Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Adventure Writing

I'm about halfway through writing my first adventure for (the current iteration of) Chanbara.  I'm calling it Ghost Castle Hasegawa.  (Ooo, spooky font effects, it must be good!)

I didn't think any of the published OA adventures really worked for low level PCs, so I'm doing it myself.  Bonus is that I think this would be fairly easy to spruce up for publication (it's fairly sparse since it's just notes for me to run the adventure).

Image from Deviant Art
It feels good to be writing an adventure again.  And I've already noticed a few problems with the rules as written so far.  Hopefully I'll get GCH finished up this week, and be ready to recruit a few brave souls to roll up some ronin and yamabushi to explore this haunted house.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Blog Gardening

I've spent a fairly boring evening, going through my blog lists and trimming out dead, dormant, or switched to private blogs I'd been following.  I'd reached my 300 blog limit, and had to make some space. 

So far, I've gotten rid of 35 blogs.  And I only made it through the "R"s.  There are a lot of S blogs, and a ton of T blogs (all the "The..."s plus normal T names). 

Anyway, if you have a blog that has been inactive for six months or more, I may have stopped following you.  If you start blogging again, be sure to let me know.  I followed your blog the first time for a reason. 

And it was sorta sad/nostalgic to remove some of the big blogs from the OSR blog heyday, like HUGE RUINED PILE and Chgowiz's blog. 

Oh well, the march of progress continues, and there are new blogs for me to find.  And when I find them, now I can follow them.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


I've always wanted to run a Viking themed game.  One that takes place in an Ice Age, so there are lots of prehistoric mammals running around.  Anyway, with Chanbara prep underway, it won't happen any time soon.  But while digging around for maps to use with Chanbara in my old computer files, I found this gem.  Perfect for a fantasy game setting with a semi-historical feel like a vikings and mammoths game.

Old OA Adventures located

I found, in on of my old high school cardboard folders (not a trapper, but from the late 80's or early 90's none-the-less), the notes from my old OA game with the Evansville Group.  I ran this during the year I got back from a homestay/study abroad summer in Japan, during the fall/winter of 97/98.  And it's not bad.  We were using a combination of 1E and 2E AD&D books, with OA and the Complete Ninja's Handbook being my main resources.

Obviously, I was prepping the adventures after each session, so reading it now it looks like a railroad.  The adventure starts with a mission from a daimyo, but options for other things to do.  All of the follow-ups are tailored to the things my players were doing.  Still, I could use this as a base for a Chanbara playtest. 

I just need to change around a few place names to match my new setting, and adjust a few NPC/monster stats.  Not too much work.  These games were set in a fictionalized 16th Century Japan, primarily in Shizuoka prefecture where I had done my homestay. 
Temples, Fuji-san, and Sumpu Castle were in the game, tea fields were background details, there were no professional team sports, however

That, together with the OA Modules, should give me enough material for my summer play test.  Now to round up enough players!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

TSR's OA Adventure Modules

My Chanbara rules are in a playable form.  Not polished, far from being released (and I still need to finish the setting chapter).  But the rules are down.  I've got all of my work for grad school done for the semester.  Time to round up some players for a play test or five.

I'm looking at the old Oriental Adventures modules by TSR.  Most of them have a primarily Japanese theme.  I could just switch the setting to The Jade Islands (Yu Archipelago to the NE of Zhongyang Dalu), or even use Kara-Tur as the setting and just update mechanics when necessary.  It would save me considerable time and effort.

But are they worth playing?  Anyone out there have any experience with them as either a DM or a player?  A brief look through them shows they're almost all for the AD&D sweet spot of levels 5-8, if they even bother to give a level range.  Not the best for a play test, as I'd want to try out all levels of play in a short time if I can.  But if I can modify for setting and new mechanics, I'm sure I can manage to up or down the challenge level as well.  Plus, I've got a few old OA adventures from my Evansville Group days and my Yamanashi Group days that I also could use.

Finally, anyone interested in playing over G+ Hangouts?  The time would be Saturdays 9pm Korea/Japan time, 12 noon GMT, early early morning US/Canada times.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Nostalgia Re-Issued

I don't know how many of you know this, but the classic 70's/80's toy space men figures, Galaxy Laser Team, have been reissued! 
Less colorful than before, but otherwise the same.

