Saturday, July 31, 2010

Movie Review: Inception

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, last night my wife and I went and saw Inception. For those who haven't heard, it's a sci-fi psychological action thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Watanabe Ken, written and directed by Christopher Nolan (the new Batman director).

It involves criminals who live by using a shared dream technology to rob secrets from important people, which they call 'extraction.' Cobb (DiCaprio) and his team are hired by a faceless corporation to steal something from Saito's (Watanabe) mind. Of course it doesn't go as planned. Saito was expecting them, and used their attempted extraction as a sort of job interview. He wants Cobb and his team to attempt 'inception' or implanting an idea in someone's head so that they think it's their own idea.

Cobb's partner Arthur thinks it's impossible, but Cobb knows it can be done, although it's dangerous. They put together a new team, and come up with a plan to insert the idea that the heir of a big company should break up his company when his father dies (Saito's company is the sole remaining competitor to the would-be world monopoly, so he wants this badly).

Cobb has a criminal record and can't return to the U.S. and his children, but Saito promises to fix it if the job is done. They recruit some help, including an architect named Ariadne to construct the dream space, a criminal named Eames to be a general troubleshooter, and a chemist named Yusuf to put them all under long enough to create the inception on a deep level of Fisher's mind.

Of course, Cobb's troubled past haunts him, and causes lots of complications along the way.

I dont' want to spoil any more of the plot than I may have already, so I'll stop there.

From an audience point of view, the movie can be a bit confusing. It switches from reality to dream-space, and deals with dreams within dreams (Toyotomi Hideyoshi would be proud). In that respect, it's somewhat similar to the Matrix movies, or Total Recall. They all deal with questions of what's real, and what's only created in the mind.

I was able to follow everything, but my wife had a bit of trouble keeping it all sorted. The ending leaves the audience to draw their own conclusions, which is a nice touch (again, reminiscent of Total Recall).

The acting was superb. I think DiCaprio did a fine job, if a little overly intense at times. His 'Little Leo' days are hopefully behind him. The rest of the cast, including several actors Nolan had used previously in his Batman films, also gave solid performances. The writing was well done, with no blatant plot holes anywhere, snappy dialogue when called for, and just enough exposition to make the audience understand without losing them with technobabble.

Christopher Nolan has put together a great little sci-fi film, and I wouldn't be surprised if this is nominated for an Oscar or two.

See this movie if: You like cerebral sci-fi, movies about reality and metaphysics, or just a good movie that will leave you thinking at the end.

Skip it if: You just want a popcorn flick to have some fun during the summer (The Expendables looks good for this--and I'm looking forward to it for just that reason!)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Time to start working on Chainmail: The Siege of Dongnae

My samurai and ashigaru minis from the Michigan Toy Soldier Company arrived in the mail today. Just at the start of vacation. It's not a good idea for me to be trying to paint minis with a rambunctious 2-year-old in the house, but I may pick up a couple jars of primary colors and a brush or two just to give them some unit colorings. I may have more than two players when we do this, so dividing the larger Japanese forces into two or three forces might be a good idea. The Korean player had better think very tactically, and have some lucky die rolls if they want to change history!

In other news, my wife and I just got back from watching Inception. I'll need to think about it over night and write a review tomorrow. I'm a bit burned out after 7 hours in the radio station, doing my normal live show and recording 3 more for the vacation.

Oriental Accents -- Myths and Legends of China

I haven't done one of these in a while, and with my vacation starting today, as soon as I finish some radio recording for next week, I'll have some free time. Since I'm working on the Flying Swordsmen RPG and plan to get a lot done over the break, I'm also going to do some inspirational reading with a couple of the books on my shelf that I haven't read for some time. Thought I'd share with the rest of you.

Myths and Legends of China, by E.T.C. Werner, was published in 1922. The edition I've got is from Dover Books, and was reprinted in 1994. The link at Amazon is apparently a facsimile of the original, now public domain.

The book offers a good overview of Chinese society, and the scope of Chinese mythology, as it's a mishmash of animist, Taoist, Confucian, Buddhist, and folk influences. It's got information on lots of gods great and small, some origin myths and hero myths, a condensed version of Journey to the West, lots of 'fox legends' and some general mythical geography/strange monstrous people live here stories.

