Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Well, for pit traps in a megadungeon, or at least one with multiple levels designed to get harder as one progresses, I've had a simple idea.
A pit trap does 1d6 damage for each level of the dungeon you happen to be on. So if you're on the 1st level, that pit trap is only 10' deep and you take 1d6 if you fall in. If you're on the 3rd level, it's 30' deep and you take 3d6. If you're on the 6th level, better hope you've got lots of hit points and your buddies up top have at least two lengths of rope! You've just taken 6d6 and have a 60' climb ahead of you!
I like this, as it means I can simply make a note on the map of where a pit trap is, and don't have to write down how deep it is. The only extra notes I'd need is if there were spikes, it fills with water or some other substance, a monster was at the bottom, or something like that.
When I got home, he was having fun throwing them around and imitating me when I said the numbers that came up (he can count to twenty with a bit of help, to ten on his own except for sometimes skipping 8--he's 2 1/2 years old). Anyway, I made sure to tally up the dice for the first 18 rolls he made. If he'd been rolling a Classic D&D character, here's what he would have gotten:
Not too shabby! You could do anything but a Cleric easily with those numbers. And they're good numbers for a Fighter, Thief or Halfling.
Monday, August 30, 2010
But my little contribution to Regdar's Repository was an article listing the sources of the monsters in the 3E Monster Manual. As best I could, I searched my books of mythology and folklore, online sources, and asked for a lot of help from other people in the know.
Of course, there was (as one might expect) debate on the origins of some of the monsters. Since monsters have changed over time, some names get recycled from time to time, and two differnt D&D monsters are sometimes the same monster in mythology, it can be hard to get a definitive answer for some creatures. Add to the fact that some monsters were created whole cloth, and others are basically created by some TSR writer but given the name of an actual monster, and there's bound to be confusion.
One of the funniest complaints I had in the thread about my article was about the Cloud Giant. It's obvious that Gygax or Arneson modeled it after the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk. Lives in clouds, smells really well. One poster just refused to admit it, and tried arguing left right and center about some other origin, how the mighty and regal Cloud Giant could never be based on a kiddie fairy tale! Of course, I challenged him to show me another source of the monster, and he couldn't.
Well, I was reminded of that because we're reading Jack and the Beanstalk in one of my kindergarten classes. Another class is reading Hansel and Gretel, another Puss-in-Boots. And it brought home to me how much monster slaying/treasure looting there is in old fairy tales, in addition to reminding me of that old thread on Regdar's Repository.
Anyway, if you've got kids too young yet to dive into Robert E. Howard or Fritz Leiber but want to get them interested in D&D, a good Fairy Tale inspired campaign might work wonders. And you may be surprised at how well kids brought into the game that way take to the idea of outsmarting the monsters rather than just charging in with swords drawn!
I've also been getting a lot more hits from Seoul lately. This month I've gotten more hits from Seoul than from Busan. I haven't been up to Seoul for a while, but if any of you Seoul folks ever make it down to Busan and want to meet up for a pickup game or something, just let me know!
Sunday, August 29, 2010
I'd never gotten around to drawing up the upper levels of the ruined keep, but I did that today. Then I numbered the encounter areas for it and the first two dungeon levels (all I've drawn so far).
Upper Works: 87 areas to be keyed.
Level 1: 144 areas to be keyed (with one area split into 38 subdivisions)
Level 2: 198 areas to be keyed.
That's 467 areas to be explored suitable to Basic Set level characters, plus whatever else ends up on Level 3, not counting two sublevels I'm porting over from my earlier maps.
Holy crap, I don't have the time for that! Well, if I key them a little at a time, I will.
I had the idea that Star Frontiers would actually make a fairly good, simple system to run a War Against the Machines campaign. Strip out the Yazirians, Vrusk and Dralasites. Start the PCs with limited technology, but Skynet has access to everything in the book. Robots are pretty tough opponents in that system (and easily customizable), and the skill system is designed primarily around combat and secondarily around exploration. You really don't need much else for a post-apocalyptic non-scifantasy setting.
My grand idea was to allow the players to play a bit of a metagame, managing the resources of their survivor community--population, supplies, tech, and then have the PCs missions affect those community stats. Rescue some prisoners of Skynet and your population increases, allowing you more "credits" (which would be abstract rather than hard currency as in the normal rules) to purchase gear for missions. Raid the right Skynet factory, and you suddenly open up gyrojet or sonic weapons as available to the PCs. Stuff like that.
I think it could be a fun game, but finding players for it, and my own ability to keep interested in it might be tough.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
The Goonies was the first movie I ever saw more than once in the theater. I actually saw it three times in the theaters in the summer of '85. And we were heavy into playing D&D at the time, as I'd gotten my Mentzer Basic Set as a birthday present in December of '84.
Somehow, though, it took me until at least '87 or '88, when I had the Companion Set, to finally draw up One Eyed Willy's caves as a dungeon. Don't know what took me so long. Anyway, here are a couple scans of the dungeon. I don't know where the Fratelli family's stats are. I made Ma a Magic-User and the brothers Thieves, but other than that I don't remember.
The adventure notes are keyed on the maps, but they're in pencil and 20+ years old, so sorry if they're a bit hard to read. Fans of the movie should enjoy them, though!
Friday, August 27, 2010
Even though the post is about something a bit different, I still felt like whipping up this nifty pic in The Gimp and sharing.
I'm still plugging away at a screenplay with a writing partner, and we've got hopes that it will actually sell. We're fairly confident in it. Anyway, how this relates to gaming is in a simple trick some writers use to get a handle on who a character is and make them complex, even if they're just a minor nobody who's only in one or two scenes.
You hear movie or book critics talk about flat/2-dimensional characters and well-rounded/fleshed out/3-dimensional characters. And it's actually not that hard to create them. Basically, it all boils down to giving them a Want and a Need (some refer to these as a Conscious Desire and Subconscious Desire as well).
