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Frugal GM Review: The Ruined Hamlet by Barrataria Games

This review is for the Barrataria Games free version of their Adventure Module BL1-2, downloadable from DriveThruRPG. This adventure is designed for use of "classic" fantasy roleplaying games of the basic level.

This adventure, The Ruined Hamlet: Terror in the Gloaming, is one of two offerings from this fledgling publisher. Barrataria Games does not have a website yet, but they do have this adventure, as well as two other offerings, available for printing at their Lulu webstore.

I had two immediate impressions, one bad and the other good. The overall look of this "adventure" was a little off-putting [...]

QotA: Elvyra Queen of Witches

While re-reading Quest of the Ancients I thought a good way to bring one of the few stated up characters back over to D&D via The Witch.   I also it might make for a nice homage if one of Vince Garcia's signature characters lived on with my rules.  Like I mentioned in my review of Quest of the Ancients it was obvious to me that we had read a lot of the same books, watched a lot of the same TV shows and listened to a lot of the same music to get to our respective witches.

Plus [...]

ZERO/barrier Print & Electronic Storefronts

Both ZERO/barrier commercial releases (Dyson’s Delves – a critically-acclaimed book of adventures and maps and Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts – a book of alternate and core magic for Labyrinth Lord) are now available in print and PDF.

  • Print releases are available at our LuLu storefront.
  • PDF releases are available at our new RPGnow storefront.

In time we’ll put all the issues of Dyson’s Dodecahedron up at RPGnow as well (for free) and once I get a dozen Dodecahedrons out I’ll look into compiling them into a larger release in print.

Further Cyberpunk Resources

In preparation for my Shadowrun game tomorrow, some inspiration for cyberpunk and near future games:

Useful for a quick change, transforming dresses. Sometimes you need to blend in with higher society you know.

For some reason, this sport has always struck me as very cyberpunk: Chess Boxing, where the competitors face off in alternating rounds of chess and boxing. See a video of a recent championship bout here and visit the World Chess Boxing Organization.

Ever wondered what those multicolored diamonds with numbers posted on doors meant, wonder no more with the the Smithsonian’s Decoding the City: the Fire Diamond article. Useful [...]

Sprite Stitch SAL, Update 3

Here’s how my band sampler for the Sprite Stitch stitch-a-long stood as of two days ago:

My spouse and I went on a small weekend trip to a camp in the Adirondacks for a low-key tenth anniversary celebration. It was our first time to both be away from the kids overnight, and the first time either of us had been away for more than twenty-four hours total, in all our seven years as parents. It was a very productive weekend for my Journey band. I’ve tried to be diligent about it in the past couple of days, so there’s a [...]

Wikipedia is the GM's Friend: Hanna-Barbera Adventure Cartoons

For most of the latter half of the twentieth century, animation studio Hanna-Barbera absolutely dominated television animation. They're best remembered for shows like the Flintstones, Scooby Doo, and the Smurfs, but they had a large stable of adventure-type shows that were full of action, had humor without being wacky, and could definitely serve as inspiration for the game master in need of a quick jolt. The full list of H-B cartoon shows is massive. I loved these things when I was growing up, and they would definitely be a part of my own personal Appendix N.

The first, of [...]

[Writing Tips] I'm Of Two Minds

Welcome to a Wombat's Writing Tips article. Check out the main page for more.

I wanted to finish the Know Your Audience article today, but the more I looked at it the less focused it got. I found myself slipping down the rathole of making a big list, and that level of detail crossed the line from informative to pedantic. So I'm punting. I'll rework that article and publish it later.
Ettins: the extreme case.
Granted, "minds" may
be over-generous.
Look! Editing in action! Let's look a little closer...

Two Minds
Two modes of thought guide my editing [...]

