Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Another take on Gamer ADD (and my 100th post)

Reading about Gamer ADD makes me rethink my own games for the past 15 years or so.

Of course I suffer from Gamer ADD. Back in the day, we had D&D and Star Frontiers, and we just played either when someone had a dungeon or adventure ready. We had two long campaigns that lasted from late elementary school into the early years of university summer vacations. 10 years for D&D, 8 for Star Frontiers. We'd try out the occasional other RPG, usually during the summers when we had lots and lots of free time. But the only ones we stuck with were the above.

Then, after I graduated, with the Evansville group and every group I've had since, the big problem with Gamer ADD was NOT that the DM wanted to switch systems or campaigns.

The problem has been (and still is) that EVERYONE WANTS TO BE THE DM.

Too many chiefs, not enough Indians. Especially in my current board game group, there are always one or two of us dissatisfied with whatever is being played, so the usual response seems to be to offer to DM a game the way you like it as a player (which of course then makes someone else want to DM their way).

On another note, I've got the Character Creation rules for the Flying Swordsmen (Dragon Fist retro-simu-something) RPG finished. Character creation basics, classes and kits are done. Next is the martial arts maneuvers and combat section.

And this is my 100th post. Huzzah!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I ain't got time to bleed

Jesse pretty much sums up my feeling lately, which is why I ain't got time to blog.

Last week I was finishing the edit of my screenplay so my writing partner could have his go at it.

This week I've been busy working on the Dragon Fist simulacrum.

The board game group has been in even more of a slump than before.

So not much to write about, and no time to do so if I had anything to say.

Monday, June 21, 2010

How about them Orcs?

Over at Grimmhaus, Josh has posted his ideas about the evolution of the RPG Orc, and how he doesn't like the way they went from evil bastards to misunderstood noble savages.

I completely agree. I don't want to drag in all sorts of post-modern, political correctness into my games. I assume anyone I game with is reasonably sane enough to realize that monsters in the game are just that--monsters. Not some way to explore the "Other" or something. Go take a Literature class at your local college for that.

One thing that has always colored my impressions of Orcs were both a) the fact that in Mentzer, my first encounter with the monster as I hadn't read Tolkien yet, they are one of the few monsters listed with family present in lairs and b) the fact that they, along with Goblins, appear on the Expert set Mercenary lists.

Because of this, I see Orcs as being social creatures, not just destructive evil villains. They have families at home, and they can be bargained with at least enough to serve as troops for Chaotic rulers. Gnolls, Lizard Men and others will just happily gut you and eat you if they can, but Orcs will often be open to offers from powerful or at least wealthy parties.

This impression was reinforced by the D&D cartoon, where there were a few episodes in which Venger's stronghold of the week was guarded by Orcs (good old green, pig-faced Orcs to boot).

The 3E Orc-as-super-strong-savage never felt right to me. I think another thing that influenced this was the 1E Half-Orc, who excelled as an Assassin. That made me think that Orcs should be a bit more wiley/sneaky, the way Goblins are often portrayed (especially in 3E).

So for me, Orcs are: evil, raiding tribal humanoids, who can be bargained with and who do have some things they are willing to fight for. They are not mindless engines of destruction, nor are they combat power-houses, and they are perfectly willing to resort to subterfuge or tactical maneuver to deal with foes.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Oriental Accents -- Seven Samurai

I don't know if I need to say a lot about this masterpiece of cinema from 1954. If you haven't seen it--whether you play Asian themed games or not--go out and do so as soon as possible! It's one of the best films ever made.

Farmers from a village targeted by bandits hire a group of 5 ronin samurai, 1 young samurai away from his master, and one imposter samurai to defend them. Seven warriors isn't enough, so they train the villagers, set up defenses around the town, and try to whittle the bandit forces down by selective engagement.

Then of course there's the big battle scene at the end, when the remaining bandits and remaining samurai face off.

It's long--the full version is 207 minutes, but every minute of it is a beautifully crafted work of cinematic art. It's definitly no art film, though. It's called by some "the first modern action movie."

Yes, it's in black and white. Yes, it's got subtitles you'll have to read. Turn off your damn i-phone and live a little. You'll thank me for it.

Now, from a gaming perspective, the basic plot is one that many Game Masters have used before (just as plenty of other film makers have borrowed it). Motley group of untrustworthy 'heroes' defend the village from the bandits/orcs/undead. What's not to love?

