Thursday, January 26, 2012

Warduke T-Shirt

Just thought I'd share this, since it's an awesome find and I imagine they will eventually be gone...

Paizo is selling Warduke t-shirts for just $10! They only have them in XL, but hopefully you didn't eat too much over the holidays and can fit into that. Not sure how much shipping is, but I had mine shipped with my monthly subscription.

Here is the link to the shirt:
Paizo Dungeon Warduke T-Shirt


Friday, January 20, 2012

d100 Followers! (Valis, please stand up)

The other day, I hit 100 followers. While by no means huge, it's respectable given the very niche subject matter of this blog, and my casual approach to writing stuff on here. I just do it for fun when the mood strikes me.

In order to celebrate and say "thank you", I had my wife roll a d100, which came up 51, and pointed to "Valis" in the list of followers. So Valis, please stand up and claim your gift, which is a self-printed copy of Swords & Wizardry White Box (4 booklets). You know, the last one Brave Halfling did right before they decided to dump S&W about a year ago? It's very DIY, which is very en vogue at the moment, so you will become cooler just by possessing it.

Just email me your address, and I'll get it sent off. If it is not claimed by 11:59PM CST on Thursday, January 26th, I will choose another winner.

If I was super-rich, I'd send cool stuff to all you guys. Thanks to all of you who read this thing and contribute with comments, and here's to hoping for a long and prosperous future of many more nerdy discussions!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Outland Session 5 (Unique Gifts & Games)

This past Monday, four intrepid adventurers decided to pay another visit to Nagle Manor. I got all of their real names written down, but of course I forgot to get their PC names. I'm a terrible record keeper. Anyways, there were 2 magic-users, a cleric, and a thief. I know that much. Each had a henchman in tow as well.

On the way to the manor, they were assaulted by a large poisonous spider which surprised them in the tall grasses. One of them was horribly bitten and died right there in the field - that is until the cleric remembered about his vial which still contained two drops of angel tears. Using a drop of the stuff, he was able to bring his companion back to life. The party took a detour, and were able to follow the spider's tracks back to it's lair where they found a half-dozen human-sized cocoon-thingies. They cut them open and found some odds and ends, you know, like dead bodies, in addition to a pair of Gauntlets of Ogre Power. Since there was no fighter, they now have one very strong thief.

Once they reached the manor, they decided to go in a less conspicuous entrance. Although they knew that the main floor had been more or less fully explored, they decided to go over it again anyways, in case some good treasure was missed. They made away with some valuable silverware and dishes, and one of them managed to get badly bitten by a man-faced rat (a.k.a. brown jenkins) that was hiding in one of the cabinets for reasons undetermined.

They figured out a way to rescue a previously lost 0-level nobody from the cursed mirror, but spent their final angel tear to make that happen. A bit more wandering around, narrowly avoiding death by animated flying butcher knives, and they concluded by managing to swipe a deck of cards off of a table before being chased off by some ghouls whose bowling match they so rudely interrupted.

So now there have been four separate excursions to the haunted Nagle Manor, and still no one has gone beyond the ground floor.

Not a very profitable adventure, but I think it was pretty damn fun.

Zak's DM Questionnaire

ZakHitsItWithHisAxe posted this questionnaire here.

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?
Probably my trap which is detailed here. Honestly, I don't invent a whole lot. I much prefer to steal ideas from many sources and just mash them all together.

2. When was the last time you GMed?
Two days ago (Monday)

3. When was the last time you played?
A few weeks ago.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.
X2 - Castle Amber Cosby

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?
Start hinting at the bad things that are going to happen to them if they don't make a decision quickly.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?
Twizzlers, peanut butter cups, cookies, pizza.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?
No, but it certainly is mentally exhausting. I'm usually pretty zombified after a session, especially if its a long one.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?
Trying to figure out how I could backstab as a pig.

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?
I've had both happen. I used to try to make very self-important serious settings, but my players were always good at pooping all over those things and showing me the error of my ways (I was way too attached to my creations). Lately my stuff is more gonzo and built specifically for the purpose of having PCs poop on it, but I find a lot of times players can take it way more seriously than it's supposed to be taken - perhaps due to the deadliness.

