Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Blah Blah Retrospective

This post will contain no kvetching about 2020's various disasters. 

So early in the year I shelved my Powered By the Apocalypse urban fantasy setting that spanned two different games. I switched to Troika and simultaneously started up a 5e game of Saltmarsh. 

Saltmarsh died pretty quickly, and I think it would've died off regardless of anything that 2020 brought. After spending most of a session watching the party get their asses handed to them by the snakes in the well, spend more time trying to avoid paying full price for a room at the inn than they did on the actual adventure, and then planning an elaborate revenge on the snakes in the well, I kind of just let the thing quietly die. It is more than likely my last attempt at 5e, and certainly my last attempt with that group, for a variety of reasons. 

Troika looked one way in my head (2e Spelljammer) and ended up another entirely. (Papercut Monty Python) I like the system, but at least one player did not. Ultimately I just let it go because I found it too silly to really invest in. 

In the summer, I started up a homebrew setting game of Old School Essentials with a good chunk of my old college group. It's had ups and downs, and the players have had some difficulty adjusting from the playstyle of more recent editions of the game. We continue on with it, especially since I've figured out that the Caves of Chaos are utter rubbish. 

I got a group together and made characters for a Savage Worlds RIFTS game set in the Vampire Kingdoms, but we still haven't started it, and honestly I've kind of lost my enthusiasm for the idea. 

KantCon got cancelled. They had it online, but I was very, very tired of online interaction, so I skipped it. 

I have discovered that I absolutely hate gaming online, and I do it right now only because I have no other choice. 

Gaming adjacent: 
-Briefly flirted with GURPS 3rd edition, but ultimately did not engage 
-Picked up a grip of stuff for Mutant Crawl Classics, and I want to run it 
-Got some bundles for DCC and Modern AGE, haven't looked at them 
-Picked up Cyberpunk RED
-Finally got around to playing the PC game adaptation of Warlock of Firetop Mountain, and I've enjoyed it muchly. 

That's it. That's gaming in 2020. 

Hope you all have a better 2021. 

Monday, December 21, 2020

You Down With MCC?!

 Today, I stopped at Half-Priced Books while waiting to go get blood drawn. (Nothing serious) I was in the neighborhood, and I hadn't been to HPB in months, so I thought I'd peek in. As an aside, it's good to see a store taking pandemic measures seriously* by actually enforcing the limit on customers in the store, etc. Anyway, that's not what you're reading this for. 

I found a treasure trove of Mutant Crawl Classics modules for $5 each. I snapped up each and every one of them. There was a limited edition core book there as well, but I wasn't going to shell out fitty bucks for it. Really, I just wanted the modules for when I'm in the mood for Weird-Ass D&D, or maybe if I ever decide to give Mutant Future another run, or roll out my gonzo AD&D Tarraxian setting from like 11 years ago. (JFC...) If I ever do decide I want MCC, I can get a copy of the rules, brand new, for $32. 

It was a nice find. I also saw hardback copies of White Box, Labyrinth Lord, and the original Black Blade edition of OSRIC. However, I've pretty well decided on OSE as my go-to rule set, with the Advanced Genre options should I choose, and I've got the wonderful little White Box Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game should I decide to go the simpler route. (Plus, they wanted $40 for it and I think I can get a new copy off Lulu for less than that, even if the cover sucks.) 

Meanwhile, I pick my way sloooowly through Cyberpunk RED. The rules are very similar to what I remember form high school and my CP2020 days. (Hacking being the exception, of course.) I don't know if I'll ever run it, but 1.) that's never stopped me before, 2.) it's a beautiful book, and 3.) R. Talsorian is just a lovely company and I'm happy to support Pondsmith and crew. 

There will be little gaming over my winter break, but that's usually the case. I'm not resuming OSE until January, and I'm not starting Savage RIFTS until January either...though inexplicably I find myself losing interest in it with each passing day. (That might be the seasonal depression talking.) I may, if I can stir up the gumption, run the holiday-themed DCC module "The Old Gods Return," which I snagged from the recent Humble Bundle. I think my girlfriend was hoping for a Christmas-themed game of Little Fears, but that game is so inextricably tied to Halloween in my heart that I don't think I can ever run it outside of October. 

Lastly, I was reading John's blog over at Playing Dice with the Universe (link in the sidebar) and I think his assessment of 5e might explain the OSE crew's behavior in the Caves. (Two of them are presently involved with 5e.) Having been incentivized to kill everything, all the time, the poor bastards have simply lost the ability to approach a dungeon with any other mentality. 

That's all I've got. Perhaps I'll do a 2020 retrospective, like I usually do, but I have the feeling that will be a short and discouraging read. 

...okay, last thought: every one of these MCC modules could have totally been an episode of Thundarr the Barbarian, and I love that. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Fuck the Caves of Chaos, Part II

 Alright, so.... 

Apparently, there is now an Advanced Players Guide for OSE that has shit in it that the boxed set books don't have. That's kind of aggravating, considering I've not even had them for a year. 

Last night, the players decided to buy a bunch of hunting dogs, which are better and cheaper than 1st level fighters, and take them into the caves. 

I didn't want to run a combat between like 8 dogs, the party, and every orc in Cavern B. I used the mass combat rules from the Cyclopedia. It sucked just as much. 

After initial success, the players decided to do a "stealth" mission, but they literally do not know how to explore a dungeon without seeking out unnecessary combat. The magic-user's sleep spells and a lucky hide in shadows roll saved them. 

The orc chief used the secret door to go to Cavern C. The players camped outside Cavern B. The orcs marched a force from C toward B and the players ran and hid. The orcs from C secured B. 

The players ran back to the camp and tried to buy more dogs. There were no more dogs. Meanwhile, I was going to have the orcs trap the corridor with the noise-jangling net and then just have like ten of them fire on the party with crossbows and just end this fucking shitshow.  

Then I decided fuck it and had an earthquake cave in the Caves of Chaos in the night. 

The players decided to go loot Cavern B. If that trap had actually been there, they would've walked right the fuck into it. Right. The. Fuck. Into. It. 

Instead, there was a glowing portal unearthed by the quake. The party avoided it and started looting the Type D treasure I had placed. Then they discovered a floating ball of protoplasm that disintegrates shit. It disintegrated one of their dogs. They hid, then ran. 

Keep on the Borderlands is going into the box that I use to store shit I eventually plan to take to Half-Price Books and trade in. The same might happen to about half the classic modules I own. 

We're not playing again until January. Come January, all the dungeons are going to be weird. No more rooms full of orcs and goblins and shit. I'm not ready to go full-on "acid fantasy" (whatever the fuck that means), but I think I've had enough Caves of Chaos type garbage for one lifetime. 

Friday, December 4, 2020

OSE Frustration Follow-Up

 So upon some analysis with my comrades today, we've discovered that we don't need to introduce a bunch of rules like "shields shall be splintered" and "class-based damage" and whatnot. In fact, much of the problem stems from the fact that the Caves of Chaos are fucking garbage. 

The minotaur, who is significantly more dangerous than a normal minotaur (above average hp, wearing armor, has a magic spear), has way less treasure than he should. The orcs in Cavern B should have Type D treasure, and they are broke-ass motherfuckers. I have to go back and look, but I'm not sure there's enough treasure between Cavern B and Cavern C to make up a Type D treasure. 

Oddly enough, compared to the usual Type J treasure, the kobolds in Cavern A were *bankin'.* 

I do want to add the shields rule, and I'm strongly considering class-based damage so that people use weapons as a matter of style. However, I think for now I can just stick the correct amount of loot in the Caves o' Chaos. 

I might also redesign some of the unexplored areas. While I thought it would be cute to have old-school dungeons dotted randomly across my campaign map, maybe I should be a little more...discerning. 

I must also mention that, if one is using Keep on the Borderlands as written, it's much more lucrative to attack and rob the citizens of the Keep. Just sayin'. 

I'll make some adjustments and we will see how next session (December 16th) turns out. 

Now, to finally tackle our disappointment with the OSE druid... in another post. 

