Monday, May 30, 2011

Wuxia Films

I've decided that I really ought to get to work on Flying Swordsmen.  I told myself I'd get Presidents of the Apocalypse banged out into a decent shape first, as it's the smaller game, but with a Gamma World game coming up with the guys, I'm not in the mood to totally go post-apoc, even if GW at its wildest and wahooest pales in comparison with the wild and wahoo of PotA. 

POTA: It'll be about 100 times crazier than this
Anyway, today I did some much needed streamlining on the "Running the Game" section for the GM.  I'd been adding in all these cool options and systems for running things before, and then realized, hey, this is a martial arts RPG.  The combat system is sound, and if anyone wants rules for dealing with bureaucrats or investigating the death of a merchant besides the game's default "feat" system (a specialized ability check, nothing like a d20 feat), they can make it themselves.

So cutting things down.  And making notes about the campaign world I'd like to throw in.  I'd originally been thinking I'd make it a bit tool-boxish, with ideas and suggestions for going full-bore fantasy martial arts, historicalish China, and points in between.  Now I'm thinking I'll modify the world I created for my d20 OA game, at least some parts of it, into a fantasy realm for Wuxia adventure. 

The Continent of Zhongyang Dalu...likely this will get done differently physically but similar politically

The game will likely be better for it, and I can always just stick in an appendix of semi-historical China stuff, or release a supplement later, or something.  The setting of the original Dragon Fist made me want to play just reading the fluff text, and I think a game like this stands relatively little chance of getting played without an equally intriguing setting of its own (come on, how many of you played Dragon Fist even once?  I played it twice, and wish I'd been able to play it more.)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Of Monks and Martial Arts

Talysman has been talking about the Monk class this week.  His most recent post gives four options for the "classic 4" to gain some monk-like powers if they accept certain vows restricting their behavior.  I like what he (and Stuart over at Strange Magic too) is doing with this.

I remember the first time I read the Monk class description in the AD&D PHB.  In my mind, it was a Franciscan Friar turned adventurer (I'd been exposed to a bit of martial arts movies on my grandma's cable TV on Sunday afternoons, but not enough to really get it...I was too young to have watched Kung Fu on TV).

Once I finally had an idea of what the Monk was supposed to be, I really liked it, even if it didn't fit well with the standard Tolkien/Howard/Leiber/Anderson European medieval fantasy that is vanilla D&D.  There's always been a little part of me that rejects the monk (and samurai, ninja, xia, and the like) in my medieval fantasy.  There's also another part that says why not?

It's not like there aren't plenty of other non-European stuff in D&D, especially with regards to monsters.

The bigger problem than thematics, however, are the mechanics of the Monk as presented (including the Mystic in BECMI/RC).  They start out extremely weak, then become pretty darn potent because of mystical powers, extra attacks, and speed bonuses.

That's one reason I'm working on Flying Swordsmen.  The base game of my clone, Dragon Fist, takes D&D and makes everyone into a martial artist.  Because it's built on a D&D base, it could play with other D&D games.  Yes, a Flying Swordsman character is more powerful than a similar level standard D&D character (lots of cool martial arts powers, greater hit points), but they've got a few drawbacks as well (the stunt system, which relegates them to only one 'ability score bonus' at a time, lower AC because of armor restrictions, a hard level cap of 10 for all classes, and no increase in Thac0).  Generally, I think they could work in a D&D/AD&D game.  It might not be totally balanced, but it sure could be fun!

I'm slowly getting around to working on FS again (thanks in a large part to Talysman).  Did a bit of editing last week, and a bit of prep for working up the campaign setting.  And I'll likely start posting some bits and pieces of it here on the blog.  I plan on watching a few wuxia flicks, I've been reading up on things on Wuxiapedia and other places on the web, and my grad school courses finish next week so I'll have more time to work on this stuff.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Need a Special?

I carry around a little pocket notebook most days.  It's useful in general, but over the past few months, since I started working on my Megadungeon, I've been using it most during my commutes to and from work to jot down ideas for special or interesting encounters, traps, monster combinations, or generally odd things I'd like to throw in the Megadungeon.

That little notebook is now full, and I have a new one.  So I decided to copy all of those Specials into a document here on the computer to print out and have easy access to when I get back to stocking the dungeon.  And of course, why not share?  These are just idea prompts, not every encounter will be just like this when I stock them, so if by chance anyone who plays in my Megadungeon has read them, they won't necessarily be at an advantage.  Feel free to use, modify, or mock them as you please (I fully admit some of these are stolen, and some are very cheesy).

Anyway, here are nearly 300 Specials, pulled from my little pocket notebook:

