Thursday, April 30, 2015

Gettin' Strange on the Cheap

So hey guys, I scored a copy of The Strange for ten bucks plus shipping. Factory sealed. It just showed up on my doorstep tonight.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Lil' Present for Myself

So I filled out some Employee Health Survey thingie a few months ago, and for my troubles I received today a $25 Visa gift card.

Already spent. My prize: East Texas University for Savage Worlds. Hot.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Useless Snark

Perusing the used shelves at my FLGS this evening, I discovered that someone had sold off a huge collection of FGU's old sci-fi rpg, Space Opera. Being the curious guy that I am, I cracked it open and read a little bit of it. I thought... "I might run this....

....if I hated myself."

Stars Without Number uber alles.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Adding a Little Salt to the Flayed King

Tim Shorts dropped a free S&W adventure on us this week, "The Flayed King." It's ballin', yo. Really it's more of a location than a sequence of events. It's still awesome and I still can't wait to use it.

How to complicate The Flayed King (for those who don't believe in a free lunch). Roll 1d6 or pick or use several of the following:

(Spoilers, kids. Run for the hills if you finna play in this)

1. The King will not speak unless the PCs offer someone to replace him.
2. The King has no tongue. To make him speak, a freshly cut-out tongue must be inserted into his mouth. This tongue is irretrievable and can never be regrown.
3. The King has a 30% chance of lying and telling the PC whatever false information will cause them the greatest harm.
4. The King tells the exact inverse of the truth.
5. The King speaks a language nobody has spoken in 1,000 years. (And remember he speaks only once a year) If the PCs catch enough of the phrase, maybe they can get a rough translation by consulting an old text somewhere. (Klaatu, verata, uh...n...nuh...nghamahm....)
6. The PCs can never speak aloud, write down, telepath, or otherwise communicate the information they learn from the King. Their hand writes something else, their voice catches in their throat, etc.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Alright, so I got to feel special for like a couple of weeks before Palladium let the cat of the bag in regards to their RIFTS licensing deal.

...I just have to say that this is pretty much the best thing ever. I love RIFTS, but even with extensive house-ruling the system kind of makes me want to chew my own tongue off. I'd played around with using D6 (the West End system), AD&D 1st edition, and even Fate Core for running the game...but I think Savage Worlds will do nicely. Very nicely.

Think I know what I'm asking the missus to get me for Xmas this year.

This is also the perfect way to introduce my Friday group to RIFTS. They seem keen on the idea (one of them has even played in a couple of RIFTS games), but they're already familiar with the SaWo rules.

So excited.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Choosing My Fate (and blowing my mind)

Currently brainstorming the upcoming Fate game with my crew. We're all tossing ideas back and forth via email. Right now these two premises seem to be in the lead:

1. Dimension Hopping Wanderers

2. Post-Apocalyptic humanity struggling against a superior mutant class.

So I was trying to congeal this in my mind, perhaps even combining the two settings. I was looking at artwork from The Strange (which seems cool but I'm not really into the Cipher system), but then today I was perusing my blog roll and was reminded of the news that RIFTS is getting a third party release via another company (and I know which one, but I'm not saying anything because it was entrusted to me in confidence) and then I looked back at my post and was like... Dimension Hopping and Post-Apocalypse... that could be RIFTS.

I'll pitch the idea to my crew of something like a cross between The Time Machine, RIFTS, and Sliders. Hot.
(Or just a hot mess....time will tell.) 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Trying to Wrap My Head Around Bliss Stage

I recently purchased Bliss Stage and Polaris, two decidedly indie and unabashedly narrative-focused rpgs from Ben Lehman. I feel like this strips me of any scraps of OSR street cred I may have had at any point since I started blogging.

Anyway, they were both PWYW, so I paid one American dollar each, with the notion that if I like them, I will buy physical copies of them. (Yes, I love my PDFs, but physical books, I just can't quit you.)If I don't like them, I will simply delete them, effectively just having given a vending machine trip to Mr. Lehman for sharing his ideas with me.

