Greenwood of the Fey Sovereign for DCC RPG Review

This is a review I posted on RPG.net with a few corrections and links and added to Adventure Lookup.

Greenwood of the Fey Sovereign is a low level adventure (zero level funnel, or small group of level 1’s) for the DCC RPG, which is suitable to be used in any other OSR style of RPG with minimal adaptation. It was successfully kickstarted by 357 backers in 2018.

Set in an otherwise typical fantasy setting, Greenwood is a kingdom within the land of fey. Think King of Elflands Daughter, sort of realm, where usual laws of nature are not what we “mere mortals” are used to, and magic is the norm, rather than the exception. In fact, I’d highly encourage the judge to read that book so they could better describe the world in this adventure.

This adventure consists of 10 encounters, starting with the players being conscripted by a rude and rough taskmaster who leads them into the Greenwood to fight for their human Earl who has declared war on the Fey King. In the adventure background, there are some key pieces of information, which don’t seem to play any further role in the adventure. (think Grima Wormtongue from Lord of the Rings; behind the scenes controlling this mortal Earl). However, these are certainly some nice story hooks later for when (if?) the PC’s escape the Greenwood…

After a couple encounters (and introduction to a kleptomaniac brownie), the players enter the fey King’s stronghold: a tall and magical tree which forms a tower. There is a beautiful hand drawn map on the inside cover which shows the layout of the tower and it’s six encounters. Encounters are varied between a couple that are potential straight up fights but with alternative methods to handle them, as well as some puzzles and traps (again with alternative methods offered for dealing with these). In typical DCC RPG fashion, the adventure ends with a deadly escape that will feel epic for any group of zero levels lucky enough to make it out alive.

In addition, there are some interesting magical items discoverable in this adventure. A new idea for a patron or deity, as well as an optional class (the Wild Elf, which is a variant of the standard Elf class) that I think is well thought out.

Overall, the entire module is well written and there are some things left open to serve as hooks for the Judge to fill in and make it their own. I have yet to run this, but I don’t see anything here that would keep one from running directly as written.

The artwork in this module is exceptional. The credits list the author as the artist and I see the ACK initials on each piece. This lends to a very cohesive feel for this entire book. The cover is a mysterious and colorful depiction of the final encounter. Every single interior art piece is hand drawn in black & white and I could see any one of them in an official GG DCC RPG module. My favorite is Mythcoat on page 11. On the back cover is an awesome OSR style, hand drawn character sheet.

I like how this adventure uses a setting that is probably underserved in this genre (Appendix N version of the fey lands) and is of a high production value. I hope to see more like it to come.

Ruins of Glendale Village Kickstarter Unboxing

Myths & Monsters Netflix Series Review

Myths & Monsters

Story is essential to human civilization, not just a tool within RPG. And, story takes many forms. What is interesting to me, are stories based on myths and legends. And, understanding real world myths and legends may give insight into creating more interesting stories within RPGs. All of this is explored within this documentary I found on Netflix, aptly named Myths & Monsters released in 2017.

There are 6, ~45 minute episodes. This is a British documentary, with appropriate (if not a bit annoying) British accented commentary from university professors. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the main narrator, Nicholas Day. Each show is based on a main theme per the title of the episode.

Each episode is narrated with interjecting comments over some beautiful pieces of artwork. Many of these are animated in a way. I’m trying to think of a comparison (I don’t know what it’s called; but they did it in American Ripper). What they do is take a 2D image and through CGI slowly animate parts of the image (like the arms of a figure, or arrows in the air) through a motion as if it were a couple frames in an animated scene. Sometimes this gets a little annoying, but usually it’s an interesting effect.

Many of the images are historical pieces that I think I recognize (I’m not scholar of art..) but many appear to be unique to this series and appear to be of a cohesive style. Very inspiring. Nearly all are beautiful. You may want to watch this just for the inspiration from the art. Other than the classical pieces, I think it’s obvious that they have an artist who made other images as half of these have a very similar style (there’s a long list of artists on the IMDB page). These are gorgeous too. And lastly, each episode tells one whole story via a sort of cartoon that is broken up through the episode.

I wish I could screen shot some images to post here, but I am thinking Netflix uses some vile wizardry that’s keeping me from doing so.

