Friday, August 11, 2017

Champions of ZED: Zero Edition Dungeoneering Review Part 3

Continuing on with the review

Next up is Character Growth

Life energy levels, accumulation of experience points and Tiers of Advancement. Fighters, Clerics and Magic-Users have Tiers of Veteran, Hero, Superhero and Lord. For example the Veteran Tier for Fighters is Levels 1-3, for Cleric 1-5 and Magic-Users 1-6 and at the other end of things the Lord Tiers is levels 13+, 14+ and 16+ respectively.

These tiers have "all sorts of social implications in the campaign," depending on the individual campaign.

Then they go into other ways that the Tier interacts with the character and bonuses or other things that acrue to the character. Fear Immunity and Reputation are two of those items as the Tier level increases. Reaching the Lord Tier is more about attract followers possibly of higher level (talking here about above 1st level), important titles, leadership positions, "likely to establish strongholds, towers, castles, cathedrals and so forth."

Tables for magic-users and then an indepth discussion of experience and all the ways it is earned.

Tables for level progression by class, experience points needed and possible hit points gained.

Elves and their dual nature fighter/magic users. They only earn experience for one or the other at a time. They do have all the abilities for both at the same time. They can only carry magical weapons and armor and still be able to cast spells, if they have mundane weapons or armor they must be laid down/removed before casting a spell. The big restriction is that they have to decide this before the adventure starts If they go as a fighter with mundane equipment then they are locked in as a fighter for that adventure and vice versa - having magic weapons (daggers, swords, bows, arrows etc) and armor essentially removes the restriction for everything other than experience.

Then he goes into dual class characters for non-elves. In most ways they are more restricted than elves with one important exception, they can split experience between the two classes enabling simultaneous advancement.

Next up is a discussion of 0 level characters (NPCs), the effects of ageing are discussed and how to apply them.

The next section is Starting the Game.

Here coins and the economy, scale, time, movement, effect of encumbrance, common item weights. From there it continues with Time and Movement Scale, Movement by Moment and Movement on Journeys. A table is provided for the Movement by Moment and method of calculating Movement on Journeys are provided for land, sea and air. Examples are given and discussed along with the example being illustrated on a map.

Location in the Hex, hazards, terrain penalty to movement and travel by water are discussed and a table for a whole range of watercraft is provided. Others topics with tables include Wind Direction, Wind Conditions, and discussion include Underwater/Swimming, Armor and Burdens While Swimming. The chance of drowning has a table.

While there is a little bit about waterborne encounters you are referred to other games for naval battles.

Here he switches back to the chance of having adventure while traveling with examples and two approaches. Additional discussion of out of lair encounters is added. A table is provided and options for adjustment detailed. Surprise and pursuit is discussed and the effect of sighting difference.

Castle encounters with tolls, taxes and fees along with other options are discussed.

The chance of adventure when resting or flying and a typical sequence of play.

"When players travel beyond the existing map, the Referee has two options:

1. Draw more map

2. Flip the map and reuse the existing map board" have them enter it at a different place and direction to the line of travel. I would always go with number 1 as my option.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Champions of ZED: Zero Edition Dungeoneering Review Part 2

I really urge you to take a look at this game, whether you want to play it or not. I hope to convey to you how much of a resource it is so that you can go do your own thing. The people who where there back in the day, who played in the original games with Arneson and Gygax are quoted throughout this document and it is worth reading just for that alone.

Developing A World

I will try to hit a few high points here (this is not intended to be an exhaustive study, more like an appetizer) and try to convey the depth that is presented.

In order to play you need a world to play in and you need to know what kind of world it is. It can be vague or detailed according to taste and time. You can base it off of any culture or time period or you can imagine an entire new world(s) and culture(s). You can borrow from fiction and non-fiction as much or as little as you want or strive to create something completely original.

He then talks about questions to ask yourself about the world you are designing. Things like social structure, geography, mythology and so on. The amount of effort can be great or small, according to your taste, time and proclivities. As in any venture, extra effort in this area will be rewarded in the unlimited opportunities it creates for you and your players.

I would add that time crunched does not have to limit your fun and you don't have to create a huge area of the world to start or even do more than rough it out a bit to begin. Much of the creation occurs through play.

