Sunday, July 31, 2011

Coming Up For Air

Hey, all.

I've been a bit silent as of late because I had some surgery last week. (No worries, it was a minor procedure) The last week has been lost in a haze of pain and now a haze of painkillers. (Thanks, doc!) I even missed my Sunday game, which has not happened in....longer than I am presently able to recall.

I want to send out a belated thank you to Christian, of Destination Unknown. I received his 'zine in the mail right around the time I went under the knife. Small but mighty, the 'zine is essentially pure creativity and I appreciate the DIY aesthetic of it. I should show it to my wife, who used to be quite into 'zines via an old friend of hers. I think I actually forgot to tell her about it, but my mind was in other places. (And as soon as this pill kicks it, in will be right back in said places, so I'd better crank this blog entry out but quick.)
In return for the 'zine, Christian has asked for a donation, a trade (presumably another zine?) or a letter. I think I might write a letter...that's something I haven't done in years and years. Perhaps I'll send him some D&D material of my own. Christian, if you're reading this, do you have any particular preference when it comes to RPG content?

I've been in a steampunkity mood lately, and so while I've been confined to the couch, I've been reading GURPS Steampunk, which is the only GURPS book I still own. I eventually came to loathe GURPS, but I loved the Steampunk sourcebook for its' surfeit of wonderful ideas and imagery. (Also, it has a lot of good information on things Victorian) I will say, however, that there are plenty of instances in the book that remind me exactly why it is I have sworn off GURPS. I really don't need a formula for figuring out how many watts or joules my steam engine can produce, nor do I need formula and tables for the accuracy of artillery fire. I can see how there are certain stripes of gamers who are all about the meticulous and want their games to have hard science and plausible math behind them... I'd rather just get to the part with the saber duel atop the airship. (The airship being a huge damn McGuffin in any case) I don't need to know the acceleration of the time machine or how many cubic feet of fuel it needs to operate...just get in the damn thing and go shoot some dinosaurs, will you? (Remember to stay on the floating metal path, though...)

In my haze this last week, I have been contemplating Stars Without Number for a Shadowrun-esque game. It would be possible to do it "out of the box" using Polychrome, but I have elected the way of pain, and have decided that it needs to keep the fantasy elements. I've sketched a few things in my notebook (around the sketches of my RIFTS SWN conversion), but I'm a bit stuck on how to proceed with classes: I could go the original SWN route of Warrior (to cover all you badass street sammies), expert (to handle deckers, riggers, and sneaky types)Caster (in place of psychic, to handle mages and shamans) However, the truly masochistic part of me wants to start writing up classes that emulate some of the most common types of characters in the game: Street Samurai, Adept, Decker, Rigger, Mage, Shaman, Mercenary, etc. I also did a quick work-up of the races, which I will probably post later. I will also admit that this is heavily inspired by JB's posts about a B/X Shadowrun.

Well, that's all the stamina I have at the moment. I'm going to go lie down. I'll catch you all later this week. If anyone has posted anything especially cool, please email it to me or leave me a link in the comments; I will try to catch up on all the back reading I have to do around here but I can't make any promises.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Convention, Day 3

My body has gone into Con-Shock.
Con-Shock always hits me on Sunday. It's when I go from a relatively balanced diet of mostly fish with lots of fruits and vegetables, adequate and regular sleep, and no alcohol to a weekend with wildly erratic and inadequate sleep, a steady intake of junk food, and two consecutive nights of binge drinking. It's a combination of hangover, sleep deprivation, digestive abuse, and general overdosing on awesomeness.

I'm at home now, and actually late for my Sunday game, which I am trying to summon the stamina to attend.

I did not play Metamorphosis Alpha today, but I did play Dungeon Crawl Classics.

I don't have much of an impression of the game, given that we were playing 0-level characters with very little abilities aside from Luck (a finite resource that can add to die rolls and also, depending on the character, to certain other rolls as well) and the ability to come back from death with a DC 10 Fort Save, so long as another character "checks" on them. I also think this only works once...or once per adventure... I'm not sure.

I will say this: you have to do a lot of thinking and planning when you are playing someone with AC 10, 3 hit points, and really no bonuses to speak of to hit, to save, etc. We were, in fact, each given a "four pack" of characters, due to the high mortality rate. (Actually, that's rather reminiscent of Paranoia... except you get all your "lives" at once.)

Presumably, characters to live to get to 1 experience point (they begin with -100) get to choose a character class. I think you also lose your "I'm not dead!" ability.

The DM did a great job...he made the game fun as hell, and Dave is also willing and able to go off the rails in a module when necessary. Gaming with Dave has always been fun.

As for DCC itself...I don't know. I don't like having huge parties of paper-thin characters. I found that a table full of people, each controlling multiple characters, really bogs things down. I also noticed, and I am guilty of this myself, that it is hard not to play your characters as one hive mind with four bodies. I tried actively to make two of my characters bitter enemies, but then this just seems like table-hogging dramatics. I really liked the check-on-you-friend rule and might steal that for B/X or SWN.

