My Mystara Wishlist

The news that Classic D&D material was going to be reissued as PoD were one of my high points of the last year or two in the hobby. But the release schedule seems to be slow-ish. So I thought it might be worth for me to keep track of where we are at any given point.

Other people are monitoring the whole list (either Mystara titles or all titles), so I will limit myself to those titles I was planning to buy. The first section is all about the GAZ series, which is by far the highest priority for me. The second section are adventure modules that I am pretty sure to buy, and the third section is adventure modules that I am interested in and might buy just because they are classic and cool. In square brackets, I will add comments on why I want this stuff.

I will list them all, and then hyperlink them as soon as they become available. (Check this out for a general BECMI catalogue)

The GAZetteers Series

GAZ1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos 1987 9193
GAZ2 The Emirates of Ylaruam 1987 9194
GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri 1987 9208
GAZ4 The Kingdom of Ierendi 1987 9215
GAZ5 The Elves of Alfheim 1988 9223
GAZ6 The Dwarves of Rockhome 1988 9227
GAZ7 The Northern Reaches 1988 9230
GAZ8 The Five Shires 1988 9232
GAZ9 The Minrothad Guilds 1989 9236
GAZ10 The Orcs of Thar 1989 9241
GAZ11 The Republic of Darokin 1989 9250
GAZ12 The Golden Khan of Ethengar 1989 9246
GAZ13 The Shadow Elves 1990 9287
GAZ14 The Atruaghin Clans 1991 9306

Sure Buys

B2 The Keep on the Borderlands 1980 9034 [‘Nuff said!]

B10 Night’s Dark Terror 1986 9149 [The coolest take on Karameikos]

Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia 1989 1037 [Complements GAZ titles]

Cool Stuff

RC Rules Cyclopedia 1991 1071 [I have one old battered copy already]

O2 (solo) Blade of Vengeance 1984 9108 [Love Jim Bambra]

X2 Castle Amber (Château d’ Amberville) 1981 9051 [First module I ran, love Glantri]

X3 Curse of Xanathon 1982 9056 [I know… but I like it]

X4 Master of the Desert Nomads 1983 9068

X5 Temple of Death 1983 9069 [Classic pulpy two-part campaign]

Up There Somebody Loves Me

It is perhaps too soon to celebrate too loudly,  but it seems that my prayers will be answered, after all: GAZ14: The Atruaghin Clans is now available on demand. Ok, it was one of the weakest titles in the series, but one has to start somewhere, right? I am crossing fingers for more to come.

They Live

Ok people, after the promising launch of a PoD line of classic D&D titles, I do not know how to call these other news: Exciting? Uplifting? Magnificent? Well, judge by yourself: For the first time, three GURPS 4e supplements come back in print via CreateSpace, the PoD platform by Amazon!

A couple of years ago I was very lucky and managed to buy many of the old hardcovers from a former player at reasonable prices, a few others I bought on the aftermarket at sillier prices (High Tech and Thaumatology, I am thinking of you!). But for anybody willing to start playing GURPS these are superb news: it really changes everything. Not to mention the fact that these reprints incorporate all known errata (and man, in Magic and Ultra Tech there were a ton!). So anybody running the game should consider getting new copies for easier table use. Be nice: go buy them.

Sometimes They Come Back

As I have told you at the time, I once missed the opportunity to snatch a complete collection of the BECMI GAZ series for basically peanuts. As a consequence, I am pretty excited at these news: the Wizards are selling Print on Demand reissues of old titles via DriveThru RPG/RPG Now.

Obviously, the campaign was launched only a couple of weeks ago, and there is no guarantee that they ever get to reissue any titles belonging to the GAZ. I can also envision some practical difficulties in doing such a thing: those booklets came with poster sized maps, and some of them included stuff like wargame pawns, paper models of buildings etc. Frankly, I strongly hope that they get around these problems in the most radical way: just cut the maps in pieces, and ditch the extra gimmicks. If they do it well (i.e., do not butcher the maps) the end result would be marginally less pretty, but considerably cheaper and more practical than the originals themselves.

