Tuesday, May 24, 2022

More Disgusting than I Realized

I've been really siloed from the greater RPG community, and even the OSR the past few years. There are a handful of blogs I read regularly, and a bigger handful that I read occasionally. I'm not active on any forum sites, and don't watch a ton of RPG YouTube content. Actual gaming with my friends have been enough to scratch my gaming itch for the most part. Yeah, I blog here occasionally. I tinker with my house rules document for a potential public release. That's about it. 

I've been using Treasures, Serpents & Ruins (TSR) as the name for those house rules for several years now. I thought it was clever to have a game title that abbreviated to the same acronym as the original company. And the name is fitting, as well. Dungeons & Dragons is a great game name, but it leaves out the most important part of the game - finding treasure! My name has all three! So clever, right? [Yeah, I know, I know...]

Anyway, thanks to Pauli Kidd's post on Facebook, linking to this video (also Pauli) and also to screenshots of social media posts they posted, I learned about just how terrible the "new" "TSR" group (TSR3 some are calling it) really are. 

Tenkar's Tavern has been posting about them from mostly a legal-ish standpoint. Or at least what I've seen has been. Apologies to Erik, but since he appointed himself the Kickstarter Police many years ago, I don't follow his blog as closely. But I have read some of his posts exposing Justin LaNassa's attempts to steal the TSR trademark. So I knew they were sketchy grifters, but I didn't know anything else about them.

Thanks to Pauli, I know now just how disgusting some of the people LaNassa is working with really are. Seriously, the guy who wrote their version of Star Frontiers is a blatant white supremacist, often posting Nazi symbology and slogans on social media. 

I want nothing to do with that crowd, and as was suggested by Donjondo a while back, it's probably confusing enough having two companies trying to be TSR already. With one of those companies being blatantly white nationalist, I need to find a new name for my game if I plan to release it to the public. 

This is probably a dumb idea, but reordering it to Ruins, Serpents, & Treasures would abbreviate to RST (alphabetical order!) and would be in the order that these elements are usually encountered within the game. Or maybe I can just call it something else entirely and stop trying to be clever/cutesy with the name.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Finally!

Well, it took 10 years (over 20 if you count since the release of Dragon Fist), but I'm finally getting to be a player in a game of Flying Swordsmen! 

As luck would have it, I had a post on RPOL.net's GMs Wanted board asking if anyone would run a game of d6 Star Wars on there. I'm enjoying running the game for my group (our next session starts in about 40 minutes), but would like to experience it as a player. 

I went to bump that thread and saw someone else had posted asking for a GM to run Flying Swordsmen! I jumped in on the thread saying I'd like to play, too. And since my RPOL ID is Lord Gwydion, it took the OP all of about no time at all to realize I was the writer! Well, we found someone willing to run it (the Star Wars game, too!), so I've now rolled up my first Flying Swordsman player character:

Spitting Tiger Zhao, Outlaw Thief. 

The GM messaged me to sort out a few things, since he is new to the rules. I told him I'm happy to answer questions about my intent when I wrote the game, but it's his game so I'm happy to run with it the way he wants it to go.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Moving in a New Direction

My plans to run a play-by-post Gamma World game are on hold right now, as is my live D&D West Marches game. I've been running the West Marches for about 4 years now, and I have enjoyed it, but just need a bit of a break. Also, I'm seeing now, as the PCs inch closer to Name Level, some of the cracks in the system. 

The original West Marches was for 3E, an edition that supposed the adventure life cycle to be: explore dungeons, fight monsters, and collect treasures until you reach 20th level, then go on EPIC!!! adventures across the multiverse or something (never got the Epic Level Handbook, never even got close to those levels in my games). So the system had explore/fight/loot baked in to the design from level 1 through 20. 

BECMI, and AD&D, the two published editions I crib the most from for my home game, both have a different expectation. Explore dungeons, fight monsters, loot treasures at low levels. Mix dungeon exploration with wilderness exploration at medium levels. Become a ruler at high levels and get involved with political stuff. Go on planar adventures and epic quests at very high levels. 

I'm getting close to the point in the campaign where in a normal game, players would be planning on where to set up their baronies and whatnot, dealing with the local power structures to make alliances, stuff like that. But West Marches gaming is premised on just continuing to explore the wilderness, and the players in my campaign have only explored about half of my map, maybe a bit less than half. And the feeling that the deeper campaign (which Tao of D&D, and recently BX Blackrazor often post about) isn't really a West Marches thing. 

So I'm going to retool my ideas for an East Marches module to release to the public to go along with Treasures, Serpents, and Ruins: Jade (yeah, I'm renaming that as well, and given enough time, it might end up just as Jade). Instead, I'll keep the ideas for adventure sites but instead of scattering them around an unexplored wilderness, they'll be scattered around a map with various political factions and established towns and cities. 

Most of the Asian fantasy media that inspires me requires civilization. I think there is room for an Asian fantasy wilderness exploration game (Journey to the West/The Monkey King being one example), but not one that's expected to last from levels 1 through 12+. 

