Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Holidays

I think the term is kind of bland but my players might be celebrating Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, Christmas or anything else, shrug

Happy Holidays guys.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A few thoughts on continual rewards

One of the things I learned during my GURPS game was just how brilliant the regular measured reward system used in D&D is.

D&D hands out some cookie, experience, a new level, a new spell, magic items, something at every sessions and this is a powerful incentive to continue the game for longer.

While GURPS can be played this way (c.f Dungeon Fantasy) its not the default play. You often get rewards based on what ought to be there rather than Gygaxian Naturalism. This lack of reward, smaller experience awards (1-5 matters but it feels paltry) , less magic items and less treasure takes away a big incentive to play longer.

This can lead to more player boredom , shorter campaigns and more a tendency to "move onto something else" as happened to me . This isn't bad necessarily, games can go on to long and it can even be a real plus especially in todays entertainment option rich world

Still if a longer old fashioned game is whats desired, well its going to require some accomodation

I think its also why GURPS, while an excellent system (been in the world for 26 years) has never reached the popularity of D&D. Its fun but its not the fun most players are looking for.

Dungeon Fantasy of course works to correct this and does a decent job of it, but its still GURPS and while its a loving tribute, its also in my opinion a bit snide too.

I guess its an issue of the Right Tool for the Right Job. Use D&D to play D&D, Use GURPS to play GURPS

What I have been up to.

Real life mostly.

However during my MIA time I

#1 Finished up my GURPS game with what I consider a pretty satisfactory ending, the characters got well off enough that they decided to stop adventuring. This was a solid in character way to deal with player boredom.

#2 I ran a few sessions of Angel, 2075 Post Apoc. It worked well though the game is going on hiatus as one player is going to do some missionary work and the player who is the slayer is his minor sister and without him there its not easily workable. Since her interest has waned (this was only the second time every she played an RPG with my GURPS game being the 1st) I doubt she'll want to continue.

#3 Wrote a 24 Hour RPG. for the Creative Commons. Its called Double Dice and I literally dreamed it up one night. Methinks I have been gaming too much. A much more polished, not 24 Hour Version will show up here along with some settings and such. Just for fun. Its not old school by any means but its mechanically decent and as that is my weak point, I am pretty proud of my work.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I'll haver more content and discussion soon but for all my fellow Americans, Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Samhain Everbody.

I said I didn't celebrate Halloween however , since it is a major holiday for a lot Pagan, Wiccans and the like wellll.

Happy Samhain everybody

Saturday, October 29, 2011

3 Simple Reasons Why I Don't Do Edition Wars

#1 Different people like different games and thats OK

#2 Every version of D&D 0-4, Pathfinder, Trailblazer and every retro-clone beyond all bring something fun to the table in some circumstances. They are all great ways to get together with cool people.

#3 People choosing to play a game I may not like or enjoy at a certain time (or at all for that matter) are not stealing my player base.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Question for the Readers

I'll start with a confession, I like night time soap operas in small doses, Dallas and Dynasty when I was a kid, occasionally others. Of late I have been enjoying the sleazy Melrose Place remake on NetFlix.

For those who haven't watched it, those show is way sexed up compared to the dreadful 1991 version and in addition to the usual schemers the leads include an obsessed psycho, a thief, and a med school student turned prostitute (played by the same gorgeous actress who played the Chinese Aussie resistance fighter is Terminator Sarah Conner Chronicles)

Let me ask you this.

Are Conventional RPGS (not Indy games designed for this purpose) good for other kinds of games than action story derived ones?

Can they with the right group be effectively used to game those stories of betrayal, jealousy, decadence and other sorts of immorality without implied violence?

If so, what is needed to make it work?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

18 thoughts on a 5 Stone Retro-Heartbreaker Game

I have no plans to add yet another OSR game to the ring, there are many out there already, with art, layout and design far better than I could do all by my lonesome.

That being said, were I to take the plunge I know what I'd include

#1 7 Stats (Strength, Intelligence, Dexterity, Constitution, Fellowship, Will or possibly Wisdom and Perception)

#2 Ascending AC and to hit bonuses.

#3 Level based defense bonus

#4 A definitive end game with the ability to play after that. This includes kingdom building, high level adventuring, strongholds, corporations and more,

#5 Class/Level

#6 Unlimited Cantrips

#7 Vancian Magic

#8 A fully coherent system that handles adventuring tasks, not a skill system but a system for stuff that needs to be adjudicated in game . I think it would be maybe 2d6 based influenced by LOTFP with a classes specializing in some and everyone getting some ability to improve them.

#9 Probably no cleric but there will be cleric type spells.

#10 Several Play Styles (Faeries Tale, Vikings, Swords Sorcery, High Fantasy, Weird)

#11 Support for everything to the musket age

#12 Racial Class Options

#13 Backgrounds not elaborate skills list. I don't know who said this but I tend to agree "The more skills in you game, the dumber your character is"

#14 Talents. Not a feat system but a system of cool extras, optional of course, ala Rolemaster and Arduin and such.

#15 Optionally Zero Level play that stacks.

#16 No multi classing but hybrid classes instead.

#17 Lots of standard gamer races with some mods for more powerful races (for example, to play an ogre in a game that allows it you have to start at a certain level and you get certain things)

#18 LOTFP meets Riddle of Steel style encumbrance.

Old School Design Rants #2 Old School Does Not Mean Incoherent Mechanics

One of my biggest gripes about D&D is the lack of coherent basic mechanics to handle adventuring tasks.

Each game has several subsystems for swimming, climbing walls and doing any of the other things an adventurer might do. Its not necessary to have % "skills" d6 systems, d10 systems and all that, just to be Old School.

While I understand why a retro-clone would include them, it being a clone and all, as James Raggi has shown us with Lament of the Flame Princess, its perfectly possible to have a coherent mechanic to handle stuff that comes up in games that is best handled by the dice.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Review, The New Death and Others

I'd promised James a review of his book The New Death and others more out of respect for his excellent work at Age of Fable than any love of the type of fiction or of reviewing.

I am glad I did.

Lets start with the layout and structure, its not pretty or heavily illustrated but its small, easy to download on the slowest connection and the use of hypertext is flawless. Its easy to navigate and the font is easy to read and display. This is a fine thing.

I also like the mirthfully creepy cover art which reminds me of Edward Gorey.

The stories and poetry are a wide mix of the strange, homage works to the pulp era and a plethora or weird fiction. Now truthfully this is a genre I tend to avoid as I find it difficult and less than rewarding most of the time.

I'll make an exception here, the quality of writing and elegant brevity of the works makes this a most worthwhile read.

I found myself enjoying them and pretty easily able to get into the flow of the story.

Now like every work it has a few flaws, in particular the E-Book references his no longer extant website near the end and while you can find him elsewhere, this could be annoying, Secondly there is just a hint of a amateur roughness in places. Certainly not enough to discourage me from recommending the work, to the contrary its in general excellent but if you are word nut you'll notice it.

However if this his early work I can't wait to see his later and at 99 cents, you really can't go wrong. Its agreat read

You can get the book a Smashwords here, so go spend the buck, read a few tales, you'll be glad you did.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Old School Design Rants #1 Old School is not a layout or editing style

This is a little series of sorts about old school game design. Mostly personal rants and ideas I think will improve future OSR design.

Rant #1

You do not have to duplicate the poor quality editing and layout of the old games to be old school. As long as your game supports the basic GM centric, high trust, use your own brain not the rulebook set up its old school no matter how its laid out.

Why No Halloween Themed Posts

A simple reason really, I don't like or celebrate the Holiday. So don't bother looking for candy either. I payed back the candy I collected as a kid with interest years ago and I don't answer the door.

If I have kids I'll change that though. Kids like Halloween a lot and I wouldn't deprive the larva of the experience.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Schopenhauer on gaming

No not really but it fits

Our civilized world is nothing but a great masquerade. You encounter knights, parsons, soldiers, doctors, lawyers, priests, philosophers and a thousand more: but they are not what they appear - they are merely masks.... Usually, as I say, there is nothing but industrialists, businessmen and speculators concealed behind all these masks. - Schopenhauer

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

5 Reasons why I am not a member of the SCA

Back when I was a young adult Grog the SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism was the thing for gamers. Lots of chances to be kind of medieval, fight with a sword, meet cool women and it was gamer friendly.

I hung around there a little, saw a few fights, really appreciated the caliber of the women fighters and archers (and one amazing slinger) and the fighters and was awed at the scale of the wars. Its just was not my thing and never clicked for me..

First off, with one minor exception, it was not the people. The SCAdians are the nicest most helpful group of people you'll ever meet. They are ready willing and able to get you up to speed and to teach you. All in all, they are great.

Why it didn't click is as follows

#1 I hate feudalism.

The SCA while partially historical also has quasi Feudalism LARP aspects I just did not like. Sir this, Lady that, bah...

#2 The SCA Combat style is stupid.

Oh granted it requires skills and athleticism and is a safe well thought out sport. Its fairly fun in its own way if taking a blow doesn't bother you and you don't mind roasting in plate (mail is a bad idea) Its also silly. Sword and Shield (or Sword and Board as the folks I knew called it) was never useful in real combat with armored foes (not even vs mail) and the chivalry? Give me a break. It makes for great game I guess but even back in the day I knew of George Silver and now , well Poleax and Longsword and Ringen and Misercordes in the cod are right out. Justly mind you, but still want real medieval combat not hitting people with heavy rattan sticks.

#3 Limited support for what I do like.

Its there in theory but Migration Era and Elizabethan stuff are mostly ignored. The stuff I really like (Enlightenment) isn't supported at all.

#4 The Not a Fighter Stigma.

