Monday, October 31, 2022

The 2E Transition

 I've been hearing a lot about 2E AD&D these days, which is weird that it's suddenly popped up again as a discussion topic just as I've joined a 2E game on 

The consensus of discussion seems to be: 

A. 2E is a good clarification of the AD&D rules, clearing up some of the confusing bits and explaining rules well.

B. 2E takes everything that was evocative and inspiring about 1E and makes it bland. 

C. The way 2E changes the way XP is dished out radically changes the game play.

D. 2E simply codifies changes that were already happening in 1E campaigns. 

E. 2E is simpler than core 1E, if you stick to the core books only.

F. 2E is more convoluted than expanded 1E, if you include all the splat books and supplements.

G. 2E is too focused on making PCs heros, and playing through heroic quests. 

H. 2E has the best assortment of interesting campaign settings. 

I. 2E is very old school, and is sort of a proto-OSR, with a ton of optional rules and various play styles/campaign styles. 

J. 2E is very new school, with its changed focus of game play and small rules tweaks to focus on character over setting.  

Overall, I find these contradictions and opposed takes on the edition interesting. As I've mentioned before, back in the day (late 90s) we simply mixed 1E and 2E, taking what options we liked from either edition and leaving the rest. It was never a problem. If someone wanted to play a Half-Orc Assassin, they could use the 1E books. If another player wanted to run a Specialist Mage they could use the 2E books. 

Each DM would have to make calls about the rules differences for their campaign (1E, UA or 2E level limits? Race/Class/Multiclass combinations allowed? A few other things). It was really never a problem. I think only one of our campaigns got close to the 1E level limits anyway. 

Getting back into the 2E game on RPOL, and looking through the PHB and a couple of the Complete books, I'd actually consider using the system again. Or at least a weird modified version. Not that I'm going to revised TS&R least not for a little while. But when that next revision eventually comes around, I may be taking a look at certain elements of 2E that I may have overlooked before. 

Anyway, my opinion about whether 2E is "old school" or not, I'd say it's definitely the transition edition. Stick to the core books (and maybe a couple of the Complete Class books) and, with a few optional rules like XP for treasure, you get a very old school game. Add in all the supplements to 1E, and play it with a DragonLance style story campaign theme, you get a more new school game. And yes, that is not a typo, 1st Edition AD&D can be (and apparently was) played as a new school style game with a focus on character builds and story progression. 

2E is the change-over point. So it both is and isn't "old school" at the same time.

Monday, October 24, 2022

An Old Friend Returns

My 8 year old has been quite a pain lately. I suspect he may be a bit neurodivergent, with some of his behaviors. In my D&D game last Saturday, he started the session by being a jerk when Denis tried to introduce his new character to the party. A little later, he was staring at his smartphone (my wife's old phone, which we gave to him to be in contact after school if needed, but he's definitely addicted to it). When I took the phone away, he had a meltdown, started annoying his brother, and eventually fell asleep. The sugary tea he drank probably didn't help with that. After the game, we discussed other drinks he could get at the cafe, and he's willing to try a non-sugary drink next time. So at least that part was a victory.

For a while now, he's been wanting to "run" a campaign, but a modern one. He loves the idea of guns (from movies, games, etc.) and wants to run a criminal campaign inspired by what little he knows of games like GTA. He has plans for an open world, do anything type game set in the real world. Oh, and maybe there are Pokemon, maybe superheroes too, and maybe or maybe not we'll be fighting monsters. 

A few months back (this campaign idea has been percolating in his head for a while), I mentioned that I'd always enjoyed d20 Modern for contemporary setting RPGs, but that it was a complicated game. Much more so than the modified D&D game I run, which sits somewhere between BECMI and AD&D, but closer to BECMI. But he was intrigued, so I pulled up the PDF of the game that I still have. And of course the Ultramodern Firearms supplement that I also have in PDF. 

I sold off my d20 Modern books before I left Japan. Gave them to a friend who ran a short campaign with them before he and his wife returned to the states. Even though I couldn't stand to play 3E/3.5E/Pathfinder 1E these days, and a quick look through the old d20 Star Wars book when I was considering joining a PbP game on RPOL has confirmed my pleasure with running the d6 WEG Star Wars system, I still have a soft spot for d20 Modern. 

As I've mentioned before, a few times, but not a whole lot, in my estimation a good modern setting game needs a more skill based approach rather than a class based approach, but the generic archetype classes of d20 Modern, mixed with the fiddly skill/feat system of the d20 family of games, works pretty well for that. It's not too hard to multiclass, the backgrounds round out a lot of concepts, and the system emulates the "laws of action movies" fairly well. 

So, at my son's urging, we went on DriveThru and ordered a POD copy of d20 Modern. I did check Amazon and a couple of used book sites for original copies, but they were pretty pricey. POD plus shipping to Korea came out to around $60 (of course the exchange rate isn't so good right now, so the price looks worse in Korean won...). Since it was on DriveThru, I was able to use profits from Chanbara and my paper minis to pay for it. 