Thursday, December 3, 2020

OSE- Frustration

Last night, the party entered Cavern B without any real fighter-types. They had the NPC thief search the wall, he made a comment about the orc head. The party fell for his trick and found themselves flanked by the guards from rooms 7 and 8. Things were actually going pretty well, then the drow died because the orcs fighting him rolled 20 and 18 on their attack rolls. The magic-user, who is AC 9, was attacked by orcs who rolled 2 and 4 before he put most of them to sleep. The assassin got cut down because one orc kept passing his morale checks, but she lived because I let PCs survive to negative hit points equal to their level. The party gave up and left.  

The loot was a bunch of shitty spears and a handful of electrum pieces. 

One player is very frustrated because his characters just keep dying. One player doesn't like how disposable they are. I'm personally frustrated because we've been playing since fucking July and we have two 2nd level characters and a revolving door of dead 1st level chumps. 

I mean, yes, they went in without any fighter-types...but the AC 1 drow should've lasted longer than one combat, right? 

So, a couple of conclusions I am reaching: 

-The Caves of Chaos is an absolute garbage dungeon. It's a shit load of risk for very little reward, and it's boring. Fuck, some parts of it are downright insipid. 

-Old School D&D is kind of a shitty game when you play it RAW. 

What's really weird is that I don't remember having these problems running AD&D, or running Cyclopedic back in the day. 

One point of light from last night: One of the players rolled up a mycelian, and I'm super excited about that. 

My "OSE druids are trash" analysis is forthcoming. Last night the group analyzed the druid one more time before we unanimously agreed. 

In other news, Savage RIFTS had a session 0, but more about that later. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

OSE: Progress

 Tonight was a resounding success for the players.

One player decided to shelve his druid and bring out his gnome. (I'll be writing a separate post about why druids in OSE are fuckin' terrible) They hired three fighters and kitted them out in plate mail, shields, spears, and bows. The players were tired of mucking about as a bunch of broke, perpetually first level scrubs. It was time to kill the minotaur or die. 

A lot could've gone wrong, but luck was with the players. They navigated the maze much better. They no longer had lots of fire beetles or stirges to deal with. The minotaur failed two saving throws, both against phantasmal force and darkness. (Courtesy of the gnome and the drow, respectively.) The party rolled much better for missile fire. The magic-user came prepped with magic missile instead of sleep. 

In the aftermath, the party was able to recover the belongings of their slain cleric compatriot and two retainers. (Their remains had, for the most part, been eaten.) The assassin found the secret door to the minotaur's treasure hoard. A couple of crowbars and some caution avoided the poisoned needle in chest #1. 

The party dismissed the three fighters after paying them, but kept their hired thief on retainer. The gnome spent money on better equipment. The magic-user gained a level, met another of his kind, and negotiated a spell swap, gaining charm person and light in the process. The drow has the magic plate mail and the healing staff after the party had the magic loot identified by a wise man. The assassin compensated for her low charisma by buying rounds of honey mead and eavesdropping on adventurers. 

So now we've got another 2nd level character, the assassin is nearly 3rd, and the gnome is off to a decent start. The players are contemplating swapping the druid and drow out for wilderness and underground adventures, respectively. Both in and out of character, they are debating raiding the caves again or moving on to other adventures. 

Good stuff. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

OSE- Oh, Second-level Eludes!

Another setback session, more or less. 

The PCs raided the kobold lair again. They found the treasure chest with a note asking for quarter, but the PCs decided that they should just murder the kobolds and take everything. They ended up focusing most of their attention on the common room full of regular kobolds and females. Bloodlust took over, but ultimately the PCs had to withdraw. They went back to the base camp (my version has a base camp near the Caves of Chaos, with a keep being a little bit farther away.) In the two days it took to heal up, the kobolds evacuated their cavern, and the chief took all of the portable treasure. The PCs gained a pitiful 50-some experience each from the loot and killing kobolds. 

I feel like the players are starting to get frustrated by the glacial pace of this game. We've been playing since July and only one person has made 2nd level. 

Part of the problem is that we only play for about three hours every other week. This is due in part to two of the players having kids who must be abed before they can play, so we start later than I'd normally like. 

Another factor is hardware/software problems. We've been using a combo of Discord and Roll20. Discord, for some reason, just likes to randomly stop picking up sounds from the other players, or stop transmitting sounds from me, or both. It happens out of nowhere and then I have to fiddle with various knobs and dials until one of them inexplicably restores my mic's functionality or I start being able to hear the other players again. We lost a good chunk of time on just my tech bullshit last night. 

Finally, the players gave up on the previous dungeon without having reached the 2nd or 3rd level, which were the treasure-heavy levels. There were clues to get down there, but in one case I think my clues were too obscure, and in the second case they overthought it and then just shrugged their shoulders and gave up. If they'd made it to the two lower levels of that dungeon, they'd all be 2nd, perhaps 3rd level... there was a flippin' Type A treasure down there. 

So, we can conclude that several factors are in play here. It's just a bummer to make such little progress. 

Monday, November 2, 2020

Campaigns Continue

OSE continues this week. Will the party continue their raid against the kobolds? Will they seek vengeance against the minotaur? Will they search a new cave entirely? The assassin finally made 2nd level, so that's a thing. Progress is slower than I anticipated, but I guess there's no real rush. 

My Savage RIFTS game is still in the character creation phase. I threw out the Vampire Kingdoms, Madhaven, and Dinosaur Swamp as three possible locations to my player group. So far, Vampire Kingdoms is leading Madhaven by a single vote, with nobody voting for ol' Dino Swamp. The latter two settings I have RIFTS experience with, as a GM and a player respectively. I've never done Vampire Kingdoms, but I'm envisioning a heady mix of John Carpenter's Vampires, From Dusk Til Dawn, Vampire Hunter D, and Heavy Metal. Hoping to get started in 10 days. 

Sunday, October 18, 2020


 So someone published an rpg called Agon. My OSE game, started back in July, is called 'Realms of Agon.' 

Oh well. A certain quote from Office Space comes to mind. 

Still working on my Savage Worlds RIFTS game. Until I get that started, every other Wednesday is just bereft of gaming. 

Thursday, October 8, 2020

OSE: Half-PK

 They went into the minotaur's cave. They blundered into the room full of stirges, which could've done them in if I'd been able to roll over a 10 on my d20... as it was, they killed a few stirges, the magic-user used sleep, and that was that. 

...then they blundered into the minotaur's cave. 

The assassin fled on the second round. 

The retainers died.

The magic-user fled. 

The cleric got a hurled magical spear through the back as he tried to withdraw. If my die rolls would've been at least average on that cursed d20,  the entire party would probably be dead. 

The assassin managed to throw off the effects of the confuse direction spell that hangs over the minotaur's cave. She grabbed the magic-user, who she found wandering. They fought some fire beetles and the magic-user almost died. They ran from some other fire beetles. They made it out and retreated to the base camp. 

It was kind of a big setback session overall, but the players enjoyed it. There will be a new character, and probably some new retainers, when next we play. The players might finally start taking advantage of my stable rule to field more than one character. 

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Rethinking Troika Part 2: The Backgrounds

My initial vision for Troika was to be like Spelljammer meets the graphic novel Saga. I was writing up some Backgrounds right when the pandemic hit, and that venture was lost in the initial confusion and panic and then stayed neglected in the months of ennui and malaise that followed. 

I was ready to dust it off and continue working on it when I stumbled across this: a $4 book of Spelljammer backgrounds for Troika. It also turns out that I owned this little book already, it having been included in a bundle I bought over the summer. 

If I run Troika again, I'll probably just use these and call it a day. I might offer a selection of original Troika backgrounds as well, but I'm not sure. 

I'll post the few backgrounds that I actually finished at a later time. 

Saturday, September 26, 2020

OSE Continues

 My OSE game continues! 

I finally conquered my fear of mapping and started drawing maps. In the last week, I mapped the lower level of the sepulcher, and the series of hidden caves and caverns below that, complete with a juicy Type A treasure nestled in a warren of troglodytes. 

...aaaand the party decided they didn't want to try to figure out how to open the door to the western entrance to level 2, and they didn't want to fight the roomful of skeletons guarding the eastern door to level 2. They left town. -_- 

I've decided I'm going to keep these maps/this world and run them for future groups who I can con into trying OSE. 

