Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fighter Training V. 2

Note: Edited Berserker and added new training option per feedback from Mindy and 2eDM.

As I am fond of saying: "In a world where some dudes can shoot lightning out of their fingertips, there must exist some incentive to play another type of dude."

So, here are some fighter training options. The idea is mostly ripped off from Akrasia and his awesome OD&D house rules, but I have tweaked them a little bit.

Here's how it works: Fighters get to pick a training at 1st level. They get another one at 4th, 8th, and 12th. Each training has an advanced version that fighters can take when they get to pick a new training.

If your flavor of D&D goes to very high levels, like the Cyclopedia's 36th level, feel free to toss the fighters some extra selections, or extrapolate a "Super Advanced" third tier of each training or whatever.

Edit: I totally forgot to mention that you must pick the training a second time to get the "advanced" benefit. Yes, this means that a fighter must be a minimum of 4th level to have advanced training; he'd have to pick Training X at 1st and then again at 4th. Further selections of the same training aren't possible, with the exception of Weapon Master and Slayer, because they can be applied to different weapons/monsters every time.

So, here they be:

1. Berserker- The character can go berserk in combat. While berserk, the character has +2 to hit and damage and a +2 to save against any mind-affecting spell or power. However, the character has a +2 penalty to AC, can only use melee weapons, and cannot retreat. The berserk state ends once combat is over, though the character can try to snap out of it once per round with a successful save vs. spells. After the berserk state has passed, the character has a -2 penalty to all die rolls for one hour. At the GM's option, certain spells might knock a character out of the berserk state.
*Advanced: The character receives 2d6 bonus hit points when berserk. Damage is subtracted from these "extra" hit points. Any remaining extra hit points vanish when the berserk state ends.

2. Soldier- The character receives an additional -1 AC bonus from using a shield. If the character chooses to forgo attacking this round, he gains an additional -1 AC.
*Advanced: The character can now "loan" any or all of his shield bonus to allies who are within a few feet. (Allies fighting shoulder to shoulder, a character hiding behind the fighter, etc.) Any bonus loaned to another character doesn't benefit the soldier's own AC. In addition, if foregoing movement and attack, the character can deflect any incoming missile attacks with a successful saving throw vs. wands.

3. Swashbuckler- The character receives an additional -2 AC when wearing leather armor or no armor, isn't using a shield, and isn't wielding a large/heavy/two-handed weapon. The character also has the ability to fight two-handed provided the off-hand weapon is small/light. If any character in your game can fight with two weapons, the swashbuckling fighter gains an additional +1 to hit when doing so.
Advanced: The character can disarm an opponent who wields a weapon of equal or smaller size by making an attack roll at -2. The victim must save vs. paralyzation of the weapon is knocked 1d6 feet away in a random direction.

4. Warrior Monk- The character can do 1d6 with his bare hands, and can choose to have the damage be normal (lethal) damage instead of temporary/subdual damage. Warrior-Monks receive +2 hit points per hit die, but cannot wear armor.
*Advanced- The character can now inflict 1d8 with barehanded attacks. Once per day, the character can heal 2d6 hit point to himself only by entering a meditative state for one turn.

5. Weapon Master- The character must choose a specific weapon, such as the longsword, crossbow, etc. The character gains +1 to hit and damage with said weapon. This training can be taken more than once for different weapons.
*Advanced- The character's bonus with one chosen weapon increases to +2 hit and damage. The advanced training can be taken more than once, but must be applied to a different weapon, and the character must have taken the basic training for that weapon.

6. Cavalier- The character can train a horse for combat so that it will not panic. This takes one week per horse. If the cavalier rides the horse, it will not panic. If the cavalier doesn't ride it,the horse has +2 to checks made to determine if it panics. The cavalier also gains an additional +1 to hit in mounted combat, and can save vs. paralyzation to avoid damage from falling out of the saddle.
*Advanced- The cavalier can spend a week bonding with a specific horse. This horse gains a Hit Die immediately, and also one every time the cavalier gains a level. The mount will accept no rider or master besides the cavalier. If the beast is ever killed, the cavalier must train a new one from scratch, but may not do so until a month has passed.

7. Slayer- The fighter gains a bonus of +1 to hit and damage against a specific monster type. How specific is up to the DM... dragons, or black dragons? All giants, or just one class? Monsters of this type have a -2 reaction penalty to the character if the DM deems that he is obviously a slayer of their kind, or if word of his deeds and reputation might have reached this area.
*Advanced- The bonus is now +2 to hit and damage. The character's reputation is likely to have spread. Alternately, the character can choose to gain the basic level against a new foe, but generally only if he now has reason to hate them and has faced them many times in battle.

8. Marksman- When firing into melee, the character may roll twice to determine who the target of the shot is, and select which target he prefers.
*Advanced- The character can make a crippling/distracting/pinning shot. Such a shot is at -2 to hit and can be the only shot fired this round. The opponent takes damage as normal but must also save vs. paralyzation or lose its next combat round. At the DM's option, a weapon that cannot harm the creature might not be subject to this attack.

9. Veteran- The fighter has +2 to all saving throws vs. paralyzation, poison, or death, and can roll hit points twice at each level, taking the better result.
*Advanced- Once per session, the fighter can make a save vs. death to survive, deflect, or escape an attack that would have killed him. The attack is totally negated. It is the DM's option whether or not this works for spells and hazards, or just physical attacks.

Okay, there you have them. Most of them are rough drafts and need some work. My questions to you are:

1. Are there any that are too powerful?
2. Are any of them totally underpowered?
3. Are there any that you would never take for any reason and why?

Feedback is still appreciated. I am also on the fence about what to do for the race-classes of some old D&D. I'm thinking up something on the matter now.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Unexpected Gaming Plus Unexpected Treasure

So, one of my oldest friends is in town. (Well, my home town, which is fifty miles away, but still) for the rest of the week. She was in my original D&D group...and by original, I mean the one I formed in the sixth grade. Friday evening I will be heading to town to run some World of Darkness for her, her husband, her cousin (who I used to play Vampire with back in the day), her mom, and my wife. It should be a good time. I'm tempted to bust out my all-purpose WoD one-shot, but I think the occasion warrants something new. Good thing I've got all of tomorrow and all day Friday to work on it.

Tonight we are supposed to run steampunk Savage Worlds, though it might get pushed back to tomorrow night.

I was at the used bookstore today, and lo and behold, everything was 20% off. I ended up buying an old Ravenloft boxed set. It's missing the Ravenloft DM's screen, but whoever traded it in threw in the original 1983 Ravenloft module and another module about zombies. Sweet.

Failing to make any online gaming materialize, (which seems to be a recurring theme with me) I joined a gee-plus group that sets up and runs games over gee-plus. Maybe I should just let someone else do all the heavy lifting.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Trying to Get a Few Sessions in Before the End

Tomorrow evening we play the all-ladies steampunk game again. I'm also going to try and get a game of Talisman together during the daytime, if I can marshal the lads in time. My last act of gaming for this winter break will be Sunday...I think we're doing Mindy's SWN/Traveller/Rebel Worlds game.

This is not as much gaming as I had hoped for during my vacation, but it's something, right?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Xmas, SWN, and a Bit of Nostalgia

Hope you're all having a good Yule or whatever it is you celebrate.

My wife has given me a copy of Stars Without Number "deluxe" (the hard cover Mongoose edition) I can finally be one of the cool kids at the Sunday group table. Hot damn!

Christmas also marks the anniversary of my spiral into the ranks of the roleplaying gamer. On Christmas Day, 1989, my grandma gave me a copy of the board game Hero Quest. HQ was essentially a very simple dungeon crawling roleplaying game, as well as an introduction to the setting of Warhammer. I actually still have a copy of the game, though sadly it is not my original copy.(Actually, not so sadly...that thing was in absolute shambles last time I saw it.)

I wouldn't actually play my first game of Dungeons & Dragons for another two years, but the foundation was laid as soon as I cracked open that box.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Just got done gaming with the missus and our friend. We've decided to continue the Savage Worlds steampunk game, whether or not our third player returns to us.

We had two combats this session, bringing the total number of combats in the campaign to four. Combat is probably my least favorite part of roleplaying these days. This group is all about exploring the setting, interacting with the NPCs, and creative problem solving. I find my voices and NPCs are a lot more expressive with this crew... probably because it's my wife and her best friend and I'm a lot more comfortable with them. I'm not sure if I'll ever reach this level with the Sunday group. I want to, but... you act differently around different people, and the dynamic might just be intrinsically different.

I also explored more of the occult/supernatural aspect of my setting, which I had hinted at, but not introduced directly. Two of the characters (out of the original three) had some aspect of the supernatural involved in their character backgrounds, so it wasn't a surprise to anyone... I thought it might be awkward to add a genre into the mix, but it seemed to fit pretty smoothly. I am newly invigorated by my little campaign set-up and I look forward to running it again before break is over.

I've been picking through my Palladium stuff. I'm actually really glad that I got the random Rifter issue that I did, because it had a damage fix in it that has inspired me. I'm going to tweak the rule a little bit, but I think I've finally managed to reconcile Mega-Damage in a way that doesn't make my brain explode. Thanks, Kev.

Happy Holidays, all you rascals...hope you also get some gaming in before the New Year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Palladium Surprise Package

My Palladium Xmas Grab Bag arrived on my doorstep today. I was pretty pleased with the contents. I got the new Robotech book and the RIFTS Adventure Guide, which were my top two. I also got the Nightbane Survival Guide (the only one missing from my Nightbane/spawn collection), Adventures in Dinosaur Swamp (though I don't have the first dino swamp book...) and some random, but fairly recent issue of the Rifter, which I haven't really had a chance to peruse. Adding it up, I got about $105 worth of gaming stuff for about 54 bucks (which includes shipping...could have got it a bit cheaper with Media Mail instead of UPS, but I like to have that tracking number in case something goes awry.)

Tomorrow my wife and her friend and I are going to finish the first leg of our Savage Worlds steampunk game, which had been left hanging for a few weeks. What we'll do after that is a bit up in the air. I do know I'd like to game a couple more times before I have to return to work in January...

