Sunday, July 31, 2011

The New Thundercats

About 15 minutes in, I was thinking it was pretty lame, but then it really picked up. I'm still on the fence about the style of the art. Lion-O looked particularly uninspired, but hopefully he will evolve into more of a badass over time. I'm definitely looking forward to the next episode. Hopefully it will be successful and they will consider doing the Silverhawks as well, but I don't think that show was nearly as popular.

As a side note, Jim Ward told us an interesting little anecdote about how Gary Gygax had come up with the idea for a show which was pretty much the Thundercats, although I don't know if he called it that. Apparently he had quite a bit written up for it, including the story for a few episodes, but the physical manuscripts were stolen, and the show Thundercats later came to be. Now, don't read too much into this. He didn't specifically say that the people who made Thundercats stole it from Gary Gygax. It's not hard to imagine two different people independently coming up with similar ideas. My interpretation was more that Gary Gygax could have been the creator of the Thundercats, but someone else ended up being that guy since Gary's manuscripts were stolen/lost before he was ever able to do anything with them.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Super-Simple Initiative for Large Groups

I was thinking about this last night as I was falling asleep. I'm sure someone's already come up with something similar, but here it is:

Step 1: Order PCs by their DEX score, then alphabetically by character name in the case of equal DEX scores. It works best if the players are actually sitting arranged in this way, with the highest DEX PC immediately to the DM's left, and the rest going down from there (clockwise around the table). If the players are already arranged at the table and this is found to be impractical, that's fine, just write the PC names down in the correct order.

Step 2: Assign a player to be the initiative roller. The DM will never roll. Each round, the player rolls a d6 with the following results:

1-2: Monsters go first this round, then the PCs
3-4: The first half of the PCs (the fastest ones) go first, then the monsters, then the remaining PCs.
5-6: All PCs go first, then the monsters.

You can modify this however you like, including a result for simultaneous action, if that's your thing. The PCs can be split into smaller groups, such as thirds or quarters instead of halves. The sky is the limit, but remember that the point of this system is that you shouldn't have to think about it much, and faster PCs still get the advantage of acting earlier.

The main advantage is that the PC order is never altered, so the DM can use the same list to check off which PCs have acted for the entire session. Anyone who's ever run a game with a large group using individual initiative as written in 3E/Pathfinder knows why this would be a great boon.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Is Vanilla D&D More Fun?

As I've lately been wracking my brain over what sort of game I would like to run next (even though all my choices are only slight variations), it struck me like an epiphany that vanilla D&D with humans/dwarves/elves/hobbits might actually lend itself better to actual fun.

Sacrifices and silliness: can they co-exist?

I've been looking a lot at a more S&S or Carcosa-style game, but I find myself getting very self-serious when I start going down that path. Perhaps it is more of an issue with me than the genre. Sure, S&S makes for the best novels and such, but personally, I have the most fun when people are joking at the table and goofing around and doing crazy shit. When there is the ever-oppressing and uncaring Outer Dark in your game, is it still possible to have such antics? Does having an all-human campaign remove the opportunity for jokes at the expense of the effeminate elf, or the short dwarves and hobbits? Is it possible to run something a bit gonzo like Anomalous Subsurface Environment using only barbarian/sorcerer/thief-type characters?

I've never really run anything too far from vanilla D&D, with the exception that we tend to have a lot of monster PCs, which certainly don't detract from the silliness, so I'm curious about this. I would love to hear from anyone that's run an S&S-style game that could give me some insight on the matter.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sex Up Your Sorcery

Fire Woman by Steven Jacques

Having recently read Dying Earth, I found myself completely enamored with the way magic was portrayed and how spells and the sorcerers that wielded such spells were named. Using this cool site I found and a thesaurus as inspiration, I renamed a few traditional D&D spells in an attempt to bring a bit of wonder back into a game that is approaching 40 years old. Here is a sampling:

