Wednesday, July 23, 2014


I have mixed feelings about hexcrawl adventures.
On the one hand, a hexcrawl has the potential to be a fun puzzle box adventure with geographical locations serving as evidence for larger schemes or ancient histories waiting for the players to discover.
On the other hand, I have never seen a group of players embrace the exploratory nature of a hexcrawl adventure.
Maybe I handle the adventures wrong when I attempt to GM them, but in the past the best experiences I have gotten out of hexcrawl adventure modules is in using them as a treasure box of resources to throw into a campaign. Maybe this is how most other GMs use them too?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Apocalypse World: Weirder & Weirder (4th and 5th sessions)

The Cast of Characters

the Maestro d' - William H. Esquire Esquire owns the Arcade, a bar and brothel with a few working video game cabinets. The town it's a part of has also come to be referred to as Arcade.

the Tribal - Gau is a member of the Good Deal tribe, a hardy and pragmatic people who reside in an isolated grotto.

the Hoarder - Snail lives inside of a giant spherical suit of advanced technological origin called The House.

the Kid - Kidboy is an orphan who has been taken in by William H. Esquire Esq. as a protege.

the Savvyhead - Spector has set up a garage in the middle of Arcade

the Marmot - Marlowe has been in Arcade long enough to solve one murder, and realize that nobody is really in charge.

The Map

click for bigger

Gau returned to Arcade with some members of the Good Deal tribe. He has been selected by Blind Blue, the leader of their tribe, to decide whether the tribe should fortify where they live or look for a new place to move on to.

Kidboy manages to steal his lucky charm, a safety pin, back from Snail while he's sleeping. Betty's Sister begins to mother Kidboy and tries to encourage him to toughen up, assigning him to guard the door to the Arcade with Tango.

Happy ran into the Arcade missing two of his fingers and bleeding profusely. They stopped the bleeding and Happy was reticent about what happened but managed to reveal he had a confrontation with the Fisher Family, one of them had very sharp teeth.

Some of the Fisher Family showed up just as Ritchie returned to town. Ritchie explained that he worked for Sweet, and she wanted to offer William H. Esquire Esq. free food in exchange for free passage to Sweet's Army. Sweet is the leader of some group from the north and they were going to move through the Big 90 and Montana, but nobody in Montana will even talk to them and Ritchie reveals that this is where he lost his eye. The Arcade is an alternative for them where they feel they wouldn't have to fight anybody to travel through. William H. Esquire Esq. decides to hold a feast for everybody in Arcade and declares he won't make a deal unless he can talk to Sweet face to face.

There are rumors of a talking rat in town.

William H. Esquire Esq. asks Spector to start work on a secret portable tunnel so that he'll always be able to escape the Arcade if it gets attacked. Spector goes back to her garage to work on the project and sends out her crew to scavenge for tech and finds out that Silver is in Arcade and trying to finish his Meno Moon Array. She helps him finish it and as it turns on she makes the thing speak and has a vision of what the Meno Moon Array does; it sends a laser signal to a base on the Moon so that the inhabitants there, sentient uplifted dolphins, can pinpoint coordinates for landing back on the Earth.

William H. Esquire Esq. then goes to confront Braille whose been moving in on his business. Rather than convince her that they should work together, he hypnotizes her and she begins to follow him around. He discovers that she's being supplied by Gams, somebody who wants in on William H. Esquire Esq.'s business.

The next day Ritchie and his gang leave town. They offer William H. Esquire Esq. the opportunity to punish one of their own, who had previously tried to kill one of the Arcade's regulars Lamprey, but William H. Esquire Esq. lets them go.

Gau prays to his ancestors for guidance and they reveal that a key component for Spector's project, the secret portable tunnel, is in Montana. William H. Esquire Esq. begins making plans for a trip to Montana when Betty's Sister is killed, apparently by Kidboy's safety pin. A few people witness it, but any who are told what happened remain skeptical. Kidboy insists he only punched Betty's Sister and didn't kill her.

William H. Esquire Esq. orders his crew to clean up the bar and fetch the undertaker, then goes back to Braille's place, the Stax, to work out what she'll do for him while he travels to Montana. He gets ambushed on the way by a few disgruntled Ballers.

Marlowe walks into the bar while people are still debating whether Kidboy's safety pin could have killed Betty's Sister and a long investigation of Kidboy's safety pin ensues. At one point Kidboy swallows the safety pin to make sure nobody can get it, but he begins to feel ill and is convinced to vomit it up. Gau has a vision of pools of blood around the Arcade all circling toward the tree on the edge of town and funneling down into the safety pin from the trees' roots.

Snail finally gets Gau's hat, apparently just by asking for it.

There is a shootout just outside of the Arcade. Marlowe and Gau's tribal gang makes short work of the six bikers. They are all wearing a similar kind of leather fatigue outfit that Marlowe has seen on the road coming to Arcade from Cellar Town. When the fighting is done, somebody discovers William H. Esquire Esq.'s body. He's alive but unconscious.

Another Map

click for bigger

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Apocalypse World: Power & Glory (3rd session)

William H. Esquire Esquire is a bar and brothel owner, he stumbled across the Arcade and has made the most of it, but now is looking to upgrade the business. There were once games on the second floor but most of them are in various states of disrepair. He spent a week traveling south to the Barges with his custodian, Lovelace, looking to hire a technician to bring back to his Arcade only to find that he had permanently soured his relationship with Rolfball, one of the Barges leaders. As Rolfball's men hunted William H. Esquire Esq. another local stirred up dissent against Rolfball, and a gang war ensued. William H. Esquire Esq. slipped away from the Barges and when he returned home from his journey found that a technician had already settled in the makeshift town around his Arcade. Now he seems to have no worries, as a few small gangs followed him back to the Arcade and seem to be bringing some much needed customers back to his part of the world.

Gau is a member of the Good Deal tribe, named such by others since they always seem to give good deals on the food they trade. Gau has been working for William H. Esquire Esq. for several weeks now, acting as a guide on his trip to the Barges and sometimes as a guard at the Arcade. Gau is an excellent tracker and survivalist, and his skills seem to be going to waste while he hangs out with William H. Esquire Esq. which is perhaps why he has taken up a drug habit. Except the drugs that Lovelace supplies give him visions of things that were and things that are and things to come. It's all very unsettling. In the meantime, Gau's tribe is also branching out...

Snail is a scrawny man hiding away inside of a giant spherical suit of advanced technological origin. He calls the suit the House and seems to have a unique connection to it that allows him to communicate with it's mechanical brain. He followed William H. Esquire Esq. back to the Arcade with the promise of assisting the business, but now that he has arrived the House has other plans and has coerced him to settle into the town underneath a tree. This tree just appeared one day as a sinkhole swallowed part of the town and nobody seems to question it, but nobody in town wants to go near the tree either. Except for Snail and Kidboy.

Kidboy was orphaned in the Barges when the fighting first broke out between Barker, Rolfball, Gnarly, and Jackabacka. In the wake of another fight that left Rolfball and Jackabacka dead, Kidboy followed William H. Esquire Esq. back to the Arcade under promises of games to play and style to be learned. Kidboy was instrumental in getting power back to the second floor of the Arcade and now spends his time playing an old beat up Ms.Pac-Man cabinet.

