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

Annother 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


Cleric/Fighter

Cleric/Magic-User

Cleric/Thief

Fighter/Magic-User

Fighter/Thief

Magic-User/Thief

Level

Hit Die: d8

Hit Die: d6

Hit Die: d6

Hit Die: d6

Hit Die: d8

Hit Die: d4

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

3000

3500

2200

4000

2700

3200

3

6000

7000

4400

8000

5400

6400

4

12,000

15,000

8800

16,000

11,000

12,800

5

25,000

30,000

17,000

32,000

22,000

26,000

6

50,000

60,000

35,000

64,000

44,000

52,000

7

100,000

120,000

70,000

120,000

88,000

104,000

8

200,000

240,000

140,000

240,000

175,000

210,000

9

330,000

480,000

270,000

360,000

300,000

330,000

10

460,000

600,000

400,000

480,000

425,000

450,000

11

590,000

720,000

530,000

600,000

550,000

570,000

12

720,000

840,000

660,000

720,000

675,000

690,000

13

850,000

960,000

790,000

840,000

800,000

710,000

14

980,000

1,080,000

920,000

960,000

925,000

830,000

15

1,010,000

1,200,000

1,050,000

1,080,000

1,050,000

950,000

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.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

I like this guy's thinking

 After struggling for a year or so to make my West Marches game feel like an old school exploration game using 5E, I gave up and switched to Classic D&D. Don't regret the change at all. But yesterday, I clicked on this "suggested video" on YouTube and liked what the guy had to say. He's making videos for 5E, but at least this one from yesterday and one more I watched today make me think that he understands old school play and what makes it fun and interesting. 

In this one, he talks about how you don't need a lot of game mechanical resolution for a lot of exploration-based play in the game. Thinking of Johnathan Tweet's "Drama-Fortune-Karma" breakdown of how to resolve actions, exploration is mostly a mix of drama and karma, and the rules tell you when you need to involve fortune. Old school play tends to have a different idea of when fortune should come into it (newer school play being very character skill check based, while old school tends to be more about DM systems of management or set abilities with set probabilities), but in both new and old, drama and karma (and some common sense) can manage a lot of it. 

The second video, which I just watched shortly before posting, deals with Simulationism (of the dreaded GNS theory). He's got an interesting take on what simulationism means, and his discussion of having a stable and unbalanced world to game in again seems very old school. 

I think I'll be watching more from Zipperon Disney.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Class Consciousness

Talifer (aka Dean, who plays in my games and DMs what he calls Ozberron, now back to 4E rules) pointed out on my last post that most players are more familiar with AD&D and up editions where race and class are separate. But there's a part of me that really wants to get my game back to the simplicity of the four basic classes, plus demi-humans.

And really, Jeff Rients pointed this out in his blog a long time ago, the four Basic human classes really can represent any type of character in an Asian inspired game (along with some demi-humans). Now I'm going for something a bit more pan-Asian inspired in my home game, but the concept is valid.

Looking at the BX/BECMI options, the demi-humans are two variant Fighters and a single multi-class combination.

If I were to remodel my house rules on the idea of four basic classes but each can choose a specialty, I could cover a lot of demi-humans that way. Being a Dwarf is basically being a Fighter but with a few special abilities, and limited to 12th level. So if I were to make a general Fighter class with options to specialize as a Barbarian, Paladin, Ranger, or just better Fighter, I could also throw in Dwarf and Halfling as options for specialization.

In an OA setting, some yokai (demi-humans/fae) options might be options for another class. Kitsune (fox-spirits) could become a specialization for Magic-Users, as one example. A few non-human options might be like the Elf, with a multiclass combination specialty class, but most could be covered under the basic 4, just with some alternate abilities (and a level cap).

Of course, the danger is going overboard on this, like 2E kits, and overloading players with specialization options. That would just re-complicate things instead of simplifying. Having a big menu of options but only allowing a subset of them to fit the campaign looks good on paper, but some players inevitably want to play the banned content.

This will probably end up being just a thought experiment in the end, since the rules I use now do seem to work pretty well (a few tweaks here and there still needed). It's still fun to think about it, though.


Sunday, August 2, 2020

Classy

Once more, I'm thinking of revising how I want classes to work in Treasures, Serpents, and Ruins (my house rules version of Classic D&D, maybe yet another fantasy heartbreaker released to the public some day).

Right now, I've got separate race and class, with races that mimic 5E (since the West Marches game started as 5E) and classes that sorta emulate the 5E classes, but are really closer to 1E.

For TSR-East, I've got human PCs only as standard, with a selection of demi-human/yokai races as an option. So far, everyone who's tried a TSR-East class in West Marches has used a yokai race...but it's actually only a sample size of two, so that's not telling. In general, humans are preferred. I give them "advantage" on hit dice when they level up, along with access to every class and no level limit. That seems to do the trick.

But there's a part of me that wants to go back to race-as-class. And part of me that wants to get rid of the 5E races, or swap them out for something more ME. (I've already made "tieflings" into Changelings, which is more fairy tale/folklore than goth whatever). And I've got two ideas for maybe how to do it.

Back in 2017, I made a half-hearted attempt to create a TSR-Basic game, that only had the classic four character classes, and no multiclassing. Race was still separate from class, though. The thing is, each class had three or four options or class paths, sort of like 2E with kits, or 5E with their archetypes. So you could play a Fighter, but you could choose to be more of a barbarian, or a bit of a ranger, or just a great all-around warrior. I stopped working on that after a year or so of tinkering because I just wasn't needing it. My regular homebrew modifications were good (enough).

