Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Playing D&D With Kung-Fu Guys

...okay, so it probably isn't as exciting as playing D&D with a certain other type of person, on a certain other blog, but I think this will be fairly interesting. I've decided that we're going to use the Cyclopedia as our rules set, mainly because we have one at the school (I have no idea why) and because several members have a copy of the RC. (I will point those who don't in the direction of the Dark Dungeons retro clone. Aesthetics aside, it really is a solid work, and it beats paying through the nose on the internet)

Though I wouldn't normally allow the mystic, I think I will this time, if only because the entire group consists of kung fu enthusiasts. In fact, I'm tempted to use the Weapon Mastery rules (or perhaps an altered version, like the ones that appeared in OD&Dities back when it was free.) I know the mystic doesn't fit the best in a European/Western fantasy game, but we're a bunch of college educated white people who practice a Chinese fighting style, so I figure a little cultural mishmash is acceptable.

I am tempted to start the module off with Keep on the Borderlands or In Search of the Unknown (since I have copies of both), but I might be getting a little bit of the world-builder bug in me. I'm pretty excited to get a new game off the ground, especially since the AD&D game with the RIFTS folks has fallen through. I'm also putting together a WFRP2 campaign at my wife's request.

Good thing I don't have to work a day until August. ;)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Interesting Turn of Events

Some of the guys from my martial arts training have expressed interest in old style D&D. Two of them play 4th ed but are willing to give it a go. One of them has never gamed before. We'd be having short game sessions (2-3 hours) on Friday nights after our normal training session. (One of them lives a short distance from the school and has offered to host.) We need to hammer out the details, as we just started talking about it last when we went out after training.

Meanwhile, a few of the people in my RIFTS group have started talking about AD&D 1st edition, and have asked me what I think about DMing it. You can probably guess my answer.

Finally, Josh from my group was invited to an AD&D 2nd edition (Planescape) game. I am apparently invited by proxy.


Gaming four days a week is probably not sustainable, especially once summer is over. However, I do need to get int on some of this gaming action.

Oh, and I almost forgot... the wife seems to have a bit of the D&D bug after watching that British Merlin TV show.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Next Generation?

The local sci-fi convention is coming up in one month. I will be attending, as will my friend and long time fellow gamer, Josh. He will be bringing his twelve year old nephew, who has expressed a budding interest in D&D.

I was told tonight that I shall be his first DM. He will be playing in the Mutant Future game I signed up to run.

I find that I am quite pumped for this. I haven't run for a first-timer in years.

Man, this will be a potential new gamer's formative experience. No pressure, right?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Quick Thoughts on Modules I've Been Reading

The Red Mausoleum-
Started off strong, excellent atmosphere, but the solutions to the puzzles are far too specific and nit-picky for me, and the place does occasionally offend my naturalist sensibilities. These two things could be fixed, and I like the idea of the dungeon enough to do so, perhaps for my next AD&D/OSRIC outing.

No Dignity in Death-
I bought this last summer but never got around to reading it. After the TPK that was Death Frost Doom and the party giving up halfway through The Grinding Gear, (note I ran these as one-shots, not part of my regular campaign) I'm not sure how enthusiastic my players would be about another J.E. Raggi module, though I am a fan of his work. I've only read the first bride, and I found it to be rather intriguing. My wife thought it would be an excellent scenario to play in, but she thinks that it might not suit the tastes of my current group, or even my former AD&D group. I'll likely finish reading it tonight.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Maybe I *Don't* Need the Whole Collection

Today I found myself at the LGS once again. I found a copy of the AD&D 1st Edition Wilderness Survival Guide for five bucks.I was all set to buy it, but then I cracked it open. "Optional Rule: Relative Humidity."

Paging through it, my perception of the book is that it is a heap of random crap to screw the players with. None of it is particularly devastating, just tedious and, in my opinion, a little spiteful. Yes, all these elements are realistic. Yes, it's harder to start a fire in certain climates. Yes, food might spoil or humidity might affect you... but the book struck me as nothing more than a hindrance to the player characters. I could find absolutely nothing in the book that did not bog the DM down with tedious administrative duties related to the local climate, and saddle the players with a bunch of additional penalties for things.

