Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Desperate Times

Late updating the Chronicles of Ur.  It's been over a week since the game. 

This session, Justin is of course the DM.  Jeremy played Noctis (formerly Burg) the Orc.  Dean played the Ghost of Very Elder Karl.  Rick (who DMs the Pathfinder Dragon's Delve game) played Udumbara the pacifist Cleric.  I was of course Thidrek the Sleestak.

We were camped out near the subterranean river with the corpses of Karl and Ralex the Fighter.  Our other companions had slipped back across the Veil to their home universes.  We found a skiff coming down the river, containing Udumbara, the only survivor of an expedition.  We made friends with her, and used her boat to head downstream.

We discovered some unusual statuary in the river, quite old.  There was a fork in the tunnels, and we were forced to quickly choose one or the other. Reminded me of Dragon's Lair.  We went left.

 After a little while, we heard a loud rumbling - assumed it to be a waterfall ahead - and found a place to dock.  While resting, the ghost of Karl did some scouting, but couldn't go too far from his corpse.  We got scouted while resting.  We explored up a staircase a bit, and found some ner-do-well types.  After a bit of negotiation, trying to get safe passage to the surface, we were introduced (re-introduced in Noctis's case) to their leader Bolt, the leather-bondage gear clad smuggler we'd ran into shortly after the bees killed Karl.  His short, cloaked magically adept friend was nowhere to be seen (Karl seemed to sense another presence in the room). 
Justin's image for us of Bolt
We made a deal with Bolt.  He wants us to invade the Sky Hunters' temple and steal a key to the black pool portal system like the one we had that got us into the current mess we're in.  He promised us safe passage back to Fort Low if we open up the portal system and give him the key.

Thidrek is planning to double cross Bolt.  Some of his men have Spiked Circle emblems, and they've been one of our biggest enemies in Ur.  But we'll see how things play out next session.

In other news, I've got a few other posts I'd like to write up as well, but don't seem to have much time or motivation to write on the blog these days.  But I'm gonna try to get back to posting a bit more.

Friday, April 26, 2013


Still need to write up our last game in Ur...where not much happened but some stuff is about to go down.

But tonight, Jeremy's going to run some vintage TSR Marvel Super Heroes...if we can get another player on board, hopefully.  I'm in, anyway.

My hero?

Hercules Einstein, Strongest Brain in the West.

Should be fun!

Details to follow whenever I get around to them.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Space Cowboys, Gangsters of Love

Listening to Steve Miller and reading Carl Sagan has got me wanting to whip up some kind of retro-future RPG.  Space Cowboys.  Scientists.  Strange aliens.  World-hopping adventures on the wrong side of the law.  Dudes named Maurice.

Found this awesomeness here
Now, there are already Stars Without Number, Space Princess, Starships and Spacemen, X-Plorers, and probably a few other sci-fi OSR games out there.  So if I do work this up, it may end up as either a retro-clone of Star Frontiers (even though that's available for free with WotC's blessing), or else a reworking of my Presidents of the Apocalypse system to a slightly more serious space opera type game.

For now, though, when time permits I'm still plugging away at Chanbara.

Maybe I could do retro-sci-fi with the Flying Swordsmen system, but as I mentioned above, the class&level D&D/d20 field has plenty of games already.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Map from Tonight's Game

Done in Twiddla:
Spiked Circle warrens where we may be bargaining away our souls to demon-worshiping bad guys in exchange for safe passage in order to resurrect Venerable Carolus.  Thidrek hangs out with Elder Karl's sandalwood scented ghost to the side.

Friday, April 19, 2013

2E style Kits for Classic D&D made easy

This idea actually came to me in a dream, and I further fleshed out the dream idea in a semi-awake state last night, and somehow managed to actually remember it this morning.  I'd been reading a few blog posts about sub-classes and kits (or maybe it was on G+), so those obviously inspired this whole thing.

Take Classic D&D (OD&D, Holmes, BX, BECMI, RC) or any of the clones based on these (BFRPG, LL, S&W, maybe some other near-clones as well).  Most of these have seven classes: Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, Thief, Dwarf, Elf, Halfling.  Most of you should know this by now, but you never know.

A simpler way to add some of the AD&D/3E/4E style classes to the game (and I play in a group with mixed preferences, so this is an issue for me) than creating a bunch of actual classes would be to rethink a few of the past choices of the game designers and use a version of the 2E AD&D kit to add a few things and take away a few others to customize the basic seven classes.

In my dream, I was tinkering with the Cleric class, so I'll use that as my example here.  Someone wants to play a Paladin (or Avenger, Sohei, or other "church knight" type).  Traditionally, this has been done by grafting some clerical abilities onto the Fighter.  But why not just give the base Cleric class access to all weapons, at the expense of, for example, a slower Turn Undead progression and/or a truncated spell list?  Clerics fight near as well as Fighters, and with the smaller hit die the new Church Knight variant Cleric isn't as likely to overshadow the Fighter, the way a Paladin traditionally does by giving it everything the Fighter has PLUS Cleric stuff. 

