Monday, January 21, 2013

Book Review: SnarfQuest

Larry Elmore is one of my favorite fantasy artists.  Anyone who has played Dungeons & Dragons(D&D) is familiar with his work, since many of his paintings and drawings graced the box and booklet covers.  And continue to do so, like this one:
Anyone familiar with D&D's early years, probably has seen at least a copy or three of the Dragon magazine to supplement their game knowledge.  Since I wasn't a subscriber to Dragon, I only caught snippets of Snarf's escapades during its publication period.I still own numerous copies of Dragon, (which is still available as an on-line magazine), but I don't have all the issues that featured Larry's SnarfQuest, (Issues # 75--145). 
When I spotted a copy of Snarfquest--The Book at Half Price Books, I snatched right away.  It was practically a reflex action. 
Now here was my chance to read the complete Quest for the Crown saga!
Snarf, a blundering adventurer, is on a year-long quest to gain the most fame and fortune in order to become King of Zeetville.

Mayhem ensues.
Despite the not-quite-half-price of the book, which was about $2 less than the original 1987 listing price.  I'm very happy I bought this copy when I did, especially after looking at the collectors' prices on from $30.53 to $236.04!  Judging from the folds and beverage stains on my recently acquired copy, I don't think I'll be getting top-dollar should I ever decide to sell it.
I'm happy I've had the chance to read this comedic tale in its entirety.  Elmore's story is quirky-funny to the point of being silly.  However, as a gamer, I remember many a game session that started with serious intent, only to have it degenerate into silliness.
Snarfquest was published long before such things as "Amazon Reviews" came into being.  This being the case, only 3 people provided feedback for the book--all of them gave it 5-stars.  As soon as I finish this review and log on to Amazon, I'll add another 5-star rating. 
Non-D&D players may, or may not think Snarf's misadventures are as funny as us gamers do.  However, anyone into fantasy literature, or graphic novels should still get a kick out of it.  The book also contains a page of character stats for D&D and AD&D, (see my previous post on OSRIC gaming), along with an additional full-color story that wasn't part of the Dragon's series.
Despite being out of print, interest in Snarf continues.  Several years ago, a role playing game and a card game were developed, which received mediocre to moderate praise. 
But fear not, you long-time comic strip fans: 

Starting this month, Snarf will start running on Knights of the Dinner Table (KoDT) Webstrips sometime this month. 
KoDT is popular in it's own right for parodying D&D and roleplaying in general, so SnarfQuest will fit right in with Kenzer & Co

Saturday, January 19, 2013

OSRIC Game Session

Intro to OSRIC

When my gaming buddy Dan met the woman he'd eventually marry and explained his (our) gaming hobby, she asked:  "People still play Dungeons & Dragons?"

Why--yes--in fact--we do.

D&D as it's commonly referred to, is now on it's 4th Edition (4E), while the wizards of Wizards of the Coast (WotC) are in the arcane process of conjuring up a batch of 5th Edition.

However, not everyone is happy with the later renditions, especially 4E.  I liked 3rd Edition D&D and while I have several 4E rulebooks I've yet to play it.  I can't comment on the any of the issues some (a lot?) of players have against it. 
But I can tell you is this:  Within months of 4E being published, copies of the rulebooks ended up in the used bookstores.  (That's where I got mine).

With all the updating and revising, there has been a longing to go back to the "good old days," or "old school" role playing games (RPGs).  OSRIC, or Old School Reference Index and Compilation, helps satisfy this yearning for the RPG days of yore.  (Anyone remember THAC0?). 

You can still find tattered and beverage-stained copies of AD&D--or--you can simply check out Knights-n-Knaves and download a PDF index of the rules--for free. Having sold all my AD&D books to finance purchases of 3E, I downloaded the PDF. 

Note:  I found reading the print to be extremely difficult.  I needed both my reading glasses and a magnifying glass to make out the content.  So it may be best to print the file.
Puyallup Wargamers Delve into Retro Gaming
Several months ago, Chris started an OSRIC campaign involving several players.  I didn't participate until I happened to attended a group council meeting.  The purpose of this "White Council" was to establish a coherent gaming schedule for the upcoming year(s).  After the meeting adjourned, I was invited to join the campaign in-progress.

The Campaign Synopsis
While traveling through the border region, the party became involved in a plague outbreak.  At least one entire village succumbed to a disease that turned people into--well, not quite zombies--but that's what we called them.  Tell-tale signs of infection were a yellowing of the eyes and exhaling, or giving off brown vapors through the skin.
Alarmed by the spreading plague, the neighboring elves slaughtered anyone they caught wandering the area in an attempt to contain the contagion. 
While evading elven patrols, the party stumbled across a remote castle that turned out to be the epicenter of the plague.  After defeating several monsters and other creatures, the adventurers determined that the source of the plague was a spore-spewing, yellow fungus that overran the castle's domain. 
I joined the party as they delved into the castle's caverns.  Our charismatic ranger, Fodder, was disfigured when her head was enveloped by some blob-like creature and we had to burn it off her.  Once we made it to the cavern, we discovered a semi-ruined temple--locked from the inside.  The halfling thief, Brony, snuck inside through a small hole in the wall and discovered a fungus farm, along with an entire column, or pillar encrusted with the yellow stuff.