When I was in Japan, I would often watch a jidai-geki called Abarenbo Shogun. In it, Shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune would disguise himself as a low ranking samurai and wander around Edo (Tokyo) looking for trouble. 

Two other shows, Mito Komon and Sanbiki ga Kiru (Three for the Kill), were about the hero(s) wandering from town to town, solving problems of the week in each location. A lot like American shows of the 80s like Knight Rider or The A-Team. 

Chinese novels like Three Kingdoms and Outlaws of the Marsh are all about political power struggles. 

I want competing feudal warlords. Scheming Civil and Military bureaucrats. Peasant rebellions and tongs/yakuza gangs and marital arts societies. And some strange unexplored lands as well. 

So, time to make a new map, pull ideas from previous campaigns and a few new ones I've had over the years, and also the ideas for dungeons and other points of interest I developed for East Marches, and work them into a new campaign that has potential not just for typical D&D murder-hoboing done Asian style, but also all that other good stuff mentioned above.

 I think the potential for richer gaming will be there. 

Until then, I've got another Star Wars d6 adventure to prep based on the events of the previous session.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Review: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

I'm going to keep this brief to avoid spoilers. I took the family to see the film on Children's Day (May 5th), a national holiday in Korea, and the day after it opened. 

Is there cursing in the film? Parents want to know. There's a little. Disney seems to frown on too much cursing in their movies. Black Widow got away with a fair amount, and the Disney+ TV shows, but this one doesn't have too much in the way of bad language. 

Overall, I enjoyed the experience. The movie is very much a Raimi film. Lots of little touches and callbacks to his previous work. Of course there's a Bruce Campbell cameo, but beyond that. This movie touches on horror more than any previous MCU film, but never goes full bore horror. There's plenty of humor, as well, but not chock full of it like Guardians of the Galaxy or Thor: Ragnarok. It has a pretty good balance of drama, comedy, horror, and action. 

Of course, there is a TON of CGI in this film. The magic is over the top, as is the dimension hopping. Very fun visually, especially the musical magical duel. That was fun, although maybe it went on for just a touch too long. Won't say more to avoid spoiling it. 

As for character development, Stephen Strange has to deal with the fact that Christine Palmer is getting married (lost his chance) and his need to be in control of every situation. America Chavez has a very typical introduction character arc, trying to control her powers to dimension hop. Wanda the Scarlet Witch was a big part of the movie, but her portrayal was a bit off after her development in WandaVision. Can't really say more without spoiling things, though. 

Cameos? Besides Campbell and Patrick Stewart (his voice is in the trailer, it's no secret he's in it) there are a few more, mostly fan-service oriented. Since they're jumping through multiple universes, they can play with the characters they throw in without it affecting the main MCU continuity. 

I was entertained by the movie, and I liked it, but I'm still not sure how it stacks up to other MCU films. Of the recent offerings, it's better than Black Widow or Eternals, but not as good as Shang Chi in my opinion. Probably need to watch it again before deciding how it holds up overall, as it's a pretty busy film. It does break the trope of recent MCU films of degenerating into a big messy CGI final battle. The whole movie is kind of a big messy CGI experience. 

It doesn't dig deeply into the characters, and it's messy, but still I found it fun.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Adjustments and Circles

My Treasures, Serpents, & Ruins East Marches rules (seriously need to rename that if I want to release it to the public*) have just undergone a small revision. 

I originally had 8 classes: Cleric, Fighter, Kensei, Magic-User, Sohei, Thief, Xia, Yakuza. 

Then I dropped it to 5: Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, Thief, Xia.

Now it's back to 8 again (with some adjustments to the three that were dropped and re-added). 

The archetypes just seem better as their own classes instead of weird multi-class combos. 

Oh, and I've scrapped the multi-class system and did not add in the dual classing system I blogged about a few days ago. For now, I think I'll add those as options in a DM's book that I need to get around to heavily editing and completing. 

I did a mock-up of layout, including public domain art. Printed it out, and it looks pretty good. Still needs a cover. As of now, it's just got a title page on the front, and the character sheet reverse as the last page. 

Options: 

a) Convert the title page to a proper cover. Don't worry about a back cover. Keep it simple as an ebook. 

b) Add in cover (front/back) and back cover (front/back). Turn the 40 page document into a 44 pager, with the two blank pages on the reverse of the cover pages. Can be easily printed as double-sided. 

c) Leave it as is for the ebook version, but create a proper print version with a cover. Cheap looking, but easy.

Of course, I still need to figure out bookmarking. No matter how many times I tried, and how many tutorials I watched, Scribus will not save bookmarks in Chanbara's PDF. So now I'm not bothering with Scribus, and am simply doing the layout and PDF export from LibreOffice. Gotta watch a few LO tutorials for bookmarking PDFs. 

Oh, and the TSR-E Monster book is sort of ready. The text is ready, anyway. I've got a big host of monsters, plus treasure tables and lists & descriptions of magic items. The only problem is, most of the pages are crammed with monster stat blocks and descriptions, without any art at all. If I want to add art, I'll have to sort through my public domain folders for good images (or pay some artists to create new art) and reformat it from the ground up to include the artwork. It'll take some time, but the text is sound so it probably won't be too onerous. 

