Thursday, December 1, 2022

Captain Quin's Logbook: The Ship in a Comet

This two-page supplement, for use with the Spelljammer setting, presents a ship trapped in the ice of a comet, a mini-dungeon ready for exploration. 

-Nate

Captain Quin's Logbook: The Ship in a Comet



Sunday, November 27, 2022

Influence & Inspiration for Spelljammer: Treasure Planet

This movie came out twenty years ago in campaign history. At the time I missed it, but I noticed Treasure Planet again was because the title popped up as a link in an article about the Spelljammer campaign setting on Wikipedia. That was back around 2014 when I started developing ideas for what became Aetherial Adventures, my homebrew space fantasy setting for the Pathfinder RPG. I think it was mentioned there because it has a similar feel to Spelljammer, and so I gave it a watch. I love it! In hindsight, it also gave some valuable inspiration for running space fantasy adventures and campaigns.

  • It gives viewers a good look at life aboard a ship in space. Once the vessel sets sail, there is nowhere to go that isn't aboard the ship. That makes it hard to keep secrets between factions, and conflict is likely to start brewing. While a spelljammer ship could just be a means of moving the PCs from Point A to Point B, one that carries a larger crew for operating shipboard weapons or for conducting exploration could see these kinds of factions arise.

  • The main NPCs are given really distinct personalities. Long John Silver is clearly a scoundrel, and many of the crew members are grumbling malcontents. I could see this playing out in a game with some of the NPCs muttering comments under their breath when given orders, another snooping in places where he shouldn't be, and the like.

  • Following up on that, it's interesting to see situations in which the PCs need to work together with their rivals and even their enemies for everyone to survive, setting aside their own conflicts until that escape has been achieved. In the end, we know that the overarching conflict will eventually boil over.

  • It is also fun to think how a treasure hunt in Spelljammer would go. I can imagine such plot devices as a captain's logbook containing cryptic clues; an orrery that relates to some kind of planetary alignment; and the like. In fact, just like in the movie, I think this kind of treasure hunt would provide an excellent reason and means for some low-level adventurers (such as Jim Hawkins and Dr. Delbert Doppler) to set off and explore their space system, finding clues in various notable locations.

  • The movie Treasure Planet is, of course, an adaptation of the novel Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. He, in turn, drew inspiration from the book A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates. That book is a veritable encyclopedia for the Golden Age of Piracy, with tales of such cutthroats as Blackbeard, “Calico” Jack Rackham, Anne Bonny, and many others. In a setting that draws inspiration from this film, it is intriguing to speculate about how such a lawless frontier could develop in a location like an asteroid belt in a remote solar system. I think the Rock of Bral would fit nicely into such a place, serving as a bastion of civilization.

  • In the end, just like in the novel, one of the main villains survives. This is something that I don't do much in my own campaigns, but that I should explore in the future in order to build up the long-term sense of familiarity and drama.*

  • Finally, a treasure hoard like that of Captain Flint provides a number of plot hooks for further adventures. What if victims of the pirate attacks try to reclaim lost goods? What if there was evidence that someone betrayed a vessel to the pirates, leading to an attack? Finally, what happens when Silver, or another surviving pirate, comes back to steal it?


*In fact, based on the Wikipedia article, it sounds like there were already plans in discussion for a sequel, which is described as follows:


In the sequel, Jim Hawkins and Kate, his love interest and classmate at the Royal Interstellar Academy, must team with Long John Silver to stop the villainous Ironbeard from freeing the inmates of Botany Bay Prison Asteroid.


-Nate



Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Preview for Rise of the Mimic Moon



This scenario was recently released by Kobold Press, and it looked too intriguing to pass up on it. Here are the thoughts I had while reading it.

  • The initial premise, of a mimic the size of a moon, is great!

  • One line, taken from the table Why Do They Want It?, really sold me: “...to transplant the seedling into the chest of a dead god to resurrect it.” That made for a connection with the adventure anthology Graveyard of the Gods, which I am hoping to receive in early 2023.

  • Shortly thereafter is a description of the effects the moon-sized mimic has on the campaign setting: “...causing massive flooding in coastal cities and communities.” While my mind first went to Saltmarsh in Greyhawk, before long I realized that Freeport would be an excellent setting for this adventure.

  • There are numerous fun variants of mimics, along with some new, thematic spells and equipment. I could see the spells and gear being devised by one or more of the mystical groups in Freeport, and presenting surprises to my players.

  • In the suggested timeline for a campaign, one of the sessions is described as “The Great Voidship Heist.” That, of course, screams to be used in a Spelljammer campaign.

  • I don't love the fact that there are three full-page adds in the PDF, something that is not disclosed in the listing for it on DriveThruRPG.com.

All in all, it looks like it will be a lot of fun, and provide a good chance to link together five previous Freeport campaigns with my current Spelljammer one.

Rise of the Mimic Moon

-Nate


Sunday, November 20, 2022

Reflections on Spelljammer Academy

Over the past four sessions my party played through the free adventure Spelljammer Academy; here are my thoughts about how it went.

  • There is lots of room to expand these four scenarios. This year my group is playing every other week, and so it worked well to push through at a faster pace and thus set the group up for Light of Xayrxis.

