Monday, December 26, 2011


Sitting in Narita airport, stocking rooms in my Megadungeon.  It's as good a way as any to spend layover time.

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Unexpected Christmas Bonus

Today was the Christmas party for the kids at my kindergarten.  And as usual, after the explanation of Christmas, Quiz Game, cello performance, giving of gifts by "the Santa Brothers" (us five foreign teachers), crafts, games, face painting, and all that sort of stuff -- we had the "Christmas Market."

We'd been awarding fake dollars to the kids all month, and this was their chance to use them.  Amongst the pens, pencils, cheap toys, and Angry Birds and Rilakkuma goods, were these fine educational toys:
Not sure why Blogger put this in portrait when it's landscape on my hard drive
Scooped up six packs.  One's a stocking stuffer for my son, the rest are mine!  Mine!  MINE!!!

And yes, I've got plenty of dollar store d6s to finish out the sets.

There are also more packs at the school, but I didn't want to seem greedy.  I may grab a few more when I return to work in January after the vacation.

And that reminds me - I'm heading back to the States from the 26th to the 30th, so likely won't post anything here.  I will post about the reason for the trip though when I get back (or depending on internet access and time, while I'm there).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Woke up to find two emails, one from Daxiong, another from Lee, both about Flying Swordsmen.

Daxiong hadn't been on Deviant Art for a long time, so didn't see my message.  He finally checked it, and emailed me the picture with no watermark.  Which is good, because I'd already wasted a day trying to remove the watermark manually, and was not doing such a good job.

Lee has sent me a couple versions of cover designs he's created.  We're still working on them, but he's got some good ideas and the cover is going to look sharp.

What do you think, folks?

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy

or, Of Owlbears, Laughing Ghosts and Necromancers

We had our second Pathfinder session yesterday, and it went fairly well.  We had two new players.  Marc found out about the game through this blog, and Jesse is a friend of Greg's who was at the bookstore the last time we played, teaching another guy how to play Axis and Allies.  Marc had a Dwarf Cleric, and Jesse had an Elf Alchemist (a cool but strange class from a PF splatbook, I take it).

Our motley group returned to the mining town that is full of evil lowlifes and of course got into trouble.  Our Sorcerer Toki went to find out if our dead torchbearer (he fell down a pit trap) was really the sheriff's nephew.  He was, and the sheriff decided to shake down Toki for it.  He threatened to arrest the sorcerer if he didn't fork over 100gp.

Plato, our half-elf Thief, wanted to fence his strange black glassy rocks, and lost one to a greedy dwarf miner who he asked to appraise it.  He tried to swipe it back when the dwarf refused to return it, and earned the ire of that mining company. 

Oxide, the warforged Fighter, went to get repaired.

My Paladin, Elwood, went to see Allistan our employer, gave him copies of our maps, details of what we'd explored, handed in some historical artifacts (which he paid us for), and got our magic items identified.  That's where Allistan introduced our new cohorts, Ragnar the Dwarf and... can't remember the Elf's name, something -lad.

My Paladin took his earnings and bought some gear, and a little present for the prostitute who had shared the information he needed the night before.  She accepted the gift, and asked what I wanted.  I told her it was just a gift.  She said she had some spare time.  I took her up on her offer.  Good thing, too, otherwise I might have risked losing my abilities.

While I was carousing, everyone else decided to lay an ambush for the sheriff (who must have tons of gold if he's shaking down Toki for 100!).  They didn't want to confront him on the street, so they staked out the sheriff's office, waited until he left, and then planned to wait inside to trap or kill him, and rob him.

They couldn't get the lock open.  So they had to settle for Toki lighting the papers on his desk on fire, then running away.

We finally headed back to the Cairn, and used the colored lanterns to open the way to the real tomb.  But the next room was a trap where both my Paladin and Greg's Rogue went down to damage from the trap and a monster, and a laughing ghost told us the way was barred and only he could open the lock.  And he'd only do it if we took his bones and buried him with his family.

Of course, that wasn't simple.  We found his family's farmstead.  His family had died of a plague 30 odd years before, but their graves were freshly disturbed and empty.  And something was lurking in the farmhouse.  After another fight, we ended up with a pet owlbear cub (or is it chick?).  Oxide and Elwood want to raise it, everyone else wants to sell it.  We also found a clue as to who the grave robbers were, a local gang led by an albino half-orc named Cullen (sparkly jokes ensued).

We leveled up at this point.

Cullen and his gang were beat up from their owlbear encounter, but they outnumbered us counting their dogs, and I had a feeling they weren't a 'level appropriate' challenge, so we got the information that we needed and after a heated discussion of whether or not we should try to kill them anyway by locking them in their basement and setting it on fire (again, at risk to my Paladin status), we let them be for the time being and set off to find the necromancer they were grudgingly assisting, who had stolen the ghost's family's remains.

We ended the night by capturing the necromancer, but not without cost.  We lost our poor Alchemist whose name was too long for me to remember (I'd just been thinking of him as 'Lad until I got a chance to get used to his name).  Zombies tore his poor elven head off after he was paralyzed by a spell.

Jeremy was again surprised that my Paladin took the evil necromancer prisoner instead of slaying him.  Well, it was tactically sound.  Oxide had ran off from a fear spell, the Alchemist was dead, the Sorcerer was nauseated, the Rogue was toe-to-toe with two zombies, the Cleric with two more, and I had been hit by a wand of enervation sapping my strength.  Also, we can try to get some information from him, and if I feel his crimes merit it, we can execute him later.  Or someone else can slit his throat while I'm not there to stop them.  I'm not trying to play my Paladin in a way that will hinder everyone else, but at the same time I'm not gonna play him as some bloodthirsty unthinking ass who slays everyone he pings as evil simply because they're evil.

Besides, I think keeping him alive for now will be more fun.

The place was closing by that time, so we'll interrogate our prisoner and then bury the bones, maybe deal with the gang or maybe not, and then see if we can get more than just one more room of the dungeon explored.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Brave Sir Robin Ran Away

So, a little while back, Zak S. posted four little words that spawned as of this writing 66 comments.  He later added a Venn Diagram that spawned a few more.  He doesn't like the Bard class.

And he makes a good point, but also shows off his own blinders in his latter comments and the second post.  He seems to limit is conception of the Bard to the picture from the 2E PHB.  While any other class can be given a unique personality, he seems to think bards only conform to this image:
And Zak's right that this image is laughable.
The reason Bards suck, though, is less to do with the above image and more to do with the wide variety of ways they've been implemented, and the contrast between the mythic, legendary, and modern fictional sources.

Bards suffer from trying to cram too much stuff into one class.  In 1E, they were (as most of you know) a nearly impossible class to achieve, needing to gain several levels in Fighter, then Thief, then Druid (and needing the ability scores for all that dual classing, which were higher than the Bard's requirements IIRC).  And what did you get for all that effort?  Some Lore abilities, and Magical Music.

2E turned it into the Jack of All Trades, with a bit of Fighter, a bit of Thief, and a bit of Magic-User right from the beginning.  But as the JOAT, he is of course master of none.  Oh, and then there's the Lore and Magical Music.

3E continued in the 2E vein.  4E, I don't know, don't care.  Someone else can comment if they want.

My own houseruled Bard started out as a variant of the Classic D&D Elf class (a Fighter/Magic-User) for Human PCs, but then somehow morphed into the Cleric/Thief role.  And I'm not 100% satisfied with it, and no one has yet tried to play one at my table.

But what were bards historically?  What mythic/legendary/fictional sources do we have to build the archetype around for this class?

