Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Not-So-Fearless Gaming Predictions For 2009

Of course, it wouldn't be the end of the year without endless speculation regarding what's to come for gaming in 2009. With the sound and fury that was 2008 in gaming, we all anxiously wait to see what 2009 holds. Fortunately, I was able to gaze into my palantir and reveal the following, guaranteed-to-be-accurate, incredibly serious predictions for our hobby in the year to come:


January 10: Wizards of the Coast releases the revised Gaming Support License (GSL), which appears to be much less restrictive and prohibitionary than their initial effort. Critics, however, are unsettled by the insistence that prospective adherents sign in blood and the disappearance of the document immediately afterward in a puff of smoke and brimstone.

January 17: Professor Ron Edwards announces that his new distribution model he left Indie Press Revolution for is "too corporate", in a long, verbose post at the Forge that denounces many of the folks he was working with on it. He then announces his new model will follow selling his games door-to-door, in tandem with Kirby Vacuum Cleaners.

February 5: Israeli missile attacks in the Gaza Strip flare up yet again. When queried, the Israelis somewhat sheepishly furnish by way of explanation multiple blog posts critical of D&D 4th Edition by several high-profile Hamas members.

February 10: Wizards of the Coast is forced to issue a 10,000-unit recall when thousands of people direct-ordering the incorrectly-titled Manuel of the Planes instead are delivered a bewildered aircraft mechanic from outside Guadalajara who speaks no English.

March 3: WotC's Digital Initiative takes another blow to its already-bruised reputation when savvy subscribers note that its "Virtual Tabletop" is no more than a screenshot from Gauntlet.

March 14: Professor Ron Edwards announces that his new distribution model of selling games and vacuum cleaners door-to-door is entirely "too corporate", in a long, verbose post at the Forge that denounces many of his fellow Kirby sales personnel. He then announces his new plan to publish, sell, and distribute his games exclusively on a tiny atoll in the South Pacific, fashioning them entirely out of coral.

March 28: Wizards of the Coast announces the next 3 scheduled 4th Edition Campaign Settings to general fan approval: Dark Sun, Ravenloft, and Dragonball Z.

April 2: The Old School Renaissance reaches it's apex when Goblinoid Games releases an open-source, OGL version of Braunstein.

April 12: Mr. Mark Randolph of Zanesville, Ohio, distracted by the presence of a new female gamer at the table, sets a RPG record by rolling twenty-seven 1s in a row and consequently killing his prized 20th-level Paladin, Blackleafus Maximus.

May 1: The already-massive Starblazer Adventures begins to quietly devour the other gaming books on my shelf, gaining in strength and size until it is over 4500 pages in length and unstoppable. Sadly, it expires from severe indigestion after eating one too many Salvatore novels.

May 24: Mr. Stuart Woongon of Camrose, Alberta, (aka DarkeMooneWolfe4e) wins the Pultizer Prize for Literature for his ENWorld post "Why I Love 4e And Everyone Who Doesn't Is A Fat Stupid Retard". Bitterly disappointed is his rival Samuel Forza of the Paizo boards (aka SFPFinder), who loses out despite his brilliant analytical piece "4e sux lol".

June 3: Archaeologists announce they now believe that the Rosetta Stone was an early attempt to decipher Nobilis author Rebecca Borgstrom's prose.

June 11: A runaway chain reaction from 280 pages' worth of self-important, ill-considered short stories being fit into a 160-page Vampire product gives scientist important breakthrough insights on the feasibility of cold fusion.

July 2: RPG Pundit reaches a milestone, pissing off his 15,000th reader online.

July 28: ENnies Nominations are announced, and shockingly, no 4th Edition D&D products make the cut. "We really wanted to, but there were just too many angry, incredibly persuasive anti-4e threads on ENWorld", says a unnamed ENnies judge sadly.

August 1: The pre-Gen Con excitement is dampened by reports that several well-known old-school gamers are arrested for attempting to bring Von Clausewitz's badly decomposed corpse back to life.

August 13 (Gen Con Indy): It is revealed that part of Gen Con's resolving of their debt with Lucasfilm includes Peter Adkison standing outside the Gen Con Indy dealer hall in a Jar-Jar Binks costume.

August 14 (Gen Con Indy): It is revealed that part of Gen Con's resolving of their debt with Lucasfilm also includes Peter Adkison ghost-writing Chewbacca's autobiography, Wookie of the Year.

August 15 (Gen Con Indy): It is revealed that part of Gen Con's resolving of their debt with Lucasfilm also includes Peter Adkison making a deal that will keep the lawyers out of Cloud City--er--the Convention Center--forever.

August 16 (Gen Con Indy): It is revealed that part of Gen Con's resolving of their debt with Lucasfilm also includes Peter Adkison re-releasing video archives of Gen Cons past with unnecessary, distracting CGI imagery.

August 19: The RPG 3:16 becomes a runaway nationwide phenomenon after a clever marketing scheme of having it advertised by fan-held signs at various sporting events across the U.S.A.

September 14: An emaciated, unkempt Professor Ron Edwards denounces a tiny scuttling crab on his lonely atoll as being entirely "too corporate", before eating his coral copy of Sorcerer Redux out of desperation.

September 17: Tom Brady of the New England Patriots announces that the reason he is so far behind on his knee injury rehab and has yet to play in 2009 is that he's been really, really busy working on his homebrew campaign setting.

October 15: Blogger goes down for 6 hours of emergency maintenance after Jamie Mal of Grognardia posts the 120,000-word Part VIII of his epic dissertation on the Thief Screwing Up The Creative Direction of D&D. More people are upset about having to wait to read the next installment of his post than the near-destruction of Blogger.

October 30: Mongoose Publishing announces they have won the rights to publish the remainder of Gary Gygax's Castle Zagyg. They attempt to allay fears regarding their editing and proofreading methods with a press release that states "Mongoose Pubelishing is comited to the uttmost in quality in in regaards to Cassel Gygaz (see page XX)".

November 4: After a tragic, senseless incident referred to in the national media as the Chicago Gameday Massacre, both d4s and d30s are considered lethal weapons by law enforcement agencies nationwide.

November 11: After an amazing 11 month-long surge, the re-release of Bunnies & Burrows finally passes D&D 4e and Pathfinder on the Amazon Bestseller list.

December 1: Wizards of the Coast continues its cheery tradition of holiday layoffs by firing everyone but Mike Mearls and Enis the janitor. Mearls and Enis immediately begin work on Player's Handbook 4. After its completion, Enis gets the word to give Mearls the axe.

December 10: A geographical survey team on an expedition to a tiny South Pacific atoll discovers an apparently abandoned cave with bits of coral scattered everywhere on the rocky floor. However, carved into the cave walls is the groundwork for an RPG so incredible it is destined to bring about both Story Now and world peace. It looks suspiciously like Risus.

