Saturday, October 12, 2013

About dem gnomes...

In my home campaign setting I've spent some time working on three sample backgrounds for each major race, divided along social and sub-race lines.

In this I have two major goals: First provide some ideas to players creating characters and second to further flesh out the individual cultures that populate my world.

Gnomes are general divided into three groups: Architects, peasants, and exiles.

Architects are part of the former ruling class of the highly organized and rigidly caste-based gnomish society. Before being conquered by the Iron Empire, these gnomes belonged to the gnome leaders who were directly involved with the cult of Mechanics.

Peasant gnomes where the hoi polloi of gnomish society and have barely noticed the change in management. Though many of the laws that had made them second class citizens have been repealed, most stick to the old restrictions, still not daring to violate what have become cultural norms for the uneducated laborer class.

Exiles are those gnomes that regardless of which caste they had previously belonged too, fled their homeland en masse rather than be ruled by a foreign power.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Two for the price of naught

Quickie gaming update: My sociopathic savage worlds character is now a blooded priest of the wolf god of dreams and nightmares and also had all his fear removed. Literally, he cannot feel fear. As fear was the prime motivator of his antisocial and psychotic behaviors, he's effectively been cured.

But who is the man without fear?

We'll find out when that adventure continues, I suppose.

In the meantime, I'm scratching my sci-fi itch by coercing the group to switch to a Travellers game, of which, I am DM.

I find that space games suffer from the same problem as sea-based fantasy games. Ostensibly, the only difference would be that the characters mode of locomotion has changed from foot and hoof to oar and sail, but the reality tends to be "OK, we have a ship.... now what? We just sail around until something attacks us?"

I've never had it work out, for whatever reasons. However, I am not one to walk away from such problems.

So I lurk here, in my basement, chain smoking unfiltered Camels and listing to Neil Young; stewing over the elements of the scenario.

Also, I read an article about the Michigan Dogman. So, using Ed's sans-system monster thingy, here is the Dogman.

Name: Dogman

Purpose: Could function fine as a random monster, or the focus of a one or two shot adventure, or as an element of a location, something of an environmental hazard. I see them as being something horrific, without origin or a natural place in the world. A corruption of both man and beast.


Man/dog face, human body, covered in fur, dog legs, four of 'em. Though capable of walking upright, the "arms" are just another set of legs. Sharp claws. Stanky. Makes sounds like a large dog, or a man with a cleft pallet.

Descriptors: The Dogman is as intelligent as the smartest wolf and just as fast. Whatever stats your game gives for something like a dire wolf should work just fine, or a faster bear, perhaps. They should be pack manimals. Territorial, if shy. Smart, fast, deadly. Tougher than your average man, though completely unarmored. Strongish. Keen sense of smell and hearing. Nocturnal.

Ecology: Dogmen could be a cursed race of men, horrors summoned from the Twisting Nether, or a natural part of the ecosystem. Suppose some or all of them are domesticated and serve in roles traditionally filled by mundane dogs. My immediate thought was of something like a pack of stray dogs. Dirty, wild, and dangerous. Surviving off society's refuse and feasting on the unwary or unlucky. Regardless, Dogmen should be truly uncanny. Close enough to being a man or a dog that the similarity only serves to highlight their strangeness. Unsettling. Perhaps their appearance in a location could be a symptom of some greater corruption? Perhaps any who encounter Dogmen and leave some alive are doomed to be forever hunted by that particular pack? Though, if Dogmen are cursed, the effects shouldn't be spread by mere encounters with or wounds from a Dogman. If you want some polymorphing disease monster, we have werewolves for that.

In the Fiction:

"We tracked the pack of devils from the O'Leary farm to Sutter's Mill. They seemed to disappear by day. It seemed that we could only catch a glimpse of them once the moon was up and they could see and we couldn't. You could smell the pack before you could see them, anyway. Though, if you can smell the beasts, you can bet they can smell you. The bastards are smart too. You'd spot one standing out in the open, and he'd lock eyes with you, eyes that were too much like a man's, and you would know that he was staring right at you. Not just in your direction, but right into your own eyes. That's when the rest of the pack would come down on you. All teeth and stinking fur, tearing and barking and screaming at you. That night, we lost three good men and killed one, maybe two, of the beasts. The rest fled, and we called that a victory. How do you hunt something that is hunting you? I say we lost three good men, and we did. Their widows had no bodies to bury. The Dogmen took them as they fled. Between the O'Leary's and those we lost, those monsters were likely fed for a month. Did they come out of the hills seeking to eat a few families? Or did they want us to come at them, all angry and stinking of fear? I don't sleep but with my doors and windows locked. And if you think it's Dogmen you've got, then take my advice and let them have your sheep and your horses and cows and pray that they'll settle for them and not you."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Must... keep... blogging....

Willpower! Hal Jordan, man, let's do this~!

I'm playing in a Savage Worlds game, it will soon be converted to The Pool, then back to Savage Worlds, I think.

I dunno. My character is a complete sociopath. Everything good that happens is because of him, everything bad that happens is the fault of his weird pre-human sasquatch goblin companion.

What the GM had envisioned as an epic quest to rid the world of the taint (HA!) of the Elder Gods has become "A Complete Asshole and a Goblin Awaken All the Old Evil".

So far, I have two pacts with a snake god (who's unholy text I possess) and a blind wolf god of sleep who's avatar I may or may not have helped slay and then further desecrate with poop. Some death goddess tried to attack us, but she was cast down.

Basically, my character is an ex-pharmacist turned unwilling polygot priest who takes credit for everything, deflects all blame, and is never grateful for anything. It's only a matter of time before he becomes some kind of cult leader/serial killer.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Internets, debateabke

My inter web access is spotty at best, so I'm updating from my phone. It is less than adequate.

I'm running two lotfp games, one of which is online over g+ and I must say that it is working way better than I thought possible. Provided, of course that I have internet.

Any way,

I was thinking about how fragile first level characters are in lotfp and whether that is a function of the system or my DMing style. I've yet to run a session with rookie PC's where somebody didn't die.

My stock baddies for low level have 4 HP and no armor, generally hitting for d4 or worse damage and the party is almost never out numbered.

Statistically, the average PC starts the game superior in every way.

The only major difference between with lotfp is that my combat rolls are made in the open, meaning I cannot fudge the dice in favor of the players, something that I admit to doing, especially at low level. Because when your party gets wiped out by two goblins in an alley, it is usually not very fun.

I feel the need to note that I have never once done the opposite and fudged in favor of the baddies. As a DM, I'm winning when we're all having fun, not when my numbers are better than your numbers.

I do feel, however, a twinge of guilt at fudging at all, as I feel that to provide an advantage to the players is just as dirty a trick as trying to murder them.

Any advantage the players gain should be their own doing. (not by fudging, mind you, but by setting up an ambush or learning a monsters weakness for cheese)

So, is the x-factor me? Are players dying in droves because I'm not shielding them?

Death is so prevalent that I've instituted the Shields Will Be Shattered rule and the It Gets Worse rules.

My instincts tell me to drop all that nonsense and roll and let die.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Holy Shit I Should Write Something and Gnomes for LotFP

It's been forever since stuff.

I'm gaming again, playing some Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Nerd Game for Kids.

