Tuesday, July 29, 2014

In Which I Read Sorcerer

Alright, so here's the deal.

I've been reading Sorcerer, the game by Ron Edwards. Specifically, a version that he has annotated.

Anyone who's read this blog knows that indie games aren't my thing: for one, many of them focus on such utterly specific play experiences that I'm just not interested. (Gray Ranks, The Mountain Witch- which aren't Edwards's work, but I digress) For another, I don't necessarily see "telling a story" as the point/objective of roleplaying games, and a lot of indie games are designed specifically to be exercises in collaborative storytelling.

If you're not into telling a story, or telling that particular story, the game seems an airy thing of no substance. You get some gamers together to play The Mountain Witch.  They don't want to go up the mountain. They want to go overthrow the local daimyo.
Well, you can't. This game is about a bunch of ronin who go to kill the Mountain Witch.
I'm not saying that's any better or worse than a Pathfinder Adventure Path, for what that's worth.

So, what attracts me to this game, Sorcerer?
Two things:

1. The PCs are classic sorcerers: they summon, bind, and deal with demons in order to gain power. Lately I've been mentally turned off to the wizard-is-a-guy-who-shoots-fireballs type of thing. Also, as I've stated in prior years on this blog, I like magic systems that are a little bit dangerous to the user of magic .

2. The cover. I bought OpenQuest for it's cover. I bought my first issue of the RIFTER, #54, because of its cover. The cover to the annotated Sorcerer is beautiful.

The rules are actually pretty light, though they trip overthemselves sometimes in the explanation. It involves dice pools, which usually I don't like. I'm still digesting the combat, but I think I have the sorcery system down.

The game wraps itself unnecessarily in the personal philosophy of its author; I don't think doing it Ron's way is as essential to Sorcerer as he presents it to be. You could rock this as a rules lite alternative to something White Wolf-esque, although I find myself compelled by this aspect of it: The author is all about letting the action get driven 100% by the players, without any prep from the GM. Beyond some help making the characters, the GM isn't supposed to prep. Each character gets a "Kicker" (a needlessly slangy term for an immediate, life-screwing problem) and then let the players go. 

Oh, and one more area where the author and I can come together: Don't roll the dice unless it matters. This is something I've started edging toward in various things I run; something I'd like to continue to move towards, actually. I have a post brewing with my thoughts on this, but it will have to wait for now.

I'm not quite finished with the book, and my opinion on it isn't fully formed yet. This is definitely note the sort of thing I play, not because of the subject material, but because of the presentation and how the game operates. I find I have the itch to try it out.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

RIFTS Madhaven, Session 3, Deadlands: The Ties That Bind Session 3

The session went pretty well. The PCs explored some old, mostly ruined buildings. Some of the searching was fruitful, some wasn't. Right now the party is just kind of wandering, but having now encountered a ley line walker who makes his home at the top of a surprisingly intact skyscraper, they may have a patron/enemy.

Sadly, our Juicer has to step away from the game for awhile. We'll be looking for a replacement for the time being.

I'm still running the game as sort of a hybrid dungeon/hex crawl. There are multiple factions within the ruins and they will act organically regardless of the PCs and what they do. Of course, the PCs have the chance to affect whatever they choose to get involved in.

The Deadlands game was fairly unfocused for most of the session. We only had two players and I'm guessing that's what we're pretty much at. I'm making the game a little more political and occult focused than most DL games. The PCs have a base of operations, a list of problems, and a list of resources. Rachel Larimer and her faithful servant Sebastian are set up in the troubled town of Creede, Colorado, where they must protect the Larimer family interests from opponents both mundane and mystical. The players seem to dig the setup, so I'm going to run with it.

Ravenloft/Masque of the Red Death is on hiatus for a few weeks due to scheduling conflicts.

Sadly, the end of summer approaches. As I start my fifth year of teaching and my final year of grad school, I'll have to be scaling back my gaming activities. For the next few weeks, I'll have to wring as much gaming goodness out of this setup as humanly possible.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

KantCon, in Retrospect

Another fun KantCon. Next year I think I'm going to just run things, rather than play.

