Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rumor Mongering

According to IGN (and if you read it on the internet, it must be true...) then these guys


will be appearing on a big screen near you (or small screen if you just download it, I suppose).

It'd be cool. Especially, if, as the rumor says, Christopher Nolan will be in charge of managing all the lead-in movies the way Iron Man et al. are leading up to an Avengers movie.

It'll probably end up being BS, but a geek can hope.

Friday, February 26, 2010

More musings on a Maritime Campaign

The basic setup would be to make a big old map with lots of rugged coasts, peninsulas, straights, fjords, etc. along the borders, then several archipelago throughout the middle. I imagine using 4 or 6 sheets of hex paper for the sea maps, including a few Bosporus/Dardanelles/Pillars of Hercules type narrow straights dividing some sea areas from others.

For archipelagos, I plan to just transpose the layouts of some real world ones--the Caribbean islands, the Aegean, parts of Indonesia or the Philippines.

The mainland coastal areas will have Greco-Roman, Norse/Celtic, Middle-Eastern/East African, Meso-American, and maybe Chinese/SE Asian and Sub-Saharan African type regions. Various islands may have similar cultures, or may be totally bizarre or unique.

I plan to mine any sort of nautical source material--Jason and the Argonauts, the Odyssey, the Vinland Sagas, Sindbad the Sailor, any sort of pirate stories, Captain Nemo, etc. Whether it be literature or film, I'll likely steal it. So Nemo, Jack Sparrow, Jason, and Sindbad will likely all be running around and encounterable.

I'm thinking now, start all characters at around 8000 XP, so Fighters are at Hero level, and making each player role up 4 or 5 characters at the beginning, who are all on a 'hero ship' similar to the Argo, and give them a macguffin quest that will lead them to explore the seas until they find whatever they're after, sail home, and take out the king who sent them on the quest in the first place to get rid of them. This way, everyone's got a few extra characters on the ship if someone dies. And they can pick up more replacements if they land in ports.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Visual Appendix N of my 11 Year Old Self

I wrote a while back about some of the books that inspired my earliest gaming, back in 1984-85. Here is a look at some of the movies, TV shows, and video games that inspired me. Since pictures speak louder than words, it's a literal look:









Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tarrantino, Brooks, Gilliam

A few years back, when I was in Japan, I was part of the Ebisu Gaming Club. Founding member, in fact. It wasn't as pretentious as it sounds, actually. I came into contact first with "GMSteve" and then "Angryman" on the WotC message boards. They both lived in Tokyo and wanted to game, I was close enough, as was my friend Gene. So the 4 of us would get together once a month on Sundays for 7-8 hour game sessions, mostly of RPGs (and primarily d20 games, as we were into them at the time) but board games or other things too. A few other people would join on occasion, and Gene finally moved back to Canada and a fellow named Tim took his place.

We went through lots of short RPG campaigns. We'd start off with a bang, then fizzle out shortly. d20 Conan ended on the 3rd session when Pete (Angryman) got drunk on mead while DMing and suddenly poison-weaponed Picts were swarming everywhere and TPK. Our Eberron campaign died after one too many too-tough encounters nearly wiped the party of characters we were heavily invested in and didn't want to lose. My d20 Future Aliens/Predator game was meant to be short, and we actually completed it and then moved on to other things. We tried out a "narrative" game Steve was working on, in several incarnations, but it never seemed to go right.

By the end, just before Steve found out he'd have to move back to the States for his company, he was heavily into the Forge's creations but also jonesing to get back to some BX D&D--which finally broke me of the d20 craze and made me realize that BECM was what I really wanted to play.

Anyway, we often discussed just why we had so much fun but couldn't keep at one game/campaign/system long enough to really get into it. One day, Steve offered the following assessment:

Steve's gaming style was Quentin Tarrantino. He liked it cool, edgy, and violent.

Pete's gaming style was Terry Gilliam. He liked it weird and funky.

My gaming style was Mel Brooks. I liked it odd but humorous.

Yes, my Aliens/Predator game was filled with some of the most tense moments in our gaming, but also with the most silly and gut-busting funny ones, too.

I think I've lost that Brooks charm lately. I think I need a bit more "Stupid" in my "Retro."

So anyone else out there got a style similar to a movie director?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Musings on a Maritime Campaign

Initial thoughts on running a campaign where the PCs are all sailors on a ship of some sort--

Lots of useful modules out there. Isle of Dread, Drums on Fire Mountain, War Rafts of Kron, not to mention being able to stick land-based modules on some island somewhere.

Just give the players lots of rumors, and let them sail around the sea until they find something interesting. Could be really easy, and really fun.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A New Hope

Last night, I brought my Wizkids Pirates of the "X" game to the Board Game Group. It was the first time I'd brought it, and the first time to play for everyone else. During the game, Alex was busy thinking of ways to modify the game, and I showed him some of the alternate ideas my old group in Japan and I had come up with.

I also mentioned that the little cardboard ships would be great for a maritime D&D campaign. Alex mentioned that there aren't rules for that (he played lots of 2E, and I think they all ended up in one of the numerous splatbooks for that edition). I said that Classic actually has some fairly decent rules for sea-faring, and he got interested.

If I shift my sandbox to a mysterious Aegean/Caribbean type setting, I think I could get him to play...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Technology in gaming

James M over at Grognardia has an article about computers in Traveller. Star Frontiers, from that year of awesome computing 1981, suffers from the same problem.

Last year, though, I came across the concept that will reconcile the Star Frontiers computer rules with the way modern computers have far outstripped what they appear to do.

What's called a computer in Star Frontiers is an AI machine. Something like I'm using right now to type this blog post is just a piece of tech, and falls under the Technician's skills--like chronocoms, polyvoxes, etc.

