Friday, March 27, 2020


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


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.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Coronacation Benefits

My university's semester started on Monday, two weeks late. We're teaching online only for the first month, maybe more. It depends on the COVID-19 epidemic. Korea seems to be getting it under control, but there could be more flare-ups. For the last two days, I've been working from home. And since I have this week's online lessons done, that means a bit of planning for next week's lessons, some paperwork, and answering student emails/checking assignments as they come in.

In the meantime, I've been doing some mini painting. I started up again at the end of last year. Since I've been back I've gotten a fair amount done. In fact, on Sunday I finished up the last of the minis I'd primed back in November. So yesterday I primed a bunch more.
These are all 22mm minis from Caesar. It's a mix of three of their sets, Adventurers, Elves, and Dwarves. I've already painted two of them, the fully armored knight and the most Legolas of the elves. Painted both to look more feminine, since I have plenty of females in my West Marches game, and never enough female minis (one of the other packs, of which half the figures were painted in round 1, is Amazons for this reason). I'll probably paint one or two more this evening.

In addition, my son has been doing an online learning program (since before the coronavirus outbreak hit the US) and started in on the high school science program. Learning about space, we've been talking a lot (the Big Bang, the size of the universe, Fermi's Paradox). While discussing Fermi's Paradox, I mentioned the Prime Directive. And that got him...both boys, actually...curious about Star Trek. I sent them to Netflix to start watching TOS.

That also got ME watching TOS again! I've watched three episodes today. It's curious to me how few of the 1st season episodes I remember. When I was in jr. high and high school, one of the local channels syndicated The Next Generation and aired it 10:30 on Saturday nights (and yes, there were often arguments about watching Trek or SNL!), and then the original series after it at 11:30. And for a while, the Friday the 13th The Series after that at 12:30. Unless the syndication system left out some episodes, I'm sure I've seen every one of them. But quite a few just don't jog my memory. I just watched "Miri" and I couldn't remember seeing that one before at all. Maybe I'm just getting old.

And I guess I should be watching some Star Wars, not Star Trek, because I plan to run d6 Star Wars again on Friday. :D

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Should I tinker with Thief skills again?

Thieves. I love them. Love to play them, love to have players play them. It's the whole 'brains over brawn' thing that makes me enjoy them.

But, like many people, I sometimes get annoyed at how they've been presented, and how their skills work. Usually I don't mind the percentage based skills, but the chances of success are pretty low to start. But I've always considered other ways to do it.

In Flying Swordsmen, I copied how they were done in Dragon Fist, which is mostly how they were done in 2E except converted to a d20 roll instead of a percent. The bonuses I gave to the skills were to represent the basic percent chances of a starting thief, and players were allowed to distribute bonuses to the skills when they leveled up like in 2E. That works fairly well, but does lead to some confusion (like the +13 to Climb Sheer Surfaces being thought of as a typo since other starting bonuses are low single digits).

In Chanbara, I use the Ninpo system which is based on 2d6 rolls similar to the Cleric's turn undead chances. I thought it was pretty clever when I came up with it, giving fairly reliable odds of success due to the bell curve, but in practice having to decide the TN for the roll for each situation slows things down at the table unless I've anticipated ninpo being used and included TNs in my adventure notes.

In Treasures, Serpents and Ruins (TSR) I'm currently using the classic d% skills, but using the most favorable progressions.

In TSR-East, however, the ninja was based on the Halfling class in BX/BECMI, so it has hiding 1-9/d10 outdoors, hiding 1-3/d6 indoors (slight variation on the Halfling's 1-2/d6 indoors), 1-3/d6 to move silently (1-2/d6 if wearing brigandine or heavier armor). I also gave them detect traps 1-3/d6 (but not remove traps), detect secret doors/sliding passages 1-2/d6, and hear faint noises 1-2/d6.

The yakuza class can locate traps 1-4/d6 and disarm them 1-2/d6. Also, depending on which mystical yakuza tattoos they select, they could also possibly: detect secret doors 1-3/d6, hide/move silently 1-3/d6, hear noise 1-3/d6, escape shackles or bonds 1-2/d6, climb sheer surfaces 1-9/d10.

Jeff is playing a yakuza in West Marches just to try it out, and it's been going pretty well. He took the spider tattoo so he can climb sheer surfaces, and he's been using it to good advantage. But he's only level 3 so I don't know if dissatisfaction will come into play at higher levels when the scores don't improve.

