RPGers

Venerable members of this group:

GhettoAardvark, passport, Tiefling, Hexter, sabby, VAG, abiessu, sleeping wolf, atesh, Sofacoin, kalen, werejackal, dodo37, in10se, Myrkabah, Kit, RoguePoet, Uri E Bakay, Akchizar, Johnny, timgoh0, androjen, greth, Ysardo, Clockmaker, Aerobe$, OldMiner, Kizor, Jet-Poop, Dr.Jimmy
This group of 30 members is led by GhettoAardvark

Steve Jackson Games (commonly abbreviated SJG) is a company based in Austin, Texas. It is best known as a manufacturer of role playing games. In addition, they produce card games (both of the collectable and non collectable variety), board games, wargames, and just about every type of game EXCEPT computer games (they just license their property out for those.) They also publish an online magazine called Pyramid, which covers the entire industry pretty well, not just Steve Jackson's own materials. They also sell roleplaying games (not just their own) through their mail-order service, Warehouse 23. Finally, through "Illuminati Online," they also are an ISP to the Austin area.

Steve Jackson Games was founded in 1980 by Steve Jackson himself. Steve Jackson's first works were published by Metagaming (including the very popular Ogre wargame/boardgame). Afterwards, he decided to go into business for himself and produced a few games (including his first game, Raid on Iran.) His company didn't "hit it big" until he produced Car Wars, which is still popular to this day. (And they still print it.) They're best known for their main game, GURPS which has been stable with a third edition for many years. (At least 10 years strong.) They had a big hit when they produced Illuminati: New World Order, however that game has died along with most of the other CCGs from that era. (SJG did a nifty trick with it, though, and started putting out their materials as if it were a non-collectable game.) He also got back his rights to put out Ogre.

One common theme of SJG's various materials is the idea of a vast global conspiracy called Illuminati. Apart from the inevitable games based on it (Illuminati and Illuminati: New World Order), they also published the Principia Discordia (along with their own apocryphal chapters). Their ISP is called Illuminati Online. Heck, the company's symbol is the classic eye in the pyramid. So, don't be surprised by a liberal sprinkling of fnord through their materials.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention their run-in with the United States' Secret Service at some point. In March 1, 1990 the Secret Service was busy with raiding BBSs across the country in a crackdown on piracy called Operation Sun Devil. Acting on the advice of a civilian "expert" on computer crime, they suspected that the upcoming book GURPS Cyberpunk was a handbook for computer crime. (Which of course is ridiculous because the Cyberpunk genre is set rather far in the future, and the computer crime described in the book had little relation.) The Secret Service was particularly careless with the materials they confiscated, which included many of the manuscripts that Steve Jackson was working on, their BBS which they used to support their games, and even the personal computer of the writer of the game Lloyd Blankenship (from his home). The case finally was decided in 1993, and Steve Jackson was awarded $50,000 in damages and $250,000 in attorney's fees. In addition, this case was one of the reasons for the creation of the EFF. And of course, being a game company, Steve Jackson made a game based on the experience called Hacker. Check it out, it's a fun board game.

Since Steve Jackson had to remake their BBS (founded in 1986) after the confiscation by the Secret Service, they went the "next step" and set up an ISP. They already were one of the first companies to have a good "online presence," now they had an excellent presence. I typically browse their "Daily Illuminator" for various juicy tidbits of news. If I ever have a question about one of SJG's games, I know that their website is available. If you have anything else you'd like to find out, be assured that you can easily find it in one of the URLs I provide below. I had no shortage of material to include, I had a hard time leaving anything out.

The below list is intended to be complete. However, they seem to be continually bringing things that are out of print back into print, so if I mark something down as out of print, don't expect that it's gone for good. And of course, they will add new things all the time, and retire those things which sell poorly. A complete list will be available at the URL I will list at the bottom of the page.

