Sunday, November 8, 2015

Same David Bowie

In honor of last nights rather humorous Pathfinder game. Random David Bowie as Goblin King appearance , very random musical number and one epic fail all on a night in which the GM was not on top of his game.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

I Like My Magic Mundane Thanks

I've seen a lot of "weird" style gaming lately , Into the Odd , Middenmurk and of course Lamentation of the Flame Princess on my sidebar and you know there is nothing wrong with it if you are finding it fun.

What I don't get though is why some many people think magic ought to be weird, "mystical" or outright incomprehensible or that magic used to solve mundane problems is somehow "dull or pedestrian"

Not to put too fine a point on it but magic isn't very magical, its historically and in folklore  been nothing but a non linear means of solving mundane problems.

Let me give you two examples.

First up is the Hávamál,

This is a gnomic instructional poem kind of advice for Vikings and others from Odin. What makes this so germane is that it had eighteen spells listed and what they are for.

Let me go over the list from my favorite online version here

 #1 a blessing, #2 healing #3 protection from weapons #4 unbinding limbs for escape #5 Stop arrows

#6 counter curse #7 stop a fire in the hall #8 calm hatred #9 sooth storms at sea #10 stun witches , this one is a bit enigmatic but my understanding is its counters soul travel #11 battle blessing 

 #12 speak with dead. This is the only spell that is actually weird since it uses a hanged man  

I know the twelfth:
if I see up in a tree
a hanged corpse swinging,
I carve
and colour the runes
that the man moves
and speaks with me. 

of course if you know Norse myths and a it how sympathetic magic works in folkore, its stops being so strange since the ritual reenacts what happened to Odin on the world tree and very possibly some kind of shamanic ritual as well.

#13 consecrates the young as warriors and #14 is less a spell than a lore chant, like the great art of memory

A fourteenth I know: if I needs must number
the Powers to the people of men,
I know all the nature of gods and of elves
which none can know untaught.

This is again quite practical since such beings as the Land Vettir, Wights, Alfar and in some cases even the gods  can be interacted with, bargained with and negotiated  with . In a pinch such knowledge extremely and pragmatically  useful in the Norse  world view. 

#15 is a craft charm #16 and #17 love charms and #18 Odin isn't saying.

Now I don't know if ordinary folks could learn these either in some fashion in a part of the poem that's lost, from Odin or by dint of practice but even though its a God speaking of them these charms are outright practical, mundane and not very weird. You could make most of them with any edition of D&D , even the love charm (friends in 1st edition or charm person)

and this kind of practicality is not limited to Norse magic but its common in Goetia, Roman Magic and many other traditions.

Also DungeonMastahWieg kind of pointed me in the right direction here so kudos, when we look at it we even see the same practical spirit with the  magic-tech in Ghostbusters   detect ghost and supernatural , capture ghost/supernatural entity, contain ghost or supernatural entity (PKE meter, Proton Pack and Ghost Trap respectively )

Its not terribly different than a "Root Doctor" "Conjure Man" or "White Witch" might do when they weren't handing out herbal remedies.

And yes I'll note that folklore is short combat spells other than curses, if such spells were  thought possible its not doubt in my mind grimoires would be filled with "Lightning Blast, Fire Bolt and Mage Armor" too.

So what does this lead too, well 1st its not a criticism of Weird. Weird can be fun  Weird can be refreshing in small doses but it doesn't need to be an ethos.

Just as I like my armor like real armor, weapons like real weapons I like my magic mundane within the context of the game world and humdrum spells seem more immersive to me.

of course as with anything YMMV and   if there is one universal rule in gaming  its "If everyone is  having fun you are doing it right"

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


In honor of an upcoming and much overdo post, Magic from the Ghostbusters Soundtrack

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Six Games That I find Unplayable

This is just an opinion post. My opinion only and has nothing to do with the quality of the game. Simply these are games I could never play for various reasons. All of them are complete functional RPG's BTW, so this rules trash games, throwaway games and incomplete games

Now onto the list in no particular order.


Originally called Fantasy to Adult Lechery. Its not as badly written game as some think  but the content is disgusting, juvenile and gross. Its a degenerate game.

#2 HOL

Human Occupied Landfill is a good game, clever and well written. Its  just too weird and niche for me.

#3  Tekumel.

I used to own most of this line and its brilliant. I even enjoyed the novel "The Man of Gold" however the setting which is kind of Aztec/Islamic is so alien to my cultural interests and would require so much effort to get into the frame of reference I have to render it unplayable. I don'rt mind mining it for a bits though.

#4 Sorcerer.

I love this game, own all the books and unlike most of the more "story" driven ersatz RPG's out there, the game makes sense to me, However its basically "Dysfunctional Relationship the RPG" and the intended nature of the game makes it poor for good sized groups and requires just the right kind of players. Heck even the members of my group who could  grok  this game from the get go, had litttle interest. As my buddy, swordsman, mystic, troublemaker and all around cool guy Zatoichi put it "So its basically the RPG of my life, no thanks."

#5 Savage Worlds Low Life

Don't terribly like Savage Worlds and have no interest in playing sentient snack foods with Brooklyn accents. I just don't have the kind of sense of humor

#6 Kill Puppies for Satan

This is a borderline case, its actually a pretty good game mechanically and its very well written in an avaunt guard way. I just  can't imagine wanting to be around the kind of people who want to play devil worshiping human trash   Gaming with the kind of people Al Bruno wrote about back when Big Purple was far more fun is enough to make me want to join BADD. OK kidding there, nothing would cause me to join BADD. But I've been around people who are basically KPFS PC's   in real life and its an experience I'd rather  not repeat.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Second Best Gun Rules in the Business

GURPS Technical Shooting and/or GURPS Gun-Fu.

