Thursday, March 31, 2011

Visual Experience Chart

To start playing the game, you really don't need to know how many xp a fighter will need to get to 10th or, heaven forbid, 20th level.  What you will need is an easy way to let players know as they are approaching the first few levels.  And maybe an easy way to compare level progression across classes.  How about this:
It uses the progression from Swords & Wizardry Whitebox.  Unfortunately, I don't have permission to use the TSR wizard, consider this a draft mockup. 

Draft Island

Ha, that title might get you beer drinkers to read this.  But this is really about a draft of the animal Island I've had in my mind for a couple weeks now.  Started with a sketch, scanned it in, and digitally moved some stuff around (mostly to make more room).

Starting from the south is a dormant volcano with a crater lake (earthquakes?).  North of that I imagined as savannah-like flat land (not too worried about geographic realism here).  Then some geysers and hot springs.  Then the land rises again.  there is a mysterious megalith which may be the remnant of an island hopping empire and may point to other megaliths.

The second island is terraced.  The top holds the now empty home of a Teratomest, a combiner of beasts.  When he died/disappeared/was kidnapped his loyal assistant decided to build an ark to shuttle the captive animals to freedom on some distant mainland.  And when the ark was launched . . . it wrecked on the shore of the island next door.  The poor assistant now lives as a shy hermit on that bigger island.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Animal Chart

It's funny how much time I put into two charts that are essentially the same thing-- 100 animals-- because they were for different purposes.  The animals for the arena were meant to be exotic and outrageous fighting each other.  This chart is meant to encompass as many archetypal animals as I can on one chart.

The idea here is if you have a machine that mixes and matches animal parts, those parts better be pretty distinct in the player's mind.  So, weasel and ferret get to share a line (if you're more familar with one pick it, if you get tired of weasels pick the other).  No mongooses, no wombats. Had to cut the gnu.  No eland etc.  It's heavy on domesticated animals because I'm pretty sure we can all see a pig or goose clearly in our head.

I envision this chart's d% would be rolled simultaneously with other dice to let you know if this is group, young animals, oddly colored ones etc (still working on that).

The only problem, after going through many drafts of such a seemingly insignificant chart I started thinking, an important part of collecting/mixing/mashing fun is rarity.  Would it be better on this island where an ark has crashed, and animals run free, to just have mayhem and roll on this chart?  Or to have a few, say 4 or less, regions which would allow hunting for rare creatures?  But which creatures would be rare, the coolest?

I had originally intended to split out all the birds, but the numbers just didn't work out.  I still intend a Wet version, with all the fish and sea mammals etc.  And a dinosaur chart.  And insects.  Heck, if nothing else, maybe you'll be able to use these as weird summoning tables.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

When You See it You'll . . .

I forgot I found this picture last week.   At first I was like, okay a hippo and an elephant that's odd that they would get along but then I thought, oh, they're stuffed? But then . . . wtf!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tactile Maps

I love stuff like this.  Inuit tactile maps. A comment on Metafilter lead me to this site which says:
These could be employed at night in conjunction with the stars, feeling your way along the coastline, navigating at an intimate scale.
Imagine a treasure item, non-magical, that encodes guard patterns for a thief, or locked-door-open-door maps for assassins, or even turn-left-turn-right dungeon maps that dwarves use in pitch blackness.

Update: Get over to Aeons & Auguries for a cool example and interesting comments, like using these for map and key. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My Realm Mapped

I was toodling around the internets and lo and behold Diamond over at the Cartographer's Guild made a fantasy map of my stomping grounds.  You Midwesterners have had that since Greyhawk I suppose, now I get to be ruled by a biker gang in an apocalyptic future.

It's a beautiful map.  If I were an OSR publisher I'd be hitting Diamond up to make my next map.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

One Page Dungeon Contest

The deadline is next week.  Last year I didn't enter anything, don't remember why, probably because work was insanity then.  I wanted to submit something this year just to be a part of the community and let everyone see-- hey here's something I made.  It was this contest that was partially responsible for getting me to blog. 

I was thinking of the Sodden Temple, but it's really a two level dungeon and I don't think I could squash it onto one page.

I was thinking of the Tumbling Dungeon, but after playing it last night I realize . . . it's kinda boring, too linear. I want to revise it to try to fix that.