Spector is good with her hands and has an uncanny technological knowledge that lets her build or repair just about anything. She's new to the Arcade, having fled the increasingly theocratic reign over Hanford from the Church of the Reformed Autumn. Spector was once a member of the church, but is not old enough to remember when Autumn returned to the facility underneath Hanford. She is old enough to remember the last time cultists from Montana traded in Hanford, and spoke of the Arcade to the west, where their once and future prophet The Truth died. Lamprey's occasional visits to Hanford helped embolden her decision to leave when he arrived with news that William H. Esquire Esq. was looking for somebody to repair his games.

Clyde followed William H. Esquire Esq.'s group back to the Arcade, but once there he stayed out of sight and was never seen nor heard from by anyone.

In the last session
William H. Esquire Esq. was very happy that Rolfball's old gang, the Ballers, and Jackabacka's tribe, the Swampys, followed him back to the Arcade. It could only mean he would have more customers! Within one day the Ballers spoiled that illusion by burning down half of the still-standing warehouse where Spector was sleeping, and the Swampys continued to exercise their cannibalistic dietary practices when they found the freshly killed body of Twice, one of William H. Esquire Esq.'s prostitutes.
Spector spent her waking hours drinking booze, looking for a place to set up home (twice), and trying to fix the Arcade's second floor power issues and while there was no lack of supplies, she found Kidboy's assistance invaluable due to his thin arms.
The tree on the edge of town seemed to grow in the night and turned over earth and dirt as it grew. Kidboy grew bold and tried to climb the tree with little difficulty, but when he plucked a leaf from one of the branches was thrown to the ground by the branches of the tree itself. While he was dazed on the ground, Snail opened up the House to Kidboy and the House searched Kidboy's mind and soul. After this, Snail offered a deal. If Kidboy would deliver Gau's gnarly hat to Snail then he would offer Kidboy anything he wanted from the House.
Gau had his hands full after taking some weird drugs, having visions of a gun fight in the Arcade and then falling asleep to visions of the previous owner's love life. William H. Esquire Esq.'s bouncer, Happy, kept trying to take Gau or Kidboy back to his home but was thwarted by William H. Esquire Esq. at every opportunity.
The next day, when William H. Esquire Esq. faced off with some of the Ballers trying to wreck the mobile crane in the center of the yard, he noticed some of the Swampys feasting on his missing prostitute Twice. He called his gang over and ordered them to force a halt to the cannibalism, during the fighting a few people died and Gau was hurt, but the Swampys promised to stop eating people.
A visitor to the Arcade, a one-eyed pimply-faced teenager named Ritchie, brought some good barter into town, but he left as soon as the fighting died down.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

0206 Rhodesia (Empire)

Atmosphere: Breathable
Surface Water: 80%
Weather/Climate: Temperate/Normal
Biosphere: Miscible
Population: 2 billion (Tech 4)
Tags: Psionics Worship, Pilgrimage Site

Rhodesia is a wealthy and powerful Imperial system; most Imperial Naval officers and commanders hail from Rhodesia. It has an unusually dense core but surprisingly little tectonic activity. The population of Rhodesia generally revere psionic powers, and anybody who shows a genetic predisposition toward the development of psionic powers is given academic patronage by the state. The rest of the population works in the shadows of the psionic elite, scrabbling an existence as farmers on the rocky slopes of the many landmasses or fishing the vast oceans.

When Rhodesia and Elizabeth reunited there was a brief culture clash, but Elizabeth have integrated Rhodesian psychics into most positions of political or military power. Only the reigning monarchy of Elizabeth seems to be the only remaining bastion of leaders without psionics, but Rhodesian officials have plans to integrate their own nobles into the royal lineage.

In the wake of exploration and expansion, a hardscrabble band of rebels (terrorists?) have arisen on Rhodesia with the sole aim of limiting psionic power and deposing the psychic leadership in favor for civilian democratic rule. They are incredibly unpopular but have so far eluded capture and elimination in most levels of government where they work their sabotage.

Law: Repressive
Starbase: A class, in orbit; A class, on surface

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ghostwood Haunts, by Johnstone Metzger

Ghostwood Haunts is the third of Johnstone Metzger's Dungeon World series, and while it's the third in the series it doesn't directly follow the events of either of the previous two modules. It does, however, focus on a town called Knifesbridge and Metzger's other series of modules is named River Knife. Crossovers are definitely possible, but don't seem expected or necessary.

I have to say that I wish all adventure modules were written like this.

None of Metzger's previous works feel like traditional adventure modules in any sense of the words, there is never really a central plot or story but you're given an environment, perhaps a mountainous valley or an island or a riverside town, with all of the tools for introducing a series of events that can lead to really bad things happening. In Ghostwood Haunts, if the players neglect or ignore any one event than the greedy brigands or undead things lurking in the shadows will quickly take control of or destroy the township caught in the middle.

In this adventure an unscrupulous mayor holds sway over the town of Knifesbridge where the populace is being terrorized by bandits calling themselves the Wolf Pack. This threat, though formidable, almost seems like a red herring compared to the coven of witch-ghosts that populate the town and the Ghostwood surrounding it. While it takes some work to free these witches from their undead prisons, one careless player could conceivably do it while searching for the Wolf Pack, and one NPC will definitely do it if the players spend too long attempting to smoke out the Wolf Pack from their hideouts.

Metzger illustrates many connections and details between the NPCs and threats, but even if a piece of info seems useless it's still usable and can feed back onto the adventure he has outlined in some way. The names of some of the NPCs seem contrived or lazily written, and maybe that's because he expects you to change them, for example there is no way I'm ever going to refer to the mayor as Old King Cole. But otherwise, I really enjoyed reading this and plan on using this the next time I GM as there is plenty of wiggle room to file off the serial numbers and place this town into any fantasy setting.

You can purchase both pdf and print versions of "DW3 - Ghostwood Haunts" at DriveThruRPG or just a print version at Lulu
Johnstone Metzger also has a blog and a patreon campaign for writing up monsters in Dungeon World and Labyrinth Lord stats

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Island of Fire Mountain, by Johnstone Metzger

Island of Fire Mountain is given the code DW2, it's the second Dungeon World adventure by Johnstone Metzger though it doesn't directly connect to or follow the events of "DW1 - Lair of the Unknown" and after the scenario presented in that first adventure you could be forgiven for assuming that this module is a callback to another famous D&D module. It definitely has some similarities but the inhabitants and plotline are wholly original.

There is no railroading and there is no predetermined mission for the island. If this adventure had been published as a Labyrinth Lord (or any other similar OSR rule system) module then it would probably be classified as a hexcrawl. The booklet consists of five parts; an introduction laying out the island with ways of landing the PCs onto it along with two fronts for creating conflicts with the colonial inhabitants and the tribal natives, a section on the colonial fort that has been practically abandoned but is still occupied by desperate ne'er-do-wells hoping to find a way off the island, the middle part describes the island proper with all of its natives both humane and monstrous, the fourth part describes a ruined city at the base of the island's central volcano in the heart of the jungle, and the last section is a collection of custom rules and a new class to introduce to your game if you feel they're appropriate.

This book is brimming with possibilities. There is no central plotline or story, but there are conflicts that could arise and there is plenty of legroom for a creative GM to take what is here and mold it to fit around her PCs. I kept finding parts of the adventure really inspiring and I repeatedly found myself wishing I was running a game this weekend. Many of the monsters are unique and provide plenty of healthy challenges even before the stories of the NPCs might warp or twist the goals of the players. I love-love-LOVE the Cyclopeans and their strange connection to the cannibals on the island, I would probably use them outside of the adventure if I could get away with transplanting them to multiple environments.