After weeks of my son insisting the book was overdue, and me double checking the order date to tell him that no, it's not overdue yet, the book finally arrived today. 

The POD version is thicker than what I remember (and a dimension check on Amazon confirms this). The paper quality must be better. The pages do feel a bit thicker and they're not as smooth as the paper WotC uses. The binding seems pretty good, on first glance, too. 

This evening we went over the basics of character generation. Even though my son wants to run a game, he really just wants to free-form game. He kept telling me that he just wants everyone to start with X, Y, and Z guns, plus a grenade, and everyone should have 100 hit points, and he wants to use money because the abstract wealth score is too abstract for his 8-year old cognition. Which I can understand. He just wants to have fun. We really need a more loosey goosey story game type rule set for him. But we've got d20 Modern (again), so might as well let him use it as a framework for his imaginings!

Friday, October 21, 2022

Fiendish Gamma World Folio

As I mentioned a little while back, I went through the AD&D Fiend Folio for creatures that might work well in a Gamma World game. I was not disappointed. There are a lot of weirdos in there that I would probably never use in D&D but fit right in a GW game. 

The list of creatures that made the cut are: 





Bloodworm, Giant




Dire Corby



Eye Killer

Fire Newt

Fire Toad

Frost Man




















I also decided, since I was statting up GW creatures, to add Slow Mutants, lobstrosities, and taheen from Stephen King's Dark Tower books. 


There were a few FF creatures that almost made it. I originally put them on my list to convert, but on a closer reading (or just on a gut feeling) decided not to include after all. These were the: 


Death Dog (I used these too often in my D&D games)


Giant Strider





Throat Leech





Monday, October 17, 2022

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, and Star Wars: Andor (and other shows)

Last week, we got the (series? season?) finale of She-Hulk, and also we're halfway through the first season of Andor. I have a few thoughts.

She-Hulk: [minor spoilers ahead]

First off, I was really happy that they tried to do something different with this show. Not only was it a half-hourish legal comedy that just happened to involve powered individuals, it broke away from the mold that not only Marvel movies, but the other Marvel Disney+ shows have given us so far. And that's saying something, since WandaVision, Falcon & Winter Soldier, Loki, and Hawkeye are all really different shows. She-Hulk is a completely different beast, and yet it still feels like part of the greater whole. 

Was the CGI great? No. Some episodes were worse than others. But was it good enough? I think so. It's a legal comedy, not a big summer blockbuster movie. Could Disney/Marvel have done better if they'd thrown more money into it? Apparently so. The CGI firms they contract with are apparently overworked and underpaid. But for what the show was, it didn't need top of the line CGI. It's a show about learning to live both as a productive member of society and a superhero, and also jokes. 

Not every joke landed, but I found things to laugh at in every episode. I'd say the Madisynn/Wong episode was the funniest. And it was fun seeing characters I remember from the comics (Manbull! The Wrecking Crew! Titania!), and characters I wasn't familiar with as well. And when they needed to do action, they did it well. The Daredevil episode in particular had some fun fight choreography in it. 

And the fourth wall breaks? Used really well. They provide exposition. They provide laughs. They help direct the series away from the Marvel Studios formula. Especially in the finale. It starts out giving you what you'd expect from a Marvel finale, then...everything changes. In a really silly but good way, that is true to the original comics. 

Andor: [more minor spoilers]

Star Wars always has been media aimed at kids (of all ages). It's got that Campbellian Hero's Journey, stark black and white morality, and plenty of swashbuckling derring do. Well, the best Star Wars does, anyway. And even when it's not at top form, it's always been aimed at a young/family audience. 

But then there was Rogue One. The prequel that was just a little bit more rough around the edges. It was still a B&W morality play at heart, but it was a little more grown up in certain ways. And Andor is a prequel to this prequel. 

Andor is not a show for kids. My 8 year old is continually frustrated and bored with it whenever we watch it. It's about complex characters, and complex situations. It takes a more serious look at what it would be like to live in an authoritarian space empire. It's not about derring-do or simple morality. It's finally Star Wars for grown ups. 

We're only halfway through the season, but we've already had a lot of decent drama out of the series. Andor's struggle to fit in while not wanting to fit in. Luthen and Mon Mothma's struggles to build a rebellion while living under constant state surveillance, and in Mothma's case also while living with a fascist sympathizer husband. Karn struggles with ambition and failure, and high hopes his family places on him that he fears he won't be able to achieve. The ISB agent (forgot the name) who knows something's up but whose superiors/coworkers refuse to help or allow her to succeed. It isn't always perfectly scripted, but they all seem like real people with real issues. 

The down side of the show is that the endings of the first couple of episodes are anticlimaxes. Anti-cliffhangers. If they hadn't released the first three all at once, for people to binge until they get a satisfying conclusion, I bet a lot of people would have not followed the show. 

In Other Viewing: 

My younger son and I continue to make our way slowly through both Futurama and Stranger Things. We're somewhere in the middle of season 4 of Futurama, and just watched the first episode of Stranger Things season 3 last weekend. 