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Permutations of Magic and Other Thoughts

Jeff Rients' recent flavoring of magic missile, as well as musings on Dragon #200 scattered around Blogaria, have moved me away from wanting a standard "magic language" that all magicians can read back toward the idea that you need read magic to decipher the writings of an unknown magic-users. After all, if my idea of a magic missile is to conjure energy from the quasi-elemental plane of lightning and form it into an energy dart, and your idea of the same spell is to summon a biting skull that is the spirit of an innocent slain by a careless archer's arrow and his idea of the spell twists the internal organs of the target with unseen force which is actually a brief manifestation of the psychic potential possessed by all wizards... well, you get the idea. My spellbook might be incomprehensible astrological and mathematical formulae, yours is is litany of whispers to call forth spirits various and sundry, and his is a series of mantras designed to stimulate the unused recesses of the human mind. Of course we can't comprehend one each other's methods! The spell is necessary to couch an effect in terms that we can understand. Maybe I can't summon a spirit, but perhaps my deciphering of your spellbook shows me the underlying secret of flooding the mind with necromantic energy that results in a temporary "little death." I just learned sleep from your pilfered spellbook, but I can use it in my clinical, mathematical way instead of trucking with your fickle and unwholesome spirits.

...or, what the hell, maybe I can have it both ways. "My" spells that I research and get from my mentor (as low level magic-users are apparently expected to do in some versions of the game) they are still formulaic and mathematical. I learned an entirely new technique from you. As I continue to adventure, my spellbook becomes a mishmash of rituals gleaned from a dozen different magical traditions. My 7th level mentor would be so disappointed... but then, he has no further ambition but to train low level apprentices, whereas I know that those dudes who get to 30th level are walking libraries of lore stitched together from millenniums of occult history.

...another way to look at it is that spells are standard- Protection from Evil is the same spell no matter who casts it- but the encoding used by magic-users is unique to each one. I think this is the "standard" old D&D magic system's assumption. Thinking about it this evening, I found a new way to wrap my brain around that:
Suppose a spell is the number 7. There are many ways to express a formula that results in 7. You can write 3+4, or (-9) - (-16), or |-7|, or a million other different ways...but imagine you only learned to write equations in terms of subtracting negative numbers from one another... the other equations, while simple enough to those who understand them, are alien to you. It's a crude and simple analogy, but it works for me... just imagine a bunch of crazy ass calculus if you want the analogy to seem "smarter." (I'm a teacher, but I'm not a math teacher...zing.)

You can pack a game with flavor and not change a single mechanic. I wish I weren't compelled to dick around with the workings of the game so much. How much time do I waste trying to come up with a way to mechanically differentiate between an archer and a cavalier? Do witches really need a mechanically different magic system than classic fantasy mages? No, but... the compulsion to tinker remains, regardless.

Tinkering is fun, don't get me wrong, but I need to start limiting the amount of time I spend fiddling with mechanics or I'm never going to get anything going.

In other news, I have waited until the end of Mongoose's 20% off sale to snag Legend, which is still its sweet normal price of a buck. RPGNow charges a small fee for orders under a dollar, so I'd actually end up paying a few cents more for the item while it is on sale. While a negligible amount of money, to be sure, the absurdity of the situation was enough to say my hand for a few hours. I'd like to compare this to OpenQuest, but I don't know anybody who owns both. (Well, except me, I suppose.)

I seem to be fiddling in a manic state of half-finished gaming projects, probably because my regular groups are stalled out and I suffer gaming withdrawal very quickly, and in a manner similar to that one scene in Trainspotting. It ain't pretty.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mystic Russian Roulette

I just took the plunge and ordered an Xmas Surprise Package from Palladium. We'll see what I get... but my fingers are crossed for the new Robotech book(I loves me some Robotech.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

To Gonzo or Not to Gonzo

With my regular Tuesday and Sunday campaigns on hold for the rest of the year, I've had the new campaign bug bite me somethin' fierce. This is compounded by the fact that I will be enjoying two and a half weeks of vacation if I can just survive the next three days.

My thoughts for the potential online game bend toward B/X D&D. It's simple, you can get it free as a clone, and pretty much anyone I would invite to play is familiar with the basics of the system.

I've been scribbling notes and I find that I keep having this urge to make it a little gonzo and add some science fantasy and crazy shit like that. I already blogged about the Verdant Expanse. I added a crashed colony ship, a la the Warden, into the mix. I even sketched up an optional random background table that would change up your character depending on where he comes from. (It is intended to be optional, so if you just want to play a normal, BTB magic-user or whatever, you can) For instance, a fighter might be a Warrior of the Red Wastes; he has red skin (red like firetruck red, not red like Fantasy Native American Stand-In)
and goes berserk in combat. If he comes from the City of Wonder, he's actually a cyborg with random cybernetic mods. If he comes from Earth, he's actually a soldier from a crashed rocketship and begins play with a 50's-style ray-gun. All this stuff is more or less stolen from a myriad of sources. (Then again, isn't all of D&D?) this becoming over done? We've got Barrier Peaks. We've got Spire of Iron and Crystal. We've got Carcosa. We've got that crazy ass story from the end of The Dying Earth with the flying cars and the brain-in-a-jar. (The name of the story escapes me) We have blogs like Planet Algol and The Metal Earth.

I oscillate between this need to somehow take advantage of the malleability of the game and the desire to run "regular" D&D. I feel like I've done the classic setup to death. How much gonzo is too much?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Online Sweet Spot, that sounds inappropriate, doesn't it?

As detailed in my last post, I've been scheming a way to run an online game, with the grandiose idea of "getting the band back together"- or at least gaming with some of my crew from days gone by. A former gamer of mine, lost to a job that likes to move him around, has given me two very nice websites: Twiddler and Rollz. Twiddler can be used to draw maps on a grid in real time, as well as upload images and documents for all participants to see. Rollz, in a different window, provides a "dice chat room" where everyone can see the rolls. Rollz, I might add, is also surprisingly robust in its' ability to accommodate different types of die rolls. (4d6-L, or display the numbers separately for TN based systems like Savage Worlds or WoD, etc.)Verbal communication would be conducted via Skype or the chat function in gee-male.

I set it up and ran a little test session for myself, and it didn't seem too bad...position your windows right and you don't really have to juggle between them. I can also see entire sections of a session where Twiddler isn't needed. (Outside the dungeon, or in a game that doesn't really involve dungeon style play)

Now I'm just waiting for one of my potential online gaming mates to be on so we can give it a proper test.

Hmm...unlike last time, it might actually work this time around...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Scheming and Soldiering On

Mindy's new Stars Without Number campaign is rolling right along. There are some rough spots in the house rules, but we're trying to work through it.

I introduced Mindy and another member of our group to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay yesterday. (2nd edition, which I think is more mechanically solid, though I think the 1st edition has more heart to it.) They seemed somewhat interested in it, particularly the dearth of careers. It's another option for the next time I take a turn in the GM seat for the Sunday now I've got four contenders rattling around in my skull.

An old friend of mine and I are trying to nail down how to use gee plus to greatest effect to run an online game. The hangout function would at least put everyone in the same virtual "room." She mentioned a program called live stream or somesuch that would allow me to draw maps in real time and share them. I know you can also share your screen in gee plus. Now all I need is a dice roller program (which should be easy enough to find) and I'm set. I mean, I guess we could just use the honor system for dice... I mean, if you really have to cheat at rpg dice rolls...
I never bothered about it when my friend Kurt played AD&D with my live group via Skype, but that was just one "internet commuter" with the rest of the group live around a table. This setup would have a group seated at their computers across the US. I did once run a one-on-one game via Skype for Timeshadows of The Grand Tapestry blog, but again, that was just one player and not a whole group.

I know some of you rascals have run games online. How did it work out?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Holidays Suck For Gaming/Getting Stuff in the Mail Does Not Suck

The holidays have started to take their toll on gaming. My Savage Worlds game is officially on hiatus for the remainder of 2011. Sad face.

The good news... I got a copy of Loviatar #5 in the mail yesterday.

Been toying around with G+. It seems to take me an inordinate amount of time to actually get a hangout up and running. My camera doesn't want to show video until I start and stop a few times. If I can get this perfected, I'd like to run a pilot game for an old friend of mine who is not going to be back for Christmas this year.

Gah. Is it Sunday yet?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Verdant Expanse (The Anti-Wasteland)

I started drawing a campaign map a few weeks ago. I have no plans for an actual campaign, but just felt the need to do so. I draw a new map for every campaign I run, and one bad habit I get into is the compulsion to put some kind of blasted wasteland to the north or west of the land in which the characters will begin the game. Wastelands aren't bad in and of themselves, but drawing one on most of my maps is a crutch I need to get past.

So, on this map, I decided to have an anti-wasteland...instead of a place that has been rendered barren or blasted or uninhabitable by a disaster, I have added a place that is overly verdant. You could almost call it virulently fertile. The fauna and flora are mostly hostile to demihumankind, and they are unlike any of the flora or fauna found anywhere else in the campaign world...although this is a fantasy setting, the lifeforms in this verdant expanse still seem "unnatural" to this world's ecologies. Plants might have animal characteristics, be mobile, be covered in eyes, etc. Animals are bizarre hybridizations of mammal and insect, land and sea life, or simply take some shape completely unfamiliar to the campaign world.

The PCs can get involved in numerous ways: they might have to cross through the Verdant Expanse to reach an otherwise unreachable place. (Or perhaps they are pressed for time and do not have the luxury of a lengthier course that bypasses this area) Alchemists, wizards, and sages might pay handsomely for specimens (living or dead) from within.

There is also, of course, the possibility that the Verdant Expanse is growing, swallowing up the land around it in its alien fronds. If something is not found to stem the growth, civilized lands may be in danger in a few years...or months...
For that matter, the Expanse might have grown over some important structure the PCs need to enter or retrieve something from.

Druids and rangers find that the lifeforms from within the Expanse are resistant, perhaps immune, to their usual abilities to control/soothe/influence/command/summon plants and animals. Perhaps the Verdant expanse is home to alien druids of some unknown species, or simply human or demihuman druids who seem to have gone mad or feral.