This is the only time the SCA people were less than friendly actually, when they found out my rather limited interest in heavy combat. There is a stigma in males (especially burly guys) with have no interest in the combat sport aspect. Fencing? sure. Archery? Maybe. Heavy. Nope? Too expensive, too violent and not my cuppa tea

I understand the reason (clash of cultures, a chronic lack of new blood) they feel that way but I don't like it. If because I have no interest in heavy combat, I am going to be regarded as second class in the organization, thats OK. You can keep your warrior society and I'll do something else.

#5 Medieval Crafts aren't all that.

Nuff said there. I'd might have liked to learn to throw pots to do needlepoint or cook , the medieval division of labor really left that on the not so socially approved list. Men must Fight and may craft Women may fight and should Craft as it were.

So after a three or four tries I decided it was not gonna happen.

However I urge you to make up your own mind. The links I gave can help you learn more an dwho knows, it may suit you just fine.

My simple GURPS Chase and Sneak Rules

During my 7 Misfits GURPS game I ran across some situations that I felt needed to be handled a bit differently than the rules I had access to supported.

I suppose I could have bought GURPS Action but I felt at the time it was simpler to role my own, plus of course its the old school way ;)

Anyway those rules worked very well for me, mathematically gave essentially the same results as more complex rules and were fast in play. I'd use them again any time.


To sneak past sentries or patrols, roll stealth. In addition to modifiers for light, cover and terrain use the opponents vision roll modifier.
The opponents vision roll modifier is calculated as if the opponent rolled a vision roll of 10 plus modifiers.
For example
Two decent sentries with a +2 on vision rolls have a base roll of 12. This is "making the opposed roll by two" in GURPS terms to therefore the player must make a Stealth roll with a minus two penalty.


Chases rolls are made the same way with the caveat that the core used for chases is average of Health and Dexterity or Running Skill minus encumbrance, and other penalties. If the total "chase" calculation is less than 10, the difference is given as a bonus. How long the chase last is based on how many "bands" that is successes are needed.

For example

A moderately (-2) encumbered guard with a DX and HT of 11 has a chase roll of 9. This becomes a +1 bonus so our nimble (DX+HT average 12) thief needs to roll at 13- to get ahead. If he can do this 4 times , he escapes. Otherwise the guard catches up to him.

In Urban environments, the number of tries can be limited and if desired, new tries can be created with an area knowledge roll (hey another alley!) or acrobatics for more Parkour style action.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

10 Things I learned from my Old School GURPS Game in No Particular Order

Running an old school -dungeon fantasy style GURPS game has been a learning experience for me and much to my surprise has changed some of my long held preconceptions about games in general.

#1 I love dungeons.

In the past I thought they were just dumb but these days, I like them a lot, a heck of a lot more than a I did as a young grog. Not only do they make my job as GM easier by keeping everyone on the plot but they help concentrate the groups fun and keep them focused, something essential with a group as big as mine.

#2 I don't really like GURPS rules system for this kind of game.

Its a good system but it doesn't support my wahoo, old school, rules not rulings gaming style the way I want . It simply isn't as much fun as I expected and given the limitations of my group I have to cut it in ways that take away GURPS strengths . I might be willing to give it a try with a more experienced group or on different subject matter but mainline GURPS is too complex and my version of GURPS Medium-Rare is just not doing it.

#3 I dislike GURPS magic.

This really isn't new . I have had a mild distaste for it since Fantasy 1.0 (about 1988 or so) . The system is fine and there is nothing wrong with Evil Stevie's rules but its bland and balanced in ways I dislike. Too meh in combat, too strong in its world building implications.

#4 Fate Points are fun in any system.

I grafted a fate point system based loosely off various GURPS rules and it worked as follows
Basically 1 point makes any roll a success, 1 point saves you from certain death and 2 points allows certain death to become a flesh wound. Players start with 2 and gain 1 per session and 1 for a really cool moment. This worked great as it encouraged player involvement, allowed anyone a chance to shine and let me save key NPC's for later. Mwah Hah Ha Hah...

#5 My world is too weird.

Its a sandbox designed to allow pretty much anything with an emphasis on creative chaos and a world that responds on a semi realistic fashion to actions. It works fine but the mix of Earth stuff, Cthulhu, Space Aliens, Faeries, and standard D&D tropes was a a bit nauseating, kind of the game world equivalent the suicide special drinks we mixed as a kid (a little of everything in one glass) . Its not as good a combo as I'd hope.

#6 The Earth stuff helps the game as I hoped.

The fact humans are from Earth helped get the players into it as I hoped.

#7 I need to tone down the silly.

My flaw really, I think my game might benefit from a bit less chaos arrows, funny voices, talking animals, pet zombies and a bit more taking seriously. This silly doesn't impair the fun factor but I have the feeling its wearing on the me and players.

#8 Borrowing from other systems is good

I came up with a a couple of quick house rules for chases and stealth based off 3e and 4e D&D take 10 and they worked great in GURPS. They kept the drama up, were faster to play and still were basically the same as GURPS 4e core rules math wise. I'll post these later but suffice it say, don't let purism deter you from fixing the rules as needed.

#9 GURPS is incoherently laid out for Fantasy games

This is a not a system issue exactly but one of layout. GURPS really needs a good critter book not a book of mostly real world animals like its Bestiary (though that would be a useful book) or a book of folkloric critters like the quirky Fantasy Bestiary but a straight forward "Monster Manual" with things to encounter and kill. This should include people (bandits, soldiers, cultists, enemy mages) as well. Open book, grab stat block, play. As it is while the rules are all there (mainly in Dungeon Fantasy) the stuff I need especially the monster stats are too spread out for ease of use. I understand and respect the business case (its a sound publishing decision based on well thought out and researched sales metrics) but that doesn't help my game .

#10 I need to do more world building and mapping

I have a smart group who "gets" whats going on but I think my world building needs a boost, Now Midrea was intentionally designed in a haphazard way, what I need than, make it, use, it . This is fine but it needs to jell together better. I need to make a map somehow, put the nations in place and make a world book for people to see if they wish. This would I think improve the game a bit and help take away the "silliness" more than a little.

Well thats that ..

Later I'll include those house rules I promised and an article on why I am not a member of the SCA.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Big 50

No, not my age. The number of followers.

Thanks everybody.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Weird Pets

My current group, the 7 Misfits has a few pets. However unlike the usual cat, bird, shoulder dragon, magic horse that you see they seem to go in for the macabre.

part of this is do the open structure of the system we are using, GURPS and part of this is do the unique nature of my players and another part of it is that Midrea is simply a very weird place.

The current and former list includes such luminaries as

Leroy the marginally sentimental poodle eating zombie, who is not BTW actually under anyones control.

Itsy, a somewhat tamed Drow riding spider, the Samurai's occasional mount and rescuer

Blip, a mouse/bat fae companion of the Serpent Cultist

Eater of Eyes, a fairly normal pet, in this case a smart-ass raven not yet bonded as a familiar

and a Pokethulu whose named I mercifully have forgotten and whose player has left the game as far as I can tell.

So gentle readers, what kind of weird pets have your groups had?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Introducing the 7 Misfits

The most surprising thing about my current Old School styled Dungeon Fantasy game is the shear size of the play group. I have 7 regular, reliable, quality players (with one walk off) who get it and that is big group for D&D much less GURPS.

My suspcion is this a a "benefit" of the recession, people have time and gaming is super cheap.

Whatever the cause I am enjoying the heck out of it. I thought y'all might be interested in meeting the characters, a misfit team of mercs that manages to thrive and survive the craziest things.

Roughly divided we have Team Evil (both played by women, both playing assassins clearly the deadliest members of the gamer species), Team Neutral and Team Good.

Team Evil

Psycho Girl: A sociopathic Knife Dancer/Assassin, probably a changeling easily bored with no regard for human life. In other words a typical Midrean Elf

Snake Lady: Settitte Temple Assassin, Faerie Friend and Stone Cold Killer

Team Neutral:

Zappy the Barbarian: Crazed Barbarian Fighter/Mage/Master Chef on a Doomed Quest. 110% Baravian

Pervo the Crossbowman: A sharpshooting, gun toting, crossbow toting professional mercenary and pervert.

The Samurai: Amnesiac Master Smith turned Samurai Mercenary.

Team Good:

The Ranger: Archer, leader, singer (the player has a rather good singing voice) and all around decent normal fellow.

The Battle Mage without a Past: A powerful wizard with decent soldiering skills played by a GURPS rules expert. All around scary.

There you go, 7 fun characters played by one of the finest groups I've ever played with.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Received a Nice Player Compliment Today

Spoke with one of my players, C who plays the Battle Wizard in my current GURPS game.

I had mentioned to him the spontaneous nature of last weeks UFO literature influenced trip to the alternate universe.

His reply made my day

"Huh, you did that so well I thought you had it planned"

Old School Doesn't Mean Being A System Purist

Let me give you an example.

Much as Peter Dell'Orto over at Dungeon Fantastic is doing I am currently running an old school styled game using GURPS 4th edition.

Its a sandbox with lots of freedom of action, high trust in my players and it covers 3 of the 4 Old School Zen Moments as envisioned by Matthew Finch.

* Rulings, Not Rules
* Player Skill, not Character Abilities
* Heroic, not Superhero
* Forget “Game Balance”

Only the second is deemphasized a little via the mechanics of the game. Its throughly old school run in the style I have run games in since Rune Quest II mumble years ago.

And yet the same games shows rules grafts from Buffy (Drama Points and Static NPC rolls) 3X D&D (take 10) and 4e (my combat cheat sheet) and uses throughly modern GURPS 4e (an excellent system BTW)

Is its still old school?

Heck yeah. And my players, many new to RPG's are loving it too.

Folks, what makes a game old school is less rules and system (most older D&D games after all were a hodgepodge) but you and your players.