A Want is something your character is actively pursuing. It's the goal of the quest, the fortune and glory, the prom queen, a little peace and quiet, whatever it is they think will make them happy.
A Need is what will actually make the character happy/fulfilled.
For example, in the movie Predator, Dutch wants to get him and his men out alive. But he has a Need to prove himself the biggest badass. That's why, when he learns he can hide from the Predator with mud camouflage he doesn't use it to escape, he instead sticks around to kill the alien that wasted his crew.
In Stephen King's Dark Tower books, Roland has a Want to get to the Tower and do whatever he has to do there. But he has a Need to form a new Ka-Tet before he gets there.
Spiderman has a Want to stop the villains, and a Need to protect his family at all costs.
Of course, more complex characters can have multiple Wants and Needs, but for a beginning RPG character or an NPC, one of each should be enough. And of course you can mix things around, having a character with 2 Wants but no Need yet or vice versa. And of course Wants and Needs can and should change as the character progresses and gets what they Want/Need, or learns that they don't really Want/Need it anymore.
Of course, these really only work if they come up in play. So for an RPG, they should be thematically appropriate to the game being played. For D&D, a Want to become a world renowned florist, and a Need to come out of the closet to my parents likely won't affect play much at all. Save that for some weird furry LARP or something. But a Want to discover the lost grimoire of Yeffal the Mad and a Need to rescue my homeland from its serpentmen overlords is completely appropriate. And situations will come up in play where the player will need to choose between the two.
And that's what makes a character well rounded.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Yeah, never gonna happen, but it's interesting to see what sorts of treasures this would require!
Now let's see if I can get this chart to format right in Blogger...
Of course, in any sane megadungeon where the goal is to allow the PCs to be able to adventure only at that site for their entire career, you'd want either a lot more encounter areas, or a lot more treasure per encounter to give a fudge factor of room for character deaths, henchmen XP, and of course the biggest fact that the PCs will NOT explore absolutely everything and find every last copper piece there is to find.
To make sure all of that is covered, I'd think having at least double, maybe triple the amounts here would be necessary. Anyway, it's interesting to see the numbers, at least.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
- Somehow, no one dies (or the DM uses a house rule like one I've instituted lately, that the PLAYER earns the XP, and if a character dies, the replacement gets exactly the amount of XP the previous character had).
- We'll use the baseline XP per level of the Fighter, as it's close to the average of a party composed of 2 Fighters, 1 Cleric, 1 Thief, and 1 Magic-User.
- Any NPCs along for the ride are 0-level men-at-arms who don't get a share of XP, rather than henchmen who do.
- We'll assume, as Frank Mentzer wrote in the Masters Set, that approximately 80% of XP comes from treasure.
- The dungeon is filled using the B/X and BECMI d6 system for random dungeon stocking.
- Since my 5th level sparked the comments by Jarrah that got me thinking about this, it has 57 encounter areas, and the dungeon stocking method uses a d6, we'll assume a baseline of 60 encounter areas on each level.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
Pat is back, but completely uninterested in continuing his 4E game (although he may want to create a few tactical war game scenarios using the rules, minis, battle mats, etc.). He seems to be most interested in 3E/Pathfinder, or a 2E Masque of the Red Death game, if he DMs.
Dave still wants to get that d20 Conan game going sometime. As far as play, not too sure what he's interested in, but he'll likely chime in in the comments below.
Alex is still interested in my Maritime Campaign, but the way he was playing it sapped MY fun out of it. I get the feeling anything I run isn't gonna interest him, because I don't care so much about fiddly bits and optimizing, and that's what he really likes at heart. He, obviously, still wants to run a RIFTS game, but mentioned TMNT or After the Bomb as well.
Steve, of course, is always up for board games, but won't play RPGs.
Lucy and her friends may not be joining us, I'm afraid. I get the feeling Josh was sort of the reason they came. But I may be wrong.
As for me, I'm in that terrible area where I know I should just sit down as a player and be happy. But I'd love to give my Flying Swordsmen modifications to Dragon Fist a go in actual play, I've got that megadungeon on the back burner, Star Frontiers, possibly shaking the dust off the Maritime Campaign, etc.
Of course, before any of this can happen, we need to coordinate everyone's schedules and see when we can play. I work early, everyone else pretty much works late, so weekdays are out. Weekends are tricky for me, because that's my prime time to spend with my wife and son (working three jobs will do that).
Maybe I need to branch out and try to recruit a few new players, but I'm much too lazy for that, I think. Well, if I get really desperate, it's an option.
State of Gaming: Currently nonexistent
And finally we get to the first section of Level 6. I had finally planned to do a larger level here, with more stuff, possibly in two locations, accessible from the lake. I'd been planning on having worked levels further down, stacked like pancakes, and also some natural caverns and some other occasional worked areas going down from there.
Never got around to drawing the other part(s) of the map.
Not sure what all was going to be in this level, except the giant room in the center was going to be an old library, with a gold dragon sage living there. Someone the players could hopefully befriend, and then use as a source of rumors, quests, or research as needed. The idea of a Gold keeping its treasure mostly as knowledge (valuable rare books, scrolls, etc.) is one I like, so I may reuse the idea.
And this is the conclusion of this little series of posts. Hope you all enjoyed the maps.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
So here's Level 5. Why is it that the 4th or 5th level always seems to be where the underground river comes into the picture? Well, this dungeon is no exception. I didn't have much planned out for this level in my mind, except that the top left section across the bridge would, I had thought, contain a sort of Greco-Roman architecture and classical Greek monsters (the world above, at the time, was a heavily Viking influenced setting).
Again, with this level, the problem is mostly the size of it. 57 encounter areas. There's also (since I hadn't started working on the level 7 or lower maps) only access points further down to level 6. Of course, by the time characters are 4th to 6th level, they're likely doing a fair amount of wilderness adventure as well (at least going by the Basic/Expert gauge), so maybe a smaller level around this point might not be so bad. You can supplement your advancement to the next character level by doing some exploring of The Isle of Dread or going against the Master of the Desert Nomads.
