Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Back on track?

Pat, Josh and myself were the only ones to show up for board games last night. Lucy and the other Korean gals were busy, Alex had to work late (as always), and Chloe canceled at the last minute.

Anyway, Josh had asked me to bring my Classic D&D stuff, and I did.

Because there were only the two players, Josh ran both his lvl 2 Magic-User Mork, and his 1st level (but with some XP) Fighter Mindy. Pat's Fighter had died fighting a bear, so he ran both his lvl 3 Cleric Sarda and a new Fighter he rolled up on the spot.

I decided to try out the "shields shall be splintered" house rule, as well as the idea that any 'special maneuvers' or 'called shots' would be handled with a normal attack roll, with the defender deciding to accept the penalty or else take normal damage, unless the attacker rolled a natural 20, as I've discussed before.

We started where we'd left them (Amy's in Ireland for a year, so we just ignored her character and assumed Pat's new Fighter had been there all along). They'd pissed off Cliodna, Queen of the Elves of the Blackwood, but still wanted to get their magic items identified. So they went to the village's blacksmith (who happened to be a Hero-Magician), hoping that he could ID their stuff and would have some magical gear for sale. [Too much 3/4E lately, I think...]

Anyway, he told them how to identify the stuff themselves. Use read magic on the scroll, sip the potion, and just open up the bag and look inside. The scroll was cursed, and I had Josh roll randomly by the book. He rolled to lose 1 magic item, and he had that ring of wishes and 2 potions of healing. Another d6 roll with a result of 1-2 would have meant the ring went bye-bye, but he rolled a 5, so a potion disappeared instead. Pat's Cleric ended up with 5 sling stones +1 (in the bag) and a potion of animal control.

As they were headed back out to confront the hobgoblins again, one of the elves stopped them and asked them to reconsider. If they did a favor to Cliodna, he assured them, she'd be happy to perform a favor for them in the future. Being typical greedy human adventurers, they didn't want favors--they wanted magic items that would help them take out the hobgoblins and kobolds on Whitebeard Mountain (and get that magic sword they'd heard rumors that the hobgoblins had).

Well, that worked, and they went back to Cliodna, explained their plan, and agreed to take out the other orc tribe plaguing the elves in exchange for some magic items (one potion or scroll for each survivor if they brought back the orc chieftain's head).

They go to the orc caves, and the first room in there's a giant horned chameleon which doesn't surprise them, but they manage to surprise. I let them know they had the options of getting a free round of attacks, or just sneaking by without it even noticing them. They eventually decided to try to lure it closer, then try a sleep spell, running when that didn't work. They came back and put a sling stone through its eye using the called shot house rule, then ran away again. About this time, I reminded them that they had a potion of animal control.

Pat's Cleric downed it, and with the help of the giant lizard, and throwing severed orc heads around in strange doorways (also avoiding a trap by sheer dumb luck--2 in 6 chance to dump anyone passing over into a pit, but no luck for my dice...) they cleared out the orcs just one turn before the potion wore off. When they got to the chieftain's throne room the lizard was on its last legs, and they were out of spells and sorta wounded. Josh had Mork use a wish to restore the party to full strength (hit points and spells memorized) and I allowed it (having discussed how greedy or metagame wishes tend to backfire, while altruistic wishes with in-game intentions tend to be allowed, at least by me).

With that, the lizard and a sleep spell took out most of the orcs. Two lost morale finally at the end, so there was one captive (the lizard ate one surrendering orc at the PC's command). They found the trade goods that had been stolen, as well as a box of gems, and took the gems, prisoner and chieftain's head back to Cliodna (who sent people to recover the trade goods).

No PC deaths, clever play especially by Josh, although Pat also had some good ideas, a bunch of dead orcs, and a nice treasure netted them an even 8000xp. Divided 4 ways, and that was not only just enough for the new Fighter to level, but put the other 3 characters over the top as well. So now Sarda is 4th level and Mork is 3rd level, meaning they each get 2nd level spells. Josh thought about it a lot and chose ESP, as it's good for dungeoneering and scouting.