  • My players were sometimes alarmed about the tasks their characters were being sent to undertake. This was especially the case for one player who missed Session 3, and upon arriving for Session 4 learned that the heroes were crewing a salvaged tyrant ship bound for the beholder world of H'Catha.

  • One option is to add more drilling of skills, especially at the start of sessions: target practice, weapons sparring, navigation exercises, lessons about wildspace geography, and the like. I can imagine starting sessions with the heroes engaged at such tasks, and then moving into specific missions—and thus adventures—afterward.

  • Those exercises could then be used to set up a competition between groups of students, perhaps called crews, similar to that between the four houses in the Harry Potter novels and films. The DM could keep a running tally of how well they do, with some kind of prize or recognition for the overall winners at the end of the term.

  • Another option is to make more use of the illusions in the simulation chamber; have the heroes deal with a jammer leech, fight off a scavver attack, lead a boarding party, train for the H'Catha mission, and the like.


Here is the link to my campaign notes, by the way. 


Spelljammer Campaign Notes


All in all, I was satisfied that these scenarios gave my players and their characters a good introduction to the Spelljammer setting. For DMs who want to draw out the training process, though, there's a good resource called Spelljammer Academy Expanded, available on the DMs Guild website. It presents stat blocks for more of the NPCs, ideas for expanding and adding encounters during the training, and ideas for transitioning from there into the Light of Xaryxis adventure.


-Nate

Spelljammer Academy Expanded




Friday, November 4, 2022

King Tut's Tomb--100 Years Ago in Campaign History

It would not be fitting for a blog that presents Treasure Hunter Adventures material to miss today's anniversary. One hundred years ago, Howard Carter found the tomb of King Tutankhamen. 

-Nate

History.com Article



Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Captain Quin's Logbook: Wildspace Hunting Ship

Continuing my experiment, this two-page supplement for use with Spelljammer presents a wildspace hunting ship, with deck plans and descriptions, stats for the captain and crew, and suggestions for working them into adventures and campaigns. 

-Nate 

Captain Quin's Logbook: Wildspace Hunting Ship



Sunday, October 23, 2022

Frontier Bugle Calls

I've been doing some research to learn more about the bugle calls used by the United States Cavalry, to provide some color for adventures taking place on the frontier for The Sixth Gun; now I have found a good source. 

-Nate 

Bugle Calls on Youtube



Sunday, October 2, 2022

Captain Quin's Logbook: Dwarf Asteroid Miners

Here's a little experiment, a two-page supplement for use with D&D 5e and the Spelljammer setting. It presents stats for dwarf asteroid miners, stats and deck plans for a bark, and plot hooks for involving them in adventures and campaigns. 

-Nate 

Captain Quin's Logbook: Dwarf Asteroid Miners



Saturday, September 24, 2022

Bad Blood

The newest scenario for use with Treasure Hunter Adventures and the Savage Worlds RPG pits the heroes against a band of mercenaries operating from a long-lost stronghold of the Inquisition. 

-Nate

Bad Blood




Friday, September 23, 2022

Third Preview of Bad Blood--Three Telegrams

 For the third and final preview of Bad Blood, here are three cryptic telegrams found amid the Inquisitor's other items. 

-Nate 


A telegram sent from Nikolaos, Island of Crete (Greece), to Bamberg, Bavaria (Germany), dated 13 June 1886:


It is done. Constantine's mother

will collect no more relics.




A telegram sent from Munich, Bavaria, to Bamberg, Bavaria (Germany), dated 13 June 1886:


The King's man shall trouble us no more.




A telegram sent from Cairo, Egypt, to Bamberg, German Empire, dated 13 January 1912:


The American adventurer went in search of Constantine's mother and the King's man, but his work has come to an end.



Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Second Preview of Bad Blood--Sketches

For the second preview of "Bad Blood," here are sketches taken from a long-lost journal belonging to a member of the Inquisition. 

-Nate 


Here are two depictions of female deities, Demeter (above) and Freya (below). 


The next one depicts Walpurgisnacht, the night of the year on which, legend has it, witches gathered to celebrate and the boundary between this world and the next was thinnest. 


Finally, here is a note--including the impression of a signet ring--taken from the journal. 



Sunday, September 18, 2022

First Preview of Bad Blood--Maps and Pictures

Here's the first preview of the next full scenario for Treasure Hunter Adventures; this one's called "Bad Blood." This one focuses on some of the pictures and maps. 


Above is a drawing of medieval Bamberg, in Bavaria, Germany; below is a map of the city. 


Next comes the map of a stronghold used by the Inquisition. 


Finally, here's an elaborate clock that forms one of the puzzles. 


-Nate

Friday, September 16, 2022

Trailer and Release Date for National Treasure: Edge of History



It seems that the final trailer was released, and the release date for the series announced, at D23 over the weekend. Here are my thoughts.

  • It's cool to see more of Harvey Keitel's character, Peter Sadusky. I always suspected that he knew more than what he was telling.

  • The reference to “daughters of the plumed serpent,” spoken by the character played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, seems to imply to the Mesoamerican mythical figure Quetzalcoatl.