The only big thing left is that pesky Game Master book. Since I know the Classic D&D system, I don't really need it at the table as a reference most of the time. But other people could definitely use it, especially if I want to include suggestions for things like multi/dual class PCs or suggestions on creating a game with the right feel. 

What I do have keeps drifting between the sort of thing you'd write for a complete newbie (introductions, careful explanations of the systems and why they are the way they are), and bare bones rules with little explanation (reference for experienced DMs). I really only need the bare bones one to run the game. But other people might want/need the more expansive version. Maybe I should make both, a rules reference and a game master guide with lots of (questionable?) advice and suggestions and explanation. 

Anyway, the players book is something that I could release soon. And with a bit of editing, the monsters & treasures book could follow soon after.  



*Current thoughts on renaming: copy Pokemon games and use something like TSR Ruby (standard Euro/Tolkien D&Disms version) and Jade (kung fu/samurai/wuxia version). Potential future releases could be TSR Marble (Greek/Roman myth inspired), TSR Bone (prehistoric), TSR Steel (Arthurian/Carolingian romance), TSR Uranium (rockets & rayguns retro sci fi), etc.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Less punishing dual classing?

One thing I think is kinda cool about AD&D is human dual classing. You start out as one class, but switch to another. I like it better in concept than demihuman multiclassing. Of course, Gary was never one to allow cool stuff like that to be easy, so AD&D is full of fiddly limitations about ability scores and how you can't rely on your old class powers if you want to gain XP in the new class, etc. Frank Mentzer's Master Set introduces the idea for one of the paths to immortality (the Polymath) but gives no rules on how to make it work. 

And I'm playing Final Fantasy III (for the first time ever) on my phone NES emulator, which involves switching classes any time it's convenient, so class switching is on my mind.

A while back I made a streamlined multiclass system for TSR, where I just totaled XP from both classes into one progression chart, instead of the division needed by AD&D's system. 

But now I'm thinking of scrapping that idea and going with a modified dual class system for all races in the game. At the moment (I just came up with this idea this morning, so I still need to consider ramifications) I'm thinking it would work like this: 

Start as Class A. 

When you gain enough XP to attain 4th level in that class, you can instead choose to dual class. 

If you dual class, you retain all previous class abilities, but start out in the new class with 0 XP (keep the old XP total noted, though). You immediately gain the abilities of a 1st level PC in the new class, except  you must roll for 1st level hit points (my house rule is max at 1st level).

From now on, you progress as your new class. You can freely use abilities from the old class without XP reductions. You can only dual class once. 

Energy drain attacks reduce your highest level first, so you may lose levels in your original class if drained soon after the switch. If your levels are tied, the original class gets drained first. 

Example: 

Rodrick the Cleric adventures until he's 3rd level. When he finally earns 6000+ XP, he can choose to become a 4th level Cleric, or he could dual class. 

If he dual classes into Fighter, he has 2 1st and 1 2nd level cleric spell and can Turn Undead up to wraiths. He can also now use any weapon and gains 1d10+Con modifier hit points (yeah, I use AD&D hit die types). He uses Cleric saves for all categories but Dragon Breath, which is slightly better as a 1st level Fighter (in BX/BECMI, anyway). He gains the Dodge ability of Fighters (once per day, reduce damage from a melee or ranged weapon attack to 0). From now on, he can only progress as a Fighter.

 

I think this allows for a bit of flavor, won't be overpowering (you can't get 4th level spells then decide to be a fighter, for example, or be starting your new career as a 1st level magic-user with 58 hit points), and a lot less bookkeeping than AD&D dual classing or most rules for multiclassing. Also, at high level, the dual classer won't be so far behind others in their active class.


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Twenty Quick Questions for Gamma World

Riffing off of this old post from Jeff Rients, some initial fodder to get my Gamma World setting going. Posting just the questions for now. I know the answers to some of these for my setting, but not all.

  1. Where do I go to sell or trade this artifact that I found?
  2. Where can we go to buy or trade standard equipment?
  3. Where can we go to get armor or other gear custom fitted for this mutant I just befriended?
  4. Who can I go to if I can't figure out the purpose of this artifact?
  5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?
  6. Who is the richest person in the land?
  7. Where can we go to get some mutant powered or high tech healing?
  8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, radiation, energy drain, mind control, hoops turned my spear into rubber?
  9. Where are the local known ruins and installations that I could plunder?
  10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?
  11. Where can I hire mercenaries?
  12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, mutants are outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?
  13. Which way to the nearest tavern?
  14. What mutants or robots are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?
  15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?
  16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?
  17. Are there any cryptic alliances with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?
  18. What is there to eat around here?
  19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?
  20. Where is the nearest ruin or creature rumored to have lots of artifacts?

