Sunday, June 28, 2009

Vancian Magic: They Know Not What They Do

From my readings of Vance, it seems that magicians don't really get magic. They can learn spells by rote, and mostly they learn their spells from finding, capturing, or trading with other magic-users. Think about it: in the D&D Cyclopedia, there are 117 magic-user spells. A magic-users learns, what, one or two when he advances a level? If a magic-user started with three and advanced to 20th level, gaining two spells at every level, he would know only 43 spells. Even if he advanced to 36th level, he would know only 75 of the 117 commonly known spells. Most magic-users don't make it to 36th level. My point is that a magic-user who does nothing but his own research and reaches the pinnacle of human ability will still know less than 75% of all magical spells. A wizard must beg, borrow, steal, and cajole if he ever hopes to learn them all, much like Mazirian the Magician planned to do.

Where I am going with this, and it is stated as much in Vance, (can't remember the story or actual quotes) that there are only 100 spells or so known to mankind, out of the thousands that once apparently existed. In addition, magicians of the Dying Earth only know their rote-spells and are generally incapable of devising their own. (Unless you're one of the great ones like Phandal, but he lives in another universe for crying out loud.) In the rules of D&D as written, a magic-user has to use a spell to decipher a discovered scroll or spell book; even spells that he has in his own spell book are not recognizable when first encountered. (I have changed this in my AD&D game, as posted previously under house rules.)

Magic-users are simply that; users of magic. They do not have a deep understanding of the principles behind magic. They scavenge and steal spells because their limited ability to learn means they must devote a lifetime of research if they hope to even understand most spells, and they will never know a spell well enough that their mind can hold onto it after the energies are discharged, nor will it ever be familiar enough that they can spot it in another wizard's spell book.

Now, in my campaign, magic-users can decipher spells without resorting to read magic, so long as the spell is within their ability to cast. Read Magic can, however, decipher spells which are beyond the magic-user's ability. Magic-users do understand some of the basic principles of magical runes, but a lot of magical lore/science has been lost over the ages. For the most part, magic-users still do things by rote, but in my campaign, magic runes and writings are consistent enough that you can figure out a spell you know, even if the other wizard arrives at the same spell through different applications of magical runes and formula. Magic is simply not something for which the mortal intellect is suited, and even the wisest magic-user is a babe in arms when faced with the totality of magical lore. where did all that lore come from, and what led to the loss of it?
We shall see, both in further readings (perhaps) and in my campaign.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Nightbanespawn Stuff

Ok, you got me... I think the setting for Nightspawn/bane is a darn cool setting, no matter what I think about the Palladium rules system. Today I was back at the used book store (Imagine that!) when I stumbled across world books 1, 2, and 3 for Nightbane. (I guess only the core book ever had the original name.) I picked up the third book because it deals with magic and how dangerous magic is. It also seems to be a sub-game that focuses on human magic-users in the world of Nightbanespawn. If I take away nothing else, I like how the book deals with magic as a malevolent, living, dangerous thing. If I believe my beloved old D&D to have any major flaws, it is that magic use is very safe and very predictable for the most part. Yes, some spells will jack you up like haste, but the consequences are known beforehand. I like a magic system with a little bite to it. I had considered doing something like that for my AD&D game, but at some point I had to stop tinkering and just run the damn thing... plus, Vancian magic suggests that most spells are safely developed rotes anyway. (That's an entirely different post, methinks.)

Anyhoo, I would have just bought all three, but the missus and I have spent quite a lot of money on books, comic, and gaming stuff this weekend. However, I do get paid this Friday, and I believe I might pick up one or both of the remaining world books.

