Friday, July 31, 2009

Campaign Reminiscence: Legacy of Dracula

Back in 2000 or 2001-ish, I ran a GURPS campaign called "Legacy of Dracula." It was largely inspired by Kim Newman's Anno Dracula and the film adaptation of From Hell. (Or was it 2002...?) The game was set in London, after the events of the original Dracula novel by Bram Stoker. Van Helsing and the Harkers were in Europe, hunting down the spirited away remains of Dracula which had been stolen by some of his followers. Meanwhile, back in England, Arthur Holmwood and Dr. Seward founded the Holmwood Club, which on the surface was an exclusive social club, but in actuality was an organization of vampire hunters. Dracula had created more spawn than just Lucy Westenra, and now vampirism was spreading through the Victorian underworld. The characters were all members of the Holmwood Club. Ah, I also neglected to mention that this campaign took place in an alternate history steampunk London. Adventures revolved mostly around vampire hunting, but I threw in some other monsters as well. (They did not get the chance to meet Springheel Jack, sadly)

The characters were a pretty eclectic bunch... a defrocked vicar who was abandoned by the church after he tried to warn his flock about the dangers of vampires, an amateur detective in the vein of Sherlock Holmes, a psychic opium addict, a mad inventor, and the scandalized half-Japanese son of one of London's wealthiest men.

The campaign only ran for six sessions, unfortunately. Those sessions were a blast, mind you, but I quickly found GURPS to be too cumbersome for my tastes. (I owned and had played GURPS and run a few one shots, but never tried to do a campaign with it before.) I recall the last straw being an attempt to design a construct (clockwork golem) using GURPS Robots. I have since ditched all my GURPS stuff except for the steampunk book, only because it has a ton of great information and ideas to plunder for future steampunkity endeavors.

Looking back, this game would have been awesome to run with Savage Worlds... the more cinematic nature of the system would have fit in better with the slam-bang action that the players tended to fling their characters into. (The vicar was always jumping off stuff, throwing stakes, kicking in doors, etc.) In fact, in the theoretical someday where I have infinite time to game, I would consider resurrecting (ha!) the game using SW. I'm also not sure why I didn't just use Fudge... the only reason I can think if is that it must have been run before I picked Fudge up (which was also sometime in the early 00's.)

Good times... perhaps Dracula will rise again.

Oh, one last enjoyable memory: the party used their steampunk skills to invent a "boiler backpack" that they would fill with holy water and heat up... instant scalding holy steam to smite basically had the same effect as a flamethrower, but without having to worry about all that pesky collateral damage. :)

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Ah, time for the weekly blog shitstorm. I once found it kind of endearing, but now I'm getting kind of sick of it. At least this week's drama is slightly more substantial than what armor class system you prefer.

Look, I'm just a guy who happens to prefer the older editions of D&D. I tried the new ones (played 3.x for most of college, actually) and they just don't deliver for me. In fact, it isn't so much the play style as it is the mechanics and the whole "pimp my build" thing with 3.x and the very divergent nature of 4th, specifically. Yeah, they do have a different play style associated with them, but I believe that is influenced by the deadliness of the old rules.
In fact, I'll be plain: 3.x, while tolerable, just doesn't do it for me. I will never run it again, though you might be able to persuade me to play it. On the other hand, I loathe 4th edition and will not play or run it again.

I started this blog because I could talk for hours, nay, days, about roleplaying games. White Wolf, D&D, Gamma World, Warhammer, whatever. I love to tinker and I love to theorize. I also like to play games besides D&D, but that is what I am most into right now, so that it what gets the most attention in my blog.

I am not part of any movement. I am not trying to steer gaming back into the style of older editions. I could care less what happens with 4th edition or Pathfinder or 3.5 Resurgent. I'm not particularly interested in proselytizing, converting, or recruiting. I do not intend to publish anything, though I am grateful for the retro-clones empowering others to produce AD&D/D&D material without getting sued. I'm glad people are doing new things with old rules, rather than just recreating the past. I want to play Carcosa. I want to run Deathfrostdoom. (I just have to type it as one word) I've been meaning to take a gander at Utrusk. I want to expand the module I wrote for the recent con into a Cyclopedic/Mutant Future campaign. I'm just a guy who is selfishly grabbing up all this great stuff that is coming out. I don't mind being a niche within a niche. The aging of our hobby is not really a concern to me. Getting "these damn kids" into our version of the game isn't really a priority for me. I want to play. I want to share my ideas. I want to read what others are doing with their rules and campaigns. All the drama, factionism, and assorted other bullshit is just a byproduct of Internet at large. It wouldn't matter if my hobby was bass fishing or miniature painting or that thing where you put the little ship in the bottle; there would still be forums and blogs and overblown arguments over doctrine or details or some-frickin'-thing.

