Saturday, April 28, 2012

First Flying Swordsmen game

Dean and Jeremy just left.  We had a fun evening trying out Flying Swordsmen.  Character generation was not as bad as I thought it would be, although we did detect a small glitch (a remnant of Dragon Fist) that I'll edit out in a revised edition [to be released sometime in the future, after more actual play-testing is done].

One other legacy feature of Dragon Fist that I worried about was the initiative system.  Depending on which section you read, Dragon Fist actually had two systems.  The first was that everyone just goes on their action's speed (so everyone going on a medium speed 4 would go together, but an Insight stunt would add to your initiative).  The second, the one I thought was more "intended" is the one I went with: your action's speed, plus your stunt roll is your initiative.  But that requires everyone to declare actions and roll stunts, then the GM has to order everyone's actions, and then everything gets resolved. 

As we found out tonight, playing through a 5 Round combat between 4 PCs and 4 NPCs took a LONG time.  Like 4th Edition D&D long.  Part of that is because we're all (even me) getting used to the game system.  There were lots of spell lookups and questions about various things.  Part of it was that the declaration phase really slowed things down, and resulted in a lot of wasted actions.  Not exactly fast paced action like in a Jackie Chan movie, here.

So I've got a few options for changing Initiative.

Idea 1: Go back to the other "by the book" way from Dragon Fist.  The problem is Insight rolls, but since the only other thing they effect is saving throws, that might not be a problem.  Just declare an Insight stunt during the initiative phase.  Everyone else can declare their stunts on their turn.

Idea 2: No initiative.  Everyone gets an action in a round in which they begin with at least 1 hit point.  It's all simultaneous.  Seems like that might best simulate fast and furious martial arts action, actually, but is it practical at the game table?

Idea 3: d20 style initiative.  Roll once at the beginning of combat, with an Insight stunt bonus to the roll, then set the order from there and just cycle through.  Fair, but takes away the thrill of wondering if you can pull off your Mighty Iron Eagle Strike before your opponent casts a Withering Plum Blossom Palm spell on you.

Idea 4: some sort of integrated system where you roll d20 plus a stunt each round, and use that as your initiative AND your to-hit roll (if you make a to-hit roll). [Jeremy's idea]

Idea 5: A chart of maneuvers, your d20 roll tells you what you pull off, but your stunt allows you to shift up or down the chart by the number of the stunt.  [again, Jeremy, taking an idea from one of the swashbuckling games - Black Vulmea, if you're reading, you likely know the one he's talking about.]

Finally, I also may want to slightly rework some of the spells.  The NPC wizard, if I hadn't been trying to test out all three of her spells, likely could have turned the tide of battle by using her auto-hit damage dealing spell every round.  But it was Jeremy's Wizard who won the battle, by charming 3 of the 4 opponents.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Beast of the Week: Storm

This week, a dual stat beast of the week.  Inspired by movies like Big Trouble in Little China and Storm Riders, we've got yet another "Men" type that will work just as well in standard D&D type games, but also is one I should have put into Flying Swordsmen.  So the first dual stat Beast of the Week, the Storm!

[Classic D&D]
AC: 5 (15)
HD: 3**
Move: 120 (40) Fly 120 (40)
Attacks: 2 fists or 1 weapon
Damage: 1d4/1d4 or by weapon
No. Appearing: 1-4 (1-4)
Save As: E3
Morale: 9
Treasure Type: A
Alignment: any
XP: 65

[Flying Swordsmen]
AC: 15
HD: 3
Move: 60 Fly 60
Att: 2 weapons (+2)
NA: 1-4
Save: W3
Mle: 9
Stunts: M d4, A d4, I d3
XP: 325