I have a tiny idea in the back of my mind to convert Nightspawnbane to WoD, Fudge, or some other system, but that will have to go on the back burner...actually, the back burner is full...I'm going to have to put it in the side burner on the grill out back... for the time being, the focus is firmly on my AD&D campaign. (Still got to come to a satisfying conclusion on experience, but again, that's another post.)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Have Traveller, Will Travel

Today I was at the LGS and I happened to have a fully punched customer loyalty card, which is good for 20% off my total purchase. Well, since I was buying some comics for the missus, I decided to also get myself the Mongoose version of Traveller. I picked up the pocket size, not only because it's cheaper but because I love portable little game books like that. (Savage Worlds Explorer Edition and Traveller Pocket could probably fit into the cargo pocket of my ridiculously large cargo pants)

...this book is hot, hot, hot. It's well organized, I like the character artwork, and it has everything I need to run sci-fi adventure in 188 pages. It has virtually nothing of the Third Imperium, but I'm okay with that because I'd love to make my own galaxies. Well, on second has the aliens from the Third Imperium, but it also has guidelines for making your own aliens. Also: Iron Man character generation as an optional rule. Love it.

The entries on this blog would suggest that, when not gaming or blogging, I do little but bounce between the used book store and the LGS... which, aside from learning a martial art, really is just about all I do. :P

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Experience: Let's Get Down To Business (I'm Doing It Wrong Part II)

After some thought, discussion with one of my players, and some good comments on my previous posts, (Thanks, guys!) it is time to begin tinkering with the experience system of AD&D.

First of all, I have to get this out of the way: any experience system I establish is going to be just as arbitrary as the one set down in the rules as written. You get experience for finding/stealing gold. Acquiring more money makes you a better magic-user or assassin or whatever. Combat makes you a better cleric. The DMG even acknowledges the relative absurdity of this system, but Ol' Man Gary does make a good point: a game about people who read spell books and pick pockets in the market square all day is kind of boring. With that being said...

I've heard a lot of good ideas so far, including these:

-More experience for gold. I like this idea because it eliminates the need for me to give away piles and piles of gold. Yes, I know I can tax, tithe, duty, etc. until they are broke, but clever players will circumvent this, and I don't want the entire campaign to become an adversarial contest wherein I am always trying to steal their Frosted Lucky Charms. Also,in AD&D there isn't a whole lot to buy... one cannot simply walk into Magic Sword Emporium and get a custom flaming troll bane longsword +2 and sink 30,000 gold into it. I'm currently considering how much to change it to... I'm thinking two or three at the moment.

-Experience awarded for money spent on carousing. This is an idea that has been making the blog rounds lately, and I'm in favor of it. It bleeds excess gold and it makes the characters seem more like the lovable mercenary scum that they essentially are. (I say that with the greatest of affection, by the by) One of my players called this a double dip, but I think that gold spent on carousing is gold that is not spent elsewhere, so fair play. I'm currently awarding 50% of gp value in bonus xp. It's not a lot, but it is a start.

-Experience awarded for slain monsters even if the party flees the encounter. We do learn from our failures. Typically, IIRC, running from an encounter nets zilch.

-Experience for gold spent in the pursuit of class related things. For instance, a cleric's donations to a temple, or a magic-user spending gold on magical research. I'm not entirely sure about this one...what would a druid do, for instance? The idea for this came from the party cleric, whose deity does not permit its priest to consume alcohol or drugs. (This preventing him from taking advantage of the carousing bonus) Really, this plus carousing just means that you can spend gold to gain xp, which is in fact a double dip. (Aside from the opportunity cost, but again, there isn't really that much to buy in AD&D, unless you're saving up for your 9th level stronghold)

Another approach I am considering is class based bonus awards a la AD&D2. I'm fiddling with the exact values. This is something I tried to do back when I played 3rd edition, but I could never come up with a system that didn't leave at least one player feeling like they got the shaft.

...of course, Brunomac commented that he mostly just gives experience according to whim, and one of my players suggested that I dispense with any formalized system and just ad hoc everything, but... I like everyone at my table to at least know that I do have some methodology for awarding experience. I consider myself a fair DM and I want all my players to feel that I'm treating everyone fairly. Fair is fair of course; when my players do something like split up in a cemetery full of ghouls (*cough*lastTuesdaycough*), I'm going to let the dice fall where they may. I digress...