I'm sure this post isn't going to win me any friends, but the hell with it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wizards and Swordry

Recently I was discussing "spicing up" the magic system in D&D, and one of the comments suggested that if I add another disadvantage to the magic-user, I need to give them something to balance it. This revived something I had been discussing with one of my players recently, and that would be magic-users having better weapons.

I've seen a lot of folks in this corner of the blogoverse do different things with m-u weapons: in original D&D, it hardly mattered with standard d6 weapons. I've seen class-based damage (even with variants based on light, medium, and heavy weapons) and liked that quite a bit as well. (The missus was quite taken with the idea)
However, I was thinking... why not just let them use any one-handed weapon? (With staves being the exception) I mean, magic-users don't improve their combat ability unitil 6th level, by which time every class has advanced well past them in terms of ability to hit. In addition, magic-users still have crappy hit points and no armor, so will we really destory the game by letting the poor bastards do 1d8 with a longsword instead of 1d6 with a staff?

My insistance on one handed weapons comes from practicality: magic-users need at least one free hand to cast spells, so I doubt they would find two handed weapons to be very worthwhile to train with. Staves are the exception since they are the classic wizard's tool, and my poor pedestrian mind can't seem to pry the staff, conceptually, from the wizard's hands.

Another thought, inspired by a "save vs. AC" mechanic (can't remember who posted it unfortunately) is this: a magic-user who wishes to wear armor must do so, but if he wants to use a spell with somatic elements, he must roll equal to or under his AC on 2d6 (remember I use descending AC- yeah, whatcha gonna do about it?), with failure indicating that the armor interfered with the spellcasting and the spell is lost. Any shield bigger than a buckler would make the requisite melodramatic arm flailing that wizards need to do difficult at best, so I suppose they could use a buckler but it would make it just that much harder to cast a spell. I will stress again that magic-users must have at least one hand free to cast a spell. (Except of course verbal only spells like the various power words. Perhaps magic armor actually improves the changes to cast a spell... for instance, chainmail would normally require the magic-user to roll 5 or less to cast a spell, but chainmail +2 would bring the chance up to a 7 or less. Shields would not add any bonus, since they are still physically obtrusive to the gesturing. Magic armor, by contrast, does not interfere as much with the chanelling of magical energy. This is something I just thought of now, and I'm on the fence about it a little bit.

Using this 2d6 system, magic-users could trigger a magical mishap on a roll of 12 and some kind of spell surge on a roll of 2. Unarmored spellcasters would ignore any other roll. (They don't have to roll under their unarmored AC)
Lastly, Dexterity modifiers are not included, either way, in the roll vs. armor.

More thoughts on the actual biteyness of magic later.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Wherefore Art Thou, OSRIC?!

Tonight was the eighth session of my AD&D1 game, which may be the most sessions of a given campaign I've run in a row without having to cancel/reschedule since my high school gaming days.

The players entered an area I didn't expect them to tonight, and as a result I had to roll up a random treasure. This treasure trove contained gems and jewelry.

I've had to roll up such things before, but damned if I could find the bloody tables in the DMG. After wasting an inordinate amount of time, I jumped on my computer, pulled up my PDF of OSRIC 2.0, and found the right tables in about forty-five seconds.

From an organization standpoint, it is becoming harder for me to resist getting a hard copy to ride shotgun at the gaming table... all that information compiled in one book, and it is so much better organized and easier to find things. Hmm... perhaps I will have to acquire myself a copy after all.

In other news, the players got incredibly lucky on a treasure trove, and the druid's animal buddy was killed by a poisonous spider, which currently makes poisonous spider the number one cause of death in this game.

I am growing irritated with the massive amounts of experience required by the Unearthed Arcana barbarian, and I'm considering looking up the OSRIC Unearthed barbarian for another take, or rewriting the barbarian to make it more playable.

...and on a totally unrelated note, my copy of Beyond the Supernatural arrived yesterday.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Magic Systems With Bite vs. Vancian Roteness: Some Thoughts

I have a fondness for magic systems with an element of unpredictability; magic systems like that found in Cinematic Unisystem, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd edition, both incarnations of Mage, etc. There have been a lot of musings in blogworld recently about systems to make magic more unpredictable/dangerous in good old D&D, many of which seem to have been inspired by the spell delay mechanic from Spellcraft & Swordplay, which, if I'm not mistaken, was inspired by the original Chainmail.