Covers realistic or movie shooting in exhausting but highly playable detail. Great verisimilitude , researched enough to keep the experts happy and with and enough detail for the gun nuts in your group.

The Best Gun Rules in the Business

The Best gun rules in the business come from  Kill Puppies for Satan a game in which I describe as you are Beevis and Butthead grown up, a total loser who worships the devil

Its a gross crazy game, unplayable to me  but an amazing design.

The gun rules from the defunct web page  with the cuss words edited out.

  • the whole point is to kill. a gun that won't kill somebody in one shot isn't worth selling to children, right? so absolutely every single time somebody pulls a trigger, somebody might die. you, me, random strangers, the downstairs neighbor, there's always a chance. make sure your pcs know it.
  • on the other hand, there's no such thing as a sure kill. i know it's a special case, but jfk's brains were on the trunk of the lincoln and they didn't declare him until four hours later. people get shot in the head and fall down and stop breathing and go on anyway to live normal happy lives. not most of the time, not much of the time, very rarely in fact, but it does happen. if your pcs want to be 100%, make them use a   of bullets.
  • nobody knows what's going on in a firefight, and accuracy in the real world is  well . take this poor diallo guy. those cops shot 41 bullets at him, he was standing in a for fuck sake doorway, and a. they only hit him with 19 or something and b. they thought he was shooting back. nothing like flying bullets to make you stupid. you don't know where you hit that guy, you just know he fell down. you don't know where the shots are coming from. don't give your pcs tactical information, tell them what they see and hear and make them   sort it out.
  • every bullet goes somewhere. roll the shot, miss, shit happens, but do you know where that bullet is now? in a stone wall? through a window and in old mrs merrihew's toaster oven? lodged against the rib of a passing dogwalker? make your pcs remember to ask what's going on on the far side of their targets.
  • bullets don't kill you by magic, they kill you by tearing big pieces out of you. they splatter blood, they blow off fingers, they unhinge jaws and elbows, they make you puke your shredded guts out your mouth and nose. there's no such thing as a clean kill. make your pcs gag.
  • dying sucks. sometimes you pass out and never wake up, sometimes you scream for an hour, sometimes you piss yourself with pain until fucking tomorrow. you shit yourself. sometimes a lateral headshot will make your brain swell up and cut off its own circulation and leave your brainstem alive, heart beating, breathing in and out, perfect for organ donation but dead dead dead. your best bet whatever happens is to get to the hospital, but who knows. make your pcs scared to  death of death. (let alone that they're going straight to hell, and demons are going to pour  lye into their eyesockets for the rest of time.)
  • different guns are good for shooting people under different conditions. a glock 19 is good for shooting people under normal, reasonable shooting people conditions like when the  jocks have been pushing you around for four nightmarish years and you can't   take it anymore, plus they're wicked reliable. a pump shotgun is good for making that noise before you shoot people in   half. a colt 9mm submachinegun is good for when you want to kill everybody in the room but you don't really want to kill the people in the next apartment, while an m16 is good for when you don't care who the fuck you kill. make your pcs use approximately the right gun for the job (but definitely don't expect them all to be gun geeks).
  • oh, and if your pcs don't want guns or want them only to use on animals not people, they're super cool (remember satan's guidelines). tell them right on from me.

Friday, June 19, 2015

What I Play and Run and what I'd Play and Run Instead

In case in anyone is wondering what systems I use  when I have a choice.

Unisystem , Classic and Cinematic. Typically Angel but sometimes any of the others in the series


Some flavor of D&D , Retro-Clone or Pathfinder

These are pretty generic systems and as such cover most of my gaming needs pretty well.

Assuming these didn't exist I be using

Basic Role Playing. Its a great system and super well supported

Palladium Fantasy or 2e D&D if allowed

Hero System , maybe.

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Shout Out to Drivethru RPG for Job Well Done

I wanted to say a few positive words today about Drivethru RPG.

Lets start out by saying I don't have an affiliate account with them or have any products on sale there, I'm just a customer. A very happy customer.

I'm not a  a big fan of buying PDF's, its a necessary and good part of of our hobby  but its just not my thing . Still when I want to grab another PDF (not the Manor #8 which I also bought there) there was a minor glitch. They took care of it quickly , courteously and professionally.

That company has demonstrated a track record of customer responsiveness  since their founding  and as such   I can recommend them or any of their affiliates without hesitation.

You won't be sorry.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

On Beer .

Not really  germane to gaming  or me since  I am pretty much a teetotaler but XKCD gave me a big laugh with this one.

Friday, June 5, 2015

In the Manor of Old School Grappling a simple review of the Manor Issue #8

Of course as you might guess, the title of this post was supposed to be  a pun. It refers to The Manor Issue #8 and  its  top notch grappling rules but since the pun sucked I changed it for more clarity.

Let me start out by saying I'm not a huge fanzine guy and to be honest I don't buy that many PDF's and I seldom review them anymore .

Like many people I'll download most anything free and legal but  usually Barnes and Noble gets my book money. However   once in a long while  I  do splurge on a PDF.

This time I am quite I did.

Now to be honest I bought this issue of the Manor for one thing, the article  Old School Grappling by Doug Cole  and Peter Dell'Orto 

The other stuff was fine, an article on hirelings, a preview of Strange  Stars some  and stuff for Torchbearer a game that I don't play but ah the grappling rules . They were worth the price of admission alone.

Simply these are the 1st easy to play, easy to use , universal OSR grappling rules that work fast and efficiently with almost any old school system or retro-clone.

This rules are thought out well enough that they could be used with Searchers of the Unknown without too much trouble and that game is so minimal  basically all you have a stat block!