More recently, in line with my idea to go back to Race-as-Class, I was thinking of the Elf class. It's a Fighter/Magic-User hybrid. And one of the things I did as I was developing my additional classes for TSR was to think of each additional class as a hybrid of two classes (Bard is Cleric/Thief, Druid is Cleric/Magic-User, Ranger is Fighter/Thief, etc.) This was a process that happened over many years, and as the years went on, each new class became more of its own thing and less of a hybrid, because there were elements of 1E, 3E, or 5E that I wanted to incorporate, or else just my own ideas (my Bard is now really different from any other Bard class I've ever seen, and my players aren't too fond of it).

So here's my thinking.

Idea 1: revamp the classes along my old Basic idea. Four classes only, but with specializations available to get closer to other classes (Cleric can stay standard, or go more nature boy Druid, or more martial Paladin). Demi-humans will be race-as-class for better compatibility with old school modules and stuff. But I plan to give them some specialization paths as well, if I go this way.

Also, it would allow for better integration between TSR-West and TSR-East, since things like Samurai or Wushi (Wu Jen) could just be new specializations for the original four classes.

Idea 2: revamp the classes so there are 4 basic classes, and each multiclass option is listed as a combined class like the Elf. Demi-humans will be limited to two basic classes plus the multiclass class.

This will look like this: Cleric. Fighter. Magic-User. Thief. Cleric/Fighter (Paladin/Dwarf Knight). Cleric/Magic-User (Druid). Cleric/Thief (Bard). Fighter/Magic-User (???/Elf). Fighter/Thief (Ranger/Halfling). Magic-User/Thief (Illusionist).

Tentatively, anyway!

Oh, and in TSR-East I have Yakuza and Ninja using x on d6 or x on d10 for special abilities (Thief skills), but if I go with Idea 1, I'll probably switch back to % skills. Just up the chances all around.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Random Encounter Table Formats

Working on TSR-East (or maybe just TSR? No need to spam everyone with yet another pseudo-European clone of Ye Olde Game with mostly cosmetic changes, is there?) and I'm at the wilderness random encounter chart page.

Yes, I could skip it and return to it later. But I kinda enjoy the tedious and repetitive work of flipping through the monster section over and over, trying to find the best creatures for each terrain type!

Anyway, I started out copying the style of Cook/Marsh-Mentzer, with a general type of creature roll followed by rolling for the exact creature on a subtable. But I noticed something I hadn't before. Several of the terrain types have the exact same assortment of creature types, just in different order. Of course, several of the subtypes (men, humanoids, animals, and partially insects) each have different subtables by terrain type.

I also used this for Chanbara, adding in a few innovations (like seasonal animal encounters, and expanding the "settled" encounters for more variety of type of settlement.

But in the DMR2 Creature Catalog, there are big d% tables for each terrain/climate type, with just one roll per encounter needed to determine what it is. This is also kind of nice, and maybe less cluttered on the page, but harder to find the specific table you're looking for, perhaps.

I also checked the 1E DMG, but big sprawling tables with all monsters, and different percentages by terrain type isn't what I'm wanting here. Mentzer's version has them all on 1.5 pages (more or less), and in Chanbara I fit it all on a single page.

While I don't necessarily need to compact things as much as humanly possible for this game, I don't want to waste space, either. My character facing document is around 32 pages, the monster/treasure doc is around 60 with a few more things to add (sample artifacts, notes, a table of contents or index to find monsters easily). If I could keep the GM book to 32 (currently the wandering monster tables will start on p.13 so very possible) I'd be happy. Yes, the old printer's need to go in packets of 16 pages is no longer a concern with POD, but I kinda like the constraint. I think Chanbara is a better game because I limited what would go in it to what I could fit in 64 pages.

I'm leaning toward the BX/BECMI method of a subtype table for each terrain type, followed by more specific tables. Since I have every monster tagged with descriptors (for weapons +1, +3 vs X or certain spells/magic items), It won't be hard to fill in most subgroup categories.

But there are a few (like Shapeshifter) that don't really have that many entries. I could could leave them off, or lump them together. Mentzer (and I assume Cook/Marsh before him) includes an "Unusual" category. But do all of them belong in certain terrain types? Doing charts like in the Creature Catalog, where all the forest creatures for example are on one table, has its advantages. It also makes it easier to have charts for subtropical, temperate, and subarctic forests, or the deciduous/evergreen split. If I want to make many more charts, that is.

So, instead of deciding on one and working on it this evening, I'm asking you instead. What do you prefer in a wilderness random encounter chart?

Monday, July 13, 2020

Alignment in TSR-East

Work continues apace on my TSR-East rules, or me once more trying to make a set of OA type rules that I want to play. The TSR-East rules are meant to compliment my Treasures, Serpents, and Ruins house rules for BX/BECMI style play.

Today I realized I hadn't put in any suggestions for alignment in my player facing rules. So I added this:

Alignment

Lawful characters seek to uphold the ideals of civilization, humanity, culture, and conformity. They treat others as befits their station. Extremists actively try to exert their beliefs on others.

Neutral characters have no strong tendency towards Law or Chaos, and are primarily self-motivated. They may be swayed to one side or the other for brief periods. Extremists try to actively uphold the balance between Law and Chaos.

