Monday, July 31, 2023

A productive weekend

Last week (this week, too) I was teaching at an English camp for elementary students. Lots of fun. Usually pretty draining, but last week it was a small camp with great kids and I came out of it with plenty of energy. So I ran my TS&R Jade game yesterday.

My boys were there of course, but only two other players were free. With a smaller group, and the mapper absent, they decided to hold off on the Pits of Lao (my micro-megadungeon), and instead followed up on a rumor that there was a "dark force" in the Yokai Village. This is something they'd heard about quite a while back when they visited the first time, when they found out that the mujina weaponsmith in the village can make silvered (good vs lycanthropes & some undead) or jade-inlaid weapons (good against incorporeal creatures). 

Traveling to the village took several hours, since the large group of henchmen they hired didn't have horses and Nate's thief PC has a wagon. On the way, they were ambushed by bandits who surrounded them, covered them with repeating crossbows, and demanded payment. The party feigned paying up while the spellcasters (my boys) put 1/3 to sleep and distracted another 1/4 with a phantasmal force of a dragon. After a brief exchange of missile fire and some melee by Denis' kensei PC, they were victorious but one man-at-arms was killed. 

Carrying on to the Yokai Village, they got rooms at the inn to wait out the day for nightfall, when the village came to life. They did a bit of shopping at the bakemono market, Nate's thief inquired about turning the wagon into a battle-wagon and was directed to the Tanuki Village further off, then they went to the shrine to confirm that the 5 really nice crossbow quarrels of the bandit leader were magical (+1), and to get information on fighting undead (which they assumed...correctly...the "dark force" was). 

After meeting with the village chieftain (a six-tailed kitsune), they got some more information and a promise of one of the chieftain's magic items as payment if they could cleanse the threat.

They set off to the village's former noble estate just south of the village (the yokai took over a human ghost town), and the wu jen's (my older boy) ESP spell identified two hungry, angry semi-sentient beings inside. After checking out all the side buildings and rooms to make sure there weren't any non-sentient threats, they went in. 

There were two corporeal undead, which they had surprise on. Rather than rush in and attack, they poured holy salt around the door to fence them in. The undead rushed them -- a ghoul and a jiang-shi (hopping vampire) -- but they were stopped by the salt. My younger boy's blade mage and the kensei went in and tried to put o-fuda (paper prayer strips) on their foreheads, but failed, and were attacked back. The kensei was paralyzed by the ghoul. 

Holy salt was thrown, another phantasmal force of a burly guy slapping o-fuda on their foreheads was cast, with the jiang-shi failing its save and falling for the illusion, standing paralyzed. The ghoul was finished off, but it took time to whittle the jiang-shi down. Luckily, the illusory o-fuda couldn't fall off from a breeze or a blow. Eventually the hopping vampire was taken down. 

There was no treasure, but they chose a nine-ring sword +1 as a reward, giving it to the blade mage. Then they headed back to Pine Bridge Town (the home town) without incident. My younger boy's blade mage had been damaged by the jiang-shi, but made his save vs corruption, so he won't become one himself.

It was a fun session. They didn't get much monetary treasure, but they got a decent chunk of XP, a magic sword and some magic ammo. And it was a lot of fun. The undead were just the right level of challenge for the party, and they prepared well and survived. 


After the session, we came home, had dinner, and got my younger boy ready for bed. Then I sat down to work on my TS&R Game Master Guide, and made some good progress. I got over two pages written, including advice to new GMs about how to set up a 'home town' for a campaign, and how much to prepare before starting the campaign depending on how experienced the GM is and how deep they need the town/home base to be for the type of campaign they plan to run.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Mass Combat Rules -- Do we need them? Do we want them?

I was involved in a discussion of the BECMI Companion Set War Machine mass combat rules recently, and it's got me thinking about them. 

I had thought about adding a version of them to Chanbara, but I'd given myself the arbitrary and artificial constraint of 64 pages, and there wasn't room. I did manage to work in a revision of the domain management rules from the same set, though. 

