Friday, December 7, 2012
I've been wanting to run a Mass Effect game.
There's no official Mass Effect table top game.
There's a ginormo-metric-shit-ton-load of official Mass Effect information.
Said friend's system is setting neutral.
Copy Pasta, don't fail me now.
Really, the only question is: "How much information do I shove at my players?" Complete information is really too much, vignettes are really too little.
I think I'm going to throw it all at my players and see what sticks.
Friday, November 30, 2012
Despite the former's apparent disdain for the latter, the author's works informed and defined fantasy roleplaying, in particular my own early games, in a way which precious few other can claim.
Yes, there are others whose names loom large in Appendix N, but in high fantasy games, at least, Tolkien reigns.
To that end, I found this supremely interesting.
Should it be used as a concrete guide for worldbuilding? Nah. But it's frakk'n neat.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
The only thing I am running is a playtest of a good buddy's homebrew game, it takes place in modern day New York City (which none of us know anything about) and is basically Sherlock and Watson meet Batman where Batman is a spoiled brat who fights crime for kicks, Sherlock has a serious heroin problem and a pronounced limp, and Watson is strong-arm British ex-pat and ex-con.
So far, they've been solving mysteries that have all had a paranormal connection, with the help of Egg Shen. Think Call of Cthulu meets Big Trouble in Little China.
Anyway, this lack of pressure for me to create content for my original campaign world has, of course, got me thinking about my original campaign world and formulating (read: stealing) ideas for it.
So, shadow delvers, dungeoneers, adventurers, whatever you want to call them.
They're not your average nutter, they're worse.
They think it's great fun to wriggle themselves into holes in the ground in search of some dead king's tin cup.
And there's plenty of places for them to crawl, I don't mind telling you. You see, way back when, the old kings of Viroof used to bury their dead in tombs like the heathen dwarfs. All along the Southron Road, the countryside is littered with cairns and mounds to some minor chieftain or favored gilly.
But they've all been picked over a thousand-thousand times, and no delver is interested in them anymore. There are deeper, darker, more dangerous and more profitable graves to plunder. Usually on the western side of the road. Between the highway and the mountains, or carved into the living rock, you can find the places where no one has been stupid enough to enter since the place was sealed.
They're often difficult to find, your best bet is to find a good guide, a seasoned woodsman from the area. He'll know the places where moss and turf and tree hide ancient masonry. The places that animals avoid, and the places where he dare not spend the night. A good woodsman will know all the signs that point an old grave.
He'll charge to take you out there of course. The best guides will bring a wagon with them, and you'll have to charter that too, but if you're lucky, your guide will be a good cook as well, and should you manage to not get killed inside the dungeon, you might have a decent meal waiting for you at the campsite.
Monday, November 19, 2012
I've been reading the book Shadow Divers about deep sea scuba divers trying to identify the wreck of a German World War II U-boat off the New Jersey coast and it has me thinking about the parallels that a DM could draw.
Wrecks are often found by fishermen, who will sometimes trade the locations of the wrecks to charter boat captains.
The locations are jealously guarded and the wrecks themselves are dangerous locations that sometimes hide great treasures for those brave or stupid enough to dive them.
It' an easy comparison to make, but an interesting one too. I've already sketched an idea in my head of what it would look like in my home campaign. Perhaps I'll post that later...
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
*The male pronoun is used here exclusively, because either A: I can't be bothered. or B: see above.
The singular most important skill for a Dungeon Master is learning.
A DM needs to absorb all information, images, and other sensory data that will inform his game.
What does that encompass?
A DM must convey an entire world to his players, one bit at at time. How much does a polar bear weigh? What are the prevailing winds in a given region? Does a witch float? All these things and infinitely more are vitally important to a given set of players in a given situation in a given game.
It is not, however, vitally important that a DM know exact details about these things, but he must have an idea.
The air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow is unlikely to ever come up in the course of regular gaming (if there is such a thing), but the DM should have an idea of how fast a bird can fly.
Especially if the players need to send an important message to a faraway kingdom where time is a factor.