  • The Improbable Charm of Narban-Zo (Charm Person)
  • Excellent Prismatic Spray (Color Spray)
  • Spell of Dweomer Detection and Analysis (Detect Magic)
  • Byssetzol's Buoyant Hauler (Tenser's Floating Disc)
  • Mortheeti’s Impassible Portal (Hold Portal)
  • Oumexah’s Potent Projectile (Magic Missile)
  • Lunylla’s Linguistic Cognizance (Read Languages)
  • Arcane Discernment (Read Magic)
  • Whisper of the Pacifist's Slumber (Sleep)
Go ahead and give it a shot (but don't forget to share).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sample Monster Entry

I'm working on compiling all the monsters from Labyrinth Lord, the Advanced Edition Companion, and Mutant Future into one volume and filling in the necessary info to use it for DCC. Here is the entry format I came up with:

Does this look usable? Did I miss anything? Dan did a really great job compiling the info, and gave me the best starting point. Plus there is the added benefit of having the weird stuff from Mutant Future in an almost identical format.

I left in some of the B/X-isms, such as the format of the movement speed and morale score. I intend to use B/X morale rules anyways, rather than the Will save rule suggested in the beta rules.Anyways, if you have any other suggestions, I'd be happy to hear them!

I Love Rules!

So, I've been thinking I'm going to start a megadungeon campaign at the game store. I had a great time with the game I ran on Free RPG Day, and my regular group has been a bit flaky lately since my sister is pregnant and everyone is just really busy with life. I gotta figure out what I can actually commit to, but I'm thinking once or twice a month with long (8+ hours) Saturday sessions. I figure people can play the first half, or the second half, or both, or whatever they want. Not sure if that schedule maintains a high enough frequency to keep interest alive, but that's about all I can do.

BUT - the dilemma I am running into is what to play. I love DCC, but there are a few things I don't like about it, mostly just having to do with the fact that it's not yet a finished product. I can say with certainty that I will be using some stuff from it (spell checks), regardless of what the final game is. Anyways, here are the rules sets I've come to love lately:

  • DCC Beta - This game is just hands-down fun. I just don't like the old standby human/elf/dwarf/hobbit guys. I'd probably add separate race/class, using the classes fighter/sorcerer/thief, and these races: human, pict, cambions/tieflings, bird men (kenku/tengu), goblinoids, redcaps. Players would make 4 level-0 guys, and 3 would have to be human. Seems like a good solution for having weird races, but keeping them as minorities. But part of me also feels bad about hacking the hell out of the game in open beta. I feel a bit selfish about turning it into the game I want instead of playing it as written and giving feedback. In fairness, I did run the Free RPG Day game and post notes about that. I did proofread the draft of the beta, and I have contributed a lot in the way of forum discussions and homebrew content. It's not like I've been all take and no give.
  • S&W Complete - The physical book I have (hardcover) is a specimen of utter crap, but Matt did a great job with these rules. It's almost like a stripped down AD&D. The content is really good.
  • BHP White Box - I've always loved this set and really need to play it someday, but I know I will start piling on the rules once I get my hands on it. I like the idea of being able to give each player a little book or two that has the info they need in it. Even if I don't play this game I may have to make little books because they are awesome.
  • Holmes Level 12 - This is probably the best hobbyist rules set on my hard drive. I wish I could get hardcovers of it. Only hangup is decending AC. I just don't dig it.
  • OD&D - Would be fun for the coolness factor, but I don't know how practical it is. Also leery of doing public gaming with all my bootleg LBBs and such. Not that I'm scared of getting in trouble or anything, just more that it might be viewed as distasteful.
  • D&D 3.0 - I just recently got these books back from my sister's house, where they've been collecting dust for 10 years. I'm really impressed by it. The feats list is short, the spell names have the familiar IP (Bigby, Tenser, etc.), it seems readily playable without minis. It almost feels like Pathfinder light. Although I'm sure this won't be my choice, I would like to give this a shot some day using just the core books and no mins... and no buying/selling magic items... and no skills.
So basically my hangup is that no matter what I play, I want to fiddle with it. I don't know if that's okay for a gamestore game. Do players need to be able to have an expectation of the rules? I was thinking of just making up character creation guides, and having it so only I know the actual rules of the game, and the players just tell me what they want to do, and I adjudicate it. That's cool for me, but is it fun for players? As a player myself, I like to be able to dig into rules a bit and make clever use of them on occasion. That's part of the fun for me. If I run a heavily houseruled game, am I taking that agency away from the players, thus making the game more lame for them?

