Thursday, December 31, 2020

Year in Review

 I was sure on the blog a lot more this year than I have been in recent years! And without going through all my old posts for the year, here are my gaming related remembrances from 2020.

Started off the year high on The Mandalorian and running some WEG d6 Star Wars along with my ongoing Classic D&D West Marches game. Both games are still going. West Marches is pretty regular, Star Wars is pretty irregular, but the players are enthusiastic whenever we play it. Need to get the next SW adventure prepped...

As a player, Dean and Jeremy ran a few games here and there, but the big game for me as a player was Nate's (one of my West Marches players) 5E Lost Mines of Phandelver game. He got a bunch of WotC's free giveaway stuff, and decided to run this online for us. And while I have my dislikes about the 5E system, this was a really fun game to play in. Especially challenging was that I purposefully chose only one weak cantrip that could cause damage for my Conjurer Wizard character (infestation, 1d6 poison damage), although by the end I had cast a fireball from a scroll and had a wand of magic missiles. Still, spent most of the time using my spells to make things easier for the party/harder for the monsters, and I really enjoyed it!

As a game designer, this was a dud year. Well, I had a lot of ideas, but when my wife and kids returned to Korea from the US in the spring because of covid, my game design time was limited. And pretty unfocused. I started the year excited about finally doing something with Krynn, having picked up the Dragonlance Adventures hardback, and reading through the Immortals Set. Quickly lost interest in both of those. 

East Marches is still something I want to work on, but my TSR-East houserules are a bit of a mess right now, and I'd like to get them in a satisfactory form before working on East Marches in earnest. Or maybe I should give up on that and just make EM for Chanbara. Sales have been sluggish lately, may want to put something out for it next year (like my Ghost Castle Hasegawa adventure!). I did spend a LOT of time working on (redundant) GM rules for TSR-East in case I ever release it. I've decided not to mess with phased initiative anymore after it just complicated my West Marches game, though, so they will need a small rewrite there.

And these days, I keep fiddling around with Chainmail combat, and trying to figure out how to make sense of it for D&D. I guess I need to just play it that way, but it seems like played straight, it will be very deadly and very arbitrary. But fiddling around with numbers has been a headache. I should just give up on it, I guess.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Reconceptualizing Chainmail Troop Type meanings

 Yes, one more post about adapting Chainmail combat systems for D&D combat. Yesterday I told myself to give up on this and just play D&D, but this morning I'm thinking about it again.

One thing that the fantasy supplement makes clear is that while in normal Chainmail mass combat a troop's armor and mounted status determines their total combat effectiveness for melee, both offensively and defensively, that doesn't have to be locked solid. There are some fantasy troop types, like Dwarves/Gnomes and Goblins/Kobolds that attack as Heavy Foot but defend as Light Foot (why? I have no idea, especially when the stereotypical Dwarf is in at least chainmail). 

So if I do ditch man-to-man combat (which I'm again considering), weapon choice could still matter. We just need to reconceptualize Chainmail mass combat offense as tied to weapon class, not armor type. 

Light weapons (daggers, clubs, and so on) -- Light Foot

Medium weapons (swords, maces, axes, etc.) -- Heavy Foot

Heavy weapons (great swords, polearms, etc.) -- Armored Foot

Now, things get interesting. A plate mail & shield armored knight forced to fight with a dagger because he lost is sword is now rolling to attack as Light Foot, but opponents still need to roll to hit him as if he's Armored Foot. A naked barbarian with a greataxe rolls to attack as Armored Foot, but monsters only need to roll to hit Light Foot to damage him. 

This means Magic-Users are pretty much always going to be Light for both attack and damage, unless they have a Shield spell or something. Clerics and Thieves will be Light or Medium to attack. Clerics will most often be Heavy or Armored for defense, but Thieves will be stuck with Light. Fighters will be whatever they want, but mostly will be Medium or Heavy to attack, and Heavy or Armored for defense. 

Another possibility, considering how some monsters attack as if cavalry (like Wights/Ghouls) even though they are on foot. In a D&D type game, maybe a good way to make the Fighter better without lots of special abilities like feats and combat maneuvers would be to let them fight as cavalry (light, medium, or heavy depending on their weaponry/armor) instead of foot, even when they're not mounted. This would be a BIG boost for the Fighter. And it would only be applied to characters of the Fighter class, not NPC men-at-arms. Men-at-arms would still need to be mounted to count as cavalry if I went this way. 

This might be something for me to play test with my boys over the winter break and see how it works.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

"Now, I am the master."

 Well, my WEG Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game 30th Anniversary edition arrived yesterday. I have to say, the rule book and sourcebook are both nicely printed, hardback books with a sturdy slip case. They look like they'll hold up to some heavy flipping back and forth. 

I was busy yesterday, and had my D&D game this afternoon, so I'm only now starting to flip through the rule book. But already, I can tell that the easy reference charts at the back are going to speed up my games immensely. The pdf I've been using will still be useful for stuff like aliens, gear, and ships from the prequels and expanded universe (I don't think there's anything from the sequel series in there, but if I want anything, I can easily improvise it). But the books are going to be my go-to references from now on. 

And yes, this is the first edition of the game, so there will be some differences from what we've been playing, but if it's a rule we've had to deal with already (like increasing attributes) we'll go with what's in the REUP pdf. 

Recently, watching Season 2 of the Mandalorian, and having watched episodes 2 through 7 with my boys (1, 8 and 9, plus Rogue One and Solo, and episodes of Clone Wars, will be coming soon), the boys want to change from Mandalorian characters to Jedi characters. I've already got one Alien Student of the Force, one Minor Jedi, and one Young Jedi (who doesn't always show). I think that's enough Force users for a game set during the Rebellion. Before the battle of Hoth even! My older boy suggested I run a separate game just for them so that they could play Jedi. I may just have to do that. 

They've also been playing Star Wars games on Roblox, and want me to play with them. They spent some of their Christmas money on Robux so they could purchase Jedi/Sith characters in the Roblox version of Battlefront, and I think that influenced their desires to ditch their Mando characters. 

They also were asking why they couldn't play as Sith/Dark Jedi. I explained that the rules said you had to give up your PC if you got too many Dark Side points, but they've played enough D&D now to not buy that. "Couldn't you run that kind of game if you wanted to?" Well, yes, yes I could. So, we may be in for an interesting ride with this.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

And it hit me this morning

 I don't know if I'm just slow, but I finally realized why the Dungeon! game's combat system is so different from the man-to-man system. It's because it's the Fantasy combat system, extended to everything from skeletons and goblins up to purple worms and vampires. Not sure why it took me so long to see this. Or maybe I did before, but forgot about it. 

I also got on Google last night, and read some people's reports of playing OD&D with Chainmail combat. Some were very positive, some very negative. Apparently, according to one account which claimed to be of a discussion with Rob Kuntz, Gygax never intended for anyone to play D&D with Chainmail combat except in the endgame when armies were clashing. The references to Chainmail, according to Kuntz as reported by a 3rd party, were just cross marketing. 

Still, though, Arneson used Chainmail for his Blackmoor campaign, and Megarry used the Fantasy Combat rules for Dungeon! which was supposedly his take on how Dave A. ran Blackmoor. So I'm still curious as to how D&D with Chainmail combat would play. And I'd really just need to add the Cleric and Thief to the Fantasy combat table (maybe at high and low level values like the Hero/Superhero?). 

