Sunday, February 26, 2012

RIFTS Session 1

RIFTS today.

...I don't know. I wasn't feeling it. I watched, more than participated, in the session. Part of it was that my spells weren't picked out (I rolled up an elf ley line walker) and it took me awhile to comb through the might Book of Magic.

The GM has instituted some house rules:
1. There is no MDC...everything is SDC. I'm guessing the numbers on a few attacks and weapons might have to be adjusted, but we'll play that by ear.

2. The initiative works something like older edition Shadowrun, where you roll some d6, act on that number, and then subtract 10 to find out when you go again until you hit zero. The number of dice you roll is based on how many attacks per melee you would've had according to the rules as written. Combat actually seems to move a little faster, with everyone only attacking between one and three times.

3. Critical hits don't do double damage, they require a roll on a custom critical hit table. The roll of a 1 sends you to a critical fumble table.

I'm a little concerned that combat against heavy armor opponents will take longer, since you now have to chew through their armor, then personal SDC, then hit points, whereas in the Rules-As-Written, they are toast the next shot after you finish their MDC. This is combined with the fact that everyone now attacks only 1-3 times, instead of 6-7. We'll have to see. I actually wasn't focused enough to really see how fast combat unfolded.

Our campaign began with a CS prison break; a ragtag band of d-bees, "traitors", and other undesirables were trying to bust their way out. The session got bogged down as our first attempt failed miserably and then we had to sit and wait for the GM to roll the effects of indoctrination on two of the PCs who started the riot. I, as a player, kind of ran out of steam. Maybe I will be more into it next time.

Next week, we continue the viking saga of Mike's game. After our triumphant defense of the orc siege against seemingly insurmountable odds, we make plans to hire some Roman mercenaries and take the fight to the enemy.

Game on, amigos.

Word Verification Gives Me Something Back

The new, extra-irritating word verification "feature" of this here blogging service does have a silver lining: the words eetio lltens has given me Etio Elltens, the name of an NPC or my next character.

That is all.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

RIFTS this weekend...

Mindy is starting up a new RIFTS game this weekend, giving our wayward Stars Without Number campaign a much-needed rest.

I made two RIFTS characters this weekend, and, because I was bored, two characters for Heroes Unlimited. Here are my three main gripes with character creation:

1. The skill system easily adds and extra thirty minutes or more to the character creation process, and leaves your character with a billion skills that he is never going to gooddamn use.
2. Munchkiny stat inflation brought about by physical skills. You get stronger, tougher, and faster by lifting weights, boxing, and training in gymnastics... you do not, however, get smarter for studying Advanced Math or Chemistry. You do not become more charismatic by practicing public speaking.
3. IQ affords the only possible addition to your skills. Yes, a high IQ will make you better at scientific stuff, but at piloting? Bartering? Meanwhile, the stats that should help you be a better pilot or trader (PP and MA, respectively) do not help at all.
4. Math: Basic.... really? I also managed to create a character who is better at Advanced Math than he is at Basic Math. See also the myriad other skills that should really not be skills. (Speak Native Language?)
5. Keeping track of all the little bonuses is aggravating. (Skill bonuses, combat, bonuses, and save bonuses)

Now, I've seen two interesting solutions to the skill system. The first was something I ran across at The RPG Site, which essentially used the skill categories as the skills. (So, rather than having a billion Technical skills, your character would just have a skill called Technical) The solution reminds me somewhat of the WEG/d6 approach to skills. My gripe with this solution is that a lot of the skill categories could be seen as somewhat redundant or poorly named. The category of Technical skills, for instance, covers a wiiiiiiide variety of things in Palladium, from Jury-Rig to Lore: Demons & Monsters. Do we want all our occult scholars to be able to pull a MacGuyver? Do we want all our Gemologists to also be History and Philosophy experts? Also, since when was philosophy a "technical" field? This is more a fault of the skill system than the proposed solution. I actually dig this solution; it would just require a reshuffling of skill categories.
...which would sort of necessitate a rewrite of all the game's hundreds of character classes, since a big part of the class write-ups is the skill bonus list.

Eeek. I find it endlessly frustrating that this game has such an interesting setting and such crap rules.

I think the best advice I was ever given about RIFTS is to treat it like an after-market mod of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Someday I might have to listen to that advice...

Thursday, February 23, 2012


My Pathfinder minis arrived today, nearly five days ahead of schedule.
(A brief aside... my experiences with El Cheapo shipping lately have been marvelous)

Here's the list: (the short version: no repeats!)

