Tag Archives: Sharps Swords & Sinister Spells

The Blight by Frog God Games

Last month Frog God Games ran a contest for fan reviews. I did a couple and did garner some Frog Bucks to spend. I’m still shopping. The Blight was on my list of things review and I just didn’t have the time fully delve into it. But as luck would have it, I just did have some time and dove right in and wish I had done so earlier. Now, if you’ve follow me around social media I’ve mentioned the idea of mixing The Midderlands, Tegel Manor (which I backed), and The Blight. That idea still stands. One more disclosure for this rant. This is based on the 5E version of The Blight and I’ll only be talking about the Campaign Guide. I had grabbed it and a bunch of other really cool stuff from a 5E Humble Bundle.

Let’s start of with a general overview. So what is The Blight. It’s grim/dark, horror, gritty urban campaign location, namely the City-State of Castorhage. It’s mean and cruel place and it’s big. The campaign guide places the population at about 3.8 million. That’s roughly the size of Los Angeles. Not only is the city big so is the book. It clocks in at 890 pages or so. No easy feat reading this thing in PDF form. Castorhage is physically and morally corrupt. Countless alchemical experiments and a lot of sewage have polluted the the main river. The royal family is decadent and insane. To add to this already warped setting, there’s the Between. A nightmarish dimension that can sometimes be accessed through mirrors or other reflective surfaces. And to keep with horror theme sometimes the Between just pops up in those places.
Let’s do a little run down of the book itself. Like I said, it’s huge. It starts off with the usual overview. This can be most easily summed up with the Seven Prayers of Castorhage and the Seven Unspoken Prayers of Castorhage. Basically, the rules and philosophy of the city. One for the low born and one for the powerful. For Example: Only the wise know how to use the dangerous curse of magic, and only a fool would tamper with it./M agic is power, and power in the wrong hands is folly. Only those of high caste know how to use it wisely; the lowborn who dabble with it must be taught a lesson and cleansed as an example to others.
Next up are people. Some of the more important NPC’s as well as options for player characters plus quirks, and new equipment. Then we have a GM’s section with advice and suggestions on how to run the Blight. And there’s even more material about places and people. One of the interesting things about Castorhage is that there gods and Gods. Let me explain. The gods aren’t really gods. They walk around and inhabit the city. They don’t have real religions but they do have cults. They way the are presented in the book I’d call them urban legends to place blame or find cause for any mysterious or horrible thing that might happen. For the 5E version, they really missed the boat on this one. I feel that the gods would make great warlock patrons but alas nothing was written up so GM’s would be on their own.
Then there’s a whole section on the Between. Like I mentioned a nightmare dimension that personally reminds me a bit of Lovecraft’s Dreamlands. But that just maybe me. I don’t want to say too much on this part since I feel it’s a good venue for GM’s to throw in some mystery and exploration in an otherwise urban based campaign. But it is detailed as basically it’s own world. Oh yeah and the Between can corrupt characters and so on. Nasty stuff.
Then come a huge bestiary. I’m seeing why this book is so long. All sorts of new and interesting monsters as well as some of the major NPC’s. Oddly enough, enterprising GM’s will find a few other player character options like the Undying. You’re only sort of undead.
Then there’s a very small section of inspirational random tables and then the books goes into another more detail breakdown of each of the districts of the city. There’s a ton of information and detail about these districts. It’s not as crazy as City-State of the Invincible Overlord but still there’s a lot. Almost too much for your average GM to digest and remember.
Finally, there’s an adventure path, The Levee. I don’t want to put any spoilers but looks pretty good and if you want a sneak peak of what it’s like then stop by and listen to Swords & Misery, an actual play podcast.
So what do I think? Overall, pretty god but it doesn’t mean there a few problems. First there’s a few editing errors that make the 5E conversion seem almost like an after thought. There’s a few places where the explanation of crunchy is worded more akin to the Pathfinder rules rather than 5E. Like I said before, there’s lots of information and I fell it wasn’t always presented in the most efficient fashion leading to page flipping and head scratching till find another bit of information to tie it all together. Also, some of the NPC’s have powers or abilities that are mentioned in the fluff text but not even mentioned in the stat blocks. For example, one powerful NPC “borrows” the skin of an underling when needed. Yeah. Nasty stuff. And I suppose I should mention that if you aren’t ready for a decadent, horror-filled setting then just walk away. Also, going through the setting if you are the type to doesn’t like the Cantina Scene type set up then you may just house rule the extra races and racial options out. However, I would say this, it all seems to fit without seeming forced or “let’s just make sure that any player can play whatever they want”. There may be prices and/or consequences based on the character’s race or class.
Do I still want to run it. Hell yeah. But I’ve got some thoughts on that.
5E: While the version I have of the Blight is for 5E. I just don’t feel the game as written doesn’t play well as for a horror/grim dark setting. There would have to be some house rules. Sure all the races are ready made but there’s nothing about Tieflings which fit well and would have their unique problems in the city IMHO.
Swords & Wizardry/White Box/Old School Essentials/OSR: This could be done with little or no conversion and only some minor tweaking. I know there’s a Swords & Wizardry version available but it’s so easy to convert into Swords & Wizardry. There’d me minimal house rules plus there’s is much good old school stuff out there it would be easy to find other tools that would fit. Now, I can’t mention the old school games without thinking about Lamentations of the Flame Princess. The vibe fits almost perfectly but there’d still be some tweaking. The real gem in LOTFP is the spell list which could be easily substituted for the original or vanilla lists.
Dungeon Crawl Classics: Lankhmar This already give a set up for running urban adventures with a more Sword and Sorcery flair. Conversion would be a little more difficult and then there’s the fact the magic can get really swingy. So that would be a consideration.
Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells: It’s no secret that I love this game. It’s rules light and very easy to convert into. It would work great. If you want to add non-human races then that might take a little work.
Zweihander: I admit that I haven’t played this yet but I do have the PDF. And it would work danged perfectly. It’s fits great with the tone and atmosphere of the setting. There are a couple of problems. First, it would be a pain in the butt to convert all the monsters and NPC’s. I’d also be faced with teaching the group a whole new game system.
I’ve rambled long enough on this. I haven’t brought it up the gaming group yet so we’ll see what they say. We’ll see what happens.

