Monday, November 30, 2009
Why the Napoleonic Wars? I truly think that as horrible and bloody as wars inevitably are, those struggles were played out on such an epic stage with such unforgettable participants. Considering the forgettable ship-to-ship actions of day makes it a good fit for naval or imperial sci-fi. (David Weber evidently thought so as well).
Looking back, I see that I have done notes for several systems, to include Savage Worlds, FATE, and Iridium Lite, one of HinterWelt Enterprises's in-house systems. FATE and Iridium Lite are probably less well-known than Savage Worlds, but both are open-source, something that's always nice to work with. For right now, I think I'm going to work on tweaking and trimming Iridium Lite--I have the most experience with it (Squirrel Attack!), and I think it will be a little more forgiving of my mistakes.
So, we'll see how this goes. Like a lot of people in our hobby, I get projectitis, so I won't commit to anything. But there are a few common-sense design benchmarks I want to follow:
-Clear, unconfusing layout, complete with character generation checklist.
-Everything needed to play in a single book.
-That book's rules should be only around 20 pages with starship rules and examples included, and should be separate from the setting material (the latter point being a key point of HinterWelt's products, too). Look, if an RPG needs more than that these days, I get discouraged. I'm after simple but robust.
-An introductory scenario or adventure should be included.
-A good table of contents and a good index to round things out.
-Character sheet included.
So, we'll see what comes of it. If it takes off, expect some blurbs here and there as I get things underway.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
It sort of looks like the game didn't quite make it over the wall, like it just sort of got tired and took a rest partway through. Still the best Supers game ever (with apologies to Truth & Justice).
Who needs a Virtual Tabletop?
Why would I even accept the original?
Prediction: No one who wore this T-Shirt got laid, ever. "From the ancient, mist-shrouded lands of Guadalupe Street, located in the heart of the Garment District!" Also, only up to XXL? The hobby has grown, I guess!
(Sorry--HU was always a distant third or fourth to me as far as Palladium lines went).
Now this advert knows exactly what it's doing in including that crown. We secretly all wanted our characters to rule at least a small kingdom, if not a plane of existence. Kickass.
By 1984, players unable to find a game in their local area due to noisome personal habits, chronic anti-social tendencies, or a complete and clinical disregard for the niceties of basic human civility and interaction already had another recourse.
Well, that wraps up this edition of Vintage Dragon Magazine Adverts! I held back from the Traveller and Rolemaster ads this time around, as I know I usually tend to favor those...
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
It's tough to gauge, because online discussion doesn't always hinge on actual play, but I find myself wondering if we'll get to a point where one is standing head and shoulders above the others in terms of support.
James Raggi seemed to feel the OSRIC was getting left behind somewhat. I can't say as how I've noticed, but then again, I felt like Swords & Wizardry had a pretty good push going there for a while.
Again, it doesn't really matter, aside from wondering how things will pan out, and if we'll see one of those entries make a bigger jump than the others. They're all great efforts, and I'd be proud of any of them. Personally, I like them all and currently run Castles & Crusades, which is why I love system-lite products that can easily be used with any legacy-style game. No reason to cut up the pie any more than it already is.
Monday, November 23, 2009
There are also sci-fi toolkit books for Savage Worlds. Of course toolkit =/= setting. I guess more than anything, I'm just surprised that given the proficiency of SavWo products out there that so many of them fall into more eclectic or esoteric tastes (not that it's a bad thing; I'm glad there's folks trying something new).
I had actually toyed around with my own Savage Worlds sci-fi setting, which I had named Privateer. Basically, it leaned towards imperial sci-fi, with some space opera thrown in for good measure. It would take place in the Europa Cluster, an isolated, primarily human-dominated portion of the galaxy. The powers and factions would be tributes to the political entities existing around the time of the Napoleonic Wars/War of 1812 (not unlike certain aspects of the Honor Harrington series). Characters are likely privateers, given letters of marque by the various scheming powers to raid, destroy, and harry their enemies. There should be a lot of chances for duplicity, battle, intrigue, and all the other good stuff we expect. But I'm not sure that it'll ever get past the embryonic stage, which is a shame, because I think it's a fun idea, one that takes my love of imperial sci-fi, space opera, Traveller, and history and mashes it all up.