In the meantime, the players have wandered a few days north and decided to try their hand at the Caves of Chaos. Yes, those Caves of Chaos. Mine don't exist next to a keep (although Harkon Keep is reasonably near), but I have placed a base camp of the lord's retainers and various adventurers and merchants a few miles off of the Caves. We ended with the PCs scouting out the various entrances (though they've missed a couple) and deciding to nope out of the Chaos Shrine entrance and pick the minotaur entrance. (Fools!) 

I should also note that the PCs picked up a new retainer, a fighter named Petrow. He is, unfortunately, an obvious con man, who has gleefully joined the cleric's enlightenment-pyramid-scheme religion. Their conversations are reminiscent of this. I keep envisioning him as a duelist from JB's Complete B/X Adventurer, but I'm not sure I'm going to introduce any more classes into the game right now. 

We play again in two weeks. Since they're doing the Caves of Chaos, I don't need to do any mapping or stocking, though I should probably bone up on good ol' B2. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Rethinking Troika Part 1: Stats

I ran Troika back during the early days of the pandemic. I think I ran it for a month or two, but ultimately shelved it. Lately, I've been asking myself exactly why. For one thing, it was a considerable sight sillier than I normally like my games, though one of my players said that was a feature and not a bug. I did have some problems with the system, echoed by same player, so I've decided to take a shot at it. 

One criticism I have with Troika is SKILL. You roll SKILL randomly. You also use SKILL as the basis for literally every task resolution roll in the game: attack rolls, spells, attempts to use any of your Advanced Skills. (Advanced Skills are different from SKILL) If you roll a low SKILL score, you just suck at everything LOL SORRY 🤷. You can also can't improve your SKILL, though you can raise your Advanced Skills. 

Before I run Troika again, I plan to revisit and hack it a little. Here's what I'm thinking: 

-There are three primary stats: PUISSANCE, THAUMATURGY, and ADROITNESS. (You can also call these COMBAT, MAGIC, and SKILL if you're boring) You use these as the base task resolution values for attacking with weapons, casting spells, and doing anything else, respectively. 

-The secondary stats are ELAN, FORTUNE, and ORGONE. Chronically bland MFs can call these STAMINA, LUCK, and MANA. I guess you can also cease with the insistence of all caps. One of them is your capacity for taking damage, the second one can influence saving throws and prevent character death, and the last powers spells. 

The procedure: Roll 1d3+3 for PUISSANCE, 1d3+1 for THAUMATURGY, and 1d3+3 for ADROITNESS. A result of less than 0 on your THAUMATURGY roll is treated as 0. You may add 1 to a single stat after stats have been rolled. 

Next, roll 2d6+12 for ELAN and 1d6+6 for FORTUNE. ORGONE is calculated by rolling 1d3 and multiplying the result by the character's THAUMATURGY score. After rolling, you may add 2 points to one of the secondary stat totals. 

Part 2 will be devoted to Backgrounds. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Twitter, 5e, and Tempting a Brain Aneurysm: A Love Story

Remind me to stop perusing RPG Twitter. Remind me especially to stop following discussions of 5e on Twitter. Each time I say it will be the last, with all the conviction of when I say I'll never eat popcorn again after I spend two days trying to get one of those little pieces to unwedge from between my gums. 

Today, some of the same people who constantly dunk on/trash 5e for being handholdy, too easy, and soft are now crying that the first encounter in the new Icewind book is too hard. 

 One common complaint I was seeing in the discussions is that there is "too much swing" at low levels in 5e. 

Anybody reading this ever rolled up a 1st level thief with 2 hp in the old days? DMs, did you ever roll up a dragon on the wilderness encounter tables when a 1st level party was just trying to get to whatever fetid goblin den they were trying to raid? This game has always been swingly at low level, except maybe during the 4e days when encounters were overdesigned and lasted an hour almost like clockwork. Anyway, I'm not saying I have an unshakable love for low level swing, just the the criticism is often wildly inconsistent. 

...I'll chalk up a win to D&D Twitter for the "orcs are racist" debate, though. I thought the idea was ridiculous at fist, but then I downloaded Orcs of Thar to come up with some ideas for OSE humanoid classes and whoaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. 

The moral of this story is that Twitter is garbage and you should find better things to do with your limited time on this planet. 

Monday, September 14, 2020


The only envelopes that come to my house that are any fun to open are those that come from Christian. He has sent me some paper skelly boys, that I might stage my own little Gath battles. Non-digital entertainment is at a high-premium in these awful times, especially DIY stuff. 

Thanks, man! 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Get Your Ag On

 I ran my OSE Realms of Agon campaign again tonight. Some things to note: 

-The party wisely avoids combat. We didn't even have a combat tonight; the party wisely lured the wandering gecko lizards they encountered into the room with the slain bandits, and got the monsters to feed on the bodies rather than on them. 

-Monster xp in OSE and B/X is saaaaad. The players have leaned into this, and seek clever solutions if at all possible Given that most of them have like 3 or 5 hit points, this is a good idea. 

-The cleric usually takes light, rather than cure light wounds.Given that most of the party is probably going to die if they take a single solid hit, it makes sense to focus on a spell that can reduce a monster's chance of making that fatal blow land. 

-Fortune seems to favor the players with regard to reaction rolls, traps being sprung, and wandering monsters. Fortune is not with them, however, most of the time I need to roll up a treasure. 

-The party cleared out level 1 of the sepulcher they have been exploring. There remains an enigma to be solved, but they want to do some research in town. 

-Now that one of my players has introduced me to the shift key function in jam boards, using it for mapping isn't quite as awful for my artistically-disinclined ass. 

-I have homework: at the end of the night, the magic-user's player declared that he wants to seek out a tutor who he can pay to copy spells, and the assassin has decided she wants to discretely find some poison for purchase. I'll have that worked up for them before the next session. 

-Rumor tables have become my favorite part of this campaign. 

-Emergent lore is dope. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Wizardawn? More like...WizarGONE.

 I used to use the shit out of Wizardawn, a website that generated all kinds of maps and resources for D&D and some sci-fi stuff, too. I used to to map my old AD&D 1st edition Tarraxian game a decade ago. I used it to map almost every damn thing in my Stars Without Number game in 2013ish. 

Last time I ran OSE, I was having trouble with the map generator. Now the whole website is gone. I think he might have actually taken it down while I was trying to use it. At any rate, it was there last time I ran OSE, and now it's not. 

While the creator did leave the ability to download and run a private server with the generators, I can't get it to work. One of my renters, an IT professional, couldn't get it to work. Feh. 

Luckily, I've discovered Dave's Mapper, which is superior to Wizardawn's map generator in some ways (grid overlay option in 5' squares, 10' squares, or hexes, ability to rotate and swap out tiles without generating a whole new map) and inferior in others. (Sci-fi city maps are pretty bland, can't generate world maps, doesn't have an NPC populating function) It also doesn't have any of the cool random non-map generation stuff that Wizardawn had. Le sigh. 

I'll miss the 'dawn, but I guess I gotta move on.  

Saturday, August 29, 2020

The Most Metal of All Light Sources

This week during my Realms of Agon game, the party stumbled across five bandits while in the dungeon. Although they were surprised, a bottleneck position and some unlucky attack rolls on the part of the bandits prevented what could've easily been a TPK. 

At the top of the second round, the magic-user began chanting sleep and the cleric light, targeted at the eyes of the bandit who was trying to attack with a sling from a safe distance. 

I wasn't sure how to adjudicate what order spells go off in, so I just ruled it was simultaneous. The bandit slinger got blinded and put to sleep, and the rest of his fellows also dropped into magical slumber. 

The assassin proceeded to murder the drowsy dastards, but the cleric was a little salty that he had wasted his single spell for the day. The party decided not to waste the magic, so they beheaded the bandit and used his glowy-eyed-cranium as an ersatz (and extremely metal) light source. Granted, it only lasted 12 turns, but hey- that's two torches in the world of B/X. 

The cleric (of a Neutral Immortal) grumbled about the gruesome deed, but ultimately shrugged it off. As long as the assassin was carrying the gruesome source of illumination, he could semi-justify it. 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Elves in Agon

Elves are assholes. This is just sort of a truism in my campaigns, and probably has been for the last 20 years or so. They might be assholes in different ways or from different circumstances, but they're always assholes. In Agon, this is no different. 