Monday, September 5, 2011

You Know You can Return to a Dungeon

This is something that newer players and GM's overlook and the modern "adventure path" play style discourages,simply,

Just because you went through a dungeon doesn't mean you can't revisit it. Its quite possible to go back to search for more loot, clean it up later, claim it for your own or do any number of other things. Its even plausible for different players or even the same players to play different characters visiting where there last PC's went.

Simply note the changes and play.

A word of advice though, if the same players plan to return with different characters I recomend the old if trite "journal" routine. This way any metagaming that goes on (and its hard to prevent it) is fair and fits better into the game world. This feels more organic and I think it leads to a better game.

Secret Doors and Puzzles in D&D

Big Purple has a discussion of this going but other than the reappearance of Old Geezer (the young fella at Gygax's table and a legend) its not an exciting discussion.

My impression of secret doors and puzzle traps and all that is simple

These serve much the same purpose as unlockable content and puzzles do in computer games. Its a reward/another thing to do if you play it over again (with another group or by returning to the area later) or if you are clever about it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Don't Bother None

A little J-Blues from one of the greatest and most game-able Anime ever, Cowboy Bebop

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Why GURPS Not Old School?

This one is easy. I like GURPS, my players are not familiar with old school (they are on the young side) and like GURPS, one players knows enough to co-GM . It works for all of us. If i game with these guys long enough, I'll eventually get them and a few other people into Angel/Buffy, Pathfinder or Old School D&D but till then, GURPS will do nicely

The New GURPS Game went very well

I met with a new group of players last night for a tight 4 hour GURPS session.Things went far better than I had hoped for for a lot of reasons. These are the ones I think that most added to the game in no particular order.

#1 Well prepared focused and committed players and because there was a strong Earth connection they were actually interested in the game world. Midrea for the win.

#2 Lively Non Morlock players (I have had a lot of these guys of late)

#3 A willingness to get in on the whole William Shatner School of Drama and ham it up on everybody's account

#4 Me thinking fast on my feet, preparation on my part was limited to a few encounter notes which I adjusted as needed, moved to a plausible but fun location and in fact simply added stuff I thought would be fun (The Schroedinger's Princess)

#5 Borrowing from video games A: . Rather than continue a combat that was fait accompli anyway and boring the players, I used cut scenes to move the action along.

#6 Keeping pre game info dumps short and verbal. No one wants to read page after page of notes, they are however interested in listening for around 5-10 minutes or so

#7 No rolling unless failure is interesting or probable. GURPS normally charges for this calling it a perk "no nuisance rolls" I make it a game rule as it speeds up the action.

#8 The presence of a couple fate points. Normally GURPS combat is super deadly and while interestingly no one needed to use any they still helped the game. Having a few fate points and a means to earn more (by being cool) relaxes players and enables them to take more risks. GURPS also supports this with the rules as "Its only a flesh wound" I just used a small separate point pool.

#9 Borrowing from video games B:Quests. Rats, Tunnel, Reward. Easy to understand, plausible and trope-tasticly familiar. The players loved it.

#10 Humans only. People may disagree with me and in fact I did allow non humans but everyone in my group played a human. The group oddball was a Japanese character with a bought local title that he mostly played to his advantage. This worked nicely and contributed to a cleaner game.

Well there you go, story free actual play tips.

And in case anyone wonders, session 2 will be next week if all goes well with schedules.

Friday, August 19, 2011

D&D and the Gift Economy

As I was looking through some of the old school modules I realized that they were jam packed with magic items and that in fact there probably was more weapons and armor than a party could really use even with upgrades.

After some thought it occurred to me that maybe these were supposed to be given to henchmen as part of a D&D gift economy.

Let me explain, the default play style I am used to is

The Party, this is the PC's , and the occasional pet, NPC or familiar.

However there is another option I've seen mentioned in extended play,one I call the Warband

This setup consists of the PC's, their pets (dogs, familiars, mules, animal companions, horses) NPC hirelings (Mercs to keep monsters away from the MU or horse, torch bearers, specialists) and henchmen (NPC's with levels)

This kind of set up lowers the difficulty of the module and means more treasure recovery (more eyes to search means more chances to spot loot and concealed or secret items) and that extra magic treasure instead of being sold for cash (a difficult task all in all) is gifted to increase both the power and loyalty of henchmen. Thus instead of the module having tons of treasure it has basically about enough for a larger troop.

This hearkens back the original idea of D&D as a war-game extension and explains why there is as much emphasis on Charisma. In such games not only is Charisma not a dump stat but its vital to the long term success. It also ties into the "followers" system for Fighters, Thieves and the others too . Reaching "name" level gives you a free boost to your leadership as a bonus for playing that long.

Now I'll note that this does slow down the advancement rate (XP sharing and all) a little at low to middle levels but thats an intentional as it results in longer more involved campaigns. And it has only modest effects in high levels, also intentional as by that time, the PC's are playing the post game anyway.

So what do you all think?

Politics, a facet of D&D I really like

No not pseudo feudalism or projecting modern issues into the game. No ,I like that the default assumptions allow people to earn the right to have their own kingdom, to earn power and to use it for ends good and ill.

Unlike Supers games which are pretty much still directed by the Comics Code Status Quo or Modern Fantasy's Masquerade or the impossibility of real in game change in modern games, D&D and its sibs lets you use the power you have earned. Charm the king, slay the tyrant heck be the tyrant, be the tyrant of a 100 worlds . Its an enormous field of possibility.

These days most people don't chose to partakeor really know how but thats changing . Given the release of stuff like Kingmaker (for Pathfinder) and Adventurer Conquerer King, its pretty clear people are starting to realize how much fun this can be. Good for them I say and go conquer something In the Name of the 5 Stone!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Let's Read the AD&D 2e Monstrous Manual PDF

Not my work at all but its awesome and a more than a bit applicable to 1e and 3e. Its 2012+ covers pages of community ( commentary on the Monstrous manual with ideas, discussion, plot seed and more.

It can be had here on mediafire .

The consolidation thread is here on Big Purple and it includes the 5 original threads as well.

The authors blog Monsters and Manuals is also recommended.

lastly one of the commentariat , Demiurge 1138 is a nano-publisher like me. You can get his stuff on Paizo under Demiurge Press. Note also the 1st item there is free so no reason not give it a try. I am heading over there myself.

What a Clever Spammer

It looks like one of my new commenters, Jimmy is a spammer. Thus far his comments have been polite and cogent but awful generic and there is a thrifty little link for international calls on the bottom. Hmm...

Well I am putting him on link probation and so Well Jimmy, if you aren't a spammer apologies but if you are, I am nuking your replies next time out if they include the phone link.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Milla Jovovich The Gentlemen who Fell

This is a really great song and a very cool video for an unlikely source, Milla Jovovich star of countless geek dreams and some movies ;-o

I might be starting a new game

Fridays. It will either be Pathfinder or GURPS or maybe 2e. Wish me luck.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

There are no Gladiators on Midrea

Wandering Prize Fighters and Masters of Arms? yes, Pit Fights? yes. Actual formalized Gladiators? no.

This was a tough call to make, retired Gladiators and Gladiatrixes especially make great adventures as they the full range of needed skills (weapons, social, medical) and connections in all classes along with some freedom and money however I decided no.

The main reason is I have no Rome or any state really able to support that type of activity (its a points of light world) and because its a more open world than Rome, it wasn't an essential role either

Also while foreigner, thief or gladiatrix are some of the few adventurous options in a Rome themed game open to female PC's Midrea has many more choices, so the need is not so great.

Last as a lot of Midrea's people are from Elizabethan England, they carry their traditions, not Roman ones. Its just a better fit.

10 my lesser known Appendix N notations

Everybody knows Appendix N from the 1979 DMG. Its the seminal list of D&D inspirations penned by the late, great Gary Gygax himself. You can see the list here .

Now for those of us who started gaming later, there are often very different inspirations. Here are some of my oddball ones

#1 Smurfs.

Yes Smurfs particularly the Johan and Peewit material. Its basically a straight across the board D&D world set in kinda sorta, Europe with a Fighter (Johan) a Rogue (Peewit) with a goat animal companion and plenty of NPC spell casters. Even Gargamel is very D&D, an obsessed low charisma alchemist with a cat familiar.

#2 Gor.

You know John Norman's Sword and Planet BDSM misogyny epic. Once you dig past the rubbish, there is quite a bit of useful material there and parts of Gorean slavery (influencing the bad guys) and city states showed up in my game much as Tarn (riding rocs) did in Dave Arneson's First Fantasy Campaign.

#3 Starcraft

A misunderstood phrase from the game helped create two major cultures. That a rather long story for another time though.

#4 Dune.

Face Dancers, Ghola and Prana/Bindu show up under other names in various
places as does the Freman warrior ethos.

#5 Pirates of Dark Water

This phenomenal animation series inspired the Shan people and other things.

#6 Earthsea

A decently well known series that inspired some of the world layout and the Shan peoples as well.

#7 Thundarr

Technically post apocalypse science fantasy the kinetic energy of the show, its monsters and an occasional call of Lords of Light or Demon Dogs might be heard.

#8 Terminator

There is one Marv Stu, in this case a very good friends character back from when were very young that has a connection.

#9 Swashbuckler

The 1976 movie. It has much of everything a movie needs including swordplay and true love

and last but not least

#10 Paradoxes of Defense

This is the famous book on weapons by George Silver and long before the Internet days I had a hard copy reprint. Its information on actual swordplay lifted much of my ignorance and gave me tools to run combat. As time went on, the desire for realism (hey it was the 80's everyone was doing it) lifted but I still understood how things really worked. This just made fantasy better.

So there you have 10 Appendix N notations. How about sharing yours ...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Old School House Rule #4 Dex as to hit bonus

Again another house rule from my 2e days, basically the dexterity bonus could be used as a to hit bonus with any weapon the character was proficient with. Basically it was proto-finesse.

