Monthly Archives: January 2016

This felt like a good way to end the week. If you’ve ever wondered what really started it all, and what that first game actually looked (and played) like, here you go.

First published in January 1974, the original edition rules of Dungeons & Dragons would go on to see six different printings. This edition is for the Original Collector’s Edition released By Wizards of the Coast in 2013, which was itself a revision of the 6th and final printing, the “Original Collector’s Edition” or white box edition. 

You get all three books contained in the original boxed set: Men & Magic, Monsters & Treasure, and Underworld & Wilderness Adventures plus the Reference Sheets booklet.

Great to read and still great to play, the original edition shows you where the roleplaying hobby began and the original version of the game that spawned a hobby and so much more.

Product History [EXCERPTS]

The Original Dungeons & Dragons (1974), by Gary Gygax & Dave Arneson, is the debut edition of the world’s first tabletop roleplaying game. It was published in January 1974.

The origins of Dungeons & Dragons have been discussed at much greater length elsewhere. Jon Peterson’s Playing at the World (2012) is the premier source, while this historian’s own Designers & Dragons: The ’70s devotes a full 10 pages to the subject. What follows is only a synopsis.

Origins (I): Finding the Fantasy. Gary Gygax became intrigued by medieval miniatures wargames at Gen Con I (1968). He then formed the Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association in 1969 to support his new interest, where he was joined by Donald Kaye, Jeff Perren, Rob Kuntz, and others. However, Perren decided to do more than just play: he wrote a few pages of rules for medieval miniatures wargaming. Gygax developed Perren’s rules, then published the “Geneva Medieval Miniatures” in the Panzerfaust fanzine (April 1970), later expanding them in Domesday Book #5 (July 1970).

When Gygax became editor of the “Wargaming with Miniatures” series for Guidon Games he led off with a further expansion of the LGTSA Medieval Miniatures rules: a miniatures rulebook called Chainmail (1971). It included a 14-page “fantasy supplement” that featured rules for heroes, superheroes, and wizards — the last of which had spells like fire ball, lightning bolt, and phantasmal force. At this point, some of D&D’s core ideas were obviously beginning to appear.

Origins (II): Traveling to Twin Cities. The next step in the evolution of Dungeons & Dragons came thanks to another collaborator: Dave Arneson. His story begins with the “Braunstein” games of Dave Wesely, who was running Napoleonic miniatures games where players took on the roles of individual characters.

After Wesely’s Army Reserve unit was called up to active duty, other players ran Braunsteins of their own, sometimes in different settings. One of these was Dave Arneson’s “medieval Braunstein”, which he called “Black Moor”. Arneson used Gygax and Perren’s Chainmail game for its combat, but otherwise it followed the Braunstein idea of players running individual characters.

At first, Arneson’s players fought medieval miniatures battles that were typical of the genre … other than the fact that they had characters that gained experienced over time. Then in late 1971 or early 1972 the Blackmoor group moved into the dungeons (using a plastic kit of a Sicilian castle that Arneson owned).

Arneson showed Gygax his Blackmoor game in late 1972. Gygax then began to revise and expand these proto-D&D rules, publishing drafts to the miniatures gaming community in 1973. By mid ’73, he was ready to publish their game, but both Guidon Games and Avalon Hill turned him down.

To bring Dungeons & Dragons to market would require a leap of faith …

For anyone wanting to discover the “lost history” of Rifts Earth – and, more to the point, play through it – this is one of the latest additions to the Palladium catalog on DriveThruRPG and a serious hit with fans.

Chaos Earth® is a complete role-playing game with its own, unique, stand-alone setting.

Player characters are heroes lost in the throes of the Apocalypse. Equipped with the most advanced robots, power armor and weapons in the world, they refuse to give up, and fight against overwhelming odds to save some fraction of humankind. Meanwhile, nightmarish creatures swarm to Earth through Rifts – tears in the very fabric of space and time – to torment and prey upon the survivors of the Great Cataclysm. Earth is quickly being transformed into an alien landscape, and the player characters are humankind’s last and best hope for survival.