One of my old gripes with D&D's magic system is the relative safety of it. For the most part, spells have zero consequence for the mage, unless he tries to read a spell off a scroll that he is normally incapable of casting, or he uses haste on someone who is very old. After reading some of the excellent little subsystems out there, I had considered a system for adding variability to the magic system. (Both ways...spells that can occasionally go above and beyond the caster's expectations as well as spells that can go awry.)

Reordering my recent thoughts on Vancian magic, I'm not sure I need to do this for my current campaign. If Vancian magic relies on rote, it seems to me that it would be fairly safe. In Mage, there are no "spells"; every time the mage does something, he is literally warping the fabric of reality. Even an effect he has used before is a unique iteration of willpower and not a formula followed. In Warhammer 2nd edition (which has a very different magic system than the first edition), the wizard is taking hold of the Winds of Chaos and bending them into a spell. Granted, the spell is a rote itself, but the energy to fuel it is drawn from Chaos itself. D&D magic, by contrast, seems to be a bit more orderly. (Rigid is probably a better term)

Then again, just because you have a recipie doesn't mean the cassarole is going to turn out right... back to the drawing board, perhaps. I think I'll leave magic as written for my AD&D game, but future games I might have to tinker a little. The bottom line is this: I'd like for everyone to be just a little nervous when a spell is cast.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My Unresolved Experience Dilemma

For the past few weeks, I have been using experience more or less as it was written. After six sessions, the thief and cleric are already third level, the fighter and magic-user should be 2nd level (the players will be awarded the experience their characters earned while they were away... we allow "sock puppets" in my game), and the barbarian and new druid are still at 1st. Usually I award a little bonus to each character for a generally entertaining evening. This award is only for players who are actually present; sock puppets miss out on this. So far the award has been 100 xp here and there... I will have to ratchet it up as characters level, else it becomes meaningless once they hit 3rd and beyond.

Recently I was reading the Palladium Fantasy rulebook, and I am mulling over the subjective experience tables presented in it. (A side note- some of the advice in the Palladium RPG book is surprisingly well grounded, particularly the part about accepting character death and playing characters with average or low ability scores.) Perhaps if experience were divorced from combat, it would cause the players to pick their battles more carefully... there would be less of a "got to kill them all" mentality. (This hasn't actually been a problem in this campaign, but I've noticed it tends to creep into D&D games in general.)

Now, the downside of the Palladium experience system is that I'd have to rescale or adapt it to AD&D1. The other problem is that, as written, it could lead to a lot of one-upmanship. (Then again, that might be kind of cool...)

This is just something to think about... I actually find that the experience rules as written have been working okay so far. However, this might be skewed because the characters managed to kill a very high level monster and find its abundant treasure trove, so the characters might have a lot more experience than they "should." (You will also recall that this encounter killed one of them and would've killed several more if not for an incredibly lucky bend bars/lift gates roll...)

Readers, if you would care to comment, are you familiar with the Palladium experience system? How do you feel about it? Has anyone else tried to replace the D&D experience system with something subjective?

I might be overthinking this. Timeshadows suggested a very simple experience system that I might want to experiment with.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fantasy Language: Yoink!

I've always wished that I had a consistent fantasy writing system to use on maps, handouts, etc. (I'd probably use handouts more often if I had such a thing) Well, while doing my reading for the descriptive linguistics class I'm taking, I learned about the International Phonetic Alphabet. This system of writing renders the consonants and vowel sounds of languages into one symbol each. For instance, in English, the "f" sound can be rendered "ph" (as in phone), "gh" (rough, tough), or just plain old "f". The IPA system seeks to remedy that.

Anyway, with a little stylization, I could nab this for a system of fantasy writing, to represent "common" or whatever. The neat thing is that you can read it mostly by eyeballing it, but it still looks suitably foreign. (To me, anyway)

Check it out here, if so inclined.

Nerd Stereotyping: A Matter of Perspective

At work, I have developed a reputation as someone who plays World of Warcraft, most likely due to one of my AD&D players (who works here but in a different department) being a very "outed" WoW enthusiast. She talks openly about our AD&D game, but I think most of her coworkers are mentally unable to distinguish between AD&D and WoW, hence people ask me questions about WoW and send me WoW related forwards, despite the fact that I have never played the game for even a minute. (And never will)

If the stigmas from the 1980's regarding D&D were still in effect, I'd probably correct people and tell them that I'm a D&D player; to me it would be far preferable to be stereotyped as a brainwashed devil worshipper straight out of the infamous Jack Chick tract than to be stereotyped as an obsessive neckbeard stinking up his parents' basement.

AD&D Frustration

The session did not go well last night. I think I got a little trigger happy with the save or die stuff. We lost the thief, and the player was pretty rankled about it and said she did not want to make a new character. The party offered to raise her using the enormous treasure trove found when they killed the lurker last week. One of the other players commented that he likes 3rd edition better because its more difficult to die.