The other book I plan to re-read in the near future is Strange Tales of Liaozhai, by Pu Songling.

This is a collection of short stories written in the 18th century, but have a Chinese fairy tale quality to them. Most are about scholars who are tricked or seduced by various goblins, ghosts, flower spirits, or of course fox spirits. All are supernatural, and they are again very evocative.

It's been a while since I've read either one, so I think it's about time I re-read them, and shared them with you. I'm also planning on ordering some of the English translations of Louis Cha (Jin Yong), one of the most popular wuxia authors in China and giving them a read, so I'll be sure to post about them after reading.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rethinking the Megadungeon

Thinking about my last post, about not usually including enough magical locations on the map, and an idea struck me for a megadungeon-based campaign.

What if the world is pseudo-historical in all respects, EXCEPT for the presence of the megadungeon?

If you go on wilderness adventures, there will be primarily humans and normal animals encountered. Giant animals and monsters would be extremely rare outside.

But the Megadungeon, following Philotomy's idea of the Mythic Underworld, is the one place where all sorts of monsters, and corresponding treasures, could be found. That's why adventurers are drawn to it, and wish to plumb its depths.

If you're not in the megadungeon, you're in a pseudo-historical game world, so the big darn dungeon is where the action of the game takes place.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Strange Locations

I downloaded the D&D cartoon a little while back. Haven't gotten to watch it much because my son (2 years old) doesn't find it as interesting as the X-Men cartoon was (got that one on DVD).

Watching it, though, I'm constantly reminded that my RPG world creation often suffers from too many mundane pseudo-historical locations, and not enough weird gonzo locations like the River that Flows Upside Down or the Forest of Know Trees, not to mention cool locations like the Hall of Bones or Dragon's Graveyard.

It's hard to get a good balance of mundane and crazy that doesn't devolve into silliness. Or at least I worry about the setting starting to seem silly. Well, maybe once my son's a few years older I'll be able to finally let go and embrace the silliness as he starts to play.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Usually kind to smaller man, Universe Man...

OK, I'm not that big headed. But my readership has been expanding lately, since I've been posting fairly regularly in the past couple weeks. So I thought I'd use my extremely minor celebrity to highlight a few bloggers I've been reading and find interesting that don't quite have the following I've got yet.

Sharing the wealth, as it were.

Of course, I'm not at a Chevsky, Rients, Raggi or Zak level of popularity, but I can try to help a bit. Here they are, some blogs you might not have heard of:

The Caffeinated Symposium is my buddy Dave's blog. He occasionally posts about gaming subjects, but more generally about literature and history. Always interesting reading there.

Once More Unto the Breach is Drance's blog about coming back to gaming after an absence, and all the fun stuff he's finding out about it.

The World of Onn is James Bobb's (IIRC he posts at Dragonsfoot as Aranion) blog about his game world, and his supplements for Swords and Wizardry. Again, a good one to check out.

Roles, Rules and Rolls is an interesting blog by Roger the GS, currently going through a system of color magic posts, which is way more ambitious than anything I've been trying to do (including my Flying Swordsmen RPG).

Forgotten Runes is Imredave's blog, currently featuring some sweet scans of maps from his original campaign (and reminding me that I need to start scanning my old maps for D&D and Star Frontiers).

5 Stone Games is a blog promoting accessories for Pathfinder, but with an Old School feel and love for the game. Good reading about taking the old gaming philosophies and marrying them to new school mechanics.

Alright, my son's bath is almost finished, time to wrap it up. Check out these blogs. There's some fun stuff awaiting you!

Chainmail Rules Oddity

I took my printed copy of Chainmail with me yesterday to read on the subway while going to my Korean lesson (yeah, probably should have studied a bit on the train, but didn't feel like risking having a nosy Korean person decide to teach me on the spot). I was really looking at the morale rules, both for immediately after melee and for reduction of forces.

The two systems are different, no surprise there. Gygax found two ways to resolve Morale because the first system wouldn't apply easily to the second, but both make sense within their intended purpose.

Anyway, the odditiy wasn't that you make a check of casualties dealt/survivors remaining after a melee round or a roll against troop class after a certain threshold of a force has been reduced.