Historical bards were court poets and lore-keepers.  Not much record of them being warriors, rascals, or spellcasters.  There were some Victorian scholars who posited that bards were a sub-sect of the druid, serving as a sort of priest-judge in Celtic societies, but that's been discredited, I think (and I gave away the books I read that in, so I can't source it - take it with a grain of salt).  There were also historical scops (Anglo-Saxon), scalds (Norse), troubadours (French), minstrels (English), etc.  They were poets and singers of various sorts, usually telling heroic tales of the current lord or king's ancestors.  Again, basically lore-masters.  In pre-literate societies, these guys were living Kindles.

Based on this, the D&D Bard would best be a type of Specialist NPC.  Someone you hire to sing your praises and those of your illustrious ancestors (real or imagined) to increase your renown. 

In myth and legend, though, we do have lots of instances of magical music.  Amergin sings the seas calm so the Milesians can invade Ireland.  Orpheus was able to charm people and beasts with his songs and stories, and also provides the idea of the "bardic countersong" by helping the Argonauts pass the Sirens.  Taliesin was supposed to have the gift of prophecy and transformation.  Towards the end of the Volsung Saga, Gunnar plays a harp with his toes to keep poisonous snakes away.

These mythic sources could just as easily be covered by the Cleric and Magic-User classes in D&D, with just flavor from the player that the spells are created with magic-infused music instead of the traditional D&D hand-waving and flinging of bat poop.

We also have less magical legends and fictional characters of musicians who adventure.  Alan-a-Dale in the Robin Hood cycle, Sir Dagonet the Fool in the Matter of Britain, and the image of the wandering minstrel or troubadour.  These guys don't use magic, they aren't lore-masters, but they wander around and sing songs and get into trouble.

In D&D terms, again, these guys should likely just be Fighters or Thieves with a talent for singing.

Finally, we get some instances in fantasy fiction of actual bard characters, or magic accomplished through song.  Fflewddur Fflam of The Prydain Chronicles is a would-be-bard, who wanders around with his magical harp getting into trouble.  This was my first introduction to the concept of a bard, and it is one of the reasons why I like the idea of having a Bard class in the game.  Another source for music-as-magic is Tolkien, where Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, as well as the Elves, make 'magic' through song, and in the Silmarillion we learn that Middle-Earth was created by song, so music is the stuff of creation.

So, various versions of D&D throughout the years have tried to meld these distinct images together into one class.  And some people like it, some hate it.

My thoughts?  At the moment, I'm thinking my idea to make the lore-master/poet into an NPC specialist (who may follow you around and sing your praises, and provide snacks in hardship as with Brave Sir Robin's minstrels) is a good one.

Otherwise, as Zak suggested, just add some musical talent to your PC (of whatever class) and be a bard that way.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Paladin, yes, that's a Paladin

We'll be playing our next session of Brian's Pathfinder game next Sunday.  At the end of the last session, there were a few questions by the other players about how I was playing my Paladin. 

Specifically, when we were given our offer of employment by the sage, in a brothel, the sage mentioned that he had paid for the room for the night, and any of us that wished could stay.  My PC was the only one who did.  Of course, while he was enjoying himself, he also used the opportunity to gather information from the lovely ladies there.

What can I say, I'm modeling his personality on Elwood Blues and Johnny Cash, and he's a Paladin of Myrlund, who is a fantasy Cowboy.  It seemed to be an action perfectly in character, and Brian agreed with my logic. 

Now, this is not a post to get into the inherent morality or ethicality of prostitution.  What it is a post about is to show that one can be a Paladin without being a stick-in-the-mud, or an overzealous moron.  The last thing I want to do in a game is play Lawful Stupid and ruin everyone else's fun by forcing them to play along to some overly restrictive moral code.

Anyway, here's a good post I found today about how Paladins should really be played, found via the Hitting Dirtside blog.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Luddites from Beyond the Grave!

Halloween's over, but my blog has apparently just been visited by a Luddite from Beyond the Grave.  That should be good inspiration for someone's game somewhere.

In other news, tomorrow is my 38th birthday, and also the 27th anniversary of me getting the Mentzer Basic Set.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Stupid Random Shower Thought

Yesterday morning, as I was in the shower, this hit me:

In fantastically awesome (yeah, some of you are saying fantastically cheesy, that's OK, there's no accounting for taste) 80's fantasy movie Krull...

...could we possibly have an unofficial prequel to...

...Star Wars?

Well, hear me out!  Don't click that back button yet.

Think about it.  In Krull, we have this prophecy:
From the sky will come the Black Fortress. From the Fortress will come the Slayers to devour the planet of Krull. Then shall a girl of ancient name become queen...she shall choose a king...and together they shall rule the planet. And their son shall rule the galaxy.
We have Clarke's Law magic (alien technology being used on a medieval tech level world).
Yet we have an actual 'magical' power that allows the hero to move things telepathically (the glaive), resist damage (sticking his hand into lava), and control energy (the wedding flame).  More or less what the Force can do in Star Wars.

Could Palpatine be Colwyn and Lyssa's child?  Taken from them (or they fled Krull) to Naboo (not than anyone knew about Naboo, even George Lucas, back in 1983), and he eventually becomes a Dark Lord of the Sith and rules the galaxy.

Daddy could shoot fire from his hands, son could shoot lightning.

Why are you looking at the screen that way?  I told you in the title this was a stupid thought. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cover Mockup Pt. 2

Here's a version taking into account some of the suggestions my first attempt landed.  Looking at it now, I'm thinking the Chinese should actually be above the English in the title.  And I'm not sure if the crimson-ish font works or not.  Suggestions, please!

Lee B, if you're interested in making a logo and need some more input - like stroke order for writing the characters or whatnot - email me. the_boy_from_illinois [at] yahoo [dot] com

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Some art and calligraphy

Here's an inked composite image of the two kung fu dudes I presented earlier on the blog.  Toying around with coloring it in GIMP, but not too happy with the results.  I'll likely just keep it black and white.

And Lee B, here are the Chinese characters for Flying Swordsmen written big, in both thick marker and fine-tip marker.

I'm kinda excited to see what Lee might come up with for a logo. Of course, I'm going to have a professional looking cover and a very amateurish interior, but hey, you'll be getting more than what you pay for with Flying Swordsmen. Cause you'll be paying nothing and getting some pretty cool rules for making D&D into a wuxia-style game.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cover Mockup

Instead of doing the work I needed to do on my grad school final project (procrastination - I can do it tomorrow...), I was messing around with OpenOffice's version of PowerPoint, with some touchups in GIMP, and mocked up a cover for Flying Swordsmen.

Still needs some work, and I need a version of the picture without the DeviantArt watermark.  Waiting to hear from Daxiong about that.

Anyway, opinions wanted.  And don't hold back if you don't like it.  I can take criticism and it could save me from releasing a game with a crappy cover.  :D

Edit: Lee reminded me that I had meant to use the Chinese characters in the cover somewhere.  I posted them in the comments, but they're small.  Here they are bigger:


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pathfinder game begins

Just got back from the first session of our new Pathfinder campaign, run by Brian.  It went well, although the venue was a bit noisy, especially toward the end of the evening.

When we first started up, things were sounding familiar to me, and by the time we got to the dungeon and Brian mentioned the name, I realized that yes, this was indeed the adventure I'd partially played way back with the Ebisu Group in maybe 2006.  It didn't play out the same way as before, of course, and while I did remember some things, I didn't remember enough to avoid a trap or two. 

And in fact, we covered more territory tonight than we did before with the Ebisu group, at least as far as exploring the tomb dungeon.  With the Ebisu Group, we spent a lot of time in town, fixing up the shack we were using as a home base, and committing and hiding the murder of the town's sheriff (who was Evil and had it coming).  Today we spent only a modest amount of time in town, and then hit the dungeon and explored quite a bit of it.