December 31: The creative minds behind SenZar and Rifts agree to collaborate on a gaming product of such awesomeness, such rune sword swingin', laser eyebeam shootin', head-explodin', supreme kitchen sink over-the-top action that it will only be ready for 2012. Conspiracy theorists everywhere point to this as vindication of the Doomsday Mayan Calendar scenarios.

I hope there's time to play it.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works Does Not Disappoint

I have been loving every minute of Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works since I received it for Christmas. While not a perfect product, I do believe this is a superior one. It is a great blend of accessibility and depth, a big boxed set that you can still wrap your head around. There's plenty of Gygax's signature whimsy, plenty of varied encounters (from the puzzle-solving to the hack n' slash to the "run away!" type), and plenty of nods to the history of Greyhawk and this hobby without turning it into a mere nostalgic journey. There's also plenty of easter eggs and open-ended opportunities to other adventures, for folks who enjoy those features.

I had high expectations for this module; I believe many of us did. And it can be hard to take an objective look at something that many folks will doubtless see through sentimental eyes. But there can be little doubt that Jeff Talanian, working with Gary Gygax, hit this one out of the park. I am supremely impressed with the writing, with the NPCs, with the encounters, and with the overall descriptions. The production values aren't supreme, but are clean, usable, and do not hinder the product in any way--at least a "B".

This puppy is available for all of two more days, thanks to the licensing issues. If you have the jack to do it and are at all a fan of Gygaxian dungeon crawlin' adventure, do yourself a service and pick it up while you still can. Whether you play Castles & Crusades, 3.5, OSRIC, Rules Cyclopedia D&D, or Labyrinth Lord. If you don't want to take my word for it, here's a list of other reviews I've found:

Grognardia

Allan Grohe (15-page review direct pdf link)

RPGnet

ENWorld

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Do You Keep a House Rules Document?

I believe most gamers house rule. Occasionally on the WotC/ENWorld forums, I'd run into hard-as-nails, rules-as-written types, but I think for the most part we all fudge, tinker with, and tweak systems as the experience of actual play dictates.

I was thinking in particular of an old Rolemaster campaign I was in (on the player side of things). The GM and one other player had been playing a long time, and had created extensive house rules for that edition of RM. However, he went along the lines of "if something is different, I'll tell you when it comes up in play". While this might work for a tweak here or there, he had changed a lot--and I mean a lot--of rules. Therefore, the players ended up feeling like things were too arbitrary, inconsistent, and confusing in a lot of situations. In hindsight, it was a campaign that underscored to me the importance of ensuring everyone is on the same page when it comes to rules. You don't NEED a house rule document--sometimes, changes are miniscule enough that a quick word at the start of a campaign is enough--but you do need communication about house rules.

So how formal are you house rules? Are they written down, just generally understood, or compiled into a pdf document?

Here's an excerpt from our (Castles & Crusades house rules, which are both handed out and kept on our group website (currently under renovation):

House Rules

-The Game Master (or Castle Keeper, as it may be) makes rulings. We are not slaves to the rules.

-Attributes: If after attribute rolls your sum total of attribute modifiers is -1 or less, you may opt to re-roll until you surpass that mark.

-Challenges: The base challenge rating for Primary/Secondary stats has been changed from 12/18 to 12/15, which seems to work a bit better.

-Critical Hits: We will be using Arms Law to resolve critical hits. If you roll a critical, there is no need to reroll to confirm. You automatically do double (or triple) damage, as dictated by the weapon. However, you must roll a d6; on a 1-2, you roll an "A" critical; on a 3, a "B"; on a 4, a "C", on a 5, a "D", on a 6, an "E". You then roll percentiles to determine the additonal critical hit made.

-d30 Rule: Once per game session, a player may choose to roll a d30 instead of any normal dice roll. This cannot be used for any purpose during character creation or for hit point rolls.

-Initiative: Your Dexterity modifier is added to your initiative roll.

-Magic: Rolling a 1 on a casting roll equals a botch/critical failure, and can mean anything from a simple spell failure to losing the spell or opening up an unintended tear in space-time. Rolling a 20 is a critical success, and generally means the effect time, duration, or damage is doubled.

-Mass Combat: There is the very likely chance this game will see multiple instances of mass combat. Where appropriate, we will be using the Mass Combat rules from Farland World: http://www.farlandworld.com/battle.html

-Miniatures: Any placing of inappropriate miniatures, such as Giant Frogs or Golems on the table either in a) random fashion, b) an attempt to once again play out the "this represents my character" shtick, or c) an attempt to drive me mad, will result in negative roll modifiers for the entire night's play to be levied against the entire group.

-Mulligan Stones will again be used. They may be used to re-roll any player dice roll. Every character will start the game with one. They are handed out (sparingly) for good roleplaying, teamwork, great one-liners, fervent game participation, and general awesomeness. In a new twist, they may be used to add +5 to any one player roll (limit one Mulligan Stone per player roll).

A player may use their Mulligan Stone on another player's roll, provided that other player agrees.

-Powers & Feats: Feats or a 3.5-style skill system are not included in the game by default; however, bonuses and special statuses may be handed out by the GM/CK depending on circumstance, accomplishment, and how often you compliment me.

-Suggestions are always welcome! If something isn't working, let's discuss it. This is a game that lends itself to houseruling. Let's keep it simple, keep it fun, and make it ours.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Haul

Christmas isn't over for us yet (a few more family members to see), but I got exactly what I wanted:
























This is the first time I've put it down all morning. If you are at all a fan of dungeon crawls, get this before the end of the year, when it becomes unavailable.

In addition, I got an ink refill and 5 reams of computer paper. I have some serious pdf printing to do.

What was under your tree?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

genreDiversion 3e! Hooray!

I'm very much looking forward to the release of GD3 (genreDiversion system) right after the new year from Precis Intermedia. genreDiversion is the simple, modular system behind some of my favorite RPGs--HardNova and Coyote Trail, to name just a couple--but the next edition of genreDiversion looks to have a few new twists that should make it even cleaner and more robust. I was privileged enough to get an early look at GD3, and am very excited about what I see coming. Here's an excerpt from the website:


Go beyond just a diversion with this revised and expanded genreDiversion rules manual that is more versatile, more dynamic, more heroic, and more exciting.
  • Ability-Centric Characters
    Focus on a character's raw potential rather than his training to get things done. While skill refines a character's accomplishments, raw talent makes them happen.
  • Create Characters Your Way
    Characters can be built using a variety of methods, from random choices to arbitrary or controlled assignments. Custom species and vocations can be created as a framework for characters in a particular setting. New gimmicks can be devised to add special powers, such as for the supernatural and scientific enhancements.
  • Quick Resolution
    Roll dice (two six-sided) only for tough and contested challenges, maintaining a smooth progression of story. Resolve focused situations like combat using a simple scale of difficulty that can be influenced by various factors. Utilize optional elements like experience to gain the advantage or exploits to make the most out of success.
  • Vehicles and Monsters
    Apply the same basic mechanics to vehicles and monsters, from cars and starships to dragons and sea monsters. Engage in chases, dog-fights, and even desperate battles with larger-than-life creatures.
  • Miniatures and Maps
    Miniatures and maps can be used to better visualize combat and vehicle interactions. While this adds a more tactical feel for those who prefer such elements, it is not required.
  • Unbidden and Forsaken
    Dive into the action with a ready-to-use modern setting based on our older Unbidden game.
  • Compatibility
    Convert or interact with characters/elements from genreDiversion i, Iron Gauntlets, Story Engine Classic, and Active Exploits Diceless Roleplaying.

