Archive for the ‘role-playing games’ Category

GenCon 2012: Part 4 (Saturday, Sunday)   Leave a comment

I come now to the end of my photographic tour of GenCon this year, the last few shots I took on Saturday and Sunday.

Another pretty Elf wandered by. There is no real connection here. I just like pretty elves.

An urban shaman/wizard also came by. I love the sunglasses as part of his costume. Cosplay is not just for the fem fans of the world. Guys get into it too, and they look good when they do.

Back to pretty elves. When I got away from the FBI booth, I wandered back to the authors area for some random socializing. Look at that lovely purple hair!

On Saturday night James and I were invited to an Apples to Apples party and contest. Even though it meant Rick would have to make an extra trip into town to pick us up when the party was over, he agreed, and we went to it, in vague hopes of being champion players and walking off with prizes.

Zatanna was at the party. James and I got to sit at her table for the first round of Apples to Apples competition. I did pretty well in that round, getting 10 cards in 20 minutes. I did not do so well when I switched tables and competed against others in the two following rounds.

At the end of the party, I got my picture taken with my piratical Apple buddy.

Later that evening we wandered into an open gaming area and found a giant-sized Catan game based on the U.S. map.

On Sunday morning I ran my last T & T game. Afterwards I posed with Mike and Rob, brothers who were both in the game. Rob’s son Jacob was also there.

Back in the Exhibitors Hall and the authors area, I stopped to chat with Chris (C.V.) Marks–a fantasy author of the kind of stuff I like. She always hands out chocolate bars as a lure to bring people to her table, and I was hungry. She lamented that she would have to carry her heavy pre-publication copies of her new Elfhunter novel away from the Con with her, so I asked for one, and made my Charisma saving roll. I promised to review the book afterwards. I’m currently reading it–about 6 chapters in, and it reads very well. Two pretty elven heroines are tracking down a monster. Look for a full review in a week or so when I get the book finished.

My last stop of the con was at Kenzer and Co. where I got a chance to chat with my friends Dave Kenzer and Jolly Blackburn.

Shortly after this picture was taken the Convention officially ended, the Hall closed, and we all packed up and went home.  I had an invitation to go to Sunday night supper with Tom and Robin Loney and some friends from FASA, but I was really too tired to go back into town for one last crowded and expensive supper.  Sorry, guys!  Anyone who wants to socialize with me at these cons has to do it before the last night.

We flew home to Phoenix on Monday afternoon.  I love flying west.  We left Indianapolis at 6:15 and arrived in Phoenix at 6:55, even though we spend 3 hours in the air.  That was all less than a week ago, as I write this now.  I was really exhausted by it all, and it took me 3 days to recover and get back into my regular routine of  posting things all over the internet.  I don’t think there are any more big conventions in the schedule for me this year, but I have a small one–CopperCon 34 here in Avondale next week.


GenCon 2012, Part 3 (Friday, Saturday)   1 comment

I began Saturday with the resolve to take more pictures and do a better job of documenting GenCon.  It had rained during the night, and we overdressed in the morning because I thought it would be chilly.  I also put on my minimal steampunk costume–shiny vest, demonic badge, trollgod’s hat with goggles.  I looked like this.

Ya think the big convention badge kinda ruins the look?
But first let’s go back to late Friday afternoon.  After walking around the hall for a while, I got back to the Flying Buffalo booth to find this going on.

Stephen Conway is talking to Rick Loomis about games. I came in too late to hear much of what they said, but it made me jealous, so I talked Stephen into interviewing me also. His podcasts can be found here:

I’m attracted to warrior women. I met this dangerous dame and got her picture.  She’s my idea of a living t & t adventuress.

I just love the look of this old Catholic church across the street from the Convention Center. I got this shot as we headed for the car Friday night after the Dealers Room closed.

Rick goes to Indiana and GenCon to sell games.  Sometimes I think I go with him just to indulge myself at Steak and Shake restaurants.  We don’t have them in Arizona.

There was a Steak and Shake restaurant right next to the Red Roof Inn where we stayed about ten miles south of downtown Indy. The food is mostly hamburgers, but the variety of shakes is exceptional and they are really good. I took this shot Saturday morning on our way into the Convention after breakfast.

The Wookies get really tall at GenCon. Half a day has gone by and another T & T adventure is behind me.

This dragon witch was one of my T & T players. When I saw her again in the convention hallway near the balloon dragon, I got her picture. She was the last survivor of my Seven Challenges adventure on Saturday morning.