Still, any reworked version will likely be at least 2 sheets of graph paper, and no less than 100 encounter areas.
Level 3 suffers from the same problem as Level 2. The layout is alright, it's just not big enough. 75 or so encounter areas, including two mazes, and entrance to another sublevel, a dragon's lair. Now if 3rd level characters want to try their luck against even a white dragon (which originally that's what was there), good luck! You're gonna need it. But it's there for the foolhardy or clever to tackle if they choose.
I only finished keying a fraction of the level. The big room with the pool and several nearby rooms was a lizard man lair with a couple of pets. That's about as far as I got.
Level 4 will remain unseen in this series, as it was actually four separate sublevels, each one's map was actually a level map from the video game Gauntlet, and each I planned to have an elemental theme, with appropriate monsters. It's one of those things that seemed like a great idea at first, but ended up not being that great upon realization. Still, as actual sublevels to the new megadungeon, I think they will be fairly cool, so I'm not gonna scan those maps. At least one person who may end up playing in this dungeon is reading the blog.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
I wasn't expecting it to be great cinema, just a fun and violent action flick like in the good old days. Of course, the advertising was trying to make it look like an action movie version of the Ocean's Eleven+ movies, with just as many action stars as they could cram into it.
Schwarzeneger's part was just a little cameo. I expected that, since as a governor he really doesn't have the time to be doing any movies even if he wanted to. His cameo was well done, though, and fairly funny. A bit disappointing was that Bruce Willis's part was also a cameo, and was actually the same scene as Arnold.
Well, the plot was fairly cut and dry. No real twists. The story arc for Stalone's character was just barely enough to keep him from being flat, but he didn't really seem fully fleshed out. Similar to Jason Statham's and Jet Li's characters. The bad guy banana republic general was actually the most fully fleshed out and complex character in the movie, and even he wasn't drawn that complexly. Coming in second was Mickey Rourke's retired merc/contact. But then this is an action movie in the style of the good old days of the 80's, so if you were expecting complex character drama, you're in the wrong place.
The action, which is pretty much the whole draw of the movie, was pretty well done. Lots of cool fight scenes, shoot outs, a couple car chases, some aerial strafing, explosions galore, Central American goon soldiers who can't hit the broad side of a barn, duplicitous CIA agents, and of course a hot chick in distress. Everything you'd expect from an 80's action flick.
(Spoiler alert--scroll down to the second paragraph after the white space if you don't want this spoiled)
I'd say the only thing I found disappointing was the fact that none of the 'Expendables' bought it. In my favorite action movies, like Aliens or the original Predator, lots of 'good guys' die. It really raises the stakes, and I like it. There were a couple members of the team, Caesar and Road Block, who could have died without ruining the ending. Dolph Lundgren's character could have bitten it as well. Oh well, movies can't all be perfect.
OK, end of the spoilers.
In the end, I liked it for what it was--a bit of retro popcorn fun. It's the kind of movie that's likely to get played a lot on cable TV in the future. Just good enough to watch and enjoy now and then, but not destined to be many people's favorite action movie, I'd guess.
See this movie if: Like me, you loved watching those old 80's Schwarzeneger/Stalone/Norris action movies when you were young.
Skip it if: You've gotten past the need for adrenaline/testosterone rush violent action movies with little plot or character.
It reminded me of a time, back with my Evansville Group, when one guy was constantly unable to attend. We passed his character--the Cleric--around, taking turns running him.
When it was my turn, we got into a melee with some goblins or some other humanoid opponents. We're surrounded, and everyone's toe to toe with opponents. I'm running my Dwarf Fighter/Thief (#3 in the linked post) and managing not to make any of the natural 1 rolls that seemed to plague me with that character, and also the Cleric.
Another character drops to negative hit points, but as I said both my Dwarf and the Cleric are toe to toe with opponents. On my next turn, of course I have my Dwarf continue his attack, but the Cleric also. I thought it just made sense to take out the current opponent first before turning my back to it, risking this other guy's character getting shanked in the back with a parting shot, when the downed guy could be tended to in the next round with a Cure Light Wounds.
I got slapped with an XP penalty to the Dwarf by the DM for 'not playing the Cleric right.'
Never quite sat well with me.
The DM, otherwise a pretty fair guy when applying the rules, thought a Cleric by default should jump to heal anyone in the party the instant they needed it. I thought, as a rational human in combat, you should never turn your back on a foe if you can help it. But he was the DM so his interpretation was the one we went with.
So I've ended up favoring the option of just ignoring the absence of a character if the player is absent, and ignoring their sudden return when they come back. I'm playing a game with my friends, not writing some sort of collaborative work of fiction intended to entertain others.
I like the general layout of the rooms on this level, it's just that there aren't enough encounter areas. There is a sublevel connected to the north of room 43, which nearly doubles the encounter areas (it was a dedicated orc lair with that one entrance from the megadungeon proper, and one from the outside). I plan to keep that, and a sublevel I didn't discuss that was connected to the first level for my later iteration of the dungeon, so no map scans at this time.
I plan, as with level 1, to reuse most of the encounters, tricks, traps, and puzzles I keyed into this level in my new version if I ever get it together.
Friday, August 20, 2010
If you want to play a ninja in D&D though, it can be a bit tough, depending on which system you're using.
In OD&D, depending on if you're using any supplements or not, you've got the baseline Fighter as an option in the core rules. Not the best choice, some may think, but it's all in how you describe the character and what your DM allows you to get away with. With Greyhawk you get the Thief, and Blackmoor throws in both the Assassin and Monk. These three classes all work really well, even if none are specialized as 'ninja.' Baseline AD&D also gives you these three classes, and the Ranger also can work.