I was also thinking of this animal island thing I've been working on, but, again I think it is too big for the OPD, just with the random animal/bird/dinosaur tables.

Then I remembered the Undertavern from SAGE last year.  So I submitted that.  Not too exciting if you've been following my blog, but maybe people will see it who wouldn't have otherwise.

Have the club pics on the house. PD.

What I'll Blog About Today

Okay, I'll bite.  I rolled a 4 which is:
Compare your favorite moment as a player to your favorite moment as a GM.
This could be specific or in general I suppose. 

In general as a player I think I like it when I achieve some aspect of a goal I've set myself. Usually that goal is to be able to do more things as a M-U.  Finding a blur or blending spell and putting it in my spell book feels good man.  But also, cobbling together complex results from simple pieces.  In 4e with invisibility, an undead minion ritual, and some cantrip ventiloquism, I was able to project a creepy image of my mage while protecting my own identity.  One goal I never got to achieve was design and build my own tower.

In general as a DM, I feel like a kid showing his parents some lego creation as the players reach some feature of my dungeon: "Ooh, wait till you see what happens when you pull that lever!" And that doesn't have to be just about dungeons, it was the same pleasure to see them unroll the relationship triangle between the npcs on the junk Haiyan.

But one specific moment that was important to me was to be able to go down to LA and run Tavis and Staples and others through the Undertavern.  I've loved D&D most of my life but been completely cut off from the culture and to be able to make an adventure from someone else's requests (it was a SAGE request), and then run it with real gamers and DMs, and see everyone have fun, was very validating.

Thanks for reading have a pic of Sargon's Palace at Khorsabad. PD.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Session Tonight

As always, I don't feel prepared enough at all.  Some random thoughts.

At least one of the players caught the plague.  I went to the lbbs looking for a simple mechanic for plague.  Finally found the diseases in Blackmoor, but the rules weren't very helpful for me. 
"There is a 10% chance that if the victim doesn't succumb, he will be permanently incapacitated. Any person that contracts this disease will infect 90% of the people he comes in contact with. There is a 5% chance that the victim that contracts it will do so only as a carrier, not
having it himself. Once survived, the player will have immunity."
Okay, it gives rules for how to catch it, but what then?  You just die?  How soon?  And for "permanently incapacitated," what does that mean?  In a coma?  Weakened so they can't adventure?

One of the original suggestions of why a tumbling dungeon might exist at all was to turn an alchemical potion.  The more I flesh out the dungeon the more I've gone in that direction.  I have a storage area for alchemical powders, a library of material components.  I've planned a library made of hinged brass plaques and a room of diagrams and shifting sand.

I decided the Grand Alchemist was "Arabic", but is long gone now.  I'm thinking there might be some crones taking advantage of the facilities, some pearly grubs, and a sentient black, oily liquid as per richard's suggestion.

The players may not even remember they were interested in this point on the map, but there may be something that I can use to steer them toward it, one of the passengers is a Chinese alchemist and he may recognize the significance of this site.  He may also know it as a possible place to find a cure for the plague victims.

I feel kind of crappy about nudging them toward this, but other than that it is an 8 days voyage to the city they are heading to and I have nothing prepared for that city, no map no npcs, nothing.

The advantage of having a blog and a smart phone, is I can show players pics at the drop of the hat for magic items like the fingerbone necklace, or whatever.  Okay back to work.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Monsters as Exploration

Just a thought.  The best monsters are as much about exploration as wandering into a room full of pools.  So, not "Oh these orcs are green," but "Why are these headless humanoids shuffling in a circle?  Wait . . . my head is getting fuzzy . . . I . . ."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dun Slug

Ehh, I think that last one was a little too rainbow-pony. I think there is something eerie about translucence but damned if I know how to illustrate it for players.

And grubs have their place, they're gross because of the hard head attached to the soft body.  But that would work better if players had to roll over them or fall on them.  For something creepy to crawl up you I can't think of anything better than a slug.

So how about same details but it's a slug:
The dun slug has but one aim, to lay eggs in the mouth of a living creature.  It is the size of a cat and can crawl up walls and swim slowly.  Attempts to harm it in any way inflict the damage on the wielder instead.
 P.S. go to Die Nacktschneckenfauna des Russischen Reiches (1901) for all your color slug public domain needs.

