Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Obligatory 2015 Review in Gaming

The year started off with me running my Deadlands Denver game, a sort of "Old West Sopranos With Magic." We wrapped up in April when the PCs suddenly and unexpectedly wiped out/subjugated their various enemies and rivals while inadvertently rendering Denver a magical dead zone. 

The Friday group floundered with what to do next. We tried to build a Fate Core game, but I just couldn't grok it and gave up. We did some scattered one shots after that...and then after July we really didn't play anything anymore. While I still hang out frequently with the folks from the Friday group, it's really not a gaming group anymore. 

In March, I joined a game of Engines & Empires, being run by the author himself, at the local game shop. I met some new players that I hang out with outside of the game from time to time. Sadly, I ended up falling off the wagon. 

I ran a continuation of my RIFTS Madhaven campaign from May until August. While I have since dropped off the face of the map as far as my Thursday game goes, I hope to go back... I love playing Simon in Beyond the Supernatural 2nd edition. I'm also interested in continuing the Madhaven saga this summer and perhaps bringing it to a conclusion of some kind. 

In July, I attended my favorite convention, KantCon, in Kansas City. (Well technically Overland Park, but whatever.) I ran Starships and Spacemen 2nd edition and I ended up pulling surprise substitute DM duty for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. In fact, that seems to be the two games I run there every year. 

July also saw me introducing two people from the E&E game to D&D 5th edition. I ended up starting a campaign set in the Keep on the Borderlands, including a Tuesday night spinoff game.  We've changed venues three times and added three new players (all new to D&D) since we started. Of my 2015 endeavors, this is the only one that survives and runs every week.

I added games to my collection, including a brief and fruitless affair with the Cypher system (which I've been selling off) and my aforementioned attempt at Fate Core. I also discovered the OneDice system, though after reading through several of the books, the only one that really holds my interest is OneDice Urban Fantasy. 

My quest to replace White Wolf/World of Darkness continues to flounder fruitlessly. I thought OneDice would be the solution, but I've yet to drum up any interest in it. 

I blogged more in 2015 than I did 2013 and 2014 I guess I got all wordy again. (Or maybe it's because I finished grad school back in May.) 

All in all, I feel like 2015 was an average year for gaming. I think Deadlands remains my finest accomplishment for the year. I'm still on the fence about 5th edition, though I was happy to introduce two players to 5e and three to the hobby. I have decided the Cypher system gets a polite "Thanks but no thanks," and Fate Core gets a "Why can't  you be more like your older brothers?" (I'm referring to FUDGE, and FATE 2nd edition, if you didn't catch that.) 

As the year ends, I find I have a "mental wishlist" of things I want to start in 2016. Some of them have been rattling around in my noodle for some time, others are recent wants. 

*A game of Swords & Wizardry, set either in my Albadia/mythic Persia setting or a pseudo-Dark Ages Europe setting. (Or was really just the Dark Ages for Europe, after all)
*A game of OpenQuest set in a pseudo-Celtic/Irish/Scottish/British type world. 
*An urban fantasy/horror game set in a creepy-ass small town. 
*A game of trippy-ass 70's style Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls.
*A resurrection of my "steampunk ghostbusters/X-files" game using Savage Worlds. 

So that's my want list. In all likelihood, I'm going to end up running between 0 and 0 things on the want list and just soldiering on with D&D 5e. (It's really not a bad edition, per se, but I still pine for an older, simpler D&D...especially a version without the moonbeam spell. Seriously, fuck you, moonbeam.

And so we march onward into 2016. Happy holidays and continued gaming to you all. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Hit Point Idea

Half a character's hit points is Vigor. This represents fighting prowess, spirit, hardiness, and generally the ability to persevere. Losing Vigor represents exhaustion, parries, near-misses, etc.
All Vigor returns if characters have a moment to catch their breath at the end of a battle or hazardous situation. Vigor cannot be restored by cure wounds spells.

The other half of a character's hit points is Health. This represents actual capacity to withstand wounds. A character recovers 10% of their max health per day of rest, doubled if they do nothing but rest and have access to medical care.

Damage that a character receives is first subtracted from Vigor. When Vigor is exhausted, damage comes off of Health. At 0 Health, a character is mortally wounded and will die in 1d6 rounds unless medical aid is rendered. Furthermore, a character cannot have more Vigor points than he has Health points, so a character who has lost all but 3 of his Health cannot have more than 3 Vigor unless he heals up.

Option: In combat, any attack that scores a natural 20 is subtracted directly from Health, bypassing Vigor.

Option 2: Missile weapons subtract directly from Health.

Option 3: Energy drain and other life-draining spells and effects come directly from Health.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Deck the (Dungeon) Halls

The mostly-theoretical Friday night game group is slated to meet this week. Given that the following Friday is that strange tree-worshiping holiday that seems to be popular around these parts, we likely won't be meeting again until at least January 2nd, which itself could prove to be futile. I'm going to go ahead and say January 7th. (Oddly enough, the 5 year anniversary of my abortive Traveller campaign) To that end, rather than starting a new campaign, I'm going to be running one or more holiday-themed one shots. While I wanted to run one of the Goodman holiday scenarios for Dungeon Crawl Classics (adapted to B/X or maybe LotFP, they want $6.99 a pop for them. Pinnacle, meanwhile, has several holiday-themed "one sheets" for free-ninety-nine. I downloaded all of them. One is for Weird Wars II, one is for Deadlands, and one is for the horror companion but would slot nicely into East Texas University. Two of the players already know how to play Savage Worlds from the Deadlands campaign I ran in 2013-2014, and I have no doubt the other two will learn it quickly.

Man, Pinnacle really deserves more love than they get. On the real.

Monday, December 14, 2015

5e and Me Part II: Cutting Words

Earlier this morning, I posted a rant about last night's 5e session. The rant was angry and kind of mean, so I pulled it. (I have players who read this blog) Let me boil it down:

Bards in 5e have an ability called "Cutting Words," a reaction ability that lets a bard reduce an opponent's attack roll. When I ruled that "cutting words" would have no effect on an opponent with no ability to comprehend said words, one of the players got upset. She quoted the rulebook at me and I said "I give zero fucks what the book says."  I could've been more adult about it, but arguing with players over the minutiae of spells and abilities grinds my patience down very, very quickly.

With 5e, there's a lot of minutiae. It's not as bad as 4e, and it doesn't seem to be as bad as I remember 3.5, but nonetheless, the mechanics have prompted more arguments and negotiations than any of the older editions I've played.

5e is functional and I have a ready supply of players. It isn't horrible the way 4e was horrible and it aggravates me less than 3.5 or 3.0...

...but I know now that it will never take the place of the older editions for me. This edition is one that I can live with, but that's about as far as it's going for me.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Being a Misunderstood Antihero With a Skull Helmet

This morning's tongue-in-cheek gaming thoughts...

Palladium is releasing a couple of upcoming sourcebooks that attempt to add a different dimension to the Coalition States, casting them in a more sympathetic light, or at least trying to depict them as shades of gray rather than out-and-out bad guys...

...yet they still look like the bad guys from an 80's cartoon/toy line, what with the all encompassing skull motif. I mean, they have vehicles that look like motherfucking skulls. That is some seriously metal shit.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

5e and Me

As I read through my blogroll today, I happened upon JB's anti-5e rant. As a rule, I don't jump into discussions like that; it's his blog, it's his opinion, etc. However, it did get me thinking on my own present 5e game. 

To review, this game started out as Keep on the Borderlands, though I threw in Tower of the Stargazer, Wizard's Challenge, In Search of the Unknown, and a couple of dungeons of my own design as well. I run it sandbox style. 

My players are all new to D&D. For two of them, I am their second DM and this is their second campaign. (Though their first D&D5e/modern D&D experience) For the other three, I am their first DM and this is their first experience with D&D in any incarnation. 

My players are all veteran PC gamers. All of them played or play World of Warcraft and League of Legends. I'm not sure how or if this colors their approach to tabletop gaming. Having never played either of those games, and being interested primarily in games of an older style, I haven't much perspective on the issue, and I feel like anything I say must be taken with an old-man-shaking-his-fist grain of salt. (And yes, I am aware that I'm one of the younger bloggers in the OSR at the age of 34, but I am also the oldest in this group, with age differences ranging from 6-11 years younger.)

The game itself seems to be driven by the acquisition of experience points. The players want to get xp. They do things that will net them xp. They do it because they get xp for it, not due to any particular character goal or motivation...aside from, I suppose, the acquisition of personal wealth and power. (You could argue that this goal was a strong part of older editions, as well) 

In terms of immersion, this campaign has to be one of my weakest performances as a DM. I feel like I describe the dungeons well enough, but the NPCs have little in the way of personality or flavor, which is something previous gaming groups have lauded in me. In fact, there seems to be very little in the way of RP at the table. The players are in a state of quasi-OOC at all times, and their characters' personalities are essentially just their own real life personalities. I don't know why any of them came to the Keep, nor what their purpose is aside from accumulating treasure and experience. Actually, this isn't 100% true; the party's necromancer has aspirations of rising within the Mage's Guild of the Keep. 

While I enjoy the game, I feel like it has none of my usual...pizzazz. I don't think this has anything to do with 5e necessarily, nor the players' background as WoW players. It might have something to do with the fact that all but one session have been played in one of two public venues.