I'm scribbling a table of possible class based awards in my notebook, and will post them when I've arrived at something I am satisfied with. Here's a very rough outline. Note that the values are not fixed yet:

*Fighters and Fighter Sub-classes: Fighters gain 10 xp per hit die worth of monsters bested in battle. The sub-classes gain 5 xp per hit die, but will have opportunity to gain xp from effective use of their special abilities. (Tracking, laying on of hands, etc.) Still working on sub-class specifics

*Thieves and Thief sub-classes: Double experience for gold obtained by plying their trade: thieves would get a double bonus for picking a locked chest or filching a gemstone. Assassins would get the bonus for payment from "services rendered," and so forth. More specific awards might be in order, particularly for spell casting for bards and use of special abilities by the various theifly types.

*Magic-Users and Illusionists: Experience for using spells in battle or to accomplish a goal: 100/xp per spell level used. Note that only spells cast with a specific purpose will net an award: casting detect magic on your room at the inn probably isn't going to net you anything. Experience will be awarded for devising a new spell or creating a magical item, but I won't worry about that until a character begins to near the level where this is possible.

*Clerics and Druids: Kind of stuck here. I was thinking about giving them the same spell casting bonuses as magic-users, plus perhaps a bonus related to the use of special abilities. (For turning undead, etc.)

Again, I stress that there is no realistic form of awarding experience. A magic-user gains experience for fighting in a combat where he doesn't cast a single spell. A holy man gets experience for bashing a bandit's face in with a warhammer. A "realistic" experience point system probably wouldn't leave much room for adventuring. If you wanted to look at it that way, a magic-user is probably going to get the most "experience" doing spell research, mixing potions, etc. An adventuring wizard might gain more survival experience and general worldliness, but a wizard who stays in the tower/lab is going to be a better spell caster. I'm not sure how I feel about experience for following the tenants of one's deity... that would definitely have to be examined on a deity-by-deity basis. Also, per my previous post on clerics, I think that such a system might discourage players from selecting what is already one of the classes that everyone seems reluctant to play.

I'll start playing around with the values and see if anything jumps out at me.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I'm Doing It Wrong!

The pace at which my AD&D players are gaining experience is unbelievably slow. As the DM, it is my responsibility to rectify this situation. So far, I've been awarding 100 experience at the end of the evening for showing up and for entertaining play. (And thus far the play has been quite entertaining, especially the player who is playing his fighter's 6 intelligence to the hilt) I do the awards for monetary treasure extracted from a dungeon or other location, and for any non-money treasure sold. I also assign the usual experience for monsters bested... and still it seems paltry. There isn't a lot of combat because the characters are smart about their capabilities and don't push on if they've been badly hurt. I even award an extra 50% on gold spent on "wine, women, and song."

I think I need to give it one more session. There are a few larger treasures sprinkled around my setting that the characters could come to possess if they play their cards right. I'll say no more, as I know at least three of them have read this blog before, and one of them seems to read it regularly.

Perhaps I need to start giving more bonuses for clever ideas, or for the ingenious use of spells or tactics... but I was always of the mind that a well executed plan rewarded the players by allowing them to accomplish their goals more easily.

I've got to think about this.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Perhaps I Have Taken Leave of My Senses

For the last year or so, there has been a copy of Palladium's Nightspawn on the shelf of the modest gaming section at the nearby used book store. Every time I went there, I half-considered buying it despite the fact that I have little love for Palladium's rule system. I was aware that Palladium was forced to change the game's name to Nightbane due to Todd McFarlane getting all uppity. (Though he was later served a lawsuit comeuppance...but that, as they say, is another story) I thought it might be nice to snag the book because it had the original title and used the original terminology.

Recently, I caved in and dropped the six bucks they wanted for it. The setting is actually sort of cool. I was also highly disturbed by the fact that, in the game world, the US government cracks down on civil liberties shortly after the year 2000, forming a department called the National Security Bureau and accusing people of terrorism. It found the events to be uncomfortably familiar, and this from a game that was written in the mid-90's.

Although I have a lot of reading to do, this seems like something that's neat enough to give a shot, even if I do loathe the rules system with a seething passion. (Admittedly most of this negative sentiment comes from the Robotech RPG.) Perhaps, with some work, I can convert it to another system. It always irks me when a great setting idea is married to a crappy rules system. (That's a whole post unto itself, but I'm not going to open that can of worms right at the moment.)

