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.