The elementalist class at the back of the book is very cool and interesting, but many aspects of it are vaguely written and I think it's the weakest feature of the book. There are eight tables of grim portents scattered throughout the module and I can't tell you how many times I flipped through the book reading the portents, looking at the NPCs, and studying the map. I was really taken with this adventure, perhaps because I like the idea of stranding some hapless adventurers on a wild and savage island with little to no hope of escape.

You can purchase pdf and print versions of "DW2 - Island of Fire Mountain" at DriveThruRPG or just a print version at Lulu
Johnstone Metzger also has a blog and a patreon campaign for writing up monsters in Dungeon World and Labyrinth Lord stats

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

hit points

I was thinking about how much I hate hit points. When I was playing D&D as a kid and earning levels it was the first thing I latched onto as a symbol of power. Lots of hit points meant you could survive fights longer so in kid logic it meant you were tougher. When I started looking at how the classes had different rates of earning hit points I started to question the rules, my first finagling doubts that D&D wasn't perfect. About the same time I started reading Dragon magazine and if the pages of Out On A Limb (and later called Forum) are to be believed it was a subject of much contention that hit points made no logical sense. That some PCs could achieve triple digit amounts of hit points only added fuel to the fire. It's also a bit of a joke, a 1st-level wizard can be taken out by a housecat due to his abysmally low starting HP.

The game HOL, Human Occupied Landfill, had a rule that every living thing has 20 "hit points" and damage had different thresholds which were adjusted by size and damage type. Hit a bunny with a hammer and you'll cripple it if you don't kill it outright. Hit a man with a hammer and you'll do some damage. Hit a man in powered armor with a hammer and he'll laugh at you. In theory it made a lot of sense but in practice it tended to be wonky and weird and too much math, thus no fun. But the idea really appealed to me and has stuck with me ever since I first read it.

There's a need players have to gain in strength and power as they advance their characters, and there's also a need for some level of realism that allows a suspension of disbelief. It occurred to me the other day that it would be very easy to fulfill the two by returning to the idea that everybody starts with the same amount of hit points but relative to who they are they can increase, without the need to alter anything in the rulebooks.

Every PC has 5 hit points and adds their current level. Constitution modifiers now count as double, but are only applied once.

Let's look at it in practice:
1st level Wizard with CON 10 = 6 HP
1st level Fighter with CON 10 = 6 HP
1st level Wizard with CON 15 (+1) = 8 HP
1st level Fighter with CON 5 (-1) = 4 HP

Now there's a real incentive to NOT have a low Constitution starting out. But this equation does create one obvious problem: How do you compensate for monsters' hit points? All those stats with varying levels of Hit Dice? Another simple equation that can be done just by looking at HD under a monster's stat block. Monsters get 1d8 for HD, so their equation is MAXd8+level. But this creates another question: what about when a monster has a +1 or +2 next their HD number? Just add it to the total. A monster with HD 3+2 would then be 8+3+2 = 13 hit points.

How would this look?
Ogres have HD 4+1 = 13 HP
Trolls have HD 6+6 = 20 HP
Young Red Dragons have HD 13 = 21 HP
Adult Red Dragons have HD 17 = 25 HP

Armor Class becomes a much bigger factor at higher levels now. Ogres have AC 5, Trolls have AC 4, and those Dragons have AC -2 (Young) and -4 (Adult). This greatly enhances the perceptual value of seemingly "low powered" magic items as well. Having a +1 sword suddenly becomes really valuable to the PC wielding it. I haven't looked at books or tables beyond 1st or 2nd edition AD&D so I'm not sure how it work with 3rd edition books, I know some monsters are given different die type so I would have to account for that, and I think magical damage probably needs to be adjusted to compensate for the low numbers but for now I think this works pretty solidly as a simple and elegant system to build off of. Leaving it as is means that Wizards become MUCH more powerful earlier on (casting Magic Missile at 3rd level is possibly deadlyand 5th level Wizards basically become murder machines), and 5th level or higher Clerics can basically heal anybody instantly (maybe kind DMs would allow healing to "bleed" off onto multiple targets).

* - in 1st edition AD&D some monsters were given HUGE modifiers to their hit points, probably to ensure they were difficult to kill regardless of what the DM rolled

Sunday, June 8, 2014


WATCH_DOGS is a game for dudebros. Steeped in manly male manmeat, the man character is a gruff take-no-prisoners antihero who will steal your money and shoot you if you're black. He might be one of those pansy hackers who would normally be sat behind a computer sucking on Mountain Dew and pissing into the bottle after it's empty because nothing can tear them away from their screens, but he wears a stylish hat and a trenchcoat, plus his voice is deep and gravelly, so you know he's a tough guy who don't piss in no bottles. But he's not really a hacker anyway, he's got an app on his cellphone which turns it into a magic wand, it lets him turn on all the traffic lights at an intersection, steal money from some bank accounts, steal any car including ones that look like they were produced before the internet existed, or pop steam tunnels in the road that conveniently disable cars but never ever stop spewing out cubic tons of steam.

In WATCH_DOGS, your man character will beat up gangsters, shoot fixers (which is an obscure way of saying hitmen), collect massive amounts of weaponry that all fit underneath his stylish trenchcoat, construct rudimentary explosives and mp3 players that are the size of a fucking light switch yet somehow will never be able to construct a portable camera or drone, and spy on any citizen, all in a way that totally doesn't rip off any other open world games with better storylines or more interesting casts of characters.

You'll meet Jordi Chin, a badass Asian hitman who should be the character you are playing but you're probably a white male and playing an Asian doesn't get you to pay $60 for games so he's relegated to smartass sidekick and for some stupid reason likes the man character and does favors for him. Jordi is the most interesting and likeable character, but since you're not playing him that means he will probably betray the man character in the second to last mission.

You'll work with Clara Lille, the goth hacker who serves as the nerdbait stand-in plagiarized out of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but without all of that uncomfortably pesky rape storyline, or any storyline really. The man character's search for the hacker who is responsible for his niece's death will almost assuredly lead to her judging from the way she's always looking at Aidan like he's a walking dildo that she feels guilty about not cleaning.

There are other characters in this game, but they're so one-dimensional it actually hurts my psyche just thinking about writing about them. There are some missions you will probably enjoy playing, especially if you like getting chased by cops for 30 minutes at a time, or trying to disable somebody's car so you can knock him down to the ground with your nightstick while he's surrounded by a fucking platoon of soldiers with body armor and assault rifles, or playing poker where the computer opponents will say things like "Too rich for my blood" as they raise the pot because apparently they are all mentally disabled, or playing drinking games which are really just contrived quick time events.

I played the demo for Super Time Force for less than 10 minutes and had more fun than I had playing WATCH_DOGS for four hours. In summation, play something else!
But you won't.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Shadows of Umberto, by Joe Banner

Shadows of Umberto could be thought of as a city sourcebook, but there's enough detail here to turn it into a full campaign setting. Right away, I notice that it has a different layout and design than Joe Banner's previous module, the Green Scar. The maps are now in colour and the pdf has a wider 2-page spread. I'm not sure if this is more useful, because when I print it off now I feel like I need to bend all of the pages in half to make it a proper booklet.