Elves are not from this world, but from another world that humans just call Elfland. (They don't have time for this strings-of-consonants-and-apostrophes bullshit.) At some point in the past, Elfland was directly connected to the world of mortals- Elves could freely enter this world, transferring between this mortal world and Elfland as easily as a human passes into or out of a building in of course, when the Cataclysm hit, elves peaced out. The gates to Elfland vanished, and with them, most of the elves. 

There are still some elves on Agon. Many of them are impetuous elven youths satisfying their curiosity. Some are elven exiles, banished to the mortal realm. Some claim that they came here to help mortals, but nobody in their right mind would believe in an altruistic elf. 

Monday, August 17, 2020

The Realms of Agon

"Realms of Agon" is the name I have given to my newly-started OSE campaign. I wanted something that sounded like an old-ass computer game. 

Seven hundred years ago, a terrible Cataclysm struck the world. Disasters destroyed the great kingdoms and empires of the West. Countless lives were lost, great civilizations were cast down, and the very weave of nature was forever altered. Nobody knows what caused it: most believe that one or more of the Primordial Gods was enraged and that the Cataclysm was their terrible revenge, while others blame fell magic. To those alive today, the cause seems a matter of irrelevant academia. 

The survivors of the Cataclysm migrated east, to Agon. There, they found the lands already civilized, though those peoples native to Agon had suffered from the aftershocks of the destruction in the West. Deserts flowed into frozen tundra, and a traveler could see three different landscapes in the course of a few days' ride. New settlements rose, culture and architecture merged together, even a common tongue arose. Eventually, the people of Agon were just as much of a patchwork as the lands around them. 

Some seek to discover what became of the lands to the West, but all attempts thus far have been futile. A great range of mountains rose up from the land in in the wake of the migration; these mountains are difficult to traverse and filled with strange and hostile creatures. Magic is likewise fruitless, as no spell that allows far-seeing seems to penetrate beyond this range, nor will magical means of transport function. A strange, dark pall hangs over the western horizon, and a mass of black clouds hangs ever-present beyond the mountains. 

Agon is dotted with ruins, some older even than the Cataclysm. Some scholars whisper that the events of seven centuries past were not the first time something terrible has fallen from the heavens, that perhaps there is a cycle of annihilation. Most of those who enter into these ruins, however, are more interested in the glittering prizes and forgotten magics that wait there, rather than any hidden truths they might glean. 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

OSE, Session 2

 Well, nobody died. We had our third player join us, and now the fielded party consists of a cleric, magic-user, and assassin with the cleric towing along an NPC fighter retainer. 

Sadly, we lost a shit load of playing time. My computer, for some reason, stopped letting me access any non-Google site or app. This meant that I kept dropping off Discord. It also meant that my Wizardawn generated map was lost, even after I managed to restore internet. 

The party found a little treasure, a nonlethal trap, and some slightly unsettling set dressing. They wisely avoided both fights. The first fight they could've won (a single giant killer bee), but the second could very well have been a party wipe (10 armored skeletons!) 

A few other thoughts: 

-Goog's Jam Board isn't bad for real-time mapping, even if I am terrible at drawing. I might ask our artist player to do the actual mapping. She somehow managed to draw one of the monsters as I struggled to make straight hallways. 

-I understand that Roll20 probably needs people to get paid subscriptions, but maaaaaaaaaaan the free mapping tool is fucking awful. 

-Although we are gaming digitally, I go analog in any way I can. I have my OSE books physically with me at the table, I roll physical dice (the players use the dice roller app in R20), and I even started drawing a new substitute map on graph paper. (I abandoned that when I realized that I'd have to draw everything on the map twice- once on paper, once on Jam.) 

-The Dungeon Alphabet, Dungeon Dozen, and Wilderness Alphabet are all at the table with me and helped me add some high weirdness to the dungeon and its surrounding environs.

We didn't get as far as I wanted, and we're not playing until the week after next. I know I've said it before, but I *hate* online gaming. 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Flavorful d6 Weapons

Reading the blogs that I have over the last ten years or so, I've had a morbid curiosity with the whole "all weapons do d6" paradigm. I've seen similar things work in different games, like earlier editions of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (I haven't played the current edition, so if that's still the case, forgive my ignorance.)

With everyone doing d6, I thought that the poor fighter might be utterly shafted. However, I had to remember that these were the days before class proliferation became the order of the day, and I thought that fighters still having better hit points, better attack progression, and (generally) better armor would keep them competitive.

Still, that urge to tinker. (Plus I think that fighters in old D&D just suck if you allow sub-classes or much beyond the LBBs.)

There's also the matter of...effectiveness. Under the rules in OSE, if you use d6 for everyone, there is no reason to ever use a battle axe or a two handed sword. Ever. Those weapons do the same damage as everyone else, but if you use them, you can't use a shield and you automatically lose initiative. I want all weapons to have some kind of in-game appeal.  

Here's my solution: all weapons do d6, but individual weapons either a.) have a little extra bonus of some kind that is persistent, or b.) have a bit better bonus that only happens on a natural 20. (I'm not using crits in my game, just the OSE default that nat 20 is just an automatic hit.)

I only created "specials" for the weapons in the OSE books.

Disclaimers/Design Decisions:
-Under the rule that all weapons do d6, the spear is incredibly versatile and useful, so I didn't give it a special beyond how it already performs in the OSE rules.
-Flaming oil does damage twice, and the second time is for free. That's special enough.
-Holy water is special and situational. I did expand it to be able to damage devils and demons, not just undead. (I don't recall if that's an OSE thing or not.)
-I know some of these weapon specials aren't necessarily realistic. This is also a game with wizards and gnomes and shit. I think most of the abilities are reasonable.
-Some of the weapon specials have a common sense factor. A mace can knock an opponent over. The DM can probably tell the player that their dwarf can't knock a cloud giant over with a mace. The warhammer's ability to damage armor doesn't matter if the monster isn't wearing armor.
-No, not every weapon is equally useful in all situations. That's fine.

Alright, enough with the disclaimers. Here are the rules as they exist now:

*Battle Axe- Melee, Slow, Two-handed. 
Special: +2 damage against opponents of giant size. (Ogres and larger) 

*Club- Blunt, Melee
Special: On a nat 20, opponent is stunned for 1 round if subject to stunning. 

*Crossbow- Missile (80/160/240), Slow, Reload, Two-handed
Special: Crossbows treat armor as one category lighter (Effectively -2 AC, where applicable) 

*Dagger- Melee, Missile (10/20/30)
Special: Daggers can be used while grappled or in very tight quarters, easy to conceal 

*Hand axe- Melee, Missile (10/20/30) 
Special: +1 damage when thrown 

*Holy water vial- Missile (10/20/30), Splash weapon
Special: Damages undead, demons, and devils. No effect on others besides getting wet. 

Special: 75% of javelins can be retrieved after combat (arrows only 50%) 

*Lance- Charge, Melee 
Special: On a nat 20, unseats mounted opponent (1d6/fall damage as appropriate, knocked prone) 

*Longbow- Missile (70/140/210), Two-handed 
Special: May be fired every round. 

*Mace- Blunt, Melee 
Special: On a nat 20, opponent is knocked prone. (If applicable- quadrupeds have -2 to next attack ) 

*Oil flask, burning- Missile (10/20/30), Splash weapon  
Special: Violates Geneva Convention, can make a humanoid warm for the rest of their life 

*Polearm- Brace, Melee, Slow, Two-handed 
Special: On a nat 20, will unseat a mounted opponent (1d6/fall damage as appropriate, loses next initiative) 

*Short bow- Missile (50/100/150)
Special: May be fired every round, may be fired from horseback or in tight quarters. 

*Short sword- Melee - 
Special: Inflicts +2 damage if used during a surprise round 

*Silver dagger- Melee, Missile (10/20/30)
Special: As dagger, but silver can harm lycanthropes and similar creatures. 

*Sling- Blunt, Missile (40/80/120)
Special: May be fired every round, no need to track ammo.  

*Spear- Brace, Melee, Missile (20/40/60) 
Special: None- the spear is already incredibly versatile. 

*Staff- Blunt, melee, slow, two-handed 
Special- When wielding a staff, you count as having a shield vs. melee attacks. 

*Sword- Melee 
Special: On a nat 20, roll damage twice and take the best roll. 

Special: Inflicts +1 point of damage from burning tip, 1-in-6 chance of being extinguished per attack.