The oddity was in the melee morale system. I forgot to bring my USB drive with the pdf with me to work so I can't quote it, but the rules say to take a factor of the difference in casualties taken times a die roll, minus the ratio of troops remaining, and compare to a set list. The greater the difference, the worse it is for the losing side.

But immediately after explaining that, there's an example where, for reasons I can't quite understand, the ratio of troops factor is doubled in the example. Did I miss something in the explanation, or is this a mistake in the text?

I should probably be asking this over at the OD&D Discussion boards, but I figured I'd just throw it up here on the blog.

Oh, and the Swiss/Landskneckte are seriously broken. Yeah, historically they ruled the battlefields of Europe in the early 16th century, but they've got just about every conceivable bonus Gygax and Perren could throw at them! I kinda wonder if it's because of Gygax's Swiss herritage...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Flying Swordsmen RPG July Update

It's going slow, but I'm making my way through the spells right now. I'm wondering how close I can get on some of the spell names. Obviously the most evocative and setting related spell names need to be changed, but something simple like "Ice Blast" could surely stay as is without causing copyright issues, shouldn't it?

As with the martial arts maneuvers, I'm again torn between having to come up with evocative new names, or just use boring technical names with the advice that players and DMs should come up with their own color. So far I've changed a few names, but if I start adding in new evocative names for the spells Pramas created (or renamed from the D&D base), the more I want all the spells to have evocative names.

Well, it's only the first draft. And I've got no deadlines for when I need to get it done. Maybe I need to give myself a deadline that I can fail to meet to get me more motivated...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Motivation Emerging from and through Play

I had some good, thought provoking comments to my Klondike Bar post the other day.

When I said that I think for D&D a character only needs a desire to explore the world and get rich through looting tombs/battling monsters, I do only mean that as a part of character creation.

Once the dice hit the table, characters should begin to be fleshed out by actions that happen to them within the game, choices the players make for them, and goals the players set for the characters themselves.

A few examples from past experiences I've had, both good and bad.

1. My first D&D character to make it to 2nd level, Gwydion (hence my internet alias), about the time he hit 5th level or so, decided his goal was to purchase a longship and crew so he could return to the Isle of Dread any time he felt like it. The first time we played the module, we didn't have any ships among our characters, so we used one of the provided hooks of a loaned ship. I wanted more IoD fun for my character, so my short term goal became to save enough for that.

2. My brother Tim's main character was a Dwarf named Larry, and when one day he rolled up another Dwarf as a replacement character for one that died, he named him Gary and said the two were brothers. Because of the TV show Cheers, where the rival bar was Gary's Olde Towne Tavern, Tim decided that the Dwarven brothers were going to open their own inn rather than build traditional strongholds when they hit name level. If one other character hadn't died, we might never have seen that brother appear, and this all never would have happened.

3. In a mixed 1E/2E game with the Evansville group, I was running a Dwarven Fighter/Thief. Due to very poor rolls by me in combat, compared to very good rolls by certain monsters, my guy was always getting knocked around in combat to comic effect. I ended up changing the way I roleplayed him because of that--originally he was a gruff but honorable trapspringer. He ended up being more of a willey, dastardly anti-hero just because he'd learned that fighting fair didn't work for him.

4. In one of the many short-lived 3E games with the Ebisu Group, we had one game where we started at 10th level with 2 characters each. I'd written up linked backstories for my two characters, a Half-Orc Rogue and a Human Ranger, who were half brothers, sons of a famous human Bard and members of the same Thieves' Guild. The first encounter with giants and a Pit Fiend sees my Ranger biting the dust to some uber save-or-die spell, and there went all that hard work within 30 minutes of starting the game.

5. In Paul's BECM game with the Yamanashi group, I rolled up a Magic-User who had all scores average or lower, except an Int of 13. I took Charm Person as my first spell, and lots of various equipment for dungeoneering. Using those scores, I made him an offensive braggart (low Cha) named Valentio the Pungent who lorded it over all the other characters how much smarter he was than any of them (because a slightly above Int was all he had to work with!). I never would have come up with a character like that if a) we'd been playing with a high rolling method like 4d6-L, or point buy, or whatever, and b) the way things went in the first adventure, when I was using some smarts and gear cleverly in ways most of the other players, who hadn't been playing as long as me, never thought of.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My wife is wonderful (gaming related)

My wife just graciously allowed me to order three more boxes of samurai minis from the Michigan Toy Soldier Company. This is in preparation for my "Siege of Dongnae" Chainmail game I want to run.