The DM may wish to assign some kind of good qualities to the otherwise exceedingly dangerous swath of otherworldly growth. Maybe fruits or other edible objects from within can sustain a normal man far longer than ordinary food. Maybe any natural healing done within the Expanse is doubled. Perhaps the plants can be used to make potent medicines or poisons, curing that which previously could not be cured by anything short of magic.

This was equal parts inspired by the Chtorr books, which I have never actually read but intend to one day, the last level of the SNES game Xardion, a dream I once had about my garden getting monstrously out of control, and my desire to do something opposite of my usual Obligatory Fantasy Wasteland.

All Gaming Weekend

Yes, last night was one of *those* sessions. The offered job or quest doesn't hook the PCs. The PCs don't get along with the NPCs and do not want to cooperate with them. Random encounters go badly and drag on.

As one of the participating players, I feel bad for the GM. At the same time, I was ready to rip my own hair out with how frustrated I was.

Luckily, the GM came up with a different idea mid-session and the rest of the game was actually pretty fun, minus a series of die rolls that lead me to believe I must have been a puppy-stomping orphanage-arsonist in a past life, and my karma bill had come due.

I've had my share of rough sessions as a GM. They happen to everyone. She stuck with it and made an admirable recovery.

One interesting thing about this game is that the players have gone into a complete role-reversal with respect to the characters they made. Josh, who is usually our death dealing combat guru, made an AI who is an expert in many computer and technical fields, but barely knows which way to point the laser pistol. He spent most of the session's big combat hiding, after having hacked the station security systems to preclude interference from the authorities. (Odd, sounds like the character I ought to be playing. The other two players made death dealing warrior characters (well, I dealt death when I could actually hit, that is.) Instead of my usual good guy or cynical-bastard-with-a-heart-of-gold, I am playing a shameless, whimsical, debauched libertine who just happens to be a professional killer. This will shake our group out of its usual dynamic of play.

Today we play Josh's Deadlands. Yeeee-hawwww.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Play What You Roll

Mindy is starting up a game of Stars Without Number, as Mike may need to take a hiatus from running his Viking game. (And even if he doesn't, it will be handy to have a back up game for when neither of the main games can run)

Man, I rolled some crap-ass stats.

My character's stats don't really jibe with what I wanted to do, but I am a big believer in playing what you roll. There will be other games and other characters.

Luckily, SWN has pretty muted ability bonuses/penalties, so this character is pretty playable. I was also able to massage the stats into two workable characters:

1. Grolag, a hochog warrior. Having just left his nomadic clan to see the galaxy, he's hoping to find something worth fighting for besides credits. His clan leaders know he will eventually grow out of this youthful enthusiasm and rejoin the clan... or he'll wind up dead over some lost cause.

2. Feen Yisoo, a qotah warrior. Feen's flock served as a secretive guild of assassins and spies. Being headstrong and sometimes not very bright, Feen killed the wrong alien dignitary and was exiled by his flock. He wanders across the galaxy, selling his services. He's a carefree, happy-go-lucky libertine who just happens to be a merciless professional killer.

Even when I have character creation hiccups like this, (I had initially envisioned playing a human engineering expert with a naval background) I always find some way to make it work. Truth be told, I prefer random character creation to point buy. When I have to build a character, especially in an open point buy like GURPS or Shadowrun 4th edition, I spin my tires endlessly and usually end up making a character that I like on paper but am miserable playing in the game. With random character creation, my chronic "character creation indecision" is partially taken out of the equation. I have a lot more fun filling in the holes with my imagination than having every single point allocated for maximum efficiency.

I look forward to a fun weekend of gaming.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Gaming, et al.

Today we ran Josh's Deadlands with a bit of a skeleton crew. Savage Worlds seems to be a feast or famine seems that your character is either kicking serious ass or is failing miserably and eating dust. It also seems that you can go from one to the other pretty much at random. In a way, it kind of reminds me of playing Talisman in how quickly your fortunes can reverse. Still, I do like Savage Worlds and I like our Deadlands game.

Mindy got herself a copy of Stars Without Number "deluxe" edition (the hard cover from Mongoose0 and I find myself green with envy. Mindy has decided to do a hybrid of Stars Without Number and her own Rebel Worlds setting. (SWN for the rules, with all the flavor stuff converted from RW... of course, RW itself is a bizarre mishmash of Traveller and a a bunch of other stuff, but I digress...) I had originally wanted to play an AI using the new rules, but I think Josh has his heart set on it, so I think my ambitions move to playing a Qotah. (Which Mindy apparently totally guessed that I would. Am I that transparent?) I will probably play an Expert, as straight up combat characters really aren't my style.

I was paging through my True20 book last night out of curiosity. I picked the book up for a song some time back and always thought my wife might like it, since she likes d20. Looking it up online, I was surprised to learn that Green Ronin has discontinued the line and is currently selling all their remaining T20 books at clearance prices.

...on second thought, I guess that isn't really all that surprising. The d20 craze is long over, and it seems that Pathfinder has firmly claimed that throne. I think T20 came too late to a greatly divided field.

My wife has been asking me to run a one-off Little Fears game for her and her best friend. They have suggested that I do this on Black Friday, since our only shopping destination will likely be the used book store. The Sunday group is considering an extra session that weekend as well, so I could be looking at gaming up to four times during the course of my break. Holler.


I need to stop looking at the traffice sources to this blog. Sometimes I get a little creeped out by where my traffic is coming from. Online paranoia is the reason I nuked my fb account. I already pulled my photo off of this blog; some days I want to change my display name to Slappy McGillacuddy or something.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

No Level Up?

After fiddling around with Traveller on Sunday, a few blogs I frequent coincidentally mentioned the game in the past couple of days. Over at Lamentations, Crazy Jim considers axing the level advancement system from his game in the distant future. He considers classic Traveller's approach to character advancement: none.

You made your character. Your character is done. All that remains is to play the game. Your character might amass fortune, ships, equipment, and all that... but his skills aren't going to increase incrementally, nor are his stats going to gradually increase.

Part of Traveller's approach, I think, stems from the fact that starting characters have already completed one or more careers. Compare this to the default starting ages of AD&D 1st edition, where most characters were little more than teenagers who were just beginning their careers.

Ah, but I digress. Here's my question: is playing the game rewarding enough that you would do it without explicit advancement? If you didn't have little xp awards dangled on every little thing, if you didn't have the prospect of someday being able to fight a giant in single combat and win on the volume of your hit points and your hti probability, if you didn't get skill points and feats and spells at predetermined intervals, would you still find the game rewarding?

Think about it... advancement in the games, as they are often played, means relatively little except for scale. Your first level fighter is going to be swinging a normal longsword and fighting goblins and rats while dodging arrow traps. An ogre is a truly frightening encounter.
Your fifth level fighter has a sword +1 and fights bugbears and ogres, maybe some dire rats. He dodges falling rock traps. A hill giant is a frightening encounter.
Your fifteenth level fighter has a sword +4 and he fights hill giants all the time. He only worries when the purple worms and ancient red dragons show up. He dodges disintegration ray traps.
In almost every game I've ever played in, the bad guys and the world scale up with the players. The number gets bigger, even if game play stays fundamentally the same.

The "E6" and "E8" mods of d20/3.5 (originally posted on EN World) and the "Holmes basic as complete game" idea that I've seen floated around this corner of the internet present an intriguing middle ground: limited advancement. You can gain only a very limited number of experience levels. Imagine a world where 3rd or 6th level was as high as you could get. In such a world, a hill giant just isn't something a mortal man can fight in a head on combat, nor is a dragon. These foes require a cunning plan, a clever trap, or an army... mortal wizards are incapable of of higher level magic, though perhaps it could be found on scrolls. (This strikes me as especially Vancian)

In the end, a change like that might be too radical for a lot of gamers to handle. I have to admit I only like the idea in theory myself. It does make me think about playing RIFTS under Mindy, though. In RIFTS, experience levels mean very little. You get a d6 hit points (worthless in a game where Mega Damage abounds) and a few percentage points tacked on to your mostly vestigial skills. Every couple of levels you might get a +1 to hit or damage, but for the most part, everything cool you can do you do at level 1. (There are exceptions and I am oversimplifying this, but for me to say character advancement is very front-loaded in RIFTS is not an exaggeration) I loved the hell out of Mindy's game, even if my only reward was to get 3% better at cyber-surgery and to go from being instantly killable by 1 point of Mega Damage to being still instantly killable by one point of Mega-Damage... it was the advancement of the characters in non-mechanical ways that was most interesting to me, and the way we developed the world around us.

Just something to think about.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

RIFTS Gold Edition

I have this weird urge to collect gaming books... even things I'll never play. I have a copy of AEON because it was before MTV made White Wolf change the game's name to Trinity. I have a copy of Nightspawn before Todd Macfarlane kicked up a stink and made them change it to Nightbane, etc.

Now I have RIFTS Gold Edition, one of only 600 printed, and a bizarre continuation of my dysfunctional, why-do-you-make-me-hurt-you relationship I have with the game.

My very first impression is that, despite being 50 pages shorter than the current RIFTS Ultimate Edition (hereafter referred to with the strangely appropriate acronym of RUE), Gold Edition manages to be a better game book by orders of magnitude. Some highlights Gold has over RUE:

1. Better organized (well, for Palladium, anyway) Character classes follow the character creation rules, as opposed to RUE, whic has the character classes on pages 53-158 and 231-237, then starts character creation on page 279.

2. Skill List- bottom of one page and top of another; about a full page worth of skills. RUE has a full two page spread of skills, including such vital abilities as Breed Dogs, Medicinal Brewing, and Recycle.

3. Gold Edition has a bestiary. It is anemic at best, but at least it has one. Includes Coalition bad guys ready to fight, a couple of monsters, dinosaurs, and a table you can use to roll up weird monsters that might be found on RIFTS Earth.

4. Everyone tends to have fewer attacks per round, and armor seems to have less MDC. This makes combat less of an endlessly dragging morass.

