Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chanbara Update

I got some more work done on my chanbara (samurai/ninja) expansion for Flying Swordsmen done today.  Working title is simply "Chanbara."

It's become quite distinct from Flying Swordsmen, actually.  I've devised some different mechanics that seem to fit the genre (and on paper at least the math looks good), and would actually also work in wuxia, so assuming the Ph.D. program I'm about to enter doesn't force me to give up gaming altogether, I'll eventually get around to re-doing Flying Swordsmen into what will truly be my own game, rather than a "retro-clone turned up to 11" which is what it is right now.

Anyway, I've narrowed down the classes (Kensei is now folded into Samurai, as the only real distinctions were in class special abilities, so it's a sub-class option).

There are four class groups: Bushi (warriors), Shinobi (rogues), Maho-tsukai (magicians) and Yokai (demi-humans).  Three classes each (plus the Kensei sub-class option), so 12 classes.

There are three sets of Skill Dice (replace the generic Stunt Dice of Flying Swordsmen), Combat Skills, Training Skills, and Magic Skills.  Each class gets a selection of six skill dice that they can raise as they gain levels.  As with Flying Swordsmen, Skill Dice replace the static bonuses of high ability scores in D&D, but you can only use one die at a time (some higher level characters can use two or even three).

There are three sets of special maneuvers, still selected from a "Vancian" progression as in Flying Swordsmen.  There are Combat Maneuvers, Training Tricks, and Magic Spells (each divided into five levels of power).

Bushi Classes (XP as Fighter in D&D):
Samurai/Kensei: only Combat Skill Dice and Maneuvers
Ronin: mix of mostly Combat with some Training Dice/Tricks
Sohei: mix of mostly Combat with some Magic Dice/Spells

Shinobi Classes (XP as Cleric in D&D):
Ninja: only Training Skill Dice and Tricks
Kagemusha: mix of mostly Training with some Combat Dice/Maneuvers
Gorotsuki: mix of mostly Training with some Magic Dice/Spells

Maho-Tsukai Classes (XP as M-U in D&D):
Yamabushi: only Magic Skill Dice and Spells
Shinsen: mix of mostly Magic with some Combat Dice/Maneuvers
Onmyoji: mix of mostly Magic with some Training Dice/Tricks

Yokai Classes (XP as Elf in D&D):
Kappa: even mix of Combat and Training
Kitsune: even mix of Training and Magic
Tengu: even mix of Combat and Magic

The Yokai classes receive all skill dice of both of their fields, but have fewer Raises than the Human classes, fewer set class abilities, and advance slower.  They still get the same Level 10 cap as the Human classes.

I've got the spell lists done, but not spell descriptions.  Casting works on a modified Chainmail casting roll, but Magic Skill Dice can be used to do different things like increase the chance to hit if the spell requires a hit roll, damage/healing provided, increase number of targets or area of effect, etc.  I'll discuss the spells more later.

I've got a tentative list of creatures.  Need to complete a list of weapons and equipment.  Haven't done much besides ponder about the campaign setting details.  Still a lot of work to do, but it's moving forward.

Got Basic?

Basic Fantasy Role Playing, that is.  It's sort of the forgotten red-headed step-child of the retro-clones.  Being a red-head myself, that makes me partial to it.

Before Labyrinth Lord came and stole the BX clone thunder, Chris Gonnerman had created this little gem of a game.  Unlike LL, every game rule, module or supplement for it is available for free, and print versions are available at cost.  It also borrows some of the tropes and mechanics of both AD&D and 3E D&D.  Race and class are separate.  Ascending AC and attack bonuses.  20 level classes.

But what it keeps are the simple rules for explorations and combats of the Classic D&D line.

Personally, I would use BFRPG over LL/AEC if I wanted to have AD&D style race/class separation.  I'm fond of the racial classes of Classic D&D, but they don't always fit the mood of the game I want to play at the moment (whatever moment that may be).  Plus, I'm a fan of ascending AC as it's one less thing I need to worry about as a DM.