Druid can be done with a simple reworking of the spell list and changing Turn Undead into Turn (or Calm) Animals.  They don't really need animal shape-shifting and secret languages and all that, do they?  And the hippie no metal armor, but metal weapons are hunky dory thing?  Drop it or keep it as you like.  It's flavorful, like the Clerics only using blunt weapons thing, but IMO unnecessary if the spell list has the right feel.  And if the Druid spell list is being built differently from the standard Cleric list, why not just make a special wild shape spell similar to the Polymorph Self spell but limited to natural animals (and maybe plants?).  Other AD&D/3E style Druid powers could likewise just be spells on the list.

Other ideas would include a Bard that is just the Elf Class without the racial abilities but with a bardic lore ability (more or less what I originally did with for the Bard, before reworking it to be more of a Cleric/Thief hybrid).  Or, as others have suggested before, Tolkien style Eldar could be made by using the Elf class as-is, except giving them Cleric spells instead of Magic-User spells.  Take the Fighter, up the hit die and restrict the armor and you have a loin-cloth Barbarian type. 

OK, so not amazingly groundbreaking ideas here, they've been around before.  The thing that was different in my dream was that I was working up a retro-clone where these were hard-coded into it, like the Profiles in Flying Swordsmen.  Or maybe it was a stand-alone supplement that could be used with any of the systems listed at the beginning of this post.  It was a dream, dreams are weird like that.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Rest Mechanic

During the flurry of postings to our Busan D&D Facebook page, and some KakaoTalk between Jeremy and myself, there was a brief discussion of whether or not old school D&D should use a "rest mechanic" similar to 4E (and apparently, I stopped checking the updates, D&D Next).

For those unfamiliar, in 4E they break 'rests' down into Short Rests and Long Rests.  In a Short Rest (5 minutes or so), characters can spend their Healing Surges (limited per day) to recover hit points.  All "encounter powers" also refresh.  In a Long Rest (8 hours), all damage is recovered, all healing surges are refreshed, and all encounter and daily powers are refreshed.

I mentioned to Jeremy that there already is a rest mechanic in Classic D&D/AD&D.  It's called going back to town.  He thought I was being snide at first, I think.  But it's that simple.  If you want to get hit points back, and spells back, when you're playing in a dungeon setting, retreating from the dungeon and returning later is the way to do that.  Sure, you can camp in the dungeon/wilderness (in Ur, we often do that).  That gets some hit points back, and all spells.  But if time is not of the essence (and unless you're running a tournament module or a Dragonlance style adventure path it may not be), then town is the smart way to do it.

Back when I ran some sessions of D&D at our old Board Game Group, that bugged the crap out of Alex.  Josh had a Fighter and a Magic-User with Sleep.  Alex had a Fighter and a Thief.  They went into the dungeon, ran into kobolds, say, and the M-U cast sleep, the Fighters took care of any unaffected, and then the Thief would look for traps, treasure.  With that one monster encounter finished, Josh would then say he wanted to go back to town to rest.  And unless they ran into undead where sleep didn't work, every time he would want to do this.  As a DM, it didn't bother me.  I was able to plausibly bring in reinforcements or think about how the kobolds or goblins would react to the loss of that patrol.  The players got to take on each combat at full strength, but at the cost of having an enemy prepared for them later on.  Alex hated it.  He was interested in covering territory and getting a sense of progress.  Josh was interested in surviving to second level. 

For me, that's the essence of the strategic/tactical play needed in RPGs.  4E style rest mechanics seem like a way for players to have their cake and eat it too.  There's no need to make the tough decision to go back to town and risk having enemies prepared for you versus pressing on and facing the unknown at less than full strength (or darn near it).  And that, Jeremy, if you're reading, is why I will not be using a modern "rest mechanic" in my games. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Another Delve, Another Dollar

After a brief discussion and several requests, I ran my Megadungeon again last night for the... can't really call us the "Busan Gamers" anymore, since Justin's up in Pohang and Rick's up near Seoul (forget exactly which city he's in, sorry Rick!), and they plus Jeremy (who is in Busan, along with me) were my players. 

I think I may have to bring back the Mao-tze Tigers group name.  One of these days, I am hoping that Jez Gordon of the Kanga-Rat Murder Society games with us again, he was a blast to play with.

Anyway, the dungeon.  The adventure.  The horrors.  The glory.

I'm really gonna keep it short, as I'm hoping one of the guys will do a proper write-up for bonus XP.  Four PCs and one NPC (Valeria the Fighter from the previous session) again went through the side entrance guarded by the "gnomosexuals" and three came out alive, with a bit of treasure to show for it, and a plan to get at a bow they assume to be magical that they can see but not reach. 

