started, and I struggled with getting up and going.  The time for a separate blog on those subjects has come and gone.  If there is anything that comes up that would be worth posting, I will just post it here.

I plan on continuing on with my usual D&D posts, Miniature Monday posts, and Fan Film Friday posts as well.  In addition, I plan on posting once a month leading up to the 50th anniversary of D&D as well as attempting the #Dungeon23 challenge.  I'm not sticking to just a megadungeon for my posts, though.  I'm going to try to use this as an opportunity to consolidate and flesh out the scattered notes for my campaign world a bit better.  There will be overworld stuff, town locations, dungeons, etc.  The point being trying to have 365 posts about campaign world information in one form or another.  

Monday, December 26, 2022

[Miniature Monday] Bone Guardian


Bone Guardians are a custom monster for my homebrew campaign world of Toldara.  The basic concept is a "boss monster" type of creature that can basically blend in with a normal group of skeletons and then the characters will discover this one is much tougher.  My original Delving Deeper stats for the Bone Guardian can be found in a previous post from October of 2021.  I have an updated version of the Bone Guardian but I'm waiting on artwork before I make a new post.

I wasn't happy with this miniature when I finished painting it.  I let it sit for a day or two while I looked online for a different miniature to use for the Bone Guardian.  I decided to go ahead and put a wash on it, and I could always use it for something else if I found a better fit.  The wash made it really pop because there is a real look of decay and age to the miniature now.  I'm still fairly new at painting miniatures and I still have plenty to learn but it's getting easier to figure things out.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Mini Hooks for Fantasy Campaigns III

 Continuing on...

20. A recently reclaimed tome believed to be of great magical power whose pages turn blank if you read the words aloud.

21. A local mage's animal companion has been seen around town for the last several days but there has been no sign of his owner.

22. A Constable from a nearby town shows up with a "Wanted" poster and the picture looks remarkably like the constable in the PC's town.

23. A woman one of the PC's has never seen before shows up with an escort from the city guard at a PC's house looking for her brother that she claims is him.

24. A small group of the King's Guards shows up looking for "volunteers" of a certain age and the PC's fit the bill.

25. An old friend of one of the PC's tracks them down, visibly nervous and agitated they explain about needing help from the local ruffians.

26. As the local population awakes and begins its' day, the citizens find an Ogre asleep by the local well or in the middle of town square.

27. While doing research in the local archives, a local scholar has discovered information on the remnants of a lost civilization that was rumored to possess magical knowledge that has not only been lost in the modern age but is more powerful than the current spell knowledge. A local businessman is looking for a group of explorers to hire to investigate the ruins and bring back such knowledge.

28.  With the arrival of the latest New Moon, a constellation has disappeared from the night sky.

29.  During the last week the statues in the town square have been in different spots each morning. It was believed to be the result of some local pranksters until this morning.  The statues were not only in different spots in the town square but in different poses.

30. The PCs have been hired to escort a caravan with several sealed boxes and locked chests. Upon arrival at their destination, their contact does an inventory to discover that the contents of all the containers have been removed and they are now filled with rocks, sand, and hay. His guards have closed in and he is demanding answers from the PCs.

Monday, December 19, 2022

[Miniature Monday] Yuan-Ti

I always dug the look of the Yuan-Ti and wanted to include them somewhere in my campaign world.  I did use them as depicted in any modules that they might have appeared in, but I wanted to do something else with them.  I never did come up with anything else for them, but I kept that that in the back of my brain all these years. 

When I decided to start working on my campaign world of Toldara I knew I had to include them.  The main design goal of Toldara was to include stuff inspired by things I enjoy as well as a greatest hits compilation of ideas from my older campaigns.  During a time of holiday shut down I was watching some older movies from my collection that I knew what I had to do with the Yuan-Ti.

I had the Cult of Grax representing one of the forces from one of my old campaigns.  I definitely planned to include them in Toldara.  While watching the 1982 Conan film and seeing Thulsa Doom, the cultists, and the snakes brought all this stuff together.  The Cult of Grax would be a snake cult, their symbol would be a globe with a snake coiled around it, they would have custom Clerics, and this hybrid snake & man figure would represent an especially devoted Graxian Cultist rewarded with dark powers by their dark lord. 