Pearly Grub

The pearly grub has but one aim, to lay eggs in the mouth of a living creature.  It is translucent with a hint of opalescence. It is the size of a cat and can crawl up walls and swim.  Attempts to harm it in any way inflict the damage on the wielder instead.

Ok, another draft monster I haven't tried in play.  I'm thinking if you touch the clammy thing and then hurt yourself, it will inflict wounds on it.  Or, players can just try to avoid them, but they'll be crawling after the party throughout the dungeon.  Oh, and if it lays eggs in your mouth . . . do you have to ask?  That's bad.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Component Library

Enter a large room (30x30x30).  The facing wall is covered with 900 evenly spaced spikes.  If the wall you are entering from is examined, it's seen to be covered in 900 evenly spaced divots.

When this room Tumbles, the spikes act as plum-bobs pulling chains from (what is now) the ceiling.  Each chain has items attached at foot-length intervals.  There are 900 alchemical components-- vials of liquid, pressed plants, dried organs.

When the room eventually tumbles again, weights at the wall-end retract the chains back out of the room.

The components are organized very precisely by a system based on the humours:
I'm thinking the third dimension could be rarity, with those nearest the floor the most common.  But, the Grand Alchemist had to have been able to reach the rarest components too, maybe a turban of climbing?

Now, any recommendations for material component charts, or should I make one?

The Well Room

My players are on a ship, headed north, but seem very interested in stopping at a mark on the map for which I have nothing prepared.  So I'm thinking I'll use stuff I've worked up partially, which means finishing up the Tumbling Dungeon.  So here is another room I just figured out.  It was like doing geometry homework, damn you OSR!!!! Haha.  If I have errors let me know*.
Here we see the room as first encountered.  Water is all in the Well.  At the bottom of the shaft there is a secret room storing alchemical powders.

Now the room has tumbled once (rotated through it's vertical axis).  Forgive me, this is very hard for me to represent graphically, but basically the water pours out filling the room with ten feet of water.
So, to lay out all the states the room will tumble through:
  1. Water in the well. When players first see it.
  2. Circular tunnel in the wall, room full of water.
  3. Circular hole in ceiling, room full of water.
  4. Circular tunnel in other wall, room full of water.
 I'm pondering putting critters in the water.

* the cylindrical tunnel actually widens from about 10' in the wall to 15' for the rest of the run in order to hold that volume of water, but I drew it simpler.  I figure if players start asking about water volume then, yes, biting critters appear.

Monday, March 21, 2011

What is Kid-Friendly?

C'nor asked what I meant by the term, because different age ranges might mean different ideas of what would be appropriate. Here are some thoughts on the matter.

When I said I wanted to design a kid-friendly adventure I was mostly thinking I would 1) turn my creep meter down, 2) be more careful in my assumptions about how violence and thievery are rewarded, and 3) incorporate toy-like qualities that would be fun to explore.

I think 2 and 3 could just as easily apply to adults, so really the only difference is 1.

Nightmares aren't the Goal
I'm not certain about all this, I mean, I know kids like to be scared.  But I think something like the unborn might be too much of nightmare fuel.  (I was telling one of my adult players about them over the phone and making the noise they make and she started freaking out, "Ok, ok I don't want to hear about them.")

I'm not even sure I would do this intentionally to an adult.  I want to make players uneasy, to feel the game, to be immersed, but not actually be terrified.  I had a player who just lost a fighter to a giant spider bite to the face say, "Thanks a lot bastard, you know I'm arachnophobic, right?"  I said, "What? No, sorry!"

What are We Actually Saying about the World?
I like a lot of things about B2 but I get uneasy when the main thrust of it is to go exterminate whole tribes of sentient evil things.  Call me a sissy hippie, but I just start thinking of Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee. (that's not to say I would never have evil creatures with human-like qualities in a game, but I feel especially leery about underscoring that tendency in young humans).

Also, young players will have plenty of opportunity to experience violence in the real world.  It won't hurt them a bit if my world challenges the assumption that violence is the first or only solution to problems.

