Music – Port of Amsterdam, David Bowie


End of the Year Round-up of Short Reviews

I realized it’s been ages since I’ve posted a round-up of my Castalia House reviews. I used to do them seasonally, but kept thinking “surely I must have already done a round-up” and never bothered to actually check. It turns out, the last one I did was back in March.

So, here’s a list of all the reviews I’ve done since then!

Out For the Holidays!

I’ll be out until sometime after new years. I’ve scheduled one or two posts, but you’ll also still find my content on Wednesdays and Fridays at Castalia House as I continue my series on Avalon Hill’s The Battle of the Bulge and wrap up the February 1950 issue of A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine.

If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to MY magazine, Cirsova Magazine of Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction.

2017 Story Eligibility By Category

I would be remiss if I did not highlight what awards categories the stories we published in 2017 were eligible for:


  • The First American, by Schuyler Hernstrom (#5)


  • The Last Job on Harz, by Tyler Young (#6)
  • The Magelords of Ruach, by Abraham Strongjohn (#6)

Short Story

  • War of the Ruby, by Brian K. Lowe (#5)
  • Darla of Deodanth, by Louise Sorensen (#5)
  • In the Gloaming O My Darling, by Misha Burnett (#5)
  • The Queen of Shadows, by Jay Barnson (#5)
  • Beyond the Great Divide, by S.H. Mansouri (#5)
  • Shapes in the Fog, by Brian K. Lowe (#5)
  • Through the Star-Thorn Maze, by Lynn Rushlau (#5)
  • The Bears of 1812, by Michael Tierney (#5)
  • A Killing in Karkesh, by Adrian Cole (#5)
  • Death on the Moon, by Spencer E. Hart (#6)
  • The Battlefield of Keres, by Jim Breyfogle (#6)
  • Othan, Vandal, by Kurt Magnus (#6)
  • Temple of the Beast, by Harold R. Thompson (#6)
  • Tear Down the Stars, by Adrian Cole (#6)


  • My Name is John Carter (Part 4), by James Hutchings (#5)
  • My Name is John Carter (Part 5), by James Hutchings (#6)

We’ve broken the $1k mark, and that’s not bad!

Just a heads-up for where we are:

-Issue 7 edits are in from Xavier; once I finish getting them entered into the workfiles, we’ll be passing them off to Mark for one more round.

-Art notes are in from our contributor for issue 8. I’ll be passing those on to one of our artists to get the cover together.

Rather than a money goal, we’ve got a backer goal. We need to grow our readership if Cirsova is going to continue to grow as a magazine. Cirsova needs at least 200 subscribers. The more subscribers we have, the more value we’ll have to advertisers, and advertisers along with regular readers are key to helping us become a sustainable publication.

So be sure to spread the word and throw down a dollar if you haven’t already!


Playing Some Oldschool D&D!

While I love my homegame (Gutters, Guilds & Grimoires in the Strigistadt setting) , I still have a hankering to play some jen-you-wine B/X D&D, so I was pretty stoked someone was running a Moldvay Basic game at RPG Guild Day.  Turns out it was a friendly acquaintance I’d met at NTRPGCon who was running it, too.  He had the red and blue boxes there and everything!

A lot of one-shot oldschool games tend to be either 1st level adventures or funnels for 0-levels, so I was extra stoked that we were running 3rd level characters. I jumped on the chance to play a Magic-User, because when would I ever get the chance to play a 3rd level Magic-User again?!

Argus was a pre-gen, and I wondered if I’d made a mistake, as he mostly had utility spells (and no Sleep!), and he had a Wis of 3. Did I play him smarter than his character? It would be hard not to, but I was determined to make the best of it.

Local town had a ruined wizard tower in it, and monsters had started causing trouble in the town. D&D 101!

We met up with a local adventurer who was gung-ho to enter the dungeon. First room had two doors! Choices! We took the door on the right, that opened into a hallway with one branch that led to another door and continued into magic darkness. The magical nature of the darkness was apparent, as no torchlight could penetrate it. I figured best case, someone cast continual darkness, worst-case, there was a monster that radiated darkness as an innate ability. Someone threw a rock into the darkness and woke up some giant spiders.

“Can’t you help us with your magic, wizard?”

“I’ll wait for something that’s not spiders to cast web at.

The party killed a couple spiders, but Friendly Local Adventurer got one-hit. While a couple party members were arguing whether to loot the body, leave the body, or take FLA back to town for burial, more spiders show up.

Everyone heads back to the first room of the dungeon, and my Magic User proves his worth by putting a padlock on door. Try and unlock the door, now, giant spiders!

Second room has a book-shelf full of books, a cabinet, and a pedestal with a ginormous jade stone. My magic user lights up like a pin-ball machine. He wants everything in the room hauled out back to town, ASAP. Other players are hesitant.

“But we just got here!”

“Exactly! We have all of this awesome, but heavy loot that we don’t have to take out of the dungeon very far. I’ll pull up my disc and we can take it back to town.”

Worth noting that with the exception of myself and the DM’s wife, all of the players were either new to oldschool or TTRPGs in general. The party was at least convinced that we needed to spike the two other doors leading out of the room while we assessed the contents. The north door had something behind it, as mad obvious by all of the angry scratching, skittering, and eventually banging being made following the noise of the door being spiked.

There was a bunch of frustrating debate as to whether to fight the monsters, go through the door that monsters weren’t banging on, take the loot and go, or take the loot out on the way back.

I made something of an executive decision, casting Hold Portal on the door the monsters were banging on, casting Floating Disc, and bribing two fighters to put the pedestal with the giant scrying stone on it so I could take it back to town.

Back in town, I reserved a private room at the inn for my scrying stone and myself, only to be beset by a couple townsfolk sneaking in the window! I got a lucky initiative roll and webbed them both. I insisted they be turned over to the town constabulary; despite claims that they were drunk and even the innkeeper putting in a word on their behalf, we weren’t really buying it. We had to set watch at the inn, and sure enough, the constable had not imprisoned them! A skirmish ensued around the inn, but I unfortunately had to leave.

DM let me know how it turned out: secret cult in town was trying to feed souls into the dungeon in an attempt to bring back the evil wizard, and the party fought a spider incarnation of the wizard.

Wish I’d been able to be there for the whole thing, but I had a great time!

Something I will probably be borrowing the next time I run a game:

Rotating initiative by side – big problem I had doing initiative by side was arguments over who would roll for the players and in what order they would declare. Forcing PCs to declare in order with a different PC rolling/going first each time fixes that.

I’m not sold on using crits in B/X. Partly because it’s already a high-lethality/low-HP system. I also don’t know that I care for Target 20, but I’d need to see it in action more.