...and you know, that's really all it takes. There are other things I like quite a bit in terms of game-ability and others that are purely nostalgia... but if I ever take leave of my senses entirely and run me some RIFTS, I will be using Gold Edition.

(I understand that Gold Edition is the same game as pre-RUE RIFTS, but the limited edition just gives it that holier-than-thou vibe I need to feel validated.)

Mega-Damage, bitches.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

DFD Take 2, Traveller False Start, and My Ultimate Lapse into Madness

I ran Death Frost Doom for my Sunday group. Everybody died. They did get about as good of an ending as you can get for that module, but they didn't much care for it. I am disinclined to run any Lamentations/Raggi stuff for them in the future, because they seem to prefer their D&D a bit more...I don't know...traditional? Straight-forward? I'm not exactly sure how to word what I mean, but I don't think they dig on weird, nihilistic D&D.

We also rolled up Traveller characters...well, actually...I taught Mindy how to roll up a Traveller character with an example, then I helped Elias roll up a character. I rolled stats for mine but didn't get much farther than that. Mike, who has admitted that he doesn't really like space games, really did not dig on Traveller's character generation system and decided to give character creation a pass. In the end, Mindy actually started leaning toward using Stars Without Number for when she next takes the GM seat. We ended up making Elias a SWN character, which took about a fifth of the time that the Traveller character did, and I think Elias liked his SWN character better, since he could pick his class and skills instead of having to roll for them.

I gotta be honest: I would much rather play SWN, even using Traveller's setting (or Mindy's strange hybrid Rebel World setting), but I really hope Mindy runs the system that she prefers... nobody will have fun if the GM isn't running something she's excited about. I will tow the party line.

At any rate, Mindy isn't running in the immediate future...Mike is continuing his Viking AD&D game, and Josh is continuing Deadlands part III next weekend.

...and finally...

Earlier in the year, I blogged about finding a copy of RIFTS Gold Edition at the used bookstore. They put it in the rare book section, not the gaming section. They wanted fifty bucks for it. I swore I would never pay that much.
Well, then they recently marked it down to thirty.
Then, they sent me a coupon for 50% off one item, good today only.
So...I bought it. I kept my vow in that I did not pay fifty bucks for it, I think it was $16.05 with taxes.
My journey to the Dark Side is finally complete.

RIFTS Gold Edition will get its own post, but another day. I need to get to bed so I can teach some Shakespeare tomorrow.


My Deadlands GM is out of town this weekend, and another one of our Sunday crew is also unavailable, so we have decided to suspend the regular game for this week. I offered to step in and run a one-off for the Sunday crew. I haven't run anything for them since SWN last summer, which I quit when I had my Epic Burnout.

I'm trying to decide between:
1. Death Frost Doom
2. The Spire of Iron and Crystal
3. The Temple of Zirugar (my own ongoing convention module)
4. The SWN adventure in the back of Polychrome
5. The Grinding Gear

I've got about thirteen hours to decide. I have read all these modules, but I've only run the two Raggi one and Zirugar.

In the words of Meatloaf: lemme sleep on it, I'll give ya an answer in the mornin'.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


This last week I received a copy of Loviatar #4, compliments of Christian.
Thanks, bro. I really dig on the dead-giant-as-dungeon map, and the Xplorers adventure is easily converted to Stars Without Number. I haven't had time to do much more than skim it.

I received my print copy of Darkness Visible, the latest sourcebook for Stars Without Number. I haven't had time to read that, either.

Steampunk game didn't run this Tuesday. Deadlands isn't running this Sunday, but Mike is stepping up with an extra session of his Viking AD&D game. I was secretly planning to jump in with Death Frost Doom if it looked like nobody was going to run this weekend. Nobody in the Sunday group has played DFD except for Josh, and he is out of town this weekend. (Hence the Deadlands cancellation)

The Holidaze are descending on us. They are simultaneously awesome for me (because I'm a teacher and I get a ton of time off) and also a source of frustration. (Only two of my gaming friends are also teachers...and neither of them will be in town over the breaks) Most gaming groups seem to shut down mostly, if not totally, during November and December. Luckily, the Sunday group seems determined to stay the course, and two of the three Savage Worlds players live under the same roof as I do.

I have had this nagging urge to create a new D&D campaign lately. I've doodled some things in notebooks, but I find it all vaguely unsatisfying...the urge continues to rattle around. Of course, I've got zero time and no players to run it... so perhaps it's best left as half-assed potential for now.

One of the guys at my kungfu school is starting an online Champions campaign using HERO 6th edition. I spent a chunk of my gaming time in high school playing Champions 4th edition. My kungfu homie asked me to be sort of a part-time collaborating GM for this endeavor, but... I just can't hang my brain on the HERO6 system. I have the HERO system stat block memorized like some kind of perverse mantra, despite having not played it in years. I remember the point costs for all the stats and for many of the powers. HERO6 changes all the costs and does away with a lot of the formulas. Also, the first volume of the core rulebook (yes, the first volume) is 450 goddamn pages. I will gladly give my buddy ideas and let him bounce his ideas off me.

Looking forward to getting my Viking on this weekend.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thoughts from the Used Bookstore

Notes from the used bookstore today:

-RIFTS Gold Edition is now down to $30. I still won't pay that much for it, but in two weeks I will have a 50% off coupon...and I might just pay $15 for it.

-Those two copies of Terra Primate are now down to $7 and $5. I still think the cheaper one looks like it is in better shape. I also still can't make myself buy an rpg about talking apes, even at $5...

-The Macross II stuff all fell in price. I bought the first book of deck plans, because it was less than five bucks and the current Palladium Robotech rpg doesn't have rules for spaceship combat unless you buy the deluxe version...le sigh...

-RIFTS GM screen, which perhaps the most random assortment of info ever collected on a GM screen...but still, for less than two bucks, whaddaya want? I bought it.

-I saw Fighter's Challenge, one of a series of class-based solo adventures for 2nd edition. I was sure I had them all. I just checked and Fighter's Challenge is the only one I don't have. I guess I'll pick it up next time I'm there.

-Reverse Dungeon was there. I've always kind of wanted to play it. I might grab it when my coupons go active.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Little Fears, How I Miss Thee

I realized that this is the third year in a row I have failed to run Little Fears on Halloween. This makes me melancholy.

Jason Blair was good enough to send me a free PDF of the newer edition of Little Fears back in 2009. I regret that I have yet to run it. It was the first time I ever got anything free on account of being a blogger.

I think I'm going to reread the PDF this weekend. I don't have to run it on could make a good stand-by for when the regular Tuesday night session isn't going to run. (Like it won't be this Tuesday...le sigh)

It seems that LF was one of the free Halloween goodies that drivethrurpg gave away in their holiday promotion. If you got a free PDF of Little Fears, give it a read. It's well worth it.

...but I know what I like...

There seems to be a recent cavalcade of bitchiness regarding art.

I'm going to focus on something positive about gaming art, inspired by both another blog post and a quick leafing through of an AD&D book this evening:

I love Larry Elmore.I have loved his work since I was in 5th grade, even though it would be years before I knew all those pieces I loved were by the same artist, or even what that artist's name was.

I love Larry Elmore's luxurious, full page art that can be found scattered through 2nd edtion AD&D and 4th Edition Gamma World. (That is, the actual 4th edition of Gamma World, not the Gamma World 4E that is based on D&D 4E)

It wouldn't be much of an exaggeration to say that the man illustrated the best years of my childhood.

I'm not saying he's the greatest artist of All Time Ever Forever, or that he's better than whatever gaming artist you like; I'm just saying that his work captured my imagination at a young age, and that for a long time, his stuff was what D&D looked like in my head.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Another Nerdy Week

This last week, someone actually bought my Rolemaster boxed set. I managed to get more than twice what I originally paid for it, and I am no longer tormented by visions of charts and invisible turtles tripping up characters.

I think I'm going to spend the cash on gaming stuff. First off, the new Stars Without Number supplement. I'm not sure what I'll do with the rest of it, as I need another rpg product like I need a tape worm.

I found a couple of RIFTS World books for two dollars apiece at the used bookstore, and since I have this insane refusal to give up on RIFTS, I bought them. There were a bunch of old issues of The Rifter, but I passed on them. I also passed on a copy of the HERO System, 4th edition.

...but why clearance the RIFTS books when those two copies of Terra Primate are still there? That copy of RIFTS Gold is there, as well... I thought someone had bought it, but I must have just overlooked it on the shelf...or perhaps someone bought it and sold it back. Maybe if I just keep loving RIFTS it will stop hurting me.

The used bookstore has also caught on to the idea of internet nostalgia profiteering, so even though they have more Rolemaster boxed sets, they have more than doubled the price that they used to charge.

...for the record, I have decided that my Shadowrun-to-SWN conversion is done. I don't need to do the Bestiary; most of the monsters from D&D work just fine. If you need something that isn't in there, build it with the simple SWN xenoform chart. Bada bing. I'm not sure if I'll post the whole collected thing, as I don't think anyone on this Earth is remotely interested in it but me. It can be found using the tags on my blog for the time being.

Meanwhile, one of my colleagues told me that her husband and his gaming group converted Shadowrun to HERO System, 5th edition. I'd love to see how that works out. If their gaming sessions didn't conflict with my martial arts training, I'd ask to sit in on a session.

We started Part III of Josh's Deadlands game today. Our characters have become quite powerful, seemingly very suddenly. We will now alternate Josh's Deadlands with Mike's Viking-esque AD&D game for the foreseeable future.

I've found some excellent house rules for D&D/AD&D floating around Blogaria and the internet in general these last couple of days. One of them I even printed out and had Nathan make into a little booklet for me. I'll have to promote them this week. (Note to self!) I must truncate this post because I require sleep.

Game on, blog buddies.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

To Wiki or Not to Wiki

In preparation for the reconvening of my Tuesday Savage Worlds game, I have updated the campaign wiki, including lots of linkage. I'm not sure if this is something I have the tenacity to stick with, but I have at least one player (who actually set it up to begin with) that can help me add just a little bit of info this week. I'm not sure if I'll share the link here or not... for now it's really more of a private resource. Someone was looking for it, though, if my blog stats tell me correctly.