The party thieves and illusionists loved this and the rest of the players didn't mind either. Again as always YMMV

Old School House Rule #3 Detect Magic and Read Magic are class abilities not spells

This is not one of my regular house rules but back in the 2e says we did this fairly often. It gave magic users a "has the gift" flavor and never proved to be unbalanced.

Old School House Rule #2 Magic Users can make any kind of potions

This one is a bit odd but I like to allow magic users and alchemists who are of an appropriate level to make potions to make any kind of potion.

This eschews the Rolemaster'y idea of potions as embedded spells (and yes Rolemaster did it first) adds a bit of flavor and makes potions a product of alchemy rather than a spell storage device.

And if it means that magic users can have a little healing, so be it. Its not like clerics have no blasting after all.

Old School House Rule #1 Unlimited Spells Known

Some older editions and retro-clones limit the number of spells a magic user or other class can put in their spell book.

To my way of thinking this is unnecessary and does nothing to actually balance the class. The real balances on a MU's powers are what spells I as DM allow them, slots per day, and what magic items they some arbitrary limit.

So I simply drop that rule.

Another way to do this if you want less sharing spells or looting books is to keep the limits but exempt spells the magic user personally researches from the limit. This has the salutary effect of increasing research efforts and customization which can be fun.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Theme Parties: The God Squad

Lawful Good, Pious and tough as nails. When things look bleak the Church calls on these guys, The God Squad. I'll leave the levels be, usually I make heavy hitters like this about L12 but they can be adapted up or down as needed.

Ravi: Female Human Paladin

Rel:' Ravi's Twin Brother, Paladin Divine Defender

Sen: Male Human Sanctified Rogue

Paul: Male Human Empyreal Bloodline Sorcerer

Naine: Female Human Cleric

Dor: Male Human Inquisitor

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Something I am working on for Old School

I have been working on something for my old school-heart-breaker-retro-mutt game in lieu of a having skills system

1st Everyone is also assumed to have basic adventure skills (swim, ride, climb, tie knots) and such. When needed these are handled with attribute checks.

2nd I use an adventuring task system ala Lament of the Flame Princess to handle things that are part of an adventure and a non combat challenge. This includes Thieves Skills for example.

3rd Everybody has a "Background" which is where they came from. This is L0 (level 0 adds to L1 in my game) and gives them some basic knowledge outside of adventuring Its somewhat similar to a "secondary skill" from AD&D mixed with the L0 stuff from DCC

4th and last each class has a lens which determines how a person was trained. This is something like a 2e Kit A couple of fighter examples might be Archer, Gladiator, Brawler. These will eventually give special abilities and grant knowledge and such based on attribute checks.

An example, a human fighter might look like

note this assumes 3-18 score. Its meant to be compatible with older editions and to be honest have not fallen far from the tree

Strength 16 (rather good) +2
Wit 10 +0
Luck 10 +0
Dexterity 13 +1
Constitution 13 +1
Fellowship 13 +1
Perception 10 +0

Level 1
Corean Peasant
Fighter - Mercenary Archer

Adventuring Tasks
not listed

Gifts (2, 1 bonus for being human)
Not listed

HP 16 (how this is calculated, average dice+con for a human (5 on a d6) + fighter max and con (10 on a D10 +con) )

AC 15 (padded doublet, shield, dexterity)

not listed but will include armor, shield, weapon

I have not quite gotten to "to hit" yet but y'all can see the general idea.

So what do you think?

Confession: I don't think Feats are all that great

This is an odd confession considering I just finished the 1st draft of a great big book of Combat feats for 3x but there we go.

1st, some feats are just plain boring and are utterly mechanics driven. Skill focus is a pretty uninteresting feat and while say Combat Casting is mechanically useful, it too adds little fun to actual play.. Its more of a resource tax that adds little zing to the table.

Many other feats, combat meta-magic and such in my opinion feats serve more as breaks on what character can do and mostly to doll out the awesome rather than encourage it in abundance.

Let me give you a few examples.

Feat Chain #1


In 3x , roughly this feat lets you take another attack if you drop a creature in a given round. Once. That is if you have the prerequisite buy in.

Following up after this is Great Cleave (like Cleave but several times a round) and in various supplements and house rules a whole chain (Supreme Cleave lets you take a 5 foot step and even seen Trail of Blood letting you use your full move)

This is good and fine but why not simply give this all fighters thusly ..

Any time a Fighter (maybe of of L3 and up if you like) drops a foe, he may take a free swing on any foe within his reach up to his move.

This is roughly equal to giving a fighter the entire Cleave feat chain (including the variants) but so what? Unless the character is fighting a horde of minions or something (which in many editions gets him 1 attack per level!) all it does is give him a chance to shine every so many battles which is a fine thing.

Now a fully concede that feats do allow any class (even a Wizard if thats what you want) that has the stats to do this things, and in game where there is some erosion of niche protection this can be a good thing. However its not that hard to do for other games, either with a small XP hit as a custom class (for the Thief , the Ranger or whatever) or with some kind of Gift system.

let me show you another chain,

Feat Chain #2 Spring Attack

This chain requires 2 prerequisites (Dodge and Mobility) and basically allows a person to attack once at any point in their move. Later feats in the 3.5 Players Handbook 2 allow extra attacks to be taken with some penalties.

I have two word for that. Complicated & Boring. As I see it, mobile combat is fun and it makes more sense to allow anyone to moved and attack if they like, especially in older editions where they are unlikely to have a ton of attacks.

The same thing applies to the various feat chains for things like Bull Rush and Disarm and Feint and such which now (as for Ultimate Combat which I saw a peak at while it was under construction and up on the PFSRD) has chains to allow you the privilege of making one of yor attacks a trick or bull rush or something . As I said Boring.

Instead of limiting these things, once you have a good rule you ought to encourage more of them. Rather than static combat or move into combat than attack, why not have mobile swashbuckling battles with thrown cloaks and slams and grapples and shoves and more

If extra attacks by weapon specialists or two weapon fighters are an issue, just jot down a note like.

Weapon Specialists and Two weapon Fighters gain extra attacks with various weapons. Such attacks may only be used to attack

Simple concise, clear.

And yes the same things apply to creating magic items (any caster of the appropriate level should be able to do it) and if fitting Metamagic feats. I mean really, if you want say maximized spells in your game just make them use a slot 3 levels higher. Quickened spells, 4 levels higher and so on.

Doing this will allow a lot more variety and is still resource limited by either ones to hit bonus or spell slots thus preserving balance.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Adding a Blog to the Roll Grimmhaus

Grimmhaus is now added to the roll.

There are two reasons for this

1st its a rather good game blog that I do read and did overlook.

2nd and rather more self serving Josh just did me the singular honor of quoting me on his main page.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Been playing Fable 2 and its implications for table top

OK sure Fable 2 like all such games suffers from the repetitiousness but I'll tell you what, that game is a lot of fun.

Probably too much as I've stared to attach Fable style names to food. Last nights supper was Marrow and Mates and the night before that I had Unicorn Cheese om the hamburger. Yum.

anyway I digress. Fable 2 is enough fun to suggest this law to me.

"As most gamers now have access to X-Box and similar technologies, any successful table top RPG needs to be more fun than a convenient video game or it will fail."

Now mind you back in 1981 and thereabouts this was not an issue. Many players had no console game or computer and even such jewels as Pool of Radiance could not compete with the Table Top Experience . However the modern video game is a lot more compelling and convenient and as such we need to be better and emphasize how much more fun it can be."

If we don't our players will stay home and play WoW or something.

What's you old school heresy ?

Well my heresy is ascending armor class (AAC) . It makes a lot more sens for a great AC to be 30 rather than negative 10.

While I'll play with THAC0 (I love me some 2nd Edition) AAC is faster in play, more logical and simpler to use.

Now don't get me wrong I have no trouble managing THAC0, I mean after all its 1st grade math, but its simply not as good as ascending armor class in any meaningful way.

That being my heresy, whats yours?

I'm Back!

Not that anyone was all that excited mind but my hiatus is over and I hope to provoke some stimulating gaming discussion.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Taking a Blogging Break

I am kind of short ideas and am busy with this and that anyway. As such I am going to take a bit of a blogging break and retool.

Thanks for reading everybody.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Level based Defense Bonuses in any Edition

One of my loyal readers (JD Jarvis) made this point in the comments

If AC went up along with attack, HP best be kept low or fights are going to last forever.

And you know he is right at least if applied with all the magic items.

The thing is though in any edition of D&D everyone has a magic defense or three just to keep AC at a certain point vs. monsters.Heck early editions had enough magic items to keep the PC leveling up, use some of them up , selling some for training costs and to pass some of them down to henchmen (which is what was supposed to be done with the extras BTW)

This excess of items IMO detracts from the game.

It gets worse with 3x where game balance assumes that you have X amount of 6 categories at Y level and Z amount of disposables. That is flat out yuck. At least the old "hand me down" method felt like an ancient gift economy. The 3x method reminded me of video games and thats not a good thing.

Now later d20 games (the excellent Iron Heroes) had systems to allow for less magic items but this was in no way handled to any careful balanced degree for normal play. Even my own rules are pretty ad-hoc.

By the time 4e was starting to mature its DMG 2 (and later its Dark Sun) had systems were created to allow low magic games and inherent bonuses so that magic items could be cool and not just kit.

What I'd like to see is something like this applied to Old School games.

To do this a person would need to figure out how many pluses a typical PC has a a typical level to AC and to hit, give enough so that AC and To Hit ratios are about the same and than allow magic items to cancel out.

This would put fights on the same scale while allowing items to be special and a bit more magical as vs "just another +1 sword"

Any ideas?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Less Squamous Frog Gods and More Faerie Queens Please

Just a short rant

I love Sword and Sorcery and cut my teeth on much of appendix N. That being said the hobby, old school especially has become so infatuated with Weird Fantasy that its sucked much of the juices out of it.