I did, however, buy a copy of "The Red Mausoleum", a module that is touted as being specifically being compatible with OSRIC. I am in the process of reading it so far, and I do enjoy it. I think it was money better spent than if I had picked up the aforementioned Book of Irritating Penalties*.


*Yes, I know some of you like to bitch slap your players because they didn't bring enough blankets, or because they shouldn't truck around in their metal armor all the time, and I respect that. Hell, I've heaped woe on plenty of player characters who wander around with obvious gaps in their preparation. However, I just don't see what a book of fire starting probabilities and information on the mechanical effects of humidity is going to do but slow me down or be forgotten when I'm in the heat of the DMing moment.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Creepin' Corruption!

It seems to be the fate of many RPGs to see the corebook eventually strangled by a sprawling mass of splatbooks and updates/changes to the core rules, wherein new material is just plain better than the old material, and suddenly you show up for game night and somebody is playing something that is like your character, only your character sucks now.

3.5: Screw your fighter, and screw your longsword... I've got a Warforged Warblade with an Elven Thinblade. I just used the words war and blade far more than should ever be used in the same bladewarblade sentence. War. Blades.
Oh, and I do more damage in a round than you do in most combats. Bitch.

RIFTS: You down with OCC? Yeah, you know me. Mystic, meet Grey Seer, who is like you but with better spells, more abilities, and auto-dodge. Suck it.
Welcome to South America. We have Ghost Wasp Armor, gringo. Fuck your SAMAS.

Vampire: Yeah, we're the True Brujah, muthafucka! You got Celerity? You can move fast? Your Discipline is a bastardized version of my Discipline that lets me CONTROL MOTHERFUCKING TIME.


....repeat, as they say, ad nauseum.

Now, even if you debate the effectiveness of some of this "creep," you cannot deny that some game lines get awfully freaking crowded toward the end of the edition/revision/whatever when the developers flush everything and suddenly they want you to by a completely new set of books.

In the beginning, 3.0 had eleven character classes, with something along the lines of a dozen or so prestige classes. By the end of the run, I could name at least fifty core classes (and that's a conservative estimate, because frankly I lost track of them all) with prestige classes easily in the triple digits... and that's not counting the vast oceans of third party material.

Vampire: the Masquerade started with seven Clans. By the end of it's run, there were over forty types of vampires between all the Clans, anti-tribu, Bloodlines, etc, etc, etc. They did it again with Requiem... five Clans, sure, but there are now three or four books of Bloodlines, many with their own unique Disciplines.

I do understand, and appreciate, that RPG companies gotta sell books. From my experience, most gamers will not buy books that don't have some crunch in them. The disparity of the crunch probably comes from a variety of different sources: many freelancers who have vastly different interpretations of how things should go down, the desire to sell more books by making them seem more attractive than core, test marketing your new edition by vetting new core rule ideas prior to the Big Shakedown, or simply being so many books and years removed from the core of the game that the drift is sort of natural.


...and, maybe, just once in awhile, the developers really do feel they've "evolved" the rules into something that works better/smoother/faster.

...yeah.

I understand there are reasons for it, and as I said,I understand that the medium and large style companies that are in it to be businesses* do have a need to move product. Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim. It's the cycle of the hobby-as-business world: new core, supplements, splat, splat, splat, new edition. The cycle probably isn't going anywhere anytime soon, not so long as the Big 'Uns are alive and kicking.

...now can someone release a version of the Grey Seer who can shoot nuclear missiles out of his forehead?

*Jim Raggi is trying to make a business go at this, and I would call him small press, from my comfortable Arm Chair located in the Peanut Gallery. I'd also like to say that I wish him well, and that he's sort of my gaming hero right now. I personally think there is more heart and passion in Jim's nascent catalog than in the entire WotC library...but hey, I'm just a guy who plays these games... I'm not part of the production wing of Blogaria.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Other, Less Vitriolic Thoughts

-One of the guys from the RIFTS game emailed me tonight and asked about Beyond the Supernatural or AD&D 1st edition. That's promising.