-Orc Brute
-Orc Warrior
-Goblin Warrior
-Goblin Hero
-Human Ranger
-Dire Rat
-Venomous Snake
-Watch Guard
-Watch Officer
-Dwarf Fighter
-Gnome Fighter
-Giant Caveweaver Spider

This is a haul I'm pretty pleased with, aside from the total lack of spellcasters. (Though I have other spellcaster figures) It buffed up my common monster reserves. I'm thinking about maybe buying one more, though I'm certainly not depraved (or wealthy) enough to buy a case of them... ;)

The figures are pretty high quality for being plastic. I also like that, Caveweaver aside, the figures are generic enough to be used in about any fantasy game. (And really, the caveweaver is just fine if you need a Goddamn Big Ass Spider)

The lack of repeats offsets my default position of ire with regards to randomly packaged minis. Hats off, Paizo... I might not be the world's #1 d20 fan, but you're a pretty damn good game company.

Holy shit, that was almost a review... I need to go self-flagellate.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Another Gaming Sunday

Today we ran Mike's Hellfrost AD&D game. We had an epic siege defense session that lasted all afternoon. We somehow managed to fend of orcs who had us outnumbered 4-to-1. The main antagonist of the setting now knows my character by name and seems personally invested in killing him. Lovely. I also killed a devil with a critical hit, so Ecglaf the Scop's legend continues to grow, perhaps to his detriment...

We decided to take a break from SWN, since the past couple sessions have stagnated and we're all pretty frustrated. Mindy is going to switch it out for either her AD&D Greyhawk game from last year, or a new low-level RIFTS game. (Low-level as in City Rats, Cyber-Knights, etc. as opposed to Russian cyborgs and Glitterboys and crap.)

This weekend, I had a little bit of extra cash, so I ordered a brick of Pathfinder minis. My Pathfinder game with the ladies won't be able to really start for a couple of weeks, so I opted for El Cheapo shipping. I also got my copy of the Bestiary 3, which brought back a lot of old 1st edition monsters that I really enjoy. (And many of them from the Fiend Folio)

Speaking of which my PF game will not be able to get off the ground for a couple more weeks. I'm still trying the bottom up approach to world-building, so we'll see if I can resist the temptation to over-do things since I've got so much extra time on my hands.

On a totally unrelated note, I wish that Beasts & Barbarians had a POD option. I would dearly love to order that book and would gladly pay for a print copy. I just don't dig on PDFs and I don't think I ever will. Even with my snazzy new phone (which I'm fairly certain is powered by black magic), I just prefer to have a book in my hands.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tinkerin' Tinkerin'

Still working on my Sansaran race write-ups. I didn't realize just how much Pathfinder had kicked up the power level on races, so I'm trying to rewrite these races so that they are roughly as desirable to play as their ordinary, Tolkien-esque Pathfinder equivalents. I have a rough draft of each of the races. I also have plenty of time, because we probably aren't going to be able to play much for about a month... the missus is going out of town one week, her friend is going out of town another week, and both of them have some other things coming up. Le sigh. I have to resist the urge to start tinkering too much, or I'm going to fall into the same over-development trap that I always do.

Meanwhile, one of the members of the Sunday group has hinted that he would like to see me run one of the following games someday: Shadowrun (2nd edition), Savage Worlds (Deadlands specifically, but anything SW), RIFTS (Dinosaur Swamp), or Gamma World. (I own 2nd and 4th edition, but honestly I'd rather run Mutant Future... practically the same, just with better rules) I'm not sure how strong the hint was, so for the time being I'll just sketch a few ideas in the ol' notebook once or twice a week before I hit the hay.

I have also decided that I'm going to buy a brick of Pathfinder minis next month, just because I can...and, quite possibly, the new hardcover Carcosa.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Races of Sansara...thinking out loud.

My Pathfinder/Sansara game didn't run this weekend. Nobody had any energy. This last week, for various and sundry reasons, could very well be one of the top five worst weeks I've ever had in my entire life. Things are better now, though. :)

Anyway, not to waste the weekend entirely, I did do some work on Sansara, and in particular the trade port of Miruta. I'm going to do Miruta as a mini-sandbox and see where it goes. The city will be only vaguely sketched with some set pieces. I'm sure I'll think of new details as we go along.

I've also decided to dust off an old third party 3.0 race book that Fantasy Flight did back in the day and lift some races from it. Back then, I found the book nigh-unusable because most of the races had ECL, and I hated ECL with an undying passion. With the power level of races bumped up a bit in PF, I can pluck some of the races that I'd have hesitated to use back in the day. I don't want to use most of the standard races in this setting, so I'm thinking about replacing them with some of these guys:

-Sendasti: Saaaaaand people. (Wrapped up desert nomads, minus the mindless shrieking and griefing of Pod Racers) Kind of boring stock desert race fodder, if you ask me, and yet I find myself strangely enamored by them.

-Sktak: Desert snake dudes who act like Klingons.

-Uru...actually I can't remember the name.It's kind of an orgy of u's, y's,and apostrophes. Beastmen who serve a dark goddess and eat a strange root that acts like PCP.

-Quissians: Desert lizard men.

I was also thinking orcs and "desert dwarves" from the 3.5 Unearthed Arcana.

Humans, dwarves, orcs, nomad dudes, snake dudes, beast dudes, lizard dudes. Seven races. Too much? Too exotic/weird?
Oh, eight, I suppose... humans and orcs living together in civilization is going to make half-orcs more common, if anything else.