10. What do you do with goblins?
Goblins are reserved for players to use as PCs, for the most part. Although I will happily use a goblin stat block and make them into something else for use as a monster. Evil garden gnomes are always fun.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?
Panthro's (of Thundercats fame) poison-spraying nunchucks placed as treasure.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?
My sister's PC saying, "I DON'T EAT BALLS!" It's a long story and I think you had to be there to appreciate it. Sorry!

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?
Tunnels & Trolls. I've known of its existence for a long time, but lately a few things have been pointing me to it, like Fight On #13, and the fact that pro gamer Timeshadows has expressed she likes running it. I've only gotten about a dozen pages in, but it looks cool, and I'm interested in trying it out.

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?
Erol Otus, without question.
I'm also very fond of the work of Stefan Poag and Miguel Santos.

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?
I'd like to think so, but I'm not certain. They are genuinely afraid for their characters quite a bit.

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)
A tie between watching the players agonize over what to do in Death Frost Doom and watching the players perform the murder play in The Sixfold Trial.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?
Gigantic table with a gigantic LCD TV laid down in the middle with huge library of sexy battlemaps. Here is an example of some cool ones. I've had this sort of setup on my wishlist for quite some time now, but it's hard to justify buying a better TV than we have in our living room to be used exclusively for miniatures battles.

There would also have to be big comfy chairs, ideally in a dark and comfortable finished basement, with an endless supply of Pepsi and Twizzlers nearby. Something about playing D&D in the basement just seems right.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?
Carcosa and TOON. Although maybe they aren't as disparate as they appear to be on the surface...

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?
In a broad sense, I guess comedy and horror. I like my games to have both. Not necessarily at the same time, but both are very important elements of a good game to me.

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?
I like MacGyver types that come up with really creative solutions to problems using nothing more than a few household items. I also like players that take calculated risks. Super-cautious play can be quite boring to watch. Of course, the player has to also be cool about the bad shit that is inevitably going to happen to them as a result of their going off half-cocked. I want players that take action based on the situation at hand, with their decisions detached from game mechanics. Finally, I want players at my table that play their own characters and let other people play theirs.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?
Don't be a dick. I'm sure I'm not 100% successful at practicing this, but I try.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?
I wish there was a ruleset that I didn't feel like I had to tinker with. There are so many great games out there that are full of great ideas, but every last one has something I don't like in it. I don't know what the heck my problem is, but I am obsessed with tinkering with rules in search of the holy grail system that I never have to mess with again. This is completely absurd, because my tastes are constantly changing, and in play, the rules are so far in the background that it doesn't even matter, yet I continue to obsess about them outside of games.

Here is an example of my nit-pickery:
  • LotFP has unarmored AC = 12. Dude, it's supposed to be 10! Way to ruin an otherwise perfect game!
  • Basic Fantasy RPG has the same issue, but uses 11.
  • Labyrinth Lord uses funny XP numbers and did the reaction modifiers from Charisma backwards.
  • DCC RPG uses Fort/Ref/Will saves. WTF?
  • Sword & Wizardry was apparently made by someone with a similar affliction to my own, and it keeps getting changed all the time (in the case of White Box and Core). Plus, they are tied to Frog God, which seems to prefer making their products "limited" and "collectible" as opposed to "reasonably priced" and "available".
As you can see, my list of nitpicks is indicative of someone with mental issues, but there you have it!

Also, all of those games up there have a lot of good qualities. Too many to list here.

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?
I've never been able to verbally do justice to the RPG experience, so I generally keep it limited to, "It's awesome fun, you ought to try it!"

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Outland Session 4 (Google+)

Last night this past Monday marked the 4th recorded adventure to take place in the fantastical world of Outland. The following dungeon-delving crazies participated:
  • Doc Sampson the alchemist, Ozzy Sweetleaf the goblin glassblower/astrologer, John Plisskin the carpenter, and Hell Zelazny the tanner (run by the illustrious Kyrinn)
  • Donnal McDonnal the fighter, and his buddy Stanislov (run by Jeff, the mad genius of gaming)
  • Blixa the thief, and his man's best friend AbeLincolnVampireHunter (run by ZakHitsItWithHisAxe)
  • Scarecrow Hooker the Tengu thief, and his dwarf helper Barkbeard Woodsack (run by my homie Steve)
They ventured into the mysterious "Cave Epsilon", circumvented some puzzling traps, and got some sweet treasure and a floating psionic lizard companion.