So now I'm wondering if I should edit my TSR-West rules (the standard D&D classes) to match the x/d6 or x/d10 demi-human class abilities. TSR-East characters start better, but don't improve on their chances as they level, just as demi-humans in BX/BECMI. The whole point of the Thief class is to get that delayed gratification (like with the Magic-User) of surviving to high levels when your skills become more reliable.

So I've got four choices:
1. Leave things as they are and just let the Thief (and subclasses) continue to use d% skills.
2. Flatten the curve, so thieves use d% but start with higher chances but improve more slowly
3. Go with flat x/d6 or x/d10 chances for the character's whole career
4. Go with x/d6 or x/d10 chances that improve at certain stages in the character's career (like when attack bonus and saves improve)

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Daggertooth is Dead!

Finished up running another session of West Marches. The players finally defeated the substitute boss of the Caves of Chaos, Daggertooth the Troll (also a 6th level Cleric). He and his army of thouls are wiped out. The gnoll cave was never explored (or just the first room maybe), but every other cave has been cleared. So I declared the gnolls vacated.

Finally, after I don't know how many sessions spent in the Caves of Chaos, we're done with it. [If I hadn't taken in a lot of new players, and hadn't created Daggertooth to take over after Warduke was slain, they would have moved on long before.]

It's pretty amazing how much use I got out of dropping B2 in the West Marches. Sure, they've explored quite a fair amount of the map near Silverwood, the home town. But multiple iterations of the group have explored the caves, little by little. Sometimes they'd leave it for a while, going to explore other areas. But they kept coming back. And finally, their persistence has paid off.

Daggertooth made for a good villain, too. He never showed up until the final fight, but they kept hearing about him, how he was more powerful than a regular troll, how he carried a sword on his back but never used it (it's an intelligent Lawful sword, that's why...yes, the party got it identified, and the Lawful Fighter was the one to test it out on a poor unsuspecting random encounter baboon so no surprise shock damage...the sword did send a strong dislike emotion regarding the fighter's other magic items).

Oh, and so that's finally a thing in the campaign! They discovered the first intelligent sword! Always fun. Dean's fighter has good intelligence and wisdom, though, so he's likely to retain control except in extreme circumstances.

Anyway, once again thanks to Gary Gygax! The Caves of Chaos have definitely been a hit, and all the players new to them in this campaign will be able to share in a bit of the D&D zeitgeist that I never got to when I was young and new to RPGs.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Why did this never occur to me before?

I'm writing up the magic item section for TSR-East. Realized I'd not put in the note on 10% of magic armors being cursed. Noticed the lower encumbrance values for magic armors.

I'm sure this has occurred to many of you, but since I've never been a real stickler for encumbrance rules (eyeballing it seems to work OK), I never had this idea before in 35 years of gaming. And I don't remember seeing this in any published modules, either.

A cursed magical suit of armor. It has the normal plus value to improve AC. But it has double encumbrance instead of half encumbrance. And like normal for cursed items, once worn you're compelled to always wear it.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Does Edition Matter?

Big question, and I don't have a definitive answer (that's your TL/DR), but a few recent things have got me considering the effect of an edition on the play experience.

While I was in Illinois, Dean started a third campaign (still using his fractured fairy tale Eberron setting, I think) but using 4E. Now that I'm back in Korea, he asked if I wanted to join, and I declined because I'm just not that fond of 4E.

Then Jeremy started asking me if I'd play in a 4E game that he wants to run, only instead of using a standard array or point buy for ability scores, adapting my West Marches Classic D&D house rule. My rule is as follows:
  • Players may choose one of two methods to roll ability scores: roll 3d6 six times, and place the scores where you want them to go, or else roll 4d6-lowest die, in order.
This forces players to choose between slightly higher stats but not where they might like, or being sure to play the class you want, but having slightly lower scores on average. It doesn't always work out. As dice are random, sometimes a 3d6 PC has better scores than a 4d6-L PC. It happens. But in general, it works.

Now, for 4E, which was carefully crafted to be "balanced" and not easily allow you to make a crappy character, and every PC should be equally useful in a fight, I wonder if Jeremy's switch would break the game. Not enough to play in it, though, but it did help me think of this topic for a blog post.

The edition matters, I think, in this case. 5E could definitely be played that way without much hassle. The online play-by-post West Marches game that inspired my own uses random ability score rolls instead of point buy, and it plays just fine. 4E, though, I think might break down. Maybe not, though, as it does also seem to be designed for each character to rely on only one primary ability score (or at least to allow you that luxury if you choose your powers right). The fact that the game was designed assuming all characters would have equivalent scores (through the standard array or point buy limits) makes me think randomizing it wouldn't work.