There wasn't much combat, but what combat there was went fairly fast and easy.  We sprang some traps, gathered evidence, and solved a few puzzles.  Gained some loot along the way, too.  Next session, we'll try to get the magic items identified, fence the loot...I mean pass the historical objects on to the sage who hired us, and get a bit better equipment, then head back to explore the rest of the ruin.

No deaths, although I was down to 1 hit point due to a Use Magic Device malfunction, and Jeremy's Warforged Fighter got taken down to negatives by a water elemental who was luckily evil so I was able to smite it to its watery grave.  A heroic untrained Craft skill check by Greg's juvenile delinquent Half-Elf Rogue, aided by my Paladin and Robbie's Sorcerer, brought the Warforged back into commission, and some magical beds healed up the rest of us, more or less.

Definitely looking forward to the next session, probably in three weeks.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Stop the Presses!!!

Just checked DeviantArt.  I'd sent messages a while back begging a few artists there for cover-worthy material for Flying Swordsman.

And I just got a "Yes" from Daxiong Guo.

Who is he?  Well, read about him here, and take a look at his work here.  In addition to a ton of books and comics when he was in China, he's been working for Dark Horse and DC Comics since coming to the U.S., among other things.  Top notch artwork here.

I am really happy right now.  But the little guy's asleep (so is the wife) so no jumping and yelling with joy. 

How to play my Paladin

No, this is not about how YOU should play YOUR Paladin.  This is just some thoughts about how I'm gonna play my Paladin in Brian's PF game starting this Sunday.

When I rolled him up, I was thinking (as I mentioned before) I'd play him mostly like Elwood Blues.  Pretty much unfazed by things blowing up around him and whatnot, but dedicated to his "mission from God."  And his moral view would be sort of a Johnny Cash apocalyptic.  He's had a vision of the End Times coming, and that's what made him choose the path of a Paladin.

And last night, I was looking through the Greyhawk deities, since the game will be set there.  And among the Lawful Good ones was Murlynd, Don Kaye's old character turned into a hero-deity by Gygax after Kaye died. 

I'll be imagining the Murlynd that gives visions to my Paladin something like this.
This dude is a frickin' fantasy COWBOY.  With six-shooters and chaps and a Stetson hat and all.

Perfect deity for my Paladin to follow. 

Even if he has been ret-conned as the 'god of magical technology.'

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sketch 2, Thanksgiving, and some progress!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers.  We had a small but nice Thanksgiving dinner here with my family and my sister-in-law's family.  Big old smoked turkey drumstick sliced into bite-sized pieces for the kids, mashed potatoes, and some salad.  Simple, but delicious.

And thanks to everyone that reads this blog.  Even Woodstock.  Without you guys reading and enjoying (or trashing) what I write here, I wouldn't still be doing it.

This is the sketch I did last night, the second element for the cover of Flying Swordsmen.

I also checked a print shop near one of the universities right near where I work tonight, and they have a scanner that can scan A3 size paper.  My Zhongyang Dalu map is smaller than that, so it looks like I'll be taking my hand-drawn map there to get it scanned.  Then I just need to get the cover done, get a few more pictures from Dylan and some last minute edits.  Once all that's done, I think Flying Swordsmen will be ready for release.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Flying Swordsmen Character Sheet

Well, I think I'm happy with this version of the character sheet for Flying Swordsmen.  I may make a few minor edits before release (maybe give a bit more definition to the "Water" save title, or some adjusting of frame sizes), but this will probably be good enough for general use.

Flying Swordsmen Character Sheet

Of course it will likely be a couple more months before the game is ready for release, but I might as well put this up here now since it's pretty much done.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pencil Sketch

Drew this sketch this morning.  I've got an idea of what I'd like the cover of Flying Swordsmen to look like, and this, cleaned up a little, inked and colored, will likely be one element of the cover.  I'll be combining all of my hand-drawn elements on the computer.  It's been a long while since I've done much drawing, other than cartoons on the white board to help teach my students. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Saw Deathly Hallows Part 2 on VOD last night.  I'd been waiting for this to show up on our VOD, since I saw Part 1 a while back.  [And I thought I'd written a review of Part 1, but I just spent about half an hour reading through old blog posts because I didn't find it under my 'movie' tag.  Still can't find it.  And I've got other stuff to do today.]

Anyway, since I can't link to my thoughts on Part 1, I'll just say I think they did a good job in Part 1 of editing out the long boring parts of the book to keep the action moving more.  But the ending, while a logical place to cut off the story, really felt underwhelming to me.

So, Part 2.  The big finale.  The Battle of Hogwarts.  Lots of dramatic character deaths.  Harry and Voldemort finally face off.  How did it turn out on film?

Well, for one, watching it on my TV in a well lit room, it was often too dark to actually see anything.  Especially during the Battle of Hogwarts scenes.  Maybe we should have gone to see it in the theater after all, because what I was hoping to see was lots of the big magical battle.  But what I got were brief glimpses of cool magical battles between shots of black screen with a few shadowy movements or a bit of indistinct CGI glow.

And all the dramatic deaths didn't feel so dramatic.  I guess it might have been for ratings purposes, but there weren't that many deaths shown, and when they did show for example Fred Weasley, Lupin and Tonks, and a few others' corpses laid out, it was so brief that it wasn't really moving.

Maybe I should have watched the movie before reading the book.  I found the second half of the book to be really well done, and wrapped things up nicely.  I found myself caring for the various minor characters who died when I read the book.  In the movie, not so much.

So a bit disappointing end to a nice movie series, in my opinion.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My first Paladin

Brian, who found out about our Busan gaming group by discovering this here blog, is gonna start up a Pathfinder game two Sundays from now.  I never got a chance to play a Paladin before, and I've had a few ideas about what could make for an interesting (and hopefully not cliche) one.

So I've rolled up a Human Paladin.  I almost went with a Half-Orc, as I've got a soft spot for the ugly ones.  But I thought about the character I really wanted to play, and decided he should be a human.  Named Elwood.  On a mission from God.  Probably with a healthy helping of Johnny Cash wisdom thrown in. 

And I'm now encountering one of the things that made me want to drop 3E in any form as a DM and return to Classic D&D.

I may well be not only the only human character in the group, but the only character with a race from the standard Tolkienesque racial lineup! 

Jeremy wants to play a warforged fighter.  Robbie wants to play a kobold sorcerer (although he did consider a halfling ninja).  Greg wants to play something called a 'stonegrunt' and while I have no idea what they are exactly, I can guess.

Now, I'm not passing any value judgements.  One of the big selling points of 3E-based games is the whole openness of any race+any class, no level limits, blah blah blah.  And veteran players like to try out things they've never done before (like myself, who's never played a paladin before, although Gwydion my old Fighter considered the option before becoming a land-holder and moving up the ranks of the nobility).

I guess it's just a different perspective.  I take a stock character type and try to breathe a unique and hopefully fun personality into that archetype.  Everyone else is trying to be unique through their 'build.' 

As a DM, it used to drive me nuts.  Players always asking to be the weirdest things they could imagine, just because they could.  As a player, I'm more mellow about it.  Sure, you're some freaky Rock-beast Fighter.  Just be sure to do something with the character to make it an interesting rock-beast Fighter, rather than just the same as if he were a Dwarf, only with different numbers on the sheet.  :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

OA, OA, everywhere, and not a drop to drink

Um, OK, the literary allusion in the title is misleading.  Because it seems there are posts about Oriental Adventures related stuff all over the place lately.

Not only am I knee deep in Flying Swordsmen RPG (wuxia kung fu fantasy), but Fabian at Blade Sharp is working on a conversion of the original OA to Labyrinth Lord.

In addition, Dangerous Brian is converting horror modules to OA.