Averaging is Your Friend

This is something I’ve done in my other old school games successfully. There aren’t any skills so to speak and most folks go with roll something versus an ability score. But in the past I’ve always what I felt was the best mechanic available. One good stat made a character great at a whole family of things. So I’ve gone to averaging.
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the games put out by Old Skull Publishing and I’m working on a nice little review of Dark Streets and Darker Secrets, a campaign for it, and some other little goodies. The point of this is that I’m going to be adding that this to my game.
Like I said, instead of making checks against one stat, make a check against the average of two. I’ve thrown these checks into a few broad categories.
Athletics (Strength and Dexterity) or (Physique and Agility: Climbing, Acrobatics, Jumping and all that stuff.
Craft: (Intelligence and Dexterity) or (Agility and Intellect): This is for doing stuff with your hands. Skinning an animal, hot wiring a car, even first Aid.
Wits: (Intelligence and Wisdom) or (Intellect and Will): This isn’t about knowing stuff rote. It’s about understanding information and being able to parse that information.
And, of course< there are more options but use as you will. And you don't even have to add this to character sheets. It's just make check against and list them. My players already know what I mean.
And it works. It makes more than one stat important to preform an action. So min maxing is not your friend. It's easy. And generally works well with the existing system.
Like any rules hack, your mileage may vary. Remember the most important thing isn't the rules your using but the fun you're having.

The World of Skarynth is released

This is how bad I am at self promotion. I forgot to post here. Well, it’s been a couple of years since I released anything and here it is.

That’s right. It’s finally released after years of messing around and months of editing and hesitating I finally pulled the trigger. Check it out on DrivethruRPG. You’ll need the core book and the addendum to Sharp Swords and Sinister Spells. Depending on the reception, I may do a hardcopy via Lulu. And oh yeah. Did I mention? It’s PWYW.

What’s Cool Wednesday: Old Skull Publishing

I mentioned this in the most recent episode of the pod cast and here we got the first What’s Cool Wednesday of 2019. Old Skull Publishing and the games of Diogo Nogueira.
I guess it was about a year ago that stumbled upon Sharp Swords and Sinister Spells. I had downloaded long before that but it took me a while to really look at it. And dang it’s a pretty cool game. I did a review a while ago on it and wrote up a bunch of house rules and other stuff plus I’m working on my own setting for it. Go ahead and read that over. I don’t need to go over the basics of the system again. But any way, Diogo is a pretty cool guy and has done a lot for his own games plus for Dungeon Crawl Classics. But he isn’t done yet.
He’s two more games coming out that run on the same rules chassis as Sharp Swords and Sinister Spells. There’s Dark Streets & Darker Secrets. A sort Buffy-esque modern urban fantasy RPG. And there’s Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells. What’s the best way I can describe this one? Heavy Metal Space Fantasy. That should be coming out soon too. A busy guy who can pretty much do it all; writing, art; and layout. A hell of a lot more talented than me.
Any way, you can look up his stuff on RPGNow and you can’t beat those prices. Or follow Old Skull Publishing on its MeWe Group or its Facebook Page.
There you go. It’s 2019 and let’s share the fun.

Episode 39: Grimtooth, Far Away Land, and Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells

Another episode and I talk about lots of stuff.
I rant about Grimtooth’s Trapsylvania for Dungeon Crawl Classics. The PDF’s went out to Kickstarter backers and yes I backed it. Great dark murderous fun!

I also talk about Dirk Stanley doing a Swords & Wizardry conversion of Far Away Land. Great Idea. Can’t wait for that one.