I suppose until someone publishes another SavWo, sci-fi setting, at least there are a ton of conversions out there.
Friday, November 20, 2009
That's what our Friday Discussion this week is all about: What are you thankful for in gaming? It can be a person, place, event, thing, game--whatever you're thankful for in this hobby of ours. Let us know in the comments below!
This weekend marks my 9th blissful year with my incredibly attractive, non-gaming, tolerant spouse, so I will see you all Monday!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
It definitely seems we have seen a swing in recent years more towards simpler mechanics in games. That’s not to say there isn’t room for Pathfinder or FantasyCraft, but at least online I tend to see more and more gamers (including yours truly, a grizzled Rolemaster aficionado) espouse the virtues of rules-lighter games. Of course, we’re all getting older, aren’t we? We don’t have the time (we think) to master the volumes of rules we pored over when we were in high school or before the rugrats came along.
Yet I wonder…will the pendulum swing the other way again? Will complexity return as the online tools to manage it become more an accepted part of our tabletop experience? It’d be interesting to see a Rolemaster resurgence, as thousands of players again discovered the joys of massive critical hit charts and Tripping Over Invisible Turtles.
I think if more rules-heavy games surge again (not that they’ve ever completely gone away), it will be because of computer aids or electronic products that automatically handle that complexity. We already have spreadsheets and some products that do these things—I think when they become an expected part of the game, rather than an exception for most groups, you’ll see some of the common complaints of rules-heavy systems (“they’re too hard to learn, they’re too complex for newbies, resolution/chargen/anything takes too long”) will fade away. There’s no reason that with the right equipment and/or personnel our complex rules systems can’t be run just as quick as rules-light games. The amount of time we have to game may lessen gradually as we get older, but the tools to maximize that time are promising indeed.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
A couple hours after the last session ended, well into the next early morning, I got a text from one of the players, which read:
CAN WE CALL EVERYONE AND GET THEM BACK TOGETHER? WANT TO PLAY AGAIN.
GMs, take a minute and hang out after the game. It can be well worth it.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I think that’s the way clues need to be. If you get them, great—they should be illuminating and rewarding. If you don’t, they shouldn’t be a show stopper. No single missed clue in a campaign should be a total show-stopper. In other words, you shouldn’t make any one clue a fail point; build redundancy into those circuits! As a Game Master, when designing your dungeon, you have to remember that it’s very likely that not everyone encountering your scenario is going to be on the same wavelength you were when you wrote it—and the more intricate and obscure your clues, the more likely this is to be true. Missed clues should frustrate, obfuscate, and perhaps deny certain rewards or avenues, but they should not kill a campaign on their own.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Well, I wasn't sure I would make it to Saltire Games for our session, and less sure that I'd be able to recount the details due to the painkillers messing with me, but fortunately I was able to do both.
To recap from Session 2, the group is exploring a mythical land far to the west of their homeland. In order to gain an audience with the church prelate of the city of Sidon (and fatten their resources and explore this new land), the group has (if not unanimously) decided to attempt to explore the Troublesome Tunnels, a honeycomb of natural and humanoid-made tunnels and caves around and below the city.
Here's the thing with the design of the Troublesome Tunnels: they are not a linear design. There are at least a half-dozen main entryways, to say nothing of the multiple side tunnels. Parts of it are extensions of Sidon's sewers; others are tunnels left by some long-forgotten burrowing monstrosity. Other parts are ratling-dug hideouts now used by human bandits and smugglers. And parts of it are the ruins of an ancient sewer and subterranean city.