Sure, I could have filled in the ranks with other minis--using my Caesar Elves, Dwarves and Goblins, or the Red Box Orcs I recently bought, not to mention my 1/72 scale Robin Hood, Moors and Viking minis from way back to supplement the ranks.

But I'd like for the Japanese army to look mostly like they're Japanese. I've got two boxes of Red Box Koreans (heavy and light infantry), so about 100 figs.

I've had a box of Zvezda samurai infantry for years. Now I've ordered the cavalry set from Zvezda, along with two boxes of ashigaru--one of spearmen, one of archers/arquebussiers--from Red Box. That's about 170 samurai figures total.

In the actual battle, the Koreans were outnumbered around 6 to 1, so I'd still need to use some supplemental figures if I want to get that accurate, but I will likely give the Koreans a fighting chance and leave it at that.

What would you do for a Klondike bar?

You know, back in the day we never seemed to feel the need to come up with intricate backstories for our characters, or motivations, or any of that.

We rolled up a character, maybe had an idea in mind from the latest fantasy book, movie or video game we'd accessed, and were ready to explore some dungeons, kill some monsters, and loot their treasures.

Then somewhere along the way (around 97 for me, when I fell in with the Evansville group and I was chock full of ideas for stories that I'd never get around to writing) I began to want those backstories and motivations. Maybe it was something about the 2E books, which I picked up around then. Maybe I felt like it was more 'mature' that way. Maybe it was just something in the air.

For the past few years, though, I've been worried less about backstory or motivation. If I've got some ideas, great. I'll roll with them. If my players want to come up with them, again, great.

But I find D&D works best if the only real motivation your characters need follows this statement:

I boldly venture forth into the dark places of the earth, face countless horrors, and all for fortune and glory.

Anything more than that is unnecessary, but the above is vital. If you're not out for the gold and glory, you probably shouldn't be playing in my D&D games (other games will vary).

[And Dave, if you're reading this, this is just a general spouting off of ideas, not directed at anyone in particular in our group.]

Monday, July 19, 2010

Adventurers beware, Bargle awaits!

For those of you who, like me, have a soft spot for Mentzer's Basic set, with the introductory adventures involving Bargle and Aleena, and the ruined castle in the DM's book, I have something for you.

This is a version of the 'rest of the dungon' that I made a few years back. I've got my original version from 25 or so years ago and I plan to scan them and post them sometime in the future. But for now, here's a revisioning of that starter dungeon's second and third levels -----> (Over there, in the Free Resources section)

Of course, it goes without saying that you'll need a copy of the Mentzer Red Basic DM's book to get full use out of this, or else make up your own new first level and map for the second.

Have fun!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chainmail: The Siege of Dongnae

Looking for fun things to do with my group involving war games, and the 2nd confrontation of the Imjin War (Toyotomi Hideyoshi's invasions of Korea) might be fun.

According to Wikipedia on the battle, 3000 Korean soldiers fought to the end defending Dongnae fortress against roughly six times as many Japanese.

I have nearly enough Korean soldier minis (in 1/72 scale) to handle their side, but not nearly enough Japanese. Vikings, Moors, Orcs, Elves and the like may have to round out the numbers.

I do have this:

It could serve as the centerpiece of the battle, with some walls and slopes around it for the Korean defenders.

This could be fun both because it would allow me to try out the Chainmail rules in a historical setting first before throwing in the ogres and pixies and wizards, and also because it's in our back yard. I've been to the Dongnae Fortress on a field trip with the kindergarten I teach at.

I might see if I can find some time to go back and get a good look around for purposes of study.

[Side note: In the first 24 hours since I posted my documents, I've had 16 people download the weapons one, and 6 each the armor and w/s/r documents. Hope you all enjoy them!]

