Monday, February 27, 2023

d20 Modern with my Son

I mentioned before that my younger boy has fun playing D&D, but he really would rather play a game with guns and cars and smart phones. So last year I got a POD copy of d20 Modern. 

He never had the attention span to actually sit through the rules (not that I expected him to at only 8 years old), but recently we made characters and have been playing very fast, very loose impromptu games when he has the interest (pretty much every day) and I have the time and energy to run it for him (not every day, unfortunately). 

Stevie made a Fast Hero with the Law Enforcement background, so a cop. But he spends as much time committing crimes as he does stopping them. So fairly realistic. 

I created a Strong Hero with the Adventurer background, a martial artist to be his buddy (not a cop). 

At first, when we got the book and I explained the Wealth mechanic, he was upset. He wanted to be able to total up lots of cash on his character sheet, and buy lots of stuff. Now that we've played it a bit, he really digs the Wealth mechanic. He can buy anything he wants of value under his score, so as it goes up, he's constantly adding more stuff to his sheet. And he keeps trying to buy big ticket items with wealth rolls, too, so his score fluctuates quite a bit. 

We're having fun. Ignoring a lot of the rules. Keeping it simple. He mostly wants to drive around and look for (or cause) trouble. He's had run-ins with bikers, drug dealers, mafia types, etc. No monsters, paranormal stuff, aliens, or any of that. Just "real" world situations. And lots of shopping. 

He's having a great time, and he's also been more attentive during D&D games, so I consider this a win-win! 

[JB -- I did look briefly at the sneak peak of CDF you sent me to consider as an alternative to d20M, but I've been too busy to give it a proper read through. I'll get to it, I promise!]

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Treasures, Serpents, & Ruins: Jade Players Handbook

I went ahead and put my TS&R Jade Players Handbook up as a pay-what-you-want title on DriveThru. 

It's got rules for character creation, with six races and nine classes. It has spells from level 1 to 6 (classes top out at 15). It has equipment. It has adventuring, exploration, combat, and spell/magic item research rules. It has a character sheet. 

Feel free to download it, and if you like it, think about maybe pitching a few bucks my way as a thank you!

I'll be putting the Jade Bestiary & Treasury up soon, and the Ruby Players Handbook and Bestiary & Treasury (standard Euro/D&D fantasy stuff, with my house rules) as well. Soon, of course, is a relative term. They might not be soon after all, but I'll try to get them up soon.  

Why pay-what-you-want? Because no one needs another fantasy heartbreaker, but I'd like to put this out anyway. And I don't need the money, but a bit of extra income never hurts. 

Thousands of copies of Flying Swordsmen have been downloaded for free, but I've only sold 250 copies of Chanbara. I'd rather that this gets out and people use it, or at least get some ideas from it that they might want to borrow or modify for their own games.

This is my gift to the RPG community.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Tactical Board Crawl

So thanks to some advice and prodding from cavalier973 and Dean (Tallifer), I took another look at 4E with an eye to run it just as a tactical board game. And they were right. 

Dean suggested that the stat blocks, while complex looking, are actually convenient and lay out all the rules you need to run the monster right there. Now that I've refreshed myself on some of the basics of 4E, and what the stuff in the stat blocks mean, he's right. It's not so bad. 

And cavalier973 suggested that I look at the sample adventure in the back of the DMG. I did so, but then I also pulled out the module Keep on the Shadowfell, which Pat had also given me. The module actually goes over the basics, and I think I could actually run the module without the other rulebooks if I wanted to. I'll probably run that DMG kobold dungeon first, though, then KotS after that. 

And I'll take the more complicated version of things by letting the players (whoever they end up being) make their own PCs. Of course, KotS has some pregen PCs, so if anyone wants to just grab one of them, I'd also allow it. 

Now, I'll probably run this for my boys one of these days. Spring vacation lasts for another week or so. I may also try this with some more adult gamers, if any are willing. I'll ask the crew and see what they think.