His writing is an enjoyable read and it is quite clear IMO. Next Hex maps are discussed and how to create them and a number of random tables are provided to assist you in that and he does say it is best to start in small stage and recommends 7-30 hexes numbering them for a key with any additional information the Referee might like to have. He advises keeping other areas to explore and expand later. There is a healthy section of text that does into how to flesh out the information from the random tables in each hex.

This is important, he says you can use dice or creative judgment and it is worth emphasizing. The dice and the random tables are there to help you, not rule you. Design it the way you want. IMO Dice and Tables are there to help you when you get stuck creatively and often you may find that you use those tools and that spurs a better idea that you go with.

He includes ways that players can contribute and help the Referee with the world design without then knowing things they should not and keeping the world a mystery to them. For instance players can come up with names for towns, cities and geographical features which the Referee then uses, the players will later recognize names "they have heard of" even though they don't know the "details."

Continuing on he talks about incorporating events into the fabric of the world as campaign events unfold through play and about using player ideas too.

Provided is a section titled Population. What is the dominant species in an area such as human and/or something else. Working out population centers size, type and many other things. You can go beyond the game itself and develop this as much as you want, but this will get your started.

Then he talks about Adventure possibilities and has a number of tables and lots of explanation to help you flesh out the first few hexes as to what is found there and IMO adjust as needed to get what you want. Beyond that he talks about the finer details of specific locations.

An image is provided with some very basic map symbols for hills, swamp , woods and other to get you started. I would point out here that there are a lot of great map drawing videos on youtube and if you have any talent at all there is lots of great help to teach you the skills and how to develop ideas for the map itself. There is no substitute for doing your own research and your own work. That is the extra effort that was talked about in the beginning.

Talked about are things like a Home Base and whether or not you campaign has one and suggestions on how to use it if you do. The Campaign Dungeon, which you may or may not have. Chance Cards, how to create them and how to use them to devise a basic local history and memorable events.

Character types, races and classes are next up with the basis of the world view that he is designing for. Classes and Class Specialists, character traits/stats, and more are covered in detail.

Champions of ZED: Zero Edition Dungeoneering Review Part 1

Champions of ZED: Zero Edition Dungeoneering by Dan Boggs.

One thing you should like about this is that Dan Boggs is a meticulous researcher and whether you like what he has done or not you should give him the credit that he is due. As listed in the first few pages he asked many questions to ten of the people who where there, some from the earliest days and that they patiently answered his many questions.

The resources used to create this game include Beyond This Point be Dragons, OD&D,  First Fantasy Campaign, Adventures in Fantasy,  Dave Arneson's d20 Blackmoor Campaign Sourcebook,  Garbage Pits of Despair, other things and original material. In essence a mashup of some great material.

He gives an example of play in the Introduction to inform the reader's expectations. Then in The Context of CoZ he states,

Champions of ZED exists, however, to reflect an exploratory, world building style found as a core aspect of the first published edition from 1974, yet almost entirely neglected in later games. Champions of ZED also brings together the scattered intentions of both authors of the original 1974 edition, left unfulfilled when the urge to publish overcame the urge to perfect, while preserving the open ended flexibility for which those rules are famous.
He also "defaults" back to wargame combat rules.

Then a bit of history is provided and he posits what would have happened if Gygax instead of rushing to print, had brought in an editor to further the collarboration and extant ideas. Then preparing an better organized and edited game.

One purpose for CoZ is to serve as a pathway to to a different and neglected style of collective world building  and open, exploratory gaming, or as it is often called, "Sandbox" play.



    PART I: THE WORLDS OF ADVENTURE......................................... ...........................5

    PART II: CHARACTERS........................................ ................................................1 8

    PART III: CHARACTER GROWTH............................................ ................................31

    PART IV: STARTING THE GAME.............................................. ...............................42

    PART V: CONFLICT.......................................... ...................................................71

    PART VI: MAGIC............................................. ................................................. ..95

    PART VII: LUCK AND SKILLS............................................ ......................................128

    PART VIII: THE UNDERWORLD........................................ .......................................134

    PART IX: PRIZES............................................ ................................................. ..140

    Appendix I................................................. .................................................. ......154

    Appendix II................................................ .................................................. ......175

    Appendix III............................................... .................................................. ......176

    Appendix IV................................................ .................................................. .....178

    Index............................................. .................................................. .................180

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Seven Voyages of Zylarthen - Review Part 4

Continuing with Volume 4 The Campaign

The first thing that he does right off the bat is dispel the "myth" promoted by the anti-DIY, anti-MIY (Do It Yourself, Make It Yourself) gatekeeper lunatics. You do not have to create an entire mapped out world with a full-blown history, mythology, culture or more fully designed up front. 