And yes sure there are some very cool original materials out there , not the point. It seems like our social decay (and yes US society at least is in fact desperately sick) has entered into a sick feedback loop.

These days I'd be hard pressed to to see a supplement that speaks of wonder, awe, terror and anything on the comprehensible, normal human scale. Instead our angst feeds us a steady diet of ancient moldering forgotten ruins and enough Lovecraft inspired material that it borders on pastiche.

When we don't get that we get more 70's style material that was seemingly influenced by way too many hallucinogens.

Well I think its time for a change and for us to look our other roots, the Hobbit, Grimm's Faerie Tales, Kathryn Briggs, Myths , Folklore, Ivanhoe, Horror. stories of swashbuckling daring do and even more modern things like Labyrinth, Stardust, Pan's Labyrinth. Legend ....

So yeah less squamous frog gods and more faerie queens please

Armor Confusion

This is kind of a continuation of the Shield Article in the last post.

A big part of the confusion comes from the ahistorical mix of armors in the pseudo Europe and the understandably mediocre research. Let me be clear none of this is not the authors fault. Back then they were short research material and what they did have was old inaccurate Victorian stuff. Given what little they had, they did a pretty good job and most importantly its playable.

The armor issues as I see them are

1st the existing armor types in B/X are Elizabethan not medieval (Buff Coat, Mail, Plate)

2nd Leather was in fact was rarely used in Europe as armor early on because of the expense and the inability to easily repair it . This category should be layered textile defenses, probably using the same stats as leather.

3rd Happily the mail rules are fine though there should be two or three lengths of it (the most common short hauberk, what D&D calls a mail shirt, longer hauberks and full mail) with different stats.

Now it helps to that mail was really effective (it can't be cut or trusted through with anything but a heavy longbow or specialized weapons) but it was horribly expensive. Defeating it was done not with a sword slash or cut but either with specialized thrusting weapons, going around the armor or by beating the wearer to death with a mace (the #1 weapon) . Not very heroic.

Shields were used in the mail period because they were cheap and effective especially for warriors who could not afford armor and they could protect weak spots (the legs typically) and prevent a solid blow. Still very useful.

4thThat leaves Plate Mail. What D&D calls plate mail is probably a coat of plates over mail!

A coat of plates was a common armor used later than mail . It looked rather like a modern ballistic vest with inserts within budget and comfort for many soldiers but as Widby showed, it too was mostly impervious. Most wounds were on unarmored legs.

Shields were still used at that period and and even later but by skirmishers and in personal combat.

What we think of as plate was what Gygax called Field Plate and Full Plate in AD&D. It was unbelievably expensive but it was Plate was basically immune to most weapons save very strong crossbows at close range and highly specialized weapons and joint attack techniques that were almost all two handed.

A really good set of white harness, 2mm or so Italian steel was essentially impervious to everything other than sustained bludgeoning attacks and specialized weapons (the Poleaxe was the #1 choice)

As I mentioned this was was pretty expensive stuff (as in price of a house or more) but even so its later cheaper cousins (and note munitions grade armor was cheaper and less labor intensive than mail) provided good protection.

By this time less well off troops mostly dropped the shield because it was tactically no longer needed , polearms were needed for battle field work and they were all two handed.

How we work that into D&D without big changes is tricky.

5th and last comes all the oddballs...

Studded which is a misinterpretation of brigandine (a common European leather and scale sandwich armor) and didn't exist in Europe although I suppose could be used for boiled leather scale if desired.

Scale which was dark ages stuff in Europe (though scale sandwich as above was common enough )

Banded which was Roman Lorica Segmenta and not used after Rome fell .

and "Splint" which was not clearly defined and was apparently mail with greaves if it existed at all.

Ugh, its little wonder there is some much confusion.

As for fixes well, thats another post for another day..

In which I way in on the Great Shield Controversy

There has been a lot of debate on the shield rules in older editions, whether they are good, whether they need changing and so on.

For me this is somewhat a matter of system. In OD&D and SW. I think the rules stand up just fine bonuses are few and far between and even a meager +1 (or more with magic) can make the difference between life and death. Were I using this rules set or Lament of the Flame Princess I'd probably use the rules as written with maybe the addition of the excellent Trollsmyth Shields Shall be Splintered rule.

However if use a more B/X, Labyrinth Lord or AD&D 1 or 2 flavored game I'd use a different set.

However before I go over that a not so brief bit of history.

D&D is basically a plug in for a wargame written by people with no combat experience.

Its understandable, European Martial Arts were hibernating, Asian Martial Arts were hard to find trainers for and fraught with bad training, and the sword and shield sport of the SCA was in its infancy. Certainly none of these things were available in Lake Geneva at the time.

However the shield itself is one of the most useful battlefield instruments known and is criminally underestimated in D&D . Even today we see shield walls and shields in use (the Vancouver sports riot FREX) on a semi regular basis.

Historically there were roughly 3 kinds of shields

Bucklers, a fist load shield the size of a pie pan most commonly carried for personal defense, were in use from around from the 13th century or earlier to the early 17th and possibly later in other areas (the Okinawan Timba and the Filipino Tameng ) Giving them a +1 AC and +1 to Hit or whatever bonus a second weapon gets (as they are an excellent off hand weapon) is about right. These weight about 2lbs (a shade under a kilo) and are not disposable as they are all metal.

Bigger shields are amazingly useful both on offense and defense and are a combination of mobile cover and weapon . They were also cheap enough for any man to own.

Downsides , they were heavy (8-12 lbs) awkaward to carry (save the buckler) and disposable. They stopped being used at a point when armor grew strong enough that they were no longer as useful and only the buckler which was carried for personal defense and was socially acceptable almost anywhere persisted.

Amusingly 3rd edition has a pretty good nomenclature for the bigger ones.

1st up are light Shields. These were in use from the dawn of history well into the 18th century in some areas (by Highlanders) They were decently protective and somewhat offensive.

They probably should get +2 to AC (or be used +1/+1 as above) with possible extra bonuses for a fighter or shield wall tactics. However are disposable and as such can use the splintered shields rules as if desired and will wear out . The easiest way I do it is to make all non magic shields gone after one adventure. These weight about 7-8 lbs (a shade under 4 kilos)

2nd were large shields which are still in use (as riot shields) they weigh up to 15lbs (7 kilos or so) and provide good coverage (+3 to AC) but being so large probably should not be treated as an off hand weapon. What opportunities they provide are negated by the limits they put on action. As above they are disposable and fighters and shield walls should probably get extra bonuses

Magic shields should probably work as whatever size they were and with whatever bonus but not wear out for ease of use.

However if verisimilitude is a goal D&D AC rules need a bit of work all around. In most editions, its no possible to accentuate offense or defense, basic stuff like skilled voiding is mostly ignored and magic gear is grossly over accentuated.

Its not really feasible to rewrite the rules but if I did well shields would be more useful, it would be possible to fight defensively or offensively and AC would scale with level rather than just gear.

That would not rule out magic gear, only make it a cherry on top rather than an expected part of kit.

What makes things confusing is that Plate, Sword and Shield was a generally an ahistorical combination save early on when a coat of plates (which looks much like a modern ballistic vest with inserts) might be worn over mail and the sword used vs lightly armored targets or as art.

The problem was that a sword cut cannot penetrate armor,even mail . Thrusts will not penetrate mail either although they could be used vs. joints in later plate (what Gygax calls Field Plate and Full Plate in AD&D)

Normally opponents were battered to with blunt weapons (all those maces on the Bayeux Tapestry) or hit on unarmored spots. This is covered very well by the To Hit Rules although some bonus blunt vs mail or plate might be worthy.

I'd probably give blunt weapons +1 to hit vs plate or chain and edged weapons +1 damage vs leather or unarmored if I cared.

Over time I have come to like armor class, seeing it as "roll to find an unarmored spot or weak point" and seeing damage rolls as quality of a hit. It works well and is fast and decently accurate at least at low levels.

The problem however comes in scaling AC with level. I am not in the HP are your skill crowd and I find the rules unsatisfactory

Let me explainn

A L1 Fighter say will only hit a plate armored (AC3) guy 15% of the time. This is about right as it represents a stab to a joint or smash to an opportune location.

Obviously modifiers can be used as needed and in those circumstance the rules as written work fine.

The problem is that to hit goes up much faster than AC, after about 3rd level or so. In 1e using the optional 1 per level rule a 6th level fighter has a 40% chance or scoring a hit (sans mods) which is a too much. Add in mods and it gets even worse.

If AC (sans magic) rose at a reasonable rate along with attack , most of these issues would vanish.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

So why don't you cover Runequest, B.R.P. and all that?

Actually its pretty simple, the blog is already kind of incoherent covering music, Pathfinder and Old School D&D like games, adding the above would just make things even less focused.

To be clear I think RQ/BRP/Legend, Open Quest, Gore and the rest are quite good games and in some other universe where BRP was a little better focused to become a universal system I am probably happily playing that instead of GURPS (since in that verse their probably was no GURPS) .

And note I have played the new MRQ, well MRQ1 anyway. It was just as much hun as I remembered.

However right here and now I have GURPS for my needs.

Locally there is a group playing BRP, mostly play test stuff for monographs or so I am told. I'd be welcome enough but at least currently I am not a good fit with that group. Nothing personal, those guys are welcome at my table too, I just don't belong at theirs right now.

Do note that things could change and if they do, well you may see a bit of that old school BRP round there parts.

Till then since I have plenty to keep me busy, well I'll let BRP slide on by.

Monngoose RQ2 to Become Legend

Via Akratic Wizardry

I do have to agree with Akrasia, Legend is a much better name.