If you need to reprogram, repair or deal with an intelligent machine, you need a Computer Specialist because they're just SO complex. That's also why the most powerful ones are as big as a house. It's still not very "realistic" but it seems to answer the question of why the rules work the way they do.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

To Boldly Go Where I've Already Gone Before

So, I'm thinking about options for running some Star Frontiers with the Board Game Group. To do so, I need to:

A: Keep it simple enough that the Koreans don't get lost (skip the techno-babble and overly intricate plotting)

B: Keep it complex enough that the Americans/Canadians don't get bored (don't just have it become tactical battles with the counters and the Port Loren map)

Going through what I've got here in Korea of the old adventures I ran in the past, I realized how often we just rolled up some stats for some space pirates, Sathar agents, or some monsters and set them loose on one of the maps or another for our characters to fight. I do have some actual adventures, of the planetary exploration kind, but not that many.

So my options seem to be:

1. Volturnus. I've got all 3 modules. I could run them. Not sure if I'll hold everyone's attention long enough, and with the way some people skip sessions often, it could be hard to maintain verisimilitude if some characters disappear for portions of the adventures.

2. One of my old module-type adventures. They're full of inside jokes that my friends and I enjoyed as teens, but are probably pretty lame now, and the adventures tend to be things I created late, so they're for fairly experienced characters.

3. Just do what we mostly did before--flavor of the week simple stuff, but try to come up with some sort of links that tie them together (impending Sathar invasion, megacorp political/economic warfare, planet with lost alien civilization that could spell doom or salvation for the Frontier, etc.)

#3 is likely best, but it also means the most work for me--at least until I can work in one of those old adventures I've got lying around.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Who says Classic/AD&D 1E Dragons suck?

Whenever you read one of those threads on an old school forum, or occasionally blog, about how weak dragons are, how many people look at the number appearing section?

Classic has 1-4 dragons in a standard encounter/lair. So does AD&D, except for the Gold who is 1-3, excluding Tiamat and Bahamut, who are unique anyway.

That's an average of 2.5 dragons per encounter, if you roll a straight d4. Even if you make it one adult and two juvenile White Dragons, that could be a pretty tough encounter even for a group at the upper Expert end of the scale, assuming the dragons have room to maneuver.

Granted, I like Frank's Companion Set Large and Huge Dragons, but even the Basic Set ones can be tough if encountered in groups.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Special, Unusual Attacks and Called Shots in Classic D&D

A while back (2 weeks to a month, I think), I was reading some blog or other that I can't seem to locate now, talking about a simple system for allowing called shots to various body parts, special attacks like pulling the rug out from under a swordsman's feet, disarms, wrestling, etc. without the standard "take a penalty to hit, and if you hit it will work" stuff that often gets used, and makes people not want to do them so often.

The idea was that the player declares they'll try such and such a move. They roll to hit as normal. If they hit, they succeed as long as the opponent's player allows them to succeed, or on a critical hit they succeed even if the opponent's player doesn't want them to succeed. If the opponent doesn't want the special attack to succeed, they take damage as normal.

I think that was how it went anyway. I'm intrigued by the possibilities for this, as I'm a fan of swashbuckling movies and would love to add in more of this sort of thing to my D&D games.

But the problem is that Classic D&D doesn't use critical hits. Sure, you can always just do it on a natural 20, but shouldn't Fighter types be better at this than the Magic-Users? I'd rather not bring in d20 system style confirmation rolls. But then I was looking at the rules for monsters that "swallow whole." That's basically a monster doing exactly this--making a special type of attack that goes off on a crit, and does normal damage on any other successful role.

Of course, not every monster gets handled the same way. Giant Toads only succeed on a natural 20 against Dwarves and Halflings, Caecillia and T-Rex get a natural 19-20, and the granddaddy of swallowing whole, the Purple Worm, gets a natural 20 or 4 better than needed to hit to succeed.

This gives me two options for implementation:

Option 1, Level Based:
Low level characters only auto succeed on a natural 20.
Hero level (1st rise in attacks/saves 4th for Fighters, 5th for Clerics/Thieves, 6th for M-Us) get a natural 19-20.
Super-Hero level (8th for Fighters, Name for everyone else) get natural 20 or 4 better.

Option 2, Class Based:
Non-Fighter types (M-U) only auto succeed on a natural 20
Semi-Fighter types (Cleric, Thief) get a natural 19-20
Fighter types (Fighters, Demi-Humans) get a natural 20 or 4 better

Might work. I may give Option 2 a try and see how it goes. Not sure how the players would react to the Name level guys losing the natural 19... Not that we'll be at Name level any time soon in my Classic sandbox game.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Korean Gamers

So tonight was supposed to have been board game night. Quite a few people weren't going to make it, but I thought we'd have enough for a small game or two. Turns out I was delayed (wive, sister-in-law, and 2 babies in the house can do that), so Amy was there by herself. She called me and I told her I'd be there ASAP, but she got tired of waiting and went home. I get there, waiting for Pat and maybe Alex, when Pat texts me saying he's gonna be later than planned. I text him back, saying let's just call it off for tonight.

Anyway, for the past 3-4 weeks (we've played on Tuesdays), there's been a group of Korean kids--probably college students, cause if they were working for a Korean company they'd likely still be at the office or out drinking with the coworkers at 8:00 on a week night. They play 4E D&D. They've got the rules in English, but play in Korean. The DM is a woman, and most of the players are men.

They were there tonight (Wednesday) as well. I wonder if they play every night? That's some dedication to gaming, folks! Wish I had that kind of time, and players that interested in my games.

(And no, my Korean is nowhere near good enough to play with them, especially if it requires learning 4E.)