Movie Review - Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

The movie opened on Wednesday, 2/15 in South Korea, so we got to see it a bit before some other countries did. So if you're surprised that I'm already reviewing it, that's why. I don't have any inside connections. :D 

Mandatory Curse Words Warning: For parents googling "Are there curse words in Quantumania?" (Yes, I still get those!), there isn't very much. Hank Pym has the worst mouth in the movie, but all in all it's pretty family friendly. I think it was a bit less than in the previous Ant-Man movies, actually. 

On to the movie itself (no spoilers)! First of all, I really liked it. After Dr. Strange & the Multiverse of Madness (which I quite liked but was a different kind of superhero movie) and Thor Love & Thunder (which was OK, but I'm not itching to give it a second viewing), then Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (which was emotional but felt incomplete), this felt like a return to the Marvel formula in a way, but it wasn't 100% the typical MCU plotting. In fact, the plot draws heavily on pulpy/YA secondary world fantasy, where characters from our world get pulled into a fantasy land and have to learn to navigate its ways while fighting the evil wizard who rules over the place (as seen in The Wizard of Oz, Narnia, Three Hearts & Three Lions, The Dungeons & Dragons cartoon show, etc.). 

It's also nice to see a Marvel movie where instead of the main character having daddy issues, he has issues with being a daddy. 

The characters are pretty well established by now, and the actors were able to work well as an ensemble. Kathryn Newton fit in well as the re-cast Cassie Lang. She seemed like she'd been part of this family since the beginning. And Jonathan Majors was legitimately menacing as Kang. 

There were a few plot holes here and there (one big glaring one that would have rendered the entire movie pointless, but oh well), but overall the story line was pretty easy to follow along, even for my 8 year old, and it was engaging and fun to watch.

So if you're one of those people complaining that Marvel has gotten too experimental recently, this should appease you. And if you're one of the people who was happy to see the MCU moving away from the formulaic plots and themes, this might not be your cup of tea, but I at least found it to be different enough from the archetypal MCU movie while still retaining the MCU feel. 

And it's got me even more excited for what's to come. There's also a slightly different type of post credit scene (the second one) which I found cool. But no spoilers. You're gonna have to go see it yourself (or look it up on YouTube I guess).

Saturday, February 11, 2023

A small, satifying session

Today, I ran my TS&R Jade game, but only one player besides my boys could come. Tomorrow is my wife's birthday, so before the game we went out and my mother-in-law treated us to Korean style sashimi and spicy fish stew, so we were stuffed and kinda tired. 

With only three players, and my younger son pretty tired when we stared, we only played for about 2 hours (well, 1.5 hours after all the initial chit chat and organizing). 

But, it was still a pretty fun and satisfying session. The characters did some shopping, including buying a variety of signal whistles and deciding what meaning each one had. Steven (my younger) bought five. They also bought war horses and/or barding for the horses.* 

We went over a few recent rumors, but they decided to follow the one new rumor, which was that the nearby yokai village had a smith who could make special weapons. They set out from town on their new horses. The first leg of the journey, on the main road, was uneventful. Then they turned off the main road, forded the river, and headed cross country to the village. 

Here they had a random encounter, with a pack of seven giant ferrets. They hadn't encountered them before, and weren't sure how tough they would be to fight, so they considered running away. But then Steven decided that his PC would blow his "cat" whistle. I rolled reactions on 2d6, got a 3, and so decided the ferrets were hostile and headed towards the party. After more discussion of what to do, Steven decided to blow his "eagle" whistle. One failed morale check (with penalty) later, the ferrets scattered from the "predator."

At the village, which was an abandoned human village, everything was quiet. Denis is playing a hengeyokai, so I told him that he knew most yokai are more active at night. They went to one house, in inhabited by kappa (frog/turtle/monkey river creatures) who gave them directions to the smith, but suggested they spend the day at the inn. They went to the inn, run by shun yao (Chinese dryads), and got rooms. They then went to the shrine and left offerings to hopefully build a good relationship with the yokai. 