In B/X you're pretty much stuck with the Thief as option #1, and Fighter as a backup. BECMI/RC adds in the Mystic, similar to the Monk. B/X Thief does get a nice bonus in being able to use all weapons, but the BECMI list is good enough (better than the AD&D short list).
Of course, Oriental Advetures has a dedicated Ninja class, but it's a bit complex. The idea is that a ninja should keep their ninja identity secret from the other PCs, so they allow humans to multiclass. You can't only be a Ninja, you have to be a Ninja/something. Needlessly complex, and kinda setting up another Paladin problem, where dick DMs are going to be constantly forcing the Ninja player into situations where they have to either expose themselves as a ninja (requiring them to either turn on their companions or else have the clan hunting after them for the rest of the ninja's life), or else do nothing really for a large part of the game.
2E, with the Complete Ninja Handbook, tried to alleviate some of the problems. The use of 2E kits allows not only a varitey of Ninja class characters (although they're just a variant Thief with slightly different weapon proficiencies and starting skill percentages), but there are also kits for other classes to belong to the ninja clan. That makes an all-ninja campaign possible, but there are still the problems with the ninja mixed with the standard adventuring classes. The book does address some of the problems, and gives a few possible ideas for how to deal with them. All in all, it's not a bad book, even if it does rely on some mechanical choices that I'm not too fond of (kits, proficiencies, etc.).
Now 3E actually, IMO, did the ninja right. In the PHB classes, with the way feats and skills and multiclassing work in that edition, you could use the Rogue (Thief), Ranger, Monk, or Bard even as a base, and with some multiclassing amongst these classes or a few others (Fighter and Sorcerer being good choices, depending on your idea of what a ninja should be), you could craft a fairly good representation of it. That's kind of the strong point of 3E anyway, allowing you to custom build the sort of character you want.
3E's version of OA made another good choice. Instead of adding a Ninja class, they told you to do what I just told you about above. Of course there were ninja Prestige Classes you could take if you just absolutely HAD to have the word 'ninja' on your character sheet [and were too dense to just write it there yourself]. But then 3rd party supplements ended up coming out with all sorts of alternate ninja classes, not to mention the fan-made ones. [I used to spend a lot of time, during my 3E days, on the OA forums over at Wizbro's website.]
4E, I don't know, and it probably doesn't matter if they have a 'ninja' class or not, cause it will play like every other class in 4E.
Anyway, for those of you not playing 3E (I assume most of you), I think the real trick to playing a ninja successfully in a campaign is to avoid the assumed dynamic of 1E OA. Yes, your character is a ninja. Yes, you likely don't want commoners or ENEMY samurai to know that. Yes, you maybe want anyone to know your real name (like Spiderman or Superman, you need that alter-ego). But your adventuring companions should at least know that you are a ninja.
Maybe it comes from the misunderstanding of the concept of 'honor' as the samurai saw it. The reason they used trained ninja for stealth, spying, theft, sabbotage, etc. was because it would be dishonorable for THE SAMURAI to do such. Samurai still wanted all that stuff done, they just didn't want to get their hands dirty. So a samurai would not instantly cut down any ninja they encountered if they learned they were ninja because said ninja was dishonorable. If they were a daimyo, they'd likely be interested in hiring the ninja. Unless the ninja is spying on or trying to assassinate you at the moment, of course, then you'd want them cut down.
Samurai didn't expect everyone to live by their code of honor. So yes, your Samurai character could, and would, assuming a standard D&D type adventuring mindset, travel with a Ninja. It would be the smart thing to do. The Samurai would know that there will be situations that might be easiest to deal with using dishonorable methods. Mr. Ninja, step up please, it's your turn!
Thursday, August 19, 2010
A couple years back, inspired by Dragonsfoot and the OD&D Discussion Forum, I started working on my own megadungeon. At the time, I think I had too many ideas preconceived about what the place should be like. In the end, I ended up not too happy with several of the level maps.
I realize now, looking at them, what mistakes (at least from my own perspective) I made. I wanted themed zone areas, but basically gave them all choke point entrances. The first level is sort of the epitome of it. I created an entrance room with a corridor going in each of the 4 cardinal directions, but those corridors each led to a discrete segment of the first level. Yes, there were multiple access points to the second or lower levels from there, but having the first level be so confined really cramped the style.
It also wasn't really big enough. This is also a problem with many of the lower levels, if you assume you should adventure on a level multiple times until you've gone up one level, then venture deeper, and you still shouldn't have completed everything on the upper level.
My old Yamanashi group did, in a couple of marathon sessions, explore quite a bit of that first level, and a fraction of the second. We had a lot of fun, but I wasn't satisfied with the layout from a DM perspective. I don't think the players really had enough time to get a feel for it, but my not being happy with it was enough. I did retroactively add a few connections between the segments (on the scan above), but it was too little, too late.
So I redrew the first level. I still haven't stocked it yet. For one thing, my current group isn't big on the megadungeon idea. For another, I plan to lift quite a few of the encounters from the original, but it seems like a bit of a pain to figure out where they should go without a group actively exploring it. I figure I'll get around to it some day. Maybe in a couple years, when my son is old enough to play. Here's hoping!
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Of course, there are lots of old Sho Kosugi (Enter the Ninja, The Master, etc.) and Sonny Chiba (all kinds of stuff) flicks to watch.
For animation, Ninja Scroll is a fun one. It follows the fantasy ninja idea that every ninja has some unique super power, but it's a good story and has some cool imagery as well.
For live action, one of my favorites is the remake of Owl's Castle. I've never had a chance to see the original, but I hear it's even better. The remake, staring Nakai Kiichi, tells the story of a group of Iga ninja trying to get revenge on Toyotomi Hideyoshi, heir to Oda Nobunaga (who destroyed Iga). Lots of fun, and it doesn't go overboard with the ninja powers. Just enough to make them mystical, but not super heroes in black pajamas.