*Two-handed sword- Melee, slow, two-handed 
Special: +1 to all damage rolls 

*Warhammer- Blunt, melee 

Special: On a nat 20, opponent’s shield is destroyed or armor damaged. (-1AC if applicable)

Thursday, July 30, 2020

OSE, Session 1

We started OSE tonight. It was a "setup" session...we rolled a few extra characters, distributed what rumors the PCs knew, started kicking around the setting, etc.

One player couldn't make it, and the remaining two decided to field just one character each, the magic-user and a thief with terrible, terrible stats who was played, the player's own words, "like the thief in every single example of play."

So yeah, that thief died. Antagonized a dire wolf on the road when they were guarding a caravan, tried to melee with it when it was badly injured, got his face bitten off. The player happily rolled a new character, a cleric.

I feel a little rusty on my B/X, but it got smoother as the session went on.

Both players reported having a blast and enjoying my style. I hadn't played with these guys since the early 2000's. (Friends I met my first semester of undergrad.)

After all was said and done, the cleric used a vague, sketchy prophecy to enshrine the fallen thief as a local hero in the village they landed in and recruited a caravan guard as their retainer. The trio (magic-user, cleric, NPC fighter) have scoped out a sepulcher in the foothills, leftover from a fallen civilization. (More recently, it was the last bastion of a Chaotic Immortal's cult that was driven out of town.) Surely the PCs can find some treasure. The cleric is interested in starting the funds to build his shrine/religious pyramid scheme.

Good stuff. Next time we play, our third player should be with us, and she will field either her bard or her assassin. (Or she might roll another character)

We also playtested my "flavorful d6 weapons" rules, but I'll put those in a separate post. I might also post some lore/flavor from the game as a separate post as well.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

OSE House Rules: "Basic" Class Incentives

I'm presently allowing all the extra classes in the Advanced Fantasy book in my game. However, I want to keep the basic classes somewhat incentivized, so I've added these little sweet bonuses. They apply only to the four "basic" classes: fighter, thief, cleric, magic-user. Rangers and assassins and all those mofos are already cooler than the basic classes, so no treat for them.

-Get to roll hp twice and take the best result
-Get to specialize in melee or ranged weapons (+1 hit and damage) at 1st level

-If you have dex 13+, you get 15 bonus points to distribute among you thief skills at 1st level. (Only 1st level, this is a one time bonus.)

-If your intelligence is 13+, you get a bonus 1st level spell slot.

-If your wisdom is 13+, you get an extra 1st level spell slot. Yes, this means you can use a spell at 1st level.

Yes, this does leave low ability score characters out in the cold. I'd considered opening it up to everyone, but... nah. Life's tough. Be a fighter, you'll still get the benefit there even if you have a paltry strength score.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

OSE/Realms of Agon: The Stable

Tonight we rolled some characters to put in the stable at Harkon Keep.

So far, I have three players who have made six characters between them:

Player 1 

Player 2 

Player 3 

We've suggested having a "shady B team" that would be the drow, assassin, and any unsavory characters that the first player might come up with.

We begin the game in earnest next week,  and will play every other week after that.

Oh, and Player 3 has fixed my Wizardawn map for me. She is versed in the ways of digital art and design, so it looks like I've found a solution.

I'm ready to go.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

For Legends of Gath: The Skelly Boy Class Nobody Asked For

It's been awhile since Christian has posted any Gath stuff, so here's my tribute to him: a playable skelly boy class.

The dead do not rest easily on Gath, especially the poor mofos who died in the great disaster of long ago. Indeed, Gath is just thick with reanimated skeletal corpses. The restless skelly boys and bony babes of Gath most commonly come in two varieties: the first simply lay where they fell until disturbed, at which point the reanimate and usually start mindlessly attacking whoever touched them until one or the other is destroyed, while the second type tend to mindlessly repeat whatever they were doing when they met their end, typically attacking anyone who interrupts this routine. These are obviously unsuitable for player characters, but sometimes, just sometimes, a skelly will somehow retain or acquire enough intelligence to act of its own free will. These ornery ossa sometimes become adventurers. Some scholars argue that the ones who do are just the second type who were adventurers in life, but the point is largely academic.


Requirements: None
Prime requisite: STR
Hit Dice: 1d8
Maximum level: 10
Armor: Any, including shields
Weapons: Any
Languages: Understands Common

Combat: Skellies fight using the same tables as fighters. They can use any weapons and armor, but tend to stick to whatever they used in life.

Built Undead Tough: Skellies take only half damage from slashing or piercing type weapons/attacks. Blunt force damage, magic, and energy inflicts full damage. Skellies do not need to eat, drink, sleep, or rest, and they are totally immune to disease and poison.

Godforsaken: Skellies take damage from holy water like it was acid. They are also subject to being turned by clerics. A nice DM might allow a turned skelly PC to roll a saving throw as if targeted by a fear spell, or perhaps to simply take damage like a fireball instead of being instantly destroyed.

Weird Perception: Skellies can somehow see and hear, despite lacking the organs. They cannot speak, even if they understand a language. Casting speak with dead on a skellie will allow the caster to converse with them normally for 1 turn/level of caster.

One of Us, One of Us: Skellies can safely disturb other skellies without being instantly attacked. Roll for reaction as if encountering a normal NPC. Normal humans, on the other hand, treat the skelly as if they had charisma 3. (Unless they're a necromancer, super open-minded, or just a weirdo.)

Play Dead: It can be really hard to tell a skelly apart from just a corpse. A skellie has a 3-in-6 chance to surprise opponents if it plays dead (is it technically playing, though?) and enemies have not yet seen it and don't have any reason to suspect that this skelly is animated.

Welcome Back: Skellies have been dead too long for a normal raise spell to help them out. If they somehow get resurrected, treat it as if the character was subject to reincarnate with a human result. They remember their time as a skelly, but their first life is a little fuzzy.

Saving Throws: Skellies save as dwarves. They also enjoy a +2 bonus to save vs. any technological threat, due to memories of the world before.

Experience: Skellies gain experience as a dwarf. (That's fighter + 10%, if you've been living under a rock)

Magic Items: Skellies can use any magic item not restricted to  clerics, thieves, or magic-users. Well, except for potions. They definitely can't use magic potions.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Mapping Woes II: This Time It's Personal

You can make cool hex world maps with Wizardawn.

Is there any way to label these maps that isn't a goddamn fucking laptop throwing pain in the fucking ass?

Asking for a friend.

-Importing it into Hexographer. You have to reduce the opacity to 0 to see your map over the map Hexographer puts on top of it. This causes the labels you add with Hexographer to lose opacity and become invisible.

-Converting it to a PDF and add comments as labels, but these aren't immediately visible and look awful.

-Converting it to a PNG and using the free version of GIMP, but none of the labels I create in GIMP are clearly readable against the Wizardawn color scheme.

-Opening it in Open Office Draw, which has clear labels and I even installed the Souvenir font from the old D&D books, but for some reason about half the time I try to create a text box, it just decides to drag the map around with the cursor instead.

I'm about ready to throw my computer out the goddamn fucking window.

So, any map mavens reading this, y'all got any suggestions?

Seriously, I just want to take a map I made and put some fucking labels on it.

Friday, July 17, 2020

You Down With OSE? (Yeah, You Know Me!)

-Campaign starts in 5 days. I'm running it on Roll20, which I haven't used since like 2015. 
-2 regular players, with a couple more who want to drop in and out 
-Sandbox style, open world, homebrew setting 
-Stable of characters. The party can have 6 player characters fielded at one time. Players may contribute up to three characters to the stable at a time. Stabled characters can do downtime stuff, but do not gain xp. 
-Combat rules from Advanced Fantasy are in effect 
-Classes are going to be Classic Fantasy style (aka race as class.) I'm allowing all the new classes from the Advanced Fantasy book. 

Some house rules: 
-Fighters specialize in either melee or missile combat at 1st level. This specialization grants +1 to hit and damage, increasing to +2 at 9th level. This applies only to fighters and not sub-classes thereof.
-Fighters rolling for hit points at a new level may reroll any result of 3 or less on the die. They may keep the reroll if it is better. 
-Clerics with a wisdom score of 13+ can prepare an extra 1st level spell. This does indeed grant a spell at 1st level. Sub-classes of cleric do not receive this bonus. 
-Magic-users with an intelligence of 13+ receive a bonus 1st level spell slot. This doesn't apply to sub-classes of magic-user. 
-Thief skills are replaced with the thievery talent rules from White Box Fantastic Medieval Adventure game. This rule will be adapted to thief sub-classes, or classes with abilities similar to the thief. 