Chaotic characters value freedom and individuality above all else. They treat others as means to their ends. Extremists actively seek to overthrow society.

Friday, July 10, 2020

No Humanoids Campaign

Yes, I've still got WotC's changes to humanoid creatures on the mind.

And no, this is definitely not a novel concept, I even considered doing it years ago just as a way to make a game that felt more mythological and less like Tolkien or his many fantasy fiction descendants (Wheel of Time, Shanarra, etc).

I'd like to one day run a campaign with no humanoid monsters. No goblinoids, orcs, gnolls, lizard men, etc. Just get rid of all of them. No demi-humans, either. Let's get rid of the bandits, pirates, brigands, etc. while we're at it.

All the PCs would be human. All the monsters would be normal or giant animals, slimes and oozes, or non-tribal monsters. There would still be intelligent monsters, but any intelligent monsters encountered would not be organized bands larger than family units.

It would be a different feel for a campaign, and would make some classes (my homebrew Berserker [Barbarian] class, the AD&D Ranger) less than optimal. So maybe stick to the BX/BECMI classes.

Looking at Basic (Mentzer) that would leave us with:
Giant Ant, White Ape, Rock Baboon, Bats -normal, giant/vampire, Bears - black, grizzly, polar, cave, Giant Bee, Giant Beetle - fire, tiger, oil, Boar, Carrion Crawler, Great Cat - mountain lion, panther, lion, tiger, sabre-tooth tiger, Giant Centipede, Doppleganger, Dragon - white, black, green, blue, red, gold, Giant Ferret, Gargoyle, Gelatinous Cube, Ghoul, Gray Ooze, Green Slime, Harpy, Living Statue - crystal, iron, rock, Giant Lizard - gecko, draco, horned chameleon, tuatara, Giant Locust, [Lycanthropes -- keep them in or not? Hmm...], Medusa, Minotaur, Mule, Ochre Jelly, [Ogre -- again, keep or not?], Owl Bear, Rat - normal, giant, Robber Fly, Rust Monster, Shadow, Giant Shrew, Shrieker, Skeleton, Snake - spitting cobra, giant racer, pit viper, sea snake, giant rattler, rock python, Giant Spider - crab, black widow, tarantella, Stirge, Wight, Yellow Mold, Wolf - normal, dire, Zombie.

That's a fair amount. Adding in Expert, we get:
Animal Herd, Basilisk, Black Pudding, Blink Dog, Caecillia, Camel, Chimera, Cockatrice, Giant Crab, Crocodile - normal, large, giant, Cyclops, [Devil Swine if Lycanthropes are in], Displacer Beast, Djinni, Dryad, Efreeti, Elemental, Elephant - normal, prehistoric, Giant Fish - bass, rockfish, sturgeon, Giant - hill, stone, frost, fire, cloud, storm, Golem - wood, bone, amber, bronze, Gorgon, Griffon, Hellhound, Hippogriff, Horse - riding, war, draft, Hydra, Insect Swarm, Invisible Stalker, Giant Leech, Manticore, Mummy, Nixie, Pegasus, Pterodactyl - normal, pteranodon, Purple Worm, Rhagodessa, Roc - small, large, giant, Salamander - flame, frost, Giant Scorpion, Spectre, Water Termite - swamp, fresh water, salt water, Giant Toad, Treant, Triceratops, Troll, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Unicorn, Vampire, Wraith, Wyvern.

That's a good amount of monsters. And of course, there are the Companion/Masters sets, and AD&D Monster Manual to get more from. Easily possible to run a campaign this way.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Great Kobold Debate

Now that the orc alignment/racism thing seems to have blown over, time to move on to a more pressing question about D&D humanoids: Kobolds -- dog-men or mini dragon men?

Starting with Mentzer, I took the dog-like description as more telling than the hairless & scaly description (like I thought that meant they were mangy and diseased) but when later editions made them specifically little crappy dragonmen I didn't oppose it since it was an interesting twist. Anyway, here's the evolution of the kobold for the first 30 years or so. Feel free to chime in in the comments about how you view them.
In Chainmail, they're interchangeable with goblins, and no description given.

In OD&D, they're still just slightly weaker goblins.


Holmes goes with the folkloric description. Interestingly, they've got a save bonus to everything EXCEPT dragon breath.
In AD&D 1E, we get a lot of description, and for the first time they are described as hairless, scaly, and with small horns. The Sutherland illustrations have very dog-like faces, but the bodies are scaly (or wearing chain mail?)

Moldvay is the first time the kobold is described as dog-like. The Errol Otis illustration seems to support my 'diseased' assumption. Mentzer was the first set I owned, but I had seen BX before I got it. So maybe this picture colored my view?
Mentzer's text is nearly identical to Moldvay, but there is no illustration.


AD&D 2E of course gives us more information on kobolds than most people really need, although a lot of it is identical to the 1E information. The DiTerlizzi picture is definitely a hybrid dog-lizard here, which likely shaped their future development by WotC.
And in the Rules Cyclopedia, of course the text is again nearly identical to Mentzer, only adding in the note about spellcasters (from Mentzer's Masters Set).


And in 3E and forward, the kobold is finally specifically tagged as "reptilian" and given the draconic heritage. The heads are still described as dog-like, though.

The indie (and very fun) Kobolds Ate My Baby rejected the reptilian/draconic angle, and made them little furry nasties. I really appreciated that. I don't have a copy of that game to post, though.

