Thursday, November 29, 2012

Four Ideas

It's easy to miss cool stuff in the blogosphere if you get tied up with work or life so I thought I'd share four ideas I saw in the past few months that I thought were simple to execute and really interesting: 

  • Starting off, on 1d30, a way to make damage less abstract by keeping the traditional cure spells but retooling them a bit.  I'm pretty satisfied with damage at the abstraction that its at in my game, but if I wanted more concussions, broken bones and seeping wounds this is probably the way I'd go.
  • Over on Stuffed Crocodile, a chart to tell you where the heck all these undead are coming from.  Skeletons and zombies have pretty much been standard bugaboos for me.  I think it would be really interesting to have some of them be adventure hooks or to leave little traces of their former humanity on them (jewelry, tattoos, scars).
  • A look at abstracted missile weapons at Untimately.  I've seen a similar idea years ago where a blogger proposed saving to see if you had certain resources left.  That was a little too abstract for my taste.  What I personally settled on was giving players 5 poker chips, each represents enough missiles to get through one combat.  What really caught my eye in this post was the idea of allowing players to get a bonus if they give up more missiles.  I think I will implement this immediately.  I love a mechanic that will let a player feel more effective (I'll take +3 to hit) but has to make a choice (but I'll be out of ammo). 
  • The ever-interesting Nine and Thirty Kingdoms offers up some alternate magic systems involving getting tired or old.  Awesome.  They match up with archetypes like in Sinbad movies and they are simple.  Anyone who is bugged by the logic of Vancian casting should at least look at the spells causing exhaustion option.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I should number these confessions.  I know I have a few other posts with that title.  So, I scraped my money together and bought a new and glorious computer.  I bought Windows for the first time in my life.  I installed steam for the first time ever.  I am now beffuddled with a wonderful glut of games.

I love Ubuntu for my everyday work.  It is very stable and easy to use.  Gimp and Inkscape work without a hitch even on my older computer with it's crappy video card.  But games.  Dear games.  I have gone for decades now without them (mostly getting my fix on consoles).

Sure, people say you can run most games through Wine.  But not in my experience.  Couldn't get even big popular titles like Fallout 3 to work or popular titles that have been around forever with plenty of time for fixes to get worked out like Morrowind.

The first game I downloaded was Rome: Total War.  It was less than $3.

So, on one hand I feel a little dirty for selling out on Free Software so cheaply.  On the other hand I never got to finish exploring Morrowind and now I can (I installed the updated graphics mod last night and it looks wonderful for a game so old).

I want to keep posting here (and really need to get my campaign started back up to try out all my wilderness travel innovations) because I'm coming up on some big milestones, but expect me to be distracted and scatterbrained.  

And if you want to recommend some games in the comments feel free--I just got Legend of Grimrock which looks great and FTL which has been pretty fun.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Playing Around

This is a question not an assertion.  I wonder if the type of play that happens with experienced players, especially DMs as players, is goofier and more about the impression it leaves on each other than it was back in the day when we were learning the game.

Granted, meta-goofiness has always been there in my experience.  Even the most dire of dungeon situations could be put on hold for joking around. 

Also, with adult players brand new to the game I've seen a goofiness-used-as-defence appear.  Where they aren't really sure what to make of this game and so pick funny names for their character and ask about doing silly things.  They don't really understand the boundaries of the world or what their choices are and they don't want to look foolish in front of their friends.

But aside from that there has always been a kind serious desire to survive, desire to explore and find what is behind the next heavy oaken door.

The type of play I'm talking about is related to carousing tables.  It is a kind of play that says "I want to put my character in a pickle because that will be funny.  I will make choices I know to be bad for my character because that will make things interesting."  The character that drinks from every pool in a world that has magical pools.  The player that releases the demon from the iron bottle when they know it is a demon in the bottle. 

I'm wondering if this comes about because the games being played are more one-offs (although Flailsnails allows people on G+ to use the same character again and again) so there is less concern for keeping your character alive to see the next session and also a sense of "We need to pack as much fun into these hours as possible.  I may never see these guys again"

I'm wondering if it has to do with playing with folks you don't know as well personally and so the meta-joking is harder.  When playing with people you've only known as a name on the internet maybe the easiest joking to do is within the game.

Maybe it is just a matter of jadedness; more experienced players have already survived the hardest dungeons, have achieved name level, have run their own domain.  There is little fun left in to trying and eke those earning out yet again. 

As I type this I'm also wondering if this is related to one of the trickiest parts of our game; how it tells you to survive on one hand and calls you a coward if you don't try to open doors or chests.  It is the whole courage versus caution problem- why even go into this dread place if we know a vampire is there.  A kind of nonchalance seems to be a very sophisticated way to handle this problem by sidestepping it and placing on the character's shoulders: "Of course we might die, but Rutherford of the Top Hat is too dumb to realize it."

Of course this is all assuming that what I'm asking about is actually a phenomenon.  And there seems to have always been a thread of pretty cornball things going on in the game since the beginning (I'm thinking now of Arneson's turnstile in front of his dungeon).  Maybe I personally like a more serious take on things, want to survive, want to climb in level and am just seeing a different style of play.