So if you're thinking about running a new game, why not download the free BFRPG rules, give them a look, and consider using them for your next game?  I've pretty much decided that when I get back to DMing my Megadungeon, they will be my go-to rules set.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

11 herbs and spices

Dean's been running an occasional 4E game set in Eberron over G+ Hangouts for when we can't play in Vaults of Ur (Justin's been on vacation, so no Ur for a while now, we're getting back to it next week).

Anyway, we just finished up a game of Dean's.  Jeremy currently plays a Human Barbarian with some draconic/reptilian blood named Harkinn.  Big giant anime sword weilding bruiser. [He started out with a Minotaur Invoker? Warlock?  Something with a dark pact magic.]  I play a Githzerai Swordmage named Ryuden Kenjumon.  Extraplanar Jedi with elemental sword strikes.  When they play, Rob plays Cog the Warforged Cleric and Brian plays Ferramunga Blackboots, a Half Elf Swashbuckler (reskinning the Barbarian class actually).

We've been on the trail of some extraplanar prophecy, explored magical towers (I missed that), fought cultists, fought a traveling pack of clown/acrobat/jester Elves, been on the run from opposition noblemen, and other fun stuff.

Tonight, it was just myself and Jeremy.  And after leaving the clown Elven corpses behind (Kenjumon finding a nice new magic sword), we came across a small knight's castle.  Inside, the lord of the castle, Sir Jeuse, asked us to go hunting with him.  His peasants had been telling tales of a large bird monster in the woods.

We accepted, tracked it down, and spent a large share of the game battling a turducken.  It was a lot of fun, and I'm glad I made the session because Dean got the idea from me.  He implemented it in a nice way, too.  Whenever the bird became bloodied, it had extra bird claws (and other random bits) appearing out of the wounds, and then it got more attacks.  It only had one hit point total, though, so once we'd vanquished the 12' tall turkey, we didn't then have to face the 9' tall duck followed by the 6' tall chicken.  Good thing, too, because for the second (or is it third) time, Ryuden has been dropped to negative hit points.  Guess that's what I get for being a, excuse me, "Defender" but wearing leather armor and having a schtick of flying around the battlefield hitting people with an icy or electrically charged sword, instead of being a dude in heavy armor.

Anyway, Dean has given me a new appreciation for 4E.  It's still not a favorite system of mine, but I'm having more fun playing in Dean's game than in any of the other times I've tried 4E.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

An alternate way to earn experience?

Just a thought I had while walking from work to a private lesson this evening.

Monster XP in D&D could be factored in such a way that there would be a combat XP total for defeating the monsters, and a non-combat XP total for outwitting or successfully negotiating with the monsters.

Proposed idea for combat XP:

Monster's hit points x maximum possible amount of damage in a round

Proposed idea for non-combat XP:

Monster's Int x Hit Dice

Of course, this is just off the top of my head, and doesn't yet factor in such special attacks as poison or energy drain or paralyzing touches.  But it does make dragons and other creatures with similar attacks like storm giants quite choice prizes, as their combat XP would be their hit points squared.  For lower level adventurers, low hit die creatures with multiple attacks again offer the biggest rewards, but also the most danger (bears, with their bear hug ability, would give choice XP awards, for example).

And the non-combat XP means that outwitting a T-Rex gets you a little bit of XP, while outwitting a lich gets a lot more XP.  Outwitting rewards are small, but could be earned any number of times, as long as the party is able to continue outsmarting their opponents.  And for a game where the DM wanted more XP to come from clever thinking than hacking and slashing, they could add a multiplier to the non-combat XP formula (total x10 or whatever), or change it to Int x Hit Points.  Of course, the down side (for those without a system that gives monster Int scores) is that Int scores need to be determined for all monsters.

It would be a bit more work for a DM than in Classic D&D, but compared to AD&D, where hit points need to be added to the base value and whatnot, it might actually be easier.  The numbers might not scale well, though.  Haven't done the math yet.  But the idea seems promising.

Being lazy, though, I may institute the second part for my games, since I have the RC which gives an Int score for each creature, and general Int levels are given in the AD&D Monster Manual, but keep the normal awards for combat.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Horray for the Public Domain!

