Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reworking the Bard

As I mentioned last May or June when I was preparing my currently running campaign, the bard is among the classes I would like to allow. However, I find the AD&D 1st edition bard to be an unsuitable mess, and I've had an inquiry from a potential new player wishing to be a bard. This forces me to do something I have been meaning to do, which is to rework the bard for my game. I'd like him to maintain his old, druidic, kind of Celtic/Germanic feel. At the same time, I don't want the bard to be a proto-prestige class. So, after perusing the internet and various PDFs I have (legitimate) access to, I have started cobbling together a middle-of-the-road version of the bard. Please feel free to critique or offer thoughts. So, the Save vs. Poison take on the Bard:

Ability Requirements: Strength 9, Dexterity 9, Wisdom 13, Charisma 15, Comeliness 12. Bards do not gain bonus experience for high ability scores.

Races Allowed: Human, Half-elf. A half-elf is limited to advancing to the 13th level. For every point of Charisma above 15, he may advance an additional level.

Alignment: At least one axis of a bard's alignment must be neutral. (Neutral Good, Lawful Neutral, etc.)

Hit Dice: 1d6 per level from 1st through 9th level. Beginning at 10th level, the bard receives 2 hit points per level, unmodified by Constitution.

Weapons Permitted: The bard may become proficient with a battle axe, hand axe, club, dagger, knife, dart, javelin, scimitar, sling, staff, sword (any), spear, or bow (but not crossbow) A bard may use flaming oil in combat, but can only use poison if evil.

Armor Permitted: Chain or lighter; shield permitted. Note that armor heavier than leather will adversely affect a bard's thieving skills, and a shield will preclude the casting of spells and some bardic abilities.

Initial Weapon Proficiencies: 2, gaining a new proficiency slot every three levels. Bards suffer a -3 to attack with a weapon that they are not proficient with.

Combat: Bards attack using the fighter matrix. Note that bards may not specialize in weapons or gain additional attacks per round as a fighter does.

Saving Throws: A bard saves as a thief.

The bard's abilities are as follows:

-A bard can Pick Pockets, Detect Noise, Move Silently, and Hide in Shadow as a thief of the same level. However, his skills may never exceed 95% A bard may also Read Languages, though his percentage is equal to his level multiplied by five. A bard may reach 99% maximum skill in Read Languages.

-A bard may use spells. Bards originally learned their arts from the druids, though over time they have developed a versatile spellcraft all their own. Bard spells are words of power taken from the druid tongue and turned into songs. The spells are taken from the other spell lists, but with these changes: a component of V indicates that the bard must sing loudly use the spell, an S indicates that the bard must play a two handed instrument to invoke the spell, and material components are ignored altogether. A bard prays for spells in the same manner as a cleric or druid. Bards progress in spells at the rate shown in the AD&D PHB1 index. (I'm still working on the list of bard spells and I shall post them when I am finished)

-A bard can charm with his music, as the magic-user spell. The ability works as charm person at 1st level and charm monster at 7th. The percentage is listed in the PHB1. Unlike the spell, the effect of a bard's music ends when he stops playing. In addition, attack from any creature or sufficiently loud noise will end the effect immediately.

-The bard has a chance to know something about a legendary person, place, or item, and a chance to discern the function of any magic item he observes closely. Percentage chance is found in AD&D PHB1.

-A bard can attempt to sway the reactions of a group of NPCs. The maximum size group is equal to five individuals per level of the bard. The group must be able to hear and understand the bard. The initial attempt takes a full round, and cannot be used on a group already in combat or who are clearly in danger. (Such as if the bard's companions are threatening the group, etc.) If the group has a clear leader, the leader may save for the entire group. The saving throw is vs. spells, with a -1 penalty for every five full levels the bard has attained, rounded down. If there is no leader, the saving throw is made at the level or Hit Dice of the highest member of the group, but at a -1 penalty. Success means the bard can sway the group one level toward the friendly or hostile range of reactions. On a failure, a group trying to be made friendly moves one more step towards hostile, and a group trying to be moved towards hostility is unaffected. The bard may try this but once per day on a given group. Note that a group that saves against the bard is immune to his musical abilities for the remainder of that day.

-A bard may attempt to rally the party and all friendly NPCs within 30 feet. The bard must play, sing, chant, orate, or otherwise communicate for two full rounds to activate the ability. During this time, the bard may move and may even engage in melee combat, but cannot cast spells or use other bardic abilities. Once activated, the ability lasts one full turn, and grants the recipients a +1 to attack rolls and +2 to saving throws against any effects that would cause fear, charm, or other mental/emotional influence. Allied NPCs receive a 10% morale bonus in addition to the aforementioned benefits. Obviously, the allies must be able to hear and understand the bard to receive the bonuses.

-A bard's singing or playing will negate the effects of a harpy/siren's song, or any other monstrous ability relying on song. The playing or singing of a bard will also still shriekers.

-A bard learns additional languages according to the table in the PHB. He may learn the druidic language, which is normally not taught to outsiders. A bard may also learn thieves' cant provided he can find a willing teacher.

-A bard may use any magic item usable by thieves, fighters, and druids. A bard may read druidic scrolls once he has learned the druidic language.

-A bard will never serve as a henchman to another longer than 1d4 months. A bard cannot employ henchmen until 5th level. A bard will only accept henchmen who are of the fighter, thief, or druid class, and only humans, elves, and half-elves. A bard will at first employ a single henchman, attaining additional henchmen at levels 8, 11, 14, 17, and 20. A bard who advances to the 23rd level can employ as many henchman as he chooses. These maximums for henchmen are superseded by the number of henchman allowed by the bard's Charisma score.

Anyone with thoughts, feel free to chime in.

Charmed and Counter-Charmed!

The party suffered what could have been a TPK last night after half the group failed their saving throws against the alluring song of some siren-like creatures. Luckily for them, the sirens were content to retreat and drag off an NPC with them. I ended up sort of cobbling together wrestling/grappling rules since the old AD&D1 system for wrestling is an unplayable mess. The party was dismayed to discover that, in the old editions, charm person lasts...and lasts... and lasts... we're talking saving throws made every week or so, depending on the character. However, our player new to the game (who is seventeen, I was corrected last night) came up with the idea to use his own charm person or mammmal spell to bring the errant party members back to their senses. (After bending them to his will, he simply released the charm.) Well done, Adam!

I forgot how potent and nasty charming is in the older editions. Like sleep, it's got a lot of bang for your buck, being a first level spell and all.

...oh, and I must say, conducting my game using OSRIC is so much easier on my brain. I actually found no use for the older books last night. I suppose you could say that I have been charmed by OSRIC.

...on second thought, don't say that; it's kind of weird.

Monday, December 28, 2009


My copy came today, one week after I placed the order... not bad, considering we had a major holiday and Snowpocalypse last week. Yeah-yur!

The Joy of Newbies and the Process of Initiation

I neglected to mention that one of my players, the one who plays remotely via Skype, asked me if his son (who I think is 16-ish) could join the game. Obviously, he would also be playing via Skype, but it has worked out so far so I said yea.

I forgot how enjoyable it can be to game with someone who hasn't done much, if any, gaming. When one of my players was explaining the usefulness of the shillelagh spell, I couldn't help but crack a smile.
"Some monsters can only be hit by magic weapons!"
Everybody seems to have the new player's back. I like that. I also found his proposed backstory to be quite interesting. (Backstory rarely, if ever, comes into play in this campaign, but I appreciate any fleshing out that a player is willing to do, particularly when they aren't asked to.)

Having a new player who is new to the game and not just new to the group has refreshed me, in a way. It almost makes me want to go out and introduce new people to the hobby, an endeavor that I previously had no interest in whatsoever.

While I'm on the subject of people new to the game, I have realized that I might be something of an oddity in that I had no gaming "mentor," that is, nobody introduced me to or taught me the game. I discovered D&D quite by accident because I started reading Dragonlance novels. I reseached it myself, somehow persuaded my mom to get me a boxed set despite my grandmother's insistance that D&D was a gateway to devil worship, taught myself the game, and proceeded to teach my friends. Most everybody else I know was initiated into the game by a friend or relative. How curious.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Havin' My Cake and Eatin' It

So I may have a few extra dollars thanks to the Holiday. I might just get me some Supplement VI after all.

Although I must say, I do wish there was some OSR stuff available at my LGS... perhaps 2010 will bring me some love in that regard. An old school boxed set would we a wonderful celebratory gift for when I (hopefully) land a job in my new profession after completing my last semester.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Rules I Cannot Abide

Because I am running on less than five hours of sleep and being forced to work a half-day on Xmas Eve, my blog today is about various rules I hate in various games. Without further ado:

*Taint of the Predator- Vampire: the Requiem. Apparently, someone at White Wolf decided that vampires are not bitchy and stand-offish enough. They must have overheard two WoD players at a convention talking about how their characters could work together to accomplish their mutual goals, and we cannot have White Wolf characters who cooperate. Hence, Taint of the Predator: when two vampires meet, they can instantly sense that one another are vampires (Ok, I'll admit I actually like that part.) However, their Beasts (inner predator instinct for you non-WoD players) have an impromptu dick-measuring contest, and if one vampire is significantly more powerful than the other, the loser flies into a panic. The VtR demo actually has a plot point that is reliant on this happening.
My solution: Vampires can sense one another. That's it. This does require a reworking of the lowest level of Protean, as it was designed to mitigate this rule. I haven't thought of anything yet. Good thing I'm not running VtR.

*You can't dodge more than 4 missiles at once- Palladium's Robotech RPG. Whoever wrote this rule must not have watched a whole lot of Robotech.
My solution: Ignore this rule entirely.

*Half-assed dodging- In Nomine. In the In Nomine system, every die roll is 3d6, counting two of those dice as the actual roll and one of them as the "check digit" that provides some kind of detail about the nature of the roll. (Damage, number of points healed, etc.) If you successfully dodge an attack, the CD subtracts from the number of points of damage you receive. My old group couldn't get past the idea of characters usually getting "winged" by every shot.
My solution: If your check digit beats the attacker's check digit, you dodge entirely. If the attacker beats you, you take full damage. On a tie you actually get winged and take half damage.