  • It also seems that the late father of the main character—Jess Valenzuela, played by Lisette Olivera—will play an important part in the story.

  • Indeed, later footage implies that Sadusky knew Jess's dad.

  • It looks like we might see a full-on treasure room, possibly filled with items found by Benjamin Franklin Gates (played, of course, by Nic Cage in the movies).

  • Finally, the two-episode premiere is scheduled for Wednesday, December 14th. If the suggestion of 10 episodes from IMDb.com is accurate, then it should run until February 8th.


Thursday, September 15, 2022

Spelljammer Campaign Notes

Here are my notes from the first full session of my new Spelljammer campaign. I'm running Spelljammer Academy as a lead-in to Light of Xaryxis

-Nate 




Spelljammer Campaign Notes


Characters

Al—Crishymm, male thri-kreen barbarian

Aric—Illyan, male astral elf sorceror

Brent—Durgo Hawklyn, male human cleric of Chauntea

Geof—Globulus Splort, plasmoid fighter

Michael—Rixian, male water genasi druid


Orientation”—September 13th

The action opened with the heroes aboard the spelljammer ship Moonraider. An astral reaver slammed into the side of it, and the resulting impact killed off Captain Sardax. With her last breath she implored the heroes to hold the top deck at all costs. They acquitted themselves admirably, charging into battle and cutting down the attacking reavers with axe and sword cuts, arrows and an icy spell. Then another explosion rattled the ship—only to freeze in the middle of the action, and then be revealed as an illusion used for training purposes, one depicting the Battle of H'Catha. Boatswain Tarto commended them on their performance, and then gave them a list of duties to complete as their orientation at Spelljammer Academy.


From there they went to the reception and met Sor-Kur, the thri-kreen receptionist. She gave them their welcome kits, including uniforms, toiletry bags and gear vouchers. Next they headed for the dormitory, where an astral elf named Veena tried to take Rixian's bunk assignment. He stood his ground, Glob added an insult, and a fight ensued. With a flurry of punches, along with a couple of mind sliver spells from Illyan, the heroes convinced the elves to bunk elsewhere.


Next they attended a tour of a visiting spelljammer ship, a flying fish ship. During the tour, Rixian noticed a hobgoblin officer, Vashnik, meeting with a captain on another dock; Vashnik seemed to pay a bribe in exchange for a bottle of something. Rixian chose to sit on that knowledge for now.


On the assault training obstacle course, Crishymm ran out to an early lead, but then got into trouble. Glob had some trouble with the spinning wheel of maces, too. Crishymm was the first to complete the course. Illyan used magic to reach the top of the climbing pole, and the rest of the heroes finished the course as well.


Next, Crishymm and Glob visited Mister Blip, the autognome quartermaster, to requisition gear as part of the Spelljammer Corps. At the same time, Illyan, Durgo and Rixian reported to Saerthe Abizjn, who started training them on attuning to and operating spelljammer helms. During that exercise, Abizjn asked some probing questions, which the heroes answered to their satisfaction.


Finally, after completing their checklist of tasks, tBoatswain Tarto asked them to delivery a package to the quarters of Mirt the Merciless, the Academy Head. He was still sleeping, recovering a meeting with offworlders the night before. Mirt told them to open the package and leave it on the rug; eight neogi hatchlings erupted from it! With a flurry of spells and melee attacks, the heroes slew the neogi. Mirt rewarded them for their service. In the aftermath, they heard a worried Mister Blip mention that the attack had been a ruse to draw away security personnel, and that another theft had occurred...


Loot: Requisitioned gear for Crishymm and Glob; a 50-gp gold ingot for each character


Experience: Advance characters to level 2.


Trial by Fire”—September 27th

On the morning before their first (illusionary) spelljammer voyage, the heroes gathered in the refectory for breakfast. There they heard rumors that a pistol belonging to the cook, Winston Ryeback, had been stolen. They also met a fellow cadet, Miken Haverstance, who was worried that he wouldn't live up to his team's expectations. They managed to raise his spirits.


Reporting to the Simulations Deck, they were greeted by Boatswain Tarto and Saerthe Abizin, who briefed them about the mission—sailing into the asteroid belt to recover a logbook from a wrecked vessel. They put Durgo on the helm, with Illyan acting as captain and the other party members serving as shipmates. En route they ran into a school of electric space eels, but managed to avoid taking too much damage. Approaching the asteroid belt, they spotted the wreck and came at it from above. Globulus jumped overboard, with a rope tied around his waist, and retrieved the logbook.


Heading back to Toril, they found themselves ambushed by githyanki pirates aboard a squid ship! The two vessels traded artillery fire before the heroes made a ramming attack. They missed! Having drawn in close to the enemy, however, they decided to board them. Durgo gave Glob some healing, and then the plasmoid, with Crishymm, led the attack. At one point Crishymm found himself surrounded by enemies, but he held his own. Illyan contributed guiding bolts from the deck of the party's ship, and Durgo provided more healing. The heroes won the day.


