Sunday, January 31, 2010
Saturday, January 30, 2010
As we became "more sophisticated" gamers, we turned to individual initiative, with each player rolling a d10 and adding their Dexterity bonus. The DM would also roll a d10, and attack priority would be granted from highest to lowest number, with the monsters attacking at the same time, based on the DM's roll. At one point, we even applied weapon speeds to our initiative rolls, so that players with faster weapons had a better chance of striking first.
I find this table (from the Ready Ref Sheets) to be very curious. It suggests that, after "Glance", "Breath" and Missile weapons, the longer and slower weapons have priority during combat. To be sure, a character weilding a faster weapon can modify the timing of their attack by having high Dexterity and wearing light or no armor, but the table still suggests that on balance it is the longer, slower melee weapons that act first.
For me, the attack priorities proposed in this table only make sense during the first round of combat, when the combatants first come to blows. After that, i'm not sure I would use this table to determine attack priority. I might still give Glance, Breath and Missile weapons the advantage, but would then reverse the order of the melee weapons, so that the short weapons would have earlier attack priority.
In modern Dungeons and Dragons, i'm not sure it really matters who strikes first (particularly when your characters have advanced several levels). But in Chainmail's Man-To-Man Combat section and Fantasy Supplement, attack priority is of critical importance. That is because, before the innovation of Hit Points, a successful hit resulted in an automatic kill. Therefore, whoever gained attack priority possessed a huge advantage, since, if their attack was successful, they would kill their opponent, thereby avoiding being killed themselves.
This could explain why attack priority and initiative was taken very seriously in early versions of Dungeons and Dragons.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
The Ready Ref Sheets include roughly 60 pages of tables and other content, both stimulating and stale.
Stimulating content includes rules for "Offensive Locution". For example, Characters can use witticisms and repartee to try to affect combat: successful repartee will stop your opponents from attacking, while successful witticisms will allow you to strike your opponent first. What a fantastic idea! If employed as both role-and roll-playing (rather than simply the latter), the idea of repartee and witticisms in combat would add a fascinating dimension to a pirate / robin hood / swashbuckling / three musketeers campaign!
As for the stale content? How about two pages of rules for initiating and maintaining a successful amorous liasion?
Overall conclusion? For all its faults, at $3, Ready Ref Sheets is one Judges Guild product you should not be without.
Several of the included combat tables in the Ready Ref Sheets are printed (with permission) from the Chainmail rules for medieval miniatures. Most of you will already know that the standard combat rules for Original Dungeons & Dragons assumed ownership and use of Chainmail, but that an "alternative" set of d20 combat rules were provided in OD&D, for those OD&D purchasers who did not already own Chainmail. By the time Basic and Advanced D&D replaced OD&D, those "alternative" d20 combat rules had become -- and still are -- the standard. Whether the recommendation to use Chainmail combat was simply a marketing ploy by Gary Gygax, to sell more books, or whether he truly considered the Chainmail rules to be superior, I cannot say.
What I can say is that, looking at the Chainmail man-to-man combat tables, I am struck by how different the Chainmail combat rules operate, as compared to the now accepted wisdom of the D&D community.
Some of that accepted wisdom:
1. Attack probabilities are linear functions.
2. Shields provide additional protection from attacks.
3. Swords are the most effective weapons.
4. Plate is better than Chain, is better than Leather.
In studying the Chainmail combat tables, you will discover that none of that accepted wisdom holds true in all cases!
Take attack probabilities. In standard d20 D&D combat, an +1 improvement in your combat ability will result in a flat 1 in 20 (5%) improvement in your potential combat success.
But the Chainmail combat table uses 2d6, rather than a d20, to determine a successful hit. Therefore, in Chainmail, an improvement (reduction) in your required "to-hit" number, from 10 to 9, improves you probability to hit from 16% to 28% (a 12% improvement). Likewise, an improvement in your "to-hit" number, from 9 to 8, improves your probability to hit from 28% to 42% (a 14% improvement). Think of the impact, then, that a +1 or +2 weapon would have on your combat success, using the Chainmail combat rules! A +1 weapon in Chainmail is the equivalent of +2 or even +3 weapon in the d20 combat rules. This may explain why, in Chainmail, Gygax considered Excalibur to be, at most a +2 or +3 weapon.