BrunoMac has some OA musings and inspiration, and a recommended movie I need to watch.

Even James of the Underdark Gazette is working on a monk! 

Seems like there were a few other OA related posts over the weekend, but I'm having trouble tracking them down now.  Anyway, looks like more people than me have OA on the mind.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It's that dreaded time...

...when grad school rears its ugly head.

Just got hit with a 'final paper' that is basically doing the prof's personal research for her.  To be expected in grad school, but damn, it's gonna be a time sink I don't need right now.

So I'm officially giving up on my goal of getting Flying Swordsmen out there by the end of the year. 

Likely not a whole lot will go up here on the blog in the next couple weeks, either.  If it's quiet around here through the Christmas season, check back in January.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Need some inspiration for a game?

Found this on Facebook this morning.  Figured it would be worth a chuckle to repost it here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Return to Yeffal's Castle

Yesterday, I got together with Jeremy and Brian again, and they ran their characters through my Megadungeon one more time.  [Read about their first delve here!]

This time out, they had a bit more of a plan.  They heard a few new rumors in town, but were still thinking they'd like to get the Eye of the Frost Troll because it's just a cool name.  The rumors said it, as well as the Wand of Skelmis, were in the Keep.  But after buying a wagon and horses to haul loot, and hiring a teamster to drive it, as well as a pair of crossbowmen to help guard the pansy Elf, they decided to return to the former bandit stronghold (a structure in the first court yard called the Lesser Donjon on my map) and investigate the stairs leading down from it.

That took them to Level 1 of the dungeon proper, and they spent some time exploring it and fighting some monsters.  They found a not so well hidden stairway that led down to not only Level 2, but deeper.  They explored some of the second level as well.  They had two near deaths, both Brian's Thief and his Dwarf were bitten by giant spiders.  The Thief happened to have a potion of antidote, and so was fine after drinking it.  The Dwarf almost missed his saving throw the third time he was bitten, but we remembered the +2 bonus to save vs. Crab Spider venom, which just put him over.  So no PC deaths again, but some close scrapes.

Both Jeremy and Brian are building up personalities for their characters through play, which is something I enjoy watching.  It's hard that each of them is running 3 PCs, though.  So far, the Dwarf and Barbarian each are getting the most 'screen time' because they're the most heavy hitters and the group has not shied away from any combats yet.  But the Thief and Elf who cower in the back most times are developing as well, and to a lesser extent so are the Cleric and Fighter.  They didn't find a whole lot of treasure (they found too much last time anyway), but they covered a lot of ground, and have some new mysteries about the dungeon to investigate.

Hopefully next time I run the Megadungeon we'll have a few more players and that should help things out.

We're gonna try to get a rotating DM schedule of some sort going.  In two weeks, Brian is offering to run a Pathfinder game (and we should be able to pull in a couple of the guys who don't want to play OSR stuff for that), and Jeremy is trying to make a Microlite/True20 cludge game that he can run as well.  So, hopefully there will be more gaming in the near future.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Decisions, decisions

Jeremy sent me a link to one of the Microlite 20 games.  It's called the Golden Edition.  And at 142 pages, it's not so micro.  Haven't looked through it enough to see if it's "lite" or not.

Anyway, it reminded me that I've had the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Characters pdf sitting on the hard drive unread.

I gave it a look yesterday.  I was impressed.  It doesn't remove all of the unnecessary cruft from AD&D (IMO, of course), but a lot that's left behind is optional.  I'd play AD&D more often if it weren't for my (possibly irrational?) despising certain wonky mechanics (percentile strength, different weapon damage vs. large creatures, 1-minute combat rounds with segments, lots of fiddly little things that don't add to the fun but add to the book-keeping).

I'm pretty seriously considering switching from my homebrewed version of Mentzer to LL+AEC.  Of course, there are some things from Classic and my own houserules I'd likely keep, but I may be switching.

The big decider was the notes on using AD&D style race+class along with Classic's race-as-class.  Well, that and the no percentile strength/damage vs. large creatures/1 minute rounds things.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Party

Here are me as a werewolf (for kindergarteners, so not too scary...) with my son, Superman!

Hope everyone had a fun Halloween!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Oh crap, it's Halloween!

In fact, here in Busan as I write this, Halloween's almost over -- 2 hours to midnight.  And I've only gotten what, three Castlevania monsters statted up this month?  That sucks. 

Oh well, I've been busy with grad school, reading the Wheel of Time books, and general father/husband stuff.

The kindergarten where I teach had its Halloween party last Friday.  I was a werewolf in the morning.  Let my beard grow, put on some face paint and rubber fangs, and wore a ripped up collared shirt over my t-shirt and jeans.  Simple yet effective.  In the afternoon, I was in the haunted house, where it was too dark to see the face paint, so I switched to a skull mask.  Much haunting was had by all.  My son was Superman for the second year in a row.  He loves that Superman outfit.  He'll likely wear it again next year.

Saturday, I spent the majority of the day, and all Sunday morning as well, finishing up The Tower of Midnight, Wheel of Time book 13.  Got it from the local English library, and had to return it Sunday, so I wanted to finish it rather than check it out for another two weeks.  I'm really liking the way Sanderson is writing these last books.  He's just less focused on the insignificant details, and he's doing a good job in wrapping up all these little sub-plots that Jordan should have wrapped up two to five volumes earlier in the series.  It's also cool to see a fantasy world going into Armageddon in a way that really feels like it's the end of the world.  I'm glad now that I finally got around to reading these, and I'm actually looking forward to the final book next spring, now!  What a difference a month makes.

And today I was working and had grad school class.  Got a bit of work done on Flying Swordsmen during my breaks at work.  Probably should have posted something here though, instead of just reading about the demise of YDIS and Vincent Baker vs. Jim Raggi.

Anyway, here's one last Castlevania monster for Halloween!

Skeleton Ape
AC: 7 (13)
HD: 4*
Move: 60 (20)
Attacks: 1 bash
Damage: 2d6
No. Appearing: 1-4 (2-8)
Save As: Fighter 4
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: E
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 125

Skeleton Apes are animated simians created to cause chaos and destruction.  They are rarely used to guard crypts, instead being used by necromancers, liches, or other evil sorts as shock troops.  Skeleton Apes typically carry a barrel of flammable materials that they toss as an initial attack.  The barrel can be thrown to a range of up to 60', and explodes in a 15' radius, dealing 3d6 damage to all in the blast.  A save vs. breath weapons reduces the damage by half.  After tossing its barrel, the skeleton ape lumbers forward into melee and clubs any opponents that come near it mercilessly until it is destroyed.  Skeleton apes are Turned as ghouls.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I gotta say, I seem to find these Castlevania monsters with erratic movement patterns or just simple annoying ways to avoid Belmont whips to be good fodder for conversion to D&D.  Well, the skeleton/zombie type monsters that just walk forward trying to kill the good vampire hunters aren't that interesting, and plain skeletons and zombies are already in D&D.  So here's another of those monsters that tends to give me (and I'm sure many of you as well) fits, the Hunchback/Igor/Fleaman!

AC: 6 (14)
HD: 1*
Move: 120 (60)
Attacks: 1 weapon
Damage: by weapon
No. Appearing: 2-16 (3-18)
Save As: Thief 1
Morale: 9
Treasure Type: A
Alignment: Chaotic

Hunchbacks, also known to some adventurers as Fleamen, are Halfling-sized humanoids with twisted deformities in their backs and powerful limbs.  Despite their small size and deformities, Hunchbacks can leap great distances, and do so with great acrobatic skill.  On any Round in which the Hunchbacks win initiative, they may leap in, strike, and leap away before their opponents can counterattack.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Poll Closing in a few hours!