Friday, April 22, 2022

Magic: The Gathering, LEGO, and 5E

I started playing Magic: The Gathering pretty much as soon as it came out. A friend who lived down the hall in the dorm brought it back after Thanksgiving break 1993, and within a week or two a bunch of us on 3-North of Moore Hall had decks of our own. My first starter deck was, IIRC, Limited Edition (beta).

Every week, I had budgeted a certain amount of my paycheck for comic books, but if there weren't that many titles I wanted to pick up in a certain week, the remainder usually went into MtG boosters. Later, after moving to Japan and finally earning more than enough to live paycheck to paycheck, I started buying MtG cards again, and occasionally playing. I ended up with a pretty massive collection of cards, which I still have but don't play very often.

Back in the earliest days of the game, part of the charm was seeing what weird and strange cards you'd get in a pack, or what cards your opponents might bring out. We were so far from optimizing our decks. We'd just throw every card we had into them, decks with all five colors and 100-200 cards. The randomness of playing that way was part of the fun and challenge. Of course, over time, as we got more familiar with the game, the novelty factor would wear off...until the next expansion set would come out.

Later, though, and as access to the internet became more common, it became pretty easy to know what all the cards were in a particular set, if you cared to look them up. After I moved from one prefecture to another, the MtG scene was different in my new location. In Toyama, we'd played much the same as my friends back in college. In Yamanashi (circa 2001), the foreign players played with the local Japanese fans, and they were VERY focused on tournament play. I'd met a few Japanese players in Toyama, but didn't really get deeply involved with them. Looking back, it was also probably because they were very heavily tournament focused. Also, one guy who wanted me to trade a rare card for some other rare card of his that I didn't really want, but then got upset when I wouldn't trade...and everyone else seemed to think that I was the asshole because I didn't want to give up a good card for one that I wasn't interested in. ??? 

Back on topic: pretty much everyone but me in Yamanashi (that I knew of) who played MtG was interested in deck optimization. They'd clone decks of tournament winners. One guy went so far as to tape pieces of paper with the names of cards he didn't own over land cards to turn them into those cards (which I found VERY cheesy) so he could play the "winning deck." That guy nearly blew a gasket when I played a chicken card from the comical Unglued expansion on him. Those silly cards weren't tournament legal! Another friend said I was "screwed" when I bought a deck from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms expansion (which was an Asia only thing IIRC) because they were labeled as part of their beginner series (forget what they called them **just looked it up, Portal**) and again not tournament legal. Shit, I didn't care. I've got Liu Bei and Guan Yu in my Magic deck. And chickens. Screw it. I was having fun.

Needless to say, after a while I gave up on Magic. Especially after they did the whole "Volrath Saga" thing and were trying to tell stories with the expansion sets (to sell more of the shitty novels?) instead of presenting new worlds like in earlier expansions. I guess they went back to the world themes later, but WotC had already lost me as a customer. It had stopped being fun.

I had also long stopped caring about trying to familiarize myself with all the cards in every expansion that came out. And when they made major rules changes (7th edition I think), I was out.

I still have all those cards in my closet, though. And I've even used them from time to time for English teaching. 

Anyway, I preface this post with that, because my knowledge of the game is almost 20 years out of date. So take what I have to say about MtG from that perspective. No idea about rules changes or expansions after 6th or 7th edition. 

So, what's all this to do with 5E, other than WotC being the producer of both games? Well, as I mentioned in a comment about 5E over at BX Blackrazor, I see the character creation system of 5E to be a lot like the deck building mini-game of MtG. 

You've got a base set of rules in MtG. But certain cards (and a larger and larger percentage of the cards as time went on) had ways to bend, twist, or even break the normal rules. And the challenge was not just playing the right cards at the right time, it was having the right combinations of cards in your decks. Brilliant marketing. To have the right cards, players need to spend more money to buy more cards... Until they just start taping bits of note paper over their worthless land cards to turn them into the rare cards. Looking back now, I don't fault the guy so much for doing that. 

Anyway, 5E character creation is a lot like the deck building aspect of MtG. You have a book with the basic rules. Then you have races, classes, backgrounds, equipment, spells, and eventually magic items that you can use to "build your deck" and decide what sorts of special abilities you want your PC to have. There's a fun intellectual puzzle solving aspect of it that I quite enjoy. 

3E and Pathfinder are also like this, but since everything is more fiddly in those games, it bogs down. 5E does hit a good sweet spot of not being too complex. 3E and Pathfinder are a bit more like a big box of LEGOs. If you follow the instruction booklet (online optimization boards) you come out with the Hogwarts Castle or a TIE Fighter made of LEGO. Go it on your own, it will probably be a bit of a mess and not quite like what you were planning. This is a big part of why I have no desire to go back and replay these games.

Now, as a player, that puzzle-solving aspect of building a character is fun and challenging. But I'm only dealing with my character. It's not that hard to keep all my rules-bending Magic cards of special abilities in order. But as a DM? You've got to be well aware of EVERYONE's special rule bending abilities. Every player, every monster (and there aren't a whole lot of 1/1 no special ability Mon's Goblin Raiders among 5E monsters), every magic item, every NPC. And then they start adding in splatbooks. 