I remain unapologetic. AD&D 1st edition is deadly. Adventuring is supposed to be deadly. Yes, sometimes characters die because they miss a Find Traps roll and then fail a saving throw.

Think about finding 7,000 gold pieces... more money than any commoner will ever see. This is literally enough money to never have to work again, should you be content with a modest existence. Do you think treasure like that is earned easily? If it was, it would've been taken long ago.

The thing is, the upper levels of experience are not guaranteed... there are very few high level characters in my world because crawling around in dungeons full of traps and monsters is a great way to get killed. Doing it over and over virtually guarantees that you're going to die at some point.

I have the feeling that these two players will eventually drop out. I don't want them to, obviously, because they are my friends and I don't really get the chance to socialize with them away from the table.

A few other things:

-I'm not using skills next time I run AD&D. Rather, I'm going to base what you can attempt based on your class. Druids have nature lore, and probably know something about medicinal healing, for instance. Everyone can ride a horse. Everyone can try to start a fire. Magic-users and clerics probably know something about demons, and so on and so forth. Basically, you ask "Can I do this? Do I know this?" and I will answer "yes, definitely" "roll some dice" or "no."

-I'm probably not going to use specialization as written. I think it needs to be cleaned up a little

-I think the barbarian would be a more viable character class if we shortened his list of special abilities but also gave him a more reasonable experience table.

These last few points are something to consider for a future campaign.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Spilling the Dirt

Since K. Bailey asked, I will expand upon the last two thoughts I had regarding the convention.

1. I only met one person I wanted to strangle with my bare hands

I will throw down, once again, the oft-quoted quote from James Malisewski: "There are a lot of really crazy people in this hobby." I will expand this to say that there are some really crazy people in sci-fi fandom as well. At conventions, you meet these people, often several. You know the types, and I know that you do. We often describe them as "That Guy."
At this particular convention, I met only one such individual. He was one of those types who latches onto you and begins a rambling, stream-of-consciousness diatribe about his personal gaming philosophies, how awesome his character is, and how he can like, totally wield a howitzer in one hand. This particular fellow's unbroken ululation of just how epically awesome his character is actually started jumping from game to game, so I got to hear about a howitzer wielding bounty hunter cyborg and a dragonborn warlord who can do so much damage and I honestly can't remember much of the rest because I went into my cave and found my power animal, a la Fight Club. Slide, motherfucker.
Anyway, this git wouldn't have been nearly so bad if he hadn't been goddamn omnipresent; first he ambushed me by the RPG sign up tables, then he came to a panel I was at, then he showed up while I was room party hopping- and let me tangent here- sci-fi convention or no, I do not want to hear about your goddamn character while I am trying to mooch free booze.
The other truly maddening thing about this dude, who was dressed up like some kind of SAS commando or something, is that he retold the same effing story every time he showed up. Same characters. Same tone. Same inflection. I heard about his totally awesome dragonborn character at least three times.

2. Normal People Being Awful
All my friends are nerds or nerd-friendly. Even the ones who do not game are into anime, or cosplay, or comic books or something like that. My immediate family think gaming is kind of weird, but they long ago learned to accept it as part of who I am. I forget, sometimes, how unusual some of my hobbies and interests are to folks who don't share them.
There were people at the hotel who murmured shitty comments like "They should warn people when they're going to have something like this" or "What a bunch of weirdos." There were people who wouldn't get on the elevator with a con guest because she was dressed in a Star Fleet uniform. They decided, suddenly, that taking seven flights of stairs was preferable. Shit, a Star Fleet uniform? Really? Out of all the people dressed in full body fur suits and dressed like Star Wars aliens and Final Fantasy characters and all that, they're freaked out about somebody dressed in a red shirt with a starfleet badge on?
I don't do costumes, and I can certainly understand the shock of suddenly finding yourself standing in line for the continental breakfast and being shocked to see a couple of Storm Troopers shuffle past, but some of the absolute contempt that was so thinly veiled for my fellow nerds made me feel a little ill., a disclaimer: not all of the non-convention guests were bad. One woman asked some Star Wars characters to take a picture with her small son. One lady in the hotel bar exclaimed "I love all these Star Wars people everywhere!" A team of high school volleyball girls became enamored with a young man in a Mandalorian costume. (Once he divested himself of his helmet, that is) I hadn't really seen such blatant nerd-hate since high school. I guess I thought that people got over that kind of thing.