*You can hit yourself with your lightsaber- West End Games D6 Star Wars. On a sufficiently low lightsaber attack roll, it is possible for a Jedi to damage himself with his lightsaber. Because, you know, that happens all the goddamn time in the movies.
My solution: I make it a policy to ignore any rule that causes me to imagine Yakity Sax as the background music for my game.

*You can trip a gelatinous cube- D&D 4th edition. Actually, 4e has so many rules I have a problem with it could very easily be a post unto itself. Realizing this was, however, the Beginning of the End for me and the latest edition of Ye Olde Game. It is a cube, people. If you trip it, you've just changed what side of it is on the floor.
My solution: Play a different edition.

Ah, I just found out we can leave now. More stupid rules may or may not follow.

Happy Holidays to all you Blogging types.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I like Lulu

I placed my order for a copy of OSRIC today, and was informed that it would take 3-5 business days to print and ship my book. Not two hours later, I was informed that my book had shipped out. The shipping was reasonable for me. ($3.99)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

On the Fence

Ordinarily, I do not speak of my personal life on this blog except for in passing reference. I will mention, however, that I am leaving my job to finish a program of study I'm in. I mention this because gaming dollars are going to be tight whilst I live on student loans, savings, and a whole lot of mac n' cheese.

I have a few dollars to throw around before the lockdown truly starts. As such, I'm thinking over a number of books I'd like to have. This is mostly my thinking out loud, but any of my dear readers are invited to chime in with suggestions.

So, these are some things I want to buy, in no particular order:

-Rob Conley's Supplement VI, Majestic Wilderness. I'm more interested in all the sub-classes, variant magic system, and other stuff one might call "crunch." I almost never use pre-made settings, but I seldom overlook the chance to see how another DM does it.

-The infamous Supplement V, Carcosa. I mostly want it for the alien tech, psi systems, etc. I doubt very much I'd ever run Carcosa straight up, but there's a lot of neat stuff to plunder.

-A copy of OSRIC. I'm getting increasingly fed up with the layout and organization of the AD&D DMG, plus I'd like to have everything between two covers.

-No Dignity in Death. I have so far enjoyed Raggi's work very much, and I don't think that Insect Shrine or his new one that's in the works will be available before I go into thrift mode.

In Which Almost Everyone Dies

Only two characters survived last weeks' session, leaving only one character alive from the original party. As the de facto leader of the party (or what is left of it, rather) he has decided that he has had his fill of Tarraxian and is now devoting his energy to finding a way back to his home world.

Normally, I don't give much in the way of advice to the players as a DM, but I did dispense two recommendations based on recent play trends:

1. You don't have to attack every single thing you meet right away, and
2. You probably shouldn't attack when you are vastly outnumbered. I suppose I must also add
2.a If you cannot ascertain how many opponents you face, it is probably wise to assume you are vastly outnumbered.

That being said, the party has something of a history of slaughtering potentially friendly creatures out of nervousness or because "they're worth more xp," so I'm going to go ahead and say that karma was responsible for this near-TPK.

I must also note that it is to my players' advantage that I generally ignore alignment, because I don't know that I could classify any of them as "good" anymore. They are quite ready to sacrifice henchmen, they have no compunction about slaughtering helpless opponents, and until recently they had something of an obsession for running down fleeing enemies to kill them off. One player defended his actions by saying he was just being pragmatic. I reminded him that good is not a pragmatic alignment. However, I am generally ignoring alignment because I find that it adds nothing to the game, and it has been beaten to death, and most players act in a fashion I would consider neutral evil regardless of what is scribbled 'pon their character sheet.

Do not misconstrue this post as criticism of my players, or if you must, consider it constructive criticism. If anything, I'm impressed with myself for being much less "soft" as a DM than in previous years, and for not fudging the deaths of characters, even veteran characters who had been in the party since the first session.

Also, we're playing the week of Christmas... so this group has managed to play every single week of both November and December, months that have pretty much been a gaming wasteland with previous groups. You, gentlemen, are hardcore.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 ain't so bad.

Earlier this year, I played and enjoyed a game of Beyond the Supernatural, which warmed me to Palladium after years of dismissing it. For some reason, I am hung up on the absurdity of SDC, and I was going to make a blog post about it, when I realized... SDC is really no more or less absurd than any wounding system in most of the games I have played. Hit points are just as absurd. I suppose the difference between the two is that hit points have always been semi-abstract, whereas SDC is blatantly stated to be damage that is "just a scratch."

...of course, take all the athletic skills and pick the right OCC and having a magnum unloaded into your character can be "just a scratch."

...but is this any different than a D&D character surviving a blast of dragon's breath, or being shot five times with a heavy crossbow, etc, etc...? If hit points are abstract and don't necessarily represent injury, then what is cure light wounds? Does it not restore "luck" or "plot immunity" or any of the other abstract stand-ins for what hit points are supposed to be?

I imagine the feasibility of hit points is also impacted by one's perception of combat round as an abstract representation of an exchange between two parties, or if every attack roll is a swing of the weapon.

I had planned to house rule SDC into a sort of "fatigue" that absorbed damage from fisticuffs and other low-lethality attacks, but I remember how cumbersome that type of thing was in Champions, plus I seem to have deconstructed my own criticism of it. If a 9th level fighter can take a hit from a hill giant's club, for whatever reason, I suppose I can stomach the concept of SDC. I sometimes wonder if my mind can more easily accept medieval weapons and the hit point system are far removed from my daily existence, while the news regularly reminds me how fatal modern weapons are.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Inspiration: Vampire Hunter D Novels

I'm reading the first Vampire Hunter D novel, translated into English. I think the setting of the novel (only touched on in the anime films) would make a great setting for a goth-lite, horror themed game of D&D and/or Mutant Future. It's got vampires, zombies, golems, dragons, robots, lasers, were-creatures, fairies, mutants, lost technology, feudal lords, cowboys with heat-rays, mad science, and of course, monster hunters of every stripe imaginable. It's a shame they only made two movies out of the seventeen or so books that have been published so far. (I'm not sure how many have been translated...looks like at least the first ten)

Of course, I'd probably use a different system if I wanted to approximate character's with D's level of skill, (Savage Worlds, perhaps?) but the idea, a sort of Ravenloft-Meets-Gamma World, is immensely appealing to me. This will have to go on the back burner, though, because my current campaign's excursions to the realm of post-apocalyptic science fantasy is still going strong, and if I were crazy enough to run two campaigns I'd want a bit more diversity in terms of genre.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Disaster Preparedness

Well, one of my players just had his schedule change, so Wednesday nights may perhaps become Tuesday or Thursday nights. We will adapt.

A storm of blizzard-like power is supposed to brew in my town over the next two days. Our remote player in Kentucky, free of the fickle rage of wintertime in Nebraska, is going to try to set us all up on Ventrilo, so that we might continue our record of six months with only one session missed. I have also received word that half our group may be available on the 23rd... if we can get the last of us, we shall game! This group is hardcore... we don't let silly things like holidays and hazardous weather stop us. ONWARD!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Grinding Gear: Initial Thoughts

I can't post too much, because some of my players have been known to read my blog, and I intend to run them through this module. So, just a few initial reactions:

-I like the inclusion of the "author's commentary" in the form of the Cheat Sheet; what would otherwise be an insane funhouse dungeon actually has a great deal of internal consistency. This changes the way I think about funhouse dungeons.

-Like Death Frost Doom, the dungeon itself has character. The Grinding Gear will most certainly not feel like just another dungeon crawl.

-Adventuring, and dungeon crawling in particular, is dangerous, and Jim Raggi brings that to the forefront of the module. People who muck around in places like this can get killed, or suffer unpleasant long term effects.

-The party can fail/lose, and doing so does not necessarily mean a TPK. I have read many a published module where the only two outcomes that are contemplated are the players killing the big bad guy/winning or they all perish.

I look forward to putting people through this module. I would say it is probably one of the most difficult modules I've read in a long time. A word of caution: you will not like this module if you are the type who prefers to solve problems with Knowledge skills or other skill rolls. The puzzles and hazards are all you, baby, and ain't no Dungeoneering die roll goin' to save you.

I shall post a play report once I've run a group through this.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Talk About Skin of their Teeth...

It's pretty close when the entire party has one hit point between them. If the medic hadn't made his death save, he would have died and subsequently been unable to revive the henchman who died. We lost Josh's third character, but we knew he was doomed when he rolled up the defect where he takes double damage from attacks. Of course, he rolled up a new character with an equivalent defect, so... yikes.

In other news, my copy of The Grinding Gear arrived today. I've only had a chance to read half and skim the other half, and all I have to say is... muhuhahahahahahahahaha.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Chainmail Combat Tables

Does anyone know if there is a retro-clone of Chainmail, or if the Chainmail rules are OGL or anything like that? I'd like to reference them out of curiosity. I suppose that I might have to dive into the unsavory depths of Ebay.

Any information is appreciated.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Das Schwarze Auge

In high school, I hung out with a lot of the foreign exchange students. (I was odd like that) My senior year, one of the Germans happened to be a gamer as well, and we spent many hours playing Vampire and Shadowrun with him. However, he always spoke very fondly of his favorite role playing game, Das Schwarze Auge. (Literally, "The Black Eye") In fact, many were the occasions where he told me that if he knew he was going to befriend American gamers, he'd have brought it over and run a campaign for us.

A few years ago, when I was in college, my German friend sent me a CD with PDFs of the DSA books, as well as a program that converts PDFs into an editable document format and a program to translate German e-documents to English. Unfortunately, the translated wasn't so hot with the German grammar conventions translating to English, so I could get only the faintest gist of what the books said, certainly not enough to play.

Around that time, a gaming company (I now forget which) published the core book of DSA in English, as "The Dark Eye." I told my German friend about it, and he lamented that it was an inferior edition that the fans hotly contested (sound familiar?) and that I shouldn't waste my money. I do remember flipping through it at the LGS and not finding it very much to my liking. Also, from what I understand, the American official translation of DSA is dead in the water, with almost no support forthcoming.

