Monday, February 25, 2013

The Dragon Sandbox: Plotting

Damn, now I've thrown my mind out of samurai/ninja gear, and into my "dragon sandbox" idea.

Plotted out what I think I'd need to do to get it off the ground.

1. Use my old Maritime Campaign maps.  Here's the Maritime Campaign that barely got off the ground a few years back.

2. Name those islands and peninsulas!  At least name ones where lairs will be placed, and ports will be located.

3. Place dragon, giant, and other large monster lairs.  At least a dozen to start, maybe more.  Maps of lairs (some caves, some ruined castles or cities, some in the wilderness, etc.), denizens (the big monster & it's treasure, plus any guardian creatures/traps, and lesser beasts that dwell in conjunction with or in the shadow of the big attraction).

4. Have a list of what sorts of information/help could be found at ports, with some info specific to each port location (sages, libraries, wizards, navigators, heroes retired and active, etc.)

5. Have at least 5 "treasure maps" of varying levels of accuracy for the players to discover (and they should likely start with at least one already).

6. Make sure each lair's treasure hoard contains some Keystone Treasures (famous named items, whether gems/jewelry like Hope Diamonds, or famous magic items like in my Unique Magic Items downloads over there on the sidebar).  For hoards that are only coins, have a history of how they got there (lost pirate treasure, cultists sacrificing to the beast, ransoms paid, or whatever).

7. Make a big ol' list of rumors of all of the above.  Make sure the players start with a bunch of rumors, not just one or two (one of the problems last time was that I still hadn't developed much, so I didn't have many rumors for the players).

8. Have a few stock ruined cities, mysterious temples, etc. that could be thrown onto unstocked islands, which would provide some clues to other lairs/important locations if they are explored.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Dragon Sandbox?

Just had a thought inspired by Dean.  In a FLAILSNAILS game he was part of a party that defeated a crystal dragon and earned "billions" of gold (Dean's words, no idea what the actual tally was).  Anyway, this thought popped into my head.

A sandbox campaign where there were only dragon lairs as adventure locations.  Of course, there would be other guardian beasts, symbiotic creatures, or worshiping cultists/humanoids in some of the lairs.  But each and every place where you could earn XP through slaying creatures and taking their stuff would be a dragon's lair of one sort or another. 

Low level PCs would strive to just get in and make off with a bit of loot and their skins.  Mid-level PCs would then try to take out some of the younger/weaker dragons.  High level PCs would - well, whatever they want, pretty much.

It would likely be a harsh campaign, as the risks would be very high, but the rewards commensurate.  Could be fun.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Samurai vs. Ninja, Round 2!

Spent almost all of my break time at work today writing up the skill dice section of rules for my Chanbara expansion for Flying Swordsmen.  I also did write-ups for the four Bushi (warrior) classes and the Ninja, although I think I'll need to slightly expand the descriptions of their class special abilities.  I may also need to slightly expand the Skill Dice section, although it's likely that anyone who would download it is already a gamer so that may be unnecessary.  We'll see.

Anyway, one thing I did make sure to add was a few optional ways to run each class.  The "Samurai" class need not be a Bushido-following retainer of a feudal lord, but could be a member of the noble class trained for war, an up-and-coming ashigaru (peasant footman), or a warrior-monk without any mystical abilities (Sohei covers warrior-monks with magic in addition to combat skills).

Also, important, is that Samurai who become ronin, and Ronin who swear fealty to a new lord, DON'T change their class, lose abilities, or suffer any penalties.  It's all role-play.  Someone could even play their Samurai character as a ronin from the start, and vice-versa a Ronin class PC could be a clan or house samurai who just has a more tricksy fighting style.

Possibly confusing, but I prefer encouraging characters to re-fluff the mechanics, and also prefer not limiting events from happening because it might mechanically hinder a player's fun (like a Paladin losing his powers for ending up in a no-win situation). 

Disclaimer:  the game will not be written with "samurai vs. ninja" as the default play-style.  It will be more like "I'm Kikuchiyo from Seven Samurai.  You're Sarutobi Sasuke.  Together we fight the cast of Ge-ge-ge no Kitaro."

Miyamoto Musashi, self portrait

Monday, February 18, 2013

"I cast Cure Light Wounds on the Eagle-shark"

Saturday we played another session of the Vaults of Ur campaign.  Justin, having switched to a variant Stars Without Number system for the game, has been awarding XP on some "adventure" metric rather than monsters slain and treasures gained, and because of that, Thidrek earned his way up to 5th level after the previous session (and Venerable Carolus made 6th while Burg the Orc made 2nd).