Combat with mundane opponents would be Mass Combat by default, but breaking out Man-to-Man for special battles with human/humanoid opponents (but using D&D initiative instead of Chainmail's complicated version). When fantastic monsters are encountered, players could use Mass Combat or the Fantasy Combat table as they like.

Aside from the realization about Dungeon! just being the Fantasy Combat system, this morning I also thought about this idea. Any PC in the game will automatically get a squad of men-at-arms (or monster mercenaries if Chaotic?) with a Chainmail point value equal to their Charisma score. They would be able to add dice to Mass Combat rolls or help in Man-to-Man combat but not Fantasy combat, and absorb hits in any combat mode.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Yet Another Chainmail Combat in D&D Thought

One problem with using Chainmail's man-to-man combat in D&D is that many monsters don't use manufactured weapons and armor. For those that do -- orcs, goblins, ogres, and so on -- it's easy enough to use. For those that don't, we either need to assign their natural weapons as a weapon class or else come up with some numbers just for them. And I don't think a generic "claw" or "bite" attack line makes much sense when you have everything from giant rats to dragons using them. So each monster would have to be evaluated as to what weapon is closest to its natural attacks, and how they compare against different types of armor.

Then again, if we're still using weapon damage, then maybe it's fine to have one "claw" attack line or what have you. My friends and I mistakenly used the 1st level hit roll numbers for all monsters and even for higher level PCs for the first few years we played, since they were printed on the character sheet on the back of the Mentzer book. So dragons and giants and rocs had the same hit probability as those giant rats in our early games. Dragons and rocs just did a LOT more damage when they hit with their claws and bites. Maybe having numbers for any "claw" or "bite" or "tail slap" or whatever would work. I'd still need to assign those numbers vs each armor type, though. Or decide that all tail slaps count as morning stars and all claws as daggers, something like that.

And then we turn to armor. D&D of course abstracts thick hides, quick movement, large or small size, etc. as part of a generic AC, while Chainmail man-to-man specifies the type of manufactured armor worn by an opponent. AD&D of course kept the weapon vs armor table which is based on Chainmail man-to-man (I assume, never checked the numbers to see if they more or less match). It's one of the things I never liked about AD&D and never used when I ran it, so I don't remember if it's just hand-waved for creatures with a certain AC but not assumed to be armored, or just ignored. For this system I'm developing, though, I can't really ignore it if man-to-man combat is going to be a big part of the game. 

Alternately, when fighting animals, bestial monsters, etc. we only use the mass combat rules, or Fantasy Combat if the creature is on the list (or equivalent to something on the list). 

Of course, if I do simplify the man-to-man tables to match the mass combat armor types instead of the detailed breakdown given in Chainmail, that might make it more manageable. But it's making me think more and more that the system in the Dungeon! board game might be simpler than Chainmail's system. Especially if monsters are just given a general chance to hit. While Dungeon! gives the same attack roll for all monsters, I could give some variety so that bigger, faster, or just more dangerous monsters hit more easily. But then it would negate the bonus that Fighters and Clerics get of wearing the best armors. So I'd need either numbers for armor types, or numbers vs class (the way Dungeon! gives each class different numbers vs monster type).

Or, to make a long blog post short, I understand why the "alternative" combat system using a d20 vs AC became the standard. Many fewer headaches. I'm not quite ready to ditch Chainmail, though, as I think it might make combat interesting.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

A few more thoughts on Chainmail combat in D&D

 Looking more closely at the Grey Elf compiled document for using Chainmail combat in D&D, it's pretty interesting. As classes gain levels, not only do they count as more "men" for the mass combat tables, but they are given additional attacks on the man-to-man tables. They can't engage in fantasy combat until they've gained a few levels (Fighters from 3rd level, but other classes from 5th or 7th), but since most monsters will still have a Mass Combat and Man-to-Man rating, it will be possible to take them on that way. It won't be easy, though. Most of the big monsters from the Fantasy table count as their hit dice worth of light, medium, or heavy horse, so PCs and their underlings fighting as light, heavy, or armored foot (in most dungeon situations) would have a lot of difficulty racking up enough 6s to take them out. 

I think I will keep Fantasy Combat as an all or nothing roll. You defeat the creature or not on that one roll. But it's risky, because that monster also gets one roll to see if it defeats you. Mass combat and man-to-man combat rolls will either deal hits (HD worth of hits needed to kill) or maybe I'll keep hit points and have damage dealt.

I will probably simplify the man-to-man tables, and make numbers only for No Armor, Light Armor, Medium Armor, and Heavy Armor. I may also simplify the weapon lists, as I will definitely include more weapons than the thirteen listed in Chainmail, especially if I retain hit points. 

One interesting thing I noted was that the range modifiers in Classic D&D of +1/0/-1 for short/medium/long range seem to be derived from Chainmail's modifiers. The man-to-man chart has that spread for many of the ranged weapons vs many of the armor types. But there are some where the bonus or penalty is +/-2, or even +/-3! That's a huge bonus on a 2d6 roll, much more significant than on a d20 roll. 

Finally, I think I will be going through the Dungeon! board game cards to get numbers for man-to-man combat against various monsters. Those could be listed in the stat blocks for monsters, one number for each of Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, and Thief (similar to the Elf/Hero/Superhero/Wizard numbers on the Dungeon! cards). Oh, and I got my son the newest version of the game for Christmas last year, and it's got those classes (well, being 5E based, they say Rogue instead of Thief), and I think some different monsters than the original. 

Monster stat blocks will probably look something like this if I stick to the weapon type vs armor type: 

HD: 1-1
Mass Combat
Attack: Light Foot
Defend: Light Foot
Attack: Spear or Short Bow
Defend: Light Armor
Fantasy Combat: NA
Move: 90(30)
Save As: Normal Man
Morale: 6(8)
XP: 5

If I go with something more like Dungeon! numbers for man-to-man, it would look something like this: 

HD: 1-1
Mass Combat
Attack: Light Foot
Defend: Light Foot
Attack: Spear or Short Bow
Defend: C 7, F 5, M 8, T 6
Fantasy Combat: NA
Move: 90(30)
Save As: Normal Man
Morale: 6(8)
XP: 5

Monday, December 14, 2020

Chainmail Combat in D&D (thinking as I type)

Now that I've realized I went overboard planning a "simpler" version of my Treasures, Serpents, and Ruins house rules (that made things more complex due to additional cruft accumulating), I've decided to more or less stick with what I have. There are one dragonborn PC (oh, and one retainer) and one changeling PC still active in West Marches, and going forward I think I won't allow any new PCs of those races. NPCs may still appear, but I think I will weed them out over time. I'm also thinking I don't really need the half-elf. Play and elf and fluff it as a half-elf if you like. I'll keep half-orcs because I have a fondness for them. And gnomes may be retained, or just folded into the dwarf or halfling races (Willow style halfling magic-users may appear instead of gnome illusionists). 

So simplify the races allowed, and keep the current line-up of classes. 

Next, I'm still considering the idea of Chainmail Arena, but also a simpler version of TSR house rules. Today, I'm considering merging the two ideas. Make a simple BX style set of classes, and use Chainmail combat. Part of me wants to, similar to the Dungeon! board game, use 2d6 rolls for all attacks like the man-to-man and fantasy tables do. Part of me still wants to retain the standard Chainmail mass combat dice pool rolls, only on a 1-1 figure scale instead of 1-20. I think for actions involving higher level PCs, or groups with lots of men-at-arms/retainers, versus large groups of humanoids or pack monsters (wolves, stirges, etc.) the mass combat resolution system will be fine, and faster. Against "heroic" enemies or more dangerous monsters, it would make more sense to play out each round of attack/counter attack, I think. 