Scarecrow Hooker, despite having half his face blown up by a radioactive lightning bug, managed to produce this map:

As always, it's accuracy is questionable at best.

See Donnal's report here. He got 200 bonus XP for it!

How to Make Jeremy's D&D 5E

I've resisted doing this, but hey, they're being nice enough to ask what we want, so I'll tell them what I want.

If you're a regular reader here, and don't really care to read this, here's the truncated version: USE THE LABYRINTH LORD MODEL.

Step 1: A single core book (we'll call it Basic D&D, since that's what it should be modeled after) with everything you need to make the standard 4 character types and have adventures. You should be able to roll up characters in 5 minutes or less and get to playing. I would list everything out, but just look at Labyrinth Lord, it has all this. People should be able to buy this book, and have years of adventures with it and nothing else. It should cover levels 1-20 or at a minimum levels 1-10.

Step 2: Produce the books for hacking the core system. See Labyrinth Lord's Advanced Edition Companion and Original Edition Characters books for excellent examples of how this is done. Additional books can be done for a Supers-style D&D, which is basically what 3E/Pathfinder is. These books would include character creation for SRD characters, feats, fort/ref/will saves, the crazy skill system, tactical miniatures combat rules, etc.

Step 3: Make an intro box for people that are new to the hobby. See the Pathfinder Beginner Box for an example of a good one. See James Raggi's Lamentations of the Flame Princess box set for an example of what great referee and tutorial books look like. Inside the box should be a coupon code for a discount on the core book.

Step 4: Monster books should ideally be universal. This one's going to be a challenge, but there are a few things you can do. There should be things that are able to be translated differently depending on how the game is being played. For example, just list hit dice, and we will know that if we are playing original style, then we use d6s, d8s for basic, and d10s for supers-style. Monsters are not PCs, and their stat blocks should be as lean as possible. Perhaps you have the core information, and then a few additional lines highlighted in a different color that are only applicable if you are playing supers-style, or whatever.

Step 5: Now you have the rules done, LEAVE THEM THE FUCK ALONE! If you want to release additional rules supplements, fine, but always maintain the integrity of the core rules. D&D 4E was the only version of D&D where I've ever sold my core books. You invalidated them with a constant stream of errata. We played a 5-month long campaign and almost every session a player came to the table with one of his abilities changed from what it was the previous time we played. You are going to have situations where some players like to use the digital tools to make their characters, and some people are using the books. There should not be discrepancies between the two.

Also, I should be able to play any of my stack of old Basic and AD&D modules with some version of this game. I'd recommend cleaning them up and re-releasing them, at least in digital or print-on-demand form, since a lot of people seem to be clamoring for that, but I'm more concerned about the ability to easily play them, since I already have most of them.

At this point, you have the core rules done, and you will sell some books. Now your business model needs to change. You are not in the business of selling an endless stream of rulebooks. Ideally, the rules should be OGL, and there should be an awesome free SRD site for people to use (see for an example). If you are not going to learn from your mistakes, and you are going to constantly fiddle with the rules so you can sell more rulebooks, you are going to piss people off. Get the rules out there, make them good, and give them away for free on an SRD site, sell them in book form, and sell them in PDF/eBook form (no DRM either!). Then you make money by selling stuff for people to play using those rules (adventures, settings, DM toolkits, etc.). You need to sell creative ideas, interesting and revolutionary new ways to have adventures. Just selling a million new PC build option books is lame. In my home gaming group, nobody buys a damn thing. I'm the DM and I'm the only person that buys stuff, so make stuff for me to use to help me run awesome games for my cheapskate players.

And another thing. Take a look at how you pay people who write adventures and change it. Paying by the word seems to produce some real shitty adventures. Give authors a cut of sales, so they have to actually write good adventures in order to get paid.

