Sunday, September 16, 2018

Monsters, Vampires, Etc.

I ran my fourth session of Monster of the Week last night. I feel personally like it was the weakest session on my part. I just didn't seem to gel with the Keeper moves last night. Not a bad session, but I think last week's was better.


I was kind of amped about Vampire: the Masquerade 5th edition, but holy Jesus that cover is fucking awful. The limited edition has maybe the coolest VtM cover I've ever seen, but I don't feel like selling a kidney or taking out a second mortgage just to get a book with a decent cover. C'est la vie.

Monday, September 10, 2018

No News

I ran Monster of the Week again. 
It was great. 
7/7 would monster again. 


Thursday, September 6, 2018

Monster of the Week Continues

Monster of the Week is fucking dope.

I prep the game for less than an hour a week, and I'm able to run 5-6 hour sessions on it.

The game always moves forward. Investigations flow smoothly without stall-outs or navel-gazing. There's generally just one combat.

A story emerges naturally, without me having to plan some course of events. I'm just as surprised as the players about the way things turn out.

It's definitely different than pretty much all other games I've run, but I'm really enjoying it.


Meanwhile, in the other side of my brain, I've been yearning to do a Stars Without Number game, as I haven't had the chance to run it since before I went to grad school. (Except for the one-shot I did at KantCon this past summer) Alternately, a B/X game with weird science fiction shit going on in the background. Sadly, I can't seem to get any local traction on this.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Spell: Grim Herald

This spell is taken from Ishar, an old school text MUD I used to play some six or seven years ago. The spell was exclusive to the MUD's necromancer class. It was also bugged as hell and pretty much didn't work as advertised. I always thought the idea of the spell was cool, so I'm translating it into an OSR spell. 

Grim Herald
1st level magic-user spell

This spell summons a spirit of the dead from the netherworld and compels it to deliver a message for the caster. It can be cast only at night, when the moon is overhead (even if it is obscured by clouds or otherwise not visible.) If cast otherwise, the spell has no effect and the slot is wasted.

The message must be brief, no more than perhaps thirty words, and the caster must know the real name of the intended recipient (otherwise the spirit simply vanishes and the spell is wasted.)

Once the spirit receives the message, it departs, travelling through the nether realms to find the message's recipient. This will happen in 1d4 hours. If day breaks (or is already broken where the recipient is), the spirit will not appear until the recipient is next under a dark sky with the moon overhead. The spirit can travel any distance on the same planet, but cannot travel to other planets or planes of existence. The spirit will appear before the recipient, utter the message in whatever language the caster gave it in, and then vanish. The spirit will not answer questions or converse with the recipient. The spell does not grant the recipient any way to reply; such is only possible if they have some means of their own to do so.

Being compelled by this spell is anguish for the spirit, and it will seek to complete the task at hand so it can return to the realm of the dead. If somehow trapped, it will wail in agony, repeating the message over and over again until released. The use of this spell is considered an evil act, if the DM is using an alignment system which considers such things.

A cleric can attempt to turn the spirit before it can finish the message. Doing so is resolved as an attempt to turn a 3HD creature.

Bonus: Make this a LotFP magic spell!

If you want to make this a Raggi-style spell, add the following failure table:

1- The dead are quiet tonight. The caster hears faint whispers for a few moments, but nothing further happens and the spell is wasted.

2- The spell works normally, the spirit appears to the recipient in a dream when next they sleep. The recipient has no way of knowing if the message is real or not.

3- The caster accidentally summons forth a shadow or similar undead apparition. The shadow is hostile to the caster and will attack immediately.

4- The spirit is not fully compelled. It will deliver the message, but it will omit or distort some key detail. Actual falsehood isn't possible, but the spirit can change the wording slightly to sabotage the meaning.

5- The caster summons a grim shade who will not be commanded. It listens to the message, but then departs into the realm of the underworld, never seeking out the intended recipient. There is a 1-2 chance on a d6 that the spirit delivers the message to an enemy of the caster or someone who would use the information to harm the caster or the recipient. Such plans will come to fruition in 1d6 months.

6- The spell is reversed: the caster is now bound to deliver a message for the spirit. The caster knows the general location and approximate distance of their charge. The caster suffers 1d6 damage every 24 hours until the message is delivered. If the caster dies, her spirit is still under compulsion, and acts as a spirit bound by the spell. Damage caused by this compulsion cannot be healed by any means until the task is complete. Keep in mind the spirit wants the message to be delivered.

7+- use the standard spell failure table for the result.



Tuesday, August 28, 2018

In Which I Run a PbtA Game

In case you missed it, there was an indie RPG from Vincent and Meguey Baker called Apocalypse World, and people have taken the rule system and done all kinds of non-apocalypsy things with it. People have taken to calling such games "Powered by the Apocalypse" or PbtA. 