"Shadows of Umberto" feels like Conan meets Arabian Tales, or sword & sorcery meets romantic political intrigue. It is divided into three sections, the first ("Shadows") details the brief history of the city and provides you with plenty of hooks and hazards to introduce to your players, the second ("Darkness") covers a very comprehensive detailing of local threats and monsters along with some choice encounters which have fictional triggers but could almost be used as random events as well, and the final section ("Dawn") introduces some custom moves for navigating Umberto along with some memorable NPCs that could be hired by the players. There is a wealth of details packed into a small space and I think I would find myself having a hard time using all of it.

My only real complaint about "Shadows of Umberto" is that it's too short. Yes, there's a lot of good information here and none of it seems unnecessary or unusable, but somehow it leaves me wanting more. I really like the simple layout of the pdf, but I feel like the 2-pages-on-1-page format of the pdf is best for reading from a tablet or laptop, and I would like to see something that is convenient for printing too. Again I'm stymied by a technical issue, but I am a picky bastard when it comes to this stuff.

You can purchase the pdf of "Shadows of Umberto" at DriveThruRPG

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Green Scar, by Joe Banner

The Green Scar is a very inventive and compelling three-part adventure, but it could act as an entire campaign setting with the adventure acting as the skeleton underneath the setting. Somehow the author manages to create a jungle setting that is unstuck from time, where the players could find themselves warping in and out of the past and the future, and he fills this jungle and the town closest to it with plenty of other perils in addition to this without making the adventure feel bloated or complex.

The first half of the pdf deals with the jungle and the Stone Glade, the primary setting that will vex your players, but it seems more fitting to call this the first act of the drama that is unfolding for them. I think these first 30 pages have enough detail and interesting ideas that are enough to build an entire series of adventures off of, there is even a compendium class that fits seamlessly into everything. There are only two tracks of grim portents, and it would be easy for an enterprising GM to stretch out what is here or even add a few more. The second half of the book details the closest piece of civilization, the town of Brink, and there is a separate adventure here with a completely different pace and theme stretching between the town and an airship where an industrialist is going to destroy the jungle, and in so doing might also destroy a lot more!

There is a lot to like about the Green Scar. I like the dungeon moves, and how the dungeon moves aren't literally used for dungeons but instead for a jungle, a town, and an airship. I like the history behind the Stone Glade and the frogmen, though it seems like you would need players who are curious about it in order to reveal pieces of it, and I like the fact that each of the three parts of this adventure can easily be altered to stand all by itself. There are only two things I didn't like. First, the design of the download is not implemented very well. The maps come bundled as additional pdfs instead of jpgs, and there is a separated beastiary file which would work great as a little printable booklet, but the pages seem to be designed for a full 8.5 x 11 format. I kept imagining how the layout and the design of all the moving parts could work better and I take that as a sign that what was here was lacking. Second, the author spends several pages giving GM advice which is almost identical to what I've read in the Dungeon World rulebook and so I consider it unnecessary. Since these are technical complaints they are barely worth mentioning, as the adventure itself is very good despite them.

You can purchase the pdf of "The Green Scar" at DriveThruRPG

Friday, May 30, 2014

links I like

I'm subscribed to a lot of blogs. I like to read about what people are working on, what their ideas are, and feel like I'm simply lurking through the electronic pages of a gaming library. I don't often comment, but I do bookmark. Here are a few links that I think would be invaluable to a lot of gamers.

The Three Opposed Faction Favour Tracker seems like the ideal tool for tracking rival groups in a city-based campaign. If the PCs gain favour with one faction they'll risk alienating the others. It's possible to be in good with two factions at the risk of completely ruining your relationship with the third.

A friend shared this link on facebook and I thought the visual image of the contents from a modern day archaeologist's backpack was too good not to bookmark as a guide for making up equipment lists, as both a player and a GM.

This custom rule for chase scenes uses a deck of cards and is so awesome I've thought about opening sessions with a chase. The author even has a follow-up post covering variations if you want to mix things up a little more. Good stuff!

This List of Medieval and Fantasy Background Sound and Noise is really awesome. I had no idea sound mixers like these existed on the internet. Even if you don't use them they're worth a listen!

This is the most recent post I've bookmarked, and the inspiration for sharing the awesome. Megadungeon Practices is not only a good checklist for how to start constructing a megadungeon, but it could easily be modified for creating a densely populated city, society, or region. Just apply the advice to a different expanse of geography!

Thursday, May 29, 2014


I read the rules for Numenera a couple of months ago and I couldn't quite put my finger on why it didn't resonate with me, until today. I was reading the rules for mutants & machineguns (m&m) and about the only thing it has in common with Numenera is that difficulties are determined on a scale. In m&m this is fairly simple since doing stuff requires a roll of 2d6, there are five levels of difficulty and a trivial level called "routine" is mixed in there so it's more like it only has four difficulty levels. Numenera has ten difficulty levels and most of the game mechanics involve jumping up and down the scale of difficulty, on top of that your ability to change difficulty levels increases as you level up. As a GM it's a little difficult to call a difference between a "challenging" or "formidable" difficulty, so it almost feels like the target numbers for tasks should just increase as PCs level up - which feels disingenuously like d20 mechanics. d20 has this tendency of making everything across the board increase in difficulty in relation to what level the PCs are, which means tasks are almost always hovering around this 50% chance of success for everything and if your chances of succeeding are always relatively the same then what's the point of leveling up?

Numenera is a really awesome setting! I feel like I should point that out right now since all I'm ever going to do is bitch about the game's mechanics. I hate the rules, I don't find them intuitive to use at all. But the setting, the history, the technology, and the peoples and creatures are all great. As I read further into the rulebook I really enjoyed immersing myself in this strange new world and I really wanted to try playing it. The rules just get in my way. I've thought about matching the setting to something else, like World of Darkness or Stars Without Number or Dungeon World or something, but it seems like a lot of work to do for something I might only play for a couple of sessions before everyone involved wants to play something else.

But here's a thing about difficulty levels that I think is stupid: there is always some level for "routine" tasks. Not just in m&m but also in Numenera and in 3rd edition D&D and in Deadlands and in Shadowrun. Shit! Just about any RPG that uses levels of difficulty has a trivial or routine level. What's the point? Nobody is ever going to roll for a routine task, and if they do it's going to be incredibly lame when you ask them to roll the dice to brush their teeth and they roll a 1 because now you have to come up with some reason for why they failed at brushing their teeth. I guess in Numenera's case it is there to illustrate how low you can reduce the difficulty of a task before it becomes practically a routine task, but if the game doesn't allow for adjustable difficulty then there's almost no reason for it to be in there.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Lair of the Unknown, by Johnstone Metzger

This adventure module is reminiscent in both title and story of an early Dungeons & Dragons module, In Search of the Unknown. Like his previous module, Metzger lays out this adventure as a collection of resources for setting up the adventure and allowing the players to set their own pace. The environment in town is charged and ready for conflict with plenty of NPCs, and the dungeon itself is large and features a broad variety of challenges. However, unlike the previous one I reviewed it is only meant to be used with Dungeon World rules, though it would not be difficult to convert it to Labyrinth Lord. This is another first in a trilogy which are given traditional module code numbers, Lair of the Unknown is given the code DW1 which probably stands for Dungeon World. I own the original D&D adventure that Johnstone Metzger is name-dropping and I will try to both avoid making direct comparisons or pointing out obvious similarities.