Inked Adventures Competition Freebies etc and Deadly Missions

I've been a bit too absorbed with my Inked Adventures projects to pay proper attention to the greater outside world of gaming or their markets.  Despite buying tickets in advance I even forewent visiting the UKGamesExpo - because real gamers and games-shoppers go to Cons.  But that's precisely why I didn't go - I can't afford to buy all of the systems and accessories I'd possibly see there.  Powerless to resist, I am, the love of the shiny boxes, figures, scenery and hardbacks. Maybe in another year, when the coffers are fatter.  However, it sounds like things went well without [...]

My Barrowmaze T-Shirt Acquisition ;)

Simply awesome!

I bought 2 of the same and I'm glad I did, because they are going to be worn - a lot ;)

Greg Gillespie done did good ;)

Demon Prince Alvarech & The Tower Of Babel

The Tower Of Babel.     The tallest tower of Hell, second only to Pandemonium which is the tower of the Pure One. It is a tower consisted of 66 levels, where each level on the outside resembles an enormous floor but in the inside it is a Dreamworld crafted by Alvarech himself, making him the lord of 66 dimensions which are deeply connected with Hell. Tower of Babel originates from the actual tower made on earth, which God has stroke, sending it directly in Hell, which made the foundation stone of the Demonic Prince's tower. Alvarech's throne lies on the final floor which has no walls, only the pillars that hold the roof. From there Alvarech sees all of Hell, and with his wings spread, he covers his city, Babel, the second biggest Demonic city of [...]

Jay Little at the UK Games Expo

By Paco Garcia Jaen Not very often one has the opportunity to host a panel with one of the most successful game designers of the moment and, judging by the stellar success of X-Win, Jay Little is, without a doubt, extremely successful. But since that's not all he's done, by any stretch of the imagination, [...]

Fudging Player Agency

There is a lot of talk on player agency on the net. Looking at my own game mastering style, I have been trying to determine just how much agency I rob from players. After a late night discussion with a player I pondered the ad-hoc nature of role-playing. As a game master, it is nigh impossible to plan for everything, so some portions you must do on the fly.

For example, many adventures do not describe what kind of locks are on a door. So when a party comes to a door, the GM has to determine if the door is [...]

Fleamarket Friday: Dogs! Playing D&D! Need I Say More?

This has to come under the heading of "every gamesroom should have one".

And I'm not even a dog person, but the moment I saw this I knew I had to have a copy of Dogs Playing D&D to hang in the stairwell of my gamesroom.

Artist Jay Bobcock has created this parody of the classic Dogs Playing Poker and is Kickstarting it to cover printing costs - a very reasonable $20 for a 19" by 27" poster print (plus $10 to ship outside the United States).

He's already reached his goal and the funding window is still open until June 14.

Go on, you know you want to...

It's dogs... playing Dungeons & Dragons...

New to LARP? Cheap and EASY period shoes.

So you’re new to LARP and you have no period footwear? Who does?! This could help you solve that issue without buying $200 boots. You’ve got period wardrobe issues, lets face it. If we all owned these clothes regularly, we wouldn’t need to LARP. Buying armour and weapons and clothing …

In Retrospect: The D&D Rules Cyclopedia

Compiled by Aaron Allston
Edited by Steven E. Schend, et al
There's one version of D&D that often gets overlooked in the Edition Wars, even more so than AD&D Second Edition. This, in my mind, is a good thing. I've never heard anybody criticize the D&D Rules Cyclopedia over Thac0, rules bloat, or any other accusations as to why or why not this version of D&D is somehow inferior or superior. Instead, in my experience, gamers look upon the D&D Rules Cyclopedia with a certain amount of fondness.

It's not hard to see why.

Finally, in 1991, all [...]

Thirty Musketeers

Yesterday Tim Knight at HeroPress posted pictures of parties of fantasy adventurers as seen in different movies and televisions shows.

That got me thinking about some of the many different film versions of The Three Musketeers . . .

Les trois mousquetaires (1921)

The Three Musketeers (1921)

The Three Musketeers (1935)

The Three Musketeers (1948)

Les trois mousquetaires: Premire poque - Les ferrets de la reine (1961)

The Three Musketeers (1973)

The Three Musketeers (1993)

The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

The Three Musketeers (2011)

Oh, and, of course, I can't leave out these guys . . .


