Friday, December 7, 2012

Mass affects roleplaying (see what I did there)

I'm playtesting a friend's system.

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

Stats, stats, stats

If there's an individual who can challenge Gygax in the title for Most Influential, I would argue for Tolkien.

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

Shadow Delvers, part II

So I'm not really running an ADnD game at the moment.

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

Shadow Delvers

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


Fuck it, I'm drunk. Let's do this.

*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?

Fucking everything.

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

A bit unbalanced

Steve Winter's latest blog post got me thinking about game balance or the lack thereof.

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

The frontier

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

Games I run, games I run in, all games I play.

I didn't have a job.

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

Into the future, through the past!

Long time, no post.

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

Players meet world: Concerning the alchemists

If I can hate computer RPG's for one thing, it's the over abundance of potions. When you have players that come from that sort of background, they just seem to expect every town to have one dude whose sole vocation is to constantly crank out healing potions in the hopes that maybe, some day, a group of wounded or soon-to-be wounded adventurers will show up.

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

Into the Underworld

Over at Howling Tower, Steve Winter posted his Kobold Quarterly column regarding that venerable D&D locale, the underdark.

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

Theme? What theme?!

On many of the blogs I stare at for 15 minutes and claim to read it has been said that D&D has a theme of adventurers who gain wealth and power by plundering the countryside for valuables and danger.

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

Players Meet World: The next

Almost all of the questing that's been done in my setting has happened within the borders of the centrally-located kingdom of Myralon. That being as it is, here's a quick guide to Myralonian politics and culture.

Myralon – Situated roughly in the center of Skovorod, Myralon is a rough and tumble society that greatly values personal freedom, glory, and honor. The capital of Myralon is also named Myralon, though natives simply refer to it as “The Capital”.

Myralon's political structure starts with the the common man. The common man is responsible for himself and his household. He is expected to learn a trade and fight in the army if necessary. Above the common man are the big land owners, distinguished by owning enough land that at least two other families live and work the property. There is no official title for big land owners, though, if they are rich enough to erect a keep or castle, the title of lord is customary.

Lords are responsible for the protection of their property and the people who live and work on it. It is not uncommon for lords, especially wealthy ones, to form alliances. It is equally common for blood feuds to break out that can last generations. Lords are free to tax the land they own, and indeed they must, as each lord owes a yearly tithe and tribute to the church and king, respectively. Wars are tolerated between lords so long as no one complains too loudly to the king, the war doesn't get too big, and Myralon itself is not currently at war with another country.

Above the lesser lords are the high lords, vassals chosen by the king himself. These high lords typically take the title of duke or baron or even prince (if the high lord in question has a good claim to the royal family). These high lords are responsible for the lesser lords and command their loyalty.
The king himself is usually descended through a patriarchal line, though there is no special significance to being a first born son, or even a son. The most fit child to rule will succeed the current ruler as the new monarch upon the abdication or death of the old. In cases where no successor has been named, civil war is always a possibility. Adding to the chance of civil war is the fact that no Myralonian royal family has ever declared a Divine Right of Kings, meaning that anyone who has enough balls and enough support from the lords and high lords can become king or queen.

Personal honor is of extreme importance in Myralonian society and is expected to be defended at all costs. Insulting someone's honor is a deadly serious act and duels are not uncommon. In fact, a good fist fight is considered the first step in solving most disputes. There is, however, a stigma attached to a person being seen as too eager to fight. Being overly anxious to indulge in violence can be seen as a sign that one is too stupid to find any other solution.

Myralonian law seeks first to respect the rights of the individual with the understanding that the individual will then do the honorable thing and respect the rights of the state.

Aristocratic Myralonians tend to favor robes and other comfortable garments with heads of families or other important persons wearing ceremonial breastplates often made of precious metals and encrusted with gems. Circlets, similarly decorated, are also popular. Fine fur is considered to be restricted to the royal family. Lower classed people wear whatever they can. Openly wearing arms and armor is accepted and is often a way for non-aristocrats to display their wealth and prowess.