-My buddy Josh brought some stuff from Free RPG day, one of which was a Pathfinder adventure. It seems the adventure is previewing material from an upcoming "advanced" Pathfinder book that will contain, among other things, six new core classes. Hmm. Pathfinder, though I have little love for ye, I'd hate to see you go down the road of your forerunner. I don't want to check back on you in a year and find out that you've got 75 core classes and 7,500 prestige classes. Prove me wrong. Please.
Bonus points for having an alchemist core class. Unfortunately, it appears that his potions mainly only work on himself. Obviously this is preview material, so I hope that changes, because otherwise he's kind of a crap alchemist, don't you think? Besides, in the wise words of Biggie Smalls: "Never get high on your own supply."

The other item he brought was a preview from Deathwatch, the third (and presumably final) Warhammer 40K RPG. Given that it will probably be a $60 core book like the other 40K rpgs, I'll hope to find it in a used book store or to get it with a big ass gift card, which is how I acquired the other 40K games. Of course, given the growing unlikelihood of me running a 40K game, perhaps I won't bother.

-Tonight my wife asked me if I'd ever consider running WFRP 2nd edition again. I ran a game over the spring/summer of 2008 and I'd call it a pretty good success. The game ended because it came to a natural conclusion, but I enjoyed it and remember it fondly. I don't know why it had never occurred to me to run it again. I'd be tempted to set it in the Border Princes, since that part of the game world seems to be "officially unmapped" and left to each individual GM, but I think the Old World is big enough that I could find a corner comfortable enough to make my own. (Typically I dislike pre-fab settings, though Warhammer is an odd exception)
I wouldn't even mind getting most of that original group back together. (One player I'm no longer in contact with whatsoever, and another went off to grad school, but one is my wife, one is the aforementioned Josh, and one lives only about forty-five minutes away...)

-I wonder if my "aerial steampunk" game could work with True20? Still, given the swashbuckling antics I envision in my brain, Savage Worlds might still be a better route to go. (I also hate most d20 style vehicle rules with a passion that burns like the fire of a thousand suns...so there's also that.)

I suppose it's time to call it a week. Good night, gentle readers.

RIFTS Session 3

Fuck this game.

That's all I've got to say.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I Will Say This, Though...

A certain quiet has fallen over many of the blogs I follow. Everyone is working productively... JB is working on B/X madness of various flavors, Jim is readying for a convention appearance, Alexis continues to hammer away, TS is playing Urutsk... there aren't any lame non-scandals, battles over mechanical minutiae, dramatic exits from the blogosphere, or any of the other assorted recurring drek. Maybe I'm not reading the right blogs (or maybe I am), but from where I sit, a hum of industrious harmony has settled over the chimneys and cobblestones of Blogaria. I suppose that is something to smile about, even if games I discover seem to announce new editions only moments after I pull them off the shelves.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Brief and Pedantic

I am so fucking sick of new editions, reboots, reimaginings, revisions, and rehashes that I could puke.

I know, I know....nobody can force me to play them, but they make it hard to find people to play with because everyone goes OMGSHINY and assumes the older edition is somehow obsolete.

Your mom.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

RIFTS Session 2

I returned to the RIFTS game I just recently joined. A few thoughts:

During the course of the week, one of the players pointed me in the direction of a RIFTS source book that contained a class almost identical to the Mystic, but generally superior. (The Grey Seer) The GM allowed me to convert my character. One thing about RIFTS that I find somewhat tiresome is that it seems you can always find a better character, suit of power armor, magic spell, or whatever if you just get the next numbered sourcebook.

I find also that magic-users are not offense-oriented in RIFTS, as opposed to D&D, for instance. Most of the offensive spells I could find do jack compared to my handy energy blaster. Many of the spells are taken from Palladium Fantasy but not scaled for RIFTS... meaning they do SDC damage and are therefore useless. (Literally...for those of you not familiar, RIFTS has two scales of damage, and the first scale cannot harm the second scale) We had another combat, during which the only spell I employed was Chameleon, and hid until I could take pot shots with my energy pistol as missiles and lasers blazed around me. My energy pistol has actually been more useful than all my spells and psionics combined.

This session, the GM was kind enough to provide a trading Techno-Wizard who had magic armor that we bartered for. The magic armor temporarily lets me step into the Major Leagues, with MDC totally about 100 or so and the ability to do MD with my bare hands. Of course, activating all these abilities takes a heavy toll on my PPE (magic points, essentially), but it's either that or I spend the campaign hiding in the armored vehicle.