Lair of the Unknown is set up as an introductory adventure for a beginning group of characters, and the first 18 pages could have been a very useful resource all by itself for creating a campaign and pushing the PCs into the direction of adventure. The next parts of the book describe some of the challenges that could crop up both in town and in the nearby dungeon, and these are structured as individual pieces that can easily be dropped into the story or left out entirely. The sandbox nature of the town of Westham puts a burden onto the players to find their own way, but there are plenty of obnoxious NPCs that could make trouble in the PCs lives if they stay in town for too long.

The second half of the book is dedicated to the lair, named Xallevyrx, and it is filled with numerous dangers and threats that would be unique challenges even for seasoned adventurers to overcome. However, the layout of the maps is disorienting and only by reading room descriptions can you understand where they link up, preparation is definitely required to familiarize one's self with the dungeon since several areas of Xallevyrx lead directly to an underground cave system which could act as an alternate entrance or escape route, but the maps themselves are of no help whatsoever. This may be the only thing I found confusing and really didn't like about the module.

The final section of the book details some custom rules and compendium classes to introduce to your campaign, one of which is a full-fledged class dedicated to exploring underground lairs: the Dungeoneer! When I first purchased the module this class was the first thing I read and I made my own custom character sheet for it, though you can also find the details for it, and a series of other classes Johnstone Metzger has written, in a pay-what-you-want collection on DriveThruRPG.

The book really shines in the early chapters, where it is filled with excellent advice and interesting details, but there's a section titled 'They Who Make Trouble' which seems tacked on to the adventure to make it more than just a dungeon. The dungeon itself feels a bit dry and flat, even when I try to ignore the obvious inspirations for it. The most interesting part of the adventure is in the deepest and darkest part of the dungeon, which it is noted that even the author's players never managed to explore. The new Dungeoneer class is also a real piece of quality work and I really like it, but it may seem overwhelming to a beginning player, and it is probably only going to be useful if your campaign focuses solely on exploring dungeons and caves.

You can purchase both pdf and print versions of "DW1 - Lair of the Unknown" at DriveThruRPG or just a print version at Lulu

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Knives in the Dark, by Johnstone Metzger

I have a soft spot in my heart for anything that Johnstone Metzger writes, solely because he endeared himself to my sensibilities when I discovered his Heralds of Hell playbooks for Apocalypse World, but also because he can write some damn cool gaming resources and essays (venture down his blog's archives). A short time ago he began writing adventure modules that were dual-stated for both Dungeon World and Labyrinth Lord and so far he has produced six titles, I bought the first two but never got around to reading them until recently.

Knives in the Dark is a creepy horror adventure about undead assassins who have been released from their secret tomb. The town of Affeldeen and the mountain range in which it is nestled, the Black Peaks, serves as the adventure setting. Some dimwitted tin miners act as the catalyst that gets the adventure started, and provide most of the dramatic points for furthering the story.

Instead of a traditional adventure module structure, the booklet acts as a collection of resources for setting up the adventure and letting the players look under the blanket of the story and the setting at their own pace. The social environment around the mining camp and the town is filled with NPCs, about half of which only get a sentence or two but are varied enough that any collection of adventurers should be able to find something to do. The mountain where the shadowy terrors have awakened gets it's own chapter and there is a modest dungeon with plenty of unique challenges laid out within. The book is filled with a plethora of custom moves uniquely wrapped around the environment and the story.

The most interesting and useful part of the adventure are the details surrounding the goals of both the assassins and the Governor, they are explicit enough to give a good direction for why and how the story should unfold but leave all of the intricate details of when the plot opens up in the hands of the GM. There is no railroading here, and the centerpiece villain of the adventure (a dragon made of shadow) might not even show up if the PCs are really efficient at finding and stopping the shadow assassins - though that outcome is as unprofitable as it is unexciting.

This adventure is the first of a trilogy which are given traditional module codes, Knives in the Dark is given the code RK1 which I believe stands for River Knife though nothing in the module explicitly states that. You can purchase both pdf and print versions of "RK1 - Knives in the Dark" at DriveThruRPG or just a print version at Lulu

Monday, May 26, 2014

Grand Theft Auto

Grand Theft Auto III

"I'm gonna get a gun. Guns don't kill people. People kill people. Guns help though."

At the beginning of Grand Theft Auto III (GTA3) you are asked by a fellow escaped prison inmate, his name is Eight-Ball, to take him to a safehouse he knows about. His hands are broken and burned, he can't drive so you must do it for him. Arriving at the safehouse you and Eight-Ball get a change of clothes and he asks you to take him to his old boss'es nightclub. It's your first mission in the game and it's relatively simple. Drive to point A, then drive to point B. When the mission is over there is a character who tells you to go around to the back of the nightclub where your next mission awaits, but there is nothing stopping you from getting back into your stolen car and driving off into the city and never coming back.
When I first played GTA3 I completed the first few missions for Luigi, the mafia nightclub owner who gives you the first simple missions and sets up your other contacts, and then his missions ran out and I got lost. It's hard for me to imagine now, but I couldn't find my way in the city blocks around his nightclub. I drove down a street that looked familiar and then found the elevated train that led back to the front of my safehouse alley. As I pulled my car into that alley I was annoyed and thinking "What kind of game is this? It's not telling me where to go and what to do."
That was the moment where I realized what that actually meant, and it was a revelation!
Can I just run down pedestrians on the street? Yes. Can I blow up this car? Yes. Can I jump my car off this cliff? Yes. Can I drive on the train tracks? Yes. Can I just stand on this street corner and listen to the pedestrians? Yes. Can I steal this Taxi? Yes. Can I pick pedestrians up and take them to their destinations? YES! This was the kind of video game I had always wanted, it gave the player what most games only cheat at giving: freedom.
The story in GTA3 is virtually nonexistent, and consists of taking a series of jobs from psychopaths and criminals, whose allegiances pit the player against former allies throughout the course of the game. This isn't where the game shined, instead it was in the world and the freedom of testing what would happen by interacting with it, usually violently. The more I played, the more I explored the limits of what the game was capable of, and the longer I stayed in this world the more I became acutely aware of the game world's limitations. In truth, it really doesn't give you complete freedom, but it gave enough of illusion of freedom that testing the limits of what could be done within the game seemed like it would never run out. The boundaries of the world can only stretch so far, and the game could only give so much. The talk radio station, Chatterbox, featured a roughly hour-long loop of dialogue that breathed life into the setting, but it only left me craving more.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

"'s obvious that Diaz is the one who busted our deal, so why in the hell are we still running errands for him?"

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was the first video game I ever pre-ordered. I remember checking the preview website every week, waiting for a new screenshot or a new update from the fictional Kent Paul. When the game neared release I checked it every day. I re-started GTA3 and finished it to 100% completion twice in the time I waited, so great was my anticipation.
Delving into the 1980s Miami-inspired Vice City, a deeper story was told and a broader picture of this world emerged, despite the fact that the only things linking this game to the previous one were a few weak references to Liberty City and the appearance (but not the voice) of Donald Love, a major character from GTA3. The main character of Vice City (I would be remiss if I referred to him as a protagonist) was given a voice and the story was told from his perspective, this could give context and narration for the more ambiguous missions.
Serving as a prequel of sorts for GTA3, Vice City put the player into the shoes of Tommy Vercetti, an old-fashioned mobster put in charge of a drug deal turned bad. Vercetti's first goal is to get revenge for the game's opening betrayal, and when I first encountered the mission that sent me after the top criminal of Vice City I thought "I'm at the ending already?" The game seemed short, but the story continued on after I had defeated Ricardo Diaz. The revelation of this game was discovering that I was taking over the criminal empire and could now purchase property and run businesses in Vice City. My mind boggled! Discovering the businesses and unlocking the profits from them was more exciting than playing through the story.
This game wasn't just about revenge, it wasn't just telling the story of Tommy Vercetti, it was built around the idea that the player could build and run a criminal empire. This is the charm of what the game really held, but you don't discover this until you're halfway through the story. It was a one-two punch for anybody expecting just more of the same GTA.