...though I still don't know why this book needs stats for night vision goggles.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Scattered Thoughts on World of Darkness

I have made brief mention of a NWoD game that I was running, but readers will note that it doesn't figure heavily into my posting. I can't seem to get the group together more than once every month and a half, and I must also admit that my heart just isn't in it anymore. The next session of my NWoD game will be the finale, assuming I can ever bring half the players together again.

I had been a long time White Wolf fan. Yes, they have some bullshit that I was never particularly fond of, like song lyrics and excerpts from new age-y texts inserted into my games. I also had various problems with the various settings, but all in all I liked it enough that it consumed a considerable portion of my gaming energy from when I was seventeen until I was about twenty three.

I liked the idea of the new World of Darkness model: the "core books" were just sort of generic horror/supernatural things that assumed mortal characters. The core books of the various game lines like Vampire and whatnot could be purchased and "added on" or run in and of themselves. I liked the idea that it was now mechanically easy to cross over things from different games, and that you could more easily start a mortals game and neatly change it into something else. I liked the idea of the "Big Tree" (Vampire, Werewolf, Mage) being continuously supported with a "guest" game that would only have a core book plus a few supplements. Conceptually, I thought that most of the new games were improvements over their predecessors; aside from Vampire: the Requiem, I believe that the settings and set ups of the new games are better, and, in not trying so hard to be grown up, actually succeed at being more grown up than a lot of the old stuff. (Then again, your mileage may vary... I can do without the song lyrics and the saturation of Gothic, thanks very much.) There are some things from the old games that I miss (Pentex comes immediately to mind, even if they do kind of seem like a bad guy from Captain Planet sometimes, I found I had something of a soft spot for them) but all in all the new stuff gets a thumbs up.

...well, except for the mechanics, a matter that I am on the fence about. I will say that New World of Darkness does a lot of things right. Namely:

-The removal of 1's canceling out successes on rolls. With the lack of a probability curve that comes from reading all the dice individually, we found that someone with the pinnacle of skill (Say, Dex 5 Melee 5 or Int 5 Computers 5) failed more often than someone with a smaller Dice Pool.

-Willpower points as a boost to your chances instead of an automatic "I win" mechanic.

-The old system featured both modifiers to target numbers and modifiers to Dice Pools. New World of Darkness fixes the target number and all modifiers add or subtract to the Dice Pool. I'm in favor of going one way with it, as the previous method of doing things was muddled and there never seemed to be much rhyme or reason as to what gave you a penalty to the pool and what gave you a modifier to the target number, which was not fixed to begin with.

-Truly unified mechanics across the different games, so that a interactions of different types of supernatural creatures is easier to mediate.

There are a few points where the new system breaks down for me:

-New combat rules. I appreciate the attempt to boil all attacks and defenses down to a single die roll. In the previous edition, one roll was one swing, and that swing usually took three or four die rolls to resolve. (Attack, defense, damage roll, soak roll) In addition, characters with moderate dice pools could split their pool for multiple attacks. I often saw characters who would attack three, sometimes four times per round, which meant that I could be looking at up to twelve rolls just to resolve what that one character was doing during the round. I often avoided having combat as an element in the game because frankly it was a pain in the ass., hold your horses. Like I said, I think their heart was in the right place with the one roll to rule them all mentality. However, it gets a little too abstract for my tastes. I have found, for one thing, that larger, slower weapons are far more likely to hit. I have also found that combat becomes just a bit too cinematic for what I expect for WoD. A character with Dex 2 Firearms 2 firing a 3 damage pistol (which I believe is supposed to be representative of something in the .45 caliber range) is, statistically, going to net around 2 successes per shot. Now that successes are the damage, that means someone with moderate firearms training is going to have to plug the average dude four times to take him down (though he will still be alive) and three more times to finish the job. (If they don't want to wait for him to bleed out) Average dude, by the by, is someone with Stamina 2 and Size 5. I could also point out that it is possible to build a starting character who can eat those four shots (from a .45, recall) and not only be able to continue fighting, but have absolutely no wound penalties. This, again, is a mortal human and not a vampire or werewolf.