Part of me is curious as to how this game would roll differently (if at all) if we were running, say, Swords & Wizardry or some B/X. Then again, two of the players play in a Cyclopedic D&D game... (albeit a heavily house ruled version) 

It's no secret that there are versions of the game I'd rather run, but at the end of the day, I prefer 5e to 3.5 or 4. 

...I could get down on some florid-ass 1e, tho. Terraxian forever. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls! Thanks, Ken!

Earlier this evening, I was pining over the fact that OBS only has Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls on PDF. I messaged Ken St. Andre via Twitter and he offered to sell me an autographed copy of the book for $40 with free priority mail shipping. I'm pretty stoked. I thought I'd give him a shout out. You should holler at him if you're interested in a copy and you didn't get in on the Kickstarter.


My Cypher System book and DCC book have both sold and shipped off. I kept the modules for it, because I can (and have) run them with old-ass D&D.

Gamma World and TMNT are also on the chopping block, and I'm thinking about losing Star Frontiers and BattleSystem as well.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Fate 2nd Edition, Risus, and Fudge

About 11 years ago, I came across the 2nd edition of Fate (back when it stood for Fantastic Adventures in Tabletop Entertainment, a moniker that I'm not sure Evil Hat still uses.) The rules are pretty similar, but the game's Fudge influence is more pronounced and Aspects are slightly different- and more to my liking.

The Aspects in Fate2e actually remind me much of the Cliches in Risus. The text lists "Knight" as an example of an Aspect. The current iteration of Fate would pooh-pooh such a simplistic Aspect, instead opting for something like "Disgraced Knight of the Cross" or "Sworn Duty to the Kingdom of Alecar" or something florid like that. Aspects also had a rating that determined how many times you could use them in a session. If you have Knight at 3, you can invoke it for a benefit up to three times per session. While I find it better than an arbitrary and oft-murky Fate Point economy, it still feels fairly inorganic; why would my being a Knight only come up a maximum of three times per interesting thing that happens in my life?

I feel like I understand this older edition of Fate better...perhaps "understand" isn't exactly the word I'm looking for, but I find the edition much easier to wrap my brain around. I find that it starts to look very Risus-y in addition to being Fudge's bastard child.

Suppose we take my ever-nagging WoD rewrite idea and combine it with the above concepts.

At creation, you define five Aspects:
-Previous human life (Bartender, Drifter, Corporate Drone)
-Supernatural type (Vampire, Werewolf, Mermaid)
-Specialty (Manipulator, Muscle, Scientist)
-Wild Card (Well Connected, Highly Intuitive, Breathtaking Beauty)
-Weakness (Lecherous, Fear of Heights, Entitled)  

**Note that the Weakness is meant to be a character flaw, not a supernatural weakness...those are "baked in" to the supernatural Aspect.

Characters then have five levels of "stuff" per Aspect. These will be Skills or Gifts for Previous Life, Specialty, and Wildcard, Powers for Supernatural Type, and Faults for Weakness.

Powers would be somewhat limited by Supernatural Type, whereas Skills and Gifts would be a bit more open for the other Aspects.

Putting it all together, we might have something like this:

Lorenzo "Lucky" Lozano, Merman
Previous Life: Bike Messenger -City Knowledge (San Francisco) Good, Urban Survival Fair, Alertness Good

Supernatural Type: Mermaid- Water Breathing, Lure, Luck, Unearthly Beauty, Resist Cold

Specialty: Barfly- Fast Talk Good, Carousing Good, Nightlife Contacts

Wild Card: Scrappy- Dodge Good, Brawl Fair, Athletics Good

Weakness: Overconfidence- Short Man Syndrome, Lothario, Reckless, Egotistical, Doesn't Know When to Quit

Looking back over this, it seems like I've created something similar to Five Point Fudge, and maybe I need to look at blending the two approaches. I'm also not sure I'm 100% in love with taking Skills and Gifts from the same Aspect. I would also have to figure out if some powers cost more power slots than others... after all, is breathing underwater as useful as regeneration? Is carving your weakness up into five "sub-weaknesses" too much? I have to confess like I felt I was splitting hairs when trying to come up with them.

I'll continue working on this. I think maybe it's time to take a second look at Five Point Fudge and see if that structure works a little better.

Monday, December 7, 2015

More Risus Characters

More Risus characters, just because.

Urtek the Dragonslayer

Cliches: Dragonslayer (4), Berserker (3), Fated Hero (3), Insatiable Lecher (2)

Tools of the Trade: Glory Bringer (Ancestral battle axe), Wyrm Ender (Ancestral bone harpoon), Meteorite Necklace, bottle of animal musk, horned helmet

Hook: Secretly Fatalistic

Tale: Urtek never knew his father. His mother was a camp follower to the hordes of Gorth the Mighty. On the eve of his birth, his mother died and a star fell to the earth. The shamans saw this as an omen and encouraged Gorth to adopt the boy, rather than leaving him behind with the corpse of his mother.

Gorth raised the lad as his own, training him to be a mighty warrior. The lad had inherited the gift of the berserker. On his 16th birthday, he accompanied a raiding party that was ambushed by a wyvern. The lad landed the killing blow on the serpent. Soon he was hunting young dragons with the mightiest warriors of Gorth's horde.

When the horde was finally destroyed by the Silver Legions of His Most Holy Imperial Majesty Gairan VII, Urtek was captured. Before he could be lead to the Glory Pits of the Imperial Arena, he managed to escape, killing several Legionnaires and recapturing his ancestral weapons.

Urtek wandered the land for a time, taking on odd jobs and fighting for silver until he heard the rumor that His Most Holy Imperial Majesty Gairan VII was actually descended from the Sacred Dragons of yore. While he never had much of an interest in revenge (Gorth was not a kind master), he suddenly found the prospect much more interesting when the man who destroyed his adoptive people was also the type of beast he most loved killing.

Alpha-43, aka "Gill," [Model Guillame Mk II], Robot Private Detective 

Cliches: Detective (4), Robot (3), Obsolete (2), Veteran (3)

Tools of the Trade: Beat-up trench coat, completely vestigial cigar, plasma revolver

Hook: Anachronism bugs in programming

Tale: Originally commissioned to serve as a braked-AI detective unit for the Alpha City Municipal Police Force, Samson was eventually phased out in favor of the Parker series of synthetic detectives, despite being on of the longest serving active models on the force. After the AI Rights Act had been passed by the Quorum, obsolete synthetics could no longer be legally decommissioned.  Out of a job and needing a way to afford regular maintenance, Gill (the other cops never could pronounce "Guillame," the name of the series) turned to the semi-shady world of private investigation. After all, most people who need a PI either can't afford the top-of-the-line models or don't care or don't know the difference anyway.

Gill's fortune has recently experienced an uptick: a sophisticated new hacker has been confounding the city's synthetic police force. Gill and robots of his generation are so obsolete that they can't be compromised by the most modern computer technology. Suddenly Gill finds himself consulting for the Alpha City Municipal, the very people who once booted him for being outdated...

Vindicator, Vigilante Superhero

Cliches: Powered Armor (4), Resilient (3), Mr. Fix-It (3), Cocksure (2)

Tools of the Trade: Prototype Guardian Armor, hidden lair

Hook: In over his head

Tale: Ramsey Irons was always good with his hands. While he wasn't incredibly book-smart, he studied tirelessly and had an intuitive grasp of how things work. He managed to wrangle a full-ride scholarship to Brighton University to study mechanical and electrical engineering. After finishing graduate school, he was recruited by Cromwell Technologies, Incorporated and assigned to a secret project developing the latest model of powered armor. Unfortunately, the project turned out to be not-so-secret, and the facility where Ramsey was working was attacked by a hit squad from a rival corporation. Ramsey managed to escape with his life...and a little souvenir.

Two years after the incident, Ramsey has managed to refurbish the only surviving armor prototype. Having a strong sense of justice and an ego to match, he has become Vindicator, an armored vigilante determined to take down the corrupt corporations. Unfortunately, this has earned him the ire of quite a few politicians and fellow superheroes who believe him to be nothing more than a corporate goon himself.

Natka Proyesch, Village Wise Woman 

Cliches: Village Witch (4), Legends and Lore (4), The Evil Eye (2)

Tools of the Trade: Hut full of weird herbs and components, crooked staff decorated with feathers and bones, gray cat (not actually a familiar, contrary to popular belief)

Hook: Former member of the Cauldron

Tale: Natka is the weird old crone who lives at the edges of the village of Trobov. Many villagers (especially the older ones) are afraid of her, but they still seek her out when they need advice, cures for warts, fertility treatments, and the odd love potion. The younger people of the village tend to dismiss her as a vestige of a more superstitious age.

Little does anybody know, Natka was once a witch of the Cauldron, a dark coven that visited sacrilege and terror on the land. She betrayed her coven-sisters to a group of witch-hunters, stealing their secrets and leaving them to the cleansing flames. She has since repented of her evil ways, turning to a life as a simple healer and profferer of blessings. Unfortunately for her, the Cauldron made dark pacts with entities from the twilight realms, and they recognize her as the lone inheritor of the Cauldron's debts to them.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Books I Want That I Totally Do Not Need

...aka, story of my life.