Toy-like Fun
What the heck do kids like about Pok√©mon and Bakugon type toys?  I think there is a lot of potential for experimenting, combining, collecting, and making-type fun that isn't found in a lot of adventures.  Whatever wondrous machine keeps a party so occupied they stay in a room through multiple wandering monster checks, that's the machine I want to design.  I don't want this instead of exploration, resource management, adventure fun, I want it in addition.

So, I didn't really answer the question about age range, I think the parent DMs are better suited to address that.  But what do you all think about the three goals?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

World Map IV

I like maps of how old scholars viewed the world because they are 1) simple and 2) alien while still being familiar.  There are also several of them, so you could use them as alternate prime material planes or whatever.  I found a few nice ones in the Library of Universal History and Popular Science (1910).  Here is the oldest and simplest map:
I took that, cut all the labels in case you want to add your own names, and fiddled with the color levels to get rid of the ghost texts lines:
In light of my printing adventure I'm trying to trace this one into an svg, but I'm still learning that process.  (I promise when I figure it out I'll post a tutorial). These are both public domain and if you can use them, please do.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Have Two Cats

Something unexpected came up and we didn't have our session tonight.  Disappointed, that makes two weeks no game.  Oh well, I'll be even more prepared for the next session. Have a couple big cats.  PD.

Lava Lake

Check out these pics of the Nyiragongo Crater in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Beautiful and spooky.  via Neatorama.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Two Figures

Working on an Island

I'm sort of scattered right now, trying to prepare for Friday's session, deal with work and other activities, but I have been working on my island for the Sea of Os'r.  Here are some goals I set for myself:

  • Make it kid-friendly, (even though I'm not quite sure what that would mean)
  • Make it as close to non-violent as possible
  • Make it toy-like in that it has features that can be fooled around with and players can surprise their DM (what I was shooting for with the pools of the ancients)
I couldn't sleep last night and I think I turned the corner, figured out how to accomplish some of this.  First I wanted a machine that combines animals into crazy animal mashups.  But the realization I had last night is that I have to steer very clear of creepiness here.  I don't want the Island of Dr. Moreau.  I want the tone to be a sense of wonder (imagine a dolphin crossed with a peacock, a gazelle with a chameleon).

So, the Terraces of the Teratomest (think monster alchemist) isn't about a creepy mad scientist, but an artist with animals as his medium.  Well, was, because he's passed away now and only his machines and a few of his prized possessions are left.  I sketched up two islands close to each other, I almost completed animal encounter tables, my breakthrough last night means I have an idea of how to start the dungeon.  Also I want to include a way for DMs to incorporate playdough if they want and maybe jenga, too.  I need to go buy jenga because I have no recollection of how many pulls you can make before failure becomes possible (something essential to know if you want to use it as a mechanic).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Sunken City

Actually, that was the title of a cool anthology of fairy tales I had as a kid.  But this is a nice pic of an adventuring party rafting through a sunken Aztec city:
We discovered how considerable was the city that here lay submerged
This is from The Aztec Treasure House (1890).  The art in this edition is by Ben Kutcher.  I dig his use of silhouette:
There are some other nice pictures in the book, especially if you are interested in the pulp/adventure genre with turn of the century soldiers fighting Aztecs.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Beautiful Cap

The wearer of this colorful cap will catch the eye of all creatures in viewing distance, pique their curiosity, and draw their gaze.  Creatures that fail a save will follow along, watching the wearer.  Great for emperors or characters acting as bait.  The anti-sanctuary.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Aztec Battle

I liked this.  I'll post more from this book. PD.


I know people hate the whole discussion of killing orc babies and genocide and whatnot.  I understand folks not wanting their imagined worlds getting so heavy.  And luckily with fantasy, the "personess" of orcs can be avoided by having them vat-grown or hatched or such.  But many, many human cultures had slaves and eventually my players will run into a similar culture in my game.  I was wondering what your experiences have been in your campaigns where players encountered slaves.

Did players purchase and own slaves?  Did they want to free all the slaves and get frustrated when they realized how impossible that would working against a whole culture?  Or maybe that became the point of the campaign?