Let me tell you a story. When I was still playing 4E, I saw this book called Pathfinder at the game store. I had heard a few things about it on enworld and such, but I was never really a 3E player anyways, and the massive size of the book, it's weird name and weird art made me walk right by. A bit later on, after continuing to hear good things about it, I figured I should check it out, and I downloaded a less than legitimate copy of it. I was so impressed by it, that I am now a subscriber to 5 of their product lines, and have probably spent somewhere in the ballpark of $2,000 in the past 18 months on Paizo/Pathfinder stuff. This is what piracy can do for you. It can give people a reason to buy your stuff. I don't like to buy things blindly. I like to see, with my own eyes, that a product is good. If it is, I will happily fork out the cash for it, and my preferred purchase method is Print+PDF.

Every month, I get beautiful books in the mail from Paizo. Even though I hardly play Pathfinder anymore, their adventure paths are a great value. I get adventure ideas, new monsters, short fiction, and an article on the ecology of a monster or some stuff about a god or something. I can extract the images from the PDF copy and use the maps and pictures of monsters in my games. We have a great relationship. They tell me, "Because you are awesome and subscribe to our adventure path, we'll give you 15% off everything else we sell."

Their campaign setting is also something you should take a look at. They made a campaign setting as a place to play games in. It is not a gimmick to sell novels. It is a highly-usable gaming product, and they come right out and say that it should be hacked and bastardized in the grandest traditions of D&D.

Their novels are not grand epic tales that would turn into failed game sessions. The novels portray normal, crappy adventurers, like actual PCs. They are there to show examples of what kinds of things you could do with Golarion in an actual game.

Digital tools. I think you should have them and I think they should not suck. I think there should be a free component with basic character creation features and the ability to print character sheets that don't suck up $40 worth of ink to print one sheet. If you want to charge a subscription fee for more advanced features, I think that's fine, but they should be tools that enhance my experience and make my life easier. If the game is built in such a way that not having the tools makes me have a shitty experience, you will not have won this customer back.

Some people just want to play with pencil, paper, dice, and imaginations. These people are important to this thing you're trying to do here, so don't take it for granted that everyone's going to be down with needing a computer to make your game work.

So, this turned into way bigger of a wall of text than I set out to write. Sorry! But hey, at least it's all off my chest now. Carry on.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Outland Appendix N

Just for fun, I figured I'd list some of the inspirational material I have used or plan to use for the Adventures in Outland campaign.

Stefan Poag does Fomalhaut

Let's see...

Gaming Materials

Books / Fiction
  • The Dying Earth by Jack Vance
  • At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft
  • Miscellaneous Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories by Fritz Leiber
  • Miscellaneous Clark Ashton Smith (particularly the ones set on distant planets)
  • Miscellaneous Robert E. Howard
  • Michael Moorcock's Elric Stories
  • Andre Norton's Witch World series
TV & Movies
  • Alien
  • Adventure Time
  • The 7th Voyage of Sinbad
  • Ghost Dog
  • Wizards (Ralph Bakshi)
  • He-Man
  • Zardoz
  • Conan the Adventurer cartoon
  • That Spanish Dagon movie
  • Dr. Who
  • The Twilight Zone
  • Indiana Jones
  • Star Trek
  • Star Wars
  • Ninja Scroll
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoon
  • The Pirates of Dark Water
  • Thundarr the Barbarian
  • Thundercats
  • The Lost City (1935)
  • 2001
  • 2010
  • Apocalypto
  • Pan's Labyrinth
  • Planet of the Vampires (1965)
  • Soloman Kane
  • Sodium Babies
  • Spaceballs
  • Stargate
  • Fire in the Sky
  • Pretty much every David Lynch film
That's all I can think of at the moment...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Only 6 Days Left for Cavemaster RPG Kickstarter!

There is less than a week left to get this thing off the ground. It looks pretty rad, so let's see if we can give the final push needed to meet the modest $3,000 goal.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Current Adventuring Opportunities in Outland

Rather than have to explain all this and take up valuable gaming time, I figured I'd just make a post here outlining the basic details any adventurers coming to Outland would know, or be able to learn in a brief time hanging out at the Inn Between Worlds.