Episode 1 is titled “Heroes & Villains” and is essentially a summary on the theory proposed by Joseph Campbell in his book, The Hero With A Thousand Faces. I’m going to assume that you already know who this is. If not, then the next thing you need to do is start reading about comparative mythology and Campbell’s theory on the Monomyth. It is the foundation of all modern fantasy story telling, whether the author (or you the reader) know it. You can say this is only my opinion; I’m OK with that, because I really believe I could prove it to be true. This episode focuses a bit on the Arthurian legends and Odysseus to illustrate the Heroes Journey.

Episode 2 is titled “The Wild Unknown” and covers the idea that in the ancient world, the “wilderness” was “wild” and “unknown”. This is illustrated via some Greek Myths, and what I was thinking the entire time is “This is all about Law vs. Chaos!”, if you see “Law” as “Civilization” and “Chaos” as “The Wild”. If you’ve read the DCC RPG core book; you’re gonna see where all of this is pertinent.

Episode 3 is titled “War”, and .. you guessed it, it’s about mythologies centered around war. Simple enough. However, this is where I started thinking “this series is mandatory viewing for any Dungeon Master”. Stories about war are not just about the warfare itself. In fact, a good war story has very little to do with the technical aspects of War (a story that does is more historical, NOT mythological). Rather, a good war story is about the people, places, ideas, politics, etc of all those involved. And, how these things change. What persists (the victors write the history). And, what was lost (maybe only the DM knows what was lost?).

Episode 4 is titled “Love & Betrayal”. My favorite line in this episode is “Sometimes Love is dangerous”. You ain’t shittin’! So true. And, when you look at some of the original myths and stories, the ancients had some wicked and twisted tales. No boring love triangles. No, it’s stories like Agamemnon sacrificing his own daughter to Artemis in order to win her favor prior to the Trojan War, which he finally returns 10 years later a victor and hero, only to be murdered by his own wife who plotted revenge for a decade! Now, that’s an epic tale based on love betrayed!

Episode 5 is titled “Change & Revolution”. In this episode, you start to see how the stories told in a society are a reflection of that society. And, that just as the society changes, so do their stories. For a DM creating a world, I think the simplest lesson here is to not create a “history book” regarding the history of the world. Create stories as they would be told by the people, about what happened in that history, acknowledging that stories are often not accurate in a literal sense. However, when you examine them, the stories not only try to explain something in the past, but also teach a lesson important to that society.

Episode 6 is titled “The End of All Things”. Apocalyptic stories always fascinate me. This episode uses Ragnarök as an example. Related to all the prior episodes, one lesson is that a societie’s end times stories say something about that society. Beyond that, studying some of these stories from real world cultures yields some of the most fantastic ideas that a DM could riff on. Want an epic high level campaign? Well… the 7th seal just got opened. Get ready for some divine whoop ass down in that placed called Megiddo that your party used to explore at lower level where the NPCs dropped all sorts of foreshadowing about a coming Great War between Good and Evil.

WOTC Publishes “New” Endless Quest Books and I’m Disappointed

Wizards of the Coast is publishing new Endless Quest books. But if the cover artwork is any indication, they may be just as uninspiring, sterile and boring as everything else they have published in the past few years.

I absolutely LOVED the originals. I would read them over and over and just adore the cover art as a kid. But I’m totally disappointed by the horribly lame art on these new ones. It’s the recycled trash art that WOTC is putting on all it’s licensed material. The originals had some of the best TSR art of the day. I know that “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover” but I have absolutely no interest in buying these whatsoever. Allow me to go into some more detail.

Of course, these books have not been released yet. So we only have the covers to go on. But it was the covers of the originals that were simply iconic.

First, lets see the new line up:

4 books. Backgrounds are simply the basic colors of yellow, red, blue, and green along with a single character. If you’ve followed D&D 5e and the licensed products, you’ve seen all these characters before many times. None of them have a name (as far as I know) and are some of the worst art in the entire lineup. Don’t believe me?

Here are the originals from the PHB:

Actually, in the original form, I actually like one of these. I always liked this version of the halfling (not the retarded one on page 26 in the Halfling section). But it starts to get old when you see it over and over; look at the 404 page for DND Beyond. It was cute the first time I saw it because this halfling chick is cute and this is a good piece of art that makes you fill in a story in your head (I firmly believe she’s distracting the bartender to get his purse!).