For me, trying to run 5E was like the latter days of my MtG play experience. There were games I was in against players with newer expansions where pretty much every card they played, I had to ask them to hand it over so I could read it, since I was unfamiliar with them. I felt that way a lot DMing 5E, and I kept my game limited to the PHB only! 

So, when Alexis asked me in the comments of JB's post (link above) why I quit 5E when I said I had fun with it, it's because I STILL have fun with it as a player. If someone else wants to run it, great. I'll play. But I don't have fun if I'm the DM. And that's why I quit it.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Weirdos of a Galaxy Far, Far Away

 I call my Star Wars d6 campaign "Misadventures in Huttspace" and I think it's a fairly apt title. The PCs are (for now) avoiding joining the Rebellion and just tooling around the Outer Rim and taking odd jobs from various entities, many of them criminal. It's a bit like the A-Team in Space. It's set about a year or so after the destruction of the first Death Star.


Here are the current characters in the campaign: 

WTF Mandalorian (aka Din Kenoby, aka Limeorian, aka Gordon Ramsay): This is my 14 year old's character. He's a human Mandalorian warrior (Bounty Hunter template), and his main goal has been to prove himself in battle and earn more beskar for his armor. My son can't quite decide on a name for him, so he keeps changing his code name every few sessions. There have been a few more code names, but this will give you a selection of them. 

Bulldog: This is my 7 year old's character. He's a bulldog-man Jedi (Minor Jedi template). His main goals are shopping for more stuff! He has used his ill-gotten gains to purchase speeder bikes, droids, painting supplies, computers, and whatever he likes, basically. My son is always asking if various random things are available for sale, and how much they cost. He's definitely having fun, even if the Jedi Council (were they still a thing) would not approve. 

SIMON SBD-4: This is Jeremy's main PC. He's a sentient and heavily modified super battle droid (custom droid build) and pretty much only optimized for combat. He does have a couple of non-combat accessories (climbing claws, enhanced visual sensors) but his main function is laying down the hurt with a light repeating blaster built into his arm.

Junivia: This is Jeff's PC. She's a young human Jedi (Young Jedi template) who is seeking to master the ways of the Force, and maybe find a bit of love on the side. Again, if the Jedi Council hadn't been slaughtered years before, they would not approve. But without them around, the remaining Jedi are on their own! 

Nito: This is Denis' character. He's a human rascal and smuggler (Smuggler template). At the start, his ship had been impounded by the Imperials, but after a few adventures they managed to steal it back. Now he's trying to scrounge up enough cash to make improvements to the ship. He's also the team's tech guy.

Easy Shobin: This is Justin's character. He's a Duros pilot (Brash Pilot template) and so far hasn't developed any strong motivations other than just helping out with whatever the party is deciding to do. He's fairly adept at getting the party into trouble, though. 

A few Former and Minor Characters: 

Y'lenic: This was Dean's PC and a stalwart of the game until Dean left Busan. He's a Caamasi Force adept (Alien Student of the Force) and he was mainly motivated to seek out various Force artifacts and information about the Force. He did a pretty good job of protecting the party and getting them out of trouble, but he was definitely not much for combat. 

Zylas Telsh: Dustie joined the game for a few sessions, and this was her PC, another human smuggler (Smuggler template). She didn't stick with the game long enough to really develop any goals other than making more money (Dustie isn't really into Star Wars), but she was a smooth talker and con artist in the party while she was there. 

Dyne El: This is my 14 year old's side character, for when he and his brother play alone with me. He's a Zabrak Jedi (Young Jedi template) and initially his goal was to find a kyber crystal so he could make a lightsaber. He finally found it, and made his saber (yellow blade), but we haven't played our side game since then. 

Mr. Mandalorian: This is my 7 year old's side character. Originally made for the main campaign, Mr. Mandalorian was sidelined when he made Bulldog. He's a Mandalorian pilot (Brash Pilot template) who likes to carry heavy weaponry and shoot things up when he's not flying starfighters.

Luna: This was Denis' daughter's PC for one session. She was a human space princess (Young Senatorial template), and helped with dealing with bureaucratic red tape and smooth talking people. She played in the adventure where the party liberated Nito's ship, and she was really useful for bluffing their way into the Imperial shipyards. 

Oink: This was the PC of Claytonian of the Kill it with Fire blog, who played in the first two or three sessions I ran of the campaign. He was a Gammorean bounty hunter (Bounty Hunter template) and didn't talk much. He was a bit of comic relief, but also muscle, in the party. 

Zaifr Shunt: Jeremy made this side PC for our most recent adventure on Coruscant, since a battle droid with integrated weaponry wouldn't be allowed at a high society function. He's a strange Umbaran Force User (Alien Student of the Force) with ties to the Hutt Syndicate, and I'm not sure if he'll be a one-off for that single adventure, or if he'll return in the future.