On Saturday afternoon Rick Loomis did his Nuclear War tournament, in which he had some 48 competitors.  I stayed and watched the Flying Buffalo booth, and sold a ton of stuff.  Much to my delight, my most talented niece, Angela St. Andre stopped by to visit me and show me her latest work.  She is a sculptress, but she works with welding and cutting tools in metal instead of a hammer and chisel in stone.  Look at this beautiful notebook.

This awesome gaming notebook with its secret compartment for dice was created by my artistic niece, Angela St. Andre. It weighs about 20 pounds and is made of steel. It is lying in the midst of the Tunnels & Trolls material we were selling, including my largest recent solo: the Dewdrop Inn.

Angela St. Andre and her shoulder dragon. Lots of people were taking her picture. This young woman is seriously talented, and she loves gaming.

Here’s Angela with notebook and shoulder dragon. She didn’t buy these artifacts, folks. She made them.

After Angela left, Harley Quinn stopped by to see me. What a babe! Totally wasted on that Joker doofus, imho. Hey Mist-Tikk Foo-all, here’s a troll hammer for you.

Actually, Han Solo was walking around with Harley Quinn. GenCon is a very strange galaxy.

I only have about ten pictures left to go, so let’s stop the tour here.  I’m still at the Buffalo booth selling things, but Saturday was a great day for hall costumes.  In general, big gaming and sci-fi conventions are great places for cosplay.  The regular costume for such meetings is jeans and t-shirt, but the really cool people come in costume.  I’m not one of the really cool people, but even I have put together a costume for such occasions–you can see it back at the top of this picture essay.  I also bought an elven forester’s costume that I haven’t worn yet, just to have something special for the next masquerade I get to attend.

–to be continued

GenCon 2012, Part 2 (Friday)   4 comments

We got there early.  These following pictures are chronological in order.

As we walked to the Mariott to run my 9 a.m. T & T adventure we passed these World of Warcraft giant posters stuck onto a business wall in downtown Indy.

We were early, so we stopped and played some Magic at a Catan boardgame table inside the Convention Center’s open gaming lobby. Mayfair was everywhere with Catan stuff.

James is making his way through the halls of the convention center.

I thought the place was like a gigantic crowded maze, so I took some pictures to show you what it was like in the halls.

And then we came to the entrance to the True Dungeon. Talk about larping. A ticket to walk thru and play that game cost $34.

I wanted to explore the True Dungeon. I didn’t have time to buy a ticket and wait around hoping to join a delving party, but I was able to walk around in the free area and take these shots. Obviously a poster of a goblin . . . I wonder why?

It was dark inside. D’oh! Delvers waiting for a trip counted their tokens and prepared for the ordeal.

A chart showing some of the tokens you might win or purchase inside the dungeon. Tokens represent treasure in this game.

Out of the dungeon and back in the labyrinth.

Some adventurers pausing between adventures.

The maze goes on and on. We were working our way back to the Exhibitors Hall. Yes, this is really what GenCon looks like in most places.

There were plenty of hall costumes. These lovely ladies were showing off. I don’t understand the hair tentacles.

The Exhibitors Hall (i.e. Dealer Room) was guarded by a zombie when we entered.

White Wolf shared a booth with I probably should have gone in and talked to them considering how many of my products are on drivethru . . . but I didn’t.

Later in the afternoon, James and I met Daniel–a musician (drummer) and a Magic player. We wanted to try out our Magic decks against him, but never got the chance. Seems like whenever we saw him it was time for his band to go out in the halls and play music. I heard them play. They were pretty good, doing a weird kind of folk rock.

Wil Wheaton was at the Con. He seemed to spend most of his time in the autograph area signing things. Autographs were free and there were several notables including Nichelle Nichols of the first Star Trek series. She has snow white hair now, and is very thin and aristocratic looking. Later, I gave Will a D6 that I brought back from OSRcon with me–one from the Argh gaming club with a coat of arms on it. He admired it, said thanks, and tucked it away where it will probably never be seen again.

After leaving Wil, I went and talked to this pretty elf. She was helping to promote a Game Master’s software program–keep track of everything on your laptop when you run a frp game. There were elves all over the convention, and especially in the Dealer area, but she was the most beautiful one I met.

There were many heroic-sized statues located in the Exhibitors’ Hall and some of the dedicated gaming areas. Here’s a magical hero of some sort.