I have no idea what to do with these games. Like, even though I have read through the rules of Bliss Stage one and a half times, I have really no idea how the game works beyond a very basic conceptual level. It uses Fudge dice, though, so that's hittin'. (I have some crusty old Fudge dice from back in the day, as well as some slick but overpriced Fate dice I bought with the core book.)

I'm not sure that anyone I game with presently would like this. I've had groups in other times and places that would've been all over this, but I'd be very surprised if I ever got the chance to run this. Even my players who assure me that they'll play anything that I run...

My brain is already thinking about ways to repurpose this game, much the way that Thou Art But a Warrior repurposed Polaris. This is presently not a good thing, because I'd like very much to finish BXWoD and think of a good Fate setting.

I'd be remiss if I didn't pay Bliss Stage this compliment, though: Just as Icons is the only superhero rpg I've ever encountered that feels like a comic book (or rather an animated series based on a comic book), Bliss Stage is the only rpg I've ever encountered that feels like the mecha anime I loved back in the day, whereas games like Mekton Z just felt like we were playing "Battletech with Purple Hair" or somesuch.

No real word on Polaris, yet, as I've naught but skimmed it. Bliss Stage has my attention.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Deadlands: Happy Trails

Brought Deadlands to a conclusion tonight. Denver ended up a magical dead zone, with no spells functioning and supernatural creatures losing all power. Rachel and her husband fled to Chicago, Sebastian went away to train. We intend to pick it up in a 20's altered-Noir setting with wise old Sebastian being all Yoda and the grandchild of Rachel and Arthur.

And if none of that makes any sense, it's fine... just know that we had a satisfying and surprising conclusion to the campaign.

Oh, and I got them to agree to try Fate Core. Here goes nothing....

Friday, April 17, 2015

Sunken Tower of Tsenophal Initial Design

(If, by some chance, you are planning to attend the Nuke Con game day in June and plan to play in my game, do yourself a favor and don't read this. I mean, I can't stop you, but you'll possibly spoil your own experience.)

Some things I have decided about The Sunken Tower of Tsenophal:

-The true nature of Tsenophal will not be revealed.
-Possessing the Heart of Tsenophal allows you to break the scenario. If you get the Heart, you win. (Sort of)
-Possessing the Heart of Tsenophal dooms your character. (But hey, it's a one shot)
-The Heart will not be at the "end" of the dungeon. 
-Some of the pregen characters have goals that have nothing to do with the Heart.

More as I think them up.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Sunken Tower of Tsenophal

"He who holds the Heart of Tsenophal shall rule Igoroth the rest of his days."
                                                                                             -The Prophecies of Ikras, Canto II, Verse 437

Tsenophal was a god. Tsenophal was a demon. Tsenophal was an archmage of unthinkable power. Tsenophal was but a man, a messianic cult leader. Tsenophal was a golem that descended from the heavens. Tsenophal never existed. Read a dozen texts of old and you will find a dozen accounts of what Tsenophal was, but all agree on one thing: the tower where Tsenophal resided stood upon a silver mountain, and that mountain collapsed into a valley that flooded with water that seemed to come from the very stones.

Ages later, an earthquake has caused the flooded valley to partially drain, leaving the structure exposed. The Ikrasites claim that the time of prophecy has come. The King of Igoroth has declared the Ikrasite religion heretical and the prophecies blasphemous.

In these turbulent times, men dream of the Heart of Tsenophal, and the promise of power to come with it.


When I don't know what to run at a convention, I come up with a title. I then make myself build something around that title. I did it with the Temple of Zirugar several years ago, and that turned into a module trilogy run across multiple games at the same convention. The Sunken Tower of Tsenophal entered my head today, and the rest follows. It's what I'm going to run at the Nuke-Con game day in June. So be it!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Rethinking Fate

I was not kind to Fate Core the first time I read through it, comparing it unfavorably to Fate 2 from years back. Something in the back of my brain tugged at me, telling me I hadn't given the game a fair shake.