Here is an unrelated color pic for your time.  Public domain.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bone Stylus

Write the name of your antagonist in your flesh and he will leave you be.  Works similar to sanctuary against the named individual.  Causes one hit point of damage for every letter inscribed in the bearer's flesh.  Lasts until the damage is healed.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

In Which Telecanter Learns About DPI and Weeps

Yeah, I love those old time chapter headings too.  And, okay, I didn't weep, but I was pretty discouraged for a few minutes.  So, I've heard about DPI, I know about compression, about resolution, but I never had to take something I'd messed with on the web and try to blow it up.

On I would download the largest jpg they would let me work with.  But when I wanted to blow my map to 18x24, it was a no go.  The guy at the shop told me he needed closer to 300 DPI and my pic was 70 something.

Luckily it worked out okay for my session because the 11x11 that I had printed up looked like a legit scroll.  But, now I'm thinking of doing all map work in svg.  I have Inkscape and will try to learn it.  It looks like I can embed a bitmap in a svg file and it will scale it with some aliasing.  Any of you digital wizards want to weigh in with your experience/suggestions?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Serendipity II

Never seem to find what I'm looking for, but sometimes what I find is better.  All public domain.

(p.s. I was working on a hot elf chick, but couldn't get the ear right :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Oblique NPCs

What I learned Friday was simple, obvious, and fascinating.  If you have an interesting NPC A, you really need a secondary NPC B, that knows A somehow, for players to interact with.

Because we humans don't learn about each other through direct questioning, not really.  No wonder roleplaying situations so often seem like interrogations to me and so often quickly turn confrontational.

See, we ask B about A and what we find out helps shape more subtle questions, helps us know what A is really all about.  After conversing with B we are better prepared to not waste A's time, to not step on A's toes, to know best how to find out what we need to know from A.  And after finding out some things you can repeat the cycle, talking to B again.

Again, simple, but I don't remember ever reading something like this.  So, for every interesting NPC you want players to converse with I suggest you place a lackey, an ex-lover, a relative, a rival, someone who knows something about them nearby for players to interact with as well.

This could also have some implications for adventure design.  I lucked out by having my NPCs on a ship-- basically confined in close proximity but also separated from each other in private rooms so multiple private conversations could happen.  You might want to emulate that-- rooms at an inn, the separate camp-fires of a travelling caravan, etc.

On the Good Junk Haiyan

Toral DP
     Tory - hireling
"G" F
     Le Bouche - hireling
     Janis - hireling
"Z" F
     Mika - hireling
     Fabrino - hireling
     Pita - hireling
Gail MU
Mollie DP

The party finally left the island Nidus is on.  They piled on to the only intact ship around with their thousands of silver pieces (the vulture-pygmy belly coins).  And then they talked to the people on board.  That's about it.  We only rolled three dice all night and it was fun.
Thanks to richardthinks for this pic I showed my players

Some Thoughts
My players needed to know more about our imagined world in order to make decisions about what to do.  I finally had a map to show them (even though I'm not sure what all the points on the map are yet).  But how to give them some info about the things on the map?  I decided to try an NPC triangle and it seemed to work great.  So, on the junk were:

The Skipper (laodah)
The Templar
The Heretic

The junk has escaped from a war ravaged city to the south.  All three npcs were being tortured when the Templar finally managed to heroically rescue them.  The Skipper is indebted to the Templar for this.  The Heretic converted to the worship of St. Cecily due in part to the horrible times she experienced.  But, though a true saint, St Cecily's reverence has risen to the level of a cult in the eyes of the church.  A horrible blasphemous cult that involves self-mutilation and disfiguration (the body is but a husk that leads us into sin).  Thus the Templar, a knight in a holy order, feels obligated to take her to a church court in a city to the North.  She will inevitably be burned at the stake there.  The Skipper admires the Heretic for her strength, and perhaps is even attracted her, for though older and with her hair hacked off, she is a striking woman.  He cannot make himself sail her to her death.  He has been sailing in circles around Nidus for days.  And drinking.  Oh, yes and the Templar has the PLAGUE.

Enter the Players.

I didn't have a particular outcome in mind.  But I did think that the Templar might be convinced to sail instead to a city to the east with a large church to St Hubert-- a much more forgiving order and advocates for the downtrodden.