List of items they've sold/have for sale: (in print/out of print/etc)

URLs that are useful:

  • SJG FAQ: http://www.sjgames.com/general/faq.html
  • SJG main site: http://www.sjgames.com
  • SJG vs SS info: http://www.sjgames.com/SS/
  • Illuminati Online: http://www.io.com
  • History of Illuminati BBS: http://www.io.com/io/history.html
Welcome to the picturesque village of Eveningstar, nestled at the foot of the Stonelands where the River Starwater winds down a gorge and snakes into the King's Forest.

Here, the Knights of Myth Drannor began their famous adventures. Here, the Ladies of the Brazen Blade, The Company of the Singing Sword, The Steel Shield Band, and many other came, clutching royal charters from King Azoun with the ink scarcely dry on the parchment. Some fell, some went on to greatness- -- but they all came here first: here, to the Haunted Halls.

Haunted Halls of Eveningstar was an adventure module for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game, set in the Forgotten Realms campaign world. This module was written by the creator of the realms himself, Ed Greenwood (while Erik Olson, Valerie Valusek, and "Diesel" handled the artwork and maps). The adventure was originally published in 1992 (ISBN # 1-56076-325-6, TSR product number 9354), and has subsequently been republished in pdf format and is available at the Wizards Online Store for $5. It is also theoretically available on the gnutella network, (in theory the search string "TSR9354" would find it, but don't ask me because I have no knowledge of such things).

The module begins with an overview of the town of Eveningstar itself. It is a small quiet village with a population of around 400. Most of the locals are farmers, and they provide food for themselves, and manage to export a decent amount of produce to the rest of Cormyr. Notable sights around the town include "The Lonesome Tankard Inn" and a temple dedicated to "Lathander".

The town is run by "Lord Tessaril Winter", a tall slim blond woman who was an adventure in her younger days. She is skilled as both a mage and as a warrior, and watches over her town like a mother cat (with the help of a cat oddly enough). Tessaril's familiar is a winged cat (a "Tressym"), who has human intelligence and is hopelessly devoted to her. Tessaril's cat has saved her life on several occasions. In person Tessaril is soft spoken, easy going, and fond of children, but she can be a deadly combatant if angered.

The town information makes for great reading, but unfortunately it makes heavy reference to areas outside the general Eveningstar area. It would require a bit of adaptation to use outside of the Forgotten Realms setting.

The module goes on to describe a few areas outside of town, but without fully fleshing them out. Leaving plenty of room for the gamemaster to come up with his own adventures for those areas. Some of the areas mentioned are "The Stonelands" (a large area of broken ground said to harbor many monsters) and "Starwater Gorge" (an area that holds a dangerous abandoned fortress that many people think is the famous "Halls of Eveningstar").

This section of the module is quite usable in any campaign. The only real adaptation required is to substitute a reference to "The Red Wizards of Thay" to some other group of evil wizards that live in your world (or simply drop it altogether, as it isn't that important).

The Haunted Halls themselves are the showpiece of the module, and should drop into any campaign world easily (even if you were unable to use the town itself). Greenwood is one of the best "Dungeon Masters" in the world, and it shows in the design of the halls.

This is one of those modules that is light on combat, but very heavy on traps and exploration. As a matter of fact there are only 22 monsters in the whole module (a full eight of which are kobolds who are encountered together). Players who like to rush from room to room looking for monsters are not going to have the best time with this adventure. But on the flip side of things, players who search everywhere, and examine everything, will be well rewarded, as there are lots of hidden goodies to find. The lack of large monster populations makes this module suitable for players of almost any level, although first level players will probably perish from the traps.

The module only details the first level of the ruins, but it indicates exactly where the game master can expand the scenario.

What is good about this module.

The room descriptions are fantastic. Ed Greenwood is hands down the number one man for writing up dungeons. Not only do the halls feel real, you get the distinct impression that what you are reading is the result of many adventures in the halls in Ed's own campaign.

The treasures in this module are well hidden. So many designers just leave things laying around in plain sight, but not Ed Greenwood. You want the 1000 GP sapphire? Then you are going to have to look inside the hollow boot of a dead man. In most other modules I would complain about the sheer amount of magic items to be found (even this one has a ton of them), but the players will be lucky to find even ten percent of them, and certainly won't be waltzing out with all of them.