In the last six months, I've picked up two such games, Urban Shadows (vampires and werewolves and stuff plotting and scheming) and Monster of the Week (Buffy/Supernatural style monster killin') 

It's no secret that I've been looking for a replacement for World of Darkness/Chronicles of Darkness for years. I've even tried to write several such replacements, and they've all been failures in my eyes for one reason or another. I picked up these books as perhaps my last hope at having an urban fantasy/horror game that does what I want it to. 

I finally got around to running MotW this past Saturday with my sort-of local group. (They live in my hometown, which is 50ish miles away from me) 

It was fuggin' great. Some of my takes: 

-The mechanics are dead simple. The moves cover most actions that players would take anyway, and are simple enough that you could easily make up moves on the fly. (We sort of did that with a PC who wanted to attempt some stealthy antics) 

-The play style is constantly pushing things forward. This is bad if your group is more comfortable with extensive planning. Personally we found it refreshing. 

-The game manages to be narrative, but lacks the weird inorganic feeling I get from Fate Core. 

-Not rolling dice as a GM is weird. At the same time, the GM moves list is designed in such a way as to constantly have me making decisions. I felt like more of an active participant in the game rather than a purely reactive force. You may or may not dig that. 

-The game advocates minimal prep on the part of the GM. It works out better than you would think. At no point did I feel like I was just doing jazz-hands or pulling things out of my...hat. 

Keep in mind that this group is accustomed to playing Pathfinder. (Not with me, my PF days were brief and they are most decidedly over) I'd say that PF and MotW are pretty far apart from one another on the rpg spectrum. They felt it was significantly different than what they usually play, but they enjoyed the hell out of it. 

We're planning on making this a regular weekly thing. 

...now I just need to decide on this week's Monster of the Week (roll credits) 

With that, I think I can safely say that Save Vs. Poison isn't an OSR blog, and hasn't been for some time. I just happen to like old TSR D&D better than post-TSR D&D. 
(B/X4lyfe)  


Thursday, August 2, 2018

Who You Gonna Call?

The podcast game I've been playing in has been on hold as the GM recovers from (minor) surgery. 

Tonight we busted out West End Games' Ghostbusters International RPG, with newer cards and dice made by... someone else, I forget. 

I made a girl ghostbuster,  because fuck your childhood. 

The rules are simple and the cards/dice, while not part of the original package, are neat. I think the GM might have given us too many Talent points, because everything our characters were good at was waaaaaay too easy. 

The scenario was fun. The GM was tired and didn't think it went very well, but I thought he was maybe too hard on himself. 

Next week we get back into Beyond the Supernatural. I'm looking forward to seeing what our original GM has cooked up during his convalescence. 


Monday, July 23, 2018

Changing Course

So ever since KantCon I've been suffering from a light bout of post-con gloom... it's a thing that happens when I realize that my biggest fun thing of the year is over and now it's another year before I'll get to do it again.

...but you know, there's a local convention 'round these parts in October and it looks like they're pretty short on events and GMs so far...

I think maybe it's time to take matters into my own hands.



Sunday, July 15, 2018

Dispatches From KantCon

I've run my five games this weekend. They all went swimmingly and the players heaped praise 'pon me. I gamed with some utterly delightful and clever players. I had a few people who were in more than one game of mine, but nobody was in more than two of my games. Lots of variation in terms of age and gender. 

My KantCon takes this year: 

*I think my best session was Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I seemed to mentally gel most with the scenario, and the players were super into it. I even got one of them curious in checking the game out, and another warm to the idea of old-style D&D rule systems. 

*I don't think I had a weak session this year, but I would say my weakest was probably Stars Without Number, the newly revised edition. I didn't have as good of a handle on the revised rules as I thought, and some of the changes and terminology threw me a little. What probably also didn't help was the module I was using being system neutral and containing no stats of any kind. I always second guess myself with that kind of thing. I also let the action get bogged down in a couple of parts and I regret that. The players still liked and and they were super thrilled with the way the scenario turned out. Like I said, I don't think it was a weak session, just the weakest. 

*Savage RIFTS is so much better to run than standard Palladium RIFTS it isn't even funny. You still get the general feel of RIFTS, but goddamn is it a smoother ride, and it just works better. Case in point: a Glitterboy and a Wildernes Scout in the same party, and yet both of them were able to contribute meaningfully. The characters seem a little bit more on par with one another in combat than the eye-popping disparity that exists in the original rules. 

*All of Their Strengths is fucking fun and I adore it. I had pregens but the players really wanted to make their own crazy-ass Hybrids. I think the half-werewolf/half-reaper was a fantastic character. He drove around in a souped-up super-car called the Pale Rider. Fuck. 

*Captain Valdez ended up sacrificing himself, along with the new Captain, in my Starships & Spacemen game... looks like I need to level up the First Officer for next year's continuation. 

*Less excited about the vendors this year. I didn't really find any special treasures or weird and rare "gotta have it" books. That's... actually probably for the better. 

