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.