Deadlands was a very good run. The GM was high energy. Combat was slow because we had eight players, but it was still enjoyable.

I didn't buy anything from the vendors, though I walked by the Black Blade booth repeatedly.

I found out about another con fairly near to this one, TsunamiCon, that I might go to in November.

Nuke Con called me a few hours ago and asked me to run some games there. (That isn't until December, though.)

Time well spent. I enjoy KantCon more than my regular local con these days. In fact, I doubt I'll be attending it this year for various reasons.

Now, back to the normal week and to getting ready to run RIFTS and Deadlands this week.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


This is my third KantCon; I've been attending the convention since 2012.

The day before the convention, my wife and I visited the used bookstore here. I scored the Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium Appendix III, which has some nice and unusual monsters to toss at my Skype Ravenloft/Masque of the Red Death group when we reconvene. (Likely in September due to conflicting schedules, but we'll see) I also picked up the Creature Feature supplement for Chill (the Pacesetter version, whereas all my other stuff is Mayfair.) 

...the cover of Creature Feature has a werewolf with a chef's hat and a salt-shaker giving us a thumbs-up while he ogles an oblivious, physically fit couple in a hot tub nearby. That shit is even cooler than the dragon with night vision goggles from RIFTS Conversion Book 1.

Yesterday I participated in three games. In the morning, I ran a scenario for Starships & Spacemen (2nd edition) using a scenario of my own design, "Betrayal at Kallanax!" It went really well, and has given me ideas for how to expand the scenario should I wish to run it again.

My second game was Jim Raggi's Hammers of the God, and for the first time I used the LotFP ruleset without any tinkering on my part. I rather like how it runs. To my horror, there were no casualties, due in part to some ridiculously good luck and a very interesting application of a cure light wounds spell. We ran a bit short on time, but the PCs were close enough to obtaining one of the treasures.

The final game I played in, rather than ran. It was AD&D 1st edition and the reissue of Tegel Manor.
First off: holy crap Tegel Manor is nuts. Not a bad idea, but nuts.
Second: I really don't like playing in games as much as I like running them.
Third: Specifically, dungeon crawls bore me to tears as a player. The most enjoyable parts of the session were the few interactions between the characters. 

Today I couldn't drag myself out of bed, so I missed my first game. The second game was a Swords & Wizardry powered Barsoomian adventure with much death and mayhem. The DM borrowed the Might Deeds mechanic from DCC and the press/parry options from LotFP, plus added a somewhat LotFP-esque skill system.Tonight I am scheduled to play Deadlands Reloaded, though I am very tired.

Tomorrow I am scheduled to play in a morning game of FATE, after which I'll be departing for home.

Black Blade is here. I was tempted to pick up a hard copy of The Dungeon Dozen, but I can't get past the price tag.

It is/was a fun con, and I definitely plan to be back next year. I think next year I'm going to do mostly running instead of playing. I'm a born GM and I really do my best gaming and have the most fun when I'm in that role, rather than that of a PC. 

Monday, July 14, 2014


Today I picked up a pristine boxed set of Planescape. I had a 40% off coupon for one item at the bookstore, so I actually got it at retail price instead of "collectible" price.

I love the art, the slang, the attitude of Planescape.
I think AD&D is totally the wrong rules set for it, but the setting is cool.

I like the sect/faction mechanics.

It's also the only setting where I will ever again abide the presence of aasimar and tieflings. Because, you know, context.

A worthy addition to my growing collection of boxed sets. Huzzah!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Deadlands: The Ties That Bind "prequel" session

Deadlands was supposed to start in earnest tonight, but only two players were available. We played anyway. I decided to set this session one year prior to the beginning of the campaign. (So this was an incident that occurred in 1878.)

William Larimer, founder of Denver, rarely had the energy to handle his family holdings in his old age and poor health. When he heard reports that the town of Creede was becoming a violent, bloodthirsty pit of a town, he started to worry about one of his more productive silver mines. He summoned his youngest daughter, Rachel, and charged her with finding out why the marshal in Creede was being so lax. Sent to accompany her was Sebastian, the family's butler and guardian for as far back as she could remember.