It is the end of the world as we know it and the dynamic prequel to the ever popular Rifts® RPG series. See how it all began and carve out your own place in Rifts® history.

  • Overview and history of the Great Cataclysm.
  • Introduction of NEMA – the heroes of the Northern Eagle Military Alliance who struggle to save lives and bring peace to chaos.
  • 11 different character classes, including power armor and robot pilots, the Para-Arcane, Demon & Witch Hunter, Chromium Guardsman, Silver Eagle and more.
  • Background setting, missions and adventure ideas by the dozen.
  • Weapons, robots, power armor, vehicles and equipment.
  • Monsters and madness.
  • Compatible with Rifts® and all its sourcebooks.
  • 160 pages by Kevin Siembieda.

Fans of cyberpunk and Savage Worlds fans will both enjoy a trip to the Lone Star State in this latest Interface Zero 2.0 release – the Republic of Texas.

Ask any Texan and they’ll tell you that life in the Republic is about one thing: freedom. Life here isn’t a cakewalk, but it’s far better to die on your feet than live on your knees. That’s Texas in 2090, amigo, better get used to it. Learn what it means to be a citizen in the Lone Star and how Texans remember the breakup of the old nation in order to form their more perfect union. This is a land where freedom reigns supreme because it’s surrounded by enemies and uncertain allies on all sides.

 Engage in high-tech espionage in the new range wars. Go south and live lawless, or head to the Austin-Antonio sprawl and get closer to the center of power or trapped in an AI/gang turf war.  Plunge head first into the Runenberg Corporation’s financial data fortress nicknamed “the Mountain.” It’ll take more than gumption to survive, but it’s a start. You in?

 New Archetypes and Occupations decidedly Texan

  • What it’s like living in the Lone Star in 2090
  • Stock up with new weapons, golemmechs and vehicles with a Texas flair
  • Gear that makes Texas feel like the Wild West
  • Dozens of threats from within the Republic ready to slug it out
  • Bioforms of classic Texan stock weaponized to keep you awake at night
  • Enough hooks to keep you exploring the Republic

Retrostar is a game that takes you to the great days of 70’s and early 80’s sci-fi television, in that inestimable genre-savvy way that Spectrum handles everything they touch. Just like J.J., now they want to take you to Far-Away Galaxies on the big screen!

With this supplement, Retrostar makes the leap from the television screen to the silver screen! Within these pages, you’ll find:

• A modified time management system!

• Character creation adjustments!

• Game rules that more accurately portray the big-screen adventures, including on-the-fly SFX, injuries, “Act 3” Showrunner Characters, Teasers and more!

• Rules for using Intentions as “saving throws”, which can also be used for normal games of Retrostar as well!

• Sample SFX, including Light Swords and Cosmic Mind Powers!

• A modified character sheet!

• Amazing new art by Brent Sprecher!

Tomorrow I go into the hospital for my life-extending bariatric surgery, and I suspect I am going to be less-than-enthusiastic about spending a lot of time at my desk. So, as I’ve done a few times before, I am front-loading this week’s Picks for you, starting with…

Shadows of Rebellion (SW/Eldritch)

My brother-of-choice and dear friend, Shawn Gore, is a rising star in the RPG world, and I recommend you keep an eye out for future work from him. He’s the writer and designer of this scenario, which links the Continuum world of Shaintar to Ainerêve in a plot-point campaign.

The worlds of Ainerêve and Shaintar collide as agents from both worlds fight to gain a foothold and secure more power. Help assist a group of rebels trying to break free from the tyranny of the Kal-A-Nar Empire, but find that a much deeper plot and more powerful foe work in the shadows. This adventure is a crossover event written to bridge the worlds of Ainerêve and Shaintar. The module is written in a “plot point” campaign style, allowing the GM to sculpt the specifics of each encounter. It can be used for a wide range of player/character/gm experience levels, and run with any rule set that a GM desires. However, it is suggested to use either Eldritch RPG (Revised) by Crossroads Games, or Savage Worlds by Pinnacle Entertainment Group.

