Sunday, May 29, 2011

More SWN , Etc.

Today, I gave the party a ship.
Well, they found it. They could have skipped over it entirely.

The game got mired in a looooooong session of selling stuff and fitting the ship. Ordinarily I hate this sort of minutiae, but my players managed to get enough fundage to pay their maintenance, pay roll, and fuel costs for a year of game time, so we needn't worry about it for a long time. I wish we hadn't spent so much time on the damn ship. I actually loathe logistics sessions in gaming, but they seem to be an inevitability, no matter what game you are playing. We were also missing Josh, so I'm glad we didn't get too far ahead.

Stars Without Number continues to impress the hell out of me. Mindy has purchased both Skyward Steel and Polychrome and printed copies of them. I intend to buy the "legit" book versions for myself as well.

We had some friction in the gaming group today... between an established player and a new guy. I now wonder if new guy will prove to be a viable addition to our group.

I don't want to believe that tolerable gamers are becoming fewer and fewer in number, but my experiences over the last five years continue to lead me to believe otherwise.

If I can somehow pull some kind of gaming together tomorrow, I can say that I gamed every day this weekend. This would be a fitting way to spend my last few days of having no obligations. Hot damn.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gaming On

I ran Pathfinder again last night. The game session was unfortunately brief... only about three hours, due to various factors. We didn't get as far as I wanted. I did, however, come up with a dungeon concept I really love: abandoned (?) maze-complex of a clan of degenerate dwarves exiled because of their curse of hereditary madness. I threw in a taste of some unsettling architecture, but they ain't seen nothin' yet. We have another player joining us next weekend. I can't wait... I kind of wish we could play Wednesday or Thursday of this week. I find that my game has me excited to be running fantasy again.

I also find, curiously, that my game is a lot less "low magic" than it initially appeared in my head. Pathfinder is, by default, not a low magic game. I think my game is going to be low-medium magic, with the main difference from mainline Pathfinder being that magical items are not so readily available that every fighter just sells "junk" magic items to finance his amulet of natural armor or gauntlets of strength or whatever. Spellcasters are relatively uncommon and the people of Gildred are somewhat nervous around elves, having had little exposure to them.

One bone I still have to pick with PF is that I never feel sufficiently "studied" on the game system. It feels like there is so much to learn and know that I am winging things I should not be winging, like terrain modifiers and how much treasure to dole out. I have a feeling that I will be just fine, but my nagging desire to have all the eyes dotted and tees crossed is plaguing me. Oddly enough, I don't worry about this in games where it isn't addressed directly. (You know, stuff like B/X or Cyclopedic or Stars Without Number...)

The wife still likes my NPCs, which is always nice to hear.

Sunday I will be running Stars Without Number. The party has landed on the moon from which they were originally attacked back in the first game session. I expect this to be another high-tech dungeon crawl, hopefully after which they will begin starfaring in earnest. I have a surprise or two for them, but nearly all of them read this blog, so I'll have to present it after the fact.

I am still stalled out on the subject of magic and psi in my RIFTS revisions. Perhaps I can iron it out a bit more with the Sunday group. I always welcome their insight.

Summer has arrived, and for some reason summer always brings the delusion that I'm going to somehow find the time to learn all those gaming systems I never learned, like Rolemaster or Basic Roleplaying or whatnot. (I don't actually own BRP, but I do own it's cousin, OpenQuest, which I still haven't finished reading) I'm loving the settings that Chaosium is putting out for BRP, but I dare not buy them, as they will sit unplayed on my shelf, and the last thing I need right now is something new to distract me. Hell, I feel like I could spend the next week studying Pathfinder and still not feel like I've mastered the nuances. I wish I could somehow have the part of my old teenage brain that was able to learn even needlessly complex rpg rule systems in a very short time. At fourteen I was able to master Champions/HERO 4th edition in the space of a week it seemed; twenty-nine year old me would rather take a nail gun to the left foot than try to make a Champions character.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Paradigm Shift, Indeed

I'm trying to read through one of the NWoD "core books" today. I forgot how front-loaded White Wolf games are. I also find myself wishing I could just get the Cliff's Notes...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Sad Farewell to Rob

I forgot to mention... this last Sunday, we discovered that Rob, a beloved member of our group, is moving to Southwest in the very near future. This last Sunday was his final session with us. Rob added a lot to the gaming group; he is a blast to play with and his characters are always very memorable. Some gaming group in another state will be very lucky to have him tableside.