Through a fair bit of happenstance, after grabbing the party's Friar and Druid for a bit of backup, they came to a part of the tunnels that appeared to be an old waterway or sewer. This was a bit puzzling, as they were by all accounts miles outside of Sidon. They followed the damp tunnels to a room with a pool, and then a long corridor. The dwarf noted the stonework was...familiar. Not dwarven, but of a quality make, and somehow familiar.
Eventually, the group came to a room with steps leading up to a barred door of strange metal. Two statues, now crumbled with age, their features gone, guarded the door.
The door was opened, and on the other side opened into a giant cavern. In the dim murk of the the distance, giant pillars receded into the dark (think Khazad-dûm). About 50 feet in, with a single shaft of light coming down from a shaft in the ceiling, sat a cairn of rectangular blocks.
Well, adventurers being adventurers, they pried a stone off the top of the cairn, revealing a giant yellow gem inside. Our party's jack-of-all-trades attempted to gain the gem, only to find it was magically trapped (and nearly losing a hand in the process). They decided to wait on the gem for the time being. Meanwhile, exploring the far walls of the room revealed a series of circular holes, wherein could be seen the dusty remnants of some long-forgotten warriors. Their skeletons appeared orcish, only somewhat larger. Our cleric nabbed a dagger that glowed when Detect Magic was cast upon it (he handed it off to our party's Druid).
Past the columns at the end of the cavern stood two giant doors, apparently of the same metal as the door prior. They were open, and inside stood a statue and scene that owners of a certain Handbook would recognize (sans adventurers, though they'd be climbing all over soon enough):
A shaft of light also came down from this room, illuminating the statue. Two mosaics were inlaid on the floor, made of tiny shards of various metals. 3 stone guardian statues on each side guarded the room. Two stone crypts were on either side of the statue. The statue itself appeared to have one gem eye that matched the one lying in the cairn in the cavern. Judicious use of Decipher Text revealed an inscription of the bottom of the statue that appeared to say "To Watch The Race".
What followed was a confusing series of events; there were statues, two mosaics, and It would take me longer than the game ran to type it all up here, but suffice to say things got wild. The players raided the crypts and found a massive medallion, a metal-clad tome, and a ceremonial-looking axe. The party was able to retrieve the gem from the cairn, and put it in the statue's eye (but not without a metric ton of contingency planning. When they did this, the stone statues on either side of the room came to life! Putting in the eye also caused another action; the statue slid to the right, revealing a small 5-foot secret room with a chest. Opening the chest (which appeared to either contain a lump of beef jerky or a dried heart, which soon crumbled to dust from poor handling) caused the stone statues on either side of the room to come to life and began to advance on the players! Our resident thief was able to arrest their motion by putting on the medallion from before, but could not control them otherwise.
The doors had also swung shut, but were opened by the touch of the ceremonial axe. A character (I can't remember whom) pried the other eye out, which is when things got really bad. The doors slammed shut again, wouldn't open, and the two mosaics on the floor came to life--swirling bits of razor-sharp metal that shredded anything they touched! They began to accost the players! The players escaped UP THE LIGHTING SHAFT--with a round to spare! It was pretty gutsy--and the last guy out snagged one of the gem eyes. Wow.
I'll admit; I had set up the "controls" for this room to be a bit perplexing. There were some clues that were missed, but I found even I had to check my notes as the players tried multiple things in this room. I'm sure I missed something in recounting this, but everything happened had a good flow of action, and I thought there was a definite intensity to the proceedings.
Now, when then eye had been put back in, one of the characters still in the cavern saw forms of light streak out from the tombs and up the shaft. When they got back to Sidon, they heard that around noon, their had been a "second sunrise" in the southern sky. People were still talking about the strange happenings that evening. The players laundered, rested, got a few items from the Tunnels appraised, did some recon in the tavern found out more about this land (I think they got some very good intel), and decided to hold council in the morning to see about their next course of action.