Just an update to remind anyone who has a preference on the layout of Flying Swordsmen, the poll closes in a few hours.  Right now, it's a runaway for 2-column portrait.  I doubt enough people are gonna read this blog and vote for another format in the next few hours, but here's your opportunity if you'd prefer another format to let your voice be heard!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Taoist Element Saving Throws

Just a little more thought on the Taoist (Daoist) Motions, commonly called Elements for use as saving throw types for Flying Swordsmen.

Wood (Yang) - Generative: strength, flexibility, cooperation, growth, life

Fire (Yang) - Expansive: dynamism, persistence, heat, agression

Earth (balance) - Stabilizing: stability, conservation, empathy, harmony

Metal (Yin) - Contracting: rigidity, control, materialism, transformation

Water (Yin) - Conserving: stillness, intelligence, softness, fear/calm

So how to best use this in an RPG context, specifically a D&D-based context?  First was deciding which element to replace each traditional save category.  That was fairly easy.

Death/Poison/Paralysis is now Wood.  Your vitality/life force counteracts these negative forces.

Magic Wands is now Water.  This one ended up actually by default, but since there aren't magic wands in the game, there wasn't really anything for this save to do, besides 'unofficial uses' like saves vs. traps and stuff.  And in that context, your stillness/calm can save you from getting decapitated by the spinning blades or from plunging feet first into a pit trap, so it sorta makes sense.

Petrification/Polymorph is now Metal.  Your affinity for Metal prevents you from being transformed to another shape/substance against your will.

Dragon Breath is now Fire.  Your dynamic nature and persistence allow you to avoid or resist area attacks and heat (and come on, despite there being 5 basic types of dragon breath, don't we usually imagine a fiery blast of dragon breath by default?  I know I do.)

Spells is now Earth.  Your stability and harmony with nature, not to mention balance of Yin/Yang, becomes the default save vs. magic without any type, and against many unusual monster attacks.

How they work in play:

First of all, if a spell has an element type listed, use that element to save.  Second, all spells are labeled as Yin, Yang, or Chi.  If there's no element to override Yin/Yang association, use the better Yin or Yang value for your class.  Chi spells only have one save to use, Earth.

Now to tinker with the numbers for the classes.  Traditionally, every class in D&D is best at saving against Death/Poison, and worst against either Spells or Dragon Breath.  That will be changed.  I'm currently thinking about which element to assign as best to each of the 4 classes.  Here's the best I've got so far:

Fighter: strongest in Wood.  High hit points, lots of vitality and strength.

Wizard: strongest in Metal.  Control and transformation being the key points of magic, this seems to fit to me.

Shaman: strongest in Water.  Stillness and conservation seem to fit the image of the Shaman/Cleric.

Thief: strongest in Fire.  The image of the Thief is one of action and motion contrasted with patience and perseverance. 

I may also consider using Earth for the Shaman and then Water for the Wizard, but I kinda like the idea of keeping Earth as the default "everyone sucks at this, and any attack that doesn't fall into another category goes here" save, like traditional Save vs. Spells.  So I'm probably going to go with the above.

Now, the final question I'll have to decide.  Once the 'best' save is set, do I order the other saves by the generative motion (circle in the image above) or the opposition motion (star in the image above)?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Subtle Threat

Here's another Castlevania monster for Halloween.  Sorry this one's a bit late in coming. 

For this monster, I want another threat that is not just a hit point bash then collect the XP.  This monster is a nuisance that will hopefully make for interesting encounters, once the players finally figure out what it's doing to them.

AC: 3 (17)
HD: 1**
Move: 30 (10), Fly 180 (60)
Attacks: 1 touch
Damage: poison
No. Appearing: 3-12 (3-12)
Save As: Fighter 1
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: nil
Alignment: Chaotic

Bitterflies are creatures with skull-shaped bodies with large moth wings sprouting from the side.   They can change their coloration for short times to match their background, surprising on a roll of 1-4 on d6.  Once detected, they may disappear again on a roll of 1 on d6 even while being observed.  They do not usually attack directly, but when they do, their touch is toxic.  Opponents hit must Save vs. Poison or die in 1d4 Turns.  The biggest threat that these creatures pose is an aura of doom that they project.  Creatures within 20' of a bitterfly must Save vs. Spells or be affected as with a blight spell for one hour.  Undead, constructs, elementals, and slimes/oozes are unaffected by this.  The auras of multiple bitterflies are not cumulative in effect, but the area of effect can be increased.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

New Poll Up!

I'm doing the preliminary formatting for Flying Swordsmen, just trying to see how easy it is to piece it all together in a way that looks good, and get an idea of how much art and flavor text to include.  I'm shooting for a 128 page book, and it looks like I'll manage that easily with a picture or two or some flavor text on nearly every page, including most monsters.

Still, I'm interested in what you, the potential downloaders and hopefully users of this game would prefer.  Since I'm not planning to put out a physical edition yet (hopefully in the future, if it gets enough positive feedback and enough downloads in electronic format, but that's a discussion for another day), how would you like this presented for reading on your computer?

Only five options, and only one vote allowed.  I have my draft text in single column portrait, and the current formatting test in double column portrait.  But I also like how, frex, Greg Christopher [should I have linked to his G+ account instead?  He seems to have given up the blog for G+] does all his games in landscape because they're meant to be read on the computer. 

Anyway, the poll will be open for a week.  Let me know what you think.  Thanks!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Update on my RPG developments

I've made another small change to Flying Swordsmen from the original D&D based Dragon Fist game.  Instead of the standard D&D style list of saving throw types, I've instead made each save against one of the 5 Taoist elements, Earth, Water, Fire, Metal, Wood.  Each has a Yin/Yang association for effects that are not obviously of an elemental type, with Earth being the Chi save for spells/effects without either an element or Yin/Yang association.  I'm gonna tinker with the numbers a little bit, as well.  I think each of the four classes should be good against one type of save in particular, but I'll need to think a bit to decide which element best fits each class.  Earth (Chi) will be the save that's not so good for everyone (map to Save vs. Spells in D&D), but I don't want everyone to be best against Wood (AD&D's Poison/Paralysis/Death save).

Preliminary formatting is coming along apace.  I'm almost through with the monster section.  After that, it's treasure/rewards, then the Campaign Setting section which still needs a bit of fleshing out.  Finally, the appendices. 

In my other RPG, Presidents of the Apocalypse, Paul and I had another one of those cycles where one of us adds a bunch of stuff that complicates the game (me this time), and the other wisely cut it down again (Paul, obviously).  Paul had some good ideas, riffing off of some of my good ideas from last time, and some new simplifications that will help keep this game as the beer-and-pretzels simple silly fun game we want it to be. 

I'm gonna try to see if any of the Busan gamers are brave enough to get silly roleplaying a cyborg Ben Franklin or mutated John Quincy Adams and give this new slimmed down set a try.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Last Year's Castlevania fun

In case some of you are too lazy to use the search or tags, here are last year's Castlevania monster related posts.

Restless Spirit (Castlevania/Gauntlet style ghost)
Phantom Bat
Robber Bat (not Castlevania, but could work for it)
Medusa Head
Grim Reaper (Classic and 3E stats)

And a map of the CV version of Transylvania for a campaign I never got off the ground.

Monday, October 10, 2011

1st Level Magic-Users Suck?

Did Grognardia stir up this old chestnut again?  I know there's already a ten page or so thread on Dragonsfoot about it just within the last couple days (although it's been semi-hijacked by a debate about whether using hirelings makes you a 'wuss gamer' or not).

How can a 1st level Magic-User survive to 2nd level?  And find ways to be useful while doing so?

