Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pathfinder Basic

I guess I haven't been lurking the Paizo boards enough, as this news has passed me by for about the past month and a half. They are working on an introductory boxed set. Being the Paizo fanboy that I am, I will definitely be picking it up, although it doesn't seem that it will be what I would like it to be.

I would personally like to see a rules-light version of the game, but it sounds more like it's just going to be a restated version of the existing rules, made to cover levels 1-5, with full compatibility with the existing game.

Mockup of the future box set
If nothing else, perhaps it will actually become more viable to get new players into the game without all the handholding that is currently required. Hopefully it will include some fast character generation options as well, as we have found that the biggest game-killer can be when someone dies and has to make a new character. You might as well kiss the rest of your session goodbye at that point.

In my home game, I think I am going to try a new house rule where if your character dies, you make your replacement character using microlite20, and can convert it to a full-blown PFRPG character after the session is over. This will also give me a chance to see if Microlite20 characters actually hold up balance-wise beyond 1st level, as the party is currently at 4th level. I suspect they will not, but since they will only be used as a temporary band-aid, it doesn't really matter.

Now, the next thing I would like to see Paizo do to help me keep my sanity is Basic Monsters. One of the biggest pains in the ass being a Pathfinder DM is having to study up on all the monsters before a session to ensure I am familiar with their abilities so I can use them effectively in play.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Monsterless Manual Digest Edition

I made this a while back and sent it to Al of Beyond the Black Gate to put on his site, since it really is his creative work, but it's been over a month and it hasn't appeared, so I'll go ahead and host it.

Basically it's just a reformatting of the original Monsterless Manual in printable digest format that makes much better use of paper real estate. Only 4 sheets of paper are needed. Print the outside cover on cardstock for maximum durability.


Download Link: Monsterless Manual Digest

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Outland Characters

I've been tinkering around with some rules to use for my old-school type game. Mostly it's just things that affect character creation and flavor, with the goal of promoting a darker weird sword & sorcery style, but with plenty of room for gonzo wackiness as well. I was hoping to get everything compiled and put into a nice PDF to release all at once. I even got some cool art to put into it in a legitimate fashion. To make a long story boring, it's taking forever, so I've decided to just release the stuff I've been working on in a piecemeal fashion on the blog, and I'll worry about putting it together later.

Duel by Miguel Santos

The body of work is inspired by the Labyrinth Lord Original Edition Characters book, in that it is meant to be sort of a player's handbook rather than a complete rule set. So far there is no "official" game system it is meant to work with, but I am doing it with an eye towards B/X, Labyrinth Lord, and Basic Fantasy RPG. It should work fine with any of those core systems. I don't want to make another retro-clone, just a fresh way to make characters for an existing game of your choice.

Here is the short list of what you can expect:
  • Separate race and class (humans are still the only ones that can level as any class)
  • No level limits on any race
  • No alignment - I've never used it in a meaningful way in any game. It just seems to be more of a source of potential disagreements than anything else. I see this as one of the main causes of the cleric's unpopularity. Some dude is always trying to shove his ideas down your throat about how a cleric is supposed to be played because of alignment. Sorry alignment, I have no use for you.
  • Racial ability bonus as in the LL AEC (usually +1 to something and -1 to something)
  • A number of humanoid/monster PC races
  • 3 or 4 core classes (still undecided on whether to make a complete thief class, or make it a fighter subclass), with kits or subclasses to further customize them
  • Some d20isms, such as ascending AC and Fortitude/Reflex/Will saves
  • Super-simple encumbrance rules (even simpler than LotFP!)
  • All-new spell lists. Not original in that they were created by me, but rather picked from various sources. (Ancient Vaults and Eldritch Secrets likely being the most prominent)
  • Alternative spell system, probably much like the sorcerer from d20, but perhaps also with some ideas stolen from DCC. The main thing is that no caster will ever have to memorize spells at the beginning of the day. I've always hated that mechanic.
As you can see, nothing revolutionary. More just my personal picking and choosing of stuff I like, most of it created by other people who are smarter than I am. Feel free to comment on any of it - your input is appreciated.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Metamorphosis Alpha with Jim Ward

I got great news yesterday! The game at Lake Geneva Games with Jim Ward is finally getting off the ground, and I get to play in it!