(Image:  Our party's standard marching order)
We made our way to an uninfected, but disreputable village ("...a wretched hive of scum and villainy...") to trade some of our treasure for barrels of oil and a cart.  After the usual haggling, along with being shortchanged, we made our way back to the castle to burn the fungoid "grow operation."

The Campaign Finale
We rolled the barrels down to the temple, being careful not to burst any of the nearby fungus spores.  Our crew consisted of the following characters:
  Fodder (human-female ranger), Brony (halfling thief), Kylation (human fighter), Quade (human ranger), Baldor Almonger, Harlan (half-elf fighter/cleric) and Fels (human monk).
We set up the oil barrels around the temple and on several fungus patches outside the temple.  Just as we were about to enter the temple, several of our members became concerned about leaving the rest of the caverns unexplored.  The main cavern was large enough to serve as a lair for some ginormous monster.  So we set off to ensure nothing would sneak up on us while in the midst of our fungus eradication operation.
That's when we nearly killed ourselves.
Shortly after setting out, four of us, Quade, Baldor, Harlan and Fels, saw translucent blob-like creatures attach themselves to the back heads of Fodder, Brony and Kylation.  We tried cutting and singeing them off Kylation, but nothing had any effect.  When the afflicted members tried swiping them off, their hands and weapons passed through their bodies.
In fact, the afflicted trio accused us of hallucinating at best, or of outright treachery.  Having reached an impasse, we traipsed back to the temple, vowing to settle this matter later.  Brony snuck back in and discovered the fungus encrusted pillar disappeared and there was a strong acidic smell in the air. 
When he made his way to the front of the temple, to unbar the main doors--the monster struck!

A purple tentacle lashed out and entwined itself around the halfling's neck.  Through fortitude, willpower, or just plain luck, Brony managed to unbar the doors as the tentacle dragged him back towards the hungry creature.  Kyalation burst into the room, winding his sword arm back for a mighty swing a the tentacle.  My character, Baldor, entered next and began an invocation for a Spiritual Hammer.  Everyone else piled in, swinging swords or flinging arrows.  Everyone that is, except for Fels, who crept in rolling an oil barrel infront of him.

Baldor's spiritual hammer turned out to be more like a spiritual whiffle ball bat, inflicting no wounds against the monster.  Fels managed to roll the barrel in front of the creature, while Quade peppered the creature with arrows--some even doing damage--and everyone else wielding real weapons, hacked and slashed at the beast.  The tentacle holding Brony was sliced in half but the halfing had to untangle himself, because everyone else was too busy fighting.
Once the barrel was in place, Fels stove it in and set the gushing oil on fire.  Within seconds, the creature, which we now noticed was either made of, or taken over by the infectious fungus, began to burn.  As the creature cooked, we ran out and rolled in the rest of the barrels to put the fungus farm to the torch.

We fled out the main doors as the flames engulfed the temple's interior.  Once we reached the surface and in the full light of day; Fodder, Brony and Kylation noticed the rest of us had a slight yellow tint to our eyes and we coughed brown dust out of our lungs--the initial signs of fungus infection.  Apparently, hallucinations are another symptom of the fungal plague, but previous victims never lived long enough to pass on this knowledge.
And so it was off to a more reputable village, to sell the goods we looted acquired from the castle and seek a healer for the four of us under the fungal influence. 
After the haggling and paying more equitable "handling charges," each of us earned over 2,000 gold pieces.  Although the four of us suffering from fungus infection ended up being a couple hundred gold pieces poorer after making a "nominal donation" to the healer's temple.
Despite our newfound fame and fortune, a few questions remain unanswered:
What kind of creature did we fight? 
Are there any more like it?
And, who was running the fungus farm?
To be answered--maybe--the next time we gather for an epic OSRIC adventure.
Final Thoughts on OSRIC
While I still feel 3E is my favorite version, it was fun going back to a set of rules that most of us grew up with and could easily re-familiarize ourselves with.  I look forward to the next session.
Cast of Characters
Fodder--played by John
Brony--played by Adrian
Kylation--played by Kyle
Quade--played by Greg
Baldor Almonger--played by Ted
Harlan--played by Greg
Fels--played by Ken

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Best wishes to all of you throughout this New Year. 

Thank you for being fans of Stern Rake Studio.