As for the use of shields, looking at the Chainmail tables, you will note several instances where shields are either of no value as further defence against attack, or make you more vulnerable. Case in point: a Mace hits on an 8+, whether I am employing chain, or chain and shield. Even worse: a Halberd hits on 8+ against Leather, but against Leather and Shield, 7+.
Turning to the effectiveness of swords, you will note that the mace, hammer, and morningstar all have the same or better to-hit probabilities against most armor types.
Finally, when comparing armor, there are several instances, such as with the Mace, Hammer or Flail, where Leather, rather than Chain, is the better armor, and other instances where Plate provides inferior protection.
Without a further understanding of the underlying assumptions applied to the Chainmail combat tables, it is difficult to reconcile these Chainmail combat design features with the "modern" d20 combat rules.
Castle Ravenloft #1 (2010)
Distribution (40 miniatures) All Visible?
Release Date: August 17, 2010
"This big box full of D&D goodness contains more than 40 plastic playing pieces, including a Huge dracolich, as well as thirteen sheets of interlocking dungeon tiles, two-hundred cards, and a booklet full of adventures. This cooperative D&D experience plays in about an hour and can be enjoyed as a solo game or with up to five players. Even better, this D&D experience doesn’t require a Dungeon Master. It’s a great way to introduce new players to the concept of D&D, as well as being a fun and exciting way for longtime players to interact with the brand." $64.95
And this, according to Amazon.com.
An exciting D&D™ boardgame for 1–5 players.The master of Ravenloft® is having guests for dinner—and you are invited! Evil lurks in the towers and dungeons of Castle Ravenloft™, and only heroes of exceptional bravery can survive the horrors within. Designed for 1–5 players, this boardgame features multiple scenarios, challenging quests, and cooperative game play. Castle Ravenloft includes the following components: • 40 plastic heroes and monsters• 13 sheets of interlocking cardstock dungeon tiles• 200 encounter and treasure cards• Rulebook• Scenario book• 20-sided die.
Sounds similar to Descent, which I had the opportunity to play several weeks ago. Presumably this will be in distribution through toy stores like Toy'r'Us.
Edit: If they were going for an introduction to D&D, wouldn't it make more sense to recreate something like B2? Maybe they're trying to cash in on the whole Twilight "Vampires" thing by choosing Ravenloft.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
Published in 1984, by Avalon Hill, Lords of Creation is a role-playing game where the players travel from one pocket-dimension to another, with each dimension having it's own physics and theme. The characters travel through inter-dimensional gates, and, as the characters increase in level, they ultimately unlock their own super-powers. Apparently, one of the early sample adventures is the search for a special horn that will allow the players unfettered access to myriad pocket dimensions.
I am sitting here, blown away. First, how did I miss this game? As as fan of Avalon Hill, I thought I kept myself up-to-date on what they were publishing. Obviously not.
Second, i'm thinking to myself, this game has got to be a role-playing game, based on the Philip Jose Farmer's World of Tiers series!
I go hunting for a review of this game, and I come across a couple:
A review on RPGNet
A review on Jeff's Gameblog
Andy Collins' review
No mention of Philip Jose Farmer. No mention of The World of Tiers.
Am I seeing something that isn't there?
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Saturday, January 23, 2010
The Maker of Universes was one of my earliest introductions to adult fantasy literature, as I first read this novel while still in grade school, but just after my introduction to a little game called Dungeons and Dragons.
James “Chevski” over at Grognardia reviewed The Maker of Universes over a year ago. In his review, he described this book as an example of “classic wish-fulfillment fantasy.” While I appreciate James’ take on this novel (and by association, the series), I ascribe to it a slightly more sophisticated message of guilt, restitution and redemption.
I have not read this novel for several years, but I will try to provide an accurate summary. The Maker of Universes tells the story of one Robert Wolff, a WWII amnesia victim, now aging professor, who is viewing a new condominium development with his wife. Hearing music, he opens a closet in the condo to find a magical gate, through which he sees a red-headed youth, in a Garden of Eden setting, and dressed as an American Indian, fighting several hideous humanoids. The youth is blasting notes from a horn, and, seeing Wolff, he laughingly tosses the horn to Wolff before the magical gate closes.