1. OpenQuest Deluxe 2, hardcover. I bought the original OpenQuest based on the cover. The cover for OQ2 is just as inspiring. Why don't I need it? I already have a ton of fantasy games, I'll probably never run it, and I've heard that the interior art is an incredibly mixed bag. I also have read that OQ and OQ2 don't have much in the way of differences between them, and the basic PDF is free.

2. Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls, print copy. Despite having three different editions of Tunnels & Trolls on PDF, and despite not having actually run T&T since the summer after I was in 8th grade (approximately 20 years ago), I have often yearned to own a hard copy of the game. To my reasoning, why not grab the big deluxe version with it's very nice cover? Of course, it's not available in POD yet. When it becomes available, I'd like to grab it in hard cove if such a thing is offered.

3. Dragon Warriors, hardcover. That cover, tho. Also the game is British and vintage. I don't need it because of the list of fantasy games I own and am unlikely to run any time ever... but then again, that complaint stands for all the books on this list.

In the meanwhile, I have listed my copies of Dungeon Crawl Classics and the Cypher System Rulebook for sale on a certain website with a marketplace. While The Strange and Numenera are cool, I find that Cypher core leaves me feeling a bit cold when it comes to universal application; there are probably other systems I'd use. As for DCC, the adventure modules are pretty sweet, but as for the actual system... I have plenty of OSR games that can basically do the same thing. If nothing else, it will make room on my shelf and further justify purchasing books that I don't need.

The struggle is real.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Risus is an RPG that I've only tried once in a GM chatroom. For some reason, I never took it seriously. After reading John's post on it, I decided to give it another read. I find it much more palatable than I previously did.

I knocked these characters out in like 20 minutes. Weirdly, Risus has given me a better understanding of some of the concepts in Fate... maybe I just need to treat Fate like a more complex Risus....

Grinvald Van Teer
Cliches: Alchemist (4), Know-It-All (3), Grenade Lobber (3), Narcissist (2)

Tools of the Trade: Alchemy Lab in the city of Vorqvist, Bottles and Vials, Book of Alchemical Recipes

Hook: Obsessed with the Potion of Immorality

Tale: Born to a wealthy family in the commercial city of Holjar, the scrawny and bookish Grinvald was dubbed unsuitable for anything but a life of academia. Exhibiting a natural talent for chemistry at University, he went to study at the Academy of Transmutation at Vorqvist. Having become a full-fledged and guilded alchemist, Grinvald has made it his life's goal to...extend his life. Indefinitely. Vain and self-obsessed, Grinvald simply cannot imagine a world without himself in it.

Insectoid Alien Mercenary (4), Horrific Natural Weapons (4), Pilot (2), Inscrutable (2)

Tools of the Trade: Junker Spaceship, Alien Talismans

Hook: Hive-Mind Mentality

Tale: Yttk is one of the only survivors of the alien lifeform classified as Insectoid Xenomorph-234. Artificially engineered and bred by an unknown progenitor race, the IX-234 were destroyed after a prolonged war with the Galactic Collective. Once all of the Hive ships were destroyed, the surviving soldiers and drones acquired free will. While distrusted and often mistreated, some try to make their way in polite galactic society. Yttk scrapes by as a mercenary, using its armor-piercing mandibles, acidic spittle, and spike-covered exoskeleton to earn a living. Lacking even a name, Yttk is so-called by his confederates from the noise it most often makes while lost in thought.

Lita Benett
Werewolf  (3), Bartender (2), Brawler (3), Survivor (3), Cooler (1)

Tools of the Trade: Bottle of Meds, Bottle of Jack, Fringed Leather Jacket

Hook: Afraid of Intimacy

Tale: Born the youngest of five children in Woodstock, Vermont, She ran away with a no-good boy at 16, dumped him at 17, and got straight up mauled by a werewolf on a lonely stretch of highway in Michigan at 18. She'd have surely died if a semi-truck hadn't hit the creature as it was closing in to finish her off. She lived as a hermit in the woods for a few months until she was taken in by a pack of fellow werewolves  who taught her to manage her condition.
Ten years later, Lita works as a bartender in a roadside bar called Perdition. The bar is neutral ground among the supernatural community, and Lita acts as a bouncer as well as a bartender.

Alphonse Baptiste
Grizzled Savateur (3), PARKOUR! (3), Silver Tongue (2), Pickpocket (2), Criminal Connections (1)

Tools of the Trade: Winning smile, wrist/ankle wraps

Hook: Favors Owed to Shady Underworld Figures

Tale: Alphonse grew up as an orphan on the mean streets of Marseille in France. He learned how to lie, cheat, and steal in order to survive. He finally ended up as an errand boy for the Marseille underworld. Demonstrating a natural talent for athletics and fighting, Alphonse was trained by underworld muscle in the arts of Savate.
As he grew into adulthood, Alphonse grew weary of the life of a criminal and thug, earning his freedom by saving the daughter of a dangerous crime boss. He has since traveled to Thailand to fight in secretive black market tournaments, but he hasn't left his shady past behind entirely.

Monday, November 30, 2015

KEEPing On

...anyone? Anyone?

The Keep5e campaign continues. The party accepted a quest to take a magical exorcism scroll into the blasphemous temple/tomb I placed beneath Area A in the Caves of Chaos. The party dipped their toes into that dungeon much earlier in the campaign and got a bit of a spanking. They returned, and once again received a bit of a spanking in the form of 6 dwarf wights.

...and let me tell ya, energy drain is super weaksauce in 5th edition. You get a saving throw (DC 13 Con in this case) and the effects last only until you take a long rest. Laaaame. The drain itself also only reduces your maximum hit points. There still remains the peril of being drained to 0 hp by the attack and converting instantly to undead, but I don't think any PC was in serious danger of this...mostly the wights just kept critting with their swords. One could still argue that it went much better than last week's run-in with the hill giant and his ogre lackeys.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Being Someone's First...

...DM, that is.

Over the past couple months, I've been the first DM to three different players, including one who just played his first game of D&D in my Keep5e game tonight. A first level bard rolling with a crew of levels 2-4 who managed to make a difference in a combat with a hill giant by clever use of minor illusion. He jumped two levels by the end of the session, and good on him...most of the things they encountered had the potential to wreck him in one hit. He demonstrated a lot of ingenuity in navigating a dangerous shrine of Law. It was pretty ballin'.

At this point, the campaign has become less Keep on the Borderlands and more "PCs explore a bunch of dungeons I made up that surround the Keep on the Borderlands." They haven't been to the Caves of Chaos in ages. Here are the dungeons they know about:

-The Caves of Chaos
-Some kind of evil temple/prison beneath the Caves of Chaos
-The Tower of the Astromancer (slightly re-imagined Tower of the Stargazer)
-The ruined Old Kingdom dwarf undercity beneath the Keep.
-A shrine to the Seven Dukes of the Wind, located east of the Keep.
-A small mud hut village of ogres, dire wolves, and at least one hill giant
-A lizardman lair in the southern fens, though the PCs have never actually been to it
-A dwarf castle from the Old Kingom somewhere deeper into the lands of Chaos- again, this is only a place the PCs have heard of in passing, whereas the rest of the dungeons they have visited.

Meanwhile, other stuff, not necessarily dungeon-related, that the PCs know of:

-A ghost, claiming to be from the "Old Mage's Guild" has been haunting the Keep near the location of the present Mage's Guild. It has apparently abducted the Guild's alchemist and has challenged the Guild Grandmaster to face it.
-A man has been seen zipping around the skies north of the Keep on a flying carpet. His identity is unknown, but the Castellan would like to have him shot down.
-People are vanishing inside the Keep...random citizens who are here one day, gone the next.

Let's see what the PCs get themselves into next.

Monday, November 16, 2015

An Unlikely Find, Indeed

I was at the used bookstore yesterday, wandering the shelves. The gaming section is fairly well gutted unless you're into 4th edition (feh) or NWoD.

I turned the corner into the computer/video game section, and there it was, locked in the cabinet with the vintage video game stuff... was a print copy of Tenra Bansho Zero.

What. The. Hell.

First of all, TBZ is a roleplaying game, the pen and paper kind. It was published in Japan in the late 90's and translated into English in the last few years. What it was doing in the video game cabinet is anyone's guess.

I picked it up, if only because such a find is incredibly uncommon.

I have TBZ on PDF, and while I'm not sure it's the type of game I'd run, the book is goddamn beautiful and full of a lot of interesting ideas.

Meanwhile, I burn for a print copy of Tunnels & Trolls Deluxe, though such is not available to the general public. I was also thinking about OpenQuest 2 for the cover, but from what I've read, the interior artwork isn't very good.

But seriously. Print copy of TBZ in the video game section.

Ponderous, man.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Monolithic Musings

Let's talk about Raggi's big monolith.


First off, I almost quit reading as soon as I encountered the word "Lovecraftian," because I am so sick of Cthulhu crap in D&D (and gaming in general) that I could fucking puke. However, Raggi's module is only Lovecraftian in tone... you won't find Shoggoths or any of that other tired bullshit lurking within.

This is a module that can nuke your characters or your entire campaign world. There isn't much in the way of treasure or reward as one might think of such in a "traditional" D&D type game. The only way to really win is to not go into the valley or to turn back before you get to the Monolith.

It's still got a lot of interesting stuff in it, particularly the guest spot "Owls" encounter. I think I'll mostly use this one for weird encounter ideas.