Part of me wishes I had used something gaming-focused, perhaps something that would allow me to post GM-only information, like perhaps clues that they haven't discovered or secrets about an NPC... but most of that information should live in my head, right? Also, it's not like I'm going to need game stats when I'm in front of my computer... so those I can keep rocking in the notebook like I always do. It seems kind of counterproductive to have a secret side of the wiki that only one person is going to see... so I think for now I'll stick to the purely informational wiki. ("Fluff", as we gamers sometimes call it)

I seem to recall someone around this corner of Blogaria having a campaign wiki or something like that, but I can't remember who right now...or what it was even for...

Anyway... a few other thoughts before I turn in for the night:

I've been thinking over AD&D 1e lately. I found some interesting house rules over at Dragonsfoot that I might post about when I don't have to get up in six hours. I've also been thinking about the multi-classed fighter, which has been kind of a point of contention in our group.

I hate Mondays. Game on, my friends, and may your week pass swiftly.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Scattered Games

I joined my Sunday group in June of last year. Since then, we have played, in no particular order:

-RIFTS (two different GMs/campaigns)
-Rebel Worlds (A homebrewed version of Traveller with some Savage Worlds, RIFTS, and even Star Wars thrown in)
-Deadlands (two legs of a campaign, with a third leg starting up in a couple weeks)
-Stars Without Number
-Two different AD&D campaigns (with different DMs)
-Shadowrun (4th edition, then converted to 2nd edition)

...that's eight different campaigns in the space of about 16 months, meaning each game gets around two months in the sun before it gets shelved. We are typically playing two campaigns at the same time, alternating them every Sunday.

I enjoy the variety, but I miss the stability of running or playing in something that goes on for awhile. Deadlands is the closest thing I've got right now; the game has probably run for the longest length of time of anything we've done with the Sunday group, though the sections of the campaign haven't run consecutively. It's supposed to start up again at the end of the month, replacing Mindy's AD&D game. Also, I think Mindy is planning on starting up some classic Traveller next time she is in the driver's seat, rather than continuing this current game.

I've bowed out of the Sunday group GM's chair (my "time in the mill", as the group calls it) until summer vacation; I just don't have the time/energy/sanity to run a second game right now.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Gaming Stores: See You at the Crossroads

I was blog surfing tonight when I came across an old post at RPGDiehard about gaming stores in Columbia, Missouri. My dear childhood friend, Evanne, moved there while we were still in high school. I visited her a few times while she lived there, and on one visit we spent some time at The Danger was the summer of 1998 and it was the day I discovered Steve Jackson's In Nomine, an rpg that I would brood over for months before buying a copy and Playing the Hell Out of It (no pun intended) for the rest of my high school days. I was sorry to read that The Danger Room closed up shop early last decade.

With that in mind, I just wanted to pour out a virtual forty for all the gaming stores that I used to frequent that didn't make it.

This one is for Spellbound Books and Games, where I read my first 'zine and bought my first miniatures. It was my gaming store from fifth grade until about halfway through college, even when they moved from right by my high school to snooty south Lincoln.

For Comic World, where I played Call of Cthulhu for the first time.

For Hobby Town USA in Eastpark Plaza, where I bought my first issue of Dragon Magazine and tried my hand at a public game room for the first time.

For Cosmic Comics, which my mom could never pronounce correctly. ("If you're good, we'll go to Cosmic Cosmics!")This was where I got my first big boxed set.

For FantasyQuest, for having a sweet ass sign, even if I never actually bought a book there...

For the place whose name I can't even remember, that nobody remembers but me, located somewhere in Havelock. They had an X-Men vs. Street Fighter arcade machine and a bitchin' Shadowrun 3rd edition wall scroll. This was the place where I first read Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

For Anarchy Comics, the first place where I ever felt like a gaming hipster. (Not necessarily a good thing, but a formative experience, nonetheless)

Maybe it was Amazon, maybe it was the industry crash in the late 90's or early 00's or whenever... maybe it was just the dawn of a different time.

...and I say carry on to the places that still manage to hang in there: Dragon's Lair, Ground Zero Hobby, Coliseum, Krypton Comics...I salute you.

Oh, and because this was too delightful for me not to mention--

Latest term used to find my blog:

"pink hairless thing with tentacles"

...first of all, why was something typing that into a search engine? Secondly, why did it take them to my blog? (I dimly recall creating something like that when I first got my copy of the Esoteric Creature generator, but that was a couple of years ago)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Aquaman Effect

If you make your character Aquaman, it is a pain in the ass for the GM to put a puddle of water in every situation just to give you something to do. He can't set an adventure in the desert. Superman in the desert is still Superman. Batman in the desert is still Batman. Aquaman in the desert is a useless chump.

If the GM is setting his campaign underwater or on the coast, you can (and maybe should) make Aquaman.

If the GM is setting his campaign in the middle of the desert or in outer space, you should consider making something else.

On the flip side: GMs, it is your responsibility to tell the players that your campaign is going to feature little to no aquatic action (or aquatic action all the damn time) well in advance.

Just sayin'.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Rangers: Totally Noobz0r?

Earlier this week, a student of mine who knows I play D&D asked me what character class I was currently playing. I told her that I'm playing a ranger (in Mindy's game), and she admonished me for playing a 'noob' character class.

...I thought about reminding her that I've been playing D&D literally longer than she has been alive, but thought better of it.

I also thought about asking her if any character class that originally appeared in The Strategic Review could possibly be considered new, but I'm pretty sure she would have no idea what I was talking about.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Quick Savage House Rule

Sometimes, players want a little bit of narrative control... they reason that their character should have access to something, be carrying something, or have a pre-established relationship with an NPC based on background and circumstance. Often, I find myself hesitant to arbitrarily say yes or no...I like a little chance.

During tonight's steampunk Savage Worlds game, a player asked if her father (a member of the upper class and a physician) could have possibly known the ailing husband of an NPC the players were trying to pump for information, thus giving them an "in" to the situation. Lots of little things come up like this.... could I know him, or could I be carrying this, etc.

In the spirit of "say yes or roll the dice," I present a simple resolution system for Savage Worlds using the deck of cards you have on hand to play. If the GM thinks the situation is feasible, let the player draw. Obviously, questions like "can my dad be Emperor of the universe?" or whatnot can be ignored by the GM.

Draw a card from the initiative deck. Look at the suite.

Spades: The circumstance works in your favor.
Hearts: The circumstance works in your favor, but only if you spend a bennie.
Diamonds: Sorry, better luck next time.
Clubs: Doesn't work out, and a Complication is introduced.

Optional: If a Joker is drawn, the situation is extremely advantageous for the player, but also carries an interesting Complication.

I will allow players to spend bennies to re-draw in any event except a Joker; draw a Joker and fate has your number today...

I think I'm also going to work out a simple random encounter system using the deck of cards. We'll see about piloting that next week.

...oh, and on the subject of my Savage Worlds game: my players gushed over my ability to "be" several different characters. They really love one of my NPCs. One of them told me that I should act. (She's in theatre professionally, so I take this as high compliment!) Savage Worlds continues to go extremely well, though I need to keep up with editing the campaign wiki.

Monday, October 10, 2011

T&T Afficionados, I Implore You!

This is an entirely theoretical question.

Which is better? (and yes, I understand just how much of a loaded question that is)

1. Tunnels and Trolls, edition 5.5
2. Tunnels and Trolls, edition 7.5
3. Lances and Labyrinths

...and, most importantly, why?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Glitterboy Effect

Today we played Mike's viking-themed AD&D 2nd edition game.
As we've been playing this game, I've noticed something that I call "The Glitterboy Effect."

Let me interject here that character creation in Mike's game is point-buy, and that I am the only person in the group who doesn't have 18 strength. Characters who drop 18 in strength were previously allowed to roll their exceptional strength randomly. This has also been changed; now Mike charges an additional point for every 10 points of percentile strength, but characters made under the original rules are grandfather claused.

During combat, if my character hits, he does usually 5-8 points of damage with his broadsword. Other characters in the party, particularly our strength 18/93 specialized two weapon fighter, dish out damage in the 20's or 30's each round.
We had another PC who threw a dagger for 13 damage. That's more from her dagger than I can possibly do with my broadsword in one round.

Mike, our intrepid GM, has us fighting twenty orcs at a time. We also tangled with seven 4 Hit Die wolves and a pack of boars that are able to dish our a dozen damage on a good hit. We are first level. (At least, we were at the start of the session today) I think I dropped into negative hit points three times.

We have here what I call the Glitterboy Effect. If you're not familiar with RIFTS, here's the the same party in RIFTS you can have: a guy in a huge robot powersuit (Glitterboy), a guy with science skills (Rogue Scientist), a D&D style thief with tech skills (City Rat), and a guy with low level magic and psi (Mystic)
The scientist has a sidearm that does 2d6 damage. The Glitterboy has a cannon that does 3d6x100.

The GM has a difficult time creating combats. Any foes that will challenge the Glitterboy will make mulch out of the other characters. Any enemies that would prove challenging to the other three are instantly blasted out of existence by the Glitterboy. Yes, I know combat isn't the point of the other three classes. Yes, I know there will be certain situations where the ability to read makes the Rogue Scientist the hero of the story. A foe who can be dealt with my magic can only be defeated by the Mystic. Yes, yes yes....but what about run-of-the-mill combat? What about when the party gets ambushed or surprised by a random encounter?

I've blogged about this before, but the solution continues to elude me. I know Mike is also challenged by the power levels of the characters. He wants to make things challenging for the mighty warriors in the party, but at the same time, I often feel my character is completely out of his league in any combat we enter. Our poor cleric seems to be in the same boat.

Mike has tuned up the experience in the game as well. I started 1st level today, and I ended the session 3rd. I am a stone's throw from 4th and will certainly level next time.

I also had the chance to skim the original slim little Traveller books at Mindy's today. My experience running Traveller (Mongoose edition) left me with a sour taste for the game, but it appears that the older iterations might have curbed some of my problems with the game.

...hmm, me liking an older version of a game better. Imagine that!

