Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rich Baker and Steve Winter

Really WotC?

Title 1

Test of new blog software

Think Like a Mind Flayer

What goes on in the mind of a Mind Flayer? How can we ever really understand these strange, alien intelligences in our games?

Well, if they are anything like octopuses, they may have more than one brain. Each of their tentacles might have its own lower level brain. What might this mean from an in-game point of view?

From a mechanical standpoint you may want to use the multiple brains as a kind of buffer against mind effecting attacks. Perhaps the multiple brains offer a bonus to saving throws in those instances. If you want to get a bit more complicated, you could allow separate saving throws for the tentacles and the main brain; it is probably best to use one save for all the tentacles together though to keep the amount of rolls down.

Maybe the extra brains allow it to split its attention in battle without a penalty. If it is knocked unconscious there could be a chance that one of the tentacles could administer a healing potion. It is possible that the mind flayer can farm out some processes to the smaller brains, this could make its thinking very non-linear, creating strange conversations. The mind flayer might also be able to use all the brains I parallel to solve a problem quickly.

What happens if an old mind flayer gets senile? Might its tentacles operate in ways the main brain is not expecting?

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Thursday, December 1, 2011


I am about a week into Skyrim now, and I am enjoying the game quite a bit. I am a big fan of open world games in general, and Bethesda's work specifically. I spent a ridiculous amount of time playing Morrowind and it's various mods and expansion packs. But while I enjoyed Oblivion, I just played through the main story quickly; the enemy leveling system in that game was a real deal breaker for me.

This has been a great console generation for open world games. Oblivion, Fable II, Crackdown, GTA IV, Fallout, New Vegas, and my personal favorite, Red Dead Redemption have all been excellent. I have been really glad to see this kind of gaming come in to it's own on the consoles, mostly because trying to game on a PC has become so irritating and expensive over the last few years. I have pretty much switched to console gaming, and I am glad that my favorite genre has come over with me.

While Bethesda has had many good games before, this one is looking like it will be the most popular. Skyrim is doing more than just selling well, it is much more polished than Bethesda games tend to be at launch. It is also better looking and has better, although still not great, writing. It has not really sacrificed on the freedom, while making it much easier to build your character and follow the main quest if you want to. This could be the big game for Bethesda, the game that is the real breakthrough for them and their style. I think this game has the ability to bring man new players into this style of gaming, the same way that Final Fantasy VII brought so many new players into the JRPG genre on the '90s.

Skyrim is easy to play in short chunks or in long extended sittings. You can advance the main quest and not feel like you are blocking yourself off from coming back to the side missions later. I have always loved the dungeons in Elder Scrolls games, the have a nice mix between finished areas, mines, and natural caves. While the dungeons do get a bit repetitive, the all are a mixture of cave-like and finished areas, and they all have an improbable one way secret door that lets you get back to the start, they are well designed and beautiful.

My first time through, I am playing a stealth archer. I almost never play stealth characters in RPGs; I almost always play a sword and board fighter. I am already planning out my next play through as a dark elf mage.

I will be getting my money's worth out of this one.

D&D Encounters Session 1

This week I played in the first session of the new D&D Encounters season at my new FLGS, Big Larry's in Leonardtown, MD. We were supposed to start last week, but it was the night before Thanksgiving; kind of poor planning on WotC's part. We had a full group of 6 players, and the store is a great setting to game in. It is a game and comic book store, and a burger/ice cream place. I think that is a great idea.

This was not my first time playing 4e, but it is my first time in a long time. I ran Keep on the Shadowfell when it first came out, and I also ran a campaign through most of heroic tier in the first year of 4e. The only time I have played it since was at the 2010 GenCon Open, the Podgecast guys and I got destroyed in the first encounter. I enjoyed 4e, but had no real desire to run it long term. I looked forward to being a player for one encounter a week though.

There are plenty of recaps out there of session one, so if you want the plot just look around a bit; it is basically Romeo and Juliet. Or maybe it is West Side Story, perhaps there will be dance-fighting and a lot of snapping later on.