It would be a bit silly granted since the grappling rules would be 10x longer than the game but it would work pretty much out the box. They use HP for degree of grappling and while I haven't played them yet, no doubt in my mind that they are faster and more thorough and scale better than they current systems.

Heck they probably could be made to work with 5e or Pathfinder just about as well.

That is impressive work.

As such I can recommend highly  the issue as for the price of burrito and soda you can get a great rules set and support the OSR.

The gentlemen did great work if and if you are unhappy with the grappling rules in your favorite game as most of us are, than you'd do well to grab a copy.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Played Some 5e Tonight.

Have to say I had quite a bit of fun . Our party was short a man (our two handed fighter guy off to play X-Wing)  but  the rest consisted of a Halfling  warlock, a cleric, a paladin, a rogue and a totem warrior barbarian (me)

The only house rules we used were random stat generation (which lead to pretty high stats) and a ruling that Paladins need to be Lawful but not necessarily Good. Ours is the Oath of Vengeance guy and like my totem warrior/pirate is Lawful Evil and an all around ruthless bastard, His player T and I work well together  in game so it makes for some fun play.

On the whole  system was decent, didn't get in the way and in general helped make for a fun experience. 5th edition  did its job well, which in its case was to be  D&D.

But as said  not the kind of game system  that inspires  me and honestly I think it could use more support for mundane encounters like the bandits we fought . Regardless everyone seemed to have a good time. We also now have several print Player's Handbooks at the table   so its doing well with my group. I'm happy to play it. I might even buy that PHB after all.

Mechanically  5e feats are very neat and  mine (Shield Master and Resilience) I can knock people around, block dragon breath and in general kick some backside in a strong but balanced way.

Another nice bit, the 5e Barbarian is superb, rage works well and smoothly and the other class  abilities are pretty neat . For example my guy   doesn't wear any armor and has  still an AC of 20 with his +1 shield .  Sword +Target Shield is very fun.

I might eventually want a few extra feats butt as no one gets more than 6 (5 if not human) , its not a needed thing for the  time being. I suspect a few  will end up in some clever homebrew or in Wizard's generous regular Unearthed Arcana Support long before  I need them.

Also not system related and most of all  I really like the home-brew game world, the kind of mythic fantasy meets sword and planet place called  Arlowen.

Its very flavorful and in general a fun setting  to game. my DM tonight, B is a little rough around the edges as a DM but the man is a good storyteller and a gifted world builder. Arlowen is among my very favorite game worlds and the most interesting D&D homebrew I've every played.  I love things like mummy kings, storm towers, ash covered islands, dragon people and all the rest. I want to explore and interact with more of it and I liked it in Pathfinder and I like it in D&D.

In the end I'd say  5th Edition played well, the Barbarian is the best version of the class yet and the feats are really excellent. Sure 5e is a bit of a one trick pony , good for playing its own idiosyncratic form of D&D  and probably little else unlike the more versatile older D&D or 3x variations  but sometimes one trick is plenty.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

So What System Does Inspire?

My last post was just about my personal feeling that D&D 5e was uninspiring as a system.

This post is about something different. What system  does inspire?

Well push comes to shove I'd rather play GURPS where I don't have to fight the system to do what I want. Eden Studio's Unisystem  when I want fast and breezy with a bit of what GURPS does and D&D mood is on me, older forms of D&D which while they actually have less mechanical options, support imagination as the main driver  of play better than newer version.

I will say though not part of the system, the art in D&D next is amazing. It often makes me say "I want that in my game." and it actually meshes pretty well with the rules, just not for me.

Some Random Thoughts on D&D 5th Edition.

I've started a new D&D 5e game. I'm playing a Totem Warrior Barbarian/Pirate Background though I may try and talk my GM , B into letting me switch to a Storm Sorcerer. Maybe.

This is my second campaign  which has  got me to thinking about the system and D&D in general.

First  thing I noticed is that unlike 4e, D&D Next is most certainly D&D as I know it. Unlike 4e which was a perfectly serviceable and decent game that wasn't D&D but was under its moniker and siffered for it. Next is D&D through and through.

It  feels and plays like older D&D mixed with newer D&D which to my way of thinking is a design success.

Now I think  it lacks some of the individualized feel of older forms of D&D, its a very coherent system and one that is I suspect not going to see a lot of house ruling or rules add ons.

Whether this is a good thing or bad thing is a matter of taste. I'm undecided on the issue.

Now there things I don't care for.

 It feels constrained, maybe too heavily focused is a better word. I know I don't but it feels like my choices are narrow and not terribly interesting . This is not logical, 5e has load of options but it feels restrictive if that makes sense to anyone.

Don't get me wrong. its a good game and I'm fine playing it but Next lacks sizzle. It feels like a game built by a committee, a small, fairly smart committee good at its job but a committee none the less.

This is grossly unfair to the designers as D&D 5e is actually a very good game but its just feels that way.

Its just that nothing out there screams Play Me, No, No, No  Play Me. That's not an issue in older games where there was a very different play style but I think its a flaw in modern RPG's and in 5e.

Also this game just doesn't seem like something I want to DM. I don't know why and whether its me or the game but it doesn't inspire campaigns or ideas.

As such its a meh game and when I  run again Next won't make the cut and I won't be buying the Player's Handbook either. I guess I'll have to funnel some money to the fLGS another way.

Anyway that's my rant, 5e is a good game, I'll play it but its uninspiring. YMMV.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Puzzle, Person and Class in the Old School

Lauren over here mentioned her fondness for the Old School D&D puzzle solving method which is simply, you the player, who were assumed to be of above average smarts would solve  the puzzle yourself or not and the game would progress from there.