I'll say it again.  Flying Swordsmen was illustrated almost completely with PD images.  I'm thankful for the art donated by Dylan of Digital Orc and of course Daxiong for donating that awesome cover image.  I did a couple things myself (the frontispiece and map).  Most of the images came from PD sources, though.  And I love the Public Domain. 

So here's a lazy-ish post of some cool PD images from my hard drive.  Just because.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Quoted for truth

"The only way to not play it right would be to not play at all."  -Brad Ncube at Skull Crushing for Great Justice

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Book of Beasts

I now have up for download, completely free of charge, a collection of various monsters that have appeared on this here blog.

Within its twenty five pages (counting the cover), you'll find all 52 of my Beast of the Week entries, plus twenty more critters that appeared on the blog in the past.  That's right, 72 new(ish) monsters for your old school gaming pleasure!  Stats are in BECMI format, but I'm sure that if you're playing an OSR game, or even 3/4E/PF, you'll be able to manage any conversions necessary to your game of choice.

Download away!  And happy hunting, Dungeon Masters...

Monday, January 14, 2013

This samurai/ninja thing is turning into a thing

I've been working on my feudal Japan extension to Flying Swordsmen.  The classes are more or less sorted out.  Working on new combat maneuvers, and have a list scribbled while on the bus the other day of two dozen or so thief/ninja tricks.  Spells will come next. 

And while I'm doing this, my Beast of the Week compilation is not getting finished.  Well, maybe I'll try and take care of that tonight or tomorrow just to get it out of the way.  I'd like to have the lion's share of the ideas phase for my chanbara thing done before my next grad school semester starts in March.

Oh, and I'll need a catchy name.

Chanbara Swordsmen would work well enough, but doesn't quite have the ring of Flying Swordsmen (and basically means "sword-fighting swordsmen").  Well, there's time for that later.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Stone Age must be a hot game.  My post on Shadows over Camelot from a week or so ago has around 250 views.  Most of my RPG related posts from the past several months have 45-80 views a piece. 

One day after posting it, my Stone Age review has over 750 hits. 

Either that, or Google's search bias towards blogger blogs is just funneling anyone who searches for information on the actual Stone Age to my blog...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Board Game Review: Stone Age

I had the whole first week of January off from work.  Thought I'd get all of my board game reviews written then.  Boy, was I wrong!  Anyway, I've got time now, so here's another review.

Stone Age, by Bernd Brunnhoffer, and released by Rio Grande Games (and others), is not a new game, but I got to play it for the first time the other day.  It's a full on Euro-game, and really fits the Euro criteria to a T.  It's small, simple, takes little time to explain, has no in-game text at all, and all players compete until a set completion time at which point everyone adds up their points and they see who is the winner.

The game play is done by managing your resources.  You have only so many workers, and need to divide them between collecting food, wood, bricks, stone and gold in the wilderness, and also between creating farms, crafting tools, and having children in the Love Shack.  With the gathered resources (besides food, which you spend each round to feed the workers), you can purchase huts (worth certain amounts of victory points and costing various amounts of resources) and cards, which provide certain bonuses at the time of purchase, and are worth victory points at the end of the game as well.  Fairly simple. 

There are always 4 huts face up that can be purchased, and four cards with escalating costs.  When a hut is bought, the next one on the stack is turned face up.  When one stack is exhausted, the game ends.  Cards move down the price track as others are bought, so a card that seems too expensive at 3 or 4 resources might be worth it next round for only one or two - but someone else might claim it first.

For me, the strongest point is the "no in-game text" bit.  That means I can easily buy the game here in Korea.  Then I can just download and print the rules in English for reference.  It will likely be the first Euro-game I play with my son, since he's just beginning to learn how to read.  Anyway, as you can see, I'm planning to actually buy a copy.  It's not the most fun game I've ever played, but is a nicely done Euro-game and seems like it will have fairly good replay value.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Work In Progress - Flying Swordsmen Expansion/possible revision

I had an idea for a Japanese themed expansion to Flying Swordsmen.  There have been several attempts to produce updated versions of the original Oriental Adventures for various clone/simulacrum systems, but none besides Ruins and Ronin that made it to completion, as far as I know.