Most important are visuals.
A DM provides all sensory information for the players, sight being the most important.
Humans (as well as elves and dwarves, for that matter) are visual creatures. The sense of sight is paramount to us. In general, the more a DM has seen, the more a player can see. This also ties back to general information. What do certain types of architecture look like? Furthermore, can players distinguish between a mortar joint and a dovetail? If not, a DM cannot just inform the players as to what type of joint is present, he must describe it visually, in the least.
Similarly, a DM must describe the effects of his world on all the other senses: smell, hearing, touch, and taste. Also included are any other senses specific to a fantasy setting, or otherwise not recognized by real world science, such as a players gut.
If a player gets "a bad feeling" from the obviously demonic artifact, a DM should know how that feels to a player. Does it twist their guts? Does it cause a sinking feeling? Perhaps vertigo? Additionally, characters who are sensitive to magic may feel their hairs raise when around powerful items or locations.
Always in the background of the DM's mind should be the idea that the players experience their world through him. Does the creature in front of them look like a giant, angry jello mold come to life, send chills down their spine, and smell like gym socks? DOES IT?
Fucking figure it out. It's your job. It is your challenge.
It is your art.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
So, question: Should every encounter be balanced to the adventurers who stumbling into it?
NO! says I.
I am a simulation gamer, which is to say, I believe that the game should represent the DM's vision of a fantastic reality and to that end, the game should hold as tight as possible to that vision.
Part of that means that The World is not Fair. Which is to say, The Game is not Balanced.
If you wander into the Trollhaunt Woods at level 1, ghost-trolls will probably rape you to death, eat your flesh, and sew your skin into a tablecloth.
However, the DM's job is to have fun and help everyone else have fun. In my experience, neither goal is accomplished by having a black dragon repeatedly murder everyone.
So, what is a DM to do?
I try and give adventure hooks to my players that lead them toward what I think is probably a level appropriate encounter.
Notice the lack of trying there. Not trying is key. Just do what makes sense, consequences be damned.
As a DM you're no more obligated to keep the party alive than you are to murder them. Ideally, one finds a happy medium.
Throw things at them, let them sort it out. A smart group of players will triumph or flee.
Above all, do what makes sense.
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Doing some writing on my home campaign, realized I have no unmapped areas on my map. That is to say, so far, there is no frontier.
I think adventurers should want a frontier, a vast untamed land full of possibility and mystery.
I'm making two maps now, one says SHOW TO PLAYERS the other says NEVER SHOW TO PLAYERS.
I think it is important for the DM to at least have an idea of what awaits over the next hill, but players should be setting off like Bilbo. They might have a guide, or even a map, but all they really know is that they're going Out There, and they might not come back.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Now I have it back.
And I've been running Lamentations of the Flame Princess.
So far, the game has been a series of dungeons, nothing too amazing.
The whole time I'm running the game, I find myself trying to calculate THAC0. More than a decade of running the calculations in my head has left a mental void when it's no longer needed.
My current crop of players seem to enjoy the more simple mechanics, however. I'm weaving a plot thread through the adventures that will eventually lead the players to Death Love Doom, but I'm trying to beef them up a bit before they face the horrors therein contained.
The thing I wrestle with most is the experience point system. With such a de-emphasis on monster slaying, recovering treasure is the only real way for the players to gain a level. This is counter-balanced by the expense of choice items and the cost of researching spells and scribing scrolls, but years of running games with boot-strap adventurers gaining most their xp through slaying and using their hard earned gold pieces to feed themselves and replace ruined equipment make me feel as if I'm running a Monty Haul campaign, especially when I have to add treasure to a prefab dungeon.
In other news, In my buddy Eddy's homebrew adventure, our characters are approaching the cusp of heroism.
We have recently become the champions of forgotten Gods, gotten guidance from our own personal Obi-Wans, and been outfitted with some magical do-dads. We're approaching the stuff of legends and it feels allllright.
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
I haven't ran or played a game in a while, at least a few weeks, and have been putting around the country on my motorcycle.