The encounter itself is the usual RPG introductory encounter against "goblins". In this case the goblins wee some kind of blue fae. I had a good time, mostly because the group is full of nice guys, but the main weakness of the system was apparent even in the first session. It took two hours to kill a handful of first level monsters. The time between your turns is way too long. If you are with a group of funny guys, this isn't really a problem, but there is really no reason for it to be like this.

10,000 Words

Alexis has challenged himself to write a 10,000 word post in one day. He lays out some pretty tough criteria for his self-challenge as well. I look forward to reading it.

I am pretty sure I could never pull that off so more power to him. I do have a three day weekend though...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Adventurer Conqueror King

This year at GenCon, I had the pleasure of spending almost an entire day playing Adventurer Conqueror King. I picked up the game at the OSR booth when I got my copy of Cheers, Gary. When I picked up ACKs I was given a flyer for a demo game during the con. A little after noon on Saturday I showed up hoping to see what made the game so special.

I played in an afternoon session that highlighted the "Conqueror" level of the game. We were exploring the depths of Alex's megadungeon, when we happened on an odd room with a strange metal disk. After some experimenting we determined that the disk was a levitation device and we figured out how to control it. As we ventured further into the dungeon we found a strange magical sword made only of light. We were ambushed by a mind flayer and almost killed, we managed to defeat him and escape. Sadly one of our number lost his genitalia in the fight.

After the session the Autarch guys were nice enough to let some of us come eat dinner with them. We had a pleasant meal while discussing gaming, ancient history, and great con artists.

After dinner we set up for a "King" round. This was a good demonstration of the realm management rules. We each had our own domain to run as we dealt with a coming threat of invasion. The real rules worked well, and they worked fast. We got to task our minions to run different missions and investigate leads. What was cool about this was that the characters we were asking to do these missions were characters of the "Adventurer" and "Conqueror" levels.

In the final session we split up. Some of us played "Adventurer" level characters on the missions we had assigned them, while others played "King" level characters in a giant mass combat. I took part in the "Adventurer" group, run by Tavis, and played a sexy bard with crazy charm skills. We invaded an underground lair and I charmed my way through some wererats. Hijinks ensued during our escape, and overall the game was a blast.

After our session we all got back together and learned what the other group had been up to. It turns out that during the mass combat, one of the players had ridden the disk and killed a green dragon with a magic sword. Let's put this another way, he killed a green dragon with a lightsaber while riding a hoverboard.

In all I played ACKs for almost 11 hours on Saturday, a marathon session to do my high school years proud. This was the best day of gaming I have ever had a convention. The game was great, and seemed aimed at recreating those great, lost days from my youth. I hope to play ACKs again at another con, I live in MD which is halfway in-between the NY and NC locations of the creators. This has to be possible.

Buying LotFP Again

What would make me buy a new version of LotFP? Recently Raggi mentioned that the level system might be on the chopping block if there was a third edition of LotFP. This got me thinking about what changes to the game would make me interested in buying a new version. I think removing, or changing, the level system would be a change that would get me interested.

I would like to see changes that support the style of play found in Raggi's modules and that he describes in LotFP. I hope he will either remove levels or drastically change the way they work. The D&D power curve does not really fit with the overall tone of Raggi's stuff. While the original LotFP addresses this to some extent (only fighters advance at fighting), I'd like to see him go further.

I would also like to see Demi-humans removed. While they are part of the original game that LotFP is evolved from, they just don't seem to fit with the overall tone. Maybe they could be replaced with nonstandard races. Raggi doesn't like to use standard monsters, why not remove the traditional races as well. Or they could just be replaced with character classes that have similar abilities, but I hope he goes further, much further. I hope he goes weird.

The have been a recent group of retro-clones like Adventurer, Conqueror, King and Crypts and Things that have focused on developing certain areas of the game. There have also been games like Xplorers, Stars Without Number, and Mutant Future that have taken the old games and run in a new direction with them. I think LotFP wants to be more like the latter than the former in many ways. It seems to aspire to more than just a weird take on the old game.

I hope that whatever Raggi does in a new edition, if there ever is one, will be enough to tempt me into buying it. I hope he decides to go very, very weird.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

GenCon Overview

That's right, I am going to do a GenCon post in mid-November. This year's GenCon was my favorite yet. As always the best part of the convention was the people I room with, The Podgecast guys. If Adam/David did not set up the rooms I would never be able to go.

