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.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Shadowrun Returns is Ballin'

So this blog is about tabletop games, but I need to talk about a computer game for a second. It's still fairly relevant, because that computer game is Shadowrun Returns. I downloaded it last night from Humble Bundle for like three dollars.

As you may already know, I love the setting of Shadowrun, but the system - particularly the last two editions of it- gives me fits.

Ah, but when you have a computer doing all the math instead of rolling literally 96 dice in a single combat round, something amazing happens....Shadowrun becomes fun again. While turn-based, the combat is actually pretty fast paced. I engaged in a shoot-out/spell-out that, while resolved in about ten minutes (at most) of real time, would've probably taken at least thirty minutes in the tabletop game. It was also exciting and tense, trying to find cover for my fragile elven mage before one of the Renraku security goons mowed him down with an SMG. This contrasts starkly to my typical Shadowrun combat experience, where I can afford a short nap or perhaps a workout at the gym before my turn comes around again.

Disclaimer: The system that this game uses is not exactly like the Shadowrun system; it's actually slightly reminiscent of Fallout 1 and 2. There's still enough Shadowrun in it to feel like Shadowrun in all the good ways, though.

I'm also geeked out about this game because it references the SNES Shadowrun game. The combat music is a slick remix of the old SNES diddy that would bleat out whenever you got randomly attacked by snipers or mages in zoot suits, but even better.... the protagonist of the SNES game joins your party as your first NPC ally.

I'm still curious about the idea of a Savage Worlds Shadowrun, but for now, SR Returns scratches that Shadowrun itch.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Best Blog Comment I Have Ever Received

So late last year and early this year, I was working on a BX version of a pseudo-WoD game. I posted rules for characters getting turned into vampires. That post, though eight months old, recently prompted the following comment:

"Hello friend out there my name is jerry am a vampire i was bone in califonia am 50years old i love beeing a vampire becaose i alwayse get what i want i have initiate allote of friends family member young and old ,if you have interest you want to be a vampire you are free i can initiate you and you will be one of us fame money any thing you want will definatly be yours contact to day and be initiated thanks"

Jerry the Vampire. Damn, that sounds badass. 

I have to hand it to you Jerry, I vastly prefer the term initiate to the worn-out Embrace. 

...could this be some kind of undead pyramid scheme? 

I have left the comment unpublished on the original post, but this was just too good not to share with you, my dear blog pals. 

Christian: You live in Cali. Watch out for Jerry the Vampire.

Edit: I just realized that, of all the words Jerry the Vampire mangles, he spells initiate correctly. He can't spell being, but by the gods, he can spell initiate. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

5e Keep on the Borderlands Session 4- Super Bonus Session

Due to an auspicious alignment in the schedule stars, my Saturday group was able to fit in an extra session of D&D last night. We played at a different venue, one which I have to say I vastly prefer. (They have chai, for one thing.)

Our band of adventurers decided that they'd rather not descend again into the dungeon beneath the Caves of Chaos. (Which they have dubbed 'The Dungeon from Hell" or simply "Hell.") Instead, the party renewed their broil with the kobolds in area A, slaying the chief and driving the rest of the tribe out of the complex. The party then decided to take their beef into the goblin section of the cave through the secret entrance in the ogrillon's lair.

The party took some big risks in engaging multiple opponents, but some smart bottle-necking and the use of thunderwave carried the day. Given that they created such a huge ruckus, the party decided to withdraw from the caves for the time being, returning to the Keep to heal up and resupply.

The party presently plans to enter the marshes in search of a missing guild mage, Tersius, and his spellbook that the Guild would dearly love to repossess. They are going to let the situation in the caves cool down for a bit, since the goblins are certainly on the defensive against further intrusions.

While the session was pretty short, it was nice to end the weekend with a second dose of D&D. We're currently planning to continue this Saturday.

Monday, September 7, 2015

5th Edition Keep on the Borderlands, Session 3

Our party went off grid. I placed a trapdoor beneath the garbage room, which the party found by accident last week when the druid dropped thunderwave to deal with all the rats. (And yes, alerting the kobolds) Our intrepid crew climbed deeper down, under the Caves of Chaos, into a dungeon of my own making.


-The party broke some kind of ominous-looking seal.

-After being temporarily "blessed" with the ability to speak with dead, our party's drow necromancer had an extremely creepy encounter with a council of phantoms. Unfortunately, he asked too many questions, leading the party into battle with a shadow. I ran them basically like the witches from Macbeth. It was fun making a circle of creepy plastic green ghosties from the first Bones set.

-Our party was nearly wiped by a pair of duergar. The druid saved the day by dropping a mist spell that caused the badly wounded duergar to flee. Alas, the party's NPC barbarian perished before anyone could save him. Bonus points to the druid for her use of wild shape for intimidation.

Looking forward to continued shenanigans next week.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Well,Slap My Ass and Call Me Cheryl (Or, In Which I Speak Too Soon-ish)

So after posting about waiting for my Cypher book, I get home and there it is on my front doorstep.
On my birthday.
I never received any notice it was shipping, and in fact my order is still listed as "processing," but its arrival is so serendipitous that I can't be annoyed anymore.

Also! I got the sixth volume of Christian's zine, "The Tolling of the Great Black Bell," another fantastic present.

In Which I Am Still Waiting for My Cypher Book

I ordered my copy of the Cypher System core book direct from Monte Cook Games because I couldn't find it in a local game store.

I ordered it August 18th. It has yet to leave the warehouse.

While MGC did have an employee reach out via email to say their shipping was behind, they also said that shipping would be caught up early this week. It is now Thursday. My order is still processing.

The book has finally appeared on Amazon. If I had waited and bought it on Amazon, I actually would've gotten it faster and a few dollars cheaper.

I understand that snags happen, but it's kind of rage-inducing to have my Twitter feed constantly blowing up with all these things that MGC is releasing and Kickstarting when my book that I ordered 15 days ago is still sitting in a warehouse somewhere. Just saying.

I will continue to wait for my book, though the temptation is strong to cancel my order and buy it through a vendor on Amazon. I'll certainly think twice about ordering direct from MGC again. I had ordered this book as an early birthday present to myself. Today is my birthday.

At least I chose the free shipping option, otherwise I'd really be upset.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Saturday Night Keep: The Setup

At the beginning of each era, the gods of light and darkness decide upon a race that will have dominance over all the world. The gods are fickle, however, and inevitably their creations fail them in some fashion and are cast into decline. The dragons, the giants, the dwarves, the elves... all of them have had their empires and golden ages, and all of them are now hermits and vagabonds living in shadow and memory. This is the era in which humans have been given dominion over the world. The dwarves ruled from below the earth, the elves from within the Eldewood, the giants from their mountain castles and the dragons from the very skies, but humankind has chosen to carve their realms out of the very heart of the land. An island of settlements in the center of a dark world, humans push the monsters and the remnants of the old times farther and farther out into the fringe. They build keeps on their borders to hold back the chaos. Those who chafe under this new age of civilization make for these keeps, places from which they can escape the Holy Church, the tax collectors, and a life spent pursuing an honest trade.

This Keep has no name. It sits uneasily on the border of the Old Kingdom and the Eldewood. Here you will find opportunists, vagrants, fugitives, madmen, treasure seekers, fanatics, and pariahs. Some seek to plunder the riches of the Old Kingdom, some to slay the monsters, some to avoid the toil and tedium of civilized life. Most of them will end up broken, dead, or imprisoned. Some will end up wealthy, perhaps enough so that they can elude a common life.