AZ: After Zombies

With a focus on people simply being who they are in the wake of a zombie apocalypse, industry veteran Charles Rice brings his own special vision to this still-popular genre of end-times gaming.

The world as you know it is gone. In the wake of a terrible disease, the dead have risen to walk the Earth and humans are no longer at the top of the food chain and civilization has collapsed. Welcome to the world AFTER ZOMBIES.

After Zombies is a d% RPG with no character classes. All skill and combat checks are rolled on percentile dice and 2-5 d10’s are all you need to play the game, along with pencil and paper. Advancement is based on survival by any means necessary. Hide. Run. Fight. It makes no difference. Surviving one more day is all that matters.

Shadowrun: Runner’s Black Book

Fans of the 20th Anniversary Edition of Shadowrun will appreciate this collection of tons of material from other sources, updated and expanded with new stuff.

You’ve got the talent. You hopefully have lived long enough to collect a decent amount of nuyen. So show it off! Get a better gun. A bigger boat. A zeppelin that can sneak you across borders where no one thinks to look. All these toys are here, and many, many more. Runner’s Black Book is a shopping catalog for the ambitious and successful runner—and it’s a guide to the weapons, drones, and vehicles that the various forces of the Sixth World may send against you as you sneak through the shadows.

Runner’s Black Book collects material from Shadowrun’s successful PDF line of products, compiling Deadly Waves, Gun Heaven, MilSpecTech, This Old Drone, and Unfriendly Skies in their entirety, along with updated art and information. On top of that, the book includes new pieces of gear developed specifically for this volume, including the punishing Kriss X Submachine Gun and small, smooth TPP light pistol. Each piece of gear is accompanied by a full color illustration providing a look at the item’s complete details and features.

Runner’s Black Book is for use with Shadowrun, Twentieth Anniversary Edition.

Unearthed Arcana (1e)

One of the best things about 5e is how easy it is to port over material from previous editions; just boil down the concept to the essentials and interpret it for the foundationally easy core of D&D’s best iteration (in this gamer’s humble opinion). This particular tome is well worth the effort, chock full of game-changing ideas. This one’s featured on the Dungeon Master’s Guild (remember; your log-in for DriveThruRPG is the same for the DM Guild).

The original 1985 release of Unearthed Arcana™ changed Dungeons & Dragons® forever by introducing new races, classes, magical items, and rules written by Gary Gygax. This new printing will appeal to nostalgic D&D® fans looking to add this classic to their collections.

The most complete version of Unearthed Arcana ever printed!
The original Unearthed Arcana was corrected and updated through articles published in Dragon® magazine. Completists will want to pick up this version because it has been, for the first time ever, painstakingly edited to include the original errata and supplements created in the 1980’s under the supervision of Mr. Gygax himself. 

[Excerpts from the “Product History” section]

Origins (I): Gygax Waning. Gary Gygax’s major contributions to the D&D game began to fade around 1980. A few last Greyhawk adventures appeared, thanks largely to Rob Kuntz coming on board in 1981 to finish up S4: “The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth” (1982) and others. But other than that, Gygax just didn’t have the time to produce gaming material, first because he was running TSR Hobbies and later because he was off in Hollywood, running TSR Entertainment.

As a result, others picked up the mantle of leadership in TSR’s design studio: Lawrence Schick created the studio and brought on Basic D&D designers David Cook and Tom Moldvay, then Gygax’s hand-picked right-hand-men Frank Mentzer and Francois Marcela-Froideval led much of the D&D design work afterward.

A Different Sort of Players Handbook. In 1985, AD&D had been around in a “finished” form for six years. The only hardcovers released during that period were books of deities and monsters, not rules. These were also the years of D&D’s greatest growth, so it’s pretty safe to say that by 1985 most players of AD&D never knew anything but the status quo. This is why Unearthed Arcana was entirely ground-breaking to those fans; it was the sort of revamp of the system that most players had never seen.