More on Traveller some other time when I don't have to get up in six and a half hours.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My First Campaign Wiki

My all-ladies Savage Worlds game is running tonight night this week, rather than Tuesday. I'm very pleased with how well it is going. Unfortunately for my non-check gamer pals (and also Mindy, who is actually not in the all-ladies game), this drastically reduces the chances that I will be running anything else for the foreseeable future. Between lesson planning that often spills into my evenings, martial arts training, sponsoring a school club, trying to spend time with the missus, the Savage Worlds game, and all of the Star Trek TV shows now on Netflix streaming....I just don't think I've got the energy or the time for another enterprise. (Ooooooh, see what I did there?!) As much as I year to get some classic D&D, Stars Without Number, or OpenQuest going... man, why can't there be more hours in a day?

We have decided to embrace technology (somewhat ironic, given the genre) and maintain a campaign wiki. I noticed that, being a game about investigation, the PCs seem to visit a large number of places, talk to a large number of NPCs, and uncover lots of different clues and pieces of evidence. At the rate they were going only two sessions in, I realized that the sheer amount of campaign information being generated both at the table and outside was going to quickly grow to be unmanageable. While Stasia, one of the players, heroically tries to record all information in her handy little notebook, we run the risk of too many little details getting lost in the flow of the game. I also find that the wiki is helpful for recording world lore and campaign details that the players can read up on at their leisure; this way the players can get briefed on things their characters would probably know about the world and setting without me having to do a lot of time-consuming exposition during play.

Will I keep up with it? I'm not sure. I find it is a very helpful platform for keeping track of what gamers sometimes call "fluff." Because it is a collaborative effort 'twixt me and the players, I have to keep the wiki devoid of any stat blocks or other crunchiness.

For the time being, it is an interesting experiment. I don't foresee myself doing this for any other campaign...the nature of this one just seems to lend itself to the medium.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Other Side of the Screen

I wasn't feeling well yesterday, so I didn't go to Sunday gaming.
Toward the end of the night, I was feeling better, so Mike suggested having me join via Skype. Back when I ran AD&D 1st edition in 2009, I had a player who played via Skype, and most of the time it worked fine.

Tonight was a different story.

With the TV going upstairs, crappy video quality, and watery sound, I really didn't get much out of the session. I think I killed an orc at some point, but to be honest I'm not entirely sure. I'm not sure why it was so sub-par for me when Kurt was not only able to participate, but was often the de facto leader of the party in my game. Sure, we had some nights where technical difficulties were rampant, but they were the exception rather than the rule.

I tried to experiment with the Hangout function on GPlus last night, but nobody was around. It took me a long time just to get picture and sound going.

Yes, all this wonderful social technology aside, I think face to face 'round the table is really the way to go.

Anyone else care to share their distance gaming experiences?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Combat in The Secret Fire: Am I Missing Something?

Damage in TSF is a bit of a hybrid between D&D-style hit points and old White Wolf-style health levels.

A character has a number of health tracks, starting at Grazed and going down to At Death's Door. A character's Stamina determines how many points he can suffer on each track before dropping down to the next one. For instance, if you have Stamina 4, a blow for five points of damage fills up all your Grazed boxes and checks off one of your Hurt boxes.

Damage from weapons in TSF is reduced by the armor you wear. If I hit you for six damage and you have two points of armor, you take four damage. If you're the fighter above, I just filled up your Grazed track, and further damage will Hurt you.

My concern is that everything essentially has quadruple its' Stamina in hit points. A goblin, with Stamina 2, effectively has 8 hit points. Goblins in plain ol' D&D have 1-8 (1-7 in some versions, I think...)

A Minotaur has 12 Stamina and 9 points of armor.
Jesus god.

My concern with this game is that combat will draaaaaaag on.
You all know how much I love long combat in games. (Especially RIFTS)

Has anyone actually tried out the combat system? Just curious.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Gears Keep Turning

I ran my all-ladies (well, excepting me, of course) game last night. We played for about two and a half hours. (The sessions with this group must be shorter, because it's on a week night and everyone has work the next morning.) This group is pretty dialogue/roleplay intensive; it was an hour into the game before anyone even made a roll of the dice. We had no combat this session, and in fact only one combat the entire campaign thus far. (Admittedly it has been a pretty brief campaign)

My players complimented me once again on my distinctive voices. I was pretty pleased with my ability to react to their avenues of investigation. There were a few clues and even an entire lead I dreamed up on the fly, because in investigation-oriented game, I prefer to accommodate the PCs lines of inquiry, rather than make them "click around" until they chance upon what they are "supposed" to.

The game is going well, and I look forward to next week's game.

Finally, a brief "wtf" moment for me: I have started teaching an afterschool program at an elementary school near the high school where I teach. (Though I am home sick today) I was assigned a small class of fifth and sixth graders. Yesterday as they were completing their math homework, one of them was talking about playing Grand Theft Auto. I asked, "Aren't you a little young for a game about killing and stealing? How old are you?"
"Ten," he replied.
I then realized that I was playing Dungeons & Dragons at his age, a game that features killing and looting quite prominently...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Oh, and One More Thing...

Latest term used to find my blog:
"how to fix the rifts rules."

My only response to you, wayward internet soul, is a Rage Against the Machine lyric:

There be no shelter here

Someday. Someday I will untangle this gawdawful mess if it costs me my very faculties...

Goin' Muddin'

This weekend, I thought I was going to be unable to make my Sunday game. (Turns out I was able, though I was a couple hours late) Facing a week with no gaming, I decided to enter the stygian underworld of MUDs, a throwback from my junior high school days when the Internet was new and shiny and sort of barren...

I found a free MUD and created a new character. I quickly found that this MUD has the same issue I had with most MUDs back in the day, which is that it is a harsh, unforgiving world where you must spend your first few levels killing gophers, bumblebees, and old ladies in the park. Seriously. The most powerful opponent that my nascent character has been able to best is a "young man." He was minding his own business in the park until I murdered him for sweet, sweet xp. After obtaining enough to level, I wandered randomly around the perfectly square shaped city until I was finally able to stumble across the Fighter's Guild so that I could gain 2nd level. As far as I can tell, there are no maps to the Fighter's Guild. The game is also nearly deserted, so there isn't anyone to ask, either. On the rare occasion that I run into another player, they are either "linkdead" and non-responsive or they have nothing to say because they are trying to kill all the gophers before I can kill them.

I first tried to bypass this dismal existence of sociopathy, but the areas outside of town are totally unsurvivable for a beginning character.

To me, MUDs embody what happens when a sandbox goes wrong; players stumble around in listless confusion, taking their boredom and frustration out on whatever they happen across. (Unless that thing is too powerful, of course...I tried to throw down with an undertaker in a library and he laid me out...back to picking on small animals and the elderly)

I'm actually playing the game as I write this blog entry. I click over every now and again to make sure I'm not getting schooled by a duck or a young woman who was feeding the pigeons.

...damnation, I know there are brigands in the forest. How much longer do I have to endure this bullshit before I can go on something resembling an adventure?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wasting an Afternoon on the Puzzles in The Secret Fire

I love a good puzzle, but I'm afraid this book might be too much for me. I'm also immensely frustrated from the past week at work, and I'm in sort of a crabby mood, so my puzzle solving acumen might not be up to snuff at the moment. Some scattered thoughts:

On page 307 is located a cypher. I can't seem to translate the passages on the front page using the cipher, because I know that the Greek letters don't totally map to English. One word I seemed to be able to translate is Stilico, who turns out to be some kind of general from antiquity.

I've solved some of the number puzzles, but I don't know what to do with the answers.

Some of the illustrations are coded with letters that can be deciphered from page 307. The last four in the book are NTSG, I think. Not sure what the letter codes have to do with the answers or the puzzles.

Certain illustrations are repeated throughout the book.

The artwork seems to have a rather morbid repeated theme of severed, often skeletal, heads.

A small symbol appears on certain page numbers. It never appears after page 208.

The book features several instances of magic squares.

I don't know. I've seen other bloggers mention the puzzles, but so far as I can tell, nobody has taken a serious crack at them.

I also have a question about how damage works, but given how likely I am to ever actually run this's probably not vital that I get it answered.

I end this note with a little "gaming gallows humor" from my friend Glenn, whose gaming wisdom I have oft quoted on this here blog:

Glenn's Second Law of Gaming Groups: You likelihood of getting to run a game is inversely proportional to your enthusiasm for it.

Now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to go back to failing at translation.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Tiny Flicker of Validation

One of the search terms used to find my blog:

"shadowrun way to {sic} complicated"

Just sayin'.

Monday, September 19, 2011

SWN/Shadowrun: Un-Reinventing the Wheel

So I've been agonizing over the Matrix in my SWN to Shadowrun conversion.

Today I realized that there are perfectly serviceable rules for hacking in the SWN supplement, Polychrome. They are not as robust or complex as the SR Matrix rules, but they are simple as hell and allow the hacker (though I still prefer the term decker) to work in real-time with the team. If hacking is done on-site, it takes only 1d6 rounds... some of the things a hacker can do are quite analogous to the D&D thief, which was the sweet spot I was going for.

I think I will put my Matrix system on the shelf and simply say that if I run Shadowrun with SWN, I am going to be using those hacking rules instead.

Now, I just need cyberware and beasties and I think I have enough to run. Polychrome also solved my Wired Reflexes problem in an very elegant way: each round a character uses super reflexes, they get a second action at the end of the round. (There is essentially an extra "round" at the end of the round for wired characters) Using your wires causes a point of System Strain each time you use them, and you have to make a Tech Save or else they overheat and shut off for one hour. Perhaps you could include advanced levels of it that don't overheat, but still cause the Strain... something to simulate Wired 2 and Wired 3 without turning your game into a slogfest.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Ponderous Misprint

The AD&D 2nd edition PHB has an optional table for weapon type vs. AC. While not nearly as insane as the same table from 1st edition, I haven't known many people who have used it, if only because it is jaw-droppingly counter intuitive. The table shows modifiers to the attacker's THACO for using different weapon types (slashing, piercing, or bludgeoning) against the different armor types. This would have worked better, in my opinion, as modifiers to the attacker's to hit roll rather than THACO., when talking about the table, Mindy and I couldn't come to an agreement. I tried to explain it and she tried to explain it back, each thinking the other was clearly not grasping how this rule was to be used. Finally, she started giving off numbers that were the opposite of mine... +3 was -3. In disbelief, I compared our books... and the tables are reversed. In my book, attacking plate mail with a slashing weapon is a +3 adjustment to your THACO, which is bad and makes it harder to hit. In her book, it's listed as -3. This is the case for all modifiers: +2 in my book is -2 in hers. We have the same version of the PHB (the one with three guys on horseback riding toward you, the 1989 cover I think.) It appears the modifiers in her book are supposed to be modifiers to the actual attack roll, but the text still says they should be modifiers to THACO.