Closing Out May...

Overall I've been pretty happy with my posting schedule this month.  We went to Disney World for a week and I took time off from everything.

I'm currently struggling for a direction for some of my creative outlets.  With DnD Next they've spoken about the direction Next will take and I've tinkered with it to emulate that, but I feel it's well past time for a new packet.  I've received my preorder PDF for 13th Age and the book will be as gorgeous as the rules.  I keep thinking about Weird War Stories and mixing it with 13th Age, [...]

Petty God's Submissions

So, two of my submissions for "Petty Gods" went  out over a month ago.  These first two were actually my own designs and based upon a deity and items from my group's many home brews.  The second two have been more challenging as I took them on as assignments from Gorgonmilk.  I lost a lot of time on them due to  a little bit of life happening, but in the end got both turned in last night.  I worked on one of the cover gods (if you look at the cover below he is the pointy eared Petty One in [...]

Hideous Creatures: Hounds of Tindalos for Trail of Cthulhu available now!

Issue #3 of Ken Writes About Stuff subscription

In this series, Kenneth Hite looks at the creatures, species, and monsters of the Cthulhu Mythos from every non-Euclidean angle. Alternate versions and new explanations provide the same jolt of mythic bisociation that the gods and titans receive in the TRAIL OF CTHULHU corebook. Hite traces these foul things through their legendary history, and provides further clues for any Investigator to follow. Horrific scenario seeds burst and bloom, story spines protrude and deform, in a blasphemous garden any Keeper can harvest.

HIDEOUS CREATURES: HOUNDS OF TINDALOS are lean and athirst! Frank Belknap Long's greatest [...]

Obscure RPG Appreciation Day: Three Obscure Favs

After the unmitigated success of Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day, I was really excited when Catacomb Librarian announced that he was sponsoring the first ever Obscure RPG Appreciation Day and knew I needed to participate. 

While I don't share Catacomb Librarian's often-vitriolic distaste for big name game systems, I do share his love of obscure gaming systems. I missed the proliferation of smaller RPGs of the late 70's and early 80's and by the time I became aware of smaller games, I was more or less done with fantasy RPGs for the time being. As a result, the obscure [...]

Play, Projects, and a Panel

A shorter post today, wrapping up this month. Today closes out the RPG Blog Carnival for May. Next week I'll do a round-up post for "Campaigns I'd Like to Run." I've read some interesting and amazing posts on the topic. The carnival for June starts tomorrow with the topic "Favorite NPCs" and hosted by Arcane Game Lore. I'm looking forward to what comes out of that. NPCs, done right, can drive the action of a game forward while avoiding info-dumps and walls of text. Today I want to go over the games and talk about a few projects.
STATE [...]

Food Friday: EXP Restaurant & Bar

This is one of those times that my two of passions collide. Gaming, Geekery and Food! But unfortunately, I’m geographically challenged. Way up in Vancouver [...]

Updated Core Download File -- Now 5% Original Size

I promised to revisit the download files and get a smaller version out there. I got the time this morning to fiddle with the files and got the whole thing down to an astonishingly small 11.8 Megs. I think that’s as small as my original, first edition download.

The internal links are intact and I was able to add chapters to the file for your navigation pleasure.

Come and get it! The Artifact RPG

You can also get a softcover for yourself.

Friday Question: Creating Your Own Game

The Friday Question.  I've been flipping through a lot of core rule books lately.  My latest acquisition was +Joseph Bloch's DM's Toolkit for his Adventures Dark & Deep Ruleset.  I haven't had a chance to read it all the way through, but so far I've been really enjoying what I've gone through so far.  I highly recommend it.  Reading his book and about twenty different core books scattered across my place I got the itch to make my own ruleset.  Trust me, I put some ointment on that itch real fast.  That kind of project is WAY out of my [...]