Tomorrow I'm waitlisted for a game of Dread (the Jenga game, not the splatterpunk Raphael Chandler game) and I've got a spot in a Savage Worlds sci-fi game of some sort. I'm really pretty tired, but I at least want to go to the con for a little bit. The Savage Worlds game has a waitlist behind me, so if I end up heading home or just lounging around, I won't be leaving the dude short of players. 

I love KantCon. I'm sad it's almost over... I'm already starting to think about what I want to run at next year's convention. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

What I've Been Doing

1. I joined a game of Beyond the Supernatural that is being turned into a podcast. 

2. I joined an online game of Fudge that takes places in a cartoon multiverse. I'm playing Rick Sanchez, because I can do a really good impersonation. 

3. In one week I will be at KantCon, running Starships and Spacemen 2nd Edition, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Savage RIFTS, Stars Without Number Revised Edition, and All of Their Strengths. 

4. I'm reading Monster of the Week because I want that to be my next mid-length GM outing. 

What I haven't been doing, sadly, is reading Eldritch Cock, because I was trapped in the fetid swamp that is the state of Florida over Free RPG Day. 

Carry on, bloggers. I mostly lurk these days, but I assure you I'm still reading. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Joining the Narrative Bourgeois

For the past month or so, I've been doing a short weekly commute to my hometown to run All of Their Strengths, a delightful little indie game meant to emulate stories of badass supernatural hybrids in the vein (ha!) of Blade, Underworld, and Devil May Cry.

This game is incredibly narrative driven, to the point where the players don't really roll dice. (Well, they do, but not for things their characters are doing.) The game is based on an economy of described actions, described counters, and dice that the GM essentially wagers against the players.

Aside from an awkward and failed attempt at running Fate Core two years ago, I've never run a narrative-based game before. Rather, I've never run a game whose mechanics were narrative-driven, rather than the narrative arising out of the game play. It had some rough spots, but I did find my legs.

The main problem, aside from some vagueness in the rules as written, was getting into the proper mindset. This group of players, hailing from a mostly Pathfinder background, I had trouble accepting that NPCs don't have stats. (Unless their are Dooms, in which case they have only two stats, Danger and Dread, and goddamn if that alliteration didn't make it difficult for me to mentally keep track of which stat did what.) For one thing, our traditionally-minded-mindset had us thinking of Dooms in terms of things that must be defeated by removing dice, dice being somewhat analogous to hit points or health or whatever. This is wrong. Any un-thwarted action in this game succeeds. You can, in fact, kill an elder vampire with a UV grenade (they're a thing in AoTS, just roll with it) if the GM doesn't thwart that action. No hit points, no Fortitude, just narrative logic.

I had brief aspirations of trying to convert this into a more traditional roleplaying game via Fudge, but in the end, I've come to enjoy the system...even if it is a little rough.

The scenario was based on the idea for the one I'm running at KantCon in about a month. (Yessssss!) I'll have to condense it, as I only have a four hour time slot as opposed to 4-5 weekly gaming sessions, but I feel like the tires have been kicked thoroughly enough that I've got a handle on this game.

There's a lot of improv... the system actually doesn't work well with a lot of prep. Hey, I used to do impromptu speaking competitively...right up my alley.

So... who's the OSR Gatekeeper these days? I need to know who to surrender my OSR Membership Card to now that I've sullied myself.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Slaying the Beast (With Apologies to Grendel)

You know, I really wanted to like Beast: the Primordial.

Like, I really wanted to like it. It was a fresh departure from White Wolf's usual setup... a creature type that wasn't a retread from NWoD or OWoD, more flexibility for character concepts, built to plug right in to the rest of the CoD or happy to stand completely alone, mechanical incentive for cooperation among PCs*... very sexy package. (Plus that eerie faded purple color scheme in the artwork.)

Sadly, Beast just has too much shit going on. It feels like multiple games crammed into one book, vying for attention. You have the PCs, who are reincarnations (?) of mythical monsters, able to access a weird semi-dream world. They can build lairs in the semi-dream world, though they're more conceptual places than actual physical locales. You have Heroes (capital H), individuals who act as a sort of natural defense to the predations of the monsters (although they end up pretty much becoming monsters themselves, because White Wolf.)  You have monsters who lose their shit enough that they merge with their spirit monster and become real flesh-and-blood monsters who exist in the real world, but I guess not in the dream world. You have the internal struggle of the PCs between feeding their monstrous hunger so they don't lose their shit and not filling up enough that the monster goes to sleep and they're stuck as regular humans (who still read as monsters to the Heroes.) Powers work differently depending on how 'hungry' the character's beastly aspect is.

It just ends up being too much. When I was well into my third page of typing up a cheat sheet with all the basic things that any Beast can do, independent of their monster type powers, I found myself wondering why I couldn't seem to actually condense all of this stuff into something more digestible.

Then, once again, I tried to hurl my mind against the Chronicles of Darkness spirit possession/manifestation flowchart before throwing my hands up and saying fuck it.

I've tried a few "back of the napkin" ideas for a "Beast-lite" type of game. As usually, I mostly end up spinning my tires and debating every tiny design decision with myself.