I ran a vampire adventure for a couple of friends last week using the storyteller system. Seems to me, unless you're heavily invested in melodrama, that system is really for the birds. My players spent most of their time in pursuit of wealth so that they could start their own porn studio and weren't very interested in vampire politics or exploring the tragedy of their unlife. This in itself is interesting, but not really what I think the game designers had in mind.
Other than that, I got my physical copy of Lamentations of the Flame Princess in the mail. I was going to do a fancy un-boxing post with pictures and what not, but then I didn't.
I'm really excited to play the game and like the books themselves. I heard a rumor that the game would come with a golf pencil? Mine didn't. It did however come with a set of dice so tiny as to be comfortably smuggled into prison.
I'm probably going to order a copy of the adventure Death Love Doom today, as I hear it is fantastic.
I'm hopeful for LotFP (hereafter, FP). My background is primarily in AD&D2E, a system known for its rules that govern everything from the useability of a broken chair as a weapon to the saving throws of mundane books. In comparison, FP is very minimalistic and streamlined, taking the things it needs and discarding things it doesn't.
An example: Every weapon in 2E has two sets of damage dice, one for small to man-sized creatures and one for things over 7 feet tall. Each individual weapon has its own dice values and sometimes special rules.
FP has a few weapons that have their own special rules and dice, but all other weapons are lumped into weapon categories by size and each weapon in each particular category has the same dice value.
I'm excited to give it a spin.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
It makes no Godsdamned sense, and I hate it.
I like my worlds low-magic, and that goes for potions too. When things like magic and potions are common, they are no longer special.
The Magic Potion becomes the band-aide and is no more special than the 10 foot pole. Less, even, because the magic potion has an obvious use, is disposable, and generally uninteresting. No one every gives a healing potion a second thought.
Additionally, when a player is toting around a bag of healing potions, he knows, he fucking knows that he only has to give up a single combat round and he's got hit points back. If the roll is good enough, maybe he'll drink another next round. All the while, the orc is smashing him in the face.
Furthermore, think of the applications to the world if healing potions were plentiful? All war would be almost constant stalemate, and alchemist facilities would be huge targets. Furthermore, the market for materials used in the preparation of potions would also be huge. An entire industry.
Fuck healing potions. /rant
All potion hate aside, my world has Alchemists. Though not available as a character class, alchemists have an in-game history.
Before the Consolidation, when magic was wild and free, The Alchemists were a brotherhood of thinkers and experimenters who specialized in the mundane sciences. Many of the members of the Alchemists were mages, but the group was dedicated to unlocking the secrets of the natural world without the use of magic. Their pursuits were not limited to just science, however. Mathematics, philosophy, architecture, and many other fields of study were explored inside their lodge halls.
Their arguably greatest creations were forged by a group known as the Hyperzenians. The Hyperzenians crafted the deadly firelances, unparalleled weapons of terror.
However, when the Alchemists opposed the Consolidation, they were destroyed and many of their secrets, including the methods used to construct the firelances, were lost.
The ancient lodge halls of the Alchemists can still be found scattered throughout Skovorod, however these ancient ruins are perilous to say the least. Many an experiment was left half finished and the promise of forgotten knowledge has undoubtedly lured foul things to these haunted sites.
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
When I read it, I realized that I'd fallen into the same trap that many a DM has been victim to, cutting and pasting the Forgotten Realms underdark into my home campaign without a thought.
It's an easy thing to do, and in my experience, it's what players expect. This is precisely why no DM should ever do it.
With all the time I've investing in crafting a the world above ground, why shouldn't I do the same with the subterranean elements? I'm lucky in that my players have yet to venture into the earth. I've established that drow exist, and worship a spider demon, but other than that, my canvas is still blank.
I could easily make drow a warlike race of raiders that have been driven to the fringes of the subterranean world, which is why they sometimes raid the surface. I'll probably spend some time digging through the monstrous manual to get ideas for what sort of creatures inhabit das unterworld.