Presently, the prices seem very interesting and the quality (at the very least) acceptable, so any GAZ title that comes up is pretty much a no brainer for me. Dammit, this I really owe to my youth and the history of the hobby!

Three Fantasy Games

First of all, I guess a owe my readers an apology. This blog has gone through a long hiatus, and perhaps it does not make a whole lot of sense to revive it now. You know how these things go: life is a b*tch and all that jazz. Somehow, I lacked the energies for regular updates, months went by etc. But the truth is that I am still into RPGs, so it would not be right to just starve this blog to death. I will not promise regular updates but, say, less infrequent updates.

Last Summer and Fall, three new releases caught pretty much all of my attention. Today and in the next few posts, I will offer some personal impressions of these games. Since my finances are limited (ah! euphemism!), I only did manage to put my money on two of them.

First, this Summer saw a triumphant Kickstarter for Zweihander, better known as “That Warhammer Fantasy Role Play retroclone that should have been out by now”. I have been following the beta releases for the game for no less than two years, and I must say that this project deserved my money, if nothing else, for the exceptional love and care that so many people put in it. This game has been conceived, playtested, revised, perfected for years by many, many WFRP fans that wanted so hard a new edition of their favourite game to see the light. I gladly shelled out my 50 euro-bucks for a physical book that, I am sure, will be gorgeous. The fact that the sellers did not charge additional shipping costs was also instrumental in making me opt for the paper as opposed to the mere PDF (shipping costs for large books can be horrifying, at times). At the moment, I have only read selections from the mammoth-sized provisional PDF, but I will give you some impressions in the next days.

The second game is Mythras. As you might remember, I have been aware of RuneQuest 6e for a long time. The fact is that I never managed to get my hands on a copy because the book was just too expensive (even for these days of expensive hardcovers). The news that the game was about to be revised and reissued made me wait a bit longer. At the end of last Summer, the game was finally out and I was (I think) among the very first to buy it in Europe. (This also resulted in a few little inconveniences, which I will discuss in a future post.) The price was just great, not least because of the partnership of the publisher with the UK based company Aeon Games. Anyway, I was super happy to finally have the book in my hands and these days I count it among my selected few favourite systems around.

The third game is, in a way, not new. It is the GURPS Dungeon Fantasy boxset that was launched on a surpise Kickstarter in September. I did not expect it and, I must confess, I just could not afford to support it: after paying for the other two books, a further expense of circa 80 euros was just too much. It is a pity, because the attempt of bringing dead-tree GURPS back (well) from the dead struck me as a great idea, really. I was never the greatest fan of the DF line per se, but that was only because I found that the attention it was getting was disproportionate with respect to the system’s potential. But you know what? They win: people want more dungeon crawling in GURPS? Hell, I am all for that. I will try to get the PDF when it is out for the general public.


Mad Paladins Fighting Demons (in Verses)!

The person known as Blacky the Blackball is now a fellow WordPress blogger. The blog is home to Blacky’s outstanding retro games, which are distributed at cost price. Being the happy purchaser of Lulu printed copies of Dark Dungeons and Blood, Guts & Glory, I could go on for hours about how much I like them both.

Dark Dungeons is especially fun to me, for two very different reasons. First, it is a very faithful clone of the Rules Cyclopedia, which is in many ways my favourite official D&D core book. Second, the author did the smart choice of illustrate it with Gustave Doré‘s beautiful drawings. Beyond being beautiful, these pictures are also likely to trigger a somewhat funny association to any Italian high schooler. The reason is that most of them are scenes from revered classics Dante’s Divine Comedy and Ariosto’s Frenzy of Orlando. But mind you! The choice is not actually that extravagant. Ariosto’s epic poem is first class campaign material, and Dante himself led a pretty adventurous life, so why not?


[Ok, this one was just to let you now that the blog is not dead. Which, as the old joke goes, technically makes it undead…]

On Star Wars: stories and games

On the very last day of 2015, I managed to watch The Force Awakens. Yes, one of the few advantages of a  super mega global franchise is that you get to watch it round the corner…no matter where you live. What can i say? I definitely liked it, and yet, I liked it because my expectations were so low. I mean, my last experience of a Star Wars movie (in the far 2005) was, well, horrendous.  TFA is better than the prequels for the very simple reason that it is a homage to A New Hope, and it is a less than satisfactory film for the very same reason.