Wolff, who is unhappy in his marriage and is regretting his retirement, returns to the condo and uses the remembered music notes of the horn to re-create the magical gate. The horn, you see, is the equivalent of a master key, allowing access to myriad pocket universes, based on the notes played. Wolff thus enters The World of Tiers, a disc-shaped world make up of levels, each level stacked upon the level below it. It is a pocket universe, with its own physics. It was built by one of the Lords, a member of a race of virtually immortal humans possessing incredible technologies, which include the ability to create pocket universes. Most of those Lords rule over their own universes as cruel despots, creating tricks, traps and weird monsters, and coveting the universes of other Lords.
The lowest level of this particular universe (The World of Tiers) is a veritable Garden of Eden, with unusually beautiful and exotic naked inhabitants, and food and water with apparent restorative powers, reversing the aging process, and returning Wolff to his peak physical condition (that particular feature of the novel may explain why many view this novel as classic wish fulfillment fantasy).
Shortly following Wolff’s appearance in The World of Tiers, the hideous humanoids (Gworls, surprisingly poorly-designed creations of the Lord), return, and make off with both the magical horn and one of the beauties that befriended Wolff. The Gworls are taking the horn, and the beauty, back to the Lord. Wolff decides to pursue the Gworls, initially simply to re-capture the horn so he can return to Earth. As the story progresses, his purpose evolves to that of rescuing the beauty (Chryseis) and defeating the Lord as well, and Wolff climbs up from level to level, in pursuit of his quest.
Each level has it’s own theme, such as a Garden of Eden level, American Indian level (replete with Indian tribes and Centaurs), Medieval European level (with Dragons and Castles), Meso-American level, and a Mesopotamian level. Wolff has many adventures, and meets and travels with the initially-encountered red-headed youth, Kickaha (another Earth-man, Paul Janus Finnegan by name, also trapped on The World of Tiers), encounters Podarge (a harpy, created as a result of one of the Lord’s experiments of transferring human brains into monstrous bodies) and befriends several other interesting characters who help him along the way.
Wolff ultimately confronts and overthrows the Lord, and in the process discovers the horrifying truth behind the authorship of The World of Tiers.
Unsurprisingly, The Maker of Universes informs my views on Dungeons and Dragons. The existence of a long-extinct race of super-powerful humans, who created and shaped the worlds that the players now inhabit. Items created by those Lords which have super-technological ie. magical properties. Sophisticated tricks and traps to protect the castles, towers, dungeons and homes of these powerful Lords. Bizarre experiments, creating different types of monsters that are now encountered. Magical gates, with their own special keys for activation. The disappearance of those Lords, due to the wars caused by their paranoia and covetousness.
The first four books of this series, The Maker of Universes, The Gates of Creation, A Private Cosmos, and Behind the Walls of Terra, are well-worth reading, if you are looking for the kind of inspiration that I am mentioning above. I recommend stopping after The Walls of Terra though, as feel that Farmer lost his way in his last two books, The Lavalite World, and More Than Fire.
The World of Tiers novel-series definitely deserves to appear in your own personal Appendix N.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
I'm very enthusiastic about getting involved in the Red Box Calgary campaign. For one, Mr. A is suggesting a startup date of February 28, which gives me lots of lead time to make any adjustments to my family schedule.
I'm also happy to hear he will be using a combination of B/X and Labyrinth Lord rulesets. While I do have two copies of Labyrinth Lord, I also have the Basic D&D rulebook, and intend to go to eBay for the Expert rulebook, so i'm covered (or will be) as regards the old B/X rulesets. But including Labyrinth Lord makes me more comfortable about using The Sentry Box gaming space for the game sessions, as anyone without the B/X rules can purchase the LL rules from TSB, thus supporting that business. I like supporting the businesses that support gamers through the provision of free gaming space.
In addition, I'm happy with the inclusion of Labyrinth Lord as I am not above pimping the retro-clones, like Labyrinth Lord, for those people who want a "living" ruleset to work with. It's a good ruleset, and getting it into existing or new gamers' hands can only help to foster additional enthusiasm for old-school gaming.