I just ordered a set...for my son, of course...  Found the Tim Mee (same manufacturer) Cavemen set, a new set of Zombies vs. Zombie Hunters, and a set of Gundam style knockoff robots as well. 

A Korean internet retailer had just the Galaxy Laser Team for $45.  All four sets from Amazon came to about the same price (with Super Saver Shipping to my folks' house in Illinois).  Since my parents were already about to ship me some stuff, they can just throw these in and it won't cost them any extra.

And now my son and I can act out all kinds of awesome fantasy adventures across our living room!

And once I get my paper done, I may try creating stats for Star Frontiers for the aliens.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Someone should stat this guy up!

My cousin* lives in Minneapolis and is majorly into Ska.  I tend to enjoy the Ska myself, so I've been interested in his many posts on Facebook about the local Ska scene there.  He's been helping to promote this band, and I love the boxer monster fish cyclops thing on their posters. 

Someone should write this guy up as a monster or even a player race! (I'm still too busy with academia at the moment, sorry.)

And I guess if you live in the Twin Cities and like Ska, take my cousin Adam V.'s advice and check these guys out.

*actually my cousin's son, so that's what, a first cousin once removed?  He's the same age as my little sister, so I won't stand on technicalities.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

So what was I blabbering on about yesterday?

Alright, we all know how to roll up a character in TSR D&D or your favorite retro-clone/simulacrum/OSR thingie.

Roll for ability scores.
Choose a class (and race in some versions).
Buy equipment.
Record a few numbers for combat/exploration.
Choose an alignment.
Select spells (if a spellcaster).


In Flying Swordsmen, being based on Dragon Fist, which was based on 2E AD&D plus some ideas that were floating around WotC as they prepared 3E, character creation is like this:

Choose a class.
Choose a profile (if any).
Roll ability scores.
Figure out Stunt bonuses.
Select Martial Arts Maneuvers.
Select/buy equipment.
Record a few numbers for combat/exploration.
Select spells (if a spellcaster).


Of the extra steps, Stunt bonuses are simple chart lookups, but choosing a Profile and Martial Arts Maneuvers are both quite a bit more time consuming than choosing an alignment (the one that gets skipped).

Is this too heavy a form of character creation?  Would it be better if each Profile were its own class with all special abilities like martial arts maneuvers 'baked in' to each class rather than chosen carte blanche?

Because right now, Chanbara, while the mechanics are streamlined a bit, follows the Flying Swordsmen pattern.  But I'm thinking of changing both to match the good old standard D&D pattern.

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Existential Crisis!

Chanbara.  Its fate is now unknown.

Nah, don't worry, I'm not gonna stop working on it.  It's just that, after looking at the fairly simple yet evocative classes presented in Go Fer Yer Gun!, and the simple and elegant multiclass/dual class mechanic presented, I'm rethinking all the work I've done so far.

People tell me how awesome Flying Swordsmen is.  And I agree (but then, I would).  But aside from running a few sessions of it myself (being too damn busy to actually run a campaign), I don't know anyone who's tried to actually play it.  Now, whether people actually do play it or not is actually inconsequential.  I wrote the game and released the game because I loved Dragon Fist and didn't want to see it disappear. 

I do often wonder, though, what exactly is it about Flying Swordsmen that people love?  Is it the fact that I, like Chris Pramas before me, managed to get the feel of Wuxia cinema matched to D&D game play?  Is it the innovation in the mechanics necessary to do that?  Or is it just the general feel and tone of the work? 

I know Flying Swordsmen is not the sort of game where you can just roll up a replacement PC in five minutes and get back in the game after a PC death (one of the reasons, along with it fitting the tropes of many martial arts movies, that death doesn't occur at 0hp in FS).  There are fiddly bits.  Feats.  A smaller list than d20, but characters tend to get more of them.  Is this customizability what prevents people from actually playing the game?  Or is it just the fact that most people prefer "vanilla" fantasy PC options even if most games seem to have moved away from "vanilla" fantasy worlds?

Urg, this is getting longer than I thought it would be.  But I guess it's helping me sort out my own feelings.  So here's what I'm thinking about Chanbara.

A#1: scrap the Maneuvers/Tricks/Spells system (which works like Martial Arts Maneuvers in Flying Swordsmen).  Each class will just have a set of special abilities that fit the class, similar to normal D&D/AD&D.  Alternate abilities might be offered by membership in certain organizations as an optional rule.