Continuing their return trip, the heroes found Miken and his team adrift, having suffered from their own encounter with the electric space eels. Glob threw over a rope and pulled the two vessels aside each other, and then the heroes provided aid and evacuated the wounded.


Loot: Award of 100 gp for each character


Experience: Advance characters to level 3.


Realmspace Sortie!”—October 25th

The heroes awoke abruptly as Boatswain Tarto was shouting and throwing garbage cans; they dressed, packed their gear and ate a hasty breakfast before heading to the Skydock. The hadozee briefed them about their mission, heading to H'Catha to recover an adamantite asteroid, before boarding the hammerhead ship Flight Foundling and heading into orbit over Toril. There they made rendezvous with a derelict beholder tyrant ship, where they went aboard, bringing a good deal of gear and accompanied by Petty Officer Winston Ryeback (male giff cook), Miken Haverstance (male human adept), Krik'lit (female thri-kreen carpenter's mate) and Pfredd (male plasmoid).


Once aboard, they divided up the equipment; Ryeback and other other shipmates headed below to set up the galley, while the heroes devised a means of moving the spelljammer helm up to the command deck. As they did so, they triggered a spin cycle trap, and the ship began spinning wildly! They were knocked around a bit by that, but eventually Rixian struggled his way onto the helm and, with help from Durgo, gained control of the vessel.


Later the heroes heard noises from the cargo hold and headed below to investigate. There they found piles of debris, out of which three clockwork horrors attacked! This was a lengthy battle. Crishymm used his axes and Glob struck with his scimitars, and the horrors counterattacked with sawblade claws and bites. Durgo did a lot of healing, and eventually Rixian's thunderwave spells helped turn the tide of the battle. In the aftermath, the heroes found pieces of dismantled autognomes—along with a survivor named Wizpop—amid the debris. Working with Krik'lit's tools, Durgo figured out how to reassemble the autognome.


They had a short rest back up on the bridge, before Mike emerged from one of the tunnels with alarming news. The heroes headed below again, with Glob and Crishymm leading the way. There they found the newly created galley engulfed in flames, with a trio of magma mephits causing the chaos. Rixian used create water to help douse the flames, while the plasmoid and thri-kreen led the charge in melee. In spite of the mephits' fire breath and tendency to explode, the heroes won the day.


Loot: Two potions of healing issued to each character; five pearls worth 100 gp each from the debris; a spell scroll of rope trick.


Experience: Advance characters to level 4.


Behold H'Catha”—November 7th

Following the heroes' request for aid, Boatswain Tarto and Saerthe Abizin arrived aboard the hammerhead ship Flight Foundling. They sent Krik'lit and Miken Haverstance back to the Academy aboard that vessel, but they stayed aboard the Tyrant Ship with the heroes. The combined group reached H'Catha without incident; Saerthe kept the ship hovering above the shore of the Spindle, Tarto lowered a rope ladder, and the heroes ventured ashore.


There they found evidence of the meteorite impact, along with tracks leading into one of the caves in the Spindle. Glob spotted ahead, but the spectators saw him. They introduced themselves as Greelob and Orlob, and explained that they were vying to guard the meteorite, which a one-eyed ogre had dragged here, its lair. Glob convinced the two spectators to have a duel to settle the matter, and Orlob won it with a ray from one of his eyes. Crishymm snuck into position, and then he attacked it and Glob turned on Orlob. The heroes defeated those enemies, loaded the meteorite into their bag of holding and departed.


On the way back to Toril, they fell out of cruising speed due to an asteroid in their path. Qitru the githyanki appeared, riding a star lancer, and called for the release of Miken Haverstance. The heroes explained that Miken had been taken back to the Academy, but Qitru did not believe them and so attacked. The heroes defended themselves vigorously, and so Qitru had the star lancer turn invisible and they tried to flee. Rixian shapechanged into a mole and spotted them, but they still managed to escape to their waiting vessel. The rest of the return trip was uneventful; the heroes resumed ordinary duties, while the officers called for a briefing.


While the heroes worked on chores the next day aboard the Flight Foundling, an unknown vessel arrived and giff stormed from it aboard the hammerhead ship, demanding that they surrender it. The heroes refused, of course; Rixian responded with moonbeam, and Durgo used guiding bolts. Glob jumped into battle, too, and the giff were not successful with their grenades. Just after the giff fell, two githyanki warriors appeared, hauling Miken with them. The heroes defeated them, too, and Rixian healed Miken's injuries.

With that, the heroes completed their training at Spelljammer Academy, and were prepared to be sent away for new opportunities...


Loot: Two muskets, one or more grenades (determined randomly after the first one is used), and a magical item of each hero's choosing as a graduation present (+1 rod of the pact keeper, +1 shield or weapon, bag of holding or goggles of night).


Experience: Advance characters to level 5.



Friday, September 9, 2022

Reach for the Stars from Kobold Press

This is the first in what looks to be a series of articles, Reach for the Stars, from Kobold Quarterly, who certainly have some gaming credentials. It is called "Quick Space Adventures," and reminds me of the adventure generators that come with a number of Savage Worlds settings. This looks functional and fun, and I am intrigued by the possibility of future articles. 

Update: I'm adding links to different articles for ease of reference. 