But will it make the game more messy? Probably. And will there be arguments about when mass combat rolls or man-to-man/fantasy rolls are appropriate? Again, probably. 

Also, I need to consider how to stat up monsters, especially those that don't wear armor. And do I want to keep the weapon vs armor tables for man-to-man, or like the Dungeon! game, just give each monster a target number for each class to beat?

If I go with the target number by class, it would be easy, because every few levels will just add +1 to all rolls for that class to simulate greater fighting power. But then it eliminates weapon choice. 

And then, what about monster attacks on PCs? Will PC target numbers depend on armor worn? Or class/level? Or a combination? And what about rolling on the fantasy table?

Hmm, need to consider this more carefully, I guess. And take another look at that Grey Elf PDF compilation of how to run D&D with Chainmail combat to see how others did it.

I'm going to post this even though it's a half-formed idea, so I'll be able to reference it easily in the future. And some of you may have a few good ideas to add in the comments, too!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

How Wizards Work

 A friend of mine who runs an AD&D game online recently got into a 5E game and decided to play a Wizard as his first character. And he was pretty confused. There are spells in your spell book, spells you prepare, spell slots, cantrips that are at-will, and ritual spells that are sort of at-will, but take time. 

So he asked me to explain it to him since his DM couldn't in a way that made sense to him. 

Honestly, I flailed around at this for a bit, even though I get 5E and how it runs spell casters. 

The way I finally explained it was to break down for the first three levels how many spells you get in the spellbook, how many of those spells you prepare each day, and then how many spell slots you have to cast prepared spells. Plus, then reminding him of ritual spells and how they work. (He had cantrips down, they're easy.)

I was more wordy than this, but it broke down along these lines: 

At 1st level, you have 6 spells in your spellbook. You prepare any 4 of them (assuming a +3 Int bonus at 1st level). You can cast twice. That may be two different spells you prepared, or the same spell twice. 

At 2nd level, you get two more spells in your spellbook. You prepare any 5 of the 8 spells. You can cast three times, in any combination of the 5 prepared spells.

At 3rd level, you get two more spells in your spellbook, probably but not necessarily 2nd level ones. You can prepare any 6 of your 10 spells. You can cast six times, four times MUST be 1st level spells, and two times could be 1st or 2nd level spells, in any combination of your 6 prepared spells. 

And then you can cast any ritual spell without spending a spell slot as long as you have the time to cast it, but since they're mainly out of combat spells, you usually will.

While the flexibility of this is nice (utility spells don't need to be ignored and never prepared until after the need for them is known), it is fairly complex. 

Preparing X spells of each spell level per day, and then just casting those spells old school style is just so much simpler.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) Season 1 Thoughts

 I didn't call this a review on purpose, as I won't be touching on many things that I would in an actual review. So more just thoughts on the first season of the show, which I finished yesterday. 

First of all, one reason I avoided it for so long is that the 3D CGI animation thing often bothers me. It's not something I can really explain fully. It doesn't always. Shrek movies are fine. Incredibles? Great! But things that I originally saw in live action (like Star Wars) or traditional 2D animation (like Mickey Mouse cartoons) when translated to 3D CGI are just... hard to get into. For the first case, it could be uncanny valley reaction. But for the second, I don't know. I'm just becoming an old fuddy-duddy, I guess, as I approach my late 40's. 

As I watched this first season, some episodes bothered me more than others, but the more I watched, the more used to it I got. 

As for the show itself, it's great for fleshing out the Star Wars galaxy. Very useful to me as I plan the next adventure for my d6 Star Wars game. It's giving me some ideas for sure. There are some odd things about the show, though, and I don't mean that it's too heavily focused on Anakin and Obi-Wan always being in the most important actions. The first episode (maybe the pilot?) made it seem like this was going to be an anthology style show, jumping around the galaxy showing us different Jedi or other important characters in different systems. But only a few episodes were like that. Pretty much it's the Obi & Anni show. OK, I can live with that. 

Next, man, the Jedi and Clone army are ridiculously horrible at war. The first multi-episode arc is about the Separatists' "secret weapon" which is just a big ion cannon. And no one in the Republic stops to think, "Hey, we're fighting droids, maybe we should build one of those! Or at least issue ion rifles to our clones instead of traditional blasters!" Sure, we can hand-wave that way as Palpatine purposefully using substandard troops to play both sides off the other and make the war last longer, but no one thinks of that? They have "droid popper" ion grenades, so why not more weapons that can take out their enemies more easily? 

The way the episodes begin is interesting, too. Since there are some stand-alone episodes and some small arcs, and they all begin with a recap, it can get confusing at times. Sometimes it's just setting up a new story (single ep or arc) and sometimes it's recapping the previous events in the arc. And I often went back to check the episode before the one I was watching to see if I had skipped one by mistake when it was a stand-alone or new arc. I was watching these during my lunch breaks and free afternoon time the past few weeks, so it could be easy to forget which episodes I'd watched already. I like that they do the intros, setting up each episode, as it allows for more casual viewing, even of the episodes that make up a minor arc. 

Finally, it's nice to see some of these characters I've heard/read about for years. Especially, I got my son a LEGO Star Wars sticker book years ago, and it has all kinds of characters I'd never heard of before that, like Kad Bane and Assaj Ventress. 

I will start in on Season 2 during my lunch break today.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Housekeeping, of both blog and game

 The spambots were somehow able to beat Google's verification process and post without my knowledge. So comment verification has been turned off and the ever annoying "captcha" has been implemented. Sorry! 

On the gaming front, I spent last night writing up notes for Cleric subclasses. I'd expanded them to 10. Now I'm thinking this is just way too much. It was an interesting thought experiment, but if I really want a simpler game, I should just go back to real basics. Or just stick with what I've already developed. 

 The only real sticking point/possible problem area between using TSR and TSR-East characters together is that TSR Thief skills use the classic d% rolls, while at the moment TSR-East Ninja and Yakuza use x/d6 rolls. Once I resolve that, there should be nothing to worry about.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

I think I've got it

The past couple of nights, I've tried to do some tinkering with my Treasures, Serpents and Ruins house rules after the boys were in bed, but I've just been too exhausted to do much. Well, luckily, this afternoon they were playing some computer games then sword-fighting/sumo wrestling in the bedroom. I had some time, so I got on the computer and thought about the various half-formed ideas of the past couple unproductive evenings. And I got something sorted out (I think). 

This is still in the works, and subject to change, but if any of my current players (like Dean or Justin) are reading this, I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

I modified the idea I discussed several months ago and a couple weeks ago, and came up with lists of alternate classes for the Big Four character classes. I'd had some of these ideas already as ideas for backgrounds or alternate classes, but I rearranged them, added some more, added in classes/races from TSR-East (to have an all-in-one game document), and then did some more rearranging. In the end, it's very similar to the ideas in the first link above (from August).

Many of the alternates have both a human and a demi-human version. The big perk I give to humans in my game is "advantage" on hit die rolls, so they're more likely to get higher hit points. If the character chooses the human alternate, they get to keep that. If they don't, they get whatever demi-human perks. Or at least that's my thinking for now. I did consider earlier this evening to only allow the Survival ability (HD advantage) for the four standard options. Like I said, still mulling things over. 