The math comes out the same, if you use her modifiers at penalties or bonuses to the attack roll. The ideas on these tables seem to line up with the modifiers from 1e (slashing weapons suck against plate armor, etc.)

Anyone else ever notice this?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Paying My Joesky Tax

I owe this for my recent uncharitable thoughts. (Just the recent ones, mind you.)


A small, irregularly shaped ring made of what appears to be purplish chitin. It does not radiate magic. If worn, the character feels a brief stinging sensation, after which he can detect magic at will. In addition, he gains infravision as a dwarf, and if he already possesses infravision, the range is doubled.
If removed, the ring will crumble to dust. If left on, it crumbles after 1d3 days, although the wearer will find that his powers remain.

After 3d4 days, the wearer can comprehend languages.
After another 2d4 days, the character has ESP, which functions up to three times per day. At this point, strange dreams of bizarre planes and distant planets begin to trouble him.
After another 1d4 days, the character gains 1d4 points of Intelligence. One axis of his alignment changes randomly, at the DM's discretion. The character becomes ill-tempered and has frequent headaches.
Finally, after a final 1d3 days, the character dies as a purple, centipede-like creature emerges from his head in the dead of night and slips away. After 2d6 days of gorging itself on the latent psychic energies of nearby creatures, it curls up into a ring-like shape and enters a torpor. It can remain in torpor for 1d4 years. If worn, it passes its eggs into the new host and dies, beginning the process described above.

While infested, a remove disease spell will grant the PC a Save vs. Rod. If successful, the parasite is expelled in a nosebleed of purple-black goo. All special powers vanish one turn thereafter.

Any sort of detection of thoughts will reveal a second set of thoughts, chattering and incomprehensible, along with the character's thoughts.

Although spell-like, none of these creatures abilities, nor any abilities it imparts on a host, are considered magical.

**This is brought to you by an immensely disturbing dream I had several years ago.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Playing AD&D

We played Mindy's AD&D game tonight. Her game is sort of generic AD&D, and I say this not as a put down, but rather to clarify that it isn't any specific campaign world, and there isn't anything that deviates heavily from the basic rules of the game.

This is in contrast to Mike's game, which is going to be heavily Nordic/Viking themed. He has decided to move away from using the Hellfrost setting in lieu of something of his own (?) design.

A few thoughts...

1. We spent too much time screwing around in town. This is mostly our own fault.

2. Had a rules disagreement with the DM. A spell which was supposed to do 2d4 damage was changed to doing 1d4+1d6+1d8. The initial reason for this is that is was "more fun." Later, it was decided that the spell did more damage from being cast in an enclosed area. (Inside a dungeon room) My gripe was mostly based on the fact that, at 1st level, 2d4 is survivable by most of the party, whereas 1d4+1d6+1d8 would have killed anyone in the party but me. She did offer a saving throw, which the spell doesn't normally allow, but I refused it mainly so that we don't create crazy precedents of saving throws to spells that don't allow saving throws. I'm willing to take my licks if it means that, once we have regular access to said spell, the bad guys will be taking theirs.

3. I like Mindy's minimalist approach to races. Her version of AD&D 2nd edition gives everyone a couple of little bonuses, without getting into the whole "elves can surprise on 1-3 if they are 90 feet away or only with elves and halflings etc etc" level of racial abilities. Even humans get a few little bonuses. I have to admit I don't understand where the human bonuses come from (+1 to hit with two handed sword and quarterstaff, for some reason) but I find that it is part of the charm.

4. So far, Mindy hands out xp rather arbitrarily. We seem to receive a flat amount at the end of the session. I know that JB over at B/X Blackrazor has quite a bit to say about xp and the awarding thereof. One thing that arbitrary xp makes me want to do is avoid combat. If we're getting the same xp whether we snuff every single evil cleric in the temple, why not just sneak past them, or scare them off with magic or something? Likewise, if treasure does not generate xp, why the hell bother with the small change like copper and silver? (We use the harsh coin weights from days of yore: 10 coins weigh a pound!) I would like maybe at least a cursory breakdown of what, exactly, we got the xp for. If it's mission based, that will change the way we play. If we get bonuses for clever ideas, that will change the way we play. Josh has suggested that the rate of advancement is set, maybe enough to level the "average" classes every two or three games, since this campaign runs every other week, and since we started it kind of on a lark and haven't really determined if it is going to go on for any particular length of time. If that's the case, I'd also like to know. Heck, I'm not even sure if she's decided yet.

I do enjoy me some AD&D. Next week is the start of Mike's Viking game. At this point, I'm torn between playing a Skald or playing a Roman missionary stranded in the North. (Well, it's not really Rome, but per Mike it is essentially Rome with the serial numbers filed off.)

Game on, cats and kittens.

Those Neat Little Merit Badges

I love the Merit Badges over at Strange Magic. As I thought about which ones would apply to me, I found that I had trouble deciding. I think that I try to run each of my campaigns differently. My AD&D 1st edition campagin, for instance, would have an almost entirely different set of badges than the game I ran for the missus and friends last week. I would say that the way I ran Traveller or Pathfinder would also have different badges. I think I'd find them more useful as sort of a "rating system" for a particular campaign, rather than a particular GM's stamp collection. My AD&D1 game was highly tactical, very deadly to PCs, and had both gonzo and disturbing elements. My Savage Worlds game, on the other hand, would be better described as "safe" and focuses more on character development. I think most of us actually have several different styles of GMing that we use depending on the game and the audience.

I can think of a few players I've gamed with over the years who would greatly benefit from the "Run", "Tactics", and "Investigation" badges -or lack thereof- being prominently displayed prior to the start of a campaign.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Setbacks and Victories

Okay, so I screwed around and missed the deadline to run a game at the Very Nearby Con. I am okay with this, however, because there are enough cool things being run on Saturday (likely the only day I will be attending) that I can game from morning to night.

However, all current trivial matters of this sort are trumped by the fact that, on this day, the 10th of September, in the Year of Our Lord 2011, I have managed to rearrange my shelves such that all gaming books are presently on a shelf. Huzzah!

A Neutral Observation

Fact: Nothing will kill your enthusiasm for something faster than reading about it on RPGnet. God, what a bunch of cockbags.

Edit: A valid point was made to me earlier today that not every single poster on RPGnet is, in fact, a cockbag.

To you non-cockbags, I hearby apologize.

I will contend that there are a significant number of cockbags on the site, however.
I will also contend that it is a pretty dickish thing to respond to a new gamer's enthusiasm with cynicism, sarcasm, and mockery.

To the type of 'netter who does this sort of thing, I do not apologize.

If I were that erstwhile youngster (presuming he/she is a youngster based on diction and word choice and whatnot), my first impression of gaming would be that gamers are insular assholes.

(Although I often think this anyway, and I've been in it for 20 years.)

There are some who say that our hobby is dying. I have a few theories as to why.

Recycling vs. Meaningful Choices...yet again.

Thought exercise:

When you build a dungeon, you put rooms in it. You put treasures, clues, secrets, and other neat stuff. Sometimes, you make doors stuck, or locked, or otherwise difficult to open. Sometimes doors are secret or concealed.

When you do this, you create the possibility that the rooms beyond will not be explored.

Depending on your vintage and style of game, the players will often have a way to bypass your difficult doors: perhaps you play a version of the game that has a thief who can pick a lock with a lucky die roll. Perhaps the dwarf or elf or someone along in the band has a greater than average chance of detecting your hidden door or your stone block trap.

The PCs finding the hidden/difficult to open rooms hinges on several factors. Some of them involve the players thinking to look for doors or managing to find their way into this part of the dungeon. Then, it comes down to luck. Will the thief make his 15% roll? Will someone, anyone, roll a 1 on their 1-in-6 chance to find the hidden lever that opens the door? There is a possibility that the dice will simply not be in their favor.

In the case of stuck or locked doors, PCs can smash the doors down. This might create unforeseen consequences, like monsters investigating the noise, plus delayed time, which means those spells and torches and such begin to fizzle out...

If your hidden doors require the solving of a riddle or puzzle, player skill becomes more important.

What about hidden doors? There is a big chance they simply will not find them. If you require hidden doors to be found through narrative, then players not finding your hidden rooms is on them.

If you allow secret door checks, the dice may dictate that those rooms you created will never be found.

...of course, an unlucky random encounter and a cascade of bad die rolls always carried with it the possibility that your party will never see any other part of the dungeon...or, for that matter, your particular campaign.

Are you okay with this?

Do you recycle the dungeon levels or the missed rooms? Doesn't that invalidate their value as a reward? Doesn't that start us down the path to 4E's Treasure Parcels?

As folks around here are fond of saying, allowing for failure is the only way to give success meaning. Allowing for some stuff to simply never be found is the only way to have action/inaction/success/failure carry any weight.

Today, while I was cleaning out my basement, I threw away the map to the Keep of the Stone-Scream Clan, the mostly unexplored dungeon in which my Pathfinder group suffered a TPK back in June. I spent hours on that dungeon, making level after level, and the party died on the third level. If I ever give Pathfinder another go, and I decide to use the same campaign world, I have decided that the deaths of the adventuring PCs meant that the last Stone-Scream sorcerer was able to bring his demonic master into the mortal plane, and that the mountains are now an uninhabitable demi-plane of madness.