"You've had an unexpected reprieve. Do exactly as I say, and I promise this will be over before the night is out."

I can't talk about GTA without mentioning Manhunt, it's an ultra-violent stealth-based video game where you play the role of James Earl Cash, a convicted murderer who has been secretly kidnapped from his execution to "star" in a snuff film where he has to sneak past various gangs that are all getting paid to hunt him down through a dilapidated section of the fictional stand-in for Philadelphia known as Carcer City.
Anybody who has played Manhunt alongside any of the GTA games will instantly see the links connecting the two. Every iteration of GTA makes references to Carcer City, and many of the fictional brand names that were created for Manhunt have carried over to the GTA games in different ways. There is a literal connection on one of the radio stations of GTA3 as an announcer broadcasts a news story about the events of Manhunt, placing the game in the GTA timeline as a prequel to GTA3.
This game, rather than being a world to explore, is challenging and tense. It was a punch to the gut for anybody expecting more of the bawdy and twisted humor from GTA to find a seedy and profane world of criminals and deviants. GTA is a punchline about atrocity, Manhunt is the cold rebuttal. Despite the fact that Manhunt is not officially part of the GTA universe, it's the best game in the series!

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

"That was my last motivational speech, understand? Am I being too spiritual for you, Carl?"

The opening of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas sees our new protagonist, Carl Johnson, getting pulled over and harassed by two dirty cops. The entire game is four times bigger and three times longer than anything that has come before in the GTA series, but Carl spends most of his time getting kicked down and pushed around by all of the people in his life. This was the first game that featured a traditional story arc and feature five distinct acts coordinated with the location of missions within the terrain of the west coast state, San Andreas - which actually acts as a hybrid of southern California and Nevada.
In the first act we see Carl rejoining his old boyhood gang, the Grove Street Families, and trying to rebuild their influence and control over east Los Santos, the game's parody of Los Angeles. At the end of the first act Carl is betrayed, and those two dirty cops from the beginning force Carl to start working for them, all in the name of keeping his brother safe while he's stuck in prison. During this second act Carl is forced to kill people and run drugs in the lush countryside and farmland of San Andreas. Soon Carl has set his sights on taking down the drug lords who betrayed his brother and the story shifts gears, Carl finally starts to call some of the shots in San Fierro, a stand-in for San Francisco, but this doesn't last long. When Carl catches up with one of the supposed drug kingpins he quickly learns the man is a government agent who has been watching his every move. Still a pawn as the fourth act opens, Carl is now forced to work for the agent in the deserts between San Fierro and Las Venturas, i.e. Las Vegas.
The final act revolves around Carl pulling a casino heist and returning to his hometown city with his ill-gotten gains. Along the way Carl has become a licensed pilot, won illegal street races, escaped ambushes, destroyed a drug cartel, and made permanent enemies of the mafia bosses who all get killed in GTA3.
If GTA3 was a the lightning bolt that ushered in a new kind of video game, San Andreas was the storm that followed. It gave everything that first title had, but there was simply more of it and depending on what part of the state you were in the game played differently. Honestly, it was difficult to describe how playing San Andreas in 2005 felt, but it was impossible to imagine how much better the GTA games could get.

Grand Theft Auto IV

"Wonderful! You're here on some revenge mission for something that happened ten years ago. And you don't care whose life you ruin on the way?"

Grand Theft Auto IV (GTA4) opens with all of the grandiosity and pomp of a large-scale Hollywood production. The music swells, the credits pop through the scenery, and we are introduced to Niko Bellic, our new main character, through a short conversation he is having with a shipmate as he disembarks from a cargo vessel into the industrial harbor of Liberty City, the same city from GTA3 but now it looks more real, more alive, more dirty.
In this game we lose much of what made the previous iterations so much fun to play at the benefit of a huge sprawling storyline with relationships. The graphics are excellent and the physics are a marked improvement from the first few games, but hinging so much of the game on an uninteresting story about a hypocritical sociopath while simultaneously removing all of the side missions that fueled most of the exploration from previous games means that this is the least interesting game in the series. I made my own game of running over pedestrians and seeing how long I could survive with huge levels of cops chasing after me. At one point I even abandoned GTA4 for one of it's predecessors.
GTA4 had two DLC packs which breathed a bit more life into the game, the most interesting of these was one focusing on a biker gang in GTA4's equivalent of New Jersey. But both of the tacked-on stories were too short and neither one brought back the missing side missions or activities from previous games.

Grand Theft Auto V

"You cool? Cool what? Slinging dope and throwing up gang signs?"

You will probably hear other people tell you that Grand Theft Auto V (GTA5) features three characters that you can play as, and the story is about how their lives intersect. And while most of the story hinges around Michael's mid-life crisis, and the character I found myself playing the most was Trevor, the main character of GTA5 is obviously Franklin Clinton, the black car thief and hustler. Franklin has the best abilities, the best car, the best home, and his story is the one that decides the fate of the other two characters.
This game features a strong story that doesn't contradict itself or try to rise above the underhanded premise of the game you are playing, and the game features the southern end of the state of San Andreas again. There is no Las Venturas or San Fierro, which is mildly disappointing as the game is still huge. There is almost too much area to explore, especially since not everything in the game takes you into every area of the game. The old and familiar side missions are still missing, instead you get tennis.
I just don't find myself wanting to play these games anymore. They've changed, and some of those changes are awesome, but they aren't really games anymore. They're exercises in achievement hunting. The GTA series has become a part of the cultural identity it used to mock. When I play GTA3 I feel like I'm one of the jokesters making fun of the stupid and crazy world, when I play GTA5 I feel like I'm part of the joke.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Tyranny of Dragons

tyr·an·ny (tĭr′ə-nē) n.
1. A government in which a single ruler is vested with absolute power.
2. The office, authority, or jurisdiction of an absolute ruler.
3. Absolute power, especially when exercised unjustly or cruelly
a. Use of absolute power.
b. A tyrannical act.
5. Extreme harshness or severity; rigor.

drag·on (drăg′ən) n.
1. A mythical monster traditionally represented as a gigantic reptile having a lion's claws, the tail of a serpent, wings, and a scaly skin.
a. A fiercely vigilant or intractable person.
b. Something very formidable or dangerous.
3. Any of various lizards, such as the Komodo dragon or the flying lizard.
4. Archaic A large snake or serpent.

Clearly, the next D&D campaign will be focused on how an absolute and oppressively severe power enslaves any and all large reptiles.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

gamer ennui

I haven't really been updating this blog because I haven't been playing much lately. In all honesty, I've started to consider packing a lot of my books into boxes and storing them in a corner. I just haven't done that yet because I keep hoping my current gaming ennui will shift or change.

Whether I'm playing or GMing I want to be able to do cool shit as prescribed by the character but I also want to feel challenged by other players, or by the course of the game. I'm just not feeling it. Compound this with only having time to game a couple of nights of the week and scheduling the right mix of players together who all want to play the same thing on the same night is nightmarish.

