Thursday, May 30, 2013

Unexpected GM Duty

Our Thursday GM had to bail on us with very little notice, so I took the reigns so we'd have something to play. I ended up running Realm of the Technomancer for the second time.

Well, sort of. I kind of forgot the module at home. Luckily, I was able to use the tools at Wizardawn to give me a couple maps and keys to cobble together. (Especially since Wizardawn has tools that specifically let you merge Labyrinth Lord stuff with Mutant Future.)

This time,  I ran it from the fantasy end again (using basic red D&D), but I added a couple of displaced Mutant Future characters using the conversion section from the back of the book to scale them to D&D levels of power. The usual fantasy party had an amnesiac synthetic soldier and an opportunistic mutant heading into the dungeon with them.

I ran the basic concept of the module from memory, but I changed a lot and I also had to remove some things because I only had a three hour time slot. We had fun and only one character died-  and that was because his player forgot that clerics can wear armor. (He doesn't play old D&D very much) We still had fun and I have some ideas for next time I run this module.

I also hinted that the outsider characters might come from Tarraxian as a little Easter Egg to Josh, who played in that Gamma World/AD&D game I ran a couple of years ago.

I really enjoyed the evening, plus it's good to know I can still run a half-decent game on the fly if I have to.

Friday, May 24, 2013

On Damage

I have pipe dreams of running some Swords & Wizardry this summer. Although I have a copy of S&W complete, I've been thinking about "White Box" style damage, but with some caveats.

Some of the common rules I've seen and liked have included:

-Two handed weapons roll 2d6 and take the best, with the exception of the quarterstaff.

-Dual wielding characters receive +1 to hit.

-Damage based on class, allowing any character to use any weapon. 

Some other things I'm considering as well:

-Fighters (and fighters only, no sub-classes) receive a damage bonus based on level. (+1 per so many levels, maybe every three?)

-Everything does 1d6 damage, but fighters get to roll twice and take the best. (In this case, two-handed weapons would probably just do +1 damage instead of best of two... rolling three and taking the best of two has a certain clunkiness to it that I don't like) 

-Weapons have conditional bonuses and penalties based on things they are good at/things they are not so good at. For instance, daggers are good at fighting in close quarters such as an alley, pole-arms are good for fighting in an open space. In favorable circumstances, a weapon receives +2 to hit, and -2 in unfavorable circumstances. This requires a lot of on-the-fly rulings or else bookkeeping for what weapons is good for what and not-so-good for what. Eew. I can see the appeal, but I suspect keeping track of it will be unwieldy, plus I'll have players constantly trying to bullshit me. :)  ("A troll's leg is kind of like a tree, and axes are good at cutting trees down, so I think I get the +2!") 
I stole this idea from a post by Vincent Baker around ten years ago, although he was talking about firearms in games.

-Give every weapon one special ability.... so maybe flails ignore shields, crossbows treat armor as one category lighter, etc. Again, this is slightly book-keepy, but not as bad as the previous idea.

Given that I'm all about the simplicity lately, I'll probably go with either fighters roll damage twice or one of the options from the first bunch. Historical simulation is at most a tertiary goal of mine when I run D&D, after all.  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

BTS, Dinosaur Swamp, and Unadulterated Joy

Tonight our Thursday game at last resumed our Beyond the Supernatural campaign. We were a little unfocused, but given that the GM just finished his degree and tomorrow is the last day of school in my district (I'm a teacher), our minds were not firmly lodged in horror. Still, it was a fun session and I love the characters and the way the group plays. We just found out that one of our players had to drop out, which is too bad, but we'll soldier on with three PCs for the time being. I finally made it to level 5. (Level isn't really that big of a deal in Palladium, though)

Although we just started up after a hiatus, the GM is actually planning on finishing off this investigation and then shelving the game for the summer. He doesn't like to run horror games in the summer, so he's planning on running a June/July campaign of RIFTS set in Dinosaur Swamp.

Fuck yessssssssssss. 

This campaign is going to be metal. I need to start thinking about what character class to play. I'm thinking maybe a Juicer or Mega-Juicer, but I know that our GM loves RIFTS magic-users and would like to see a magic-user in the party. I have a few weeks to decide, but in the meantime I'll be combing through Dinosaur Swamp, RUE, and gods-know-what else to find a suitably metal character to play.

I figure that, what with me starting my Master's this summer, I'll probably want something as cerebral as shooting dinosaurs with laser guns in my downtime.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My Scandalous Confessions

-I think ascending AC is a good idea and makes more sense than descending.*

-Ditto with Fort/Ref/Wil as saving throw categories or just S&W's one save with conditional modifiers.*

-I think level limits for nonhumans are contrived and dumb.

-I really hate gaming sessions that consist mostly of logistical stuff like buying gear and hiring new henchmen. Get it over and let's get back to adventuring, please.