This session, we started where we left off, with the same players/characters.  Dean played Venerable Carolus, Jeremy played Burg the Orc, Alexei played Maya Culpar the Elf, and I played Thidrek the Sleestak.  Ralex the NPC Fighter was also with us.  We had just been captured by lizard men when we ended the previous session.

After a bit of communication through gesture, we were stripped of most of our gear (weapons and armor were retained, but not shields or ammo) and taken to the lizard men's hunting camp and placed in a corral of rocks.  Some of the reptilians left with our stuff, we assumed to either their village or to use as an offering to some foul slimy reptile godling.  Karl ended up losing quite a bit of useful stuff, including 1000gp he'd picked up in adventures beyond the veil (Thidrek has a strong box back in Fort Low where he keeps his loot).  Karl was quite put out, and vowed revenge on the lizards.

We contemplated escape, but seemed to be too well guarded (and too low on hit points after losing the battle with the fire lich).  The next morning, a half-human hybrid showed up with another large group of lizard man warriors, and we spoke through him to the leaders.  When they learned that we were just trying to get to our home, they offered us safe passage through their lands IF (you know this is coming, surely) we took out a monster that preyed on their tribe.

We were tasked with slaying the eagle-shark, a beast Carolus had heard about and he knew its feathers would fetch a fair price back in Fort Low.  We were taken out into the jungle with an escort, given a shield each and our ammo, and then set loose.  After a brief debate about just high tailing it through the city back towards Low and taking our chances, we decided to at least check out the eagle-shark.  Carolus had ideas of befriending it and flying around tormenting the lizard men.  I was just curious about the beast. 

We came to an arch (I imagine it, from the way Justin described it, as like l'Arc de Triomphe or the Brandenburg Gate.  And now that I think about it, could the Golden Pyramid be the Louvre?  Is Ur based on a map of Paris?) that the beast used as a feeding ground.  After hunting for a small beast to use as bait, we made a meat-puppet and set it up in the plaza.  Waiting around for a while, the beast finally appeared.  And it was HUGE!  It had the head and tail of a shark, wings and body of an eagle, and the legs of a lion.  Karl uses Speak with Animals to try to talk to it, and it of course tried to eat him, then let out a blast of sound that caused Burg to run in fear.  The creature then scooped the Orc up in its claws and flew around trying to bite him.*  The rest of us were busy shooting at it.

Finally, Burg managed to score a hit on its wing, causing it to veer off course and slam into the arch, dropping the orc (and dropping him to negative hit points).  Karl ran out to heal Burg, and Ralex ran out to cover Karl.  Maya and I kept shooting.  The creature managed to destroy Ralex's shield, but shots from both of us archers brought the eagle-shark low.  Karl, still intent on trying to befriend the beast and use it as an instrument of revenge, proceeded (despite warnings not to from all of us) to cast Cure Light Wounds on it and ask it to join us.

He got bitten and brought down to low single digit hit points for his efforts.

So we renewed our attack, and killed it a second time.

We took some feathers and its claws.  Thidrek searched the top of the arch and found some dead men in strange armor with the eight-arrow mark of magic we've found before (like on Karl's stone fist and Caradoc's magical armor).  The lizard folk, while we were prisoner, had not liked that mark on Karl's fist, claiming it was the mark of Sky Hunters who fly around on magical sleds.  These, apparently, were Sky Hunters who fell prey to a higher level hunter.  We took their armor, and a bag of gems (well, as Justin pointed out, Thidrek was up there alone...  Hey, he's got a potion abuse problem and potions ain't cheap!) just as the lizard men came to claim our prize from us.

They took us back to their village for an Ewok style victory feast.  To be continued...

*Jeremy had rolled up a new Mutant character (complete with randomly rolled Gamma World style mutations, and Justin had asked him bluntly if it was OK to kill off Burg - Justin sure seemed to be trying!  Fun stuff.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Trying out Dragon's Delve, Monte Cook's Dungeon-a-day Dungeon

Remember when Monte Cook was creating a mega-dungeon online and asking people to subscribe to get the content?  Well, Rick was a subscriber and after sitting in on our last Vaults of Ur game, he had an itch to run his own game.

After a brief debate about whether to use 3.5 or Pathfinder, we settled on Pathfinder as the rules set.  And last Sunday evening, Dean, Jeremy and I set out to explore a bit of Dragon's Delve.