  1. X on ceiling marks the spot.
  2. Put correct wig on statue
  3. invisible and on high floating disk
  4. map/riddle on wall, “walk from X to Y without taking a step”
  5. mosaics of tarot major arcana cards on walls
  6. demon idol, waiting for blood to be spilt on it
  7. “chessmen” carved like dynastic kings
  8. tank with dangerous creature and a lever that opens a secret panel
  9. locked empty chest, work lock again once open to reveal secret panel
  10. statue of thirsty individual, empty water basin at feet
  11. 2 knight statues, talk, 1 always lies, 1 always tells the truth
  12. 3 levers: one drops (slow) crushing ceiling, one drops floor to secret safe area, one resets
  13. lever hidden in mouth of statue
  14. monster eats treasure then flees
  15. statue of St. George stabbing dragon but without spear
  16. alcove blocked by force field
  17. urn of a swarm of flies (curse)
  18. petrified (translucent) gelatinous cube blocks path (stone to flesh scroll nearby)
  19. epic poem inscribed on wall, lacuna, fill it in to reveal secret
  20. Indy Jones style golden idol on pedestal
  21. gorgon statue, breathe on IT
  22. statue of frog prince, kiss it
  23. magic beans/beanstalk (work like rope trick spell)
  24. nasty monster in a cage (shielded from spells/missiles?) with a big treasure
  25. wizard's test — proper sequence of spells cast to pass
  26. picture of monster, speak to it in its language to pass
  27. NPC in trouble has key to open a specific lock
  28. pool with negative magical effect, treasure at the bottom
  29. proper party composition (1 of each class, etc.) to pass
  30. carving of ape, riddle “What slew the beast?”
  31. Lever, 4 way, pair of buttons labeled A and B
  32. Panels with one bird, two birds, and three birds. Sling on floor.
  33. Treasure visible but ethereal
  34. illusion – junk looks like treasure, treasure looks like junk
  35. Louvre Pyramid/DaVinci Code sorta thing, good stuff in hidden lower pyramid
  36. Royal Court statues, king lacks crown, jester wears crown of thorns
  37. large movable (with some effort) blocks, spacial puzzle
  38. water drain, divert flow, floods room but washes out treasure
  39. Land of the Lost style crystal matrix
  40. Clay ducks and laughing hunting dog statues, break hunting dog
  41. various colored permanent flames around level, assemble in one room in right order
  42. nymph wants to be pleasured, will reward handsomely
  43. area with 'chaste knight' motif, naughty nymph tries to seduce, rewards those who resist
  44. sphinx guardian
  45. “Grendel” challenge – pull off a troll's arm
  46. spectral banquet – attend with decorum for reward with final course
  47. will-o-wisp or ghost whispers lead to location
  48. Poetic Fiend: match his rhymes to get reward
  49. reconsecrate defiled shrine/altar
  50. return missing cursed tiki doll
  51. “Maltese Falcon” gem hidden in cheap statuette
  52. valuable item used as totem of humanoid tribe
  53. secreted in cave at the bottom of a chasm
  54. at bottom of a lava pool (like Krull glaive)
  55. under plain, unmarked flagstone in corridor is well known treasure
  56. hidden inside tough golem, imitate its master and it will obey
  57. treasure hidden in extradimensional spot keyed to real world location
  58. teleporter leads to treasure, but doesn't lead back
  59. famous treasure belongs to Lawful creature who could be an ally if...
  60. appears in a mirror only, at certain location
  61. ride log flume to secret chamber
  62. everlasting flame burns in front of passage
  63. “You take the high road and I'll take the low road” 2 doors, slight tilt in floor (Dwarf detection)
  64. grid of holes in the wall, clue to correct pattern to fill holes nearby
  65. simple instructions written in plain sight but in incomprehensible language
  66. sword in the stone, each PC has % chance to pull it out, 1 try each ever
  67. floating upside-down on bottom of cloud of smoke on ceiling
  68. big item petrified with previous owner, owner will want to keep it if restored...
  69. inside talking treasure chest (riddle, password) is big loot
  70. basin of poison water must be drunk to get item (HP&HBP)
  71. Yule Tree – leave a present, wrapped box appears with magic item
  72. magic tree with fruit that act like potions
  73. 2 heavy identical statues in different rooms, bring together to pass
  74. loot encased in crystal stalactite
  75. inside djinni lamp – convince djinni to give it to you
  76. empty feast table with enchanted diners waiting for meal
  77. loot inside living rock statue (magma filled), he won't lie about where loot is
  78. talking hippo with a thorn in its toe
  79. white stag, appears to lead somewhere...
  80. Indy Jones style boulder trap
  81. “virgin sacrifice” on alter
  82. Kryptonian Council crystal wall room
  83. Sword of Power, Book of Knowledge, Hammer of Skill – which will you choose?
  84. Statue of elephantine beast, heart ruby
  85. chest of cursed Aztec gold
  86. locked, sealed, held door – what's inside?
  87. False map leads to monster
  88. gremlin in a box
  89. silence or light spell on victim of trap
  90. talking skull, gives poor council
  91. pool of magic water grants water breathing but takes away air breathing
  92. zero g trap
  93. false tripwire, disarming it sets real trap
  94. acid spray does no dmg but melts gear
  95. trap victim polymorphed into harmless small animal
  96. trap spoils food/water
  97. cursed shoes – switch 2 characters' minds
  98. portcullis trap to divide party
  99. treasure on pedestal in middle of lava pool
  100. inflict henchman/hireling/PC with lycanthropy to pass
  101. phantom hands pull victims ½ into floor
  102. contact poison on jewelry or gem
  103. room fills with water, answer riddle to stop it
  104. item puts geas/quest on possessor
  105. bone prison
  106. Throne of Hades – stick to seat
  107. large landmark feature, grants 1 wish or recharges spent magic, but drains 1 ability score
  108. twisted wishing well
  109. treasure dump – half of all treasure instantly teleported home, the other half... Who knows?
  110. Mine gasses, magical light safe, flames ignite
  111. civilians tied up in orc armor/helmets (Joker in Dark Knight)
  112. kobolds carrying bags of rats (rats absorb sleep spells)
  113. victim of trap turns gaseous
  114. slowly fade out (as dimensional hound)
  115. transformation – elasticity for a few days, then become doppelganger
  116. looks like ring of protection, but no AC bonus and gives save penalty (but not cursed)
  117. temporary contrariness (as ring)
  118. constantly gibbering old man latches onto back and can't be removed
  119. mark of the Frog Gods of Chaos branded onto forehead
  120. any slain PCs/hirelings animated as zombies (wights?)
  121. illusion on PCs makes them appear as orcs, gnolls, or worse
  122. Underworld Chariot appears, one PC hit must Save vs. Death or be taken along
  123. sleep gas, PCs wake up naked but unharmed
  124. normal looking water turns anything it touches to gold (Narnia)
  125. victim's ability scores switched, Str – Int, Wis – Dex, or Con – Cha
  126. monster reset button (for the level)
  127. mysterious portal to other site (weird cavern) with special treasure
  128. Serpent Man cultists, disguised as monks
  129. prisoner tormented but cursed to never escape – if helped in some minor way, gives gift
  130. normal, modern middle class family oblivious to setting
  131. 'holodeck' style illusion room
  132. Chaos Stone – worth $ but causes side effects while carried
  133. blink puppies – may latch onto Charismatic PC
  134. evil halflings riding undead serpents
  135. hapless adventuring party following PCs for 'sloppy seconds' on treasure
  136. devil swine information broker
  137. deities “leader board” Who's winning the Law/Chaos war?
  138. Spiderdragons (Wizards, Warriors & You)
  139. Mos Eisley Cantina/Cave Bar (a location here in Busan)
  140. recently unearthed mass grave
  141. Little Sisters of Eluria (S. King)