There are a lot of good things to say for this method.

#1 It take emphasis off combat and on to other aspects of the game

#2 It make players and GM's think

#3 It negates the need for a thief class  and instead just lets stat rolls handle challenges like lock-picking and lifting a purse and the player, the surprise system  handle stealth and the players handle being clever

#4 With the right kind of group its very fun.

However there are downsides.

#1 Its slow and some people may want to get onto the next part of a story or something more interesting and less frustrating

#2 Lots of groups don't like puzzles and/or really just want combat.

#3 It requires a longer attention span and more time at the table than some players these days can manage. Remember OD&D was originally created and  played by middle aged men in a world with much less distractions and spending time there was much easier without the web or face book or any of that . Sure it lead to mediocre research and bad rules, such as the lock-picking rules or the thief class in general but it lead to a much richer game and a bit of politics here, a better hobby.

#4 Pigeonholing. Simply, the old school method tended to pigeonhole players into playing certain classes.

Let me explain this. One core idea I think that has been forgotten in D&D is the idea that not every class was for every person

It was kind of assumed the tricky guy would play the Magic user, the supportive guy would probably play the Cleric and the straightforward guy would play the Fighter. Yes sometimes everybody played the Fighter, support fighters, tricky "thief" fighters and such were common but generally the MU and Cleric were played by certain type  of people .

We assume this was a bad thing and I think we were wrong on this. People generally are happier playing to type, still are.

Now I suppose folks wonder where this idea was lost, well it started to fade in actual play, probably back in Lake Geneva .

As the game went on, new classes got introduced and from what I can figure from my research, this was to address in game reissues and player demand, The Thief since people wanted to systematize the role, the Cleric (though it proved to be a solid roll in itself) to defeat a PC vampire (Sir Fang ) Monk beaus people wanted to play Kwai Chang Kane from Kung Fu  The Ranger to sub in for Aragorn and so on .

This muddied the waters a bit and in time it became assumed that the class would provide the bulk of the  abilities not the players choices.

Now that wasn't all bad, it did open D&D to a broader audience and made the game more approachable as well but maybe  the assumed high level creativity was lost.

Still that creativity is inherent in  nature of the game and if it something you want, its not hard to make it happen. After a bit of adjustment, you may find you players love it.

Or not and if Roll DC17 Disable Device to  defeat the traps suits you better, go for it.

As always the #1 rule is "if you are having fun, you are doing it right."

My Weakness, Prep.

A comment by one of my posters Lauren Farrow mentioned the puzzle aspect of D&D and that got me thinking about my weaknesses as a GM.

Simply, I don't like to prep. Most of the time that doesn't hurt my game since I am very good at improvising and am able to fake a fully prepared game off the top of my head

However that approach has  weak spot . Puzzles  . My puzzles are never as good as they could be, they aren't well drawn, very complex or the kind that require player skill to solve.

In the past this wasn't an issue since my my players weren't into puzzles and weren't that good at them.

My recent groups though,  well, they can blow through a fairly complex , multi-variable puzzle in no time flat. Being they are of the video game generation and I am not  only have they been exposed to far more visual puzzles than I have, they are actually good at them.

What this means for me is, time for me to step up my game. Do a little more prep where needed and shore up my weaknesses. This a good thing though since it will mean for for fun for everyone, me included.

Once I get past the teeth grinding boredom of prep anyway.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Intro To My Never to Be Run Supers Game

In case anyone is wondering, this is not an April Fools post. I hate pranks.

A few posts back I mentioned that I suck at running Supers games and as such this intro won't get run any time soon.

However at one point I had planned to run a games based loosely on the Marvel  Civil War plot line.

As it happens my group plays Shield Operatives from the Reformed Avengers . There is a bit of a rotation but the consistent team leader is Shockwave, a sonic powered super with a police background played ably by my gaming buddy T.  His boss is theoretically Tony Stark when Stark is sober and functional. Since  he usually isn't ,  a powered armor super named Fireforce who was basically guilt tripped into taking over for Stark fills in.

Intro: Its about 10 years in the future and a lot is on your mind, your role in the new  metahuman registration law , budgetary issues with Shield and how not to get nearly killed on the next call out.

Exhausted and dirty you are returning from your more or less successful mission to take down the Reaver and his gang of super  powered criminals  when walking up to HQ, there is a sudden titanic  explosion

Iron Man hurtles to to the ground in a shower of sparks

Slowly lowering to the ground    with an angry plasma fire is Fireforce   the assistant Section  Leader  "Stark!" his voice  roars "You tin plated little  despot, wanna be dictator!"

Stark  fires his repulsors from the ground which hit  Fireforces force field "Nice try, Tin Man but I've made some upgrades." Fireforce grabs Iron man and hits him with a Thunder Puncher  shattering his helmet sending him into the wall."what next, Concentration camps for the powered  , you so of a ..."

War Machine, oh yeah he's called Iron Patriot now  moves quickly to help Stark

"Stay out of this Rhody." Fireforce growls as his titanic armor turns "E-Frame Go!" an Exo-Skeletal X rack attache itself to Fireforces armor. The rack looks heavily armed with energy Gatlings and some kind of rockets. It comes up to speed with an ominous whine

Roll for initiative!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

So About That Bad Rep of Yours?

I promised y'all a story.

Some years ago we were playing Rolemaster Standard System  (RMMS) which is basically like D&D with more detail and realism. I decide to try a Mage which is the magic User of the setting, a generic spell caster type.

I'm 5th level which is maybe 3rd in D&D , closer to 2.5

The setting is a tavern  and of course a fight breaks out,

Soon people are reaching for blades.

Its my initiative and so I say "I prep a Frost Ball."