And of course, all these people are either stating how there's nothing to do but fire your one spell then run away to rest so you'll be 'effective' again.  Or on the other side, bringing out the old standby of 'prepare lots of flasks of oil, marble bags, 10' poles, Swedish-made penis enlarger pumps, garlic, wolfsbane, catnip, spare socks, iron spikes, reading glasses, and cooking pots to make yourself useful.'  Then of course, the idea of hiring meat-shields to protect your AC 11, 1d4 HD ass which touched off the near derailment of that DF thread. [Sorry, no link today.  Just got back from grad school, and don't feel like hitting DF tonight just to snag a link.  It's in the General Discussion section if you want to track it down yourself.]

Anyway, words of wisdom from old Jack Burton.  Er, um, I mean Lord Gwydion. 


No, your Fighter cannot beat down goblins all day long.  He can take one hit if he's lucky, then he'd better retreat.

No, your Cleric (even if using AD&D where they get spells at 1st level) is not going to be casting spells and turning undead all the time.  He's got better than 50% odds to turn skeletons, but the first time he botches that roll, he's done for that encounter.  And even with an 18 Wis, he's still got a limited number of spells.  And remember, in Classic (my preferred game), he's got no spells.  Just the ability to take one hit if he's lucky and maybe turn some undead.

No, your Thief is not gonna be finding every trap, unlocking every door, and if he gets really lucky and actually manages to sneak up on someone, likely is gonna miss that backstab roll and get his AC 6, 1d4 HD ass handed to him.

They all suck.  That's kinda the point.  And EVERYONE should be getting all that miscellaneous equipment and using it at every opportunity.  First level characters get to become second level characters by being smart, not by acting like 6th level characters.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Another Castlevania Monster for Halloween

One problem of converting CV monsters into D&D is that in a video game, a different sprite and attack pattern makes it a new monster.  Not so in D&D.  There are a ton of skeleton-type monsters in Castlevania, and most of them don't really need new stats for D&D.  Just arm them appropriately, and you've got them.

This one, however, is a fun little variant undead spellcaster.  No where near as powerful as a lich, it's a niche that's been filled before, but I'm doing it in a Castlevania way.

AC: 5 (15)
HD: 4**
Move: 90 (30)
Attacks: 1 weapon or spell
Damage: by weapon, or spell
No. Appearing: 1-8 (2-6)
Save As: Fighter 8
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: B (U)
Alignment: Chaotic

Dhurons are criminals executed by decapitation who have risen as skeletal undead.  They carry their skulls in one hand, and wield weapons in the other.  Dhurons are not mindless, and can be quite crafty.  They will often hide amidst normal skeletons to surprise opponents with their spellcasting ability.  Dhurons cast spells as a 4th level Magic-User in addition to being adept with weapon attacks.  Due to their magical nature, they save as 8th level Fighters.  They are immune to sleep, charm, and hold spells.  Clerics turn Dhurons as Mummies.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A bit of a surprise

When Robert Jordan died a few years ago, I'd read all 11 volumes of The Wheel of Time series at that point.  And I'd really been reading everything since about volume 8 mostly on inertia.  I'd read that much already, I might as well keep reading them, I thought.  Even though the series was obviously being strung along just for the sake of stringing it along, and the bloated descriptions were getting annoyingly bad.  It's kinda like Jordan ran out of descriptive phrases around book 4, and just recycled them over and over and over again.  But, I was working as a public school teacher in Japan, and had plenty of free time on my hands.

And then Jordan died.  And I thought, "I'm done with WoT."  I just didn't care anymore to finish the series, especially when I found out that Sanderson would not be writing one final book, but three. 

But then this past summer, Steve was giving away books before he left for Singapore, and one of them was a copy of The Gathering Storm, WoT book 12.  And I said, "What the hell, it's free." 

I finally started reading it this weekend.  After two days of reading, I'm 200 pages into it and finding I'm liking Sanderson's prose more than Jordan's later prose.  It's that bit of freshness that the series needed.  It's still long, and bloated, and I'm looking at having to trudge through another 3000 or so pages, but I may just finish the series after all.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A New Blog and a Halloween Monster

So there's a new blog that's just come to my attention, BladeSharp.  Fabian is working on a conversion of Oriental Adventures (1E, 2E and 3E stuff mashed together) for Labyrinth Lord.  I'd actually considered doing something like that but decided instead to focus on Dragon Fist.  Since most stuff for the various clones/simulacrums is easily interchangeable, and fits easily with most TSR versions of D&D, I'm looking forward to what he comes up with.

And since it's October, it's time for WaHNtHaC's annual (well, since last year anyway) Castlevania monsters converted to Classic D&D!

And we're starting off with a true classic creature of the CV games.  You really can't call a game Castlevania unless it includes a few of them--the Red Skeleton!

Red Skeleton
Armor Class: 7 (13)
Hit Dice: 1/8* (1 hit point, but see below)
Move: 60 (20)
Attacks: 1 claw
Damage: 1d6
No. Appearing: 1-2 (1-4)
Save As: Fighter 1
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: nil
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: special (see below)

Red Skeletons look like normal animated skeletons, except that they are a deep blood red color.  They are slow, plodding creatures, and appear very weak.  Any hit with a weapon or spell, or a Turn Undead attempt, will seem to destroy them.  But 1d4 Rounds later the red skeleton will reform in the spot where it was 'destroyed.'  Scattered bones will fly back to the spot if nearby.  More distant bones will teleport back to the spot.

While it is possible to knock them down and then flee, adventurers gain no experience points for doing so.  However, if a means can be found to permanently destroy them (at the DM's discretion), the adventurers will gain a special XP award of 1000 XP the first time they discover the process.  Only by discovering a new method to destroy one will grant this special XP award again in the future.

As Undead creatures, red skeletons are immune to sleep, charm and hold effects.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rough Week

Forgive the lack of substantive posts this week, please.  Working too much, grad school, all that.  Instead of more blathering about games, here's something to think about.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dungeon Design: Moldvay Basic D&D

At long last, this little series continues.  Read about OD&D, Holmes, AD&D 1E.

In Tom Moldvay's Basic Set (Erol Otus cover), we get a very well organized two pages on dungeon design.  We're given a six-step process to follow, which helps DMs conceptualize their dungeon quickly and easily.  It's mostly a clarification of the information in OD&D, but with one big difference.  As with AD&D 1E, we've got a very different focus.  OD&D assumed a megadungeon, while Moldvay assumes smaller dungeons created for each adventure (although they can easily be re-used). 

Moldvay's steps are:

A) Choose a scenario [10 sample types listed]
B) Decide on a setting [10 sample locations listed]
C) Decide on special monsters to be used
D) Draw the map of the dungeon
E) Stock the dungeon [using the random system from OD&D, and providing six room traps, six treasure traps, and ten ideas for 'specials']
F) Filling in the final details

Moldvay then, after discussing Wandering Monsters (which actually may be part of step F, making it three pages of dungeon design advice), gives us The Haunted Keep.  He goes through and explains his six steps above, and provides a fully detailed and keyed map of one of the two towers, and a cut-away map of the two dungeon levels.

What Moldvay has done here is take the dungeon design principles of OD&D and the 'site-based' preference of AD&D and married them nicely together.  One could easily design a megadungeon using the Moldvay method, even though the text assumes smaller complexes made for their own separate adventures.  All one needs to do is decide on what sections of the megadungeon will or could be used for the various types of scenarios listed, then follow the rest of the instructions for each section.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Humor for a Monday Morning

Didn't get much sleep last night, and not looking forward to this Monday.  So here's a funny pick I snagged off a friend's Facebook account yesterday.

I didn't get to do any gaming this weekend.  Enzo, who was DMing 4E, suddenly found a job in Seoul, where his girlfriend lives, and moved there.  So that game's finished.  And we're not sure what do do next. 

