Monday, June 14, 2021


 Several weeks back, in April or early May, an acquaintance from the local English radio station* started liking my posts on Facebook about my twice-monthly West Marches games. I reached out to her, and yes, it turns out that she was interested in trying out D&D. She'd never played any RPGs before, and when I asked a few questions to see how much I'd need to explain, it seems like she hasn't really had much experience with computer RPG games either. 

We chatted via text, and I explained in fairly simple terms how RPGs play, and made a few suggestions, tried to find out what sort of character she wanted to play. 

Then when the next game session came up, she was too busy. Didn't hear from her for a while. I thought maybe she had lost interest. I did give her quite an info dump, even if I was simplifying things. 

But this past week, she contacted me again. She'd seen some 5E character sheets and a YouTube video about how to roll up a character. I assured her that the system I run is simpler than that.

She still wasn't sure about what sort of character to play, so I ended up rolling four pregens, a Human Cleric, Dwarf Fighter, Elf Magic-User, and Halfling Thief. Yep, hitting the four iconic (stereotypical) characters. Might as well start her with something easy. 

She quickly emails me back, asking if she can play a Half-Elf Ranger. And I'm like, of course! I made a few modifications to the pregens to make that PC for her, and sent it to her. 

At game time, several players were late, and she was also late. So we started the game. She finally contacted me, asking if it was too late to join. I said no, and resent the game links. She had some trouble logging into both Roll20 and Meet at the same time, but we finally got her in the game. 

And she did brilliantly. Granted, she does have some amateur acting chops. She's been in some local plays and short films in addition to her radio work. She got into character, asked good questions, had some good teamwork with the existing players, etc. And of course my usual crew is used to new people popping into our games, so that was no big deal for them. 

She sent me a message yesterday, thanking me for the game and asking if I was running again that night! I mentioned another game that I play in that is next Saturday, but she's already got plans (we'll get her in it eventually, I think). But she's on the hook for the following week when I run West Marches again. 

*Yes, I do a 1-hour radio weekly show. Yes, it's on the internet, but trust me, unless you listen to the other programs on the station, my show won't be interesting at all. Even if you do listen to the other shows, it's still not THAT interesting.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Gamma Goodness

 A few weeks ago, Tim Brannon gave a review of 1E Gamma World, or to be more specific, the PDF/POD combo from DriveThru/WotC. I got my start with a bit of GW2E that my cousin had borrowed from a friend. But since he had to return it, we never really got to play it. Oh, and I was in love with the setting from the Endless Quest book Light on Quest's Mountain (one of the better entries in the EQ series, at least as far as I've read). Later, in the early 90's, I picked up the 4e, which I've blogged about plenty before. It's my go-to version of Gamma World. 

But I'd always been curious about the first edition, so after reading Tim's post (link above), I ordered it. I got the PDF right away, of course, but only gave it a cursory skimming. The POD book arrived today. I'm always happy with DriveThru's international shipping rates. It wasn't that much. Also, thanks to everyone who purchased Chanbara. I got this with Chanbara profits. 

The book is slim, only 60 pages, and that's counting the "pull out" reference sheets and map at the back. The quality of the print is good, easy to read. It's perfect bound, so probably won't stand up to too much wear and tear at the table, if I were to run a long term dedicated GW game with it. But I'll probably mostly use it for sprinkling some GW oddness into my West Marches game (I've already got a zone of GW in there, using my 4E rules).

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Where's that Monster?

 So I'm going through my Treasures, Serpents & Ruins monster file this evening. For my own personal use, I'm free to use beholders, carrion crawlers, mind flayers, etc. But if I want to release this thing into the wild, especially if I'm hoping to make a bit of beer money from it (and no, I don't expect to make much if anything from it), I'd need to rename the WotC "product identity" monsters. 

Plenty of other games have these monsters in them, they just need to rename them. But I'm wondering how close I could get to the actual names and not get a cease and desist letter. 

For example, let's look at the beholder. Beholder is forbidden, but as far as I can tell, eye tyrant is not restricted. Observer is fine. I could easily go with either of those.

But one thing I noticed when looking through the OSE SRD the other day was that the renamed displacer beast, the warp beast, is nowhere near where I'd be looking for it. In the beholder's case, eye tyrant isn't too far away (although on the other side of the demons, devils, and dragons). If I wanted to keep the beholder in the B section, could I call it a "behold-orb"? 

Similarly, the displacer beast was based on the coeurl, so I could use that, or warp beast or something like that, but could I get away with displacer cat? Or if that's too close, disruptor beast? Could I get away with a carrion creeper? Illithid isn't mentioned as IP, but I'm betting I couldn't use that, but how about Mind Slayer?