Also, might soon be running an online game with some far flung friends and streaming the whole fucking mess on


My original world has gnomes, the stock LotFP rules do not include the little bastards. So I made my own version.

GNOMES - Distant cousins to dwarves. Mechanically inclined, magical leanings.

Gnomes save as dwarves and roll a d6 for HP. They enjoy the same skill advancement as Specialists and start life with a 2/6 in the Tinker skill. Gnomes can also cast Magic User spells with one gigantic caveat: Spells may only be cast by using a scroll, rod, staff, wand, or other magic device or artifact including but not limited to the things I just mentioned. Other than that, their magical abilities are as described in the magic section.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sometimes the bear eats you.

My septic tank exploded, I've got a roommate moving out and a girlfriend moving in.

So I've been doing that instead of gaming.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Essurans of Jaguan

A race of humans in my original campaign world.

The quick and dirty:
- Essurans/Essurons come from the semi-theocratic nation of Jaguan, their native tongue is Essurat.
- Skin tones and hair colors range from black to light brown, eye colors range from black to gold, though, magic users always have blue eyes.
- Essurans are famed for their prowess at sea as sailors and explorers.
- Essurans are noted for their odd economy which uses favors owed as monetized debt.
- Beautiful men and women typically veil themselves.

Tedious meta-description by an in-game sage:

From the notes of the Thrailish sage Xerex IV

Aside  from the obvious difference of their skin, the Essurons are notably different in their economic practices.

Rather than coin, value is placed directly on work, or service owed. The Myralonian Scholar Arontius famously called this system "The Whoring Commerce" in his review of the culture in 845, and while modern students must forgive his language they will no doubt find that 500 years have hardly rendered Arontius' conclusions false.

 Essuronion custom dictates that payment for any good or service is made by a good or service traded in kind. A night in an inn can be paid for by sweeping its floors or providing food or drink for the establishment or anything else the innkeeper desires.

Deceptively crude at first, this system of barter becomes infinitely more complex with the addition of slavery. Many slaves are themselves sold into bondage voluntarily in exchange for some great favor. The possible labor of slaves is owned by their master who can then freely barter with his accumulated "wealth".

Less formal means of servitude also exist where a man might pay for a meal with a writ of promise pledging a certain service or amount of goods. This writ may in turn be sold to another individual, thus transferring the original debt.

It is this web of debt that ultimately supports and sustains the larger Essuron economy.

As if to further complicate matters, all debts are periodically erased. Typically, the forgiveness of debt occurs every seven years, but is by no means guaranteed. Periods between forgivenesses of debt have been as short as three years and as long as 15. The event is always arranged by the high priestesses of the Essuron tiger God, who themselves are part of the royal family. When the time is right, the highest ranking priestess, who is said to be the most beautiful woman of all, will call a gathering of noble families and appear before them nude for one quarter of an hour.

According to folklore, this is a reenactment of the first business transaction whereby the folk hero Astor begged a woman for a vision of her beauty and was required to marry her in payment.

Upon viewing the naked high priestess, all debts owed by the nobles to the church and the throne are forgiven and likewise the nobles are required to forgive all debts owed to them and so on and so forth until all debt is forgiven and likewise, all slaves and servants released.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Did I pre-order an AD&D 2E PHB reprint today?

Did you eat my bike?


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Shit shit shit (I just felt like swearing)

BLOG, right?!

I haven't been drinking near my computer, and therefore have not blogged in a bit.

But I have played a game!

More specifically, ran one.

It could technically be called a "playtest", but I think that word is stupid.


The game is a multi-dimensional funhouse. The player characters are a hyper-sexed drug dealer from the future and an oddly prudish and demure flapper from 1920's land. She is in black and white and she sees everything in black and white, she's good with a gun, he is not. He also doesn't gender-identify, or does, but just checks the box marked "Yes to all".

At any rate, the duo blasted through the first "realm" I set them in. There was a bit with five people escaping in a two person sky-car that I think I should've made a bit harsher, but I tend to go with my gut, and my gut said that forcing the players to leave behind three NPCs would do nothing really but reinforce the idea that all NPCs should wear a red shirt.

If there had been a stronger motivation for one or both of the PC's to have been left behind.... tantalizing.

I've ran very little of the system we're playing and I'm learning much.

Firstly, it requires a light touch.

In a D&D game, to teach a player that knives are dangerous, you stab them.

In this game, you show them the knife.

There is a snap response and sharp corollary between violence and death. Ramping up the tension is something that must be feathered like a touchy throttle. I can't just throw waves of goblins at them and watch them cringe as their hit points get low.

I have to show them a really big fuck'n knife, introduce them to the man who uses it, and then let him wax poetic about how he's going to wear their tummies like a mask.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Review: Pete's Garage

Alexis of Tao of D&D fame published a book, Pete's Garage.

I had intended to finish it three or four weeks ago, but then life happened.


I finished it not five minutes ago. Here's what I think.

This book has two things going against it, right off the bat.

1. Written in first person.
2. More character driven than plot driven.

These things don't matter to some people, I tend to not like books like this.

That said, I would find myself burning through the pages. If nothing else, the book is well written, though the proofreader in me found four? mistakes and as a baptized disciple of the AP Style, I cringed at the use of ellipses.

Mere quibbles, all these.

On a scale of buy, borrow, or burn, this book is a borrower for me, and the reason boils down to personal taste.

What we have is collection of stories surrounding the owner of an old hotel-turned-practice-space-for-musicians. The stories are told as memoirs and occur sequentially. A thin narrative runs through the whole book, that of the narrator reconciling and coming to terms with his past. There are also some supernatural elements tossed in. Sometimes it feels the slightest bit schizophrenic, but it is interesting and the stories never seem to drag.

While reading Pete's Garage, I also finished Salem's Lot and a Dean Koontz book that I can't be bothered to remember. Comparisons are inevitable.

Pete's Garage ranks below the Lot, and worlds ahead of the Koontz book.

Let Alexis write three or four more books, and at the very least, he'll be well on his way to creating something truly awesome.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Blaarg blaarg blaarg

We are creatures.

So, the previous post still rings true, but also for the last week, I've been working on a Thing that pays Money, but required me to labor for 13ish hours a day, which left little time for blagging.

Also, I've become addicted to Sisters of Mercy. Pity me.

In RPG related bullshit:

The Burning Meadows campaign in which I was a player has wrapped up. This is probably the second or third time that I've actually seen a game all the way to its end. My character survived, as did his companion, the city was saved, and he became a landed knight-errant. Not an oxymoron. Shut up.

In my head, he marries the daughter of a hill tribe chieftain and they have children and adventures.

The scroll-wheel on my mouse just broke. Fuck.

Also, "blagging" is not a typo. Fuck you.

I've been drinking.

I will soon be running a game! *GASP*

This means I must begin Thinking, a dangerous prospect in any age. The players will be in that weird dimension-hopping setting I once described, so I must bend my mind's eye to the Land of Grot where they will begin their exercise in frustration and torment. Because RPG's are just like sex.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Nit that anyone reads this...

...but I got laid off at some point in the recent past.

While in theory, this would provide more time than ever to wax poetic about playing pretend, the reality is that the lack of a fixed schedule has made the days and nights run together, time and space become a mystery.