  142. Kingdom of the Spiders (Shatner)
  143. Golden Axe Chicken Dragon riders
  144. “Pit of Kharkhoom” style sacrificial pit with beastie
  145. einherjar style eternal battleground
  146. undersea pirates
  147. fire-breathing dungeon chickens (thanks, Jeff Rients)
  148. golden calf living statue
  149. Red Skeleton (Castlevania)
  150. Sleestak & talking skull shrine
  151. trolls playing guillotine game
  152. Fantastic Saurian Combat! (Verne)
  153. talking furniture/dungeon features
  154. giant venus flytrap
  155. sage & guards/entourage doing research
  156. unicorn trapped in crystal
  157. halflings selling bad shrooms
  158. 13 cowardly dwarves looking for a warrior, hero or burglar to get their stash back
  159. Pit of Despair type torture chamber, dead PC may be found here, alive and weak
  160. witches brew potions – for a price
  161. fishing spot – chance to catch wish-granting fish
  162. dungeon brewery – serves Cantina/Cave Bar, etc.
  163. Monstrous Seraglio – elves, nymphs, dryads, etc. Whose?
  164. Judgment of Paris type trap
  165. Frog Prince/Bog Beast type situation
  166. unhappy polymorph other victim (Dungeon of Dread)
  167. goblin festival around giant phallic symbol
  168. chalice grants spell effect once per day
  169. baptismal font full of urine
  170. pixies on dragonflies (Creature Catalog)
  171. evil sentient grimoire (Army of Darkness)
  172. painting of town square – teleports party home
  173. captive slave girls – just that, no trick monsters
  174. doomsday cult worshiping evil wizard
  175. The Great and Powerful Zo
  176. wolf trainer selling dungeon wolves
  177. crucible of black flame (Masters Set)
  178. heart stones – teleport back to dungeon room where found
  179. restless spirit generator (Gauntlet)
  180. fairy circle leads to Fae Realm
  181. ancient storyteller, stories provide rumors but charm/drain youth, etc.
  182. shimmering stairway – ascends endlessly
  183. 12 shrines to the horoscope symbols
  184. hill giants celebrating Festivus
  185. ancient totem pole w/ PC's faces
  186. woman wants to be petrified (was a statue accidentally hit with stone to flesh)
  187. humanoids on a diplomatic mission
  188. specimens floating in fluid filled jars – who collected them?
  189. Monster classroom (or 12 step program)
  190. skeletons/zombies endlessly turning wheels, walking on treadmills, etc.
  191. monstrous feast hall (Beowulf style)
  192. creature vs. creature arena – watch and wager
  193. Triple Goddess barge to Avalon
  194. Charon's skiff to Hades
  195. Scyld Sceffing's funeral longship
  196. Jules Verne style Victorian explorers with SCIENCE!!!
  197. Lost Boys style vampires
  198. crystal & lava palace
  199. golden chariot is actually planar gate
  200. Mimir's Well – sacrifice to gain Wisdom
  201. Round Table – feast day? Empty? Undead?
  202. Giant's Dance with dancing giants
  203. Underworld Judges (Chinese style)
  204. whirlpool in under-lake leads to sub-level
  205. sphinx with easy riddle 'guarding' deathtrap
  206. Power Source: solar cells on walls, continual light will power electric lighting in other zones
  207. Olympians statues, sacrifice to each appropriately to pass
  208. Ali Baba style oil jars carried by golems? Gargoyles? Hide in them to gain sublevel access
  209. devil with legal office (just sign here!)
  210. cannibals' abattoir
  211. Chaos Party Headquarters (vote early, vote often!)
  212. black lotus powder den
  213. hall of skulls on display
  214. cursed orb of hypnosis
  215. cursed ring of heaviness
  216. inferno room (magically sustained normal fire fills room)
  217. cistern with underwater access tubes to other zones
  218. living rock statue herding gorgons
  219. swampy, mucky black dragon lair
  220. portal to primitive culture's village, they're praying for a savior to apear
  221. summoning pot – with right recipe AND command word, creature serves, recipe works without command word...
  222. Duplicator – copies one non-unique magic item, once per PC ever
  223. door opens upon void, another door visible if you can fly/teleport to it
  224. Chaos Casino – try your luck to get reward
  225. Hall of Indifference – ignore any threats or rewards to get real reward
  226. Court of Law – organize, clean, sort, categorize contents to get reward
  227. vampire and ghoul's feast
  228. lesser chimera – snake tail instead of dragon head
  229. alligator infested sewers
  230. Augean Stables – otyugh (of course) and buried treasure
  231. temporary magical spring, filled waterskins become random potions with 1d4+1 doses
  232. Thief and Lobbers (Gauntlet)
  233. aggressive samurai and ashigaru
  234. superhero riding wyvern
  235. goblin horde and balrog
  236. gnome or kobold spins gold into straw
  237. bullywugs w/ battle toads
  238. invincible golem, 5 diamonds in head, destroy or remove to stop it
  239. Zulus vs. Aztecs
  240. djinni home delivery – will carry loot out to your home, for a 10% comission
  241. sasquatch kidnappers
  242. heart stealing mummy
  243. tempting unicorn
  244. Wayland's Forge – use to create magic items
  245. holy relic of saint so-and-so, auto destroy any 1 undead creature
  246. express elevator to Hell, going down! (planar gate)
  247. Stairway to Heaven (planar gate)
  248. invisible stalker princesses (Lankhmar)
  249. old guru telling fortunes with stones, stones are key to puzzle elsewhere
  250. caged cricket – released it turns into monster and obeys opener
  251. enter room, all gear disappears, reappears when room left
  252. Time Master (Wizards, Warriors & You)
  253. walls of living human skin, 3” deep and bleeds when cut
  254. Bealzebub (SOTN style hanging giant corpse demon)
  255. a beautiful bunch of ripe bananas hides the deadly black tarantella
  256. moon men collecting specimens
  257. jabberwock, bandersnatch and jub-jub birds
  258. vats producing slime monsters
  259. ice caverns, torches make chunks of ceiling fall
  260. dino-riders vs. ice age animal riders
  261. League of Chaos Magicians official guild hall
  262. mummy & gnolls & manscorpion
  263. head-hunting manticore
  264. cultists summoning demon, demon kills cultists then rampages
  265. puzzle door – match heraldic crests to pass
  266. password “by the power of Greyskull”
  267. password “Snakes, why did it have to be snakes?”
  268. password “As you wish”
  269. cannibal babies attack
  270. “doctor's office” mad scientist/insane wizard type
  271. used magic item salesman
  272. guide claims to know location of $, but actually... (releases monster, trap, etc.)
  273. magic gem-setter, chance to enchant item but also chance to ruin it
  274. dwarves excavating colossal dragon bones
  275. directed teleporter – if destination name is known
  276. giants with hammers, must be defeated to pass (Golden Axe)
  277. “natives are restless” drums, increase Wandering Monster chances
  278. The Rose (Dark Tower), Lawfuls compelled to protect, Chaotics to destroy
  279. Monster Gym – train physically
  280. Monster Library – train mentally
  281. Room of Lost Socks
  282. floor tiles with various animals and monsters, step on right pattern (Zodiac, etc.) to cross
  283. Black Cauldron & Cauldron Born (Prydain)
  284. Sorceress polymorphed into harmless talking animal (like Fin Raziel in Willow)
  285. Merlin in his Crystal Cave
  286. Demonic Tutor – teaches spells for a price
  287. brand new sailing ship, but expensive to extract
  288. knee-deep water slowly saps strength/spellcasting/something
  289. water/fruit/oil of stealth, increases Thief skill % for a short time
  290. colony of giant insects with a hive mind
  291. heretical manuscript, worth big $ but harmful to Lawfuls
  292. sudoku puzzle, solve to pass
  293. blank altar – effect granted depending on alignment and who you pray/sacrifice to
  294. pair of rhymed verse, one true, one false
  295. semi-intelligent powerful creature with $, flatter it and it will drop $ (Aesop, Fox & Crow)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My dice pass the Delta Test