They were rewarded by Cliodna with their choice of potion or scroll. Pat's Fighter got a potion of water breathing, and his Cleric got a scroll of snake charm. Josh's Fighter got a scroll of protection from undead, and his Magic-User got a 'special' scroll (using the borrowed Holmes idea) that turned out to be a scroll of petrification (rolled on the wands table).

Only one special attack was attempted (Pat put out the lizard's eye before it was controlled by the potion), but Josh's Fighter went through about 5 shields (replacing his lost shields with orc shields whenever a combat was finished). I'm liking both of those rules, even though we didn't get much chance to try out the special attacks one.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Oriental Accents -- Three Kingdoms

This will hopefully become a semi-regular feature of my blog. Seems like lots of people are interested in the Asian gaming scene, but there's not much to tell. But if you're interested in adding some Asian-themed stuff (using OA or a GURPs sourcebook or whatever) to your game, you might want a little additional advice on where to turn for themes, tropes, and setting ideas. So we'll start with the book that has probably been the biggest influence in East Asia ever, Three Kingdoms (also known as Romance of the Three Kingdoms).

This is a work of historical fiction, relating the fall of the Han Dynasty around 200AD and the rise of three rival kingdoms in its place, and their eventual reunification into the next dynasty. If you're interested in the history, Wikipedia isn't a bad place to start.

Now, for the novel. It's primarily the story of Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei--three men who swear an oath to battle some bandits or die trying. They get involved with various warlords and generals due to their success against the bandits, and come to command their own forces. Others, such as primary antagonist Cao Cao (pronounced something like 'tsow tsow' not like a bovine) who is an up and coming aristocrat general, also harbor ambitions of taking the throne as the power of the Han emperors comes crashing down due to constant insurrection, machinations of palace eunuchs, and usurping 'counselors' such as the villainous Dong Zhuo.

There are lots of battles, politics, and adventure early on. Later, once the three kingdoms of Wei (ruled by Cao), Shu (ruled by Liu) and Wu (ruled by Sun) have been established de facto, there's a bit less swashbuckling adventure style, and more military/political drama. Advisor, inventor and master strategist Zhuge "Kongming" Liang becomes the main character towards the end of the book, as most of the battles revolve around him trying to prevent the Shu kingdom from being swallowed up.

There are hundreds of characters in this book, including all kinds of guys who can inspire cool Fighter types, and a few who could inspire spell-caster types or rogue types. If you're into playing a non-samurai OA Fighter, this is a great book for you to read. If you're running an OA game, it's a great source of ideas and inspiration for adventures or NPCs.

Why should you read this book?
Pretty much anyone you meet in China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam or Mongolia will at least have a passing familiarity with the major characters and themes of this work, and a large number have read it. It's similar to the Arthurian legends in Western culture in its impact.

Anyone who's been into video games is likely familiar with the matter as well. The Romance of the Three Kingdom strategy games, and the Dynasty Warriors beat-em-up games are based on the characters and battles of the book, and they're pretty popular.

Despite its length (3000 pages), it's a good read and an engaging narrative. I've actually read it three times and the initial volume (my edition is the same Moss Roberts translation as my link to Amazon above, but in 3 volumes instead of 4) a fourth time.

There's not a lot of fantasy, but there's all sorts of action. And it's the sort of action that to me at least makes the setting different from your bog-standard S&S/Middle-Earth/Arthurian D&D setting. Xiahou Dun swallowing his eye, the Peach Garden Oath, Kongming "borrowing" Cao Cao's arrows, the empty city ruse--read it and you'll see what I mean.

If you like Fighters, this book has some real badasses. Guan Yu, Lu Bu, Zhao Zilong. It's also good fodder for any sort of military campaign, even if the milieu isn't Asian.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Shake Ups Again

Well, the Board Game Group is up to its normal convolutions. We haven't had a meet up for normal games all month, and our weekend RPG thing seems to have died again. Last Saturday we had problems scheduling, so we thought we'd shift it to this Saturday (tomorrow my time). Then we had more scheduling problems and Josh decided he'd rather go play Warhammer 40K, so Pat called off the game.

Looks like Bill is also going on vacation soon, so that leaves just me, Alex and Josh (too bad Dave and Josh had a falling out and Dave won't go anywhere if Josh is coming). Alex is interested in the Maritime Campaign, but only if there are lots of others playing. With just him and Josh, he's not interested.