This year was the first time I ever played a deck building game, I played Ascension and Thunderstone. I found Thunderstone to be a far superior game, it offered far more interesting choices during the game. Ascension was far more dependent on what cards were drawn, and we did not draw good ones. We drew only one type of card for the entire first half of the game, and another type for the second half. We got lots of items, but for the first half there was nothing to use them against. The other players assured me that this was rare and it only happened due to our proximity to Eric, but honestly, the fact that this happened shows a weakness in the game to me.

Another first for me this year was surviving a game of WEGS. WEGS is an insane "old skool" game that has some of the most ridiculously baroque play mechanics I have ever seen. I won't even try to explain it. Let's just say that I only play it once a year, and I love it. This year the GM failed to kill me for the first time. Granted, I ran away when the last fight started to look bad, and my team wound up beating it anyway. I will not even pretend that my cowardly ways bother me. As far as I am concerned, I WON WEGS!!!!

Another great experience was playing All for One, a gothic horror/Three Musketeers game from Paul "Wiggy" Wade. The game uses the Ubiquity System found in Hollow Earth Expedition. The game is fast moving and a lot of fun. The Ubiquity System is perfect for a swashbuckling Three Musketeers game. I highly recommend it.

I have two more games from the con that I want to discuss, Adventurer, Conqueror, King and Vornheim. One I played and one I purchased. They will each be getting their own post in the next few days.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

My Favorite OSR Products

The Underdark Gazette asks what your favorite OSR products are. My answers below, in no specific order:

1) Stonehell
2) Vornheim
3) Adventurer Conqueror King
4) Death Frost Doom
5) Hammer of the Gods
6) The Grinding Gear
7) Knockspell
8) Fight On!
9) Castle of the Mad Archmage
10) Dragons at Dawn

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Running a FLGS Game with Strangers

This year was a first for me. I ran a game, in a gaming store, without knowing any of the players before I started. In fact, for the first few weeks I had only one player.

The opportunity to run this game came out of Troll Con East. This was a convention put on by Troll Lord Games at All Things Fun, a gaming store in Berlin, NJ. Steve and Tim from Troll Lord came down and ran Castles and Crusades. At the end of the con I volunteered to run a Castles and Crusades game at the store.

I have never run a pick up game at a store before. I have always had at least one known player before starting a game. I spent some time thinking about what I wanted from the game, and what would work in the conditions I had to work with.

I have always wanted to run a game in the City State of the Invincible Overlord. Not just a game that used the City State as a home base, or visited every once and a while, but a game that never left. A game in a game store where I might have players dropping in and out all the time works really well in an urban setting, it is very easy to introduce new characters and to explain why some characters are not the that week.

I wanted to run a sandbox game. My games have always trended towards the sandbox style anyway. I have never been a "master plotter" DM, I have always know what the NPCs would do if the players did nothing and then gone from there. A sandbox game also works well in a game store setting where you may not have consistent players. It does not depend on having central PCs who are tightly woven into the plot. There is the current state of the city and NPCs, and the players can alter that state by their actions, but even if I have a whole new group the next session we can plow ahead.

I wanted there to be a story with objectives. In order to make this work with the constraints of an in-store game, I had to find a way to keep it modular, yet connected. I decided to use what I call "The Bioware Method". Almost all Bioware games work the same way, there is a central hub and three or four quest lines that the player can choose from. The player can bounce back and forth between these quest lines and does not have to complete them in any specific order. Sometimes actions taken in one quest line can effect another. Once all the quest lines are completed, the story advances in a big way and another set of quests opens up. This is a tried and true formula for Bioware, they have been at it since computers had a turbo button.

I thought the Bioware Method would work well in a game store setting. It still left the characters completely free to operate in the sandbox. They could put aside the quests whenever they wanted to explore. It also allowed for players dropping in and out to work on different goals within the same overall story.

Armed with these main ideas I created my campaign. I did not have to do any real world building, since I was working with the CSIO. I created a group that promulgated fake prophecies, sat on them for a few centuries, and then "filled" them to manipulate people. The characters worked for this group, working to make several different parts of the same prophecy come true. They were also free to explore the City State at will as a sandbox.