It becomes even worse when some gamers say "Oh, I'll play anything, but not that one game you really want to play" or "Well, we're already in a game..." followed by "and there's no room for you" or "and it's on the ass-end of town from you" or "and it sucks but we're not going to stop playing" and the absolute worst is "Sure I would love to play, but I don't have time right now, I'll get back to you" promptly followed by never hearing from them ever again. My sleep schedule isn't the best, but I do have weekends off and yet the litany of schedule incompatibility seems as long as the list of gamers I know.

Maybe this is just what gaming will be like from now on but I miss having a regular group that meets for a regular game. I do have a ton of unplayed games that I own and would like to try too, but getting other people to be interested in playing a game is also a hurdle. Google Hangouts seems to be the only place to try out new games or play longterm campaigns with the same people who all consistently want to keep playing the same game.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

another Kickstarter crook?

Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between

DriveThruRPG: This title was added to our catalog on January 15, 2013.
DriveThruRPG: File Last Updated: November 02, 2013

Nov. 6, 2013

Jan. 14, 2014
    Hi Sean,
    I backed your Indiegogo campaign at the $30 level and I still haven't received anything in the mail. I'm just wondering if you have a way of tracking when it got shipped, or if it hasn't been shipped yet?


Feb. 20, 2014
Sean Connors' youtube channel gets updated.

Apr. 1, 2014
    Hi Sean
    I'm doing a rundown of all of the Indiegogo and Kickstarter campaigns I've funded that I haven't received yet and yours is the only one where you've announced that the books are shipping yet I still haven't received anything. Your last update claims the books should arrive by Christmas, but it's April now. Any response would be appreciated.

Apr. 2, 2014
Erik Tenkar: Sean, this project is about to become a post at The Tavern…

Apr. 23, 2014
Still no communication heard from Sean Connors. According to comments on the indiegogo page he has not spoken to anyone via email since December. The book has been done and available as a pdf for months, and there are several reviews on DriveThruRPG for it which suggests that the book is indeed selling there.

As for me, I'm expecting some eventual public declaration that either A) he got sick and it incapacitated him so the project suffered some slowdown near the end, B) a relative died and coping with the stress tore him away from sending out the final books, C) he'll claim ignorance of any problems and insist books have arrived/the books are on their way, or perhaps D) all of the above.

I'm not optimistic. Can you tell?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I'm so sorry

It was bound to happen eventually. I never got much spam on this blog until I posted an entry entitled "How to cast a spell" and then it slowly started to trickle in. New Age-y pagan spam, ridiculous in its content, would occasionally appear on the page, obviously attracted to the words 'cast a spell'

But now it's spreading to other pages, I'm getting pagan spam on both older and newer posts I've made, and to stem the tide I have put up one of those 'type a word' comment gates. I hate those things when I have to go through them to leave a comment, and so, I apologize.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Mitch the Dwarf

I've alluded before to how I once made the same dwarf in all four versions of AD&D. This is basically a reproduced transcript of that:

I started with 1st edition because I knew it was the most random, and ended up making a dwarf fighter. Each edition afterwards was simply an attempt to recreate the character from the previous edition, using the rules and character creation methods of the later editions. Here are the stats, straight up, along with some notes I added for explanation.

Mitch the dwarven fighter!
1st edition

the Player's Handbook does not give any specifications on how to roll up a character, it just says The range of these abilities is between 3 and 18." so I'm just using the classic method of rolling 3d6 and putting them in the abilities as I roll them. Rolled 15, 11, 5, 8, 11, 8, the stats after racial modifiers are in the order the book ascribes to them.
Strength 15 = weight allowance +200, Open Doors 1-2 on d6, Bend Bars/Lift Gates 7%
Intelligence 11
Wisdom 5 = magical attack -1
Dexterity 8
Constitution 12 = system shock 80%, resurrection survival 85%
Charisma 7 = maximum number of henchmen 3, loyalty -10%, reaction -5%
Dwarf = saving throws vs. wands/rods/staves & spells +3, poison saves equal to wands/rods/staves, infravision 60 feet, detect grade or slope or new construction 75%, detect sliding/shifting walls 66%, detect traps or depth underground 50%, to hit half-orcs goblins hobgoblins or orcs +1, ogres trolls ogre magi giants and titans have -4 to hit dwarves
Fighter = Hit Points 9, Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Languages: Dwarven, Lawful Neutral, Common, Elvish
Money: 190 gold (before buying equipment), 5 gold and 3 silver (after buying equipment)
Weapon Proficiency: Axe, Dagger, Mace, Sword (non-proficiency penalty is -2)
Equipment: Banded Armor, Large Shield, Great Helmet, Battle Axe (speed 7, damage 1d8), Dagger (speed 2, damage 1d4 vs S/M, 1d3 vs L), Boots (high hard), Belt, Cloak, Leather Backpack w/ 100' rope & 20 large iron spikes & 10 torches, Small Belt Pouch w/ mall silver mirror & 3 wax candles, Draft Horse ("Smythers")
Movement 9"
And that is ALL of the information the 1st edition Player's Handbook gives the player!

2nd edition
I thought about just transferring the stats as is, but that wouldn't be fair to each version since I know 3rd edition uses a completely different method and I'll end up with much higher numbers. Using Method V from the rulebook (roll 4d6 dropping the lowest and assign where you like), since that's the one most 2nd edition games I've ever been in used.
Strength 16 = damage +1, weight allowance 70, maximum press 195, Open Doors 9, Bend Bars/Lift Gates 10%
Dexterity 15 = defensive adjustment -1
Constitution 17 = hit points +3, system shock 97%, resurrection survival 98%
Intelligence 13 = languages +3, spell level 6th, chance to learn spell 50%, spells/level 7
Wisdom 13 = bonus spells: one 1st, spell failure 0%
Charisma 11 = maximum number of henchmen 5
Languages: Common, Dwarf, Elf, Orc
Dwarf = saving throws vs. wands/rods/staves, spells & poison +4; 20% of magic item failure if not made for dwarves; +1 to hit orcs, half-orcs, goblins, and hobgoblins; ogres, trolls, ogre magi, giants, and titans are at -4 to hit dwarves; infravision 60 feet; detect grade or slope in passage or new tunnel/passage construction 1-5 on ld6; detect sliding/shifting walls or rooms 1-4 on ld6; detect stonework traps, pits, and deadfalls or determine approx. depth underground 1-3 on ld6.
Height: 4'2" , Weight: 150 lbs, Age: 53, Maximum Age: 347
Fighter = Hit Points 11, Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Weapon Proficiencies: Battle Axe, Dagger, Broad Sword, Halberd (non-proficiency penalty is -2)
Non-Weapon Proficiencies: Animal Handling Carpentry, Rope Use
Money: 100 gold (before purchasing equipment), 9 gold & 1 silver
Equipment: Splint Mail, Battle Axe (size M, type S, speed 7, damage 1d8), Backpack w/ 100 feet hemp rope & 20 pitons & 10 torches, Small Belt Pouch w/ flint & steel (total 109.5 lbs)
Armor Class 3 (Splint + Dex), THAC0 20
Encumbrance: Light, Movement: 5"
Saving Throws: Paralyzation/Death Magic 14, Rod/Staff/Wand/Poison 12, Petrification/Polymorph 15, Breath 17, Spell 13
And now that's it.