Dean was playing Little Sparrow, a Human Friar (currently Monk, intending to multiclass Cleric to get a "monk" who is more of a Gregorian or Franciscan than a Shaolin).*  Jeremy was playing Harathys, a Human Fighter (the name is recycled but the character is new).  I'm playing Wooderson, an Elf stoner (of undetermined class at the moment...).  We were joined by an NPC Elf Rogue (and kudos to Rick for playing the Rogue well as an NPC, and putting the burden on us to order him to check for traps and stuff).

From the initial chamber, there were three sets of stairs.  We chose one which the Rogue said contained a strange pool.  The room had a pair of goddess statues, the pool, and large bronze doors at the far end.  The pool contained perfectly fresh water, and a crescent moon was painted on the ceiling above.  There were also a pair of corridors leading out of the room, both headed east, at the flanks of the east wall (which also had the brass doors).  We could hear scratching sounds from the northern passage.

Well, after detecting divination magic in the pool but being unable to activate it, we tried the brass doors.  The rogue unlocked them, and we found the remains of a library.  We scooped up all the books that were intact, and one was a sort of log-book of what we assume to be the scrying pool in the previous room.  We've got a command word to activate it, and a warning that bad things happen to those who abuse the pool's power. 

We heard fluttering of bat wings approaching while searching the room, but closing the doors allowed us to avoid that encounter.

Next, we went to investigate the scratching sounds.  The corridor was a dead end with a pair of locked doors.  We could hear scratching from behind each.  The Rogue failed to unlock the first door, but with a toke of some of my special herbs, he was able to unlock the next. 

And the room contained a ghast!  Harathys heroically tried to hold the door closed while we retreated to the pool room so that more than one could attack it at once.  He didn't manage to shut the door all the way, but bought us time to get into position and avoided an attack of opportunity running back to join us.  The ghast sickened Wooderson (that's me), but the rest of the party managed to be unaffected by his stench.  Undeterred, we used good teamwork to slay the beast.

No more treasure, and pretty sure Harathys had caught some nasty disease from his wounds, we retreated back to town.  Sold all of the books except the one about the pool, donated that gold to the temple, and got our Fighter on the mend.

It was a fun session, and I'm looking forward to playing more in Rick's game!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

James M. speaks

There seems to be a divergence in the OSR now between forums, blogs, and G+.  I know I hardly ever visit any RPG related forums anymore, and I never really took the dive into G+ (too many people posting way too often for me to follow much of any conversations).  So many blog readers (assuming you're kinda like me and prefer the blog format) have likely heard that James Maliszewski of GROGNARDIA has gone off-line recently, leaving his Dwimmermount Kickstarter supporters rather upset.  Personally, I didn't back the Kickstarter, but I had just been added to James's G+ Hangouts group to play in Dwimmermount when his father grew suddenly ill. 

Anyway, I was checking G+ today, and saw that James had made a post.  If you're on G+ this is likely old news, but if you aren't on G+ or haven't checked it lately, here's what James had to say about his situation:

James Maliszewski

6:18 AM  -  Limited
As some of you know, my father fell terribly ill in the early summer of last year, exacerbating a previous medical condition, and nearly died. Though he survived, his memory and intellect did not; he succumbed to alcohol-induced dementia. He does not know who he is or why he is in a nursing home. His prognosis then was not a positive one: he would likely live but the chances of his regaining his memory were slim to none. My family and I accepted this and tried to deal with it as best we could, which, as it turns out, wasn't very well. As the shock of the near-death emergency wore off, I convinced myself that, though my father's body was still alive, he was gone and that I'd dealt with that reality.

Shortly before Christmas, I learned that my father's physical condition had worsened. He was refusing to eat or drink, was barely coherent, and spent most of his time sleeping. I was told to expect him to die soon, so I rushed to see him before he did so. I was not prepared for what I saw. For a number of reasons, I had not seen my father face to face in several years and, when I did so, he was barely recognizable to me. At that moment, I realized that I had not in fact dealt with my father's death, the imminent prospect of which, rattled me to a degree I cannot begin to articulate.