There were a few other PCs that have come and gone in the campaign. Since I run it irregularly (pretty much when I've got something prepared and need a break from running West Marches) quite a few players have come and gone.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

A Haven

Recently, I've read a few blogs or seen comments saying basically that people are leaving the OSR because the scene is toxic. No, I'm not going to link to them because that would likely draw extra unwanted attention to these people. But they exist. And there are people within the OSR scene that are happy to make these people feel unwelcome. I'm NOT one of them.

I just want to state up front: This is a blog about D&D (and other geeky stuff). I don't care who you find attractive. I don't care about your gender*. I don't care about your race or ethnicity. Not to say that none of these things matter. I think they matter. But it makes no difference to me if we're going to discuss elf-games. 

You are welcome here. You are wanted here. You are valued here. 

Unless you're a hateful troll. Keep it to yourself, or go somewhere else. The internet is a big place. And there are plenty of places that will welcome you. 

This little corner of the OSR welcomes diversity and inclusion. This tiny voice in the chaotic void of cyberspace is about spreading the love of games, and YOU MATTER. 

Peace



*I don't care about your gender, but I will do my best to respect your pronouns if you care to share them.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Social Combat

 This afternoon I ran my Star Wars game. 

In this session, the party escorted Marjon, a Hutt princess, to Coruscant to attend the Grand Ball with a bunch of other rich young sentients. The party's mission was to protect the wealthy princess, make sure she had a good time, and help her improve her social cred. 

The players came up with a lot of clever ideas to accomplish the second and third goals, although there was a bit of confusion between the meaning of "have a good time" at first. Since my sons play in the game, we need to keep things PG rated but one player seemed intent on trying to get the Hutt princess laid...NOT the goal! It was one of those high society events where being seen is important. Luckily, the players thought to contact some local holonet influencers and have them talk up Marjon the Hutt. And in the party, when social barbs were flying, they were quick to try and defuse them through their own social interaction skills and occasionally a Jedi Mind Trick. 

Star Wars d6 made social "combat" really easy. Instead of hit points, you get Stunned, Wounded, Wounded Twice, Incapacitated, and Killed in regular combat. So for social combat, I just used the same mechanics and modified the damage track to Insulted, Hurt, Hurt Twice, Humiliated, and Reputation Ruined. 

Just like in normal combat, roll a skill to attack (Culture, Persuasion, Con, etc.) and another character can try to dodge with their own social skills. If the "attack" hits, roll Willpower to resist the "damage." I decided that the attack roll and damage roll would be the same, just to make things easier. 

And it worked really well. 

Luckily for the party, they managed to keep Marjon's spirits up. There was a Wookiee debutante that they also latched onto, and they helped keep her reputation up as well. The Twilek socialite, Chadra Fan celebrity, and Kel Dor Heiress were kept at bay. They even got the Togruta playboy to dance with Marjon, shortly before Zygerrian slavers broke in to try and kidnap a high value target for ransom. 

Of course, the PCs fought off the Zygerrians. And they did it without any grenades!

It was a pretty fun adventure, and in retrospect, it probably didn't need the Zygerrian interruption. The social interactions were fun and challenging all on their own. Hat tip to Jason Alexander for ideas on running a social event as an adventure. I didn't use all of his method, but it sure helped me sort things out and run the game.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

The End of Down Time

My covid-19 quarantine ends at midnight tonight (about 2 hours from time of writing), so I'm back to work tomorrow. We had a pretty good day. Played some emulated console games with son #2 after I finished teaching my online classes. Ordered delivery fried chicken for dinner. Rewatched Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings with the boys. Scheduled my Star Wars RPG session for this coming Sunday. All in all, a pretty good day. 

So, since I've been talking about my actual down time, why not discuss D&D down time a bit after all? 

I don't have much in the way of downtime activity in my West Marches games. Magic-Users can, per Holmes Basic, create a scroll given a week's time and a bit of gold. I rule that to 1 week per game session, but the scroll-crafting can only be done in town. So the past several sessions in White Plume Mountain haven't allowed the characters to replace scrolls used. But once they get back to town, that's one way they can spend their time/money. Also, those that don't have magical weapons or armor can commission +1 items (only) from Rupert the Town Mage or Sister Clarion, the town Matriarch (technically, they could also go to Toutates the Priest [druid] as well, but so far no one has). But each of these NPCs can only work on one item at a time, and it takes several game weeks (sessions) for the item to be completed. Once PCs reach Name level, they could then do these projects themselves. 

So not much for down time rules in my current game. 

In one of the 5E play-by-post games I am in, though, there are some rather extensive rules for down time.

First of all, it's also West Marches style (and the inspiration for me to want to run a WM game myself), but in the more traditional sense that there are multiple parties all exploring different areas simultaneously. But since it's play by post, it's slow and erratic. And while an adventure may take only a couple of days of in-game time, it can take literal years of real time to play out. My longest running character in the game (we're allowed multiples as long as they join different groups) is only on his second adventure after 5 years of actual real world play. But he is 8th level on the verge of 9th in that time...