There were a few challenges in getting the game going. For the first several weeks only one player showed up. He stuck in there, and I made an entourage of NPCs for him to adventure with. Several of these NPC proved to be popular with the players and they continued to adventure with them even once they had a full group. Another challenge was that D&D Encounters was running at the same time, the next table over. We managed to turn this into an opportunity though, and exploited it. Through boisterous role-playing, and crazy character voices we poached players from D&D for our own group. We did get some concerned looks from time to time though.

Several other factors, beyond my control, contributed to the game being a success:

Castles & Crusades. This is an ideal system for this kind of game. You can teach anyone to play it in minutes. Almost everyone who has ever played a RPG before essentially already knows how to play it. Any material from any edition of D&D can be adapted for use, pretty much on the fly. Yes, even 4th edition stuff.

All Things Fun. Without a doubt the most supportive game store I have ever been involved with. While they sold C&C products there, they probably did not make a whole bunch of money off us being there (unless you include Dr. Pepper), yet they still promoted our game with tweets and pictures of us playing. If you are in South Jersey, go to their store and spend money.

My Group. I have had the pleasure of playing with many great players over the years. Some were good at roleplaying, some were tactically clever, some really added to the world, but this group stood out. I don't know that I have ever had a group where there were so many players that were just plain good at the game before. I am not talking about their RP skills or their ability to tactically destroy my monsters, I am talking about their ability to play The Old Game. To take the weird things I threw at them and use them to achieve their goals, to play the different factions present in the sandbox against each other for their own gain. I am not talking about building a powerful character to defeat the mathematical challenges of the game, I am talking about raw skill at playing the game. They observed the random weird things I threw at them and figured out how to leverage them, they used things that I didn't even know the use for to achieve goals they had set for themselves, and they always gamed a way to keep low probability dice rolls to a minimum. The played The Old Game, Gary's Game, and they kicked it's ass.

My Stonehell group is also a great group, but in a completely different way. They each have their own skill sets, a great mapper that is always catching where the secret door has to be, a daredevil willing to risk every crazy statue and fountain, a tireless tactician, a master of long term strategy (a real hp per day guy), and most important, someone who knows recognizes the have reached the best solution they are likely to get and tells them to get moving. They combine for an awesome group, this C&C group was the first time I ever encountered a group where everyone had the same style, and was so good at it.

OK I am done raving about how lucky a DM I am to have my two groups. I thoroughly enjoyed running an in-store game, hopefully some of you will find the things I related here helpful in your own game.

Oh, one of my players was Drance, you can catch his blog at Once More Unto the Breach

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Finally back

I don't know if anybody is still out there but I am finally clear of law school, bar study, and my trip to Viet Nam. I am settled in at a regular 9 to 5 (actually 7 to 4) job again as a lawyer for the U.S. Government in MD. Working for the Federal Government was my goal entering law school, so it is Mission Accomplished over here. I enjoy law, but money is a horrible motivator for me, knowing I am helping my fellow citizens makes me eager to get in every day.

From a blogging standpoint this is also good news. I know my postings have been pretty slim around here for the last year or so, but I have built up a good backlog of posts so you should be seeing a lot more, even if I have busy periods.

While things have been bleak on the blogging front, they have been great on the gaming front. For a period of time over the last year I had three regular games going at once: an OSRIC game in Stonehell (DM), a Pathfinder game (Player), and a Castle and Crusades game set in the City State of the Invincible Overlord (CK). The Stonehell game continues and we will be playing a session this weekend. The Castles and Crusades group carries on without me with Drance from Once More Unto the Breach at the helm.

I will be checking out my FLGS here in southern MD on Wed. for D&D encounters, to try to meet some local gamers. While my ultimate goal is to get players for some old school gaming, I am also excited to try out the Encounters format. I ran a 4th Ed. game through most of the heroic tier when the game was released and enjoyed it. I admit that I have not paid much attention to 4th Ed since then, so I will basically be a noob.

I went to GenCon again this summer, and I will have some (very late) things to say about that. I also acquired Hexographer/Dungeonographer and I have been making maps and write-ups of some very, very old adventures I wrote using those programs. I hope to post some of those soon.