And my older son is suddenly interested in military history again, after watching Black Hawk Down, so we've been watching Tour of Duty the past couple of evenings. He's really getting into it, and it was one of my favorite shows back in the day. We have some good discussions about the war, and the politics behind it, when we watch. 

I've also been occasionally watching Star Trek, original series and Next Gen, when I've got a free hour. It's been going on for a couple of years now. I'm somewhere in the 2nd season of TOS, and 3rd season of TNG. Seems like I'm watching all sorts of shows these days, but the Star Trek really gets strung out. I go in spurts where I'll watch two to four episodes fairly close together, then go weeks without watching any at all.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Gamma Folio

My friend Denis will soon be starting his Gamma World game. My sons and I, and Denis' daughter, all rolled up our characters for the game. A few more of the regulars still need to roll up theirs, but since Denis normally meets them online, I don't think they've done it yet. 

 Denis had the kids roll ability scores, then arrange them as they liked. Then he let them select mutations, but gave them defects depending on how many mutations they received. 

Anyway, so far, Renee (who played the Fairy Princess Goldie in West Marches) wanted to play a hippogriff (she's a Harry Potter fan*), so we discussed how to make that work. Horse with eagle/hawk mutations? Hawk or eagle with horse mutations? Anyway, somehow she has a hippogriff. I don't remember exactly what mutations she got.

Flynn, my older boy, rolled up another mutant raccoon. Atomic Raccoon (based on Marvel's Rocket of course) is shorter, has speed increase, mental blast, radar/sonar, and time suspension, plus bacterial susceptibility and periodic amnesia. 

Steven, my younger, rolled up a mutant cat (of course). And he named him "Iamashithole" and his mutations include regeneration, speed increase, weather control, and mental control. He has the fear impulse defect keyed to Fen (fish-men mutants). 

I rolled a Pure Strain Human. Since we were rolling and arranging to taste, and PSH are fairly weak, Denis let me roll 4d6 for each stat, not just for the three that normally get a boost. So Lothar has some pretty sweet ability scores (although PS is only 11, and MS is 12, everything else is 17+). With his bonuses to discovering artifact purposes and ability to command robots, I think he'll do alright. 

For fun, though, I later went on my Roll20 and rolled a random character, a mutant owl named Dr. Hoo. I got some decent ability score rolls, and then some mutations that pumped up a couple of them. In the end, he ended up with oversized brain (+4 Int and MS, +1 mental mutation), arterial weakness (defect), taller (3m tall! +2 PS), duality (nice!), teleportation, fear impulse (keyed to some sort of plant, Denis will decide), devolution, and heightened brain talent (+4 MS for defense only) as his oversized brain bonus mutation. Pretty strong. Denis took a look at it, and is wondering how balanced it will be. I have to admit, those random rolls probably gave me a stronger mutant than if I'd picked and chosen! Anyway, Dr. Hoo is my backup. I'll start the campaign with Lothar. 

In addition to Denis' game (2nd edition), I'm again working on ideas for a play by post 4th edition Gamma World game (I posted my barter table a while back). I've got an area map with settlements, ruins, and installations noted, and named, and found maps online or in my collection of old adventures that I can use for them. I've got the basic game set up on the site, but haven't started recruiting players yet. Real world was pretty busy the past few weeks. 

Last night, talking to Denis about Dr. Hoo, he mentioned maybe grabbing some creatures from D&D or other games to use. I told him it was a good idea. And today, I grabbed my Fiend Folio to do the same for my PbP game. There are a few FF creatures that I really like, and have converted to BX/BECMI stats for my games. There are a lot that are just too goofy for D&D. Some of those goofy ones (and some of the not so goofy ones) would make excellent mutants in GW, though. So I think I will spend some of my free time the next week or two converting Fiend Folio critters to Gamma World 4 stats. Should be fun! And will give experienced players a few surprises.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Werewolf by Night

We watched Marvel's new Halloween special, Werewolf by Night this evening. 

I'd never read the comics, and I'd only head about them fairly recently (two years ago, maybe?) when someone on Kevin Smith's Fatman Beyond podcast brought it up. 

Despite not knowing much of the source material, I found it to be a fun little show! 

It's only about an hour long. It's mostly in black-and-white to emulate the old Universal horror films, and the music, graphics, and a lot of the props also reflect this...but not all of them. There are definitely plenty of modern touches in it. 

The story is almost a Castlevania story! Monster hunters gather to compete for the inheritance of the most famed monster hunter, Ulysses Bloodstone. They have to hunt a fearsome monster, but are allowed to fight and even kill each other in the process. The winner gets Bloodstone's magical bloodstone which grants some magical powers. 

I won't spoil it, but I will say I really enjoyed the campy nature of it. It's got some fun action scenes, some campy scenery chewing by the actors, and plenty of Halloween mood. Not your typical Marvel superhero fare, by any means.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Going forward in my games...

 ...there will be a whole lot more Black mermaids

If this triggers any of my players, I will happily ask them to leave my games. 

That is all.