For Treasures, Serpents, & Ruins, I easily could take the time to revise/streamline/simplify those mass combat rules, but should I? 

I have never done hex-and-chit war games, although it's something I would love to try one day. I've only done a small amount of miniatures based war gaming (a homebrew system my brother and I worked up for little green army men as kids, a game of Chainmail once). My friends and I did use the Companion War Machine rules fairly often in our old campaign we had as kids, though. 

The system of the War Machine is designed to give you an overall result of a battle, not a play-by-play of every move and every tactic. You do some calculations before the battle for each force. You figure any modifiers at the time of battle (with basic tactical options as optional rules that can be added on). Both sides roll dice and add the force rating, higher result wins. Check the difference in the results on the table to determine casualties and disposition of each force. 

Is it perfect? No.

Is it realistic? Not at all.

Is it simple to implement? I think so.

Does it allow you to add mass combat actions to D&D without overshadowing the PCs and their adventures? Yes. 

As I said already, I like this system because it's light and easy to implement, but it allows for some options to make it more complex if that's what the players want. So, audience of mine, I really would like to get your opinions on this. Would it be worth my time to go to the effort of revising/restating these rules to add to TS&R? Would you like to see something like this? Would it be useful to you? Should I spend a bunch of time on this, or not? 

Monday, July 17, 2023

Star Wars d6: Nerf Rustlers of Bogden IV

 I ran my Star Wars d6 game yesterday afternoon. My older boy wasn't feeling very good, so he sat out the session (no Mandalorian in the party), but Jeff showed up, so there were two Jedi. With daylight savings time in the U.S., it's a little easier for him to attend games at that time. Jeremy also managed to attend even though he and his wife were on vacation. So we had: 

Steven -- Minor Jedi

Jeff -- Young Jedi

Jeremy -- Sentient Battle Droid

Denis -- Smuggler

Philip -- Brash Pilot

Not a bad party. The last session (back in May?), they were on the 4th moon of Bogden, helping their Mando allies set up a covert after the Imperial Purge of Mandalore. In order to secure food supplies, they were dealing with local nerf herders. The nerf herders were being squeezed by the dewback ranchers who had lucrative Imperial contracts to supply stormtrooper mounts.They also ran into some gangsters, and nearly got into a fight with them, but managed to talk their way out of it, with promises of an alliance with the Hutt.

This session, they continued. Having secured the sale of some nerfs, they got an urgent call from the Mandalorians. Going to the arranged drop off point for the nerf herd, they found the remains of two or three nerfs, totally torn to pieces. Looking around the area, they found strange divots in the rocks that seemed to form a trail. At first, they suspected droids, but further investigation, and some comlink discussions with the nerf herders, they were told that the tracks probably belonged to acklay.
They followed the tracks to a cave, and realized they should head back to the spaceport to buy some supplies, and to get their ships. They set up an ambush, with the minor jedi (who has a rocketpack) as bait, in front of multiple bear trap type snares. The battle droid and other jedi were hiding in the nearby rocks, the smuggler and pilot were flying nearby in their ships. After creating a bunch of noise, one acklay came out, but the ship guns took it down pretty quickly. 

The other acklay wouldn't come out, so they eventually sent in the minor jedi's C1 astromech to map out the cavern, but after a few minutes they got a short emergency message that was cut off. They had no choice but to go in. The brash pilot stayed in his Z-95 to make sure no acklay escaped out other cave entrances, while the rest went in. They found the two remaining acklay, and thanks to spending character points to get their initiatives up beyond the monsters', they managed to take them out in two rounds without suffering further harm. But there were no traces of nerfs in the cave and no where for them to have gone. 

Realizing they may have been tricked, Satt (the brash pilot) scanned the area, and detected a group of nerf headed north, away from the nerf farms and toward the dewback ranches. Everyone else hopped in the freighter, and they flew up to see what was going on. They found six drovers herding the nerfs along. They landed (except Satt), and confronted them. The drovers revealed themselves to be bounty hunters. After a brief but tense gunfight (aided by Satt's Z-95, which was impervious to the hunters' missiles), they won and were able to bring the nerfs back to the Mando covert. 