Red Shadow: Akakage is based on an old Japanese kids' TV show. Sort of like the Lone Ranger, only with ninja instead of cowboys. Never saw the old TV show, but this movie was a fun one. It's a bit more of a popcorn movie than Owl's Castle, and the ninja are a bit more specialized (although not quite super powered like in Ninja Scroll).
Based on a manga, Azumi is techincally not a ninja movie--the characters are just out and out assassins, but they get trained in a ninja-style remote mountain village, and sneak around trying to kill Tokugawa Ieyasu's political enemies. It's a bit more action oriented, but it stars the sexy Ueto Aya, so why not throw it on the list? (Plenty of eye candy actors for the ladies in this one, too, if you like bishonen). Never saw the sequel, so I can't comment on it.
And the movie that we saw about half of over the weekend that prompted this whole Ninja Week idea for me was another one based on a manga called Basilisk. The movie is called Shinobi: Heart Under Blade, and it's a live action ninja-as-super-heroes type movie, but the first half had some cool fight scenes and special powers. The plot is basically Romeo is a Koga ninja, Juliet is an Iga kunoichi. Hijinks ensue. Again, only saw the first half, but that first half was interesting.
Please don't ask me about Ninja Assassin. 비 (Rain, as he's known in English) is a terrible pop singer, and an effeminate little twerp, and I just can't see myself paying money to watch him try to be a ninja. It does have good old Sho Kosugi in it though... Maybe I'll download it someday. Maybe not.
Anyway, I've been reading through Myths and Legends of China for ideas for more monsters to put into Flying Swordsmen. And I realized there are a ton of cool magical weapons in the section on the gods.
Considering that just about anyone with a lick of fame could be turned into a god by the Chinese (and they have ranks, Immortals, Heroes, Saints, and actual gods), that means there are a ton. And they have lots of cool powers like blowing lasers out of their nostrils or belching up poisonous smoke, but quite a few of them carry magical weapons as well.
I purposely left out magical katana and, with the exception of pole arms and Sun Wu Kong's staff, other Asian weapons from my Unique Magic Weapons document.
Since it's been the most popular of the series (and I can understand why, although I really like the wands, staves and rods as well), it may be time to work on a sequel, focusing on weapons from Asian myths, from the Middle East through East Asia. Don't know if I could get 100 swords, 100 other melee weapons AND 100 missile weapon entries like the first one, but I could surely put together another list of 100 total.
That might be something to work on after I get the first draft of Flying Swordsmen finished.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
The most famous historical ninja of all is Hattori Hanzo. Of course, there's no actual record of him having been a ninja, only that he was a samurai from Iga (one of the two homes of ninja, the other being Koga) who served under Tokugawa Ieyasu.
You can find all sorts of factual and fictional accounts of Hanzo. And pretty much any manga or anime or movie made in Japan will either have the man himself, one of his descendants (who of course have the same name), or at least someone named Hanzo or something similar.
Hanzo as he appears in the video game Samurai Warriors.
And if you've only seen Kill Bill, well, he was not a swordsmith (although they do imply that the Hanzo in the movie is a descendant of the legend).
As most historical records that even mention shinobi only have references like, "a shinobi entered such-and-such castle and set a fire," actually having a Man of Iga on record, sort of, makes him a ninja superstar!
Okay, maybe not quite that big of a superstar, but hey, it's Bootsy, baby!
Well, anyway, if you're gonna have ninja in your game, learning the accounts of Hattori Hanzo, both historically verified and fictitious, can only help to improve your game and your ideas about what ninjas were, and what they could be.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Just for the heck of it (OK, because there was a ninja movie on TV Sunday that we watched a bit of), this week's posts are (probably) going to be devoted to the mysterious masters of Sengoku espionage, the 忍者.
There's of course a lot of crap out there about ninja, but since this is a fantasy role playing blog, the crap is, if you think about it, just as valuable as the truth about ninja.
A few pointers, for the rare geek who doesn't already know this:
Ninja is the reading of the characters I posted above using the 'on-yomi' or Chinese reading. The 'kun-yomi' or native Japanese reading, is 'Shinobi-no-mono' (also written 忍の者, with the middle kana being the 'no'). It basically means either 'a person who endures' or 'a person who sneaks' depending on how you want to interpret it.
Ninja did exist, and were popular as spies and special agents. They are on record as having fought in open battle, but mainly they were not hired for their mad martial arts skillz, but to spy out enemy lands and castles, sabotage--often with fire--enemy fortifications, theft, or the like.
Now, in fiction, I'm sure I don't need to tell you that ninja are said to be the ultimate badass martial artists, have magical skills, and can defeat entire armies single handed with just a sword, some shuriken, and maybe a magical power or two. If you're into manga/anime or the live action movies based on them, then of course you'll realize that the ninja in them always have to have some unique supernatural power or schtick that would be completely useless in actually sneaking around a castle to learn the passwords or set fire to the food stores, but look really cool in a comic book fight.
And of course, despite the fact that ninja are the ultimate badasses, low level ninja abound and serve as fodder for the likes of Wolverine or other super heroes.
Oh, and then there are the Ninja Turtles, too!
Anyway, a good place to start research on ninja is actually, believe it or not (at least at the time I'm writing this) Wikipedia. The article there seems to have checked period sources and doesn't fall into Real Ultimate Power land (although if you haven't ever seen this second site, check it out as it's hilarious).
Anyway, this week I'll be posting some thoughts on ninja. I'll discuss a few famous ones, some fictional ones, some good ninja movies, and of course some ideas about using ninja in RPGs. We'll see how it goes.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
In the last two days, Josh had been texting and sending messages on Facebook with tons of questions about the rules. He had volunteered to play the weaker Korean side, and wanted to know all his options. Well, I ended up overcompensating for his weaker forces. I didn't realize the wall would be such a benefit ruleswise. Actually, it wouldn't have been, except that we gave him double the ranged figures he otherwise would have had.