I've been too busy doing nothing to do anything and have literally lost track of time.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Invisibile System

This is a post about THAC0.

This system for determining whether or not a player character hits in 2E hinges on two factors: THAC0 and Armor Class.

THAC0 is an acronym for To Hit Armor Class Zero. A character's THAC0 value is the number he must roll on a d20 in order to hit a thing that has an Armor Class of zero. The value of the target's Armor Class is applied to the attack roll of his aggressor.

     Attack roll +/- target's armor class +/- any other modifiers = Modified Attack Roll
     If Modified Attack roll is equal to or greater than THAC0, the hit succeeds.

Complex in its simplicity, no?

You may be thinking, "Fuck that! Why would I want to do that in my head every time I roll the dice?"

Good news, gentle player, you don't. Such things are for the DM to compute. As a player, you tell the DM what you've rolled (plus any modifiers) and your THAC0. The DM adds in the target's armor class and any other modifiers he may have and lets you know if you hit.

The magic of this is that the player is only acutely aware of improvement through examining results. As opposed to an "active" value, like a bonus or penalty, THAC0 is passive. Every time a player attacks, he is not adding his THAC0 or evenly actively considering it unless the DM asks him for it. If the DM has prepared a reference sheet in advance, he might never ask for it.
It should become apparent, however, to the player that their character is hitting more often as their THAC0 goes down. But because they are not reminded with every swing of their mace that they have incrementally improved, they perceive less of the hard mechanics of the game.

But wait! Isn't the to-hit system in 3E the exact fucking same? You tell the DM what you rolled and he tells you if you hit or not?

Yes and No.

In a general, yes. That's how most games work. The players do a thing and then the DM does his things and tells the players about it. Repeat.

In 3E, that Base Attack Bonus is going up. If not this level, then next level. The player must be constantly aware of the arbitrary rule that represents his improvements in combat. Some feats (I'll do a whole other post on why I hate feats) even use those bonus as bargaining chips and let you redistribute them. (I'm looking at you, power attack.)
The bonus is at the forefront. With THAC0 it is in the background. Almost invisible.

Try it out sometime.

To convert, take the sum of a character's arbitrary to-hit bonuses. Do not factor in strength bonuses, bonuses because of fighting style or particular skill with a particular weapon, only the bonus you receive to your hit roll because you are an X-level Adventurer.

Got the sum total? Great. Subtract it from 20 - There's your THAC0.

For armor class, determine how much better your armor is than no armor. Is it two points better? Is it eleven points better? Whatever. Figure out how much better your armor is than no armor according to your system. Then subtract that from 10. That is your new armor class. Have your DM do likewise for all his shit.

Or just pickup (read "download") a copy of the 2E rules. You know, whatever.

Friday, March 22, 2013

On 2E

So, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Second Edition is my game of choice. I can't nail down for sure when I started playing, but my best estimates put it around 1996 or 1997, making me around 12 years old at the time.

My only previous experience had been with MUDs, the great granddaddy to the MMO. I was a fan of Greek myths, Lloyd Alexander, and of course Tolkien.
Living in the Bible Belt, all I knew about Dungeons and Dragons was that it was The Devil. I had no idea what an RPG was, had never seen a die other than a d6, and didn't understand the term "roleplaying".

What I had was an interest in fiction and computer games and some older friends who were curious about said Devil Game.

I was skeptical about playing, but one of the older guys who had already started playing told me that it was basically a computer game, but instead of the computer being the arbiter of the action, another player was. I was told tales of fighting goblins in dank ruins and other adventures and immediately decided that I wanted in.

I rolled up a thief, and played him for a good number of years, along with a host of other rogues, warriors, wizards, and maybe even a cleric or two.

I had been playing for years before the idea of searching for Dungeons and Dragons on the internet ever occurred to me. As I recall, things were pretty sparse. We did find some articles written under the moniker "Uncle Figgy". Those articles were gospel to us. They really taught me how to be both a player and a dungeon master. To this day, I make them required reading for new players.

For the most part, however, I played in a vacuum, disconnected from both the future and the past of Dungeons and Dragons.

I could infer that there were previous editions of the game, but the general understanding among our group was that they were somehow broke and almost unplayable. Relics from a bygone and less enlightened age.

I had no idea about what was happening at TSR, I wouldn't learn about Gygax until years after I had begun playing.

I didn't know that this was the "de-Satanized" version of the game. I didn't know that this was the first version of the game without Gygax.

All I knew was that this was Dungeons and Dragons.

And I loved it.

Why specifically? I'll cover that later. I've rambled on long enough for now.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Madness of Elvor

Played D&D with my friend Brian, my roommate Jake, and Jake's nephew who is most likely 11 years old, or so. (I don't know how to judge the age of children.)

Brain was DM, Jake was a fighter named Wendel, I was a cleric named Clinton, and Jake's nephew was Elvor, elven sorcerer.

I had to leave right after character creation, and came back mid-game. I only experienced the conclusion of Elvor's madness, but I was told about the rest.

What follows are the events to my best knowledge.

Elvor was raised by bears? in the forest and for 100+ years unsuccessfully dealing with emotional trauma and his emerging magical powers.

At the time of the adventure's beginning, Elvor, wounded from a battle with spiders, wanders into the city-state of Cameron where he is treated for his wounds at the hospital there.

At the same time, Wendel is graduating from the city guard academy and Clinton is taking his vows as a cleric of St. Cuthbert.

King Cameron summons Wendel and Clinton as well as a recent graduate of the magic school for a mission both to celebrate our new careers and show loyalty to him. Through a case of mistaken identity, or something, Elvor is brought before the king and accepts the mission.

The mission is fairly simple: Meet a caravan at a point outside the city and escort it into town. In order to meet the caravan on time, the king suggests taking an ancient tunnel that leads out of town to the main road.

We all accept, Wendel and Clinton on ceremony, and Elvor because... well, who knows why Elvor does anything.

Clinton has other business to take care of, and sets out on his own, pledging to meet up with the his companions at the rendezvous.

Wendel and Elvor start down the old road, and shit got real.

In a battle with spiders and other nasty beasts infesting the tunnel, Elvor would immediately run away and cry, other times becoming furious with anger at seemingly nothing, all the while collecting every bone and scrap of trash he came across. At one point he kicked Wendel. For why? Who can say. But it was hard enough to do actual damage.

With rests included, what should have been a days journey through the tunnel took roughly 13 hours.
Clinton met Wendel and Elvor at the exit to the tunnel, though both were half dead and bleeding.

Clinton asked them what happened, and Wendel gave him a look that at once said, "Don't ask," and "You don't want to know."

At this point, Wendel had to know he was traveling with someone who was obviously unstable. Clinton only got his first inkling when Elvor enthusiastically offered him a bone, a bit of scale mail, and a javelin. All of which he politely declined.

The party ventured forth to find the caravan under attack by orcs, with only one defender still drawing breath. We charged in, and Clinton began his dazzling display of ineptitude with any and all weapons.

Wendel spent the battle slaughtering things, as a good fighter does, all the while enduring the screams of Elvor who kept claiming that certain orcs were "his prey" and that if anyone else attacked or killed them it was unfair. To his credit, Elvor did punch one orc's head in, he also cast some magic.