While there are still tensions with the Imperials and the dewback ranchers, and gangster stuff they could follow up on, after getting paid by the Mando covert, they decided to leave this planet and seek jobs elsewhere. Maybe following up on the bounty pucks the rustlers were carrying. 

It was a pretty fun session. Both fights were easy in the end, but that's due to smart use of CP to improve initiative and some lucky rolls. Both the acklay and the bounty hunters had the potential to do a lot of damage, if more of their attacks had hit. Going first, and getting a stun or wound in on an enemy, or even just forcing them to dodge, really helps a lot. 

At the end of the session, I basically told the players to give me ideas for what they'd like to do. It's a big galaxy, and I feel like my own ideas are getting a little stale. I'll come up with some interesting information for the bounty pucks, but there's no requirement for the party to track them down (although some are interested in that). I'm happy with whatever: exploring the margins of the galaxy, bounty hunting, more gangster stuff back in Huttspace, or finally joining the Rebellion are all options, but not the only options.

Friday, July 14, 2023

The Book Arrived

 Yesterday, I received my print copy of Joseph Bloch's Swords of Wuxia for his Adventures Dark & Deep retro-clone system. I've had the PDF since I ordered it, but I've only barely skimmed through it so far. Now that I've got the physical book in hand, I intend to dive into it in detail. I really prefer printed matter over screen reading. However, I don't have time to get into it today or even over the weekend. So a review of the content will have to wait. Oh, and if you didn't know, this is Joe's attempt to re-imagine what the old OA book would have looked like if it had take inspiration from Chinese myth and cinema instead of mostly Japanese inspirations.

I will say for now, that this book is well designed. It's got that orange spine that makes it look pretty good alongside the later printings of 1E books. It's a bit darker, but all of my older books are faded to differing degrees so it doesn't look out of place. The print size is a little different, though, with Swords of Wuxia being just a tad taller than the old TSR books. The cover is a nice painting of Sun Wu Kong (the Monkey King), looking like he's about to spring into action to beat down some demon or other. The back cover is text only, with a gradated turquoise (darker at the top, lighter at the bottom) background, similar to the trade dress of the old books. 

The interior is nice and cleanly laid out, with two column text and a sans serif font (Futura like the originals, I assume), and is easy to read. The book contains a lot of tables, and most alternate between three lines unshaded, three lines shaded. At least one table contains quite a bit of information in each cell, so alternate lines are shaded. The interior illustrations are all black and white, but look pretty good. There's a big list of artists, so there are quite a range of styles, some simple line art, some more detailed, a few just silhouettes. I don't find the mix of art styles jarring, but art is always subjective. Most of it looks good, in my opinion. 

The book contains races (two types of human, two demi-humans), three completely new classes plus extensive notes and conversions for all the other classes in Adventures Dark & Deep. There are rules for combat and martial arts, for creating families, Asian-style societies and organizations, and lists of spells and equipment, of course. There are campaign guidelines including wuxing (Taoist 5 elements) elemental planes. There are also lists of magic items and monsters. All this takes us up to page 128. Beyond that, there are some very extensive random encounter tables. Finally, there are some tables for weapons vs armor and the like if you use those rules in your AD&D games, and some inspirational sources. 

I'm happy to see that a lot of the inspirational sources are not only things I've read or viewed, but also listed in Flying Swordsmen. There are a few I'm unfamiliar with, which is always nice. New things to check out! 

So that's my initial impression (unboxing) review. After I've had some time to read through it, I'll of course provide more detailed thoughts, and how I think it compares to my own ideas in Flying Swordsmen and TS&R Jade (maybe Chanbara, too!).

Friday, July 7, 2023

New (to me) Blogs to Explore!