-Nate 

Quick Space Adventures

Rare Materials

Space Magic

Stellar Bestiary

Deep Space Ancestries



Friday, August 26, 2022

Graveyard of the Gods

Here's a link to a Kickstarter for D&D 5E and Pathfinder 2E that I think looks interesting. One of the writers is Matthew J. Hanson, a writer from the Twin Cities area who's done good work already with Broken Earth for Savage Worlds and a game called Magical Kitties Save the Day! from Atlas Games, among other projects.  

This one's called Graveyard of the Gods, and is an anthology of scenarios exploring dead gods in the Astral Sea. It looks intriguing, and is close to reaching its funding goal. 

Graveyard of the Gods


Update: 

638 backers pledged $21,236 to help bring this project to life.(!)

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Review for Light of Xaryxis

Finally, here are my thoughts and questions about the adventure.

  • At first I just skimmed through this book, thinking that I would run it some time in the future. My players agreed to play it during this school year, though, so I read it closely.

  • It consists of twelve chapters, intended to be played over twelve sessions. Every three sessions brings a level increase.

  • Combine that with the four levels from roughly four sessions for Spelljammer Academy, and this adventure starts at level 5 and finishes at level 9.

  • This seems to be pretty epic in scope for finishing a level 9.

  • There is a system in this adventure called Doomspace. It is not the Dark Sun campaign setting. What is more, it has the remains of a shattered crystal sphere, but not that kind of crystal sphere.

  • This seems like it will be fairly easy to run, and fun.

  • I like the way scenes are written to have cliffhanger endings. We'll be playing every other week this year, and so that should make transitions from session to session easy for the players to remember.

  • There are some cool set-piece encounters in the scenario, including space combat, a gladiator ring, and a cool Temple of Light.

  • I do wonder if the heroes might feel a little bit railroaded during the latter part of the adventure.

  • In the big finale, the heroes face a hugely important decision; I am exciting to see what my players choose when that time comes.

All in all, I think Light of Xaryxis will make for a fun campaign this year. 

-Nate 




Saturday, August 20, 2022

Review of Boo's Astral Menagerie

Next, here are my thoughts and questions about the monster book from this boxed set.

  • I like the layout of this book, with roughly one creature per page. There are a few pages with two creatures each, and of course a bunch that take up more than one page.

  • Along those lines, I also like to see variant stat blocks for some of the creatures. For example, there is the vampirate, with mage and captain variants.

  • This book seems to fill in some of the setting lore that was missing from the Astral Adventurers Guide. For example, we learn (I think) that creatures can't reproduce in the Astral Sea, so they enter Wildspace systems to do so.

  • The book presents some ready-made plot elements, such as b'rohg gladiators, giff gladiators and githyanki laboratories.

  • What is the Far Realm? It is home to at least two of these monsters.

  • I really like starlight apparitions as a plot device.

  • A few of these present ready-made crews for vessels, such as negoi and vampirates.

All in all, I like this book. At 64 pages, it might be a little slim, but the content that's in it is solid.

-Nate 



Thursday, August 18, 2022

Spelljams

Lots of other people have been reporting about this--I heard about it on the Rpg.net forums--but I'm posting it here for my own quick access. It looks like WotC has released an album of songs written around the theme of Spelljammer. Here's a link to it on Bandcamp. 

-Nate 

Spelljams




Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Review of the Astral Adventurers Guide

Like, I suspect, many other people, I went out and bought the new Spelljammer boxed set for D&D when it was released on Tuesday. Here are my thoughts and questions about the first book.

  • I should start by saying that I was really excited for this product. Back in junior high and high school two of my friends, my brother and I played in a long-term 2nd Edition campaign that went into space, traveled from world to world, and culminated in the epic adventure Under the Dark Fist. For that reason alone, Spelljammer has a special place in my heart.

  • These books, and the map and DM screen, are really pretty. It's interesting to compare modern full-color books to the old black-and-white ones.

  • Life in astral space is Long! I'm not quite sure what to think about allowing characters to be ageless there. How many of them would choose to do that?

  • The new races presented in this book seem interesting and fun. They are definitely different from the fantasy standards.

  • Characters' and creatures' air envelopes are cubes now? I guess that makes sense if they're depicted on a Battle Mat.

  • The minimum complement for a spelljammer ship is now two—the captain and the character on the helm. It makes me a little sad that we don't need to send other characters aloft to handle the rigging, but I still think there should be other characters on watch.

  • It seems like ships just keep flying until they've lost all their hit points, at which point they break apart. I assume that the spelljamming helm is still functional, though.

  • A little more explanation of the stats used in the ships' stat blocks would be nice.

  • I am pleased to see some familiar ship types depicted, albeit with updated deck plans and names.

  • The deathspider is a neogi ship again! I never cared for having it be a drow vessel, as was the case in 3rd Edition.

  • There are seven pages dedicated to the Rock of Bral, one of which is a full-page picture. Of course, there's also a whole supplement dedicated to it from 2nd Edition, and one could easily harvest bits and pieces of that.

  • I miss the quotations that they used in the 2nd Edition books. There are some empty spaces in this book where those would fit nicely.