The campaign is being structured in the sand-box style, with the players using the Red Box wiki site to collectively negotiate where they will go adventuring, and the DM then preparing for the game accordingly. I am looking forward to seeing how that works out.
Both Vancouver and New York have Red Box campaigns. I intend to check out their wiki pages, to see how that approach works for them.
If you have been wanting to get involved in (or try out) a face-to-face "old-school" campaign in Calgary, here is your opportunity! I've already signed up on the Red Box Calgary Wiki Site.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
I mentioned yesterday that I was sorting through some of my old Dungeons and Dragons materials. Flipping through the pages of the Holmes Basic rulebook, I came across the above illustration, of a trio of Harpies threatening a party of adventurers.
I really like this old artwork, despite its apparent lack of sophistication. Others in the OS community have made similar remarks, particularly in relation to humourous art in Dungeons and Dragons. The old rulebooks included some classic humorous panels, such as the adventurers wearing mickey mouse noses and ears, as they attempt to invade the shrine of a rat god.
I'm not sure how to describe the feel of that early black and white art, other than to say that it suggests numerous possibilities, rather than proscribing and limiting them. It could be because each of the artists had their own style, or maybe just because everything about D&D was so new at that point. Certainly the old artwork strikes an emotional chord for me, that D&D players, who did not grow up with that art, may not share.
But I digress. The Harpies seemed familiar, and it was due to more than just the fact that I had seen them long ago in the Holmes Basic rulebook. Heading over to the Otherworld miniatures site, I re-discovered, again, why their miniatures are so appealing to me ... if i'm not mistaken, Paul Muller must have used the above artwork as his inspiration for the pair of Harpies he sculpted for Otherworld.
Otherworld Miniatures is going to put me in the poorhouse if they keep on producing such excellent miniatures.
Monday, January 18, 2010
As some of you are already aware, a garage fire several years ago destroyed most of my old gaming stuff. Fortunately, some of my collection followed me over the years, and thus avoided that garage fire. The surviving bits included my Holmes Basic set, pictured here. As you can see, it includes the old "crappy" dice, along with module B1, In Search of the Unknown.
I was reading one of the more prominent and successful new-school D&D blogs recently. One of the posted criticisms of the "old-school" community's publishing efforts is the penchant for those authors to include new artwork, in the style of the mid- to late-1970's black and white D&D art. That critic felt that it made the newly published old-school materials appear amateurish. As I read through the Holmes Basic rulebook and module B1, I came across several fine examples of that style of artwork.
I must admit that I like that style of artwork. And the reasons I do are similar to the reasons that I like the original rules, warts and all. The black and white artwork, like the written OD&D rules, seemed to allow for more imagination to be used by the reader and viewer. The criticism that the old-style of art-work makes the publications appear amateurish is an understandable one, but which misunderstands what the old-school is all about -- a hobbyist and diffused approach to gaming and publishing, rather than a corporate and monolithic one.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Monday, January 11, 2010
This is good news for all of those people who missed putting their order in for a white box prior to the initial run selling-out.
Head over to BHP and put in your order for the White Box!
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Legends of Steel is the brain-child of Jeff “Evil DM” Mejia, whose blog can be found here. The Legends of Steel setting has already been ported over to the Savage Worlds and Barbarians of Lemuria RPG game systems. I am familiar with both of those game systems, having recently purchased and reviewed Barbarians of Lemuria, and having also purchased the Savage Worlds Explorers Edition and Fantasy Companion. In fact, the Legends of Steel setting is what originally twigged my interest in Barbarians of Lemuria.
The Legends of Steel book that I received is the Savage Worlds Edition (LoSSW). Having read both Savage Worlds and Barbarians of Lemuria RPGs, I now wish I had asked Santa for the Barbarians of Lemuria edition of Legends of Steel, if only because I prefer Barbarians of Lemuria to Savage Worlds.
I should explain at this point that my preference for the Barbarians of Lemuria over the Savage Worlds game system has more to do with my dislike for skill-based RPGs than any deficiency in the Savage Worlds game system itself. As far as skill-based RPGs go, Savage Worlds is considered, by many, to the ultimate skill-based system, and that game system has a shelf-full of related settings and expansion materials to its credit.