We had a lot of party on party violence. I fear that DCC may have the same effect that Hackmaster 4th has, where everyone has a high chance of turning into party-killing cockbags in the name of "playing it old school." HOWEVER, I would give DCC another chance. After all, I imagine there's likely to be a lack of impulse control on a Sunday morning Convention game. Everybody is suffering from Con-Shock, and even people better behaved than I are probably tired and worn out from the weekend. Hackamster, on the other hand, has produced this behavior in players 100% of the time, and I've played it in different towns with different configurations of players and GMs. I guess my sample size of DCC isn't enough to warrant the label, though I have to say that it wouldn't surprise me at all if DCC produces a play experience similar to HM4.

Overall, this was a great weekend. I had a lot of fun, I met some new friends, my wife looked lovely in her costume, I got to game a couple of times, and I bought just one new gaming book. Oh, and my Stars Without Numbers supplements arrived in the mail, but that's another post entirely.

And now, I'm going to drink some water, take some Tylenol, and maybe try to drag myself to the Sunday game.


Convention, Day 2

Okay, so Day 2 was yesterday, but I found myself continually distracted.

I didn't game yesterday, but I did loiter around the gaming area. The two main things going on were Star Wars Saga Edition (which I would have played but it would have run into the martial arts demonstration that I was part of) and Pathfinder. The SW game was going on even after my demo, and I have to admit that the game was compelling enough for me to watch the big finale. The Pathfinder game was a bit too....clinical... for my taste, but the players seemed to enjoy it well enough. It made me wish that my Pathfinder game hadn't ended.

I supported a small merchant yesterday, so I suppose I should have that warm inner glow of having helped the Little Guy in these Troubled Times. I could have saved a few bucks on Amazon, sure, but only a few. I ended up getting Ultimate Magic for Pathfinder and the missus picked up a new dice set. (Because gods know she doesn't have enough dice sets...)

Martial arts demonstration was fun. The area they put us in totally sucked and we had to improvise in a big way. It was indicated on the programming to be a "grassy knoll" but it was neither of those things.

The room parties were fun. I have an enormous headache, but it was well earned. I am thinking about crawling down to breakfast.

Today I will be playing Dungeon Crawl Classics, which is set to run in about forty minutes. I had also planned to play a game of Metamorphosis Alpha, which will have me gaming back to back for most of the day. If I can muster the stamina and gumption, I am also supposed to attend Shadowrun at my Sunday gaming group. Hmm... maybe I'll have to jettison Metamorphosis Alpha... or maybe I just need to cowboy goddamn up.

I do want to say two things about this year's incarnation of the Local Con.

1. It was horribly organized, perhaps worse than any year.
2. It was incredibly fun, regardless, perhaps more fun than any other year.

Oddly enough, I didn't see any ordinary hotel guests expressing open (or thinly veiled) horror/disgust. Actually, now that I think about it... I don't really remember seeing any hotel guests who weren't part of the convention. I know we had something like three floors, which is only half the hotel... just lucky I guess.
I also did not run into anyone this year who was unbearable, repulsive, or smelly. The people were really great this year. My wife did report some creepers about, but I didn't notice them. I was only "trapped" in one conversation, an awkward conversation about Mage Knight, but the lad was nice enough.

Well, I'd love to blog more, but I need to get some eggs in me. (Settle down, stomach, this is for your own good) A little protein will do me some good, since, from what I hear about DCC, some character death is nearly certain.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Convention, Day 1

Friday evening/Saturday early morning has been quite enjoyable so far. The guests here are especially nice this year. I spent most of the evening running Stars Without Number for a packed house, and I think I may have turned some folks on to the game. I ended up catching a GM second wind of sorts and ended up running a third module in the Zirugar series, which is my usual fare at the Local Con. We didn't actually finish the module because the players got a little sidetracked (and I let them) and I had to meet the missus at the steampunk social, which was very tame by comparison. We met some dandy new friends, including newly local gamers.

A fellow that I blogged unkindly about last year was present, and he seems to have calmed down muchly since last we met. It might also have been the complimentary booze coursing through my veins at the time. Oh, and there was, in one of the room parties, a cake shaped like the TARDIS.

All of my immediate party have retired to their rooms for the night. I am contemplating heading back to the room parties, but I'm not decided yet.

Tomorrow I might try to finish my module if I can get that crew together again. I am also prepared for a number of pick-up games.

I am supposed to be getting up in five and a half hours for the complimentary breakfast. We'll see how that turns out. My goal is to game at least twice more this weekend.

Dave, if you're reading this, thanks so much for bringing players to my SWN table. I had a blast. Perhaps I'll have to run it again at Nuke-Con, or at the game store in BV one of these weeks.