And the wrap up of my Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells game. Enjoy!
Here’s the link.

Skarynth For Sharps Swords & Sinister Spells Part 2: Races

It’s been a while since I did an update and the play test goes on. I’ve got my scribbled notes on the print outs and things keep changing. And that’s why I haven’t put too many crunchy bits in these posts. But this post I want to talk to talk about races. This isn’t to be confused with cultures that I posted about last time.
By races, I mean in the traditional fantasy RPG sense. But since this more Sword & Sorcery, I didn’t go with any of the standard one(elf, dwarf, or halfling). These races are specific to the world but as always, the GM can do what they want. Another different twist that I took, was that all of the “non-human” races were one human. Some turn of events changed them forever.
Another thing I wanted to do is keep them in line with the philosophy of Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells. So it will be up to the game master to decided if they want to do the races as a Vocation or an Archetype or even use the multi-Archetype rules from the Addendum (which one of the play testers is having a blast with).
So onto the Races:
Beast Kin: In ancient times, a primitive tribe dare defy the will of the gods. The gods cursed the tribe to be half-man and half-beast. Beast Kin have a feral beast-like appearance. Some many even have feline, canine, ursine, or simian features. They are still defiant and strong-willed mixed with the cunning natural instincts and senses.
Lemurians: There is a legend that an alien eldritch race were stranded on the world. This race interbreed with a local tribe and gave rise to the Lemurians. The chaos and corruption of magic flows through their blood. They can attempt to manipulate and bend to their will magic that is cast against them. They can easily sense the presence of magic and can occasionally see through illusions or invisibility. Lemurians are humanoids with oddly colored skin, hair, and/or eyes. They often have other worldly features. Most have two to four tentacles. (Yep. Tentacles.)
Tuatarans: When mankind still lived in caves and barely understood fire, the Serpent Folk ruled the world. The Serpent Folk used the primitive humans as slaves and their Lizard Man army to enforce their rule. Then a plague struck the Serpentine Empire. It killed many of the Serpent Folk and worse yet it drove the disciplined Lizard Man legions into primitive savages hell-bent on destruction. In a desperate attempt to save their empire, Serpent Folk sorcerers performed vile arcane experiments on humans in order to create a better and plague resistant army. Unfortunately, it made things worse. While the resulting hybrids were resistant to disease, they also had independent spirit of the humans. Tuatrans have human features (and usually dark or black hair) with reptilian skin and eyes. A few even have forked tongues and/or tails. Tuatrans heal quickly and are resistant to poison and disease. As a side effect of their arcane origin, many can consume the life force of the dying to heal themselves.
So there you go. An overview of the nonhuman races. Next up will be a little rant about some new Archetypes. Man. I so want to call them classes. And like I said, everything is still in play test to the actual crunchy bits are in still in flux and changing every couple of weeks.

Skarynth for Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells Part 1

The play test continues. I’ll be posting these little updates and rants on a weekly or biweekly basis depending on time and if I have something to say. Won’t bore you with blah, blah posts. So I figure the best place to start is a little overview of the world.
What are my inspirations? Well, pretty standard I’d say. You probably know the usuals. Conan (and his clones, Clonans?), Lankmhar, and Elric. Pretty normal for a Sword and Sorcery type game. Well, I also drew from things like Kull of Atlantis, Elak of Atlantis, and John Carter of Mars. Yeah, I know sword and planet is a little off the track. And I didn’t go too far away from the Sword & Sorcery vibe. But the slightly alien feel of Barsoom just had to work it’s way in there. And of course the totally awesome movies of Ray Harryhausen. Man I grew up on those things and I’ll still watch them when ever I can. So onto the World of Skarynth and brief overview of it.
Skarynth is brutal and wild world. There are no kingdoms but a few city-states that wield power of their respective territories. Most of the world is unexplored wilderness, wastelands, and lawless territories. The gods are petty and cruel. There is no god of the harvest for farmers to pray to. But there is a God of Famine to appease to keep from starving.
There are six major culture groups and a very brief overview of each:
Aklonians: Some call the merchants, sailors, and explorers. Most call them pirates, con artists, and thieves.
Caedorians: Bold, brave and pragmatic warrior culture. Makers of the finest swords in the world.
Chesk Tribesmen: Mounted nomads who wander the wastelands. Know for the horsemanship, archery, and ability to survive in the worst of environments.
Jahdorans: Driven by honor and pride. Their society is highly regulated and relies on a strict caste system.
Tzwali: Warrior culture living in the jungle ruins of an ancient civilization. They control many secrets and artifacts of the ancient and powerful sorcerer kings but rarely use such power.
Zygurians: They’re decadent and have fully embraced arcane power. Zygurian politics are blood sport routinely employing assassination or arcane power.
Yes, I do have much more detailed write ups. And of course, there are few things that might change. Yeah, a couple little things might get moved around.
So more to come soon. Like some nonhuman races, the gods and few other bits.