Unexpectedly, after watching it I happened to think a lot about RPGs, especially RPG adventures vs. storytelling.

I thought: look at how the authors exploited all sorts of silly coincidences in order to cram as many references to the original trilogy as you could hope for. On film, it looked somewhat gratuitous, but I guess that if I ever had to GM a campaign set after the original trilogy, I probably would have done the same, in order to keep my players entertained. In fact, I guess that whenever you play in a setting borrowed from books or movies, you are to some extent tempted to do the same.

On a different level, I also reflected on the bit of insight that originated the webcomic Darths & Droids. The idea was that, storywise,  the prequels were so bad, that one could not make sense of the fact that somebody had written them that way. What if, in fact, they were nothing but the write-up of an RPG campaign? They suddenly made a lot more sense. Again, I came to think that TFA was in fact a very clever beginning for an RPG campaign. The references to the original trilogy were there (see above). The PCs had obviously been created and played by very different players. Rei is such a Mary Sue because her player is a min-maxer, who managed to get superior fighting and piloting skills while also being strong in the Force. Poe’s player is obviously somebody who is very busy and just cannot manage to be there every week: s/he was content to create a PC with one single, super high skill (starfighter piloting), and not much else to speak of. Finn’s player is obviously the least experienced one: he comes out as a character who is not especially good at anything, except perhaps putting himself in danger. His player, if anything, must have had a good time. BB-8 is obviously the GM’s favourite friendly NPC, or perhaps a character played by one of those friends of the GM who is often dropping by and must be kept entertained: this would explain why so many scenes revolve around that damned little thing…

[More seriously, I was also drawn in the unhealthy trip to revisit the now defunct Expanded Universe, which I knew little about. For the first time, I have “properly” read the five Thrawn novels by Timothy Zahn. Hopefully, I will share some thoughts about them on this blog very soon.]

After the End (of the blog?!)

Ok, I know I have screwed up pretty badly with my blog updates. I hope to do better in the next fw months. In the meanwhile, I drop by to express my satisfaction at the launch of a new GURPS series:

Post-Apocalypse has never been my favourite genre, but as somebody who “sort of” authored a Hokuto no Ken RPG, I thought it was only right for me to bow to my betters! Really: these are great news for GURPS, which is and has always been my favourite system. After its shift to a PDF-only model, GURPS has focused pretty heavily on the Dungeon Fantasy series: an understandable choice, given the Old School Renaissance, and one that apparently sold well. But a generic system truly shines when it tackles on a wide range of genres, and I am sure this series will highlight the many strengths of the system. In particular, with the usual dials and switches, one can easily go from a very cinematic, anime-style, “gonzo apocalypse” game to a ultra-gritty, tactical guerrilla war in the wasteland. Since we have not seen official Vehicle Design rules yet, perhaps a simplified system might be included in the series for all those P-A settings that make great use of motorized vehicles on wheels. Otherwise, though, GURPS already has what we need and more, and the new series will surely make the most of it. So, those who loved the new Mad Max last year should definitely give GURPS AtE a try!

The Red Cloud Brothership, Mystics of Krondahar

tiger nest monastery

[This calls for an explanation. Among other RPG related things I have been doing in my long abstinence from the blog, I have done some reading of the beautiful retroclone Dark Dungeons, by Blacky the Blackball, which I like a ton and I am likely to review here soon. At the same time, I am browsing through my official WotC PDFs of the old GAZ series, and an idle thought crossed my mind. If you wanted to find some use for the Mystic class that sort-of fitted in the already eclectic Known World setting, where could you place them? So here it is, my little homage to BECMI, Dark Dungeons and campy Asian fantasy.]