Delta posted about dice balance tests today, linking to an older post he did with a method to test dice here

Armed with that method, I decided to test the old 'fill in the groove with crayon' dice I got in my Basic, Expert, and Star Frontiers box sets from TSR from 84 to 86.

And they all passed as balanced dice. 

I'm actually a little surprised that they all passed.  I was sure the rounded edges/vertices or just general wear and tear would have done the deed.  Of course, a second round of testing might be in order, as a few were fairly close to the statistical border Delta mentions.  But they're all in the balanced range, even after 25+ years of use.

Good to know. 

Not that I was planning on buying any Game Science precision cut dice or anything, but just out of curiosity, I wanted to know. 

Now, some of the six-siders I picked up at the 100-yen shops in Japan might bear testing next...

A couple of monsters

Considering Gygax's love for puns, I'm sorta surprised these two monsters aren't already in D&D.  I doubt I'm the first person in nearly 40 years to think of this, but then again, I don't think I've seen either of these ideas presented before (of course, there are years and years worth of Dragon mag. which I've never read...)

Fire Fly
Armor Class: 4 (16)
Hit Dice: 2*
Move: 30 (10), Fly 150 (50)
Attacks: 1 burn
Damage: 2d4
No. Appearing: 3d6 (3d6)
Save As: Fighter 1
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: U
Alignment: Neutral
XP: 25

Fire Flies are 8-14" long giant black house flies that burn with an orange flaming aura, which illuminates an area 5' around the insect.  They are naturally immune to fire.  Fire Flies are not malicious, but they are attracted to strong scents (what humans would consider both good and bad smells), and like to land on the sources of such scents to take a taste.  When they do so, they inflict fire damage upon the target.  Fire Flies will not 'attack' every round.  When they have found a source of a strong scent, they will circle the area at a short distance, then dart in to sample the scent every few rounds (1-2 on d6).  A standard attack roll is still needed by the Fire Flies to hit a target.