Play Report: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying (and some suggested house rules)

We’ve been trying to recruit a few more players for our group of late. One of the draws was an interest in several for theMarvel Heroic Roleplaying game (hereafter MHR) — which I like tremendously. So last night, we took a crack at playing this game again. We last played MHR around September, before the collapse of the gaming group as people moved away, and one of those “lost” players was joining us via Skype (there will be a post on that either tonight or tomorrow.)

The game involved PARAGON, a Captain Marvel-esque corporate tool who has weather control, flight, lightning [...]

Go Fer Yer Gun! Now Free At RPG Now

Beyond Belief Games has made the western RPG Go Fer Yer Gun! available as a free pdf download over at RPG Now.  It's a great little rules-lite game based on Castles and Crusaders and, if you've been following along, you've seen that I've been prepping to run this game.  There's nothing like a free set of rules to help make your Friday pass by more quickly!

Check out Go Fer Yer Gun!

Great Northern War Russian Infantry Complete! (sort of)

Last night, I finished the Semenovski unit and that completes the infantry - sans basing, officers and the 6 grenadiers that I have. Here are some mediocre pictures of them (I really ought to work on my photography a bit):

 This represents two boxes of Zvezda's Infantry [...]

Gutternsipe Rogue Scheme & Slippery Target for the new #dndnext Rogue

The "Slippery Target" feature of the previous D&D Next playtest packet was my favorite for one simple and yet very original reason: it was a way to make a Rogue that was deadly in combat without even attacking!

It's about redirecting a foe's attack into someone else, and it's pure genius in my opinion, because it's one of the most roguish things one can think about, seen in countless action movies where the star is rogue-ish.

So to "convert it" to the present version of the rules, it must substitute the "sneak attack enablers" such as Backstab, [...]

Gygax Magazine release schedule

I missed out the the opening day when Gygax Magazine was released but I got lucky, a friend of mine, Blix from Studio187 was on hand to get me a copy. He did me one better and dragged my copy around with him to a couple of conventions and now it is loaded with signatures from the various people that worked on it.

I have been waiting for issue #2 and was starting to worry that it was not going to happen. Then today I found this message on Facebook and had to share it:


Hi everyone, Jayson here. I know everyone’s been looking forward to hearing when our next issues are coming out.
Issue 1 was our pilot issue, a chance for us to get processes in place and work out the kinks that come with a new magazine.

From issue 2 on out, we’ll be on a regular 3-month schedule. Here it is:

Issue 2 – Wednesday, July 31
Issue 3 – Wednesday, October 30
Issue 4 – Wednesday, January 29
Issue 5 – Wednesday, April 30

(Those are the dates that the magazine will be arriving for subscribers, as well as available online through Paizo and Noble Knight. Distributors get the magazines [...]

Saturday Seed ~ 158 (Call of Cthulhu)

This minor seed is being musically planted by moonlight for Call of Cthulhu. Aimed at characters in the 20s and 30s, it can take on extra special significance in a generation game. My Saturday Seeds also reappear onAncient Scrollon random Saturdays~ The seed The seed involves a neighborhood bar which has featured live musicians for … Read more

Obscure RPG Appreciation Day: Lone Wolf RPG (1989)

A little blog named Mesmerized By Sirens that focuses on obscure RPGs is running what they call Obscure RPG Appreciation Day and have challenged bloggers to post about a little known RPG. I have decided to join in the fun with this blog post.

Did you know that a Lone Wolf RPG was published way back in 1989? Yes, I do mean the Lone Wolf of choose-your-own-adventure gamebook fame. The name of the game was, unsurprisingly, Lone Wolf RPG and it was published in issue 15 of the Lone Wolf Club newsletter. Taking inspiration from the popular line of [...]

The Escapist: GMing From The History Book

The Escapist: GMing From The History Book:

What a great article! Really makes me want to dig up my old "Fantasy Chernobyl" and "Fantasy Vietnam" campaigns and polish them off.

Friday Funnies: Reincarnation

And now for something completely different...

Music -- HP Lovecraft, The White Ship

Problem #13: Only The Wise Shall Lead

Shortly after King Unig fell in battle the commander of his personal guard, a slender human named Schwert, approached the mourning princess who was soon to be queen.