Maybe I'll give it a try and see.

The other thing that got me considering the effects of edition choice on the game was my reading through 1E Dragonlance Adventures. The more I read it, the less likely I think I'd be to run a game set in Krynn using 1E. I much prefer Classic D&D over AD&D anyway, but I don't hate AD&D.

But what I would possibly do would be to try and run a game set in Krynn using 5E.

I'd posted about that idea a few years ago, even came up with rules for the white/red/black robe mages and Knights of Solamnia in 5E.

And I'm thinking 5E might be a better fit, especially for the original module series, for a few reasons. First of all, adventures in Krynn don't seem to be strongly "murderhobo." The nations use steel coins, but any ruins or monster lairs are likely to have pre-Cataclysm gold/silver/copper coins, which are pretty much useless to Krynn PCs. And since AD&D relies on treasure for the bulk of XP earned, it's harder to get in Krynn. 5E awards most XP for combat, so that's not a problem there. It actually fits better if you want a game that may actually see mid- to high-level play some day.

Secondly, the more streamlined 5E rule set is probably more suited to the more "narrative" style of an adventure path (or railroad if you prefer that term) series of adventures. Since 1E was designed with streamlining tournament play, IMO it's bogged down with a lot of rules minutia that don't really help make the game better (feel free to disagree, I know some of you will) EXCEPT in the case of tournament play, where exact and consistent rules are needed across multiple, competing tables.

For a home game? Meh.

The only thing that stops me from starting a 5E Dragonlance campaign setting right now is that I really didn't have much fun DMing 5E. But I am considering the following and wondering if it might be fun:
  • Play through the original module series
  • Using 5E with a few modifications for the setting
  • Players who are familiar with 5E and adventure path style games, but not with DL/Krynn

The Temple of Rebyk (Part 1)

In tonight's Star Wars d6 game, Simon SBD-4 the sentient battle droid (Jeremy), Y'elenik the alien student of the Force (Dean), Oink the Hunter the Gammorean bounty hunter (Claytonian), and Wiz T. Fink the Mandalorian (Flynn, my son) were trying to book passage off of the planet of Baltoma when they were approached by a rich Zabrak woman. She explained that her brother had gone looking for some ancient legend of a "jedi" temple, if you could believe such clap-trap, and had gone missing six months previous. She offered the adventurers a hefty reward if they would accompany her to locate her brother.

While negotiating, they noticed a shifty character watching them, but when they tried to confront him, he ran and got away. They headed to the Zabrak's skiff but stormtroopers detained them, having heard a complaint of people matching their descriptions instigating a bar fight. While being questioned, Y'elenik let slip the word Force, which made the Imperial officer suspicious. When he said they all had to be disarmed and detained until the matter could be cleared, the PCs attacked. Despite a few mishaps, they managed to incapacitate all of the stormtroopers and the officer, and escaped before reinforcements arrived.

They took the skiff to the mountains, following a map the Zabrak woman had gotten from her brother. It showed the High Path and the Dark Way. They decided to locate the Dark Way. While camping for the night, rust mites swarmed their camp site, destroying the Zabrak's R5 unit and nearly doing the same to Simon before they were able to drive them off with a fire. 
In the morning, the party found the cave and entered. After about 30 minutes, they came to a place where a cave-in blocked the path. Y'elenik examined the area and believed the structure to be sound, so Simon blasted a hole in the rubble with his big blaster (I think he's got a light repeating blaster). The party climbed through the rubble, with Wiz nearly getting trapped by a falling rock. About an hour later, they came to a chasm. Too far to jump, they decided to use the Mandalorian and Gammorean's jetpacks to fly over. Unfortunately, while carrying the Zabrak, Oink dropped her (1 on the wild die! Plus a low total anyway.) and she was mortally wounded. Luckily, Wiz flew Y'elenik down to her, and he used the Force and medpacks to stabilize her. Then they flew everyone back up and across.

We stopped there for the night. It was a pretty fun session! In just under 3 hours we accomplished all that, so I think it was a pretty good night.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Wacky Star Wars Theory

Random Star Wars theory hit me the other day.

The Sith was a species that died out (or was wiped out - not up on my early Galactic History) but were Dark Side Force users. They inspired the other Dark Siders to call themselves Sith.

Mandalorians were a species that were wiped out but inspired a culture that other species pick up and follow, also called Mandalorians.