The gaming did me good, especially considering my recent burnout.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

'Twas the Night Before Ye Local Con

Tomorrow, I will be heading out to the Local Convention for the third year in a row (and it is only the convention's fourth year in existence) along with the missus and a small cadre of our pals. I do expect to see the usual con suspects, including my acquaintances who I know only from conventions (Dave!) and the members of my old college sci-fi club, who I see only at conventions since they live 50-some miles away.

I am still suffering from GM burnout, but I am on the schedule, and I do not intend to flake out. Therefore, I purchased Hard Light, which I reckon to be Stars Without Numbers' version of The Keep on the Borderlands. (The Space Station on the Borderlands...?) Well, it's not a perfect comparison, but both modules serve similar purposes: they give the PCs a base of operations in a dangerous environment with some dungeons to explore and some interesting things to do at the base, plus plenty of hooks to throw at you. I'm also printing off some Savage Worlds One Sheet adventures from Pinnacles site. I think they will be perfect for convention gaming because they only take about an hour and they have very little prep work involved. Marathon gaming sessions, I find, don't work so well for conventions...everybody, including me, has other things they would like to do. (For one thing, I will be involved in a martial arts demonstration. I will also be attending a "steampunk social" with the missus.)

Ah, I also have an AD&D module (pretty standard dungeon crawl) ready to go as well. If the gaming room is barren, I shall make

The last two years, I blogged once each day from the event, even once while heavily intoxicated. We shall see if I can keep that fine tradition up this year.

On another note, I was looking at my blog stats tonight, and I had to share the two most disturbing search terms that brought people to my blog:

1. "CJ Carella passes away"- I hope to gods this isn't true. I dug around on the internet a little bit after reading that, but there doesn't seem to be anything to corroborate it. Please do not take this as fact or even rumor.
2. "Will doing good counteract the bad I have done"- I find this one slightly disturbing, if only because someone is apparently treating Google as some kind of advice dispensary.

Oh, and I've also noticed that I get a heck of a lot of traffic from people who are looking up information about Stars Without Number. This makes me glad to see a game I have enjoyed so much generating interest, although it does cause me to consider that perhaps I am paying too much attention to a single game.

...ahhhh, fuggit...if it's a great game, I'ma write about it.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to run over my modules one more time so they are fresh in my noggin for tomorrow's festivities. Go Local Con!

Further Thoughts on Thief Skills and X-in-6

Taking cues from LotFP and from 5stone's comment in my previous post about a reworked Thief, my brain is considering the possibilities of thief skills as "adventuring tasks" or whatever, and restricting them not entirely to thieves. As many of you probably know, latter day iterations of D&D do this with skills; no longer are there "thief skills," but rather the rogue class, which simply has a bigger skill list and gobs more skill points than the other classes. Simply put, they are the class that are good at skills. (Or, if you prefer, skillz) Giving everyone the thief skills/"dungeon tasks", albeit at a lower probability and/or rate of advancement than the thief class, is just taking this approach and fitting it to the older versions of the game. (My idea for Feats of Strength/Skill/Will/Etc is another example of this, I guess.) So, here are a couple of approaches I'm thinking on:

1. The straight-up LotFP approach: every character, regardless of class, has 1-in-6 to do everything, but thieves have higher chances to do some things. There are obviously some restrictions here: you can't pick a lock without lockpicks, you probably can't sneak around in metal armor, etc. Now, I'm not well versed enough in LotFP to know how the skill advancement works exactly, but I see two further possibilities:
a. Only the thief ever gets better at skills. (Much the way that only fighters ever get better at combat in LotFP- a mechanic that I vehemently disagree with, by the way...) Everybody else is stuck at 1-in-6 on everything, forever.
b. As suggested by 5stone, everyone can advance at skills, but nowhere near the speed that the thief does. (He suggested 1 point every other level for magic-users, for instance) Other characters can develop talents as they desire, but nobody will ever out-thief the thief.

2. Certain classes get certain skills formerly attributed only to the thief. What I'm thinking:
Fighters- I'm thinking Climb Walls might be the extent of it. I'd be fine with fighters having no skills.

Clerics- See above.

Magic-Users- Read Languages.

Mystic**- Mystics already get thief skills.I'd also be inclined to turn their acrobatics option into an x-in-6 skill, probably starting at 1-in-6 and improved upon like any other thief skill.

Elf-Hear Noise. Option on Move Silently and Hide in Forests, which works like Hide in Shadows, but...well, you get the idea.

Dwarf-Find/Remove Traps. Feel free to make this limited to stonework traps, but I can see dwarves being able to find and disarm mechanical traps, too. On that note, consider giving them Open Locks.

Halfling- Move Silently, Hide in Shadows. I suppose you could add Pick Pockets if you want your halfling to be more Kender-like, but why god, why would you do that to the rest of the players?! If you want the halflings' hide ability to be replaced by thief skills but still rock out like it does in the Rules As Written, give them 4-in-6 or even 5-in-6, half chance in the dungeon.