And by "inhabit", I mean what nations struggle against each other below our feet.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
While I will certainly not dispute that this happens in an overwhelming majority of games, and to some extent in my own, I do contest that this style of play is somehow built into the D&D game.
In my experience, the rules for dungeons and dragons are a framework onto which players and DMs can weave their own scenarios. The theme of a game may be the fall of a nation, the danger of ancient knowledge, or anything, really.
One needs only to look at the fabled Appendix N and examine the themes explored in the material from which the game draws.
Will your players become more powerful? Most definitely. Will they gain fabulous wealth? Maybe. Will they seek out adventure? I hope so.
Wealth and power are tertiary, however, to the adventure. The great draw of any RPG is to see what happens next and to decide how your character reacts to it. Everything else is just fluff.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
This first post will cover the immortal beings that run around my universe. Most of them have been loving lifted from someone or something. Names have been (barely) changed more to represent changes in language over the passing of eons than anything else.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Very often, I focus on how if you shower your players with magical items, they become mundane. I designed a very low magic world where a +1 sword is a treasure, and though the warriors have collected a smattering of such weakly enchanted items, neither character has ever encountered (much less possessed) such powerful magic as the two rings they now possess.
The new magic has given each of them a sense of mystique. Besides being skilled fighting men, they now have unique arcane powers that set them apart from all the other sword jocks in the world. The fact that the average ding-dong can't walk into ye olde magic shop and buy an invisibility ring accentuates this and propels them into a realm of mythic figures.
As exciting as this is for the players, I believe it is more so for me as the DM as the characters are moving from regular jack offs into legends.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
While I'm not a veteran to his game system, I have played it before, and it ain't too shabby. The last time we ran a stupid supers game, I played the Kung-Fu Cowboy who was basically a 1950's cowboy paradigm with super kung-fu powers.
I'm more than happy to continue the tale of Kung-Fu Cowboy, but if we're rolling up new characters, I have a couple of ideas:
Soul Samurai - In keeping with my previously established theme, this would basically be Dolemite with a katana. Admittedly, I haven't put a lot of thought into this one, but the idea made me laugh.
Jeb Stankewitz AKA Landshark - Jeb is basically an anthropomorphic shark who is also a terrible redneck stereotype. His story is that he comes from another planet/alternate dimension where sharks and not apes became the dominate species and apes are on par with opossums.
One night, whilst attempting to convince his girlfriend to have sex with him on the trampoline, Jeb was abducted by aliens who performed experiments on him and then dropped him off on our earth. Besides having a giant shark head, Jeb is much stronger than your average redneck and able to burrow at an amazing speed, as all Landsharks do. He works at the local aquarium where he waves down cars while wearing a shark suit. Jeb likes to start each day with a big lip full of Beechnut and a frosty Bud Light. He is saving up to buy a truck.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
I've been running another game with some friends, albeit sporadically. We're once and again tackling the Temple of Elemental Evil.
I'm going back to the temple because I have a sick desire to see it ransacked and it cuts down my required prep-work to the point where I only have to create original material when I feel like it.
This past week, one of the players couldn't make it to the game, so the remaining two decided to go side questin'.
I had two five room dungeons sitting on the back burner, so we set off for lands yet unseen. The players, (two fighters) ran through my two prepared dungeons in three or four hours and then decided to follow up on every rumor they heard. The rest of the game was pretty much off the top of my head, working from scant notes I scrawled during the game.
All in all, both fighters leveled up, found some interesting magical items, and killed their first dragon (A brown dragon hatchling).
This was all accomplished in about two months of game-time, during which we decided that the halfling thief was recovering from testicular torsion.
A side effect of all this side questing is that the players have made some good connections with some other factions out there in the world and have gained some very powerful magical items in a decidedly low-magic world.
Things should be back on track for the next game, and it looks like we'll be adding another player.
And so the wheel turns...
Friday, March 23, 2012
I am now 95% convinced that the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons will be crap. That missing 5%? That is all that remains of my hope that the new edition of dnd will live up to its goal of united all players.