I'm honestly not sure exactly why this one caused so much of a stir back in the day, unless this was the turning point at which his work became 90% push-button-ruin-character/game world kind of stuff.

Not a bad read, overall for the ideas.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Long Awaited PDFs

I picked up the new Old School Revival bundle on good ol' Bundle of Holding. While I owned some of the stuff already, having a digital copy would be nice. I'll also admit that I mostly did it to finally get my hands on Adventurer, Conquerer, King... I've wanted to peruse that for some time. I can also finally read Monolith From Beyond Space and Time and see what everybody was so rankled about.

My semi-irregular 5e games roll on. The "main" group continues to crawl slowly but surely through the old dwarven ruins beneath the Keep. The "secondary" group is in another series of sub-city tunnels. While unlikely that the two parties will meet, I need to come up with some sort of contingency plan if they do...I guess the players could play both characters at the same time, but there's a bit of a level disparity.

In a final note, I salivate for the day that Tunnels & Trolls Deluxe comes out on POD, and I kind of want a print copy of OpenQuest 2 even though it doesn't seem that different from OpenQuest 1, which I own a printed copy of already. The insane bibliophile collector in me has returned, and he lusts for printed treasures.

Anyway. Think I will crack open the ACK PDF first, since it has been a longtime curiosity.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Traveller Kvetching: This Time in Fiction Form

If the upcoming Traveller novel is anything like my last two attempts at GMing Traveller....

"These markings indicate the coordinates of a series of ancient jump gates," Galen said, tracing his finger along the rusted surface of the artifact. "As well as a date for when they are supposed to... reactivate."

"Reactivate?" Anara arched an eyebrow, leaning in over behind her companion. "That sounds decidedly bad."

The door to the compartment hissed open and Captain Valeren rushed in.

"Captain," Galen said, rising to his feet. "I think this artifact indicates a a great dan-"

"No time for that," barked the Captain. "I just got a sweet deal on those crates of Denebian spices! We'll be getting a three hundred percent return on investment!"

"Captain!" Anara said, frowning. "Didn't you hear him? The galaxy could-"

"Three hundred percent!" The Captain was wild-eyed. "And I think I found a buyer for those combat implants from Thedin II. We're going to rake in a fortune!"


"The ship's mortgage isn't going to pay itself," the Captain snarled. "Now put this alien junk down and earn your keep! The crates are in the cargo hold."

The Captain turned on his heel and stalked toward the compartment door. As he was about to step out into the dimly lit corridor, he looked back over his shoulder, a nasty scowl carving itself into his face.

"And no more talk about all this ancient prophecy shit," he said. "I've booked us full on passengers and I don't want you scaring them with your tales of boogeymen and hokey ancient religions."

The doors slid shut, leaving Galen and Anara alone. The soldier glowered at the technician.

"This is not what I signed up for," she said.

Me either, thought the GM.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Deep Breath, Repeat After Me...

I will not take my frustrations out on my D&D group by killing them with a gelatinous cube. 
I will not take my frustrations out on my D&D group by killing them with a gelatinous cube. 
I will not take my frustrations out on my D&D group by killing them with a gelatinous cube. 
I will not take my frustrations out on my D&D group by killing them with a gelatinous cube. 
I will not take my frustrations out on my D&D group by killing them with a gelatinous cube. 
I will not take my frustrations out on my D&D group by killing them with a gelatinous cube. 
I will not take my frustrations out on my D&D group by killing them with a gelatinous cube. 
I will not take my frustrations out on my D&D group by killing them with a gelatinous cube. 
I will not take my frustrations out on my D&D group by killing them with a gelatinous cube. 
I will not take my frustrations out on my D&D group by killing them with a gelatinous cube. 
I will not take my frustrations out on my D&D group by killing them with a gelatinous cube. 
I will not take my frustrations out on my D&D group by killing them with a gelatinous cube. 
I will not take my frustrations out on my D&D group by killing them with a gelatinous cube. 
I will not take my frustrations out on my D&D group by killing them with a gelatinous cube. 
I will not take my frustrations out on my D&D group by killing them with a gelatinous cube. 
I will not take my frustrations out on my D&D group by killing them with a gelatinous cube. 
I will not take my frustrations out on my D&D group by killing them with a gelatinous cube. 
I will not take my frustrations out on my D&D group by killing them with a gelatinous cube. 
I will not take my frustrations out on my D&D group by killing them with a gelatinous cube. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Keep 5e Side Story Continues

My oft-delayed Tuesday game has resumed, run at the local boardgame cafe. (In fact, we're the only rpg people there; the employees know us as "The D&D Group.") My two players and their secondary characters (human monk and dwarf fighter) continued to explore the Tower of the Astromancer. (Which is really just Jim Raggi's Tower of the Stargazer run from memory with me making stuff up for the rooms I don't really remember) They discovered the Astromancer, trapped within his binding circle, and foolishly released him. When he ordered them out of his tower, they quickly obliged. They subtly tried to warn the Mage's Guild in the Keep about what had transpired.

The PCs searched about for rumors, coming up with a couple. They correlated two of the rumors (people are going missing inside the Keep, and a group of stonemasons discovered an entrance to the forgotten Undercity below the Keep) and decided to go a-delving into the forgotten tunnels below. We left with them several chambers into the Undercity, having recovered a map that looks like it points to something northeast of the Caves of Chaos on the Borderlands. Will that be their next stop?

Meanwhile, the PCs in the "main" campaign have stumbled across a different entrance to the same Undercity. Is it possible the two groups will encounter one another? That would be pretty awkward. I think I have a contingency plan sorted out, though. We'll be continuing the main campaign this Saturday evening.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Icons: Fate's Much More Appealing (to me) Cousin

Last spring, I ran a brief Skype campaign of Icons (the "Assembled Edition.") The game ultimately failed due to scheduling incompatibility, but our session was incredibly fun. In fact, I still maintain that Icons is the only superhero roleplaying game I have ever played that felt like a comic book or a superhero animated series. 

Gushing aside, I want to examine why Icons worked so well for me when Fate Core has been such a struggle. 

Icons only takes certain pieces of Fate. It differs substantially on several levels: 
*Stats are rated 1-10, rather than the adjective scale that came from Fudge. 
*Task resolution is resolved by rolling 1d6 + Stat vs. the opponent's roll or a set target number. 
*Conflict is more traditional in style: initiative, I roll attack you roll to defend, there are Stamina/hit points, etc. 
*Aspects are called Qualities. They work much the same, but PCs have fewer and PCs also have standardized attributes. To clarify: in Fate Core, you would only have a strength-related aspect if your character was somehow defined by strength. In Icons, all characters have a strength rating. There are also temporary Qualities, inflicted by the clever use of skills and powers.
*There are no extras; that's all covered by a pretty handy little powers system. Skills are also bonuses to any action roll that could conceivably benefit from them. (Some skills being more specific than others) 

Reading back over this, my conclusion is that Icons is a rules-lite but traditionally mechanical RPG with some Fate-esque elements added for flavor and to make superhero combat as interesting as it should be. It adds Qualities on as a topping, whereas Fate Core seems to approach Aspects as the core game play mechanic. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Dissecting My Fate Game and What Went Wrong

A'ight. In the post I made last night, (directly before this one) I bitched about my failure to make Fate gel in my head. Let's look at the things that truly vexed me.

A brief synopsis of the setting:
Earth. In 2015, a cabal of 12 sorcerers convinced most of the sorcerers in the world to help them undertake a Big Damn Spell to realign the destiny of humankind. In truth, it was a plan to basically harvest all their power and become a pantheon of gods. Of course, the twelve wizards each planned to also snuff out the other 11 and become a supreme being without equal. In the end, everyone ended up dead and 12 alternate dimensions split off from Earth, each on a reflection of the desires and visions of one of the big 12. Now various occult factions fight out their agendas: some want to fix the universe, some want to keep it from being fixed, some want to amass power, some want to kick mythical monster ass, etc. The PCs belong to an organization that wants to reunite the dimensions and fix the universe. The main antagonists are 1.) a faction that wants to keep the dimensions separate, and 2.) horrible things that are slipping into our universe between the cracks formed by the big split.

A brief synopsis of the characters:
Yelsew- A vampire noble with an affinity for animals, particularly wolves.
Saanji- A Buddhist nun (bhikkhuni) with crazy mental powers, defected from the antagonist faction.

Despite sorcerers and wizards being a large part of the setting, neither of the players had any interest in playing one. That saved me the task of constructing a magic system and allowing magic to be more of a narrative/dramatic thing.

What went right:
-Skills were fine.
-Aspects, I feel, went okay. Yelsew had I Run With Wolves to represent his beast affinity. Saanji had The Wheel Has Failed Me to represent her ties to the antagonist faction (The Wheel of Samsara) that she defected from. I feel like we had Aspects down okay-ish. Personally, I would prefer much more specific Aspects like Vampire or Beast Control, but the system seems built for more narrativist Aspects.
-Stunts I felt shaky on. I tried to model them based on the guidelines in the book. The two players were most familiar with Savage Worlds, so I told them to also look to that system's Extras for inspiration.
-Extras, my Kryptonite. Here's the deal:

Yelsew's player wanted his character to have the vampire's hypnotic gaze, the ability to command animals (less mind control and more empathic) and supernatural strength/speed.