Friday, December 16, 2022

[Fan Film Friday[ Slasherverse Trailer

If you've ever wanted to watch a cinematic universe shared between Freddy, Ghost Face, Jason, Leatherface, and Michael Myers then check out the trailer below and stick around for the 5 short films.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Mini Hooks for Fantasy Campaigns II

 Continuing on with mini hooks to use as ideas in your fantasy games...

11. A young child has returned to town with a few small gems he found in a hollow tree trunk in the woods outside of town.

12. The local witch living close to town has appeared in the town square warning of bad omens for the times ahead.

13. An eerie wolf's howling can be heard at night ever since a caravan of entertainers recently set up camp outside of town.

14. During a lull in the town's holiday celebration, a woman comes through the crowd with the local constable and points toward the PC's while proclaiming loudly "That's them!".

15. Small bands of soldiers have been turning up in town with no explanation for their arrival.

16. One of the Priests runs from the local temple screaming "We must renounce this faith!".

17. A bump has risen from the ground in the town square and has slowly gotten bigger over the last week.

18. A very large feather from what must be a gigantic bird has floated down and landed right on the entrance to the city.

19. Several townsfolk claim their fortunes have been read by one of the vagabonds performing in town and have turned out to be true.  One of the PC's is the most recent person to visit them and have their fortune read.

20. A recently reclaimed tome believed to be of great magical power whose pages turn blank if you read the words aloud.

More to come...

Monday, December 12, 2022

[Miniature Monday] Fixing Bent Weapons


If you've done enough browsing for miniatures, you're bound to have come across one with a bent sword, spear, axe, or some other item.  I bought a few that were slightly bent but I was able to fix them with a tiny clamp placed on the item for a few days.  That wasn't an inconvenience at the time because I had other miniatures I was in the process of completing.  I did, however, decide to find a better method for the next time I bought a bent miniature.

On another trip to one of the local gaming stores, I was browsing through their selection of miniatures and found two packages with three kobolds in each package.  The only problem was that one of them had a bent sword (see the picture on the left) and those two packages were the only kobolds in stock.  I decided to buy them all so I wouldn't have to wait for more to arrive or worry about trying to match colors if I didn't paint them all at once.

I did try the clamp trick on the sword when I got home.  I let is set overnight but that didn't work.  I visited some forums and other sites to find a simple trick to fix the bent sword.  I put a coffee cup with water in the microwave and warmed it up for one minute.  Then I dipped the sword into the hot water somewhere between 20-30 seconds.  I tested the sword to find it pretty flexible, so I positioned the sword into a straight position (see the picture on the right) and held it under cold tap water for 20-30 seconds.  I placed the miniature in my painting area to see if the sword would remain straight.  That was a month ago and the sword has remained in place.  As you can see, I still haven't painted the miniature, but its time is coming soon.  Just like books, there's never enough time to read them all.

I only have experience with the Reaper Bones miniatures and other lines made from similar material.  I haven't even tried to paint a metal miniature yet, but I do have a few I bought for a trial run.  I don't even know how they paint in comparison but that's an experience for a later time.  

Friday, December 9, 2022

[Fan Film Friday] Prelude to Axanar

I was under the impression that Paramount didn't allow the Star Trek: Axanar fan film to continue after they raised so much money on crowdfunding.  Apparently, I missed the announcement that Axanar is coming soon. To see what Axanar has to offer, watch the Prelude to Axanar fan film.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Mini Hooks for Fantasy Campaigns I

I like to keep a list of random hooks that may lead to adventure ideas in my fantasy campaigns so I thought I would share some of them here.  Maybe they will help some others come up with ideas to expand on these or ideas of their own. 

1. Strange lights have appeared in the nearby hills outside the city the last 3 nights.  These lights have showed up at the same time and last for one hour.

2. The cat population on the city streets has become noticeably higher in the last week.

3. The local crypt has been violated. The all evidence points to something breaking out of the crypt rather than breaking into the crypt.

4. A local group of youths have returned from a hunt with an abnormally large egg.

5. Graffiti from a long dead cult has appeared overnight on a local temple or church.

6. A local youth known for exaggeration has returned to town frightened.  He babbles on about an army of monsters passing in the nearby woods.