Are they dog men? Mini dragon men? Something in-between? Or do you go to the folklore sources and make them evil little fae like redcaps? Something original?

Monday, July 6, 2020

5 Year Old DM

My son, just shy of 6, wanted to DM a game of D&D like his dad. Yesterday, he got his wish!

I tried to rally the troops, which was entertaining of itself. Jeremy in particular, asking me "What system will it be?" "What about character sheets?" as if it were going to be anything other than freeform gaming. Maybe he had my boys mixed up? My 12 year old is also hoping to DM a game soon, too, and it will likely have some more structure.

Dean and Denis were free, and of course me, too. We created characters! I was a big fat wizard (Stevie basically gave me this character), Dean was a sentient jack-o-lantern, and Denis was a kung fu dragon-man.

The session involved us stopping rampaging ass-goblins by cleaning them, interacting with bizarre NPCs, lots of "home shopping" where Stevie would tell us that there was something for sale and ask who wanted to buy it (usually for outrageously high or low prices), dealing with a monster that needed to go to court, and stopping a dragon by sending it and the court monster onto a space ship.

It was pretty much what you'd expect from a nearly 6 year old's stream of consciousness. Oh, and a lot of it was dictated by the free to use minis on Roll20, as he would find one he liked, stick it on the map, and that thing was suddenly there.

He's looking forward to DMing again, and I'm glad to have him so excited about playing D&D!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Huh, wonder why?

No idea why, but my 'get off my lawn' post from a two weeks ago is already the 10th most viewed post on this blog (not counting the Flying Swordsmen page).

Sure, it generated some good comments, but about half were from my players and me!

But then the post in number 9 is my lackluster review of the third Abrams Star Trek film from four years ago, so maybe it's bots?

Oh, and sometime earlier this year (I don't check the stats that often) I passed 1 million total page views. Hurray for me!

Actual game related content coming soon! I'm reading another book on gamification for a paper I want to write, so expect a return to some game theory posting in the near future.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Using my noggin

Nate, who has been playing Tusken Tumble, the Half-Orc Acrobat in my West Marches game, started a 5E game using the free content WotC has been putting out during the coronavirus lockdown. He started us as 1st level PCs in the Lost Mines of Phandelver module, which is I guess the 5E equivalent of Keep on the Borderlands.

I rolled up a Wizard (Conjurer specialist now that he's 2nd level). And among his spells, only one cantrip does direct hit point damage. It's called infestation, and it summons up fleas, mites, etc. to bite and annoy the target. All of his other cantrips and spells are 'utility' magic.

Out of four sessions Nate has run, I've only played in two (the most recent last Friday night). So I just hit level 2 after this past session while everyone else is level 2 or 3 already. But that didn't really matter. I've been a pretty effective character when I've been there.

Minor Spoilers for Lost Mines of Phandelver below:

In my first session (second of the campaign), we were exploring a goblin cave to rescue some prisoners and stolen goods. The goblins had wolves (dire? worgs? not sure) as guards. Dean's Gnomish Bard and I combined our minor illusion cantrips to get the sound and image of a cat, to lure them out, which worked. We were able to take them on more easily as some were chained and some were not. Later, inside the cavern, my familiar (a Raven, not the most optimal familiar, but stylish!) scouted out a chamber that was up a hill of bones and rubble, and found several goblins, a bugbear, stolen goods, and a prisoner. Some of the party climbed up, but then retreated when they saw how tough the opposition was. I cast my second spell (the first being mage armor) to grease the slope, and the goblins that pursued slid down into our waiting warriors' axes/swords/pummeling fists. Then we all went up the slope, rescued the prisoner (Jeff's character, as he joined the session late), and when reinforcements arrived, I was back to using infestation and minor illusion to distract.

Last night, I felt like I was a bit more creative with my spells. We started out in town, seeking information on the Red Brand bandits who the party had tussled with in the third session which I missed. We ended up impressing a farm boy who knew the secret location into the lair by my mending cantrip and Bumblesnick's minor illusion cantrip. Once we got in the lair, we encountered a creature called a nothic (one-eyed twisted former mage with mental powers) and decided to fight it. The Ranger and Monk did most of the work there.

But after we killed it, we found a room with some red cloaks. They were filthy, maybe diseased, but a prestidigitation cleaned them. But since they wouldn't be much good as disguises shiny clean, more prestidigitation gave them cosmetic soiling.

The final room we investigated had three sarcophagi with armed skeletons leaning on them. With the help of both my and Bumblesnick's unseen servant rituals, we had the servants thread ropes gently through the bones of the skeletons to tie them up. When Denis' Tortle Monk entered the room, they animated of course, but the ropes kept them from mobbing Chell the Monk while we battled them.

Finally, we had a cache of weapons, beaver pelts, and the treasure from the nothic. It was a lot to carry. So I cast Tenser's Floating Disk to carry the loot out.

Dustie, playing a Half Orc Ranger, was wondering why I wasn't blasting away at things. I just laughed and in character wondered why any spell-caster worth his salt would be so crude.

Considering that a very high percentage of spells in 5E are damage dealing spells, I don't think Dustie was overreacting. I just found it amusing that I was getting by without much in the way of direct damage spells, and definitely making things easier for the party.

______________________________________
Story Two!

In my West Marches game this afternoon, the party was asked by the local king of the Fair Folk to wipe out a lair of river sahuagin (piranha people instead of shark people), in exchange for help transporting their large piles of treasure taken from the fledgling dragons last session. Justin's character, Queeg, is an antiquarian (MU/Thief).