As a sign of good faith, you will be getting another post from me.... Now

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Friday, June 3, 2011

C&C Dragonlance Session 1

I had the week off at All Things Fun as CK as Drance was stepping in to run a post War of the Lance Dragonlance game. The following is my recap, in character, as Sir Grant, Knight of Solamnia:

Attention Grand Council, I hereby submit my weekly report.

My colleagues Oisin, Keseim, and I arrived in Zaradine today in hopes of finding a ship to take us to Sankrist. Upon entering the town, one of the low folk, a sailor I believe, approached me and offered his aid in finding lodging. He lead us to the Three Fishes Inn and I compensated him with enough payment to be an incentive to further aid his brothers but not enough to encourage the laziness so common amongst his class.

Once inside, my entourage and I took seats near an elf maid named Kale. I observed that she partook only of vegetables and ale. While my low-born retainers imbibed sinful beverages, I declared that no spirits would pass these virtuous lips. Sadly the wine the owner brought me was not fit for a gully dwarf.

Shortly after we began to eat Quint the Odoriferous crossed the threshold of the inn. I must say that his moniker is well earned, he smelled of rotting fish with a hint of muskrat four days departed. His condition elicited much merriment amongst the low-born in the common room. Quickly I berated both the snickering serfs for their lack of charity and the wretch for his lack of dignity. I was in the midst of explaining the virtue of cleanliness, when I was approached by a lout named Erol. Erol, who claimed to be part of some common-bred militia, informed me that Quint was a Leper.

I quickly determined that a Leper was in fact a human inflicted by some curse. I suggested that we set about killing the foul sorcerer that had cursed him at once! I was shouted down by the superstitious rabble in the room who were under the impression that no evil magic was at work here. To my dismay, even my retainers subscribed to this insane "germ theory", insisting that this was not the result of witchcraft.

I suggest that an inquiry be launched to determine what kind of creature or man is turning humans into Lepers.

As soon as that disturbance settled down I was approached by Giffery Goldenfingers, a lute bearing minstrel conversant in the Tales of Huma. He informed me that one week prior to our meeting, a woman had been murdered by the docks. He further disclosed that her skull had been penetrated by long cylindrical bores approximately the circumference of a late Romantic Period silver piece. Applying the forensic skills that I will soon gain in your training, I determined that she was the victim of a Mind Flayer.

Seconds after I annunciated my hypothesis, we were attacked by two kender. Their lack of fear, and distant expression allowed me to conclude that they were in fact in thrall to the foul Illithid that had murdered the poor wench by the docks. Sadly, my companions allowed them to egress from the inn without seizing them.

Goldenfinger proceeded to tell me that the town had been suffering from repeated attacks by a mixed force of goblins, hobgoblins, and gnolls. The humanoids had not yet breached the town's defenses, a fact that perplexed me considering the sad state of the palisade and the unremarkable pedigree of the defenders.

At this point our repast arrived, a spread that the inn keeper claimed contained beef. Upon tasting this "beef", I was immediately in fear for the well being of my horse, Oedipus. I initially feared that our spread consisted of our faithful steeds. This turned out to not be the case.

How my horse came by the name, "Oedipus", is a tawdry tale that I will not repeat here. Let us just say that he has only one eye as a result of those unfortunate incidents.

At this point Goldenfingers was attempting to engage me on the finer points of Huma-lore. "Mr. Goldenfingers," I asked, "do you expect me to talk?"

"No sir," he replied, "I expect you to dine!"

Sadly, the sad state of our meal prevented this, so I retired to burnish my armor.

Upon returning to the common room, surrounded by that special glow that one gets only after a vigorous waxing of the codpiece, I learned that we were to seek the advice of the local wizard, Martin. When we arrived at Martin's run down shack, I watched in horror as my manservant, Keseim, stood outside the door in apparent fear. I instructed him to observe as I declared my presence like a man. A sharp knock on the door, and a bold announcement of my station summoned the wizard promptly. Sadly, Keseim was playing with a snake instead of paying attention.