Speaking of elves, here’s Drizzt do Urden and his kitty cat guarding an exit from the Dungeons and Dragons (which I have dubbed “That Other Game”, area in the hall. I managed to sneak in past him.  I didn’t care at all about the products.  I just wanted to see and admire the statues.

10% sorceress, 90% giant spider thing. I’m glad she wasn’t hungry.

And that seems like a good place to break off today’s GenCon narration.  It was a very busy day.  The dealers seemed to be doing well, and the gamers seemed to be having fun and spending money.  Yay!  Spending money!  That’s what it’s all about for the many game publishers and manufacturers at GenCon.  For the rest of us, it’s a kind of huge carnival crowd scene with wonders in all directions.

–to be continued

Beyond the Tunnels   9 comments

People ask me what I’m doing now that I’m retired.  Usually I tell them that I’m writing, and that usually means blogging.  I am writing some new material, but a lot of what I’m doing is rescuing old material.  People have asked me why I don’t simply donate my papers to a college somewhere.  I think that would be a great idea, but there are problems with it.  The biggest problem is that in this new electronic world, who gives a damn about some forgotten old papers?  Few enough cared before computers dominated everything.  The other problem is one that I know about from being on the other side.  Such donations are always “no strings attached” which means that if the receiver decides the gift is trash, that’s where it goes, into the trash.  That’s bad enough if the gift is simply a book or magazine–those things existed in hundreds or thousands of copies.  If a librarian throws away a copy of National Geographic from 1961, nothing but paper is really lost.  Other copies of that magazine exist.  On the other hands, there is only 1 copy of my papers, especially the stuff that was never published.  If it gets thrown away, it’s gone forever.  The world might say “no loss” and 9999 out of 10,000 might agree.  It would be a loss to me.  Therefore, I am amusing myself by translating this stuff–my notes, my papers, my rough drafts and such–into electronic format and putting some of it here in my blogs.  A few people will see it.

The following essay dates back to  1976 or 77.  I seem to remember publishing it in an early edition of T & T, but maybe not.  It is not present in the 4th or 5th edition, although something similar is in the 5th.  The insights offered below are nothing new or radical here in 2012, but this was the cutting edge of roleplaying in 1976–at least I think it was.

Original document with bordered paper by Denise Burgess. I don’t remember her.


Beyond the Tunnels


What to do with a 10th level wizard

By Ken St. Andre

            There will come a time when the basic concept of going down into dark tunnels to meet monsters and search for treasure will start to seem stifling.  Underground, limited by space, there are many neat and fantastic things that just can’t very easily be done, such as an aerial battle with a squadron of dragons, or the siege of a castle, or the exploration of an enchanted forest.  Even the best designed of tunnel complexes or dungeons can be fully explored and its novelty used up, but what if you had a whole continent or better yet a whole world to go adventuring in?

You can have it.  There is no good reason for limiting one’s exploits to subsurface  realms.  With a few minor modifications one can turn one’s dungeon-designing ability into world-designing.  I did it first when I invented the whole city of Khosht to give monsters something to attack on the surface.  (Eventually, the monsters did a number on that city that involved major carnage in three quarters and a fire that razed half the town.  Khosht then acquired a new governor and was largely rebuilt across the river, where it thrives and flourishes today.)

Once your characters begin to take on a life of their own (and they will if they survive more than a few trips), you will find that they need a world of their own to flesh out the background of their lives.  In Phoenix such world-building started with the creation of Khosht, and now includes at least two other full-sized cities, and all the land in between, plus several pocket universes (small, independent worlds with some of the same natural laws and some different).  The creation of your own pocket universe is really what this article is about, and in doing so you get a chance to vary some of the original T & T principles (such as how magic works, or the strength of gravity, or the prevalent form of intelligent life, etc.)

One of the minor weaknesses of this game has proven to be the fact that upper level magic-users gain truly god-like powers.  You are being attacked by a giant dragon when Tumuch the sorcerer (10th level) throws an 8th level Take-that-you-fiend! And scores 4264 hits on the poor dragon which is instantly reduced to a fine red powder.  It feels tremendous the first time you do that, but it gets old after a while.  Not much can worry a magician with that kind of power in his fingertips.  The situation then evolves to where the D.M. is designing monsters with a rating of 10000 or more, just to give them an even chance against high-level magic-users.  Of course, no ordinary character even has a chance against such a foe.