"My Lady, your father owned three magical weapons," he said, laying a long wooden box onto the throne room's stone floor. 

"They are your rightful inheritance, but only if you can solve the riddle sealing them within may you weild them," Schwert gestured to the box from his kneeling position.

"You have only one chance," he added.  "If you answer incorrectly, the box will remain magically sealed until your successor [...]

Epic Level Artistry: Michelle Nguyen

Here we are at the end of May with another installment of Epic Level Artistry! This time we have another Portland local, Michelle Nguyen! Again, with the hilarious stories of how Portland is a Big Small Town. My Spouse and I were hanging at the Stumptown Comic Festival when lo and behold, we ran into Michelle, who was sharing a booth with another ELA artist. Back in days of yore, we were property managers and they were among our residents. After an exchange of business cards and tumblr sites, I asked Michelle if she would be down with being interviewed [...]

"And the Villain Opened a Competing Pizzeria to Yours..."

About a year ago, in the beginning of April last year, I was in one of the most important gaming lectures I've ever been in (a lecture by Michael Elboym). It was, as the headline of that particular lecture implied, about improvisation in RPGs.One of the most important lessons I received from this eye-opening lecture was from the example the lecturer opened with: the characters were at the end of the dungeon, ready to face the dark and evil sorcerer, and one of the players suddenly said out of the blue: "To hell with that, let's go back [...]

Shortlist for 2013 Diana Jones announced

The Diana Jones Award for Excellence in gaming was established in 2001. This year the prize will be presented at the annual Diana Jones Party, held at the Cadillac Ranch, the night before Gen Con in Indianapolis this August.

The shortlist includes five very different contenders; a RPG, a card game, a convention, a book and a web series. As different as the runners are, the judges saw excellence in their field in each of them and they’ve made it to the final round for one of the most exclusive trophies in gaming.

Dog Eat Dog, an RPG by Liam Burke, together [...]

End-of-Week Elmore (5/31/13)

Like the gentleman on the dragon above, I'm back in the saddle! The GM's saddle, that is! I ran my first game session in months this past Wednesday night, and it sure felt good! I'm running Labyrinth Lord (augmented by some house rules), using a combination of Rob Conley's [...]

Dover's Walls and Gate

Powerful looking Dover Castle. Its entrance along the landward side is pretty cool. Built up from the ground so that the walls on the top of the slope create a natural moat, an almost unscalable slope. Using siege towers would be almost impossible. taking it would require scaling ladders and a great many men.

Very defensible. But even if you broke through the other walls you'd have a second slope and set of walls to break through and then an inner keep.

Whatever Barons dwelt here were secure I suspect.

Its where you want to be when [...]

Heroes on Demand: Ryan Crowley, Undead Private Eye

Welcome yet again to Heroes on Demand, your weekly installment of ready-to-play player characters for a variety of RPGs. Back in January, I did a review of Pinnacle‘s Deadlands Noir for the Savage Worlds system; you can read the sordid details over yonder. And I had honestly meant to have a Heroes on Demand entry to coincide with that review. Well, blame the Reckoners if you want, but I’m now addressing that particular oversight by unearthing a hero to investigate the darker places of 1930′s New Orleans as it exists in the Deadlands setting, a place where the dead really [...]

[Friday Map] Darkling Depths Level 5

One last delve into the Darkling Depths, that megadungeon project I lost track of some four years ago and finally rediscovered this month. This is also the last of the Lost Maps for the time being, I’ll be getting back to posting more recent maps of mine for the next while.

Map 5A can be reached through the well in the underworld town in map 3A (which opens up to a small freshwater lake down here, although the area immediately around the well-shaft is completely submerged). The elevator room from Map 3A also leads down here (and is the standard way in and out of this area). Finally, the purple worm tunnels on this level lead off to the west (indicated as area 5C, although there is no prepared map of that area). Somewhere in the labyrinth of purple worm tunnels out there is a link that leads back to Map 5B.