-The Merit system strikes me as being very similar now to Feats from D&D 3.X. Many of the Merits will allow you to be more effective in combat or perform some type of special maneuver. Lack of an extensive list of Merits means that many World of Darkness characters have a Strong Back or are Boxing novices, just because they didn't really know what else to do with the points. (From my experiences, anyway)

-The number of successes needed to complete a task, in most cases, is now 1. I find that having the group roll Perception or searching a room or whatnot is often a moot point, because someone in the group will inevitably roll an 8 or higher, and that is all it takes.

-Wound penalties and healing rates are a bit too cinematic.

-The Size mechanic strikes me at totally useless. Can we not just give smaller creatures fewer health points and larger creatures more? Did this not work well in the older versions? I never noticed a problem, and I liked that different creatures often had different wound penalty schemes.

I still have some brand loyalty to World of Darkness, and as I said, I actually find that I prefer most of the "reboots" or "reimaginings" or whatever you want to call them to be more interesting than the older games. Still, I'm not sold on the new mechanics in a lot of ways, and I think that it suffers from supplement glut worse now than ever before.

Some house rules have mitigated some of my problems with the system, but I'm starting to wonder if I don't really just want to run the new settings with the mechanics I like from old and new.

...of course, part of me want to just find a different modern supernatural game altogether.

These are just my own personal nitpicks. If you like NWoD, bully for you, and I can certainly see why. (Or why you might prefer things the Old Way.) Don't feel obligated to defend the game, because I do still have some fondness for it. As I've mentioned on this blog, I have found that I had no idea just how much a lot of my gaming tastes have changed until I started revisiting things I hadn't played/run/read in awhile.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

One for the Locals

If you're in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area, consider a trip to OSFEST2 this year. I didn't go last year, but this year I'm trying to be more sociable and to that end the missus and I have already registered and plan to attend the entire weekend. In fact, I'm even considering the idea of running a game at the Con. It's relatively inexpensive for a con. I should also mention that I'm totally not affiliated with the folks behind this convention in any way*, so this is plug done purely out of the abundant goodness of my own heart. I'd like to see more local geekery, so I'm doing my part.

Now, if I run a game, what will it be...? This will be something to consider over the course of next week while I'm on vacation.

Should you be interested, further information can be found here.

(*actually the head of the organization is in my wife's writing group, but that turned out to be 100% coincidence; I was aware of the convention long before she started her group)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Contemplating Hackmaster Basic

On my bookshelf, you will find numerous fantasy roleplaying games. You will find the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, AD&D 1st and 2nd editions, D&D 3.5 and yes, even 4th edition (let nobody say I didn't give it a fair shot.) Next to these, you will find Hackmaster "4th", Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st and 2nd edition, Rolemaster 2nd edition, and The Riddle of Steel. I also have Dungeons & Zombies, a fantasy supplement to the zombie horror game All Flesh Must Be Eaten. I also have two generic system games (Savage Worlds and Fudge) which have fantasy material published for them, and can be used to create a fantasy game in a pinch. Additionally, I have the PDFs for Swords & Wizardry, (Core and White Box versions) Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC 2, Basic Fantasy Roleplaying Game, and Microlites d20 and '74. Needless to say, I have more fantasy games than I will ever run, and my collection seems somewhat ridiculous when you realize that most of my collection consists of some version of D&D, in particular the older editions and simulacra/derivatives thereof. (I'll be charitable and consider the new editions to be part of the family, because I'm just one hell of a guy sometimes.)If you want to roll up the various editions of games and discount the simulacra, supplements, and generic system games, that still leaves:
The D&D family, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Rolemaster, and The Riddle of Steel... four fantasy games. This seems less insane(or inane, maybe?) However, why do I need four fantasy games, and why would I need a fifth one?

Well, because...

