Categories
Dice Tabletop RPGs

Inking dice with a paint marker

Tonight’s dice inking project: a ruby Gamescience set I found in my dice box, and a big, beautiful Armory d30 Guy Fullerton​ gave me. I used an extra-fine point Sharpie white paint marker (paid link) on these.

Ultra-fine point is a great size because it fits the grooves on most dice perfectly, and it’s my inking weapon of choice. But as far as I know, Sharpie doesn’t make an ultra-fine point marker in white, and extra-fine point is as precise as it gets in the world of white paint markers.

The paint is more forgiving of slip-ups that permanent marker by virtue of being easier to wipe off, but it tends to ink around the grooves as well as inside them. I’m willing to bet a few weeks of being used, and bouncing around with other dice, will take care of that.

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
Categories
Tabletop RPGs

Where to buy old gaming books and RPG products online

I buy most of my gaming books online, but there’s not much of an art to finding new, in-print stuff. Old, out-of-print books, on the other hand, are fun to hunt down. There are added complications, like condition, rarity, and perceived value, that make things interesting.

I collect gaming books, but I don’t collect for value and I don’t keep my books pristine — I buy them to use. I look for tight bindings and non-crushed boxes, but apart from that I don’t get too fussy about condition — if it’s going to bump around in my backpack, who cares if I need to tape the corners, or if it’s got stuff written in the margins?

I also don’t view collecting old RPG books as a competition, and I hope this post helps you find something awesome! Here’s a rundown on my favorite online haunts for old gaming books, including six options and tips about each of them.

Noble Knight and Wayne’s Books

These are my two go-to stores for OOP gaming stuff. Both Noble Knight Games and Wayne’s Books grade products accurately, ship promptly, pack orders extremely well, and offer great customer service. Shipping rates are reasonable, too.

The condition thing is big, too. I pass up lots of stuff elsewhere that might be perfectly good because the seller doesn’t do a good job telling me about it, and Wayne and NKG absolutely nail condition ratings.

With respect to value, both stores know when they’ve got something that’s worth some money — you’re not going to find a rare book on the cheap. For my personal level of price sensitivity, Noble Knight’s prices for rarer books often feel too high.

Both stores typically offer what I consider good prices on non-rare stuff, and since that’s usually what I’m after that works out nicely. They also both get new stuff in all the time, and I usually make a point of browsing around every month or two. (I hide my wallet when I do this, but it doesn’t seem to help!)

I’ve been happy with 100% of my orders from both stores, and I highly recommend them both.

Ebay and Amazon

In my experience, Ebay and Amazon (paid link) both tend towards either very high or very low prices for old gaming books. Amazon has the further complication of automated price-adjustment bots used by some third-party sellers, which jack up prices based on other sellers’ prices and result in what should be a $10 book getting listed for a thousand bucks.

Both are good options, but I don’t trust either of them as a snapshot of what to think a book should be worth. Searching closed auctions on Ebay is a great way to see what the market is willing to pay, though.

I tend to like Ebay best when I’m willing to wait patiently for a good price. I set up a search to notify me when new matches are listed, and I lurk. I generally ignore auctions, and stick to Buy It Now listings.

With Amazon, OOP stuff is always going to be from a third-party seller. I flat-out won’t buy a book that doesn’t have at least a few specific condition notes in its listing; big charity bookstores are the worst offenders here, using the same description across all their items.

Wayne’s Books also lists on Amazon, and I can usually tell when a listing is his: The write-up is detailed and accurate, and the price is fair. Noble Knight has most of their stock cross-listed on Ebay, too, but I usually just go direct.

Lastly, feedback is king. I only buy from folks with good feedback, and I’ve had very few problems over many, many years of shopping on Ebay and Amazon.

Gator Games and The Hit Pointe

When I can’t find a book at the four sites above, I try Gator Games and The Hit Pointe.

Gator just lists most stuff as “used,” but they’ll happily answer questions and give you a more specific condition rating if you ask. The stuff I’ve bought from them in “used” condition has been just fine, so I don’t ask anymore.

The Hit Pointe has a quirky and clunky website, but they occasionally have stuff I can’t find anywhere else. I always email them to see if something is actually in stock before I order.

Neither store is a go-to, but I’ve been happy with my experiences with both of them.

When in doubt, Google

If I don’t have a good idea what an old book is worth, I Google it. If I want to see if there are stores tucked away in the dark corners of the web who might have something these six sites don’t, I Google it. When I want to know why something is special, I Google it — and more often than not, I wind up reading an old GROGNARDIA post, so I should save some time and remember to just start there!