We will be playing Metamorphosis Alpha 4th Edition, once or twice a month it sounds like, starting in June. I couldn't tell you what the difference is between the original and 4th edition is, except 4th edition seems to still be in print. But really, who cares? It's Jim FUCKING WARD!

Okay, I'm going to go do my happy dance now. See you guys later!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Make Your Own Square/Hex Graph Paper

You can use this site to generate your own graph paper:

You can customize it in a number of different ways (remember, Gary says 6 lines per inch is best!). Then it will generate a PDF for you that you can save and print more sheets whenever you want.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Help Aplus Keep Up!

If you are a blogger, then it is of course your right to set up your blog however you see fit. However, I would just like to voice my opinion as a reader of blogs, that I much prefer to be able to read full posts from within my reader. I follow a TON of blogs, and there is just no way in hell I can visit the actual page for every post I would like to read.

Maybe some of you do this on purpose, to coax people into visiting your page, but perhaps some of you are just doing this without even knowing it. In the latter case, here is how to fix it:

Just go to settings tab, choose site feed, and make sure Full is selected. Click save, and bam, you're done! You've just made it easier for people to read all that stuff you've spent so much time typing!

Thanks in advance to anyone willing to make this change.

P.S. - I don't know jack about the inner workings of RSS feeds, etc. and as a result I'm not sure why anyone would want only part of their posts to show in a reader. However, I'm curious to know, and I'm sure there is some valid reason, so please share that info if you are a blog wizard!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

F is for...


The most important thing when it comes to RPGs, is that they gotta be fun. I won't try to define what fun is, but I'll share some of my group's fun moments, and some not so fun ones as well.

It was FUN:

  • Capturing or charming goblins and kobolds and having them become well-loved NPCs. Once the party wanted to sneak a kobold they recruited (named Skrittles) into town. They had to dress him up like a gnome so the guards wouldn't kill him. I pulled up a picture of E.T. where he was dressed up like a girl and we all laughed our asses off.
  • Giving the PCs a home base and letting them load it up with cool shit. As long as the players aren't braindead, this is always a good time. Fire poles, waterslides, beer taps in every room, the sky is the limit!
  • For me, I always love to put the party in the middle of a moral dilemma. Not sure how fun it is for the players, but I sure love making them second-guess their actions. Humanoid babies are great for this. Another great one was having the party encounter an imprisoned devil that had something that they didn't need at all, but they REALLY wanted (i.e. overpowered magic item). Watching the players debate what to do for nearly 30 minutes was priceless in my book. Of course, they let him go in exchange for the item, and of course it turned out to be an evil-aligned intelligent weapon. Man, being the evil DM can be fun sometimes!
  • Pets and familiars are always fun. A player in one of my games saw chickens for dirt cheap on the equipment list, so he started the game with 50 chickens and referred to them as "the council of feathers" and consulted with them often in play. An unfortunate encounter with an unhinged dungeon door wiped them all out, but it was fun while it lasted.
  • Letting a player play a doppleganger, killing him (not on purpose of course), and have the doppleganger become an undead NPC, bent on revenge since the party decided to just leave his body there in the field to rot. The doppleganger then takes the form of some sexy maiden the PCs are hired to rescue a few sessions down the road, and when the moment is just right, he reveals his true form, and the corpse of the girl they are supposed to rescue! This was an all-time favorite of mine, and it happened in a completely organic way. Couldn't have planned for something that cool if I tried.
  • Random mutations are something my group seems to love. When I presented my half-fiend race with a d12 table for the random demonic features, 3 of 4 players rolled one up.
  • An occasional laser gun from an age long past hidden in some rubble or dirt. You never know how many charges it has, or if it will backfire in some terrible way!
  • Random tables for crits, fumbles, and just about anything else. I don't know what it is, but every time a random table comes out, hilarity ensues.
  • Having the party shit all over your carefully designed plot. This used to drive me nuts, but since I adjusted my attitude and take it as a given that this is what they are going to do, I can have a lot more fun improvising.
Not so fun:
  • I once implemented a three critical misses = broken weapon rule without warning my players beforehand. I'll never do that again. What I thought would be an interesting challenge was perceived as me fucking with them in the middle of a combat.
  • I used to have a tendency to talk with the players a lot after a game session about my designs and things I expected them to do versus things they did and did not do. After a while I learned it's better for the game to just leave these things a mystery to the players.
  • Playing Craft(Alchemy) by the book. It lets you make one or two items per game week basically, and you still have to pay 1/3 of the retail price for materials. BORING! If I had to do it again I'd just let them make whatever they can carry, maybe at 25% cost or something. It's not like tanglefoot bags and acid break the game (at least I don't think they do).
  • Skill systems in general. Maybe it's just my ineptitude at running them, but it always feels clunky, and they always fail the search check when it's most important for them to find the thing, whatever it may be. I've since gone to a more narrative handling of skills, with them telling me what they are doing, and me providing them with the logical result of their actions, rather than letting dice decide these things, and it works much better for us.
  • Identifying magic items. I haven't found a good method for dealing with this, so I usually just tell them what it is (which feels lame). I'm open to tips as to how people do this, particularly with regard to the bookkeeping aspect of "so-and-so found this thing and it does this and this, but they don't know that yet". What a pain in the ass!
  • Letting the PCs play monster races, but then not letting them into town due to the human's hatred of them. I was going for the bane of all games, "realism", but what I got was a big batch of shitty un-fun gaming.
So, in looking this over, it certainly isn't the most exciting reading. I think a lot of it falls under the "you had to be there category," but hopefully someone will pick up on one or two things that were fun or unfun for my group, and not have to learn the hard way like I did. Happy gaming!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

