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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Review & Commentary On M.A.R. Barker's Empire of the Petal Throne Rules By TSR From M.A.R Barker's World of Tekumel

"A rich, complex world and a complete set of rules, Empire of the Petal Throne includes rules for character generation, magic, monsters, adventuring, societies and languages. It is set in the 2,354th Year “After the Seal” – the accession of the first Emperor of Tsolyánu, just before the events chronicled in Man of Gold, the first of several novels written by Prof. Barker. Included with the rules is a four page set of charts and tables, errata for the original game, a map of the City of Jakalla, a b&w map of the Five Empires, and a citizenship document for Tsolyanu, the Empire of the Petal Throne!"


Technically speaking Empire of the Petal Throne by M.A.R. Barker is a current game in print due to the machinations of the Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne Foundation. The set of rules that I'm going to be talking about today is the original Dungeons & Dragons Style rules set. If you wanna use Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne setting elements in your favorite rpg table top rules set then 
The Tekumel Sourcebook - Swords & Glory Vol. 1 for the classic material is the route to go. 



The world of the five empires is a complex cultural painting completely different from the high fantasy worlds of Dungeons & Dragons. Tékumel  is a setting created from within the fertile imagination of MAR Barker. Its vastly different from the original Dungeons & Dragons settings of Greyhawk & Blackmoor. How this is a quasi Middle Eastern, Indian, Mayan settings &  locations with ancient science fantasy overtones. The whole setting makes it clear that at any moment your player's PC's could be sacrificed, murdered, etc. in terrifying different realms of dungeons & ruins. Even though this game uses the familiar character generation, classes, etc. as original Dungeons & Dragons, EMP is vastly different because of its language, principles, & don't get me started on the cultures  of the game.  M.A.R. Barker was a brilliant weaver of tales, creator of setting, & definer of his world. Those who get invested are in for a ride.
For original Dungeons & Dragons players & DM's the trade cities provide a fertile place where you can plunk down your player's PCs. Adventuring means citizenship with lots of minor advantages. Within moments of plunking down in town PC's might wander into trouble or vast ruins that make the Undermount look like a pile of rubble. EMP is a mix of urban & dungeon crawl with lots of monsters not seen by the average Dungeons & Dragons players. They will learn to fear the smell of cinnamon there are vast numbers of alien races, weird creatures, robotic lifeforms & other strangeness left over in the depths of the underworld. Their waiting to say hi & murder your  adventurers.
The Empire of  The Petal Throne Rpg review on Drivethrurpg by 
Brit B. brings up a very important point with reference to the monsters;"Simple but striking black & white illustrations are frequent, which is good since I’m pretty sure you don’t know what a Pé Chói is, but you will soon. Each monster has about a paragraph of description for inspiration and a basic stat block. There’s a hex map of the main country along with ungridded maps of the main city, Jakálla, and the five empires to get you started. It is old school in my favorite sense, they give you the basics and let you run with it."
Its the sense of flavor that melts like candied Middle Eastern wax of imagination from the annals of Empire of the Petal Throne. 
 Jakálla has such setting flavor for me as a trade city that it reeks of spices, intrigue, incense, & adventure oozing through the cracks of its flag stones. Sorcerers & priests around every corner with their own sinister agendas. 
A word on combat, this is a 1975 game & the combat is a lethal affair with players expecting a high mortality rate. The game is more tool kit then actual whole cloth game that modern gamers might not be used to. Expect to die in unexpected & sinister ways of mayhem with monsters & NPC 's involved. 
Everything you need is contained within this book, so get those character sheets ready!  Jakálla or one of the many other trade cities await your PC's!  Do I think that Empire of the Petal Throne is fantastic? Yes I do but this is the rules set that I grew up with & so there's a bit of nostalgia on my part. Is it perfect? Not by a long chalk folks but for me & many others its a fantastic entry & exit point for the world, setting, & game of the Petal Throne. 