Good luck in the Southwest, Rob. You and your entertaining characters will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hammering Away at RIFTS, Cont'd

-Combat is least, as fixed as it's going to get. At any rate, it should run much faster.
-Damage and damage scale are fixed.
-Skills are fixed, at least in how they work... still need to prune down the number of skills, but that can be done ad hoc if need be.

My only remaining problem is this: magic and psi.

I've never been down with your Hand to Hand skill also determining how many times you can shoot a laser or cast a spell during combat. I have, inspired by Rifter #11, divided combat skill into Hand to Hand and Ranged, so that a martial artist isn't also a gunslinger and vice versa. (Although if you blow enough skill picks, you certainly can be.) While this system has solved one aspect of the problem, I am still unsure how to determine which pool of actions that a mage or psi uses when using powers. Here are some suggestions from the Sunday group:

1. Use the pool of actions corresponding to whether or not it is a ranged or close up spell.
-I'm not going to do this one, simply because it requires me to decide which spells are which, and because it's kind of a pain in the ass.

2. Spells take actions from whichever combat mode the character is using. So, a wizard fighting with martial arts would use his Hand to Hand action pool, with spells simply taking their equivalent action. This goes back to the "kung fu wizard" problem I had before. It also mucks things up if a wizard switches combat modes.
2a. This mode could use the RUE default rules, in which the number of actions it takes to finish a spell is determined entirely by the spell's level.
2b. PPE Channeling would work really well here.
2c. You could also go with the Palladium Fantasy RPG 1st edition method: total number of spell attacks per round is determined by the class and level of the character. Of course, this would mean I would need to work out a table for all the spellcasting classes, and possibly all of the psis.

3. Spells have their own action pool- Ugh... I'm still not sure that splitting Hand to Hand and Ranged was a good include a third pool of actions might be too unwieldy. We were also at a loss to determine how many spells/melee a character gets. Suggestions included basing the number on Magic: Lore or Magic: Psionics, or by class and level.

This is really my only stumbling block toward having what I think will be a workable revision to the core rules system. (Obviously it will need further fine-tuning, but for now I just want to get a rule system that will "get off the ground," so to speak.)

...another can of worms I opened, but just as quickly closed, was the notion of reducing the number of attacks to something more in line with old Palladium Fantasy. I've already reduced the number of attacks to a base of 2 instead of 4... the problem with this idea is that combat would probably take even longer... that Deadboy still has a chest plate with 80 MDC, but now you can only take a swing or shot at him 2 times instead of five or six... and the thought of scaling down the armor for everything in the game makes me want to feed my fingers to a garbage disposal, one at a time.

The Patient Can Be Saved. This is my mantra. I have also decided that I will not be returning to the Palladium Forums to grub good house rule ideas; the discussion has quickly devolved into snarky apologists declaring that people who want things like "clarification," "consistency," or "cohesiveness" are just not smart or hardcore enough to enjoy RIFTS.

It only took about ten minutes to remind me why I swore off internet forums years ago. Ye gods, what what a bunch of twats.

In the end, I'm still not entirely sure why I'm doing this. I'm not going to run RIFTS, at least not for the Sunday group (it belongs to Mindy as far as I'm concerned.) I think that in the end it might just be my pure stubborn refusal to give up on a game I think can be salvaged.

Monday, May 23, 2011

PF Class Replacement Ideas

I picked up the Advanced Player's Guide to PF, thanks to a handy 50% off coupon from Borders. The game introduces half a dozen new classes. Typically I am skeptical of new classes, but there were two in particular that I'd like to get into my game as replacements for two of my least favorite classes.

I believe cavalier should replace paladin and witch should replace sorcerer.

Paladins have always been kind of a problem for me, conceptually. in my mind, the paladin and the cleric kind of trip over each other; holy warriors imbued with divine power, taking up a deity or a cause and devoting themselves to it. (I also find the barbarian and the ranger to crowd each other in a somewhat similar fashion, pre-3rd edition) The cavalier gives me that champion knight in shining armor, but without the divine power stuff that seems to infringe upon the cleric. I plan on making the switch in my game, which will be easy to do because none of the PCs are paladins and they haven't met any NPC paladins, either.