As they stand right now, it works like this. Roll for ability scores. Choose one of the four classes: Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, Thief. If you meet the prerequisites and want a specific alternate class ability set, you can choose it. Or, if you like, you let fate play a hand and roll for a possible alternate class ability set. The Cleric, MU and Thief each have six alternates (well, technically a few more with human/demi-human options), so roll a 1d12. On a 1-6, you get the standard class abilities. On a 7-12, you get one of the alternate classes. The Fighter has ten alternates, so roll 1d20, with 1-10 being the standard Fighter and 11-20 each a variant option. If a character rolls, they have to take what they get, but they can have the alternate class even if they don't meet the prerequisites.   

I haven't written up all of the alternates yet, but I have ideas for most of them in my head. Here are the lists: 

Alternate Clerics: If the requirements are met, a player may select one of the alternate cleric types. Players may roll randomly to determine the type of cleric, which allows them to ignore the requirements. Roll 1d12:

1-6: Standard Cleric

7: Druid or Half-Elf Cleric

8: Exorcist/Onmyoji or Spirit Born Onmyoji

9: Paladin or Dwarf Cleric-Fighter

10: Shaman or Dokkaebi Shaman

11: Sohei or Tengu Sohei

12: Vampire Hunter or Half-Orc Cleric-Thief


Alternate Fighters: If the requirements are met, a player may select one of the alternate fighter types. Players may roll randomly to determine the type of fighter, which allows them to ignore the requirements. Roll 1d20:

1-10: Standard Fighter

11: Archer or Elf Fighter

12: Barbarian or Half-Orc/Koropokkuru Fighter

13: Dwarf Fighter or Gnome Fighter

14: Halfling Fighter-Thief

15: Knight/Hwarang or Dokkaebi Fighter

16: Martial Artist or Vanara Fighter

17: Ranger or Halfling Fighter

18: Samurai/Ronin or Tengu

19: Swashbuckler or Spirit Born Fighter

20: Weapon Master/Kensei



Alternate Magic-Users: If the requirements are met, a player may select one of the alternate magic-user types. Players may roll randomly to determine the type of magic-user, which allows them to ignore the requirements. Roll 1d12:

1-6: Standard Magic-User

7: Bard or Elf/Half-Elf Fighter-Mage

8: Enchanter or Faerie Mage

9: Geomancer/Wushi or Spirit Born Wushi

10: Illusionist or Gnome Illusionist

11: Witch/Warlock

12: Xia or Vanara Xia


Alternate Thieves: If the requirements are met, a player may select one of the alternate thief types. Players may roll randomly to determine the type of thief, which allows them to ignore the requirements. Roll 1d12:

1-6: Standard Thief

7: Acrobat or Elf/Half-Elf Thief

8: Assassin or Half-Orc Assassin

9: Guildsman/Yakuza or Koropokkuru Thief

10: Halfling Thief or Gnome Thief

11: Ninja or Vanara Shinobi

12: Treasure Hunter or Dwarf Thief



Wednesday, November 25, 2020

More Chainmail Musings

 I was working on my Chainmail Arena idea over the summer, but then it stalled out. I was making troop type cards, and it was fairly tedious. Now I have realized my mistake. I was making individual cards for each individual troop. But since I'm no longer planning to use the man-to-man combat tables, I can make cards for groups of troops. I can then give them a bit of flavor (Cimmerian skirmishers, Orcish Brute Squad, Dwarves of the Crystal Caverns, etc.) and have a set number of 'figures' for each one that will determine the cost and combat power of each type. I may have posted about this idea already, it's been on my mind for a while, but even after coming to the realization, I never got back to work on the project.

Also, following some of the ideas people have put out for using Chainmail combat in OD&D, I'll be giving stats for all fantastic troop types so there's a chance that troopers can hurt and kill them. It makes sense to me that a big mass of archers or pikemen or whatever should be able to eventually take down giants, rocs, and dragons (assuming the latter two come to ground in the case of pikemen). 

Even though the troop types will be in groups, I plan to just use one token/icon for the unit. Realistically, I'll only be playing this online (except maybe some play tests with the boys) so no need to clutter up the map with dozens of figures. Yes, I realize in the actual rules 1 figure represents 20 men. I'm just saying that for a force of hundreds, 1 figure is still enough for this game. That 1 figure will just take more hits and suffer reductions in combat value for those hits before it's eliminated. 

I'm also tempted to try and meld Chainmail/Dungeon! board game style combat into the new revision of my house rules for D&D, but that's probably too much of a switch for my players.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Silly, silly Google

Yesterday I ran my West Marches game. Luckily I logged on a little early to sort a few things out. When I clicked on Hangouts to start the video chat, I found out that that wasn't an option anymore. Clicking around, I found out that the new system is Google Meet. And it wasn't really obvious how to start a Meet video conference at first. I see it on the Google quick menu thing this morning, but since every Google service now has the 4-color treatment, I missed it yesterday because it looks like everything else. 

Anyway, we used Meet yesterday for the game. We had a few technical issues with sound, and some people were delayed entering the game, because unlike Hangouts, I needed to grant permission to people to enter the Meet instance, and it didn't always make a chiming sound when someone wanted permission. Since we mostly are looking at Roll20 while gaming, that was an issue. 

Basically, if you have used Zoom (which I use to teach classes these days), you will see exactly what Google is trying to do with Meet. Even though Hangouts was working fine, and I didn't see any big advantages of using Meet over Hangouts. Just inconveniences. 

Like all tech, I'll get used to it pretty quickly, I know, but it's still eye-roll inducing whenever some tech company decides they need to "innovate" just because a competing service is doing well.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Star Destroyer Megadungeon?

 Just a random idea I had this morning -- make a ruined/abandoned star destroyer into a megadungeon for Star Wars d6. This was partly inspired by the most recent episode of The Mandalorian, but also Rey's scavenging the crashed star destroyer in Episode 7, and the thought of the ruined ship/dungeon in Metamorphosis Alpha.

Actually, I don't think dungeon crawling really fits the WEG rules so well, at least not as they're presented in SWd6. And I'd rather not get the game bogged down in one location like that, especially now that the party has their ship back and can go nearly anywhere. But if I did...

The ship would be a derelict in space, not crashed on a planet. It would need to be somewhere in the Outer Rim, most likely, or the Imperials would reclaim it. But it would need to be near enough to a space lane or trading hub world that lots of factions would have contingents in it. And there would need to be something of value scattered across the ship to keep the players interested in exploring it. 

Actually, instead of an Imperial star destroyer, maybe one of the similar capital ships from the Clone Wars? Or something older than that even?

On the down side, I don't think I've got the time and patience to map out the interior of a star destroyer, let alone key areas of interest. Even if most of it is left blank, it would be a monster of a task. 

Anyway, still an interesting idea, I think.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Outed Myself

 In an AD&D 1E play-by-post game I've been in for years now, the DM started up an Oriental Adventures game section, and I joined in. He also (knowing I was the author) decided to use some elements of Flying Swordsmen in his game. Mostly he's using martial arts maneuvers and monsters. 

Anyway, it had been our secret all along that one of the players in the game was the author of the supplemental rules to the game we're playing (it's still 1E OA, just we get a few extra martial arts powers bolted onto our classes -- I've got a kensai PC in the game). 