I started another read through of Fate, and I find that I'm liking it a lot more this time. It may be because I experienced some of the aspects of the system while playing Icons and found that they added to the game in ways I enjoyed and hadn't anticipated. It may be because I am a fickle bastard when it comes to gaming. All I know is that I think I might be willing to give it a shot, if I can wrap my brain around how it actually runs.

See, Icons has some Fate-esque narrative stuff draped over a rules-lite but solid system. With Fate, the narrative stuff is placed squarely in the lead. Whereas everyone has a Coordination stat in Icons, Fate characters don't have anything about their attributes in the fashion of a typical rpg. Your character would only have something about his or her strength, for instance, if it factored into one of their aspects. Maybe you're The Strongest Dude in the World or a Spaghetti-Armed Weakling. Compare this to World of Darkness or D&D, where every single character has a strength score.

I seem to understand the concept of a game that eschews a standard attribute format in lieu of highlighting what's important about a character, but I keep trying to imagine how I'd run it and coming up short. It's hard to create test characters to run, since part of the character creation is game/world/setting creation.

Another aspect of Fate that I was hung up on was the narrative collaboration bit. Fate encourages group say not only in game setup, but also to a lesser extent in play. I thought this was absolutely not my jam, but I had so much fun co-creating an Icons universe with Meghan and James that I'm willing to give the concept another shot.

 I can see players, especially less experienced ones, having difficulty with the kind of off-the-cuff thinking that Fate encourages. I had a similar experience when I tried to run Mage: the Ascension for a group of Vampire and Werewolf players back in college. They had trouble with the freeform Sphere system in Mage, having been accustomed to the clearly defined Disciplines and Gifts of VtM and WtA. Still, I'd like to give it a try. I have no idea when... perhaps between this Deadlands campaign and the next. Perhaps after my Icons game. (Though first it has to come back from hiatus...) So many games, so little time...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Getting a (Night)Life

So enamored was I by NightLife that I ordered the magic supplement. So enamored am I by the magic supplement that I ordered two more supplements for it.

With a few minor tweaks, NightLife seems to be the game I was looking for to replace WoD... all that time coming up with alternatives. Alas. I still have a mind to finish those projects because I invested so much time in them, and because NightLife looks good on paper...who knows if I'll actually like the way it plays.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Con Season

Although I still have six weeks to go until my students break for summer, conventions are already on my mind. I plan to attend a game day and two conventions this summer: Nuke-Con's Aftershock: Yellow Cake, KantCon, and BritishFest. I intend to run games at all three of them, for such is my love of GMing.

My question is this: What should I run? I'm thinking about this for my lineup:

Yellow Cake- Something quick and simple with minis, as the Nuke-Con game days seem more geared toward boardgames and the like. (People run RPGs there, and I've run RPGs there, but they seem to be in the minority.)

KantCon- Starships & Spacemen (which I've run there the last two years in a row), something from Lamentations of the Flame Princess (because I've run LotFP modules there three years in a row), and something new that I have never done before.

BritishFest- I feel the need to run either a British RPG or something with a British setting. Last year I did Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and one of TSR's UK modules... might do those again. (Not the same ones, mind you)

Now I just need to hammer out what I will run specifically... suggestions are welcome.

Man, I can't wait. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Dogs (Deadlands)

Inspiration taken from Dogs in the Vineyard, the film Frailty, and a random picture in one of the old classic Deadlands books.