Yuan-ti can just be serpent men, that one doesn't bother me. Never been a huge fan of that monster anyway.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Some Selective Play-Testing and Reflection

My new rules modifications for Classic D&D seem to be going well enough. Most players converted over to the new system, finding a way to more or less keep their PC the same (Don's still playing a dragonborn, a race which got axed, but did update his class from Fighter/Magic-User to Lark, and Jeff is still running the old Ranger class that gets Druid spells). Of the new Fighter (and Assassin/Paladin/Lark) combat options that have been tried out, both my younger son and Jeremy opted to go with Defense (+2 AC, +4 if attacker is giant sized) for their Fighter Combat Style (a 4th level ability), while my older son went with Cleave (like the 3E feat) and Don went with, I think, Iaijutsu (like a backstab: +4 to hit, x2 damage; but only on the first round of combat if you get initiative). 

Cleave and Iaijutsu haven't come up yet (pretty sure my son could have used Cleave last game, but we forgot about it). Defense is obviously overpowered. Not sure what I was thinking there. Obviously I was thinking of the Halfling bonus to AC vs large creatures, but +2 base was ridiculous. Even 5E's Defense ability for Fighters is only +1. I will change it. At 5th level, Jeremy's Fighter has AC 23 (I use ascending, obviously), and my younger son has AC 22 at 4th level. I'll be toning that one down a bit, and re-evaluating all of the Fighter Combat Options (a bonus ability at 4th level). 

Yesterday, Delta posted this discussion of the Fighter's ability to attack multiple low level enemies across editions.

It's interesting on its own, but since I've given my Fighter class the Sweep ability (from 2nd level) to make one attack per level vs 1HD or lower opponents in Classic (which if you haven't read Delta's thread, Frank Mentzer is commented as thinking is totally unnecessary in Classic D&D). But they also get an option to Cleave (drop an opponent to 0hp, gain a bonus attack on a nearby enemy) AND at higher levels gain multiple attacks against more powerful opponents with 1+1HD or more (2 attacks at 8th level, 3 attacks at 12th level, level cap 15th), I feel like I'm just handing out extra attacks like candy! 

Still, I've got to say the Sweep ability has been pretty useful in games so far, as it helps speed up fights with the weaklings. 

This past weekend, I ran my procedural dungeon crawl game with the boys. Their encounters skewed humanoid, so they made good use of Sweeps. First encounter with 16 bandits, and after negotiations failed, the bandits were wiped out quickly. Fire beetles and giant black widow spiders were spotted, but left alone. A group of warriors appeared, but were evaded. A Red Knight appeared (as a "special") and tried to arm wrestle the PCs (the boys' PCs legit won with good rolls)! Then they tricked a pair of white apes into opening a portcullis to allow access to a ruined castle. In the next room were (as determined by random roll) 40 orcs. They tricked the orcs and apes into fighting, leaving 29 orcs alive when the apes were finally defeated. Then they went to town, using Sweep, and the Sweep ability evened the odds, although both characters took some fairly heavy damage, even with my younger son's PC's amazing AC. In the end, all the orcs were cut down and the pair returned to town with the loot.

In my West Marches game that same evening, they finished off Quasqueton. Well, not completely finished, there were secret doors they missed, despite having a wand of secret door detection which helped. They didn't always think to use it, though. Most of the 1st level was already explored, and they had about half of the second level explored when the session started. So they put in the effort to finish it off. They encountered troglodytes (which proved to be the toughest fight of the evening!), a pair of ettins (spells rendered them ineffective), wraiths (only one level drain, Justin's PC - and just as he was about to reach the level cap for a half-elf Warlock, before the dragonborn blasted them and himself with a fireball), some ghouls, and gnolls. They avoided stirring up the bats in the giant cavern. And they finally found Zelligar's wand (Roghan's spear and armor had already been recovered). 

As for the character abilities under the new rule set, Nate has been searching for a way to make use of the Shaman (cleric subclass) ability to perform rituals, but they haven't really come up yet. The three rituals they can perform 1) allow detection of astral/ethereal creatures, 2) sanctify a small area for 24 hours, 3) allow up to four creatures suffering from poison, disease, etc. to make a new saving throw. 

The other area that's come to my attention through the game is the Paladin's Aura ability. Denis has been confused the past few sessions about it. The effects are fine, but the wording is poor. I need to rewrite the section to make it more clear.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Maybe this will work

I'm trying out an interesting arrangement for my wilderness encounter tables (mentioned in my previous post). I have a table for each terrain type: clear/grassland, forest, hills/badlands, mountains, desert/barren, swamp/marsh, jungle, river/lake, ocean, arctic, settled, city. For each table, there are five columns (six with numbering) and twelve rows. 

The columns are Animal, Human, Common Monster, Unusual Monster, Rare Monster. These are determined by a d12 roll: Animal 1-3, Human 4-5, Common 6-9, Unusual 10-11, Rare 12. A few terrain types get some adjustment to the number spread, but that's the basic. 

I haven't filled out the monsters in any of the tables yet, but I have 12 slots for each. If there aren't enough suitable creatures, I can double some up or adjust the rarity. It doesn't give quite as much variety as Mentzer's charts, but 60 creatures per terrain type should be enough for a general table. 