Saanji's player wanted telekinesis and the ability to trap opponents in a sort of internal psychic prison, effectively rendering them temporarily catatonic and subject to her telepathic probe.

You trade refresh for extras. Given that this setting features a lot of supernatural elements, I gave them both a certain amount of extra refresh for which to buy powers, with the remaining refresh being kept or used for stunts.

The Fate Core rule book has a couple of examples of superpowers, how they work, and how much refresh they cost. I tried to use these as something to base my own extras off, but it always felt somehow wrong. This is really where I fell down.

Conflict is more difficult to gauge, since we only had one conflict before the game kind of fizzled out. It was a social conflict between the PCs and a band of werewolf mercenaries who they were trying to talk out of instantly attacking them. I don't remember it well enough to recount the entire thing, but I remember Yelsew successfully invoked his I Run With Wolves Aspect, giving him a +2 to a Persuasion roll to establish camaraderie with the pack.

Given that there was only one conflict, I really didn't get a chance to deal with Scene Aspects, Zones, Boots, or temporary Aspects. I know all the terminology is sort of eye roll-worthy.

As I read back over this blog entry, the individual parts (aside from extras), make sense to me. However, when I try to look at his holistically, it just seems... man, I don't know.

Next post: Comparing Icons, which I love-love-love, with Fate Core.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Fate of Fate


I look it up and I find blog posts from two or three years ago, unfinished conversions, and philosophical digressions that quickly leave the arena of the practical.

I look it up on Youtube and I find a three hour tutorial video.

I go to the used bookstore and find a castoff copy of the book and a bunch of little setting supplements from it.

All the signs and portents are telling me to walk away from this game, that it is written in a language I will never understand.

The skills, I get. They're like Fudge. (They are Fudge, straight up)

The aspects, I mostly get. I'm no good with how many Fate points are supposed to be given out or how that flows at all. I struggle with Bennies in Savage Worlds for just that reason.

Stunts, I find I have trouble creating.

Extras I just have no fucking idea how to make that look right to me. We created extras as a group and I found myself deeply unsatisfied with them and totally unable to explain the reason for this dissatisfaction.

I have no idea how to do a magic system, even after reading several examples.

I'm shaky on how conflict works.

It mostly adds up when I examine the individual parts, but when I try to see it as a whole, or when I actually try to do anything with it, I find that it stands as thin as air for me. It feels inorganic, it feels insubstantial. For what it does for me, we might as well be just talking to each other and settling the conflicts with rock, paper, scissors or a coin toss.

I'm stubborn and I continue to quest for a system that lets me try out my various weird setting ideas, as well as settings that I love but take umbrage with the rules. (In Nomine, Tribe 8, World of Darkness, Shadowrun, etc, etc, etc)

Maybe I need to read more examples.
Maybe I need to force my self to sit through the three hou- no, fuck that.
Maybe I need to just read a different goddamn game.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Getting Stranger Plus Keep on the Borderlands 5e Continues

I kicked in at the $22 level and picked up a whole mess of The Strange PDFs from Bundle of Holding. Considering that I got the core book for the ludicrous price of $10 (new and factory sealed) and that I got the Bestiary on Schmamazon for a steep discount, I have paid not quite the original price of the core book for a huge chunk of the entire line. Now, if only I could get myself some time to read it...

The premise of The Strange is somewhat reminiscent of my attempt at a FATE game. Perhaps I can read through The Strange and implement a slightly different iteration of the game without having to bang my head against the invisible wall that stands between FATE and my comprehension of it.

In other news, we ran Keep5e last night. I wasn't terribly focused and we were missing half the group, so the party mostly stayed in the Keep and looked for trouble/rumors. I have a side-quest going that is borrowed partially from the old 2nd edition adventure, "Wizard's Challenge," though with less fappy NPCs and a slightly different premise. The PCs also acted as ersatz exterminators, ridding a local shop keeper of a noise in her cellar that turned out to be a giant scorpion. The party also discovered a new dungeon beneath the Keep, and made a brief but abortive attempt to delve it's depths. (An early encounter with a mimic left them badly drained of hit points, spells, and special ability uses.)

I have been summoned back to the Sunday game, but I'm not sure if I will make it today. I have some errands to run and my attention span is sorely lacking in all things these days. (I blame the internet, in a curmudgeonly fist-shaking sort of way.)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Surrounded By White Whales and a Brief But Scarring Encounter

First off, the Brief But Scarring Encounter

After a heads-up from Tenkar, I took advantage of Rafael Chandler's Halloween Sale. (Most of his PDFs are PWYW) I decided to finally grab the oft-lauded Terratic Tome.

...I think, after perusing the artwork in it, that I may no longer be attracted to the female form...

It's been two months since I looked at Lusus Naturae, but I'd swear at least a third of the monsters are in both books. My one main issue with LN was that the monsters started to get same-y after awhile, and I feel that criticism extends to the TT. (Although TT was published first I think, so maybe reverse that statement)

There's still some cool stuff in it, but it might not be your flavor, and as I said, eventually you're like "Okay, I get it. Boobs attached to a quivering mass of monster viscera and maybe some spiky bits.) I do dig the imitation of the old AD&D 1st ed books in terms of layout and text, though.

Don't mistake this for me saying that I dislike Chandler's work; I love Pandemonio and I dig both Starship from Hell and Roll XX and it's sequel.

Edit/Addendum: I have a theory that Mr. Chandler experienced some kind of traumatic gaming event involving halflings during his formative years. If you've read much of his OSR type work, you probably know why I hold this theory.

My final takeaway: schapism. I now know that it is a thing. You cannot unsee what you have seen.

Now, on to my White Whales...

I spent a long time struggling with Fate Core. It seems like I know how the system works, but in play it feels like I'm just making shit up, and not in the good way... more like pulling it out of my ass. In my dimension-hopping-occult-cops game, I felt like my implementations of the psychic powers and the vampire abilities were clumsy and poorly executed, but I couldn't tell you just felt off to me, and I'm not familiar enough with the system to get into the guts of it.

I'm also reading through the Cypher System, which mechanically I find interesting, but in terms of character concepts, I find it oddly limiting despite all the options. The Adept powers, for instance, seem... bleh. The Fantasy Genre chapter recommends just the Adept to emulate a wizard character, but that wizard has only a handful of spells they can choose from at each tier, and they seem limited. I also wanted to do a vampires/werewolves game, but I have no idea how I'd handle the vampires. (There is actually an option, Howls at the Moon, for werewolves.)

And finally, my holy grail: an urban fantasy game to replace White Wolf. For nearly two years, I've been searching for something to give me that modern-game-with-monster-PCs experience, but I can't seem to find something that feels right. I tried to make one with Fudge, I tried to make one with B/X, I considered mashing together Cryptworld, Majus, and Creature Feature, I got my hands on some old Nightlife books, and I've considered Fate and Cypher (but see above) For a bit, I even through about keeping the White Wolf system but doing 1d10+Attribute+Skill, target number 9, a bit like Eden's Unisystem. For some reason, a satisfactory solution seems to elude me.

(And no, I don't really want to play the original system as-written. My days of rolling fistfuls of dice 4+ times to resolve a single attack exchange are over. In fact, my day of rolling a billion dice for anything at all are over.) Perhaps it's partially an issue of flavor as well...I like my modern-with-monsters games to be more like Night Watch or Dresden than Interview With the Vampire.

Maybe I'll just say "hell with it" and do OneDice, since it seems to be the thing that's inspiring me most when it comes to this genre. The system can sometimes feel a little too simple, but at some point I just have to be Ahab.

...wait, that didn't turn out very well.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

One Dice Urban Fantasy Factions Part II: Eldritch Boogaloo

*The Torch-Bearers: The Torch-Bearers were originally a small faction in the supernaturally-suffused town of Athens, Ohio in the United States. A place of power, the town was shared between several larger factions who declared a cease-fire of sorts. This truce extended to the human populace of the town, with vampires only taking enough blood to survive, werewolves moving out into the wilderness during the Full Moon, etc. However, many unaligned supernaturals refused to abide by the limits of the factions' truce, and not every member of the factions followed the rules, either. The Torch-Bearers formed in response; a militia of sorts composed mostly of aware humans, but also some supernaturals (faction members or otherwise) who agreed to police the streets, enforcing the ceasefire by any means necessary.

Since then, similar small organizations have sprouted up in any city or town with a large concentration of supernatural creatures. Many of them take the name Torch-Bearers as their own, but others adopt different names, often with a light theme. (The White Lanterns of Hong Kong, for instance)

Although many consider the Torch-Bearers and their ilk to be little more than dime-store versions of the Dawn (see my first post about factions), there are several ideological differences between the two. The motivation of the Dawn is to eliminate the supernatural, whereas the Torch-Bearers only seek to police the supernatural against those who abuse their powers or victimize humans to an unreasonable degree, such as vampires who drain too much from victims or were-beasts that make no effort to control their full moon madness. The second main difference is that supernatural members of the Torch-Bearers are welcomed into the group, rather than treated as dangerous weapons or second-class conscripts.

*The Hellfire Club- It is unclear whether this faction is an actual successor to the 18th century British organization or simply a spiritual successor. The HC consists of wealthy, successful, and influential demon-blooded, a network for those of infernal heritage. Its members are CEOs, heiresses, investors, old money, career politicians, and others with influence. There are rumored to be a few members who are vampires, but the organization is almost entirely demon-blooded.