On the way to the dungeon, they met hostile satyrs, but Queeg's phantasmal force spell (or was it the wand of illusion?) of frolicking nymphs distracted most of them.

Queeg has a stone of earth elemental control which he used to summon an elemental to battle the sahuagin (until it was dispelled by the sahuagin priestess of Blibdoolpoolp). That weeded out a fair number of sahuagin guards.

Then the party waded in. The remaining front room guards were reinforced by the priestess and her retinue, plus they had a giant crab. While battling, Queeg made good use of continual light to blind the priestess, his wand of paralyzation, and his mirror image spell to even the odds a bit (very necessary, as the priestess had used hold person and paralyzed Abernathy the Dragonborn Fighter/Magic-User, and Calvin the Half Orc Cavalier) [Yes, home brew Classic D&D!]. He also used a staff of dispelling to remove the paralysis of the hold person spell.

Later, fighting the Sahuagin Baron and his bodyguards, Abernathy finally got to shine, with sleep spells (Queeg also used sleep) and magic missiles.

Two things are clear from this: One, Justin is also using utility magic well to solve problems. Two, Queeg has a lot of magical gear (being the only MU in the party for some time, he got a lot by default).


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

One of those "Get off my lawn!" posts

Oh, YouTube algorithm, why do you mock me? As suggested to me, I watched a video on agency vs railroading by the DM Lair, and it was nothing too special. Agency good, railroad bad. The next title had me intrigued, though, Milestone vs XP Leveling in D&D.

So I watched it. Obviously this guy has an opinion that he's expressing, and that's fine. He's welcome to do that. But I find it funny that he looks like he's maybe 5 to 10 years younger than me, so while he brags about being a DM since his high school days, I can brag about being a DM since his kindergarten days. Maybe even his diaper days. :D

Dick-measuring aside, he says he played some 2E in high school but mainly played 3E and 5E in his bio. I'm guessing so, from the way he talks of XP accumulation as only something that happened for combat or story awards, and "keeping players all at the same level" to make play easier. He has the BECMI boxes on his shelf behind him, but from the way he discusses XP, it seems pretty obvious that if he ever played them, he never DMed them.

Anyway, he mentions that there is one single benefit of calculating and accumulating XP, that being that it works as a metric for players to gauge their success each session, and that it gives players a feeling of satisfaction. [Arguably that's two benefits.]

For drawbacks, he mentions a tendency to encourage murderhobo style play, the tedious nature of calculations for non-combat XP from "appropriate roleplay," awarding XP for "good play" is the same as milestone XP anyway, and that awarding XP for "good play" favors players who are better at role play which is unfair.

So his criticisms of calculating and awarding XP so far are really only valid for versions of the game that only award XP for combat plus recommend "story" awards. So WotC versions of the game/Pathfinder. Any system that suggests awarding XP for treasure bypasses all of these complaints except maybe that doing the calculations can be tedious.

He has a few more complaints. One, if you don't "budget" XP, players won't be at the right level for the next adventure. Um, that's only a problem if you're running a railroad (something he said was bad in the other video I'd watched from him).

The last problem is that sometimes players forget to add the XP to their sheet. Um, again, if you're running old school D&D, that's the player's problem, not a DM problem. And not every character needs to be the same level. Oh, but if you're playing WotC D&D, I guess you need to match CRs with party levels and design adventures for a party of 4 PCs of level X, not a party of X to Y players of levels A to B. But I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here, aren't I?

OK, so moving on to his discussion of milestone leveling.

The only disadvantage he mentions is that some players don't find it fun.

Advantages? Prevents murderhobo play. Awarding progress in the campaign (AKA the same as story awards just without the math). By telegraphing the action that will gain them their next level, players know what their goal is and can measure progress towards it. [Yes, action is highlighted to show that it's in singular not plural form...again coming right off his 'railroading is bad' video, this was interesting to say the least.] Players will not "goof around" exploring the world, they'll just head on their mission to complete the milestone.

Finally, he claims that it's just easier. And yes, he admits that he is basically running a railroad campaign and doesn't care.

Well, basically, with treasure as XP, it's the measure of success. We've all been talking about this for years, but there are a few other blog posts by others I've read the past week or so talking about it, then I saw this video. Gotta jump on the bandwagon, right?

Treasure for XP discourages murderhobo play. Why fight (and possibly die) if you can get the treasure another way?
Treasure shows progress in the campaign, and PCs always know what the objective is -- get more treasure! Sure, there are other objectives too, but loot accumulation is always part of it. And players can easily measure their progress by the amount of loot they're collecting.

Finally, I'll suggest that treasure for XP is easier than his super simple milestone system for the fact that you don't need to jump through hoops figuring out what the series of milestones are that will take the players up through the levels, or how many adventures they should have at each level, or any of that. Let the players pick their battles, and level up when they earn enough XP.

So he spent a lot of time in his video talking about it. I've spent plenty of time writing about it (and watched the video twice). And his argument really boils down to one thing:

He thinks it's easier to use milestones than to calculate XP. I'm sure he's right about that, but really, all the problems he lists aren't problems with an XP accumulation system, they're problems with the systems this guy has played.

Monday, June 8, 2020

When it stops being a game

This is a bitching and moaning post, but it does have a point to make about gaming in general, I hope, so please bear with me.