I recently found out about an Australian fellow named Jason Hutchings, who created an unofficial English translation of the first edition of DSA and put it up on his website at

DSA is a charming little game. It takes a lot of cues from early D&D, but has plenty of eccentricities all it's own. For instance, elves have a "strong sense of smell" (no mechanical advantage is described except that they can sense dragons) and they cannot fight dragons in melee. The player of a magician or elf must speak pre-written magical words in order to cast a spell, and they cannot look the magic words up if their character is under duress. (In combat, for instance) Character actions are sometimes "assumed" according to the rules (you don't have a weapon drawn while exploring unless you say you are drawing your weapon, you can't attack an opponent you wounded last round unless you are only fighting one opponent, the party and monsters automatically group off as evenly as possible, etc.) This game bears almost no resemblance to what my friend described to me, so I am assuming he must have played a later edition.

An interesting thing to note about DSA: There are no thieves, and there are no priests. I understand these were added later (whether in a supplement or new edition I am not sure), but in the beginning of the game, character abilities tended to fall into the realm of magic or combat, with a simple task resolution system based entirely on ability checks used for literally everything else.

What we have here is a simple game just begging to be tinkered with. (And from what I understand, editions following the first were vastly different) If you hop on over the site I mentioned, you can read and learn DSA in probably thirty minutes or less. know, now that I think about it, DSA seems to take more cues from Tunnels & Trolls than D&D. (It feels more like T&T upon further reading)

I hope that someone, someday, provides a translation of other editions of the game, though I understand this is unlikely. Then again, there's something very charming about the simplicity of this system. My inner tinker says fie on that. Ah, if only I had as much free time as I had back in high school or college.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Oops, we have a story (sort of)

During the last session of AD&D, the party had a strange encounter: the future version of the party's magic-user, who had traveled back in time to confront one of the antagonistic NPCs the party had run across and had been subsequently defeated and stuck in a stasis tube. After the session was over, the player of the magic-user expressed interest in the "story" that was developing, at least in regards to his growing sense of rivalry with this NPC magic-user. Oddly, meeting his future self, who has become an arch-enemy to this NPC, seems to have sparked an interest in the player to more actively oppose the NPC. Now, this is hopefully the only instance of time travel in my game, lest I end up bringing the kind of cluster fuck ruination to my game that only time travel can bring.
Still, even if we end up with a "story," it will be only because of interests and goals that the players have developed for their characters as a result of a freewheeling play style where I've allowed my group to wander around and do or ignore things as they please. As a result, the events going on are all that much more satisfying and interesting, as opposed to a canned story along which the players are lured.

It's interesting how much my gaming philosophy and DMing style have changed in the past two years. There are "new school" games on my shelf that I'm not even sure I could run "properly" anymore. I tried a sandbox style game with nWoD and it didn't really go anywhere, though there were also other reasons. Still, I'm not sure a game like The Riddle of Steel is compatible with my newly favored play style. other news, I have ordered a copy of The Grinding Gear through Noble Knight Games. I hope it's as good as Death Frost Doom.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


My copy of Mutant Future arrived, not only less than a week after I ordered it (with the El Cheapo shipping), but just in time for me to drop a cyborg commando into last night's gaming session. I am quite pleased with Lulu. I also think I'm going to order a copy of OSRIC, as I am quite tired of navigating through the insanely organized DMG. Many of the things I have memorized by page number because I look them up so frequently, but I'm starting to find some of the organization and High Gygaxian to be less charming when I'm desperately clawing for some information so I can get on with the damn session. I do love my copy of Mutant Future, yes sir.

I must also say that I'm still really enjoying this campaign and my players' contributions to it. Huzzah!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Jumping on the Bandwagon

I just wanted to say that I freaking love Hexographer. This is the first fantasy/campaign mapping software that hasn't caused me to lose interest after ten minutes. I do believe I will be getting a licensed version, though for now I am having fun messing around with the online freebie version.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Games I Would Like to Run

This post is mostly introspection. These are campaigns I would like to run in the future. The chance of me running most of them varies greatly, but they're all things I have tucked away in my mind for some future use, perhaps. They are in no particular order.

*A heavily house-ruled game of Cyclopedic D&D, tweaked to fit my perfect idea of D&D.

*A game with the same premise as Metamorphosis Alpha, but run using Gamma World 2nd edition or Mutant Future.

*A planet-hopping game of Mongoose's Traveller, in the vein of the computer game Freelancer or the TV show Firefly...just a crew, a ship, and wandering in space.

*A World of Darkness game in which demons/infernals are the principal antagonists, and the characters are part of a secret group of exorcists or magicians or something similar that opposes them. (Run using either mortals + Second Sight or Mage or maybe even some parts of Hunter)

*A game of, gods help me, Nightbane.

*Deadlands, set in west Texas or in Dodge City. I'd like to try it sandbox style, with the character left to do as they will.

*Rippers, though mainly run as the revival of my steampunk vampire fighting Legacy of Dracula game.

*Palladium Fantasy, straight out the book.

*A sandbox style game of Vampire, probably using the Masquerade setting but with the basic rules of Requiem because they are a bit cleaner.

*A "sci-fi exiles" game, with the characters adrift on a ship of some kind. I'd like to include a lot of resource management for the ship, and ideally the characters would be of positions of authority. I'm thinking things along the lines of Battlestar Galactica, Densetsu Kyojin Ideon, and Ulysses 31 (what very little of it I remember) This could be done with Traveller, Star Frontiers, Savage Worlds, Robotech (part of the Expeditionary Force whose fold device malfunctioned?), or most other systems.

*Carcosa, or perhaps a Carcosa/Mutant Future mashup.

I have other ideas as well... I mean, ideally I'd like to run every game on my shelf. These are just things I have been thinking over lately.

Fiddly Bits

Last night, one of my friends (who has played in the majority of the campaigns I've run since I moved here) tried his hand at DMing. (I actually had no idea it was his first outing until after the session) He knows that I have no love for 3.5, but I played because he's my friend and I always encourage people who want to start up a game. Dungeon Masters are always somewhat in demand, from my experience. I thought he did a pretty good job for his first time; I've been in sessions that weren't half as well run that were done by people with more "experience."

However, I will say that building a 3.5 character and fighting 3.5 combats did solidify what I dislike about the system. My "build" was not efficient, and as such my character was not very effective. You would think that a guy with a big double headed axe would know his way around the battle field, but I did not cross the i's and dot the t's and use three different source books, so I was not as useful as my compatriots who made their character using the so-called "splat" books. I no longer have the patience for juggling multiple source books to make a character whose numbers all click in the right ways. I also forgot how magic-item dependent the game has become... much of my character's effectiveness was derived from his magical gear and not from his abilities. (Or my abilities as a player)

Now, don't get me wrong... there was a time when I enjoyed this sort of thing, but my tastes have changed and I just don't want to spend two hours making a character. Granted, we did make high level characters...I'm pretty sure that I could have rolled out a 1st level d20 character in a much shorter period of time. This does not really change the whole "build" aspect, nor my feelings toward it.

The older editions continue to appeal more and more to me. Roll stats, grab race and/or class (depending on the version), grab gear and/or spells and you're off. I'm even rueful of the bastardized skill system I put in place in my game... next time I might just swipe the prime attribute idea from Castles & Crusades and call it good.

I am not against all games that involve building... I can knock out a Savage Worlds character in fifteen minutes, maybe a bit longer if he's a spell caster, psychic, or other power-user.

It may be just a phase, but for now I find that I long for games with less finicky mechanics and crunch.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Penultimate Blog Post

You're ALL doing it wrong, forever.

Good DAY, sir.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Rust Ooze

A monster I scribbled up over lunch yesterday and dropped (literally) on my players last night.

Frequency: Rare
No. Appearing: 1
Hit Dice: 6
Armor Class: 8
Move: 6
No. Attacks: -
Damage/Attack: -
Special Attacks: Rust, surprise on 1-4
Special Defenses: Hasted by fire
Magic Resistance: 15%
Psionic Ability: Nil
Intelligence: Animal
Alignment: Neutral
Treasure Type: nil

The rust ooze is nearly impossible to distinguish from a large patch of rust. (Only a 10% chance when directly observed) They surprise opponents on a 1-4, usually dropping off of a ceiling or wall or attacking from the floor. They attack by engulfing their prey (up to 3 man sized creatures at once) Rust oozes dissolve all readied metal weapons in one round. After two rounds, they dissolve the target's metal armor and shield. After that, they dissolve any other metal objects that are not completely sealed in a pack or bag. The rust ooze causes no actual harm to bare skin, nor to any non-metal creatures or objects. Metal creatures such as robots or iron golems take 8d6 damage each turn they are in contact with a rust ooze, and tend to be singled out by the creatures in favor of hand held weapons or armor. Note that "duralloy" or similar futuristic metal is entitled to a saving throw each round.
If slain, the rust ooze dissolves into a brownish, foul smelling protoplasm that causes no futher damage to any material.
A rust ooze can choose not to dissolve metal that it is in contact with. Typically this is done to hang from an advantageous hiding place. Rust oozes can sense metal within 60 feet.
Damage from fire causes the rust ooze to be hasted, as the magic-user spell, for 1d4 rounds.
There have been reports of giant rust oozes or psionic rust oozes, but these are drunken ramblings of vagrants and braggarts, not to be trusted by wiser folk.

The party lost a scimitar, two laser rifles and a laser pistol to the creature.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In Which I Finally Cave

Today I shelled out the money for an actual physical copy of Mutant Future. I don't have a shiny laptop, so looking up information from MF during the game requires me to split my time betwen the computer and the gaming table, which is a pain in the ass.

Another bonus is that Mutant Future is more easily compatible (mechanically speaking) with AD&D than Gamma World is, though I will continue to mine GW for ideas.

Oh, and it will also provide some great material for my revision to The Temple of Zirugar, which I will run at another convention someday.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Week 22!