Now spells in RMSS require a roll to go off and the more rounds you spend on this, the easier the roll.

Frost Ball is  not a strong spell, its not a Hadoken or Kamehameha type  effect, its a modest effect more likely to stun than kill and its blast radius , 10 feet wouldn't wreck everything in sight. Its not perfect for a barfight but I didn't think a sleep spell would help at the time.

Two rounds go by and I drop the spell and simple bash the bad guy unconscious with my staff.

There after my fellow players assumed I was "That  guy who plays blast crazy  mages." all for a low level, moderately powered spell I never even  cast.

Now after some years I moved on and into my new group.

We are now playing D&D 5e . I'm playing the boxed set iconic elf wizard. I changed nothing basically.

In our explorations we run into a nasty level boss with a lot of henchmen . Seeing a real good chance we would get killed and thinking the guy we were supposed to rescue was already dead and a dwarf to boot  I use my scroll of fireball.

Now I can almost see everyone gasping but you see Evoker Wizards in 5e can exclude a number of people from a spell equal to the spells level. I make a quick judgement call, figure who can take it even if they fail the save and  use the scroll. The Dwarf Cleric in the party gets singed but the fight becomes a curbstomp. We take much less damage than we would have otherwise. In other words I did my job

But what do I get ? I'm the guy who plays crazy blast wizards.

Le Sigh ...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Joann Jett with Bad Reputation

For reasons that will soon be apparent

What I like to play and run and why

Just a personal post

I like to play D&D and generic fantasy in most forms  and will play most games, Playing is not my thing though and I can get bored sometimes unless I am into my character or the game.

Now given a choice I'll run

#1 Euro-Centric Fantasy.

Faeries tales mostly, adventure fiction too. From Migration era  to the Early Modern . No Cthulhu generally except in Conan games  . I don't care much to run or play games in other cultures or eras  as I don't understand them well enough  do them much justice  . Orientalism and similar tropes outright annoy  me. I can play Victorian/Old West  though  and while I have huge respect for the arts and scholarship of the period, its not my thing usually.

#2 Zeerust/Hard  SF

Think Aliens, Firefly, Outland, Cowboy Beebop  hard SF with cultures I can relate too . I can tolerate Space Opera, Star Trek, Star Wars but they aren't my things. I detest Transhumanism though I actually playtested some of the Transhuman Space books . They are amazing and if you like Transhumanism, you should have them in your collection. I have a few and have even mined them from time to time.

#3 Post Apocalypse

Twilight 2000K stuff with a little Mad Max, not Gamma World or a Boy and His Dog though.

#4 Modern Fantasy/Horror

Anything from I dunno 1970 on up.  This is my best genre I think. I run tight games that are usually well received and  have run more of this than anything else. Also little Cthulhu here. Not my thing.

#5 Low Powered Supers.

As mentioned  before I kind of suck at Supers and while I've enjoyed a few games of Marvel Super Heroes and run a few as well, its hard to find good GM's or games where I can play what I want without hurting anyone else's fun . Low powered supers are another matter as they are a variation of Modern Fantasy really and I enjoy playing and running those

So there you have it. These are what I usually run and given a chance will play.

How about y'all?


Where the Blog is Going

I've been thinking about this blog and where to go with it.

It wasn't easy, there are so many good games, so many ideas and so many different directions to go int that it easy to get bogged down.

So in that vein I decided I go with the following

#1 Old School Games specifically Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures from Flatland Games.

This is my very favorite Old School game and I like it enough to playtest for it.

#2 Eden Studios Unisystem

This game is semi-moribund but its my favorite system to run especially in its Cinematic version . I've also playtested for them. Its simply the best system thus far for me.


I've covered GURPS a bit before and of course with permission  I host the infamous Ballistic Spreadsheet by Doug Cole but its high time I started sharing all the stuff I've made.  Coincidentally I've playtested for them as well and worked a bit with SJ Games. It was if you were wondering a very good experience, they are solid professionals.

Occasionally you may see some D&D 5e talk, and maybe little Pathfinder Epic 6 and a bit of this and that but there you go, the  new focus.

Hope I don't drive any of y'all away but if you decide to leave, hey appreciate your reading and good gaming,

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Lesson Learned #3 As a Player I Avoid Violence

Its just a quirk I've noticed about myself as a player, either I'm getting old or something but  outside of dungeon crawls I tend to avoid violence in games of late.

It wasn't always this way though I've never played combat monkeys but its just I find many fights tedious, no longer care about weapons minutia or any of that. I know these things. know my weapons and martial arts I just don't groove to them in my gaming as much.

Now I don't always get a choice in this when I play. First   my GM's like the action scenes

Second even when the GM isn't pushing action   one or more people in the group will almost certainly draw agro on us all so it behooves me to make combat effective characters. So I do and sometimes I have fun. often not.

Now don't get me wrong  I'm not some gaming snob, I don't even play story games or think they better than good old TTRPG's or that violence is in games is wrong. Heck I  enjoy my share of hack and shoot in computer games  but for whatever reason I usually make characters who avoid unnecessary fights  and violence,

Heck I've even skipped games I thought were going to  too violent letting folks know.

As such I simply try to make my choices with both eyes open and this makes sure that everyone is happier and that  I pull my weight as a player too.

Now this  doesn't seem like a big deal but it might surprise you how many gamers don't do this and its a shame. There are lots of reasons, habit, not wanting to be alone, others but in any case it  would make better gaming for everyone if people could articulate what they want and play only when they were into the game and its premise.

Lessons Learned #2 My Games Aren't Violent Enough for a Lot of Players

One thing I've noticed when I run games other than D&D type Dungeon Crawls   is that I treat violence in a somewhat realistic manner, that is best avoided.