It's also got some great tropes of the samurai for players to base characters off of. I'm all for taking literary, cinematic or even pop culture characters, giving them your own twist, and then using them as a character in an RPG. It's part of the fun that leads us from playing cops n' robbers to slinging them twenty-siders, or from reading a book and imagining ourselves in the middle of the action (sure, I could save Helm's Deep if only I were there with an M-60, 10,000 rounds of ammo, and a crate of hand grenades...).

The final great bit of inspiration comes from the sound track. I've got a CD of music from Kurosawa films, and it has a long medley of the various themes from Seven Samurai on it. It's great atmospheric music to play during a game. It's tragic-heroic, a mood that fits Asian themed fantasy gaming, I think. (I'll likely do an Oriental Accents post just on good music to use in the future.)

See this film. Period.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dead in the Water

Last night I attempted to rally the troops for our next scheduled game this Saturday.

Dave is busy with job hunting and can't make it. If he gets the job as a professor in Daegu tomorrow, he'll be leaving soon.

Lucy is now in Seoul doing an internship for the summer (will return in September).

Alex is available, but if it's just him and Josh he's not interested in playing (as he's stated before). At least Alex had some good constructive criticism for me on how to make the game go a bit smoother. It's refreshing after all the complaints lodged against Classic D&D by him.

Didn't even hear from Josh. He's usually the first to reply to any messages.

Anyway, we may be getting together with Steve for board games instead of RPGs on Saturday. I get the feeling we won't be returning to the Maritime Campaign ever.

Oh well, I may still finish writing up the skeleton notes for the maps I made and posting them as a sandbox module for Labyrinth Lord or something. We'll see.

In other news, I've started work on the Dragon Fist simulacrum game. I've got the character class descriptions/charts done. Kits (renamed Profiles) are next.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I love it when a plan comes together

While everyone else in this country was getting ready for the big World Cup match between SK and Greece (game ended a little while ago, Korea wins 2-0), my wife and I were planning what to do to celebrate our 4th anniversary (last Thursday, but we couldn't do anything special that night).

We decided to drop off the little guy with his grandparents and catch a movie. I wanted to finally see How to Train Your Dragon, but the timing was wrong so we saw The A-Team instead.

If I've learned anything from Hollywood, it's don't expect a movie based on an old TV show to be worth more than just a cheap thrill ride. At best, the humor will be along the lines of a roast, making fun of the source material but still providing a decent enough popcorn flick (Charlies Angels or Starsky and Hutch, for example). At worst, Hollywood drops a big ol' Cleveland Steamer down into our drinks (from what I've heard, Land of the Lost fits this--I haven't seen it and don't really care to. I like the original show too much.)

So the new A-Team movie? I was surprised that it actually took the story a bit more seriously than the original! Sure, it had a lot of humor, and homages to the TV show that inspired it, but it was a solid action flick and it did its best to treat the whole premise in a fairly realistic manner (for an action movie--it's still in that world of "Action!" that The Last Action Hero showed off so brilliantly).

I was a little surprised that it was an origin story, though. When, at the beginning (I don't think I'm spoiling anything by this) Hannibal stops BA's van in the desert, I thought that was the plan. Until BA reveals that he has no idea who Hannibal is. Anyway, we get to see the formation of the team, the "crime they didn't commit," their escape from prison, and the beginning of the hunt to clear their names.

The acting was good, if not stellar. I wasn't too thrilled when I first heard that Liam Neeson was cast as Hannibal, but he did a decent job, although lacking in the panache that George Peppard had. Still, he did well--especially after his crap performance in Clash of the Titans. The guys doing Face, Murdoch and BA all did well, being similar enough to be recognized, but not slavish to the original characters (which likely would have made the movie worse if they had).

The bottom line? Fans of the original show have little to fear. Anyone who likes escapist action fare should eat it up. Oh, and stick around through the credits if you, like me, missed Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz's cameos in the middle of the action.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

New Names for Dragon Fist

Just thinking of a few ideas for a Dragon Fist retro-clone.

Titles for the game itself--
Flying Swordsmen
Flying Swords & Ancient Magics

Renaming the Kits (to make them generic and avoid IP)
Martial Artist (Righteous Fists)
Swordmaster (Red Tigers)
Mystic Archer (Heavenly Gates)
Soldier (Imperial Guard NPC kit)

Outlaw (Iron Monkeys)
Ghost Hunter (Ghost Eaters)

Ancestral Medium (White Lotus)
Demonist (Black Lotus)

Taoist (Dragon's Breath)
Yang Magician (Great Immortals)
Yin Sorcerer (Eunuch Sorcerer NPC kit)

Unlike the original, I'd also likely include rules for playing a class without a kit.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Maritime Campaign, Session 1

We got to play last night. Lucy and Dave came first and we finished up their characters. Then Josh and Alex came and we eventually got down to business, resulting in only about 2 hours of actual play time.