I don't know.  How serious do you take your play?  How does that change depending on context?  What is the limit of too serious or too goofy for you?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Serendipity XX

I'm back from Outer Suburbia. I was working on two different charts but didn't finish them to my liking so have some pics.  I really love this first one.  Doesn't it look fresh, like an OSR artist just drew it for Petty Gods, or something?:
This next one is just a pattern I liked.  I put it on the back of my first house rules digest:
This was called "The Tomb of Absalom," but looks like it could work as a dungeon entrance to me:
The Happiest family portrait ever.  A group of Pygmies:
A very large spell book:
I think this was called a whale barnacle but I think it is a mummified Beholder:
Just a German design I liked:
And this map of Mammoth Cave:
It is really crappy quality because the original was.  But I wanted to share it for the names of some of the chambers.  They are interesting and evocative.  They are also names given in a place that has a lot of different visitors (take notice megadungeon creators).  They are hard to read, though.  Here are some examples:
Lovers Leap
Fat Man's Misery
Scotchman's trap
Grand Arch
The cataracts
Lake Purity
Fairy Grotto
Although, now I'm realizing a lot of these names make more sense in the mundane world.  To name something Giant's Coffin here gives you and idea of the fantastic look of the place.  To give that name in a dungeon . . . probably means there is a giant's coffin there.  Oh, well.

These are all public domain, which means you can use them any way you wish.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Silhouettes XLIV - Insects

I whipped the clones back to work to bring you this special Insects (and Aliens) edition of silhouettes.  These are all in the public domain so use them as you wish.

I have always been fascinated with giant versions of insects as fantasy monsters.  Some of the larvae are so weird and vicious.  And I like how they are real things (if scaled up a little).

Back in the 90's when I had little hope of finding kindred gaming souls, I was working on making a solo gaming system for myself (my hexagonal geomorphs are part of this).  For a while, every morning with coffee, I would read an entomology textbook looking for possible monsters.

I think some of these I'm sharing today would make perfect alien races for your science fiction rpg.  Take our first contestant for instance, a larva of Cnemidotus caesus:

True Telecanter Insect Fact: I raised moths for the government at one point and knew how to tell the males and females apart. I was also quite proud that I improved the efficiency of their system so we produced almost twice as many eggs as before I was hired.

I don't remember what this one was but I thought it might serve as a carrion crawler:

This one looks too hard and bumpy to be a slithering tracker, but maybe a scuttling tracker:

This next feller is an aquatic beastie, an adult larva of Pelobius tardus:

Next, a modern rendition of what an ancient insect might have looked like:

I wouldn't want that thing crawling on the outside of my space ship.  Next, Termitogaster texana:

I've labelled these all "Larva" in the zip file so they are easier to find even if it isn't technically accurate.

True Telecanter Insect Fact #2: I worked for a mosquito abatement program for several years and during the many, many tedious hours of doing that got to see lots of weirdoid insects like mosquito larvae, velvet ants, and rat-tailed maggots.

Okay, now on to some more iconic insects, starting off with said mosquito (the origin of probably my favorite monster):

a Grasshopper:

 the dreaded Cockroach:
a second and spikier Caterpillar:
and this stylin' Cave Cricket:

True Telecanter Insect Fact #3: My grandparents raised bees (along with a lot of other things), so when I was a kid I was often running around playing near the hives with flying bees bouncing right off my chest.  I'm not really scared of bees and have never been stung.

Here, thanks to the Open Clip Art library, is a bee:
and also a Wasp (which I have been stung by, the bastards):
These have all been added as vector graphics to the zip file linked in my sidebar to the right.  I hope you all have a nice Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Silhouettes XLIII

More Silhouettes for your charts, maps, and player handouts.  (Been bored out of my head lately, so have another shot of these)  These are all public domain so use them as you wish.  We'll start with a peasant holding a scythe:
A cleric petitioning the gods, or maybe a wizard casting earthquake:
An old OSR favorite, a female bard (you know it will be cool when I put her torso on a giant flea body and her songs turn people to amber):
Have some more dogs, starting with Foxhound:
 Fox terrier (small but likely vicious):
 and a Collie:
Todays selection also includes a Bobcat:
a Cricket:
a Prawn:
Toucan (not that threatening, but c'mon, you know you want a Toucan-headed giant or something):

and last but not least, Armadillo
These have all been added as vector graphics to the zip file linked in my sidebar to the right.

More Adventures in Layout

So I blathered a bit in a previous post about trying to fit my one-page charts into a coil-bound A5 template, my preferred size for a gamebook to use at the table.  I got to thinking, "Hey, Lulu does picture books and such, maybe I kind find a non-traditional template that would work better."  It turns out there is a book size option called "Landscape" that looked really promising.  "Aha," I thought, "that might even work better because I won't have to constantly flip the book back and forth sideways to read the charts.  Unfortunately, at 9x7, with margins and gutters, the landscape really isn't much bigger than the A5's 5.83 x 8.26 in.

I managed to fit a 20 entry table vertically on the page only if I shrunk the font to size 6, blurghgh.

My eyesight isn't what it used to be and for some reason the homes I play in always seem to be dark.  I would like big, fat, easy-to-read fonts.  But I would also like a book I can have in handy in a very convenient size, not like a honking textbook.  Maybe these are mutually exclusive goals.  Maybe I was actually being a visonary designing for single sheets of paper because everything will be on tablets soon.

I'm tempted to try the 6 point font route just to see how it would come out.  What is the smallest font size you can tolerate for occasional lookups?  Have you had similar struggles using the page efficiently for something you are laying out?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Silhouettes XLII

More silhouettes for your charts, maps, and player handouts. These are all public domain, so use them as you wish. We start with three warriors, bronze age, early iron age, and stone age:
Next another porter, because you never have enough. This barefoot woman could be a peasant desperate for the work:
An ape- or caveman:
A mysterious rider that could be a mage or beckoning thief:
Now from my beasts of burden posts, a pack ape and an elephant with mahout and howdah:
An ostrich:
A snail:
A seahorse:
A porcupine:
And some alternates for animals we already have, baboon and tortoise:
Finally, a palm tree:
These have all been added as vector graphics to the zip file linked in my sidebar to the right.