All these skills start at 1-in-6. I'm thinking that the Fighter, Cleric, and Magic-User get one point every other level. Mystics get 2 improvement points to start and 2 points every level. Elves, Halflings, and Dwarves get one point every level. You can tweak these to taste. (Cyclopedic characters, for instance, can go to 36th perhaps you want to slow the skill advancement down a little.)

**Yes, I know the mystic is in the Cyclopedia and not B/X D&D, and I know a lot of the old school crowd don't like the mystic, but I do. any rate, you could even write up a quick and dirty skill system for each class, so that nobody feels left out. (Ain't I sweet?) Maybe check this out:

Fighter: Disarming Blow, Stunning Blow, Feat of Incredible Strength, Repair Weapons/Armor, Size Up Opponent

Cleric: Field Medicine, Demon/Undead Lore, Exorcism

Magic-User: Demon/Magic Lore, Herb Lore, Read Languages (Read/Speak Languages, maybe?), Spell Lore, Crazy Ass Forbidden Lore.

Mystic- Most of the fighter skills, plus maybe Zen/Mystical Philosophy (not sure how useful that would be...) Consider cutting back on the thief skills in this case.

Elf- Woodcraft, Track, Magic/Fey Lore

Dwarf- Detect Slopes/Grades/Passages, plus most of the fighter skills.

Halflings- Makeshift Cookery, Herb Lore, Remember Irritating Song That Goes on For a Goddamn Page and a Half.

With this system, we're leaving behind the wonderful simplicity of B/X and headed down a dark, dark road that culminates in there being a difference between "Riding Basic" and "Riding Advanced." Now, I do like a little mechanical complexity to my games now and then, so perhaps this is something I'd consider developing further. That will be another post, I suspect.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Little Thief Rework

I was at a seminar the other day, and during one of the...shall we say, less illuminating segments, I started reworking the B/X Thief in my notebook.

I think the whole x-in-6 thing, a la Flame Princess, might be the way to go. A lot of people who complain about the thief bring up the pretty legit point that many of his abilities have a 5-10% chance of working. Of course, AD&D and further iterations of the game would mitigate those low scores somewhat, but I think the Thief needs some love at the B/X or Cyclopedic level.

Okay, so here's what I'm thinking:
-At level 1, thieves get Pick Pockets, Open Locks, Find/Remove Traps, Move Silently, Hide in Shadows, Climb Walls, and Hear Noise all at 1-in-6. They get three points to spend, each point raising the chance by 1-in-6. (So spend 1 point on, say, Open Locks and he's got it at 2-in-6.) The thief may spend these points however he wants.

At 2nd level, and every level thereafter, the thief receives 2 points to spend. These points are restricted, however, in that the thief may not spend them on the same skill for the same level. A skill may not improve past 5-in-6.

At 4th level, the thief learns to Read Languages at 1-in-6. This can be raised immediately with one of the thief's 4th level points. If the DM doesn't really dig thieves reading languages, feel free to start it at 0-in-6.

Backstab and read scrolls work as written. If you're one of those symmetry loving folk, consider making read scrolls a skill and starting it off at 5-in-6, so that you're doing d6's for everything. I know it's not exactly equivalent probability-wise, but it's damn close enough.

Oh, one optional consideration for backstab...I liked Hackmaster 4th edition's take on backstab, which adds extra damage dice to the attack rather than a multiplier. x2 becomes +1 die, x3 becomes +2, and so on... the die matches the weapon type, so instead of getting double damage with a dagger, the thief rolls 2d4.

This has probably been done somewhere by someone, but I'm just throwing it out there.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Yet Another Task Resolution System

I was perusing an old issue of Dragon this afternoon- one printed well before I was born- and I came across an interesting little system for attribute checks. It is a little clunky and probably has more math than the whippersnappers* of today's gaming can probably handle, but the thing I like about it is the variability; a character who has a Strength of 12 doesn't always have a base chance of 60% to accomplish something with a Strength check. You have your good days and your bad. It's not a perfect system, but I think it might be usable.

Ok, check this: you roll percentile dice, adding the character's actual score. The result will give you a die type, ranging from d4 to d12. You roll that die, multiply it by the character's attribute, and that is their chance of success for the task at hand.

So, if our Clever Rogue with an Intelligence of 16 is trying to figure out how to read the magical scroll he has found before the angry sorcerer who owns it can blast him with magic, roll percentile dice, adding 16. Our result is less than stellar and determines that a d4 will be used. We roll a 3 on the d4. Multiplying that 3 by our "hero"'s 16 Intelligence, we get a 48%... his chance of reading the scroll correctly before he gets a face full of Prismatic Excellence.

I should add, at this point, that the author suggests optional modifiers: adding the character's experience level to the initial roll, for instance. He also advocates letting any character try anything, offering several suggestions for modifying the roll based on suitability of character class to task. He has an example for letting a Fighter try to pick a lock and use a magic item normally useable only by magic-users. (Though admittedly their chances are pretty low, as well they should be- of you're going to have a game with character classes, they ought to be the best at what they are intended to be best at...)