Martin told us that he had recently felt a magical disturbance emanating from an old burial ground to the south of town. We departed at once for the unconsecrated cemetery to the south. We found the necropolis in a state of ill repair. I at once set off to right some grave stones that had been allowed to topple. As I approached, Kale drew my attention to a sod covered accumulation of earth nearby. I must say, I was surprised to see that Kale was with us, I had not retained her, and had not noticed that she was accompanying us.

I gently probed her grassy mound with my lance. Without delay, it ejaculated a strange, gaunt, form. The beast attacked me, but I deflected its blow with my sinistral shield. It was in that moment that I determined that these were Mind Flayer thralls disguised as undead.

The cleric Oisin felled my adversary with his morningstar; Kale recovered quickly from the shocking consummation of our exploration and slew another with her bastard sword. I charged one to the right and ran him through. The elf made quick work of another opponent and my lance claimed another. Keseim made a vain attempt to damage one with some kind of gilded arrow. I put a stop to the fight with a smart right wheel and a thrust of my spear through the remaining wretch.

As the din died down, we heard a rustling in the nearby copse. A goblin jumped out and shewed his bare anus to our party. I made at once to attack them, when my manservent informed me that there were two score and three knights on the way. I thought the cavaliers had come to aid us, but instead they were seeking our aid in repelling an attack on the town. Keseim clarified that we faced a false column, meant to distract us from the real battle.

Our arrival at town must have scared off the other invaders, for I saw no sign of them.

I shall continue my investigation in to this Mind Flayer, I strongly suspect that he is using the demihumans as a distraction from his real plot.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Charm Person

This post at Toa of D&D got me thinking about the history of Charm Person. This post has nothing to do with the substance of his, very interesting, post. It was just inspired by the opening discussion. In Men & Magic the spell is described:

This spell applies to all two-legged, generally mammalian figures near to or less than man-size, excluding all monsters in the "Undead" class but including Sprites, Pixies, Nixies, Kobolds, Goblins, Orcs, Hobgoblins and Gnolls. If the spell is successful it will cause the charmed entity to come completely under the influence of the Magic-User until such a time as the "charm" is dispelled (Dispel Magic). Range: 12"

In OD&D there was no limitation as to what the MU could make his victim do. He could force him to commit suicide, or commit acts against his alignment. This situation remained unchanged in Holmes, where the only changes have to do with the duration. It is not until the PHB and Moldvay that there are restrictions (suicide and alignment) on what the MU can force his victim to do. While, as Alexis points out, the debate around Charm Person tends to center on if it would be too powerful to allow suicide, I cannot help but wonder if the real reason that these changes were made involved PR instead of play balance.

In the '70s and early '80s the American public became very concerned about cults. There was a decade of incidents bookended by the Manson Family and Jonestown involving charismatic leaders convincing their followers to do horrible things. Jonestown was in November and the PHB was in June (I think) of 1978 so obviously that event had not happened yet, but the issue had been growing in the American consciousness since the late '60s. While not strictly a cult, the bizarre events surrounding the Patty Hearst kidnapping have a Charm Person feel to them.

While there is no doubt that the debate around Charm Person has mainly been about power level, I wonder if the initial reason for the change had more to do with distancing themselves from cult incidents in the news. This is all speculation on my part, and may be groundless.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Hate Law School

OK, bar applications are done, moot court is finished, and I just did my oral defense for my research paper. I still am without a job for after the bar, but I should be back to posting on a regular basis now that I am through hell month.

Both my long-running Stonehell game, and my Castles and Crusades game on Wed. nights continue.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hot Elf Chick

I'll admit that the title and the picture were a trap. At the urging of The Underdark Gazette, I am hoping to attract lapsed gamers back into the fold. If you used to play D&D as a kid, and ever stop to wonder what happened to that game, welcome home.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Death in the City State: Session 1

Last night I ran my first Castles and Crusades game at All Things Fun in Berlin, NJ. I only had one player show up, but we had fun anyway. I set the game in The City State of the Invincible Overlord, in the same campaign world as my OSRIC Stonehell game.