Myralon's peacetime army consists of volunteers sworn to the service of a lord. This volunteer army is typically small and spends most of its time on guard or patrol duty. In times of war, lords are known, however, to conscript any able-bodied man into service. Female warriors are not unknown, however, it is considered “impolite” to conscript a woman.
The king's own army consists of the best warriors in the land who have proved themselves in battle. Known as the Myrmidons, these warriors are unquestionably the finest foot soldiers in Skovorod. There is more information on Myrmidons in the Complete Fighter's Handbook.

The Irevarian Church is big in Myralon, especially the Order of Saint Cuthbert. The influence of the church is comparable to that of the Catholic Church during the dark ages and Renaissance. A town is not considered a town unless it has some kind of shrine or chapel dedicated to the worship of Irevar. Worship of Irevar is the official state religion. However, one does not have to go far to find people worshiping as they please. In the capital, openly worshiping another god is frowned upon, usually by church “officials” wielding heavy clubs. Demi-humans, however, are often spared this harsh treatment, and a quick claim of a dwarf forebear somewhere down the line will usually grant sanctuary.

Magic is all but unknown in Myralon. The king and some other influential lords will have a court magician, but most folk will go there whole lives without seeing magic or a magical item. The royal family posses one or two such relics and nearly every lord and vassal has at least a +1 sword lying around, but anything of greater enchantment is considered to be an artifact from before The Consolidation (more on that later). 

Myralon consists of mostly humans, though, there is a good smattering of halflings, and a load of dwarves. Many dwarves immigrated to Myralon, especially in the north and most notably in the capital where five dwarven clans transplanted themselves and quickly assumed control of Myralon's financial institutions. It is rumored that these clans also absorbed the thieves' guild.

Myralon is based on Greco-Roman and Britanical culture.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Players Meet World

In an effort to exploit a source of ready-made content, I'll be posting information about my (mostly) original campaign setting.

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.

The Gods

Irevar – Lawful Good god of law and good. Personified as the chivalrous knight. He is the god of protection, justice, mercy, forgiveness, retribution, etc. Goodness and Lawfulness. He is seen as the protector of mankind, his sign is a white kite shield bordered in blue with a diagonal stripe running left to right. The faithful make the sign of Irevar by touching their left shoulder and dragging their finger tips diagonally across the body to the right hip. The Irevarian Church dominates human political structures on Skovorod. There are two separate sects, The Order of Saint Cuthbert and The Aesthetics of Saint Alain. The Order focuses on martial pursuits, the Aesthetics focus on acquiring sacred knowledge.

Setis – Neutral Evil god of the unseen. Patron of thieves and treasure hunters, or anyone or anything that wants to remain hidden or uncover anything that is hidden. Also trolls. Before the First Age, Setis was at war with Irevar. Towards the beginning of First Age, Setis was knocked the fuck out and slumbered underneath the sea until sometime in the Third Age when a group of adventurers awoke him. When Setis was cast down, his cult was forced out of Viroof (now Myralon). The cult founded the City of Setis in the Trollwash which slowly fell into ruin and is only now being repopulated. Setis' worshipers typically mob about in black leathers or robes and white wooden masks, with each other, that is. Outwardly, there are no signs or signals or sigils that Setis and his followers use to identify themselves.

Kali – Chaotic Neutral. Kali is death. Period. She is rumored to have cults scattered throughout Skovorod, but none of them operate openly. Her worshipers revere her as death in an elemental sense, without rhyme or reason. All her cult members are assassins and healers dealing and staving off death as their mistress demands. Paladins devoted to Kali, known as Death Dealers, will sometimes operate openly and are given a wide berth. Her sign is a bleached white skull.

The Windweaver – Chaotic Good. God of travelers and, of course, the fucking wind. The Windweaver started as the faith of the hobbits but soon gained a following where ever those sawed-off little runts roamed (and they roam fucking everywhere). The sky is the dominion of the Windweaver and so all things in the sky are typically under his sway. From weather, to birds, to songs, Windweaver gots it. Good times, good cheer, good travels, and good love'n are typically associated with the Windweaver, many invoke his name for good luck. His sign is the feather.