Recently, one of the players in the big AD&D game I take part in on RPOL.net wanted to start a new game of cowboys vs zombies using the Star Frontiers rules for the game. Since this is basically what I did with Caverns & Cowboys, I was definitely on board to see what he'd done with the rules.

And I wasn't disappointed there. He doesn't have magic as a player option, but a few of his ideas for skill choices seem potentially better and simpler than what I'd come up with.

So in the game, all the players are in the cavalry. No option to be anything else, that's the premise of the game. Fine. I knew that going in, I signed up for it. And I also realize this is a playtest for the rules mods. So things change every now and then as issues arise or questions are asked that he can't answer. Fine again.

But my first red flag was when before we'd even really gotten the game off the ground, he was trying to entice him into his "real" game of cowboys vs Lost World. That raised my suspicions that this game I'd already signed up for would maybe not be the best game, but I liked my character and decided to soldier on (yes, pun intended).

Now, the situation is we arrive in a town that no one has returned from for a few weeks and no telegraph either. As soon as we ride into town, zombies attack. My character is Native American and another is half Native, and as soon as they appeared, we agreed IC that they were wendigo. The GM went along with that, and has been calling them that ever since. Hooray for player input being accepted into world building!

But as soon as players started acting like players in an RPG, trying to tactically problem solve like good RPG players, he through both the NPC sergeant and GM dictate ruled that all characters except mine and another (who had been asked to investigate a house on the edge of town) were to line up Civil War style and blast away. No riding around to distract or lead off some of the zombies, no taking cover, nothing allowed by what he told us. Second red flag appears.

Luckily for me and the other player, since we were in the house when the firing line was formed, we were free to run across the street to the saloon where civilians were calling for help from the upstairs window. Inside, we found a couple of zombies. My partner attacked while I checked on the safety of the civilians then returned to help him fight.

This morning, when I logged on, the GM had made a big long post where he just arbitrarily moved everything ahead two combat rounds -- although that was far from clear from the post. Everyone on the firing line was arbitrarily moved back on the sergeant's orders, and my partner and I had just unloaded our guns on the two zombies in the saloon to minimal effect -- my partner missed with everything and I only hit once (although when I checked the die roller, actually he'd rolled that I hit with three of my five remaining shots in my six-shooter).

And only now, AFTER he decided to do this, is he asking for us to post our actions two or three moves in advance. Apparently, he'd forgotten how crappily beginning characters fight in Star Frontiers, and how little damage 2d10 or 3d10 bullets do to zombies that have on average around 45 Stamina points. And there are a crap ton of zombies moving in. And he's not letting most of the players do anything other than fire and reload. So, third red flag on the field.

I think it might be telling that since this morning, the only person to post besides myself complaining about this is a new guy who just rolled up a character. I think the other players might also have sensed this is not going to be the cool game we hoped it would be.

I'm usually one for letting novice game masters have some slack, and having run play tests, I realize the rules can and should change to reflect issues that crop up. But the lack of agency he's allowing most of the players makes me think that this isn't a game so much as a novel he wishes he was writing. And that makes me consider quitting the game. Because at that point, it isn't a game anymore.

I'll give it a few more days. See what he says, and what the other players do. But I think this brief interesting idea for a game may have just gone off to Boot Hill.


Thursday, May 28, 2020

Wacky Races

This image was posted in the D&D in Busan Facebook group and spurred an interesting discussion.
Some comments praised the old-school Tolkienesque humans and human-like demi-humans (elves, dwarves. halflings, gnomes). Others praised the more modern variety of choices. Some pointed out that even in old school games, players sometimes run odd races like frog-men or sleestak (that last would be me, in Justin's old Vaults of Ur game).

But one person made a spot-on comment. In old school games, it was mostly humans because there were drawbacks to playing the demi-humans. Especially in OD&D and Classic, you didn't have much choice (well, disregarding the supplements and home-brew). Even in AD&D, only humans had the freedom to pick any class, and advance as far as you could go in all of those classes.

So yes, I played a Sleestak in Vaults of Ur. But it was based on the Halfling class in Labyrinth Lord, so limited to 8th level. Yes, there are plenty of demi-humans in low to mid level AD&D play, but if you want to play a high level campaign, better be human (or a thief).

In 5E, there's not much incentive to play a human, other than RP considerations. The variety of races get all kinds of cool abilities. The only real saving grace for humans is the variant that lets you pick a feat at character creation. Since feats in 5E can be pretty powerful, it definitely makes up for the lack of racial abilities.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Getting Old?

A week or so ago, I had a bunch of ideas for blog posts. Of course, this was right before bed time, but somehow in the morning I still had them in mind. But I didn't write them down, and since I've been so busy the past few weeks, they've completely slipped my mind now. All I can remember is that I had interesting ideas for things to write about here. Frustrating!

Anyway, things are going well on the gaming front. My West Marches game is coming along well. We had a great session of it over the weekend. The party managed to explore a bunch of hexes on their way to the Ruins of Xak Tsaroth, and scouted it out a bit. No one died, and my younger son got his first taste of D&D (he turns 6 in two months, so he wasn't really paying that much attention, but had fun clicking on the button to roll dice in Roll20 and enjoyed making a character).

The Star Wars d6 game is also going well. But my wife and kids are back in Korea (if you couldn't guess) so my gaming time is going to be much reduced. When it was only me, it was no problem gaming two or three nights a week. Now it's going to be once a week if that. And with West Marches on a regular schedule, Star Wars is going to be much less frequent.