LoSSW is, of course, a licensed Savage Worlds product. At 70-pages long, and 8.5 x 11 saddle-stitched, LoSSW is both setting and rules-supplement. The interior is black and white, with a smattering of sword and sorcery appropriate artwork within. The characters depicted on the front cover of LoSSW also serve as sample characters in the final appendix of this book.
Roughly 20 pages of this 70-page book consist of the rules supplement. As it is meant for the Savage Worlds setting, eight of those pages consist of new sword-and-sorcery related “Edges.” I presume those would have been relavoured “Boons” had this been the Barbarians of Lemuria edition of Legends of Steel. The remaining 12 pages of the rules supplement portion provide advice on preparing for and participating in a sword-and-sorcery campaign.
The new Edges in LoSSW are fairly well known. Among the most infamous of those 32 new edges: “Sexy Armor” allowing the character to run around in a chainmail bikini or loincloth but be considered to have chainmail armor, for game purposes; “Just the Thing” allowing the character to somehow always have just the thing the party needs to get out of their current predicament; and “Cannon Fodder” allowing the character to recruit extra henchmen when the need arises. Those new edges certainly complement the sword-and-sorcery flavour of this game-setting.
The next 35 pages of LoSSW serve as a high-level overview of the Erisa game-world. That game world is vintage sword-and-sorcery, as if torn from the pages of your favorite pulp novel or magazine. Jeff gives you enough information regarding each land, city and kingdom in Erisa to whet your appetite, without overwhelming or restricting your freedom to make each location your own. He uses the SWOT format (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) for each entry, which is invaluable as a starting point, while still allowing you to customize this setting. Among my favorite locations: the Moor of the Witch Queen, and the Raven Hills, near Broaq-Nohar, and the Dark Lands near Radu. Both would be ripe for throwing at a party of adventurers!
The last 10 pages or so consist of a introductory adventure and sample characters (using the Savage Worlds character creation system, of course).
Oddly, one of the missing elements of this book is a bestiary. While a bestiary is not required, it has become such a staple of game-settings that it was a bit jarring to discover that LoSSW does not contain one. Granted, any sword and sorcery monsters you may need can probably be obtained from a host of Savage Worlds or other products, including the Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion. But I always figure that a few extra snakes could always be thrown in for good measure, don’t you agree?
One minor comment about the choice of binding. Both the Savage Worlds Explorers Edition and Fantasy Companion are 6.5 by 9 perfect-bound. If I had my druthers, I would love to see the same binding format employed for LoSSW, rather than larger saddle-stitched format, if only to fit more elegantly with my other two Savage Worlds books.
If, in addition to the new edges and rules supplement, you are intending to use the Erisa world, or at least mine it for great ideas for your own sword-and-sorcery campaign, LoSSW is well-worth the $23 asking price. The Barbarians of Lemuria edition is also available as a $15 PDF, along with a $35 hardcover from Lulu. At $35, the hard-cover Barbarians of Lemuria version seems relatively pricey, but if it also contains the bestiary, new flaws, and careers promised in the BoL PDF version, perhaps it is worth it.
One of my issues with hit points is this: which of the hit points represent the capacity to absorb wounds, and which of the hit points represent luck, fate, and good fortune? I ponder this issue, because the rules for the recovery of hit points vex me. While wounds should take time to heal, the same may not be true for luck and fate. Admittedly, hit points are an arbitrary and artificial representation of of how much risk you can endure and how battle-proficient you are. But if hit points, particularly at higher levels, are mostly luck and fate, why should it take several days, or weeks, to recover it? What purpose does the slow hit point recovery rule serve, other than to arbitrarily delay the adventure?
WOTC's 4E solution to the problem of hit point recovery is to implement their healing surges system. That allows players to recover hit points after (and sometimes during) combat, thus extending the game day, and shortening the periods between adventures. But WOTC's solution to the recovery of hit points is as arbitrary as their rules for meting out hit points in the first place.
Another of my issues with hit points is a selfish one. As a DM, I find it annoying to track hit points for multiple antagonists, particularly when those antagonists are mooks or rabble. For example, here is a wandering monster table from Module B1, In Search of the Unknown.