Also, none of these are things that the store will be able to get from their distribution channels. The guy already told me he doesn't care if I run out of print games, but I still feel somewhat odd about it. I feel like it should be a situation where a player can sit in on a session, say "that was cool", and purchase a copy of the game on the way out. DCC is the big contender here, because even though it isn't currently available, it will be. Also, the store in question does have funny dice available.

So I don't know, my brain is just overloaded. Any advice is welcome.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dungeons of Golarion

Paizo recently released a "megadungeon supplement" called Dungeons of Golarion, featuring six dungeon locations. It sounds like none of these dungeons are fully realized, with each containing a cutaway view of each complex, sample monsters, traps, and treasures, and a sample level.

This seems like a cool supplement, and I think I will be adding it to my next subscription shipment. I really like a lot of the Pathfinder campaign setting material. My favorite thing about the stuff is that it paints in broad strokes, and provides a good starting point for further development and customization by the GM. The City of Strangers supplement (probably my favorite campaign setting supplement) says it best:

This Is Not the End

The book you hold in your hand is undoubtedly the most thorough book on Kaer Maga that will ever be written. Representing several years of daydreaming, starting out as the background for a chapter in the Pathfinder’s Journal and evolving into much more, this guide contains countless NPCs, adventure hooks, guilds and gangs, monsters old and new, and cultures never seen before on the face of Golarion.

It’s also only the beginning.

There’s a common misconception that a game universe is limited by “canon,” that those people and things mentioned in a sourcebook represent the entirety of what exists in a given location. Yet it should be remembered that Kaer Maga, fictional or otherwise, is still a city—a living, breathing web of intrigue and interpersonal relationships, thousands of individuals living in conflict or harmony. Whether 64 pages or 640, no guidebook could hope to detail every secret, explain every background or motivation of the city’s residents, any more than a single book could explain New York, London, or Tokyo. Instead, this book is intended to paint Kaer Maga with broad strokes and then leave the rest to you as GM, having planted enough seeds for you to grow your own version of the Asylum Stone. For every fact given—the nature of the Sweettalkers, the process by which bloatmages use their blood to empower their magic, the secret history of the city beneath the city—the hope is that two new questions will be raised. For these questions are the stuff from which adventures are made and are where the GM’s real work—and fun—begins.

Thanks for visiting Kaer Maga—there’s room here for everyone. Especially you.

Campaign settings are for gaming, and I'm glad Paizo gets that.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

DCC Monster Helper

I recently came across some very useful info in the 3.5 SRD which I had not previously been aware of. Basically it's a set of guidelines that can be used along with table 3-1 in the 3.5 PHB to calculate all (or at least most of) the stuff you'd need to run a monster from a pre-3E D&D monster book in a DCC game. I put all the pertinent info together in a 1-page document that can be used for quick reference at the table. All you need to know is the monster's type and it's hit dice.

The document can be found here: DCC Monster Quick-Stats

Note: I haven't play-tested this method, but hopefully I'll get the chance to test it out in our next game this Saturday. On paper it looks reasonable.

So bust out your MMII or your Fiend Folio and have a good time!

P.S. - I also have a few "new" DCC spells linked on my DCC resources page. They are just ports of basic spells, so they don't really deserve their own post, but if you're interested, you can click the DCC RPG Resources link at the top of the page.

Friday, July 8, 2011

My Monk and Some Thoughts on AD&D

I recently got the chance to join a newly-started AD&D campaign on Wednesday nights at Lake Geneva Games. The game is run by a fine gentleman by the name of Ken, who is a current player in a campaign run by the renowned Frank Mentzer, and was also a player in past campaigns run by Gary Gygax.

Historically, I was never interested in AD&D. I always perceived it as being a nightmarish mess of a game, and had a difficult time understanding why anyone would want to be involved in it. However, after playing in a number of AD&D games at GaryCon III, I learned that in practice, the game is often much simpler than it looks to be on paper, with most choosing to ignore the less elegant rules such as Weapon vs. AC Adjustments and combat round segments. In every game I've played where combat round segments were used, the DM was able to utilize the rules (or adapt them) in an effective manner so that combat was still fast and furious.