The adventure kicked off with the player waking up shackled to a wall. He had no memory of how he got there, but was sure he had been tortured. After a few minutes a jailer came in to take him back to his cell. After he was unchained he charmed the jailer and convinced him to let him go. During his conversation with the jailer he learned that he was being held for the assassination of the Invincible Overlord and that the City was in chaos.

He made his way out of the tower and on to the wall. When he heard guards and dogs approaching he jumped from the wall onto the roof of a building in a shanty town that had grown up along the outside of the wall. He fell through the roof but was not seriously hurt in the fall. He quickly made his way from the abandoned portion of the slum to a run down tavern.

He rolled a drunk outside the tavern to get a disguise and went fishing for information inside. He found a silver gambling plate from the Silver Eel Inn in the city state in his own pocket when putting on the disguise. He decided to sneak back into the City and investigate the Inn. He climbed back in through a sewer pipe and entered down the block from the brutal repression of a riot by the City's forces. He slipped away into the night.

Next Game: Wed. 3/23 (I have Spring Break next week) at 6pm. All are welcome.

A Blog You Should Be Reading

If you like old school D&D, or just well written blogs you need to check out The Tao of D&D. The first thing I do when I fire up Reader every day is rush to read Grognardia, Torch, Pole, and Rope, LotFP, Greyhawk Grognard, and flip through the various video game blogs to which I subscribe. Tao of D&D is different, I save it. It isn't something I can read while I am in class, it is something I like to take my time and think about while I read. I do not always agree with Alexis, but he has one of the most thought provoking blogs in RPGs. He also goes into insane (the good kind) detail. You will walk away from his blog with good ideas for your game, and probably having learned something new about history, or geography.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Gaming for Charity

I recently offered a game of D&D as an item to bid on for my law school's charity auction. I think I am going to cheat a little bit and actually run Castles and Crusades for the winner of the auction. It is just much easier to teach a total outsider.

Wilderness Rules: The Wilderness Turn

My wilderness rules saw their first use in play tonight. I was pretty happy with the results, they moved fast and made the travel just tense enough. They also gave the players plenty of choices on how to spend their two main resources, time and food. I am going to continue to revise these rules through play, and I have only completed the arctic environment tables (all I need right now). These are not especially original, but they do make wilderness exploration fun. I am heavily influenced by the Wilderness Survival Guide, but I have no interest in its unwieldy nature. My goal was to develop a streamlined wilderness system that still has enough depth to present the players with interesting choices. I am aiming for something like the fun of Oregon Trail.

I am pretty happy with my turn structure. This is my Wilderness Turn (1 day):

  1. Food Phase
  2. Travel Phase
  3. Travel Phase
  4. Camp Phase
  5. Food Phase
  6. Rest Phase
Food phase: Characters must eat 2 meals a day. If they only eat 1 meal they suffer a -1 to all rolls. If they do not eat at all they are subject to starving. All of the Hunting, Fishing, and Foraging table results are expressed in meals.

Travel Phase: During each Travel Phase the characters can move half a day's movement. The can also substitute other actions for a Travel Phase:
  • Extra Rest Phase: This can help make up for not getting a good or complete night's sleep
  • Forage for food and water
  • Hunt
  • Fish
  • Explore: Get more detail about the hex they are in
Camp Phase: The characters roll on the camp table to determine if they find a place where they can get a good night's sleep.

Rest Phase: This is when characters sleep, and memorize spells.

Random Encounters: Random Encounters are usually rolled for twice each day. Once during the Travel Phases and once during the Rest Phase. They can take several forms:
  • Monster encounter
  • Traveler encounter
  • Environmental Challenge
  • Weird Encounter
I will be discussing my rules and the tables that go along with them in more depth.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Shadow, Sword & Spell

One of my favorite purchases at GenCon this year was James M.'s Shadow, Sword & Spell. Rogue Games has just released a preview of Shadow, Sword and Spell: Expert. I am looking forward to this.

Edit: Forgot to mention that I appreciate that the cover is blue in the Expert book

'70s Sci Fi

When I was talking about running a game that would look like '70s sci fi I was thinking of something more like this:

And less like this:

See the excellent Space 1970 blog for more examples

Sunday, February 27, 2011

TrollCon East Day 2

Just got home from TrollCon, I had a lot of fun. I played Castles and Crusades for close to 10 hours today. The game is a great fast and loose system. Steve from TLG is a great GM, and there were plenty of great players.

