Friday 28 July 2023

If you're indie selling your RPG content...

Keep in mind that one James L Kight has a habit of uploading the RPG-related PDFs he buys online for his fellow pirates to download freely. 

I don't want to discuss the good and bad of piracy here, but I think the creators deserve to know it. Whatever you make of it is up to you.

Wednesday 26 July 2023

James and Edward Raggi introducing the Summer 2023 Releases from Lamentations of the Flame Princess


It's funny, sometimes quite disgusting, and all in all very Raggi. 

Please buy everything. Especially the Black Chamber and Broodmother Skyfortress.

Tuesday 25 July 2023

Dragons of Flame



When a kender walks in on a kinky threesome, 

you know you're playing it right. 

I hope things are going well in your part of the world, Dear Reader. Even if you are healthy and unharmed, listening to explosions at night and then looking at buildings that were hit by russian missiles during the day is something you can do without. 

Sadly, we can't. So we do what all normal people do, we play Dungeons and Dragons to distract ourselves and raise our spirits. 

The Dragonlance campaign fits well, because the people of Krynn have to deal with an invasion of cruel murderers and monsters, and that's something we can imagine easily. It shouldn't surprise you that the draconians and hobgoblins in our game all speak russian, or at least with a heavy accent. 

As a lazy Referee, I skipped some parts that looked boring to me, so the party moved straight to Qualinesti. A little family reunion, some plot-required meetings, and hey, looks like you're all going to the ancient fortress of Pax Tharkas to free the slaves and distract the dragonarmy while the elves evacuate from their forests! Sounds like fun! Sounds like treasure and experience ahead! 

I think the most fun was playing with Laurana. 

Why, yes, we do have a male PC elf from Qualinesti. 

By the way, Laurana is described by Douglas Niles as having skin of "a rich woodland brown" colour. Qualinesti elves in general have darker skin than their Silvanesti brethren. So why didn't Larry Elmore do her justice and paint us a beautiful brown-skinned princess? 

No idea. Shame, really. 

Anyhow, Laurana at this point is a naive young girl who's hopelessly in love with a figment of her imagination that, unfortunately, shares a name and face with our wandering mage of the Red Robes. On the plus side, she's fiercely defensive of him, and protests against any attempts to smear his name. On the minus side, she believes they're soulmates, and it's exactly as annoying as it sounds. 

"No one respects the wizard..." 

"You know who respects the wizard? Laurie". 

"Laurie doesn't know him at all! ... Which actually fits the canon". 

The players, however, seem to think that the most fun was kicking Fewmaster Toede's butt. And shooting him with bows and crossbows in the butt. And casting Magic Missiles. At his butt. 

I think there's some kind of fixation there.

After their adventure with Onyx in Xak Tsaroth, the dwarven fighter suddenly realized that he is now a true cleric. After consulting the Disks of Mishakal, he decided that he now worships Kiri-Jolith, the god of war and strategy. 

That, and the fact that the wizard made a lucky roll on Zak's Random Advancement Table and ended up with a powerful Army Of One spell, spelled doom for the fourty zombies of Sla-Mori. 

The lucky zombies obeyed Goldmoon's "Turn Undead" command, locked themselves in their stone coffins and refused to crawl out again. Several were destroyed by our glorious kender bardess ("She's a girl! Stop miskendering her!") and by Laurana's boring brother. The rest - dozens of them - were crushed into paste by an Army-Of-Oned dwarf. The dwarf had three battleaxes at the start of the fight, but all three broke, lacking their wielder's unstoppable strength. 

Now the heroes need to sneak into Pax Tharkas, free the slaves, somehow deal with the dragons, and save Laurana who was kidnapped by Fewmaster Toede. 

Piece of cake.

Sunday 23 July 2023

Not much news

We've had missile attacks, I think, five nights in a row?.. Civilian apartments, schools, a cathedral from UNESCO list hit by russian missiles. 

But hey, Olivia Hill says it's okay because apparently there were members of "Azov" hiding at the cathedral that, ironically, belongs to moscow patriarchy. 

And that's a little bit different than her earlier claims about "Star Wars being rightwing power fantasy", because now she makes claims about real wars and real death. 

Anyhow, we played the second Dragonlance module today. I guess it's the only kind of psychotherapy I can participate in. 

More about it later.

Monday 17 July 2023

Dragons of Despair. The end


So last week we finished playing Tracy Hickman's Dragons of Despair, the adventure that started Dragonlance

And before talking about the fun we had, I'll nitpick a little more. 


Alignment and colours and stuff... 

And some earlier nitpicking...  