What the players ultimately decided to do was travel to the intended city and then attempt to rescue the Heretic before she is burned.  They want a heist scheme!  This is complicated by the fact that 1) they will be sailing against the seasonal winds, which means it will take them more than a week to reach their destination, and 2) they seem very interested to investigate a feature on the map just to the north.  Oh yes, and 3) one of them caught the plague ;) (the only dice rolls were saves vs. disease).

So, to conclude this was a nice change of pace, I think the players enjoyed it, but also, it was great fun for me to try to act out these three NPCs who I hope were likeable in their own ways, but had mutually exclusive goals.  I suggest trying your own NPC triangle, with one caveat.  I learned a really important thing about player/npc interaction.  I'll blog about it next.

Monday, March 7, 2011

We don't explore systems, we explore dungeons

Played Alpha Omega again last night.  I think I had 3 attacks in the ~3 hour session.  Two were successful.  I spent most of the night flipping back and forth in the book trying to determine whether it was more cost effective to raise my skills or just raise my stats.  There is some pleasure in this.  It is almost the exact feeling I get when playing a video game for the first time.  It's like poking around to feel the edges; what's possible, then, what's optimal. 

With a video game I'll usually play for a bit finding out preliminary stuff, then start a new game utilizing my knowledge.  Then I might start over again after trying a few more approaches.  But if I'm not careful, I burn myself out and don't want to play the game again for a long time.

So, pleasurable.  But this doesn't feel like an adventure game.  The system is the game.  What we do is secondary, as long as we get to try out our various skills and attack splitting strategies.

Oh, and jury's still out, but I think raising stats is the way to go. . . and melee weapons-- all ranged weapons get a big minus to hit.

That pic is unrelated (and public domain), but isn't it crazy?  It's the party tag along.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fingerbone Necklace

These grisly tokens are made from the fingers of mages.  Worn by mages, when the wearer would take damage the small bones crack instead.

This is another one I haven't play tested.  Probably should be some price or cost to make it, but the roleplaying possibilities seem too good to pass up.  Will your players stop to collect the fingers of the wizard they just slew?  What will the townies think of your mage walking around like some crypt robber?

No thumbs.  A foe does 8 points of damage, 8 bones snap irreparably. You could limit it to magical damage if you wanted.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The King fell in with a Dwarf . . .

who began mocking him."  That's the caption of this picture.  I toyed with the idea of slapping "OSR" and "WotC" labels on it, but didn't know which label to place each on which figure, hehe. Kidding.

Thanks, to sirlarkin's suggestion I picked up Crusader Kings and am trying it out.  It works out of the box on my Ubuntu install with Wine!  Damn it's in-depth.  I restarted several times trying to soak up the layers of complexity.  Having fun trying to marry my heirs to the best candidates.

Had a great session last night.  Will write it up soon.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Battle of Nidus - Finale

Toral DP
     Tory - hireling
"G" F
     Le Bouche - hireling
     Janis - hireling
"Z" F
     Mika - hireling
     Fabrino - hireling
     Pita - hireling
Yestlick MU
Athydas MU
Gail MU
Mollie DP
Darkyo F

I'm a week behind with this post play report but not too much happened last session.  The party noticed NPC past and future selves touching and disappearing in a dread sense of non-existence.  So having their future selves around was probably a bad idea.  And, about that time they noticed a huge hole in the sea in Nidus' port.  This hole showed a beautiful upside down sky and had 10 giant anemone-like, colorful, tentacles coming out of it.

The party quickly decided their future selves need to go back . . . to the future.  They all got on one of the vulture-pygmy round barges and went over the endge into the hole.  This caused the hole to begin closing.  Except the tentals were trying to keep it open.

The party killed all the tentacles with lettle difficulty (Gail was paralyzed for a bit) and ended up getting on a ship just coming into the harbor to escap, a junk.

Some Thoughts

I was pretty heavy handed here, but didn't want to have to deal with multiples of each players.  I had devised what I thought was a cool effect for each of the translucent, colorful tentacles to have on players.  I imagine them grappling and engaging in melee hip-high in the surf.  They got bows and shot it to death safely from a distance.  There was a bad call on my part where a few players wanted to look for bows in the emptied stalls of Nidus and I said "yes, okay roll."  That made the battle less dramatic and interesting.  But I'm still trying to balance letting them be able to do the things they suggest (be awesome and empowered), and not get everything they want, (be spoiled by doing unreasonably things).