Now, on to sorcerer... I actually love the idea of the sorcerer. However, in execution, I've always disliked them. I think that sorcerers should have at least a somewhat divergent spell list from wizards, and I think sorcerers should feel distinctly different, rather than just guys who don't have to list their spells in advance. Although Pathfinder has made the sorcerer a bit more appealing with bloodlines and Eschew Materials as a freebie, I still think they came up with a better solution in the form of the witch class. This also clicks with me conceptually because sorcerers were often referred to as witches, witch=blooded, or witch-folk in many of my college 3.0 campaigns. The witch has a different spell list, has some different abilities, and uses Intelligence as her primary casting stat. (I have never been sold on Charisma based magic, except for the bard, and only then grudgingly so.) The witch learns spells through her familiar, which is her link to primal, unknown powers. The witch fits that "scary hedge magic" slot that I used to shoehorn sorcerers into, but they feel separate enough from wizards for me. This is also a switch I can make, because I have no PC sorcerers.

For now, I think I'm going to pass on the other optional classes. I like the idea of the alchemist and the inquisitor, but I see them more in an early gunpowder/slightly post-fantasy era as replacements for the wizard and the paladin, respectively. (It might be the inquisitor's bitchin' Puritan-style hat)

The APG also has a spell-less ranger variant that I might mandate as the default ranger in my game. I have come to love rangers that are all skill and no spell. Pathfinder isn't the first time I've seen a no-magic ranger offered up, but it might be the only one I've ever seen that I kind of liked in execution as well as idea.

...damn, now I've got ideas for an Arcanum-esque D&D campaign. Again.

At any rate, I could change my mind about any of this before Friday... so I guess the paladin and sorcerer are in the box with Schrodinger's cat.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Findin' Some Paths

Last night I ran the first session of my Pathfinder game. I had a lot more fun than I was expecting to. The game started out a little rough, since most of the people at the table hadn't played d20 (or, in some cases, any game) in several years, but by the end everything came together.

Because I was very busy this last week (end of the school year- had to get finals written, administered, graded, etc), I used an old 3.0 adventure, slightly redone to fit my needs. It ended up being pretty difficult, and also delivered enough experience for the party to level up the first night... that has never happened in any game I have ever run. (Usually I am pretty stingy with treasure and my level gaining is a bit slow) I think it's actually a nice change of pace to hit the ground running. My next session will be entirely of my own design and will not instantly level the characters. (Then again, I will be having a lot more free time in the near future...squee.)

It was nice to game again. The party consists of my wife, her best friend, Josh from all my other games, and one of the players from my AD&D1st ed game, which came to an end about a year ago this time.

Tomorrow is Deadlands Reloaded, run by Josh. My Stars Without Number game will resume June 5th. I have been invited to play in a GURPS game, but I am actually losing enthusiasm for it the more I think about it.

Oh, and we still haven't settled the issue of what to call people from Gildred.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Namin' Kingdoms, Preparing For Takeoff

There is a kingdom in my upcoming Pathfinder game called Gildred. What do you call people who are from Gildred? What adjective denotes something or someone that has roots in Gildred?

-Gildrish (Gildrish muthafucka, do you speak it?!)
-Gildridian (awwwwkward)
-Gildrecian (Pronounced gil-dreesh-en)
-Gilder (Maybe the language or the people only?)

I've been asking my players, but I also ask you, fellow bloggers.

Pathfinder is supposed to start Friday. I do not feel ready, though I cannot put my finger on why, exactly. This was actually a recurring thing with d20; I never felt like I knew the system *well* enough. I was never completely comfortable winging it or changing it like I was when I ran 2nd Edition in high school...or hell, when I've run B/X, Cyclopedic, or AD&D1 as recently as last year.

PF is much crunchier than I like my games. However, I'm keeping it core rules only for now, and I think my wife and friends deserve to play something they really like. I was pretty much the only one who was really soured on d20, but since I was the DM...well... you know how it goes. After letting my own gaming preferences rule the roost for so long, it's time to be a team player.