Some people have commented on how much they like the martial arts maneuvers, but I'd never let them know it was my work until today. Not sure why, but a new player had joined the game and had no idea what Flying Swordsmen was. Another fairly new player was complementing the game, so I fessed up and gave the new player the link to download the rules. 

And immediately, I got questions about interpreting the rules. I deferred to the DM, of course, since it's his game and his place to decide how to mesh the base OA rules with FS. 

It's been a little while since I've done much with either Flying Swordsmen or with Chanbara. I think I should probably promote them a bit more. My sons have both tried their hands at YouTubing (yes, even my 6-year-old) so tonight my wife suggested I make some videos to promote my games. 

I think I will. Expect a link to a video on the blog some time in the near future.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Pushing the Envelope

 I've been thinking lately about ways that I could streamline my Treasures, Serpents, & Ruins (TSR) house rules for BX/BECMI style play. Right now, the rule set is as close to AD&D 1E as I think I can take it without adding too much additional complexity. But the TSR-East rules add just a small amount of complexity and variation that I currently think I should get rid of. 

One thing is that the TSR Thief (and related classes) use % Skills as normal for BX/BECMI, but the TSR-East Yakuza and Ninja use x/d6 for their skills. I like the x/d6 rules, as they streamline with the racial ability skills in Classic, but part of me wants the Thief to still be the Thief -- even with the super low chances of success at early levels. 

But that's not the main thing I want to discuss here. I think anyone who's downloaded Flying Swordsmen or purchased Chanbara knows that I like the 2E AD&D conceit of the character kit. 5E D&D also does something sorta similar with their Backgrounds, but also with their class archetypes/specializations. And now I wonder if I could make a version of Classic D&D that looks something like this: 

3 classes, as in OD&D: fighty-type, casty-type, hybrid-type

Kits/Backgrounds that can modify the special abilities and restrictions of the class, while the main core (hit die, XP progression, to hit and save progression, saving throws) remain unchanged [for the most part]. 

Demi-human races would actually be listed among the kits/backgrounds. This would allow me to mimic the original rules for the demi-humans, and expand them when desired, but leave players with reasons to play human PCs as many of the kits/backgrounds are for humans only. 

Some of the kits/backgrounds would be for one class only, while others might be options for more than one class. Of course, the danger is going overboard with kits/backgrounds. But it would allow for easy modding to different cultural milieux like TSR-East. All you need to do is provide an alternate set of kits/backgrounds. 

Looking at Classic D&D's seven classes, in this version they'd look like this: 

Warrior Class 





Caster Class


Hybrid Class



For TSR-East, you'd get something like this (not considering the optional demi-humans for the moment):

Warrior Class 





Caster Class



Hybrid Class



With AD&D 1E, it would be much more complex with race/class combos, but stripping out the demi-humans for the moment:

Warrior Class 





Caster Class




Hybrid Class





If we add in demi-humans, even with some restrictions that play to the key tropes of each race, it gets pretty complex: 

Warrior Class 





*Dwarf Fighter

*Halfling Thief

*Halfling Fighter/Thief

*Half-Orc Assassin

*Half-Orc Fighter

 Caster Class




*Elf Magic-User

*Gnome Illusionist

*Half-Elf Druid

Hybrid Class





*Dwarf Cleric/Fighter

*Elf Fighter/Magic-User

*Half-Elf Cleric/Magic-User

*Half-Elf Ranger

*Gnome Fighter/Illusionist

So, definitely not perfect when it comes to streamlining, unless each kit/background is really just a small number of changes. 

Still, something to think about.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Comment Moderation is On

 A while back I put moderation on comments on posts older than a week old to cut down on the spam, but recently the spam from porn sites has been getting through that, so I decided to just moderate all comments. I did not turn on the Captcha, because those are annoying. 

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

How I do Exploration XP

 I received this comment from Reese Laundry on my post about not dividing the XP

Like Daren, I do this in my BX/OSE games for monster XP only, but not treasure. IT's a minor boost and not unbalancing, I don't feel. I've considered the idea of exploration or mission XP, but haven't tried it yet. I'd be interested in seeing a post at some point on how you do it and how it's worked out for your table!

 Since I've got a bit of spare time today, might as well address it. 

When I started my West Marches game, one of the things I did was go back and read a post from Jeff Rients about exploration XP, and decided to work that into the game. 

Each hex that gets explored has a basic XP value. Any monster lair has a value for its discovery, as well. These values increase the farther the party gets from town. I've got bands 4 hexes deep (or about 1 day's travel) that set the value of these. 

Special locations, or performing certain actions at special locations, or encountering an iconic creature in a certain region, are all worth bonus XP. 

Originally, I set the game up for 5E because that's what all the players wanted to play. So the XP values were pretty small, especially in the initial band. When I switched to Classic D&D, I didn't shift the values right away, so they ended up being inconsequential. After a while, I upped them. 

One thing that I need to improve about my game, actually, is telegraphing where the special areas are that can earn bonus XP. For quite a while now, the group has been setting their own goals. And I've not found the right balance of throwing out rumors and keeping things mysterious. I'm working on it. 

I think I need to make a Google Docs with the rumors and just post the XP amounts on it if the rumor is successfully investigated. 

Anyway, here are the current values I'm using for exploration of a hex and discovery of a lair. The special area XP is pretty variable, but usually two to five times that of a lair discovery award, depending on how easy/hard or influential I think that special is. 

First Band (1 to 4 hexes from Silverwood): Hex 100xp, Lair 200xp

Second Band (5 to 8 hexes): Hex 200xp, Lair 500xp

Third Band (6 to 12 hexes): Hex 500xp, Lair 1000xp

Fourth Band (13 to 16 hexes): Hex 1000xp, Lair 2500xp

Fifth Band (17 to 20 hexes): Hex 2500xp, Lair 5000xp

Sixth Band (21 to 23 hexes): Hex 5000xp, Lair 10,000xp

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Can you hear them? My children of the comment section. What music they make!

 I may have gotten the quote from Dracula a bit off. But oh well. 

Any other bloggers notice that the "vampire" spammer is back, and just in time for Halloween? 

Deleted a bunch of that crap yesterday. 

And it got me thinking, they're a pretty sad bunch of vampires! Immortality, power, wealth, and the best they can do is create a spam-bot? Lame!!! 

Come back when you've got an attractive offer of vampirism, dudes.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Undivided XP - a potentially unbalancing idea

 I was inspired to make my home game a West Marches campaign from a play-by-post game I've been in for a few years. It's a 5E game, so it has a different scale of progression anyway, but since it's PbP, the DM doesn't divide XP among the group members. If we face a group of monsters worth 700xp total, we each get 700xp. 

Since PbP is a really slow moving way to play, this means we still level up fairly often, especially with 5E's expedited numbers for leveling. 

In my game, the groups recently tend to be on the large size, so much so that most of the players have stopped hiring men-at-arms. They tend to be around level 4 to 5, but with a few at 6 and a few still at 3. But despite the presence of level 5 and 6 PCs, they still tend to think they're only able to handle the level 3 stuff. Fair enough, it has been a deadly game (no dead PCs this past weekend, but two weeks ago one PC and the last of the henchmen were killed). 

I'm wondering if maybe I should switch to a thing like the PbP DM does, and not divide the XP. Being that this is Classic D&D, I'd of course stick to the rules that no more than one level can be gained per session, so when they get a dragon or giant's massive treasure, we won't see someone shooting from level 3 to level 7 at once. It would speed up advancement which would help the lower level PCs catch up level-wise, and maybe give the players a bit more of a feeling of toughness. 