The battle with the orcs eventually caught the attention of a manticore, which was quickly and valiantly defeated.

In the aftermath, Elvor removed a wing from the dead beast and spent some time waving it around trying to fly while the rest of the party got the wagons ready to go and learned that the entire caravan team had been slaughtered during the 13 hour delay.

The goods seemed to be intact.

It was then that Elvor declared the quest to be over, and set about stabbing the one surviving defender of the caravan team, and he very nearly did kill her before Wendel and Clinton could cut him down and kicked his teeth in.

His dying words? "At least I stopped you from completing your mission..."

Clinton took the on-deaths-door caravan defending and one of the horses and road to town with all haste while Wendel strung the wagons up and made his way to town.

The mission was something of a success. The survivor of the caravan survived. Turns out she was the king's niece. All the goods from the caravan were saved, but everyone else died.

Elvor was certainly crazy. All he sought was chaos, and that's what he got. His emotions, tactics, and alliances all turned on a dime. The only constant was his enthusiasm.

All of us were bewildered and a bit unsettled by the experience. Few times have any of us, as players, ever witnessed a turn like that in a game. Our characters, should they ever adventure again, will most definitely have trust issues and the memories of those wagons full of butchered bodies will no doubt haunt them forever.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Funereal Disease

So! I didn't play type 4.

I sat down with the other player in the group who had actually played D&D before and we tried to read the PHB and DMG, respectively, and the books began to look like Chinese Algebra.
Based on a reading of the rules, Type 4 is a board game wherein some roleplaying might happen.

The other guy made an executive decision and DM'd a game of Type 3, which I also have issues with.

Anyway, counting me, there were three of us who I think are really interested in playing D&D, one was kind of along for the ride, one was completely clueless, and one was trying to play the game exactly like an MMO and consequently becoming frustrated.

If the group survives, I'll eventually hit 'em with second edition, maybe some LotFP:WFRPWTFBBQHAX.

In the meantime: Funerary things! Or:Why on Oerth would people who live in a world where the undead are a very real thing ever bury their dead if they had another choice?

Look, all I'm saying is, if you live in a world where zombies, mummies, and animated skeletons etc. are a real threat and there's no Christian belief in a mass resurrection at the End of Days, would you not burn grandma so that a wandering necromancer doesn't use her to kill you?
Furthermore, wouldn't big churches sport crematoriums instead of graveyards?
Just a pre-morning-shower thought. Wouldn't have made the post-title but I have a weakness for puns.

Also, I did that thing in the post below and had fun doing it. I think I'm going to try and crank out a dungeon a week, I'll probably fail. And if I don't, it's not like anyone reads this.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

This is a journey into the Hell of Hells

So I might find myself running a D&D Type 4 game this weekend.

In the year 2000, I had been playing Type 2 for a few years, at least two, and then, several times a week, easily more than 300 sessions, so figure more than 1,000 hours.

Maybe 2,000 or more.

When Type 3 dropped, my gaming group ran to the local game shop (long since defunct) and checked out the new books. We thought the art was great, we thought the layout was cool. We thought the rules were shit.

Apparently, we were the only humans on the planet who thought that, but none the less, we were horrified by the new rules.

To us, they were dumbing down the game, making it more munchkin friendly, and generally betraying the game we held dear.

We took it as a slap in the face and looked down on the game, the people that made it, and especially the people who played it.

Fast forward.

Type 4 announced.

"Maybe this won't be shit," says I.

Then I watched a developer diary video where some suit from Wizards tells me the game is designed to allow for and encouraged min/maxing. And he used the term min/maxing.

And rage ate my heart.

Min/maxing, or the process of making sure that your character is optimized in every way, that he has the best "build" that all negatives have been minimized and all bonuses maximized, this was mortal sin. Cardinal sin.

From day fucking one the D&D I played was not about who could roll the biggest numbers. It was about the adventure, what was happening, how we reacted, how interpersonal relationships developed, how we failed, and how we triumphed despite our failures.

And I did then as I do now feel that this type of game is superior to others.

The rules exist as a framework for playing the game, playing the game is not playing the rules.

Shit, I can distinctly remember at least one session where we didn't even have dice.

Type 4 looked like it was built on the antithesis of my gaming philosophy.

A lot of folks seemed to hate it as well and I felt justified. I took sick satisfaction in every negative review I read.

Then I started reading blogs. Gaming blogs, OSR blogs, game design blogs.

And I gave up on D&D. Which is to say, I quit giving a shit about the "official" version of my game. In my opinion, it has sucked for more than a decade, and therefore long past the point where I should even think about it. Fuck it. I have my game and I'm happy with it.

I have even reached the point now where I'm trying to rid myself of the "My D&D is better than your D&D" mindset.

'cause what's the fucking point?

So long as you aren't playing FATAL, your game probably has some merit and so long as you're not coming to my house and slapping the dice out of my hand, who am I to kick you in the throat and cram my horseshit nerd game down your gullet.

To that end, I may end up playing in/maybe DMing a Type 4 game this Friday.

Just thinking those words turns my guts. But this is about growing and development, right?

Also, I hope to lead the noobs who are playing the game in the paths of righteousness, convert them to a more elegant form of D&D, from a more civilized age.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I'm thinking of running a G+ game, also setting junk and stuff

I've read about flailsnails and I'm hooked up to the G+ and I'm seriously considering running a pickup game.

But then I think, "Maybe I should play a few pickup games first,"

and then I think, "Fuck that."

I think I know my world well enough to run a one-shot at the drop of a hat. So maybe I will.

On Thrailia

                                                      The Dark Ages by Jonas DeRo

Thrailia is an ancient kingdom based primarily on the Zan'drick peninsula on the eastern shores of Skovorod. It has been ruled by the Thrailkill Dynasty since its founding, some 2,000 years ago.
Currently, it is ruled by the young princess Ellysia Thrailkill, who, by the rules of succession, will relinquish the throne to her younger brother, Alexander IX, when he comes of age.
Thrailia is a classical feudal society, with all land within it its boarders belonging to the monarchy and ruled by appointed vassals.

For generations, Thrailia was in a near constant, though not always active, state of war with its western neighbor, Myralon, though the last two Thraillkill Kings made great inroads in the way of diplomacy and the two nations are now on friendly terms. Currently, Thrailish emissaries have been attempting to establish diplomatic relations with the dwarves of the Iron Empire.

All members of Thrailish society belong to one of three orders: commoners, nobles, and clergy. Commoners support the nobles who in turn protect the commoners. The clergy are responsible for the spiritual well-being of the nation.

The principal religion is the Thrailish Irevarian Church, headed by the archdiocese at Searider. Traditionally, the royal family practices a different faith, worshiping the ancient storm god Tor. Elves are allowed to worship their traditional gods, the Seldarine, but worship of the two other human deities of the Triumvirate, Setis and Kali, is forbidden.

Nearly 500 years ago, Thrailish forces captured the a huge chunk of elven territory including the elven capitol. Since then, many elves have seamlessly integrated into Thrailish society, serving as consorts, courtiers, and courtesans to Thrailish nobility. It is seen as fashionable to have an elven paramour among the nobility, and consequently, half-elves are not uncommon.

All Thrailish common men train with bows from the age of around eight, likewise, all Thrailish noblemen train with sword and lance on horseback from a similar age. The Thrailish are renowned for their cavalry, archers, and navy.