Also this little bit here

Finally, as had been noted widely when Mongoose first announced their new name for MRQII, there already exists a 'Wayfarers' FRPG. It looks like Mongoose will be publishing and distributing the original Wayfarers for Ye Olde Gaming Companye:

Wayfarers RPG
First up, we have been chatting to those nice chaps at Ye Olde Gaming Companye and found out that they were not only prepping a new version for their Wayfarers RPG but that they were in need of distribution. Being familiar with their game and seeing they were obviously such nice chaps, we immediatly offered to print and distribute their game!
The Wayfarers RPG will be released by Mongoose in December this year, likely in the second week. We will be following it up with the first supplement in January, World of Twylos. Look for them in all good game stores.

reminds me just how cool our little hobby can be at times.Mongoose didn't have to do this, probably won't make much money anyway and all they might, operative word, might have been required to do is change a name.

Instead they decided to step and help YOGC increase their sales and distribution . And yeah sure its good publicity but in my book its quite generous and above and beyond the call of duty.

In case anyone from Mongoose should read this, good show gents, good show ...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Campaign Ideas 2011 June Edition

From Hell's Heart

In the setting, the PC's were seriously wronged by the ruling class, cast out, tortured, lost families, come up with whatever truly awful tragedy you like as per the background, just make it bad. Being nearly broken by this only one thing keeps them alive and sane ,faith and hope. Faith in each other and Hope of vengeance.

All PC's must be of evil alignment have a basic loyalty to other party members and be interested in vengeance at any cost. Its D&D on the dark-side where you can be the one drowning the world or consorting with witches and werewolves. Learn to hate and come from Hell' Heart.

Needless to say this is for select mature players who can handle it.


Royal Army Intelligence Division.

Gear Up! We have a dead marine. Its TV's NCIS in a D&D world. The PC's are tasked with investigating crimes caused by or against members of the King's Forces. Investigate crime, espionage, terror and ordinary dirty deeds while trying to avoid disappointing from The Gnomish Duchess of Deception (or the L.J. Tibbs)

Exemplars Two

My original version of this concept was a bit more complex and gritty but I thought y'all might like to see it.

Mortals and Heroic Mortals work as before with the caveat that they use the mechanics from a Game of Thrones for combat and do not have access to spell casting classes other than a modified adept.

Exemplars are made the same way as above with the following changes.

Use the Best 6 of 8 ability matrix and start at L10 Gestalt
Exemplars heal as per standard D20
Exemplars are immune to aging and cannot be turned into undead.
Unlike mortals who stun on 1/2 Con plus feats Exemplars use their who Con score.

Magic items are as per normal however as every class gets a defense bonus and armor is DR, the easiest solution is to split the GP allotment, half should become innate bonuses bought as slot-less items (but at normal cost) and the other half cool items.

Not also that magic weapons work as Valayrian Steel weapons in the AGOT ruels against no magic armor.

After re-flavor feats and such to taste.

And there you have it, Exemplars 2.0 ..


Examplars, Exalted using D20

It might surprise folks house easy this is. You don't even need to change the rules.

Simply do the following

All Normal Humans use Epic 6 Rules and at most 20 point buy. They do not get +2 to an attribute

All Heroic Mortals use Epic 8 Rules and at most 25 point buy

All PC Exemplars are Gestalt, start at 10th level and use the following ability matrix.

Roll 8d6, Arrange the best 6 as desired and add 12 to each roll.

Exemplars heal as per standard D20

Exemplars are immune to aging and cannot be turned into undead.

Season with flavor text, fancy names for feats and such to taste

These small changes will create a game that in play feels as epic as Exalted without any real learning curve.

Armor and Heat in 3x/Pathfinder

The biggest drawback to armor is surprisingly not the weight, mind you its not pleasant to carry 70lbs all day long but armor weight is generally well distributed.

No what makes armor unpleasant is the heat.

Mail is marginally tolerable, even with the weight mostly hanging on the shoulders as its breaths a bit but Plate, well its like wearing a boiler all day.

If you want to simulate this effect in your 3x and Pathfinder games its really easy.

Simply subtract the armor check penalty from armor from any rolls vs heat and fatigue. As with the helmet rules, all reductions to this check (class, masterwork and magic) count as usual. If the helmet is removed (reducing AC vs critical conformation by 4, to a minimum of 10) reduce the penalty by half, round up.

In addition, if desired, a shields armor check penalty can be applied as well though this should only be applied to fatigue, not heat.

One warning though, this does weaken heavy armor for non fighters a bit, so be warned.

Helmets in Pathfinder/3x

I was stewing on the issue of helmets a while back and came up with a set of rules that add verisimilitude to the existing helmet rules without too much complexity.

All armor is assumed to come with an appropriate helmet. However as helmets make it much harder to see and hear, subtract all armor check penalties from perception rolls,

All abilities that reduce armor check penalties (class abilities, masterwork, magic etc) also reduce this penalty.

If a character chooses not to wear a helmet, perception penalties may be ignored however reduce armor class vs confirmation of critical hits by four to a minimum of 10.

Magic helmets work normally as per armor.

So what do ya think?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Change the Classes Change the World Very Low Magic

It might surprise folks who haven't tried it but 3x is a very flexible set of games. With a little application of DM elbow grease and brain sweat its pretty easy to use the system for most anything.

For those who want essentially no magic in the hands of the PC's and farily high verisimilitude it can be a little tricky but you have a couple of options.

#1 You can use the old Game of Thrones D20 rules with some combination of E6/E8 and Codex Martialis and get a very authentic set up

or you can use your PF/D20 at E6 or E8 and my low magic rules in the sidebar. This will cover your needed decently well except for the mojo.

Classes are limited to

Skirmisher Ranger
Warlord or War Master
and some kind of Scholar/Everyman either one of the Scholar classes, the Savant from Thieves World, The Master from Dragonlance or the Maester from Game of Thrones, depending on what you have.

The magic is best handled with a feat based system something like the special abilities in Wheel of Time.

My feat list is below though note I did not include any description as its not done. Hopefully the names will be evocative enough to give you an idea of what they are like.

Totem Spirit


Echoes of Yesterday



Animal Talker

Animal Kin

Old Blood

Obscure Knowledge

Wolf Brother

Heightened Senses

Animal Bond

Pack Alpha

Wolf Dream

Dream Capture

Dream Watch

War Cry


Dream Bind

Dream Walk

Dream Jump

Bend Dream


Second Sight

Waking Dream

Green Thumb

Tree Warden


Uncanny Luck

Déjà vu

Horse Whisperer

Commune with Nature


Nose of the Bear

Healing Hands

Smell Gold (Genteel Looter)

Systematic Mind

Danger Sense (Danger Intuition)

Uncanny Alertness

With this kind of set up and a little imagination you can have a game where there is magic and mystery but which cleaves decently close to reality. Not bad from a game whose default mode of play is in the words of one of my players "Final Fantasyesque"

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Change the Classes Change the World Revisited

I've covered this topic before here and here for the interested.

My regular readers will probably be aware of my frustration with the 3x/Pathfinder options bloat, the endless pages of races and classes and feats and to a lesser monsters, spells and magic items.

There is however an occasion in which that complexity comes in real handy and I relish options.

When I am building a setting and I want something different there is nothing quite as cool as mixing it up.

As an new example,


In this setting there are no spells above 6th level and no exceptional (non spell using) mundane classes. Instead the PC are all from ancient magical bloodlines and all have the ability to cast spells.

The rules variants are as follows

There is only one race, Human. PC classes are as per Pathfinder rules, 25 point buy. NPC's classes use lesser point buy (maximum 20) and do not gain +2 to an attribute,

Each PC regardless of class gets the Prestidigitation cantrip. This is the manifestation of magic all PC classes have. It may not be selected retained or swapped and does not count against any class features or limits. It functions normally as per Pathfinder rules though it is innate supernatural ability.

All classes use spells and where non spell using options exist they are not permitted The list is as follows

Pathfinder SRD


3rd Party Sources
Yogi (Year's Best D20)
Kundala (Book Erotic Fantasy)
Arcane Trickster of Steel (Arcane Trickster Second Look)
Arcane Trickster of Skill (Arcane Trickster Second Look)
Arcane Archer core
Artificer (Tome of Secrets)
Hex Blade
Evangelist (Advanced Player's Manual)
Thane Mage ((Advanced Player's Manual)

Under Consideration
Gutter Mage (one of 2 versions ether from Oone's Great City or the Book of Roguish Luck)

For those who relish Arcane power, some selected Mystic Rangers have been initiated into the Order of the Star and have learned high magics. Its an arduous road but for True Seekers may be worth the journey.

Now with what are very few changes there is now a fairly balanced (all the bases are mostly covered) set up with a very different play style to regular D20.

If I choose to go a bit further and change the weapons and gear list a bit (say make it more Indian flavored or whatever) I can create a unique game with little or no learning curve.

Some Thoughts on Moving Away from Tolkien

Via Lament of the Flame Princess and Grognardia



I read the back cover and hated the rejection of the concept of "hero" ala LotFP. It deliberately discourages the ideas of nobility, self-sacrifice for the benefit of others, honor, etc. Better to be non-committal philosophically, and let DMs create the tone they want. Game designers are trying to give their games a nihilistic bent, which I think is a mistake.

Sure, not purely for nihilism's sake, but the section on alignment demonstrates that good/evil are merely ideas or opinions. This makes all ethical ideals baseless, including valuing life and respecting others. The cosmology chosen in the alignment section leads to nihilism, which leads to the mercenary spirit, contra honor, nobility, heroism. Honor and nobility become opinions without base, no more intrinsically good than dishonor and evil. That cosmology stinks, and it is too bad that it is accepted by default.

I think this game, and LotFP, are both trying to make their games more unambiguously conformed to the nihilistic sorts of literary inspirations (e.g. Lovecraft). In other words, they are "purging" so to speak other works from Appendix N (Tolkien). AD&D was less committed to this nihilism than these two newer games.