Part of me feels like they're operating below their capacity for risk, sticking to the safer areas, and avoiding some of the dungeons (which often are a bit more challenging than the area they're in). 

Part of me feels like I should just let them do this, as it means I can take my time on expanding the keyed areas of the map. If they're leveling faster, I'll need to prepare stuff in farther regions faster than I am right now. 

Also, part of me feels like this will unbalance things. The benefit of a huge party (6 to 8 PCs, a tiger and a dire wolf as mounts for two of the PCs, plus occasional henchmen or leveled retainers) is that they can handle more danger. The drawback is that the XP gets divided more ways. 

I probably will not implement this idea, but it is an interesting idea to consider. Maybe in another campaign some day.

Monday, October 19, 2020

This is the way.

 My d6 Star Wars campaign has floundered. Not from lack of interest. I enjoy running it, and my group enjoys playing it. It's just I don't have that much free time these days. It seems like just keeping up with the games I play in, and running West Marches (which has enough prepped material to run for quite a long time still, as long as the players don't go too far in one direction!) is all I can handle right now. 

But, The Mandalorian Season 2 debuts next week. Well, at the end of next week, so it's closer to 2 weeks away than one, but who's counting? (I am.) 

Hopefully, watching that with the boys will rekindle my desire to run some games set long ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Demon Castle Design

 I've been crunched for time lately, with a journal paper just submitted, a conference presentation to prepare, student homework to grade, and midterms coming up soon. Oh, and then there's being a husband/father! But somehow, I manged to sneak in some time to consider how I'd design a Castlevania style megadungeon while watching the boys play on the playground over the weekend. And it's taken me until Wednesday night to finally blog about it!

Here's what I came up with:  

The castle itself will have 12 zones, ranging from around level 3 to level 8 or so. I figure, why bother starting at 1st level for something like this? Get right to the good stuff. But also level 10+ characters really don't have to worry too much about vampires, right? Double energy drain sucks, but with turn undead, fifth level spells, magic items, and lots of hit points, high level characters can manage Dracula easily. So keep it in the sweet spot. Still plenty of room for character progression.

Each zone will of course have a theme. The Great Halls. The Dungeon. The Clock Tower. The Armory. The Long Library. The Catacombs. The Chapel of Lost Souls. All stolen from Castlevania, of course! And each will be around 15 to 20 encounter areas. As mentioned previously, there will be easy access to every zone (relatively so anyway) to be more of a megadungeon and less of a side-scrolling railroad.

Around the castle will be five towns and five small dungeons. I'm still debating whether to use names from Castlevania 2 for the towns (Jova, Aljiba, etc.) or actual Transylvanian town names (Brasov, Sibiu, Sighisoara, etc.). Whichever way I go, each town will have certain goods and services available, including a small cast of potential hirelings. Each town will also have a random events table to roll on each time the PCs visit (maybe not the "home town" since they will likely go there all the time). 

The five small dungeons (or dangerous wilderness areas) will be around 10 encounter areas each, and probably have magical treasures that will be nice to have (but not necessary) in the castle. This will provide possible diversions if the players are getting bored by the castle, but also help get the treasure (XP) needed to level up, since the castle itself will probably not give enough XP for the higher levels, especially if there are a big group of players like my games tend to attract these days. 

Additionally, it would be easy to add more small dungeons around the castle if necessary to help boost the PCs up a level if they need it. Or maybe I'll periodically restock lower levels. That's what happens in Castlevania games anyway. Then I won't need to add more maps and keys, just re-key areas that were cleared. 

Seems manageable when I break it down like this, but again, no time! One of these days.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

New Reading Material

 Got a package from Amazon yesterday. 

Reading up on game design theory, motivation, and role play game history to build up some background knowledge to start some studies on language learning through RPGs. Hoping to get a group of my students to try out some RPGs, which I can monitor and interview them about, and write up some case studies and action research papers. 

So this is a research expense.  And they should just be interesting to read on their own.

Some days (most days) I really love my job.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Demon Castle Dracula

 Castlevania games have long been among my favorites. I still regularly replay the old NES games via emulation. And I enjoyed the hell out of the Playstation/PS2 era games, especially (no surprise) Symphony of the Night.

When I was a teenager, and finally got around to mapping out the Haunted Keep in Karameikos (I had Mentzer, not Cook's Expert Set), of course it was pretty heavily inspired by the original Castlevania game. 

Back when I was still using 3E, I took a break from developing the campaign that would eventually provide the setting for Flying Swordsmen (and my Chanbara play tests), I tried to make a Castlevania inspired megadungeon. But like SotN, I had limited paths from zone to zone, and strict challenge levels, and whatnot, and it got to be too much of a burden. 

While I don't really have time to try and create a megadungeon at the moment, the approach of Halloween has got me thinking about it again. IF I were to create it now, with more years of experience and evolved ideas on what makes for a good game, the plan would be a lot more open. If low level PCs wanted to head straight to the Clock Tower and Dracula's Turret, they'd be able to do it. Not likely a good idea, but the option would be there. 

And like in Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest, there would be some towns and other smaller dungeons around besides just the castle proper. They would allow the players chances to learn about the zones of the castle (and the threats likely to be encountered there), and also places to buy/sell/trade loot and magic items, and "side quests" to find weapons and artifacts useful against the denizens of Castlevania. 

And of course, I'd need to decide if this would be done in Classic D&D, or with RetroPhaze (which I apparently have an older edition of, John keeps working on this great little game!).

Monday, September 28, 2020

Combat Round Resolution

 After years of playing 3E through 5E (yes, I got back into Classic around 2006, but have still played the other editions), I've kinda gotten used to the idea of each player making their entire suite of actions at one time in the combat round. Move, attack, other miscellaneous actions all resolve at once, before others act. 

And even in Classic, using group initiative, I've often defaulted to letting the players act in any order they choose on their side's turn, telling me everything they do at once. It's easy to go around the table and just adjudicate each player's actions one by one. 

Recently, though, I've been trying to run the combat round by-the-book. And in Classic D&D, this means the sides in combat each act according to the order of actions first laid down in Chainmail.

Move. Missile Fire. Magic (Artillery in Chainmail). Melee. 

It didn't seem to be a problem for the past few sessions, using theater of the mind. But yesterday, I had a small crumbling castle full of orcs and a troll that the PCs were exploring, and I wanted to use a tactical battle map since the orcs had chances to surround the PCs (although clever play with the first cohort encountered made that moot). Using the map, and dividing up movement from other actions, especially in simultaneous initiative rounds, really seemed to mess with the players. Lots of comments like "Oh, is this still the same round?" and "I move here and do X" - "You already moved."

So I'm wondering. Part of me likes the phased initiative system. But part of me likes a more open and less restrictive system. 

Something to discuss with the players, I guess, but I think I may just ditch the phased combat round and go back to just going around the table and asking each player what they do each round.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Again, the Giants?

 My players are slowly creeping towards the more dangerous areas of the West Marches, now that the lowest level party member (my 6 year old who only sort of participates) is 3rd level, and most are in the 4 to 6 range. I've got the next ring done (although I think I still need to convert a few zones from 5E notes to Classic -- while just pulling open my monster book is often good enough, treasures are too low if I leave them at 5E levels), and they have made a few tentative in-roads into that band of challenge. So I'm working on the next ring out. 