So, here we go. 

Personally, I had some trouble with the formatting. Maybe it was just the way TSR did it back in the day, but I had to spend precious minutes trying to find where do the characters end up after they jump into the big iron pot that brings them down, and also the stats for the ancient black dragon that they face in the end. Both are kind of important - you need to tell the players where their characters are and what they can do there, and you need to be able to describe how the dragon is about to destroy them. 

Then there's stuff like this. 

 All nice and well until you check out the description of the crystal staff itself. 


Goldmoon has a really peculiar way of folding her clothes if a 5 feet long stick can just fall out of a fold. When my players asked me how did it happen, and how did the staff fit into a fold of her robe in the first place, I was unable to provide an answer. 

Then there are little moments like this one. 

It's a fun situation and we enjoyed playing it out, but then the players said "Okay, this is the treasury, what sort of treasure is there?" 

And there's absolutely nothing in the room description about that. Only the hungover draconian officer and the gully dwarves with wooden spears and oversized helmets. 

You don't call the room a "treasury" and then skip on the treasure, mister Hickman. That's not something the players forgive. 

Despite all that, we had fun. 

The adventure, strangely enough, ended pretty much the way it was intended. One of the unexpected heroes destroyed the dragon, the crystal staff, and seemingly himself and the Disks of Mishakal, but was rescued by the grace of gods. Now the party has a grumpy, highly sceptical dwarven cleric. I still don't know who is his deity. 

And speaking of gods - the one problem I had to struggle with a lot was trying to make the gods look less like total bastards. If you know the Dragonlance lore, things happened like this: a powerful lawful good priest decided to destroy all evil on Krynn and called out to the gods to lend him the power to do that. And the gods dropped a fiery mountain on him, killing the priest, killing thousands of people, destroying cities, changing the climate, causing chaos and countless suffering. And all the true clerics disappear for hundreds of years.

Then, as the adventure unfolds, the gods tell the characters: "No, the gods didn't turn their back on you! You turned your back on us!" Uh, no, that's not what happened, you dropped the bloody asteroid on us. Why would we want to deal with you again? 

I never understood why it was supposed to be okay. The priest was channeling the gods' power. Why not just cut him off? 

Religion, eh. 

Anyhow, I changed this a lot - once again bringing in the Colours, having the gods explain that the priest tried to destroy all the Colours except for proud and noble White, and this is what caused the Cataclysm, despite the gods trying desperately to prevent it. Without Black, there would be no crafts, without Green - no healing, without Red - no passion. The Kingpriest's perfect world would be lifeless and pathetic, but he failed, because the sheer amount of White energy he gathered was too much for him to control, and the magical explosion destroyed the Kingpriest and changed the face of Krynn forever. The chaos brought to the Colours prevented the gods from making contact with the mortal races for many years to come. Which, in my opinion, makes more sense. 

I think the epic ending of the adventure is exactly how such things should happen.

"The huge black dragon screams as the light from the broken staff envelops her! She falls back, and you can feel her dark aura weaken and tear apart as she dies". 


"I tear a single scale off her body". 


"I pull the magic ring off her talon". 


"So I exploded? Wait, I was carrying the Disks! Did they explode with me?! Oh, man, we lost the Disks..." 

Next: Dragons of Flame.

Sunday 16 July 2023

We interrupt this program...

Before moving on with the description of how we played the classic Dragonlance adventure, I want to say that I'd probably never play tabletop RPGs if it wasn't for Zak S and his blog, and his books, and his show about how pornstars and strippers get together and play some D&D. 

And I probably wouldn't be a journalist if it wasn't for Zak and his factchecking, reasoning, and absolute refusal to let liars just keep lying. 

And I definitely wouldn't know about Lamentations of the Flame Princess if it wasn't for Zak and his reviews and the interview with James Raggi. 

My life wouldn't be the same. 

So screw everyone who spread lies about Zak (except people who made public apologies, I guess?) 

Screw then and corkscrew them and double and triple screw them. It's the evil liars that make the most horrible things possible. They're the rot that destroys societies from the inside, and stopping them is vital to the society's survival. 

Please think about that whenever you hear someone repeating a lie. 

We will now return to our program.

Sunday 9 July 2023

The Academy of Pan Kleks

What I dislike about Jan Brzechwa's fairy tale about pan Kleks and his school is that fact that it tries too hard to remind that it's a fairy tale. 

If you haven't read it or watched the films, here's the gist - a boy lives his life and he's not very happy, then he goes to study in Pan Klek's ("Mister Inkblot", if you translate it to English) Academy and he's much happier there, because he learns all kinds of freaky stuff like flying and talking to animals and all that, what's not to love. 