7. A small group of Orcs has surrendered themselves at the gate seeking asylum.

8. A caravan has entered the town rambling about a magical flying disc of silver that sat down nearby in the woods.

9. Mounds left behind by a large burrowing creature have started popping up close to town.

10. A local Priest has started acting strangely and appears unkept after studying a newly reclaimed lost tome of knowledge recently turned in to the local temple by a group of explorers.

More to come...

Monday, December 5, 2022

[Miniature Monday] Dungeon Door


I've always wanted to try painting some scenery such as doors, tables, altars, etc. for use in my games.  I commonly see this type of scenery at one of the game stores but it's usually a set of several pieces.  I've avoided picking any of those up because the price and contents are both a larger commitment than I wanted to make on a trial run experiment.  I left without purchasing any scenery.

On the next visit I was browsing through the miniatures, and I found a package with two doors.  I don't remember exactly how much it cost but the price was right, and two doors is a small commitment.  I bought the package of doors, and I painted them when I got home that day.  It went really well, and I like the results.  I'm definitely buying more scenery such as some tables, an altar, and some bookshelves to start.  

Friday, December 2, 2022

[Fan Film Friday] Dylan's New Nightmare

If you're a fan of A Nightmare on Elm Street movies, a new fan film is coming that might catch your interest.  Dylan's New Nightmare is a fan-made sequel to Wes Craven's New Nightmare.  The film is set 25 years after the original and features Dave Mcrae (as Freddy) and Miko Hughes (Dylan Porter) in the cast.  Dave is probably the best choice for a new Freddy that I've seen so far and Miko returns to the role of Dylan 25 years later.  Keep your eye on this one.  It looks good!

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

[Palladium] Exceptional Attributes House Rule

I've been in the mood to play some Palladium Fantasy lately.  Like many of you, the first thing I'm doing is looking at potential house rules for any game I'm going to play. I'm not opposed to the use of exceptional attributes in the game, but I've always wanted to tweak the rule.  Instead of a roll of 16-18 granting a guaranteed D6 bonus to the attribute score, I've always wanted to change it to a possibility of a bonus. I've tinkered with several different ways to do this but until I recently posted at The Ruins of Murkhill about it I hadn't been happy with the ideas I previously attempted to use.  Thanks to The Perilous Dreamer for suggesting the modification to my original idea.  The house rule is detailed below.

Exceptional Attributes: A roll of 16-18 during attribute generation grants the possibility of an exceptional attribute.  A roll of 16 gives a 10% chance, a roll of 17 gives a 25% chance, and a roll of 18 gives a 50% chance of an exceptional attribute.  If the exceptional attribute roll is successful, you roll another D6 and add the score to the previously generated score.  

I think that will work.  It's easy to implement and it makes the exceptional attributes more rare and truly exceptional.  I haven't tested it out in play yet, but it sounds reasonable.  I may look at the attribute table in general to see if it needs to be modified as well.  Have you done anything like this with Palladium? Did it work? Any suggestions?

Monday, November 28, 2022

[Miniature Monday] DIY Gelatinous Cube

I'm still painting miniatures to help scratch the old gaming itch; maybe I'll be fortunate enough to get a group together sometime in the near future.  As I continue to learn new methods and try out new tips, I have dipped my toe into crafting a miniature as well.  To avoid any confusion, I am absolutely not casting a metal miniature or anything similar because that is outside of my skill set and my artistic ability.  My miniatures are painted for tabletop use only and will definitely not win any sort of competition.  

I didn't set out to craft a Gelatinous Cube or any sort of miniature at all - it just happened.  I was picking up some groceries and remembered that I needed to buy some new ink pens.  On my way to that particular aisle, I passed by a shelf with some crayons, markers, and related stuff.   For some unknown reason, the package for the Crayola Model Magic caught my attention.
I stopped and picked up the package to read the instructions and see what it contained.  The box contained four small pieces of the modeling clay for a price of just under $5.  I imagined that I could probably craft a few easy things such as boxes, sandbags, boulders, etc. to potentially use in a game.  Again, my miniatures are for effect rather than display or competition so $5 would be a small price to pay if it didn't work out as well as I hoped.