-I don't really like Rush all that much. They have a couple of okay songs, but I really don't see what the big deal is.

-I vastly prefer Larry Elmore's artwork to Erol Otus' artwork.

-I like White Wolf's World of Darkness games.

-I haven't read most of the authors in Appendix N.

-I can only name a couple of Led Zeppelin songs.

-I have a limit to how much gonzo I can have in a game.

-Sometimes I just can't "say yes or roll the dice." Sometimes the answer is no.

-I'm probably shaving my beard in the next week or two.

...but don't worry, I'm not a totally lost cause. I'm not sharing narrative control with my players.

*Just because they make more sense doesn't mean I use them.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Death Frost (Pulp) Doom: 4th Run

So, the Thursday game gets canceled three hours before it's supposed to run. I stepped up and ran Death Frost Doom, since it's one of the only things I can run with almost zero notice. 

This time, I tried something a little different. I ran it as a pulp 30's style adventure. I used B/X as the basic rules, gave every character a couple of X-in-6 skills. I made one character a "mystic" with simplified spells operating on a spell point system and one character a doctor who could heal a certain number of dice of hp per day. All weapons did a d6 damage, single Saving Throw number, etc. I used the "hit 20" system and encumbrance from Stars Without Number. I guess you could say it was an unholy mishmash of Lamentations, B/X, and SWN. 

It was a TPK, but not for the reasons that usually results in TPKs when I run Death Frost Doom. I don't want to spoil it for those who aren't familiar with the module. The PCs basically took a hit for the good of the world. 

That might be the last time I run DFD. Next time I have to step in for the Thursday group, I will either run Realm of the Technomancer (letting them choose which side of the module they are on) or I'll run the introductory adventure from Xplorers. (With my usual modifications) 

Oh, and Purple Lotus Powder. Dang. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

NWoD Rework: Hunters Revamped (no pun intended)

So, I've talked to a couple gamer pals (and am waiting to hear back on another) about my WoD chronicle framework, and one of them brought up a legit concern:

The Expert, Magician, and Monster type characters are all customizable. The Hunter type, on the other hand, is not... you get the Conviction advantage and that's that. I thought perhaps creating a few subcategories of Hunter might give the interested player some options and not leave Hunter types being fairly cookie-cutter in terms of special ability. Here's my initial breakdown-

*Conviction- As written. These are Hunters who rely on themselves or are driven by something internal: revenge, hatred of the unknown, the desire to protect normal people/Amurrrica/whatever.

*True Faith- Yes, the old school ability from early White Wolf days. This would be Hunters who believe in something greater than themselves and draw on that for strength. It could be God, Allah, maybe even Unbending Science.

*Access to gear merits. These are Hunters who are either weapons geniuses or have enough pull within the PCs organization to request a little something extra. I'm probably ripping off the ideas from the gear merits included in HtV.

I'm not entirely certain what else I could offer Hunters. Magicians have more archetypes to choose from and monsters are pretty much whatever the player and I can agree to. Still, it's a start.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

SWN Cryo-Stasis Engaged

I just wanted to mention that my SWN game, which has been running in some form or another since July, is now in cryo-stasis. My two players have a lot going on in their lives, and come fall I won't be able to do Tuesday nights on account of my Master's classes. The campaign was a lot of fun, and I have all the material stowed safely in a folder, so in my mind we're simply in cryo-stasis, ready to be thawed out when our schedules align.

In the meantime, I'll be working on my newWoD game, plus I have a lot of fantasy gaming goodness due on my doorstep in the near future. (S&W Complete Hardback, Monstrosities, and my boatload of miniatures from the Reaper Kickstarter last year) I've also taken on the idea of doing one-shots and things for the Thursday group for when we can't play or normal BTS campaign. (Which seems to be a lot lately, but what can you do?)

The tale of the Hydrin Clans isn't over yet. We'll see what happens to our intrepid space explorers some other day.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

WoD Rework Solution

Alright, so awhile ago I wanted to make a stripped down version of WoD that better fits my gaming tastes. JB challenged me to fit it on one page. Try as I might, I couldn't do it.... but the exercise did give me an idea on what I want to do with the game  and system. This is my very preliminary character creation setup, and you have to be basically familiar with the WoD, but here it is:

Character creation: Create a normal person. You had a brush with the supernatural. Now you work for an organization that seeks to stem the influence of non-human creatures over humanity.

Pick a flavor:

Hunter: +1 Stamina or Resolve, and you get the Conviction advantage from Mirrors.

Magician: +1 Intelligence or Charisma, and you can buy magician or shaman traits from Second Sight.

Expert: +1 Wits or Composure, and you get Skill Tricks instead of specialties.

Monster: +1 to any particular stat, and you have three Powers and three Weaknesses. Let's talk about what you are and how the specifics work. You also have a Power source and a way that you have to recharge it. It's probably going to be a bit of a pain. (For vampires, you have Blood and you refill it by feeding on the living, etc.)