And that's all I've got to say about that. Honestly the convention was great and I had a great weekend. The next one I plan to attend is at a convention center, so perhaps we will not be forced to mingle with non-attendees.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Convention: Day Three and Final Thoughts

Ok, so I meant to post this yesterday, but upon my return from the convention I immediately fell into a coma, and upon emerging I had to finish my linguistics homework so I could be back in bed at midnight. Right, so...convention.

I did not get to play Metamorphosis Alpha, since the missus wanted to leave and my own endurance was spent, and I was, shall we say, feeling the effects of two days of full throttle nerding. I did find out that the fellow who was running it (who was one of the players in my D&D game on Friday)lives very nearby, so we exchanged phone numbers. I do intend to play some MA1 with him in the relatively near future.

Somehow, I made it through the convention without buying a single game book, a feat that borders (for me) on the miraculous. My wife, however, won me a signed Hackmaster module at a charity auction, which I intend to adapt for m AD&D1 game. As it turns out, she discovered that the author was at the convention, and was in fact a dealer from whom we had bought a new boardgame on Saturday. He was good enough to personalize the signature for me.

So, here are a few random thoughts from the aftermath of the convention:

-I think I have conquered my fear of public gaming. My game went so well that I wished I had signed up to run a second one.

-I really should know this by now, but I do not enjoy playing tabletop games even a fraction of the amount that I like being the GM. This is not to say that I didn't have fun, but I just don't get that surge of enjoyment playing that I do when running.

-I will continue to GM in such a fashion that I don't become someone's bad GM convention story, many of which were shared this past weekend. My players generally seem pretty happy with my performance, so I'm not too worried about it.

-I only met one person this weekend that I wanted to strangle with my bare hands, and that is a record low for a convention.

-I sometimes forget how close-minded and generally awful "normal" people can be, since I try to live my life surrounded by nerds and nerd-friendlies.

Well, that's that, I suppose. I am greatly looking forward to NukeCon this year and I am already planning to attend. I think I will plan to run two or even three games at the convention, one of which will be a revised version of my Temple of Zirugar module.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Convention: Day Two

Today I have been geeking it hardcore pretty much since I woke up. However, this blog is focused on tabletop roleplaying games, and that occupied only about four hours of my day today. I will type this post now, since presently I am hitting the party rooms and will likely lose my higher cognitive capacities in short order.

I played Beyond the Supernatural, 2nd edition. It was surprisingly fun, if rather unabashedly high powered. The strange thing that I note about Palladium is the sheer number of skills that characters have, most of which they never, ever use. I think that one character used prowl, one used open locks, though I used a psychic power for the same thing when he missed a roll...and I think we also used some kind of monster lore roll. The game was fun, don't get me wrong, and the GM threw some interesting puzzles our way. I'd give it another go.

My wife bought won me some supplement for Hackmaster ("4th" edition), though she can't pick it up until tomorrow and doesn't remember the title. I guess that will be a pleasant little surprise.

Exchange of the day:
Me: Why would you ever dodge when you could just parry?
Fellow Player: My only weapon is a gun. You can't parry with a gun.
Me: Dude, have you not seen Equilibrium?!

...guess you had to be there.

And now, off to the floor of nerdy debauchery.

Oh, and one more thing...this is my 100th post! :)

Convention: Day One

Tonight I ran my module for D&D (Cyclopedic), "The Temple of Zirugar." Two of the players are participants in my weekly AD&D game and two were complete strangers who saw my sign-up sheet and decided to give it a shot.

Damn, what a great time we had! Everybody lost a character (good thing I made up twelve), but in my defense... the big "kill everyone" room did have some clues in it. I try to telegraph big badness. (And hey, I can't help that almost everyone failed that saving throw.) One of the strangers had to bail early. He seemed somewhat unfamiliar with older D&D, but he gave it a shot, bless him. The other stranger really enjoyed the game (and had the little red and blue booklets in his bag!) One of my players absolutely raved about the module and thinks I ought to submit it somewhere. (Not sure I really have the ambition for that) I think I might tweak and revise this module and run it again at NukeCon this fall.

The module also has possible tie-ins (or crossovers) to Mutant Future. :)

I ran half an hour over my allotted time slot, though that hardly mattered... the only thing going on besides my game was the Star Wars Miniatures reenactment of the Battle of Hoth.

After the game, I attended a panel on the militarization of space. I wasn't thrilled with it; mostly it was a lot of paranoid speculation about the Chinese shooting down GPS satellites. The panel ran over, but I vacated shortly after the scheduled end time so that I could go up and nosh in the Con Suite. I did run into some old friends from the sci-fi club I was in back in was good to see them again.