Lightning Bug
Armor Class: 1 (19)
Hit Dice: 7*
Move: 60 (20), Fly 120 (40)
Attacks: 1 bite or 1 blast
Damage: 2d6 or 7d6
No. Appearing: 1d4 (1d4)
Save As: Fighter 4
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: B
Alignment: Neutral

Lightning Bugs are 10' long giant flying versions of the normal nocturnal glowing insect.  They have a phosphorescent orb on their abdomen, which lights up at irregular intervals (illuminating a 20' radius around the insect for that round).  The glow does not affect infravision.  If threatened or disturbed, Lightning Bugs can bite with their strong mandibles.  Also, three times per day they can discharge a 60' lightning bolt (7d6 damage, save for half) from their abdomen as the spell.  When the Lightning Bug is killed, its abdomen glands will continue to glow for approximately one week, similar to the glands of a Fire Beetle.  Adventurers can harvest these glands and create up to ten 'torches' from one creature.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides

Yesterday, my wife and I went to see the newest Pirates of the Caribbean movie, On Stranger Tides.  It's based on a pirate novel of the same name, just with the main characters mostly switched to the PotC characters, from what I gather.  I haven't read the novel, but I hear it's good.  Probably something I'll try to pick up soon.

The movie was really pretty good.  The previous sequel in two parts, Dead Man's Chest and At World's End, were overall disappointing.  I enjoyed watching them, but they were quite a letdown.  Trying to stretch the Davey Jones plot over two films, and trying to wrap up the Will Turner/Elizabeth Swan thing (since they'd signed on for three films) during that overall story made it too loose, especially when they were hoping to make each also work as a standalone story. 

In On Stranger Tides, Disney/Bruckheimer did what they should have done, which is just make each sequel its own self-contained story involving the same characters.  There are references to the earlier events, but without the plot-logic hoop jumping of trying to tie in the Davey Jones stuff into the otherwise self contained plot of Curse of the Black Pearl

So we've got a true sequel here, rather than an attempt to turn a stand-alone movie into a self contained trilogy, and that's a good thing.

The tone of the movie is quite different.  It's still full of swashbuckling fun, but it's not quite as humorous as the previous PotC films.  Since a lot of the humor came from playing off Jack with Will and Elizabeth (and without Pintel and Rageti), they ended up with a really more subtle humor in the film.  That didn't bother me, but if you're planning to take the kids, there's not as much silliness for them to enjoy. 

The story was pretty good.  It seems a lot like a D&D adventure in a lot of ways.  The characters are in a race to find the Fountain of Youth.  There are the Spanish, Barbossa (who's now a privateer for King George), and Blackbeard.  They have to find it, but also figure out the ritual to make it work. 

I liked it.  It was similar enough to the earlier films, but was still its own beast.  I really wish Hollywood would make more sequels like this with various properties, rather than the quest to mimic George Lucas in everything.  Anyway, don't want to spoil things, but the ending sets up another sequel, which I'd expect in a few years.

[Saw it in 2D, if anyone's wondering.  And again, I can't say the experience was lesser not having seen it in 3D, but there weren't any scenes I could think of where seeing it in 3D would have made it more spectacular.]

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Shinobi Sunday vs. Pirates

The pirates are beating out the ninja this weekend, for me at least.

Last night, we (being the Board Game Group core of myself, Alex, Josh, Steve, and Pat) got together to try out one of Steve's new games, Lords of the Spanish Main.

It was an interesting game, but the night was a bit of a bust.  One player couldn't keep his personal baggage from affecting his emotions so took too many things in game personally.  One player was insisting that we stick to the rules (especially regarding turn order) at all times while a few others were treating this as a learning experience and willing to allow mulligans.  One was really upset that the heavy negotiation the game requires was devolving into petty bickering at several points.  One was unhappy that two players were basically playing along with the Spanish "controller" player, giving advantages to that player in return for keeping near him in points, while the other two felt they needed to disrupt the "controller" to keep the game from being a runaway.

Not naming any names this time, as I usually do, because this game rubbed some of us the wrong way and I know at least one of the guys reads the blog regularly and I've sent the link to all of them to read.  (Josh, if you want to chime in, I'd appreciate if you also try to keep it impersonal).  I'm no saint.  I was one of the support the Spanish Controller until I felt I could take over (and if we hadn't stopped the game when we did, I had a good chance to take the lead for doing that--no guarantee I'd have made it or not, I may have acted prematurely there).  I also fall on the side of using the game as a learning exercise.  We played two games that we cut off quickly, but the long game still felt like getting to know the game to me, especially as for some reason I wasn't able to get the rules online.  I kept getting an error page trying to visit the game maker's homepage.

Anyway, I don't hold anything personal against the guys, but while I would like to play that game again, Steve did make a valid point that he doesn't want to play this game again with this group

In other pirates vs. ninja news, our plan is to go see the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie this afternoon or evening.  So it's a very pirate weekend.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

RIP Macho Man (1952-2011)

One of my favorite wrestlers died in a car crash.

Had front row tickets to a WWF event back in my freshman year of college ('92/'93), and got to slap the man's hand when he entered the ring.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gamma World Sample Characters

For Josh's upcoming game, I rolled up 4 sample characters to get back into the feel of 4th Ed. GW ('92).  Now, we're thinking that to save time, we should each just pick one to play.  Josh had wanted us to do this so we'd be familiar with the generation process so we could all roll up new PCs together, but Alex and I were both thinking it would be better to save time and roll up PC ahead of time.

I've done everything by random roll, no cheating (really, if they're just sample characters, what's the point in fudging?) and came up with some pretty cool characters.  They're done except for buying starting equipment.