Well, this idea of mine would not be that either, but it would add Japanese themed classes to my Flying Swordsmen base.

In working up the concepts, I realized that I want to re-do the Stunt system.  And my idea to re-do it is leading me to revise both Thief skills and the entire magic system.

This Japanese expansion will not have every class learning martial arts.  That conceit still works for Flying Swordsmen, with its Wuxia feeling, but doesn't do Chanbara justice.  So here are a few ideas I've been working on for the past few days.

There will be four types of class: Warrior (Bushi), Thief (Dorobo? lumping them all under the Ninja name?  unsure yet), Spellcaster (Mahoutsukai will likely be the group name, although at the moment I'm using it as one of the class names), and Yokai (demi-humans).

The classes will be:
Warrior - 4 classes
Samurai (general all around combatant)
Kensei (weapon master)
Ronin (masterless samurai)
Sohei (warrior monk)

Thief - 4 classes [or maybe just three]
Ninja (spy) [rename to Shinobi if I use Ninja as the group name]
Ansatsusha (Assassin)
Gorotsuki (Mountebank)
Yakuza (gangster) [may get removed as they likely make better opposition than heroes]

Spellcaster - 4 classes [or again maybe only three]
Yamabushi (Shugenja)
Shinsen (Taoist Immortal)
Onmyoji (Exorcist)
Mahoutsukai (Magician) [again may be removed as it's sort of overlapping with Yamabushi at the moment and would make a good group name]

Yokai - 3 classes
Kappa (act as Warrior/Thief)
Kitsune (act as Thief/Spellcaster)
Tengu (act as Warrior/Spellcaster)

The reworking to the Stunt system will be that there will be three sets of stunt dice, Combat, Training, and Magic.  Different classes will get different combinations of the dice.

Also, there will be Maneuvers just like in Flying Swordsmen, but there will also be Tricks for Thieves and Spells will also be handled like Maneuvers for the spellcasting classes.  Tricks will be like Thief Skills, although I'm not sure yet if I want to keep the d20+Stunt Die system of Flying Swordsmen, or go to a 2dX type system where the die type is determined by the appropriate Stunt die.  Spells will likely handled with a system similar to Chainmail's casting rolls. 

And if this all comes together well, I'll rework Flying Swordsmen and make it more like this system, and less like Dragon Fist. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Y'all'r missin' out

Dean and Robbie played Presidents of the Apocalypse with me last night.

Dean was Emperor Norton, Robbie was Elvis Presley.  They played through my adventure Assault on Castle Hasselhoff, and of course threw a few unexpected curves into it (who knew that Minnie Pearl would be found hiding in a bunker with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver?), but it went over well.  The system is basically solid, I think the main thing I need to adjust is the distribution of attacks with and without special bonuses.  The "damage plus stun opponent" powers, which they several of, were maybe overpowered.

I'll make a few adjustments and play it again soon.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Presidents of the Apocalypse Play-test

I've talked about it before, and I'm going to run a session of my Stupid (that's Stupid on the Rients 3-point scale, and maybe just plain stupid as well...) but definitely NOT retro Presidents of the Apocalypse game.

This Saturday, Jan. 5th, 2013 at 9pm Japan/Korea time.  That's 12 noon GMT, early morning North America time.  Those of you in other parts of the world, do the math.  We'll play on G+ Hangouts, so if you're not already on G+ or you're not following me, you'll need to rectify that.

If anyone would like to participate, hit me up a note here on the blog, on G+, or by email:  the_boy_from_illinois [at] yahoo.  I'll send you a copy of the rules as they currently stand.

Character creation is simple and fun, and will be part of the process.  If you'd like to plan ahead, just pick out someone famous from U.S. history to play as, and we'll roll up your powers when the game starts.

This is not a class/level game in the traditional sense.  It's a bit more like the Forge stuff.  You'll need your standard range of polyhedral dice, two of each is best since most rolls are done with 2dX.

Oh, and bring your sense of humor!