Glantri’s law condemns the worship of Immortals in any form. Ethengarian immigrants, thus, had to renounce the ancient cult of spirits and ancestors as practiced in Ethengar. Under the influence of the powerful magic practiced by the Virayana family and other secular lore, a tradition of mysticism developed that emphasised the power of mind over matter and the transcendence of human limitations by relying solely on mental discipline. Besides more contemplative activities, a group of such scholars oriented more strongly towards the martial arts. Their training takes place prevalently in one of a small number of secular monasteries in the principality. Mystics who wander around in search of challenges can carry on their instruction autonomously or under other brothers that they meet in the world. These Red Cloud Brothers, as they came to be called, are now a precious resource for the small principality of Krondahar, in that they make excellent elite troops and unrivalled body guards and security officers. Like the textbook mystics of DD, Krondahar mystics swear a vow of poverty, so mystics who work in the capital or elsewhere in the above mentioned capacities transfer most of their income to their monasteries.

As a general rule, the level of mystic NPCs must be set as follows:

Apprentices (lvl 1): Young students at the monastery, occasionally on guard duty.

Disciples (lvl 2-6): Common members of the brothership, often employed as irregular troops or mercenaries all around the country.

Champions (lvl 7): Mature disciples, with exceptional abilities, they can often be met as they wander looking for a challenge.

Sifu (lvl 9): True masters, they can take disciples of their own.

Grand Sifu (lvl 16): Keepers of the most secret techniques.

Mystics have no official titles, and regardless of their level they address each other as Brother/Sister. Only at level 9 they earn the title Sifu (Master), and can officially take apprentices of their own: before, they can only offer informal assistence in another’s instruction. A Sifu has mastered all the more “mundane” abilities their mystic tradition has to offer, but the path to the most esoteric techniques is long. The only known Grand Sifu (expert, among other things, of the legendary Dim Mak technique) is the Grand Sifu of the High Monastery of the Red Cloud in Lhamsa (see below). Higher level mystics are rumoured to exist, but it is generally assumed that they start wandering in far away lands and savage places in search of higher challenges and enlightenment.

Combat-wise, the greatest emphasis of the training is on unarmed strikes, but armed fighting is taught as well. The first weapon taught is invariably the staff, but the one-handed (“normal”) sword, the spear and the dagger are also commonly taught.

The alignment of young mystics is usually Lawful, and they are generally assumed to be loyal and deferent servants of the Prince of Krondahar (in spite of his many quirks!). Wandering mystics, especially the most powerful, often change their alignment to Neutral, as a result of their ever increasing detachment from the material life. A Chaotic alignment is incompatible with the mental discipline of the Red Cloud mystics: mystics who happen to change their alignment to Chaotic immediately lose their abilities. With GM permission, these characters might be converted to Thieves of equivalent XPs.

Grand Sifu Thokmay (Mystic 16, AL:L). STR 12, DEX 16, CON 10, INT 10, WIS 16, CHA 13. HP 42. AC -8. Weapon Feats: Staff (Master), Sword, Normal (Expert). Special Abilities: Strike to Kill (Unarmed): 3d12 x 4 Attacks; Alertness; Self Healing; Speak with Animals; Resistence to Spells and Breath; Smash/Parry; Speak with Anyone; Mind Blank; Fade; Dim Mak. Thief Abilities: Find Traps 76%, Remove Traps 70%, Climb Walls 102%, Move Silently 72%, Hide in Shadows 60%. Special Items: Staff of Dispelling. A mature-but-not-exactly-old-looking gentleman of Ethengarian descent, Grand Sifu Thokmay  has unassuming manners and demeanor. He always carries his staff, but in the rare occasions in which he has to defend himself in a fight he opts for his dazzingly fast and powerful punches and kicks, which can harm even the toughest magical opponents the Princes can send after him. Like others before him, Thokmay is tempted to pass the monastery onto another Sifu and retire himself somewhere in the wild, but he is under the impression that the Machiavellian politics of Glantri are constantly endangering Krondahar and its people, so he tries to hold on and do his best to maintain peace and order in the principality. The Grand Sifu is respected and feared by the magic-users, not only because of his fighting prowess and spiritual force, but because of the Staff of Dispelling that is inherited by the Grand Sifus of the High Monastery. This object, bestowed to the founder by the then-rulers of Krodanhar, makes it very hard for a magic-user to harm the Master with spells or magic items.