As you can see, the hit points for the eight Orcs range from a high of 6 to a low of 2. With the characters inflicting an average weapon damage of 4 on the Orcs, most of the Orcs will be killed with a single blow. But three will need at least two hits to dispatch. Tracking which Orc has how many hit points may not be terribly onerous when there are only 8. What if there are 28? Again, (and for "cinematic effect") WOTC has solved that problem by giving rabble one hit point. You hit the rabble, and it dies. Again, their solution works, but is completely arbitrary, since Troll rabble and Orc rabble both have one hit point.
My preferred solution to those problems: implement a system of wound and luck points, and rationalize and condense hit points to a level where a a hit point equals one successful hit.
With regards wounds and luck, each player would possess both wound points and luck points. When damage was inflicted, a player could chose to use their luck points to avoid the wounds, and the luck points would be refreshed, either after each battle, or after a good night's rest. Only the actual wounds inflicted would require healing.
As for rationalizing hit points, some number of hit points would be condensed into wound and luck points. For example, 3.5 hit points might equal one wound point. Weapons would do one wound, unless they were either exceptional or magical weapons.
The biggest problem I see with this solution: rpgers love rolling dice, and implementing such a system would eliminate the need to roll for damage. No more euphoria when a player rolls the maximum weapon damage, nor the groans of despair and recriminations when the player rolls a "1".
Such a change might be too much for players to bear.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Descent is highly rated on boardgamegeek, ranking as the 56th best boardgame on that website, and a perennial fixture on their list of hottest games. There are a lot of folks who enjoy this type of game, with at least 5 expansion sets (Well of Darkness, Altar of Despair, Tomb of Ice, Road to Legend, Sea of Blood) released since 2005. And Descent has spawned several copy-cat adventure board-games, like Doom, World of Warcraft, Battlelore and Runebound, and is arguably in the same genre as Talisman.
The game itself comes in a huge box, easily 30” by 12” by 8”. The contents include monster and character miniatures, an infinitely re-configurable interconnecting set of dungeon tiles, full-color treasure, monster, character and skill cards, and assorted bits a-plenty. The artwork is excellent. The rules come in 12” by 12” booklets, of perhaps 30 or so pages in length. The game costs $80-90, but considering the art-work and the quality of the game contents, it is probably good value for the money.
There is a significant amount of pre-game preparation involved in playing this game. The Dungeon-Master (called the Overlord) and the players must spend some time, before the game begins, sorting and organizing the various items and game-bits. That process took the five of us about a half-hour, but set-up may be faster for those who are more familiar with the game and its mechanics.
Once the bits, miniatures, cards and dungeon tiles were sorted and the prepared, each of the players selected from sixteen different pre-defined characters, each with their own strengths and special abilities. In addition, each player received three extra abilities and a certain amount of gold to purchase their starting equipment.
Descent, as far as I can tell, is pure dungeon-crawl. The two games we played were strictly of the “kill the monsters and take their stuff” variety. We didn’t do any trap-searching, puzzle-solving, negotiating, clue-synthesizing, or role-playing. But considering the stripped-down nature of this dungeon-crawl adventure game, we spent a lot of time referring back to the rules. In fairness however, the friend who brought the game had only played it a couple of times before, and the rest of us had never played it.
We never finished either game of Descent. The first game started at about 9 pm, and we finally stopped (just short of the last encounter) at around 3 am. A week later we tried Descent again. That game started at 8 pm, and we finally called it quits at around 2:30 am, having reached, but not completed, the final monster encounter.
Ironically, the Descent adventures we were playing were only 5 rooms each, with a handful of monsters in each room. Whether it was due to our inexperience, or the nature of the game itself, combat seemed to take much longer than I would have expected. After we packed up the game for the second time, my wife remarked “That was a fun game, but we could have played three games of Settlers of Catan in the same amount of time.”
Perhaps our experience with Descent was atypical. But while I can appreciate the quality of this game, between the beautiful artwork, top-notch contents, and simplified rules, I did discover that I am not a fan of simple dungeon-crawling. I missed all of the other elements of a role-playing game, such as mapping, exploring, interacting with dungeon features and inhabitants, solving puzzles and enigmas, synthesizing and drawing conclusions from in-game clues, negotiating, and so on.