And you know I think the man has a point. I have no issue with scruffy S&S (love me some Howard and Leiber) but I am kind nonplussed with the whole Cthuloid horror idea and I'd like less of nihilistic stuff like the flavor text for the Speak Dead Spell (via James Raggi from LOTFP Grindhouse)

People that were decent, honest, innocent, or will be anxious to answer questions and remain on Earth for as long as possible. They have learned that the afterlife is nothing, simply a void with no effective consciousness and no sensation but for the numbing awareness of passing time. They know that being alive, even inside a rotting corpse for the briefest sliver of time that leaves them in agony as the decay of their physical form leaves every nerve transmitting unrelenting pain, is better than being dead. Cads, scoundrels, and heretics, on the other
hand, were pleasantly surprised to not find eternal torture waiting for them in death. Only
the vicious and undeserving find this peace in death, and they will be furious about this peace
being disturbed. This allows them a saving throw versus magic to resist answering questions.

and HP Lovecraft and maybe a bit more Tolkien ,Stardust , Legend and Excalibur.

And yeah sure its possible to go far into 2e territory and try to forget the S&S roots of the game to try and bowdlerize out the darkness but its also possible to go to far the other way and forget heroism as well.

JMO here but the next retroclone ought to embrace this other way a bit, more faeries and witches and a lot less squamous frog gods.

Confession: I don't care much about dice

A lot of gamers have a virtual dice fetish,longing for them, lusting for them and of course having all sorts of rituals and superstitions about them.

I am not one of those guys.

I like well made and attractive dice but I like all my tools to be well made and attractive. And yes dice to me are just a tool to play the game with, nothing special.

Now of course as I have played for a very long, probably far too long and as such I have many dice, some very nice (a frosted set) some well used (my D10's for Angel) and a few (a purple D6 brick) I have no idea WTF? I was thinking when I got.

Most of them however a plain, cheap and ordinary . Many were gifts and while yes a few are special but most are just tools and if I had to part with them, no matter.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG 1st Impressions

This is cross posted as a comment at Grognardia. As its more an opinion piece than anything that would help improve the game I am not posting at Goodman's boards.

So far the game seems well thought out and designed but there are a ton of things that make me go meh,

The tone of the game is too "agro" as if it was trying to be edgy and dark and invoke Slatanic Panik or something. Not my style. The L0 rules tone was also flat odious reminding me a satire of High Gygaxian. Yuck.

The spell system is too complex and JMO the roll for each spell defeats the entire simplicity of the older system where what you do with it is the decision, not how much stat damage should I take or can I risk a 40% failure rate. If I wanted that I'd play something else

As for the art, no offense to any of the excellent artists , its good but its also something I could care less about. I buy games for mechanics not art or stories. A nice cover and a piece or two if needed is fine. Its well done buts its too "stoner" and dark for my taste.

I did kind of like the idea of just adding L0 stuff to L1 as a kicker. That was a DOH! idea I just never thought off. The deeds were pretty cool as well.

Lastly the Zocchihedrons, just no. Its a clever mechanic and all but I am not going to buy a set of specialty dice made by just one company to play a game. And yes I eventually had to buy some back in the day but that was than and this is now.

However the game does have a few ideas worth stealing and I suspect some will like it. I'd even try it, yes even L0 mode and so thats something.

Good Luck to Goodman on this one. I won't be a booster but I have to say, y'all did a good job.

Goodman Games DCC rpg is up for Free Beta test

You can get the free open Beta here

I have downloaded the Dungeon Crawl Classic Beta from Goodman games and am reading through it. Its interesting thus far but I'll have more to say later, likely on the Goodman Games forum as much as here.

The Widom of Necrostatle

I usually avoid posting too much from Big Purple but this thread is just hilarious.

Real Philosophical Quotes as if done by a necromancer.

I suspect that the writings of Necrostatle or maybe even the sage himself shall shamble into my game at some point. Its just too much fun to pass up.

Apologies Post

Sorry for the lack of posts. I have been in that unenviable situation between blah and preoccupied.

I shall try to make up for it.

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Memorial Day Thanks.

To all those who served and especially those who dies for this country. Our thoughts of gratitude are with you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Manliest Thing in the World, A Man Playing a Harp

Benjamin Bagby performing Beowulf.

Seriously awesome and a great display of what a Bard might be like. This part is called Battle and if you let your wild heart listen its easy to be carried to a great hall 1500 years ago when the night is cold and dark and fear is all around.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Faerie Queen

This song is an entire adventure waiting to happen and while its a little too lyrical for gaming background its a great piece of music.

I have had the pleasure of hearing this performed live by Heather Alexander prior to the change into Alexander James Adams.

Now in fairness I haven't heard him sing as yet so I have no idea how his voice is. He's a heck of a fiddler though as this song will show.

Fire in the Head !

The Bard song, performed ably by Emerald Rose

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Theme Parties: The Nakama

Something crazy that just occurred to me, with the right books its pretty easy to create a balanced Anime themed party.

Like many Anime groups its a five man band. I haven't assigned genders so set em up as you like. You while in this set up you need Tome of Battle to use this fully, the Sword Sage can easily be switched for a War Blade if you want a big guy or if you are clever, a Fighter.

The Nakama:

Sword Sage

Alchemist Preservationist

Summoner Synthesist


Wizard Scroll Master

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Very Short Rolemaster Story

Just a short true story.

Rolemaster was the 1st game I ever gamed with a "gaming celebrity" in that case Chris Stone the author of the Shadow on the South Module.

Though we only gamed a short few sessions , generously he even gave me a copy of the adventure which alas I never thought to autograph and no longer have.

Still he was a hoopy frood. Hope he is doing well.

Rolemaster and Why I loved It

I tell you what, I loved Rolemaster 2e and 3e (aka Standard System)


Well it wasn't the charts (so many we called it Chartmaster) it wasn't the rules which were simply not all that great, it wasn't Shadow World which is cool but we never used it, and it sure as heck wasn't character generation which could take 30 minutes with a spreadsheet.

No it was the people.

For some reason Rolemaster attracted well adjusted, focused and mature players and for that reason alone I'd go back in a minute.

Simply, it was fun 95% of the time and I can't claim that for a lot of other games.

Games You Should Like But Don't.

Another open thread.

What are the games that in general people would assume you would like but don't


Hollow Earth Expedition. There is just something not quite right with the Ubiquity system and for some reason , it and the other game that uses it Desolation sticks in my craw.

secondly, Savage Worlds. I've owned this game twice and traded it (no loss to me) twice. Never again.

How about you?

What oddball games do you most want?

Just curious.

The two weird games I have yet to get that I want are Tales of Gargenthir and Melanda (also here)

I'd also like En Ferreus Veritas but I covered that long ago.

So whats your oddball ?

A few words of Wisdom from one of my Players regarding High Level 3x

I was chatting with one of my players, Eric the other day and was busily extolling the virtues of E6 and and E6.

Eric politely agreed that they were cool and more realistic but than added a bit of advice "Look High Level games and worlds aren't that hard of you remember that D&D characters live in a Final Fantasy-esque world."

I have to say its interesting advice and probably true though anyone naming a character Cloud Strife without a really good reason is probably banned from the game ;)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Tome of Horrors Complete, I Want It.

Tome of Horrors Complete. Here.

Its expensive (nearly a C-Bill) enormous to the point some might call bloated (1000 pages) and crunchier than pea gravel but I want both versions. I don't even use that many monsters but I still want it.

I don't know who said this (it wasn't me) but if you had S&W Complete (here) or Labyrinth Lord and the AEC (here) or Dark Dungeons (here) and this book, you'd have a lifetime of material and never need another book.

I might slightly disagree, I usually want a companion and DM's notebook but the sentiment is spot on. Thats a crazy lot of monsters and a lot of gaming.

Should You Switch to an Earlier Edition or a Retro-Clone

This was originally going to be a replay at B/X Blackrazor but I thought it might be a better post for the blog

Assuming you players are game, the question is should you switch to an older edition or a retro clone??

These days cost and support are not longer issues, Retro-Clones are free , there are plenty of adventures and most older stuff is fairly cheap .

Remember though that Gary and company were as old as many of us Old Grogs when they designed D&D. Making mature , fair judgment calls were not an issue for them.

OTOH an 11 year old kid like I was won't have the same skills out the door and while many of us could and did wing it well, not everyone did.

At that point rather than a big arbitrary Notebook O's Rulings, it was kind of nice to have rules in the rule book.

if you and the players are young or you don't feel like you could handle the extra burden of Old School DMing, thinking on your feet all the time (granted lighter now with the Internet and all) and being a very impartial "Judge" who does his best to make good ruling, than you might benefit from older systems

However if the issue now though is bloat and a lack of sense of imagination, you might be better served with older rules

Understand that say B/X or Labyrinth Lord (or Swords and Wizardry) and a DM's notebook and a bunch of misc stuff (extra critters and so on) was much shorter than just the Pathfinder rules, all 576 pages of them.

Don't get me wrong but Pathfinder is a great game but if you use the expected books, it can get rules intensive well over 2000 pages! (Core+APG+Bestiary 1 and 2, +Ultimate Magic + Ultimate Combat ,granted not out yet> + Misc , Bonus Bestiary, etc) exclusive of Golarian material or 3rd party stuff. Throw in some fairly generic Paizo stuff like the Inner Sea Magic, good 3rd party stuff and such and its easy to hit 3000+ pages.

Heck my trimmed "rules legal 3.5 for Pathfinder " stuff alone is nearly 4x larger than my entire B/X rules and while I can handle it, it can get to the point where the interaction of the pieces is a burden. How does this feat work with that spell or magic item and so on.

And yes sure you don't have to use it all and of course the Pathfinder SRD has most OGL stuff but thats a titanic challenge to keep track off and can seem very intimidating.

Thats not always fun.