I just realized that I started my AD&D game exactly 22 weeks ago today. To date, we have missed but one session. We play on Wednesdays now, so tomorrow will be our 21st play session. The characters have only advanced about as far as 4th level (depending on the character), though I believe one is nearing 5th. Part of the problem is that they have amassed a large amount of treasure that they have been unable to get home or cash in yet. Still, I find that I am relatively unconcerned with levels, and the players seem to be less concerned than gaming groups are usually. The focus is definitely on exploration and interaction with the enviornment. We even had significantly fewer combats than your "typical" AD&D game (from my perspective, anyway.)

Honestly, I feel like we're just getting started... there are so many places this can go.

19th Century Monster Killin', Canned Campaigns, and the True Meaning of Christmas

I recently picked up Deadlands Reloaded and Rippers, both settings for Savage Worlds. (Well, Deadlands originally wasn't, and Savage Worlds was actually derived, mechanically, from Deadlands, but I digress...) I always did enjoy Deadlands, and Rippers is Victorian monster could I pass that up?

Now, I have to say I love Savage Worlds because it's a clean, simple, fast moving system. There's crunch but not a lot of it. You can make a character in maybe fifteen minutes if you know what you're doing. You can use minis, though the game works just fine without them. Yes, it is inherently cinematic, so I wouldn't use it to run anything, but it remains one of my favorite systems regardless. Oh, another bonus point: it has vehicle combat rules that don't make me want to gouge my own eyes out; I can say this about relatively few rpgs I've read that contain such rules.

...where I diverge from Savage Worlds, however, is in the presentation of their game worlds. Savage Worlds is big on pre-packaged stories (Plot Points, they are called) with a definite beginning, middle, and end. They advertise them as stories "starring your posse." (that one is Deadlands specific but you get the idea)

How boring. How did I ever enjoy this sort of thing?

My tastes have rocketed away from story based gaming, where I come up with the story ahead of time and essentially just let the players navigate it. Gaming, to me, has become the exploration of a fictional world. The players should be free to pursue what they like. I don't want to come up with complex plot lines that they "have" to participate in.

Now, should I start up one of these two games some day (the wife is really keen to play Rippers), I think I'm going to run it my way. I don't anticipate there being much of a problem. I will, however, have to un-Mary Sue the important bad guys in Deadlands, as most of them are specifically mentioned as being immune to all physical and magical attacks, and many of them have a come-back-to-life clause should the characters find some way to thwart them. That's pretty lame. The "story" bad guys are so ridiculously powerful to begin with (most of them ignore rules regarding power points and one of them straight up has every power in the book); it would be a slap in the face to a group that could actually put one down to see him just come back, sometimes stronger than before. I understand that they have a continuity to "protect" (because gods forbid the players have any capacity to change their world), but one of the old Deadlands books did say "if you stat it, they will kill it." It seems odd that they have reversed their old position.

Though I have these misgivings, I must reiterate that I do love Deadlands. I bet both of these fine games will work just fine for an exploration type game. Plus, you could theroetically cross them over, since they take place more or less around the same time.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mutant Goodness

Since I am trying to keep the mechanics in my game AD&D-centric,I have decided to make races and classes separte for native Tarraxians. Last night I statted up the mutant race.

There are two options for mutants: The first is Near Human, which means the character can probably pass for human and is only somewhat mutated. The second option is what I like to call Extra Crispy, and the character starts out a lot more randomized and with at least one pretty nasty defect.

Near Human mutants have +1 to a randomly determined ability score and -1 to another randomly determined ability score. (I just have the player roll 1d6 and read down the line on their character sheet.) If they roll the same ability they will have unmodified ability scores. Near Human mutants have one randomly determined Class 2 (50/50 physical or mental) mutation and another randomly determined Class 1 mutation (physical) as determined in Mutant Future. They also have 1 randomly determined Class 1 physical defect.

Now, Extra Crispy... they have +1d4 points of ability bonuses, with each bonus assigned randomly as above. They also have -1d4 worth of negative attribute adjustments, likewise determined randomly. A heavily mutated character will randomly roll one Class 3 mutation (50/50 physical/mental), one Class 2 mutation (50/50), and two Class 1 physical mutations. They will then roll one Class 3 defect (50/50) and one Class 1 physical defect.

A mutant may advance as a fighter (10th level), thief (unlimited),ranger (8th level),barbarian (12th level), or tech rat* (8th)

A mutant may choose the following multiclass combinations: fighter/thief, fighter/tech rat, thief/tech rat

As a native Tarraxian, the character will advance in the modified version of his chosen class. (The classes are a little different on Tarraxian)

*As stolen from Amityville Mike at

There are some mutant "races" on Tarraxian. So far I have created one such race, the Suulians. Suulians are a tribe of mutants who have stabilized into a distinct race all their own. Their numbers are small, numbering around 700, and all of them live in and around the village of Suular in the Red Wastes. Suulians stand 4-5 feet tall and are slight of frame and slightly hunchbacked. Their skins are yellow and scaly with gray spots and patterns. They have small, mostly blunt spines emerging from their skulls and running all the way down their spines to their tailbone. Suulians do not have body hair of any sort. They have distended lower jaws. Suulians live roughly 200 years. Racially they tend towards Neutral Good. Even nongood Suulians typically reject both Law and Chaos, as they blame the war between the two powers for the current predicament of their world.

Suulians receive +1 to their initial Wisdom score and -1 to Strength. Suulians are a strong willed and spiritual people, but their muscles are underdeveloped due to a lingering mutation in their gene pool.
Suulians have the following special abilities:
Detect Radiation 1-4 on 1d6: they can detect radiation up to 60 feet away. Their senses will detect it only as weak (Intensity Class 1-3), moderate (IC 4-6), or strong. (7+) A suulian must spend one round in concentration to activate this ability. If they spend a second round concentrating, they can pinpoint the radiation to a monster, object, crater, etc.
Note that a suulian still has a chance equal to 1-2 on a 1d6 to notice radiation if they pass within 20 feet, even if not actively looking for it.
Suulians have a bonus to save against radiation. This bonus is +1 for every 3.5 full points of Constitution possessed by a suulian. Also, suulians must fail seven saves in a day to gain a new mutation, instead of the usual five. (See the Mutant Future rulebook for details)
A beginning suulian character has a 20% chance to have a randomly determined mental mutation, as described in Mutant Future.

Suulians have different class options available to them that other mutants. A suulian may only advance as a fighter, (6th level), thief (unlimited), or druid (10th level) A suulian may multiclass as a fighter/druid or a fighter/thief.

Suulians speak their own language and the tongue common to this region of Tarraxian. If their intelligence score allows, they may take extra languages from any monster or tribe that dwells in this area of Tarraxian.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Where Do We Go From Here?

I neglected to mention that in last week's game, we had another PC fatality. (Never bring a bow to a laser fight, kids.) Now, we have an interesting predicament...

There are three players in my game. One of them plays a magic-user from the original campaign world, one plays a former cleric from the same world who has spent his time on Tarraxian learning to be a field medic and tech user, and the last player ran a an elf fighter/druid who is now deceased, and he intends to make a mutant scavenger character. My wife's theoretical character is going to be a native, as is the character of another player who wishes to join. This means that out of a party of five, only two will be from the original fantasy campaign world, and one of those two has abandoned his magic using ways to learn the ways of science and technology. I suppose I forgot to mention the fighter henchman of the late player character, who still accompanies the party. There is barely anything fantasy left in my game, which is now post-apocalyptic science fantasy more than anything else. Though I have dropped hints about a way back the original campaign world, the party seems more interested in looting abandoned labs and military outposts. Hey, I said I was all about player choice, so if they want to stay and play, they can do so... and now that the majority of the party is set to consist of natives, it looks like Tarraxian might be the campaign's permanent location.

This development leaves me wondering... should I just convert the game to Gamma World or Mutant Future and be done with it? I have been drawing heavily on GW 2nd edition for monsters and gadgetry, but I have been trying to make the rules follow the numerical scale of AD&D 1st edition. Perhaps it would be easier to just use GW and find a way to convert (or kit bash) the abilities of the magic-user. Then again, Mutant Future would be an easier conversion since it shares the basic framework the old edition D&D family. The MF saving throws might be more appropriate, since the characters are now on a world where magic is rare, if indeed they find it anywhere at all. I suppose I could also use a mishmash of Mutant Future with some of the "missing" AD&D mechanics... heh, I could call it "Advanced Mutant Future."

I suppose another way to do it might be to just keep using AD&D rules and hope for the best. Still, as things develop, the game continues to be less like AD&D in the traditional sense. (Then again, look at stuff like Spelljammer and Dark Sun...)

If I do end up using GW or MF, it will be the first campaign I've ever run that actually changed from one system to another.

As I type this, I am leaning more towards "Advanced Mutant Future." Of course, I could just run it "as is," since now the entire party consists of humans (with one player wishing to play a mutant), so the race/class divide isn't so important anymore.

This sure is getting interesting.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Tonight, I purged my gaming shelf of all things Fourth Edition, and everything 3.5 except the core books (the wife likes that edition best and might play in a game of it someday). Admittedly, these books sat idle on the shelf since August 2007 (final 3.5 burnout) and November 2008 (the last straw with 4th ed) respectively.
The guy at my LGS who was assessing my store credit (hint: if you buy your stuff on Amazon at discounted prices and the seller assesses the books based on suggested retail price, AND you take store credit, you actually get a pretty fair trade. Shhhh!) and, looking down upon my stack o' books, he asked "So what do you play now?" I was in no mood for proselytizing, so I simply told him that I play "the older editions." He did not respond, and suddenly took a keen interest in the counter top, so I decided not to press the issue.

A few minutes later, while I was doing the kid-in-a-candy-store routine, I overheard the clerk discussing 4th edition with a teenager who was apparently interested but unfamiliar. The clerk suggested that he buy the core rules set that I had just traded in, and then proceeded to point me out to the young man. I decided to tune their conversation out after that.