More as it develops. 

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Ma-a-aps, Ma-a-aps, Ma-a-aps

I suck at making D&D maps and it makes me sad.

I've tried a couple of programs, and they are easy enough to use, but my maps always look terrible to me. I hem and haw over how much forest, or how many villages, or other stuff that probably doesn't matter all that much in the long run. These elements, however, form a series of mental blocks that cause me to throw my hands in the air in defeat.

An alternate method, and one I used to use back when I ran Stars Without Number, is to generate them randomly. (My generator of choice is Wizardawn) Of late, however, I don't feel a connection to a map I generate randomly, it's not "mine." I don't know why this wasn't a problem back in the day. (Probably because I was gearing up for grad school and I didn't have time to let things like that bother me.)

I'm going to make another attempt tonight with Hex Kit, a program I got in the hugediculous bundle hosted on earlier this month. The program itself is not complicated or difficult to use... I just hate the maps that I make.

I don't recall this being such a problem when I was a kid, or even in college. Perhaps it's because I didn't have the exposure to map making greats like Dyson Logos and Niklas Wistedt. Maybe I have the map-making equivalent of the mindset that some people have where they think they can't DM because their game isn't like /\/\att /\/\ercer. (That's a whole other can of worms I'm not going to open up.)

I'll give it a last shot, and if I hate them then fuck it, I guess we'll use the Known World or something.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Shifting Gears

I'm putting my Troika game on ice after we finish the present quest tomorrow.

It looked a certain way in my head, but it's just not turning out that way. Sometimes it's cool when a game takes a direction you didn't expect, and sometimes it's just bleh. This is one of those blehs. If I do return to Troika someday, I want to turn up/emphasize the Spelljammer/Saga vibe I was trying to go for. This might require me to write entirely new backgrounds. I was doing that before the plague hit, but I don't even know where the file is.

I will be running some Old School Essentials for a chunk of my old college gaming group. That's pretty dope. I'm just trying to decide how much of the Advanced Genre Rules book I want to use. Going to go bottom up for the setting, that's for sure.

I hope all of you blog-comrades are doing well.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Titanic Adventure

I was pretty sour on one of the scenarios in GURPS Time Travel Adventures, but there's another module in that book that's actually pretty dope. 

The rundown: It's Time Corps again. Your team is going back to the Titanic. You have a list of passengers whose lives benefit your present timeline. Some of them survived and you just need to make sure that happens again. Some of them died and you need to make sure they get int the flippin' lifeboats this time. You also have a list of people whose existence benefits the other timeline. The ones that died need to do a repeat performance. The ones who lived need to get murked. 

Of course, there's another team from the other timeline doing the exact same thing. They're trying to murk your passengers and save their own. You don't know who they are, they don't know who you are. 

This adventure is set up as a massive time table of passengers and where they are every hour if not interrupted. The players have absolute free reign to move around the boat, investigate whoever, follow whoever, plan assassinations, etc. They can strike early and try to keep it super discrete, or they can attack once the ship hits the fan. (Haaaa gods I'm so fuckin' funny) 

The GM is given plenty of info for contingencies and schedule disruption of the NPCs and the evil time agents.  

This is pretty much a total 180 from the other scenario in the book. Yeah, you don't get to go on a scenic tour de time, but you can also approach the situation at hand with plenty of agency, and there aren't NPCs to literally solve your problems for you if you can't get he job done. The scenario even entertains the idea that the PCs might even come up with an idea to save the ship. This kind of intervention is what gets you automatically teleported back to the present and handed a GAME OVER in the other scenario. Sure, your superiors back in hometime will be pissed that you made such a big change, but you don't automatically lose because you fucked up the story. 

A couple spoilers below: 

There's a werewolf on board. The PCs are unaware. The other team is unaware. The GM was probably unaware, because the writeup for this setting in the main Time Travel book doesn't indicate that the supernatural exists in this world, beyond some time-related psi abilities. The werewolf is actually bad for both timelines. 

There are "time looters" from a third present continuum that is never before mentioned and left with very few details. They are after an artifact/antique item that's on board. 

I'm totally down with the Titanic adventure. It also predates That One Movie by like seven or eight years. The only fault I can really give it is that there are a lot of moving parts between the agents, the timetable of where all the NPCs are, the timetable regarding the ship hitting the 'berg and sinking, and the X factor shit listed above. A GM would need to study the module and get very familiar with the big picture before running it. 

I suppose even the 90's can knock out a decent module or two, even if finding them can be an arduous process. 

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Reading 90's Modules, or, In Which I Have Learned Nothing

A couple years ago, I had a series of blog posts where I bagged on some 90's Ravenloft modules.

After today, I'm starting to wonder if 90's modules just sucked in general. 

I had the idea of making some pre-gens and doing one of the modules from GURPS Time Travel Adventures for my group.

 The adventure uses the Time Corps setting from the main GURPS Time Travel book, which is basically duelin' quantum present days that share a common past do time espionage to reduce the probability of the "other" present from existing while increasing the probability of "your" present existing. It's a pretty neat premise, to be honest. 

...but holy fucking set pieces, Batman! This module almost smacks of latter-day D&D adventure design: here's a couple set pieces that you will visit in order. The set pieces aren't as reliant on straight-up combat, but they are pretty rigid in terms of what can actually go down there. 

Spoilers ahead. Not that it matters, because very little your character does is going to have much of an impact 

Set Piece 1: Tel Aviv, 1973- PCs need to get find out why a nuke blew up the Great Pyramid of Giza in '73. There's a guy intel thinks is a spy for the other timeline. You have to get into an Israeli prison to get info out of him. Despite the organization that the PCs work for, they don't get cover IDs. A group of Israeli civilians are supposed to break into a prison. 

The PCs will find the guy, and right when they do, Syrian terrorists attack the prison. They do this only when the PCs are about to get info out of the guy, no matter when this happens. The spy gets shot, no matter what, and scrawls a cryptic clue on the wall in his own blood. If the PCs dick around or can't get into the prison, this event will happen anyway. The PCs can literally just chill and let this resolve itself.  

Interlude: The PCs clock back to their home time. If they're not smart enough to figure out the crytpic clue, an NPC will literally do it for them. 

Set Piece 2: France, 1798.  The PCs get disguised as French soldiers and sent to figure out if Napoleon is actually a time agent. No, really. This time you get plausible cover IDs and there's a French officer time agent to vouch for you. 

This piece consists of you watching an NPC agent give Napoleon mind control wine. (Basically) You can't stop him. He has a case of bottles of mind control wine, and mind control wine in a poisoned dart in his ring. He gets Napoleon and you get to watch. 

Later that night, mind-controlled Napoleon sneaks into the pyramid and arms a nuke...that's already in the blocks dun dun dun. You can't stop him because your time officer guy turns traitor for...reasons. He also has a gun and if the PCs try to stop Napoleon, he starts taking headshots with a skill level of 20. If you know anything about GURPS, you know how fucking stupid it is for a guy to have a skill level of 20. Oh and if you shoot Napoleon you all automatically teleport home and get yelled at at the adventure is over. You guys, I hear the author hissing, Quit ruining my stoooooooory. 

More like Napoleon Dynamite, amirite? 

Interlude 2: You go back home. Your superiors kind of don't give a shit about the guy who turned traitor and possibly shot some PCs in the head. Time travel make some people crazy, you know? Anyway, strap in bitches because you're going to ancient Egypt to stop the bomb before the pyramid is finished. 

Set Piece 3: Ancient Egypt. You've got to get on a work gang as unskilled laborers and find the bomb. There are three people who are stone cutters who are basically wearing "I am an evil time agent" t-shirts, but you have to investigate because your bosses will get mad if you just guess and murder. (How would they even know?) They have backup in the form of a dude who's been hiding in the wilderness who is ridiculously well armed. I think his weapons actually violate the time bullshit rules of the setting but fuck it, cool fights are cool, right? The module at this point grudgingly offers you a way to circumvent the set piece fight, but you can tell it's real sore about it if you do. 