The Giants modules are going in this region, even though they're a little tough for the intended level. But since I have at least one player who's played many of the classic modules before, I want to switch them up a bit. Rework a few things, maybe make some map changes. And no, I won't give out too many details of what I'm doing, since a few of my players read this blog. Suffice it to say they won't be exactly the same. 

Also, since West Marches is player-driven in terms of plot, I will not likely be sticking the D and Q modules anywhere. And while I'll likely retain connections between the three giant strongholds, there won't be as much metaplot to discover (maybe, I could change my mind on that). 

Today I read through Glacial Rift, and really, even if I wanted to play them straight, the upper level is a bit bland. There are some interesting encounters and situations there, but a LOT of them are similar. Want to spice things up a bit. Also, will probably switch out some of the treasures to again provide some uncertainty/discovery for my veteran players. 

Plus, as I've mentioned before, Gygax can be a bit verbose. These modules are fairly compact, but at the table, I really don't need all that level of detail for most of the areas. So I'll be spending some spare time in the next few days doing some mods to the module.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Hail the Dragonslayers

 In my West Marches game yesterday, the party was searching for a rumored dragon burial mound. They didn't find it, but they did stumble across a lake with an island housing a ruined monastery. And in that ruined monastery there was a fledgling bronze dragon atop the wall. 

After much hemming and hawing about what to do (the dragon didn't talk, and seemed to be warning the party away), they scared it with some impressive phantasmal force spells (failed save and failed morale check!), then followed it into the ruins. It went into its nest to wake its brethren (as it was on watch). But a fireball wand and a magic missile spell finished them in the surprise round. 

As the party were exploring the priory for loot, they heard a larger dragon roaring outside. Cue big battle!

Except I wasn't expecting it to be as epic as it turned out to be. The "adult" dragon (8HD 'small' bronze in my version of BECMI) had way less than average hit points, only 20 when the average is 36. It did have two more wyrmlings with it, though, so the battle could have gone south quickly. But the party had initiative in the crucial early rounds. The fireball wand took out the two wyrmlings, then the parent cast darkness while one of the party's magic users cast haste and another cast web on the entrance. 

When the dragon came in, it got stuck for a few rounds in the web. It did manage to breathe on the cleric, but even though she failed her save, she had enough hit points to survive. The party managed to then inflict some serious damage on the dragon, but it then cast hold person on four of the PCs, and three failed their saves. It managed to get off both of its remaining breath weapons, but in its damaged state they didn't do much. The party finally finished it off. 

And also, one PC has an arrow of teleportation. He drank a potion of luck to ensure that he'd hit with it and teleport the dragon away. It was a smart plan, but they managed to do so much damage to it that they called him off from using it. 

It was a pretty tense battle, and I'm happy that it went on long enough to have the dragon cast a few spells and use all of its breath weapons (although I guess I should have had it use the fear gas breath after it was damaged, might have given it time to escape the web, but I didn't think of that in the moment, and the party was so spread out only one or two would have been gassed anyway).

I really enjoyed running the encounter, and I think the players had a good time as well. And now a few PCs get to level up!

Friday, September 11, 2020

Another anniversary for the blog!

 What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse... keeps chugging along. I'm not nearly as active this year as I was last year, but most of last year my family was in the USA and I was in Korea. So plenty of time to write stuff up. This year, not so much.

I'm tinkering with ideas for Chainmail Arena. 

I'm in the middle of writing up the next adventure for d6 Star Wars. 

I'm filling in more of my West Marches map. Stocked seven or eight hexes this afternoon. Over three years into the campaign, and I still have only stocked around half of the map's hexes. But only around a quarter to a third have been explored, so I'm still ahead of my players. 

East Marches is stalled, and may become vaporware. Not sure. I did a lot of preliminary work for it, but actually starting in on describing the locations on the map, building up the home town, etc. seems daunting. Maybe I should draw a new, smaller map and expand it later? Or break things up by zones. 

On the plus side, I have decided that I'm fine with my current house rules. No converting back to race-as-class, although I might revise how multiclassing works based on my recent revision ideas. Basically, multiclass characters will get a set hit die and set XP track and advance both classes on a level up (the way BX/BECMI Elves do). It simplifies things. No more splitting XP, no worries about energy drains, no trying to remember if hit points get rounded up or down or just halves are recorded. 

Nothing going on (in my head space) at the moment with Flying Swordsmen or Chanbara, and no more paper minis projects in the works. Sales are sluggish, but then they usually are at this time of year. Maybe I need to come up with something new to revitalize them? 

Anyway, that's the state of things right now. If you were curious. Thanks as always to my readers! Expect more silliness, random thoughts on gaming, and occasionally insightful pieces in the coming year.

Friday, September 4, 2020

A small bonus

 By switching from only thinking of man-to-man and fantasy table combat in Chainmail arena, I've opened up conceptually to a hopefully cool idea. I'd read that Gygax thought fantasy rules should only be paired with man-to-man, but several examples of the game in play, as well as many notes in the fantasy supplement, suggest using fantasy creatures in mass combat. 

The mass combat rules will probably speed up games. Since I plan to play these play-by-post, that will help. Faster is always better in PbP. 

Also, with each mook-type unit representing a troop of 20 (or so) combatants, it allows each to be flavored as such. I immediately thought of Magic: The Gathering, where usually cards for weak monsters represent squads. Like the classic Mon's Goblin Raiders or the Orcs of the Iron Claw. Yes, there are some individual weaker monsters, but I like the idea of players not recruiting 20 generic "light foot" or whatever. They have to recruit Atalanta's Amazon Skirmishers. 

 And I plan to fully take advantage of pop culture/fantasy media/D&D iconic characters for heroes, antiheroes, superheroes, superantiheroes, and wizards of all stripes. Conan, Elric, Simon Belmont, Warduke, Strahd, Merlin, Circe, Melisandre, Madmartigan, and so on. Makes sense to also have some flavor for the squads of troops. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Rethinking Chainmail Arena

 It's been a year and a half since I came up with the idea to use Gygax and Perren's Chainmail for an arena combat type game. You can read about it here, here, and here

I'm reconsidering it now, as it's been in the back of my mind all this time. I printed up and re-read the man-to-man rules, and I think that those should be enough for grunt level humanoid vs humanoid combat. I also read through parts of the Grey Elf's Compleat Chainmail Combat System pdf. It's a collection of clarifications, house rules, and design notes from the Grey Elf and others for using Chainmail combat resolution in OD&D. 

The explanations in it helped me to get a better idea of how to run Chainmail Arena. 

I've still got to figure a few things out. If I use the man-to-man tables for humans/demi-humans/humanoids, that's fine. Using the fantasy table for fantasy creatures is fine. But when normies fight the fantasy creatures, it seems to require the normal Chainmail mass combat resolution. I'd like to simplify things so all rolls are 2d6. Hopefully, this pdf will help clarify things. It seems like it will. 

 So this game is closer to happening than it used to be.   

Addendum: I've watched a video with an example of play, and read more of the Grey Elf pdf. I'm thinking now that abandoning the man-to-man table might just be easier. Instead of recruiting individual goblins or whatever, players will recruit humanoids (and normal animals) as packs/squads.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Movie Review: Bill and Ted Face the Music

 Over the weekend, I watched the entire Bill and Ted trilogy with my boys (12 and 6). My older boy had seen Excellent Adventure before, but it was the first time for my second, other than a few scenes. He'd found a copy of the movie on my old netbook PC, and watched the Western saloon scene where they order beers and meet Billy the Kid. 