E is for...

Excellent Birthday!

Which is what I had today, so I don't feel like posting anything that requires any effort on my part. So I'll just leave you with this:

Space Baby (click for bigness)

See what your players do when they find one of those flopping around on it's back in a dungeon...

Monday, April 4, 2011

D is for...

Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG: Playtest Report

I've been holding off posting this, trying to find my character sheet from the game, but to no avail. If you would like to see what the character sheet looks like, Jeff Rients has a scan of his here. (But mine was way cooler, being that I was a berserker named Francis Baconator... just sayin')

The other weekend at GaryCon, I got the opportunity to play in a game of Goodman Games' upcoming Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. I had more fun in this game than any other (though none of the games I played in were by any means bad), and the game hasn't been released yet, so I figured it deserved a play report.

First off, the players:
  • Me (berserker)
  • My sister (wizard/sorcerer type)
  • My brother-in-law (cleric)
  • A guy I know from work and his wife (a thief and shit, I don't remember)
  • Jeff Sparks and his wife (berserker and i-don't-remember what class, but she was having a terrible time with the dice, which made for some good fun!)
  • A younger guy that I regrettably cannot recall his name (wizard guy)
Next, the game mechanics:
  • The stats were slightly different than your standard D&D array, but still quite similar and nothing I hadn't seen in other games before: Strength, Agility, Fortitude, Intelligence, Personality, and Luck. I am personally a big fan of the Luck stat, and have often considered house-ruling it into my own D&D games, but never had the time or inclination to actually do so.
  • The spell system is awesome. No limit on the number of spells per day, but every time you cast, you have to make an intelligence-based check (or personality for clerics). Failure means that you no longer have access to that spell for the day. Critical failure means some terrible shit happens to you. This happened to my sister when she rolled two 1's in a row when trying to cast. First, her ears fell off, then her head turned into a serpent head. The spells have different effects depending on the degree of success, so a high roll can result in a bigger explosion, more damage, or whatever. It was a very neat system. The only drawback I can see is that each spell requires a table of different results. When getting to higher levels (provided your character can survive that long), I could see the need for a caster to literally have a "spell book" at the table in order to be able to look up all the varying results.
  • The cleric spell system was similar, but there were a few differences in the way successes and failures were measured, if I recall correctly.
  • The fighter-types get an additional attack die that they add the result of to their attack and damage, rather than a flat base attack bonus as in d20, or improved THAC0 in older games. The size of the die advances as the fighter advances in level. At level 1 it's a d3, at level 3 it's a d5, and at level 5 it's a d7. Unsure of how it progresses beyond that. I liked the idea, and thought it added a nice touch.
  • Saving Throws were standard d20-style fortitude, reflex, and will. I like these three categories for saves, but I prefer the older way saves work where you have a target number rather than a bonus and a variable DC. As a DM, the variable DCs are just another thing to have to keep track of.
  • As a berserker, my guy would crit on a 19 or 20 (another d20-ism). Whenever I'd crit, I'd roll a d16 and the DM would look up what happened on a table - sometimes extra damage, sometimes a nice maiming. I was getting a lot of crits, but my dice were just on fire. At one point, after rolling like the third or fourth crit in a row, Harley Stroh (amazing DM by the way) turned to me and gave me double middle fingers and said "FSCK YOU!" It was pretty awesome to be just slaughtering guys left and right. When I got crit early in the game, the result was that by nose got smashed up into my frontal lobe, and my character suffered a permanent loss of 3 INT points. Ouch!
Basically, this game is fun as shit. I'm not sure how it will hold up in long-term campaign play, but my group is eager to find out. I will be first in line on Free RPG Day to get all the stuff Goodman Games is putting out for DCC RPG.