Now, I like the idea of the system, but I have the notion that it ought to be streamlined a bit. After all, we are making three die rolls and several small calculations to resolve one task. That won't do at all. So, howzabout this simpified version:
We skip the initial die roll to determine which die to use. Instead, the DM dtermines the die based on how difficult the task is. So, something very hard will use only a d4, while a simple task might use a d10. You roll, multiply it by the ability score, and there's your chance. You could even say that different characters use different dice in the same situation; our Clever Rogue might only get a d6 to read the scroll mentioned above, but his poor friend the Dull Witted Swordsman might only get a d4. Meanwhile, their Marvelous Magician companion might get a d10 or even d12 to read the magical scroll, as he does specialize in this sort of thing.

I know some will not like this system because it requires two rolls and a calculation, but I find the variability factor to be very interesting. I find that some games, particularly those in which there is a Perception skill or score, are filled with samey dice rolls where everybody rolls Perception to search everything all the time, or in which every single party member makes the same Strength roll to open the same sarcophagus or door or lift the leaden tankard of ale or whatever.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Less Conan, more Blackstar?

I am about to leave for 2nd edition Shadowrun.

I just wanted to note, however, that Science Fantasy seems to be all the rage these days... lots of D&D based "raygun and rocket" type games cropping up. I downloaded two or three yesterday. Humanspace Empires, and.... you know, I don't even remember the other two at the moment. I will try to digest them some after this afternoon's Shadowrun game.

...or, you know, this could be old news and I am just now stumbling on to it. I have been trying to read different blogs lately.

Also, I finally cracked 100 followers. It only took me 2 1/2 years. I don't need Cyclopaetron (sp?) and his monthly blog stat chart to know how lame that is.

...and actually, now that I think about it, Blackstar is probably not a great comparison, but I actually need to be out the door now.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Count Hacks At Midnight

...well, actually, more like 2 pm.

Tomorrow, the Sunday game is going to start up Shadowrun 2nd edition. Well, sorta. We're incorporating the wireless world and updated gear of Shadowrun 4th edition and using the simpler rules of Shadowrun 2nd edition. I'm down with rolling five dice instead of twenty-five dice.

This campaign will be a continuation of Mike's old SR game. We have a slightly different group composition, but I think we have at least three of the previous games' character returning for further misadventures.

Pathfinder is Done

...and so am I. I have decided to take a break from GMing for awhile, as recently I have found the business of keeping a campaign together to be tedious, thankless, and frustrating.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Last Room Keyed

Dungeon finished.

Keep of the Stone-Scream Clan... 4 levels, 48 keyed rooms. It's no mega-dungeon, that's for sure, but his PF game is not about dungeon crawling... there will be plenty to do once they return to the surface.

Now, if only I'd done a little more prep work for SWN... there's always tomorrow, I suppose. (Or Sunday morning...)

I didn't go to the library today, but I did manage to knock this out at home. I will admit that I was not nearly as productive or focused as I was at la biblioteca.

I am ready to game tonight.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Art of Preparation

I cannot prepare for my games at home.
I don't know what it is.
Well, actually....I do. Too many distractions. Music. Games. Cats.

Today I parked myself in the local branch of the public library and knocked out a large dungeon level. I tried to include lots of fiendish things for the players to reason and puzzle through, disturbing little details, interesting rooms, and of course...a few monsters to slay. (Or not!)

I think the library might become my go to spot for game preparation for the rest of the summer. It also has free wi-fi for when I need to consult the Pathfinder SRD.

I also needed to work on Stars Without Number today, but I can only do GM stuff for a few hours before I need a break. The library will be there tomorrow.

Looking forward to finishing off this dungeon, perhaps tomorrow...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Minor Frustration

So, I love my local con, but their gaming room leaves a lot to be desired.
Well, let me retract that. Two years ago, when they farmed it out to another local con (which is specifically a gaming con and nothing else), it was great... you could sign up to run a game online.The information you provided was posted as a hard copy sign up sheet at the convention. You could walk up, see what games were running, sign up, rock out.

Last year, the local con decided to do it in-house. There was no way to sign up online. They were, at best, uncommunicative via email. Most of the games ended up being pick-up games, and we were ushered out of the gaming area at 10 pm (seriously?) because they had booked another event in the gaming space.

This year, I was proactive and contacted them plenty early. I was directed to the guy in charge of gaming. I emailed him asking about a schedule. He said something about one being on Facebook, but damned if I can find it. We went back and forth about times being open, which is hard to do when the person you are contacting isn't specific about which times are open. I finally asked for a specific time slot and never received a reply. My wife looked over the convention schedule and it looks like I asked for a time slot that conflicts with the opening ceremonies. Good thing we looked, as I've yet to receive a reply from the guy in charge of gaming.

Meanwhile, I decided to try emailing the address that they have listed on their website for gaming. My email bounced. Yes, that's right, my email bounced.