The third set piece is almost cool. The PCs actually have freedom in how they approach the situation. You don't get to disarm the bomb though. You have to summon NPCs via a note to the future, like you're Bill and fucking Ted. 

The epilogue is that you boosted your timeline's probability and fixed the historical shift that had the pyramid blow up. The author gives the GM the option of just having the pyramid blow up anyway, in case you wanted to make sure your game table is empty next weekend because that entire adventure was basically watching the author jerk himself off, and I guess you got to make a stealth roll and do a combat or something. 

In the end, two thirds of this module is killing time until the cut scenes end. It actually kind of feels like when you're about 50 minutes into Metal Gear Solid 2 and you suddenly get to do something. 

If I'm going to run this, I'm going to have to take the very, very basic idea and just make a flowchart or something. Might have to add some other time periods in case the PCs don't feel like getting shit spoon fed to them. Maybe I could run the (actually much better) Titanic scenario in the same book. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

KantCon Cancelled

Welp, I knew it was coming, but I'm still pretty bummed to learn that "my" convention isn't happening this year. They're talking tentatively about doing something online, but I am 0% interested.

At this point, someone can just stick me in a cryo-pod and wake me up in about a year.


Looking down my blog roll, a lot of them have gone dark. The highlights of my blog reading are Christian's Legends of Gath and Dyson Logos' maps. I'm actually starting to miss G+, even though I was just a lurker there. I tried MeWe and for some reason it just doesn't do anything for MeMe*. 

I put a stake through the heart of my VtM game. I feel bad for the one player who actually made a character instead of faffing about. Not bad enough to run a one-on-one game, mind you, but I do feel a little bad for her. 

My Troika game is once every other week, which is just not enough gaming. I find myself kind of detached from games where there's longer than a week between sessions. Troika has also turned out to be a lot sillier than I usually like my games. 

I don't really want to play rpgs over Discord. I just don't like it. I've been looking into solo gaming stuff, GM emulators, etc, which I find kind of sad to be honest. I've been invited to play in a couple of games, but I don't like to play. I like to GM. Playing just... I find it frustrating.  I've even considered hanging up the dice for good. (Figure of speech, as I can't remember the last time I played in a game session that involved actual, physical dice.) I have a lot of unfinished/unplayed games on my GOG account. My bestest friend (a player in the Troika game) has asked me not to quit the field entirely. 

I don't think I'm going to finish GURPS Arabian Nights, either. No gentle way to say it: it's fucking boring. I had high school history books that read with more punch. I suppose I could skip to the crunchy bits, but to what end? 

*Not as good as my EnnWe crack from awhile back, sorry. 

Monday, May 25, 2020

Heroes & Other Worlds- Thoughts and Mods

Heroes & Other Worlds is a pretty dope little retro clone of The Fantasy Trip. 
I've been dinkering around with it. 


-Not actually a big fan of the experience system, especially the detailed version. Too much bean counting, and I don't like experience point systems that are based on how well the player rolls dice within the game session. 

-The starting money is reaalllly low. That's probably a design choice, but the PCs are going to star out with shitty equipment. 

-I would like to convert the spells from GURPS Magic. I'm not sure what the rationale behind what spells are at what IQ levels in TFT/HOW, so it's probably just going to have to be arbitrary on my part. (Maybe I can use the number of prerequisite spells as a guidepost) 

-Hear me out: Allow HOW characters to take up to 20 points of GURPS Disadvantages (maybe from a very short/limited list) and allow them to use the points to 1.) buy advantages (again, from a very limited list) 2.) buy extra attribute points at the rate of 10 disadvantage points for 1 extra attribute point, or 3.) Do the same for skills and spells at the rate of 1 skill/spell point for every 5 disadvantage points. No quirks. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Vampires, Witches, and... Djinn?

So, one game every other week is just not cuttin' it for me. 
I wanted to do something very different from Troika (which is still going strong.)
I decided I wanted to revisit the roaring 90's. 
I'm teetering between running Vampire: the Masquerade 2nd edition using only the main book and some selected stuff from the Player's Guide. 
I might also do the Eden version of CJ Carella's Witchcraft. 
I might also do a mini-campaign of one and switch to the other. 

Delving back into VtM marks my first attempt to do so since undergrad, a relic of my super cringey ivory-tower-gaming phase. It's also my first attempt at anything White Wolf since 2016, when I threw up my hands and gave up on the super awful Beast: the Primordial. 

 My gaming sensibilities have changed, almost beyond recognition, since college. Fuck all that highbrow shit, I'm taking cues from The Crow, Blade 1, and the wonderful VtM computer game from 2004. 

I'm still considering Witchcraft, which I have not run, though I have run three other Eden Studios games and I know my way around the Unisystem. 

Unrelated: I am reading through GURPS Arabian Nights. No, I don't know why. 

Monday, April 27, 2020

Ideas at Three in the Morning

1. Convert Nightbanespawn to Savage Worlds, given that Savage Worlds handles Palladium concepts much better than Palladium does. (See: Savage RIFTS) This probably involves the Savage Worlds Superpowers Companion and the Horror Companion, though I'm not sure how easy that will be to use with SWADE. Probably pretty easy, bro.

2. Convert Witchcraft to be Powered by the Apocalypse, and no I have no fucking idea how I would do that.

3. Convert GURPS Magic (3rd edition) spells to Heroes & Other Worlds.

4. Hurl myself from the roof, although this would likely just give me a painful and expensive trip to the ER rather than the sweet release of death.*

*I'm not really going to do this. I have to be here to take care of my kitty.

Friday, April 24, 2020

A Strangely Topical Twitter Exchange

...well, topical to me, at least.

Tweeter 1: Cricket is the GURPS of sports.

Tweeter 2: Counterpoint- I've met someone who likes cricket.

Fuckin' savage, mate*.

*I'm not British.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Troikin' On

I ran Troika again tonight. I find that I often employ Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2nd edition to fill in some of the blanks. (Other blanks I just fill in myself, because let's face it- this system is absolute bare bones.) Sometimes I need a more traditional monster, or I need a cost for some item not found in Troika. The dungeons all come out of the One Page Dungeon Contest's 2019 collection, and so far I have found a dungeon for every occasion.

I put a lot of love and work into my NPC voices, especially since two players are legally blind and we're all playing over Discord due to the pandemic. Tonight I got some post-game praise for my "totally fed up yet very polite middle aged Irish lady innkeeper" voice. (What a title!)

I marvel in this group's ability to unknowingly and blithely wander past almost every single scrap of treasure in this game- a shit situation balanced by their propensity for dodging the worst bullets their circumstances have to offer. Tonight, one player managed to get one of two benign encounters on an encounter table that is almost entirely cockatrices.

We did broker the idea of switching from alternating weeks to every week. The game I was alternating with Troika died off (and probably not even because of the pandemic, let's be real) and we all find ourselves with a dearth of free time on our hands. I might also start up a second game just for variety. I suppose I could do both...

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

In Which I Gander at GURPS Again

Anybody who knows me well at all knows that I'm a bit of a masochist. Sometimes this takes the form of mental self-flagellation by way of revisiting game/rules systems that I don't like, especially if I had an acrimonious split with said system. In these recent times of madness, that took the form of me dusting off GURPS. Specifically, I decided to take a gander at GURPS 4th edition.

I broke up with GURPS 3rd edition sometime in undergrad, when I lived in the dorms... so that had to be circa 2001 or 2002. I put it so far out of my mind that I sort of still perceive GURPS 4th edition as "new" GURPS, even though it's old enough to drive, older than my freshman students, and I think possibly old enough to have been out longer than GURPS 3rd was. 

Man. I didn't even make it twenty pages in. Far less, I think.

GURPS 3rd edition has the energy of a college professor you thought was alright: methodical, detailed, a little bit plodding, very prone to sidebars, but you felt like you learned something. GURPS 4th edition has the energy of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory. (Hate that show, by the way.) It starts off shouting at me about what Tech Level my character is relative to the campaign tech level and how that impacts the character. It nags me about just how fluent my character is in the languages they speak. It's very important to know if they have just a slight accent or a very thick accent. Oh, and have I given any consideration to the effects of non-standard gravity worlds on my character's effective ST score? Well no, I haven't. I kind of figured we could get into character creation first and then if I'm playing a game where that kind of thing is germai- nope, here's the formula for ST in non-standard gravity. Oh, hey, remember Dai Blackthorn? Yeah, the character from 3rd, the thief- WELL now Dai is an agent for a pan-dimensional police force and he can teleport and jump between worlds-

I put it away, my brain somehow reeling from reading a goddamn gaming book.