Josh is interested in Star Frontiers though, and suggests we play that from time to time at the Board Game Group (which we should be getting going again next Tuesday).

On the up side, at least we don't have to play any more 4E. Pat, Alex and Bill all want to pick it up again in the fall when Pat and Bill come back, but I'm really not interested. I think I saw enough of the system to know it's not what I want out of a game. So if they get together to play, I'm gonna bow out.

Disappointing, but then while I like all of these guys, our RPG styles and expectations just fail to match. We're probably best off sticking to board and card games.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What Die am I?

I am a d20

You are a d20: You are a ruthless warrior. Thinking is for idiots and nerds. Doing things is what gets things done. You are the type who stabs now, and then asks questions later. Much later. And it usually involves a priest. For you, the best defense is a good offense, and the best offense usually involves burning the whole place to the ground -- at least twice. You are a whirlwind of destruction, composed of rash decisions and reckless actions. Put briefly, you are a danger to yourself and others. Good thing nobody ever listens to you.

Take the quiz at

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ocean Encounters

If I'm gonna run an campaign set at sea, I'm gonna need better ocean/sea encounter tables than the list in the Expert Set. So I made my own. For encounters on islands or coasts, I'll use the normal terrain type tables from the book. But at sea, I need a bit more. So I made these.

Hopefully the formatting won't get too messed up when I copy/paste this:

Maritime Encounter Tables

Encounter Chances (d6)
Coastal 5-6 (5 on land, by terrain type only)
Deep Sea 6 (5 hexes away from any land)

Encounter Type (d8)
Coastal Deep Sea
1 Ship 1 Ship
2 Ship 2 Ship
3 Ship 3 Swimmer
4 Swimmer 4 Swimmer
5 Swimmer 5 Swimmer
6 Dragon 6 Dragon
7 Unusual 7 Unusual
8 Flier 8 Unusual

Ship Encounters (d12)
Coastal Deep Sea
1 Adventurers 1 Adventurers
2 Barbarians 2 Berserkers
3 Warship 3 Warship
4 Natives 4 Pirates
5 Pirates 5 Pirates
6 Pirates 6 Pirates
7 Traders 7 Traders
8 Traders 8 Traders
9 Humanoids 9 Traders
10 Humanoids 10 Humanoids
11 Ghost Ship 11 Ghost Ship
12 Personality 12 Personality

Swimmer Encounters (d12)
Coastal Deep Sea
1 Giant Octopus 1 Giant Squid
2 Giant Crab 2 Elemental, Water
3 Spiny Rockfish 3 Giant Sturgeon
4 Insect Swarm 4 Storm Giant
5 Giant Leech 5 Sea Hydra
6 Mermen 6 Mermen
7 Nixie 7 Plesiosaurus
8 Rats (shipboard) 8 Rats (shipboard)
9 Shark (any) 9 Sea Serpents
10 Sea Snake 10 Shark (any)
11 Water Termites 11 Water Termites
12 Whale (any) 12 Whale (any)

Dragon Encounters (d12)
1 Chimera
2 White Dragon
3 Black Dragon
4 Copper Dragon
5 Green Dragon
6 Blue Dragon
7 Silver Dragon
8 Red Dragon
9 Gold Dragon
10 Hydra (sea or flying)
11 Wyvern
12 nearest lair

Unusual Encounters (d12)
1 Djinni
2 Efreeti
3 Imp
4 Devil
5 Demon
6 Gelatinous Cube
7 Gray Ooze
8 Ochre Jelly
9 Shadow
10 Event
11 Event
12 Event

Fliers (d12)
1 Cockatrice
2 Elemental (Air)
3 Fairy/Pixie/Sprite
4 Gargoyle
5 Griffon
6 Harpy
7 Hippogriff
8 Manticore
9 Pegasus
10 Robber Fly
11 Roc (any)
12 Stirges

Humanoids (Ship Crew) (d12)
1 Bugbears
2 Dwarves
3 Elves
4 Gnolls
5 Gnomes
6 Goblins
7 Hobgoblins
8 Halflings
9 Kobolds
10 Lycanthropes (any)
11 Orcs
12 Serpent Men