The HC is based in London, England, though its members can be found throughout Europe and the United States. Their main agenda is simply to extend the influence and power of the Club's members. They hoard power over the material world, seeing humans and their economies as things for them to use for their pleasure and whim.

*Regenesis- An organization of supernaturals that seeks to destroy the modern world and return civilization to a state of pseudo-feudalism. There is dissent within the ranks as to whether this society should be ruled by supernaturals, humans, or a combination of the two. They see the modern world as a threat to both nature and magic, and believe that an agrarian-based world of close-knit, land-based communities is the only way for sentient life to survive in the long term.

The membership of Regenesis is a mixed group of supernaturals. Druids and shape-shifters are the most common, but the idea of a feudal society with supernatural beings at the helm draws in all types.

The methods of Regenesis are harsh and aggressive. They attempt to use financial manipulation to trigger recessions and shortages, perpetuate cyber-attacks to knock out computer-controlled modern comforts and systems, and even resort to direct sabotage of industrial infrastructure. They often finance revolutions and rebellions. The organization may be an extremist split-off of the Druidic Council.

Regenesis is headquartered in Berlin, Germany, headquarters of the corporation that serves as their main front. Their influence is mostly concentrated in north and eastern Europe, though they are slowly attempting to extend their influence southward.

*The Druidic Council- A faction of mostly druids, shape-shifters, and fae-blooded (though they will accept any mortal or supernatural that shares their ideals), the Druidic Council is one of the oldest factions in the world. Headquartered in Perth, Scotland, the Council was once dedicated to preserving the natural balance of the world. They sought to keep Demons and Fae (the true variety) from crossing into our world, prevent the influence of human society via magic, and curb the machinations of less mortal-sympathetic powers. They also sought to protect the natural world from being destroyed by the expansion of human civilization. Unfortunately, the Council suffered heavy losses when the Shadow Hand manipulated the Church into staging the Inquisition and were forced to go mostly underground for several centuries thereafter.

The modern Council realizes that the fight against industrialization is over. They focus mainly on keeping the barrier between this world and the Fae/Demon realms intact, as well as acting the foil against factions that would harm or enslave humanity.

Regenesis is rumored to be a group that splintered from the DC, though Council denies this. There are, however, many members of Regenesis who are formerly of the Druidic Council.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

OneDice Urban Fantasy: Demon-Blooded

The cover of 1DUF features a Hellboy-ish looking character, and there are certainly rules for demons within the book, but not for any demonically influenced PCs. Since we've got Fae-blooded as one of the playable options, I've decided to add Demon-blooded, also called cambions by more old-fashioned supernaturals. 

Actual pairings between demons and humans are unheard of in the modern era. However, some descendants of such pairings remain. A demon-blooded is an individual with a demon in the family tree who is (un)lucky enough to have their latent abilities emerge. 

Choose two of the following Demon-blooded powers and one demon-blooded weakness. (The package is very similar to Fae-blooded) 

Demon-blooded Powers: 
*Long-lived: As the fae-blooded power

*Black magic: The demon-blooded can use Sorcery. They do not receive a secondary aptitude like those with the Magical Heritage gift. 

*Stronger- As per the general ability. 

*Unearthly Beauty- As per the fae-blooded ability. 

*Regeneration: The demon-blooded heals five times faster than ordinary humans. Wounds caused by a Vulnerability, however, heal at the normal rate. 

*Nightmare Sending: The demon-blooded stands over a sleeping or unconscious individual and makes a Magic vs. Magic attack. On a success, the target suffers terrifying nightmares (though does not awaken) and the demon-blooded can siphon 1d6 HP from them, adding them to his own. This ability can be used only once per night. 

*Devil's Deal: Anyone who enters willingly into a bargain with a demon-blooded must fulfill the terms of the contract or become sickened, with their Strong, Quick, and HP reduced to half, rounded up. This sickness remains until the contract is fulfilled or the demon-blooded willingly releases the target from the contract. This ability is a double-edged sword; as the demon-blooded suffers the same penalty if they break their half of the bargain. They must either fulfill their end or else be released by the target. A demon-blooded can have only one Devil's Deal active at a time. 

Demon-blooded weaknesses: 
*Ban: Choose from holy/consecrated ground, cold iron (powder, a bar laid across a door ,etc), or magical seals. 

*Vulnerability: Choose from holy water, consecrated weapons, or cold iron.  

*Dependency: Inflict suffering on a human, engage in sex with a human, receive gifts or worship from a human, or something similar. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

OneDice Urban Fantasy: Factions

Note: This is a post I started working on back in June when I was fiddling with OneDice Urban Fantasy. Totally forgot about it and just now got around to finishing and publishing it.

Here are some factions for OneDice Urban Horror. Really you could use them in any urban fantasy/modern horror game, if it were to strike your fancy.

*The Shadow Hand- A mostly-vampire faction dedicated to the covert subjugation of humankind through the manipulation of governments, banks, and other pillars of power. By mental domination, seduction, or other coercion, the Shadow Hand acquires power behind the scenes. Rather than attempt to control powerful figures directly, they prefer to work behind "layers" of influence. For instance, rather than simply attempt to control a powerful Senator, the Shadow Hand would rather control the mistress of the CEO of the company that is the Senator's main campaign contributor.

The Shadow Hand is based out of Milan, Italy, but the organization has agents and cells all over the world. Their primary sphere of influence is in Europe.

*The High Order of Thoth- This is an organization of mages whose purpose is to preserve and advance the arts of magic. The organization is traditionally run by wizards, who in fact make up the bulk of its members. There are a few sorcerers and necromancers in the organization, but they are admitted on a probationary basis and watched closely; seldom are they permitted to advance very high within the Order. The Order's membership is strictly human, without exception. Members who become vampires or are otherwise transformed are immediately expelled.

The High Order of Thoth was once based in Cairo, Eygypt, but the main headquarters moved to London, England in the late 19th century. The stronghold in Cairo is still a place of considerable power and influence in the organization. The Order of Thoth controls parts of the Middle East and has influence in the Americas, the United Kingdom, Spain, and France. 

*The Unification Society- A faction consisting of many types of supernaturals. The Society believes that the Fae realm and the mortal world are a single realm that was divided. Their goal is to bring down the barrier between the two and merge the realms. They do not believe in "pure" humans, but rather that humans are simply Fae-blooded with deeply suppressed natures.

The Society is headquartered in Taipei, Taiwan. The cells are small and widespread throughout southeast Asia. There are minor presences of the Society across Europe and the Americas. They are global, but don't have nearly the resources of some of the other factions. 

*The Dawn- An organization composed of mostly natural humans who are aware of, and opposed to, the supernatural. They do boast some supernatural members, all of whom are either penitent of their nature or somehow forcefully conscripted.Some Dawn members wish to annihilate supernatural creatures, others see them as victims to be cured. The Dawn is also dedicated to destroying magical items, closing magical portals, and neutralizing sites of power.

The Dawn is based out of Rome, Italy and has considerable influence in the Mediterranean. The organization's influence has also spread to New Zealand and parts of Australia. They have a small but fierce presence in Mexico and the southeastern United States.

*The Circle of the Moon- A confederation of werewolf packs (though their members boast some other types of shapeshifters as well) that operates in North America. (Mostly the northern US and Canada) The Circle packs are primarily interested in locating newly turned werewolves or emergent shifters, teaching them how to use their gifts and finding a balance between their animal and human selves. The Circle also opposes the American operations of the Shadow Hand, as well as occasionally engaging in eco-terrorism where it could potentially affect wolves.

Being a series of individual packs, the Circle doesn't have a headquarters per se, but large regional gatherings sometimes happen in the mountains of Colorado in the US and southern Ontario in Canada.

*The Circus- A faction of outcasts and drifters, supernaturals who want to escape join the Circus. This group operates as a circus, travelling the back roads and rural areas of America. Members must have some ability to perform or aid in the operation of the Circus itself. As such, the faction counts members of many different 'species' of supernaturals among their numbers, though fae-blooded are the most common.

Being mobile, the Circus has no headquarters. They avoid staying in one place and try not to revisit areas more than once every decade. The other factions tend to distrust the Circus, seeing them as vagabonds and criminals.

*The Legion- An organization of supernatural mercenaries. While there are several such organizations, the Legion is the largest and most well known. The Legion is often contracted by factions that have resources but not necessarily martial acumen. They have a reputation for getting the job done with no questions asked. They are thoroughly non-political, caring little for who hires then and for what. Members of the Legion are consummate professionals, and those who prove to be otherwise are expelled from the organization or worse.

The Legion is presently headquartered in Belgrade, Serbia. There are smaller regional headquarters in the US, Colombia, and eastern Pakistan. The Legion trades in cash as well as mystical resources.

The soldiers of the legion are a mixed group. Lots of werewolves and large shifters abound, but the Legion also boasts vampires, cambions, and any martially-talented supernatural. (They even have some exceptionally gifted human soldiers who are aware of the supernatural world)

*The Coven of Hecate- A faction of witches. The membership of the CoH is mostly female. They accept anyone, human or otherwise, who has some kind of magical ability. All traditions are welcomed. Because of this, the CoH has a fairly shady reputation, since they accept necromancers and sorcerers just as readily as the "white magics" like druidism.