*I'm a sucker for new game systems
*I'm a sucker for fantasy games
*I'm a sucker for anything designed in the style of "traditional/old school/whatever label you want to put on it when we all know very well what I'm talking about" style fantasy games
*I've been conditioned to buy stuff by the soulless, unsatisfying nature of modern life as I attach emotional value to inanimate objects in the absence of true, meaningful connections to my- I am a book consumer whore and I love it.
*It's twenty bucks (Although just for the basic book... I imagine a future release of Hackmaster Advanced will be at least another twenty, bringing the pricing in line with most modern core books.)
*I usually take away at least a little something, if not a lot of good ideas, from each game I acquaint myself with. I feel like being familiar with more systems makes me a better DM. It's always interesting to see how things are approached. Even if it turns out I don't like the game or I never run it, I feel that a new game book is always a worthwhile read.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

AD&D Experience: The Slow Boat to China

Tonight was the second session of my new weekly Tuesday campaign of AD&D 1st edition. Prior to the beginning of this game, it had been some six years since I had run even a short game of the older editions (Cyclopedic), and probably six years before that since I had run a regular campaign of the older games. (AD&D2) I had forgotten how very different the experience point system is. The party dealt with seven giant rats (of the semi-intelligent Sumatran variety, zounds!) and had received a miserable 70 experience points, which was then split five ways. Even with ad hoc awards for entertaining play, clever ideas, etc... at this present rate, it will take even the "fast track" classes ten sessions to level. I'm all for a slow paced game, but this seems a little extreme.

It is a bit odd to return to a time when treasure wasn't meted out by level, where even a lowly first level character might conceivably find a powerful magic item. The odds are not great, but they are there.

It will take some time, I suppose, to find the right balance of monetary treasure placed (since it is worth experience) and experience handed out for monsters and other obstacles. It is a very different experience, indeed.

It is also worth noting that I am tossing out the rating system and training rules from the 1st edition DMG as written. They do not fit the style of the game I am running. I might introduce something in the way of training, but it will not be the time and gold sink of the old rules, nor will it force me to "grade" the players on how they adhere to stereotype.

More on experience later.

I will say that this is the most fun I've had running a game in a long time. My wife says she can hear me DMing exuberantly from upstairs, and that I sound like "my old gaming self."

Aside from one technical hiccup, Skype delivered our Vermont based player so that he could participate in our session. I continue to think about the possibilities that Skype now affords me.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Too Cool For School

Last night I was at the used bookstore (again) when I chanced across the Palladium conversion book, which I believe is used to convert Palladium Fantasy characters to the various other games they publish. On the cover were various genre characters such as a female warrior atop a griffin and a superhero. Standing behind them all was a dragon...

...with a wrist laser...

...and night vision goggles.

I almost bought it out of sheer awe. Though I dislike the Palladium system, you have to love covers that have dragons with fucking night vision goggles. It would have looked excellent next to my copy of Ninjas and Superspies, where laser wielding secret agents are fighting ninja atop a hill of bodies.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

More Old Dragons

I returned to my LGS on Friday evening and grabbed issues #183 and #136, even though I haven't entirely finished reading the issues picked up last weekend. It seems I strayed into the early 90's. I still find it quite amusing to see advertisements for "upcoming" games or editions thereof that are now long out of print.

A few thoughts on my Dragon acquisitions:

-There was an article that redesigns martial arts styles from Oriental Adventures. Anyone who's been reading for a month or so may remember my dissatisfaction with the system as written and intention to someday fix it to suit my tastes...well, it looks like someone else did it for me about 18 years ago. Fair enough.

-I'm not sure I really get what the point of "NPC classes" are. NPCs need not abide by any particular structure; their statistics can remain "under the hood" as it were. While I can see the alchemist being adaptable to a PC, I really don't see why merchant needs to be a class of it's own, much less one with spell casting ability. My wife did find the notion of a merchant casting a spell to call bullshit on a fake magical item quite amusing. I doubt I'd adapt this class to be PC. Perhaps that would work if the entire campaign were centered around mercantile enterprise, which isn't really that awful of an idea, but that isn't where my AD&D game is going.