Now, lets look at other licensed products. First, D&D Dice Masters Battle for Faerûn

Yep. Right there on the box, you already see the Dwarven Cleric. Here is one of their banners:

Do you think they use any of this art on the cards? Yep, at least I could find 3 out of the 4 (not a lot online since it’s a crappy game; I’ll have to check my cards to see if I have the elven wizard girl)

How about the Dungeonology Coloring Book? I thought some of these might be there, but I reviewed my video and didn’t see any. I’ll have to re-check the Dungeonology book itself when I get off work. I don’t see them in Rock Paper Wizard either; so at least there’s a limit to reusing the same art. I’ll also have to go back through the Dragon+ issues.

Now, art is subjective. I know that. But I believe “a picture says a thousand words” and I believe that showing some of the original Endless Quest book covers will speak volumes more than this amateur story teller could ever tell:

   
   
   
   

Now, those are some badass book covers! They just make you want to open it up and start reading. There are ~50 books originally published in this series.

I have to be a little fair, some of this TSR art was recycled as well. Here is the  the artwork from Knight of Illusion also seen in Pool of Radiance. But, I’m sorry, this is such an awesome piece that I simply give it a pass.

   
 

For further comparison, now look at the original art from Larry Elmore on a few of these, and compare to the original art used for the “new ones”. I’m no art scholar (again, all subjective…), but THIS is REAL fantasy art!

   
 

These were excellent examples of fantasy art and had a “pulpy” feel (though I didn’t know at the time what pulp was!). But there is so much more to say beyond just the general aesthetics of these pieces and the unnecessary recycling. There is also a whole virtue signaling component as well. But others are much better at explaining these things than I am. After awhile it becomes more and more obvious to me. I think it’s been 5 years now since D&D 5e release; at first I was a little wowed with 5e and I just gave the boring artwork a pass, but now it is hitting me across the head like a two handed Warhammer.

Disclaimer: Of course, all art used here is for demonstration and reporting purposes and entirely belongs to Wizards of the Coast and/or their respective artists (such as Larry Elmore who is a God amongst fantasy artists and the nicest guy you could meet in the GenCon artist gallery).

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Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss II: A Review

Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss II
Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss II

“If you really want to write, the best way to go about it is just start writing.”

And thus, although I’m on call yet again tonight and the pager is blowing up, I’m just going to get started writing a review for this latest book I picked up from Venger Satanis, High Priest of Kort’thalis Publishing. This is Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss II, which is the second part follow up to the original.

Just like the other products in what I call his “Like a Fucking Boss” product line, AWLAFB2 is easy to read, gets you straight to the point without wasting your time, and is chock full of gorgeous artwork that just inspires you to grab your notebook, graph paper and pen and start brainstorming ideas to torture your friends at your next session.

Currently at a mere $4 on RPGnow, this book is 18 pages with an awe inspiring cover, 5 kick ass whole page artworks and 1 sexy half page art piece. All the PDFs in this line are offered in both the full color version and a tree hugging printer friendly version. The layout is excellent, so the large art pieces and the text work very well despite a heavy water colored (or are these blood stains…?) whole page background art. Overall, the layout, color choices, and art are similar to part 1 (which was already very professional appearing), but it’s looking even tighter. Apparently Venger is becoming even more of an expert in his desktop publishing skills.

The text is laid out in 28 small sections with far ranging bits of advice. Each section is typically 3 to 5 paragraphs with a heading that is usually self descriptive like “Interior Art” or “Introducing NPCs” but sometimes something more catchy that forces you to read further like “Let Them Eat Cake”, “Hat Rack Descriptions”, and “Needs More Tentacles”.

The writing style (and art choice) is typical Venger Satanis. Occasional edgy and humorous topics and language along with awesome old school art, some of which is NSFW but all of it is awesome. Included are bits of wisdom spread throughout in easy to comprehend examples that get right to the heart of the matter. Kinda like one of the common themes in the entire book. Your responsibility (as a writer of adventures) is to get to the point so that the reader can get most of what they need without getting bogged down, while at the same time injecting the seeds necessary to allow the reader to expand in the direction they need in real time at the gaming table.