Storms are men who have undergone rigorous mystical training to become martial artists in tune with the forces of nature.  [In Flying Swordsmen: Storms have the following Martial Arts Maneuvers: 4/2]  Each typically takes on two of the following traits, usable three times per day unless noted otherwise:
1. blast of wind (60' cone, 30' wide at far end, all in blast suffer 2d6 damage and must Save vs Spells/Earth or be knocked prone)
2. thunder clap (20' radius sonic blast, 4d8 damage, Save vs Breath/Fire for half damage)
3. lightning bolt (60' long, 5' wide line of electricity, 5d6 damage, Save vs. Spells/Earth for half damage)
4. ice storm (20' cube, 5d6 damage, Save vs. Spells/Water for half damage)
5. obscuring mist (100' radius cloud, provides cover)
6. cone of cold (60' cone, 30' wide at far end, deals 3d8 damage, Save vs. Spells/Water for half damage)
7. speed of the wind (haste/hasting tattoo, as spell)
8. deluge (90' cone, 40' wide at far end, deals 2d6 damage and pushes all in blast back to far end unless a Save vs. Paralysis/Metal is made)
9. water breathing (freely breathe water or air, always active ability)
10. lightning immunity (take no damage from electrical attacks, always active ability)
11. cold immunity (take no damage from cold attacks, always active ability)
12. gas immunity (take no damage from poison gas attacks, always active ability)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I really just don't care

Monte's out?

Public playtests?

Another re-release?

Stinky cheese?

Meh, says I.  I'm gonna be playing some Flying Swordsmen this weekend.

Everyone else is going on and on with speculation about this and that.  I'm working on a take home short essay midterm, but even if I weren't, I likely couldn't be bothered to write more than the above.  Cause once the midterm's out of the way, I've got a few more NPCs to stat up for Saturday's game.

Don't you have something better to do, too?  Bet you do.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Last Rhagodessa

30 minute pencil sketch of a scene from our Vaults of Ur game last Saturday.  From left to right: Thidrek the Sleestak, Caradoc the Mumbler, Ripper, Rhagodessa, and Father Karl.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Of Pack-Beetles and Soap-watching Deities

Last Saturday night, we yet again ran a session of Justin's Vaults of Ur game on G+. 

---interuption: Damn you Google.  Where are all the hyperlinks for me to right-click/open new tab?  It's gonna be a pain in the ass adding hyperlinks if I have to do it all manually again.  Now back to your regularly scheduled blog post.  This has been a test of the emergency blog-rant system. ---

This week was a treat, because Brian, who ran our Pathfinder game, joined us from sunny Canada!  Brian had rolled up a Cleric, Caradoc the Mumbler, Blessed of Gormah the Crone.  Whenever the dice were rolling badly, Justin narrated that Gormah was too busy "watching her programs" to answer prayers from her Clerics.  When the dice were hot, it was a commercial break.

I, of course, was playing Thidrek the Sleestak (now a level 2 Sleestak Warrior!).  Jeremy had Ripper the Orc (Justin's Orcs use the BX/LL Dwarf), and Dean returned with Father Karl the Cleric.

In our last session, we'd fought some rhagodessa for the Hive, but one had gotten away.  We decided to go try and finish it off, plus do some more exploring in the caverns.  The Hive were more than happy about that.  Ripper showed up for the expedition carrying nearly his load limit in gear (lots of rope, oil, torches, rations, etc.) in a big bag.  So we asked the Hive members if they could loan us a beetle to haul around his stuff.  They agreed.  Red the beetle, the survivor of our previous mission, was once again assigned to us.  Father Karl asked for some of their glow-in-the-dark fungus to smear on his shield (which has a Grateful Dead bear device).  Into the tunnels we went.

It didn't take long to find the rhagodessa.  It was still slightly injured from our previous encounter, and apparently very hungry.  It attacked us on sight.  Luckily, we managed to take it down without any of us getting hurt.  It had been hiding on a ledge, and Thidrek climbed up to investigate, but there was nothing there.  Just a nice ambush spot.

We decided to cross the subterranean river next, and found a passage with stairs leading up.  With my infravision (on the first mission) I'd seen the lizard men "coming down the wall" and apparently they were just coming down the stairs.  At the top, we could go left or right, and the left passage had a strong smell of rot and decay.  Of course we chose to go that way first!