Ghost Ships (d10)
1 Derelict
2 Skeletons
3 Skeletons, Wight captain
4 Zombies
5 Zombies, Wraith captain
6 Ghouls
7 Ghouls, Spectre captian
8 Derelict, Vampire
9 Ghost crew
10 Ghost vessel

Personality Encounters (d12)
1 Captain Hook
2 Solomon Kane
3 Jack Sparrow
4 Flying Dutchman
5 Blackbeard
6 Long John Silver
8 Sindbad
9 Captain Ahab
10 Captain Nemo
11 Horatio Hornblower
12 Belit

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Maritime Map done

Not sure if we'll be playing my Classic D&D game after all. Josh and Alex are up for it, but Bill isn't. Josh is actually more interested in Star Frontiers, and Alex still wants to run that Rifts game he's been talking about forever.

Well, anyway, my nine maps full of islands and peninsulas are complete. Here's a composite of all 9 maps.

I just printed them out, and printed a hex grid over each page (A4 paper, 36x51 hexes per page) and assume 24 miles per hex. That's a lot of sea to campaign in!

It's also a lot to stock. Luckily, I'll only be marking important monster lairs, locations of important treasures, and bases of known pirates at first. The rest will all be randomly filled in as needed during play.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Oh, crap!

This Saturday will be our final 4E session. Pat's going back to the States for the summer. That means everyone's going to be turning to me for my Maritime Campaign (although there were a few mentions of a Star Frontiers game as well...could run them through the Volturnus cycle in a pinch).

I've still got to create the final 2 maps, decide what the hell sort of macguffin I want their 'quest' to be, and then figure out where on my maps the important NPCs, monsters, and treasures are.

Oh, and come up with a new set of maritime encounter tables, including random ghost ships and pirate crews.

That's a lot of work for 2 weeks, since I'm also working on a screenplay and in the 1st month of doing a live daily radio show. Volturnus is starting to look better and better...

But the Maritime Campaign will be a lot of fun if I get it going!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Some d20 Modern Antiheroes

Tim Shorts suggested I didn't have enough antiheroes in this post. Okay, here are some antiheroes as I'd stat them in d20 Modern.

Strong Antihero*

Fast Antihero

It's all in the reflexes.

Tough Antihero

Smart Antihero

Dedicated Antihero

Charismatic Antihero

Just kidding!

Charismatic Antihero

*Picked O-Ren Ishii over the Bride because Lucy Liu is IMO hotter than Uma Thurman.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Shouldn't we be applauding things like this?

So you've probably read the report at Penny Arcade here about a group of 4E players having a special session where they used S&W to recreate the OD&D experience lite.

Shouldn't we be applauding and encouraging things like this? Isn't that what the OSR is about? Getting people to try out these games...either the originals, or the retro-clones? Showing people that they are fun games too?

Seems like most of the commentary I've read on the old school blogs recently has been ripping into the guys for their methodology (trying to reign in the lethality or whatever) or arguing semantics of the description of the visit to the frontier theme park.

I say who cares? Looks like they tried out Swords and Wizardry, made it their own, and had fun. Isn't that what we're all about?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Unique Magic Weapons series

Sitting here at work printing out what are likely the second to last drafts of my Unique Magic Weapons, Unique Magic Armors & Shields, and Unique Magic Wands, Staves and Rods documents.

Assuming I don't find any glaring omissions or typos or just plain wrong things, I'll likely finally be releasing them soon.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A not so good gaming session

Last night we played Pat's 4E game again. This time, Bill joined us. Alex had made an Elf Ranger for Bill to play, and a Dragonborn Warlord for his own second character.

We introduced the new characters to the party, then went to the 'burial ground' where we'd heard there could be cultists and Josh's character's mentor was last seen. We of course were attacked by the folks digging stuff up there, and rescued the mentor. We did a bit of town stuff, then went to the kobold lair.

That ended up being one big giant encounter where we managed to clean out the place without stopping to rest. Through a mistaken idea--Alex thought he could stop the one guy trying to run away and warn the others in the cave--we ended up fighting the guys inside right after fighting the guys outside.