I was proud that nothing that happened was completely one-sided. We had varying factions for different routes of planning, caution or boldness, yea or nay. Some in the group were uncomfortable disturbing these resting places or taking the gems. A few players even played out the fact that seeing animated statues would probably freak you out for a while. Nice work all around.
I have GM'd a lot of sessions, but from a personal standpoint, this one was one of the most rewarding. I was able to shake off a lot to run this game, and though no game is ever perfect, this one was a tremendous amount of fun--the only measure that counts.
We take a break for (U.S.) Thanksgiving and Black Friday. We meet back on December 4 to continue the campaign.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
This small, kidney-shaped rock generally lies dormant until its prey wanders by. Then it launches itself at their abdomen. Its bite causes tremendous, nigh-unbelievable pain. They are attracted to adventurers with high-protein, high-caffeine diets and those apparently cursed by the gods.
Number Encountered: 1d4
Movement: Almost Nil
Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 10
Attacks: 1 (it doesn't need any more)
Hoard Class: None
Cranberry juice does deter it, as does being thrown through the air. It is therefore recommended upon meeting one, to drink plenty of cranberry juice and pass it as quickly as possible.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
"As for us, our days of combat are over. Our swords are rust. Our guns will thunder no more. The vultures that once wheeled over our heads must be buried with their prey. Whatever of glory must be won in the council or the closet, never again in the field. I do not repine. We have shared the incommunicable experience of war; we have felt, we still feel, the passion of life to its top.Three years ago died the old colonel of my regiment, the Twentieth Massachusetts. He gave the regiment its soul. No man could falter who heard his "Forward, Twentieth!" I went to his funeral. From a side door of the church a body of little choir- boys came in alike a flight of careless doves. At the same time the doors opened at the front, and up the main aisle advanced his coffin, followed by the few grey heads who stood for the men of the Twentieth, the rank and file whom he had loved, and whom he led for the last time. The church was empty. No one remembered the old man whom we were burying, no one save those next to him, and us. And I said to myself, The Twentieth has shrunk to a skeleton, a ghost, a memory, a forgotten name which we other old men alone keep in our hearts. And then I thought: It is right. It is as the colonel would have it. This also is part of the soldier's faith: Having known great things, to be content with silence. Just then there fell into my hands a little song sung by a warlike people on the Danube, which seemed to me fit for a soldier's last word, another song of the sword, but a song of the sword in its scabbard, a song of oblivion and peace.
A soldier has been buried on the battlefield.
And when the wind in the tree-tops roared,
The soldier asked from the deep dark grave:
"Did the banner flutter then?"
"Not so, my hero," the wind replied.
"The fight is done, but the banner won,
Thy comrades of old have borne it hence,
Have borne it in triumph hence."
Then the soldier spake from the deep dark grave:
"I am content."
and the soldier asks once more:
"Are these not the voices of them that love,
That love--and remember me?"
"Not so, my hero," the lovers say,
"We are those that remember not;
For the spring has come and the earth has smiled,
And the dead must be forgot."
Then the soldier spake from the deep dark grave:
"I am content.""
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I'm wondering if these new tools will follow WotC's DDI model, or be a one-time pay sort of deal. There's a lot more White Wolf news from ICC 2009 on their YouTube page. Overall, it sounds like White Wolf is re-evaluating the way they're doing some of their business.
Any of our White Wolf readers want to hazard a guess?
Monday, November 9, 2009
Interesting stuff (and cool dice), but I still don't think this is going to do it for me. Not my idea of design at all. Frankly, I think WFRP 2 was pretty great as is, and I think this is a risky departure for not much gain. Too pricey, too boardgamey, and too many specialty bits needed to play. I want my gaming to fit in with a book or two, some dice, and whatever I draw on a map. Pewter or paper minis are optional (we had a Klingon Bird of Prey dice from Star Fleet Battles or somesuch represent a player last Friday, and it just gave me a chance to use the Star Trek Fight Music on my playlist).