So why haven't I reviewed Jeff Dee's 
Bethorm: the Plane of Tekumel RPG from Uni games? Well that's a separate review completely coming up. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Campaign Thoughts With Original Dungeons & Dragons, Adventurer, Conqueror, King's Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu, & A Side of Cha'alt


So I've been going through an  original Dungeons & Dragons recon to connect with my roots. I'm taking a vacation from the original Swords & Stitchery blog. Because while I've got lots to say my attitudes lately about the sales & marketing of the OSR have left me very jaded. Rereading OD&D has led me back to my love for M.A.R. Barker's  Empire of the Petal Throne. Empire of the Petal Throne's background leaves a lot of room to play around.  I'm sticking with the original Nineteen Seventy Five rules for EPT because these are the rule set that I cut my teeth on. They differ a bit from Original Dungeons & Dragons but not by much. The rules can be used to drop a party of OD&D adventurers onto one of the trade cities scattered across Tekumel surface.



"Tekumel, the world of fantasy and adventure. The setting for this fantasy campaign game is an alien planet, Tekumel, where a cosmic cataclysm stranded human and extra-territorial invaders eons past. A hostile world of poisonous flora and fauna, with intelligent and vengeful native races! Mankind and its allies must battle for survival with nothing save Medieval technology — but magic aids them . . . and there are certain supernatural powers which may intervene.
The game contains three large full-color maps and 8 1/4" x 11" book with a brief history of Tekumel, rules, descriptions of various races and creatures involved, and more. Share in this exciting fantasy world by playing EMPIRE OF THE PETAL THRONE."
1975 ... TSR 1005 "
Taken from Wayne's Books section on Empire of the Petal Throne 

Now I've been involved with short run ninety day campaigns over the last five years or so due to the demands of work. This means an actual beginning, middle, & end of campaign regardless of the outcome. Over last couple of years since 2016 I've been quietly involved with the Godbound rpg. It works best with original Dungeons & Dragons I've found. But it also works well with M.A.R. Barker's Empire of the Petal Throne game from TSR. The good news is that I've got a ton of material sitting in notebooks for this..
When I started in on this one of the resources that I originally didn't have were Cha'alt by Venger Satanis nor Adventurer, Conqueror, King's Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu. 



What I'm going to be doing is attacking this campaign from a totally different avenue. I'm going to be using some of the original time line from Empire of the Petal Throne. So we'll see if the players notice this turn of events as things start getting weirder. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A Pipeful Of Trouble Adventure By Bret James Stewart From D-oom Products For Labyrinth Lord Or Your Old School Campaigns

"All is not well in Brierfield. The idyllic halfling village has fallen prey to unknown bandits and marauders. These peaceful victims of shattered loves and broken dreams need a band of heroes to save them. Are you willing to help them in their time of needs?"


Sometimes a dungeon master needs a basic & down to Earth module & that's where A Pipeful Of Trouble comes in from Bret James Stewart. We get a low level halfling adventure with some heart & heat for the player's PC's. The production & layout are straight up too the level of  D-oom Products expectations. This adventure is packed with back to back old school value at seventy two pages of campaign setting set up goodness. This adventure packs in  NPCs,nasty opponents & NPC's, lots of dangerous adventure locales,

twists & turns for the PC's situations, plus a brand new
evil monster with its own brand of weirdness.
The cartography  for Brierfield, & the Merrywood route to the caves, along with the adventure  a cave and dungeon maps are very well done. But I can't help but feel that everything in 
Pipeful Of Trouble is an old fashioned campaign set up. While the Tolkein flavor is undeniable its not an adventure that talks down the players or the dungeon master. Here the flavor is akin to a fully fleshed out adventure that can be dragged & dropped as a prime introduction adventure.
While this is an introductory adventure for beginning characters the entire adventure feels like a European fairy tale mixed in the with strains of Tolkien shifted through the lens of Dungeons & Dragons.


:Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis - FAIRY TALE (FAIRY TALE OF KINGS) - 1909 has some of the magic of Pipeful Of Trouble adventure ideals. 