Since Christmas, my father's condition has fluctuated wildly, improving just enough that he remains alive, but not enough that he no longer in danger of death. Needless to say, this has done me little good. My father and I had what could best be called a "complex" relationship and that, coupled with both the suddenness of his decline and the uncertainty about his immediate future, has taken its toll on me, as those closest to me can attest. I find it extremely difficult to do anything during these past weeks other than simple daily tasks. This note is the first time I've written anything at my computer since late last year and I'm doing it only because I've been informed that at least a few of you are concerned about my absence.

I'm doing my best to shake myself from this torpor, but it's not an easy process. My father remains in danger of death and that weighs heavily on my thoughts. Finding the desire to do anything during this time is difficult for me. I know I will find it again, but, until I do, I see little point in forcing it. Better that I unplug and stick close to family and those friends who truly understand and empathize with my situation.

In the meantime, know that I am alive, if not well, and will poke my head above water again when I feel I am in the frame of mind to do so. Prayers and well wishes are much appreciated. If I have ever done anything to earn your charity and compassion, now is the time I need them most.
 Hopefully James won't mind me reprinting this here in full.  I just wanted to get the word out into the Blogosphere for the benefit of readers not on G+.

And James, you probably won't read this, but as I mentioned on your G+ post, I wish you the best and hope you take the time you need to get over this sad time in your life.

And for those of you who backed Dwimmermount and are worried you might never see it, well, I'd ask you to just be a little more patient.  Give James a chance.  He's a good guy, and we should be supporting him in this difficult time.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Thoughts on Magic Missile discrepancies

Magic Missile is one of the topics that gets thrown around the Dragonsfoot Classic D&D pages (and I assume the AD&D pages as well, although I rarely read them) quite often.  It's up there with demi-human level limits and alignment as far as perennial hot topics go.

Anyway, this was a waking up too early and lying in bed thought I had this morning.

Mentzer D&D has a discrepancy in the Magic Missile spell.  The actual spell description lists a duration of 1 Round.  The spell list reference sheet from the middle of the players' book lists a duration of 1 Turn.

Much discussion has been made on DF about the ability to cast MM BEFORE going into an encounter to have it "prepped" and in fact being able to cast it multiple times (and at higher levels getting multiple missiles per casting) and being able to one-hit almost any creature.

I'm not going to discuss that, but my idea was connected to the 1 Turn error (if it is indeed in error).  I was thinking of the possibility of using a 1 Turn duration (so one encounter/battle) per casting, with a missile (or missiles) being available to be shot every Round while the spell lasts, as long as no other spell is being cast that Round.

The kicker is, I'd use the Holmes (and Greyhawk expansion?) rule that the M-U needs to roll to hit with each missile - which acts like a +1 magical arrow.

It would give a bit more oomph to MM at low levels, but with a 36 level Mentzer BECM spread, would definitely be too powerful at the high levels.  Well, the rate and number of extra missiles could be slowed, a Moldvay/Cook cap of level 14 could be in place, or the extra missiles thing could just be scrapped altogether.

Anyway, it would be an interesting way to run it I think.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Long Road Home (Part 1?)

Last Saturday, we recommenced to play in Justin's Vaults of Ur campaign, since he had returned from his month-long stay in the States.  We'd left off having escaped from some caverns the party was trapped in by a magical teleportation pool, and ended up on an island far north of the areas we'd previously explored.

During the month, we'd posted a few exchanges on Facebook.  Around the island, there were reptilian humanoid footprints to the south and a jungle area, to the west were narrow humanoid footprints and far off we could see ruins of rich looking manor houses, to the north was a great wall (think King Kong) with a gatehouse that Justin said "looked like the Ghostbusters skyscraper as designed by Vigo the Carpathian" and a 100' tall Voltron sort of golem walking past it one day.  Venerable Carolus used speak with animals to converse with birds and get some information of a "big ugly" with a flying body, dangerous tail, and ugly face like Karl's somewhere to the east.

Anyway, for the session, we had Dean playing Venerable Carolus Shaman of the Great Bear (level 5), Jeremy playing Borg the Orc Pit Fighter (now level 2!), Alexei returned after a long absence as Maya Culpar the Elf from Beyond the Veil [and with her as always Garth...I mean henchmen] (also now level 2!), and myself as Thidrek the Sleestak Hero (level 4).  Rick, a potential new player (although he's also suggested starting a 3E game), sat in and listened to the game.  Ralex the NPC Fighter was still with us.  We conveniently ignored the absence of Yargrob Elderbob the Mage, since Robert again couldn't join us.