So, I willingly and knowingly passed up two chances to spread the word about the OSR. Nobody tell Jim... I don't want him to go American History X all over my ass.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bringing in the Gamma World, Part Deaux

Forgive my sparse posting as of late, (and curse my sparse reading...there are a lot of good entries I need to brush up on) but I have been called away by various aspects of real life.

My game is set to continue tomorrow. I've been running for nearly five months and I've only missed a single session. I am quite proud of this.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I want to keep the game AD&D-centric, since the world they are in is only Gamma World-esque, and not actually Gamma World. (That is to say, 25th century North America after the "Social Wars")

I recently discovered an article in one of the Dragons I picked up a few months ago that had advice for crossovers between AD&D 2nd edition and Gamma World 4th, which are close enough to what I am running. Sadly, the article seemed to have too much of a "never the twain shall meet" type of attitude for my tastes. If you're going to give your players fusion rifles, you should expect that they will want to use them. The article seemed to preoccupied with letting the players get a taste and then snatching it out of their hands at the earliest opportunity. The article also says no mutations on fantasy characters, and no magic for Gamma characters. Fantasy characters have no resistance to radiation, and Gamma characters cannot save vs. spells.

Fie on that, says I.

Magic, in my milieu, was brought to the characters' native plane by a dimension traveling race called the Magi. They have died out, and perhaps they never visited Tarraxian... or, perhaps, it could be that Tarraxian is simply another planet on the same plane as the world from whence they came. Magic exists on Tarraxian (and works, though somewhat unstably so), so I speculate that radiation would exist on their home world if they had reached the atomic age.

I have found a good rule of thumb for converting Gamma World monsters is to cut their HD in half and convert the die type to d8. It's not perfect, and it certainly works for some monsters better than others, but it will do in a pinch. I have also started adding my own monsters, so far I have run them up against a parasite that drains energy from energy cells, and grows larger when hit with lasers or similar energy weapons. My brain is churning out ideas for more as well.

I'm really glad the campaign took this direction. More later as I continue to develop and convert things I'm satisfied with.

Friday, October 30, 2009

In Which A Publisher Reads My Blog

I just received an email from Jason Blair, the man behind Little Fears. (See my previous post) He must have somehow stumbled onto my blog. Anyway, Mr. Blair has been good enough to provide me with a coupon for a free PDF of Little Fears Nightmare Edition at DriveThruRPG, along with a thoughtful note responding to my blog entry. I will download the book when I get home today. It will be interesting to see how the game has changed.
(And, as much as I bemoan too many books on my shelf, anyone who had read this blog more than a few times knows how much I love to get my hooks into a new system)
My wife was thrilled to hear about it, as she is a LF enthusiast.

So, I must give a sincere thank you to Jason Blair, who has the dubious honor of being the first publisher to give me "swag." But in all seriousness, I appreciate the freebie and if I like the PDF, my order for a hard copy will be forthcoming., off to Google Maps to find a map of Templeton.

A Tradition Abandoned

Normally, around Halloween, I whip up a one shot of Little Fears, the rpg of Childhood Terror. (Well, sort of... it's actually a giant metaphor for child abuse methinks, but that's another post)I always set my game in Templeton, Iowa, a town that I thought I had made up, but turns out it is actually a real town. (In fact, last year I swiped a map of the real town and used it to run my game) The characters are always in a different school class and the events pretty much ignore whatever happened the previous year.

This year, I let apathy get to me, as well as the fact that I no longer find Little Fears as endearing as I once did, system-wise. I ignore the setting completely, mainly because parts of it are thoroughly icky. (Call me a coward if you want, but I don't roleplay to tackle uncomfortable real world issues) I suppose I could have prepared a session of World of Darkness: Innocents, but I'm going to plead apathy again.

Jason Blair, the author, publisher, and guru behind Little Fears, has just released a new edition. Normally I get cranky about new editions as a reflex, but this one is nine years in the making, so fair play. It sounds like he has retooled the game conceptually, making it a game about kids vs. Closetland monsters without all the subtext of kids vs. adult abusers. I've taken a look at some of the previews and the character sheet, and it looks like the game has also shed some mechanical baggage. (Such as the stats that exist only to harm you over time as they inevitably decrease from exposure to monsters and the loss of innocense as the characters grow older)

The wife actually wants me to order this new edition, but I'm still on the fence. Little Fears original edition has a lot of heart to it, despite the mechanical bugs, and WoD Innocents is pretty mechanically solid (aside from my minor quirks with the WoD system, most of which are combat related and unliklely to come up in a game about kids...right?) I guess the question is how many games about kids vs. monsters do I need on my shelves? (We also have Grimm, which the wife bought, which is about kids lost in fucked up nursery rhyme/fairy tale land)

Still, I do have fond memories of Little Fears, and I am interested in a version of the game that focuses on the aspects that interested me the most. (Which is all the non-molesty parts)

*sigh* I still have all day tomorrow to whip something up, I guess.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bringing in Gamma World

Given the harsh nature and post-apocalyptic atmosphere of Tarraxian, I've started bringing in things from my Gamma World 2nd edition boxed set, purchased on Ebay earlier this year. While the concepts fit just fine, I find I'm having a bit of a problem with the conversion. I have followed the guidelines in the 1st edition DMG, but I find them somewhat lacking. Mainly, my problem with GW to AD&D game mechanics is the scale of hit points. A Gamma World character starts with 1d6 hit points for every point of Constitution they have. Assuming each hit die yields a mean of 3.5 hit points per die, that means that a Gamma World character with Con in the average spread (9-12) has around 31-42 hit points their first foray into the world. By contrast, D&D characters start with 1 (2 for rangers) and generally seem to have 3-6 hit points... (my characters have a bit higher since I start at 1st level characters at full hit points)
The monsters and (arguably) the weapons and hazards of GW are scaled for such characters. Badders, who have six hit dice and look to be the "starter" monsters for a beginning group of GW characters (who will have, on average, between 9 and 12 hit dice) are actually more like monsters for AD&D characters levels 4-6. Likewise, low intensity radiation that would hinder a Gamma World character will outright kill many of my AD&D characters.
Since I am in fact playing AD&D and not Gamma World, I want to keep things AD&D-centric in terms of damage and scale. After all, who knows when the party will decide to seek the way back to their own home world, right?

Edit: Tonight I pretty much ran the numbers as they were. This resulted in the druid gaining an unfortunate mutation (no pain sensation) and in the party being defeated by a security robot... luckily the bot was using knockout grenades and a paralysis rod. The characters actually had a brilliant plan involving an unseen servant and several live grenades, but unfortunately they didn't know their grenades were just knockout gas, to which the bot was obviously impervious. We'll pick up next time... who knows where our heroes will wake up?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Comedy Dwarves: A Brief Gripe

This is something I forgot to mention in my recent commentary on the Dragonlance animated film. anyone else completely tired of comedy dwarves? I always thought dwarves were supposed to be sort of a humorless and stoic race. (Hence the Charisma hit in AD&D and in 3.x) Gimli as comic relief in the LotR films and now Flint as comic relief in Dragonlance just kind of rubs me the wrong way. Perhaps my grip is actually deeper, and that I'm fed up with the general "tropificatin" of the TOlkien races as they appear over and over in fantasy books and games. Perhaps it is in reaction to this kind of stuff that I try to make my typical fantasy races as different as possible in each campaign I run.

Okay, nothing more to see here, folks. /gripe

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Dragonlance Movie

It's funny that Dragonlance was actually the thing that lead me to Dungeons & Dragons, considering I have never actually played it as a roleplaying game. The novels did inform a lot of my early gaming experiences, though, and will always hold a special place in my heart.

Last night the missus and I queued up the animated adaptation of Dragons of Autumn Twilight. It was...bad.

I think that worst part of the movie was the CGI, which looked outdated by about twelve years or so. Not only that, but I am completely baffled as to why they thought it would be a good idea to mix the CGI in with the animated bits. When the animated hobgoblin was leading a pack of CGI draconians, my brain kept telling me that I was somehow watching two different movies simultaneously.

Also... oh with the game mechanics. Raistlin (Kiefer Sutherland?!) pretty much explained every aspect of Vancian casting. I don't remember if they did this in the book, but I found it dreadfully silly. (They were even nice enough to spell out the difference between divine and arcane magic.)

The movie felt very disjointed and I can scarcely imagine watching it without already being familiar with the source material.

I don't usually do "reviews," but I felt the need to say something about it. I think it could have been at least okay if they'd just skipped that wretched CGI.

Friday, October 16, 2009

OSRIC Question

Hey, gang... with my spouse recently deciding to join my AD&D game, she wanted to get her hands on her own book. I was thinking that I might use this as an excuse to get myself a copy of OSRIC and just give her my PHB.

Ok, hard cover edition aside (I don't want to have to take out a second mortgage or sell an organ, as pretty as it is)... does anyone know what the difference is between the soft cover and the "economy" version?

Much appreciated.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A New Player

As I may have mentioned, my AD&D game's size has been recently decimated by the impending arrival of a newborn baby (-2 players) and the rigors of a new job (-1 player), leaving me with three players, one of whom plays remotely from Kentucky via Skype. (And who, oddly enough, always "arrives" first.)
Out of the blue, my spouse has asked to join my game. This is most surprising, as she is a diehard 3.5 fan and is one of those people who cannot seem to decipher the mysteries of THAC0. (By her own words, mind you)

In an interesting turn of events, she has requested to play a native of the world of Tarraxian. She would like to play a ranger, if she can roll the stats. (No freebies, not even for the spouse. You don't like it, go play one of those editions...) Whatever class she rolls, I may have to do some adaptation, given the non-fantasy enviornment of Tarraxian.

Meanwhile, the player of the cleric and I are working on some new class for him as his character tries to learn the ways of medicine and mechanics from the scientists of Altima. We are basing the class on the fighter. I'm going to look at some of Sword +1's classes for The Resistance as a reference. If I recall correctly, he has a medic class and a tech class of some kind.