What is bad about this module

Like all Forgotten Realms modules this one is intimately connected to the realms, and is difficult to separate. My other main complaint is that this product can't decide if it is a module or a campaign sourcebook, and at only 32 pages, it should have made that decision early on. Instead the first half reads like a campaign book and the second half reads like a module.

Then there is the dungeon map. This is just a minor quibble really. But the map shows about 70 rooms, but only has numbered encounters for 32 rooms. No big deal, but the module doesn't tell you if those rooms are supposed to be empty, or if you are supposed to fill them (I have seen Forgotten Realms products that went both ways).

My overall impression

I think this is a great product, but it does require a little preparation on the gamemasters part. If played as is (without expansion) it is one of the few published Forgotten Realms modules I have seen that can be played through in a single setting.

Queen's Harvest is probably the best introductory adventure module ever produced for the now obsolete Basic Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying system. Published in 1989 (ISBN 0-88038-768-8, TSR product number 9261), the module was written by the inimitable Carl Sargent and features cover art by John and Laura Lakey with interior art by Karl Waller. The whole module easily converts to 2nd Ed AD&D or 3E D&D. Although it is designed for 4-6 characters levels 1-3, I've found that it works great as a stand-alone adventure to throw at a single 4th or 5th level character or two 3rd level characters.

Nominally the sequel to King's Festival, the only thing this module really has in common with that one is locale, so these adventures can easily stand alone. What makes Queen's Harvest so great is that it packs not one but two cleverly written, good-sized adventures into one normal sized module. The interesting situations and NPCs therein can easily jumpstart a whole campaign. An added bonus are the included pre-rolled characters with interesting character histories - even if you don't foist these on your PCs they can be the basis of some cool emergency NPCs down the road.

The first adventure finds the PCs hired to explore a recently deceased wizard's basement with some neat surprises, and the second adventure is a truly daunting assault on the fortress of an evil queen who has gathered an army of orcs and goblins thanks to an evil sword of great power. The second adventure can get a bit too hack-and-slash if you just play it straight up, but the sequence of events is pretty open-ended and the adventure has a lot of room to add stuff, so with minimal effort you can really spice it up. For example, in a glaring omission, the module leaves out the evil sword entirely, reasoning that it would be too powerful a weapon for such low level characters to find. Thus when they defeat the queen, the sword is simply nowhere to be found. But I always figured, why not put the sword in the adventure, and see what happens? Sure I could never let the characters have it for too long, but a sword like that is undoubtedly an artifact of great power and evil and just putting it in the game can lead to some pretty interesting adventures down the road. Just think of all the people and things that would kill (or worse) to get their hands on it!

SFAC3: Zebulon's Guide to Frontier Space, Volume 1

Zebulon's Guide to Frontier Space was a supplement/rules update for TSR's early-1980's science-fiction RPG Star Frontiers. The name is obviously a take-off on Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Star Frontiers veterans may remember that Zebulon is the star system where the initial Volturnus series of modules took place (SF0-SF2).

Zeb's Guide was published by TSR as the last official Star Frontiers product, ever. Originally, plans were made for a series of 32-page supplements, similar to D&D's Gazeteer series, with each supplement dealing with a specific topic, like robots, cybernetics and bionics, new alien races, new starships and space combat rules, etc., hence the "Volume 1" in the title.

Unfortunately, TSR dropped the Star Frontiers line in favor of the ill-fated Buck Rogers in the 25th Century franchise (it was rumored that the TSR exec responsible for this decision stood to gain tons of royalty payments, as she was a granddaughter of the original Buck Rogers author). Everything the SF team had been working on was stuffed into one 64-page book, and the whole shebang shoved out the door into the waiting hands of SF gamers, who had gone years before seeing any new official material.