...besides, I still have my Stars Without Number game to satisfy my need for simple, easily tweaked games.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Still Working on RIFTS

I continue to work part time on my RIFTS rules revision... which is really just me stealing the best house rules and the best alternate rules from various back issues of The Rifter. I'd love to post it, but even with Palladium's recent softening of their stance on the possibility that their rules system might need a slight revision, I fear the wrath of Super Kev.

I have, however, hit a small rules snag.

(What? A rules snag in Palladium?!)

Okay, so I've never been down with the fact that learning higher levels of hand to hand training and supplemental skills such as boxing also make you able to shoot more times or cast more spells in a single round. I was going to use the rules from Rifter #11 (I think) that split a character's Hand to Hand and Ranged abilities into two separate categories, which are trained up separately. (This also means you can play a gunslinger extraordinaire who isn't also Jackie goddamn Chan.) All was going well until I decided to use the PPE Channeling rule from "Best of The Rifter, which sets the number of PPE points per action spellcasters can spend; the purpose of this system is to make lower level spells quicker to cast, and to let higher level spellcasters toss off low level spells faster than more novice practitioners. The problem is this: would casting a spell use melee attacks per round (as determined by a character's Hand to Hand training) or Ranged attacks per round (as determined by the new Ranged training?) Perhaps I could come up with some other way to determine how many "spell actions" per round a mage type receives... there was something similar to this in the original version of the Palladium Fantasy Roleplaying Game. (I believe it was based purely on the caster's class and level) What to do, what to do?

I frequently wonder what benefit, if any, I will derive from trying to fix RIFTS. On one hand, I enjoy the challenge of unborking a borked rule system, plus I like the spirit behind Palladium stuff, even if I find the mechanical execution a bit...lacking. Mindy continues to work on the RIFTS-to-SWN conversion. If I ever run RIFTS, it will be with my own fixes in place.

Friday, May 13, 2011

All the Angst, Half the Price

There is a comic/game store that is near my work. It's the place where I used to play Swords & Wizardry back in 2009, when my blog was new. I seldom go there these days, but something prompted me to stop in earlier this week. I found that all White Wolf books were 50% off. I picked up a pair that I had been meaning to own for some time, seeing as how even the mighty Amazon couldn't top a discount like that. When I asked the store clerk what the occasion was, he told me that they are clearing out all White Wolf books, and in fact will not be carrying WW anymore. Apparently sales for WW products have totally dropped off, and with WW's switch to electronic and POD as their primary means of distribution, the store decided they could put the shelf space to better use. I'm still thinking about a few of the books on those shelves because...well, half price!

It will be kind of weird not to see White Wolf books on the shelves anymore. Even the stores that haven't consciously decided to liquidate them won't be getting that many more books, and the stock they have now will vanish eventually.

In happier news, I got an email from Sine Nomine this morning, and I shall summarize it in two words: SWN Cyberpunk. (Yes, I am cheating by using an acronym. Aren't I clever?)

Yes, believe I shall be ordering a print copy later this month, when they are available.

Did I mention I love SWN?

I will be spending tonight and tomorrow preparing for gaming. My SWN game continues on Sunday, and I might be starting Pathfinder as soon as tomorrow. (Ohjesuschristnotready) For PF, I am thinking low-magic with a slight Celtic flavor (really more of a Celtic glaze than anything), but more on that later.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Startin' a Campaign Blues

Aight, so I'm trying not to get stuck in a rut.

I am slated to start up a Pathfinder game when the wife's best friend returns to town, which is in a matter of days. I'm trying to get my brain into "campaign kickoff" mode. I've been so preoccupied with making sure my knowledge of 3.x is functional that I haven't put pen to paper with regards to setting, et al. Normally, as I have mentioned before, I like to start each fantasy game in a completely new world. However, as I tried to generate ideas in my brain earlier today, I found that a lot of names I came up with sound "samey" to stuff I have come up with in the past. On one hand, I'm kind of tempted to embrace this samey-ness, because it reminds me of my pre-3.x burnout days when I had fun running it with my old group... on the other hand, I don't want it to seem somehow typical or rehashed. Hell, maybe I should give that crazy "bottom up" thing a try; it worked for my AD&D game. (Which, reviewing the old notebooks, was actually a pretty sharp departure from my usual stuff)

I also need to come up with something better than goblin raids for my first adventure. I need the beginning of this campaign to depart radically from the usual orcy-gobliny business that usually begins a D&D campaign. How, dearest readers, do YOU begin a campaign?