The campaign has been playing out in macro time, with the characters passing months of time in Altima as the druid tries to use plant growth to restore the ruined countryside, the ex-cleric tries to learn new things, and the magic-users studies his tomes and also studies the history the world they're on.

At the end of the session, the characters discovered the location of several "dungeon" type sites in the reasonably close vicinity. Next week we switch from several weeks of exploration/macro mode into a good old dungeon crawl.

This is one of the better campaigns I've run in awhile, says I.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Matter of Academic Curiosity

Fellow gamers, (particularly you DM-types) do you think a protection from normal missiles spell would stop a grenade, specifically one that had been launched from a device? I don't have my books with me, so I am guessing that the spell might cause the grenade to scatter, but would not protect the caster or anyone else from the blast. (Though perhaps it might block shrapnel, if not concussive force.) Thoughts?

Oh, and if any of my AD&D players are reading this, you have absolutely nothing to worry about... the question is entirely out of curiosity.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Welcome to Tarraxian

Tonight's session was a little slow, but that's because the direction of the campaign has changed for the foreseeable future.

The characters are now on a world called Tarraxian. Centuries ago, Tarraxian was devastated by a war between the forces of Order and Chaos. That conflict ended up in the world being devastated by nuclear, biological, chemical, and magical war. Five centuries have passed, and only four Cities of Law and one Citadel of Chaos remain. The war has faded away, and no new attacks have come from the Citadel for decades. The world is filled with berserk robots, mutants, and wanderers.
The characters have taken refuge in Altima, the greatest remaining City of Law. They have conversed with the AI remnant of a scientist who finds their abilities fascinating. He has offered to help them return to their home world if they will use magic to sabotage the last Citadel from within. (Order uses Science and does not understand magic) The characters, however, have other plans, and didn't seem keen on finishing their war for them.

From here, the characters can do as they please...they seem keen on staying awhile and trying to learn about technology.

Some important changes:

-The druid forged a connection with the nature of Tarraxian. Now his fire and lighting spells are stronger, but his healing and recuperative spells are weaker.

-The cleric is a cleric no longer, and I am now using a variation of the Stranger class from Grognardia until he finds a new niche in this world.

-The magic-user's spells work, but magic on Tarraxian is slightly unstable...

To be continued.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

"Yeah, Cowboy World!"

Last night my players reached the bottom of the dungeons beneath the sunken tower they have been exploring. They found the crazy wizard-brain-in-a-jar. I had ideas of how the encounter would play out...instead, we ended with a dead wizard brain, a disintegrating tower, and a desparate jump through a portal to a post-apocalyptic-western type world.

Dang. I was sort of unprepared for that. Nevertheless, the show will go on. Choices are meaningless if the DM does not allow players to explore them.

So now I have a world with only the briefest of explanations from an NPC native who the PCs had rescued from imprisonment at the hands of the WBiAJ.

I have a whole new world, with rules that I can play around with. I've already established the existence of plasma weapons, but I've got a little bit of a catch to them. (Which I shan't post as one or two of my players read this) I am prepared to depart heavily from molds of my prior games and my understanding of D&D. Hey, if I don't like it, I can always send them back or make them convert to Gamma World, right?

Now, a few interesting complications:

1. The druid is cut off from the Nature that he knew... what might it be like to develop a bond with the nature of this planet? I can change the way druidic magic works. For instance, I see druids of this world being able to throw fire spells at 1 level higher. (The caster is treated as being one level higher)
2. Monsters imported from Gamma World. Holler.
3. The cleric, in light of all the planar weirdness, has abandoned his god. (Though his magic wouldn't have worked here anyway) Now the cleric wants to advance in another class, maybe one "native" to this world. That fills my mind with possibilities. It also makes me want to advance him, for now, as something similar to Mazilewski's "Stranger" class he posted recently.
4. Magic from their world might work like 2nd edition Wild Magic in this world...
5. Robots, bitches!

The players have taking to calling their new enviornment Cowboy World, though it is certainly more than that... I'm a little giddy in that we have thrown the map away and are blazing new trails. Sometimes the best parts of a campaign are the ones you don't expect.

Now I'm glad they didn't talk much with the brain in a jar. :)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Eldritch Weirdness and Getting Freaky With Magic

I neglected to mention that I recently acquired the collection of the Books of Eldritch Weirdness. Suffice to say, they are aptly titled.

I have introduced some of the spells into my AD&D game by way of a spellbook found in a hidden extra-dimensional room in the tower the characters have been exploring for many weeks (real time) now. The magic-user failed to decipher the one spell he is presently skilled enough to cast, but given that he is due to level soon he will have another shot. Frankly, I can't wait until he becomes familiar with the spells and what they do. Will he use them? Will he destroy the spellbook? We shall see.

More importantly, the nature of the spells included in the book have got the wheels turning in my head with regard to how odd and otherworldly magic should be. In my campaign, magic was brought from another place (perhaps another universe entirely) by a dying race of beings who were desperate to preserve their art. This is not something that was ever intended for the mortal races of this world, and I really want to try and capture that. Wizards should be unusual or downright unnerving people. Imagine knowing the spell from BoEW that melts someone for six hours before reconstituting them. Why would you do this to someone? What kind of person willingly pursues this kind of knowledge?

I have to admit that some of the odd attack spells, like the one that causes one's opponent to be strangled by their own hair, is starting to attract me over the typical magic missile and lightning bolt realm of magic used to harm others. Even among the basic spells of the game, I am beginning to be more intrigued by the non-artillery spells... I want to see magic-users drawing circles of protection or divination spells where they must congress with spirits, demons, or worse. I want to see Thulsa Doom's arrow-into-snake spell instead of fireball. I want the scare spell from AD&D1 to be called The Sign of Sxirian and involve a forbidden glyph that transmits a tiny fraction of the true nature of the universe into the target's mind...or perhaps the spell causes brief telepathic contact with the entity Sxirian as it flies and cavorts through a distant universe of starfire (plasma) and chaos.

I have yet to introduce the concept of a magic-user's guild or magical college/academy to this game, and at this point I don't think I am going to. Those who use magic are dangerous scholar-vagrants, and certainly no civilized folk would ever allow them to organize. Of course, wizards being who they are, they would be disinclined to yield to any organization that might charge them dues or dictate how they may practice their profession. Like Vance's stories, I want wizards to learn spells by thievery, intimidation, and cajoling. Magic should scare the shit out of normal people , even if they dare to ask the advice of the village witch, they should have some kind of charm held behind their back for fear of what simply being around her could do to them. Adventurers take magic-users into their party, but adventurers, too, are dangerous people whose lives are filled with violence, horror, and debauchery.

To recall the example above, imagine you are a person who knows how to melt someone for a few hours before they reform. Now, imagine you are the type of person who would call that person ally or companion.

My brain is afire with possibility. You might even say I'm inspired.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sometimes Simple Is Better

Last week, we had to host my AD&D game (which has moved to Wednesdays) at one of the player's apartment. While trying to set up the Skype connection for our remote member to come and play, we discovered, to our horror, that our host's web cam did not have a microphone.

We ended up solving the problem by having another player call him on a cell phone and put him on speaker phone. It worked so well it was actually a little infuriating, how well it worked, given some of the troubles we've had with Skype and internet connection problems. I'm kind of surprised we didn't think of this before.

In related AD&D news, I will say that I have been running my campaign for four months, and we have only missed a single session. Around these parts, that is kind of a big deal.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Real Life Has the Best Monsters

My wife has a habit of sending me articles on all things strange and terrible. Her most recent find simply begs to be used in my AD&D game. Do you like freakish monsters? Well, how about a tongue parasite!

I'm thinking my version of this beastie is a nocturnal threat that crawls into the sleeping mouth of any small to man-sized mammal and, within a matter of hours, replaces the creature's tongue. The creature secretes a powerful narcotic to prevent the host from awakening during the process, though the DM might rule that a character is entitled to a saving throw vs. poison to awaken. If a character or his companions become aware of the creature, it is easily removed so long as the process hasn't been going on for more than an hour. If the character is allowed to remain asleep with the creature feeding on his tongue, the transformation is complete in 1d3 hours. The character still has all normal functions and can speak, taste, etc. However, anyone seeing the beast is likely to have a very bad reaction to it. As such, whenever the character speaks, there is a 1 in 3 chance that the person he is speaking with will see the horrible creature. Most normal folk will flee in terror, but others may think the character is a demon or shapeshifter.

A remove disease spell will cause the parasite to wither, die, and fall out of the character's mouth, but his tongue does not regrow; the parasite devoured it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Keep on the Borderlands

I had the good fortune to come across a copy of KotB for three bucks at the used bookstore in my hometown, which I visited last weekend. They also had two copies of the little red book and one copy of the little blue one, but I've got the mighty Cyclopedia on my shelf, so I passed on those.

I never knew that KotB was basically a campaign kickoff/mini-campaign setting. I really see why they used to call them modules.

I may post something more once I have actually read it. I feel like I'm spreading my attention too thin at the moment.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

An Analysis of Death Frost Doom

In my last post, I gave a brief summary of how the session went. I now wish to discuss Death Frost Doom as a module. Don't construe this as a review; these are just my thoughts on the matter.

This may or may not contain spoilers. You may or may not have been warned.

Death Frost Doom is one of those wonderful modules that shows us that D&D does not have to be a game about endless combat and battle after battle until you reach the MacGuffin which is tucked in the last room and guarded by the biggest monster. It is a module where the characters have the chance to make major changes to the nearby campaign area. (Not necessarily good ones, either) This is a module where the characters have choices with actual consequence to them. They have the opportunity to be cowardly and self serving. They have the opportunity to be brave and possibly die for it. These things make the module itself compelling, and I find that I want to run it for several different groups to see the various outcomes.

Death Frost Doom is also a wonderful example of the dungeon/environment can be very much a character unto itself. This is not just a series of rooms but a functional structure with a consistent theme. Although largely abandoned,(well, until the characters mess with the plant monster) the dungeon is very much a living place. (In this instance, "dungeon" refers not only to the dungeon itself, but the cabin above it and the surrounding mountain graveyard.)