I'll probably be offloading my book online at some point. I'll still have it on PDF if I ever change my mind (I got the combo), but I just find the game too inaccessible and needlessly arcane.









*Given how stand-offish and mutually antagonistic the PC types usually are, especially in OWoD, this is actually kind of a big deal for a White Wolf game. Normally mutual survival is incentive enough for PCs to cooperate, but whatevs.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Fillin' Up Those Con Tables

I compulsively check Warhorn to see the status of my KantCon games. Registration has been open for two weeks.

-Starships & Spacemen is half full

-Lamentations of the Flame Princess has only a single soul signed up, but I imagine it'll be full before July. Any LotFP game run by anyone at KantCon fills up and usually has a waiting list.

-Stars Without Number is full up!

-No takers for All of Their Strengths, but the convention is still 3 months away.



...now if only it were that easy to fill my own table here at home. I've got two games I'm playing in and an invitation to a third, but I am, to borrow John's term, a Forever DM.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Odds and Ends

Various gaming and gaming-related goings-on in my current existence:

*Christian over at The Tolling of the Great Black Bell has started up his 'zine again. It might be the only thing I get in the mail that I actually enjoy opening. Who doesn't want a 'zine with drooling mutants amidst the endless credit card offers and mail from the AARP. (Which I totally don't understand, because I'm only 36)

*Event registration for KantCon opened up yesterday. My Stars Without Number game is already half full, and I've got two signed up for Starships & Spacemen, including a player who has been in several of the sessions over the last couple of years. I have no doubt that I will fill my tables; I do every year. 

*In addition to John's D&D 2018 game and my friend's Savage Worlds take on Dark*Matter, I'm going to have the chance to play in a colleague's Zweihander game. I'm pretty hype. The only reason I can even consider embarking on this much gaming is because I'm only seven and a half weeks away from the end of the school year.

*I've started watching "Paranormal Survivor" on Netflix. I don't actually believe in ghosts (or anything supernatural for that matter), but the stories are cool and kind of make me want to do a retread of Orpheus. (White Wolf's take on ghostbusters, released back in like 2003 I think) Of course, I have a pretty low tolerance for the WoD system anymore, so it'd have to be a different rule set.

*I succumbed to nostalgia and bought the rest of the Palladium Robotech books, since they lost the license and the books are now officially out of print. I managed to snag them just before scalpers started posting them used on various online retail sites with jacked up prices. Am I likely to ever run Robotech? Probs not. However, I'm a nostalgia whore and pine for the days of my idyllic childhood in the 1980's, so there you go.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Double Header

I'm doing a lot of gaming this weekend.

I'm not DMing at all, which is my heart's desire, but by Jove I'll take what I can get.

Tonight I'm playing in my friend Josh's Savage Worlds game, which I think is best described as Dark*Matter, but with a sort of Shadowrun-esque "near future urban fantasy" vibe. I'm making my character on an index card after I finish typing this, because I'm suddenly super into games where you can fit your character on an index card.

Tomorrow I'm playing in John's game using his "D&D 2018" rule set. It's good to be back with the old group, even if the composition has changed a bit since 2015 or '16 or whenever I departed.

If I could somehow throw together a one shot on Sunday, it would be my first all gaming weekend in many years, but I'm afraid those halcyon times are gone and past.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Which Way Do I Roll?

So apparently D&D is super popular again.

Anecdotally, I know that in the past year or three, I can say I play D&D to someone and they at least kind of know what it is, rather than getting the blank stare I used to get in years past.

There are swelling sales numbers and surveys that show that D&D has attracted a much more diverse crowd than was perceived in the past. There are podcasts. Celebrities play D&D for an audience. People watch each other play D&D on Twitch...which I do not understand, at all, but maybe that's just the mid-thirties guy in me talking. The point is, D&D has definitely become pop culture. I'd hardly call it mainstream, but the exposure is definitely higher.

Another anecdote: back in 2015 or 16, I saw the D&D starter set on the shelf at Target. Target. The closest thing I'd ever seen to gaming stuff in a big box store is the anemic gaming section at Barnes & Noble.

Of course, this is mostly all news generated by 5th edition. That makes sense: it's the current edition, it has stuff coming out for it pretty regularly, the art direction exudes inclusiveness.

The 5th edition of D&D does very little for me. I ran it for several months, played in a Princes of the Apocalypse campaign for close to a year. I don't hate 5e. I don't dislike it. It's just... fine. It doesn't excite me like the older editions do. There's just some factor that doesn't pop for me the way it seems to with others.

I understand that 5th edition is valuable for the future of the hobby, in that it is highly visible and very good for recruiting new players. I like that the days of the chainmail bikini are over with. I'm glad that gaming is a more diverse hobby.

I also have a feeling I'm going to let this new wave pass me by. Like I said, my heart isn't in 5th edition, but I feel a strange sort of obligation to participate in it somehow for some sort of vague "greater good" that may or may not exist.