The Acaeum and Wayne’s Books RPG Reference are both great resources for figuring out if something is supposed to have maps or counters, which printing you want, etc. Googling a book usually pops them up pretty quickly, too.

And that’s it! Six sites and a bit of enjoyable research usually gets the job done for me.

That said, I guarantee I’m missing or overlooking other great options. If you have a favorite haunt or two, or tips to share, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
Categories
Old school Zines

Matt Jackson’s guide to making zines

This step-by-step guide to printing, folding, and trimming zines by Matt Jackson is full of hard-won tips from the trenches. Things like adding “stops” to your long stapler with rubber bands to save time, and using a bone folder to fold the pages; I’d never heard of a bone folder before reading Matt’s post.

The Bone Folder. It sounds stupid but you MUST have one of these. Initially I refused to pay a couple of bucks for a simple piece of plastic, but boy was that stupid. I tried a few other things that appeared to be similar that I found around the house but there is some sort of voodoo magic used in the making of these things.

Tips like this one seem like things that could save wasted time, ink, and paper:

When folding especially thick paper or a thick book I break up the pages into small batches. As many pieces of paper fold, they don’t always line up correctly and you end up with terrible edges. Folding them in smaller groups makes the lines much better.

He even uses a corner rounder, which I don’t think I’ve seen on a zine before. I’ve seen rounded corners on little non-zine booklets, but I assumed that was a print shop sort of thing.

It’s hard for me to write about zines without wanting to try my hand at them, and Matt’s post makes it all sound pretty doable. I like zines, I like making stuff, I like quirky gaming supplements — zines live right at the intersection of All That Ave. and But You Don’t Need Another Project St. But it’s tempting! And Matt’s guide looks like an excellent starting point.

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
Categories
Old school

You too can ooh-ess-arr

After seeing the killer glam/KISS OSR logo that Stuart Robertson designed, I thought it’d be fun to make a variant with an umlaut (because metal, and because changing the pronunciation is funny), in purple (because I love purple).

Stuart shared the link for the font, Die Nasty (which is free for most uses, but do check the license), so I knocked this together.

If you’d like to use this logo, just conform to the terms of the Die Nasty font license and you’re all set. (If you want to attribute the logo to me, with a link here, that’d be awesome — but it’s not required.)

It resizes pretty cleanly, but if you’d prefer to recreate it and fiddle with stuff, just install the font and you’re off and running. (I adjusted the kerning in Word, and then a bit more in MS Paint, in order to get the “S” centered.)

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
Categories
Old school Tabletop RPGs Zines

Zine roundup: Wormskin #1

Is it a “roundup” if there’s only one issue? I don’t know, but I want to blog about Wormskin anyway! I’m still feeling out my approach to zine posts; this one turned into more of a full-blown review.

Wormskin is a brand-new OSR zine by Greg Gorgonmilk and Gavin Norman, available on DriveThruRPG (paid link) in both print and PDF.

The blurb on the back cover gives you a good idea of what Wormskin is all about:

WORMSKIN explores the mythic forest called Dolmenwood, a setting for use with BX campaigns or similar tabletop systems. Each issue will look at various elements of this eldritch realm situated on the leafy verges of Faerie, where austere Drunes rub elbows with weird elf-lords and talking beasts, where witches wander skyclad and armed with sinister magicks to bind the spirits of hapless adventurers. Be wary.

The first issue of Wormskin both teases and delivers. It teases because I’m left wanting to know much more about Dolmenwood and its inhabitants. There’s also a great little hex map absolutely covered in teasers: Manse of Lord Malbleat, Fort Vulgar, Prigwort — I want to know more!

I’ve never done much with Faerie, or related realms, in my D&D games, and Dolmenwood begs to be dropped into a game as a tone-changing surprise. I’m excited for future issues.