In that time, they got sent on their "quest" (no need for them to follow it up if they want, but it's there if they choose) to find the Chalice of Winter, a lost artifact that the king of their home city-state claims is necessary to save the realm. Find it within a year, or be forever banished from the city-state of Samos was the message.

Well, they found out a few rumors about the Chalice, and learned of the Library of Cadmia where they could research more. They sailed uneventfully north for a week to the Library, got good reactions from the librarian/monks, and left Alex's Illusionist there to aid with the research while the rest sailed east to the Zephyrus Archipelago to do some raiding.

The very first island they came to was one of my keyed locations, a small pirate stronghold. Alex's Cavalier and Josh's Thief went ashore first and checked out the apparent fishing village, and found out it was a pirate stronghold. The Thief retreated, but the Cavalier stuck around to get some info, and eventually got taken to the leader, The Hyena. He attempted to make a bargain with the Hyena (neither side intended to keep it, of course), and was released.

Using clever tactics (Josh's Thief riding his trained giant squid) they scuttled one of the pirate's galleys and drew them out into a night battle.

I was a bit rusty with the rules--I haven't run a sea battle in Classic D&D for over 15 years--so despite having read over the rules several times in the past few months, I forgot a few things. So Alex's ship got off a few extra catapult shots before he should have. Oh well. Josh's illusionist was making the pirates think their sails were on fire, Alex's marines were peppering the enemy with heavy crossbow and ballista fire, and the giant squid/Thief were hindering a ship by stealing the oars away. The Cavalier on his hippogriff managed to kill one of the captains in one swoop attack.

The pirates surrendered, and Josh, Alex and Dave had a debate about whether to execute the leaders or recruit them to help attack the Hyena and the rest of the pirates in the stronghold.

The good parts of the night were that we finally got organized and got to play. The bad parts were that as captains of ships, Josh and Alex did pretty much everything, while Dave and Lucy were mostly spectators. Especially in the sea battle. Alex was also complaining again, both about the short time of the session and the general lower power level of Classic. Finally, we were playing at my place, and my son was not wanting to go to sleep because of all the people around (and the colorful dice on the table) which made my wife angry.

Well, they have two more ships now, so if we get into any more naval engagements, Lucy and Dave can also captain ships, so that should help that problem. I've also got a good idea now what they want out of the game, so I can tailor my prep work more to what they want out of the game. Also, Dave has found a coffee shop with a back room with a nice big table that we might be able to reserve for gaming. Finally, we're done with character creation so we'll be able to play for the whole session. So hopefully things will go a little better next time.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fellowship of the Dice

The picture at the top of the blog is a little photoshop fun I had with pictures of most of the Yamanashi Group.

Paul is Aragorn, I'm Gandalf, JD is Legolas, Josh is Gimli, Lauren is Boromir, and left to right as the Hobbits is Atley, Jacob, Renee and Michelle. I didn't have a picture of Rick at the time, so he got left out. Everyone really got a kick out of the picture when I showed it to them, although they wished I had a bigger, higher resolution pic to work off of.

Large group combats

Hmm, need to give some thought to what to do for ship-board actions in the Maritime Campaign. I'd rather not spend time rolling 20+ attack rolls a round for the NPC crew members, and equal numbers for their adversaries.

The War Machine is a bit much, and I'd rather not dig into Chainmail right now (I've only got it on pdf, and only have skimmed the rules).

I'm thinking I need a system where I make one die roll per troop type, then adjust damage depending on how well or poorly that roll went. Dice of damage would be then be divided between the enemy forces, one die to one opponent.

But do I want a flat roll, like a normal d20 hit roll, or a curved distribution like a 2d6 roll? Or should I dispense with attack rolls and just assume a number proportionate to the chance to hit defender AC are hit each round?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Check this out!

If you're putting together your own games, or need some handy props (pawns, meeples, blank playing cards, chits and chips, bulk d6s, etc.) check out this place.

I found it while doing a Google search for some blank play money to print for my students to play with. It's a site geared for the scrapbooker set, but their game pieces and card section could be of interest to folks like us.