After a brief debate about heading south to what we thought would be the Zoo and parts known (Thidrek had ventured into the Zoo at level 1, and barely escaped with his life but without the rest of his party) or west to the rich seeming ruins with unknown dangers between us and home, we choose the jungles/towers to the south.  The chance to bag some rare animals to take back to Fort Low, some towers to plunder, and what we hoped to be a quick road home made the decision for us.

We crossed from the island and headed into the Jungle (insert Guns and Roses references here).  We trekked through the jungle to a long plaza, running north-south, with seven squat towers with stairs going up the outside walls in it.  The plaza was of flagstones, and extremely hot - like a shopping mall parking lot in mid-summer.  After Thidrek did a bit of scouting, finding some primitive totems or tribal markers of some sort, he returned to notice that Maya's man-at-arms was missing.  Carolus immediately set off looking for the missing warrior, using Maya's Giant Rat/Guard Dog to track the scent. 

We found the henchman in the clutches of a hypnosnake, which we managed to slay without anyone else getting hypnotized.  It didn't have any treasure, but we butchered it up good, with Borg planning to make a snake-skin loincloth, Thidrek wanting to make a Serpentor-style helmet from its noggin, etc.

Back at the plaza, we skirted the edge, thinking it too hot to venture across, and found some more warning spear/totems from the lizard men.  At Borg's suggestion, Thidrek shouted out a warning that we were ultimate badasses not to be messed with in the Sleestak dialect of the Beastman language, hoping that Thidrek's reptilian nature was close enough for them to understand.  Eventually we braved the plaza, and Karl used his Stone Fist to loosen the mortar of the bricks blocking the doorway.  Inside were no traps, just the skeleton of a sun priest with a big gray metal mace in its hands, which we of course took.  The second tower yielded the same.

The third time's the charm, right?  As Karl shook open the mortar of the third tower we approached, a fireball sprang out of the farthest tower, zipped from tower to tower and hit our party.  It didn't do too much damage, but we lost Maya's torchbearers.  Two small fire elementals emerged as the tower was wreathed in flames, but we took them down fairly quickly. 

Thidrek went up to the tower by himself (he's nimble and all that) to poke around with his 10' pole.  Nothing bad happened, so Karl came to help.  And as we knocked open the tower, another fireball came...but hit the rest of the party trying to keep their distance.  We lost Maya's rat/dog, and both Borg and Maya were down to very low hit points.  Inside the tower, the skeleton sat up, looked at us, and asked us why we were disturbing its slumber as it burst into flames. 

Karl failed to Turn the undead.  Ralex came to help fight.  Maya and Borg headed for the hills.  Thidrek, after a brief consideration of battle with the fire-lich, also ran.  Karl started to run, but Ralex was engaging it.  He fired his stone-bow then yelled for Ralex to run as well.  And we all ran straight into the waiting arms of the lizard man tribe.  That's arms as in weapons, of course.

To be continued (we hope!)...

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Satori! (Eureka!)

I just spent the last hour downloading public domain Ukiyo-e images by Kuniyoshi, Yoshitoshi, Hokusai, and a few other less well known artists.  I used quite a few of their images in Flying Swordsmen, even though they're Japanese rather than Chinese.

I blame Mao Zedong and his Cultural Revolution.  There's just more Japanese art from the 18th-19th centuries out there.

Anyway, while downloading lots of pictures of samurai, some of ninja and yamabushi and monks and what-not, there were plenty of pictures of fantastic stories of monster battles.  And since my chanbara rules will be based on D&D, I figured out where I want the rules to "go."  In other words, what will the game be about?

There are enough feudal/fantastic Japanese role-playing games with a historical or semi-historical background.  Mine will be more D&D (and I need to finally get around to checking out Ruins and Ronin, as from what I remember Mike D. posting when he was developing it, this is similar to the route he took).

Humans are at war with the bakemono/yokai.  A few (the demi-human classes) are on the side of humanity, but it will be heroes vs. monsters.  Sure, there can and should be rival daimyo, enemy ninja clans, rival duelist ronin, all that.  But the main action will be about protecting commoners from monsters.  Or more likely, as is the case in D&D, taking the fight to the monsters in their lairs, killing them, and taking their stuff.

So a much more mystical "pseudo-Japan" setting, but not the attempts at comic book horror that is the L5R Shadowlands. 

The updated Flying Swordsmen, when I finally get around to it, will also likely get a more "Wuxia Ghostbusters" tone to the rules.

Now, back to rules related thought.  How do I want to implement firearms?  Hmmm...