B#2: keep the Skill Dice system (works like FS's Stunt Dice) and use that as the catch-all for crazy stunts and awesome moves in and out of combat.

C#3: separate race from class (right now the Yokai are BX/BECMI style race-as-class), and use a multi-class/dual class system like in GFYG! to create a few of the archetypes of the genre, resulting in fewer classes overall.

D#4: do the same things in an overhaul of Flying Swordsmen.

These are just thoughts at the moment.  Chanbara is complete enough to run a few playtests.  I really just need to finish working up the campaign section.  I'll try to get a few games in as it stands at the moment, then make a final decision about keeping it as it is now or converting to a simpler version that will mesh better with other D&D clones.

If I do keep it as is, I might release a small supplement of "preset" classes for use with Labyrinth Lord or Swords & Wizardry.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Great Literature as Modules

A few days ago, I snagged this spiffy pic off of G+.

The poster (sorry, forgot who, maybe Jason K?) said it was from an old Dragon Magazine.

Anyway, it made me want to make some other copies, and last night I put my subpar photo manipulation skills to work on this:
Anyone else got any classic literature they'd like to see done as a D&D module?

Maybe I should instigate a Blogger Challenge...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Goin' down in a blaze of glory!

I spent the past hour or so perusing Simon Washbourne's Go Fer Yer Gun! OSR Western RPG.  Awesome stuff.  And best yet, it's free at (link in the title there). 

The game has ten (eleven really) classes for Western themed RPGs including gunslingers, preachers, braves, scouts, mavericks and wandering monks (the optional 11th class and one I'm obviously partial to).  Hit points are generally low ("name level" is level 4), and gun damage is pretty high.  I've never played or even looked at the Boot Hill game, but having heard stories of its lethality, I can see how this game might be similar.

Anyway, I'm still working on grad school stuff (one out of three final papers completed today), so not much time to game.  And definitely not time to run a game.  But some day, I may use these rules to either run a straight up Young Guns/Fistful of Dollars/True Grit/Magnificent Seven style game,

or else mix it with Labyrinth Lord (and Stars Without Number?) for a game based on Stephen King's Dark Tower series.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What color was that wedding?

Thoroughly enjoyed The Red Wedding.  But then I've read the books.

We saw Star Trek: Into Darkness last weekend - in IMAX 3D even - and we enjoyed it.  The homages to TOS got a little too heavy there at the end.  I was both enjoying the hell out of them and groaning inside at the same time.  A few plot holes, but overall a fairly well done flick.

Oh, and we saw Iron Man 3 like over a month ago.  Damn grad school.  My son thought it was too intense.  Similarly to Star Trek, I was both impressed and disappointed in the way they handled the Mandarin.  It was a better movie than Star Trek, I think, but then I was having to answer about 100 questions a minute from a 5-year old boy for the first half, and then cradle his head when the scary flaming under the skin AIM guys were fighting Iron Man at the end.

I think Iron Man 3 has been out long enough that this isn't considered spoilerish.  At least I hope so.

Lots more movies on the horizon I hope to get to see.  And I hear Arrow is a pretty awesome show.  Want to check that out, too.  Maybe when I get these papers done...

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Crowd Source My Rogue's Gallery!

In order for me to more effectively run more Star Frontiers games for the Busan Gamers this summer, I'm gonna need a list of interesting criminals to inhabit the planet of Outer Reach. 

Want to help?  You don't even really need to have the Star Frontiers rules (although if you want to actually stat up your criminal, feel free to save me some time).  What I'm looking for are just some interesting, colorful characters that I can use as targets for bounty hunting missions, foils, street contacts, and the like.

So if you've got an idea for an outer space bad guy, let me know in the comments here or on G+.  And I'm looking for a wide range of criminals, from pickpockets and hoverbus molesters all the way up to serial killers and criminal masterminds.

And here's a sample format:

Wanted for:
Current Bounty:
Personality Quirk(s):
[Optional] Star Frontiers Alpha Dawn stats:

*The Star Frontiers races I'm using are just the Alpha Dawn set [Human, Dralasite, Vrusk, Yazirian, Sathar], but if you really want to use something from Zebulon's Guide or some wacky Star Wars alien or whatever, feel free.