This however can create problems with player involvement. Much like the old writers trope by Raymond Chandler  "If you don't know what to write next send a man with a gun through the door" violence is a big part of games and the players have come to expect it.

Its not something you can easily work around , simply, the guys need fights.

So over the years I've adapted and try to select settings and campaigns where fighting is a good and useful and fun option,

Sometimes it means tweaking  the rules a bit, such as in my SF game where .65 caliber seeker darts with ONC warheads exists (one shot, one brain kill) or the setting in  more modern games where frankly shooting people is usually not an option .

And  you know what, its fine. Part of a GM's job is coming up with stuff that makes everybody happy from time to time and brings home the fun. And gaming  goes by a single rule, if its fun, you did it right.

Lessons Learned #1 , A Lot of Gaming Ideas are Daft in Practice

One upside to our current gaming setup is that we get to try a lot of experimental games either when player's can't make it or just as a break between games.

One of the more daft ideas i ran with was "Inherent " in which the characters were defrosted convicts sent by a failing A.I. to repopulate the Earth.

my pitch for this was

 Back in the 1980's they started freezing Felons. A hundred years later you defrosted convicts and your slowly failing computer system are the last of mankind. Can you restart the species while avoiding all the behaviors that got you frozen in the 1st place. Basically Morrow Project meets Fallout meets Oz.

This well, sucked.  Bad concept, mediocre implementation and while the players were fine and even had some fun , it just was stupid.

Another bad idea, letting the players play themselves as Super Heroes . This have been great back in 1981 with Villains and Vigilantes but in 2014? Made of suck.

Other ideas I won't even try are Suds which I describe as "A tabletop RPG designed explicitly as a soap opera rather than an adventure game. There will be some action but its mostly drama drama drama in the vein of Melrose Place and the OC" and The Mighty which is another soap game, this time more along the lines of Dallas, Falcon Crest and Dynasty. Not only have my players never even seen any of these shows, no one us, me included could pull off the drama. Not gonna happen.

Even ideas that are partially useful and can be played such as

Starlight, Iron and the End of Days:
This is DeLint style Faerie tales set in a 2050 where the demographic prediction of Phillip Longman et all are true. Less Men means the Fae have crept slowly back into the world. Normal people, poignant empty cities and the greening.

can't necessarily be stretched too much and something like 

Revolution Rock: set in the same Universe where a band of teen age friends try to get into the rock concert of the century.

are just not going to work 

So the lesson I learned in the end is that as  I look over my huge list of games I have to remember  lots of cool ideas but they are just that, cool idea and are  daft in practice

So What Are you Good At ?

Well since  I'm bad at Supers people might be wondering what I am good at?

Well if I may toot my horn  I run very good Urban Fantasy/Horror ,good  Aliens/Firefly type SF, decent Fantasy especially Gritty and solid fairly realistic Post Apocalypse . I can also run police procedural and modern adventure (1950's and up) .

Pulp isn't my thing nor is any other historical game though I could manage World War 2 in a pinch. I think.

I've also run a bit of Ancient Aliens type stuff with some success. I won't run it again as its not something my players enjoy very often but the same went pretty well and even the player who kind o had to get dragged away from making it a shoot em up  admitted it was a good game.

Oh yeah and fairy tale themed games, Those I do pretty well.

Actually I sort of suck at running Supers

One of the things I've learned while with this group is that I'm just not good at running Supers games,

Oh I do good world building, my players inform me that the Marvel variant I run is pretty interesting . I actually like playing Supers occasionally, especially in the Marvel universe  but something in the ethos of Supers and its assumptions not to mention flow of rules  of most Supers games seems to make my games fizzle.

They always end up dark and awful even when the goal is lighter.

There is an exception here, Street Level +Occult and Psychic type games work well enough. Realistic Batman meets Kickass meets Constantine meets Firestarter I can manage but that really isn't a Supers game.  Its more modern fantasy with costumed vigilantes.

So in the future given time is limited I'll simply skip running Supers games and spare my players the mediocre gaming.

So What's Going in Gaming Land?

Not much really. 

I'm still with my excellent group but I am on hiatus for a while. Personal life is a tad busy and I am also kind  of burned out on being a player.

I don't mind being a player if I am into the guy I am playing and/or the system but in general playing is mostly  not my thing and I really prefer to GM.

We were playing QAGS  Quick Ass Gaming System in the M Force (download at the link free and legal)  Setting kind of a Monster Hunter's International sort of setting .

The system is more robust than I expected from its name as less silly and  I  have no complaints with our GM, J  he knows the rules well and runs a good game. Its just not clicking for some reason which is a shame as the  rest of the group is having a blast. 

That's alright though. I've often taken long hiatuses from this hobby including much of the 90's where at most I bought GURPS books.

I'll probably return sooner than later or maybe run something at the FLGS. Who knows? 

New Addition to the Blog Roll and a Dropped Blog

Having discovered this blog, Chain Link and Concrete  via Gaming Ballistic   and having seen its  very good GURPS and D20 content I've decided to let it replace the on hiatus Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque .


Friday, March 6, 2015

So What OSR game would you like to play and run?

Kind of an open thread really.

I'd like to play or run either Castles and Crusades or Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures. 

How about you?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Why No Gary Gygax Memorial Yesterday?


Because I remember him  and yes Dave Arneson  too every time I open a gaming book.

As the Havamal (Stanza 77)

Cattle die, kindred die, 
Everybody  is mortal: 
But I know one thing that never dies, 
The glory of the great deed.

and thus as long as polyhedral dice  rattle on tables, they are with us. 

Taylor Davis Fairy Tale Theme

This is kind of an embarrassment of riches. Taylor  Davis is another amazing violinist and performer, also lovely and nerdy too.