Changes from GDi to GD3 include:
  • Pursuits
    Skills are now known as pursuits and range from incompetencies to masteries (similarly to Active Exploits's skills), providing a bonus/penalty on related tasks and define the effects of most exploits.
  • Easier Dice Rolling
    The margin has been eliminated--simply roll equal to or greater than the difficulty rating to succeed (the ability rating is added to the dice total); difficulty values are now ten greater than their GDi counterparts.
  • Tougher Characters and Monsters
    Characters can use experience to directly affect play. They also possess greater levels of health, allowing them to take more punishment; these added levels can be easily ignored for more gritty games, maintaing the same scale as found in GDi.
  • Quicker Combat
    Difficulty values for contested actions in combat are quick and easy, typically adding an opposing character's ability to a base difficulty. Optional weapon gimmicks can also be utilized for more detail or ignored for super-fast resolution.
  • Scaling
    Not only can characters' abilities be scaled to super proportions, but guidelines are provided for mixing elements of different scales, including sizes and damage.

If you haven't done so by now, do yourself a favor in the new year and check out some of Precis Intermedia's stuff. In my opinion, they have been consistently outgunning and outperforming larger gaming companies left and right. It is a grand thing to be able to trust a company in that no matter what they come out with, you're guaranteed a quality product (and one reasonably priced to boot). There's not enough companies you can say that for.


Merry Christmas to All! May there be peace on Earth in your time, and unrefined mayhem in your dungeon crawls.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Expressing Our Group Chemistry In Terms of...Chemistry

This past week, my buddy Matt and I were discussing the composition of our gaming group, and I made an offhanded comment about he and another player being a volatile compound. This started an entire discussion how our entire group could be discussed in "chemistry" terms (or at least chemistry-sounding):

Players A & B are definitely volatile compounds! There's a lot of chances for fireworks when these two sit down at a gaming table. They're know for getting in there and setting off a lot of in-game action. They're the ones who best help keep the game lively, and often take it places I never dreamt it would go. Being as volatile as they

Players C &D are inert or noble gases. This sounds much worse than it is! Although they don't mix it up as much as A & B do, they're a calming presence, one that sometimes keeps things sensibly grounded and under control. And though there are times when you'd like to see a little more reaction, you know that's just not not their composition. Having players A-D together has created a very nice balance in our group.

Player E is simply a very stable compound. Player E knows what he wants from the game, knows what expectations are, and dutifully chugs along each week. Perhaps not as dynamic as A & B, neither is he as reticent as C & D. Player E is an under-appreciated workhorse.

Player F doesn't play in our group. Player F is radioactive--unstable and discomfiting to others. He can poison a gaming session, and his behavior often causes strong bonds to decay. He hasn't been welcome back.

Well, that's our group. Anyone sound familiar?

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Ice Storm Cometh, But Goodman Games Stays Hot

An ice storm will be here within the hour, and our neck of the woods loses electricity at the drop of a hat, so updates may be sparse for a few days. I did, however, want to share the three latest pdf pickups I made thanks to Goodman Games' impressively awesome "End Is Near Sale" at RPGNow. I picked up the following at $2 each:

-DM Campaign Tracker: I've heard this is a nice GM tool for multiple d20 systems. I already have my homebrew notes in a binder, but something that's more professionally laid-out and encourages quick-reference might do the trick.

-DragonMech: I always wanted to check this campaign sourcebook out. In terms of fantasy mechs, I'm curious to see how it stacks up against a benchmark such as Rune Stryders.

-Judges Guild JG1: Fortress Thieves of Badabaskor: Actually, I already own this in print, but wanted to pick up the pdf for my library. Rob Conley did great work on this adventure.

These items will no longer be on sale after 12/31, so I'll likely browse through once more before then. Being d20, they'll be disappearing from all legal channels forever. I really want to download Dungeon Crawl Classics #35: Gazetteer of the Known Realms to mine some ideas for my own homebrew.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

West End Games: YouTube Update

Hmmm....



A few quick hits from the video:

-OK, so WEG is not for sale now--Eric is holding onto it.

-He says Septimus refunds are top priority.

-Open d6: will be available to players and publishers for free download--it will be its own entity outside of West End Games (with its own site and everything).

-People will be able to customize and design their open rulebook for design.

-Fans and publishers will be able to buy shares (and voting rights) for Open d6. It will be publicly owned by gamers.

-New product is a comin'. What, precisely, is not said. More video updates are planned.


Eric Gibson takes a lot of crap (both deservedly and undeservedly), but I've never doubted his passion. I hope his ideas take off.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

2008: What Rocked In Gaming

Yeah, so it's the end of the year, and for bloggers that means a slew of "Year in Review" and "Looking Ahead to '09" articles. Well, this blog is no different in that regard. This stems from a thread at theRPGsite entitled "2008: What Rocked Your Year?". Folks had some very different answers to this question, but here's what I came up with offhand:


-Two-Fisted Tales, and getting to run a game in which we tried to stop both pirates and Nazis from going to Dinosaur Island and domesticating the T-Rex for nefarious martial purposes. Burning zeppelins, air cars, tommy guns, and radio wristwatches were involved. It was both as stupid and enjoyable as it sounds. TFT really opened the door for me as far as running, framing, and creating enjoyable pulp games.

-An awesome campaign that had a fantastic, open-door ending, complete with sacrifice, character growth, and enough loose ends to ensure we'll do it all again.

-Fight On!

-Jamie Mal's Grognardia.

-Getting to use Campaign Coins in my campaign, and having my players absolutely fall in love with using them (and being better stewards with their in-game funds as a consequence).

-Paizo's Pathfinder and GameMastery lines. Keep making stuff that's handy, guys, and I'll keep buying it.

-Another kickass Gen Con Indy in which I gamed more, saw more friends, and gained even more of an appreciation for this crown jewel of our hobby.

-Getting to tell Dave Arneson we had his seats ready at the ENnies; talking to him for a bit on the dealer room floor.