Dean's 4E game is going pretty well. It is fun, despite the drawbacks of the 4E system, and I'm enjoying my quirky character.

Nate, one of my regular players in West Marches, has started a 5E game using the free content WotC has been putting on their website over the past couple of months. I didn't get to play in the first session, but I made a PC -- a human conjurer with a pointy hat as his arcane focus. Named Preston. Any resemblance to 80's cartoon characters is purely coincidental!!! Honest!

Then there are the PbP games I'm involved in on RPOL.net. I've joined too many games, I think, but players in games I'm enjoying were starting new games, and I jumped in on them (along with my previous games). I'm running two (Classic D&D megadungeon, and my d6 Star Wars stuff) plus playing a dozen characters in eight different games (in two games I have three characters each).

And then I'm still plugging away at Treasures, Serpents, and Ruins - East. Once I get the main rules set (working on the GM stuff now, which is tedious and going slow) I'll get back to work on the East Marches setting/module idea I've got. But again, with work stuff and my family back with me, don't expect it any time soon.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Reconsidering 4E

Dean switched his games from 5E back to 4E a few months back. At first he was still running the 5E game, too, but now he's gone to only 4E. So while I could resist playing 4E when I still had the option of 5E, now that it's only 4E, Dean got me to join.

I think I mentioned this already in the last post. He almost didn't. The first time I tried to make a character, I started looking through the options (and since my only sources are online, there are WAY too many!). For some reason, a Hengeyokai Monk seemed like the character to play. I started to make the PC. But then the WAY too many options as well as unfamiliar jargon got in the way and after maybe two hours wasted, I gave up.

Then a few weeks later, I tried again. This time with a personal character sheet to model provided by Dean, and knowing what I wanted to play already, I made it through the character creation process and created Xuan Lai, Monkey Hengeyokai Stone Fist Monk. Yeah, that's a mouthful.

The monk in 4E is a "striker" with some "control" ability, meaning that on the tactical battle map, my role is to dish out damage and set up the enemies where we can do the most damage, or else maneuver my way across the battlefield where I can do the most good. And unlike the Ranger or Rogue (or other "strikers") my character is designed to deal damage to multiple opponents more than massive damage on single opponents.

And I have to say, when we get into the tactical battles, it is pretty fun to play around and try to use my powers most effectively. And even when we're not fighting, playing a slightly less Chaotic version of Sun Wukong (the Monkey King) is a lot of fun too.

But then I hit level 2. And I had to go back to the online database to search through it to decide on my Level 2 Utility Power and a feat. And that took a good part of an afternoon. No joke.

We'll see how it goes. Like I said, playing it is fine. Fun even! It's not normal D&D, but I've read plenty of times how it's a good game on its own merits. I see that now. I still have some issues, especially since character creation/leveling takes SO long, and pretty much every level will involve choices like this.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Chanbara Price

I just reduced the price of the Chanbara PDF to $5.00. If you never picked it up because you thought $10 was too much, now's your chance!

The print version is $15, as well.

Get 'em while they're still sorta luke warm!*



*Chanbara has never really been "hot" but I'm happy with it! Hope you all enjoy it, too!

Saturday, April 25, 2020

CoronaBlahs, and a Simple Rule for Black Markets

My coronavirus isolation, plus online teaching, has kept me busy the past month. So not much blogging. I haven't done any more reading of the Immortal Set. Barely worked on my TSR-East project. I did paint a lot of minis, though, and started a play-by-post Star Wars d6 game using the same starting adventure I used with the Busan Gamers. I got some VERY enthusiastic players, and it's going pretty well so far, along with my now long-running but slow posting megadungeon Classic D&D play by post game. And I'm still running West Marches and Star Wars on Hangouts/Roll20. Star Wars tonight! Also, Dean switched back to 4E, his edition of choice, and I think the adventures of our high levle 5E characters, Jack Summerisle and crew, are finished.

Dean finally convinced me to try the 4E game. It took me two attempts to make a character. The first time I gave up in frustration at the overload of options. The second time, I got it done. I now play Xuan Lai, a monkey hengeyokai Monk. Yes, he's the monkey-est monk in Eberron! [Any similarity to Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, is purely coincidental, honestly!]

Anyway, the Star Wars game is heavily involved with Hutts. Both, actually. So I was thinking of ways to simulate black market sales of goods. And I think I have a pretty elegant idea that would work regardless of system, at least for things like odd treasures that don't have a set price. I often do that with treasures, saying it will be worth 1d8 x100 gp, or 2d6 x250gp, or whatever. If players want to shop around for different buyers, they might get a better price than the one first offered (they never do, tending to take the first offer).

For a Black Market, you're selling something illegally gained or illicit, so you want to avoid paperwork/official notice. And you will need to accept a probably lower price for the object to avoid the imperial entanglements or whatever. So roll twice, take the higher roll as the legit sales price, take the lower roll as the black market price.

And for  something with a set value (price in the book, gems/jewelry in D&D with set value, etc.) just decide on a number range and the dice to roll to get that range, with the book value at or near the top. Hey, sometimes something like that might be in demand on the black market, why not give it a chance to be worth slightly more from time to time?