The result was a hodgepodge of new campaign background, new items, four new races, streamlined combat rules, an expanded skill system (with over a hundred skills) and a replacement for the old percentile resolution system in the form of a four-color Action Resolution Table (almost exactly the same as that found in the Gamma World 3rd edition rules). To this day, the Zebs vs. AD (Alpha Dawn, the original system) debate still occasionally erupts on the Star Frontiers mailing list.

Attempts have been made by the fan base to marry the two incompatible systems, with mixed results (the latest is the SF2000 system). Most game referees use the base Alpha Dawn system, and pick and choose items and campaign material from Zebs.

There is only so much you can put in a 64-page book, though, and a lot of material still got cut. The cyborg rules reportedly surfaced in a 3rd edition Gamma World module, Epsilon Cyborgs, while the powered armor rules were published in Dragon issue #129, Armored and Dangerous by David Dennis. Apart from several other Dragon articles, no other official Star Frontiers material has been published since.

Most details from mailing list scuttlebutt and from my dog-eared copy of Zeb's Guide.

It was the second day of the Living Greyhawk convention and I was sleep deprived as usual. The steady stream of diet sodas I was downing to help keep me awake all day had the unfortunate side effect of keeping me up most of the night as well, but I was used to that, as it comes with the territory.

The Dungeons and Dragons game had been going for almost 3 hours already and we were still on the first battle and I hadn't even gotten to take an action yet. At game conventions you never know who you are going to be playing with and I was at a table full of anecdote reciters, slow players and people who somehow had been playing a wizard character for four years without even seeming to understand how any of their spells even work. Eighty to ninety percent of the time at a game table is usually taken up by the slowest player there, in this case I was sitting at a table with 5 of those guys playing and a 6th one as the dungeon master.

I am not a slow player by any means, and the fact that this particular battle had been going for over an hour and a half without even coming around to my turn was more than a little bit frustrating for me. I was playing a character who was carefully designed to be a flying lance charging character that actually worked and was actually legal under the restrictive Living Greyhawk character guidelines. I had been playing the character a year and a half and still hadn't actually got myself to the point where I would get the giant bat that I planned to ride into battle. That would come at 6th level and I was still 5th. At the moment my character was a 4'8" 90 lb girl who had spent almost all of her character points on Strength and Charisma to maximize my effectiveness in dealing damage on lance charges (the character's gender had to be female just to get the legal weight of the character down low enough for the bat to be able to fly with a rider, yes I am that much of a nerd). It actually worked too, I may have had the defenses of a dead goat and hit points lower than the average elderly wizard, but I could usually take out the biggest nasty on the board with one hit.

At the moment there were two big nasties on the battlefield, both were trolls, and both were down at the bottom of a 20 foot cliff, and we were up on top of the cliff. I can't even remember what all the fatbeards I was playing with had even been doing with their actions, but none of them had gone down to fight the trolls, that much I knew.

Long before my turn came up I knew exactly what I was going to do, I was going to charge one of the trolls and then watch the other one rend my character to death as soon as it got another action. I have all the charging rules memorized, including errata, such as the ability to jump during a charge, and I know the stats of a troll so the outcome was nearly certain. One of the fatbeards had aimlessly wandered his character between my own and the cliff face for no reason, despite my previous warnings at the beginning of the fight to keep my line clear because I was going to jump off the cliff with my horse and lance one of them trolls (and could they possibly blast the other one or something, kay, thanks).

My turn came up, I executed my charge, leaping my horse over the fatbeard's character and then off the cliff, impacting one of the trolls with my lance killing it, my horse was of course severely injured from the fall and my own character was damaged as well. The other troll (of course) went next and proceeded to kill my character without even having to use all of its attacks on me, it actually got to use its last one on my poor horse.

I smiled and said I would be back when it was over and promptly wandered away, sure my character I had spent so much time on would now go down to 4th level upon being reincarnated and I would be even further away from that silly flying bat than I was when I started, but anything, even killing my own character beat the sheer boredom of watching a table full of the world's slowest gamers take a half hour each to complete actions that can be done in 90 seconds, tops. That game had already eaten 3 hours of my life that I was never going to get back and I saw no reason to give it another minute, even if it meant killing my own character.