I'm just too damn busy to be full time DM, even for something like Classic D&D. 

Jeremy is thinking about running something with the Microlite20 system, and having looked over the player's book last night, it looks interesting.  No one else has shown any interest in that yet, though.

Then there's the guy in Gimhae who wants to play Pathfinder.  I'm not against playing PF, but the dude lives fairly far away from all of us, and wants us to go to his place to play.  So that's not likely to happen unless he gives and agrees to run the games at some location here in Busan.

So who knows what's going on there?  We've got this fairly large group of potential gamers that we can now contact online, but it looks like I'm going to have to be the one to take the initiative and form the new group.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Spooky Adventure Writers Wanted!

Blogger Fenway5 of Sword & Shield put forth the proposition that a bunch of us (well, 31 to be exact) each write a spooky 2-page adventure.  One page map, one everything else.  Get some artists to donate some spooky cover art and borders, the compile it all as a free PDF/at cost Lulu print publication.

If you're interested in helping out, visit his blog post RIGHT HERE.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Flying Swordsmen RPG Phase 3

Well, I've went ahead and done it.  I've started working on layout of Flying Swordsmen.  My volunteer editors (David, Matt, Brandon, if you're reading, send more suggestions any time) have helped me get the first section with character creation info into decent shape, so I'm formatting that section.

As a little teaser, here's a bit of flavor fiction I'm including in the game, along with art of the character involved, Xiao Shen, by Dylan Hartwell.

Xiao Shen lept across the temple courtyard, over a dozen fallen monks. The masked adversary awaited the attack of the final Jade Fist standing. “How could one man defeat all of the martial monks by himself?” she wondered. His kung fu was impressive and had easily countered all of the Jade Fists' techniques. But Xiao Shen also had a few tricks up her sleeve.
Just before Xiao executed her Golden Palm Strike, the adversary switched to a Winter Lotus Stance and used Xiao's momentum to hurl her over his shoulder and sent her flying into the main hall.
“No Jade Fist can stand against the techniques contained in the Dark Phoenix Manuscript. Not even you, Xiao Shen,” the stranger laughed.
Xiao burst back through the bamboo wall and hurled a blast of her focused chi energy at the assassin. The energy struck his head, sending the mask flying. Behind was a handsome face Xiao had known since childhood. The man leered at the young woman and struck the earth with his fist, sending pieces of flagstone flying in all directions.
“Elder Brother!” Xiao Shen cried, dodging the flying debris. “Not you!”

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Micro-Review of a Micro-Game: Out of Time

JB of BX Blackrazor has released a one-page RPG based on the "Land of the Lost" type setting where temporal rifts strand folks from various times in a prehistoric wilderness.  The idea is to survive long enough to find a way home.

Here's his post, and the download link is in it.

My brief thoughts on this brief game?  It looks fun.  It's the kind of game I'd love to just pull out at a bar, along with some dice and a deck of cards (lots of d6's and a standard playing card deck with jokers).  Who doesn't like lost world settings?  Time travel is cool.  Getting to play a Sengoku samurai palling around with a Norse viking and Al Capone's lowest ranking hitman and his Tommy gun?  And running away from T-Rexes together?  Again, what's not to like?

Being a one-page RPG (with plans for future expansion?), the rules are brief and have one basic resolution system involving rolling X dice and trying to get Y successes (4 or better on d6 is a success).  Your stats are determined by randomly dealing playing cards.  Each suit grants abilities in one of four skill areas, and it's up to players to make their attempts to solve any problems relevant to the skill area they wish to use.  The other cool thing is that cards can be traded for automatic successes, or damage reduction.  So there's the trade-off of needing to succeed now, but making success potentially harder in the future.

I don't know if I'll be able to play it any time soon, but it's definitely something I'd like to try out.  I'm guessing it will be as fun as the other one-page RPG I tried out a while back, All Outta Bubblegum.

Monday, September 19, 2011

DC's New 52

Finally got a chance to check out a few of the new DC titles.  I read Justice League #1, Detective Comics #1, Action Comics #1, and Green Arrow #1.

JL1 was interesting enough.  Nothing super spectacular, though.

DC1 seemed like a fairly typical Batman story.  Decent, but nothing unexpected.

AC1 had a good setup for the story, and we appear to have a lower-powered Superman (for now), but what's up with the short sleeves and jeans uniform?

GA1 was more than a bit cliche.  Not impressed.

Any recommendations for other titles I should try out?  I've always been more of a Marvel than DC fan, but I figure this is as good a time as any to read more DC (and I haven't really read any comics for over a decade).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dungeon Design: AD&D 1E

So to continue this little series [part 1, part 2], I'm next looking at the AD&D 1E DMG.

The bulk of advice for crafting a campaign (not necessarily a dungeon) is from pages 90 to 96.  We get sections on placement of monsters, monetary treasure, magical treasure, and a bit later a sample dungeon (with map).

By this time, Gygax had moved away from the megadungeon-based campaign.  The advice he gives applies to both the dungeon (he still assumes the presence of one, it's just not assumed to be the only starting point for adventure) and the wilderness.  His monster placement advice is to try to keep things as logical and connected as possible.  The vast majority of monsters should have some rhyme and reason for being there.  And there's a very strong Law/Chaos war vibe as he stresses how adventurers tend to clear terrain of monsters, who usually don't come back, creating more peaceful settled lands -- until the monsters get forced out of the wilderness into the borderlands and peaceful settled lands beyond...

For treasure placement, both of monetary value and magical, he stresses both moderation, and challenge with the treasure.  Don't just have a big pile of gold lying around the goblin's den.  Give them a big locked, trapped chest of coppers that are a logistical challenge to return to town.  Convert coins rolled on treasure tables into trade goods that might be overlooked.  Make sure magic items are rare, well guarded, and if possible used against the PCs before they acquire them.

The sample dungeon map is serviceable, but to me at least not so inspiring.  The Holmes map, with its secret ocean harbor caves, mage's tower basement, rat warrens, and all seems more alive than DMG p. 95.  And he only gives a sample key for the first three numbered areas.

So there's not really much advice about creating a dungeon itself.

Aha, but then we have the Appendices!

Appendix A gives us the random dungeon generator.  Even if you don't roll the dice, it's still got lots of good lists for types and sizes of rooms, corridors, caverns, and what not.  It also tells us that 60% (12 in 20) rooms should be empty, 10% should have monsters with no treasure, 15% should be monsters with treasure, 5% specials (or stairs if there are too many specials in the area), 5% tricks/traps, and 5% unguarded treasure.  That's a lot more monsters and a lot less traps and specials than OD&D/Classic D&D.  It's nearly twice as many empty rooms as well.

Later, Appendices G: Traps, H: Tricks, and I: Dungeon Dressing give us some more ideas for fleshing out a dungeon.

We've got a lot less nuts and bolts advice for crafting a dungeon here, but there's plenty of good advice for adding details and life to the setting.  A lot of people I know started with one or another Basic set, then 'graduated' to AD&D, so they likely had a good idea about general dungeon design from there.  But people who only played AD&D might not have.  AD&D, at least by the book, seems more geared for wilderness gaming, where you go look for monster lairs in the wilds, rather than being focused on the dungeon.  But even then, there's not a whole lot of straight-forward advice on crafting those lairs as a challenge in and of themselves.  There's just generally more of a 'go get the monsters' tone than that of 'go out and explore.'

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dungeon Design: Holmes D&D

In the 1978 Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set, edited by Dr. J. Eric Holmes, the dungeon design advice of OD&D is pretty truncated.  It's mostly the same advice, but it's so condensed that it could be easier to miss.