The CoH has three headquarters: one in the Bulgarian city of Stara Zagora, one in the Greek city of Komotini, and one in the Turkish city of Edirne, all of which were once part of the ancient sorcerous realm of Thrace.

Whereas the High Order of Thoth promotes the study and preservation of magic, the Coven of Hecate focuses on the advancement of its members. The faction is also interested in acquiring objects and places of power.


More of these, and more fleshing out, will follow.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Saturday Nerding

Today I went a-nerding and found the following worthwhile pick-ups:

-Atherspace, a little supplement for Fate. Mostly I bought this because it was half-price before my bookstore discount, and because I need to see how a magic system works in Fate.

-Deities & Demigods... the printing with the Cthulhu and Melnibonean pantheons. It's in amazing condition and I paid $15 for it. Mainly I just want it because it has material in it that was later removed. I may grow tired of the novelty and flip it on Eeeeeeebay or something.

My weird, now-irregular 5e group met again tonight. They cleared out Area G of the Caves of Chaos, touched base with their orcish allies, and then invaded the gnoll caves at J. The party won a couple of skirmishes, but then had to retreat when the gnolls formed a defensive bottleneck. Next week we'll see if they continue their fight with the gnolls or seek easier picking elsewhere.

Friday, October 9, 2015


I recently received some of the Goblinoid Pacesetter books as a result of backing one of their Kickstarters. (I think I mentioned it in passing)

I've been reading Majus, which, despite the use of j instead of g, I'm digging on it. I like the mix of adits and paranormal talents. Adits are broad areas of magical expertise, like influencing animals or bestowing blessings. They have different levels of proficiency, with more experienced practitioners able to command more powerful forces. Paranormal talents are more of a "one-trick pony" type of ability, like speaking with ghosts or seeing auras.

I'm not sure if I dig the noir aspect of the setting, but that seems more flavor-to-taste than anything else. All in all, the game serves as a worthy replacement for Mage, plus the complete game clocks in at less than a hundred pages.

I'd definitely like to try this out... in particular, I'm curious to see how compatible it is with 1st edition Chill products like Creature Feature*.

Now, if only I had a group stable enough to try it....

The only thing I can see myself house-ruling, however, is the action chart. I feel like we could just say if you make it by more than X, you get rating Y.

*Yes, I'm quite aware that Majus is its own animal and that Crypt World is the successor to Chill 1st edition. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

From Zero to Thirty? Forty-Five? Keep on the Borderlands Side Story

Despite the inauspicious scheduling of some of our group members, three of us met Tuesday night at the board game cafe to play 5th edition. The character sheets were in possession of the absent players, so we rolled 1st level "alts" (to borrow MMO parlance) and started a new adventure from the Keep. Digging around for rumors, the PCs (a human monk and a dwarf fighter) learned that 1.) People were disappearing apparently from inside the Keep, and 2.) The lost tower of Calcidus the Astromancer was sighted south beyond the fens. The party decided they wanted to loot the Astromancer's tower and thus set out south.

The tower was basically a version of the dungeon from Jim Raggi's Tower of the Stargazer adventure, though I had to reconstruct it from memory as my wife is out of town with my iPad and I didn't want to lug my laptop to gaming. I'm pretty sure I remembered most of it, but I did have to improvise a little.

Much of the session involved exploration; crossing the river south of the Keep via a perilous sandbar, navigating the blasted glass wastelands around the tower itself, and finding their way around the first level and basement. We ran short on time- partly due to the fact we had to roll new characters and partly due to the fact that I was late due to a poorly thought out pre-game nap and gross abuse of my snooze button. Still, the session was rather enjoyable and we only had one almost-death when the dwarf ran afoul of a poison gas trap.

This week my Friday group is supposed to reunite after a very, very long hiatus, but I actually have no idea what we're even playing anymore, and I may have to miss some Fridays this month, so I'm leaning toward a one-shot.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Random Flavor What Popped Into My Head

Dragons were given the First Age, because they were Powerful,
but they were Covetous, and thus cast down.

Giants were given the Second Age, because they were Mighty,
but they were Indolent, and thus cast down.

Elves were given the Third Age, because they were Wise,
but they were Wanton, and thus cast down.

Dwarves were given the Fourth Age, because they were Industrious,
but they were Joyless, and thus cast down.

Orcs were given the Fifth Age, because they were Stalwart,
but they were Wrathful, and thus cast down.

The Sixth Age shall be given to Humans.
What shall come of that, we have yet to know.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

From Sixty to Zero

The capricious gods of scheduling have once again conspired to ruin my fun. Two of my four 5e KotBL players can no longer play on our agreed-upon night, and soon not on any night. I haven't heard back from the remaining two on continuing on, but I have my doubts that it will happen.

Meanwhile, I find that a strange loss of interest in being a PC had descended upon me, resulting in my massive truancy to Thursday and Sunday's games. Don't get me wrong- both DMs are amazing and both campaign worlds fascinating, I just find that I'm not feeling being a PC. (DMs, should you read this, I assure you it will pass. It seems to be a phase I go through once every certain while.) Occasionally I do have a legit reason to miss a session. (I was at my mom's birthday party today, and school often hosts various events on Thursday evenings)

Scheduling also makes it unlikely I can reassemble my play-by-Skype group with whom I played Icons and my Gothic Earth/Ravenloft campaign.

The Friday group may start meeting again this week, but I will have to miss one or two Fridays in October, so that makes it a part time gig at most.

Back to the drawing board.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

More Goodies En Route

I backed the Kickstarter for Monsters Macabre, a monster source book for Cryptworld. A benefit of backing said Kickstarter is that I get dirt cheap print copies of various Goblinoid game books. I now have copies of Cryptworld, Majus, and Monsters Macabre on the way to my house. (I already had the first two in electronic format.)

My main interest in Cryptworld is that it's basically open source Chill. (Although Chill just released a 3rd edition...the struggle is real.) One of my back-back-back burner projects is to someday cobble together Majus, Creature Feature, Cryptworld, and various Chill supplements to create my alternative to World of Darkness.

Now, I wonder if Christian is going to hook me up with another installment of his Great Black Bell zine, which I have been enjoying immensely.

...meanwhile, 5e Keep on the Borderlands continues along at a decent clip. The party has slain the hobgoblin chief and accepted honorary membership into the orc tribe. Being that they aren't orcs, they were forced to accept a physical brand burned into their flesh to confirm their orcish status. They were wise enough to request these brands in concealable locations so as not to get in deep trouble with the officials at the Keep. We'll be playing again on Tuesday at the local board game cafe.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The (White) Stars Are Aligned

I got my delightful hardcover copy of White Star in the mail a few days ago. It's a small book, but the cover looks amazing up close and personal. Alas, I haven't had the chance to crack the cover yet, though I read the PDF when I downloaded it earlier this year. (A colleague and I even had a round of "name that sci-fi reference" while looking through the bestiary section.)

I think if I were to run this, I'd like to try a crazy mashup 'space station on the border worlds' or something similar to kick the tires. Perhaps I can convince my now nearly-theoretical Friday group try it. (I think my Saturday-now-Tuesday 5th edition Keep group is enjoying D&D too much to consider switching anytime soon, and I'm okay with that.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Keep on Keeping on the Keep on the Borderlands- 5th edition

I continue to run KotBL using 5th edition. I find that ignoring the CR system and using the original monster numbers actually works just fine, so long as the party uses bottlenecking and strategic choice of when to fight and when to pack it in. Presently they are in an alliance with the orcs against the hobgoblins.

We had another player join last night. It was his very first game of D&D ever. He ended up playing one of our NPCs. I felt bad because he kept rolling very poorly, but he seemed to take it in stride. Next week I think I'm going to see if I can get him there early so he can make a character of his own.

Our party presently consists of a human wizard (necromancer) wood elf druid (circle of the land), tiefling rogue (assassin), and their NPC companions: a human fighter (no path yet), a dwarf cleric (life domain), and an orc. (straight from the Monster Manual) I've told them that if the orc gets enough exp to level, he can earn additional HD. I'm toying with the idea of allowing him to "graduate" to a 1st level fighter or barbarian, should they keep him around that long.

The new guy is interested in a paladin. That'll be an interesting mix with a necromancer wizard in the party. In fact, the only reason the NPC cleric hasn't tried to burn him at the stake is that he mostly uses fire spells in combat, resorting to the occasional necrotic spell. It'll be fun to see how their cleric reacts when he starts animating the dead... and what might the druid have to say about that as well?

The funny thing about this group is that it sort of came to me out of nowhere; the original two members are part of the Sunday group (from which I have been regrettably truant of late) who wanted to try 5e. Then they invited a friend, and she in turn invited another friend. It's weird how when I try to put together a gaming group it inevitably falls apart, but now my most stable gaming group formed pretty much by accident. They've asked me to run twice a week, but I'm not sure I can commit to that right now- my Friday group still exists (in theory) and I (in theory) have a Thursday and Sunday game I play in.

Next week, we'll continue to grudge 'gainst the hobgoblins.

Bonus highlight of the session: watching one of the players flinch visibly when the orc chief mentioned bugbears; that player had a bad experience with the bugbear in the first part of The Lost Mines of Phandelver. (I ran a demo for those two using the D&D Beginner Set.)