Friday, September 9, 2011

This Dumbass Rating Thingie

Aight, so I took a curious gander at what my blog would be rated with that little widget y'all are using, and I got PG, and the reason I got PG is because

1. It found two instances of the word "death"
2. It found one instance of the word "ass"

...but it ignored my liberal use of other, stronger language? Did it base this off like, a random post, or my most recent post, or what?

Fie on that.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thoughts Errant

My hood, but time has been flying lately.

I haven't been working very diligently on my Shadowrun to SWN conversion, since it is unlikely to be run anytime soon. (Or possibly ever...) I am not abandoning the project, as I'd love to have a rule set to play Shadowrun with that isn't quite as wonky as Shadowrun.

I've been pouring through The Secret Fire, and while there are one or two small things I'm not really down with, I am pretty much on board with this game. In fact, I have a few friends I might want to try it out with, while also trying out this Google Plus business. I continue to be intrigued by the number puzzles, particularly the obsession with Circles of Eight, but I need to ignore it for the time being or it will consume my soul. I'm going to start seeing the number 34 everywhere.

...also, apparently The Secret Fire refers to something in Tolkien lore. I have to confess that I really don't know that much about Tolkien's cosmology, and that I like The Hobbit waaaaaaaaaay more than the Trilogy.

My kung fu bros have mentioned the idea of playing again, maybe once a month, at the school. I'd be down. We're probably talking B/X this time, with no bells or whistles. Apparently our sifu would like to try D&D, or at least learn more about it.

I ran a game for an all girl group this last week. I'm going to come right out and say this: an all girl group plays very differently than a mixed group or an all guy group. The players loved the session and I have to admit I had quite a bit of fun, too. It was the first time I've run something since the Local Con back in July, and only the 2nd time I've run something since the untimely death of my previous campaign.

I need to make my character for the Viking AD&D game. (The one that runs opposite the regular AD&D game) I sketched out an idea for a Roman-esque cleric who came to the North to spread monotheism to the heathen folk, but now he's kind of stranded there since his Empire has been sacked by barbarians. I'm also looking at playing a skald-like bard, ready to jump up on tables in mead-halls and brag about that time that his King wrestled two giants and then killed a sea monster on his way home.

....goddamn do I hate that CGI Beowulf movie...

I have until tomorrow to decide if I'm running a game at the Very Nearby Con at the end of this month. If I decide to, it will definitely be Stars Without Number, but I'm stuck between a few premises. Maybe I can come up with a synopsis that is vague enough to cover all of them, and then I'll run whichever one I can put together most easily in then next few weeks. Events I'm planning to register for include a session of Last Unicorn edition Star Trek: TNG, Werewolf: the Wild West, and possibly a game of Pathfinder. (Although not one of those organized play things, because I really hate organized play...*)

Palladium is finally putting out the New Generation sourcebook for Robotech, but apparently I'm the only gamer on Earth who liked the manga-sized sourcebooks, so they are switching back to normal size. This vexes me, because now my set will be asymmetrical. (What? Palladium did something that irritates me?!)

I imagine I will spend this weekend finishing off The Secret Fire, pawing through my still new-smelling copy of Savage Worlds Deluxe, and playing AD&D 2nd** edition on Sunday. Holler.

PS- Though I'm still getting hits from that weird "gothbook" website, the have finally dropped back below hits from nearby, allied blogs. This fills me with a strange, but very palpable relief.

*Yes, I tried an RPGA game once and it was godawful.
**Well, more like AD&D 1.5, but who is keeping track?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Secrets in the Secret Fire

First off, my Sunday group is putting Shadowrun on hold. This is good because today I realized just how tired I am of Shadowrun. We will now be alternating two different AD&D campaigns. Fuck yeaaaaaaaaaaaah. One of them is based on the Savage Worlds setting called Hellfrost (Vikings/Norse dudes during a horrible ice age that renders most of the planet uninhabitable) and the other one seems to be sort of "default" D&D, which is just fine by me. I had intended to post about The Secret Fire, which I have read almost in its entirety, but I've got a little problem.... I've found...things... in the book. Little number puzzles hidden in the margins. Cryptic phrases that I think are more than just decoration. The author himself hints that there are things hidden in the book, and I'll be damned if I'm not stumbling across them.: a magic square puzzle that leads to a picture with another magic square hidden in the picture... a certain symbol that shows up on certain page numbers, but never after page 209... other things. I might be going mad. Who knows. Tenkar, I'm specifically curious as to whether or not you've noticed these things, but anyone else with a copy is free to chime in. I would have figured that the forums over at TSF games would be crawling with speculation, but...nada. I will get to posting my thoughts on the actual game within the book, but for now, I'll be obsessing and scribbling numbers and notes in my notebook. If this blog now descends into mad ravings and I go nuts a la House of Leaves, you at least know why.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

I'm 30th Level

Today is my 30th birthday, which I understand still makes me something of a punk kid in this neck of the woods. My lovely wife has gifted me a copy of Savage Worlds Deluxe. I've only skimmed the new/bonus material, but I must say this is a beautiful book. The artwork is almost entirely new, and I found myself quite taken with a few of the pictures. When you can look at the artwork in a book and get three different game inspiration ideas, you know those were pages well spent. By absolute coincidence, my copy of The Secret Fire arrived in the mail this morning, making it something of a birthday present to myself. I read a little bit this morning, and might read a bit more while the missus is shopping for chili ingredients from the farmer's market. Given that we all have Memorial Day off, my Sunday group is considering an extra session on Monday. I had planned to get caught up with some work stuff on Monday, but I might end up cutting that short in favor of extra gaming goodness. I actually have half a mind to whip up that Savage Worlds or World of Darkness one shot for some gaming later today. Thoughts on TSF will follow, once I've actually finished reading the book.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Genuine Article

Today, the Sunday group decided to put Rebel Worlds on hold to play AD&D for awhile. I really, really enjoyed it. The edition we are playing is sort of a mish-mash of 1st and 2nd edition, though I'd say it leans heavily in the direction of 2nd edition. Actually, being a (mostly) 2nd edition ranger saved my new character's ass when I was able to calm down two hostile carnivorous apes. A good time was had by all, even if the party had a gnome who apparently craves human flesh and an invasively lecherous half-elf.

...and I am totally feeling the AD&D. It was nice to have my OSRIC book out. It still manages to be serviceable even though a lot of the rules we used are from 2nd ed. I maintain that the two editions are largely compatible. (Mindy is open to some of the 1st ed classes like monk, for instance)

I feel so scattered lately. I've been trying to read through Monte Cook's WoD, work on my SWN-to-Shadowrun conversion, finally finish OpenQuest... I don't understand why Gamer ADD is so pervasive. I must throw off these shackles of the mind! Graaaah!

...except that I am expecting TSF, yet another game, in the mail.

At any rate, I am totally recharged by playing AD&D. I have broken out of my gaming funk, I think. I find myself poring over my old AD&D files. Yesssssss.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Getting in on the Secret

Lately, Tenkar has been teasing us on his blog with tidbits about this game called The Secret Fire. Aside from its ponderous and intriguing name, the game has also apparently earned accolades from Gail Gygax and Monte Cook, who I place about as far apart on the roleplaying game design/appreciation spectrum as can be. I had mulled over it, since I need another fantasy game like I need a fourth nipple, but then....
double sale all the way. A temporary reduction in price by the publisher AND a 20% discount on Lulu proved to be too much savin' for me to pass up, and so I expect my copy of TSF in the near future.

...oh, and one odd thing: in the past, my hits mostly game from either a popular search engine whose name starts with G, or from JB's blog, B/X Blackrazor. Lately, however, I've been getting all kinds of hits from some site that appears to be a facebook for people who dye their hair and have piercings. I cannot fathom why I'm getting traffic from such a place.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

SWN/Shadowrun Conversion: Workin' on the Matrix

I'm still working on this, but I will tell you my thought process:

I'm treating the decker as the Shadowrun analog to the thief. He sneaks into places he isn't supposed to be without being seen, he can deliver nasty sneak attacks, he can open doors and other "locked" things, he can filch valuable data in an underhanded fashion, he can make devastating surprise attacks, and he must be wary to detect and disable traps left to cause him harm.

I'm also contemplating two treatments of the Matrix,: analog and modern.

Analog Matrix is that of Shadowrun 3rd edition and older, as well as a lot of 80's and 90's cyberpunk fiction: the Matrix is a virtual world that users can interface their minds with directly via datajack.

Modern Matrix is an omnipresent web of wireless networks, most with "agmented reality" holographic popups visible to those with the right gear. Everyone has their own little "Personal Area Network" comprised of all their personal electronics, as well as any gear and cyberware with wireless capability.

My goal is to leave the decker running in real time with the rest of the crew, and to create a simple combat system that is similar to the regular combat system, as well as a system for resolving common Matrix tasks, which I am going to keep as analogous to thief skills/thieving tasks as possible.

At this point, I don't think I'm going to do technomancers....but I might change my mind.

GM Training Montage Meme Thingie

Alright, this is a blog bandwagon I'll finally jump on.
Here's my DM advice. A lot of this stuff I've only really learned in the past couple of years. I must also point out that much of this advice I actually learned by being a teacher. Teaching and GMing are frighteningly similar at times, in terms of the thought processes and skill sets you need.

1. Be prepared, but also be prepared to gleefully throw out everything you've prepared and go with something you just thought up that is better. Don't run from it. The stuff you think up off the fly is often some of your best stuff.

2. Energy, energy, energy. If you phone it in, they'll be on their phones (or iPads or reading core books to games you aren't even playing, etc.) You don't have to be a masterful voice actor or spew purple prose descriptions for every place they go, but your excitement should be palpable. I'd also say that you should be out of chair as much, or more, than you are in it.

3. Give 'em choices, and let those choices actually matter. Sometimes they don't want to shatter the Orb of Darkness. Fine. It's your job to deal with that. Maybe they want to pawn it. Maybe they want to keep it. If you want it shattered no matter what, better let NPCs do it and do it off screen, lest the players decide to stop them to save the Orb. This ties in very closely with bit #1, above.