I really see the new edition as being a blend of 3E and 4E. The veneer may be changed a bit to appeal to ODnD folken, but mechanically, it will be munchkin land. And I mean munchkin in the most derogatory way possible.
Min/maxers will have a new system to exploit, and we grognards will keep grognarding.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Allow me to shed some light on this...
Recently, I ran two games. The first was AD&D. I was once again hurling some unsuspecting players into the Temple of Elemental Evil.
A few weeks later, the same group wanted to game again, but one of the group couldn't make it and I suggested we play Traveller.
Now, I hadn't planned anything for the Traveller game other than a vague plot outline that I once thought of whilst in the bath. I was running the game basically off the top of my head.
During a smoke break, one of the players commented on how the Travellers game was fun because it was more story-driven and how D&D was just a bunch of numbers.
The comment really hit me hard because during the Edition Wars, I've always defended AD&D 2E as being more about story and roleplaying than anything that has come before or since, as far as D&D goes.
I've made it my goal to make the next AD&D session seem more impromptu and be less of a module reading drone.
Way back in the back-when, I can remember my old DMs reading out of a module maybe three or four times. And those were special events, to boot! Things like the Faction War and Apocalypse Stone. 98% of everything I played came directly out of the DM's head with varying amounts of prep. Some of my best sessions were run entirely impromptu.
I can remember getting ideas of things that I wanted in the game, the kindly wizard in a magic tower, the haunted castle, the lost tribe of giant halflings, etc.
There are several ideas that I've been itching to explore in my current campaign world, too, but have never gotten around to putting in front of the players as I seem to always be reading out of one module book or another. I'm really seriously considering scrapping the rest of the Temple and just presenting my interpretation of it.
In days past, when I ran a game of AD&D, I would ignore experience points. The characters would simply level when I needed them to. My excuse was that since my games were so roleplay heavy and combat light that if we went strictly by the rules, the party would almost never level.
I think I can and should use experience points. I also think I can use them to help plan my adventures. I have to remember to use the rules as tools, not straightjackets.
So, about grid paper. I hereby resolve to never again plan out a dungeon on grid paper. From now on, my dungeons will be freehand. I must say that this is inspired by a picture of a geomorph dungeon that this guy named Steve posted on his blog. Apparently, he's at least partly responsible for most of AD&D 2E, which puts him in a class directly behind Gygax and Arneson in my book. Also, he is still alive, so I can comment on his blog and get nerdy goosebumps.
Monday, January 23, 2012
You see, if you ever watch anything that Joss Whedon ever produces, you'll learn one simple nasty little tick to drama: Let everything seem to be right in Rightsville, then murder, rape, and burn Rightsville in any and every manner you see fit.
The way this applies to D&D is, if your players have a person, place, or thing that they love, fucking destroy it. Shit on their hopes and dreams.
This should only be done sparingly, however. If it happens even once too often, you'll end up crushing the character's spirits. Your PC's will stop building castles after the fifth one burns down and sinks into the swamp.
During last night's game I did this.
The player's had just finished an adventure, gotten paid, won fame, and uncovered the location of ancient secret power. So, as they were sleeping off the effects of their revelry, a volley of catapults began destroying everything they ever loved in advance of a complete sacking of their city by foreign invaders.
They were forced to flee into the orc-controlled woodlands to the north.
The fires of doom warm my DM's heart.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Anyway, the adventure I've set up for them is a blatant rip-off of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, I think. It's the module where there's a crashed spaceship? I don't recall. I've only read about it and I'm not taking the time to track down a copy (read: pirate) and convert it to AD&D 2e. Rather I'm just skimming the idea of a full on sci-fi style craft crash landing into my world and letting my players run around in it.
Sad solo game update: Bognar was indeed saved from a vicious pack of goblins by Geary Stoutheart, a wily halfling warrior with a penchant for fine clothes and hurling rocks. Geary fought off the remaining goblins and then drug Bognar back to town where the duo got bandaged up just in time for another wave of goblins. Geary, wielding his father's thin Elvish short sword, held his own against the foul beasts while Bognar proved his worth against the foes. When the dust settled, Bognar and Geary stood victorious.