But it also delivers, because what’s on offer is excellent:

  • The moss dwarf species/class is just superb. It’s weird and funny and spooky and a little bit nuts, and it makes a great emissary for Dolmenwood. They’re plant-like, with associated traits: patches of lichen growing on their bodies, chest hair made of parsley, that sort of thing. They also get randomly determined knacks, my favorite of which is “nose wise” — at 7th level, the dwarf can smell subterfuge.
  • Mushrooms! I’ve always loved fungi in D&D, and the d30 fungus table is awash in splendid examples. Like cuckoo puke, which looks like a blob of slime, drab grey in color; smells sour; tastes like fish; and is psychoactive, anthropomorphising everything around you while its effects linger. The rest of the table is just as good.
  • Grimalkins are another species/class, cat-folk who are one part Cheshire Cat and one part folklore. They don’t grab me quite as much as moss dwarfs, but based on what this issue reveals about Dolmenwood they feel right at home there.
  • Closing out this issue is a monster, the root thing. Root things are “humanoid root vegetables which emerge from the soil in autumn to hunt hapless humans and demi-humans. Eyeless and mouthless, root things [hunt] by scent alone and drag their victims beneath the earth to be digested over the winter months, entwined in roots.” If the movie Labyrinth dropped acid, the root thing would be in it.

The moss dwarf article also includes my favorite illustration in issue #1, this piece by Andrew Walter:

There’s a unity of vision and purpose to Wormskin — it’s clear that Greg and Gavin know what’s coming, and are as jazzed about sharing it as I am about reading it. While the look is polished, the overall feel of the issue is rawlished: The creative vision behind Dolmenwood is uniquely quirky, and it feels like something the authors would have written even if no one else was going to read it.

If that sounds like your tub of monkskull[1] jam, pick up a copy of Wormskin #1 (paid link) .

[1] Another mushroom from the fungus article!

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
Categories
B/X D&D D&D Dice Tabletop RPGs

How to reduce the value of a Moldvay Basic set by 50% in 7 easy steps

Step 1

Remove box from shelf.

Step 2

Open box.

Step 3

Remove sealed bag of dice from box.

Step 4

Cut open dice bag.

Step 5

Remove dice.

Step 6

Clean dice with soap and water to remove crayon residue.

Step 7

Ink dice with Sharpie.

Bonus step (optional)

Realize your white paint marker hasn’t come in the mail, and save the dark red d12 to ink later because you know black isn’t going to show up well.

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
Categories
DCC RPG Old school Tabletop RPGs Zines

Zine roundup: Crawl!, issues 1-11

Crawl! (also available on DriveThruRPG; paid link) is a DCC RPG fanzine designed and published by Dak Ultimak, with a rotating cast of writers (which often includes Dak). I recently snagged the full run, and this zine is really, really well conceived and executed. It’s rawlished — both raw and polished at the same time, which is a balance I enjoy in zines. And it’s hard to pull off!

Crawl! also pairs well with Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad, the subject of my first zine roundup.

The Crawl! blog lists the contents of every issue, so I’m not going to do that. Instead, here’s my favorite thing from each issue (it was often hard to choose just one!):

  • Issue 1: The last article in this issue is a gem: spell conversion rules for non-DCC spells, in just two digest-size pages. Want to port a D&D spell into DCC, or play a D&D character in a DCC campaign? Boom. Spells are covered. (Special mention: the spell “Snafufubar,” new in this issue.)
  • Issue 2: “Be Prepared,” which covers new equipment, is a gem. DCC pricing, and flavor, for everything from lodging to bow drills to lutes to glass eyes (for those inevitable funnel-related manglings) — all in two pages. I’d love to see this folded together with the core book’s equipment list.
  • Issue 3: “Magic Wand,” a multi-page spell that enables the caster to create a kickass wand, is a strong choice, but it’s edged out by “Let’s Get Familiar,” which expands the options for familiars to include floating tesseracts, stained-glass butterflies, and crawling hands.
  • Issue 4: The entirety of issue #4 is an adventure, the highlight of which is its monsters. They include venomous deathwolves, door frame mimics, and living flesh mounds. The latter are particularly gruesome: They have a chance to absorb victims’ limbs on a successful attack.
  • Issue 5: I dropped “Quickie Wandering Monster Tables” straight into my DCC campaign, resisting my inclination to build my own charts by terrain type in favor of doing nothing and using Jeff Rients’ excellent work instead.
  • Issue 6: I’m not big on new classes, and this is the new class issue…but the gnome is great. Gnomes are illusionists, and they get a Trick Die added to their spellcasting that makes it less likely their spells will fail. They can also cast sturdy illusions, which become tangible, and scripted — triggered or time-based — illusions. Neat!
  • Issue 7: Kirin Robinson’s article “Lost in Endless Corridors” takes a hard, sharp look at including mazes in games, why they often suck, and how to make them not suck.
  • Issue 8: This one’s all about guns, and while the gun rules themselves are slick and very DCC, “Invasion!” is awesome. It’s a toolkit for introducing firearms into your game by way of alien invaders. The invaders might be rum-soaked Napoleonic soldiers who came through a wormhole and crave your blood, or they might be demons from across the sea, staves barking fire, who hunt you like game. This is one of my favorite articles out of the entire Crawl! run to date.
  • Issue 9: Like issue #4, this one’s all adventure — the 0-level funnel “The Arwich Grinder.” It starts with weird redneck hillfolk and winds up in madness and giant, invisible babies and cannibalism. It’s fantastic.
  • Issue 10: #11 is classes again, but these grab me more — they’re alternate species-based classes. The dwarven priest is my favorite, managing to feel both very D&D and very DCC, with Mighty Deeds, divine aid, and the ability to smell treasure.
  • Issue 11: “Fantastic Forms of Sea Ship Propulsion and Their Congenital Complications” is a great article, offering up ships powered by moonlight, pulled by giant eels, or with wind-wraiths filling their web-like sails.