Found a very dead lizard man (like the bikers wanted to do to Pee Wee Herman, he'd been stomped, hung, stabbed, shot, tattooed, and then killed, after Cassandra Peterson had her way with him, or something.  The remains weren't pretty.)  Of course, hiding camouflaged against the wall were some Troglodytes, who attacked from the rear.  They got in a couple of blows against us, but Ripper and Thidrek's better armor helped lessen the damage they could do, as did the "trippy black light effect" of Father Karl's shield.  The last one tried to run away (well, his companion couldn't due to a critical hit by Thidrek in the first round that sent a crossbow bolt through his knee), but Ripper chased and tackled him, pummeling him with the pommel of his sword.

Going the other way, we found a temple of some sort, with lots of snake imagery.  Secret door detected, we crawled through a tight tunnel into a burial chamber (except for Ripper, who didn't want to take off his armor to crawl through unless absolutely necessary).  Despite being wary of traps, we opened the stone sarcophagus and found a mummified body that didn't jump up and try to level drain us.   Also scored a necklace.  

A stairway leading down from that chamber led to the river, which we followed, tied together like mountain climbers to prevent accidents.  When we got back to the sandy area near where we fought the Rhagodessae the previous expedition, more Troglodytes attacked.  Ripper and Thidrek were able to cut the rope easily enough, but the two Clerics, with only blunt weapons, were stuck to each other.  Being lightly armored as well, they both took some hits, but we overcame the Trogs in the end.

Going further, we found a well-constructed room with another carven demon face, similar to the temple or shrine above.  Once again, hidden Troglodytes attacked with surprise.  This was a tough battle.  Thidrek was the only one to come out with his shield unsplintered (using Trollsmyth's houserule), and Caradoc, who didn't have a shield, was taken down to -1 (Justin's death's door rules being that you can go to negative your level in hit points without dying).  After the last Trog fell, we looted another necklace from their leader, noted the contents of the next chamber for our next expedition, then carted the dead Rhagodessa and some Trog tails up to the Hive to claim a reward.  Got another gem for our services, and an offer to let us stay and rest up in The Hive.

A bit leery, we decided to take them up on their offer.  Didn't get converted/enslaved by their beetle overlords this time, and learned a bit more about the Hive as well.  Also, they agreed to heal us.  So it looks like next time the rag-tag crew will continue the exploration of the tunnels beneath the Hive.

Oh, and for the record, it was established that within Ur, the Sleestak (being Beastmen created as slaves) are not related to Troglodytes, although there could be some Trog DNA in there somewhere.  The Sleestak of Ur also have a Library of the Skulls.  Wicked.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Beast of the Week: Nihilist

I was going to save this one for later, but since it came up in the game last night (report to follow sometime later tonight or tomorrow), here they are.  Another "Men" type for your old school (or new school) game.  Inspiration of course from The Big Lebowski.

AC: 9 (11)
HD: 1*
Move: 120 (40)
Attacks: 1 weapon
Damage: by weapon
No. Appearing: 1-6 (2-20)
Save As: F1
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: nil
Alignment: nil (see below)

Nihilists are people who believe in nothing.  As such, they have NO alignment, not even Neutral.  This grants them their signature special ability: complete immunity to all forms of Clerical magic*.  Such spells (and magic items) simply do not work on Nihilists.  Magic-User spells work normally.

*includes Druids, Paladins, the druidic spells of Rangers, and any other "divine" or "holy" magics in the campaign.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I blame Zhu AND Coop

The current OSR meme, make your blog into an 80's fan-zine.  Here's mine:

Thidrek Revealed!

Jeremy/Oxide did a pic of Thidrek the Sleestak, my character in Justin's Vaults of Ur game.

I like the blurry finish, and the sorta "caught unexpected" look on Thidrek's face. 

You can check out more of Oxide's character art at his blog (link above).

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Battle of the Masters

Flying Swordsmen is just shy of 500 downloads after 1 month (on Mediafire, who knows how many have gotten it from the OSR Conservation Project).

To celebrate, here's the classic battle between Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Assassins: What are they good for?