You know what? Screw it. I'm grabbing an empty table, setting up shop, and if people play, they play, and if they don't, I'm off to the room parties.

Edit: Since I started this blog post, I have since found the flyer... it was emailed to me by an acquaintance of mine. My game isn't on it. His game isn't on it. In fact, there are only a few games on it, and they appear to be the ones run by con staffers.

Looks like it will be a pick-up game. My acquaintance and his guests will be playing. Some members of the Friday and Sunday groups will be playing. If a passer-by or two wants to pull up a chair, they are more than welcome.

Thanks to Dave for finding that flyer. I don't know where you found it posted, because I cannot, for the life of me, find it anywhere.


This was my reaction when I got up this morning to check the ol' blog roll.

Dude, come back. We miss you. Or, if you're really done dealing, email me, so I can get in on some zine action.

The Road to Recovery?

I continue to battle my collect-o-philia. Today I managed to pass up some interesting old stuff that I know I have no use for. I still suffer from the compulsion to buy every system I can lay my hands on, despite having well over 60 systems to play with. (Actually, probably less if you want to count systems which are based on other systems...)

I would be willing to undergo withdrawal a la Trainspotting, with techno and dead baby hallucinations, but as soon as I drove past my LGS or hopped on the internet and read my blogroll, my troubles would begin anew.

For now, I shall have to hope that my fragile willpower can continue to withstand these tests of fortitude.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Monster From a Random Old Email

I was cleaning out some old emails today when I came across something I sent a friend. There is no message with it...just a title and a stat block. I'm not sure if I ever posted it here. Behold.....the Gamma Bear!

Gamma Bears

Frequency: Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1d4)
Hit Dice: 10
Armor Class: 5
Move: 15
Attacks: 5 (2 claws, 1 bite, 2 tentacles)
Damage: 1d8/1d8/2d6/1d4+radiation/1d4+radiation
Special Attacks: Gamma Blood
Special Defenses: None
Magic Resistance: None
Psionic Ability: None
Intelligence: Animal
Alignment: Neutral
Treasure Type: Q, V (In lair)

Gamma Bears are enormous bears, standing 2 meters high at the shoulder
and a body 4 meters in length. The have thick green-black fur and
glowing pink eyes. Gamma Bears have claws as large and thick as
daggars and sport barbed, pink, hairless tentacles growing from their
shoulders. Gamma Bears are often found in mountains and forest-like
terrain. They are always hungry and spend most of their time in search
of food, which to them is just about anything that moves.
In combat, Gamma Bears are ferocious and attack with claws, bite, and
tentacles. Anyone struck by both paws will be automatically hit by
both tentacles each round until the bear lets go. Anyone struck by a
tentacle is subject to a Radiation Attack of Intensity 8. In addition,
a Gamma Bear radiates a field of radiation within 4 meters of its
body. At the start of combat, the Intensity is determined by rolling
1d6. However, for each full 5 hit points of damage inflicted on the
Gamma Bear, the Intensity increases by 1 point. The maximum Intensity
is 15. If the bear suffers damage that would increase the Intensity
beyond that level, there is a cumulative 15% each time that the Bear
explodes, inflicting 8d6 damage to everything in a 5 meter radius, and
all creatures must make a Saving Throw vs. poison or acquire a random
Physical Mutation.
If encountered in a lair, a roll of 2 bears indicates a mated pair. If
more bears are encountered, they are cubs with half hit points, doing
half damage and with half the Radiation Intensity.
Gamma Bears love canned meat and will break off combat for the
opportunity to consume it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Conversion Laziness

I like Dragon Star.
If you aren't familiar, Dragon Star is a campaign setting for D&D 3.0 that was put out by Fantasy Flight games sometime around 2002 or 2003. DS is basically D&D in space. Dragons rule an intergalactic empire, with each color of dragon getting 10,000 years to be at the helm of said empire. The default setting of DS takes place at the beginning of the red dragons' rule, with red dragons being first of the chromatics. This means that the empire has about 50,000 years of being ruled by evil dragons ahead of them.... (red, blue, green, black, and white) The drow are the secret police of the red dragons, orcs are legitimate galactic citizens, sorcerers are chic and wizards are looked down upon somewhat. (You have to learn your magic from books?)I'm not a big fan of the thousands of years of time scale, but that is easily ignored.

What I'd like is for Dragon Star to be converted to Pathfinder. This is unlikely to happen, as Fantasy Flight dropped all their d20 stuff with the advent of 3.5, if I recall correctly. Most of the races and classes were the same a 3.0 and could therefore be updated pretty easily, although there are some "modernizations" that would have to be converted. (For instance elves get +2 to Science{Biology} and monks can dodge bullets/lasers instead of deflecting arrows)The classes would have to be "filled in", a la Pathfinder's policy of no "dead levels." This would include filling in the two new classes introduced in DS, the pilot and the mechanist. I'd also have to convert Dragon Star's unique race, Soulmechs.