Here is where designing a new pocket universe can be most fascinating.  By changing some of the basic laws of nature, you can make high level wizards more nearly equal to other characters and thus put more suspense and fun back into the game.  With this in mind, let us design a place called Warriorworld—a place where warriors and rogues have a chance and wizards don’t have a pushover.

First we want to spell out some of the basic rules that govern Warriorworld.  (1) The laws of nature and magic are the same as for the T & T universe with the following exceptions.  (2) the cost of magic in strength units is four times as much as it is in the T & T world.  (3) The force of gravity is twice as strong (which means that strength, constitution, and probably dexterity would be reduced by half.  Also that missile weapons would not be effective beyond close range).  (3) No elves, dwarves, fairies, or hobbits are native to this world.  These few basic changes will completely alter the powers of your T & T characters, and consequently their behavior.

[Note the mistake in the paragraph above where I count: 1, 2, 3, 3.  I am reproducing this manuscript exactly as the rough draft shows it, and not in the finished form that appeared in the 4th edition of T & T, I think.]

Now we’re ready to move on to the geography of Warriorworld.  Let us assume that both geography and climate are earth-like, but a bit harsher.  The typical landscape is not the sylvan greenery of New England or Europe, but the harsher dryer world of the western desert.  Average daily temperature is 100 degrees F.  Cactus are commoner than trees.  Water is hard to find.  The uplands and high hills are covered with evergreen pine forests.  In the lowlands, active volcanoes are common.  Cities are few, small, and near water.

With this much information postulated, we let our imagination loose and draw up a map.  Every little detail does not need to be filled in.  Later, with characters playing the game and exploring certain locales, we can drw more detailed diagrams to show, say, the vicinity of Kharrgh at the foot of the J’nuurH mountain of fire.  This imaginative work will be done by the Game Master while the game is being played.  (A good technique is to enlist the imaginations of your players in describing the place, by asking what they see, but retaining the veto power so as to maintain the general mood desired.)  If possible, before bringing player characters to places where your characters might go, who and what they will find there, and what kind of actions are likely to occurr.

Now that the world is beginning to take shape, you are ready to populate it, just as you would populate a dungeon. Human beings exist on Warriorworld, but they are a slave race to a non-human race of Demons. No humans here have ever been allowed to develop any magical powers. On the other hand, the Demons have both magical and military abilities, but only up through the 5th level spells in the T & T rulebook. Demons are comparatively rare, however, being only 1% of the total population. (Demons need not be the villains (a loaded and unpleasant word) in this world, but I have deliberately set them up to be first-class adversaries.)

Animal life in Warriorworld is surprisingly plentiful (People who live in the western deserts know that there is a good deal of wildlife who live well in harsh country.) Much of it is reptilian, either poisonous or of respectable size, ranging right up to full-grown dragons, which are not the intelligent variety we know and love from European folklore. There are plenty of snakes. There are strange and unusual insects. There are even some kinds of mammals, but most of them are domesticated species.

We begin to have a pretty good idea of what to expect in Warriorworld. To add a little more interest, let us have a mutated, four-armed variety of Trolls living in the wilderness in small nomadic bandit communities.

The next thing you need for this game to work is a purpose. Purposes may vary as much as your imagination can make them. A simple one could be just to survive for a given period of time and find the way back to the T & T world. This would involve, at the least, a journey under unfavorable circumstances. Another purpose could be a quest of some kind–to bring back a pre-determined gem, mineral, substance, person, book, etc. A different goal might be to lead a group of humans in revolt against their Demon master. The possibilities are endless. A good G.M. should be able to keep things happening for his players.

A few points of practical play need to be mentioned here–how to handle time and movement. The G.M. will need to keep track separately of how much time has gone by. A game turn may be as short as a minute or as long as a day. Certain activities may take hours to perform. There is no point in breaking them up into 10 minute segments. The only time it is really necessary to count time is when strength has been lost, (like in working magic) and it is necessary to recuperate it. Since the gravity is twice as strong in Warriorworld, you can invoke the inverse square law which would cause people to regenerate 1 strength unit every 4 game turns (or 40 minutes). As for movement, it is no longer necessary to put an arbitrary rate on it. Most of us could probably walk 500 meters in 10 minutes and run 100 meters in 20 seconds without undue effort. For long overland trips it is more sensible to measure speed in miles per hour. We could walk 3 m.p.h. without much difficulty for several hours. Pushing it, we could do 5 or 6 m.p.h. In rough terrain we might be reduced to 1 m.p.h. On horseback, if a horse could negotiate the terrain, we would probably be five times as fast. For an adventure that takes days instead of hours, food would be important, and should be considered.