One thing is for sure: I am gradually reaching the opinion that I will never play a magic-user in RIFTS again. I'm sticking with this character, but my next character is going to be a Power Armor Pilot or a Mega-Juicer or something like that.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Remedies to D20

As anyone who has read this blog more than twice probably knows, I don't like d20. It is all I played for three or four solid years, and those years left me with no desire to return to it.

However...

Recently I found a pair of "mods" that remedy all the problems I have with the game.

Firstly, I picked up True20. I found it used and in totally pristine condition for ten bucks, and I bought it for a friend who had expressed some interest in it. I came to find out he already ordered it online, so I decided to keep it.
I like True20 so far. It addresses a number of issues I had with 3.5, the most prominent being the hot mess of multiclassing, dipping, prestige classes, and other related bullshit. Character classes are reduced to broad categories (the combat guy, the magic/powers guy, the skill guy). The interesting thing is that the D&D classes are there, if you want to build according to the 3.5 diagram for the class. I'm still picking through combat, particularly in hopes that it makes special maneuvers (grapple, anyone?) not make me want to gouge my own eyes out.

Secondly, I discovered E6 through one of the blogs on my blog roll. The short version: E6 is 3.5 that caps at 6th level. It's low magic. It rewrites the assumption that everything in WotC D&D is a balanced, level-appropriate encounter meant to exhaust only X% of your total resources. Evan a die-hard anti-d20 friend of mine expressed excitement at the idea of E6. My wife finds it interesting as well. I think this is what I was trying to do with D&D 3.5 by just making magic and treasure scarce. (That route doesn't really work, by the way.)

I've been thinking on a new campaign, anyway. Perhaps it might be time to experiment with one of these.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Remembering my AD&D game

It was one year ago today that I started up my AD&D 1st edition campaign. I find myself forlorn that it is not still running, but the loss of two players (one for the summer, the other...perhaps indefinitely) sort of did us in. We also moved the game to another player's abode. I feel like I had less control over the group's focus once we moved campaigns, and I think in the future, any game I run is going to be at my house. I've actually run a few "away games" before, and all of them had their issues.


...anyway, here's to a campaign that had a decent run, but that collapsed all too soon. Although one of my players is coming back in August, I have the sinking feeling that the campaign probably will not revive.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

It's All About the Room of Pools

I took a short trip to my hometown today to visit an old friend who was back in town. I met him at a used bookstore I used to frequent when I was in college. Last time I was at the bookstore, I picked up a copy of Keep on the Borderlands. This time, I picked up a copy of In Search of the Unknown. Three bucks, baby.

I do love that store.

Room of Pools, bitches.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Everybody's Talkin' 'Bout Dark Dungeons

Yeah, I know that everyone who has something to say on the matter has probably said it.

Still, with my raging love of the Rules Cyclopedia, (it's my "theoretical desert island" gaming book) I would feel odd not making a comment.

I like what the author has done by extending all the demihumans out to 36th level. I know there are rules for such in the Cyclopedia, but I like to see them fully integrated from the get go. Ditto for demihumans and Weapon Mastery. I'm not sure if the Weapons Feats of Dark Dungeon and Weapon Mastery from the RC are 100% identical, but I'll probably have a look one of these days. The skill system has been cleaned up a little bit, as well.

On the downside: I know you can download this for free, and I know it is a non-profit labor of love by the author, but that "found artwork" look is just awful. I would actually rather have a gaming book with no artwork than with that generic looking crap. Also, not quite as economical as OSRIC, but hey, I shouldn't be too tough on it... nowadays, $13 for a softcover and $26 for a hardcover is a steal.

There are a few idiosyncrasies that the author has introduced, for instance, the path to Immortal ascension is a little different, and he has added firearms (and the special "red powder" that makes them fire) as an implicit part of the setting.

I will probably not be buying this, as I still have a perfectly serviceable copy of the RC, but I am glad that "Mr. Blackball" took the time to put this together.I consider the Cyclopedia to be one of the top ten greatest gaming books ever released. However, it isn't always possible to find a good copy at a reasonable price; as I am typing this, the Cyclopedia's start at $59 on abebooks.com, which is where I bought my current copy around seven years ago for around twenty bucks. The release of Dark Dungeons makes it readily accessible to gamers who might never have had the pleasure of perusing the RC, or who need a "working copy" to save wear and tear to the original book. You know...maybe I'll get a physical copy of this after all; I'd like to have a backup around in case my copy of the RC starts to look a little threadbare.