Hat tip to Tedankhamen for the link. Here is a big repository of links to Old School RPG blogs. Many of these I've read, some I read regularly, but many are new to me. I wanted to post the link here on my own blog mostly so I can find it easily again.

I'll be exploring many of these links when I've got time. 

Thanks to Ramanan "funkaoshi" Sivaranjan for creating and maintaining this list.

Monday, July 3, 2023

OD&D Elf as Multiclass Template

This started off as one of those weird shower thoughts, but the idea has stuck with me through the morning so I might as well post it, since I've got a bit of time this afternoon. 

I've always found the OD&D Elf to be odd, and I've always been curious about how they play, but the only two times I've played OD&D rules, I played a Fighter and a Thief (Greyhawk supplement, obviously). If by some odd chance you don't know, if you were to play an Elf in OD&D, your character basically has two character sheets, one as a Fighter and one as a Magic-User. I don't know if people actually used two separate sheets, as ability scores, equipment, and so on doesn't change. But each time the session starts, you would decide to play as either a Fighter or a Magic-User, and your character has those abilities but not the other for that session. 

I've had a few posts from time to time about variant multiclassing rules (there may be more, but if so I don't remember how I tagged them). This is yet another thought experiment post, not something I'm seriously considering least not to my current games. 

Idea 1: Expanding Potential Class Combinations

This is a simple idea. If the Elf can be a Shrödinger's Fighter/Magic-User, why not let the Halfling be a similar Fighter/Thief? At the start of the adventure, select which class abilities you will use this time. You can't rely on the other abilities this session. All XP earned this session goes to that class. 

This is not too complicated, although any multiclass demihumans (or humans if the DM allows) would need to have two sets of abilities, hit points, saving throws, etc. on their sheets (or 2 sheets). One bonus is that it allows players in groups with more casual attendance to pick the class to run that session that will most benefit the party. Mary didn't show up with her Magic-user? OK, my gnome will be an Illusionist this session.

Maybe give them the perk that once one of their classes is maxed out, as long as the other class is higher level, they get both sets of abilities simultaneously from that point on (like the BX/BECMI Elf class, or standard AD&D multiclasses). 

Idea 2: Simultaneous Ability, Separated Experience

This idea would be that as an OD&D Elf (or any other multiclass combination allowed), your character acts simultaneously as both classes, as with the Basic Elf class or AD&D multiclassing rules. But you have separate experience tracks for each class. At the start of an adventure, the player would have to decide which of their classes will gain the experience from that session. This allows players to control the pace of each class's advancement to an extent. You never know just how much XP you're going to get, after all. And I'd be sticking to the "no more than one level advanced at a time" rule for this.

One difference I'd use with this system, aside from the above idea of not dividing XP evenly into the classes, is that hit points would also not be averaged. You'd get the full HP for each level in each class. Yes, that would give multiclass demihumans an advantage in the hit point area eventually. This being the case, I'd remove level limits for single-class demihumans. 

Idea 3: True Shrödinger's Multiclass

This is the weirdest of the ideas. OD&D Elf (or other similar multiclass character), but the player doesn't get to decide which class to use, or which gets the XP, until they use an ability from one of those classes. So if you get in a fight and use a sword, you're a Fighter this session and Fighter gets XP. If you cast a spell first, you're a Magic-user and MU gets the XP. Similarly if you're a Fighter/Thief, if you pick a lock, you're a Thief for the rest of the session. If you use your better Fighter saving throw or hit point total first, you're a Fighter. 

Obviously, for some combinations, the triggers will be subtle. Thieves can use many (or all) Fighter weapons. How do you know they're acting  as a Fighter? Does putting on a suit of plate armor trigger you as a Fighter? What about Fighter/Clerics? Both can wear the same armors, and Fighters can fight with blunt weapons if they choose. How do we know you're a Fighter and not a Cleric if you don't cast a spell or turn undead? 

DMs and players would need to work out a lot of issues with this idea. But I think it might be kind of fun to try some time.