In the evening, they briefly toured the yokai's bakemono (goblin) market. Then they went to the smith, who they found was a mujina (Companion Set version, faceless humanoid). After a scare, they returned and negotiated the silvering of some weapons, and insetting of jade in other weapons. 

The silver weapons are of course good for lycanthropes, some undead, etc. Jade weapons have the 3E weapon property of "ghost touch" so they can be used to fight incorporeal creatures without being magical. 

That's where we ended the session. Next time, I'll hit them with the yokai village's request...a powerful monster they need driven off or destroyed.

*And I realized I'd made a mistake with the barding ACs in the equipment lists, which I need to fix.

Friday, February 10, 2023

What was I thinking? Am I still thinking it? Really?

I mentioned previously that I inherited Pat's 4E books. I tried 4E when it came out, and it wasn't for me. But then Dean ran a pretty fun game using it (before he converted the campaign to 5E), and I had a pretty good time with it...the way Dean ran the game. But honestly, I showed up to more of his games once he converted to 5E, which I like a lot more. 

So we've been playing this campaign style dungeon crawl board game. I mentioned that as well. And I was looking at the 4E books the other day, having played some Heroclix with my younger son last weekend (heavily simplified, because I don't really remember the rules for all the powers that well anymore), and thought, "Why don't I try to use these rules to just run some miniatures skirmish games? That's what these rules really do best, after all."

Then I started looking at the Monster Manual. And I'm not so sure I want to do this after all. 

The monster stat blocks are so complex, with so many fiddly little powers. I understand letting the players have a selection of powers to choose from, but the monsters just seem so...over done. 

I do think a lot of the powers are fairly standardized, so after a bit of experience with it, it will probably get better. But do I really want to spend a bunch of time on this? I could set up some fantasy tactical battles with Chainmail, instead, and that would be a lot simpler. 

Anyway, that's a maybe. The idea is still appealing, but I've probably got better things to do with my time.


Oh, and if anyone's wondering, in the Heroclix game...I was playing with my figures from the 00's. Steven had his figures that he picked up in the US 3 years ago. I had Dr. Doom, Magneto, Kang, Hobgoblin, and Doc Oc. He had Captain America, Iron Man, Thor (Sakkar arena version with swords), Terror, and Hawkeye. I was way over points with my squad, but the newer versions are a lot cheaper for more power. Anyway, he smoked me. Magneto was my only figure to survive, and that's because I had him run away after everyone else went down. I was only able to damage Hawkeye. The game really doesn't work with mixed older and newer figures.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Adventure Prompts in ChatGPT

I was curious about ChatGPT. Lots of discussion about it in academic/education circles. As a second language teacher who does teach academic writing, this (and computer translation) are things I need to keep up on. 
But for my first foray with the AI text generator, of course I wanted to see how it could assist with adventure design. Here are two quick prompts I gave it (my prompts in bold, ChatGPT in blue):

Gamma World Adventure Module

Generate an adventure module for Gamma World 2nd Edition in the style of TSR modules.
Sorry, as a language model AI I do not have the ability to play games, but I can help you write an adventure module!

Here's an adventure module for Gamma World 2nd Edition in the style of TSR modules:

Title: "The Lost City of Nefara"

Introduction: In the post-apocalyptic world of Gamma World, rumors have circulated for years about a lost city of advanced technology and untold riches. Many have searched for the legendary city of Nefara, but none have returned. Now, the players have received a lead from a trusted source that could lead them to the lost city.

Objective: The players must navigate through the treacherous terrain of the wasteland and avoid danger from mutated creatures and hostile factions to find the lost city of Nefara and uncover its secrets.

Setting: The adventure takes place in a desolate wasteland, filled with mutated creatures, ruined buildings, and dangerous hazards. The lost city of Nefara is said to be located at the heart of the wasteland, protected by advanced technology and guarded by powerful mutants.