SIDE NOTE: Promotion of that "myth" is why there is a fanatical cult surrounding the religion of adventure modules. Is it wrong to use an adventure module, no it is not. Do adventure module tend to be railroads and teach that as a play style, yes they do. So if you really do not have the time to do what is spelled out in Zylarthen, then don't use one adventure module, go grab 10 or 20 (100's are out there free) rip them up a little, do a little interconnecting and destroy the railroad and give your players options.

Back to the review

The world should grow organically, nourished by actual play. C.S. Lewis described the creation of his novel Perelandra - a rich and complex work of a few hundred pages - as beginning merely with a mental picture of small islands floating on tossed seas. Far from having a complete plot and set of characters already in mind, the author discovered the story after he started writing.

There are strong parallels as he points out to campaign world building. Whether you are strapped for time or have lots of it, you can create as you go, you don't have to spend years up front, anyone can create there own campaign world on the go as they play.

The first section covers standard dungeon building with a host of little extras as he discusses building and designing the dungeon, addiing monsters and adding treasure. A multitude of useful tables to aid you with these things are provided.

I understand that supplements are planned and in progress. I would hope that one of them would go more in depth about how to design unique, interesting dungeons, that provides continual surprises for the players. He provided a lot, but it just scratches the surface of what is possible.

The next topic covered is the wilderness saying

Sooner or later the referee will want to create background maps containing mulitple dungeons, mysterious and unexplored forests and swamps, sinister strongholds of evil men and areas of relative safety such as villages, forts, towns and cities, as well as other points of interest that the players may choose to explore. The wilderness is what connects these features, but it is also, so to speak, the nourishing soil that many of them may grow out of without the direct predesign of the referee.

This "The wilderness is what connects these features, but it is also, so to speak, the nourishing soil that many of them may grow out of without the direct predesign of the referee." can't be emphazied too much IMO.

Section titled Alternate Wilderness Movement with tables.

Wilderness Wandering Monsters, the table includes 16 different terrain types, the chance of being lost using a d6 and the chance of encountering a monster using a d20. Check once per day to see if you are "lost." Wandering Monsters checked twice per day. Other issues are discussed. He goes into encounter distance and suprise considerations and a number of other issues. Then you get into a Wilderness Encounter Tables and sub-Tables. Useful, useful, useful.

Advice is given on "How to create a 'World' in under an hour" using the fantasy cartography progam Hexographer by Inkwell ideas. The mapping advice I think is quite good and would help for ideas for handdrawn maps. I have not used the program and can't speak to that. Overall a lot of good general and specific advice for map making.

There is a brief bit of advice on Finishing Touches that is well advised.

He spends a fair amount of time on the subject of monster languages and as part of that he created a list of monsters sorted by intelligence. Low, Cunning, Average, High and Genius. I would add feel free to switch this up in ways that make sense for your campaign.

There are tons of languages, I like this one

All: Native (this will be an utterly primitive, incomprehensible, alien or "lost" language, understood by no other races)

Treasure classes and distribution and then a an Appendix: Sources and Suggestions for Further Reading specific to each of all four volumes.

Thus ends my comments on this Book 4 and on this game.

Seven Voyages of Zylarthen - Review Part 3

Now for Volume 3 Book of Magic

Magic Spells, he lists 20 spells for each level 1-6, followed by descriptions of each spell. Since this game has no cleric, some of the clerical spells are ported over for magic-users.

The spell descriptions are aside from Charm Person, mostly brief and succint. The extra detail on Charm Person is well used.

I like the write up on Magic Books and shortly thereafter he has a bit of blank space for Referee Notes which I think most refs should really appreciate.

This is followed by an Evil High Priest and a separate High Priest Spell Table. Each has five spells for levels 1-3 and seven spells for levels 4-6. Followed by a Witch Spell Table with 10 spells for all 6 levels. Spells not previously described are described in this section.