Enter the Orog.
The orog was apparently the Boss of the the goblins and was upset that two sawed-off little runts had dispatched them all. There was some furious combat, and in the end, our battered and bruised heroes stood victorious. Rifling through the orog's pockets, Geary discovered several platinum coins that were minted in Asaria, the human kingdom in the west. This orog must have been in someone's employ!
Bognar and Geary set out for the nearby town of Burgton where it was known that Asarian agents sometimes frequent the inn there. As they left town, the were arrested by the shouts of a young human man-child. The boy claimed that he was a the druid of the woods in which the goblins had camped and that as such, the goblins were his problem and that Bognar and Geary had wronged him by taking care of them. As recompense, he demanded that they allow him to get to the bottom of the goblins presence in his woods. I think his name shall be Titus.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
I am tentatively very excited about the fifth edition.
Or, more accurately, I want to be tentatively excited.
I belong to what I believe is the smallest faction of D&D players, those that jumped aboard in the late 90's with the last reprint of the 2E books. At the time, the older versions of the game were understood to be fundamentally broken and when the third edition arrived, it was seen as out of touch, dumbed down, and generally terrible in all respects.
Apparently, I and my group at the time were the only people on the planet who felt that way.
There are hordes of players who are tremendous fans of both OD&D and the D20 system. While no one in my current group (myself included) have ever played OD&D, we don't have a negative opinion of it, and many of the players in my current group see D20 as their preferred system.
I remain, a loyal devotee to the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition rules. I am a simulation gamer. I have the most fun when the rules of the game I am playing are an interpretation of a reality that is other than my own. The way I play AD&D, the rules line up with that philosophy of play very well. To me, this style of play is what makes table top RPG's worth my time.
If I wanted a style of play where my chief concern is making the best "build" and maximizing my character's strengths and minimizing my character's weaknesses, I'd go play WoW.
I think WotC expressed the opposite opinion when making 3E, and very certainly in 4E.
I hope that they won't do the same with 5E, though I expect they will. I've found almost no like-minded players who haven't already abandoned D&D for some other system that was made with simulation gamers in mind, and the adherents of 2nd Edition are too few, methinks, to have much of a voice in the upcoming playtests. I don't know what kind of game 5E will be, probably some bastardized version of OD&D and D20, those two groups of players being the most numerous and most vocal.
I expect that long after the 5E release, I'll still be pawing through used book stores and Amazon.com searching for long forgotten 2E books while the rest of the gaming world is enjoying D&D20.
Still, I must applaud WotC for their approach on the new edition. They have set the lofty goal of uniting all D&D players from all editions under one banner. I wish them luck.
Friday, January 6, 2012
I'd like to make the excuse that the holidays have kept me super-busy, or something, but the fact is I'm just lazy. It's a new year, so maybe I'll try to blog a little harder.
My regular Sunday night game seems a little bogged down. The party has no clear direction and neither do I. I've been grasping at straws for inspiration and coming up empty handed. I'm going to go home tonight and dig through old notes and see if I can't find some kind of inspiration.
In an attempt to stave off boredom and get my RPG fix, I've started playing solo. (Insert mandatory masturbation joke here) I rolled up a dwarf fighter named Bognar the Mighty. He's an ex-tailor who found himself better suited to military life. After guard duty got too boring, he struck out on his own. So far, he has wandered into the tiny town of Hamlet, which is having problems with a group of goblin raiders operating out of the nearby forest. When a group of five of said goblins came to town looking to loot and plunder, Bognar stepped out into the street and challenged them. After a pitched battle, Bognar emerged bloody and beaten, but victorious. The elderly town alchemist gave Bognar six healing potions and urged him to move on before more goblins arrived, but Bognar (who has no love for goblins or bandits and especially goblin bandits) resolved to hunt down the remaining goblins in the forest, lest they come seeking revenge. Bognar charged off into the forest and was promptly trounced by another pack of goblins.
I'm thinking of rolling up a hobbit thief to help him out.