  • It looks like catapults have been replaced with mangonels. That seems to make sense. Also, jettisons have been, well, jettisoned.

All in all, this book provides a lot of exciting content. It could certainly have gone into greater detail in some different areas, but I think it provides a solid framework on which to start building adventures and campaigns in Wildspace.

-Nate 






Monday, August 15, 2022

Review of Spelljammer Academy

A month ago now, Wizards of the Coast released this four-part scenario on their D&D Beyond platform. Here are my thoughts after reading through it.

  • First off, I cut and pasted the content into an Open Office document, exported it into a PDF, printed it, and then read it. I imagine the hyperlinks in it are quite handy.

  • This whole scenario reminds me a lot of Star Trek, with cadets being trained for service at the Academy. I wonder if the adventure that comes with the boxed set, Light of Xaryxis, will have the same kind of feel to it.

  • Advancement in this scenario is quick. Really quick. Each of the first three parts “takes approximately two hours to play” and advances the characters by a level. That's four levels that could be earned in a long day of gaming!

  • I appreciate that, while the scenario takes place in the Forgotten Realms, the island Nimbral is isolated from the rest of it. That is such a big campaign setting, with so much history behind it, that I would find it intimidating to run a scenario in the Realms.

  • These scenarios are approved for use with the D&D Adventurers League. I think it would be fun to run them for various groups and see how they play out in different ways for each.

  • On the one hand, it feels like this scenario is written for new DMs; the text talks the DM through encounters. It is written for “three to seven 1st-level characters,” however, and does not provide suggestions for modifying the number of opponents that the characters face in combat situations.

  • Part 3 of the adventure sends the heroes, as 3rd-level characters, to the planet H'Catha in Realmspace. That seems like a perilous assignment for a group of cadets.

  • That voyage includes a level increase in the middle of the journey, since it is divided between parts 3 and 4 of the scenario.

  • Finally, I wonder how the Academy leaders even know to send the heroes on that assignment, which involves recovering a meteorite from that planet. How do they know that it is there?

  • All in all, this seems like a fun scenario; I wonder if the published adventure, Light of Xaryxis, will have the same kind of tone.

I am really looking forward to the release of the new books tomorrow. 

-Nate




Sunday, August 14, 2022

More Developments for the National Treasure TV Series

 I missed this featurette until today; it has me even more excited for the new series. 

-Nate


More Developments for the National Treasure TV Series

Disney released a new featurette that provides a longer look at the forthcoming series National Treasure: Edge of History. I have a few thoughts about it.

  • Early in the featurette we see the glasses with multiple lenses from National Treasure; later we see the carved pipe from that movie, and the engraved wooden plank from the sequel. Could this be some kind of museum where relics from those discoveries are put on display?

  • We also see that Agent Peter Sadusky will be around for some of this action! His character was an intriguing element of the first film, a person who definitely wasn't telling everything that he knows. I'm curious to see how he fits into this new story.

  • We also have our first look at the villain, Billie Pearce, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones. She brings some serious chops to that role, which should make for an interesting character.

  • In an interview, Justin Bartha says that “exploring American history was a lot different twenty years ago. It'll be interesting to see how this series brings such a different lens to the story.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

THA6: Expeditions & Excavations

Available now on DrivethruRPG is Treasure Hunter Adventures 6: Expeditions & Excavations. This supplement presents advanced statistics for scout characters; a new archetype, the Technician; rules for drones and other gear; suggestions for adapting the 7 Ps of plot design for long-term treasure hunts; a new adventure location, the dig site; four new hazards; and four destinations that are prizes in and of themselves.

-Nate

THA6: Expeditions & Excavations



Thursday, July 21, 2022

Third Preview of Expeditions & Excavations: Maps

Here is a third preview of Treasure Hunter Adventures 6: Expeditions & Excavations. This map depicts the site of a long-term excavations, in this case a palace that had been buried by a natural disaster. 



The final product will, of course, include smaller maps detailing  the outbuildings and for the palace itself. 

-Nate 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Second Preview of Expeditions & Excavations: A Hazard

Here are rules for mudslides and avalanches, one of four new hazards presented in Treasure Hunter Adventures 6: Expeditions & Excavations

-Nate


Avalanche/Landslide/Mudslide

These might be caused by an accumulation of snow that has piled up in a precarious way, or when heavy rain or an earthquake or volcanic eruption shakes loose dirt and rocks. However it happens, heroes caught in this predicament can take the following actions.

  • When this event occurs, there's no real choice but to be carried away by it.

  • After things have settled, the heroes must make Survival or Smarts in order to regain their orientation—that is, to figure out which direction is up.

  • With that in mind, the heroes must then make Athletics checks to dig out from it, with a -2 penalty for mud or dirt and rocks. This can be handled like a dramatic task (SWADE pages 122-3), with suffocation being the result if they are not successful.

  • Of course, other heroes can assist, as long as they were not themselves caught up in the hazard. In such a case, they should be handled as if they are working on their own dramatic task, with Notice checks to find the victim being the first necessary step.