Finally, a few comments about the content of the module. There are a lot of horrible things that can happen to characters in Death Frost Doom. Most of the hazards are very nasty curses or magic items with a potentially fatal flaw to them. I love the magic items to be found in DFD. With only one exception I can think of (the protection scroll in the library) the items are unique. Magic items, in my mind, should be mysterious and just a little bit dangerous. A sword +1 is boring. Yet another potion of levitation is boring. I've never been a fan of Diablo-style D&D where after a couple of levels, every piece of clothing and equipment the character is wearing/carrying/using is a magical item. Ah, but I digress...

So, to encapsulate what I love about this module: it is an atmospheric, interesting dungeon and the module has the potential for great fortune or great woe. (Up to and including leprosy and death) The setup is both logical and fantastical. It is weird and off kilter and, most importantly, more than just a killing spree on the part of the characters.

The module clicks very well with what I'm running my characters through right now in my AD&D1 campaign. I also must say that it may have influenced future dungeons I design for my game.

(My players who read this are now free to despair.)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

We Play: Death Frost Doom

Last night, for my 28th birthday party, I ran Death Frost Doom. The characters were pre-gens ranging from 2nd to 4th level. All were created by yours truly. Our heroes:

*Brother Ignus, cleric. A devout soldier of the Lord Almighty, Brother Ignus was asked by the Church to travel to this remote outpost of the Duvan'Ku and retrieve the Scroll of Seven Sorrows, said to be a map to the ancient Duvan'Ku capital.

*Roberr Dulock, thief. A former pirate, Roberr was abandoned by his shipmates in a jungle colony after contracting a wasting disease. Brother Ignus happened to be doing missionary work there and healed him. Afterward, Roberr was (mostly) reformed and now follows Brother Ignus in his travels.

*Marga Anatola, magic-user. Marga was a village witch, spending most of her life making love potions and curing warts. When the spoiled village elder's son demanded a love potion strong enough to take a girl against her will, Marga refused. Furious, the spoiled youth turned her in to the Knights of Science. Brother Ignus happened to be passing through the village and used his pull with the Church to spare Marga from being burned at the stake. Marga has left the now hostile village and travels with Brother Ignus.

*Circian, elf. When the star-seers of Circian's clan saw the Dead Sign in the heavens, the Elder Council forbid them from acting upon it. The Council deemed that the elves would not fight against the Duvan'Ku again, this time leaving mortal man to save his own soul. With the secret blessing of his clan matriarch, Circian has left the Forest of Shadows to warn human kind. He has joined forces with Brother Ignus to discover the truth behind the return of the Duvan'Ku.

The short, spoiler-free version: Everybody died.

Below is the full, spoilery version. BE YE WARNED.


The adventure really did play out like a weird tale. The beginning of the end came when, after a brief foray into the dungeon and the expenditure of all their spells to detect magic, evil, etc, the party decided to bunk down in the cabin. This resulted in Roberr gaining an insanity. I decided on paranoid schizophrenia. The spirits told Roberr that Marga was actually one of the Duvan'Ku. Roberr resisted this idea... until they found the painting and he became convinced it was prophecy.

Down in the dungeon, the party bypassed the chapel door by having Roberr knock out one of Brother Ignus' teeth with a mallet and spike. It was hard core.

The tension mounted as the players kept searching, in vain, for traps and secret doors. Every sound (the rattling of the chains, the unearthly music) caused the cleric to leap to the defense, shouting challenges to the cold, empty air. The players told me that the module was creeping them out.

In the room with the pedestals and the plaque causing the tattoo compulsion, everything began to fall apart. The cleric was the only one to fail his saving throw when Roberr read the inscription out loud. The elf managed to subdue him with a sleep spell. As the party searched, Roberr used the magic eye piece to read the tablets. I invoked his paranoid schizophrenia here, having many of the tablets address him directly and say things like "The witch Marga is one of us." "Roberr, they will abandon you!" Roberr, growing increasingly paranoid and insane, sneaked up behind the magic-user and attacked her. Unfortunately, Roberr had pilfered the cursed dagger from the chapel, and he missed. Now he believed that Marga was actually shielded by dark magics, and shouted for Circian to help him. The two attacked the magic-user and slew her. The elf took the eye piece and examined the tabets, finding absolutely no mention of Roberr or Marga, but rather devotions to the Dead One and such. Infuriated, the elf attacked the thief, and after an epic sword battle, the elf ran poor Roberr through.
Awakening the cleric, he found that Ignus was still possessed by the strange compulsion, and restrained and bound him. He let the lantern sputter out, and there in the dark he sat with his friend until this thrashing ceased and he regained his senses. Circian explained what happened to their two friends. Both were broken and horrified, but agreed that they had to press on in the name of their mission.

The two of them never suspected that the plant creature was alive, so when Cirian's magic blade bit into it, he was impaled by a lashing, spiked vine. Ignus threw oil onto the plant and burned it, in the process burning the purple lotus powder that he didn't know his companion had taken...

Ignus woke up, alone, on the floor. A horrid strength coursed through his muscles, and a vicious, unrelenting lust burned within his body and mind. While he had dreamed the sleep of the purple lotus, the dead had come forth from their tombs. Seeing them at the end of the corridor, Ignus turned his cross upon them and ordered them away.

...he had no idea that hundreds of them were roaming the halls. As they turned to face him, Ignus had his last lucid thought, and that was that he must retrieve the scroll. After running to the altar and seizing it, he raised his shield and tried to plow through the horde of undead. He found himself unable to pass, fending off blows from their rotting fists. His shield was torn away from him, as was his mace. As he turned to flee back to the altar, his backpack was torn away by the unquiet dead. Consumed by the effects of the lotus and the horrors of the last two days, Ignus took the scroll and, with an anguished cry, hurled himself into the pit before the altar...

Ignus died upon impact, which was great enough that the giant below the mountain stirred in his sleep. When the giant awoke, all of the undead were crushed, along with the mountain, along with the town they had come from, along with poor Zeke. When the giant lay back down to sleep, the resulting earthquake sank ships and destroyed towns nearby. Thousands died, thousands more were injured, the the blighted mountain was erased... along with the only map to the sleeping city of the Duvan'Ku.

That was the blow by blow. Thoughts and analysis shall be forthcoming in the next blog entry.

Good night, all.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

House Rule: Energy Drain

As a DM, I have never liked Energy Drain. Though I do understand the harshness inherent in the game, I thought that energy drain was a bit too harsh. Even instant death poison allows a saving throw, after all. Many players and gamers have expressed to me over the years that the loss of more than one level due to energy drain is almost a fate worse than death.

The mechanics of energy drain always seemed a little metagame for me. I don't like that they steal a level, because what does that really represent, especially in a game where the classes have very different experience tables? Does a thief have "less life energy per level" than a fighter? It just doesn't sit right with me.

I am presenting my house ruled version of energy drain. In some ways, it is actually more serious than the previous level loss, but at the same time, it fits better with my conception of what "draining life energy" means.

Revised Energy Drain--
When a character is stricken by a creature or spell that causes energy drain, they lose one hit die; the character rolls a hit die and permanently loses that many hit points. In addition, they are forever after considered as being one hit die less. (But not class level) The only ways to restore life energy thus drained is a restoration, wish or other, similarly powerful magic.

At the DM's option, a saving throw may be allowed for losing half the amount of hit points rolled on the die.

In addition, the ripping away of one's life energy is a traumatic process, and the individual is often no longer the same. If a character is drained, have the player roll 1d10 and consult the chart below:

Roll Effect
1 The character gains a random, permanent insanity
2 The character ages 1d4x10 years
3 The character loses 1 point from all attributes permanently
4 Roll a d6. 1-2 loses 1 point of Int, 3-4 1 point of Wis, 5-6 1 point Cha
5 Roll a d6. 1-2 loses 1 point of Str, 3-4 1 point Dex, 5-6 1 point of Con
6 The character is haunted by nightmares. Each night there is a 10%
chance that he does not benefit from the night's sleep.
7 The character develops a severe phobia of undead and will not fight them
8 The character always feels cold, no matter what the weather.
9 The character's hair turns stark white
10 The character gains a shock of white hair.

Note that these effects are permanent until the character life energy is restored. Generally, a DM should only impose one such roll on the player, unless they lose 25% or more of their levels in a given encounter, in which case a second roll is warranted.

If the DM uses saving throws as above, he may opt to spare the player a roll on this table in the event of a successful save.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I neglected to mention that my copy of the infamous Death Frost Doom arrived on my doorstep yesterday. A small but mighty little booklet, it really clicks with my recent tower scenario and the way that I have been thinking of module design lately.

The artwork is creepy and sort of reminds me of the old Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark book series. (Although maybe not quite as....drippy...) The module is filled with subtly unsettling items, both magical and mundane. (Well, I should say non-magical rather than mundane...very little in this module is mundane.) I won't go so far as to post a formal review, but this is an inventive, crazy, deadly module, and I can't wait to run it at Nuke Con in October. Oh, and it has a neat little cryptogram in the back, which has nothing really to do with the module but was a fun little addition nonetheless.

I will say this in closing: It has been a long time since I read a module that made me say "Holy friggin' crap!" every other entry or so.

Perhaps My Favorite Part of D&D

Last night was session 12 of my Tuesday night First Edition game. Somewhat to my surprise, there was not a single combat. (Well, one character did kill a piercer which was feeding on a dead goblin, but I'd hardly call it a combat.) The only major potential throwdown (a group of albino carnivorous apes) was defused by the cleric's timely casting of speak with animals and a good reaction roll. ("I knew that spell would come in handy!" the player exclaimed.)

The entire session consisted of exploring the various strange floors of Radamant's Tower. The party found many strange things, but bypassed many things as well, as they are chasing an evil NPC magic-user who entered the tower ahead of them. (Due to their nine day delay while the thief recuperated and they chased down a cult of people worshipping a coven of jackalweres.) The party seems very interested in exploring the rest of the dungeon once they catch the magic-user.