I will also make it known that this campaign will be, at best only semi-sandbox. I have two players (the missus and her bff) who enjoy story in games. I cannot abide a linear, on-rails game, however, so I'm going to strike a balance between the two. (if I can)

These creative juices need to get flowing, not only for PF but also for SWN. In another session or two (hopefully) the players will have repaired their ship enough to get off the planet on which they are currently stranded, and the game can stop being a high-tech dungeon crawl and start being a space adventure. In a way, it will be like starting the campaign anew. (Or like finishing the un-skippable demo part of a video game...)

The hour is late, so it looks like the serious brainstorming will have to start tomorrow.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Hellllllll Yeah!

My wife discovered this little gem of a video on Friday. It has become thoroughly lodged in our heads, so I am spreading the pain to you, my fellow gamers of Blogaria. I must also note that, if not for Josh's girlfriend, I would have never heard the song that this parodies. I am proudly out of touch with pop culture.

For your amusement: (or not)

Roll a d6!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Palladium Drops the R Word, My *New* RIFTS Fix, and Miscellaneous

An interesting development over at Palladium. In this week's update (which is sort of like my secret shameful fix, the way some people watch soap operas or Maury Povich on the down low), Super Kev contemplates revisions to the Palladium rules system.

...okay, earthquakes, tornadoes, and revisions to the Palladium rules endorsed by Kev himself...perhaps 2012 is going to be the end of the world...

Anyhoo, the forums have been abuzz with suggestions from the fans (and un-fans) and I have been diligently stealing the best of these ideas. With Mindy also working on a RIFTS-to-SWN conversion, I couldn't help but think that having us develop separate, parallel conversions was a bit inefficient. I also don't tend to play well with others in the design process, so rather than work on a collaboration, I am leaving the conversion to Mindy. I still have this strange desire to "fix" RIFTS, and to that end, I'm gathering together a few rules fixes that I think will get the system up and running. So far, the things I am contemplating are:

-Modified version of the "ranged attacks per round" rules from Rifter #11. The short version: boxing doesn't make you shoot faster. Characters can be better at ranged combat than they are in melee. Being a martial artist doesn't make you a lightning fast shooter.

-Modified version of the skill system, apparently stolen from an older version of Twilight 2000. In a nutshell: you improve skills as you use them. Some times you modify your skill when doing easy or hard things. Skilled characters often don't have to roll to do simple tasks.

-Modified damage system. All damage is SDC, but there are four tiers: tier 1 is everything up to 20th century that is infantry scale, tier 2 is up to 20th century vehicles, tier 3 is future/high tech infantry, tier 4 is future/high tech vehicles. You reduce your damage when attacking armor of a higher scale and increase your damage when attacking a lower scale. Magic conforms to the target's scale, so wizards are actually worth a crap. Thanks to one of the Palladium forum posters for this, which I consider the best house rule of all. 

-Skills now receive bonuses from high attributes, but an attribute related to the skill, not just IQ. Having a high IQ will still give you a bonus to, say, Lore or or Medicinal Brewing, but PP gives you a bonus to Prowl or Acrobatics, PS gives you a bonus to athletics, etc.

-Base hit number in ranged combat is no longer 8, but set by your range increment. (range is divided into point blank, short, medium, long, extreme, expressed as percentages of a weapon's max listed range) This number is modified by the net result of your strike bonus vs. their dodge bonus. (So say base number to hit is 15 for long range, I have +5 strike, you have +7 dodge, I hit on a 17 or higher. If I attack someone with only +2 dodge, I hit on 12 or higher at long range) Dodge remains the same: if you give up your attack, you can try to beat the attacker's hit roll with your dodge roll to negate the attack. I am considering giving auto dodge characters either one "free" dodge per round or nixing auto dodge and just giving them a permanent +2 dodge bonus. (Maybe it will increase with level)

-Attacks per round start at 2 for Hand to Hand Basic or Ranged Basic (level 1), and each level up the hand-to-hand/ranged chart adds one extra attack. Fencing only adds an extra attack if you are fighting with a bladed weapon that round. Boxing only adds an extra attack if you are fighting unarmed. Characters belonging to a "Men of Arms" OCC get one additional attack, regardless of class. (Maybe add one every five levels or so, since levels are pretty slow going in Palladum)

-PPE Channeling from one of the Rifters. (I forget which)

-Spell ranges increased...thinking a x5 multiplier.Most spells would have a range of 500 feet, which I don't consider unreasonable since 1.) RIFTS world is supposed to be totally suffused with magic, and 2.) The game is full of guns and rockets that measure their range in thousands of feet. 