There are doors to other fairy tales at the Academy. The boy visits some of them, meets H. C. Andersen who tells him "Hey, don't cry over the poor freezing girl right here, it's a fairy tale, I made her up, she's not really freezing!" 

And as things get closer to the end of the story, Kleks himself is weakening and shrinking, and tells his students that "well, our fairy tale is going to end soon, so you'll need to go home". 

The writer is practically shouting "It's not a fantasy story! It's all make-believe! The kid is going to wake up in the end and realize it was all a dream!" 

Which is kind of understandable, because in socialistic times, writing fantasy stories was not healthy. Socialistic realism was the lich-king of literature. 

And this is Jan Brzechwa, 

born in Zhmerynka (current Ukraine), died in Warsaw (Poland).

The book ends with the boy trying to break a spell on his friend, and the friend transforming into Brzechwa himself - the guy you can see above - who tells the boy "Kid, did you really believe all that stuff? I'ts fairy tale, I made it all up! Me, the author of this book!"

Yes, Jan. We got it. 

But anyways, there are some fun ideas that just beg to be stolen and used in the book. 

A barber who steals freckles from his clients because he sells them to a weird old guy who puts those freckles on his own face, and sometimes eats them. 

A prince who gets transformed into a bird, and can't explain to his relatives that it's actually him, because the bird can talk but the prince was hit over the head before his transformation, developed a speech impairment, and still has this impairment in his bird shape. 

A doll that becomes alive and then is confronted by the fairy Queen of Dolls, and stands up to her. 

A very Gaimanesque concept of a magic item that becomes human and runs its own agenda before it's time for it to turn back into its original form, and fulfil its function. 

Friday 7 July 2023

Dragons of Despair, pt 3. In which I'm nitpicking

No game this Sunday. So let's get back to talking about how Tracy Hickman started the whole story about dragons, and lances, and three moons. 

Much as I like it, there are some issues that make me wonder. 

Like this one. 

I'm pretty sure that being a cleric is more than just being able to cast spells (if you want to point and make something explode in flames, play a magic-user). You've been a chosen of your deity, and now all of a sudden your link to the deity is severed. Um, forever. You can become a chosen of some other god if you'd like? That's not a big deal, right? 

Well, maybe for people who just want to be able to wear heavy armour while pointing and making things explode, and to cast healing spells. And those who enjoy a chance to roleplay some drama, losing your faith, finding your faith anew. 

It's not a terrible problem, it just seems bigger to me than Hickman makes it sound. 

It's suggested that the players take on the characters specifically written for the adventure, who are big superstars by now, Tasslehoff and the twins and... uh, the rest of them, anyways, those guys, the future Heroes of the Lance. Which, I suppose, is more fun to do now, when we have dozens of books and videogames and an animated film about them. The film could've been better, I admit. 

But if the players are stubborn beasts and don't want to play the characters so generously suggested to them, fine! 

The differences are: clerics are powerless, gold is worthless, and dragons haven't been seen for over a 1000 years so no one believes in them. 

Kind of like our world, in some ways. 

So, basically, "you're poor, you have no divine spells, and no, you absolutely cannot play a dragon!" 

Fair enough.What else do we need to know before we play? 

Uh, okay. What's special about being a Qualinesti elf? There's not a single word about it in the module. Just write down that you're a Qualinesti. Maybe it'll be important later. 

One thing I do love about Dragons of Despair is the mental image of Fewmaster Toede, a fat and cowardly hobgoblin commander, jumping 30 feet up and down in frustration over not getting the crystal staff. 

Also, when you're on your way to the sunken city of Xak Tsaroth, you have to cross the swamps.


I will let you know that Appendix 4 covers the random encounters, and it's more or less usable. If you look at this table, you can figure out which monsters can appear at which part of your characters' travel. 

I just wonder why are giant spiders, ogres, wraiths, trolls, and the ancient black dragon Khisanth herself diving in the swamp. Snakes and will-o-wisps make sense. I'm not a swamp monster ecology purist, but come on. 

Also, there are black dragon hatchlings in the list. Apparently their dragon parents just left them in the swamp to fend off for themselves. I'm getting a feeling that black dragons are not very good at parenting. 

There are other fun things, like the giant eagles who always show the players the wrongest possible direction. 

I have no idea if I'll have a chance to finish playing it with our group. It's kind of sad.

Answering Jeff Rients's twenty questions for our Krynn game

We're still stuck in Spidernesti, so this is what I mean when talking about "land".   What is the deal with my cleric's re...