Sunday, July 17, 2022

First Preview of Expeditions & Excavations: A Prize

As the first preview for Treasure Hunter Adventures 6: Expeditions & Excavations, here is a relic, the Fountain of Youth. This touches on the fact that prizes for undertakings of this nature--ones that require longterm treks through the wilderness, or extended exploration of specific sites--are often the locations themselves. 

-Nate


The Fountain of Youth

Throughout history there have been several legends regarding magic waters that could restore youth to a person, mentioned by authors such as Herodotus (484-425 BCE) and Sir John de Mandeville (died 1383 CE). Perhaps the most famous involves the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, who first visited the Americas with the second expedition of Christopher Columbus (1493 CE). He heard rumors of a spring with such waters, and based on them led expeditions into what is now southern Florida. At first these focused on exploration (1513), but eventually the goal became establishing a settlement (1521). It was during this last expedition that the Spaniards ran afoul of the native Calusa people; during one battle, Ponce de Leon was injured and later died. He was buried in Puerto Rico.

Game Information

The Fountain of Youth has the following attributes.

  • Drinking the waters of the Fountain remove the Elderly (Major) Hindrance.

  • At the GM's discretion, the water could also remove conditions that are caused by old injuries, such as those from the Injury Table (SWADE 95).


Saturday, July 16, 2022

Spelljammer Academy on D&D Beyond

There's now a scenario available on D&D Beyond that acts as a preview for the new Spelljammer book; it's called Spelljammer Academy

-Nate 

Spelljammer Academy



Friday, July 8, 2022

I&I for T6G: Fury from the Tomb

Here's another novel that could inspire adventures in a supernatural world of the late 1880s. 

-Nate 


Fury from the Tomb

This novel was a surprise discovery during a visit to my local library; it has been withdrawn from circulation, and therefore added to the shelf of books that are for sale. The title caught my eye, so I skimmed it and was immediately hooked. In fact, it provides a great example of a globe-trotting adventure that starts in Egypt and ends up in the Wild West, and thus is quite right for inspiring adventures in the world of The Sixth Gun and Shadow Roads.

  • In previous posts I mentioned that the language in Territory was highly formal, while in Dr. Potter's Medicine Show it was downright vulgar. This novel's tone finds a nice middle ground, being generally formal with intermittent color from the bounty hunter.

  • I like the characters in this novel, too. They have their flaws, of course, but in the end they are all likable. In fact, I look forward to seeing more of them in the sequel, The Beast of Nightfall Lodge, and I wonder if there will be more in the series.

  • The plot feels in may ways like it was planned for a series of RPG sessions. There are some great set-piece encounters, including ones in an Egyptian tomb, aboard a train, in a desert monastery, and eventually in a mine wrongfully believed to be abandoned.

  • S.A. Sidor, the author, does a great job of creating atmosphere in those scenes. The descriptions are vivid, and I can imagine being the player who hears them and then needs to decide how my character will react to them.


Saturday, June 18, 2022

Blood & Treasure

I am posting the trailer for this series. It looks like the first season ran on CBS starting back in 2019, but it is currently available on Amazon. I'll post my thoughts about the episodes as I watch them. 

-Nate 

Blood & Treasure



Friday, June 17, 2022

Reading Again: Shadow Roads--Birthright

If the image that accompanies this post looks the same as that from the last one, then that's because it's the one from the trade paperback collection of the two arcs, which are at the time of this writing the last ones in the Shadow Roads line. 

-Nate 


Birthright 8-10

Another short arc, these issues were published in June of 2019 and then, following a delay, in July and September of 2020. Here are my impressions:

  • This is very much a Henry story, and that's a good thing. I think this new storyline allows the authors to focus on one character for a bit, and then come back to the whole group.

  • In an RPG campaign, I think that could look like running a side mission for one or more players. On the other hand, the GM could also just make sure to incorporate elements of the background stories that players have for their characters, to give adventures and the campaign as a whole that personalized feel.

  • The scene in which Henry unlocks some of his power is quite well done.

  • The final scene really makes it feel like the authors have more stories to tell in this setting, even if we haven't seen a new issue in almost two years.


Thursday, June 16, 2022

Reading Again: Shadow Roads--The New World

 Here are my impressions about this short story arc.

-Nate


The New World 6-7

This short arc was published in February and May of 2019. Here are my impressions:

  • These two issues both clarify the nature of this new (old) world, and open new possibilities. In Issue #6 we are told, “The Six are gone forever. But, their power—their magic—was not destroyed. It was scattered...”

  • At the outset we find Abigail in a place called Purgatory 13, but Kalfu tells us that a group known as the Court of Order has decided to let her return to the world, to prevent the scattered magical power from falling into wicked hands.

  • Rat Port, Arkansas is another great location, even though we don't see much of it.

  • Mizadori is an intriguing villain, and his hotel, which changes in order to confuse visitors, is a cool location for exploration.

  • There are numerous lingering questions, such as, “What is the Shadow Constitution?”


Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Reading Again: Shadow Roads--The Crossroads

Here are my thoughts about this arc, the first in the new(ish) series. 