1 hex = 1 mile
0. The Last Outpost of the Undying Empire - A great place to party and do a bit of shopping. Most visiting adventurers go to The Inn Between Worlds to organize their expeditions, but those strapped for cash might frequent the more rough-and-tumble Bell & Weasel outside the walls. Turjin the Sage offers sagely services, such as identification of magic items and the occasional alchemical concoction. Finally, an enterprising gnome tinkerer has opened up a shop called Dirty Dwayne's Dungeoneer Gear. It should be noted that pretty much everything he sells is an experimental prototype, but he will pay small sums for field testing reports and testimonials.

1. Nagle Manor - The greater part of the first floor of this haunted house has been explored, and stairs leading both up and down have been discovered. However, no one has yet dared to venture upstairs or downstairs. There is a rudimentary map of the ground floor that can be found here (scroll all the way to the bottom of the post).

2. Satyr Sinkhole - A farmer's daughter was rescued from a horrible blasphemous orgy here. All the satyrs are believed to be dead, but people stay away from the area for the most part, so it's hard to say for sure.

The Weird Caves

3. Weird Caves - Three of the caves here have been explored, in whole or in part.

  • Cave A housed a tribe of cyclops monkeys that have been eradicated.
  • Two separate groups have gone into Cave B. An entrance to a greater dungeon was found in there (reportedly more or less due west of the cave entrance, although no map has been shared), as well as the tomb of some otherworldly undead guy.
  • Cave C was ventured into, after rumors of ruthless amazons being spotted entering and exiting the cave were circulating, but that particular group has not been seen again, and their whereabouts are unknown.
  • People have reportedly seen strange-looking orange-skinned men wearing primitive clothing and metal collars shuffling in and out of Cave D.
  • No one knows what's up there in Cave E. 

4. The Blackmire Swamp/Village/Castle - Although many trade caravans have attempted the journey, only a single man has returned to tell of the village that overlooks the ancient ruined castle that can only be seen on a clear day. He reports that the people are weird and very superstitious regarding the castle. If you mention it, they will stop talking to you. Apparently some creature lairing in the mountains is what makes the voyage so difficult. It is described as a great winged beast with the tail of a scorpion.

5. Choose Your Own Adventure - As you can see, very little of the area has been explored. A daring group of adventurers might choose to simply head off into the wilderness to see what they might find...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Outland Session 3

Last night at Unique Gifts & Games, we had 5 players. Two made it back from the first session, and three were new. Thus, we had the following PCs:
  • a 1st-level thief
  • a 1st-level magic-user
  • 14 zero-level scrubs

The group decided to venture into the caves - the alien caves to be specific. Here are some of the highlights:
  • One of the zero-level guys rolled an 18 for intelligence. Sadly, he failed his save against radiation later on, causing his eyeballs to explode for 1 die of damage. He did not survive.
  • A swarm of beetles that had the appearance of gold nuggets near the entrance was expertly avoided.
  • A trollish-looking child was met and befriended. He was sad because the other kids wouldn't let him play "dodge-rocks" with them. He led the group to a tomb he and his buddies found, but weren't strong enough to open.
  • On the way to the tomb, a large crystal egg (very valuable) was found in a hidden hole with a magical darkness spell cast upon it. Thank the gods it wasn't a gnomish hand-getter trap!
  • The group went to the tomb, opened the sarcophagus, and awakened a pissed off undead Darth Varaxis. There were a few casualties, between this guy's lightsaber and the radiation unleashed in the room when his sarcophagus was opened, but the group made it out with some new toys - Darth Varaxis' Cloak (+1 AC and Stealth); Darth Varaxis' Helmet (infravision, breathe in any environment, telekinesis); Darth Varaxis' Suit (basically leather armor a mage can wear); Darth Varaxis' Lightsaber (Whoever wants to use it will have to roll on the item complexity chart, possibly killing themselves in the process. Everyone was too scared to try it.)
  • The little green guy tried to steal the lightsaber and run, but was overpowered by a cluster of 0-level nobodies. Amazingly, the group didn't even kill him for his transgressions! Perhaps he's PALS4LIFE material...
  • Only one PC, the magic-user, caroused. He gained enough XP to reach level 2, but he failed his save and ended up making a drunken foxhole prayer that led to a quest spell from Ishtar.
Good thing they didn't come across this guy...

All in all, I'd say it was a very profitable expedition.