Now, players delved into what was essentially a supplementary Players Handbook, full of new character classes, new races, and new rules. The changes were so large, thatUnearthed Arcana is now used to mark the beginning of AD&D 1.5e, an expansion of the core game that also included Oriental Adventures (1985), the Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide (1986), and the Wilderness Survival Guide (1986).

Unearthed Arcana has a section for GMs too — a split that would be repeated through several of the later AD&D hardcovers. However it was the player’s section that really revamped and relaunched the game.

Expanding D&D. Unearthed Arcana is full of expansions to the D&D game. Besides the aforementioned new classes and new races, AD&D also picked up a 7th attribute, Comeliness — which was meant to be different from Charisma, but was never that popular. Unearthed Arcana also contains plenty of new magic items and spells, including the introduction of 0-level cantrips — an idea that’s been much more long-lived.

Various existing character classes got adjustments too, the most notable of which was the fighter’s new “weapon specialization”, which allowed improvement in a weapon of choice. It was a somewhat ironic addition, because back in The Dragon #16 (July 1978), in a much earlier Sorcerer’s Scroll, Gygax wrote, “There are a number of foolish misconceptions which tend to periodically crop up also. Weapons expertise is one. … For those who insist on giving weapons expertise bonuses due to the supposed extra training and ability of the character, I reply: What character could be more familiar and expert with a chosen weapon type than are monsters born and bred to their fangs, claws, hooves, horns, and other body weaponry?”

Blades in the Dark

Kind of a “Holy Grail” for long-time gamers, the idea of a caper-oriented game – heists, criminal enterprises, super-spy operations – is usually stronger in the mind than at the table, where everything breaks down into long, over-analyzed, argued-to-death planning sessions by folks who frankly don’t have the actual experience or know-how to actually plan an operation like this.

Looks like someone’s taken a very interesting crack at the problem with an increasingly-popular effort. They’ve also taken the interesting approach of letting you into the process before they’re completely done with it.


This is the digital early access edition of the game. When you purchase this product, you’ll receive a PDF of the game in progress as well as every update of the PDF including the final, complete version of the game book. If you’d rather wait and buy the game once it’s fully finished, then this product isn’t for you! If you want to jump in and start playing now with the core materials of the game, then this PDF will serve you well.

The streets of Duskwall are haunted. By vengeful ghosts and cruel demons. By the masked spirit wardens and their lightning-hooks. By sharp-eyed inspectors and their gossiping crows. By the alluring hawkers of vice and pleasure. By thieves and killers and scoundrels like you — the Blades in the Dark.

The noble elite grow ever richer from the profits of their leviathan-hunting fleets and electroplasm refineries. The Bluecoats of the constabulary crack skulls and line their pockets with graft. The powerful crime syndicates leech coin from every business, brothel, drug den, and gambling house. And then there’s your crew of scoundrels: all the way down at the bottom rung. Can you make it to the top? What are you willing to do to get there? There’s only one way to find out…

Blades in the Dark is a tabletop role-playing game about a gang of criminals seeking their fortunes on the haunted streets of Duskwall. There are heists, chases, occult mysteries, dangerous bargains, bloody skirmishes, and, above all, riches to be had if you’re bold enough.

You play to find out if your fledgling crew can thrive amidst the threats of rival gangs, powerful noble families, malicious ghosts, the Bluecoats of the city watch, and the siren song of your scoundrel’s own vices.

Gameplay focuses on criminal endeavors called scores. A session of play usually consists of 1 or 2 scores, each followed by recovery, downtime projects, and advancement for the scoundrels and the crew.

In Blades in the Dark, your crew gets its own “character sheet” (chosen from different crew classes, like Cult, Thieves, or Smugglers), earns XP, and levels up alongside the characters. As you advance the crew, you unlock new options and abilities for the scoundrels and climb up the ladder of factions within the city.

The game features a robust core resolution mechanic which asks the group to characterize actions as desperaterisky, or dominant. Each choice provides a range of multiple outcomes, beyond simple success or failure. To highlight the roguish nature of the characters, players can accept a devil’s bargain (a bonus die with strings attached) to bolster their chances.