One thing that makes play in such a vaguely-defined world easier is a greater use of dice to randomly determine terrain features, sudden appearance of buildings and how many people (or other creatures) occupy them, appearance of monsters, etc. This will require that the G.M. take some forethought ahead of time and draw up a few lists or charts of possibilities, but it will greatly speed up the play of the game.

I hope I have shown you how relatively easy, and at the same time how much fun it can be, to expand the fantasy concepts of T & T beyond the limits of the subterranean. Pocket-universes can be great fun. Or, if you wanted an enchanted forest similar to Tolkien’s Mirkwood as a stronghold for Elves and other strange creatures, you could sit down and design it right there on the surface of your own T & T world. For that matter, it is a blast to design medievalistic cities, castles, etc. and then use them for surface adventures or as targets for monsters’ retaliatory expeditions. Just remember to consider geography, demography, and economics and you will be well on your way beyond the tunnels.


If you have ever created your own city or world for roleplaying, why not leave a comment?  Or you could tell me whether you’d be willing to go adventuring in Warriorworld or not.

Tunnels and Trolls Fantasy Calendar   10 comments

You can find many different races (called Kindreds in T & T) on Trollworld. Here are three of the less common: Minotaur, Youwarkee, and Hunding.

Fantasy art calendars are commonplace today and have been for decades, but, I believe that Tunnels and Trolls was the first role-playing game to produce a fantasy calendar.  Flying Buffalo did one in black and white way back in 1978.  At least I think it was 1978.  I don’t have that calendar any more, but it featured art by Liz Danforth, Rob Carver, and a few others whose names I have forgotten.

Well, everything old is new again.  In December I upgraded my  personal computer to a Macintosh.  The Mac comes with all sorts of nifty software bundled with it.  One of the programs, Iphoto, includes the option of making your own calendar.  Back in January this began to look like a really good idea to me, so I did it.  With the help of my artistic friends, I have created a brand new fantasy art calendar with a Tunnels and Trolls theme.  For example, it includes Trollish holidays like Longest Night (Dec. 21) and Trollgod’s Birthday (Apr. 28) and Sky Dragon eats Khazan (the moon) (June 4).

The new calendar runs from March 2012 through March 2013.  The idea is to update it with fresh art every 3 months, and to sell the dates to help finance it and pay the artists.  You can buy one day on the calendar for $8, two days for $15, and three days for $20.  After that the pricing starts over.  Want your birthday on a beautiful fantasy calendar?  This is your chance.  Dates are sold on a first-come basis, so if you want June 5, and somebody already has that date, too bad.  Interested, leave a comment and I will contact you.

Art in the current calendar comes from:

Steve Crompton

Liz Danforth

Ed Heil

Katje Romanov

Miika Spray

Christa St. Jean

Robin Stacey

David Ullery.

Some very strange beings can be found in this calendar. This is the demon Bel-Zaratak as imagined by Ken St. Andre and rendered by Christa St. Jean.

If you’ve ever done art for a calendar, created your own calendar, or wanted to be on a calendar, go ahead and leave a comment below.


My Tunnels and Trolls, Part 1   3 comments

I thought it might be fun to lay out a list of the Tunnels and Trolls products that I have personally written and are currently for sale.  So here it goes, more of a catalog than a blog.  These are just the games available on  I’ll also give you a bit of background on each one.

Deathtrap was the first solo I ever wrote, way back in 1976.  So early in my role-playing career, I had already gotten tired of all the wandering around in tunnels and passageways.  It seemed to me that all the action was in the rooms, so why bother with passages.  I give the delver a ring that magically transported him in and out of the adventure.  There were two rings.  The Frog Ring took the delver into a single room in the dungeon.  Solve that room and the player got out with a treasure.  Fail and die.  It wasn’t called “Deathtrap” for nothing.  The four-armed demon on the cover and the blade-handed bandit inside were actually “borrowed” from Marvel’s Conan comics as scripted at that time by Roy Thomas.  This dungeon produced a lot of characters with hands made of living diamond.  It was perhaps the least dangerous trap in the adventure.  The other ring was called The Lion Ring, and it sent you on the Trip of the Lion.  The character had to go through every adventure, one right after the other. I don’t know if any character or player has ever been good enough to go through all the traps and dangers of Deathtrap Equalizer.  Certainly, I could never do it.