I volunteered to run a C&C game every Monday at 6:30 in All Things Fun, Berlin, NJ. If you are in the Camden County/Philly area, feel free to come out. I am thinking about making it a West Marches style game, so people can drop in and out with overall campaign progress. It starts this Monday.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

TrollCon East Day 1

Just got back from the first day of TrollCon East, it was a lot of fun. All Things Fun is a great store, and the owner is super-nice. We did not game tonight, I got to sit at a table with four other people and listen to the guys from Troll Lord Games talk about Castles & Crusades, the gaming industry, and driving across the country. A totally entertaining evening. I also got a digest edition of the elusive Castle Keeper's Guide. It is real, I am holding it in my hands.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

On the Road to the Tomb of Horrors

Michael Curtis, at the Society of Torch, Pole, and Rope, has posted a really cool idea for a campaign culminating with a run at the Tomb of Horrors. As soon as I read this it brought to mind an area like the Valley of Kings, full of trapped filled tombs to be plundered. This could be a lot of fun, especially if the game was more Swords and Sorcery influenced and focused on Conan style warriors instead of the classic party set-up. This would require that the referee has thought the traps all the way through so that the players could reason through avoiding/disarming them (this will not be news to old school players). There are several great books out there with detailed drawings and explanations of the working of traps.
It doesn't really matter what edition the books are intended for since we are after the diagrams here.

Reviving This Blog

I am going to attempt to revive this blog. Law school is taking less of my time now that it is drawing to a close, and I have a lot of stuff built up that I can write about. I also have some projects that I have started working on that I will cover here. They are all intended for my personal use, so I will offer them here for anyone else who wants to tinker with them or comment on them.

  • @ttack: A stripped down version of early fantasy role-playing games that will emulate the play in a roguelike. It will focus on random item identification, random dungeons, and solo/referee-less play
  • Inspired by my latest read-through of the LotFP Referee Manual, I have decided to make up a list of unique monsters. I want to shift the enemies in my game away from the standard roster and move towards the unique and mysterious. These will be monsters to be used rarely, that will be completely unknown to the players
  • My own detailed wilderness exploration rules. There is likely a long wilderness trek in the near future of my Stonehell campaign. I want it to focus on man versus nature more than random monster encounters. I will need these rules to allow for more detail than what is general included in core rulebooks, but not reach the insanity present in the Wilderness Survival Guide. I will be covering many of the same areas of the WSG but in less detail.
  • First: A sci-fi game inspired by '70s sci-fi TV like Space:1999. The game will center in humanity's first faster-than-light ship. The ship was built by a conglomeration of state, super-state, military, and business interests. Each interest will have different objectives it wants to achieve from the exploration mission. The players will play the representatives of those different interests and try to sway a weak captain, while having to work together to survive. While I want to keep the cool silver jumpsuit/mini-skirt aesthetic of the period's shows, I will be limiting aliens to the really alien. No people with funny foreheads.
  • I may be running an introductory game soon for people that have never played before. I want to use a vampire, but not the modern angsty and sparkly kind. I want an old-time, aristocrat vampire that literally leaches off the poor folk. I also want the vampire to be a surprise. I want to use LotFP for this.
  • A con game involving monster hunting with miniatures. I was inspired by a recent article in Wargamer Illustrated about a medieval monster hunting wargame. I want to do it with a bidding system instead of dice. It will involve a small number of miniatures and terrain. I would like to run it at a con and have the winner take the game home with them.
  • A cyberpunk game using old school style rules that features the tunnels under Paris and the 'net as two parallel megadungeons.
These are the things I am planning on working on over the next year. My Stonehell game continues and has passed the one year mark at this point. The players have pretty much cleared out the first level and have started to make tentative forays into the second level. They have had their first encounters with the highly trained hobgoblins. The Knights of Dar Janix have taken over their base town, this offers new chances to learn spells, but there are strings attached. The ranger teleported himself to a far away cave in an arctic wasteland. A cave that shows signs of being of ancient dwarf construction. The ranger will face a long trek back to his party across uncharted wilderness.