The games I want to play are BECMI D&D or some clone of it...Stars Without Number... Zweihander. A few small indie games that have snagged my interest. Lamentations. I've found that gathering players for these games has been an intensely frustrating and often fruitless experience. I could have three 5th edition groups rolling by next Sunday if I so chose. (Whether they'd stay rolling is certainly up for question, but I could get them going, I have no doubt)

So here's where I'm at: I understand that it's far easier to get 5th edition going, to find players, and to find games... and I understand 5th edition's value in making sure this weird hobby of ours continues on, but goddamn do I pine for a group of people sitting around the table while I run from my brand new POD copy of the Cyclopedia, or my moldering old AD&D "orange spine" books, or SWN/SWN2, or... really, just about anything else.

I've kept my 5th edition core books and GM screen, just in case. I may well break down and run it again. I may well play it again. I'd just rather be doing other things.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

KantCon Docket 2018

Bitches, I'm back.

(Well, I will be back. To KantCon. In July.)


My finalized schedule:

Friday Morning- Starships & Spacemen 2nd Edition, "Beacon"

Every year I run S&S, using the same ship and crew, and very often the same players (or some of them at least) sign up. I've had the same two dudes playing the Captain and First Office for years now. Last year I couldn't go, and it sucked. This year I'm running the game with the premise that the usual ship, the Armiger, disappeared a year ago while investigating a space anomaly called the Labyrinth, which itself disappeared as if never there.

Now, one year later, the Labyrinth has reappeared. The experimental science vessel Beacon is within reach, and the Captain of the Beacon is an old flame of the Armiger's Captain. She defies orders to avoid the Labyrinth and takes her ship in...

Depending on how things play out, next year I'll be back to running the Armiger and crew, or the Beacon and crew will be the new characters... or maybe a mix.

Friday Evening- Lamentations of the Flame Princess, "A Stranger Storm"

I'm running the introductory scenario out of the old LotFP Referee's Handbook. (The PDF version of the "grindhouse" edition.) It's a pretty dope scenario. Six travelers are forced off the road by a freak storm that renders the road impossible to traverse and camping a miserable prospect. Luckily, they are right by a quaint roadside inn. What could possibly go wrong?

Saturday Morning- Stars Without Number Revised Edition- "The Tartarus Gambit"

This is a free, system-neutral scenario that was apparently written by forum and placed on DriveThru for free download. I have no memory of downloading it...I found it while cleaning up my PDF library...pretty apropos, actually. I'm going to use this as my first crack at running SWN2. I haven't run SWN since before I entered grad school, and my love of the game burns with an intense, fiery passion.

Anyway, in this scenario, the PCs are a grou p of ne'er-do-wells who have the coordinates to a prison transport full of high value prisoners and high value tech...and it missed its scheduled meet with the next prison transport. People are after this ship. A lot of people. Can the PCs get in, grab what they want, and get out before anyone else finds the Tartarus?

Saturday Evening- All of Their Strengths, "The Dark Grand Conjoining"

AoTS is a delightful, if tongue-in-cheek, game about supernatural hybrids who fight against the supernatural status quo. The game is supposed to be high octane, over the top, stylized-to-the-point-of-fetish action in the vein (ha) of Blade and Underworld and that kind of thing.

This is another scenario of my own device. Rumors and rumbles in the Shadow War indicate some kind of unholy alliance between the Vampire High Council and the Hellfire Club. Normally demons and vampires aren't the best of friends, but the signs are there. Whatever these two factions are planning together, it can't be good.

Unfortunately for them, the hybrids are in town. They're here to kick ass and wear sunglasses.

Sunday I might host a board game like HeroQuest or maybe Space Alert. I can't imagine running five games... four was plenty last time. Who knows, though. I'm masochistic sometimes.






Sunday, March 11, 2018

Back in the Habit

Yesterday,  I gamed for the first time since August. I haven't endured a dry spell this long in the 26 years I've been in the hobby.

I rejoined my old group, DM'ed by John Higgins, author of Engines & Empires, but this time we're using his D&D 2018 rules. There were new faces who had joined the group since I dropped out sometime in...2015? I'm not entirely sure.

I rolled a bard, which in John's game is more like the Celtic priest/scholar than the spoony fop of later editions.

As always, this DM's world is richly detailed and focused very much on exploration and expedition. Although he's running Mystara, he's managed to make it feel very much like his own thing.

I have an additional invite to two other games, but I think I can make all of them work. It seems I am fated not to DM again until KantCon, but this is a far better situation than I was in even three days ago.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

In Which I Return to KantCon

KantCon is my beloved gaming convention, one which I attended for 5 consecutive years until last year. A host of personal issues prevented my attendance last year. AD 2017 was an awful, awful year in my life, and I'd rather forget it entirely. As part of that process, I am returning to my convention this year. 