The second solo adventure I ever did also shattered a stereotype–the one of the heavily armed adventurer or group of adventurers venturing into the monsters’ lair to  slay vermin and take their stuff.  I was all about shattering stereotypes back in the seventies. (Now, it seems, I may be all about perpetuating them. heh!).  It seemed to me that adventures took too long to get going because the players needed to “buy” stuff and equip their characters.  T & T offered lots of choices for equipping characters right from the very beginnning.  How could I speed that up?  One way would be not to give the character anything at the beginning of the adventure.  It’s a time-honored technique going back to such heroes as John Carter of Mars, who arrived on the planet in his birthday suit.  My artist, Rob Carver, took me at my word and drew the title character in full frontal nudity.  Back in the day there were plenty of books and magazines featuring nude  women in peril.  I figured if it worked for naked women, it should be the same for naked men.  Flying Buffalo publisher Rick Loomis was scandalized and disagreed.  Reluctantly, Rob altered the picture and drew in the loin cloth.  Adventure modules were in their infancy.  I think I may have been the first game designer to throw characters into an adventure with nothing but their wits to save them.  I may have also been first to tie two modules together.  Deep inside the Naked Doom Gauntlet of Criminal Rehabilitation there is a place where the player can find a Frog Ring.  If you put it on, the character was magically teleported out of Naked Doom and into a Deathtrap Equalizer Adventure.  I still like that trick, and you’ll find it again in The DewDrop Inn that was written in 2011.

A short solitaire adventure intended for Tunnels & Trolls. Do you have what it takes to be an Agent of the Death Goddess?  Khara Khang’s Random Rainbow Maze is a simple test for warriors who want to serve their Empress.  Show that you have what it takes by getting through it alive. Two simple strategies will serve you well–Fight! and Flight!  My personal goal for 2011 was to publish as many T & T solos as I could.  I wanted to start with something short and sweet.  I found a simple maze and filled it with simple traps and monsters.  Your task was to go in one end and come out the other.  I had also been dreaming about these walls where the colors faded into each other–orange to red, blue to green, sort of like a rainbow.  I had an idea of coordinating the colors with the difficulty of the traps–red being the easiest and violet the most difficult.  Oh, yeah, let’s tie it into the Khazan mythos somehow.  The result was Khara Khang’s Random Rainbow Maze, a mazingly illustrated by David Ullery.  The printer screwed up the first edition, and just photocopied it all on plain paper.  Grrrrr!  This is a good adventure for people just learning the game.

The classic Tunnels & Trolls supplement that lets the players play the monsters, defending their dungeon dwellings and other holdings from marauding adventurers!  Originally created for Howard Thompson of Metagaming, this twisted variant of T & T in which players were supposed to be the monsters, and to behave as evilly and chaotically as they could, only lasted for a couple of years there until Steve Jackson created The Fantasy Trip.  Not willing to publish 2 different fantasy rpgs, Metagaming decided to lose Monsters! Monsters!  I bought the rights to the game back for $300 and then cut a deal with Flying Buffalo to republish it.  Flying Buffalo did a low budget reprint with Liz Danforth’s beautiful cover reduced to two colors.  Rick sold out of his copies in a year or two, and Monsters! went out of print for at least a decade.  Rick Loomis often made noises about  updating and reprinting it, but somehow there was never enough money for it until about 2009 when a reprint edition finally came back into circulation.  A reviewer has pointed out that this is a Tunnels & Trolls variant, but that it features the original 2nd edition T & T rules.  Heh!  Will it ever get updated to the current 7.5 edition rules?  I don’t know.  I wouldn’t count on it.  So reading and playing Monsters! Monsters! is like time travel back to roleplaying as it was in 1977.  I’d like to point out that my idea of having the players be the monsters predated White Wolf’s World of Darkness monster-based rpgs by about a decade at least.

Well, that’s 4 of my products available at  I was just going to keep going until I had talked about everything currently available from them, but I’m tired of typing, so this is part one.  It is the usual chaotic St  Andre product–in this case 3 oldies and one fairly new item.  Straight chronology is ignored.  I’ve added a few notes that you might not have known about, and certainly wouldn’t have cared about, and when I can’t think of anything else to write about, I’ll probably do part two.

If  you have any comments about these adventures, the early days of roleplaying, or what  you’d like to see me write about next, then please leave a comment.