The All-Father – Lawful Neutral. Dwarven god. Chiefly concerned with order and industry. His sign is the hammer. Typically depicted as a giant dwarf. Laziness is seen as a mortal sin in the All-Father's eyes. Hard work, thriftiness, patience and endurance are the qualities that the All-Father advocates. To worshipers, suffering is good for the soul, and many a devotee will go about blacksmithing without gloves and fry bacon with their shirt off. This attitude tends to color the magic of dwarven clerics. A healing spell may involve "beating the wound away".

The Valor – Group of elven demi-gods that are worshiped together. There is at least one demi-god for almost every aspect of elven life. There are literally hundreds of the fuckers. Most elves have a few favorites that most directly influence their lives, in this way, each elf has a "private pantheon" of sorts.

Carpas – Warrior god of Gnomes. Has been mostly replaced by weird-ass gnomish machine cult. Priests of Carpas are few and far between. Those gnomes who still worship Carpas are usually of the lowest caste and seen as somewhat backwards by their peers. Legends hold that Carpas was once a living gnome who proved himself in combat and devoted his life to protecting his people. After his death, he was raised to godhood in order to continue watching over the gnomes.

The Old Faith – nature worship, usually practiced by humans. A hold over from the very beginning of mankind. More common than you might think, but most followers don't shout about it. Worshipers vary in alignment and all alignments except evil ones are welcomed. Most worshipers view nature it self as genderless, emotionless, neither fair nor fickle, completely neutral and seemingly random. Worshipers seek to understand nature and curry its favor, though some claim that such a thing is not possible. Priests of the Old Faith are the druids presented in the PHB.

 Murglork - True Neutral. Orcish god. In a sense, Murglork is the god of orcish superiority. It has no defined gender, and is simply seen as Orc Incarnate. Murglork's primary goal is the advancement of the oricsh race. Little is known about the god outside of the orcish shamans who perform Murglork's rights, and many suspect that the shamans themselves are acting on instinct.

There are many other divine/infernal beings that populate Orin. Most notably are Daemons. The term Daemon covers a wide variety of Bad Things that wish nothing but ill will to everything. From actual demonic creatures to forgotten Old Gods, Daemons are Bad Shit and want rip your tongue out through your ass.
In truth, the difference between "gods" and "daemons" is largely a somatic one. "Gods" are immortal beings who have an interest in mortals. "Daemons" may use mortals, but their ultimate goals do not include them.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

That lovin' feelin'

Both fighters in my D&D game have reached level five and recently acquired some fairly powerful magical items. Specifically, an invisibility ring and a ring of elemental control. I may have been over that before...


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

Adventures in homebrew

I might be playing in  an old friend's "Stupid Supers" campaign using his homebrew system.

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

A man shouting alone in the woods is still shouting

By virtue of having a blog, I suppose I should blog.

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

What has been can never be again

I've been following Wizard's DnDNext page like a hawk, voting and commenting on every issues the staff puts forth.

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


I mentioned in the last post how I plan to make any and all future dungeons without grid paper, well, today over at Grognardia, the post gave a link to Dave's Mapper, a random dungeon generator that uses "geomorphs" to make random dungeons. I should note that these dungeons ain't got no grids on 'em! Just what I've been looking for. Because why sketch when I can sit back and hit a button. Gives me more time to not do the prep work I'm putting off.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Grid paper goes the way of the buffalo...

OK, to be clear, I will never throw out my grid paper. I love grid paper.

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

Thank you, Mister Whedon.

...and I mean Joss, not Will.

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

The continuing adventures of Bognar and Geary

Actual game update: At some point in the past, I may or may not have told you about the player characters in my current quest. If I haven't, don't worry. None of them are standing out at the moment. I worry that somehow I might be squashing their will to do things. Just picture a group of lack-luster adventurers who blindly wander about until I stab them with the adventure hook.

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

Hope for the future

As a D&D blogger, this is my obligatory "ZOMGZ 5E" post.

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 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

Not dead!

I'm still here, oh ephemeral audience.

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.