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Unique Magic Weapons

Well, they ain't pretty, but they're complete. And I haven't bothered to do any more editing in the past four months or so, so I guess I'm about satisfied with them.

What am I talking about? Look over on the right, above the blog's co-pilot and you'll see links to my three freebie documents designed to make DMing a little easier, and the game a little cooler for the players.

They're my Unique Magic Items series. I've been using them in my recent games as the ONLY magic weapons, wands/staves/rods and armors/shields that will be encountered. They've all got names (taken from a wide variety of fiction, cinema, video games, mythology, and general pop culture), descriptions, often a bit of history or fluff that can be fodder for rumors.

Of course you don't need to use them the way I do, you can always just use them as the specials among the mundane +1 swords and wands of paralyzation if you want. But hopefully players will feel a bit more attached to these items as they're given names and descriptions to work with.

Most of them come from the normal treasure tables, but there are a few specials I invented. Have fun with them!

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Dreaded Energy Drain

This post on Dragonsfoot, in a long thread about the subject that was otherwise fairly boring (but long, as it's a subject people love to hate) got me thinking.

Energy Drain no longer drains a level of experience. You keep all your XP, your fighting potential and saves, your spells, your thief skills. You only lose that hit die.

You gain hit dice back only when you level, and for those over name level who have less than 9 hit dice, they continue to gain hit dice until they are at 9, then they get their standard hit points per level.

Makes Energy Drain a bit easier to figure out in the middle of play (no need to recalculate a bunch of stuff, decide which spell slots are lost, figure out how many XP are left, etc.). It also keeps energy drain scary, because every energy drain you take is lowering your total potential hit dice. And you don't want to be level 35 and only have 5 or 6 hit dice, assuming you can get that far...

Movie Review: Shrek Forever After

As I mentioned in my last post, my wife and I went to see the latest (supposedly last, but then so was the third one...) Shrek movie last night.

We saw it in 3D, and my first impression about that was that they used the 3D technology fairly well. Unlike Avatar, where everything was so visually stunning that you just had visual overload, or Alice in Wonderland where the 3D added to the trippy aura of Wonderland but was kinda forgettable after a while, Dreamworks did a good job of reminding viewers from time to time that they were watching in 3D by pumping up the use of it from time to time throughout.

Overall, I liked the movie, but it wasn't anything stellar. It was funny, and caused both my wife and I to laugh out loud several times. But something of the charm of the first two movies was lacking. I'd read a review that mentioned that the minor characters (Gingerbread Man, Three Little Pigs, etc.) weren't used as much in this one, and that's true. Only the Gingerbread Man was used in a way that really made me laugh.

I think the big problem was that the story was pretty paint-by-numbers. There weren't any big twists or surprises in it. It was entertaining, they hit all the necessary notes to make it a satisfying experience, but it was a bit stale.

I do have to say that Cookie and his chimichanga cart will be making an appearance in my games in the future.

Also, the flying broom battle beats any of the Harry Potter quiddich scenes hands down.

Overall, it was good but not great.

See this movie if: You're a big fan of Shrek, or you have kids (they should like it).

Skip it if: You thought Shrek was only OK all along, and you're tired of Mike Meyers' Scottish accent.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

War games, coming soon?

Pat just sent a message to us on Facebook. He'll be back in a couple weeks, and bringing a bunch of his board games with him.

He's decided he doesn't want to continue running a 4E campaign (I'm cheering!), after seeing more of the system in action and not really liking it. But he did propose bringing the books and occasionally breaking them out for a big tactical minis board-based war game scenario every now and then.

I'd been thinking I'd like to try out the Chainmail rules (I can print them and spiral bind them at work for free), and I'm always up for Heroclix or Pirates of the [splat]. So maybe instead of RPGs we can get some war gaming going. Not sure where the best location for that would be. If we didn't finish up in one session, my son would wreck everything in a matter of minutes if they were here. Well, we have time to think about it, and it depends on enough of the others being interested enough to try.

The wife and I saw Shrek Forever After tonight, I'll likely write a review of it tomorrow.

Expendables Trailer

Yeah, I'm gonna go see this. Was likely going to anyway, as I'm a sucker for the big budget action shoot-'em-ups, but this trailer seals the deal.