I got home and put the Crayola Model Magic with my other supplies and then it occurred to me that a Gelatinous Cube is basically a box, so why not give it a try?  I formed the clay into a cube and let it sit for a while and noticed it still had some flexibility.  I recalled that I had a few spare bits laying around, so I added a sword, a helm, and a boot to the clay to show parts of unfortunate adventurers caught by the creature but not yet fully dissolved. Finally, I put a coat of slime green on the cube and then some blood around the pieces not yet dissolved. 

I'm pretty happy with the results.  Granted, it doesn't look as nice as a professionally produced miniature, but it cost me very little to make myself.  I still have the rest of the clay left so I will try to make some miniatures in the future.  I have plans for the slimes from the DragonQuest video game series and some oversized mushrooms as seen in the module In Search of the Unknown.  If it works out, there is a bucket of the clay available that costs twice as much but has 3 or more times the amount of the box.  

Have you crafted anything to use in your games?

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Posting Again...


It's been a few months since I last posted. It hasn't been from a lack of willingness, but we have worked an extremely large amount of overtime this year.  I've got the itch to start blogging again on a (at least) somewhat regular basis. I've got some new ideas for posts, I have some posts already scheduled in the queue, and maybe even a surprise here and there.  Who knows?  I still have a secret project I am working on but it's not yet ready for extra eyes.  Stay tuned for more information...

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.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

A to Z 10 Year Update: N is for Nintendo Entertainment System

This post has been updated since originally being published on April 16, 2012.

A to Z 2012: Gaming in the 1980s

Nintendo Entertainment System

I completely missed the first generation of console gaming.  That's right - there was never an Atari 2600 in the house when I was growing up.  In fact, I did not own a Colecovision or Intellivision console either.  I vaguely remember playing around with some of these things at a friends house but we missed the first generation of consoles.  What we had instead was the Commodore Vic-20 and I honestly never knew the difference.  There were plenty of games available and I could do other things the Vic-20 also.
That would all change one Christmas morning.  I woke up and noticed a large box with my name on it!  What could it be?  I was running through the options in my head all morning.  Finally, we started opening presents and I saved it for last.  When I opened it, I got super excited when I saw it was the Nintendo Entertainment System and several games.  The picture here on the left is a pretty fair representation of what I opened - the NES, games, zapper, controllers, and the robot were all there.  By the way, I still dig all of that stuff except for the stupid robot.  I never did like using it and I still hate it to this

I immediately got everything opened and out of the package.  We got the instructions laid out and then got it all hooked up.  For the next several hours, I was lost in the den/game room trying out the Nintendo.  I was hooked right from the moment I put in Duck Hunt and started zapping away.  Of course, Duck Hunt did not get a lot of play after that day.  As soon as I played some of the other games, I knew I just wanted to play until I beat them! 

My buddies and I would play quite often when we weren't doing some D&D or other activities; it was also the perfect opportunity to do some solo gaming because you just needed one player for the video games.  The NES got a ton of use in my childhood and I am surprised that it didn't just wear out.  I have to give a big THUMBS UP to Nintendo for making a quality product.   

Some of my favorite NES games (in no particular order) are:
Dragon Warrior was one of the first console rpg's that I played and owned.  I eventually owned every one of the Dragon Warrior games released for the NES.  It was a way to satisfy the D&D itch when no one else was available to play.  I enjoyed the story and felt immersed in the quest taking place in the game.  It had all of the typical D&D elements and also reminded me of Ultima. 
UGH - this game was rough!  Punch Out was one of the games I got at Christmas.  I put it in after Duck Hunt and played Glass Joe for several matches - many more than I should have I felt ;-) - until I finally beat him.  I continued on and finally made it to the third guy that weekend.  In the following months, advancing further in Punch Out became a serious competition among the whole group.  Every so often someone else would advance to the next boxer and that would make every one of us try harder.  Finally, I was the first to reach Mike Tyson.  I got slaughtered in the first round.  I didn't give up and kept practicing.  Some of the other members of the gaming group caught up to me and reached Tyson also.  I kept plugging away at it because I wanted to be the first one in the group to beat him.  I finally found out through Nintendo Power that I just needed to get a certain amount of points scored against Tyson and last all three rounds to win by decision.  I changed my strategy to one of mainly avoiding him during his really difficult spots in the match and scoring points during the best opportunities to do so.  Then everything was falling into place during one attempt at Tyson.  I knocked him down twice in the first round, twice in the second round, and then entered the third round.  We traded knockdowns during the match and during this final round.  I had the points to beat him by decision and I just need to last 13 more seconds after knocking him down for the second time in the third round.  Tyson hops up, meets me in the middle of the ring, throws a crushing uppercut - the same ones you are forced to avoid for over a minute in the first round - and sends Little Joe down to the mat!  No matter how hard or fast I hit the buttons, Little Joe would not get up.  Being around 16 or 17 at the time, I am quite confident that I let out a teen aged F BOMB and then immediately turned off the game.  Not my proudest  I never did play it again, either.  The funny thing is that none of us ever beat him.  One of these days I might have to track this down and give him another shot.   