Oh, and these twelve tables only took up three columns of my 2-column layout, so I had room for tables for the Planes: Elemental, Ethereal/Astral, Upper, and Lower. These are arranged a bit differently, but I think it will be handy to have some random charts for planar adventures if I don't have anything worked up for a specific plane.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Wilderness Encounter Table arrangements

I'm revising wilderness encounter tables. I've recently consolidated my "regular" and "Eastern" monster lists for TSR. Treasure tables, too. And now I'm working on new wilderness encounter tables.

In the past, for Chanbara, I pretty much copied what Cook/Marsh and then Mentzer did, with a table by terrain type for monster classification, then tables for each classification broken down by terrain type. In Chanbara, I also included seasonal variation for some of them. I'm not planning to go down the seasonal variation route again, but I am considering different ways to lay this out. 

AD&D and the Creature Catalogue go the route of the big master list (d%) by terrain type. There's an advantage to this in that it allows wiggle room to set monsters as common or rare. But every monster is jammed onto one table, and they take up a lot of space. I'd like to be able to lay this out on two facing pages if possible, for convenience. 

I have a couple of other ideas for how I could do this. 

First would be to do something similar to BX/BECMI, except instead of the initial table, just break down each terrain type by monster type. So the Forest Table would have columns for Animal, Fey/Yokai, Humanoid/Giant/Oni, etc. But I'd either need to give everything equal probability of appearing, or have numbering for each column. This would probably be the most space efficient way to do it. Although I've got more categories than Cook/Marsh/Mentzer, so I'd probably want to consolidate classifications a bit more.

Second would be to divide terrain types by proximity to civilization. So each terrain type would get columns for Settled, Borderland, and Wilderness (to borrow from the Companion Set's domain management classifications). This would end up with a grab-bag of monsters on each list, but they would be more sorted into challenge levels for low, middle, and high level PCs. This one seems interesting, different, and useful, but would probably take up more space than I'm hoping for, unless each list is fairly short. 

I've got over 400 monsters in this thing. Nearly everything from BECM/RC (a few I NEVER use or just don't like removed), plus monsters and NPC types from Flying Swordsmen and Chanbara, and some extra monsters from modules, 1E, 2E, 3E, and homebrew monsters from my Beast of the Week series way back when (many of the sillier monsters -- but by no means all silly monsters -- removed, so no more Saurons running around in packs :D). Of course, many of these are "dungeon only" or planar creatures, but it still leaves me with a lot to work with, and not every monster will make the cut. 

I guess I should spend some time building prototypes of each system and see which one I like most.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021


 I mentioned this in my post the other day, and figured I'd write a dedicated post about it. 

A few weeks ago, I was checking out the NES Classic console - a mini emulation box shaped like the good old 8-bit NES. And of course that led me to similar machines for SEGA Genesis, SNES, PSX, etc. If you don't know, these come with an emulator program and pre-loaded with a selection of the "most popular" games for that system. 

Well, I've been playing emulated games for decades now, so that's nothing new to me. But the idea of having an emulation box like this with proper controllers (the touch screen emulator on my phone is less than ideal for games where that tactile sensation helps game play). 

And I came across ads for the Super Console X. It's an emulation box -- actually a smart TV box preloaded with EmuElec and lots of ROMS for a wide variety of systems, including arcade and old PC games, in addition to most home consoles. This thing even has a few systems I'd never even heard of, or had only heard of in passing and forgotten, at least. 

Yeah, of course I bought it. It was around $100, and takes up a lot less space than five or six of the officially licensed ones would. Is it legal? I'm sure it's not. I doubt the company is paying anything to any of the companies that made all these old games. And while I'm not opposed to giving these companies some more of my money, like I said, this is just a lot cheaper and more practical. And my wife was on board with it, so that's a plus. I'm pretty sure she would have said "No" to me shelling out close to $500 for all of the individual licensed devices...and they wouldn't have had all the games I'd want to play, as well.

Is it nice? Well, it's not perfect. But so far, we've been having a lot of fun with it.

Here are the boys playing some Mario Cart.

One of my old favorites was Tenchu for the PSX, which did NOT come pre-loaded, but thanks to the internet, I got Tenchu and Tenchu 2 and loaded them on. There was a third PSX Tenchu game in Japan called Shinobi Hyaku Gaisen which was made of 100 fan-created levels which I had back in the day, but I couldn't find an ISO of that one. 

I did have one or two issues with it so far. Gauntlet and Gauntlet II for MAME don't work. I need to replace the ROMs, I think. A YouTube tutorial mentioned changing the video resolution for different systems to get a better picture, but when I tried adjusting that, it messed up the screen. I managed to fix that. There may be an issue with game saves, which would make replaying RPGs like the old Gold Box D&D games (yes, they're on it) impossible. But for more casual games, like most old arcade, Atari or NES era games, or things like Mario Cart or Street Fighter II, we're good to go!