The plan's a good one, and if they can afford enough booze to keep the gnomes happy, it just might work!

Now back to your regularly scheduled blog silence and grad school readings.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

10 types of Men

A blog post title guaranteed to be misinterpreted.

I finished the first draft of the monster section's human NPC types yesterday, and there were ten different types.

Grad school is getting busy again, so I don't think I'll get to work on Chanbara for the next week or two.  We'll see.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

New Kid on the Blog

OK, he's not so new, as he's been posting his poetry over a Cro-Magnon Poetry for some time, but Tedankhamen (who occasionally played Digger the Orc in Vaults of Ur before his dissertation started kicking him around) has started up a new OSR blog, Tomb of Tedankhamen

Go check it out.  And if you know of any other recently started blogs of note, drop me a line.  Since Jeff Rients has slowed his posting, I haven't found many new sites (his blog used to be my one-stop gaming reference point).

Thursday, April 4, 2013

o-bake, yokai, kaibutsu, yurei

Working on the monster chapter of Chanbara right now, and the treasure table.  At the moment, I've taken the "human" monsters out to save space, but since my new page count goal is 96 pages, I think I might throw them back in.  That way, there will be "official" (I really detest the plea to "official"ness in RPGs) stats for yakuza, yojinbo and oniwabanshu bodyguards, ashigaru, daimyo, peasant/artisan/merchant/eta, wandering duelist ronin, and the like.

I need to work up hirelings/specialists/mercenaries pay charts like in the Expert Set now that I think about it. 

For the treasure table, I went a bit less abstract than D&D's alphabetical system.  Sorta similar to 3E/4E (please don't shudder yet), I've divided treasure categories by hit dice.  However, I've subdivided each hit die band into four: incidental, low, average, high.  And monsters don't have a listed treasure subdivision in their stat block.  When placing monsters, GMs will need to decide monster by monster if they should have treasure or not, and how much.

In other news, I reduced the number of special abilities all classes receive.  Before, every class had three or five unique (or nearly so) class abilities, plus access to Maneuvers, Tricks and/or Spells.  By 10th level, human classes had 21 Maneuvers/Tricks/Spells plus 5 class abilities, and Yokai had 22 Maneuvers/Tricks/Spells and 3 class abilities.

Class abilities are unchanged, but total Maneuvers/Tricks/Spells has been reduced to 15/16 at 10th level.  Revised Flying Swordsmen will follow suit.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Elder Karl is dead, and I don't feel so good myself

Saturday night, after a long break (games were happening every week, I was just busy with grad school stuff), Justin ran a session of Vaults of Ur.  Last time, Venerable Carolus (Elder Karl) had shuffled off his mortal coil thanks to a giant bee sting.  Ralex the Fighter (NPC, but played by Dean), Thidrek the Sleestak, and Noctis the Orc (Jeremy) were holed up in a pill-box type ruin.

Time doorways opened, and we were joined by our companion from across the Veil Maya Culpa the Elf (Alexei M.), plus two new-comers to Ur, Megasthenes the Hoplite (Dallas M) and Fang Tigerheart, Paladin of Bast (Steven Goodman), and Fang's torchbearer.

After a LONG discussion (over an hour of real time, although that also included time spent answering questions about the campaign and the two new characters and general table talk), we decided to try to use the underground passages from the pill-box to try and at least get past the killer bees.

We wandered around what was apparently a complex of the ancients, found a small amount of loot, and then stumbled across a room with three alcoves containing zombie owlbears with something like yellow mold growing on them.  We managed to kill one, and burning oil kept the others at bay.  But we had a dead end, and had to circle around another way.

We found a room that looked to have once been an important person's bedroom.  Past that, a corridor linked to the owlbear room, plus in another dead end there was a skeleton that was half embedded in the wall.  We couldn't find a secret door or anything, so had to turn back again.  Back in the VIP's room, there was a bright light, which turned out to be some sort of mobile time doorway that attacked.  Thidrek ended up on the wrong side of it, cut off from the party, who were trapped between the portal (which had grasping claws that drained Wis - Thidrek's a bit more careless than he used to be) and the owlbears.

A nasty melee ensued.  The owlbears eventually went down, but Ralex and the young torchbearer both perished.  Thidrek had tried to sneak back around, but ran into some of the ghouls.  Wounded, he knew he couldn't take on four of them himself, so after a round of melee he had to make a choice - try to run north to the exit, or back toward the portal.  Hoping to find some way around the portal or somewhere to hide, he chose the latter.  Luckily, for whatever reason the portal had retreated, and Thidrek was able to get around it and it moved toward the pursuing ghouls.

Beaten and battered, with more losses, the party retreated to a gate over the subterranean river to rest and lick their wounds.

The first day's worth of adventuring to save Karl was unsuccessful.  We've lost Ralex and we're all beat up without a cleric.  Good times!  I'm looking forward to the next session.