I intend to continue my tradition of running Starships & Spacemen 2nd and Lamentations of the Flame Princess on Friday. Saturday is reserved for running games which I've never run before. Last KantCon I rolled out OneDice Urban Fantasy and Ruins & Ronin. I love the scenario I wrote for 1DUF, despite my issues with the system, but I found R&R to be...well, bland. It might be the scenario I wrote. 

The proposed docket for this year: 

Friday morning: 

Starships & Spacemen 2nd Edition- "Beacon." I usually run the same ship and crew every year (with many of the same players returning to their roles), but given that I was absent last year, I'm going to run a scenario in which the ship has been missing for a year. The players will play a new crew and ship who have the chance to locate and rescue the old one. The results of this scenario will determine which crew I feature in next year's game. 

Friday evening: 

Lamentations of the Flame Princess- I haven't picked which module to run just yet. I'm thinking I might do Something Stinks in Stilton, but I'm honestly not sure if I like SSiS enough to run it. I've already done Death Frost Doom, Hammers of the God, Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess, and A Thousand Dead Babies in prior years. 

Saturday morning: 

Stars Without Number, Revised Edition "The Tartarus Gambit" 
TTG is a free scenario that I found in my DriveThruRPG library. I have no memory of downloading it, nor do I even remember how I learned of it. Given it's sort of cosmic-horror-ish leanings, I find that to be quite apropos. 

Saturday evening: I have no idea. I'm considering several candidates: All of Their Strengths, the 1st edition of OpenQuest with the dope-ass cover that I love so dearly, or maybe some Savage worlds steampunk zeppelin pirates. Iunno. 

I was even thinking about squeezing in a 5th game. 

Sunday I typically host board games like HeroQuest and The Last Night on Earth. 

July seems like a very long way from now. I'm very excited. 



Monday, February 26, 2018

Some Thoughts from a Classic

So yesterday I saw The Dark Crystal at a theater as part of a limited re-release. The last time I watched that flick, it was on a VHS tape my parents rented from Video Station in like 1986.

Since my brain is always converting things I see or read into gaming terms, I've been picking apart The Dark Crystal for what I can put into a game. Or at least, what I can put into a game in the alternate fucking universe where I can have a stable, consistent gaming group. Ahem.

So, some thinking points:

-The OSR is pretty much all about human-centric games. Here, we have a fantasy world that has several sentient species, none of which are human. In fact, in the interviews they showed prior to the movie, they were pretty clear about the fact that humans do not exist in this world.

-'The gentle ways of natural wizards.' This is only mentioned once. I interpret it as magic being part of the natural flow of the universe, and that natural wizards work within that flow, as opposed to disrupting or subverting it.

-"The old, old magic" and "numbly rehearsing the ancient ways in a blur of forgetfulness." Magic has been around longer than the present civilization. At this point, even someone considered a wise and powerful mystic knows only a shadow of what magic once was.

-Good and Evil are intrinsically connected. The best possible world for everyone is a world where these forces are balanced instead of acting like separate entities, only one of which may emerge victorious.

-Keepers of Secrets, prophecies. Nobody really knows what's going on. Not even the one who witnessed the last Conjunction is certain as to what is going to happen. The elder mystic isn't one hundred percent certain what's going on with the shard. Jen finds the ruins left behind by his people and seems to know virtually nothing of their history.

Definitely some appealing ideas for my next game. The world is old, and nobody really knows what's going on. Even the wisest only have a faint grasp on the real nature of things.

Friday, February 23, 2018

AotS: Gallery of Badasses

So, All of Their Strengths is a pretty dope little game. Here are four utterly badass starting characters for it. You should check AotS out. (Disclaimer: I did not write it, nor do I have any skin in that game except as a fan.)

John Doe -  Half-Ghost, Half-Zombie- Double Dead
Built  3
Fast 2
Hot 0
Sharp 1
Scenes: Martial Arts 2, Parkour 1, Biochemistry 2
Strengths: Unkillable (Already Dead), Bond (Horde), Immune (Suffocation, exhaustion, disease, poison, hunger, thirst, age), Morph (Specter), Gift (levitation)
Discord: 2
Weaknesses: Allergy (salt, crossing salt lines, entering or exiting sigils, exorcism), Issue (Rotting)
Gear: Pneumatic punch glove serum injector, embalming serum hypo, thermal sunglasses
Look: John is pale and waxy, like a fresh corpse, with some sickening blue undertones. He has the zombie eyes: milky white surrounded by dark purple flesh. Sometimes he exudes glowing blue ectoplasm, usually when he’s experiencing strong emotions or he needs to look like a badass. He wears all black because of course he does, favoring long coats with hoods. He is never without his wraparound sunglasses, even indoors, even at night, especially indoors at night. He’s bald, but in sort of a Vin Diesel badass way.
Origin: John worked for the Tyrell Corporation, doing research on a new strain of the Z-Virus. During his experiments, he discovered a new type of protein blocker that could potentially vaccinate an individual against the virus. For reasons unknown, Tyrell cut the funding to his project. Out of desperation, he injected himself with the blockers and with the Z-Virus. He did not turn.
While unaware that John had experimented on himself, Tyrell Corporation decided that John knew too much to be left alive. They sabotaged his vehicle, causing him to die in a fiery wreck. Realizing the sabotage moments before being crushed by twisted metal, John’s mind filled with the desire for revenge… enough so that his soul couldn’t rest. He became a ghost… but his body also became a zombie, as his formula only delayed the change in an infected subject until death. John somehow possessed and fused with his zombified body. Now he’s back, and he’s double dead, and Tyrell is going down.
No, John Doe isn’t his real name. You don’t need a name when you’re double dead.