There's something to be said for bringing in a tradition Dungeons & Dragons style adventure with some solid beginnings for lower tier PC's. At this Pipeful Of Trouble succeeds in spades. The style of this adventure is one with clear goals & roadways of old school campaign ideals. This is a good thing for beginning characters & players in my opinion. The dungeon master is given all of the tools he or she will need to set up a fine campaign to beginning with.
There are several ways I can see using Pipeful Of Trouble, one is for a set up for a game of James Spahn's The Hero's Journey Swords & Wizardry rpg . All of the elements are present in Pipeful Of Trouble to really bring home the Tolkein while grounding a campaign on the dungeon master's stomping ground. The epicness of the adventure's background setting allows the dungeon master to customize certain adventure elements. 





But the place where Pipeful Of Trouble really shines is with the Goblinoid Games Labyrinth Lord retroclone game. The whole package slots right into LL with no trouble at all & really brings home that old school feel without giving the players loads of horrid worry. That isn't to say that Pipeful Of Trouble isn't going to kill your PC's dead quite the contrary. But it means that the players can have a solid time with the adventure right from the dice hitting the table.



Pipeful Of Trouble does three things at the table top level & does em right. It presents a great introductory adventure, there is some really nasty business waiting for the PC's, & the adventure serves as a prime price of adventure gaming perfect for introducing new players to the OSR & for killing off the PC's of veterans who get cocky with a first through third level adventure. Is Pipeful Of Trouble worth the money?! Yes I think so. The adventure succeeds on two levels, one it delivers on its promise for adventure! 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Review & OSR Commentary On RPGPundit Presents #26: Mutant Hordes of the Last Sun For Your Old School Wasteland Campaigns



So today it wad great anticipation that I grabbed a copy of Rpg Pundit Presents 26 Mutant Hordes of the Last Sun. 
I asked for this copy of what looks like Rpg Pundit's dip into the OSR  post apocalyptic rpg scene with the Last Sun setting. Sort of a Dying Earth meets gonzo OSR rpg style game setting, Dungeon Crawl Classic or Mutant Crawl Classic players are going to feel right at home here as will Mutant Future rpg fans. There's also a good shot of Tolkein's Middle Earth playing to the strains of some weird Eighties sound track here. None of this is a bad thing for the OSR zine presentation of this setting;

" In the gonzo world of the Last Sun, human beings are an endangered species. After the Great Disaster, human numbers have steadily declined throughout the world. Although a few areas still contain a human majority (like the city of Arkhome, detailed in RPGPunditPresents #16 and #20), true humans are a very rare breed throughoutmost of the world.
While humans have been hunted to near-extinction in some areas (like the Middle-Northern Wildlands, detailed in RPGPundit Presents #15), it was mostly mutation rather than depredation that
has apparently doomed humanity. The time of the Great Disaster, when the Dark Ones entered the world of the Last Sun and waged war against all life, caused an enormous amount of ecological damage to
the world. The disappearance of the Ancients, crash of G.O.D. into Emergency Mode, and rebellion of the AI Daemons meant that there was no central control. The loss of the Dwarven Machineholds to the
servants of the Dark One also meant that all the machinery that kept strict control over the climate of the world was no longer accessible.
The war of the Pythian Elves and their allies against the Dark Ones on the surface of the world created devastation, both technological (radiation and other toxic effects) and magical. As a result of all this,
not only did many humans die, but many more were mutated into horrific monsters and monster-races, like the humanoids usually described as goblin-kin. A majority were changed into what are now
simply referred to as mutants—they are human-like, but no longer human creatures"
So basically Rpg Pundit is steadily working on an OSR post apocalyptic rpg and testing the waters of the marketplace with a slick mutant race generator with a strong eye towards the gonzo end of the spectrum. This product clocks in at eighteen pages & is full of random generators for everything from your mutant's tribal factional background, powers, type, color, & potential additional physical qualities. In addition there's a psychic powers system built into the product that can work in a wide variety of OSR products. Finally there's a random mutant quirky qualities & weirdness table. And there's actually a couple of pieces of pretty decent artwork along with the usual quality layout to the product line. 