So. if this sounds at all interesting, then just pick it up and read it. You’ll learn something, or at least be inspired. I promise. And then, go write mega dungeons worth of rooms with greater than 3 paragraphs each. Seriously, I dare you. No, really, totally do that cause the High Priest demands it… [you’ll have to read page 10 to see why I say this, seriously the funniest thing ever!]

 

Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss II on RPGnow or DriveThruRPG

 

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Bureau of Dragons

Check out my video for a review of the Bureau of Dragons. You can head over there and submit an application for yourself or to gift to a friend, player, Dungeon Master, or whoever you deem potentially deserving.

Study in Drawing Pens and Paper

Pen and Paper Comparison Canson Paper

As a follow up of a prior post, this is a more comprehensive study of two sets of pigment based drawing pens and 4 different types of paper. The focus for this is in the hand drawing of RPG maps.

TL;DR: The Sakura pens on Canson paper is definitively the best when you compare side by side. however, if you are only using the thinner pens, the Prismacolor pens is very close in quality.

Materials

  • 0.5 mm mechanical pencil
  • 0.7 mm mechanical pencil
  • Routine “office quality” printer paper:
  • Low Quality Graph Paper: Office Depot Graph Paper
  • Routine Quality Graph Paper:
  • Better Quality Graph Paper:
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Apple MacBook Pro 2017
  • GridMaker iOS app for creating any type of graph paper you need for printing

Scanning Methods

  • Imported through Adobe Photoshop on a MacBook Pro running High Sierra
  • Kind: Black and White
  • Resolution: 600 dpi
  • Format: JPEG
  • Image Correction: None
  • Unsharp Mask: None
  • No modification to image except to add text for which paper (probably should have just written it). Then saved with embedding color profile as jpg with Quality of 10, Maximum, Baseline Optimized

Results

Regarding current prices, the above materials are linked to product pages.

Click on images to view a larger version to see the detail.

Printer Paper

Pen and Paper Comparison Universal Paper

And then a scan of the back of this printer paper:

Pen and Paper Comparison Universal Paper Back

Office Depot Graph Paper

Pen and Paper Comparison Office Depot Paper

Scan of the reverse of this Office Depot paper:

Pen and Paper Comparison Office Depot Paper Back

Ampad Graph Paper

Pen and Paper Comparison Ampad

Scan of the reverse of this Ampad paper:

Pen and Paper Comparison Ampad Back

Canson Foundation Series Graph Paper

Pen and Paper Comparison Canson Paper

And for the scan of the back of the Canson paper, I want to mention that with the naked eye, you can barely see any bleeding on the 08 Prismacolor pen. The scanner shows a lot more than what you can actually see.

Pen and Paper Comparison Canson Paper Back

Discussion

I had some ideas regarding using pencil and couldn’t get all the variations I needed, so didn’t complete that idea.

I should have included a separate row using a dye ink pen like the  to demonstrate the accentuate how much better these pigment based pens are.

Regarding the feel and utility of the pens. I like the Prismacolor pens best. This may be subjective, but the inner ink cartridge doesn’t jiggle like the Sakura pens do. Also, the caps on the Prismacolor pens snap to the back end better whereas the Sakura ones fall off sometimes. In a very small way the Prismacolor feel like they grip a little better. The Prismacolor pens come in a simple but nice little box whereas the sakura pens are in a package that isn’t any good for keeping them in. And, lastly, I like black… so the Prismacolor pens just look cooler.

There are many more different variations in thickness for the Sakura pens, if you need something specific. For example, the . (see this listing for the other versions too)

In regards to value, with the sets that I am using, the Sakura set costs $4.38 more than the Prismacolor pens, but does come with one more pen. So, for a cost per pen ($1.59 for Prismacolor vs. $2.06 for Sakura). If you want really cheap and don’t care about bleeding (didn’t show here, based on prior experience), get the 12 packs of the Sharpie Ultra Fine Point pens for $0.51 per pen and I’d guess that a dozen pens will last forever.

The Office Depot graph paper is noticeably lesser quality than either the Ampad or Canson paper (via Amazon) AND costs twice as much.