Double bonus highlight: The party has named their orc companion Raul/Raoul, due to their inability to pronounce his orcish name.

Game on!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Cyborgs and Wizards: A Roleplaying Game

Edit: I started working on this post in April of last year, when my Thursday group was about to start a RIFTS game (but not under me, under another guy) That game never materialized, but here's the original post, now completed with a few missing details. 

Last week, Steven stepped aside from his GMly duties so that a pal of his could test drive a RIFTS scenario he plans on running at conventions later this year. He brought his significant other. Steven, a masterful expert on all things Palladium, launched into a very detailed description of RIFTS. The newbie was a bit overwhelmed, so being the flippant bastard that I am, I said to her: "Basically this is a game about cyborgs and wizards."

...which got me thinking...

And here's a two-page RPG called Cyborgs and Wizards. It isn't play tested, it isn't balanced, and I don't care about either of those things.

The premise: In the distant future (or is it the distant past?!) a cataclysmic event ripped open the seams of the space-time continuum. Now, the world is a post- (or pre-) apocalyptic wasteland filled with the ruins of a technological and/or magical society. The PCs are cyborgs and wizards who have decided to plunder the lost treasures of an ancient (or future) civilization. Flavor to taste, my friends.

Character Generation
Step 1: Roll 1d6 On a 1-3, you’re a Cyborg. 4-6, you’re a Wizard.
Step 2: Name your character. Cyborgs tend to be named a collection of letters and numbers. Wizards tend to have grandiose titles attached to their names. These are not requirements, though.
Step 3: Generate Attributes.
Might: Your ability to lift, break, hit, and endure. Cyborgs= 6+1d6, Wizards=1+1d6
Psyche: Your willpower and presence. Cyborgs= 1+1d6, Wizards= 6+1d6
Tech: Your ability to understand, use, salvage, and repair tech. Cyborgs= 3+1d6, Wizards=1+1d6
Endurance Points: How much punishment you can take. Cyborgs= 10+Might, Wizards= 2+ Might
Astral Points: Your inner magical battery. Cyborgs= 0, Wizards= 5+Psyche
Combat: Your bonus to hit. Cyborgs= +1, Wizards = 0.
Evasion: Your ability to avoid being hit. All characters begin with EV 0.
Move: Your speed in meters/round. All characters begin with MV 12.

Step 4: Generate Particulars. Cyborgs get installed systems, wizards get spells.
Cyborgs: Roll once for each column.
Roll               Weapons                                                   Armor                                                                                  Systems     
2-3          Piston Arm:  2d6                       Lightweight Exoskeleton: AC 6         Adv. Sensors: No vision/range penalties
4-5          Double Chainsaw Arm: 2d8     Titanium Endoskeleton: AC 8          Integral Multitool: +2 to Tech rolls
6-8          Rail Gun: 2d8                            Hybrid Composite Sheath: AC 10         Hydraulic Joints: +2 Might rolls
10-11     Rocket Launcher : 3d6 20 ft. rad. Superalloy Plate: AC 12             Autorepair Module: Heal 1 hp/hour
12                  Particle Death Ray: 3d10     Heavy Superalloy Plate: AC 14         Jump Jets: Double move rate, jump ½ mv

Wizards: Roll 5 times total, choosing your column on each roll.  Alternately, take all spells from one single column.
Roll               Bio-Wizardry                         Necromancy                          Invocations                 Temporal Magic           Tech-Wizardry    
2-3           Healing Touch               Life Drain                          Wizard’s Fire                                   Alacrity                  Imbue Weapon
4-5          Adrenaline Surge          Speak with Dead         Detect Astral Energy                                Trepidation                     Imbue Armor
6-8         Bioelectric Shock          Ghostly Shroud             Mystic Armor                                         Time Freeze                    Astral  Battery
10-11    Bio-Weapon                    Reanimate                   Levitation                                               See the Future                 Repair
12                  Shapeshift             Slay                                   Gate                                          Reverse Time                 Junk Golem                                                                                                                    
Before combat: GM determines surprise. Surprised characters can’t act in the first round.
Step 1: Initiative. GM rolls 1d6 for enemies, a player rolls 1d6 for allies. High roll goes first, ties mean simultaneous pandemonium.
Step 2: Winning side makes ranged attacks , casts spells.2d5+Combat vs. AC. For spells, target can roll vs. Psyche for half effect.
Step 3: Winning side moves .
Step 4: Winning side makes melee attacks.  2d6+Combat vs.AC

Treasure in C&W is generally salvage, either technological or magical. Devices have a Complexity rating from 1 (a toaster) to 10 (a cold fusion reactor.) The examining character subtracts the Complexity from their Tech score. They must roll this or less on 2d6 to decipher the object. They can keep or sell a deciphered object for it’s Value in Credit. (50-5000). Unidentified objects can be sold for only 25% Value.
Magical objects can only be discerned by Wizards, who roll Psyche instead of tech. Magical items have a Complexity from 1 (a potion) to 10. (A powerful artifact.)
At the end of every ruin raid or other adventure, the PCs gain 1 experience point. They also gain 1 XP if they managed a major haul and 1XP if they overcame significant danger. Every 5 (or 10, GM’s option) XP, the PCs level up. Cyborgs gain 1d6+2 EP, Wizards choose 1d6 EP or 1d6 AP. Characters can also gain +1 Combat, +1 Evade, or .

Small Arms: 1d6        Long Arms: 2d6      Rockets: 3d6, 20 ft. Radius   
Vibro Blade 1d6     2 Handed Vibro Weapon: 2d6
Light Armor: 5  AC     Medium Armor: 7 AC     Heavy Armor: 9 AC   Shield: +1 AC

Mutant: EP 10-30, Combat +3, AC 5, Scavanged Vibroweapon 1d6, Gun 2d6, Natural Weapon 1d6 +1
Crazy Robot: EP 50+, Combat +10, AC 12, Rail Gun 2d8, Missiles 3d6 20 ft radius, Mv 24
Evil/More Evil Cyborg:  Create as a character
Evil/More Evil Wizard:  Create as a character.
Demon: EP 30-50, Combat +8, AC 10, Claws 1d8/1d8, Hellfire 2d6+2, Mv 12 Flying 36
Bandit: EP 10-20, Combat +1  AC 6, Gun 2d6, Vibro Blade 2d6

Adrenaline Surge: Target gains 1d6+2 Might, +2d6 bonus EP, and does +2 to hit/damage in melee for 1d6 rounds Cost: 3 AP.
Bioelectric Shock: Delivers 1-3d6 worth of damage if the Wizard can strike AC 4. Cost is 2 AP/d6 of damage.
Bio-Weapon:Gives a creature +2d6 EP, +2 Combat, +2 AC, and +2 damage for 2d6 rounds. Cost: 5 AP
Healing Touch:Restores 1-3d6 EP (1/2 for cyborgs). Cost: 2AP per d6.
Shapeshift:Turn into any type of creature for 2d6 rounds. Stats per GM's discretion. Cost: 8 AP.

Detect Astral Energy: Reveals all active spells, magic items, and magic creatures within line of sight for 2d6 rounds Cost: 2 AP.
Gate: Tears open a Gate to another dimension for 1d6 hours. Cost: 10 AP. 25% chance of opening to the wrong dimension.
Levitation: Caster or subject can fly at double movement rate for 2d6 rounds. Cost: 4 AP.
Mystic Armor: Caster gains 1d6+2 bonus to AC for 1d6 rounds. Cost: 4 AP. 
Wizard’s Fire: Does a ranged attack vs. AC 4 to do 1-3d6 damage. Cost: 2AP per d6.

Ghostly Shroud- Target gains +2 EV for 3 combat rounds. Cost: 3 AP. 
Life Drain- Target takes 2d6 dmg, Wizard heals half. Can't exceed normal EP max. Doesn't work on non-living beings. Cost: 2AP
Reanimate- Body no more than a week dead can be reanimated as a zombie (mutant stats). 3 AP, can't be regained until zombie is destroyed.
Slay- Wizard spends X AP, where Xx2= damage to a single living target. Spell can only be used 1/day or caster loses same EP as target.
Speak with Dead- Ask a corpse three questions. 20% chance of lie on each. Cost: 3 AP.

Astral Battery: Can store up to 5 AP in an object for use later.
Imbue Armor: Armor gains +3 AC bonus for 2d6 rounds. Cost 3 AP.
Imbue Weapon: Hi-Tech weapon does double damage for 1d6 rounds. 5 AP
Junk Golem: Creates a servant from junk. Same stats as Crazy Robot, costs 10 AP for 1d6 turns, 40 AP makes it permanent.
Repair: Can repair technological items that have been destroyed. AP per GM's discretion/size of object. Can heal Cyborgs 1 hp/AP.

Temporal Magic
Alacrity- Target can act twice per round for 1d6 rounds. 5 AP
Reverse Time: Can negate a combat round that just happened. 8 AP. Out of combat, reverse 1 action or decision. Only the caster remembers.
See the Future: Can ask the DM about the outcome of an action. 3 AP. 10% chance of misdirected answer per use in 24 hour period.
Time Freeze: Freeze time in a 50 ft radius for 1d6 rounds. 10 AP
Trepidation: Cause opponent to act every other round for 1d6 rounds. 5 AP.