I had a good first night and I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I'm so jazzed by the good session I had that I might try to run a pick-up game of Fudge tomorrow during open gaming hours, as there seems to be jack going on until 6pm. I've signed up to play in a game of Beyond the Supernatural tomorrow and Metamorphosis Alpha (First edition!) on Sunday.

...why did I stop going to cons, again?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Today is the Day

I am quite excited for OSFEST2, which starts today. Tonight at 6pm I am running The Temple of Zirugar. I know that at least two of my regular AD&D players were planning to participate, and a few other people I know have indicated as much, but we shall see what unfolds. I still actually have a few things to hammer down, but I have no fear because I'm bailing out of work early today and going straight to the con, where I will have some additional time to prepare.

The ToZ is a little more funhouse than I usually do my dungeons, but that's because this is a con game and I can do what I want without worrying about the ramifications of a greater campaign. I probably wouldn't drop this temple into my AD&D game. I'm really looking forward to it, though I am inexplicably nervous.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blog Bitchiness: A Casual Observation

Ok, so Jonathan Tweet thinks ascending AC is better than descending. There has been quite a bit of squawking over it these past few days.

In addition, there have been some negative vibes and much wailing and gnashing of teeth surrounding James Mihsner's epitaph for the RPG industry, which is supposedly circling the drain along with our economy and perhaps entire civilization. Erik Mona from Paizo takes issue that he was apparently called out for making the Pathfinder PDF quite inexpensive. (If I still wanted anything to do with d20 fantasy games, I'd probably hit that shit like a pinata on Cinco de Mayo... but I have moved on to older pastures. Still, I appreciate what he's doing.)

Anyway, it seems to me that there is a cyclic flow to this corner of blogworld... there's a flow of idea, periodically the flow becomes an eddy of self-referentiality as someone stokes someone else's imagination on some aspect of the hobby or the game, though the eddies are always relatively short lived and we go back to the idiosyncrasies of each individual blog: Timeshadows developing Utrusk, James M. reviewing and interviewing and being historian, Jim Raggi working on his publishing venture and being a lovably cranky bastard, Ripper posting his editorial-like observations, Alexis being the scholar... the stuff that brings me back everyday.

However, once in awhile the eddy is formed because someone insults someone, or is perceived to have insulted someone (or some edition, or some aspect of some edition), and then the self-referential eddy becomes a storm in a teacup of angry nerds. Generally it peaks after a couple of days and we return to the usual flow of ideas. Usually I try to stay neutral, though I have been known to gently antagonize because sometimes I am spiteful and capricious. (I like to think its part of my charm, personally.)

I guess this is just an observation from a relatively recent comer to the blog scene. (About six months, now) Personally, I like the flow of ideas phase better, if only because half the blogs I follow aren't talking about the same topic. This will blow over, as they always do, until someone make a clever diagram showing that X edition has Y qualities, or makes a declaration about the state of the industry, or pokes the Edition War hornet's nest.

Make no mistake; I love this little corner of the internet. I look forward to seeing this dual-eddy swirl itself out soon. other new, the local convention is tomorrow, and the missus and I are trying to deal with our growing anticipation. Of course, I still have a few things to nail down for my Temple of Zirugar module. (Which, by the way, uses 9-based descending armor class :P )

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

AD&D: First Death and Other Setbacks

Tonight one of the characters in my game died. Actually, if not for some incredibly lucky rolls, half the party could well have died.

In another setback, paranoia lead them to accidentally ambush a party of good dwarves, killing them. One of the players suggested that the character death that came after was karma...

I set up a Lurker Above in the dungeon. (A modified version, anyway) The denizens of the dungeon had concocted a special fungal paste which, when smeared on someone, repulses the Lurker from dropping on them. The player characters missed the clues, and as a result, one of them was killed. They managed to slay the thing, with 63 hp and a to-hit AC 0 of 10... quite an impressive feat.

Since they did kill a big monster with much higher hit die and some nasty special abilities, I let the dice fall where they may for treasure, and if they can find a way to transport it, they stand to receive quite a bit of money and experience.

I did not fudge, not one way or the other.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Metamorphosis Alpha Memory

Timeshadow's most recent post on the next edition of Metamorphosis Alpha may leave a bad taste in my mouth, but it does bring to mind one of the fondest gaming memories I have since I left my hometown and moved here:

I was running the Fast Forward edition of the game, and we were playing the Robot phase. Our party consisted of an engineering robot, a general labor robot, and the third was some kind of overseer robot if I remember correctly. As the robots made their way through the mutated, irradiated jungle of Level 16, they came upon a utility shed. Having concocted a plan to get pesticide and load it into the artificial weather regulator, (so as to rain poison on the mutated and increasingly alien plant life) they began to venture toward it, hoping they could find some pesticide within. One of the robots detected some radiation about the place. The general labor robot, not fearing any radiation, boldly entered.