Too Much Good Stuff   21 comments

Fantasy role-playing game production has exploded in a most amazing way over the last few years, and the explosion continuess.  Because I have written a few reviews of products on which is really the same company as, I get the opportunity to review every new product that comes along.  Well, I can’t do that.  There is only so much time in a day, and I need most of it simply to handle my own needs and write/promote my own gaming projects, but for some time now I have been thinking of chronicling the terrific production of rpg modules being offered on the web.  What follows is just the offerings for one day, today, Feb. 9, 2012, and i’ll go through them in the order in which I learned about them.

Eastern Raider Games offers Image

which is a collection of 14 royalty free images of this young lady that anyone can use as art for anything they like.  Rendering for fun and profit.  I’m no render artist, but I imagine the images could be further transformed by the skilled.

Fat Goblin Games is offeringImage

which looks like a Pathfinder scenario for a certain type of Assassin character type, but it may just be a description of that D & D subclass.

NUELOW Games usually has one or more products every day.  Todays product is Image

a superhero scenario from the ROLF superhero rpg, which I had never heard of before. Looks like a story game–players go through a certain romantic triangle story game.

Rite Publishing brings us Image

1001 Spells gives you – yes, you guessed it – 1001 spells, that will help you realize the vision you’ve had for your spellcaster.   Another Pathfinder product–I imagine Game Masters could quickly adapt this to the game system of their choice.

Raging Swan Press has had 4 releases today.  I’m only going to show the latest one:


This is royalty free art for GMs or Scenario Designers to use to add some black and white color to their products.  Not all of us have a stable of talented artists to turn to when we want a piece of art to enliven our new scenario.  This seems like an awkward pose for a warrior, but I haven’t looked inside to see whether our protagonist gets more dynamic or not.  Raging Swan also offered stock art for a Harp Sorcerer and a Bugbear Warrior today.  Yesterday they offered a scenario builder for Marsh Encounters.  These guys are working all the time.

For today’s would-be authors E=zines are what the pulps were for people like Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft back in the 20s, 30s, and 40s of the early 20th century.  They’re great.  I love e-zines, and have appeared in a few of them like Elder Tunnels and Fight On.  This Stories in the Ether from Nevermet Press looks like a very good one.  I might download this, just to see if it could be a possible future market for some of my own tales.  Writers, this is a very good thing to do.  Study the publishers–see what they want, and how your tales are likely to be presented.  You might not get paid for contributing to an e-zine.  Pulp authors didn’t make much either, and they had a much bigger real as opposed to potential audience.  The internet gives us a potential audience of billions although the real audience is more likely to be dozens.  Dozens is better than none, my friends.  Find the publishers and send them your best work!

Attention Span Games adds to the fun with

A sequel to the Carmine rpg.

Okay, I’ve never heard of the Carmne rpg, but it’s plain that author Ron F. Leota has his own dark fantasy universe going, and is having good fun with it.

We’re not done yet.  Cubicles 7 releases 

This is a roleplaying scenario set in Middle Earth during the War of the Ring.

Hey, I haven’t finished mentioning all the things that could have come to me today.  Ten more have arrived while I was putting this blog together, and who knows how many might come before midnight?  I haven’t downloaded any of them, but I saved the emails just in case I’m persuaded somehow to change my mind.  If I download, I will write a short review, probably not here, but right at the download site.  The prices on all of these games and entertainment objects are extremely reasonable.  Support your hard-working game designers, writers, and artists.  Buy the one you like the best, or go hunting at  If you’re not familiar with the place, you will be amazed at the superabundance of gaming, art, and other forms or entertainment goodness.  Search for your favorite system or style or creator.  Better yet, search for me, Ken St. Andre  (grin–shameless plug) or my friend John Wick.  I had a new product just last week, and so did he.  I might have another next week if current efforts go well–a fantasy art calendar for Tunnels and Trolls.  I’m starting it in March so you won’t feel cheated by having days that have already gone by.

If you buy or download games online, please leave a comment.  Tell us what you think of the selection or the service.


My Favorite Editorial   6 comments

That Frisson of Disgust, That Tingle of Fear

I haven’t been very good about doing blogs lately.  Either I’m not having that much fun, or I just can’t find time to write them.  I have been working on a fantasy art calendar for Tunnels and Trolls, and I hope to have that published in the next week.  Meanwhile, tho I’m sure I’ve run this editorial before, probably just last year, let me run it again, and I’ll stick some new art into it.