One other change we made was that since Josh's table is only about 3' by 4' (quite a bit smaller than the minimum 4' by 8' Gygax and Perren suggest, but we're in Korean apartments not Midwest basements) and we were using 1/72 scale minis was to change measurements to centimeters instead of inches.
With the ranged units all on the wall in two large groups, he was able to do enough damage with pass-through fire then his normal attack to totally wipe Alex's ashigaru archers in one round, and my ashigaru footmen in a two rounds. At that point, we stopped the game, as none of the Japanese units were large enough to take that punishment and return fire, especially as he had the cover bonus from the wall.
So while it may not have been the best game ever played, we did learn a lot.
a) the rules are simple, elegant, and play well
b) save actions involving walls for 1=1 scale combat
c) try to get a bigger playing area so we can actually maneuver
Even with the change to cm instead of inches, we still had the Japanese forces bunched up with little room to move, and the Korean forces behind their wall, basically just sitting there doing nothing.
It was a good experience, and I think I'll be able to set up some more fair battles in the future. We're looking forward to trying out the Man-to-Man scale rules, and definitely the Fantasy Supplement!
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Anyone else out there trying to access the site and getting timed out lately?
In other--gaming related--news, tomorrow is the big Chainmail game. Josh's flurry of questions yesterday ended up in me throwing in some extra figures for the Korean side. It's still an advantage Japan, but Josh has a bit more of a fighting chance this way.
Gotta remember to throw the camera in my bag so I can take lots of pics to report!
Friday, August 13, 2010
So this Sunday we'll be playing Chainmail for the first time, trying it out.
Josh sent me about 50 questions about the rules today. I wasn't prepared for that. He's volunteered to take the weaker Korean side, and really wants to win. So he's trying to figure out every possible way he can maximize his chances. I've got no problem with that, but to be honest I really hadn't read through the siege rules well enough to answer most of his questions.
So tonight, that's what I'll be doing. Re-reading all the rules, and probably the siege section twice (plus finally printing out the terrain bits and making the 'wall').
Anyway, it's going to be fun, and I'll be sure to take lots of pictures and notes of how the game goes.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Finished the first draft of the adventure design chapter. Not too happy with it. I'm way too wordy and trying to be concrete with advice but digressing into game design philosophy too much, I think.
Anyway, at least it's complete. Now time to move on to the monster section! It's gonna be fun. The original only gave a handful of monsters. I'm gonna have a lot more, plus lots of write-ups of NPC types so GMs don't feel the need to rely on the character creation system for all of the NPCs. Show the reader it's OK to 'cheat' and give an opponent the martial arts maneuvers, stats, whatever to make it challenging and fun, even if it's not something the PCs can do.
Oh, and did I mention there will be lots of monsters?
If anyone out there reading this has a favorite monster from a wuxia movie, comic, whatever, chime in and let me know. It, or something like it, will make it into the book!
This guy is selling a module with full "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" name and trade dress, claiming the OGL allows him to do it.
A few bloggers here and here have already posted about it.
Now, I don't see any doom and gloom for the OSR out of this. WotC is likely to just ask the guy to cut it out through a C&D order, and that will be the end of it.
Of course, we gamer/bloggers love a good controversy.
I'm not gonna add to the controversy, but I will pose this question:
Granted that I think it's a bad idea for them to be using the IP of WotC on their module when it's clearly not allowed by the OGL, what if WotC does nothing? Will this really impact us one way or the other?
Personally, even if WotC does NOTHING, I doubt we'll see tons of people trying to do the same thing. For one, it's bound to limit the audience. I get the feeling that the kids playing 4E or Vampire or whatever might consider picking up modules for a retro-clone, as they perceive it as something new. Something blatantly named, marketed and styled after 'their father's RPG' would have about as much appeal as making some brand new 8-bit NES games would have to the Wii generation.
The other reason I don't think we'll see many copy-cats if (and that's a big if) WotC does nothing is that people should rightly be worried that if the trend continues, WotC WILL step in. And they'll want to step in before it's too late. Which means if nothing happens now, the SECOND company to do this is likely to be the one that gets bitch-slapped legally.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Apologies for the poor map quality. They're scans of the original hand drawn maps, which are in pencil. They didn't turn out too well, but I don't have the time or energy to pretty them up. :D
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Since my mind is kinda focused on that I'm not sure if I'll have a lot to say here on the blog the next couple of days. Of course I'll post the essay here when it's done.
In the mean time, here are some random pictures from my old laptop, found on my portable hard drive. Hopefully you'll find something inspirational or at least amusing.
For those not in the know, the Forge was the home of GNS theory. Now they've moved on to something else, and while interesting to read, I could really care less about most of the things they talk about there.
But most of the games born out of GNS were a) designed to deliver one, and only one, flavor of gaming--Gamist, Narrativist, or Simulationist. The idea being that a 'well designed' game only caters to one interest. And the vast majority of Forge games catered to narrativist style.
In these games, there is typically a game setting and style tied to the rule-set. If you're playing Dogs in the Vinyard, your character is a Mormon paladin gunslinger in the evil Old West. End of story. You can give your MPG any sort of personality you like, but the game only works if the players are MPGs running around getting forced into morals challenging situations about how to clean up evil towns. Players who don't want to be a MPG need not apply.
And a Megadungeon campaign really isn't so different from one of these, at least to start. Assuming you're using D&D, AD&D or a retro-clone, no matter what your class/race/alignment/personality, your character is a dungeon delver. That's what you do. The rules assume it, and players who don't want to be dungeon delvers need not apply.
The only real difference is that in DitV, that's the whole of the game. Whereas in D&D et al. you can get out of the dungeon, explore the wilderness, become rulers, etc. There's expansion. But early on, and potentially for the whole campaign if it's interesting enough, dungeon delving is what it's all about.