[For those of you wishing to watch without Blogger cutting off half the screen, see it on YouTube here]

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I'm slightly drunk, and I just got home and wrote this little bit of text for Flying Swordsmen RPG over the last 10 minutes. It's a rough 1st draft, but I like it. Anything out there anyone thinks I should add?

As mentioned above, combats that just follow the numbers, going through the combat round procedure, with rolls to hit and rolls to damage, with the occasional spell or feat thrown in, can get boring fast. And what's the fun of a wuxia book or movie? It's the exciting fight scenes. Here are some tips for both players and for GMs to make the battles that will inevitably ensue more fun and dynamic.

1.Fights that Matter: Early RPGs, and many computer RPGs that were based on those early RPGs, involve lots of random encounters that serve no purpose other than to try to speed play before resources are whittled down by these pointless monster confrontations (or worse, as simple XP feeds so characters can level up). A wuxia themed game is better served by planned encounters that, if they turn into battles (and they need not), become set piece battles. Battles with a goal aside from just beating down the enemy are superior to pointless battles just because the enemy, or the monster, is there.

2.Interesting Locations: Those battles that matter are more fun the more detailed the location for the battle is described. An ancient temple, a warehouse in the middle of the city, a busy market street, a ship on a storm-tossed ocean—these are evocative and easily lend to player and GM creativity. Not every battle needs to take place in an exotic locale, but many should be staged in a way that the environment can—and will—become a factor in the battle.

3.Tear up the Scenery: Just because the GM didn't say it was there doesn't mean you can't, as a player, add it in. The game world is a creation of all of the players, and if you're fighting in a warehouse, go ahead and swing from the pulleys or dance along a scaffolding. Knock over some barrels to block an enemy's advance or break a lantern and start a fire to cover your retreat. Martial arts movies, especially, love to work in anything and everything on the set into the fights, and players and GMs should look for ways to do likewise.

4.The Way of the Ming Vase: If I may paraphrase Matt Finch, if there's a priceless Ming vase in the room where the combat is happening, it's irresponsible for it to NOT become part of the battle. This ties in with the above points in that if there's some reason to be having the fight, and some important object is in the area, the fight had better revolve around it in some way. Players will feel more tied to the outcome of the fight, and the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat (and desire to make a comeback) that much greater for it.

5.There's Always Another Monster: The GM has at his or her disposal an endless supply of mosnters and NPCs with which to challenge the PCs. So don't get tied up with any specific NPCs or monsters. If the PCs manage to defeat them before the GM planned, so what? Think up something new. Let the story lines that emerge come FROM play, and let the battles and non-combat conflicts come from character actions whenever possible. This way, players will feel more a part of the setting, and will have more of a stake in the outcome of the action.

6.Learn to Say Yes (For GMs), and Learn to Try (for players): Players need to feel free to try crazy stuff in the game, and GMs should want to let those crazy things happen. If the GM can't give an instant 'yes' answer to some idea of the players, the GM should allow the players to come up with a stunt or contest that will result in that outcome, and the GM should provide a fair TN for a feat, or allow the contest to proceed. This is fantasy action, not a simulation of the real world. Crazy things can, and should, happen often for the PCs.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Alignment in Flying Swordsmen RPG

I'd been thinking about dropping alignment in my kung fu RPG. It's in Dragon Fist because it was in AD&D, but I don't think it's necessary, and could even hinder the setting/style of wuxia.

Al's post on alignment at Beyond the Black Gate got me thinking about this.

Wuxia is about people who basically hold the same beliefs as the rest of the people in their nation (truth, respect, honor, virtue, etc.) but add individuality to the mix, while the population as a whole believes in conformity.

Using the AD&D double-axis, nine point alignment scheme seems counterintuitive. Even a simple system like D&D's Law-Neutrality-Chaos feels wrong (and a modified individual/group axis seems pointless). Basically, xia are supposed to be the good guys, but they don't need to act like typical good guys. They're outside of society, but fight for it. So basically, anyone who knows the xia mindset would end up CG (as I've seen so many AD&D characters end up anyway).