At this point, I suspect the game is as targeted at FFG's board gamers as it is anyone who enjoyed previous editions of Warhammer Fantasy, perhaps even more so given the radical departure we're seeing.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Sadly, RPG Blog 2 is no exception. It’s after Halloween, I heard Christmas music on the radio last night, and the department stores have had the Christmas stock out for awhile now. So, here’s this week’s question:
What RPG Products Do You Want For Christmas or the Holidays?
If you want to sound a little selfish, let us know what you're thinking about for the gamer on your shopping list. Whether you celebrate the Holidays or not, let us know what’s on your wish list this year!
Thursday, November 5, 2009
One-Trick Pony. 1st level or thereabouts. Let’s face it: it’s one Magic Missle or Sound Burst spell and then it’s poke, poke, poke with your staff or dagger. At this stage, you are most akin to one of those “fire n’ forget” rocket launchers certain militaries employ. That Stupid Fighter has to keep you alive most of the time, and boy if he doesn't remind you about it.
Utility Infielder. Generally lower levels. While you don’t disintegrate your enemies by the bucketful at this stage, you are an amazingly useful little creature. You Grease to cover a getaway, Purify Water when you’re adrift in the middle of the ocean, and you’ve probably learned at least one little illusion spell right now. You also can summon things like Dire Weasels and Celestial Badgers, which is a lot more useful than it sounds. That Stupid Fighter occasionally even thanks you for helping out—imagine that!
Self-Sufficient: Intermediate levels. At this point, you can easily take on a small mercenary squad, a couple of monsters, or a little dungeon crawling without expressly needing That Stupid Fighter to cover your rump. You can probably conjure any supplies you need, and you’re a good enough fighter to make average men-at-arms think twice. Those d4 Hit Points do add up, eventually.
The God of War & Death: Every game seems to have a level where this becomes a reality. That Stupid Fighter kills, what, 3, 4 warriors at a chop at best? You can kill 3-4 armies, easy. You rain meteor swarms, heightened elemental atrocities, and other spells upon your enemies, many of which have only the bleakest save vs. Instant Gooification. You have probably cleaned out at least one of the Nine Hells. The only enemy you still fear? Metal armor.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I guess I’ll just consign this idea to the dustbin of Probably Not Happening, but I still think it would rock.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Now, I am not displeased that she is having this party, namely because the things she gets make her happy and help her make me some awesome meals, but I do wonder what it’d be like if gamers had this sort of thing? Specialty dice (the dEverything, the Zocchihedron), mixed with niche RPGs, expensive coffee-table style game books, custom mahogany dice towers, and gaming accessories you never knew existed, but could no longer live without.
The only problem would be finding an audience. I imagine you’d have to cover a pretty big geographical area to make it worth your while.
Monday, November 2, 2009
We were 2 players down, but Llewellyn, our resident rogue, was on hand. If you remember from the last play recap, the players made it ashore a strange, unknown land after the three ships of their expedition were destroyed by a storm. If it is the land they were seeking, legend has it the the last Prince of the West, Elechor II, there are rumored to be 13 cities--each one where some class or sect of refugees fr0m the Kingdom of Man settled.
The group had stopped the burning of a fortified farmstead. It is here that Llewellyn, seeing the smoke after a miserable day wandering from where he washed up, encountered the group. Llewellyn was of a class of explorers who able to volunteer to go--or face the noose for some indiscretions. Not everyone sails for gold and glory because they want to.
The farmers who they rescued did speak the Westron tongue, albeit strangely accented. They were able to discern that only a few miles away was Sidon, the City of Sails!
The party (excepting the (absent-player) Friar and Druid, who stayed to assist the farmers), journeyed towards Sidon. They attempted to tell the gate guard they were from the east, which was met either with frowns or chuckles of disbelief.