I also dig Crawl!’s covers, particularly these three.

(Scott Ackerman)

(Mitchell Hudson)

(Mario T.)

I’d heard nothing but good things about Crawl!, and it doesn’t disappoint. My “blind buy” of the full run (about $3-$5 per issue) was well worth it. Highly recommended!

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
Categories
Dice Tabletop RPGs

Removing crayon from old-school precision-edge dice

I’ve discovered that if I’m careful I can de-ink — de-crayon, really — old precision-edge dice, then ink them anew with a Sharpie. My first real test of this was tonight, using the dice from my Cook Expert set. They’d been nicely crayoned years ago (by someone else), but crayon isn’t really my jam.[1]

Here are my Cook dice, all cleaned up and with the d6 re-inked:

Needle me, baby

I use a sewing needle (the kind with the little plastic ball on the butt end) to pick out the crayon. I start on the end of a number (any end), slip the needle in, and gently push forward while popping it up. Sometimes the whole number will just come right out in one piece; more often, it comes out in little bits after some poking around.

I do one pass, then massage the die under hot water (as hot as my hands can take), then do another pass with the needle, and then finally clean the dice with hand soap and hot water. I dry them off with a paper towel and let them sit for a couple of minutes. The whole process takes several minutes a die, and the smaller the numbers the harder they are to pick clean.

Per Jeff Rients’ excellent post on inking GameScience dice, I use an ultra-fine point Sharpie (paid link), which is a perfect fit for the grooves. So far, it’s fit both some GameScience dice I experimented with and these old TSR dice (which may have also been made by GameScience, I’m not sure).

I’ve found that the crayon doesn’t need to be 100% removed — just get as close to 100% as you can. The Sharpie will push around or cover over little flecks as you run it up and down the grooves.

The results

Here’s how my Cook dice turned out:

These Sharpies also come in a variety of colors (paid link), but not in white. In white, I can only find them as fine-point paint markers (paid link), not ultra-fine.

I’ve tried a few colors on gem dice, and they don’t show up at all. In the past, I’ve also used the white paint markers, and the points are just wide enough to spill over the edges of the grooves. I’m going to fiddle with some of those options as I acquire other precision-edge dice. If my fiddling is productive, I’ll post about it here.

[1] I find that crayon-inked dice look great at first, and I enjoy the actual inking process. But the crayon chips, rubs away, and gets banged up by the other dice in my bag, and over time that just kind of bugs me. I prefer a cleaner, more permanent solution. These won’t be perfect, and all of my favorite dice are all worn and dinged up in any case, but I can’t get past the crayon.

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
Categories
Old school Tabletop RPGs

Hill Cantons and Building Dynamic Sandboxes

Chris Kutalik has been running his marvelous-sounding Hill Cantons campaign for seven years, and blogging — with clarity and vigor — about his experiences along the way. I love reading about sandbox and hexcrawl games, and Chris knows his stuff. (He’s also published several books, three of which — Slumbering Ursine Dunes [paid link], Fever-Dreaming Marlinko [paid link], and Hill Cantons Compendium II [paid link]– are currently winging their way to me.)

His series on dynamic sandboxes is a fantastic read:

  1. Building Dynamic Sandboxes Part I
  2. Building Dynamic Sandboxes Part II
  3. Building Dynamic Sandboxes Part III

Here’s the core premise, from the first post in the series:

Often providing dynamism is just a matter of thinking through after a session ends how the various pieces of your sandbox (the machinations/reactions of NPCs high and low, what an in-game activity like a massive treasure haul did to change a base settlement, etc) are organically pushed and pulled by players (and other actors), but it helps immensely to develop a range of tools and habits to give it depth and consistent motion.