C is for...

Chaotic Caves of Weirdness!

I initially posted my first (and so far only) edit of the B2 Chaves of Chaos a few weeks back (here). Tonight we finally got to play it out.

It was largely a playtest of some of the new classes I've added to my Outland Player's Handbook, a supplement for B/X D&D that I am creating and using to tailor the game to my group's tastes. As such, we spent a good deal of time putzing around at the beginning while everyone figured out what they wanted to roll up. We had 3 players, and each player controls 2 PCs that each have 2,800 XP (a nice number I got from Hill Cantons Compendium). I let them trade one of their PCs from the last game to make a new one with one of the classes or races I had that were not available before.

Greg traded his Half-Fiend "Master" in for a Jotunn (Human?) Berserker "Fozzy Kill Face". Managed to find the most imbalanced character, as ususal. He kept his Orc "Quasimoto".
Jen traded her Cleric "Larry the Demon Hunter" for "Malice", a Redcap Black Mage (Magic-User Subclass). She kept her Half-Fiend "Half-Not-Fiend".
Nicholas traded his Human Fighting-Man "Sauce" for a Redcap Berserker "Red Sauce", and kept his Half-Fiend "Alfredo".

We spent a bit of time updating saving throws to the new Fort/Ref/Will tables I made, rolling hp, and all that boring stuff. They chose weapons, but for regular equipment I told them to just write it down if they wanted it in the middle of play, so we could move on.

So as far as how the Caves went...