(Note to Telecanter: this is the session Gail got the invite to the Magic user organization)

One other small thing, one player was a little annoying toward the end of the session because he'd been imbibing so many adult beverages.  I've talked to him about it since.  I felt weird, like I was his dad or something (I am older).  But I just said, "hey, everyone one was imbibing, just try to keep pace with us."  It's when someone isn't at the same place that things start getting awkward/boring.  Anyone have issues like that?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Auger

This terrible weapon has killed many fell beasts.  Once a foe is hit with it, it is slowly, inexorably screwed in until death results.  The wielder is defenceless while turning it.

Roll to hit.  Death in 10 rounds. Wielder has unarmored AC and can't use a shield.

Haven't tried this one in game.  what do you think?  It seems the key is how many rounds, too short and it's a death ray, too long and it's useless unless you're fighting Galactus.

Rorschach Proposals cont.

Last session I had an opportunity to give the mage's guild invite to the player whose birthday a couple weeks ago spurred me to make it.  I had an owl deliver it to him (so sue me, it was right at the beginning of the session and I hadn't primed the pump yet).  I wrote down his exact words when he first encountered it.  They were:

   "What does this mean?! . . .
    Two circles and a square . . .
    ant head . . .
    What is this about?! . . .
    It's like a yin yang but with more yinyang . . .
    and a wagonwheel . . .
    travel perhaps . . .
    this box with two things sticking out of it . . .
    Owl!  Come back here and tell me what this means!!"

So, yeah, not much to work with there.  I'll keep you posted if there is any more discussion or hypotheses about the invite.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wind Again

The Nine and Thirty Kingdoms may have just solved the weather problem in adventure game hex crawling. I'll be using that one.

For the saltbox, though, the wind is so important I want a specific chart.  I looked in the Cook/Marsh Expert book and simplified the wind table there.
I realize that you might want a little more in terms of variety, but for now I want as simple as possible. This boils it down to 6 types of wind. If you have a magic item that affects the wind you can just roll a d6. I also converted percentile chances in the notes to d6 rolls. that means the probability is higher but not by too much in my mind.

Alpha Omega

This past weekend was a gaming extravaganza.  I had my group's session on Friday night, got to play an indie story game for the first time Saturday, and made up a character and played in a new campaign of Alpha Omega on Sunday night.

I didn't really want to play Sunday.  But the DM is one of the best players in my game-- smart, nice, funny, and the only person I've met that can spontaneously create silly rhyming lyrics as well as me. So I felt socially obligated to give it a try.  He told me more than once that the game was "complicated, but in a good way, it actually gives you more freedom."  I was sceptical to say the least.

I was warned that character creation might take about an hour.  And when I finally sat down with another friend I ran into the first big problem.

The Tekumel Problem
Tekumel is cool, I know people still play it but good luck trying to describe it to a new, non-gamer player.  I think Mr. Maliszewski talked about a game recently being dependent on knowledge of D&D.  Tekumel is like that for me-- you have to understand the concept of classes and races and stats and fantasy avatars before they get complicated by this new game.  Anyway, I think this has all been said before by people, but Alpha Omega was a fresh experience of it for me.

So, what kind of player will I make (because it's new school you have to choose, you can't just let the dice tell you).  I always like wizards but this is a post-apocalyptic world.  I ask my friend:
"Is there magic?"
He says "yeah, sort of. Its called wielding."
I say "Oh.  Is it like psionics?'
"Sort of."
"More like superpowers?"
"Well . . ."

Hmm, so there are a ton of races.  Remnants are humans that have been mutated by raditation, but there is another race whose DNA has been modified intentionally. Something called Mesh?  See this game can't use the same old rpg tropes, everything has a cool name.  There is no internet in the future but the Swarm, no cities, but Arcologies.  I think the apocalypse was caused by meteors striking the earth, but there are these huge angel creatures and it isn't clear whether they are angels, or aliens of some sort.

Get the picture so far?  It is like gamers jaded with existing rpgs mash together every genre they can, to try to still get a thrill.  You've got some fantasy, science fiction, superhero, cryptopunk, and post-apocalypse all swirled into a soup of archetypes.  What character am I supposed to make when I don't even understand the world?