The players must navigate a treacherous sandstorm, avoiding sandwyrms and other dangerous creatures.

They will come across a band of raiders, who are searching for the lost city themselves. The raiders may offer to join forces with the players or attack them on sight.

The players will discover a hidden underground facility filled with robots and advanced technology. However, the facility is guarded by a powerful AI system that will not allow anyone to enter without proper clearance.

As they near the lost city, the players will face a horde of mutated beasts, including giant scorpions and fire-breathing lizards.

The lost city of Nefara is guarded by powerful mutants, who will challenge the players to prove their worth before allowing them to enter.

Conclusion: If the players are able to navigate the dangers and reach the lost city of Nefara, they will discover a city filled with advanced technology and untold riches. However, they will also uncover a dark secret about the city's past, which could have dire consequences for the world of Gamma World.

Note: This is just a basic outline of the adventure module, and it can be expanded upon as desired. The specific details and challenges can be adjusted to fit the players and their characters.

Generate a list of confidence schemes appropriate to the Star Wars universe.
Here's a list of confidence schemes that could be appropriate for the Star Wars universe:

Fake Holocron Scam: A con artist offers to sell a rare and valuable holocron to a wealthy collector, but the holocron is actually a fake.

Counterfeit Credits Scam: A criminal creates fake credits and tries to pass them off as legitimate currency, using the confusion of the war and the chaos of the galaxy to their advantage.

Bogus Military Contracts Scam: A fraudster claims to represent a powerful military organization and offers contracts to small businesses, promising a large payout in exchange for an up-front fee.

Illicit Arms Deal Scam: A confidence artist poses as a black market arms dealer and sells faulty or useless weapons to unsuspecting buyers.

Rogue Planet Scam: A swindler convinces investors to fund the development of a new colony on a "discovered" rogue planet, only to disappear with the funds once the investors have paid.

Artifact Smuggling Scam: A smuggler offers to sell valuable and rare artifacts, but instead delivers fake replicas to the buyer.

Fake Job Offer Scam: A con artist offers false employment opportunities to young and inexperienced individuals, only to steal their credits or use them for illegal activities.

Sabotaged Starship Scam: A scam artist offers to repair or upgrade a starship, but instead sabotages it, causing it to malfunction or crash.

Note: This list is not exhaustive, and these schemes can be adjusted to fit the specific story and setting of a Star Wars adventure.

That's not bad. The Gamma World "module" lacks concrete details, and it's presented as a railroad. But it has a good set-up, progression, and ending with hook for further play. 
I could work with a skeleton like that and flesh it out. I would probably try more specific prompts in the future.
For Star Wars, I gave it a more general prompt, and it gave some good ideas that could be developed further. 
Now, this is not revolutionary. I could easily have come up with these ideas (or similar) myself. But if I were to run an impromptu game, and needed ideas quickly, this could be helpful.
So what do you all think?

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Back! Gaming! Happy!

I've been avoiding blogging the past week or so, because of the OGL whoop-de-doo. I said my peace earlier about it, and didn't really have more to add. And now, I've got my TS&R campaign started up again, and am working on notes for the next Star Wars d6 adventure (nearly done). My older boy and I also, at the invitation of a friend, started playing a campaign dungeon crawler board game called Swords & Sorcery: Ancient Chronicles. 

I mentioned this game over on BX Blackrazor's comment section, and it spawned a whole post by JB. I may have some thoughts to add to his post later. For now, though, I want to talk about the game itself.

Like many of these campaign style games, it's fairly rules heavy. The basic mechanics are pretty simple and straightforward. There are red and blue dice (d10s). Red are better offense, blue are better defense. For any task, you roll the number of red and/or blue dice indicated, and try to get the right symbols to come up. When to roll, what to roll for, and how the cards (items, abilities, etc.) interact make it complex. 