-Seeing Gamescience's Col. Lou Zocchi again at Gen Con Indy, introducing him to my daughter (he did magic tricks for her).

-A plethora of mighty fine simulacrum products being released, along with the resurgence of the "Do-It-Yourself" attitude.

-Finding a few new old items for my Traveller collection.

-Finding in a moment of sadness with the passing of Gary Gygax a feeling of fraternity and understanding with my fellow gamers as we came together to celebrate a man who gave so much to so many.

-Shaolin Squirrels: Nuts of Fury.

-Getting to (finally) run one-shots of In Harm's Way and Epic Role Playing in back-to-back weekends.

I'd also add joining the RPG Bloggers Network, really getting back into my blogging, and finding a ton of new, exciting sites that have given me some simply tremendous ideas. I'm also very grateful for the new friends I've made through that same network, and of the wonderful work that's being done by pure hobbyists for the love of the game--many of whom put the "big boys" to shame.

We lost giants such as Gary, Erick Wujcik, and Bob Bedslaw this year, and are still in the middle of another round of Edition Wars over the divisive new edition of D&D, but there was still much goodness to be had in '08.

What were your moments in 2008 Gaming that rocked?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reign of the House Rules: Mulligan Stones

I thought I'd share over a few articles some of my more system-generic house rules (remember the Order of the d30?). Perhaps the most enduring (featured in nearly all our games) are Mulligan Stones.

From our house rule document:

"Mulligan Stones will again be used. They may be used to re-roll any player dice roll. Every character will start the game with one. They are handed out (sparingly) for good roleplaying, teamwork, great one-liners, fervent game participation, and general awesomeness. In a new twist, they may be used to add +5 to any one player roll (limit one Mulligan Stone per player roll).

A player may use their Mulligan Stone on another player's roll, provided that other player agrees".

This sort of rule appears in many games by many names--Action Points, Cinema Points, Bennies--but it all boils down to the same thing. This is just our take on it, and since I generally run fairly demanding games, Mulligan Stones have become highly prized in our group.

Monday, December 15, 2008

10 Holiday Gaming Gifts For Under $20

We've seen a lot of really good holiday gift guides from various gaming blogs, but I wanted to offer one that highlighted some gifts for those on a budget. What follows is a list of 8 great gaming-related gifts that all are under $20, calculated to appeal to a wide range of gaming styles.

1) Flip-Mat ($12.99, Paizo): Perfect to take for convention gaming or for places where space is at a premium, the GameMastery Flip-Mat handles a variety of marker types and is perfect for mapping out encounters and battles. Multiple styles are available.

2) Savage Worlds, Explorer Edition ($9.99, Studio 2 Publishing): This cinematic game system scratches the itch of many gamers in terms of fast, quick game action. At just under $10, 160 pages, and in color, its one of the better bargains for an in-print rules system you're going to find.

3) Gamescience Dice (Various, but generally well under $20): Gamers love dice. Why not get someone the dice equivalent of the BMW? Gamescience dice are durable, precise, full of "character", and are a part of the history of this hobby. Just ask Col. Lou!

4) Labyrinth Lord ($16.15, Amazon): Got a hankering for old-school goodness? Simple, fun, and compact, Labyrinth Lord brings back classic roleplaying, turns the awesome up to 11, and reminds us there's more than one way to game.

5) Classic Traveller Reprint Books 1-3 ($12, QuikLink Interactive): This single volume is a reprint of the basic Classic Traveller books, the most influential and legendary space/sci-fi RPG of all time. If you've never been able to experience Traveller, this is a great starting point at a nice price.

6) Arms Law ($12.00, Iron Crown Enterprises): Replaces any staid, predictable critical hit system with the lively suspense of some truly entertaining critical results! By turns momentum-changing, cheesy, gory, brutal, and hilarious, Arms Law can be used not only with Rolemaster, but contains easy-to-follow rules for being used with a wide range of other gaming systems.

7) Fight On! ($7.50-$10.50, lulu.com): If you still haven't checked out one of the best things to happen to gaming this year, do yourself a favor and do so. Not just for grognards, Fight On! has great articles usable with a wide range of gaming systems written by some of the most talented folks in the hobby.

8) Warcosm Starter Set ($14.95, Precis Intermedia): This easy-to-learn game is one of the best bargains I've seen this year. Hex sheets, 270 counters, and scenarios are all included. Mass your fleets, customize your ships, and lead them all to victory. A tabletop wargame that's perfect for novices but still offers a high degree of customization for the repeat player.

9) Novel Dice Bags ($12, etsy.com): There are many custom dice bag designers out there, but some of the best I've found are at the above link. They're durable, unique, and reasonably priced.

10) Squirrel Attack! (starting at $7.99, HinterWelt): I know, I know. But the Squirrel Attack! series is whimsical, playable fun. Incidentally, author Bill Corrie is now known to my extended gaming group as "Squirrel Man". Great beverage n' pretzel gaming--choose your favorite genre of squirrel fun!


As always, many of these items may also be available for order through your Friendly Local Gaming Store. If you have other bargains, feel free to leave them in the comments, or let us know what you picked up for the gamer or gaming group in your life this year!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Shine On Me: Viral Reaches RPG Blog 2

If you haven't been buzzing about the internet for the past week, you may have missed Chris Dane Owens' video, which has been the epitome of viral. Depending on with whom you speak, its either, a) one of the worst music videos of all time, b) one of the greatest, or c) something...else entirely.



It's like one of us tried to cram as much fantasy awesome (complete with explosions, hawt chicks, swords, and special effects) as possible. Whether or not it succeeded, I'll leave up to you. I only know I've now watched the damn thing 6 times. There is so much crap going on here I don't know where to start, exactly.

It turns out (if you didn't gather from the video) that Mr. Owens is a bit of a self-professed geek (comics and anime). There's an entire plot to his video (and future works, apparently) that would be at home in any fantasy homebrew. Read this L.A. times interview I found for more. Here's just a taste:

"My character is part of the witches kingdom, which is the second kingdom. I’m actually part of their army and an enforcer, a general, if you will. I meet that young lady Arra who is secretly being trained by the angels and they hand her a book. That book is the book of golden symbols which can only be understood by the spirit, by the living soul. She’s being trained secretly to be the queen of this realm, to overthrow the forces of darkness. My character actually meets her and falls in love with her and decides to leave the dark side, so he has an epiphany".

Shine on, Mr. Owens. Its better than most of what I write.

(If you really didn't care for it, have some of The Sword, by way of apology).

So, for gaming purposes, what inspiration may we glean from this?

A System For Civil War Spies: The Contenders

I've been kicking around different systems for my Civil War Spies idea, just in case my players decide to vote for that option on our next campaign. This is the only campaign pitch I've had that I don't have a definitive system for. It's funny that Dave at The RPG Corner suggested Basic Role Playing as a possibility--I had been reading reviews of BRP and have been getting pretty interested in checking it out. (And we also see that Dave continues to play Xamot to my Tomax when it comes to gaming).