I ran a modified version of the "Lover's Quarrel" one sheet on Pinnacle's website. Rachel and Sebastian were able to root out the cause of the problem and destroy it, though the town is going to be needing a new lawman. The family silver mine isn't out of peril yet, but Rachel has proven herself a worthy problem solver to her father, and Sebastian has cemented his position as a trusted guardian.

The next session will flash forward to 1879, with the reading of William Larimer's will. That was supposed to be the first session, but I'm rolling with it.

...and for you history buffs, yes  I know I'm playing fast and loose with William Larimer. This game has flamethrowers and zombies in it.

Friday, July 11, 2014

RIFTS Madhaven Session 2 And Thoughts on Running RIFTS

First of all,

RIFTS is a logistical headache. Combing through Madhaven, I found references to things that required me to have access to RIFTS Africa, RIFTS Dark Conversions, RIFTS Sourcebook One, and whatever book has Glitter Boy Killers in it. Luckily, I happen to have a pretty expansive RIFTS library, as does Steven, but still, it's kind of a pain in the ass.

RIFTS combat is slooooooooooow. A chunk of the evening was spent fighting a combat that took less than 45 seconds of in-game time. I tried to compensate for this by describing things as vividly as possible- the sounds, sights, physical sensations of combat. I tried to bring my descriptive A game and the players seemed pretty entertained. Still power creep in RIFTS is evident. Combat using weapons from the core book against monsters from World Book 29? Yeesh.

RIFTS experience system is... yeah, you guys want to call B/X D&D bean counting? Bitch, you haven't counted beans until you've awarded experience in a Palladium game. The system is based on things PCs did during the session, which I like, but it's highly micromanage-y, is utterly arbitrary, and the chunks of points characters get for things are mostly small. I think I'm probably going to handwave it for the most part. There's no way I'm going to track every "clever but futile idea" each player has during every session of the campaign.

Now, it may seem like I have nothing but gripes, but I actually really enjoyed the session.  I tried to make it vividly descriptive and I tried to keep combat fun despite how much of a time sink it was. I have a lot of ideas for the various ruins, the factions within Madhaven, and the delightful fun I can have with the overall psychic spookiness of the place. Madhaven will be my sandbox with many "dungeons" and locations inside of it.

...and, let's face it: RIFTS has some balls out cool shit, and my players know how to be cool with it. We had a Juicer jump off a moving motorcycle to try and Superman-punch a giant wolf with his forearm mounted vibroblades. We had dudes whipping around in hovercycles loosing plasma bolts and fire spells in a moving battle. Giant wolf jumping at you? Have your amphibious genetically engineered mount tail slap that mofo right out of the air.

We haven't even gotten to the meat of the campaign, the urban core of Madhaven. I have a lot of ideas for what's going on in, around, and under the city and the PCs will be able to explore or ignore at their leisure. 

I'm disappointed that I won't be able to run it next week, but I will enjoy being at KantCon. This campaign will give me something to look forward to afterward, though.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Three Games

*Thursdays- RIFTS Madhaven

I'm doing this sandbox style. I'm treating the city of Madhaven as a megadungeon, with various buildings, tunnels, ruined bases and the like being sub-levels. I've found that Wizardawn has added some lovely tools since last I checked it, including a lot of stuff geared at post-apocalyptic gaming. For one thing, they've given me a wonderful megamap with nine-hundred some potential locations. If you've never looked at Wizardawn, I implore you to check it out.

*Fridays- Deadlands: Ties that Bind

This game is set in Denver. All the characters are relatives of William Larimer, Jr., the guy who founded Denver but got screwed out of being the first Governor of the Colorado Territories. I'm fudging the history on the men and their families and turning it into a game about two supernaturally-aware families struggling for control of the physical and metaphysical aspects of Denver, the gateway to the West. I'm playing fast and loose with the history (because, you know, Deadlands) and really just borrowing some of the real stuff for added flavor.

After several delays, I'm finally starting the game in earnest this Friday. 