The cost/value/quality of ‘printer paper’ is going to vary widely and so is a little difficult to compare. The cost for the Ampad and Canson graph paper is very reasonable, but could be limiting if you are using quite a bit of it.

If you are scanning these, the Canson paper has thinner/fainter lines than the Ampad, which makes it much easier to remove with post-processing. The custom graph paper I am making using the GridMaker app is a smidge thinner than the Canson, but overall the quality of the Canson paper is much much better than printer paper.

I’ll have to do a separate post regarding using the GridMaker iOS app. There are many options to customize your paper. But in short, it is free to use for making basic graph paper with a small logo on the bottom. For $0.99, you can unlock the capability to make hexagons, which allows you to make isometric paper. And then, for $0.99 you can remove the logo (and make titles, etc.), which isn’t necessary, but is nice to remove. After making any paper you like, you can save as a PDF for future use however you want.

I notice less bleeding with the Sakura Pigma pens compared to the Prismacolor. This is evidenced by looking at the reverse scans of the paper that shows more ink on every paper used. This is most pronounced with the thicker pens. Bleeding is still evident with the thinner pens (005, 01), but still noticeable. I am unable to really show this here, but this is most pronounced on the reverse side of the Canson paper, where with the naked eye, you practically can’t see any bleeding through with the Sakura pens except on the corners of the hex (where lines cross) with the 08 pen.

Discussion

You can’t really go wrong with the Prismacolor pens and there are some pros with them. However, if you are looking for the ‘better’ pen in regards to performance, it’s the Sakura. But, to break this down into 3 different use scenarios:

  1. If you are looking for the cheapest and easiest way to draw maps with pen and paper, go with the Prismacolor pens and a decent printer paper. This gives the added benefit of being able to print various types of graph paper. You really can’t go wrong with this combination.
  2. However, if you want a better quality, the Sakura pens are definitely better. Especially on a good paper, like the Canson.
  3. In the middle, is to spend a couple more dollars and use the Sakura pens and use the Canson (or the Ampad) paper when drawing on regular 1/4″ boxes, but then print up isometric or hexagonal when you want it (until I find a ‘high quality’ equivalent graph paper).

Hope this helps someone else. For me, it was a little fun to nerd out and learn something about pens and paper and to see what may work best for different purposes.

Everything I post is free. Please feed my ravenous, yet introverted ego… Like, Follow, Share, Comment 🙂

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#ConManKen

This is a PSA of sorts. If you follow a lot of RPG Kickstarters, maybe you already know about this guy, Ken Whitman. For some reason, I didn’t know about him and his scams until just recently. And now the more I read about this guy, I am completely amazed. I’d seen a few of these, only posted a single $1 for the KODT KS (now I know why I never got that PDF…)

I guess I’m not surprised, some asshole out there was gonna be “that guy” and do something as easy as abuse the crowdfunding model. But like a lot of things, it’s the story that is the most interesting. This video kinda says it all and is hugely entertaining as well. Another source is this blog “Not Another Dime“. Lastly, Tenkar’s Tavern covers this guy a lot.

Study in Drawing Pens

Compare Sakura Pigma and Prismacolor Pens

For a much more comprehensive study (to include comparing different papers), please see my updated post.

This is a little study of two sets of pens I’ve purchased. I’ve used the so far. Comparing to the .

Click for the larger image. There is no processing; just a straight up scan.

I do believe I notice less bleeding with the Sakura Pigma pens. The Sakura Pigma set does cost $3.38 more (at this time on Amazon), but you do get one more size pen.

I like them both. The Prismacolor Premier set has a nice little box; nothing fancy, but is convenient. So, if you don’t need the 02 pen, want to save a couple bucks, and want a simple box, then the Prismacolor set is better. However, if you spend the little extra, I do think the Sakura Pigma pens are noticeably a little finer, but honestly a little difficult to see if not comparing side by side

One other note, I like the Prismacolor pens better in my hand. The Sakura Pigma pends rattle (I assume the ink cartridge inside) when you shake them.

So, like with a lot of things, some pros and cons for either one!

Everything I post is free. Remember to feed my ravenous yet introverted ego… Like, Follow, Share, and Comment below!

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Dungeon Crawl Classics #83: The Chained Coffin – Color Cover box set