Saturday, January 4, 2014

Basement Delving: Stuffed Animals

Alright, let's see now. A roleplaying game about stuffed animals. I don't know if this was German innovation through and through or inspired by some other obscure game, but I do know that it was a lot of fun. Sadly we played only a few times, but the "stuffed animals" angle certainly helped in recruiting our girlfriends for the game. Here's the cover of "Plüsch, Power, und Plunder" as the game was called:

Cool bear, eh? Apparently hanging out at a beach somewhere I guess? The background story is awesome (and I still sort of believe it): Stuffed animals are really alive, but they only move when no human is looking. Stuffed animals live in little villages and are made by a magical "seamstress" who runs each village. Sometimes they are captured and sold to kids in stores. But as soon as nobody is looking they come alive and try to escape and have adventures. Here's the table of contents:

As you can see (well, if you read German) all the usual things are there, including a combat system and so on. You may also see something about drugs. Well, stuffed animals easily become addicted to detergent, so it's imperative that they stay clear of that vile stuff. Parents who wash their kid's stuffed animals often inadvertently start the poor buggers on a life of drugs and violence. Sad really. Here are few more interior pages to set the mood:

Yep, that's a "Back to the Future" shot with our stuffed bunny as the hero. We'll see a little more of that below. There were also a large number of supplements and adventures for this game. Here are two of the basic adventures, the first one mostly about breaking out of a department store, the second about the journey back to a secret village (at least if I remember this stuff correctly):

Here is the Cyberpunk supplement and adventure:

And here is a collection of shorter adventures inspired by certain 1980s Hollywood movies like Short Circuit:

Sadly we never played any of the later adventures, after a few sessions things moved back to D&D and one of the girlfriends found her calling as an elven maiden for a while. I'd consider running it again anytime though: It's a cute background story and a workable system with lots of fun little twists. Good times!

Basement Delving: Invincible Mayfair

Ever since I developed an active interest in role-playing again a few years ago, I've been fascinated by the old Judges Guild "City State of the Invincible Overlord" stuff. I even bought quite a few PDFs, with mixed results. But I had forgotten all about these things:

Can someone with real Wilderlands clue say something about these products and how the compare to the "official" Judges Guild version? Is this stuff just "inspired by" the Wilderlands or is it an "updated take" on the setting? Is the stuff compatible, for example regarding cultures and locations described? I know that there was some kind of weird lawsuit between TSR and Mayfair over this, anyone have details about that? And finally: Should I hold on to this stuff or get rid of it? The production values seem pretty high, but if it has nothing to do with the "real" Wilderlands then I doubt it'll hold permanent interest for me.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Basement Delving: Realms of the Unknown

Alright, we're getting into the really obscure games now. Realms of the Unknown is essentially the D&D "endgame" and nothing else: Run a town or barony or kingdom and fight against others on a domain level. That's pretty much it. Note that I have never used this thing and I doubt I even read very much of it, so I can't really say if it is any good, but faoladh has a great review on his blog.

I have to say that I very much like the idea of this game. It seems to me that games like D&D that deal mostly with individuals, games like Chainmail that deal mostly with armies, and games like Realms of the Unknown that deal mostly with domains are each best dealt with separately, with different mechanics suitable for the different "resolutions" required.

In essence that's what BECMI D&D did: You call the result D&D, but really it's a losely connected hodgepodge of rules, different rules for each "level" of play. (If you ask anyone what D&D is they will not say "the war machine" after all.) So maybe it's better to modularize the rules, use independent systems, and then mix-and-match as needed. Of course that's really just a gut feeling, sadly I have never experienced those "upper levels" of play anyway, for the past 25 years it's mostly been dungeon delving for me.

Basement Delving: A Tale of Two Towns

Fantasy cities are always popular and I finally found two of my favorite supplements again: Carse and Tulan. Both of these were originally produced by Midkemia Press but the editions I own were redone under license by Chaosium. Carse is the bigger of the two, in terms of buildings anyway. Let's start with the cover:

That's Callistro the Magician and Ogar the Boar at the Bear's Claw Inn. Pretty awesome, eh? Well maybe only marginally awesome but hey, it's 1986. A few inside impressions:

The last shot illustrates the format for each "quarter" of the town: A short overview list of each building with a map, then a few pages of more detailed descriptions of the same area, often with additional background material. Some of the NPCs get rather nice illustrations as well, check out this lovely family for example:

It may not be what people expect from their supplements these days, but I find these illustrations rather evocative and thoroughly enjoyable. Finally a look at the overview map, ostensibly for players:

As you can see there are quite a few buildings outside of Carse proper as well, fitting for a town that's still growing. I don't want to say too much about the atmosphere and general character of Carse here because I plan to use the town in my next campaign, with slight modifications of course. I bought this thing sometime in the early 1990s and never ended up using it because we played mostly in Mystara and Harn then, both of which have several useful towns already. But in my 2014 campaign I have only sparse notes for each town, so something I can "plop in" relatively easily is most welcome.

Now for Tulan, the other town in the series: Also by Midkemia Press originally, also re-published by Chaosium, also in the late 1980s.

The format is pretty much the same, so without further ado a few examples from inside:

Yep, there's a whole village aside from the town of Tulan itself. Now my memory may be playing tricks on me, but I think some version of Tulan also included ruins of "Old Tulan" somewhere, but I couldn't find that particular thing in this version. Here's the overview map:

I am pretty sure that Tulan will also find a place in that ominous campaign I'll try to push my players through. If anyone stays around after the first TPK that is. Oh well.

Basement Delving: Lost Worlds

These "Lost Worlds" books are amazing. In case you don't know: Each book is about one character and you need two books to play a battle.

You hand your book to your opponent but you keep your character's combat sheet to decide your next move. The book you hold shows the posture or attack of your opponent's character. So if you fight the dwarf and the other player decides on an overhead swing, you see that particular move (well, unless the combat system decided that your own attack actually beats that overhead swing, then you might see the dwarf fall down).

So each turn is both players stating the move, cross-referencing the result, and flipping to the indicated pages to see the next posture of their opponent. Totally awesome fun.

I even converted a total non-gamer once, that guy made fun of me the first day when I said he should try it, but for the rest of the semester he was always bummed out when I forgot to bring the books to class.

I think this Alfred Leonardi guy also designed a similar system for air battles with a World War I flavor? Not sure. There were a few more of the fantasy books, I remember a friend of mine had a ranger lady with a quarterstaff who was hard to beat even with my favorite sword-swinging mage. Oh, and note the book of extra spells I was lucky enough to get as well. I wish someone would scan all of these and turns the whole thing into an online game...