A good teamwork system is critical to making a game about a crew of scoundrels work. Blades in the Dark features a fun and intuitive teamwork mechanic that shifts the spotlight from one character to another as they go “on point” with their teammates backing them up.

Many RPG sessions grind to a halt when planning is required. The group ends up discussing options for hours — talking about the game rather than playing the game. Blades in the Darkcuts through all that with a lightning-fast planning technique that takes less than one minute. You make a few simple decisions and you’re off and running. In addition, the players can use flashback scenes to roll for a setup actions their characters performed in the past.

Barely days in, and there’s already some really interesting stuff popping up on the new Dungeon Masters Guild site, your only official site for D&D 5e digital content. To clarify, yes, it’s part of the DriveThruRPG network; your same login that works for DTRPG works also for DMG. If you want a full description and explanation of what the Dungeon Master’s Guild is and how it works (including how you can participate by creating and posting your own content), check out this very useful “What is the Dungeon Master’s Guild?” page.

Today’s Pick – the Gunslinger Martial Archetype for Fighters – is a fine example of exactly what is possible for anyone with a desire to create and share their 5th Edition ideas. This one is from Matthew Mercer, with fantastic art by Nick Robles. Pretty fair example of just how to do this.

Most warriors and combat specialists spend their years perfecting the classic arts of swordplay, archery, or polearm tactics. Whether duelist or infantry, martial weapons were seemingly perfected long ago, and the true challenge is to master them.

However, some minds couldn’t stop with the innovation of the crossbow. Experimentation with alchemical components and rare metals have unlocked the secrets of controlled explosive force. The few who survive these trivals of ingenuity may become the first to create, and deftly wield, the first firearms.

This archetype focuses on the ability to design, craft, and utilize powerful, yet dangerous ranged weapons. Through creative innovation and immaculate aim, you become a distant force of death on the battlefield. 

Inspired by converting from the Pathfinder class, retooled and altered for 5e and making it more my own, I hope you enjoy.

With the news of the day (for future readers, this is the day we learned of Alan Rickman’s passing), desolation is an appropriate word. This is a powerful new entry into the product line for Shadow of the Demon Lord, featuring new options and information for GMs and players alike.


The Desolation stretches beyond the Northern Reach, a blighted place, poisoned by dark magic and infested with undead. Fools and heroes alike test their mettle against the dangers this land poses, forcing them to contend with blood-thirsty vampires or dust storms of apocalyptic proportions. This sourcebook reveals one of the most dangerous places in the lands of Rûl, providing new options for players and Game Masters alike, such as: 

  • Revenant, Salamander, and Vampire ancestries 
  • New paths including the Prince of Darkness and Slayer of the Dead 
  • The Blood tradition and new spells for existing traditions 
  • Details about the Desolation and surrounding lands 
  • New relics and creatures like the Cauldron of Death and the Desiccated One 
  • A new adventure! 

Tombs of the Desolation reveals more details about the world of the Demon Lord, giving you all the tools you need to tell stories set in a desert wasteland!

Riggers get some major love with this one. You will doubtlessly find yourself saying “I feel the need. The need for speed!” If you don’t get that reference, you’re very young. 😉


Spin your wheels over slick sprawl streets while drifting away from hot pursuit. Fly through narrow canyons ahead of missiles twisting their way after you. Shrink down to insect size to get an eye on places outsiders aren’t supposed to see. These are just some of the ways riggers jack up their seemingly unending adrenaline rush, as they show that the hardest shadowrunners to hit are the ones that stay in motion.

Rigger 5.0 is the ultimate hot-rod, jet plane, speedboat, and more companion for Shadowrun. With dozens of new vehicles and drones, more detailed rules for vehicle chase and combat, and customization rules, this is a book that every rigger needs to get ahead of the competition and stay there. Get the feel of laying down hot rubber in the cold shadows of the Sixth World and a taste for speed, danger, and a good, clean getaway.

Rigger 5.0 is for use with Shadowrun, Fifth Edition