...the thing is, I'm lazy. I want an updated version of Dragon Star, but I don't want to do it myself. There was one website I found where a dude had begun the undertaking, but he hasn't updated it in over a year, and there really isn't that much done in the conversion process.

Another thing I would like to see is an adaptation of d20 Modern to the Pathfinder mechanics. There seems to be such a product available as a PDF, but y'all know how I feel about PDFs. I want a rule book, dammit. Mainly I want this because there was once a d20 Modern promotional mini-game called Shadowchasers (kind of a hybrid of D&D with Buffy the Vampire Slayer) that I ran a one shot of back in the day and always wanted to revisit. I'd want cleaned up mechanics (it predates the actual release of d20 Modern, having appeared in a Dungeon magazine), but I want to use the original article. (Which I still have. It was later turned into a setting in WotC's Urban Arcana sourcebook, but I prefer the simplistic charm of the magazine article, personally...)

...although, I'm not sure that Modern Pathfinder is really necessary. Josh is of the opinion that True20 could do it better. (I think he also prefers T20 to d20M) I own a copy of True20, having found it for a steal long ago, but I've only read about halfway through it. I think it could handle Shadowchasers with a little TCL, but then we get back to problem numero uno: I. Am. Lazy.

I have never finished a conversion from one game to another. I wanted to use FUDGE for both Steve Jackson's In Nomine and Dream Pod 9's Tribe 8. I wanted to convert RIFTS to Stars Without Number. It has been suggested to me that I convert RIFTS to some iteration of D&D (mostly to preserve my own sanity). I have not finished any of these projects, unfortunately... conversion sounds so easy until I actually sit down to do it.

For now, perhaps I should just focus on the two campaigns I am running and wait to work on the conversions when Mike takes over my Sunday slot. I can keep tinkering, a little at a time, in the margins of my battered notebook.

PC Death in Absentia

Today was the last session of Deadlands for awhile. We completed the second "leg" of the campaign and, due to some player decisions, the third leg is going in a direction not anticipated by anyone, GM included. Still, he's cool about it and the next leg will follow what we've set out to do.

There is, however, a troubling aspect to today's game session, and the more I think about it, the less comfortable I am with it.

Unbeknownst to us (until today) Anthony's character, a recent addition to the party, was working for the enemy. Having been resurrected by them in his back story, he labored under a magical compulsion to steal the Big Ass MacGuffin the rest of us had been after for this entire leg of the campaign.

Anthony recently got a job that schedules him unpredictably, sometimes late at nighit or overnight. He had to cancel his appearance at the game today at the last minute, presumably because of said job. (Or perhaps he had to work all night last night and just couldn't hack it today...quite understandable.) With today being the big finale, his characters' presence was required. Josh mentioned that his character was present, but we just sort of let him fade to the background.

When at last we overcame deadly traps and combats, we finally arrived at the Big Ass MacGuffin. We were then told by the GM that Anthony's character shoved everyone aside and claimed said MacGuffin in the name of a new, previously unknown antagonist. Said antagonist, well beyond our ability to deal with, appeared, took the MacGuffin, and vanished... leaving Anthony's character alone.

Now, the above event was a bit of a railroad. The GM said that he would have allowed Anthony the choice, had he been here. As it was, in Anthony's absence, the choice was made, and we were unable to do anything about it.

Having been betrayed, my first impulse was that my character would shoot his character in the face. The betrayal was not only personal, but actually affects a large part of the US and has potential global ramifications. After being talked down by a fellow PC, my character was content to shoot him in the leg, tie him up, and leave him. Being on an island, other party members argued that this was tantamount to killing him slowly, as there seemed to be no food or water on said island.

Out of character, I changed my mind because I would be fucking livid if my character was killed by the other party members for making a decision that the GM made on my behalf because I had to miss a session. I figured Anthony's "patron" would rescue him, or he'd find a way off the island, perhaps to redeem himself to us, or perhaps to become an antagonist to us. Either way, I suddenly felt uncomfortable offing Anthony's PC in his absence, especially since we don't know what he would have done had he been present. The other player who was considering the same thing as me decided not to pull the trigger, though I don't know if his reasoning was the same as my own.

....aaaaand, then Mindy's character blew him up with a canon.
No, really.
Her reasoning was that the canon was a quick death, compared to dying alone on that island. (For the record, I didn't really think he was going to die on that island, but that was, admittedly, metagaming on my part.)

At first, I was relatively okay with what happened. This character had betrayed us in a way that would have made it impossible to trust him ever again. Even if we hadn't killed him, it would have taken some serious contrition on his part.

...and yet, the more I think about it, the more uncomfortable I am with what happened. The GM took over his PC and made a choice he might not necessarily have made. If we had been given the chance to react, I'd have probably had my character shoot him in the arm or leg to incapacitate him and stop him. Then again, how were we to know he would betray us? Still, I'm not sure I like the idea that the character was killed without the player present. The more I think about it, the less I like it.