Even though they have completely different intents and styles, there is that commonality of implied 'character buy in' in these games. You can't be just anything you want and expect it to work. You have to give up some of that precious control over who your character is to allow the game to work.
Of course, the comment by David of Tower of the Archmage got me thinking. Of course that line of thought went something like this:
I'd love to run my megadungeon.
My players here aren't into that sort of game.
I could always set up a game on RPOL or some other gaming site
Message board games are slow and people lose interest quickly
Maybe I could email a few friends and get them on board
I tend to get addicted to checking the message board for non-existent updates, wife gets mad.
OK, maybe I won't do it after all.
And my megadungeon stays on the shelf. Sad, but when you're in a city of 4 million people, of whom maybe 1000 at most are native English speakers, and of them apparently the number interested in RPGs is around 5 and I'm already gaming with them, that's life. (And we've tried gaming with English speaking Koreans--it's either unsatisfying to the foreigners because it's slow and a bit dumbed down, or it's unsatisfying for the Koreans because they can't follow everything).
Monday, August 9, 2010
I really like it. As Mr. Curtis himself says, it's good for making a dungeon with more thinking, less fighting.
It also utilizes something I was trying to do when constructing my megadungeon (before my players uniformly stated that a megadungeon was the last thing they wanted and I shelved the project), which is encounter areas that show signs that other adventurers have been through.
I had empty treasure chests (sometimes with calling cards of who looted it), corpses in various states of decay and having met various foul ends, notes and journals, marks on the walls, and one thing I thought was really important to get that immediate feel of others adventuring--spells with durations still in effect when the PCs get there (that one actually works well on a random encounter table, too).
Anyway, I copied that list, and plan to use it to good effect in the future. I suggest you do, too!
The minis are the Zvezda samurai cavalry and samurai warriors.
Both of these samurai packs come with command figures, so I thought I should have one for the Korean side as well. I don't have anything in the right scale, but I have some roughly 45mm Three Kingdoms figures that I picked up in Japan, so Liu Bei will be standing in for Korean commander Song Sang Hyeon. He'll tower over the battlefield, but oh well. He's likely to be surrounded by samurai and ashigaru soon anyway.
The only thing I need to do now is print up and laminate some terrain pieces. Looks like we're on for this Sunday to play.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Level 1, a system of caves, except the walls are all smooth. I don't think it ever came up why the place was like this, apparently natural caves from the outside, but apparently worked from the inside.
The big room at the top was expanded later on. The gold dragon that lives there became an important NPC when my friend Todd's fighter, who had a ring of telekinesis (probably from the red dragon), tried to steal a few gold coins as we were passing through one day. Once our characters had made it up to the Companion levels, I thought I'd better beef him up, so he became a Huge Gold (toughest of the tough) and his room was expanded.
The highlight of level 2 of course is the red dragon. Why a red and gold both lair in the same dungeon, no one knows. How the red gets in or out is also a mystery. Maybe enough low level adventurers keep coming that he doesn't need to go anywhere?
Back then, I sometimes restocked dungeons, but other times, certain monsters 'respawned' (to use a more modern term) and were always there. Realism and consistency were not issues back then. The red dragon, of course, always respawned. The Cloud Giant is obviously a later addition through restocking, as I didn't get the Expert Set until a year later, as a Christmas present.
You go up to level 2 in this dungeon, but down to level 3. I don't remember if anyone ever found and used the secret entrance/exit to level 3 or not. The 'bottomless pit' at the dead end on the lower left did come in handy a few times, including one time when the red dragon was tricked into drinking a potion of diminution, stuffed into a bag of holding, and then a race was on to get there and dump him in before the potion wore off. Good times.
Looking back on these maps, of course the stocking of them is random and pointless, but the design of the dungeons is actually not bad for a beginner. There are lots of paths and loops, secret ways that can be discovered (several concealed doors and the secret entrance), and some cool atmospheric weird things like a talking skull and a small lava lake.
I redrew the second level map for some reason, and in pen!
The stocking of the dungeon on the back of the map.
The third level, keyed on the map, featuring Bargle's lair and a teleporting portal to the dragon.
A random dungeon, not sure what this is part of, on the back of the third level.
[edit--of course, Blogger put in all my pictures backwards. Fixed now.]
Saturday, August 7, 2010
I'm working now on a 'how to create an adventure' section with general advice for the Game Master, as well as some nuts and bolts rules for planning and running the game. The original Dragon Fist is pretty sparse on this. I think it's time to pull out the Moldvay/Cook and Mentzer books to read through for a little refresher on what I may need to add.
After that will be a Monsters and NPCs chapter, then Magic Items. Finally will be a section with some genre conventions, sample campaigns, and recommended reading/viewing for wuxia.
Sounds simple when I write it up like that, but I'm sure it's gonna take me a while.
My wife did have the good idea the other day about checking out local college art students to see if we can get some free pictures for the game. Might be worth a shot.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Just got back from the radio station. Fire House, the rock band who were really big in the 90's are in Busan for the Busan International Rock Festival. Their concert is tomorrow night.
The late night show on my radio station had them in for an interview, and I got to sit in on it. Pretty cool. They're a bunch of fun, cool guys. And they've been touring the world and rocking for 20 years now.