The relatively long period of peace in the last 200 years has seen many nobles pursuing the fine arts as well as the martial and occasionally, war will break out between them. These skirmishes are unlikely to attract royal attention, unless of course the threaten the stability of the realm. These conflicts often involved months of troop maneuvers and posturing, perhaps a siege, and sometimes bloodshed. More than once, the whole ordeal has been solved by a literal chess match in the middle of the battlefield while each army cheers on their respective commander.

As a people, the Thrailish tend to be tall, thin, and fair skinned. Hair and eye colors fall within what we would recognize as the normal range. Certain individuals, however, hare born with eyes that range from red to violet and are said to have descended from the original inhabitants of the Zan'drick peninsula, a people who's name and culture has been lost to history.

Friday, March 8, 2013


I haven't had the chance to be a player or a DM/GM/Ref/Storymaster/Arbiter/bastard/etc in quite a while and I find myself hungry to roll dice.

Hungry to the point where I've been rolling characters just roll dice.

There's a fun exercise in rolling up stats. Should you be rolling up stats with no particular type of character in mind, you can roll your stats in order and use them to decipher what type of person those stats describe.

A couple of examples, rolled 3d6 in order:

Character 1:
STR - 4
DEX - 7
CON - 12
INT - 6
WIS - 12
CHA - 14

The pathetic strength score and dismal intelligence could suggest a life of relative luxury, with no need for the character to flex his muscles or brain. The above average constitution further supports this hypothesis, implying an upbringing of proper nutrition and sanitary conditions. The above average wisdom and high charisma means that despite his low intelligence he's a fairly deep thinker, and quite popular, probably because he's not smart enough to be an asshole. Pretty, too.
What we have here is a cleric or priest. Probably the third son of a noble or wealthy merchant shipped off to join a monastery because, frankly, he wasn't good at anything else. He's not strong or smart enough to win glory in battle or business, but he's insightful enough to comment on philosophy when he's not being confounded by his boot laces. He's a surprising fellow, with only the occasional nugget of wisdom keeping him from being more than just a pretty face.
Essentially, we have Steve Carrell's character from Anchorman with all the wisdom of Silent Bob and the looks of Adrian Brody.

Character 2:
STR - 11
DEX - 7
CON - 8
INT - 17
WIS - 5
CHA - 15

A certifiable genius. All that time studying, however, has come at a price, below average dexterity and mediocre constitution tell us that this fellow didn't spend much time running through green fields and climbing trees. More likely most of his time is spent indoors pouring over his beloved tomes. He is also somewhat disconnected from the "real world" perhaps preferring to lose himself in mathematics or literature. Still, he's fairly strong, those piles of books can weigh a ton, and he's had to lug them up and down many flights of stairs. Of course, he probably hasn't realized this. He's the sort who knows the importance of lacing your boots and can describe multiple ways to do so in evermore efficient ways, depending on the situation, but lacks the foresight to tie his own before going on a walk, if he ever went on a walk. In this interpretation, his high charisma points to an "other-worldliness" about him that people find fascinating. He's so far removed from the world around him that he seems special in some strange way. He literally thinks on another level.
Here we have the beautiful genius, most likely a mage, though a fighter would be an even more interesting choice.

Of course, the above examples are just one way to interpret the numbers. In the OSR, the idea seems to be "play the character you want, numbers be damned", and I think it's the same attitude that leads people to eschew alignment. The numbers, alignment, and other things should not be seen as straightjackets, binding the player to certain mechanics, but as frameworks to be built upon.

Try to figure out what the numbers mean, find out who the character is, get inside their head and branch out a bit. The fuck the torpedoes approach ensures that you will always play the character you want to play, but I find that it also leads you to playing the same characters over and over again. Playing the numbers almost guarantees a huge amount of dissimilarity and, therefore, uniqueness in your characters.

Begin Rant:
I've had a player who, in literally every game has played incarnations of the same character: Sarion Hawk, bastard sword wielding human warrior obsessed with gaining platemail. Fuck that guy. I want to play with him one more time. I'll start his character with platemail. Left without his tradition and singular driving force, I'd like to see if he becomes paralyzed or if he will finally mature as a player.
End Rant.

Begin Tangent:
This whole post feels too damn sanctimonious. Do what you feel, whatever, I think this is a neat way to do things, but fuck me, right?
End Tangent.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Plans within plans within plans within plans

The Principal Instructor sat in his private chambers, pawing a map of the continent, greed boiling in his heart.

He was surrounded by opulence. The finest tapestries hung on the ornately paneled walls. He sat on a cushion embroidered with the finest thread. The greatest luxuries shipped from around the world were piled about him. All had been bought with coin squeezed from the wealthy families that sent their sons and daughters to the College. Vast sums (and promising students) had been loaned to the dwarves of the Iron Empire for their forced annexation of their gnome cousins, and those investments were beginning to yield a return. Should he live another 150 years, the Principal Instructor would never want for wealth.

And so, the old magician's eye had slowly turned from his accounts to the map that now lay before him. His eyes had wandered first to the west, to the city states of Myralon. But who would want to rule over such a place? The Myralonians were too independent. Too headstrong. Too used to making their own decisions. The Thralish, however, had lived and died under the rule of the Thrailkill dynasty from time immemorial. The common people would little notice a change in sovereignty and the nobility would bend the knee to whoever sat the throne if it meant keeping their fur collars and paltry chains of office.

The Instructors bony finger guided a long and manicured nail across the velum map tracing an invisible route north from the College to Thralish capitol.

He would not challenge them openly, his pride prevented the thought that he could not. He would be subtle. Beyond subtle. His hand would guide events to create the situations he necessary for success. And of course he would be successful. How could he not? This was his way, he was a gentle conqueror. As he had ascended to the head of his school, as he had ascended to the head of the College, as he would ascend to the throne of Thralia, those he would rule would come to beg him for authority.

He opened a drawer and produced a piece of fine parchment, and reached for a freshly cut quill.

It would begin as it always began: with a whisper. The right whisper, delivered to the right ear, at the right place, and at the right time.

When he had sealed the letter, he sat back and looked upon his work and recalled his first lessons.

"We do not kill. We plant the seed that grows the tree that falls on the house that kills the foe."

He would plant the seed and after a summer, reap a crown.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Flurry of creativity!

For me, creativity comes in spurts.

I think I've ranted, at length, about Vornheim, the complete city kit, yes? If no, google it. Some brits gave it an award for being the best thing ever since 1993.


Easily my most favorite hunk of the thing is the NPC generator tables combined with the E-Z Bake Web O' Intrigue Generator, AKA NPC connections map.

It is a tool for quickly generating  relationships between four NPCs with six rolls of the trusty d6.

Plug in your NPCs, roll your d6, interpret results. And you have a situation, usually a fairly interesting one.

Now, I've been thinking about my campaign world (not the one with deserts and demons and robots) and some retooling I've been doing and I thought, "Let us apply this NPC relationship generator to the four most powerful political entities in my world. Thus, we shall gain an over-view of the current political landscape and insight into the world."

The results?

The Myralonian City States have become a major trade hub for the whole of the continent. Money and goods flow through them, making them powerful, but the lack of a singular government keeps them from focusing that power towards any singular goal for very long.