"Pliers" McGee
Pure Strain Human Examiner 1
PS 8 (+0)  THAC Melee +0  Damage +0
DX 12 (+0)  THAC Ranged +0  Stealth +0  Base AC 10
CN 8 (+0)  Health 10, vs. radiation 12
MS 11 (+0)  Mental Defense 10
IN 16 (+2)  Use Artifacts +5  Remain Unseen +2
CH 15 (+2)  Robot Recognition 23
SN 11 (+0)  Perception +0

Hit Points: 28   AC 10  Speed 12

Mutations: None

Class Skills:
Avoid Artifact Disaster +5
Jury-Rig +3
Read Schematics +4
Repair Artifact +4

Tech Level III Took Kit 
Sniper Rifle, 14 rounds

Notes:  Yes, that's an 8 Constitution after the PSH +3 bonus.  Rolled a 5.  Examiners are useful folks, though, even if this one isn't gonna be a combat monster.

One-Eyed Johnson
Altered Human Enforcer 1

PS 15 (+2)  THAC Melee +3  Damage +3
DX 18 (+3)  THAC Ranged +4  Stealth +3  Base AC 13
CN 15 (+2)  Health 12
MS 3 (-3)  Mental Defense 7
IN 14 (+1)  Use Artifacts +1  Remain Unseen +1
CH 11 (+0)  Robot Recognition 16
SN 11 (+0)  Perception +0

Hit Points: 68   AC 13  Speed 15

Body Change (D): single eye, patches of fur, -2 Robot Recognition
Finger Vines (plant): MP 10, 2 vines, 5m long, 20cm can detach up to 10m away, PS 1, DX 5
Kinetic Absorption: MP 9, blunt damage -10, slash/pierce -5 (min. 1), 10 rounds activated
Telepathy: MP 11, range 100m unwilling, 200m willing, 5km other telepath, scan 5km for sentients
Mentally Defenseless (D): MS score becomes 3

Class Skills:
Combat Leadership +2
Makeshift Weapons/Armor +6
Size-Up Opponent +4

Equipment: none

Notes: Rolled amazing stats for this guy.  The Mental Defense score was a 14 before I rolled the Mentally Defenseless defect.  Still, this guy looks like a fun combat monster with buckets of hit points and damage reduction.

Mutant Animal (Praying Mantis) Esper 1

PS 14 (+1)  THAC Melee +1  Damage +1
DX 17 (+3)  THAC Ranged +3  Stealth +5  Base AC 17
CN 13 (+1)  Health 11, vs. radiation 13
MS 12 (+0)  Mental Defense 11
IN 10 (+0)  Use Artifacts +0  Remain Unseen +0, +2 in green vegetation
CH 15 (+2)  Robot Recognition 16
SN 16 (+2)  Perception +2

Hit Points: 49   AC 17  Speed 15

Radiating Eyes: MP 16, intensity 7 radiation attack, recharge 1pt intensity/round, head immune to radiation
Heightened Physical Attribute: Dexterity +6 (was 11)
Heightened Mental Attribute: Charisma +6 (was 9)
Duality: perform 2 actions/attacks per round, ambidextrous
Summoning: MP 10, MHAC +1, mentally call specific species, mental attack on arrival to control for 2d6 rounds
Life Leech: MP 15, MHAC +3, drain 8 hit points per round from creatures within 10m, up to 8 rounds, once per day, heal then gain temporary HP
Telekinetic Flight: MP 14, MHAC +2, Fly speed 7m as running, carry 70kg weight

Class Skills:
Hypnosis +6
Identify Mental Power +3
Photographic Memory +3
Sense Mental Powers +4

Equipment: none

Notes: Got lucky with this guy.  Rolled fairly average stats, but the two Heighten Attribute mutations help out, and I rolled twice for the 'roll two times' result for mental mutations, giving this guy a bunch.  And yeah, Zorak.

Bean Garbanzo
Sentient Plant (Brush) Scout 1

PS 18 (+3)  THAC Melee +3  Damage +3
DX 16 (+2)  THAC Ranged +2  Stealth +2  Base AC 12
CN 13 (+1)  Health 11
MS 11 (+0)  Mental Defense 10
IN 14 (+1)  Use Artifacts +1  Remain Unseen +7
CH 9 (+0)  Robot Recognition nil
SN 14 (+1)  Perception +2

Hit Points: 54   AC 12  Speed 16

Photodependent (D): 1 hour of darkness = sluggish state, -2 to all attributes, 24 hours in dark = 1d6 damage
Transfusion: MP 13, heal other plants only, 11 hit points in one round, once per person per day, take 1d4 dmg
Dissolving Juices: MP 14, acid deals 3d6+1 dmg over 1 minute, or 2 dmg per round, use once per 4 hours
Heightened Physical Attribute: Physical Strength +5 (was 13)
Oversized Limbs: Legs 70% longer, base speed +5
Shapechange: MP 16, take another plant form for up to 70 minutes, once per 4 hours

Class Skills:
Detect Ambush/Trap +4
Hunting +3
Navigate +3
Tracking +6
Wilderness Survival +4

Equipment: none

Notes: all plant mutations for this guy.  Photodependent is a nice logical defect for this guy, although he won't be doing much scouting at night.  Shapechange was a result of a 'choose one mutation' roll.  Seemed fitting to have a disguise ability like that for a scout.

Sound and fury, signifying nothing

Wow, has it almost been a week with no blog posts by yours truly?  Well, the blog-quake happened at a good time for me, I had a big paper/presentation for grad school to do over the weekend, and presented Monday night.  Now it's Wednesday morning Busan time, and I've got a few ideas for the blog.  I'll likely just write them up today at work, and schedule them for release over the next week or so. 

What's on my mind?  First, a new idea of what really delineates old school/new school games.  I know this is an old (and pointless, dead horse) debate, but Tim Brannan's "I play everything" banner, and ChicagoWiz's response to it (I assume) got me thinking about it again.  And it's probably more of a 'what I like' blog anyway than anything definitive.