3rd edition
Third edition rules use the Method V dice-rolling equation from 2nd edition, with the option of re-rolling if your scores are too low (i.e. if no score is above 13). So here I go, rolling again:
Strength 15 (+2) = to melee attack rolls, damage
Dexterity 12 (+1) = to ranged rolls, armor class, Reflex saving throws
Constitution 15 (+2) = bonus Hit Points, Fortitude saving throws
Intelligence 10
Wisdom 10
Charisma 8 (-1) = checks to influence others
Dwarf = Medium size, speed 20 feet, darkvision 60 feet, +2 Search stonework, +4 to resist bull-rush or trip attacks, +2 to saving throws against poison and spells, +1 to hit orcs and goblinoids, +4 dodge bonus to Armor Class vs giants, +2 to Appraise stone or metal, +2 to Craft stonework and metalwork
Languages: Common, Dwarven
Fighter = Hit Points 12, Base Attack +1, Fortitude +2, Martial Weapon Proficiency, Simple Weapon Proficiency, Proficient with ALL Armor
Skills (8 points at 1st level): Handle Animal +2, Ride +2, Use Rope +4
Feats (one for 1st level, one bonus Fighter feat): Mounted Combat, Power Attack
Alignment: Lawful Neutral, Age 57, Height 4'2" , Weight 170 lbs.
Money: 140 gold (before purchasing equipment), 2 gold (after)
Equipment: Dwarven Waraxe (damage 1d8 vs S, 1d10 vs M, crit x3), Chain Shirt (check penalty -2), Backpack w/ 100 feet hempen rope & 20 pitons, Belt Pouch w/ flint & steel (total weight 65.5 lbs)
Armor Class: 14 (15 w/ Dex); Attack: Melee +3, Ranged +2; Initiative +1
Saves: Fortitude +4, Reflex +1, Will +0

4th edition
The 4th edition rules ask you to choose race and class before determining ability scores, so...
Height 4'6" , Weight 170 lbs., Size: Medium, Speed: 5 squares, Vision: Low-light
Languages: Common, Dwarven
Ability Bonuses: +2 Constitution, +2 Wisdom
Skill Bonuses: +2 Dungeoneering, +2 Endurance
Cast-Iron Stomach: +5 racial bonus to saving throws against poison.
Dwarven Resilience: You can use your second wind as a minor action instead of a standard action.
Dwarven Weapon Proficiency: You gain proficiency with the throwing hammer and the warhammer.
Encumbered Speed: You move at your normal speed even when it would normally be reduced by armor or a heavy load. Other effects that limit speed (such as difficult terrain or magical effects) affect you normally.
Stand Your Ground: When an effect forces you to move—through a pull, a push, or a slide—you can move 1 square less than the effect specifies. This means an effect that normally pulls, pushes, or slides a target 1 square does not force you to move unless you want to. In addition, when an attack would knock you prone, you can immediately make a saving throw to avoid falling prone.

Got all that? Okay, Fighter
Armor Proficiencies: Cloth, leather, hide, chainmail, scale; light shield, heavy shield
Weapon Proficiencies: Simple melee, military melee, simple ranged, military ranged
Bonus to Defense: +2 Fortitude

And now, finally, I determine starting ability scores. The method for randomly generating ability scores is downplayed in the rulebook with the words "On average, you’ll come out a little worse than if you had used the standard array. If you roll well, you can come out way ahead, but if you roll poorly, you might generate a character who’s virtually unplayable. Use this method with caution."
I find it amusing that they are actually trying to encourage you to not roll dice.
So using the standard method that they describe, I would assign ability scores as I see fit from the following numbers: 16, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10; adjusting for racial modifiers after placement. What I find even more amusing is that the numbers here are already arranged exactly in the order I would want them to be!

Strength 16 (+3) = melee attacks, Fortitude defense
Constitution 16 (+3) = bonus hit points, bonus healing surges, Fortitude defense
Dexterity 13 (+1) = ranged attacks, Reflex defense
Intelligence 12 (+1) = Reflex defense
Wisdom 13 (+1) = Will defense
Charisma 10 (+0) = Will defense
Alignment: Unaligned (because there's no Lawful option anymore and Unaligned is the clossest to Neutral you can get, go figure!)
Trained Skills (from the class skills, choose three): Athletics (Str), Endurance (Con), Streetwise (Cha) This is the first part that forcibly diverges from previous editions. Mitch has no animal handling or rope use equivalent amongst the class skills.
Fighter Abilities: Combat Challenge, Combat Superiority, Two-Handed Weapon Talent
I start with one feat, and there is one for Mounted Combat but it doesn't look like it's very useful or appropriate to the original concept, and there's one for Power Attack, but I'm taking something that fits the original concept better.
Feat: Dwarven Weapon Training: +2 bonus to damage rolls with axes and hammers
Class Powers:
At-Will Powers (2): Cleave - Standard Action Melee weapon, Reaping Strike - Standard Action Melee weapon
Encounter Attack Power (1): Passing Attack - Standard Action Melee weapon
Daily Attack Power (1): Brute Strike - Standard Action Melee weapon
Finally, we're on to equipment. The one thing that could clearly be improved about 4th edition is that all of this information is disorganized. The sequence of character creation has me flipping back and forth through the book, literally from chapter 3 to 4 then 2 then 5 to 6 back to 4 and then ahead to 7.
Starting Money: 100 gold (this is no longer randomized or determined by class), 4 gp (after purchasing equipment
Equipment: Plate Armor (wow! it only costs 50 gold pieces in 4th edition), Greataxe (+2 to hit, 1d12 damage, high crit.), Standard Adventurer's Kit (and with that I've already got a magic item in the form of Sunrods - the fantasy equivalent of glowsticks), 10 torches (total weight 105 lbs. = no penalty to movement)
And with that I just have to add all of the modifiers together to figure out the final stats.
Hit Points 18, Bloodied 9, Healing Surges 12 at 4 HP
Speed 5 squares, Initiative +1
Armor Class 18, Fortitude 15, Reflex 11, Will 11

Whew! And now I'm done.

The 4th edition version is obviously the most powerful, he is clearly defined as a powerhouse of destruction. The text blocks for 4th edition tend to come fairly simplified so despite the enormous amount of text written above 3rd edition is actually the most complex. It seems like 4th edition was trying to streamline 3rd edition, but in the process became a game of superheroic adventurers with very little connection to the original sulking and scavenging game that once was D&D.

Surprisingly, and I can only speak for myself, the 2nd edition version seemed the most interesting - it's the most concise and simplest version, and the character has some obvious flaws. I also found it surprising that the 1st and 2nd edition versions of the Player's Handbook led me to creating a character that was nearly identical, but also the weakest in terms of sheer power. The 1st edition book is very vague in some places, and what's most interesting is that the player is not given their character's combat scores. But you can clearly see in the 2nd edition rulebook where they were simply streamlining a proven process and putting a lot of the nuts and bolts of the system into the player's hands, likely to free up the DM so he could focus on the challenges of the adventure.

So, if you are limiting yourself to using only one version of Dungeons & Dragons for your role-playing group, a summary of what each set of rules exemplifies might be:
If you want action with superheroic characters, play 4th edition.
If you want complexity and rules headaches yet clearly defined equalities and powers across all classes and races, play 3rd edition.
If you want weak PCs with obvious inequalities and no sign of modern or innovative rules that enhance PCs, play 2nd edition.
If you want even weaker PCs, vague but complex rules and a lot of arbitrary randomness, play 1st edition.

Each has their own strengths and weaknesses for style and ease of play. Convoluted or confusing creation process notwithstanding.
Or maybe you will draw your own conclusions.