This morning, I was rethinking the AD&D Assassin class.

It's a popular class with some, hated by others.

JB had a big series about them earlier this year, after he and Alexis failed to come to terms with what the class was for and how it should be played.  As Paladin in Citadel recently pointed out, the biggest trope D&D brought to fantasy was that of the "adventuring party."  With that in mind, what is the point of the Assassin?  How do they best fit into the standard adventuring party?

One of the problems (that also appears with OA games and the Ninja), is that the Assassin in fiction is quite often a loner.  And due to that plus their alignment restriction to Evil, I've often encountered players of Assassin characters who try to hide the fact from the other PCs, and sometimes from the other PLAYERS as well.  I don't remember reading anything in 1E that specifically advises Assassins to hide their true profession, but OA sure does with the Ninja (and the 2E Complete Ninja's Handbook as well).

Screw that.  If you're an Assassin in an adventuring party, you're a useful asset, and shouldn't be keeping it secret from the group (or at least from the other players).  You've got a job to do, an important role in the party.  And it becomes pretty much impossible to perform that role if you're trying to keep it secret.

So what's the role of the Assassin?  It's to perform the "surgical strike."

An adventuring party is in a dungeon, or out in the wilderness, and comes upon a lair.  Who's in it?  Do they have treasure?  Can the party take them on with decent odds to come out alive and with the loot?  Is there an Alpha Monster or leader?  If so, it should be the Assassin's job to set up an assassination of that Alpha Monster/leader, if possible, with the party's help.  Then the party as a whole will have an easier time with the lesser monsters/minions.

I've never actually played an Assassin.  I haven't really seen that many played, either.  And when I have seen them played, usually they end up being sorta second-class Fighter/Thieves.  This is either because they're trying too hard to hide their profession, or else because the player or DM seems to think that the assassination ability should only be used on NPCs between sessions when the Assassin PC can go on a solo mission.

I'm sorta itching to try out an Assassin now.  One who makes no bones about his profession, and is along with the party to try to be the guy who takes out the Bugbear chieftain before the fight starts, to lower the morale and also prevent the biggest, baddest Bugbear in the lair from getting involved in the fight.  With the party's support (scouting by the Thief, spells by the Cleric/Magic-User, diversions created by the Fighters, whatever), it could be a lot of fun.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Welcome to my parlour said the spider to the Hive

Last night, Justin ran a closed session of his Vaults of Ur game on G+ Hangouts.  The members were just the Korean players (or as we now call ourselves, the Mao-Tse-Tigers*), myself as Thidrek the Sleestak, Justino with a new Cleric Aetius (follower of the Flying Spaghetti Monster), and Jeremy with a new Orc Ripper [follow the link for a pic] (in Justin's game, BX/LL Dwarves are Orcs, Elves are Orc Magi, and Halflings are Beastmen - or in my case, Sleestak).

We had several rumors, but one that I thought was good to follow up on was that one of the Hive had come to Fort Low looking for the demon-slayers (us, sort of, as Thidrek's the only one left - although Howard the Enchanting and Flinny the Elder could return through inter-dimensional portal some day).  Seems the Hive had been tunneling and found a new passage that got them attacked by something.  They wanted us to go and kill whatever it was, and offered us some shiny rocks if we'd do it.  I also managed to score the money I needed to equip myself by selling my services as a translator to the Fort Low authorities.

We've got a powder, given us by the Hive members, that we snort up our noses and allow us to communicate with the humans and insects of the Hive.

Tunnel fighting meant we stocked up on torches and flasks of oil.  I also had a crazy idea which ended up saving my poor scaly green hide.  I bought four chickens and put them in a sack.

The Hive member, who is the highest authority among them we've met so far, then led us to the location of the attacks.  There we met Forager, a dude we met on the previous expedition to the swamps - he carries a distinctive club made of a giant beetle mandible - and two more Hive lackeys, plus two giant beetles.  [Justin let us know we'd get XP for any allies that made it out alive.]

