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. :)