She doesn't have the same wild energy as Lindsay Sterling but her music has  a slow moody quality and a rich classical sound.

I think y'all will enjoy it.

Lindsay Sterling Dragon Age

An amazing performer, kind of a nerd,  great violinist, really cute  and reminds me of an occasional player in my group whats not to like?

If anyone were to make Mercedes Lackey's  Free Bards stuff  into a movie, she'd be perfect as a slightly older Rune of Westara too as she's demonstrated a bit of acting and singing skill too.

The Six Top OSR games are?

I want to let y'all know this is an opinion piece only and shouldn't be taken to think any particular  game is bad.

I've looked through a lot of these games, I mean a crazy crazy lot of them and I have yet to find one that's actually bad or adds nothing of value to our community.

I guess  it because these games come from a good foundation with decades worth of real world testing for that foundation. Or it could be that OSR writers are just awesome. Who knows?

However my  picks for the best six are as follows.

#1 Swords and Wizardry

This does everything an OSR game needs to do and does it well. Plenty of support and plenty of genres make it a magnificent tool box of a game.  Best of all the "Complete" version which is enough gaming for a lifetime is absolutely free and can be snaked here or a number of other places.

#2 Labyrinth Lord

I gave this amazing game 2nd place with a tiny bit of reluctance as its probably as good as S&W. Its a matter of taste really S&W mimicking early AD&D and OD&D  as versus Lab Lord mimicking B/X and AD&D  . It too is well supported and free

#3 Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures

This one isn't free and as heavily supported or generic like the other games. Instead its tight, focused and has  the coolest character generations systems in any OSR game. You can learn about it on its homepage. 

#4 Fantastic Heroes and Witchery

This isn't a game for newbie gamers, its rich, complex, nuanced and incredibly complete  especially as it was basically made by one man. Its also free along with some cool support which can be had here though you can buy a print edition or a properly indexed PDF as well. If you like a more AD&D2e or more pulp flavor, this is the one for you.

#5 Basic Fantasy Rolepaying Game

Often overlooked including by me hence the edit. This is a B/X rift, modernized, incredibly well supported, sold at cost, yes cost, in print that does everything a D&D RPG ought to do. Its all amazingly open, generously set up and ready to rumble. Interestingly this is the only OSR game in which my players actually have a copy and are even eager to play. I can't recommend  this game highly enough. Its all free here. 

#6 Castles and Crusades.

I don't actually have that much to say about this game other than its solid and once you get past the SIEGE gaming engines quirks and the sometime haphazard presentation of the books, I think you'll find this to be a good OSR game with a low learning curve for players coming in from Pathfinder or other 3x games. It has intriguing support books as well and plenty of adventures. And yeah its a bit more modern in feel that the above games but in general, it works, is well supported and has a good player base. You can hit the Troll's Den in my blogroll or the company homepage  for more information.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

So What Are Your Favorite Games?

The question  no one asked of course.

My favorites as of 2015 are GURPS and  Eden Studios Unisystem (Cinematic and Classic) with the runner up being my favorite D20 version, True 20

My  favorite OSR game is Beyond the Wall. 

This seems like an odd choice but for the most part it focuses in aspects of gaming I like a lot and think are under served a bit. Its not weird but it is fantasy and I like it well enough to playtest for it. Its rock solid .

 To tell you the truth I don't think any OSR games them are bad really and given they came from good root stock, all of them are pretty decent.

Other than Beyond the Wall, in that vein   I think I'd most like to play Castles and Crusades which isn't exactly OSR but a close cousin,

Games that have been a lot of fun to play but aren't favorites any more include AD&D 2nd edition and Rolemaster both classic and standard system . I spent a lot of hours with AD&D 2 most of them good and Rolemaster just attracted great players and for some reason kept the gaming dregs at bay.

One outlier was the underrated Alternity . I only played this once in a pick up game but it seemed to flow really well and had I more time with it, I think it could easily have been my SF game of choice.

I also quite like Sorcerer by Ron Edwards (its narrative but not so narrative I can't figure out why it would be fun) and S.John Ross's RISUS which is top notch for fun and silly games and better than you think for serious play too.

lastly and moving fats  up the charts also is D&D 5e. Its really, really  good.

I'f I ha to choose one game?

GURPS. At one point before I discovered Unisystem it was my "one game" and going back wouldn't break my heart though I'd miss the others.

So there  you have it, a hodgepodge of games I like

How about you?

JAGS Another Under Appreciated Free Game


This system used to be better know but since its been moribund a while I think folks should hear  a few words about it.

The creator Marco calls this Just Another Game System and while the name has a waggish sense of humor about it, its really not.

This is a generic system with easy to learn rules, several interesting setting including the amazing JAGS Wonderland Setting. I won't spoil it for you but its simply the most unique  RPG take on that classic on the market.

I'd describe it as a bit like GURPS but less complex. Not hard to learn and character creation is pretty simple.

It also has one of my favorite "toolkit" products Fast Company which is a solid coherent framework that lets you play action movie heroes ranging like  The Watchmen, Kick-Ass, Remo Williams, Max Payne Rambo, Bat Man, John McClane and more . That tool kit even has its own setting The Fall of New York which is fun and likable

The games blog is here  

The game can be had for free here

I highly recommend  it

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Gods and Monsters RPG a Cool and Free Retro-Clone You've Probably Never Heard Of

Gods and Monsters. is a  unique game somewhere between modern, retro and rebuild with a  smattering of later editions thrown in.

I haven't had a chance to play it but its has a lot of novel and interesting features and quite a bit of support. You can even get a print copy on Lulu is so inclined.