-A decent look in cities and societies in Gamma World, which is good because the last time I ran GW, the towns felt little different than D&D towns, with taverns and town guards and everything. (Of course, last time I ran GW, I was 12)

All in all, I found these volumes a bit less useful than the ones I bought last weekend. However, I think I'll be at the LGS this coming Friday to pick up one or two more.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Campaign Kickoff and Adventures With Skype

As promised, the first session of my AD&D 1st edition game was tonight. Most of it was finishing off characters and establishing some bits of the setting We did a little bit of actual play, though some players had to leave before we really got going. At any rate, a group of aspiring adventurers have gathered in the town of Ersel, where rumors of treasure abound. A thief has been pursued and lost, but the trail is not cold. I'm eager to see what next week brings.

Tonight I made two important discoveries:

1. Having a player in a remote location participate via Skype actually works quite well... I just turned my monitor around so that the web cam was aimed at the gaming table. The player rolls the dice on his honor, and I trust him to do so. Due to his job, he will likely have to attend the next session via Skype, but we had no audio or visual problems... this is kind of exciting for me because it opens up the possibility of bringing back some old friends to the gaming table, or helping one of my other group's players continue to play with us after she goes back to grad school for the fall. I could even reunite my old college group, many who have been cruelly flung to remote corners of the earth where there is little done in the way of tabletop gaming.

2. They now make testicle-sized cheese puffs. I didn't believe it until one of the players brought a bag for gaming munchies.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

HERO System: A Mildly Disturbing Realization

One of the guys I train kung fu with recently offered to run a Champions game. I haven't played Champions since I was in high school.

One thing that I realize now that strikes me as a bit odd:

In the HERO system, having a code against killing is considered a "Psychological Limitation."


Old Dragon Issues

Today I decided to loiter at my LGS (I have deliberately excluded the F in this acronym due to a number of reasons.) The used games section was looking a little picked through and currently published games have little to offer me at the moment, but I did chance upon a few old issues of Dragon that I picked up:

-Issue #109, with the customized character class article for basic D&D

-Issue #130, with an alchemist NPC class that, with a little modification, would work just fine as a PC class and might save me a lot of work writing one up on my own.

-Issue #142, just because it contains a preview of the upcoming AD&D 2nd edition and such a thing was too good to pass up. I was surprised to find some additions to the Cyclopedia mass combat system, plus a mass combat system for Gamma World, presumably 2nd or 3rd edition. I noticed there is some material for Star Frontiers and Traveller, though I haven't had a chance to read those parts yet.

I might start picking up one or two old issues every week. I love the "odds and ends" style of the old magazines.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cleric Collaboration

So, last night I did something unusual and allowed a cleric player to come up with his own deity. I'm a bit of a control freak at times (and I believe anyone who regularly DMs has at least a bit of control freak in them) so typically I insist on making the players choose from one of the deities I've created. This time around, I've only created one, and his temple is the only officially recognized one in the land, so the cleric play had a bit more leeway. (He'll be of the wandering sort I mentioned in my previous post on clerics.)

I'm thinking this might be a remedy of my usual dilemma with clerics and their non-piety. This player actually created a name, common nickname, and commandments for his deity. He has actually imposed extra restrictions (though minor things) on his character. For instance, his deity is all about freedom and self-sufficiency (no wonder the powers that be banned it), so his character is not allowed to use mind influencing spells on people. (Though he could use remove fear on someone so long as they were magically or supernaturally compelled to fear, to correct the influence on their mind.)

I think that a player is more likely to have his cleric pay more than lip service to a deity and commandments he invented. The deity fits reasonably well into the setting and I'm actually quite excited about this.

...oh, and something further on the subject of players collaborating on the game world: there are now pseudo-gypsies in my setting. The thief player stated she wanted to play a gypsy, so now we have an ethnic group of mixed human and elven blood descended from migrant peoples and valley elves. They are identical to half-elves for the purposes of game mechanics.

Hrm...maybe world building is a little easier when you let the players give you a little help. (Just a little, though...)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

An Honest Question

What is exciting or satisfying about a perfectly balanced encounter? If you take on a challenge that was designed with your victory in mind, what feeling of accomplishment can you possibly have? If you play musical chairs with enough chairs for everyone, aren't you really just running around in circles to music?

...and that's what diversity means to me.