Since GaryCon, I've purchased 3 copies of the PHB, 2 MMs, a DMG, a MMII, a UA, and a DDG. All of these books are full of Gygaxian flavor, and between taking a closer look at these books and experiencing the game through actual play, I've developed quite a fondness for AD&D. When I started buying the above-mentioned books, my hopes of being involved in a regular AD&D game were close to zero. My home gaming group showed little to no interest, and I wasn't aware of any other AD&D activity in the area, with the notable exception of ChicagoWiz's game. However, I viewed the location of his game, GamesPlus in Mount Prospect, as being a challenge. Later, I heard about Ken's game, and decided to make the trek to check it out. It's kind of a pain in the ass to get there, since I have to leave work 2 hours early and make an hour and a half trip up the tollway (paying $2.50 in tolls plus god knows how much in gas) to get there. As a result, I can't make it every week, but luckily Ken's game is casual-friendly, with each session consisting of an encapsulated mini-adventure in the 6:30-10:00 time frame. My goal is to make it twice a month, and so far I've been able to do that.

The first session, it was just me and one other guy, so ken let us roll 5d6, drop two lowest, and gave us each a ring of protection +1. We both took advantage of the good scores to play classes that would have been unlikely using a more standard rolling method. I made a monk and the other guy made a paladin.

Seppo the Sanctimonious
I got some pro tips concerning my monk from the fine gentlemen over at the K&K Alehouse, so I am dual-wielding daggers at the moment, as I wait patiently for my open-handed attacks and AC to get good enough to start using regularly. I only get one weapon proficiency to start out with, so I figured a weapon that could be used in melee or ranged would be a good choice. It's not the most damage possible, but daggers are flexible, easy to come by, and who doesn't like the idea of running around as a ninja, whipping daggers at peoples' faces? It is a really fun character to play, and being able to deflect missiles is very satisfying when it happens. I hope to be able to keep this guy around for a long time and play him into the higher levels.

Now, just so you know I'm not just a rainbows-and-unicorns, everything-gygax-did-was-perfect, brown-nosing asshole, I will tell you where AD&D and I don't see eye-to-eye (that was a lot of hyphenations!). First, the books are shit at the table as reference materials, unless you are already very intimate with them. There are a lot of rules buried in blocks of text and scattered all over the damn place. However, the book reads much better in a cover-to-cover fashion than do most modern game books, so I consider this a fair trade-off. Second, attack tables and saving throws are only in the DMG (unless I missed something). I mean WTF! That's nothing short of ridiculous. Lastly, I hate the heavy-handed way alignment is shoved down your throat. In my humble opinion, alignment is one of the stupidest things D&D is married to. No two people interpret alignment in the same way, so it ends up being nothing more than the source of never-ending bullshit arguments that suck the fun out of games. As a player, I want to be able to take actions based on the situation at hand, and once in a while perhaps do something out of character just because I am feeling goofy. This is a game after all, right? I don't want some bullshit alignment trying to tell me what I should and shouldn't do. Similarly, in the games I run, there is only the in-game rule of cause and effect. If you shit in someone's cereal in-game, they are likely to want to seek revenge. At the table, the rule is don't piss on your own party. Consult the other players, and make decisions as a group - especially if the whole group stands to potentially suffer as the result of your actions. As long as the group is deciding collectively what direction the game is going, who cares? The important thing is that everyone is having a good time. (Note: Even though I just used the word "collectively", I am NOT a communist!)

I've already gone too far down the path of alignment-bashing, so let's just leave it at that. It's just not my thing.

One last thought, and it's one that has been shared by many others before myself. The AD&D hardcover books are pretty much the epitome of what a gaming book should be in terms of it's physical makeup. The books are essentially bullet-proof, and are build for hard gaming use. Sure, some might like to collect them, but these things are just begging for use at the table. So if you have some, and they are collecting dust, bust 'em out and figure out a way to get a game going!