I had stopped listening to the glam/arena rock type stuff years ago, so I didn't realize they were still out there, putting out the occasional album but mostly doing live performances. I've now got the urge to get some of their stuff, and other bands from the same era--Warrant, Tesla, Trixter, Great White--and go on a bit of a nostalgia trip with my mp3 player, also seeing what else those other bands have been up to in the past 15 years or so.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
The figures are Red Box Ashigaru (Archers and Arquebusiers) and Red Box Ashigaru (Spearmen)
The farthest back I could trace the list was this site:
Italics-Own it but haven't read it
1 - The Book of the New Sun, Volume 1: Shadow and Claw - Gene Wolfe
2 - Time and the Gods - Lord Dunsany
3 - The Worm Ouroboros - E.R. Eddison
4 - Tales of the Dying Earth - Jack Vance
5 - Little, Big - John Crowley
6 - The Chronicles of Amber - Roger Zelazny
7 - Viriconium - M. John Harrison
8 - The Conan Chronicles, Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle - Robert E. Howard*
9 - The Land of Laughs - Jonathan Carroll
10 - The Compleat Enchanter: The Magical Misadventures of Harold Shea - L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt
11 - Lud-in-the-Mist - Hope Mirrlees
12 - The Book of the New Sun, Volume 2: Sword and Citadel - Gene Wolfe
13 - Fevre Dream - George R. R. Martin
14 - Beauty - Sheri S. Tepper
15 - The King of Elfland's Daughter - Lord Dunsany
16 - The Conan Chronicles, Volume 2: The Hour of the Dragon - Robert E. Howard*
17 - Elric - Michael Moorcock
18 - The First Book of Lankhmar - Fritz Leiber*
19 - Riddle-Master - Patricia A. McKillip
20 - Time and Again - Jack Finney
21 - Mistress of Mistresses - E.R. Eddison
22 - Gloriana or the Unfulfill'd Queen - Michael Moorcock
23 - The Well of the Unicorn - Fletcher Pratt
24 - The Second Book of Lankhmar - Fritz Leiber*
25 - Voice of Our Shadow - Jonathan Carroll
26 - The Emperor of Dreams - Clark Ashton Smith
27 - Lyonesse I: Suldrun's Garden - Jack Vance
28 - Peace - Gene Wolfe
29 - The Dragon Waiting - John M. Ford
30 - Corum: The Prince in the Scarlet Robe - Michael Moorcock
31 - Black Gods and Scarlet Dreams - C.L. Moore
32 - The Broken Sword - Poul Anderson
33 - The House on the Borderland and Other Novels - William Hope Hodgson
34 - The Drawing of the Dark - Tim Powers
35 - Lyonesse II and III: The Green Pearl and Madouc - Jack Vance
36 - The History of Runestaff - Michael Moorcock
37 - A Voyage to Arcturus - David Lindsay
38 - Darker Than You Think - Jack Williamson
39 - The Mabinogion - Evangeline Walton*
40 - Three Hearts & Three Lions - Poul Anderson
41 - Grendel - John Gardner
42 - The Iron Dragon's Daughter - Michael Swanwick
43 - WAS - Geoff Ryman
44 - Song of Kali - Dan Simmons
45 - Replay - Ken Grimwood
46 - Sea Kings of Mars and Other Worldly Stories - Leigh Brackett
47 - The Anubis Gates - Tim Powers
48 - The Forgotten Beasts of Eld - Patricia A. McKillip
49 - Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury
50 - The Mark of the Beast and Other Fantastical Tales - Rudyard Kipling
*I've read a different edition of Conan than that listed, but I've read everything REH wrote about the Cimmerian. I've got the Swords series of Fafhrd & the Mouser except for the final volume so those first two different compilations listed are covered, I've got the original Mabinogion, not Walton's retelling.
I've read 10 out of 50. Not bad. The list still seems pretty arbitrary to me. Maybe I should come up with my own list some day...
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
The guys in off white are the light infantry (Red Box Korean Guerillas, now on sale apparently), and the guys in red are the heavy infantry (Red Box Korean Heavy Infantry, also on sale).
We'll try and get the samurai and ashigaru painted in the next couple days. Nothing too detailed, as above I need them functional enough to see at a glance what troop type (and force for the Japanese) they are.
It ain't pretty, but it will work. Quick and dirty.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Monstropedia's Chinese Monsters section
A quick rundown of some of the major Chinese deities
Some stories on About.com
A great essay on what exactly wuxia is
Kongming.net, a place for all things Three Kingdoms
Found this cool pic of the battle, made about 100-150 years after the battle, but still a nice visual reference.
I finished cutting figures from sprues and trimming flash yesterday. The Red Box orcs I'd ordered a while back were nice molds with very little flash, but the Koreans had quite a bit, and the Japanese Ashigaru spearmen were making me play Queen's "Flash! Ah-ah!" in my mental music player as I trimmed them. Luckily the Ashigaru archers/arquebusiers had very little on them.
I need to pick up some paints to add a bit of color to easily distinguish units and troop types (no time to give them good detailed paint jobs). Koreans will have light and heavy foot in equal numbers (48 figs each), while the Japanese will have 100 light foot--the ashigaru--and a mixture of heavy and armored foot from my Zvezda samurai infantry (44 figures) and the medium cavalry (17 figures).
I may give the Korean defenders a cannon or two, as they did historically use cannon for defending fortifications (no idea if there were any at Dongnae during the battle--likely not), and they may need the help it will give them.
Then I just need to print up and laminate some terrain feature cards and walls, slap together my model of a fortified gate, and I'm ready to rock this game.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Steve is leaving for Europe for most of August.
Josh got accepted to grad school this fall, and will be gone in a month or so.
Chloe quit her job, and will be leaving Korea in a matter of days.
That leaves me, Dave, Pat, Steve, and Alex, plus Lucy if and when she returns from Seoul, assuming Dave doesn't find a job in Japan and leave too (any luck lately, Dave?)
We really need some new blood in the Board Game Group. Of course, finally getting ourselves a new set time and place would be necessary before we can seriously recruit some new people.
Anyway, Josh seems keen to try Chainmail, and is even willing to play the Korean side. He's got a fair amount of table top minis experience (Warhammer and 40k mostly), so that might be a good choice. That would leave Alex and Dave to play the Japanese side if they can both make it, or if only one can come they get all the Japanese. I'd be the referee, since I'd be setting up the terrain and arranging the forces for the battle. Gotta get it ready in the next week or so.