It may seem like a lot, but this is really coming together in my brain. At any rate, even with all these changes, the game is likely to be more playable than it is currently as written. Mindy runs RIFTS in our Sunday group. so ultimately we'll be playing her version of the SWN (plus a little D&D) conversion, but I will tuck this away in my own folder in case I ever find myself running RIFTS outside our Sunday game.

Tonight we played Deadlands: Reloaded. We managed to get through a session without either of Savage Worlds' two quibbles (which I have discussed before): Ultimate Smackdown and The Extra From Hell. If you have played Savage Worlds, I'm sure these two concepts do not need explanation to you.

Next week I run my fourth game of Stars Without Number. I'm looking forward to it and so is the group. I might also be running my first game of Pathfinder next weekend. Looks like I have a busy week ahead of me.

Since our newest player offered to run Marvel Super Heroes for us sometime, I tried to introduce the 4C System (a Marvel Super Heroes retro-clone, complete with adherence to the success color chart that TSR used in Marvel, Gamma World 3rd edition, and I think the original Conan rpg) 4C was not well received by the group, although Mindy seemed to have a strange fascination with it despite her repeated voiced opposition. The group seems to want to play Savage Worlds Superheroes, and Nathan seemed amenable to the idea of running it. We shall see.  I'm pretty much down with any superhero system that isn't Champions.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Stars Without Number Session 3 Plus Save Vs. Xenophobia

My, the week gets away from me quickly these days. Things have been hectic at work, what with having to prepare the final weeks of materials, start thinking about my final, charge my seniors through Hamlet, and get my summer school assignment in order. My wife has also instructed me to be ready to run a game by the time her best friend gets back into town (getting the band back together, it seems), and my but Pathfinder is a large book...


SWN session 3 was a lot of fun. I think I've finally nailed down my experience system: monsters-er, aliens... okay, combat is 100xp/HD defeated, with special abilities (gaze attacks, immunities, psi, etc.) conferring a bonus of 25 xp/HD. Monsters only award this once even if they have multiple special abilities. Loot is worth it's market value in XP, loot being defined as cash or "magic items" (Tech of 4 or 5) Roleplaying, problem-solving, and being fun to play wth are going to be worth an arbitrary award, usually about 100-200*character level. It seems to be working thus far. NPCs receive only 1/2 shares and do not receive shares of the "fun/problem solving" xp. Players who are absent get nothing. Characters who are killed still get their share for combats they took part in....their experience is transferable to the new character of the same player.

We had another player request to join our group. Initially my reaction was "hell to the no" after the whole Captain Spitcup/iPad saga. However, my wife urged me to give the new guy a chance, as did our most gracious host, so gave him a shot I did. It turns out that Josh and I had actually met this guy at a local convention and he wasn't a bad bloke. I thought he played pretty well and he'll be getting a character of his own next time. He has also volunteered to take a shift in the GM seat (as our Sunday group rotates GMs every couple of months) and his game of choice is MARVEL FRICKIN' SUPERHEROES. This caused Josh and I to squeal like fankids at a Harry Potter flick. I'm glad my wife talked me into being friendlier towards outsiders than I usually am. New guy really liked SWN's rule system, since his favorite D&D is that of the BECMI persuasion. (Which, by the by, he also offered to run)

The players are very close to getting their spaceship repaired so they can get off the planet on which they are currently stranded; this will be a nice change of pace, since my SWN game so far has essentially been "D&D with lasers and commlinks." It also means I need to kick it up a notch on getting my alien races, factions, and planets in a row... right now it's pretty blurry and vague in my head. (Ah, but what isn't this time of year, eh?)  

Game on, homies.