Myralonian aid to refugee dwarfs returning to their homeland made it possible for a charismatic military leader to unite all the dwarven peoples under one banner and go a-conquering. Enter the Iron Empire. The Iron Empire's first major conquest was that of the gnomish lands to the east. To overcome the gnome's magic, the Empire borrowed heavily from the College of Mages, to which they are now deeply in debt.

The College has become a political beast in the past few centuries, where once any student who showed magical potential was accepted, now huge entrance fees are levied as well as tuition. The various headmasters, have begun importing many luxuries out of the Myralonian City States and it is rumored that the Principal Instructor has set his lustful eyes on the ancient kingdom of Thralia.

The Kingdom of Thralia, ruled by the ancient Thrailkill dynasty, is at peace and on friendly terms with the city states of Myralon and working to establish diplomatic relations with the Iron Empire.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

DotDS: Paladin

Image stolen from the cover of Steven King's The Gunslinger, first book in the Dark Tower series, which is required reading. The setting Desert of the Demon Sun is stolen, mostly intact, from Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque, which is excellent and worthy of theft.

So, DotDS is a desert land where G-d was killed by Ha-Satan in the First War. Old Scratch rules earth, the sun is, in  fact, an enthroned demon, hating earth all day to produce copious amounts of both heat and light.
DotDS is the second of three planned realms and is its own distinct reality separate from the other two. Geographically, it lies north of the Black Glass Mountains and south of Winter's Wall.

This is putting the cart a bit before the horse, I know, but this was the bit that was on my mind today. I'll do something on the general setting later. 

So about these paladins.

These paladins may or may not be actual paladins in terms of class. To be a paladin, however, requires a strict and unyielding belief in G-d, who is admittedly dead and devotion to his principals and morality.
The first task in becoming a paladin is to find one, and then ask to be initiated. Next, the prospective paladin must memorize the Thousand Names of God. This is a literal list of the names of G-d and is often recited by paladins to ward off evil and strengthen resolve. Once the litany is memorized, the prospective paladin enters into apprenticeship and learns the paladins trade. Paladins deal in lead.
They defend the weak, wright wrongs, and protect the innocent... provided they can find any.

No paladin is required, however, to intercede in any situation where he is not specifically asked to. Asking a paladin for help, however, is no small thing. The request for help is confirmed three times by the paladin, and then the paladin will stop at nothing in pursuit of the goal, and use whatever tactics necessary to do the most good for the most people.

Some paladins are rumored to wield "heavy irons" which are large and powerful revolvers rumored to have been forged from the swords of the last three angels that defended G-d.

The presence of a paladin is always known to any infernal beings in the immediate area, and also to any beings under the sway of, touched by, or in a contract with an infernal being.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Balance and other lies

This post has made me stay up past my bedtime ranting.

Just thinking about making a game "fair" gets my blood boiling.

You want to make the game fair and balanced? OK. Fine.

Here's what you do:
1. Get your math right. Develop your system of stats and skills and whatever so that your players can choose how good they want to be at dealing damage at range, dealing damage in melee, using skills, etc, etc, etc. Just make sure that the equations wash so that no one class has an unfair advantage. We can't have anyone crying at the table because their low-level mage has already cast his one spell for the day and now he feels useless because he can't squeeze off an original thought if it's not written down on a page for him.

2. Now that your math is right, do not, repeat do not, put any type of "skin" on the math. Leave it raw and bleeding before your players. It is up to them to slap lipstick on the pig. Did they make a character who is very good at ranged damage? Fine. Does that mean he uses projectile weapons or does he throw fireballs? It's all up the player to decide, because who gives a shit anyway? Right?

We're talking about raw game mechanics, any dressing you throw on it is just that, fucking lace curtains.

If you make your rules in a vacuum without any thought at all to the imagined reality that the players will inhabit the there is zero reason to give a flying rat-fuck about what the numbers mean in the context of the game so long as the equations balance.

My old gaming group decided once that the worst possible attack roll was a 4.

A 4 almost always a miss, but not a critical one.

Nothing good happens, but neither does anything terribly bad.

A 4 is the most boring roll and therefore the worst.

When you roll a one, poop meets fan. The whole party slaps their foreheads, and the DM makes that face that says, "Aw, son. You done fucked up now."

Characters need to be weak, to have weaknesses. Not just less good than others at certain things. When everyone is good at everything, and really good at one or two things, you have the game equivalent of a blurry photograph. No real meaningful difference between characters.

Everyone is a hero. There are no losers. Everyone contributes, in exactly the way their classes were designed to.

'Cause fuck thinking.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Of Grot: The Damned

*Not to be confused with the band, who are, in fact, not at all related to this post.

Image stolen from another blog who stole it and did not give attribution. So, to whoever owns this: I'm sorry. Please don't sue. You could take everything I own and I would be out $14. It's lose-lose.

Ninety nine times out of 100, when a machine encounters a non-machine, it murders it. Standard response.

Occasionally, however, the non-machine is collected, converted, and used against other non-machines.

There appears to be no logic behind the creation of the Damned. The are sometimes used (badly) as infiltration units, but are just as often as not found wandering the wastes, raving madly. They will attack any non-machine on sight with whatever weapons they possess, sometimes while shouting gibberish, nursery rhymes, or apologizing profusely. Some are quite eloquent and intelligent. All appear to serve the Old Machines, if only in their own way.

The amount of cybernetics varies from Damned to Damned, there appears to be no standard.

It also appears that the machines tend to convert fighting men most often. The current theory is that the average fighting man is more hearty, physically, and machines favor this more durable frame.

Culturally, the Damned are seen as sorrowful creatures, who have been robbed of their spirits. By being converted, their spirits have been usurped by the Old Machines. Killing one is seen as a kindness.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Gameable - Old Machine

Art stolen from Ian McQue, posted here without permission, but at least I gave attribution, amirite?

No. Appearing: 1
AC 2
HD 50
No. Attacks 3 - 3d10/3d10/6d10

In the neighborhood of 200 feet tall, these behemoths are the physical manifestations of the AI that rules the place. They patrol the wasteland, attacking targets of opportunity, but their primary function is to shore up the ad-hoc network that keeps all the Old Machines in communication. The three primary attacks of the technological terror come from projectile weapons mounted onto its chassis.
In melee combat, the machine is basically reduced to kicking and stomping.
I would recommend a save vs. dragon breath or ridiculous damage, death if you're feeling especially gritty.
There have been no credible reports of an Old Machine ever being "killed". Should one come under attack, it can quickly signal for any other machines in the area to aid it.

Many old-timers who travel the surface can tell at least one tale of seeing an Old Machine trudging across the horizon. Anyone who has been closer to one isn't likely drawing air. The Old Machines have terrific "eyesight" among other senses and can direct Hunters to a target from miles away.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Realm the first: Grot

*Image stolen from Greg Vilk, used without permission, stolen from interwebs.

In general, the setting which I tentatively called "Shattered Nations" and then decided was too cliche, consists of three "realms" which are really big chunks of differing realities smooshed together. In this way, a traveler can physically walk between dimensions. In general, the farther south you go, the more advanced the technology gets, and the less people understand it. At the far north, things are roughly medieval/renaissance, in Grot they have super-future tech, but people fear and misunderstand it. In the middle, it's Victorian. By "Victorian", I do not fucking mean fucking steampunk. I mean that technologically the realm is in the 19th century. 