This area is dominated by a mix of natural caves and mines.

Darkling Depths Map 5A

Map 5B is reached using the multiple stairways from Map 4B. It also connects to the maze of purple worm tunnels to the west, which may also include “The Lost Crypts“, a map I posted back [...]

Shadowscast Volume 2 Episode 2

This episode of Shadowscast, the second of Volume 2, presents more short segments on game ideas for Korea as a setting ranging from the supernatural to the curiously epicurean; one segment on the boundaries, inspiration, and limitations of art and visual aids in gaming and GMing; as well as some other odds and ends. For … Read more

Obscure RPG Appreciation Day

After some confusion, it turns out that today is Obscure RPG Appreciation Day (ORPGAD) as organized by Mesmerized By Sirens. This has gotten me to thinking about my own origins in the hobby.

I was first introduced to the hobby sometime around 1984 or 1985. At the Waldenbooks in the mall, (I don’t remember what mall. There were none in town and we didn’t get there very often. Dothan, maybe?) I picked up a copy of the D&D boxed set. Accidentally, and without the experience to know better, I bought the Expert Set and not the Basic. It would be a [...]

Friday Favourite: Staying Alive -- 8 Ways to Keep Wounded PCs in the Game

On Friday we comb through our extensive archives to find an older article that we feel deserves another look. From June 5, 2012, Dungeon's Master once again presents:Staying Alive: 8 Ways to Keep Wounded PCs in the Game.

One of my biggest issues with D&D is the five-minute work day. This is when PCs expend all their best powers and burn through their healing surges so quickly that they're useless unless they take an extended rest. The game is designed for PCs to have four or more encounters before they should need to take an extended rest but I suspect that [...]

Who or What the Heck is That? (Describing Things With Aplomb)

When writing text for our games we often have to describe something in great detail. But detail is like the hole Alice falls down to Wonderland… Sometimes it turns into a black hole and we free fall forever. So today I want to focus on a technique for getting more sensory detail into your writing without falling down the rabbit hole

We all know the main senses, right? Visual (sight). Auditory (hearing). Gustatory (taste). Olfactory (smell). And tactile (touch). But we sometimes get so wrapped up in one of them (usually visual or auditory) that we tend to forget the others [...]

And the contest winner is...

Boric G. 
Contact me to claim your prize: an Angel of Death by Reaper Miniatures. 
Thanks to all who entered in the contest. (Since there were only six entries, I just rolled a d6).
And much thanks to all who've read and continue to read d20 Dark Ages.
Boric G. runs the Dwarven Stronghold, a blog where a "Dwarven Cleric can share his love of maps, dice, miniatures, and all things involving gaming and general geekery." He even has a list of RPG acquisitions for the year. 
Now he can add another miniature to that list! 


(It’s actually been out for a few days. It’s been hard for me to get online. >.> )

STAR TREK CROSS-STITCH is on shelves now! I can’t say enough good things about this book. (And I’m not making any money off it, so you know it’s an endorsement from the heart. ) The book is the brainchild of John Lohman, creator and administrator of Sprite Stitch. There’s an interview at StarTrek.com with John where he discusses the genesis of the project. For me, the book began as a post on the Sprite Stitch forums asking for volunteers for a [...]

A Discourse in Steel Excerpt

An excerpt from Paul Kemp's upcoming novel A Discourse in Steel is available on Tor.com. Read more here!

The Murder Machine- DCC class for Hubris

One race I always really enjoyed from the 3.5 era of D&D was the Warforged. They were a new race that had a huge amount of potential. The other day I was looking over Jack Shear’s Planet Motherfucker and was inspired by his moxy and awesome idea, and thought it would be fitting to create a race inspired by the Warforged for Hubris with that same Planet Motherfucker philosophy.

I took the DCCified Warforged I created a while back and altered it for Hubris.

Pertinent info:

Floating Island of Terror- (Possibly a living patron that the Queen serves) This metallic monstrosity hovers high [...]

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