The last thing I'll say about Dark Dungeons is this: bonus points for blowing the raspberry at Herr Chick.

RIFTS: First Impressions

It seems to me that there are several "tiers" of power in RIFTS with regard to character classes. As I said before, you have character classes who get a bunch of skills nobody else gets, and there are character classes who have body armor that can withstand missile volleys and weapons that can slag modern tanks.

In a party of characters who are suited up in power armor or naturally have MDC hides, the poor Mystic generally runs around with his Chameleon spell up, or hides in the MDC all terrain vehicle and takes pot shots with his MDC pistol. I did feel a little useless, given that most of the session was devoted to mecha combat. However, there were a few times when my medicine skills and psychic powers were useful.

Combat in RIFTS is damn slow. It's no D&D 4th edition, by any means, but it was pretty sluggish. This may have been aggravated by the fact that my character was practically useless against missile-spewing SAMAS suits, and my four attacks per round officially made me the slow poke of the group.

That being said... the group was fun. I liked the players. If the group hadn't been so hospitable, I might well have written the game off. There really is something to be said for a good group. They aren't the type of folks I normally play with, but it was ok with me.

I was offered the chance to scrap my character, but I'm determined to prove that you don't have to be a combat god to roll in the RIFTS world. Maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Twas the night before RIFTS

....well, technically it is the morning of, but who's counting?

There are a lot of interesting ideas in this book, though the organization is perhaps just as horrible, if not more so, than the AD&D original Dungeon Master's Guide. I also find that the skill system is fairly tedious, full of skills that I very much doubt I will ever use.

I ended up making a Mystic, a class that dabbles in both magic and psionics.

I'm honestly not sure if this is going to be my cup o' tea, but I am going to try it out. Monday is supposed to be a go for Dark Heresy, but with the collapse of Deadlands and the cancellation of Vampire, I can't consider anything to be certain.

Surely, you'd think it would be easier to get a few people together once a week for a couple of hours. Adulthood is supposed to come with freedom, isn't it?
I have a wife who encourages game time, I have no kids, and I currently work half days (sweet, sweet summer school)... I have plenty of time for gaming, at least...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Refocusing My Gaming

Well, my AD&D game is thoroughly decimated, much to my dismay. Player attendance issues are now semi-permanent, and we don't seem to ever make quorum. I have suspended the game until one of the more reliable players returns from his summer in California.
In the meantime, one of the players has offered to run Dark Heresy in the interim. Given the attendance and, as of late, focus issues that my group has, I am considering this to be Plan B.

The cancellation of the Vampire game I was invited to was quite disappointing, especially since it sounds like it was canceled due to lack of player attendance. Oy.
I find that I have a hankering for World of Darkness, particularly Vampire, but with the angst turned down and the action turned up. Referring to my previous post, I think I'd like to see it 65-75% Blade and 25% Interview. I was working on tweaking the combat in NWoD, but my recent forays into Big Purple lead me to a series of excellent house rules that manage to keep combat down to one roll while resolving the wonky mechanical problems that the new system creates. I plan to dinker with the gun damage and a few other details, but finding these rules has saved me a lot of time and actually given me more motivation to work on this. A Vampire and/or Hunter game might be due from me in the future.

The RIFTS game draws near. I secured at a reasonable discount and it should be arriving any day now. I have been in fairly frequent communication with several members of the group and they seem like a friendly, enthusiastic bunch. It seems that they rotate GM duties and run several campaigns at once. In a game with as many varied setting elements as RIFTS, this might not be a bad thing.

I continue to peruse Nightbanespawn. I had considered trying to start a conversion to NWoD, but this seems incredibly time consuming. I find that the concepts and settings in the book keep creeping into my thoughts. I find that I want to run it, despite the mechanical "ironing out" that I think it needs.

My Savage Worlds "aerial steampunk" game is still rattling around in my head, and now I find myself reading over Dragon Fist and wondering if it might be worth a run. Too many irons in the fire. Hopefully Dark Heresy will be a go, and I can take advantage of my summer schedule to nail these ideas down into something more concrete. This blog will make an excellent sounding board for just that purpose.