Second, a meta-topic about blogs.  How does our presentation affect the way we're viewed?  I know I'm not the most serious blogger, and having video game and cereal box art as my header shows that off right away.  I'm gonna take a look around the blogosphere and give some opinions on which of the blogs I follow show off their tone.

Third, gaming related and potentially useful (so it'll happen before the other two above less useful posts) would be that I've got nearly 300 ideas for 'Saturday Night Special' encounters for the Megadungeon in my little pocket notebook.  I started transferring them to my netbook on Monday when I had an hour or so after dinner before the presentation.  When I've got them all typed up, I'll post them (warning, many are borrowed, laden with pop culture references, or just plain cheesy).

Fourth, I've got my four Gamma World (92) sample characters done as of last night.  I'll post them up here as well.  And man, I wish I could play all four of them! 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

We're here to play, right?

Disclaimer: This is not directed at anyone in particular.  But I recently joined an online PbP game on RPOL, and this situation sorta popped up to remind me how much it annoys me.

What is it with players these days, who get together to play an RPG, but then bog things down by forcing the other players and the GM to have to convince that player's character to go along on the adventure?  It sure happens quite a lot, in my experience.

The players gather, hear a report of some monsters rampaging or of huge piles of gold just lying around in some dank, nasty dungeon.  All the PCs are ready to go.  Except that one.  That one needs to be convinced eight ways from Sunday why it's worth his/her time to bother with fighting the gnolls, or why they should bother travelling to the Lands of Doom to try to find the Emerald Crown of Emperor Colwyn.  And anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour will be wasted just because that one player's got a bug up his/her ass about needing to be convinced to come.

And the other players never seem to just say, "OK, sit this one out.  We'll manage without a [class X] this time."

Have you seen The Gamers?  Remember that scene where the M-U bites it, the player rolls up a new character, and a couple scenes later in the game you get:
Magic-User: "It looks like your party could use a mage."
Fighter: "You seem trustworthy.  Get into marching order."

I've got no problems with that.

I realize a lot of people have fun getting so deep into the head of their PC that they want to evaluate every decision as the PC would.  But why oh why can't they ever create a PC whose mentality is to just get on with the show and bust some orc heads and loot some tombs?  Why is that so hard?

Zombies Ate My Neighbors!

And Blogger ate your comments.

All the comments on the previous post seem to have disappeared, and that's a shame, as there were some good comments there.

Oh well...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gamma World on the Brain

After our game last Saturday, we've been having a little discussion on Facebook about continuing to play Gamma World with Josh while he's here in Busan for the summer. 

Josh is now thinking of running the 3E modules with 4E (as in 1992 TSR 4th edition) rules.  It'll take some modification for the modules either way, but he's not super excited about the 2010 edition, as the monster section is so small.  He did mention that he's considering keeping the Alpha Mutation cards, as we all enjoy the wackiness they add.  Not sure how well all of them would play with the 1992 rules, but that's Josh's problem, not mine, thankfully!

Anyway, the choice of 1992 4E GW was because it's the version I've got on my bookshelf and have played quite a bit (although it's been a few years).  I'm bogged down in yet another paper/presentation for grad school which I should be working on instead of writing this blog right now.  I don't have time to get a hold of and look up character creation or combat basics in 3E GW.  I remember it uses the FASERIP system with the color/bar chart for task resolution, but I've only used that with a brief flirtation with TSR's Marvel Super-heroes game.  4E is good for me, as I still have a lot of its rules and systems not buried too deeply in the old brain.

So I'm looking forward to rolling up a new mutant (or maybe a PSH, which I don't think you can even play in WotC's Gamma World) and exploring more ruins and figuring out what's merely junk and what's a super awesome weapon that we can use to blast some Serfs or Hoops or the Knights of Genetic Purity.

But for now, back to that research paper. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

More Gamma World Fun

It's 1:45, I should be going to bed, but felt like throwing this up first. 

We just finished another game of Gamma World, run by Josh, using our (WotC) Gamma World characters from last time, leveled up to 5th level, but running a module made for (TSR) 3rd Edition Gamma World. 

It was pretty fun.  The module, I think it's GW6 Alpha Factor, was interesting.  It was written in a choose-your-own-adventure style format, so while it was mainly a wilderness hex crawl, at certain keyed events you'd get a video game style railroady cut-scene that took you to the next section, like it or not. 

We had a lot of fun with it, though, and we're thinking about playing some more of the modules, although Josh stated up front if we do more, we'll use pure 3rd Ed. characters, rather than trying to mix them again. 

It was a good game, so I'm hoping we get to play some more.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Gotta share this

I've got a class on Fridays, final class of the week, where there are only three students.  The directive from the Korean teacher in charge was "have them do speeches or something."  So I've been teaching it mostly as a writing class, getting them to brainstorm, write, revise, and re-write, then practice and present their speeches.

This time, one of the students wrote the following speech (uncorrected first draft):

I will tell you about monsters.  
Salamander is breathe a fire.  
Dragon too.  
mummy is steal the heart.  
Sphinx is have wing, purson head.  
bigfoot had a lot of hair.  bigfoot is kidnaper.  
chupacabra had wings.  Chupacabra eats goat.  
unicorn had horn, long neck.  unicorn tempts people.  
Ogre lives in the mountain.  ogre like wrestling.  
medusa had snakes for hair.  medusa made people into stone. 

I just wish I could play D&D with this kid.  I really think he'd dig it. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What's the most rational thing to do? Do the opposite.

So anyway, this idea from my last post likely has no legs, but I want to throw up a few numbers for comparison.  This is assuming a max of Level 14 standard (BX or Mentzer BE only).