Friday, April 3, 2020

Artifact rules

Starting in on the Immortals Set (no, haven't really read much past the last post, I've been busy) got me thinking about how to implement artifacts into Treasures, Serpents, and Ruins. Since I had just finished up the magic items section for TSR-East, I went on in and started in on the artifact rules.

In BECMI, artifacts are an extension of the Immortals rules, since they're created by immortals. They run on immortal power points. The powers are classified and ranked by power points needed for the effect.

In AD&D, however, they just have certain numbers of powers at certain levels of efficacy determined by the DM. The lists are just by power level.

In both sets, in addition to their powers, artifacts have negative effects on mortals that wield them. They also have a history and a purpose.

So in my rules, I decided to split the difference. Artifacts in TSR won't use power points, and will instead follow AD&D with each power: providing a constant bonus, being usable at will, or being usable a certain number of times per turn, hour, or day. But the powers are classified as Offense, Defense, Knowledge, and Utility, and artifacts are limited in how many of each type they can have by their power level.

And since I hadn't included intelligent swords in the regular magic item rules, I made them the lowest power level of artifact. And I extended the intelligent weapon rules into artifacts, so if the artifact is intelligent (not all are), it has Int and Ego scores, personality, and a desire to enact its purpose or indulge its personality traits if it takes control of its wielder/owner.

I'm currently in the middle of writing up power lists, and will be moving on to the drawbacks/limitations soon.

This is pretty fun.


Friday, March 27, 2020

I HAVE THE POWER!!!!!!

Not actually a blog post about MotU. Sorry. Talking about the Immortal Rules, the I of BECMI.

I've only gotten a few pages into the book. I've been pretty busy converting my classes from face to face to online. That, and Netflix. But I did get through the first few pages.

So I kind of knew this already, from my previous perusing of my PDF version, and from what others had told me about it. When your PC achieves immortality, their XP total is converted to Power Points at a rate of 1PP per 10k XP. So starting immortals have a few hundred PP, depending on their class/level when they achieved immortality.

When you convert your character, and play as an immortal, these PP are EVERYTHING. They're still the "xp" you collect, or rather XP you continue to collect is converted to PP. But you can also earn them in other ways, by advancing your personal goals and the goals of your Sphere.

PP are your hit points, as well. The only way to truly destroy an immortal is to reduce them to 0 PP.

PP are your spell points. You can cast any spell, and create plenty of other powers, by temporary expenditure of PP. These come back in time.

They are also character build points. You can improve your character, construct your own Outer Plane, create artifacts, and make other permanent changes/improvements through permanent expenditure of PP. In fact, the "advancement table" looks fairly easy to achieve, until you read the rules about needing minimum stats in certain ability scores to advance, which require these permanent expenditures of PP.

So while I have looked at the sections on using ability scores as % chance to perform "godly" tasks (which is pretty loosey-goosey story gamey, or at least it appears to be in the Players Book), and the section on the new saving throws, the main take-away so far is that Power is the metric of the immortals, and it's what drives the game.

Cool. And I'm gonna wait until I get through everything, but I've got an inkling that these PP based character mechanics might possibly work for a Supers game or maybe something like the Ambers in Zelazny's books. Yeah, there's Amber Diceless for Zelazny, but I don't have it and have never seen it.


Monday, March 23, 2020

Immortals

Back in February I got some of my late cousin's old gaming stuff. This includes his copies of the Mentzer Immortals rule books.

I think I mentioned previously that I have the PDF. In fact, I've had it for a very long time. I bought it online from Paizo back when they were publishing Dragon magazine and selling the old TSR catalog online. It was a different time.

But even though I've had the PDF for what, nearly 15 years? I was in Japan when I bought it and I've been in Korea for 12 now. So at least 13 years. But even though I've had it that long, I've never given it a deep reading.

Now I've got the physical books. I'm gonna start reading them this evening. I don't know that I'll do a "cover to cover" style series of posts, but expect lots of posts about it in the coming days/weeks.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Wild Die

Played another session of Star Wars d6 last night. Had four players, including my son Flynn. Dean and Jeremy were there for online gaming as usual, and Denis (a regular in face-to-face West Marches) also joined us, playing a d6 system game for the first time.

We were using Roll20's die roller, and man, that wild die kept coming up 1 all night! And every time, I tried my best to think of complications to throw at the party, and it really made the session a lot more fun. Especially when their total roll was high, so we could say "You succeed, BUT..." 

Another cool thing about it happening so often was that the players all got in on pitching ideas for what could go wrong. Helped take the pressure off of me.

There were some sixes on the wild die as well, of course, but not as many as the ones.

Probably the highlight of the session was just near the end. The party was being harassed by biker scouts, but Simon SBD-4's heavy repeating blaster (Jeremy's sentient battledroid character) was keeping them at range. Nito, Denis' smuggler, decided to head out and "negotiate" with them, with a grenade hidden in his jacket. The negotiation failed, but a 1 on the wild die had me decide that the scout had gotten too close to Nito. Nito used his force point to try and jump on and grapple the scout, and succeeded, then the scout got a 1 on the die again when trying to knock Nito off the bike. We decided that the scout fell off and Nito got control of the speeder bike. A companion scout then raced in to attack the rest of the party, Y'lenic (Dean's Caamasi student of the Force) threw a grenade that caused a big dust cloud. THAT scout got a 1 on his repulsorlift operation check, then Simon shot his bike with the heavy repeater, and he blew up. The remaining two scouts fled (to get reinforcements).

All those 1s on the wild die really made that encounter a lot of fun.