However, Holmes did include a much more detailed sample dungeon, and a more evocative megadungeon cross-section than OD&D.  Also, the Basic Set came with either B1 In Search of the Unknown, or B2 Keep on the Borderlands, which both provide good examples for budding DMs to use to craft their own dungeons.

One bit of advice from Holmes that jumped out at me was this quote:

Try to keep the dangers appropriate to the levels of the characters and the skill of your players. (emphasis added)
While I mentioned that in OD&D Gygax points out that there are certain types of encounters that would make players angry, Holmes explicitly states that the goal is to challenge the players.  New players with 5th level characters will likely be less effective than veteran players with 1st level characters, despite the additional hit points, better hit probabilities and saving throws, and more spells of the novice group.  Because the veteran players will play smart.  And maybe they can take on those Frost Giants or Vampires or Purple Worms at the 1st to 3rd level span of the Holmes edition.

A few weeks ago, Ian at Magician's Manse was blogging about his own megadungeon.  His players seem intent to fully explore the first level before venturing on.  He was worried that if they did, they'd be too high level and the second dungeon level would be too easy for them.  It made me think of some of the advice given on Dragonsfoot and other places about only designing and keying just enough of the dungeon.  That way, you can fit the dungeon to the players, rather than to some ideal of the Platonic Megadungeon.

If the party gains character levels but doesn't descend to lower dungeon levels, then more monsters and traps of their level should show up on the level they're on.  Of course, tricks and traps and specials are often less about the party's level, and more about player skill anyway, so Dr. Holmes' advice above is a good addition to the basics set forth for dungeon creation in OD&D.

And so ends the 500th post on this blog.  And there was much rejoicing. (Yea...)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dungeon Design: OD&D

I just skimmed through the first section of OD&D's Volume 3: The Underworld and Wilderness Encounters.  Having started playing D&D with Mentzer, a lot of the information was actually pretty familiar to me.  that's why it only got a skim.  I'm probably missing a few important points, but for the most part, Gygax and Arneson had figured out a lot of good advice for creation of a dungeon.

  • Make sure the place itself is interesting to explore.
  • Don't overcrowd it.
  • Allow for discovery, and re-use.
  • Keep monsters mostly appropriate for the level.
  • Place important monsters and treasures first, then if the place is too big, use random stocking to fill out the rest.*

Of course, Gygax assumes creation of a Megadungeon, similar to his Castle Greyhawk.  By the time Mentzer was re-editing the Moldvay/Cook edit, more thought went into creation of smaller dungeons with specific purposes.  But all of the above main points were still there.  There's not a lot of actual advice for the crafting of the dungeon, other than the sample map and semi-explained key, and the example of play, though. 

I do like the fact that in the sample dungeon, there's a 'special' which he notes is basically a Dick DM move to use, so don't use it.

Interesting differences from the later Classic D&D game include (old news to some of you, of course):

2 moves per Turn while exploring.  I guess this was taken from Chainmail, with its split moves each turn to allow for reconsideration/reactions.  240' (120' encumbered) per 10 minute Turn is still really slow, but better than in the later editions.

Doubled chances to find secret doors when searching.  Elves 1-4 in 6 (1-2 in 6 innate, rolled by the DM in secret), 1-2 in 6 for everyone else.

*I'm guessing that this picture of Gary's notes for Castle Greyhawk are so sparse because it's just the specials only.  The rest he was able to simply roll randomly as he ran the game.  Or maybe not even roll by the time this picture was taken.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Megadungeon Success!

As I mentioned in my previous post, we got together last Sunday and played around in my megadungeon.  Things didn't go according to plan, but they did go well.

First off, I'd never been to the venue - a new used English bookstore with beer on tap, run by a pair of foreigners - as it just opened about 2-3 weeks ago.  Our usual start time on Sundays was 1pm, so I suggested we all meet there at that time.  Place didn't open until 2.

I met Jeremy, though, so we hopped into Starbucks, he updated the Facebook page with the info on his smartphone, and we rolled up his characters.  Brian, new to the group and found out about it through this here blog, also got there, and tried to call me, but I'd accidentally given him my wife's number, not mine.  My wife's and my numbers are only one digit apart, and I rarely have cause to call my own number, so I've made that mistake before.

Anyway, at 2, Jeremy and I had finished the char gen and talk, and headed back to the book store.  Brian was there waiting for us.  After introductions, I got myself a beer, they got cokes, and we got set up.  About that time, Pat, Alex (from the board game group, not the 4E group), Bill, Greg from the FB group, and a dude named Dan I'd never met before online or off, all showed up.  Wow, didn't know if we'd have room!

But then they informed us they were gonna play a board game instead of D&D.  Figures.  Alex doesn't like OSR type games, and Bill's really only interested in 3E D&D, so I knew their interest would be low.  Oh well.  We decided to just have Jeremy and Brian run all 3 PCs they'd rolled up (Brian had made his in advance) simultaneously, rather than using the extras as reserves.

I was testing JB's idea that Thief skills should just automatically work if the Thief has time to do the job (sorta like Taking 20 in 3E), but if the Thief didn't have time they had to roll.  I'm not sure I like it.  I've actually placed enough keys around that failing an Open Locks roll would just mean search a bit more and come back later.  Both Jeremy and Brian did a good job of roleplaying how to bypass the traps they encountered.  We had one instance of climbing, but they could have used a rope and grapple in that situation if the Thief didn't want to risk the roll.  And the only time the Thief tried to be stealthy was in an area with a non-animated skeleton, and another area with Yellow Mold.  So the rule seemed to be overkill.  Don't think I'll be using it again.

On the DM side of things, I realized one failure of making this dungeon piecemeal and converting stuff from the old dungeon to the new.  They ended up finding a treasure box, locked but completely unguarded, with 1000pp, and a bunch of gold and silver (dont' remember exactly how much).  Mistake on my part filling in the encounters, but I had written it down, so I let it stand.  That, plus the bandit treasure they got by killing the 3rd level Cleric leader in one hit with a Potion of Giant Strength/thrown feast table combo, and the monster XP (I was still using the OD&D 100xp per hit die thing) meant they all went up a level.  I'd started them on 2500 xp per character, they each earned around 2600 xp for their actions. 

Jeremy and Brian both posted on FB that they enjoyed the game.  I really enjoyed running it.  They had some really creative play, and I had fun throwing challenges their way, working in random encounters, and trying to give them just enough info in any situation that they were wary of traps/ambushes, but not overly cautious.  No PC casualties, although Brian's Cleric was down to 1 hit point at one point, and his Dwarf got beat up a bit as well, while Jeremy's Barbarian managed to make it out with only 2 or 3 points of damage total for the session.

And they both want to play again.  They had a few rumors of Key Treasures and are hoping to get their hands on the famed gem, The Eye of the Frost Troll in the future.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The 2 Year Curse

So, it's 9/11.  Hope nothing's been blown up in New York for the anniversary of the terror attacks.  It's also my blog's second anniversary! 

I started reading the blogs mostly through Jeff's Gameblog.  It was my gateway blog.  I'd read whatever awesome craziness Jeff had posted, then go through his blog list and read interesting titles.  And one day (just happened to be 9/11, but living overseas the date actually wasn't on my mind as anything significant), I decided to start my own.

Since then, I've rambled on about all sorts of stuff, some stupid, some serious, some funny, some antagonistic.  And I've gained a decent amount of followers.  Thanks, and I'm glad you find something of interest or use from my keyboard scribblings.

But I've got a game today.  An open table Classic D&D one-shot, using my Megadungeon.  Game starts in about 5 hours (1pm local time).  And I've got to see if I can write up some pre-packaged equipment lists to speed char-gen before my son wakes up.  So enough self promotion, back to work!