Mutant generators walk a very fine line when it comes to execution they have to have enough useful information & lots of great random tables without taking away from the tool box nature of the product. Rpg Pundit Presents 26 Mutant Hordes of the Last Sun succeeds in that regard. The three dollar price tag means that the dungeon master can roll up a wide variety of NPC mutants without breaking the bank. It also means that the players have addition customization tools right at their finger tips. There's enough meet on the Mutant Hordes of the Last Sun eighteen pages to give a good idea of the direction of the product without boxing the players completely and utterly into the setting.
There's just enough guidance to randomly determine if your PC is a mutant, and what kind of classes he can play without strong arming the player into a corner of dead ends & penalties that many other OSR & old school post apocalyptic products have done in the past. Yes I'm looking at you Ares section of Dragon magazines of ages past.
There's a lot here that can be done with Rpg Pundit Presents 26 Mutant Hordes of the Last Sun
from factional NPC mutant characters to full fledged psychic mutant PC's whose presence won't destroy your wastelands.
The inclusion of a working psychic powers system is a nice addition for only three dollars & I can see using this generator for creating humanoid mutant alien species as well. This generator would work well for creating mutant tribes & NPC's on failed colony worlds for science fiction or science fantasy worlds. There's enough here to add mutant PC's to a wide variety of OSR games. The three dollar price tag makes this a nice & solid product for use with OSR games. I don't know if the Last Sun setting is for me but the Rpg Pundit Presents 26 Mutant Hordes of the Last Sun is a welcome addition to the post apocalyptic Dungeon master's arsenal. So this one is a five out of five in my book!


GRAB RPGPundit Presents #26: Mutant
Hordes of the Last Sun RIGHT HERE

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Depravity and Debauchery Las casas de putas de Satanás A New OSR Mega Dungeon Location & Setting

To me the winds that die and start,
And strive in wars that never cease,
Are dearer than the level peace
That lies unstirred at summer's heart.

More dear to me the shadowed world,
Where, with report of tempest rife,
The air intensifies with life,
Than quiet fields of summer's gold.

I am the winds' admitted friend:
I share those ancient mysteries
They whisper to the trembling trees
Or roar along the heavens' end.

And when my spirit listless stands
With folded wings that do not live,
Their own assuageless wings they give
To lift her from the stirless lands.

Within the place unmanifest
Where central Truth is immanent,
Lies there a vast, entire content
Of sound and movement one-in rest?

I Know not this: yet in my heart
I feel that where all truths concur,
The shrine is peaceless with the stir
Of winds that enter and depart.
The Winds  (1912)  by Clark Ashton Smith


On the edges of the Jornada del Muerto a number of boom town cities have grown up around the great alien green black buildings, plazas, & step pyramids that sizzle in the deep desert heat. These appeared over night & the world marveled the golden artifacts,strange technologies, & weird glowing auroras that appeared around the skies around the pyramids.
Mutants, adventurers, outlaws, gamblers, & aliens from 'elsewhere' all converge around villages, towns,etc. as fortunes are made and lost in the otherworldly locations surrounding these pyramids. The whole place is known as
Las casas de putas de Satanás or Satan's whore houses because of the number of demons & monsters of myth & legend that have been seen & have killed people. Las casas de putas de Satanás is twenty five miles of some the most dangerous extra dimensional alien ruins, dungeons,  & weird landscapes that dominate  the desert floor.

The local army, authorities, & occasional CIA Vanguard teams  try to cope with the mutant horrors, giant irradiated monsters, and worse that comes out of the deep desert & the volcanic lost world jungles. Meanwhile fortunes are made on the weird artifacts coming from the 
Las casas de putas de Satanás. Back in the Eastern United States  & in South America a technological revolution has been taking place from these artifacts. But some are saying that these artifacts are allowing 'dark forces' to have influence on reality. Hidden alien presences & so called gods have been sprinkling cults throughout the states & beyond. Several joint US/Mexican militery bases have sprung up around the area including St.McCready,
Plissken, & Hicks all named after various war heroes.

So I've been wanting my own mega dungeon for a long ti
me now & I'm going to start tackling it with this new project that I've outlined in the last entry on this blog. Personally I think that I'm going to take the Lovecraft Circle approach to the dungeon location & use some of the ideas of Clark Ashton Smith.