For the feel and flow of play I'm working on, I do have a couple of benchmarks:

-System needs to be easily tweaked/customized
-Skills and skill resolution need to be easy and central to gameplay
-System needs to offer fairly gritty combat
-System needs to support the distinction and use of several different types of period firearms

Let's review the contenders (and non-contenders at this point):

Out of this round:

Risus I love, but I don't think it would give the structure I want for this. GURPS sounds like a fit on the skill side, but its one of those games I simply do not run well. My group also dislikes it. PDQ was considered, as it is flexible and quick, but I think it might be a bit light for what I'm doing and the group composition I'm looking at this time around.

In the running:

Basic Role Playing
: One one hand, I like what I've been hearing, and the opinions of some folks I really respect makes me think this would be a fun system. We also have an old RuneQuest flunkie in our group, and selection of this would make his decade. But I've just now borrowed a copy to review, and don't feel that I've got the nuts & bolts of it all down yet.

Sweet Chariot 2: This was suggested by clash bowley himself (he knew I already had a copy), and it does seem to line up with a lot of what I want. It runs on StarCluster 2, which I know and like. I need to do more digging and see how easy it would be in this case to divorce system from setting.

Coyote Trail/genreDiversion: Coyote Trail is a fantastic western game, is already close to the timeframe, and is one of my favorite Precis Intermedia titles. Regrettably, though they love Two-Fisted Tales, my current slate of gamers were so-so on this system. This is a shame, because it seems to fit what I want pretty well. This has been sitting on my shelf for a while, so I need to dust it off and look over it again.


This is going to be a tough decision, especially between the last two. Then again, my players may just vote to do another season in our homebrew world without a break, and render it all moot for now. But I do think we'll get around to running it sooner rather than later.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Vintage Dragon Magazine Adverts: Color Edition

This week's Vintage Dragon Magazine sees us hearkening back to 1983 with Dragon #75. There are a number of fantastic full-color ads in here. Also in this issue, we have the first part of Ed Greenwood's Nine Hells, and let's not forget the Ecology of the Mimic!

(Click to enlarge pictures):

If I had come across this ad back then, I'd have picked Harn up in a minute. This ad is just seems really evocative to me:




You never hear D&D referred to as "Dark Ages" anything anymore. We've definitely seen a shift away from anything resembling that presentation. I found that really interesting in this advert:



Came, and went:




This had to have taken some serious painting time:




If the monsters don't get them, the fashion police will:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Letting Your Group Choose The Game

We're a little bit away from our gaming group's next campaign (pregnancy and winter hiatus for everything but one-shots), and its time for us to choose what we'll be playing. We have some Pathfinder Society adventures planned as well as some other one-shots (Two-Fisted Tales, Aces & Eights, Risus), but it was time to put to a vote the sort of game we wanted for our next campaign.

The first choice had to be our continued adventures in the homebrew of Irrin, but after chatting with everyone, we decided to take a look at a few game pitches: some by me, some on the ideas of others. We're having the group rank their preferences based on a short description, planned system, key features, and the previous discussions we've had on these. Here's this campaign season's final five (with Irrin still the prohibitive favorite):

1) The Irrin Campaign--5 Years Later
System: Castles & Crusades, with a few add-ons
Synopsis: We return to Irrin, this time on a new adventure in the wild northwestern frontier. Very much a zero-to-hero campaign! (Combat, Exploration, Dungeon Crawling, possible Mass Combat)

2) Traveller: Imperial Directive
System: Classic Traveller
Synopsis: A lone, decimated Imperial Navy starship crew must figure out a way to fight, think, and maneuver their crippled vessel across an entire sector of rebellious frontier space. Unexplored planets, rebel warlords, inscrutable aliens, and trying to keep their crew together will ensure the remaining naval officers have the fight of a lifetime on their hands... (Space Combat, Diplomacy, Exploration)

3) Greyhawk: The Bandit Kingdoms
System: Castles & Crusades, with a few add-ons (Rules Cyclopedia D&D has also been suggested)
Synopsis: The Bandit Kingdoms may be garrisoned with the inhuman troops of Iuz the Evil, but the Bandit Kingdoms are still the place for mercenaries and bandit kings to try to carve out their own lands. And it may be that one warlord, along with his lieutenants, can carve out a domain worthy of challenging Iuz himself... (Combat, Mass Combat, Intrigue)

4) Traveller: Space Station Xerxes
System: Classic Traveller
Synopsis: It isn't easy running a small space station in Border Space. Outlaws, smugglers, and every kind of crazy seems to dock here at some time or another. There's organized crime to keep happy, the sabotage efforts by your competitors, and every once in a while you have to fend off porate attacks. Don't make enough profit to fix the space station, and you can be looking at catastrophe... (Intrigue, Problem-Solving, Diplomacy, some Space Combat)

5) Civil War Spies
System: Undecided, but likely rules-light to light-medium
Synopsis: Raids, intelligence, daring midnight rides, destroying railroad, capturing key Rebel personnel, escorting dangerous prisoners--your fellow agents do it all and now its your team's turn. But be careful--the Confederates have agents, too, and from Vickburg to the Canadian border, they never rest. For the Union! (Intrigue, Problem-Solving, Subterfuge, Hand-to-Hand Combat)


This is just one part of our ultimate decision process, of course. The biggest part is still just talking things over and deciding what's thebest fit for our group. Some things shouldn't change.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Is This A RPG Magazine Renaissance?

One day, you wake up, and Dragon Magazine is no longer in print (at least not in its traditional form). You wake up again, and there seems to be a proliferation of gaming magazines.

Not only do we have Pathfinder doing their periodical style-Pathfinder monthly, but we have Troll Lords' The Crusader going monthly. There's Polymancer (which has been around a couple of years now), and of course Kobold Quarterly, which by all accounts has been doing quite well.

There's also Fight On!, which is one of my absolute favorite things to happen in the hobby. Alarums & Excursions is still out there. And of course, old standbys The Rifter and Knights of the Dinner Table are still going strong. There's Dragon Roots, and the upcoming old-school Knockspell (which I am quite looking forward to).

So we have this mix of old and new gaming periodical ventures, with some relatively new entrants on the scene, including several taking advantage of pdf and print-on-demand publishing. Perhaps this is the reason for this apparent surge we've seen lately, but perhaps its just that there's still a market for periodical gaming products, and folks are finding new ways to make it happen.

I'm curious, how many folks out there still follow Dragon via D&D Insider? How many subscribe or check out other gaming magazines now and then such as Fight On! or Kobold Quarterly? Will we see more magazines for gaming out there, and will they be a success? Would you like to see anything new or different for a gaming periodical?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Traveller 5th: Do I Need It?