Anyway, as Gygax would say, YOU CANNOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE NOT KEPT or something to that effect. The GM does take careful records of time spent by each party, how many days/hours have passed, how many rations we've expended, etc. And how many days of real world time have passed since each expedition sets out to when it arrives back in town. 

But as mentioned, each party's progress can't really be tied together in one big calendar in this game. If an expedition that covers a day or two in-game time takes a year or more to play out, while another group can cover four or five game-days in the same amount of time, but both parties end up back in town at the same real-world time and switch party members, things won't add up. 

So the GM decided that he just wouldn't worry about that part. But when players asked to spend downtime days for stuff (5E allows for item crafting, earning money with professional skills, learning a new tool proficiency or language, etc), he came up with the following:

*The number of real world days that pass while in the Marches equals the number of downtime days the character has to spend while in town. They must still spend any gold required for the training desired. 

That seemed to work OK. My oldest PC in the game traded in some of his hard won gold and a lot of that downtime to learn some new languages and tool proficiencies. 

But some people weren't going to use those downtime days, so the GM came up with the following:

*You may convert downtime days to XP at the rate of 3XP per 'day' spent. 

This led to a few problems in that one of the players (or maybe two) were trying to keep track of all the members' XP totals for them, with big complicated charts. But the player(s) started assuming that all downtime days were being converted to XP, so when my PC, for example, spent quite a few days on learning stuff, it messed up the charts. Also, there were questions of when these bonus XP amounts should be added, who was adding what when, etc. It got to be a mess.

So recently, after discussion with all the players, the GM has decided to get rid of tracking the downtime days. If PCs return to town and want to do some downtime activity, they can just declare it and spend the gold needed for training (or supplies). Not sure how he's handling profession skills...none of my characters have bothered with that sort of thing. 

Long story short, 5E has some interesting rules for managing down time, but unless strict time records for the campaign are kept (or there's only one party in the campaign), they can be a hassle!

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Fun with the Boys (Down Time 2)

Sorry Lance, still no novel innovations for "down time" in games. Just more quarantine fun. 

The boys and I grabbed my copy of 1st Edition Gamma World and rolled up some characters just for fun. I'm not gonna run it (it's a little too loosey-goosey, especially since I have the 4th edition rules which are not that complex, and 2nd Edition in PDF now which is better organized than 1st and simpler than 4th), but one of my players is considering dipping his toes in the refereeing waters soon with GW, and my 7 year old was itching to roll up a character. 

Well, my 7yo went first. He didn't roll so well for stats, and only got a couple of mutations, but I let him pick since it was just 1 physical and 1 mental, rather than rolling which made him happy. He rolled up: 

Popcat TV

Mutant Cat, MS 8 IN 11 DX 9 CH 7 CN 10 PS 13; HP 31, AC 7 (furs, shield)

Wings (fly speed 12), Mental Control over Physical State (ignore pain, heal x4, double DX, PS, speed for 5d10 rounds 1/week)

Then I rolled up  a humanoid (I rolled high for the two physical mutations, allowing me to reroll and ignore defects for #1, and just to select #2, while the mental mutation was a random roll): 

Del Hartman

Mutant Human, MS 17 IN 12 DX 9 CH 12 CN 8 PS 15; HP 20, AC 7 (furs, shield)

Heightened Strength (add 3 dice damage with physical weapons), Heightened Vision (see clearly up to 3km, infravision w/o drawback, ultravision), Mental Defense Shield (+4 mental defense, sense others with mental mutations within 30')

About the time I got done with that, my 14 year old came in and decided he wanted to roll up one too. He went with a mutant raccoon, and of course the dice loved him, although he did get a defect to balance things out:

Missile

Mutant Raccoon, MS 15 IN 14 DX 13 CH 15 CN 14 PS 10; HP 60, AC 3, Speed 9

Total Carapace (AC 4, reduce damage by 1/2, reduce speed by 1/4), Multiple Body Parts (+9 arms!), Wings (fly speed 12), Shorter (141cm tall, -1 AC bonus), Heightened Intelligence (+4 mental defense, -2 on artifact function discovery rolls), Poor Dual Brain (causes problems randomly)

The good thing about this edition is the simplicity. The character sheets are so simple. Char gen is relatively quick. The down side is that the rules organization isn't the best, and a lot of the mutation descriptions say things like "check with the referee for the effects of this" and just leave it up in the air. Of course, with later editions available to me, I can check to see how it has been done by others, but I think if I do run that GW game I'm thinking about, it will either be with the 4th Edition or a house ruled hybrid of 2nd and 4th (simplify where desired, use the more crunchy details when useful).

Friday, April 1, 2022

Down Time

I've been meaning to get some posts out here on the blog, but I've just been busy. Still meaning to return to Prince of Nothing's anti-artpunk stuff. More posts about Rouse's game design ideas. Oh, and stuff about the games I'm running and designing, too. 