I'm going to be using a lot of  Labyrinth Lord,Apes Victorious  & Mutant Future in this one along with a good solid core of Adventurer, Conqueror, King's line.



A lurid poster of the play Dr. Faustus being performed in one of the numerous dance hall theaters around El Marro.

More to come!

Monday, March 26, 2018

VHS Era Old School Post Apocalyptic Gaming Campaign - OSR Commentary





I haven't been happy for a while now with certain aspects of my DYI OSR gaming more specifically the lack of post apocalyptic & cult classic horror table top gaming. A work has been taking its toll on my life in certain aspects in a positive direction. We've gotten busier & busier in the home sewing machine repair realm. That's a great thing but its left me with a bit less time to blog & enjoy myself but today I decided to put down some of my thoughts on my corner of the OSR. The fact is that since about last Thursday or so I returned to Gamma World & Mutant Future. Yes I love both games go figure. But I like a much softer apocalyse then what's been presented in both of those game systems. Truth be told I add in bits of Fantastic Heroes & Witchery with Adventurer,Conqueror, King's rpg system to get the right balance of domain level play. Also my players weren't comfortable with the gun rules of Fantastic Heroes & Witchery's gun rules so we went with ADK's Guns of War.
Two things right off I don't care if certain authors  or designers don't get along that's not my problem. Second I've paid for these games & under the games terms of fair use I'm going to use them at my table as I see fit. If my players are happy then I'm happy. So don't bother telling me that me that you got a problem with what I'm writing behind the scenes I don't have time for OSR pissing contests. You've got to understand that there's going to be damage adjustments & other system considerations using Labyrinth Lord & Labyrinth Lord Advanced's monsters & also a fair amount of Realms of Crawling Chaos.
So over the weekend I got a chance to view some cultclassic VHS era horror films that I love. Ghosthouse a horror film from 1988 has pretty much almost everything I'm looking for to kick off a campaign.
"Ghosthouse (Italian: La Casa 3) is a 1988 Italian horror film directed by Umberto Lenzi and produced by Joe D'Amato. It co-starred Lara Wendel and Donald O'Brien.
Its plot focuses on a deserted house where the visions of a ghostly girl and her haunted doll wreak havoc on those who enter it."
The film is the unofficial sequel to Evil Dead II.[1] In Italy, The Evil Dead was released under the title La Casa (The House), and Evil Dead II became La Casa II. "



So basically this isn't our world at all. About 1920 or so the rise in interest in the occult & the supernatural reached a fever pitch. The occult was a fringe hobby along with a part time religion. The 'Dark Forces' of the world gained a toe hold. Events escalated in the Depression allowing Hitler and his cronies to gain in power but in 1940's both the Axis & Allies employed dangerous time & dimensional continuum shattering experiments. The Fifties saw the first mutants among mankind & the rise the giant monsters.
The early Eighties saw the beginnings of the 'Little Wars' small scale atomic & dimensional warfare allowing even more supernatural seepage into our world & the rise of the mutant front organizations. The Cult of Cthulhu has been working its way into the foundations of society opening doorways for their masters. Meanwhile technologies have become incredibly dangerous as the US government & other world powers use agents, adventurers, and others to try curtail the advancing monsters destroying society from within.
This is a world with a slightly higher technological level built upon the backs of genetically modified apes & other mutate animal species after finding the secrets to this genetic fount head out in the fringes of reality.

VHS tape by Tumi-1983

All is not well in society as the major religions are calling for the end of the world as NASA & other governmental organizations stock pile caches of technology, relics, and more in bunkers all over the world & the USA. Riots of mutate workers & servants have happened in several major world cities and these are on the increase even as strangely garbed travelers wander into our home towns & other cities from Elsewhere.

Much of this came from reading through the Mutant Future Wiki Gamma World Entry over the weekend & taking a look deeper into the first Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Gamma World Conversions again for the billionth time.





More coming up very soon

Friday, May 5, 2017

Commentary Running The Outer Presence From Kort'thalis Publishing Using The Silent Legions Rpg System Rules By Kevin Crawford - Actual Play Event


"The world is broken in hidden ways. The truth is concealed for the sake of mortal minds. The unendurable reality that boils behind the stars is veiled by the pleasant blindness that human sanity requires. Yet every comforting shroud must fall in time, and for these investigators, that time is now."
So let's peek behind the shroud of Silent Legion today!