Me: Matt, what's your Radiation Resistance?
Matt: 14
Me: Okay, you....(checks the book)... die.
Players: WHAT?!

Priceless. Unfortunately, we never played MA again. That's too bad, because the players did end up pulling off their scheme, and the engineering robot managed to download the core of the AI that regulated the level, becoming sentient and free-willed. (Hey, if the radiation in MA works in wonky ways, I figured I could take some liberties with robots/computers) Oh, well.

I always was interested in the big hardback edition they put out afterward, but I could never justify the purchase based on the price vs. the game's initial reception with my gaming crew at the time. Well, maybe the price will come down now that they've got a new edition in the works.

...of course, I'm fairly sure you can download the first edition for free on some website somewhere. Still, I can't see any reason to run MA and not just use the rules for some edition of Gamma World or Mutant Future. I always sort of saw MA as a campaign setting for Gamma World. (Yes, yes, I know MA came first...this is just my odd and often finicky perception)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Convention GMing: Taking the Plunge

I've only ever been to five or six conventions in my life, but I have enjoyed gaming at cons immensely. (Well, with one memorable exception...) My experience at cons has been diametrically opposite of my experiences gaming in game rooms or at game shops. Gaming at cons has introduced me to at least two new games that I loved very much. (The original Biohazard Games edition of Blue Planet and Fudge)

I have decided to throw my proverbial hat into the ring and have registered to run a game of Cyclopedic D&D at the local convention that is happening next weekend. To be honest, I'm not sure how many players I can expect to draw with the old rules. I guess we'll see. My time slot, Friday at 6 p.m., conflicts with the opening ceremonies of the convention. (Which I always find horribly boring anyway)

I had thought about running a Deadlands-ish game of Fudge, but with the class I'm taking and other obligations (wife's family reunion, my regular campaign, etc.) I figure I'd better not push it. The deadline for registration is over, but perhaps, if I can find time to put two games together, I can run it "off the radar" in the open gaming room. We shall see.

So, if you happen to be in the Omaha area next weekend, stop by and pull up a chair. I've got a delightful little module I'm working on called The Temple of Zirugar.

More info can be found here: OSFES Home Page

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Since We Live in an Era of Polarization...

If you don't like save or die, you don't like freedom. Go play Nobilis with your Communist friends.

You kids get the hell off my lawn!

Blah Blah Hobby Blah Blah Mental Illness...

Ok, so I have added the Palladium Fantasy RPG (2nd edition) to my collection of fantasy games. My collection is likely small compared to others, but I now possess:

-D&D (Cyclopedic)
-AD&D edtions 1st and 2nd
-D&D 3.5 (only because my wife won't let me sell or burn them)
-D&D 4th edition (which my wife is encouraging me to sell or burn)
-Hackmaster (the "4th" edition)
-The Riddle of Steel
-Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, editions 1st and 2nd
-Rolemaster 2nd edition
-If you count it, Dungeons & Zombies, the fantasy supplement for All Flesh Must Be Eaten
-PDFs of Microlites d20 and '74, Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, Basic Fantasy RPG, OSRIC 2.0, and Barbarians of Lemuria
-Palladium Fantasy 2nd edition (Well, it's in the mail, anyway)

In addition to these, I would very much like to acquire Hackmaster Basic and possibly Wayfarers. (Unlikely given the Wayfarers price tag)

I'm not sure why I'm on this bizarre mission to have so many fantasy games, especially when the only one I am running at the present time is AD&D 1st edition.

Yes, I probably should be committed, but at least I own up to it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Spell Research

Ripper X's remarks on spell research on my recent Vancian Magic post got me looking through the different versions of the game (those that are on my shelf, anyway) to see how spell research worked. I was actually surprised to find that both Cyclopedic D&D and AD&D1 allow for spell research, but the way they go about it demonstrates two different philosophies:

-In Cyclopedic D&D, a magic-user's base chance of success is based on his Intelligence plus experience level, doubled, minus the spell level, multiplied by a different number depending on whether he's trying to research a "commonly known" spell (one that's in the rule book) or devise a new spell entirely. (It is easier, though only slightly so, to research a commonly known spell.) The magic-users pays a boatload of gold, puts in a certain amount of time, and makes his roll.

-In AD&D 1, the base chance of research is 10%, plus the magic-user's Intelligence and experience level, minus the spell level doubled. However, the magic-user can increase the base chance by 10% by doubling the gold spent on research.