As a counter point, Dark Dungeons a superb (and free) copy of Rules Cyclopedia one of the comprehensive Old School rules sets ever and say a fat DM's notebook/splat book is less than just Pathfinder core.

If your at that point when the rules are a burden you have some choices ..

You can

#1 Try and get your players to go simple
#2 Trim and possibly disappoint the players
#3 Or Just deal

So far for me, just deal is working OK but I certainly can see why a lot of people would benefit from a lighter rules set and with the Retro-Clone rules being free and all, its worthy asking. You'll never know till you do.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A D&D Confession. I sold my OD&D books long ago

Heresy I know but I never got much use out of them. Besides I have PDF's for any uses I may want and would rather they went to a good home.

Diaglo, the OD&D grognard, basically he was OSR before OSR bought them from and and as OD&D is pretty much all he played and he played it a lot I knew they'd get used.

That was a good thing.

Music for all the Alchemists Out There

Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jive by the totally awesome early 80's band, Men at Work.

Open Thread... What do you think Oathfinder should be?

I was typing a reply over at ChicagoWiz's blog when my ham fingers typed an O rather than a P --

I quickly deleted Oathfinder and finished more post but that got me to thinking, Oathfinder is kind a neat name.

So I am opening a thread and asking

What do you think Oathfinder is or should be?

Answers should be clean and gaming of course but beyond that, skies the limit

Monday, May 16, 2011

Let Us Not Go To Midrea For it is a Horrible Place 1d12 Ugly Things You Might See

One of the key ideas about my game world is that while there are some pretty decent places, since Midrea has weak rule of law, barbaric backgrounds, monsters, magic and violence galore it is not a nice place

Here are a D12 unpleasant encounters

#1 A gang attack on someone

#2 A public flogging (the most common sort of punishment)

#3 A public hanging (the usual execution method)

#4 A dead body. Happily with the fear of Necromancers, even in poorly run cities someone will be along to clean it, well probably, unless a ghoul or an enterprising re-animator gets it first

#5 A cast off child

#6 A wounded person, crying out for help. Careful though, it might be a trap.

#7 A woman being assaulted in an alley. A note here, this may be implied as rape but that kind of stuff never happens on screen or to PC's as some of my players, especially female players have had stuff ion their life that makes this hit too close to home.

#8 A maimed and or/diseased beggar

#9 A domestic quarrel. Note here also, this also has to be handled with care for the same reason as #7. However as my players sometimes enjoy knocking the stuffing out of bad people like that, its still viable.

#10 A starving dog. It might be vicious, I am almost wrote this as viscous, but hey its a strange place so it might be that too.

#11 A poor person desperate for work, any work.

#12 Something unnatural

3 Short New House Rules for Old School

#1 Armor Class and To Hit are positive in the manner of 3x as vs more traditional tables. Though heretical, its faster in play and more flexible.

I may have posted the next two before so bear with if thats the case.

Improved Shields
A buckler (a small hand held shield) adds a +1 to AC
A small shield (such as a target or a viking shield) adds +2 to AC
a large shield (like a kite, a knights shield or a Hoplite shield) adds +3 to AC

These bonus do correspond with the bonus given in skills and powers however in 2e games an extra proficiency slot is not required to get them. Instead a slot grants an extra +1 and up to 2 may be taken.

#3 Shield Block

Anyone carrying a shield may subtract its base bonus (exclusive of any enhancements or feats) from his to hit and add it to AC on a one for one basis.

Shields Shall Be Splintered
is in use.

2 Short New House Rules for Pathfinder

Fight Aggressively

Any player not fighting defensively, using combat expertise or total defense may opt to have his character fight aggressively. This grants a +2 to hit at the cost of -4 to AC in the round it is done. This may be used with missile weapons.

Shield Block

Shields function in a similar manner to combat expertise and anyone carrying a shield may subtract its base bonus (exclusive of any enhancements or feats) from his BAB and add it to AC on a one for one basis.

Campaign Ideas 2011 May Edition

Utopia Secret Police

Its 20 years after a mostly benevolent super being has secretly taken over the planet. All large scale war has stopped and most oppression has stopped. However as the super being does not wish to be everywhere all the time for fear of going wacko, its your jobs to stop organized crime, terrorism and all the other transnational, anti Utopian nastiness. You are the Utopia Secret police, a carefully selected, multinational force of experts because some people just can't deal with a decent world.

Royal Archaeological Delvers

Dungeon crawls and ruin raiding with a twist. Instead of freelance looters, you are a team of professional archaeologists in the employ of a King, Sandor the Wise. Instead of smash and grab it catalog, preserve, fight off monsters and Delvers , speak with monsters, uncover secrets and sometimes protect the Kingdom.

Arm of Decision

Its 2030 a new cold war, a war of limited resources in a world with NBC weapon proliferation and a ruined orbit. As near future special ops, you are the arms of decision. Your team of specialists protects national security and does all the nations dirty work, for the people. Probably.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Making Urban Fantasy More Real

Though most of my GM work in Urban Fantasy , specially Buffy/Angel Unisystem I seldom cover the genre here. I figure Tim at the Other Side blog has that covered pretty well and I'd like to concentrate on Pathfinder and the OSR

Today however I am making an exception and posting an old essay of mine on making Urban Fantasy more real. This was originally going to be a column on but I decided not to finish it and instead I am going to post it here.

Its a little rough in places and not 100% complete but I hope y'all enjoy.

Making ModernFantasy seem more "real' which is what we are talking about here isn't too hard.

There are a few tricks I use to help out.

First: Character design is all important.

Make sure the characters have NPC friends, relatives employers and so on. Make sure there is no more than one (if that) moody orphaned loner per group.

Second: Set the adventure in a town you know.

It doesn't have to be a real place. Twin Peaks, Newford wherever, as long as you know the town. I find using the home town works best.

Third:Make actions have consequences.

If the PC's shoot a gun, have the cops called. Don't hesitate to play the forces of law and order to the hilt. But do it fairly. if it is realistic have them arrested whatever but be fair and reasonable.

Fourth: Make the characters have a life.

Everybody has a life even the "Struggling Writer with a Trust Fund" that seems so popular among the adventuring set. PC's have friends, contacts relatives. All those folks they thought up either when the character was made or even on the fly can be used. Resist the temptation though just to use them as victims. They can also help out the PC's in a lot of ways. "Sure Buddy you can stay at the old cabin for a week"

Fifth: Emphasize sense and emotion.

Urban Fantasy isn't a game of numbers and monster bashing unless you want it to be. It is often a game of mood and texture. Be as descriptive as you can. If you aren't that good at description relax and fudge a little. Borrow something from your favorite author will never know the difference.

Sixth: Use real locations.

Know a good diner? Everybody hang out at a certain club? Use it. The players will love you. Even in an unfamiliar city there are familiar chain restaurants and businesses.

Seventh: Use the Internet.

If you are reading this article you probably have Internet access. Use it. There are millions of pictures and resources out there. City web pages, online directories you name it is out there. All of it for the cost of paper and ink.

Eight: Go slow.

The pacing in an Urban fantasy game does not have to be the relentless attack, recover, loot, sell back to the attack style of gaming. Pace the game in a manner that shows the real world as much as the false one.

Nine: Take a break from unreality.

Once in a while roleplay something like a trip to the mall or the dentist or the park or even a day at work and have nothing weird happen. This strengthens the notion that the PC's are in the real world and makes supernatural events more shocking. Not too much though, most players aren't interested a long game of papers and paychecks.

Ten. Even Monsters have Motivations

Monsters in Urban Fantasy setting benefit from having a realistic motivations. Not only does it add to the roleplaying aspects of the campaign it helps cement how reasonable it all really is.

Unlike in conventional Fantasy game marauding around looking for loot isn't reasonable. A pack of Goblins had to be much more careful modern Chicago then in a fantasy wilderness. Even a rogue werewolf may find himself outgunned by the local constabulary.

Now some systems address this issue with game mechanics. If your does those "mechanics" can help you balance encounters they can also lead to splatterpunk games in the hands of some players.

Eleven: Demphasize Violence

Many player character reach for a gun as a first response to any threat. Discourage this unless you are running a splaterpunk game. Realistic consequences are one way but there are a couple of others including setting the game somewhere with strict gun laws (I am sorry handguns are illegal in the UK and you can't get one) and simply writing adventures where guns aren't that useful. "You can't shoot a ghost Hillbilly"

Twelve: Encourage OOC knowledge.

Unlike in conventional game if a trivia fact, common bit of lore whatever is known by the player the character will likely know too. All those horror movies you watched, your character has seen them too. Those books you have read, he or she has read them too. Encourage the players to use what they know. As a corollary to this if the player is particularly knowledgeable in some esoteric area, encourage them to take the appropriate skill. This way Player Knowledge and Character Knowledge can blend harmoniously

Thirteen: Roleplay like crazy

Whenever possible roleplay and encourage the players to do the same. Ham it up a little. Play the waiter and the cabby and the monster too. make the people seem as real as you can. If you don't have a bunch of stock voice or extra stock characters, don't worry. Base them off you uncle Bob or your third grade teacher no one will ever care. In fact they will thank you for it.

A good way to encourage roleplaying is with some sort of "Brownie Point" system that allows the players to effect rolls. The more roleplaying the more control the player has over the dice. It is self perpetuating reaction

And finally Number Fourteen :

Be flexible in your GMing. Most games are run in a passive down manner "here is the room, here is what you say what do you do." Break out of this mold and let the players help you set the scene. For example let a player run a minor encounter with the traffic cop. If it isn't a big plot point who cares who runs it. Stuck for ideas, don't know what happens next? No problem let the players come up with something. For daring GM's letting players run a monster or reoccurring character is a possibility. Players who abuse the system, no problem, over ride them and start back a little bit.

With these tips you can improve your Urban Fantasy games,whatever system you play. Good Gaming.