We followed the remarkably smooth and round tunnel for a ways, then came to a large cavern with an underground river flowing through it.  We climbed up on a ledge around the edge of the cavern, then heard a splash in the water.  On alert, we waited and watched.  With my infravision, I spotted a humanoid shape moving around on the far side.  I asked Forager if the things that attacked were humanoid, he said no.  I thought it might be an NPC adventurer or something, so I was going to just let it go.  Then it returned with two more, and they started running to the river.  We assumed they were charging us, and opened fire.  They dove into the river and disappeared, with only Aetius scoring any hits on them with his sling.

Then one of the beetles started sending off "danger" pheromones (which we could see, thanks to the bug powder).  It indicated the tunnel behind us.  Assuming the lizard men (who had disappeared under the water near a big rock) were coming around to flank us, we coated the ground with oil, set up our Hive lackeys with spears read to receive a charge, and waited. 

Nothing happened.

I took out chicken #1, and sent it down the tunnel.  A few seconds later, its panicked clucking was cut silent.

Ripper then proceeded into the tunnel, thinking to draw the lizard men out into our ambush.  He didn't find any lizard men.  He found a pair of giant spider-ish things, one of which tried to grab him with its arm-like appendages.  [Metagaming, I knew right away they were Rhagodessa, and that we could be in trouble.  I didn't say anything, though.]

Ripper returned, and as the party started into the tunnel to fight the spiders, I saw two more coming along the river bank.  I stayed back to light the oil when they tried to come in, while everyone else went cautiously forward to try and kill the ones that Ripper had seen.  I managed to hold off the two at the rear, and all hell broke loose in the front.

Ripper, Aetius, and Forager had managed to coat one of the Rhagodessa in oil, but then the second one attacked.  I got there about the same time that the other two spidery monsters arrived.  So it was a melee of us three PCs, three human NPCs, and two giant beetles against four Rhagodessae, one of them on fire!

In the battle, Thidrek was grabbed, but managed to avoid getting bitten by shoving another chicken down the beast's maw (told you a chicken saved my life!), but Forager, one of the beetles, and one of the lackeys were not so lucky.  Aetius's magic saved Forager, though.  We killed three Rhagodessae, the last one escaped.  I got to do a Sleestak Victory Dance twice, getting in two killing blows with my sword.

Ripper and Aetius searched the bone pile in the lair, but found only chump change.  We didn't see any sign of the Rhagodessa that ran, nor the lizard men.  We gathered our fallen, and the corpses of the giant spider beasts, and headed back.

The Hive was pleased, and we've now got a free pass in their territory, plus a nice gem each.  We may also be able to do something fun (or at least profitable) with the Rhagodessa corpses.  And I've got a plan to try to rope the Hive into aiding us in wiping out the evil cult of beastmen that nearly killed Thidrek in the last session, the Spiked Circle.

And after 4 sessions, and surviving all 4 expeditions, Thidrek is now Level 2!

Read Justin (the DM)'s write-up of the events here!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Beast of the Week: Charybdis

Following from last week's Scylla, here is her partner in crime, Charybdis.  A nasty aquatic monster for this Friday the 13th.

AC: -1 (21)
HD: 10*
Move: Swim 150 (50)
Attacks: 1 whirlpool
Damage: 3d6
No. Appearing: 1 (1)
Save As: F10
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: A
Alignment: Chaotic

Charybdis (singular and plural) appear to be gigantic maws surrounded by fins or flippers, attached to a bladder-like body.  They live in shallow waters, where they wait for ships to pass by.  When a ship passes, they suck in water, creating a whirlpool.  The whirlpool causes 3d6 points of hull damage to ships, and similar damage to any creatures unfortunate enough to be in the water at the time.  The following round, the Charybdis spews for the the water, again damaging the vessel.  Swimmers and sailors may save vs. Dragon Breath to take half damage from the expectoration, but not from the whirlpool intake.  Charybdis then repeat this attack pattern every two rounds until the ship is destroyed.  Charybdis are only damaged by magical weapons or spells.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fighting with Style!