In Cyclopedic, your ability to research spells is based entirely on your capabilities as a magic-user; a level 10 magic-user with 15 Int is going to be inferior to a level 10 magic user with 18 Intelligence, assuming they are working on the same spell. (For that matter, an 8th level magic-user with 18 Intelligence is going to have an advantage over his 10/15 peer, though the latter can research spells of a higher level)

In AD&D1, a wealthy mage can outdo a capable mage. If you have enough money to throw at the research, you can continue to push your base chance of success up. A mage with lots of money to spend can actually have a higher percentage chance than a mage who is more powerful or intelligent.

I think the two systems imply different things about magic: in Cyclopedic, the answer may or may not be there. I believe you are allowed to start the research anew if you fail, but if your percentage is low enough, it could take more time and money than an adventuring magic-user has. The solution may be beyond your grasp until you advance yourself a as a magic-user. AD&D, on the other hand, the answer is there as long as you can fund the research. (Theoretically you could push the base chance past 90% if you had enough gold)

I am by no means complaining about these systems; they fit right in with my interpretation of Vancian magic being something that the mortal mind just isn't very good at. Even when a magic-user is high enough level to build a tower and attract apprentices, (Name Level) he only has a 49% chance to devise a new spell of the very first level...only 29% likely to research a spell of the fourth level. (Again, I'm assuming an 18 Intelligence here)

I think I might sprinkle some treasure troves with custom researched spells. Imagine how much money such a thing is worth? How much money went into the research? Would the magic-user hoard the secret, or try to use it to barter with other magic-users?

I used to favor spell point systems, but Vancian magic continues to grow on me as time goes on. I used to think spell point systems were more logical, but I see now it is just a different sort of logic.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Further Thoughts on the Cleric Dilemma

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have a cleric in the party whose vows prohibit him from taking anything which is not earned. I have decided to award him xp for the treasure he does not take, because, to me, the xp awarded for treasure is an abstract representation of a successful adventure. Last session, at the tail end, the party captured a chest containing 3,000 electrum coins. (Randomly rolled) The party received this treasure after a long evening of planning, stealth, tactical prowess, and a fair deal of luck in clearing out a bandit stronghold. They didn't get all the treasure (some bandits escaped, taking most of the easily portable look with them), but I would say the experience award represents the tactical exercise of taking on superior numbers and prevailing.

So, I was thinking: perhaps I should adjust the xp award to be equal to the monetary gain from the adventure. This seemingly meaningless change in semantics does one thing for me: it prevents the other characters from getting bonus experience because their shares are bigger due to the cleric often not taking one because it would violate his vows.

Now, as for the excess treasure itself (1/6 of the total take), perhaps the party deserves it. After all, they will likely be traveling with an under-equipped party member. Case in point: the cleric is currently wearing studded leather armor.

Now, if I implement the other experience system I'm working on (or just use the wonderfully simple one volunteered by Timeshadows), there will be experience for sessions where the cleric's vows cause him to to be at a disadvantage, but let's burn that bridge when we come to it, eh?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Crisis of PC Faith

As I mentioned before: in all of my years DMing, I have seen exactly two clerics who have shown anything more than lip service (if that) to their deities. One of those clerics is currently being played in my AD&D 1st edition game. (We had our fourth session last night) Two of the cleric's vows are proving somewhat troublesome for him in terms of experience points:

1. He may not partake of anything that influences the mind (So no gold can be spent on carousing, for which I award bonus xp)

2. He may not take anything that he hasn't earned, which means that he often refuses his share of the treasure if he believes it wasn't earned. (He equates it with stealing) This has so far denied him some xp. (However, the other party memembers often "pay" him for various services rendered as a way to talk him into taking gold. That, and the fighter/thief keeps paying for the cleric's lodgings)

Now, the player did create his own deity and decide upon these limitations, so they are self-imposed and willingly accepted. I know a fair number of DMs who would take the "let him eat cake" approach, but I disagree with this, because this is finally a cleric who acts like a damn cleric, and I'd hate to penalize him for it. One player has suggested that I "arrange" for acceptable loot or gear to be found, but I am also opposed to this, as it invalidates the religious vows that the players invented and has his character adhere to.

My thoughts are this: perhaps the cleric should get experience for the treasure he refuses. After all, coudln't you argue that adherence to his vows actually strengthens his faith as a cleric?

As I have stated before, clerics are the class that most players (in my experience) are reluctant to play, and I think a player should be rewarded, rather than punished, for not only playing a cleric, but playing him with actual limitations placed on his behavior.

...and you know, the more I discuss the subject of clerics, the more I like the notion of the Lay Healer profession in Rolemaster. (Which I haven't had time to peruse at length, but seems like an interesting alternative.)