The news came out today that Traveller 5th ("preliminary") Edition will finally be shipping. I was not among those who pre-ordered, but I'm a card-carrying Traveller Grognard, Junior Grade, and have been following the production cycle of this product with certain interest.

The thing is, now that its here, I don't know how high this is going to be on my list. I've really been enjoying going back as of late and rereading all my Classic Traveller books. There's so much out there I still want to get to and so much I want to find that is rare and tough to come by (legally).

In my eyes, Mongoose Traveller has been a success (and pleasant surprise), at least with the main book. Here we have a product that borrows heavily (and properly) from its legacy, and the result is a cleaned-up RPG with strong links to the past. I have that, I have Traveller 20, and I have a slowly growing patchwork Classic and MegaTraveller collection. In many ways, its more than I need. Yes, I'm a collector when it comes to Traveller--but right now, I have enough work to do with prior editions of the game. And the few houserules I employ in tandem with the basic CT ruleset work pretty well.

In the end, I'm almost certain somewhere along the way I'll end up with a copy of T5. But I don't feel a rush. Much like the Imperium itself, Traveller is so vast that there's plenty to do wherever you may find yourself. And waiting until it isn't "preliminary" any more might turn out to be a good move.

If nothing else, there is one important effect T5's release has had: all FFE CD-ROMs are currently 50% off in celebration of the release.

Is there anyone out there who did preorder Traveller 5th Edition, or plans on picking it up as soon as possible? Any of you out there waiting, or simply not interested? Got another edition of Trav that's doing it for you? Share your thoughts!

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Origins of Gaming: Floor Games

There's been a lot of discussion recently, including the some splendid charts, on the origins of this delightful little hobby of gaming. Central to many early flowcharts in terms of gaming origins is H.G. Wells' Little Wars, published in 1913, which is often considered the first modern "wargame" (wargames being, as we all know, what started this whole mess).

What doesn't pop up on those same charts or in many conversations on the origins of gaming is Wells' earlier work, Floor Games, published in 1911. Many people see this as simply a supplement to Little Wars, but I feel it was clearly meant to be a stand-alone book on the philosophy and theory of creating games with miniatures and other props. Plus, as it was written a good two years before Little Wars, I would definitely classify it as its own work (albeit not one with the specific wargaming rules set forth by Wells later), and deserving at least of mention on any charts so including Little Wars.

I was pleased to see Skirmisher Publishing (a good company by all accounts), had released both a print and pdf version of Floor Games, but if you just want a quick scan online, Project Gutenberg does have it for free, just as it does Little Wars. Wells' humor and whimsy win through in both books, and they remain entertaining reads.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Recommendations On Software For RPG Publishing

I asked the question of publishers over at theRPGsite as to which design software they used, and this thread resulted. Its a good read, and folks have some nice recommendations on the expensive, professional stuff down to tricks with freeware (the latter definitely being more in my budget). Check it out if you've ever had aspirations to release your gaming products, or even want a nice presentation of homebrew stuff. The publishers over there are also really great when it comes to answering questions openly and directly.

(If that doesn't interest you, there is this thread, where people come up with various ways [in jest] they are the "old-schoolest").

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Let's Play Saturday: Which System Would You Use?

A game my friends and I play from time to time centers around someone throwing out the name of a movie, book, or TV show, and having the person name the first system for running it that comes to mind. This has led to some funny results, as well as some interesting insights into what each of us thinks about certain gaming systems and RPGs. The trick is, you have to say or write the answer that you first think of--no time for reflection or We've had one guy say "GURPS" 98% of the time, only to tell us he'd run The Unit with Ninjas & Superspies, and someone else say they'd run Knight Rider with AD&D (2e at the time). Still don't get that one.

Ready to play?

Look at my list below, then respond with your answers in the comments with the first system or game you think of to run a game based on the show, movie, or book. Heck, forward it to your friends. There have to be a few of us awake and online on a snowy Saturday morning; we might as well stick together.

1) Venture Brothers
2) Legend of the Seeker
3) Shogun Assassin
4) The Baroque Cycle
5) Thundercats
6) Korgoth of Barbaria
7) Super Friends
8) Manimal
9) Thundarr the Barbarian
10) Equilibrium

Now why anyone would want to run some of these, I have no idea. But it takes all types, and some of the fun is the horrid, horrid combinations that come up when people have to say the first thing that comes across their gourd.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Vintage Dragon Magazine Adverts: Cooldown Edition

This week has been pretty wild in our hobby, from the State of the Mongoose to the WotC job layoffs, and the chatter has been at a tempo to match. Let's take a break from all that now and enjoy some old gaming ads from the pages of Dragon #39 (July 1980). In this issue, you also have the infamous Anti-Paladin NPC, Morality in Fantasy, a comparison between Chainmail, Basic D&D, and AD&D, and as a bonus, the Top Secret module The Missile Mission.

(Click to enlarge pictures):

Iron Crown was going for...something...here. "Trademark applied for". Glad to see they got it:



What, Delilah doesn't get any say in all of this?:



1980--right on time!:



Not sure what to get the Admiral Ackbar on your list? Never fear!:



Seriously, don't you wish you could go back and get mint copies of this stuff cheap?:





I know I do.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Monte Cook Weighs In On WotC Layoffs

By now, pretty much everyone knows that WotC laid off a number of their staff this month, two include two game designers (good ones, from all accounts) and a hefty portion of those involved with the digital side of things. Some people are predicting WotC gets done in by Hasbro within the year (Ryan Dancey makes a similar prediction here), many others are using this as an opportunity to point out (tee off on?) the shortcomings of the Digital Initiative, and the rumors start about D&D 4e underperforming, but most of us are just sad some good folks lost their jobs, regardless of if we play 4e or not.

But perhaps one of the most interesting comments I've seen is by Monte Cook:

"Not that I have any illusions about what would have happened had I stayed. I've no doubt that I would have been laid off. From a larger perspective than just yesterday, it's become clear that WotC's become a company that not only doesn't value experience, it avoids it. (And looks at least somewhat disdainfully, rather than fondly, upon its own past.) You have to stretch your definition of "old guard" to even apply to anyone there anymore. (This is likely a bottom line issue, since the longer you stay, the more you get paid.) When I was there, I worked among people like Skip Williams and Jeff Grubb--with that kind of perspective at hand, I was always the new guy. Which was fine by me. I had much to learn and always appreciated the perspective they could provide. Now, most of the people working on D&D weren't even there when I was there. That's how much turnover and change there's been. There's a real danger of losing continuity with these kinds of layoffs. Dangers involving making old mistakes and not remembering what was learned in old lessons.

It's a foolish and shortsighted management that lets people like Jonathan, Julia, and Dave go. Foolish. And a cold-hearted one that does it at Christmas. But this is not new outrage, it's old, tired outrage. This is the company that laid off Skip, and Jeff, and Sean, and other people of extraordinary talent and experience. It's par for the recent course.