After the initial onslaught inside the cave, the leaders appeared, and some of us went one way (Alex's and my characters) and some went the other (Josh and Bill's). Alex's Warlord was dropped, and while trying to get close enough to heal him, Josh's dwarf and Bill's elf were getting tossed around by the leader, who was really tough (around 100 hit points or so, I assume, and this is for level 1 guys to take on? Then again, my previous observation is that it's similar to playing normal D&D with weapons that only do 1 point at a time, so I guess that would be like 10 hit points in Classic or AD&D if that were the case...)

By the time I got the warlord healed, Josh had been making comments about how the healer should be over healing him, but just as I'm getting there, he decides to roll to see what his PC will do--fight or run. The result was run, so he had is fighter book it out of the cave.

We finally finished off the goblin leader and the kobold shaman in then end, and got some loot. But the session ended with Alex swearing that his two characters will kill Josh's when they see him again.

Anyway, I didn't really have much fun. The module (probably the system itself) seems to assume combat must happen. Alex assumes that once combat begins, it must be finished successfully by us. I was kinda bored spending most of the night just staring at the battlemat, and arguing rules minutia (which we're all still learning) or 'plausibility' issues.

Case in point, Alex cast Flaming Sphere right in the middle of a waterfall. Josh thought that would instantly snuff out the fire, Alex and I thought otherwise. We spent a long time arguing it. Pat didn't make a ruling on it, and eventually Bill looked it up in the book and found out that it's magic so it will work. Later we had a big go around about whether that flaming sphere counted as a 'ally' that the warlord could shift or not.

Alex, getting to try out new mechanics and then having lots of tactical board game challenge, loved the evening (except the last bit about Josh running away). Josh and Bill said they had fun as well. I'm the only one who didn't.

Well, only one more session of 4E before Pat goes back to the States for a few months. While he's gone I'm gonna run my Maritime Campaign idea, unless someone else steps up with another game they want to run. Alex isn't sure he wants to play in my game, and he may well not have fun. There will be times in it when the group had better run away or come up with some clever strategy to win, and Alex seems to just want to rush in Diablo style and kill everything.


Thanks to Talysman the Ur-Beatle (great screen name there) for becoming the 25th follower of "What a horrible night to have a curse..."

Thanks of course to the other 24 as well. And for everyone who's reading this without following. It's kind of amazing that so many people would care to read what I think about gaming on a regular basis.

Anyway, happy Easter, everyone (and if you don't celebrate Easter, well, hopefully you'll have a nice sunny warm spring day to enjoy)!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Clash of the Titans review

Spoiler alert, for the 3 people out there that don't know the myth of Perseus or the original CotT.

My wife and I went out to see the new Clash of the Titans tonight. We both enjoyed it, but the whole time I was watching the movie, right from the very beginning, I was sorta annoyed at the way they had to Hollywood-ize EVERYTHING about this movie. (Yes, they made the ending with a potential for a sequel...fucking Hollywood.)

Now, having studied script-writing (and being in the middle of writing one myself at the moment) I know the conventions. Character drives plot. And writers reverse engineer motivation from the events in order to make a satisfying (cathartic) experience for the movie-goer.

But for me, the Perseus myth has always primarily been about his confrontation with Medusa, not with his confrontation with the sea monster (I think the original is called "cetus" or something like that--the original borrowed the name Kraken from Scandinavian sailor legends.) That was more of a tack-on. In this movie, defeating the Kraken--and thereby Hades--is the main motivation of Perseus.

Something about that just didn't jibe with me. I didn't really like the glittery 70's type Flash Gordon special effects for the Olympians' armor either. But that's just a nit-pick.

Anyway, the action scenes were fun, the monsters looked cool (saw it in 2D, 3D might be even cooler...), and while the story was even more removed from the original myth than the 1981 original movie, it does work. My wife thought it was great, because she's never read the original myth nor seen the original CotT yet.

What I liked--Perseus struggling to reject his 'hero nature.'
What I didn't like--Perseus's main goal being to defeat the kraken.
See it if--oh, come on, you're gonna see this eventually if you're a D&D geek. If you're big into mythology, though, you may wanna see it on the cheap.