Next we move to Maps/Magic Determination. There are no real surprises in the items listed, though there are some interesting little twists in the descriptions. Some descriptions have been made more clear and others have clarified who can or can't use them.

Interesting variations of some items are provided. 

The Fabricating Magic Items goes into quite a bit of details about the cost and time of creating new magic items with an extensive lists for each magic item type. Enough information is provided to make it easy to extend to things that are not listed. This should inspire you to create unique items.

I could have said a whole lot more, but I really don't want to draw the veil away.

This ends my comments on Book 3.

Seven Voyages of Zylarthen - Review Part 2

Volume 2 Book of Monsters kicks off with a fantastic illustration of a hydra by John Dickson Batten. Love this artwork.

Initially he lets us know that most of the monsters we "have come to know, 'love' or in a few cases merely wonder about" are present. Some of them are given a twists and to me that enhances this book way more than an exact copy would.

He tries to go back to the original conception of Armor Class. I could repeat hear how he defines that, but I won't, you should check it out yourself. Also he says that he rejects the "creeping 'naturalism' of later interpretations" and I completely approve of this approach.

He also ties this in with Volume 1 and the approach to language and religion. I like this a lot.

I enjoyed the way that he "fleshes" out Androids with both description and stats. Also he provides equipment they might possess. I should note here that what he has done in this book should encourage everyone to create (over time, not in one sitting, unless of course you are capable of doing that) your own version of things. Keep things fresh for your players, make your monsters malleable over time and not static. 

Apts and other Barsoom critters get stats and descriptions.

Mundane animals also get descriptions and stats, making this a very good introductory versions for newbies. Descriptions are clear and short. Dinosaurs also get stats and description, this game is ready to go. Again don't limit yourself to just the printed page, add your own stuff. Other prehistoric animals are included.

Cyborgs get a similar treatment to that given Androids.

Evil High Priests or Priestessess get a great writeup. Worth reading just for this IMO. Along with Evil Lords and other Evil Men (such as Evil Magic-Users). Evil (not High) Priests are included too. Great section to help a beginner who might not know where to start.

A number of normal insects are provided, some harmless, but with side effects to the PCs in interesting ways.

Some gods and goddesses are provided, he did look at all the supplements.

Golems are also "fleshed" out in interesting ways.

A writeup on half-elves should prove useful to the many who like to run half-elves in their game. I think his take on them should be fun for all in a campaign.

I could keep going and go into more detail as well, but I will not except to encourage you to check it out, this is well done.

Here ends my comments on book 2.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Seven Voyages of Zylarthen - Review Part 1

Tell us about Seven Voyages of Zylarthen, Champions of Zed and Treasure Hunters. 

I don't think those 3 have ever been talked about around here. 

In fact, start a thread in the main forum about the games you like and what makes each unique and interesting.
On a forum I was asked to talk about these games and I am starting with Seven Voyages of Zylarthen written by Oakes Spalding and subtitled Rules for Original Style Sword and Sorcery Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Imagination.

Copyright 2014

Published as four booklets
Volume 1 Characters & Combat
Volume 2 Book of Monsters
Volume 3 Book of Magic
Volume 4 The Campaign
The brilliance and charm of that game's earliest version was its simplicity and elegance, combined with a certain asymmetrical quirkiness. It invoked many sources--King Arthur, the Crusades, Middle-earth, the Arabian Nights, pulp fantasy, fairy tales, even science fiction. Its breadth of tone was a virtue, offering to the players a multiplicity of delights.
The tone is set early in the correct use of the term "fantasy adventure game" in lieu of "role-playing game." To go beyond this the really correct term IMO would be Fantasy/Science Fantasy Adventure Role-playing Game.

Under Optional I like his suggestions for a minor number of props, I have found that children love props.
A cigar box or "chest" of pennies, dimes and quarters, as well as a number of small bags--to represent the characters' hoards of silver and gold.
Early on here you find out that he does not include Clerics. I find that usage to be interesting, even though I don't do that for the campaign. We have over the years had adventuring parties that did not include one of the classes or was composed of only one class. All of those variations are IMO fun to play. Balance is a dirty word IMO.

There is language every so often, that makes plain things that IMO were part and parcel of the original game, though not spelled out. 