The Dogs are a group of monster hunters who are driven by a fanatical urge to see the supernatural stamped out. Each of the Dogs has suffered significant loss at the hands of the supernatural. Although the Dogs will kill any monster, the things they hate the most are humans who practice magic. To the Dogs, people who dabble in the arcane are traitors to their own kind, dangerous wolves in sheep's clothing to be rooted out for the good of society. The Dogs generally consider the following types of characters to be sorcerers: hucksters, hexslingers, witches, alchemists, and houngans. Some Dogs include Shamans and Enlightened Martial artists, though this isn't a universal belief among the different cells.

Dogs operate in "packs," independent cells numbering from a half dozen to a dozen, who search out the supernatural for destruction. They pay no heed to local laws, brazenly gunning sorcerers down in the streets if they have to.

Most of the Dogs believe in God, but they have a rather Old Testament view of Him. They seem to be aided or protected by some kind of force.

Dogs possess the following Edge:

Arcane Background (Dog)
Requirements: Spirit d8, must have suffered loss at the hands of the supernatural.

A Dog is a special type of Blessed, one that is driven on by a need for retribution against the supernatural. Dogs don't have normal Powers or Power Points, nor do they invoke miracles like other Blessed. Instead, Dogs enjoy the following benefits:
-They are considered to have smite activated whenever they are attacking a supernatural being. If attacking a huckster, hexslinger, houngan, or alchemist, they attack as if they had activated smite with a raise. Dogs also receive a +4 to any fear rolls from monsters. They also suffer from the effects of the Bloodthirsty Hindrance whenever fighting the supernatural. They will never surrender to or flee from a supernatural being, even if it means their death.

Dogs also carry a silver cross pin with a snarling dog face engraved in the center. While this is pinned to their clothing or otherwise openly displayed on their person, they are resistant to magic spells/powers from the groups listed above, receiving +4 armor or +4 to resist as appropriate. If their pin is taken, they lose this bonus. The pin will not function for anyone who doesn't have the Dog Edge. The source of these pins is yet unknown.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Obscure RPG Corner: NightLife

Somewhere in the stygian depths of the internet, I once heard that much of Vampire: the Masquerade was influenced by a relatively obscure urban horror rpg called NightLife. I picked up a copy on the cheap, mostly because I am eternally searching for something to replace White Wolf.

I definitely see some of the possible influence in the concepts, not necessarily the mechanics. The way dice works actually seems more similar to Pacesetter, though not quite as anal about degrees of success.

It's a pretty solid little game, the rules only taking up about 50 pages and the rest (and there isn't much after that) being devoted mostly to fluff. The game takes place in NYC by default, specifically in the punk underground scene. Of course, you could easily move it elsewhere if that's not your jam.

Interesting idea: Learning powers costs you Humanity. The more powerful/inhuman the power, the bigger the cost. Humanity works very much like it does in Vampire- as it drops, a character becomes more difficult to play in "normal" situations, finally becoming a ravening NPC.

Player characters are pretty well indestructible by normal means. They can be "killed" but return to life the following night. They can do this a number of times equal to their Fit score...and in a percentile system, that's a lot of dying. Of course, PCs can be snuffed by their traditional weaknesses. (Vampires in the sun, etc.)

One thing I hate: Vampires and wights are spelled with a y.

Apparently NightLife went through three editions in two years, which is a little nuts. I'm not even 100% sure what edition I have. (I think it's the first) I've also ordered the magic supplement with witches and sorcerers and whatnot...frankly I'm a little surprised I could even *find* it. (I had to dip my toe in the fetid waters of Ebay) I'm always down to pick apart an RPG's magic system.

I think this is a game I would try. My brain already wants to find a way to incorporate it into Chill/Creature Feature/Majus/Crypt World, because I'm nuts. Hell, I'm still simultaneously picking away at my year-and-a-half old FUDGE urban horror game and my BXWoD. (I've hit a snag with the tedium that is magic items. I'm thinking about scaling them back significantly because they've really killed my momentum on the project.)

No Deadlands this Friday due to my being out of town for a few days. Engines & Empires is set to resume this Sunday since that weird egg holiday thing is over with.