So like a couple of years ago the Silent Legions rpg  had its kickstarter. This OSR game by  Kevin Crawford was successfully funded then it was put on a shelf someplace along with a myriad of very positive reviews. For months now I've had the pdf sitting on the dark corners of my hard drive & its time to do something with it. So what does Silent Legions bring to the table? A number of things that might look familiar to Stars Without Number dungeon masters.
  • Tools for creating eldritch gods, alien races, black sorcery, unique Lovecraftian magical artifacts, fantastic demi-planes of dream, and unspeakable cults of foulest evil. Make your players afraid of the dark again- give them an enemy that's a genuine mystery to them!
  • Guides for the creation of horrific monsters, building them from basic templates elaborated by unique qualities and special flavors of horror. Use the example templates for a quick abomination or flesh them out to be a special nemesis for your players.
  • Region creation tools for building your own sections of demon-haunted Earth, including sixty location tags to define the special torments of your land. These tags are largely compatible with the other tags found in Sine Nomine products such as Stars Without Number and Scarlet Heroes, so you can mix things up for even more dread chaos.
  • Adventure templates for quickly producing an investigative adventure suitable for sandbox use. You can create "blank" templates out of raw plot elements and then drop them on top of your region; the blank spaces in the template interlock with the location tags to create an instant adventure no matter which location receives the template.
  • Cult rules that adapt the popular Faction system from Stars Without Number for the dark machinations and secret feuding of the malevolent cults you create. Keep your world in a steady downward spiral whether or not the PCs are there!

    So mechanically how cross compatible is Silent Legions with other OSR systems? Well according to the author's comments on Drivethrurpg;"

    Silent Legions, Other Dust, Stars Without Number, and Spears of the Dawn all share the same system, albeit with a few genre tweaks for the individual games. Scarlet Heroes uses its own system built for one-on-one gaming, but even there, it remains basically compatible with the SWN series, trading the skill system for "traits" and using a slightly different system for saves."


    I did a quick review of the beta rules way back in 2014  after a few edits & some tweaks the game was out in the wild for sale by Kevin Crawford.  And that's all I've done with the game system. Sigh. The problem has been that players are used to Call of Cthulhu, Chill, Trail of Cthulhu, etc & don't seem to realize the strengths of the game system that make up Silent Legions as an rpg. Its far easier to get OSR or old school players into a game of Dungeons & Dragons then it is to get them into horror game but that's not all there is to Silent Legions. As an OSR  source book well that's where this is one of the strengths of the game. It actually works well to enhance other old school & retroclone systems and can be used as a fast replacement system for Call of Cthulhu. But what does this mean? Well it means that your Fiend Folio 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons book just became a go to horror monster source book. 




    Now I've heard it argued that OD&D & AD&D 1st edition are horror games which to a certain extent is absolutely true depending upon the tone & take away of the campaign setting. But when you incorporate a family of berbalangs who are straight out  of Filipino myth into a modern or a Dark Ages fantasy game using the bits that Silent Legions brings to the table well now your onto a full  blown horror campaign. Several of the monster from the Fiend Folio are perfect fodder for the dream realms of Silent Legions ala HP Lovecraft's Dream Lands.

    Just the other week I ran a group of my regular D&D retroclone players through a modified version of
    The Outer Presence From  Kort'thalis Publishing using Silent Legions. The results were both horrific and very satisfyingly from a dungeon master's perspective. The by play went very well as the players dealt with Miskatonic University and quickly headed to Papua New Guinea set during the 1600's. The results were a TPK but things went off very well. The players were very happy but wanted a bit more meat to their PC's then simply the profession rules of the Outer Presence. Sometimes less is not more especially for experienced players.


    I'll be back with more commentary on Silent Legions as I get into the game a bit more but it looks like I'm going to be needing a hard copy of this game sooner then later. Well get more into some of the deeper aspects of Silent Legion next time.
    Until next time keep em rolling!