So I'm gonna ditch alignment. I'll definitely have a section in the book--the introductory chapter--where I'll discuss the themes and tropes of wuxia, and how I think they can be emulated in an RPG. But no pidgeon-holing people into alignments (even if the alignment system is meant to only be a guide to roleplaying) that might stiffle creative play.

As with S&S, wuxia benefits from having complex characters who are defined by their individual codes of conduct/honor/morality than being fit into some cookie-cutter game system.

My Kung Fu is Stronger

Finished up the rewrites of the level 4 and 5 maneuvers last night. Here they are:

Blade Tempest [Whirlwind Attack]: Instead of normal attacks, make one melee attack against each opponent within range, up to the attacking character's level in targets.
Demon's Reflexes [Initiative Boost]: Add +2 to the speed of all actions performed.
Fists of Heaven [Improve Damage 3]: Increase unarmed damage to 1d10.
Immortal's Feet [Light Step]: The character may walk on water, bamboo branches, etc. without touching the ground or leaving footprints.
Moving Wave Fist [Chi Blast]: Make ranged chi attacks, damage 1d12, range 60', speed 4.
Touch of the Yellow Springs [Debilitate]: An opponent hit must save vs. poison (with a -2 penalty) or lose 1 point of Constitution immediately, and each day thereafter (a save is allowed, at -2, each day). This continues until the character dies or receives a Cure Disease spell. Using this maneuver counts as an average speed (4) major action, not as an attack. No other attacks may be made in the same round.

Chi Leech [Absorb Life]: Heal an amount of hit points equal to that just inflicted by one attack each day.
White Tiger Smash [Triple Damage]: Attack at -6, and if successful roll triple the normal damage dice (before modifiers).
Green Dragon's Touch [Cure Disease]: Cure any one disease magically, once per week.
Yellow Unicorn Strike [Greater Immobilize]: Attack at -4, and the target hit must save vs. paralyzation or be immobilized for 1d4+1 rounds. Immobilized characters cannot perform any actions and are automatically hit.
Red Phoenix Stance [Final Stance]: AC increases to 18, +1 for each lesser stance known.
Way of the Black Tortoise [Damage Immunity]: Take no damage from the selected type of weapon: blunt, missile, piercing, slashing. Magical weapons always do normal damage.

There's one new maneuver that wasn't in Dragon Fist, Demon Reflexes, that adds +2 to initiative. I figured it seemed like an appropriate power for a martial arts game, and also means there are equal numbers of level 4 and level 5 maneuvers, rather than more of the higher level.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Your Kung Fu is Strong

Just finished the first draft of the first three levels of martial arts maneuvers for Flying Swordsmen RPG (for those not in the know, Dragon Fist, which I'm sim-cloning, has a chart similar to spell acquisition charts for all characters to learn these maneuvers as they advance in level):


Fists of Steel [Improved Damage 1]: Increase unarmed damage to 1d6.

Hornet's Sting [Stun]: Attack at -2, and the target hit must save vs. paralyzation or be stunned for 1 round. Stunned characters cannot perform a stunt and suffer -4 to AC.

Little Whirlwind [Increase Speed]: When making Acrobatics stunts, increase speed by 10x the stunt die result in feet for that round.

Monkey's Dance [Withdraw]: Do not draw attacks when leaving melee at full speed if an Acrobatics stunt is made for the round.

Snatch the Pebble [Improved Called Shot]: -2 penalty to called shots, instead of the normal -4 penalty.

Spider Scuttle [Prone Fighting]: Suffer no penalties when in a prone position.

Swaying Grass Stance [First Stance]: AC increases to 12.

Tiger Vault [Leaping]: Jump 20' plus 1' per level, even from a dead stop.

Tumbling Leaves [Lessen Fall]: Ignore falls of 20 feet or less, half damage from greater falls.

Waves on the Beach [Instant Stand]: Stand from a prone position without losing actions for the round.


Cleanse the Chi [Healing]: Once per day, the character may regain 2 hit points per level.

Dragon and Tiger [Extra Attack]: The character may make one extra attack with an off hand weapon or martial arts each round with no penalties to hit.

Felling Trees [Trip/Throw]: A successful attack at -2 to hit knocks the opponent prone. Prone targets suffer -4 to AC and must spend one round to get up.