Scarlett – Half-Demon, Half-vampire – a suckubus ?
Built 1
Fast 1
Hot 3
Sharp 0
Scenes: Clubbing 2, Motorcycles 1, Knives 1
Strengths: Gift (Hellfire- Infernal), Power (Punisher), Unkillable (unless horns severed), Immune (fire heat, suffocation, disease, poison, thirst, hunger, age) Gift (Retractable Horns), Gift (Teleportation- Warping, Indirect), Charm (Universal Language), Power (Blood), Gift (Fangs, draining), Charm (Superhuman Hearing, Infravision)
Discord: 3
Weaknesses: Allergy-Peril (Holy Symbols, Holy Places, Holy Water, Holy Weapons), Lose Control-Drain (Blood thirst), Allergy- Drain (Holy Places, Holy Symbols)
Gear: Badass motorcycle, sword-proof trench-coat, pair of silver daggers
Look:.Scarlett looks pretty much like a normal vampire, until she sprouts her horns. The horns themselves are blood red and distinctly reminiscent of fangs. Her wardrobe consists of crimson and black and involves a lot of leather, PVC, and unnecessary buckles. She’s presently rocking the side shave, jet black with a single red stripe. She likes mirrored sunglasses to hide her vampire eyes when she has to.
Origin: Scarlett was already a half-human, half-demon, created by the unholy union of a succubus and a stock broker (two utterly soulless creatures) Scarlett ran away from home and became a stripper. Unfortunately, her club happened to be a freaky vampire feeding spot, like in that one Quentin Tarantino movie*. She ended up being turned into a vampire, only her demon blood got into a fight with her vampire blood and what came out of it was…. well, whatever Scarlett is.


*I know, it’s a Robert Rodriguez movie, but a lot of people don’t seem to know that.



Abbi- Half-witch, half-mummy, dermatologist’s nightmare
Built: 0
Fast: 0
Hot: 0
Sharp: 5
Scenes: Occult Knowledge 2, Herbalism 2, History 1
Strengths: Power (Ritualist),  Bond (Familiar, cat) *
Discord: 2
Weaknesses: Peril (Fire), Issue/Peril (Guardians of the Afterlife)
Gear: tablet loaded with scans of occult ritual books, herbal concoction utility belt, protective scarab amulet
Look: Abbi is definitely not sexy. She’s kind of green and her skin is shrunken, making her look gaunt and perpetually nauseous. Also, she has no eyes. She usually wears sunglasses. She’s considering having some creepy-ass glass eyes made. In terms of wardrobe, she’s your classic goth, but incorporates Egyptian motifs into her jewelry and garments. She also kind of smells like embalming fluid and grave flowers- but that’s actually because she buys a perfume that smells that way. She was totally bummed that it wasn’t part of the mummification process.
Origin: Abbi was a nerdy goth chick who was into magic, history, and magical history. Also, some band called Clan of Xymox. Unfortunately, her dealings on various occult forums caught the eye of a witch and a mummy, both of whom wanted to recruit her. The witch got to her first, and started the initiation process. As it was close to complete, she was abducted by the mummy, who mummified her… only the witch initiation process led to some unexpected results. The witch showed up to rescue Abbi, and she and the mummy pretty much destroyed each other, leaving a confused, kind of dead, very magical Abbi to go out on her own.

*Having a cat as a familiar is sometimes a problem for Abbi, who has to defer to any cat she has angered and becomes imminently killable due to her Guardians of the Afterlife Weakness.


Karl - Half-Werewolf, Half-Frankenstein. Wolfenstein.