Would I play Descent again? Sure. For me, playing “the game” is only part of the fun: getting together with friends, the out-of-game jokes and conversations, the food and drink, those are often what make the evening truly memorable. But would I pay $90 for my own copy of Descent? Unlikely. After all, how many old-school game accessories could I buy for $90? I could probably get several of Urutsk, Cursed Chateau, Dungeon Alphabet, Majestic Wilderlands, B/X Companion, Dungeoneer RPG, Legends of Steel, Warriors of the Red Planet, Stonehell, Swords & Wizardry White Box, Savage Swords of Athanor, and The Grinding Gear (to name just a few!) for what I would pay for Descent.
And putting it in that context makes my purchase decisions very easy!
Sunday, January 3, 2010
I made a visit to The Sentry Box yesterday, with my two girls in tow. What should I discover on the used games shelf but another copy of Magic Realm for $50! Gord said it had been there for some time, but I don't know how I could have missed it. At any rate, another Sentry Box customer, who had sold his copy of Magic Realm many years ago and was waxing nostalgic, saw it in my hands and I offered to give it up to him (as I already have one copy). In the end, he decided to keep watching eBay, to see if he could get an unpunched copy.
After returning home, by way of McDonald's -- as a treat to the girls -- I wasted no time unpacking the game to see if all the parts were there. The game was complete! It appeared to be a true "first printing" of the game, as three of the Tremendous monster counters were misprinted, with the wrong monsters on the reverse side of the counters.
Since I had already unpacked the game to confirm its completeness, and had sorted all the chits, counters and cards, I suggested to the family that we take the game for a spin.
We played the first scenario of Magic Realm. The first scenario is basically a scavenger hunt. The characters meet up at the Inn, and challenge each other to visit all six dwellings -- the Inn, House, Chapel, Guardhouse, Large Campfire and Small Campfire -- and bring back one treasure. The character who returns to the Inn first, after visiting all six dwellings, and finding a treasure, would be the victor.
I played the Black Knight. My son DJ played the White Knight. My girls, Ceilidh and Meg, played the Amazon and the Woodsgirl, respectively, and my wife played the Witch. Fortunately for us, we were playing the scavenger hunt scenario, where the monsters block you but do not attack, as in short order we ended up with multiple Dragons, Trolls, Spiders, and Goblins blocking our paths. The Woodsgirl and Witch went in one direction, towards the Ruins and the Guardhouse, while the Black Knight, White Knight and Amazon headed in the other direction, towards the Chapel.
The Witch and Woodsgirl spied a couple of Trolls on their way through some Ruins, but found a secret path and so gave the Trolls the slip, finally arriving at the Guardhouse. Meanwhile, the White Knight, Black Knight and Amazon followed the Cliffs towards the Chapel, running into a couple of angry Giants and a demonic Imp. After making our way past those monsters, the Amazon located the Vault of the Troll-King in the Deep Forest, and looted the Battle Bracelets and magical Living Sword. The White and Black Knights were most appreciative of the Amazon's searching efforts, grabbing the King's Vestments (the Imperial Tabard) and the Lucky Charm from the Troll-King's Vault. My Lucky Charm must have been working at that point, as the Troll-King never appeared to take back his treasure!
Because of the number of monsters blocking our paths, the Woodsgirl had nearly caught up to us by this time, and, after locating the Altar on the edge of the Cliff, she grabbed the glimmering ring and the magic wand. The Witch found the Statue at the base of the Cliff, but could not find any of the treasures hidden nearby. While the Witch continued her search for a treasure, the Woodsgirl, White Knight and Amazon made a mad dash back to the Inn, having obtained a treasure each and visited each of the 6 dwellings. Meg (the Woodsgirl) was the victor, returning to the Inn mere moments before DJ (the White Knight) and Ceilidh (the Amazon) crashed through the Inn door. As for me (the Black Knight), I was still at least a day away, having been blocked by the Dragons, despite my lucky charm, and my wife (playing the Witch) was still looking for her treasure as the other three characters ended the game.
The game came down to the wire, and the kids had a lot of fun. Meg was quite excited to win, which was an unexpected turn of events (she had gone off towards the wilderness at one point).