The Good

  • One alteration I made since we were together celebrating Nicholas' birthday, was to put a laser gun in the pile of rocks immediately inside the cave. As luck would have it, he even searched and found it! You should have seen the look on his face when I drew a picture of what he found and showed it to him. He even role-played it a little too well, to the extent of looking down the barrel and wiggling the trigger. A green ray scorched his face, causing 5 damage, but he survived and now knew how it worked.
  • The cannibal kobold babies thing worked out really well. They didn't know what the hell to think. Jen charmed one and kept it as a pet. The rest were laser gunned or set on fire with flaming oil. The look on their faces when they asked one of the remaining kobolds what was up with the babies after they had all surrendered was priceless. "They were just hungry", she said. The players all looked at each other like, "What did we just do?!?!" They felt so bad, they let all the surrendered kobolds go without cutting off their left ears, which was their initial plan.
  • Quasimoto sent the kobolds back to the keep with a note he wrote, saying how the kobolds were okay and to treat them nicely. LOL! No one at the keep knows who Quasimoto is or gives a shit about him. I am thinking the party will probably arrive back at the keep next session to find some guys cleaning up kobold guts at the entrance to the keep. I'll have to give this one some thought, though.
  • Fozzy Kill Face died in one round after charging blindly around the corner into room 1 and taking two spears to the face for 9 damage. This wasn't really a good thing on it's own, but the lesson the group learned was an important one. This isn't a video game. If you abandon caution for no apparent reason, even against kobolds, it can end badly.
  • The sorcerer fight went pretty decently. They sent a lackey into the room, and he came out, screaming in horror and running down the hall, as a beholder came into view. A quick shot from Red Sauce's laser gun dispelled the illusion. They proceeded into the room to finish the job, met a little resistance with a sleep spell that put down two of them, but prevented the sorcerer's escape and got the loot. They also mowed down his harem as they tried to flee.
  • Jen did a great job with her character. She wanted a trident for a weapon, so I said, "Sure, why not?" She captured a rat for later sacrifice, but eventually fed it to her new charmed pet baby kobold instead.
The Bad
  • Got off to a slow start. I could see their eyes glazing over as they dealt with the first two combat encounters, which were pretty generic fights against giant rats and kobolds in play. I should have done a better job setting more of a weird tone straight away.
  • No one tried going into the rat tunnel. I hate it when they don't explore the things I create. But such is the nature of the beast; I'll just have to get over it and recycle the poop tunnel for something else.
  • I need to figure out a way to spark their creativity. The players seemed stuck in a rut of moving or attacking, and not much else. I'm not sure how I can encourage the more creative and explorative style of B/X D&D. To their credit, they did break out the oil flasks a few times at least. Yet no one used the d30, which still hasn't been rolled in two sessions now. Not much creative use of equipment, no one tried a single combat maneuver, etc. Is there a tutorial out there for how to be a good old-school D&D player? Not that they are bad, or weren't having fun, but I just feel like they could be getting so much more out of it. Maybe I am just under the illusion that they are "doing it wrong" because they aren't doing it like I would. /shrug
  • The Exceptional Strength table is horribly broken. Fozzy Kill Face (18/92 STR) was one-shotting everything and I don't think he missed once. He managed to stack the +4 attack/damage bonus with the standard +2 base attack bonus with the +1 favored weapon bonus with the +1 dual-wield bonus. That's a fucking +8 to attack rolls (equivalent of THAC0 11) as a level 2 guy. I'll probably scrap the exceptional strength table and the fighter's favored weapon bonus. They get enough attack bonus just from the base attack bonus, which is equal to their level.
  • Had to stop before they went to explore Old Jedd's cave. One of them needs to get mutated!!!!!
  • A number of things I didn't have ready, like the death and dismemberment table. I need to get to work!
  • I think I over compensated for them only having 3 players. They had 2 level 2 characters each and 2 hirelings each (total of 2 archers, 2 shield-bearers, a cook, and a porter. I think I need to get them back onto one character each, or make their alternate characters level 0 or something. Not sure, but it was awful crowded in them caves, and it depersonalized their characters a lot by them having 2 each.
More work to be done!

Here's a pair of the awesome PCs:

Fozzy Kill Face - Berserker

Malice - Redcap Black Mage

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for...


Towards the tail end of my group's short venture into the world of D&D 4E, I came across a very cool monster in the 4E Monster Manual 3 that I never got the opportunity to use. The banderhobb is a giant frog-like creature that kidnaps children in their sleep by swallowing them whole.

As the day recedes, shadows lengthen over the world like grasping claws. That's when the banderhobbs come. Beneath the stars, in the dead of moonless nights, they march in ones and twos from the land of death and darkness. A banderhobb's snaking tongue ensnares its victim, drawing it into the creature's distended maw before it is swallowed into the banderhobb's cavernous stomach. Then the creature departs to where its master waits for it to regurgitate its stili-living cargo. For what purpose? A banderhobb never tells.

Banderhobb by Howard Lyon

That is some pretty creepy shit, and I could see a whole adventure being built around it. Perhaps the PCs enter a sleepy town, and while they are there, they meet children during the day but then never see them again. Behind the scenes, the townsfolk have made a deal most unwholesome with some dark power in return for protection, good crops, wealth or whatever. The banderhobbs are the minions of the big bad guy, coming to collect the town's children as payment, and it is up to the PCs to solve the mystery.

Now those types of adventures sound great on paper, but can be really difficult to pull off. Another alternative is that the PCs have pissed off some big bad, and he periodically sends a banderhobb to snatch a hireling or henchman from the group while they are all sleeping. Eventually someone (likely another lackey) sees this and gives a description of the monster, and you can sort of build it from there.

More Banderhobb lore:
Parents tell children that if they misbehave, banderhobbs will come to take them away. According to stories, the torsos of banderhobbs are carved with ritual markings that allow them to pass between worlds at places where the veil is thin and shadows are thick. Their home is the plane of shadows, where their ancient master dwells in a dark tower.