The three base classes are Fighting-Men, Magic-Users and Thieves. In addition he includes Dwarves, Elves and Halfings(sic) as special classes.

I really like the emphasis placed on

many monsters and animals will have a keen sense of smell.
in regards to thieves sneaking around.

The Luck item for thieves could have some interesting ramifications, since there is no guarantee that it will help, but players will want to rely on it and take a risk they might otherwise not take.

I also like not allowing thieves the chance of using magical scrolls until they reach 10th level.

He retains the requirement for elves to operate as one or the other in a single adventure (fighting-man or magic-user). I don't do that; elves may cast a spell, switch to their bow and then go into melee with a sword. The either/or thing that AFAIK everyone does is immersion breaking for me.

I like his take on alignment, it is still important in many ways, but is downplayed and is mostly not in the foreground.

His take on Religion is I think a very fun thing.
The gods are many and varied. Some are malevoent. Most are jealous. All are dangerous. For the majority of mortals, serious and sustained worship of any of the gods is for priests and cultists only. Why devote oneself to one god, when there are a myriad to seek favor from or, more likely, to placate? And since deities are inscrutable and unpredictable, why not hedge one's bets by giving occasional offerings to many

There is IMO a healthy emphasis of language, which too many IMO just hand wave and ignore.
Knowledge of the right language at the right time can be extremely useful for adventurers, either in making friends (often unlikely friends), or in negotiating, bargaining, threatening, appeasing and so on. At the least, one might overhear mutterings of treachery or plots by monsters unaware of one's linguistic prowess.

I like this what is does is make clear that this game is not built around the post-old school murder-hobo trope that some misguided fools run around claiming is old school. When it really arose is when those with no grounding in fantasy got hold of the game.

BTW I would like to point out that the art in this game is excellent.

He has an optional strength rule for female characters, that some might like to take, but many will be offended by even though it is an optional rule and labeled as such.

His prime requisite, secondary and tertiary abilities rule to me is just unnecessary complication and go with prime requisite is enough. Some things have to be added to clones to avoid just being a copy which is not permitted. Things like this can easily be dropped and ignored.

His explanations are clear, but IMO a real attempt to keep the flavor of the original game was achived.

I also like his rule harking back to Arneson, about treasure granting experience when it is spent and not when it is hoarded.

His money system is based on Silver. Interesting rule "making change" is illegal for all except for officially approved money-changers. When you buy you always round up unless you have the needed small coins to pay the exact price. I like this, you can't just ignore everything that is not gold.

Hirelings and treasure has an interesting rule that is to prevent players from using the hirelings money as their characters money.

Anyone who wants a basic equipment list in silver, right here it is in volume one. A number of items are added, such as glue, deadly nightshade, shovel, sling just to name a few.

Also included is a price list for buildings ranging from a cottage to a large fort, keep or castle.

A list of men-at-arms and other hirelings.

Bear in mind that you can expand on any of this stuff if you wish.

I laughed (in a good way) when I read the list of level names, particularly for the Magic-Users and Thieves.

The attack matrix I for men vs men or monsters (melee) has weapon class vs armor class, it is IMO quite elegant. A similar matrix is provided for missle weapons with each one and its range listed.

He also provides a monsters attacking matrix with sample monsters listed to make the matrix clearer. 

There is a provided expanded turning undead table which is quite useful. Any character may attempt to turn undead by presenting a proper holy symbol. I really love this usage.

He makes the distinction between the full turn (10 minutes) and the melee turn (10 seconds).

Combat and Optional Combat rules are provided and they are clearly explained. You can easily pick and chose the options you want or of course others that you come up with yourself.

An attack matrix for fire and oil is provided and easily added to.

There is a rule and a table for what happens at zero hitpoints for PCs. IMO it is quite useful and I have been thinking of trying it out. It ranges from instant death to down for one melee turn then gets back up and fights and a whole range of options in between.

This closes my comments on Book 1.

BTW the full list I originally mentioned was this
I like/find interesting (in random order) the BLUEHOLME™ family of games, Iron Falcon, Delving Deeper, Seven Voyages of Zylarthen, Warriors of the Red Planet, Adventurer Conqueror King, Treasure Hunters, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, Champions of Zed, Mazes & Minotaurs, Spellcraft & Swordplay, and Barbarians of Lemuria.