Fists of Jade [Improved Damage 2]: Increase unarmed damage to 1d8.

Grab the Serpent's Tail [Disarm]: A successful attack at -2 to hit disarms the opponent. A second attack roll allows the attacker to decide where the weapon goes, otherwise it flies 2d6 feet in a random direction.

Immortal's Sight [Perception]: Detect opponents on all sides equally, unless hidden or invisible.

Secret of the Trigram [Fast Spellcasting]: When casting spells, increase initiative by +1. Only Shamans and Wizards may learn this maneuver.

Stone Ox Charge [Breakthrough]: When making Fortitude stunts, wooden walls and similar obstructions do not hinder movement or cause damage when breaking through them.

Way of Water Stance [Second Stance]: AC increases to 14, +1 if Swaying Grass Stance is also known.


Cloud Somersault [Flight]: Fly 60'+10'/level. Must land at the end of each round or fall.

Iron Skin [Damage Reduction]: Take half damage from the selected type of weapon: blunt, missile, piercing, slashing. Magical weapons always do full damage.

Phoenix Strike [Double Damage]: Attack at -4, and if successful roll double the normal damage dice (before modifiers).

Secret of the Zodiac [Resist Magic]: +2 bonus to saving throws against magical spells and effects.

Shooting Star Strike [Lesser Immobilize]: Attack at -4, and the target hit must save vs. paralyzation or be immobilized for 1 round. Immobilized characters cannot perform any actions and are automatically hit.

Twin Viper Strike [Double Attack]: When making Acrobatics stunts, on a successful attack, a second opponent adjacent to the target struck with equal or lower AC also takes damage.

Twisting Bamboo Stance [Third Stance]: AC increases to 16, +1 for each lesser stance known.


None of this is OGC yet. It's still in draft phase. But then I don't care if anyone wants to borrow it for their home game.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Oriental Accents -- Japanese Castles and Temples and stuff

Posting is slow this month again. I'm back to revising my screenplay, plus occasionally plugging in a little more of the Flying Swordsmen RPG. So not much time to blog. So here are some pictures I took while I was in Japan (these are all from way back in 2003-2004).

Maizuru-Jo (Dancing Crane Castle remains) in Kofu. They're slowly working on restoring bits of the castle.

Photo of Kofu, with Mt. Fuji in the background, taken from the top of the castle walls.

Detail work from the Minobu-san Kuonji (Mt. Minobu Kuon Temple).

Temple bell at Kuonji.

Me and one of the Takeda's 24 Generals at the annual Shingen-Kou Matsuri (Lord Shingen Festival). Takeda Shingen was considered one of the greatest military minds of feudal Japan, so they honor him every year by dressing hundreds of drunk folks up in armor and spears and swords and guns and marching them around town. (I don't think I actually ended up on TV--no one said they saw me anyway.)

Some of the foot soldiers. We had a prime vantage point that year, right in front of Starbucks and just down from the judge's stage.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Character class frequency

Just a random thought that popped into my head.

The original order of the six ability scores:


Has S/I/W first because those were the prime requisites classes presented in OD&D, Fighter/Magic-User/Cleric. Gygax also used the Thief, which is why Dex comes 4th.

Was it assumed that classes with a higher prime requisite in the order would be more common? Seems obvious that Fighters should abound. Were Magic-Users assumed to be the second most common class, then Clerics, and Thieves being a bit rarer?

Thieves, rogues, and scoundrel types are more common in the source literature than Clerics, but then Clerics made it into the original rules set, while Thieves only made the first supplement.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Wuxia Flying Swordsmen

Flying Swordsmen, my retro-clone of Dragon Fist, is coming along. The Characters chapter is almost finished, just need to write up the weapon descriptions and equipment list. The original game has very little equipment, and really very little should be needed, as dungeon crawls aren't really a big part of wuxia literature or film. But I'm gonna add to what's there anyway just in case.

The problem I know I'm going to have would be getting the guys to play some of the original Dragon Fist so I can see where kinks are that I need to work out. I'd suggested it a long while back, and had a little interest, but not much. Playtesting may not happen... That's probably not good.