*Sundays- Ravenloft: Masque of the Red Death

So I'm running this via Skype with two old and dear friends. We're using MotRD Ravenloft, but with a skill system more akin to Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I'm running the actual modules out of the campaign boxed set, with interludes between them. So far the interludes have been based off some of the less moronic modules in The Book of Crypts, which have to be altered to fit 1890's Earth, anyway.

I can only keep this up because it's summer break. The first two games are temporary anyway; come August I will cede Fridays back to Josh and come fall I will cede Thursdays back to Steven and likely cut Sundays down to every other week. But for the time being? I'm rocking it.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

In Which I Run RIFTS

Tonight I ran RIFTS for the first time, which may seem surprising given how much RIFTS stuff I own. The first session was a little slow and consisted mostly of getting the party together and getting to know the characters. I whipped up a quick random rumor table, a la old TSR modules. (Some true, some false, some partially true, etc)

Our party:

Sirslamarock (Yes, that's one word) - Malvoran RCC.  A polite and refined humanoid war machine, searching for ancient weapon technology in Madhaven.

Nameless- Yeno Gunsligner. More like a "fingerslinger," owning to his natural energy projection abilities. This character hates all non-Yeno lifeforms and refuses to give his name to lesser beings. He wants to see if the Madhaven has a ley line or technology that can help him get out of this vile dimension.

"Mal' - D-Bee Scout. His true species will be kept secret as the player has requested for now. Mal seems to be a human of extra-dimensional origin. He is trying to find treasure in Madhaven so that he can pay the father of his true love to marry her, since he is beneath her caste. (This is a tradition of his people) It the meantime, he enjoys just learning about this mysterious land, North America.

Xavier- Ley Line Walker. Presently the only native Earth human in the party, Xavier seeks the mythical White Rose, said to grow only in Madhaven, to study it and see if he can concoct a potion of longevity using its mystical properties.

Chud- Juicer. This character will be joining the party next week. His motives are unknown. He'll be the second native Earth human in the group.

As I run the game, I just keep telling myself: "Fun over rules, also, just remember this is really heavily modified AD&D."

I have a lot of ideas for this game, and I'm going to try to make it something of a sandbox within the city of Madhaven. I've found a couple of cool post apocalyptic city maps and I have a few ideas for dungeons within the city, as well as some faction based politicking. Hot damn.

Quick Post: Dwarves and Magic

Dwarves don't like magic spells.

Dwarves like magic items.

For dwarves, craft is everything, legacy is everything. What is a spell? A few words, some gestures, a flash in the pan. Ah, but craft something enchanted, and that will be around for ages. Can you pass a spell down to your sons? No, they are momentary recitations, stolen scraps of lore you don't comprehend enough to hold in your mind beyond a single usage. Does one forget how to swing a hammer, or wear a helm?

Dwarven magic-users do not adventure, for they have no need to purloin the knowledge of their craft from others. They learn it over centuries of dedicated study and tradition as firm as the mountains from which it came.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Nobody Bats 1,000*

Having read through Doom Cave of the Crystal Skulled Children, I have two things to say:

1. I'm glad it was free
2. Better Book Title: Push Button to Ruin Character and/or Campaign.

I know a few people in Blogaria who would say that statement #2 applies to all Raggi's work, but my impression of Doom Cave is that the character-fuckery is a lot more arbitrary. Normally I enjoy LotFP stuff, but this one leaves me cold. I enjoyed Better Than Any Man far, far more.

Also, regarding the seemingly recent (to me, anyway) trend of "Fuck up your entire campaign world" traps in Raggi modules, I state this: Players losing characters over foolish decisions or bad luck are part and parcel to the game. Me losing my campaign world over the players' foolish decisions or bad luck? No, thanks. 

...now, don't get me wrong. If my players orchestrate an epic success or epic fuckup that destroys the world, fair game.... but destroying the world because they messed with a widget in a dungeon and got a shitty roll? Homie don't play that.

*I don't follow baseball, or any sport for that matter, so I'm not even 100% sure what this analogy means.