I absolutely loved watching them toy with the various strange devices they found in the tower. The exploration aspect of traditional D&D is probably the best part, for me anyway. I absolutely relish seeing what they poke, what they steal, and what they tiptoe around out of paranoia or common sense.

The two highlights of the session:

1. A player told me that he couldn't wait to see what was in the next room or hallway of the tower.

2. That same player has the idea of clearing out this tower and claiming it as a stronghold for the party! I thought it was a fantastic idea, though I told them it will take some cash, (to repair the damaged sections and perhaps dig a more accessible entrance) time, and effort (clearing out the monsters, blocking access to the sunken tower from the underworld.)

This was actually one of my favorite sessions so far. Now, I just need to come up with some ad-hoc experience for them. (Since they killed nothing but a piercer and found relatively little treasure.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Thou Shalt Not Raise the Dead

Recently I have been growing on the idea of removing Raise Dead from future campaigns. I'm losing the ability to buy into a society where the dead can be raised, but where good aligned priests charge more for the service than anyone except the wealthy (or adventurers) can afford. If a peasant man dies in an cart accident and leaves a wife and seven children with nobody to provide for them, is the neutral good cleric going to leave them to starve because they can't pay thousands of gold to have their father revived? This is also making me think about the various spells to remove blindness, madness, etc... but that is another post altogether.

Perhaps I'd leave in the reincarnation spell and/or the high level resurrection, but good luck finding a cleric high enough level to know the latter spell.

Of course, if I did this, I'd probably have to do something to make the campaign a little less deadly...perhaps death at -10 or the Hit Point/Constitution duo method. I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

I was discussing the removal of a raise spell with my wife last night, and she ventured the opinion that raise dead was an unclean spell that should be avoided by good clerics. In her opinion, such a spell challenges the realm of the gods themselves. We had a pretty interesting debate about the subject, with my general opinion being that the cleric would never be granted a spell that his deity did not approve of. We eventually drifted into the discussion of just what clerical magic is, and by discarding the basic assumptions of D&D, we found we were no longer discussing the game as written. (Not always a bad thing)

Now more than ever, I want to merge the cleric and the paladin into a class that can turn and use paladin-like powers, but with few or no spells. Meanwhile, I want magic-users that either have to pick between light and darkness (cleric/MU lists) or to divide the spells into white/black/gray a la the rules over at Akratic Wizardry. (GO and check them out...worth a read)

Here's a thought.... perhaps a slain character can only be revived if his companions can retrieve him from a mythical underworld, a la Eurydice and Orpheus.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Some Impressions of Palladium Fantasy

Somehow I managed to read the 300+ page book without ever feeling like I was reading a 300+ page rpg core book. This might be because I read it in chunks and out of order, by the subjects that interested me most. (Perhaps this is the key to get through new core books...)

This feels like someone's quest (Kevin's, obviously) to "fix" AD&D... at least, that is my overall perception of it. We still have Hit Points, Alignment, and Character Classes, and most of the races are pretty bog standard. (Though I do like his take on orcs rather a lot.)

On the other hand, power-glut reputation of Palladium aside, there is a lot to like here. We have several distinct systems of magic, including wizards who use magic through symbols or circles and have no ability to cast spells. The book will gladly let you play monsters, but they emphasize the social disadvantages, larger monsters having to eat huge amounts of food, etc. Combat is slightly more tactical than AD&D, but can still be easily done without minatures. (Perhaps moreso) You have psionics that behave mechanically quite a bit like magic. (This attracts me as a DM, because I hate it when magic and psi in a game are so different that I have to "study" the one I am least receptive to)

One thing that endeared me to Palladium's fantasy game is the author's attempts to explain away various fantasy tropes that are largely a product of AD&D. For instance, wizards and armor: wizards can wear metal armor, but it disrupts their spellcasting and makes them pay extra PPE (spell points, basically) and reduces the effeciveness of their spells. (They can wear leather without penalty, though) Dwarves don't use magic because when their race possessed magic in ancient times, they nearly destroyed themselves and their enemies with the forces they unleashed. While they have eventually gotten over their fear of magic weapons and items, the race has sworn off learning actual magical spells.

I would actually love to run a campaign with this game system someday. I'm not sure I'd use their in-house setting, but I'm not going to rule it out, either. This will have to wait anyway; I haven't even gotten to the good stuff in my AD&D 1st edition game.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

An Uncommon Display of Self-Restraint

Yesterday I once again found myself at the used book store. Someone must have unloaded their old gaming collection... I found core rules for Alternity, one of the Amazing Engine Games (Khromosome or something... a cyberpunk knockoff), Cyberpunk 2020, Legend of the Five Rings 2nd edition, Quest of the Ancients (which looked absolutely terrible, and also claimed that it could be "The Swords and Sorcery Product of the 90's.), and some universal system I didn't recognize and have actually forgotten the name off. All those systems, and I managed to choke off my bizarre collector's urges and not buy any system for the sake of buying a system. Holy god, perhaps this is the seed of discipline finally germinating in my thick skull.

I did, however, buy Player's Option: Combat and Tactics for five bucks. I can actually feel some of you flinch reading that. I bought it because it is the "missing link" between 2nd edition AD&D combat and d20 combat. In this book, you can see the beginnings of standardized critical hits, attacks of opportunity, d20-style miniature based conventions, weapon reach, and a rudimentary feat system using proficiency slots. (I believe many of the "proficiencies" listed did actually become feats in 3rd edition.) At the same time, there are still older elements like the old overbearing rules and weapon speeds. My interest in it is purely academic. I consider Combat & Tactics and the Alternity system to be the parents of d20. I suppose you could say I bought the book to see where everything started to go so horribly wrong. The book also contains extensive lists of weapons and armor from a variety of time periods, so that might prove somewhat useful.

Oh, on a side note: the Netrunner from Cyberpunk 2020 looks ridiculous, especially looking back from a contemporary world where wireless internet is widespread.

I Hate Wizards of the Coast (More)

My buddy bought a new WotC/Avalon Hill board game, brought it over to my house sealed, and it is missing a bag of plastic pieces and one of the markers.

This is, of course, the latest blood pressure raising event in a string of such events leading all the way back to the introduction of 3.5.

A plague on your house, WotC.

(Yes, I know that AH will send us replacement pieces, but this is just another reason that I've pretty much moved all my spending dollars to other companies that don't have their heads shoved up a certain bodily orifice.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

More Books Ordered (Le Sigh)

A few days ago I preorderd White Wolf's latest game, Geist: the Sin-Eaters. (The game has a ponderous name, to be sure) These days, ordering the "revolving fourth" game seems to be a reflex for me. I still haven't read Promethean, Changeling, or Hunter in their entireties. I will admit that I am a slave to habit, however, so Geist is on the way.

I was emailed by Noble Knight Games today to inform me that the infamous Death Frost Doom (Deathfrostdoom!) has been restocked, so I ordered a copy. It won't be here for probably two weeks, as I ordered El Cheapo Shipping, but I will be plenty preoccupied in near future, so perhaps it is for the best.

It just occurred to me that I should run Death Frost Doom (deathfrostdoom!) at the local gaming convention in October. (I could do it back-to-back with Temple of Zirugar.) I hope it is half as much fun to read/run as it is to say.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Freaky-Deaky Aftermath

Ok, we didn't make as much progress as I'd have liked, but the characters did get a face full of paralyzing mobile plant action, thanks partially to the Random Esoteric Creature Generator.

Interestingly enough, the guy playing the druid has a most excellent look of alarm on his face as I described the creature.

I can't wait until next Tuesday, when the characters can plumb the deeper depths of sunken Radmant's Tower.

AD&D: Let the Freaky Deakiness Begin

Alright, first off... if you're one of my Tuesday night AD&D players, don't read this entry. As they say in the South: git on outta hyeah!, for the rest of you:

Today I was at lunch, doing some prep for tonight's AD&D swoiree, when I found myself trying to answer the question "How do you have monsters still kicking around in a tower that's been buried for one hundred years who 1.) aren't undead, and 2.) aren't scavengers? All of a sudden, two words came unbidden to my mind:

Stasis tubes

...which was quickly revised to stasis spheres.

Suddenly, the magician's remains at the bottom of the tower went from musty old skeleton to must old skeleton hooked up to a crazy ass planar contact machine, and I'm sure I can find room for a brain-in-a-jar somewhere...

Here we are going into the 11th week of the campaign, and so far it has been pretty bog-standard fantasy. Most of my D&D games don't make it this long without getting at least a little unusual, so let this be the first step.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Kung-Fu Wisdom Applied To Gaming (Or, Ryan Learns the True Meaning of Christmas)

Tonight I was at training, and at the end of the evening, sifu had a little chat with us. When I got home, I realized that some of it could also be applied to gaming, and, particularly, blogging about gaming.

There are many different games out there. Each one is different, though all share the same basic concept. You play the game you want to play because you believe it is the best. If you thought there was a better game, you'd be playing that instead, wouldn't you?

So, if your game is really the best, why do people play other games? Because those games give those players what they want. My game has levels, and some don't. Some people aren't interested in games with levels. Some people want to play games where a characters life goals and desires have a mechanical impact on game play, and some don't.

Sometimes, when you advertise or promote something you are passionate about, people who play other games can get their feathers ruffled. Not always, but sometimes they do... some people want to prove that their game is somehow better. We don't need to do that. We don't need to visit the forums of every other game and tell them "hey, my game is better."

But don't get me wrong, never apologize or excuse yourself for what you are passionate about and what you believe in. If you like systems with SDC, if that gives you what you want, never apologize for it. You play what you believe to be the best, and you should never be shy about saying it. Does that mean you have to build your game up by ripping other games down? No. The best way to demonstrate what you believe is to just keep doing what works for you.

Also, remember that you don't just have to play one game. If you take different things from different systems, play as many as you have the time and energy for.

Obviously, in the original context, these words were talking about martial arts styles, and none of this is new advice 'round these parts, but for some reason it struck a chord with me tonight, and I thought I'd share it.