Two weeks ago at HuntCon, a friendly gaming get together here in Phoenix, I got to run A T & T adventure for 4 gamers.  We did, as far as I know, the first ever adventure in Dwarf World.  My players all had new characters.  I started them out in the frying pan–being chased by the Black Dog people (I invented the Black Dog people on the spot because there were two big black dogs at the party, pets of the host, who were hanging around with us gamers on the back patio) who simply wanted to kill them all, and they swiftly jumped out of it into the fire.

This was the first T & T game ever for 2 of my 4 players.  They were horrendously outnumbered, and in a terrible situation.  Don’t you just love it when you can set up a game like that?  Players really have to get creative when just running out and killing everything in their path isn’t going to work.


Do you remember your first fantasy role-playing experience? Do you remember struggling to understand unfamiliar rules, the effort to fit your character into that of someone not yourself? Do you remember the dread with which you faced your first monstrous foe?

There has never been anything else quite like it, has there?

As you continued to play, you learned what to expect, and how to turn the tables on your Game Master. You learned how to balance a party of delvers to deal with all emergencies, how to anticipate traps, and trick monsters. You learned when to fight and when to talk. And as you learned all these things, your character found artifacts of power and grew ever more potent and dangerous.

And now that you are a 20th level wizard-warrior with a pet dragon capable of dishing out 6421 points of hit damage, spells capable of halting time or destroying a mountain, armor that can protect you from a nuclear explosion – now that you have achieved all your desires, don’t you find yourself looking around wondering where the next challenge will come from, and not finding any?

Wasn’t it better when you were just a first level wizard, agonizing over whether to throw a TTYF for 16 whole points of damage on that charging monster, and then hope the party can protect you until the combat is over, or whether to vorpal the blade of the best warrior and possibly strike a few blows of your own with the quarterstaff?

The truth is that we as human beings gain just as much pleasure from making small decisions and gaining small victories as we do from making earth-shattering decisions and saving the world. We are each our own world, and when you manage to elude that horde of MR-5 rats and scramble to safety, it is as good or better than causing the earth to open and swallow 20,000 attacking Ores. The first is just a personal triumph; the second example is history. But what do you as a person relate to more – personal triumphs or history?

There is no doubt that the longer you continue to role-play, the better a role-player you will become, and the more effective your character will be during the game. But when you can effortlessly wave your hand and destroy that hulking troll, the satisfaction is gone from the game. When you had to think fast, dodge, rig a landslide, lure it into a pit, the challenge and thus the fun was greater.

The Black Dog People probably looked like this.

Which brings me to my point – low level games are more fun than high level games. Being powerless and fighting for your life is more of a thrill than being godlike and annihilating the opponent. High level games turn into bragging contests, where players and Game Masters try to top each other with one super feat after another. Low level adventures are more the kind of thing you could see yourself actually participating in.

And that is why, in over 25 years of role-playing, I have never actually developed a character higher than 9th level. High level characters are like gods, and if I need a god, I’ll make one up (Gristlegrim, Lerotra’hh) when I’m the Game Master. Or. I’ll ask the current G.M. to do a divine intervention.

Then again, if a beginning character dies, you can always roll up a new one – no great loss! But if a high level character gets toasted, then you lose months or years of role-playing labor. No wonder AD&D allows practically unlimited resurrection of dead characters. It’s a power trip, and once you accumulate a fair amount of power, you really hate to lose it.

The solution to having the most fun, of course, is to retire those high level monstrosities – turn them into NPCs. Perhaps someone will encounter old Drax the Demon Dodger and get his help on a particularly difficult mission that all those first to third level types had no chance with, but your emotional investment is not tied up in Drax. Instead, it’s with Itchy the Kid who’s just finding his first magic kazoo.

Turn your high level characters into Kings and important NPCs when you run an adventure for others.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. High level games can be awesome, but low level games are a lot more fun!

Oh, and I’m happy to report that my characters got a chance to do something heroic at the end of the adventure.  They fought and killed an Obsidian Spider that was tougher than all of them put together, saved their Dwarf guide who had earlier saved them, and wound up with a fortune in rubies.  Then, since we had been playing for about 3 hours, I used a Deus Ex Machina device to wrap up the adventure in a hurry and end the game.  Everybody felt both tested and rewarded.  I thought it was an excellent way to introduce new players to T  & T.

If you’ve ever played Dwarf World, or have any opinion about high level vs. low level adventuring in frps, please go ahead and leave a comment.


P.S.  All the art in this blog was done by David Ullery.  He has a massive new solo adventure available at  And guess what?  It’s for low level characters, and is lots of fun.

An elemental battle--delver versus hungry reptile.