Grot is the first and southernmost of the three realms I have planned out for the setting I've been rambling about as of late, and the one that is the most original to me. I lifted the concept from a post over at TotGaD, it being that of a vast desert ruled by an un-braked artificial intelligence.

Grot is something of a post-apocalypse realm in the vein of Gamma World where anyone living today really has no idea that there was a singular event in the past that led to the collapse of society. Humans and demi-humans live together in underground warrens, hiding from the mechanical servants of the Old Machines which seek to eradicate all organic life.
The incredible technology of the past is still lying around in less murderous forms, but it is viewed with the same type of fear, awe, and mistrust that something like the Eye of Vecna would be regarded in classic D&D.
Most technology is calibrated for interaction with human physiology, including the murderous technology trying to kill everything. Consequently, there are less humans around than other races. This also means that almost all people concerned with studying, using, and understanding technology are human. Each subterranean village, or Warren, usually employs at least one Keeper, an individual tasked with cataloging and safeguarding any advanced technology.

The Warrens which dot the wasteland are city-states unto themselves, most have some form of communication and possibly trade with their immediate neighbors, but few others. All are fed by ground water. Travel between them is mostly overland, a dangerous prospect at best.

Somewhere in the middle of the desert is the City of the Dead, a vast metropolis that dates back to before the apocalypse. There's more on it below.

The wastes are prowled by hunter robots that seek out organic life as well as colossal robots over 100 stories tall. All are networked and controlled by the AI.
The AI has long since gone insane and acts in an unpredictable manner, though it always seeks to destroy any and all organic life, plants and animals included. For whatever reasons, it leaves the City of the Dead untouched. It's insane. Any and all behavior is instantly justified.

There are some humans who, either by being captured or by willingly surrendering to the Old Machines have been partially converted to machines themselves. They are often used as infiltrators, gaining access to warrens. They are referred to as Damned.
Because of the threat the Damned pose, dogs are very important to the people who inhabit Grot. Only a fool doesn't guard the entrance to his warren with dogs to sniff out the damned and only the profoundly stupid travel anywhere without at least one loyal canine. The dogs can smell the machines and will warn their owner well ahead of a machine's approach.

The dominate religion is spirit worship. Priests beseech the spirits of animals, races, rocks, groups and organizations, ideas, etc. Everything has a spirit. Also, as a fun-fun game mechanic, priests do not get to pick which spells they get each day. Instead, a number of spells that they have access to are arranged on a chart (randomly) and each day the dice spirits decide what they will cast. I think it's neat.

I'm probably forgetting a shit-load of important things, but that's all for now. Posts like this are more for me than you anyway. I've got as much written down on a myriad of notebooks strewn about my house. Eat of my brainstew, let me know how it tastes.

Monday, February 11, 2013

In Grot: The City of the Dead

Down in Grot beyond the Black Glass Mountains where the Old Machines rule...

The most immediate legacy of the them that wrought the Old Machines are the Old Machines themselves. However, they are not all.

Amid the sand and rocks of the wasteland there is still one city that remembers Grot before any called it by that that name. The City of the Dead remains much as its builders left it, though none of them are left to enjoy it. Only their metal servants still haunt the palaces and boulevards, still going about their daily tasks as if they have little noticed the departing of their creators.

They maintain the city as if confident that the inhabitants will return soon. They sweep its streets free of sand, prune the gardens, and repel any invaders.

Only the extremely brave, expertly skilled, or very stupid dare delve into the City of the Dead, but the rewards are great for those who do. Many a Keeper in the scattered warrens throughout Grot can trace the strange devices in his collection to the City of the Dead.

Many of these artifacts bring weal, more bring woe, and all fetch high prices.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Gameable - Old Machine: Hunter

In Grot, the desert land ruled by the Old Machines beyond the Black Glass mountains, the ancient automatons created by Those-Who-Came-Before hunt amid the rocks and crevices, searching for entrances to the Warrens wherein survivors still dwell.
The Hunters come in many shapes, from the elegant humanoid species that were crafted by mortal fingers to the more recent and fractal models fabricated by insane and unknowable robot brains.
Guided by the will of their overlord, they have one instruction: Kill. They tirelessly seek to spill organic blood and they will never stop.

In effect, a re-skinned golem. Almost always encountered singularly, but always networked. If one is encountered, all others are alerted. The best policy is to try to run, hide, and confuse the thing until it moves on. Think Terminator, but with more general programing and little creative thinking ability.

 Note: I'm using 2E stats. That means descending armor class, THAC0 instead of attack bonuses.

No. Appearing: 1
AC: 7
11 HD
THAC0: 9
2 attacks - 2d8 claws/clamps or by weapon.

Immune to all attacks/spells/effects that would affect the mind or body by organic means. Takes double damage from electric attacks.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


This and this are inspiring a new setting. It involves dimensions collapsing into each other to form a new place for things and people to be in.

Especially player characters!

Also, Vornheim will be there too.

I've been making notes on the three "realms" that will make up the setting, and formulating the basic adventure thread. The gist is this, "For better or worse, but most likely worse, you are now here. To get elsewhere go to this other place, it is very far away and the road is dangerous."

I'm stealing Stephen King's cosmology, too.

I told the whole premise to a guy who had sworn not to play D&D again and he said, "Yeah... yeah.. I could dig that."

So I think it might turn out well and good.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Situations develop

In jumping into the wider-world of D&D blogging over the past couple of years, I've learned about different DM styles and techniques as well as different gaming styles and techniques and it has given me some perspective on how I run a game.

I think that I run a fairly rail-roady game.

That is to say, I think of some grand scenario before dice are ever rolled - The Necromancer of Diggly Dell is manipulating the Baron Louis Santos to further his plans for world domination.

Then I try to hook the players into the situation. In the above scenario, the actions of Baron Santos would somehow rub the PC's the wrong way and thus they would be set upon the path I had planned.

I would have a clear idea of who the antagonists are, what their goals are, and how they plan to achieve those goals.

During character creation, I would stipulate to my players that whatever kind of character they roll, he/she/it must start the game in the Hamlet of Vollage. While they are there, some bad things happen and the capable PC's are asked/paid/coerced into helping.

The Writings of Uncle Figgy tell us that there are three great motivators: Curiosity, Fear, and Greed.

To involve a player in any Thing, First attempt to pique interest, failing that, make being involved in the Thing mortally preferable to not being involved. Lastly, pay them or otherwise make it financially preferable to be involved with the Thing.

A character not motivated by one of those three things must have a powerful reason for ignoring them. Use that instead.

In this way, any character will take your hook. Gladly.

You will then have  certain amount of foresight into their actions and will be able to plan appropriately.

I generally "hold hands" with my players until level 3 or the first Big Bad Thing, whichever comes first. And even after that, I try to avoid character death. In pursuit of that dictum, however, I will not sacrifice logic or common sense.

Beyond this, my players are free to take whatever action they feel, even abandoning the quest wholesale.

This has never once happened.

Your players are playing a role. They should act as they have designed their characters to act. That makes them predictable.