Morality is replaced with Sanity (for humans) and Humanity (for monsters) Humans are trying not to be driven mad or jaded into unfeeling monsters by the horrible truths of the WoD, monsters are trying not to become mindless slavering beasts or whatnot.

All characters have Reason, which they can trade for extra crazy powers, a la the Forbidden Lore section of Mirrors.

Combat: New weapon damage/armor rules, initiative rules, defense/dodging, etc.

Virtue and Vice: You customize your own, and you aren't stuck with the Seven Deadlies/Seven Heavenlies.

We're keeping the old experience system. Sorry, hipsters.

Despite the rules lite nature and the focus on what you do as a supernatural, you need to make a character who was a person before they were exposed to the supernatural.

Oh, and I'm stealing the Twilight/Gloom idea from the "Night Watch" series of books/films. Magicians and Monsters can enter it naturally. Hunters and Experts have to use special devices or some kind of Zen training or something. We'll work out the exact details later.

There you have it. I can always add more detail later, but I think I'm just eager to hit the ground running. It doesn't fit on one page (since you have to add all the WoD rules and power descriptions), but the specifications for character creation do.

Things I'm toying with:
-Adding Psychics a la Second Sight.
-Making Forbidden Lore users into their own "class"


Sunday, May 5, 2013

S&W Goodies

I'm currently waiting on hardback copies of S&W Complete and Monstrosities. I am bummed that I missed the recent sale, but I'll live. 
I'm also waiting for my Reaper minis crate from backing the Kickstarter last fall. 

I have all the ingrdients for an awesome fantasy campaign. 

...except for the campaign part. 

Something about Swords & Wizardry always causes my brain to bubble with possibilities. I think it's the fact that the game presents many optioins and never closes the door on anything. Of course, B/X and their ilk never closed the door on anything, but I don't know... there's some kind of intrinsic appeal to the way S&W presents itself. Different games, even iterations of the same rules, have a different flavor and "feel" to me. It's hard to explain, but AD&D looks different in my head than B/X or S&W. 

In theory, I'll have time to start a new campaign, seeing as how the school year is over in just three weeks. (ohholygod) In practice, though.... probably not. I'm taking the first two classes for my Master's in June and in July I have two separate confereces to attend, two gaming conventions, and a camping trip with the missus.

Where there's a will, there's a way. I'll find some way to put these gaming goods to work, even if I have to wait until August. (For the week I'll have to myself before staff must report back) 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Candyland a La Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess

Our Thursday night BTS GM couldn't make it this week, so I stepped in and ran Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess. (I'm going to be running it at a convention this summer, so I used this opportunity to play test it.) We had a party of four characters and three henchmen, with a final casualty tally of two henchmen, two PCs. Given the source material, I ran the game a wee bit less seriously than I normally do. I might spring Death Frost Doom on them next time the GM is unavailable.

My spoiler-free thoughts on Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess:

-It's gonzo. Like, seriously gonzo. If you don't like that kind of thing, it would be easy to turn this into a horrible bloodbath of grimdarkness, but I think you'd be losing some of the charm. Don't get me wrong: there's some grim stuff in this module, but it is soaked in black humor.

-My favorite part of the module is actually the "prelude" to the main event. There are some seriously interesting encounters in the Dark Forest.

-Unless I missed something, one of the antagonists is detailed but actually not placed anywhere in the module. He has a write-up and a stat block, but I never figured out where he was supposed to be. This wasn't really that difficult to fix, but it just seemed to me an odd omission. (Unless I just missed it somehow)

-In an era where people have mangled the use of the word "literally," Zzarchov (I forgot to mention he is the author, not Raggi) keeps the meaning of the word intact. Kudos to you, sir.

-The spell Rainbow Bolt is almost unsurvivable for the level spread this adventure was written for. Then again, given that it's a Lamentations adventure, this is to be expected. Just take heed that one of the bad guys has a "if this hits you, you die" spell. The other new spells are delightful and twisted.

-This adventure is a railroad. The PCs basically travel along a straight path to the adventure's conclusion. There isn't a lot that lets them go off the map. It's good for one shots and convention games. I will say that the linearity of this adventure makes perfect sense within its context. A sandbox purist, however, could easily drop this as a jacked up little sidequest located in any forest hex on the map, and the fairy world could easily be expanded if one were so inclined. It should also be noted that the PCs have several options on how to resolve the situation.

-A semi-spoilery note: (you've been warned) My PCs found a way to prevent the Maypole Dance, and it was damn clever, I daresay.

-The PDF is four bucks. If you don't like it, it isn't a huge loss.

I look forward to running this again during convention season. I might shift some things around, but this is a pretty solid module that you can have ready to run in probably twenty minutes.