-Nate 


The Crossroads 1-5

This story arc, which kicked off the new series titled Shadow Roads, ran for five issues, published from June to November of 2018. Here are my impressions:

  • Issue #1 snuck by me at first. I'd first spotted Issue #1 of The Sixth Gun as a Free Comic Book Day offering back in 2010, grabbed it, read it and loved it. I didn't make it to FCBD in 2018, in part because I had no idea that Issue #1 of Shadow Roads would be there.

  • The series (re)opens a whole new world. It is the same world of The Sixth Gun, but without the sixth. As is described in this series, the elements of magic have been scattered throughout the world, and there are unnatural things that threaten life. That's a great setup for an RPG campaign setting!

  • A new series brings new characters. Whereas in The Sixth Gun they were introduced slowly over a number of arcs, here we meet a whole bunch of them in the first few issues. I like Barry as a comical contrast to the series Henry, and Isabella as a sassy counterpart for Ghost Eyes. One character is even a werebear!

  • There are still a few old, familiar faces, too. The reader knows, I think, what happened to Gord/Kalfu, and it's nice to see Buzzard Wife again. Just how Abigail Redmayne is still here remains a mystery.

  • There are lots of new places, too! This time around we have action taking place in England and Mexico, along with the American southwest. The end fight also gives glimpses of the Louisiana bayou, the Himalaya Mountains and the Forbidden City in China. It's fun to imagine the possibilities of where this series could go.

  • How could a GM create stats for the Hunter? One idea I had is that the character gains an Advance each time he hunts down a foe who has a Trait that is higher than his own, or an Edge or special ability that he lacks. In that way, he grows in power because of his hunting.


Monday, June 13, 2022

Modifying More Treasure Hunter Adventures Scenarios for the Raiders Time Period

Presented here are tips for using more recent releases for Treasure Hunter Adventures in the more pulpy time period of the 1930s and 40s.

  • Into the Shadows: During the time period for Raiders of the Lost Ark, not much time has passed since the Mexican Revolution; lingering conflicts from that event could come into play.

  • Skulduggery: Not much changes for this scenario, which takes place in the western United States, except for the makes and models of the vehicles involved. Instead of intercepting a text message sent to Rutger von Blum, however, the heroes probably find evidence of a telegram.

  • Training Program for the Office of Special Services: There's a lot that was frustrating about the movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but this is not the time or place to share those gripes. One thing that I really liked about the film, however, was how it worked serving in the O.S.S. into Indy's story. The vignettes presented in this scenario could be used to represent the training that he and others underwent during that time.

  • Seekers of Wisdom and The Wreck of the Skylark: The stakes in both of these scenarios are raised if they are set during the reign of the Nazis in Europe. In that case, rather than having a band of mercenaries pursuing the heroes, it could be Nazi agents themselves!

For suggestions regarding other scenarios and supplements, please refer to last year's posts.

Using Elements from the THA Supplements

Using Elements from the THA Scenarios

-Nate

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Indiana Jones and Elliott Ness

Last summer I posted a series of nine articles on this blog to mark the fortieth anniversary of Raiders of the Lost Ark being released in theaters. This year I'll post just one to mark the day, June 12th.

-Nate


Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues is a feature-length TV movie set in Chicago in 1920—told as a flashback while an older Indy and his friend Greycloud are working to recover a pipe this is sacred to Greycloud's people. That business serves as a frame, then, for Indy's story about how, while attending the University and working as a waiter, helped investigate the murder of his employer, “Big” Jim Colosimo. In this tale Indy reveals that his college roommate was none other than the up-and-coming crimefighter, Elliot Ness. This is nine years before Ness and his associates would manage the arrest of gangster Al Capone, as depicted in the film The Untouchables among other places.



All of this came to mind recently while I was paging through a little book called Lost Treasures of American History, a little hardcover book by W.C. Jameson. The final chapter of the book tells the story of the gangster “Dutch” Schultz, who accumulated millions of dollars' worth of cash, bonds, jewelry, diamonds and gold through his criminal enterprises throughout the 1920s and 1930s. The story goes that—as the authorities and his criminal rivals were closing in on his operations—he and an associate, Lulu Rosencranz, buried an iron chest containing much of this wealth outside the town of Phoenicia, Connecticut. Eventually the rivals caught up to both of those men and gunned them down in cold blood; they took the secret location of the buried loot to their graves.



With all of this in mind, it's fun to imagine how Indy and Ness would go about hunting for that cache of loot—and to wonder which crime bosses would send their minions in pursuit of it, too.


Sunday, June 5, 2022

Developments for the National Treasure TV Series

While the development by Disney of a TV series based on the National Treasure movies (2004 and 2007) is not news, I think a couple of recent developments are noteworthy. For one, Disney recently released a first image of the cast members, who seem to have run into some legal trouble.


A second bit of news is that actor Justin Bartha will be reprising his role as Riley Poole from the films.



This certainly helps create continuity between them and the TV series. What is more, the fact that his Poole wrote a book, The Templar Treasure and Other Myths That Are True, begins to open up a whole world of possible adventures. Such a book would definitely be a useful plot device for an RPG campaign. It will be interesting to see how the series develops that world, using the long-form pacing that is possible on TV as opposed to the big screen.

-Nate