Yoda, Yaddle, and the Child are a species of naturally Force sensitive creatures of unknown name.

Are they (their hidden species name) the Jedi? Did the race of natural (Light Side) users inspire the Jedi culture the way the Sith and Mandalorian species did? Only they were not quite wiped out, just very rare and long lived?

Something to think about. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Maleable Plots for Star Wars

I'm gearing up to run Star Wars d6 again this weekend. And I'm finding that other (non Star Wars) movie plots seem to work well for at least the basic premise of an adventure. Just switch out certain characters/elements for SW themed ones and voila!

The first session was shamelessly stolen from Shaft (1971). A Hutt gangster's daughter is kidnapped, the gangster thinks the Rebels took her, but actually it was the Imperials. Hijinks ensue.

The second adventure was a combination of Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven with The Ghost and the Darkness. Mining company hires heroes to protect their operation and discover just what attacked it. It ended up being a bit different in play, which is a good thing.

Now for session three, I've got a bit more ambitious plot in mind as the start off point...but since some of the players read this blog, I'll keep it secret for now.

Like I said, though, it's been pretty easy so far to modify a movie plot to fit Star Wars. Now I need to review the Force Powers a bit more and create a few NPCs...

Monday, March 2, 2020

Airplane Movie Reviews

I watched a few movies on my flights to the States in January and back to Korea in February. Thought I'd post a few thoughts on them.

Shaft (2019)
This one was more or less what you'd expect. Crime in New York City. Shaft's the bad motherfucker who knows what's going on, and can set things right. I did like the bits where they showed (SLJ) Shaft to be a terrible father, and (RR) Shaft to still have it at 80 years old. A predictable character arc for grandson Shaft, though, nothing surprising about that at all. An enjoyable enough popcorn flick for a slow weekend or rainy afternoon. Nothing to write home about.

I saw this in Korean but with Japanese subtitles (I flew Japan Airlines). Luckily I now speak enough Korean and my Japanese reading ability hasn't degraded enough that I could follow it. I thought it was an interesting critique of late-stage capitalism and Korean culture, and I understand why it won so many awards. It's an interesting movie with interesting characters, conflicting motivations, and a theme that resonates without being preachy (because ALL the characters are assholes). The final act was a bit of a mess, but one I liked. Definitely worth seeing. I'll try to watch it again some day with English subtitles because I probably missed a detail or two.

The Joker
Hmm, still not sure how I feel about this movie. I'd had some bits of it spoiled by my students last semester, and a few of the twists were things I guessed a mile away (the dates for example). It sets up a lot of questions, and I guess the ending is supposed to leave you questioning. But honestly, when it was over, I wasn't interested in trying to work out the answers because they didn't matter. I guess it's hard to take a character like The Joker and try to give them an origin story that makes them sympathetic to the audience and KEEP it that way. I was sympathetic to him in the first act or so, but was not by the end. Everyone's pretty much seen this one anyway, but if they hadn't, I'm not sure I'd really recommend it.

Terminator: Dark Fate
So anything involving time travel opens itself up to exploration of multiple timelines. This movie tries to answer the question "what would have happened if the Terminator had killed John Connor?" Oh, sorry, that's a spoiler. The answer is, "In order to make more Terminator movies, his life or death really was insignificant." OK, so the AI making terminators is no longer Skynet, but the robots are pretty much the same. Hollywood milking a property for more money. Just rewatch T1, T2, and the Sarah Connor Chronicles if you want a good Terminator property. Or if you're running a Terminator based RPG, you might want to watch this to mine some ideas. Otherwise, not really worth it. It's again mostly fan service callbacks to the good Terminator movies.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
This one was interesting. I found myself enjoying it, even though it's a bit more like a Coen Brothers film in feel than a Tarrantino film. The story is basically reveling in all things 60's Hollywood, slightly alt-historical, and in the end a story with very little purpose other than to say "Hey, wouldn't it have been cool if this had happened instead of what really happened?" It lacked the snappy dialogue that made Quentin famous, it was too long, but in the end it was fun to watch. I found myself caring about Rick and Cliff by the end, although not really caring one way or the other about Sharon, which was a let-down since the movie is really about her. Far from Tarrantino's best, but not his worst, either.

I'm not regretting the time spent watching any of these movies, but I'm also not regretting that I didn't go see any of them on the big screen. Yeah, some critically acclaimed, some award winning. None were bad (Terminator came close, but was just interesting enough a premise to save itself from falling squarely in the bad category) but other than Parasite (which does have some problems) none were squarely in the good category, either.