Level 1: 0 xp, 4d6 hit dice, spells 2/1, Turn S D, Z T, G T, Wi 7, Wr 9, M 11
Level 2: 12,000 xp, 8d6 hit dice, spells 3/3/2/1, Turn S D, Z D, G D, Wi D, Wr D, M T, S T, V 7
Level 3: 200,000 xp, 9d6+3 hit dice, spells 4/4/4/3/2/1, Turn S D+, Z D, G D, Wi D, Wr D, M D, S D, V T
Level 4: 600,000 xp, 9d6+5 hit dice, spells 5/5/5/3/3/2, Turn S D+, Z D+, G D, Wi D, Wr D, M D, S D, V D

Level 1: 0 xp, 3d8 hit dice
Level 2: 8000 xp, 6d8 hit dice
Level 3: 64,000 xp, 9d8 hit dice
Level 4: 360,000 xp, 9d8+6 hit dice
Level 5: 720,000 xp, 9d8+10 hit dice

Level 1: 0 xp, 5d4 hit dice, spells 2/2/1
Level 2: 40,000 xp, 9d4+1 hit dice, spells 3/3/3/3/2
Level 3: 600,000 xp, 9d4+5 hit dice, spells 4/4/4/4/3/2

Level 1: 0 xp, 4d4 hit dice, OL 30, F/RT 25, PP 35, MS 35, HS 25, CSS 90, HN 1-3
Level 2: 9600 xp, 8d4 hit dice,  OL 65, F/RT 60, PP 65, MS 65, HS 55, CSS 94, HN 1-4
Level 3: 160,000 xp, 9d4+6 hit dice,  OL 96, F/RT 95, PP 105, MS 96, HS 90, CSS 98, HN 1-5
Level 4: 640,000 xp, 9d4+10 hit dice, OL 99, F/RT 99, PP 125, MS 99, HS 99, CSS 99, HN 1-5

Call it 'Sweet Spot' D&D.  Characters start out fairly competent, and can grow in power quite a bit, but it takes a long time to see any growth, so unlike the normal game, those who relish the 'level up' thrill won't like it.

A few things I might change around--no cap on hit dice (possibly only for Fighters), or go with AD&D die types for classes (Cleric d8, Fighter d10, M-U d4, Thief d6), and maybe giving Fighters double damage with any weapon at Level 3 and triple damage at level 5. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Rough Idea

This is something I was thinking about over the weekend.  I doubt I'll ever complete it (I don't think there would be that much demand for such a thing), but I figured it might make a good blog post.  If someone else wants to pick up this idea and run with it, feel free. 

Here it is:

One problem a lot of younger gamers have with old school D&D in particular is how fragile low level characters are.  It's a valid concern, even if my personal style is to embrace that fragility and try to make it a strength of the game play.  Others see it as a flaw, and I can understand that.

But the problem with 'new school D&D' is that in order to make the PCs sturdy at low levels, they add a lot of complexity to the rules set overall, and also end up powering up the monsters to make them challenging.  So (as I've blogged about before) you get a game where you don't really make the PCs more powerful, you only make things more complex. 

I was wondering what the implications would be of changing the Classic D&D or AD&D framework so that levels were based around the increases in Thac0/Saves for each class.  So a Fighter would have their first 3 (2 in AD&D) levels compressed into one.  You'd start with Thac0 19 and have the Fighter 1-3 saves and 3d8 hit points.  Magic-Users would start with Thac0 19, M-U 1-5 saves, 5d4 hit points, and 2/2/1 spellcasting.  Etc.

Yeah, it would be a big jump in power for the PCs.  But they'd still need to earn XP to hit the next tier mark to level up.  The down side, from what little I ran of numbers is that Clerics would outclass Fighters for hit points.  Especially if AD&D's system is used, where Fighters would only get 2d10 per 'level' while Clerics would get 4d8.  Still, Fighter advancement would be quicker (at least at first, didn't really run the numbers yet).

Anyway, the idea is that the rest of the rules wouldn't change, only the power of the PCs.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Movie Review: Thor

This afternoon my wife and I dropped our son off with his grandmother and went to watch Thor, the latest of the Marvel Comics movies leading up to the Avengers movie (in case you haven't heard--and if you're reading this blog you likely have heard--this is linked to the Iron Man movies, the Hulk, and the upcoming Captain America movie).

First off, we saw it in 2D.  I can guess that in a few places, like when characters are riding the Rainbow Bridge Bifrost, the 3D experience might have been cool, but I've gotten tired of the gimmick, so has my wife, and we decided to save the 10,000 won (roughly $10) extra it would have cost for 3D.  And it didn't hurt the experience, IMO. 

The story was interesting, although I was surprised that so much of the real action took place in Asgard rather than on Earth.  Don't want to spoil anything, but most of the real meat of the movie was stuff off Earth.  Maybe I'm jaded, but they could have made this a completely (or nearly so) sci-fantasy flick if they weren't looking to tie it into the Avengers.  In a way, though, that's a good thing.  Thor is its own movie, rather than just another tie in. 

There was some good acting in the movie, and the effects were well done, too.  Some good action scenes, and some comedy, and no big obvious plot holes.  The plot was fairly simple (not linear, but not overly complex), and overall it worked.  It's not quite as 'rock n roll' as the Iron Man movies, but then this is Thor, not Tony Stark we're talking about. 

I never read the Thor comics when I was a comics reader, but watching the movie has made me want to get a hold of some.  The sci-fantasy realms of Yggdrasil (Asgard, Jotunheim being the only two in the movie) seem like good grist for RPGs.

I give Thor a thumbs up.  If you're a comic book fan, you'll likely enjoy it...unless having black and Japanese actors play Asgardians annoys you.  If you're like that, I doubt anything I say will change your mind.