Not to be completely bested, I downloaded a free copy of GURPS Lite from Warehouse 23. It felt... incomplete. I remember paging through GURPS Lite back in the 3rd edition days and feeling like it was more playable. Luckily, W23 has GURPS Lite 3rd still available, so I grabbed it. It was definitely more complete. It had a shell of a magic system for one, whereas GL4 had no magic at all. Perhaps GURPS Lite 3rd was what I was looking for all along.

Then, just paging through it, the guns at TL 9 are unable, on average, to penetrate the armor at TL 9.
Le sigh.

I have Hereos & Other Worlds. While it is a retro clone of The Fantasy Trip and not GURPS, there's just enough proto-GURPS in there to perhaps fulfill that itch without all the detritus that would eventually pile on to metastasize into a game system that tries to get me to calculate the surface area of a humanoid automaton.

I suppose, with the right skill list and maybe some pilfered (if adjusted) weapons tables, H&OW could also be browbeaten into doing genres besides fantasy. (I'm really kind of hung up on the other worlds part of the title.) In the meantime, GURPS will have to go back into the dusty shelves, both physical and digital.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

KantCon Optimism

KantCon, my beloved convention and the only thing remotely resembling a vacation in my life, is scheduled for July. Will we be out of quarantines and lockdowns and such by July? Honestly, I don't think we will.. but I submitted my games anyway. At this point, I need something to look forward to. If nothing else, I'll run them as one shots.

What I signed up for:

Starships & Spacemen, 2nd edition. Every year since I think 2013*, I've run a game of S&S using the same crew and ship. (Very often many of the same players, too.) This year's session is called "Imposter Syndrome" and involves rooting out a sinister element on a space station.... are they dopplegangers? Are they infested with alien mind control parasites? Are they robots? Space-Communists? Videni spies? Is it all just paranoia?

Zweihander- I used to run a weird/grimdark fantasy game every Friday, but as of last year I changed my game of choice to Zweihander from another game that I no longer play or support. In this year's game, an infamous pirate is supposedly lost at sea. When his ship is rumored to have run aground, treasure hunters scramble for the ultimate payoff... but the countryside is presently plagued by undead and the almost-as-dangerous inquisitors tasked with rooting out the source of the scourge.

Cartoon Action Hour- It went over so well last year, I'm going to try it again. I'm running three mini-sessions of Eagle Force (discount GI Joe), Converters (discount Transformers), and Genetically Altered Xiaolin Toads (if you can't figure this one out, hang your head in shame.) I plan on serving surgery cereal at the table again.

Savage Worlds Adventure Edition- I still want to kick the tires on my SWADE book, and this is the chance. I'm reheating a one-shot of my twice-defunct Royal Society Files game, which is basically steampunk ghostbusters.

On Sunday, I will host board games like I usually do. This year I'm doing Strange Synergy and Hero Quest.

I know very well there might not be a tournament. I just need to think about something right now that isn't plague-related.

*Except 2017, which is perhaps the most garbage year of my entire life, and missing KantCon that year was just one of many reasons.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Shuffling Along with Troika

My Troika! game passed session 3 this last week. We play only every other week, though I'm tempted to remedy this. Originally we alternated weeks because I was running an in-person game as well, but that game is toast due to the whole global pandemic thing.

Troika is a breeze to run. I'm still looking for a good tool to do the initiative system online. Originally, I used a random name picker "virtual wheel" that I've used in my oral comm classes to determine which kid or group of kids has to present next. While the wheel's clicky sounds and air horn sound effect are fun in class, they are not fun when I'm trying to keep a combat moving along at a decent pace. I want a tool that is quick and simple, but still allows me to easily add or remove combatants as people die, monsters get summoned, folks run, etc.

Troika is running a little bit more silly/comedic than I had originally intended. I wanted it to be just a quirkier Spelljammer, but instead the game has a good deal more absurdity than I intended. I'm not sure how I feel about that yet. (If you've read my blog, you know I'm a notorious, sour-faced fun-hater.)

My current campaign model is an open world (worlds, more accurately) liberally sprinkled with random table weirdness and dungeons from the 2019 One Page Dungeon Competition PDF. Converting monsters (or statting them up wholesale, given that a lot of the OPDC's dungeons provide no stats) is pretty simple, since foes in Troika (and it's progenitor, Advanced Fighting Fantasy) have but two stats.

I hope all my blog pals are staying well and sane.

Monday, March 16, 2020

In Which I Run Troika! a Second Time

We continued our Troika! game this last week.

I was tempted to chronicle the events of the game session, but:

1.) Nobody cares, and

2.) Having attempted to do so with several IRL friends, I have determined that there is no way to describe the game session to those who have not played without it sounding like an acid trip. (I made this same observation about Gamma World a few years ago.)

Instead, I shall offer insights based on the experience of running the game from a GM's perspective.

Observation 1: Making monsters on the fly is trivially easy, in that they need only ratings in Skill and Stamina. Anything else you want to hang on the monster is basically just window dressing.

Observation 2: The "token picking" initiative system creates a very random, chaotic feel to combat. This is a very refreshing change from games where a stat allows some characters or enemies to consistently dominate initiative, or the "I go, you go, I go" trap that even older editions of D&D can fall into.

Observation 3: The option of eating Provisions to restore Stamina keeps the party from over-camping/resting after every single encounter. While this is not (yet) a campaign centered around the crawling of dungeons, it seems like it would lend itself to keeping up the pace if the PCs decide to engage in such endeavors.

Observation 4: While at first I and the players balked at rolling Skill for... well, everything... I find that it keeps the game moving forward. Players don't try to use spurious logic to attach skill bonuses to everything. Nobody hems and haws over whether this is a roll of Diplomacy or Etiquette or Savoir-Fair or Fast-Talk. More seriously, it really helps me decide on what exactly needs to be a roll at all. (Turns out, not actually very much sometimes.)

Observation 5: More a personal observation than anything else, this game is turning me back on to the idea of classless games. (Troika's Backgrounds are sort of like classes, but not entirely.)

The game has been an enjoyable experience so far. I've been reading up more on Advanced Fighting Fantasy, Troika's illustrious ancestor, as well...but more on that at a later time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Dungeon Bank

I find that I am increasingly tilting toward being a "zero-prep" DM, or at least one who prepares very minimally for games. To this end, I picked up the 2019 One Page Dungeon Contest compilation from DriveThru for a paltry sum of three dollars. Reskin (or not), shuffle around, sprinkle liberally into my version of the millions spheres for Troika!, or use them as a pick up game of White Box Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game* at a moment's notice. 

I am presently plodding through the dungeons over my meager lunch break, for my own edification and certainly not because I have a Troika! game in six hours that I have done zero preparation for. 

Some of the dungeons are novel. Some are mini-games into themselves, with mechanics and everything. Some are pretty traditional. Some are fucking hipster bullshit. Some are actually unplayable. They aren't all fantasy, which works out really well with my Troika! game and how I envision the setting. Some of the sci-fi dungeons will do nicely without really needing that much alteration. 

What I'm doing is building a dungeon bank. I'm really terrible at mapping. My brain just isn't good at laying things out spatially like that. Having a dungeon bank allows me to have strange and deadly places ready to go. I used to do this with Wizardawn  back in the days of my dearly departed and fondly remembered Stars Without Number campaign. The players were always ending up in bunkers, space stations, alien ruins, etc. and I found that I needed a repository of maps, lest the players end up exploring the exact same building, reskinned into infinity. (Looking at you, Mass Effect 1.) 

At present, I plan to simply create a folder on my Guugle Drive and upload the PDFs I buy, perhaps with some typed up notes for reskinning purposes. I might also print a selection of them and stick them in an honest-to-gods physical folder. 

Well, I should get back to my dungeon evaluation. Time's a-wastin'. 

*Haha I wish. My home group won't touch anything that resembles old D&D because they are lame.