I usually hate racing games but I really dug R.C. Pro-Am because it was different.  You weren't driving a racing car but one of a selection of remote controlled cars.  As you maneuvered around the track, there were power ups you could collect that would let you do things like shoot missiles.  There were also little arrow strips you could drive across that would shoot your car zooming down the track to pass the competition.   After collecting letters and spelling a word - I don't remember what it was - all of the cars would transform into trucks if I recall correctly.  We always wanted to last long enough to transform again but I don't believe any of us ever did accomplish that feat.

I remember playing the arcade version of Rygar every time I was stuck going to the grocery store.  When I found out there was a home version, I rushed out and got it.  At first, I was a little disappointed that it was not a direct adaptation but I quickly got over it.  The NES Rygar was so much more awesome to me because of the differences from the arcade version.  You travelled to different areas in the game in both but there was a sense of history to the world that has been tainted by evil.  There were unique items to collect and obstacles to overcome that would eventually result in facing the boss monster.  The most memorable thing about this game is the difficulty.  You could pick up from your previous game but only until you turned off the power.  There was no save or continue function that would let you come back later to pick up your quest from that point.  There were times when we would leave the NES powered up and just turn off the TV so we could continue the next morning.   

Super Mario Brothers was another one of the games in the Christmas package.  My buddies and I would play this game for hours, taking turns when someone would get killed.  It may be a "simple game" by the fact that you basically just make Mario run, jump, shoot fireballs, and avoid obstacles to get to the end of the stage but it is very fun and the stages are quite diverse.  This is a true NES classic and anyone that claims to be a console gaming fan - especially the retro kind - should play this game.

I remember hearing the name and thinking "that sounds like a game I will not get".  I borrowed the game from one of my friends at school and found another game that would satisfy my D&D itch when no one else was available.  I saved up my money and bought The Legend of Zelda; I even got the gold cartridge version!  I spent hours playing this game trying to get to the next dungeon, upgrade to the next better sword, or find some other item that would help me advance on the quest.  There were times that my friend Jamie and I would stay up pretty much all night playing this just to get to the next milestone.  The Legend of Zelda was a very engaging game and did a fine job of mixing the action and rpg genres into a game that would have wide appeal.  Although I have played a ton of the sequels, I still find this first game to be one of the best entries in the series.  I have even used it for inspiration when coming up with magic items and monsters for my fantasy campaigns over the years.

As soon as one of these games becomes available on the Wii's Virtual Console I make sure to download it.  So far I have not been disappointed in any of the games.  The play still feels very similar to the way I remember it.  In fact, I have downloaded several older games that are probably considered true classics by many - Metroid, Castlevania, and several others - but I am really waiting on the Dragon Warrior games.  I better go check the newest update to see if it is available... 

Since that time, the Wii Virtual Console service has been shut down.  That's unfortunate because the service offered much more than just old Nintendo games.  There were also Sega Genesis, Commodore, TurboGrafx-16, and others. I had a list of games that I was still planning on purchasing but I will have to look for other options now.

I chose to buy a Retron3 to scratch not just the NES itch, but the console will also play Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis cartridges as well.  I've picked up some of my old favorites including Dragon Warrior, The Legend of Zelda, RC Pro-Am, Rygar, Shadowgate, and Super Mario All Stars.  I've also picked up some games I never did own back in the day like The Adventure of Link, Uninvited, and Sonic the Hedgehog.  Some of the games I'm going to add to my collection when I find them include Final Fantasy, Metal Gear, Phantasy Star, and Trojan among others.