Ok... so I'm going to cut Quissians because Sktak are already reptiles and Quissians are sort of boring. I think I'll just repaint my lizardfolk yellow and leave them as an NPC/monster race. Ok, back down to seven.

I need to do some slight conversion because of the way that Pathfinder does races. (Net positive attribute bonuses, more abilities, favored class works differently)

Next stop, sketching up a few vague cults/religions... just one or two in case they happen to stop by a temple. I'm going to avoid creating an entire pantheon, though.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bottoms Up

I seldom reuse campaign settings that I create. When I create a new setting, I usually go about things from a decidedly top-down approach. This weekend, I ended up going the other way for once.

My wife and her best friend, who have been playing in my sporadic Savage Worlds steampunk game, asked me if I'd run something with swords and magic and orcs in it. (So, D&D...although actually Pathfinder, since they like d20 best of all and I like Pathfinder better than 3.5) This last week was absolutely insane in terms of real life stuff, so I didn't have any time to prepare or even think about the setting. With scant hours before game time, I decided to just go with the flow.

The setting I'm working on is a kingdom called Sansara. While I originally envisioned it as a Byzantine Empire/Renaissance Italy mash-up, it turned out to feel a lot more like pseudo-Golden Age Middle East. The Byzantine-type place morphed into the Lionus Empire which is situated someplace vaguely north and west of Sansara. I also decided that Sansara has a prosperous coastal trade city called Miruta, (where I intend to provide as a potential base for the PCs) though I keep slipping and calling it Mirut or Miruti. It has a capital called Alsharad, the Jewel of the East. It is ruled by Prince Kassen. That's all I started with, which, to me, is akin to jumping without a parachute.

The following details emerged during play:

There are no elves, dwarves, or halflings, but there are orcs (oruks) and lizard men with dusky yellow scales. (I might add some of the classic races back, but they need a makeover for this setting)

There has to be some place vaguely Asian-y somewhere in the world, because one of the two PCs is an Asian-looking monk with a Korean name.

There has to be some place vaguely Renaissance Italy (probably sans gunpowder, though not necessarily) because the other player was originally from a place like that... though she later decided her nascent PC was more Egyptian, so now there's some place that's kind of Egyptian. It's possibly that the two places will be mashed up together. (Renaissance Italy with huge tombs and a cult of divinity surrounding the ruler)

There are four druidic orders dedicated to the four elements. They each guard one of four pillars that they believe bind the physical world together: the Eternal Flame (southwest of here across a huge desert called the Sea of Sands), the Pillar at the Heart of the World, the Crossroads of the Four Winds (on a mountain somewhere, possibly in the Asian-y place) and the Eye of God (a huge, eternal maelstrom, presumably out in the ocean somewhere)

One of the gods from the core book is worshiped in the Asian-y place. (I forget which one) No other gods have been mentioned yet, unless you count the elemental forces tended by the aforementioned druidic orders.

I find that it's kind of refreshing that I don't know what the currency is called or what's stamped on it, and that I can really only name two countries. I think I just decided that Sansara loves book-using spellcasters and alchemists and frowns upon sorcerers, witches, and the like. (Since the former types have a power that is governed by internal laws and science and it is something that can be studied, while the latter use a power difficult to understand)

Something I never considered about about bottom-up world creation: instead of creating an elaborate setting and watching the players discover it, I get to discover it with them.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

New Guys

We added another guy last week to our Sunday group. He's turned out fine so far. This week we added another new guy. He fit right in and I think will be an awesome addition to the group. He also lives near me, so I ended up giving him a ride home, and he and I speak the same language about a lot of things when it comes to gaming. I hope these two stick around, because we have a pretty damn comfortable number. In fact, if some of our wayward souls come back, we might once again be able to describe the group as "large."

New Guy #2 loves Savage Worlds, which is a plus. If he takes a turn in the GM's seat, he said he'd most likely run a steampunk samurai game called Iron Dynasty. (How did I not hear about this before?)

The game was epic today. We played Mike's AD&D/Helfrost campaign. We killed fifty orcs. (No, really) Ecglaf (my skald PC) has inadvertently become a local hero. We're also planning some mass combats against the hated Jotun, for which Mike has decided to use the Siege Engine system from the Rules Cyclopedia. (At least, I think that was the name of it... I haven't actually used that system since I was in like 7th grade) Mike decided to be brutal and start the new guys at 1st level. Despite running with 4th level companions, they managed to do pretty well for themselves.

We are totally defending a town under siege next time, and then we play to lay siege to an orc/ogre fortress. Hot damn.

Next week is Stars Without Number. I think we're going to be tracking down a vampire. (Like I said, sometimes this SWN game seems to have some Encounter Critical flavor)

I also gamed on Saturday this weekend, and I'm trying a new approach to world-building, but I think I'll throw that in another post.