Also from the first post, this gem is half of Chris’ technique for making wandering encounter tables (already a fantastic piece of worldbuilding tech) more dynamic:

Adding a variable New Developments slot that is basically a place holder for a special encounter tied to either a recent news event or an action that the party takes. A concrete example is that there has been a recent invasion by horse-nomads (kozaks) just to the north. If that slot is hit on the chart the party will hit something that has to do with event, maybe it’s a patrol by the local militia, foraging stragglers from the horde, deserters etc.

If that sounds like your jam, check out the whole series. They’re quick reads, but dense with inspiration and ideas.

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
Categories
Board games

Kids’ board games my whole family enjoys (around ages 4-7)

We like playing board games as a family, and it’s always a fun challenge to find age-appropriate board games that all of us will enjoy. It’s easier to find age-appropriate games that only my daughter, Lark, will enjoy, and we play those, too — but the sweet spot is when everyone is genuinely engaged.

Looking over our collection, these 12 games that have become family favorites. It’s a pretty varied mix, including dexterity, party, memory, and abstract games, but the one thing that unites them is that actual decisions are involved, and those decisions are enjoyable for all of us. Some are games I mentally categorize as grown-up games, but my kiddo enjoys them too.

These games, with my ratings, are listed below in alphabetical order. (You can see all of my current ratings on BoardGameGeek, too.)

  • Animal Upon Animal (8/10; paid link) is right on the edge of the “dexterity games I count among my non-kids’ games” line. It’s Haba, so the pieces are fantastic and the game is quick, fun, and accessible, and it plays well with 2-4.
  • Click Clack Lumberjack (8/10; paid link
  • ), also called Toc Toc Woodman, is one of my overall favorite dexterity games, not just among kids’ games. It requires a balance of finesse and confidence that neatly levels the playing field in mixed-age groups.
  • Connect Four (6/10; paid link
  • ) is the lowest-rated game on this list, and a hoary old chestnut that has been eclipsed by many, many other games…but it takes like two minutes to play, and my daughter loves it. It’s been a good one for observing (and teaching) her about tactics.
  • Don’t Break the Ice (7/10; paid link
  • ) is another lightning-quick two-player dexterity game that tends to get pretty same-y, but it’s so short that we usually play several times in a row anyway.
  • Gobblet Gobblers (8/10; paid link
  • ) is an abstract two-player game that makes Tic-tac-toe interesting by giving you the option of covering each others’ pieces. It’s a simple change, but it makes all the difference — and a game still only takes a couple of minutes. We find ourselves playing several times in a row.
  • Hold On Scooby-Doo (7/10; paid link
  • ) is a light dexterity game for two that takes about as long to set up as it does to play. It’s just tricky enough to have been fun for several years, and the theme is cute.
  • Labyrinth (7/10; paid link
  • ) is a solid game, and it scales extremely well with age. When my daughter was little, we gave her all sorts of advantages; as she’s aged, we’ve removed them to keep it competitive. This is her overall favorite game, at least for the past year or two.
  • The Magic Labyrinth (9/10; paid link
  • ) is the prettiest game on this list, and has the cleverest board. Its use of magnets and big, pleasing pieces is ingenious, and it’s probably the only memory game I genuinely enjoy. My kiddo is very good at this one.
  • My First Carcassonne (8/10; paid link
  • ) is one I wish my daughter picked more often, because the decisions are interesting and it nudges up against other games — like Carcassonne (paid link) — that drift into grown-up territory. It’s a beautiful game, too, another one that plays well with 2-4.
  • Reverse Charades (9/10; paid link
  • ) is one of our overall favorite party games with adults, but my daughter likes it, too. She doesn’t know all of the cards, but tends to pick them up quickly once her teammates start acting things out.
  • Rhino Hero (8/10; paid link
  • ) is a hoot, a great card-based dexterity game with a tiny footprint, and one I happily bring to parties. It’s solid with two players, and with more than two. (I bet it would be fun drunk, too.)
  • Suspend (8/10; paid link
  • ) is another example of dexterity being the “great leveler” in kids’ games played with the whole family. It starts out easy, but the whole assemblage turns into a hot mess pretty quickly, and it’s a blast.

This list will probably look different in a year, never mind in another few years, but for now it’s a good snapshot of this particular sweet spot in my family — the games we all enjoy, and in many cases have enjoyed for the past few years.

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.