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure really holds up after all these years. I'd last seen it a few years ago. I was not disappointed by it this time. My boys also really liked it, and the silliness of the historical figures in 1980's San Dimas really delighted the boys. 

Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey didn't hold up so well. There were laughs, but not as many. The story is a little harder to follow. I had to explain more to my 6 year old as we watched. Still, I figured it would be important for them to see it before we watched part 3, and I was right. I had to do a lot less explaining as we watched Face the Music. 

So, mandatory section on language in the movie, since "movie title + curse" leads parents to this blog. There was a similar level of cursing to the other two movies. No F bombs, a few people called dickheads or dickweeds. Many most creative uses of nonstandard vocabulary to express all things non-triumphant.

The plot is not full of twists. It's fairly straightforward, and I could see one of the main critical elements of the resolution coming just from watching the trailers. But the other element of it surprised me, in a good way. 

The actresses who played Bill and Ted's daughters were really fun to watch. They were as appealing as Bill and Ted, and while it isn't their movie, they didn't feel tacked on like the Princess Babes were in the first two movies. The Princesses also had a nice little story arc, but there wasn't much time to explore it so well. At least they had something to do this time. 

The CGI is a bit overdone at times, but then that sort of fits with the low budget effects that the first two movies had. Everything in the future/circuits of time is better rendered, but it doesn't necessarily look better, if you know what I mean. So while it's updated, it still feels sorta like the original. 

Casting was good, too. I had to check on IMDB after watching it to see if the guy playing Deacon (Ted's brother) was the same as in Excellent Adventure (it isn't, but looks like he could be). Also, I noticed that a different pair of actresses played the princesses in each movie. I don't remember if I'd noticed that different actresses had been hired in Bogus Journey. They were such small parts of both movies. But Joanna and Elizabeth were recast yet again. Both sets of actresses from the previous films seem to be active, so I'm wondering why they didn't want to be part of this. Maybe because the characters were just plot devices in the earlier films. Anyway, they're actually characters with arcs in this one, if the arc is a bit shallow. 

Quick Edit: Gotta love a movie with a robot named Dennis. Most outstanding!

In the end, it was just fun to see Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves playing their iconic duo on screen again. They still have the chemistry they exhibited 30 years ago, and it made me happy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Stars Without Number Revised Edition initial impressions

 Back in 2017, Kevin Crawford of Sine Nomine Publishing put out a revised version of Stars Without Number. I hadn't played SWN since Justin's old Panoply Sector game (which he ran at the tail end of his Vaults of Ur campaign), so I never checked out the revised version until just recently. I got invited to a play-by-post game using SWN Revised, so downloaded the free version from DriveThru and made a character (actually remade my old PC from Justin's game, Dr. Zoltana, xenoarchaeologist). 

So I've really only looked through the game enough to make my character. This is not a full review. Just some initial impressions. 

SWN Revised keeps the basic chassis of SWN. It's pretty much BX D&D for characters and combat, but with a 2d6 resolution skill system tacked on. And lots of sci fi tech. 

The revision does a few things that impressed me. There's a new fourth character class, the Adventurer. An adventurer combines half of two of the other classes. So you can be part Warrior, part Expert (as I made Zoltana), part Warrior, part Psychic, or part Expert, part Psychic. 

Backgrounds seem pretty similar to what I remember, giving you some extra skills related to your training outside of your class. And if you risk it and get lucky, it can also boost your ability scores. Each background provides 1 skill for free, and you can either choose two more from a small selection of skills, or roll three times on the skill list or the Growth Table which have chances for +1 to any stat of your choice, +2 to a physical stat, or +2 to a mental stat, a set skill, or a skill of your choice.

There are focuses (foci as Crawford calls them) which are like 3E feats, with two tiers. They provide a lot of customization options for characters, and aren't overly complex in implementation. Many also provide a level in a skill.

But so far, the most impressive improvement to the rules has been how Crawford redesigned the skills. In SWN-R, each skill's name is a simple verb. And they cover a wide area, and different ability modifiers can be added depending on the situation (much like 5E's often ignored rule on skill/tool use rolls). The combat skills (shoot, punch, stab) add to d20 rolls to hit in combat, but can also be used with the normal 2d6 in other non-combat situations. Exert, the general physical/athletics skill, can also be used in combat for throwing attacks or I assume wrestling and the like. 

So far, I'm liking what's been done to the rules. It feels more streamlined, and even more customizable to fit nearly any character concept.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Class Reductionism

 I have continued my thinking about simplifying multiclassing in my game. 

Tonight's thinking is thus: 

Multiclassing is only available for the four main classes. My alternate classes will remain, but any previously allowed multiclass using them will be outlawed (no Cleric/Rangers or Illusionist/Thieves). 

Going by the example set by the BX/BECMI Elf class, there is a single XP track and both class's abilities advance at once. Generally the multiclass will take more advantageous numbers from either base class, but demi-human level caps will take the lower. 

The numbers here are still provisional. The Elf uses double the Fighter advancement (the faster class) if you look at it one way, or the combined total minus 500xp at 2nd level if you look at it another. I went with the latter to figure out these numbers. The amounts for high level advancement were considering that spellcasters tend to get exponentially more powerful, but the MU/Thief is stuck with a d4 hit die, so they get a small boost. 

Multiclassing Rules:

  • Take the most advantageous BAB track.

  • Take the most advantageous saving throw for each category

  • Gain all special abilities of each class

  • Use any weapons or armor allowed by either class

  • Use the custom XP track and advance both classes

  • Use the least advantageous maximum level

Multiclass Advancement Table








Hit Die: d8

Hit Die: d6

Hit Die: d6

Hit Die: d6

Hit Die: d8

Hit Die: d4










































































































Dwarf: Berserker (8), Cavalier (6), Cleric (8), Fighter (12), Thief (6), Cleric/Fighter (8), Fighter/Thief (6)

Elf: Bard (6), Fighter (10), Magic-User (12), Thief (8), Fighter/Magic-User (10), Fighter/Thief (8)

Halfling: Acrobat (8), Druid (6), Fighter (8), Ranger (10), Thief (12), Fighter/Thief (8)

Gnome: Bard (8), Fighter (6), Illusionist (12), Thief (8), Fighter/Thief (6)

Half-Elf: Assassin (6), Cleric (6), Druid (10), Fighter (8), Magic-User (8), Ranger (8), Thief (10), Cleric/Fighter (6), Cleric/Magic-User (6), Fighter/Magic-User (8), Magic-User/Thief (8)

Half-Orc: Acrobat (6), Assassin (12), Berserker (10), Cavalier (8), Cleric (6), Fighter (10), Thief (6), Cleric/Thief (6)

Still considering if I want to keep the Dragonborn and Changeling (sort of like Tieflings) or not. 

Also, my Acrobat class is an amalgam of the Monk and Thief/Acrobat. Assassin is what you'd expect, sort of a Fighter/Thief with an instant kill ability. Bard is a lore-master class, not a minstrel. Berserker is the barbarian (but no rage, no magic-item smashing, basically the Berserker monster turned into a class). Cavalier is a mix of the UA Cavalier and the Paladin. Druid is based on the alternate Cleric in the Companion Set as a full progression class. Illusionist is a port of the AD&D class. Ranger is also a modified port of the AD&D class. 

Assassin and Ranger are both basically a Fighter/Thief, only one is urban and the other is rural/wilderness.