I think it deserves as look and you can check it out  here.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Four Free Games You've Probably Never Heard Of

These games are absolutely free and legal  to download and  all come highly recommended.

#1 Danse Macabre

This is Dark Medieval Europe, magical. lyrical and well thought out. It covers some of the same ground as Ars  Magica but is far more approachable and more historical without losing its sense of magic and wonder.

#2 Wayfarers Song

Norse Fantasy with one of the coolest magic systems I've seen. Its similar to Danse Macabre  mechanically which aid learning but is a distinct system of its own.

Both of these can be had at Mythopoetic Games along with a few others I haven't tried.

#3 Lost Souls.

This was a fully supported, published game of playing a ghost. I think its far better and more interesting than Wraith which less backstabbing, less angst and more hope

#4 Legendary Lives

A late 80's early 90's Fantasy game  with lots of adventures for it. another published games given generously for free. Its very fae focused, a tiny bit twee but not enough to be distracting. Both these systems use a similar mechanic too so the learning curve is low.

These two can be had at Haunted Attic Games 

So I'm looking at Retro-Clones again

I know, I know I said that mine as killed in favor of 5e but I just can't help myself.

My current interest seems to be focused around  a mutated hybrid  of Castles and Crusades  mixed with bits of Swords and Witchery and seasoned with Adventurer Conqueror King,  Basic Fantasy and Beyond the Wall.

I'll let y'all know if anything comes of it.  

Blog Roll Update

I dropped  any  blogs that haven't been updated for 3 or more months like Cyclopetron and Dreams of Mystic Fantasy and added the Troll Dens instead

I've taken a liking to Castle and Crusades and the promo blog there is relaxing and fun. Hope you enjoy it too.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A trio of things I didn't like about 5th Edition D&D

Every rose has it thorns I guess and 5e has a few too

#1 Bounded Accuracy and skills. I love the rule but it doesn't cover proficiency they way I'd like it too. I'd like a system more akin to Adventurer Conqueror King where you can have Apprentice, Journeyman and Master and maybe Grandmaster   levels skills  that uncouple from your level based proficiency bonus a bit. I think in some respects the Epic 6 skills reflect human realities a bit better but again its D&D and regardless, it works.

#2 Hit point escalation. I kind of like bounded hit points instead of 20 hit die juggernauts . That said, the bounded accuracy still means that the ultra high level types can be hit and attrited  down but its just time consuming and they hit hard.

#3 Wizards have a lot of magic, way more power than I am used too. I played the starter set elf wizard and  with rests basically had unlimited magic in terms of ritual spells and cantrips and rarely ran low on spells. And while we were well above average in craftiness and the GM a bit of a novice though skilled  I  never even felt the need to use my 2nd level spells . Now this extra magic  isn't game breaking and unlimited flame bolt cantrip  really isn't more powerful than a bow  but its a bit  off putting.

However none of these make the game unplayable, its still rock solid and I will be playing more. ,

Some things I love about 5th Edition D&D

We recently finished the 5th Edition Mines of Phandelver adventure.

Its not a terribly exciting adventure but its a solid starter and even with a group that was slightly meh on the whole thing, it went well. I will say it was good enough that we extended the game from our usual 4 sessions to whoever long it took in order  to finish it.

All in all 5e is a pretty good D&D and as s we played there were  quite a few things I found I really liked about 5th edition

#1 It doesn't assume you need magic items and the game plays fine without them

#2 Bounded accuracy. High level type give and take much more damage and have more options but they aren't vastly more accurate and skilled than regular folk.  Now its not perfect  but this is the only edition of D&D outside of the Epic 6 hack that gave me any sense  that 20th level types could be in the same world with 1st level types.

#3 The magic items themselves are generally pretty good. There were a few potions and a few minor ones of course but the major items we found, the ones that required attainment were solid. The item I found for example was something I could see keeping my entire career and while I'd upgrade if I could, if i never did, I wouldn't find it useless at any point.

#4 Attument is a great rule. Simply, you can have no more than three cool items at any time, it doesn't matter the type. three rings, two rings and boots, sword, staff and ring whatever, Pick three . This is just the right amount to be interesting and to keep the game sound.

Charisma is not a dump stat

This is derived from a post on the RPGsite in case anyone comes over here from there.

Charisma is not a dump stat and in fact its just the opposite.

From my reading,  older D&D  (OD&D and AD&D with elements in 2nd edition  here) assumed the characters had a retinue of henchmen and hirelings and would care for and equip them like Housecarls . Its why so many of the old modules had extra magic items. Its a gift economy. 

Some  of them you'd keep for yourself , a few you'd trade or sell and some you'd gift to your henchmen . of course some  some you'd never find at all. 

In those terms, the number of items was well suited to the party size which instead of  the 4- 5 A-Team we assume now band was a War Band, 5-8 PC's   with  their own henchmen. hirelings and sometimes war animals.

At "name" level this situation  was formalized with an actual War Band with numbers  the hundreds for fighters and dozens for others. 

The thing is as I understand it anyway  those leaders were in addition to henchmen as they were attracted to the characters in world power and prestige.

This meant 9th level Lords (Fighters) say were serious power players able to field several men capable individually of killing an ogre and a small army of men at arms as well. 

As such the  higher the charisma, the better people reacted to you and the better you did in the end game

Now, yes  later classes that weren't endgame focused did come, The Paladin and Ranger to a degree being the big examples  about but remember the original 3 (Fighter, MU, Cleric) all had followers and the later add on Thief did as well.  

Lastly, D&D has always had a social option and reaction rolls and unless the characters are all murderous vagabonds, at least a few people in the party need the charisma and social skills to talk to people 

As such, Charisma was not a dump stat.