The party asked for an inn recommendation, and ended up at the Inn of Sargent Street. Llewellyn and the mercurial Leyton (seriously, he suffers violent mood swings as quirk) deigned to perhaps see to their welfare in this new land by possibly gained some information (and coin) from the wealthy merchants that were frequenting the downstairs tavern. However, both of them had a bad night socially, apparently being as desirable to the other patrons as a dead bird found in your rain gutter. Vas, our Sorcerer/Wikd Mage, however, charmed a nice crowd with some prestidigitation and sleight of hand. Over the course of the night at the tavern, the party did quite well at picking up a few details about the area, such as:
-Orcish Pirates are fairly common at sea, and are a tremendous nuisance.
-Much of the trade of Sidon is with Ciplos, a city far to the north that doesn't care for elves.
-The shipwrights are seeing a slowdown in work thanks to a strange blight in the woods near town.
-There's a town called Brial somewhere to the southwest. Lot of churchy types there, it sounds like.
I was very proud of our 1-HP dwarven cleric, Nalgan. He discovered the cathedral in town, and after ascertaining the religion of this land was actually still close to that of the High Church, managed to convince a young priest to listen to his tale. The priest was skeptical, but gave him a room for the night and drew him a crude map(!) of the surrounding area. Good effort to get what he could!
As Nalgan was leaving, the priest gave Nalgan some advice: going around saying they were from the mystic east wasn't smart. Sailors for centuries had tried to sail back, and eventually so many ships were lost the city's rulers put a ban on that sort of discussion. No, before Nalgan and Co. talked to the city church's Prelate or the Admiral's Council (the ruling body), they needed to find a position of strength. He mentioned the problems with the blighted forest, as well as the Troublesome Tunnels. a ratling maze outside of town that was used by bandits and outlaws. Nalgan pitched to the group the idea that if they cleared out the Tunnels, perhaps the city rulers would respect their story a bit more. And so it was decided the group would set out for its first potential dungeon crawl (sniff).
Vas and Leyton ended up half-conning (long story) a stable out of a swaybacked nag to carry the group's equipment. They set off, towards one of the potential entrances, near the woods about 10 miles from town. It had been filled in by the city guard, but they hoped another entrance would be nearby.
Random Encounter Time! As Leyton stood on the filled-in hole, he was about 2 seconds away from being devoured by a Bullete (Landshark), which burst out of the hole, nasty maw a-snappin'. At this point, the group fled into the woods, discretion being the better part of valor. Thankfully, Nalgan and Leyton discovered another entrance soon after, and into the Troublesome Tunnels they went.
The group only got through a small portion of the tunnels, but enough to see a few humanoid skeletons and signs of an earlier struggle, and also took down some nasty ratlings. The found an entrance out, but it was manned by what appear to be a lowly bandit gang. The bandits looked prepared to deal (or fight), but the group left. At this point, before exploring any further, they decided to go grab the Friar and Druid for reinforcement.
Llewellyn got his first kill against a ratling! For a non-combat character, I imagine that's somewhat jarring. Llewellyn seems very urbane and displeased towards most forms of wilderness travel, but I think he realizes he doesn't have much of a choice just now. He also seems to be hitting it off with Vas to some degree, who is the most garrulous of the party by far.
Supercharging one roll to a d30 was a mixed bag. We had 2 early attempts on a Charisma roll that fell flat, but there was some awesome usage in combat later on.
For the record, I know 1000+ years would have produced more linguistic difference in language than what we're seeing in-game, but that's one of those things where I'm going to shove realism aside. Until the ghost of Professor Tolkien shows up at my table to help, I'm not going to go there.
Again, the staff at Saltire Games was friendly, helpful, and knew their stuff. I think we all love playing there in one of the private rooms in the back.
So far, I'm so pleased with how the group is doing and interacting. As a GM, this is the least amount of work I've had to do at the table in a couple of years now--then again, it was a lot more work upfront. It's also great having some really good players. Again, it's a great group, and I feel lucky to have this campaign.
The session (Friday, November 13), we should have a full table for the first time in a couple of weeks...