Built: 3
Fast: 1
Hot: 1
Sharp: 0
Scenes: Wrestling 1, Stunt Racing 1, Motorcycles 1, Hunting 1, Extreeeeeeeeeme Athletics 1
Strengths: Power (Morph, Direform), Power (Moonchild), Unkillable (beheading), Immune (exhaustion, heat, cold, disease, poison, age), Gift (Claws/slashing, teeth/rending), Charm (Wolf-Like Senses), Power (Unkillable- modular organs), Charm (Modular physiology) , Charm (Large Frame, Muscular Build),
Discord: 2
Weaknesses: Issue (Visible Stitching), Issue (Lose Control- Fire)
Gear: silver brass knuckles, miraculously durable jeans, totally jacked muscle car with flame decals
Look: In human form, Karl is a huge, hulking monster of a man, with a  semi-flat head (shaved around the sides with long hair on top, worn in a ponytail.) He has visible stitching all over his body, though he usually hangs out in dark arenas and bars where people just assume they are tattoos- or are jut afraid to ask. He likes to wear lots of muscle shirts. He only wears one pair of jeans, which somehow seem to survive his transformations. In wolf form, Karl looks like… well, a stitched-together werewolf with mottled fur of different colors.
Origin: A Frankenstein called Dr. Terwing had an idea: if you stitch together a bunch of dead werewolves, could you create a Frankenstein/Werewolf? Turns out you can. Also turns out that when you stitch together a Frankenstein made out of werewolves who were also various sorts of adrenaline junkies, the resultant Hybrid goes apeshit and destroys your entire lab. And you. And your notes. The good Doctor is gone, and his notes lost, perhaps forever, but Karl (he picked his own name) lives, and the entire Frankenstein community would like to erase this embarrassing abomination.



Wednesday, February 14, 2018

My White Whale

Anyone who has read this blog more than twice probably knows that I have been searching in vain (or maybe in vein, ziiiing) for a replacement for World of Darkness.

I want a modern horror game with vampires and werewolves and witches and things.
I don't like classic WoD anymore. I've just plain lost my taste for it.
I tried to like nWoD, but it just didn't do anything for me. Some of the books had cool ideas.
The new Chronicles of Darkness, particularly Beast: the Primordial, had me until I got to all the business about Tilts and Doors and then I hit the spirit manifestation/possession flow chart and I was solidly in "fuck this" territory.

I tried to use FUDGE to create an urban fantasy/horror game, but I just couldn't seem to make it fit.

I tried making a WoD-type game using B/X D&D rules. Some people liked it (including Matthew Skail, who went on to write The Blood Hack, which is way better than what I wrote) and some people didn't. (JB in particular) In the end, it felt somehow 'off.' The basic idea was there, but something about it...I don't know. Maybe it's worth a redraft.

I tried OneDice Urban Fantasy, but I don't like the system very much. (Though I did run a stellar game with it at KantCon a couple years ago)

The Blood Hack is probably the closest thing I have to a satisfactory replacement, but I found I needed rules for witches and werewolves. I wrote a witch thing, which is in working draft form, but the person I wrote it for is no longer in my life and I find I have little desire to revisit it. I tried to write up some werewolf rules, but couldn't get off the launchpad. (I think Mr. Skail mentioned having similar difficulties.)

I've downloaded Feed and Blood Dark Thirst, and read them a little ,but once again I am looking for a game that has a big ol' supernatural melting pot.

I found Microlight Storyteller, which is a neat idea, but for some reason it doesn't quite do it for me. I think I like light, but not microlight.

I tried to write something up with Fate core, but to be honest I really don't have any fucking idea how Fate works, despite having read it and (tried) to run it. The way I handle Fate, you might as well just toss the books and dice aside and just make a bunch of shit up.

At this point, I'm really not sure what to do. I still have the powerful urge to find or create a game of urban supernatural creatures, but I've been looking for years and I'm just spinning my tires at this point.

And of course, all of this is academic, since I haven't had a gaming group since that steaming pile of a D&D5e game that I was playing in last year, and that situation is unlikely to change. Even if I sat down and pounded out my dream game today, I am writing a game for nobody.

...yet the quest continues. Those windmills aren't going to tilt at themselves, you know.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

He's Got a Poisoned Dagger... I've Just Gotta Fight Him

Assassin, as written, is an awful class.

A thief who gets better weapons, worse thief skills, an insta-kill attack that isn't super likely to work, an overly complicated disguise skill, and your very own set of rules for NPCs attacking you. 

...let me expound on that. If you poison your weapon, and someone within 10 feet notices, they will either call the guard, attack you, or both. Ridiculous. "Hey, this guy can kill us in one hit with his poisoned sword...let's get 'em. You have the ability to turn people nearby into instant vigilantes. 

AD&D 1st edition has a lot of rules that leave me scratching my head, or pinching the bridge of my nose (presumably to stop the blood from gushing out) 


OSRIC omitted this from the poison section of the assassin class, but I was disheartened to see it rear its ugly head in BX Advanced, which I recently purchased. Swords & Wizardry Complete throws the rule out entirely. 

If the assassin has the fighter hold his poisoned dagger, do people notice? Could the fighter get attacked? This rule is specifically tucked into the assassin class write-up...but then, 1st edition was always sort of passively-aggressively discouraging you from using poison. Stick a guy with a sword? Sure, that's life in Greyhawk. Stick him with a poisoned sword? You're the absolute scum of the universe. The S&W companion even adds bonus damage to the attacks of the aggrieved witnesses, so enraged are they by the sight of a poisoned weapon. Le sigh.

Of course the rule is easy enough to toss aside, but... I'm trying to wrap my head around the genesis of the rule. Is there some Vance or Howard story where poison just pisses someone off to the point that they're ready to attack an armed assassin? Help me understand. I need to understand.