One thing I really like about Wuxia and the World of Martial Arts concepts is the fact that most martial artists have a "Style" or nom-de-guerre.  Outlaws of the Marsh is full of them, for example:

The Timely Rain
Sagacious Lu, the Tattooed Monk
Nine Dragons Shi Jin
Li Kui, the Black Whirlwind

There was even that fight scene in the inn in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon where they sorta made fun of the concept.

So I slapped together a little random generator to come up with them quickly.  Unfortunately, I can foresee people seeing the title and thinking it's for martial arts styles, like "Drunken Crane Taekwondo" or the like.  Well, it's not for that, and if some people don't like it oh well.

This is more or less an "all the dice" generator.  If you pick up a d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 and d20 and roll them all at once, you can get a result.  Only if the d6 comes up a "4" will you need to roll a second d10 and d20.  I haven't calculated all the possible permutations only using the words on the list, but considering that one could easily substitute a synonym or similar category word for any result (and the "Titles" section is deliberately open-ended), and the same result could be connected in different ways, you can get a gob of names for your martial artist. 

Some results, of course, may not work so well.  If you don't want your PC to be called "Duke Invulnerable Meat" and can't come up with a good modification of that ("Invulnerable Lord of Bacon"?) you can always roll again or just look through the lists and use them for inspiration to come up with something on your own!

Download it here!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Beast of the Week: Scylla

Two of the most memorable monsters of Greek Mythology never (to my knowledge) made the transition to D&D.  Scylla and Charybdis, the twin terrors of the Straits of Messina.  This week you get Scylla, next week Charybdis.  So without further ado, here she is:

AC: 0 (20)
HD: 7*
Move: 60 (20) Swim 120 (40)
Attacks: 6 bites
Damage: 1d10 each
No. Appearing: 1 (1)
Save As: F7
Morale: 10
Treasure Type: D
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 850

Scyllas are 50' long serpentine water monsters with the torso of a woman and six canine heads atop long, flexible necks that grow from where the humanoid torso meets the snake-like body.  They live in sea cliff caves, and prefer narrow straights where ships are likely to pass close to their lairs.  When a ship passes too close, the Scylla will strike out with its five canine heads, each seeking to bite and grab a sailor from the ship.  They rarely break off an attack until each head has a victim, but once it has taken six victims, it withdraws and returns to its lair to feast.  Scyllas are only damaged by spells or magic weapons.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Skin of my teeth!

Just finished Justin's latest Vaults of Ur game.  It didn't go so well for our PCs, but it was a ton of fun.

I just barely survived an encounter with Beastmen.  After healing up (spending all our remaining cash and trading the weapons/medallions taken from the beastmen for healing potions to do so), we went out and found the zoo.

Long story short, we ran into ghouls, Karl the mad Irishman (formerly Kullpetal the Orc) and Danyael the Fighter were paralyzed.  Thidrek was foolishly in melee with the beasts trying to help Karl.  When Danyael was paralyzed too, the Sleestak wisely ran away.

So now he's got no friends or adventuring companions, and a mere 2 gp to his name.  At least he's alive, and can attempt another expedition in two weeks.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Three weeks until the Korean premier!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Nameless Vs. Sky

Some more inspiration for Flying Swordsmen games, one of my favorite fight scenes from the 2002 movie Hero.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

600th post!

Work, grad school, and other general stuff (reading Barsoom stories, actually) have got me busy.

I'm also working on an adventure for Flying Swordsmen that I hope to run on G+ sometime soon.  Got the NPCs and their motivations worked out, now I just need to come up with some interesting locations and stat up everything.  I'll get back to you all on that soon.

Anyway, I'm not sure if I'll have any content posts this week aside from Beast of the Week, but I'll likely throw up some fun wuxia video again tomorrow (Wushu Wednesdays?  Could work!).

Sunday, April 1, 2012

This blog bows before Zod!

And yours will, too!

Benefits of bowing before Zod include remaining alive, being able to continue blogging, and getting to kneel and grovel to your heart's content!

Happy April Fools Day, everyone!