Before I end this bitter ramble, let me just add that it's hard not to laugh at the shocking and perhaps pitiable ineptitude of a company that makes role playing games that would lay off Jonathan Tweet, very likely the best rpg designer, well, period.

I wish all of them the best, and have not a shred of doubt that they'll all go on to do bigger and better things."


So, what are your thoughts--is Monte pretty close to the mark here, or way off base?

Me? I think Paizo would be well-served to see about adding Jonathan Tweet to their roster.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Moving Past Gamer ADD

This month's Blog Carnival topic is Transitions & Transformations. With that in mind, today, I'm going to be discussing how to transition past a case of Gamer ADD.

What is Gamer ADD?: Gamer Attention Deficit Disorder, or Gamer ADD, is a term used by many gamers to describe the behavior of flitting from one RPG to another, never sticking with one RPG for any appreciable amount of time; also, being easily distracted by new games and systems at the expense of your wallet, focus, or both.

I know affliction quite well, having fallen prey to it personally. Let's face it, there are a lot of companies out there right now just making fantastic, exciting games! Now, Gamer ADD isn't a totally bad thing; in fact, let's first look at some benefits to this behavior:

The Good:

-Gamer ADD can lead to trying a wider variety of games and getting more education on exactly what sort of diverse RPG styles are out there.

-You can develop a more informed taste for what you like and don't like in different RPGs.

-Trying to find out about new games can bring you into new networks, bring about interesting conversations with new friends, and open up new communities for you to visit.

During my prolonged period of Gamer ADD, I learned a lot about exactly what I wanted and didn't want from an RPG, and I think that's a tremendously valuable lesson. But when Gamer ADD continues, there can be unpleasant effects as well:

The Bad:

-Constant switching of systems can lead to overload/animosity within a gaming group, who can feel left behind or alienated by continual change.

-Buyer's remorse: Gotta have the new hotness? Need to have that precious game everyone at Big Purple is claiming goes all the way to 11 (and may cure cancer)? It may not seem so hot in three months, when you realize you should have done a little more research and a little less paying attention to hype, and you're stuck with a poorly-bound $40 hardback that's yesterday's news.

-Bang for the buck: You've got System A, which is this amazing system that you can supposedly run anything with. It has more bells and whistles than you can shake a stick at. But while you're still perusing the GM's chapter and really getting a feel for the game, System B calls. You still never ready "let 'er rip" with System A, meaning you really aren't getting the most use or value out of your purchase--and might be missing out on some sweet Random Probabilitiy Engine Action.

-Did I mention RPGs are expensive?


So, one hand, trying new systems is a great thing: it means you're open to new games, new conversations, and new ideas about how to get the most out of this hobby. On the other hand, chasing the Next Big Thing every time can lead to a painfully thin wallet, neurotic gaming group, and a wake of purchases you didn't get as much out of as you might have.

Let's face it: we like new and shiny things (even when sometimes those things go back to old and homespun). For many, it's seductive on places like RPGnet and Story Games to follow the newest thing, be a part of the conversation, and be fashionable in your choice of game. And until taken to excess (enter Gamer ADD), that's fine. But if you've identified with any of these items and want to make sure you're being a smart, well-informed buyer/gamer without losing your enthusiasm and love of new ideas, you may wish to consider some of the tips below:

-Make A Commitment: There are threads on various message boards where individuals for one reason or another have decided to play Hackmaster, Rules Cyclopedia D&D, Vampire: The Dark Ages, and other games for a set time, be it a pre-determined campaign, 101 Days, or even a year! While the latter may be a tad extreme for many, the basic idea is a good one: pick a system you feel has lots to offer, and make a commitment to explore, run, tweak, and discuss that game primarily for a certain length of time. Allow yourself to learn the system, see the nuts & bolts, come up with your own house rules, and figure what works for you and what doesn't. At the end of the time, you should have a mastery of the game, a better idea of what you want for your gaming, and what you'll be on the lookout for in the future.

-Don't be afraid of Gestalts: I love space and sci-fi RPGs. I have about 18 of them that I seriously wouldn't mind running (I told you I suffered from it!), from Traveller to Icar to Spacemaster. But I know that in my time on Earth, I am only going to be able to run a finite numbers of games before I'm rolling dice with Uncle Gary in the Great Beyond. So what I do is decide on a primary system, and then bring ideas and tweaks from other space/sci-fi RPGs into the mix. I use races from Nebuleon. I use some lifepath and simplified starship combat ideas from Thousand Suns. I use some equipment from Icar. I use so much background from Starcluster 2 products its hard to say where I start. It all finds its way into my cheerfully bastardized Traveller game. You can still commit to a system as above, but bring in what you love from other systems as well. These are books I already have, and books I'm not flitting about like a hummingbird: they've found solid, prolonged use in this way. I've found this one of the best weapons in curbing my gamer ADD.

-Cull the herd (temporarily): No one is suggesting you sell any of your RPG books (unless you wish to), but you may wish to consider the following. At some point when you are far away from your bookshelf, sit down and make a list of games and RPG products you really, truly want to use or see yourself using immediately. Then go to your bookshelf, and pack that which you didn't list (you'll be surprised at some of the results)--put it in a box that's tough to get to, or put it in storage for a bit. Then, concentrate on what's left. Use it. Mix it. Remember how much you paid for the damn things, and what you want you wanted to do with them.

-Do Your Homework: Of course, you also want to do your homework, read plenty of reviews (just not the breathless first reports of ultra-fanboys), and ask questions of people who have played the product, and dig for some actual play reports. Is it just one or two gimmicks that make this system big news right now? Does the core of it sound sensible and playable? Do I have something that already does this? Are the comments vague "we rocked out hard playing it, Designer X is a great guy" sort of things?

Ideally, these steps (or your own ideas on how to handle Gamer ADD) can lead to more focused gaming, a better idea of what you want out of gaming, a more stable campaign and gaming group, and a fatter wallet.

That's my take on Gamer ADD. I don't think it ever goes away, but it can be controlled and put to useful purpose. If you've had a bout of the same, have a way you work through Gamer ADD, or have some thoughts on the topic, I'd love to see your comments or posts!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Notes On An Unfinished Magic System

A while back, I was working on a more freeform magic system as sort of a side project. Even with some great advice from Bill Corrie of HinterWelt, I became a little stuck and didn't finish it, so please excuse the unfinished product below. I think the basic idea is cool, but I don't know how it would work out. I'd love to hear feedback! Please note this was originally designed to be used with an open-ended percentile system (ala HARP or Rolemaster):



When you toy with magic, you toy with the base fabric of life, the world, the universe. Nor is magic easily tamed--it is an overwhelming tide, a raging torrent of power. Only the wisest, the most learned, and the most dedicated can ever truly say to have refined magic--and even then, the smallest slip can cause catastrophe.