One really cool thing about the game is the way it runs monsters. After each player takes their turn, they turn over an Encounter card. This card will say to activate certain types of monsters. All monsters are colored by strength tier green - blue - red - purple, and given their primary attack method (Strength, Faith, Magic, Dexterity). The player characters also have these attack methods. So one card might say "Activate all red creatures -or- activate any two creatures." Any red creatures would then take an action, and if there are none, players decide which two creatures in play take actions instead. And each monster has a card with various if/then statements, combined with all their various attacks and defenses. So if a monster activates, we read its card to see which situation applies, and how they act. 

For example, the first two dungeons had a lot of giant spiders. The spider cards (didn't get a picture of that, so going from memory here) have actions for the spiders if there is a hero in the same area, 1 or 2 areas away, or farther than that. And within those, there are if/then conditionals. If a character is in the same area, and it is slowed (webbed up), the spider uses a special attack. If not, it bites then moves 1 area away. If a hero is 1-2 areas away, it shoots a web. If no heroes are within 2 spaces, it moves closer. 

The interaction between the Encounter cards and the various conditionals on the monster cards make the monster actions unpredictable, and emulate a DM running monsters in D&D fairly well. In fact, the monsters in this game are a lot more challenging and unpredictable than most monsters that I run in D&D... I do sometimes get into the bad habit of having monsters just rely on their main attacks once combat starts, unless I'd specifically prepared some interesting tactics for them beforehand. 

Another thing the game does that mimics D&D or other RPGs is that it has a story book. Certain markers get placed on the board, and when characters move onto them, story events happen. It's also a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure style, in that some of the events are different depending on if we're playing the Lawful or Chaotic versions of the heroes (my hero, the Thief or Alchemist, is always Neutral, so can play with either party). Also, some of the events include actual choices like a CYOA book that we can make. It's not quite the same as playing a proper RPG, but I can see why Adam (the host) prefers this sort of game to an RPG.

The premise of the game is that the gods have awakened these five heroes from their immortal slumber to stop an evil threat. Being already dead, death in the game is not the end. You become a ghost, and can rejuvenate at a shrine. The players fail the dungeon if all four are ghosts at the same time. And of course there are soul points that need to be earned during play, which need to be spent to rejuvenate...but they're also needed to level up your character. 

It's a bit of a learning curve, but we're getting better at it as we play. In the first session, we only managed to get through the introductory adventure and the first town phase (shopping, info gathering, gambling...we lost most of our cash there). The second dungeon took us two whole sessions (the picture above is where we stopped at the second session, halfway through the dungeon crawl. The third session, we managed to finish that dungeon. Each session has been 4 or 5 hours of play. It's a bit smoother, though, and probably our next session (next Monday) will go a bit faster than that. 

After we get through the winter break, we'll only be able to play on weekends, though, so that will probably have some conflicts with my D&D game.


In other news, Pat of the original Busan Board Game group is finally leaving Korea soon. As he prepares to leave, he's getting rid of a lot of stuff. He contacted me the other day and asked if I wanted his RPG books. Of course I said yes. So yesterday, I drove over to his apartment and got them. He had the 2E DMG and Monstrous Compendium (original versions, I only had the black reprint versions until now), a few modules and the Ravenloft Masque of the Red Death box set. 

Also, he gave my his 4E books. That collection includes the PHB, PHB2, DMG and MM, plus three modules and some modular dungeon tiles. 

I'd mentioned to Adam that he might dig 4E more than other editions of D&D, so the books may end up with him in the end. For now though, I'm wondering if I'd like to give them another try, running the game more like this S&S board game than a proper RPG campaign. I think that's what 4E was really designed to do, after all. But I've also got my TS&R campaign, my Star Wars campaign, and I think I'm about ready to take the plunge with a PbP Gamma World game that I've got set up but haven't recruited players for yet. So probably no time for an experiment with 4E.