Thinking back, Anthony really didn't seem to care overly much when his long running character in my AD&D game bought the farm, but then again, it was his choice and he admitted that it wasn't the wisest thing to do. Who knows if he's even attached to this character? I've been playing Dr. Montrose since November, whereas Anthony has only been playing his character for two weeks.

I would totally be fine with Dr. Montrose getting killed, so long as it was me at the helm and not because he made a decision that I had no say in. In fact, I marched the good Doctor into a situation today that I thought spelled his certain death so that the PCs might have been spared. He managed to survive, but when I made the decision I was already starting to think of a new character I'd like to play... now, if the GM or another player had made Dr. Montrose make that decision because I had to miss that week, I would be flippin' pissed.

I'm not really sure what to do now. I haven't had a chance to talk to either the GM or Anthony since my feelings on the situation reversed. I want to make sure there aren't any hard feelings at the gaming table.

Addendum: My own policy as GM is that the character cannot die when the player is not at the game session. In my current Pathfinder game, and most of my other games, the absent PC is sort of there/not there, stuck in some crazy Schrodinger's Cat state until the player can return. The PC is safe from death, but they are not able to participate, use skills or spells, or otherwise contribute to the adventure. This is only if I can't find an excuse for the PC to have to leave/stay behind/go ahead/whatever. (The party is smack in the middle of a dungeon excursion, for instance) I have, in the past, allowed each player to designate another player to handle the character in their absence, but I have decided not to do this anymore. The absent character receives no experience, and receives treasure/goodies only if the present players are nice enough to share.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Nugget of Wisdom From an Old Pal

I was recently chatting with Glenn, a friend from college and former gaming buddy. Glenn is currently stuck in the desert and I hope for his safe return. We found ourselves talking about gaming, as we are wont to do. On the subject of people playing obnoxious, difficult, or uncooperative characters, Glenn laid down some of the finest gaming wisdom I've heard in quite some time. So, in the spirit of Your Evil Character is an Asshole, I give you this:

"if you want to play as The Comedian, expect to get thrown out of a penthouse window"

Holler, Glenn....holler.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Welcome to Grimshire

Firstly, my two player game of Pathfinder went swimmingly. I ran the session as a "flashsideways" that will occur between some other adventure some other time. Yeah, continuity is a bit wonky, but who cares... better to juggle a little retconning than to let a campaign die on the vine. Because the cancellation of the regular session was last minute, I had to adapt and steal from a published adventure. Still, I added my own stuff and flavored it my way... basically I just needed the map and the bare bones idea, a cramped dungeon underneath a ruined castle, where dark fey are planning to transform a kidnapped human boy into their new king. I also created a new campaign location, Grimshire, which I like quite a bit and which is unfolding in my mind.

A few items to add to my campaign folder:

1. Grimshire- An area of foreboding, thickly-wooded hills in the west of the kingdom of Gildred. Once a fief, Grimshire lost its lord long ago and was folded into the neighboring realms. The forest of Grimshire is said to be haunted by both ghosts and wicked dark fey, known to snatch children in the night. The people of Grimshire are a suspicious lot, and cold iron weapons are in high demand in the logging and mining towns that dot the hills. The locals have many superstitions and customs regarding fey, particularly how to ward off the evil and capricious ones while attracting the boons and blessings of the kindly varieties.

2. Klaus Volliger (3rd level human ranger)- A hunter of evil fey and their ilk. Klaus' mother was ensorcelled by such creatures when he was just a lad. While his father was somehow able to bring her back from their clutches, she was never the same... she became a madwoman who eventually wasted away and died. Many children in Klaus' village were also taken by the dark creatures. Klaus' father taught him how to fight and slay them. Klaus generally roams from village to village in Grimshire, but he is always a welcome sight to villagers who are plagued by evil spirits. (Or sometimes more mundane concerns; Klaus is happy to put an arrow into a smug bandit or a vile goblin, so long as it isn't one of his precious cold iron-tipped shafts)

Lately I've had Brothers Grimm on the brain, particularly after 5stone games mentioned it as an alternative to the Lovecraft-Derleth-weird-frog-gods-from-spaaaaaaaaaace flavor that seems to be so prevalent around this corner of the Internet. Grimshire will let me have "creepy fairy tale D&D*" in my campaign without having to switch over wholesale. Yes... I see a story involving a werewolf, and perhaps a giant or two...
I think this interlude might become a major leg of the campaign.

*Yes, I know it's technically Pathfinder. One could argue, however, that it is all semantics...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Staying the Course

Tonight I was going to run Pathfinder with three of my five players present. Then one of them canceled. It looked like Pathfinder was going to be canceled three weeks in a row... until I decided fuck that.

My two players are coming over. I am going to do a "flash sideways" where they are elsewhere doing something tangentially related to the campaign. They will have an NPC along to help bolster their ranks. We are playing, goddamnit, and we are playing the game that we were scheduled to play, at the time we were scheduled to play it. If I have to run a campaign with two players, so be it.