Yet as long as individuals crave the unknown and power, the study of magic will prevail. In this system, the magical world is broken up into Domains. Each Domain represents a trait or element of the world that the magician may come to control. The known Domains now number perhaps two dozen in all, but mages are certain that other have simply not yet been accessed or lie unknown.

It is rare that any mage will have power in more than one Domain. The Magery skill (note: a skill in our homebrew noting skill in magic) allows a character to choose one Domain. Only specially trained characters with Magery 2 can have two Domains. The strain and difficulty of attempting to use even one Domain is more than enough for most mortals.

List of Domains


Fire
Earth
Air
Water
Wood/Plant
Flesh

(An incomplete list, but I am still figuring out how to reconcile things like "Spirit" and "Life/Death").

Once choosing a Domain, one must understand that various Actions (aka Power Words) are they key to using the element or subject of that Domain in different ways. There are 6 Actions known to mages:

Inflict: Used in an offensive capability--projecting that Domain on or towards an object or person.
Create: Used to summon or create that element where none naturally may have existed or where there was an absence of said Domain previously.
Enhance: Used to heighten, enhance, strengthen, or multiply an already-present element or material of the Domain.
Alter: Used to change, re-shape, or transform the Domain material/element in question.
Diminish: Used to reduce, weaken, shrink, or stunt the Domain material/element in question.
Destroy: Used to eradicate, eliminate, or disintegrate the Domain material/element in question.
Protect: Used to protect against or with the Domain material/element in question.

So, here is a small example of some of the ways these Actions could be used in the Water Domain. Each Action has an example of a Minor, Intermediate, Major, and Epic use of the skill:

Inflict Water

Minor: Sends a jet of water towards a person or animal, with enough to clean them off.
Intermediate: Allows a bolt of water to slam into a person, strong enough to cause some damage.
Major: A massive directed wave slams into a person object, doing fairly heavy damage.
Epic: Creates a Tsunami capable of wiping out a hamlet.

Create Water
Minor: Creates enough water for a small kettle over a fireplace; can refill waterskins.
Intermediate: Creates enough water to fill several bathtubs.
Major: Creates enough water to water an entire farmer's turnip field.
Epic: Hey! A new pond!

Enhance Water

Minor: Takes a small faucet drip and turns it into a steady stream
Intermediate: The almost-dry well shoots up a spring of clean water!
Major: you were able to raise the water level here enough to let your river galley get past!
Epic: Well, it was a gentle creek crossing. Now it's a rather angry-looking, deep, white-water river crossing.

Alter Water
Minor: Creating ice cubes in your drink
Intermediate: Freezing a cask of water
Major: Turning an entire fountain's water supply to steam
Epic: Freezing a pond to walk across it.

Diminish Water
Minor: Wrings out washcloths, wet clothes
Intermediate: Lessens the rain around you
Major: Lessens the rain around your entire estate
Epic: Can turn a Tsunami into a small wave

Destroy Water
Minor: Drying up a puddle.
Intermediate: Withering plants into dust.
Major: Reducing an iceberg to nothingness
Epic: Severely harm/destroy someone by removing the a goodly amount of their composition that's water.

Protect Water

Minor: Provides a small bonus against water-based attacks.
Intermediate: Creates a wall of water to slow missile weapons.
Major: Immunity from Water attacks.
Epic: Create a spinning, violent barrier of water around your keep.

As you can probably thought to yourself when reading, different Action and Domain combos can likely justify doing close to the same things. And I hope you thought of more exciting ways to use those Actions! That's how it should be. This is not a regimented, heavily-structured spell list. Your imagination, the various difficulty checks, and how much your GM allows (and how often your plans backfire) will be a large portion of your limitations here.


Developing Ranks


Each Action is developed as a separate skill, at the cost of 5 DPs per level. Keep in mind the rules of skill usage still apply--you need to study or practice that skill if you're moving on up in it.

Write it on your sheet as Action: Domain (Ex: Inflict: Earth; Diminish: Air; Enhance: Physic)

Suggested Magic Difficulty Checks

Easy: 40
Intermediate: 70
Major: 110
Epic: 180+

Note the target numbers can be upwards or downwards revised depending on how the GM feels the attempted spell measures up. If he gauges it firmly between Intermediate and Major, saying you have to hit a 90, then that's how it is.

Note it is also perfect acceptable to bump up the difficulty depending on range or subtlety desired. For example, attempting to thread as needle with a breeze isn't affecting any lives, but its pretty exact. Perhaps that 40 DC just became a 60 or 70.

Closeness To the Mark, And Your Bonus

The closer you are to the DC number, the closer your spell went according to plan. If you are trying an Intermediate spell and roll a 70, hey, congrats--you're there. If you roll a 15, you're way off the mark. If you open-end and roll a 285, you're way, way off the mark.

This is where your bonus from your ranks in that Action/Domain deviates from a normal skill check. In a normal skill check, you just add your bonus to your roll. For magic skills, that bonus represents the degree of control you have over that Action/Domain combo. That means if you have what looks like a +20%, you have the ability to adjust your roll up to 20 points in either direction, allowing you a better chance of getting to your target difficulty check number.

For example, if I have a +20 from 4 ranks in Diminish (Fire), and am attempting to do a spell that has been set as a DC of 70, and I roll a 91, I can subtract 20 points from it to get to a 71, and pretty close to the mark. If I had rolled a 51, I could have used 19 points to stop on 70 exactly. I don't have use all 20, just what I want/need to get as close to the target DC as I can. So the more ranks I have, the better my bonus, and therefore the greater my finesse and ability to do exactly what I want with a spell.

In general, results that are lower than the DC simply do not work, unless within a few percentage points. In that case, depending on the GM, you MIGHT get a partial or weakened result, but it won't be pretty. If it's over by more than 5 points, well, that's just as bad, maybe worse. 10 points over? Eh, it'll work like you thought--with likely one thing missing, gone wrong or altered (GM's discretion, again). Over 20? 50? 100? You are unable to control the mystic power. It rages through you, and whatever you were attempting to do, it probably ends in a really big, possibly explosive mess. We'll leave it to the GM to determine just what and how poorly that bodes for you, but we suggest plenty of unbridled arcane energy, plenty of collateral damage, some hit points missing, and definitely nothing subtle about the results. It might be spectacular, even glorious. And that might be all your blackened, smoking mage has to console himself with.

Keep in mind to scale accordingly. A mage attempting to roll a 40 and getting a 55 will not cause the universe to cease its existence. But it'll probably be a little more than he wanted of whatever he was doing. Now, a 255....

Fatigue

(Er, coming soon. This was going to be my way of limiting the power of mages--making fatigue checks with every spell attempt).