But this week I finally caught covid-19. It's been pretty crazy here in South Korea. The government stopped caring about social distancing a while back, just before omicron hit. And now that cases have blown up, they've given up on contact tracing. People are still masking, but I picked it up somewhere. Started feeling a sore throat on Monday evening. Tested negative. Felt the cough coming on on Tuesday, stayed home from work, but still tested negative. Fever and muscle aches hit me on Wednesday, finally tested positive. Luckily, whatever's in the mixture of drugs the doctor gave me, it knocks the symptoms right out. Well, mostly. I've got an earache and still a sore throat, and an occasional cough, but that's it.

My older son is still OK (although he's got a throat tickle) but my wife and younger son tested positive today. Son #2 had a pretty high fever, but no other symptoms. My wife has a sore throat, a bit of a cough, and a bad headache. Fun stuff. 

Well, in addition to watching lots of Star Trek (TNG and TOS) on Netflix, I took the opportunity yesterday to finally paint my Caesar Miniatures lizard men. These are 1/72 (22mm) scale, so smaller than Reaper or WotC figures, but they have some pretty cool sculpts, and 34 lizard men for about $15. Not bad.

First step was to give them a green acrylic base coat. Son #2 helped with three of them. He really laid the paint on thick, but I was able to get some of the excess off after they dried a bit. 

Next (after a nap and some lunch), I went through and painted all the wooden clubs, spears, bows, etc. with a dark brown. Then added red and blue for shields and quivers/fletching. Used some yellow ochre for the leader's shield, and a bit of yellow dry brushing for spines and highlights. 

In the evening, I did a few touch-ups of green where I'd missed a few spots, and then added white dots for eyes and a bit of white on the spikes on the clubs to make them resemble teeth. 

This morning, I gave them all a black wash to accentuate the mold lines. After the wash dried this afternoon, I gave them a clear acrylic varnish top coat. This picture is from before I added the top coat. They're a bit shinier now that they're done, but I forgot to take a picture of them and my wife wanted her dresser top back now that I don't need to isolate in the bedroom anymore. 

Anyway, game related posts coming soon. No gaming for me this weekend, but assuming I'm recovered enough, the plan is to run some WEG d6 Star Wars again next weekend.




Thursday, March 17, 2022

Bartertown

 I'm working up notes for a play-by-post Gamma World game. The home town will be fairly primitive, just having barely reached Tech Level II (early Bronze Age) but there are some definite Tech II and even a Tech III (Medieval) settlement nearby. Plus a market in the Tech III settlement run by Restorationists where artifacts can be bought and sold...the only catch being that the Tech III society is ruled over by the Knights of Genetic Purity. There is a trade town nearby as well, which takes domars (cash in Gamma Terra), but the home town will be only barter based. Junk from ruins will be a prime means of acquiring things, but time and effort also play a part. A day's food? How about you give me that shiny doo-dad you picked up in the ruins. Want a new spear? Plow my field for me.

I plan to have notes for important NPCs of what they have, what they need, what they want in trade. But for less important NPCs, or when the PCs want something I haven't considered, I made a Barter Table. Figured I might as well share it with you guys. Never know when this might come in handy. It could work for D&D or other games, too, really. Just replace junk with something relevant to the campaign.

Barter Table


NPC Wants (roll 1d6):

Players Want:

1

2

3

4

5

6

Food (1 meal)

1 junk

1d3 junk

1d2 labor

1 service

1d3 goods

nothing

Water (days)

1 junk

1 labor

1 goods

clothes

nothing

nothing

Labor (1 hour)

1d3 junk

1 labor

1 creature

1 meal

1d4 water

nothing

Service (1 hour)

1d6 junk

1 bauble

1d3 meals

1d2 labor

1d3 goods

nothing

Clothes

1 junk

1d4 junk

1d2 labor

1d3 goods

nothing

nothing

Lodging

1d4+1 junk

1d6 labor

1d4 service

1 creature

1d3 meals

nothing

Goods (Tech I)

1d4 junk

2d4 junk

1d6 meals

1d10 labor

1d2 goods

nothing

Goods (Tech II)

2d6 junk

3d6 junk

2d4 meals

2d6 labor

2d6 goods

no trade

Goods (Tech III)

2d10 junk

3d12 junk

2d10 meals

2d8 labor

4d6 goods

no trade

Weapon (Tech I)

1d10 junk

2d6 labor

2d6 service

4d4 goods

1d8 meals

nothing

Weapon (Tech II)

3d4 junk

3d6 labor

4d4 service

1d3 creatures

3d8 goods

no trade

Small Creature

1d8 junk

1d6 meals

1d6 water

1 creature

2d4 goods

nothing

Medium Creature

2d8 junk

1d4 labor

1d4 service

2d6 goods

4d6 goods

no trade

Large Creature

3d8 junk

2d6 labor

2d4 service

1d6 creatures

4d10 goods

no trade

Junk: On average, 1 curiosity = 20 junk/5 baubles; 1 bauble = 4 junk; 

Labor/Service in hours; labor = physical work, service = mental work

Goods: 1 Tech III item = 10 Tech I items or 3 Tech II items. 1 Tech II item = 1d3 Tech I items

Nothing: free if NPC is friendly, will not trade if hostile; No Trade: will not part with item