People speculate that the banderhobbs' captives work as slaves in the Shadowfell until they eventually transform into banderhobbs. Fragments of lore tell of vast feeding pits where banderhobbs feast. In the dark reaches of this place, no god watches.
It should be easy enough to throw some stats together for your game of choice. They basically have 2 claw attacks, and can lash out with their tongue and catch people and swallow them whole (probably just do a save versus petrify to avoid being swallowed). Chasing a banderhobb down after it has swallowed someone and run away should lead them to the plane of shadows. Awesome!

Here is a link to the creator's page, which has the original sketch.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A is for...


This crazy-ass monster was first brought to my attention when I got a mini of it in a random pack. "What the fuck is this giant 4-legged chickadee?" I said to myself.

It has it's origins in the AD&D Fiend Folio (at least insofar as I can tell). It's actually a pretty neat monster.

It doesn't look very intimidating, but that black toxic cloud is pretty wicked. In the Bestiary 2, Paizo did a nice job sexing this monster up a bit:

Pathfinder stat block HERE

From the Bestiary 2:
An achaierai is a predator and scavenger of the lower planes that looks like a 15-foot-tall flightless bird, though its head and body are fused into one large unit, with four legs and atrophied wings. The thick, oily plumage covering its body all but conceals these tiny wings. An adult achaierai weighs roughly 750 pounds.

Though not devils themselves, achaierais live and hunt on the scorched and blasted plains of Hell, where they make excellent use of their long, stilt-like legs in running down any lost souls or lesser devils who stumble into their feeding grounds. Once it has closed with its target, an achaierai attacks with its two front legs, punching or slashing, as well as biting with its powerful beak. Far smarter than their animalistic form might suggest, achaierais prefer to hunt in shrieking packs and use their prey’s confusion and their own reach to their advantage, circling their quarry and darting in to attack as soon as the victim becomes distracted, then retreating again before the prey has a chance to retaliate. They have been known to wander through battlefields in the lower planes, picking over dying and regenerating creatures and souls, which has earned them the nickname “Hell’s vultures.” As achaierais are immune to the toxic clouds of others of their kind, they often work in conjunction to use these clouds to herd or scatter enemies, form long lines of black clouds to protect their retreat, or merely panic opponents in large melees. Achaierais are fond of disemboweling their targets and feasting on the hot entrails while their mortally wounded prey screams itself to death. Of course, as outsiders, achaierais have no need to eat, and their elaborate hunting routines are simply the bird-beasts’ sick form of entertainment.

Pretty fucking cool if you ask me. One of my campaigns has a lot of devils and hellish influence, and I was contemplating an eventual high-level mini-mega-dungeon that would feature a lot of jumping in and out of hell. This monster would do a nice job in such a situation, when the obvious monsters - devils - would become stale and things need to be mixed up a bit.

Got my A post in with 20 minutes to spare! :P

Jim Fireprincess Made me Get Up Early

So I got up at 6:30 today so I could get my Grindhouse Edition/Vornheim order in and hopefully be one of the first 100, so I could get the free extra rulebook. I don't normally get up until more like 8:30, so this is definitely a testament to the good job Jim Fireprincess has done in building the anticipation around these new releases. The offer of a free extra rulebook is what got me to order the thing from his store and pay shipping from Europe rather than just waiting until Troll & Toad got it or something. You see, my players are cheap fuckers, and never buy anything except for perhaps some minis once in a while. I like the idea of having a separate rulebook for them so they can keep their grubby little hands off my shit.

While I was there, I got the LotFP fighter t-shirt and the flailceratops t-shirt too, because they are just awesome. Luckily, my birthday is on Tuesday, so this is my birthday present.

I just spent some time flipping through the Grindhouse PDF, and all I can say is WOW! It's a big improvement over the first iteration from a layout perspective, and the art is just AWESOME. I didn't even buy it because of the art (or hype about it). After seeing the art, some of which literally made me put my hand over my mouth and gasp out loud, I feel a lot better about having just dropped $120 on this stuff.

So here's to wishing great success to James Raggi IV! I know he poured his heart and soul into these products, and it shows. Now give us more adventures!!!!!!