I decided I'd be a robot librarian.  The AIs seemed to have pretty good stats and I could take whole fields of skills, not knowing what might be useful. (note, this is actually a silly approach for a skill-based game.  If you want to be effective, be a combat character and chose only skills that directly effect combat.  Trust me, the system will make them matter no matter how much roleplaying the DM will want to do). 

I took the unsophisticated drawback so that I could actually roleplay my ignorance of the world.  Although, it is a little odd that a librarian would be so clueless.  I decided I was a reference librarian that has spent a lot of time in a little room studying the past.  Also, I look like IG-88.  I was a little shocked when I realized no one present knew who IG-88 was!  Anyway, SEO 1337 was born.

4e is so Simple
Look, this part may come off as condescending, but I was doing my best to design my own rpgs when I was a teen.  I had derived stats, and lots of crunch to movement rates, and lots of crunch to how stats mapped to real world abilities.  I don't care about any of that now.  For a reason. You may not agree that it actually gets in the way of play, but you would certainly have to concede it isn't necessary for play if you just sit and watch a session of my current homebrew game and how things work smoothly.

I could go on and on here but in a nutshell in Alpha Omega I found something that made 4e look elegant.  Let me put it this way: six seconds of a combat took 20 real world minutes.

I still had some fun roleplaying my curious robot, but that was outside of combat.  And I always got the sense that at least one of the players there was bored with all that, head down in the huge rule book studying up, waiting for the next combat.

Actually he was the only one present who had a good grasp of the rules (including the DM).  It was interesting to see what joy he had trying to micro-optimize his character for play.  He was most effective at everything: he killed 8 foes in combat while I was studying a turret in our vehicle-- trying to figure it out with the help of the Swarm (I hadn't taken the vehicle weapon systems skill).  When the only wielding character first tried to use his power, Mr. Optimizer had great joy in making a discussion about which wielding power was actually the best and which you shouldn't take because they were weak sauce.

I don't want to begrudge him his joy, I understand that kind of pleasure myself.  I still do some of that min-maxing with computer games.  But, it seems so one-faceted.  If we wanted to "win" the game we would have all made merc characters specialized in melee combat like Mr. Optimizer. But the rest of us had some good laughs at how clueless my robot was, and why our party of mercs included a librarian, mechanic, and rogue surgeon to the detriment of the whole endeavor.

The World is embodied in the Rules
So, to get back to the idea of more rules meaning more freedom. I think the DM meant that here you knew what you could do because it was spelled out for you, while in my game it wasn't.  I could certainly help my players better with this.  And if you've been following my posts you know I'm actually frantically trying to construct the world just in time for the players to interact with it.

But, this idea that rules would help embody the world turned out to be flawed.  The world is infinite.  You will never have enough rules or rulebook space for everything.  We spent 5 minutes of game time trying to figure out which skill the mechanic would have to roll against to try and fix his armor.  And there was no listing of the canisters for his micro-welding torch.  That caused some great consternation: "How much did they cost?  How much did they weigh?"  Mr. Optimizer wondered if they were included in the errata for the game.

So, In the end I'm just surprised that this kind of game, like I was toying with 30 years ago, is still around, still bought, and still capturing the hearts and minds of gamers.  I guess it amounts to people thinking they want something and thinking they are getting it.  What would happen if I stood up next session and said "Look we just spent an hour on a minor combat.  Is that what you want?  Really?  Because I got bored and started surfing the web on my phone."
Have a couple mini-tomb entrances as my coin for joesky:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sea Chart

I'm going to try and have a big print made so players can make choices about where to sail. So I tried to make my map look more like a weathered artifact.

One thing I realized is that because the crew is "Chinese," 1) they won't speak a lot of English and I can have players roleplay out their learning of the map, and 2) I can give names to cities, straits, seas etc. and then completely change them later when the players hear them referred to by other cultures.


Sweet.  I google Mediterranean winds on the off chance that there might be something simple to help me with sea travel.  And I find this at the first link:

So, if I go by this, the prevailing winds don't look conducive to travel on my map unless the party wants to head south along the coast. Traveling to some of the interesting marks on my map will require tacking against the Etesians.

That link has descriptions of all the winds too.  Makes me think that even if you world is completely fantastic you should have some named winds with personality.