In that predictability, you have the DM's greatest tool. You can virtually predetermine what the characters will do in any given situation because the players have given you full disclosure.

It is when you develop situations that you don't know the answer to that things get very interesting and very fun, because your players will not know the answer either.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Stream of barely-conciousness - Villiany

I'd like to have a really good villain.

I want a Darth Vader (sans prequels) in my games.

Despite owning more than one tome detailing how to stick a nefarious ne'er-do-well into a game, I've never succeeded in doing so. The enemy has always been the environment, and those what dwell within it.

Wait, wait, wait...

I take that back.

I DID have a villain once. In a Travellers game.

They called him: Squa'ti Mu.

Henchmen just called him "The Mu".

He had an awesome plan, the player's had bought into it hook, line, and sinker.

Big badness. Fate of the galaxy. Betrayal. Moral dilemma. High drama.

But my players quit playing.

Was it rail-roady? I don't think so. Manipulative? Definitely.

I first decided what Mu's goal was - to become Emperor of the Known Universe - then gave him a plan to accomplish that goal. Traveller's character creation system is tailor made for inserting plot hooks into each character's background, and so before play ever began, everyone had a reason to hate him.

All I had to do was give the players an opportunity to move against him. This, of course, was something Mu anticipated, and planned for.

Plans within plans within plans within plans within plans.

I find that is hard to make players invest positive emotions in NPC's. Encouraging character's to feel fondness for an NPC is hit or miss.

Hate, however, flows easily.

Provided your characters give a shit about anything.

Just have your bad guy destroy he/she/it, and/or otherwise bomb in and shit in the player's Post Toasties.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Wizards just did this.

And I came. Hard.

Yes, it's all available free online from some neckbeard with a scanner, but damnit, I'll pay for high quality, searchable, indexed PDF's.

More exciting is the company's changing attitude to its back catalogue.

Please believe I'll be picking up the AD&D 2E reprints, I just almost grabbed the AD&D set.

I need to go home and change.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

There's no point to any of this and no one should ever read it.

I originally started this blog with the idea of extolling the virtues of AD&D 2E, which remains my favorite system.

2E seems to be the least represented of the editions, not old or new but middle school fifth grade like junior high, to quote the bard.

2E has flaws, like any system and rules that can be confusing, and has the black marks of being the first version of D&D sans Gygax as well as having been hit with self-censorship.

At the time I started playing however, I had no idea who or what Gygax was, didn't understand the TSR situation, and had never been exposed to a previous version of Dungeons and Dragons.

AD&D 2E was fucking magic.

Still is.

I won't go on and on about how awesome roleplaying is and how it positively affected my life, many others have testified to that with more eloquence than I can summon.

I won't even preach the gospel of 2E to you. I think It's fantastic, you might not. It is worth a look.

If there's a published system that gives it a run for its money, however, Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplaying does it.
It's the one game I've played so far that I've found myself thinking, "This could replace 2E as my go-to game," But there are still things that really grind me about it. My players seemed to like it and we went from "Let's play" to "Holy shit, we're all going to die" in about an hour.
It wasn't unusual for us to set aside our first session just for rolling characters in 2E. In LotFP, it's easy for a relative novice to roll a character by herself during the game, after her first is killed by a swinging log trap.

Lately, I've been play-testing my ol' buddy Edward's game. It's heavy on the RP light on the G and if that's what your group is interested in, it works very well. If they want to see who can roll the biggest numbers on a D20 with arbitrary bonuses from made up bullshit, then they need to get the fuck out. For their own sake.

It's hard to describe Eddy's game without sounding like a tool, you'll have to trust me that 1. I am not a tool. 2. Eddy is not a tool.

In its current state and in my opinion, the games rules serve as minimal descriptors to arbitrate an imagined reality. AND THAT'S IT, MOTHERFUCK. Then they shoot you through the bowels and you die. No saving throw. Any character development is up to you and is less about acquiring larger numbers and is more about if and how your character's personality changes and the things he/she/it accomplishes and experiences.


I guess all this was to say, "I used to only play one game, but now I've played others and I like some of them."

Monday, January 14, 2013


So I bought a hard copy of Vornheim: Complete City Kit as recommended by the author of said tome Zak S. of D&D With Porn Stars fame.

Initially, I purchased it because "Hey, I've been reading dude's blog for a while now. I like his ideas and wish to support him in his endeavors."

After spending some time with the product, it's pretty damn cool. As advertised, it's less of a "Here is a city," and more of a "Here are some good tools and techniques for running a game in a city,".

Though, it is designed to let you create and run city adventures in a medieval fantasy world on the fly, I'll be using it in my upcoming Mass Effect game with minimal modification.

I've been so pleased with it that I plan on transporting Vornheim and the surrounding environs wholesale into another setting I've been cooking up that will incorporate several other ideas lovingly stolen from TotGaD.

Maybe on payday I'll buy a hard copy of his book, too.

I might pick up a PDF copy of Vornheim as well. Many of the charts and tables are things that I'd like to have printed out so that I could paste them to the back of a GM screen, or stick in a binder.

At any rate, if you've been thinking about getting your own copy of Vornheim, well, why wouldn't you?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Brain Stew

Everybody has a different process for doing everything.

Time to talk about mine.

Process, that is.

When prepping for running a game, I make brain stew.

I fill my head full of interesting things and then vomit that onto my games.

One of the things I've found to be true is that he who preps least, preps best. When it comes to me at least. I've tried in the past to write out detailed scenarios that would span months of gaming sessions and end in a satisfying way and, in general, what I find is that the more detailed and exacting your outline, the more doomed to failure it is.
The best sessions I've ever ran have been completely off the top of my head. It makes the game exciting for both your players and you and you're players so long as you can keep improvising and riffing off what they do. The game becomes a lot like free form jazz, except fucking awesome.

I do a minimum of prep work. 99% of my prep is making sure I have papers, pencils, and dice. But that last 1% is equally important. I take the bits about the setting, the bits about the system, and (if I have them already) the bits about my player's characters that I dig and just think about them. Usually in the shower or while pooping. Sometimes I just lay in my bed let all those elements stew for a while.

Once you've got a good pile o' shite in your head, it's time to start work on the "Gel de Groupe" which is only about half as gross as it sounds.

Why the hell would the player characters ever hang out together? Very rarely players will make characters who naturally fit well together, but most times, they create a motley assortment of undesirable and anti-social scumbags. How do you get the one-eyed half-jackal necromancer and the Priest of the God Who Punishes the Naughty work together with cannibal man who also a secret homosexual?

The short answer is you don't.

In my games, that responsibility (if there is one) falls squarely on the players. The most I do is give them a nice nudge. I say it's storming and have some NPCs recommend the same tavern to all of them, or have only one bar open that night or they all get arrested and share a cell. For the most part, I just demand that all the characters start off in the same city. That's usually enough.

Once you've got 'em all grouped up, make something happen that they all can find a reason to care about or at least be paid to care about.

Bandits attack. The well is poisoned by goblins. Plague sets in. Rumors of fantastic unguarded wealth. Just whatever. Anything to get the ball rolling. Everything else can develop organically from there.

What is important is to get a head full of ideas, all swimming round yer brainbox in a thick stew. Then ladle it out to your players and add hot sauce as needed.