Wednesday, March 26, 2014

solo-ing BSOLO1 The Ghost of Lion Castle

I think I mentioned some months ago that I was playing through this again after many, many years.

I have not been able to win and get back to Sarsdell with a magic-user (Eztar a pregen 3rd level) or elf (Kayen Telva - yeah, him!).  I did make it through recently with Hewer, my 3rd level Fighter. It was a close shave and my aura is not clear about it, if you get my meaning.  For one thing, it's against cannon as a Fighter could never be Sargon's heir.  I just wanted to see if it could be done.  I tried a couple of different elf and M/U roll-ups, but no go.  I don't know why they included level 1 magic-user pregens; it seems to me they'd be toast practically immediately.
"An iron ration?  Are you kidding me?  You won my Castle with an Iron Ration?"

This time, I encountered a high number of ferrets, and notably routed a Giant Black Widow Spider without being bitten.  I only survived as I took liberal advantage of the bed for exploring and went through on a treasure run the last go-through.  I thought by picking Orcish language I could avoid some fights but it didn't happen at all.  I didn't see nor smell an orc.

The first monster I encountered was a Giant Ferret, in the field just outside the postern gatehouse in which Eztar was killed (a couple of iterations before) by a Giant Ferret. Hewer kept his spell book and his +1 dagger.  I'm not sure if I re-vengeanced Eztar, and I'm not sure if his gear counts as treasure - but I like to think yes to the former and no to the latter.  It would give me a +1 dagger in the long run.

I think I will shift Hewer over to a 2nd level bald (from the barber room) Wizard in Dungeon Crawl Classics and have him be some kind of cat-conjurer with Sargon as a patron.  I gain a level by completing the adventure auto-magically, but I feel bad about the whole "I'm a fighter" thing.  I could just forswear the sword and devote myself to the study of the hunting cats and their magics.  Sargon as Patron.  Hmm.



Hmm. That's worth a thing, there.

On the random encounter chart, the lower your roll the more dangerous the encounter is.  The lion in Sargon's study almost took me to pieces in a couple of rounds.  Claw/claw/bite 2-5/2-5/1-10! with an 8 needed to hit my chain mail!.  Thank some god below for my last iron ration to distract it - cowardly, yes, but I think it's okay RAW.  I have rarely been so worried about the outcome of a battle - you can't drink healing potions in combat in these rules!  My heart rate was a little up for a couple of minutes!

Lesson:  Be wary of the beasts that skulk Sargon the Cat Sorcerer's keep!

( Following up with this thread in which a Nithian Automaton is discussed.  I don't know what that is, yet.)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Proposal for Tweaked Spell Duel for DCC (WIP)

It should be apparent by now that I love the DCC.

Of all the great things I love about it, simple mechanics, clarity of PHUN, wildly pseudo-randomized tables, hearkening back to the old school days that a lobe of my brain says MUST BE RIGHT GODDAMIT...

Nostalgia is a liar, but the go-motion Vermithrax is the best dragon of all dragons.  The Rankin and Bass Smaug rocks, also.
The spell duel is none of that stuff.  It's clunky.  It's awkward. It's a great idea on paper but even playthroughs I've heard on e.g. the Spellburn podcast fizzle out within a few mere rounds or so.  I've done 2 or 3 in play sessions and it wasn't great.  It seemss like it should be AWESOME and RAWKING but it doesn't feel that way.  I feel dirty and confused.  Why?  It feels like a lot of chart referencing and dice rolling and it literally pauses the action of everything else.

Because I saw some Harry Potter, and some Dragonslayer, and The Sword in the Stone, and Big Trouble in Little China.  A couple of wizards or ENTITIES e.g. a big-ass Dragon (it doesn't matter their relative powers, for drama's sake) go at it for a couple of rounds - a wand explodes, the protagonist maybe takes a wound or is routed, if he (always a he!) is Lucky he gets away with a singed forehead or something.

Accio Better Endings!
No offense to Mr. Goodman and Company.  I love the whole of DCC.  All of it.  This one part never gets used much, although it has a great deal of potential.  How would I fix it, then?  Well?  That's why you came, right?

It seems that one problem is that with the Rules As Written, a high level Wizard is going to smash right through a low-level one.  No question.  Also, the spells that cancel each other out are sort of baroque and way too precise for games.  The rules say that Clerics can counterspell Wizards, but there's no spells on the counterspelling list for Clerics, and even Patron Bond/Invoke Patron - it isn't on the Cleric spell list.  I mean, not everybody's going to have the right one, and that puts paid to a unprepared Wizard.  Wouldn't it be better if, instead of specific spells countering each other, ALL offensive spells countered each other?  The common sense rule on page 99 of my PDF says that it ought to be clear, but (hold on, here)...  this is MAGIC STUFF.  There's logic but it's not the logic of the waking world adult.  It's magic stuff!

On three.
So, I propose that all offensive spells and magic effects (e.g. Dragon Breath/Undead Effects/Spell attacks/Whatever) can be used to counter each other, without exception.  In fact, it seems to me that you'll get far more interesting weirdness this way than if specific level 1 through level 3 Wizard spells are able to counter each other and no others.  Obviously, one party will be the attacker and one the defender in each round... so if two parties are engaged in magical combat, then whomever has the initiative that round will be considered the attacker.  Nobody adds any spellburn the first round, since we need to build up steam.  Once the thing is decided, each party makes the action die roll but they're locked in combat for the round - sparks flying/dynamos humming/thunder 'n' lightning.  Nothing happens until the end of the round.  If you really wanted it to be AWESOME, the die rolls can be hid and revealed when the round is up.

The Gorgon's Head Casts Flesh to Stone as a 20th level Wizard

If the rolls are within the higher level caster's level of each other (in the case of the monster instance, the Hit Dice), then sparks fly, smoke drifts, all kinds of neat visual stuff.  Real magickal contests of wills type stuff.  Else, the difference is caused in Hit Point damage to the loser.  When the loser is reduced to zero Hit Points, then the attacker's spell manifests.  Until then, the warring magic powers fight each other for manifestations in the real world.  Next round, each caster rolls a 1d6 and adds their Intelligence modifier, and they may spellburn up to that much that round.  They don't have to, but the aether quivers with readiness.

Nobody loses a spell during a spell duel - this is an exception to the general flow of things.  However, a caster (or both) can incur corruptions.  In fact, the forces that drive magic love these kinds of things since it allows Kaos to leak into the Prime Material plane.  Two bad rolls for both can mean a lot of weird things happening but the duel continues.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

I like the "same rolls cause Phlogiston Disturbance" rule.  That's cool.  If either caster spellburns, they can adjust the result up or down to make a Phlogiston Disturbance or to beat the other caster or to beat the level difference to cause damage.

If one caster succesfully casts Dispel Magic, or Holy Sanctuary, or Protection from Evil (or whatever) then the round is a tie.  Go to the next round.  The effects don't occur as usual, they just make all the magic things not happen this round.

For Magic Shield, you get to cancel the Hit Point damage caused by the difference.



For Patron Bond, if one or both parties opt to use it, it's like the nuclear option.  It can only be cast when a party is down to below 2 of their Hit Die in Hit Points.  It's unlikely a Patron will come to the aid of a winning Wizard, in this case.  The thing is effectively over.  The Patron steps in and causes the duel to be over, in addition to whatever effects happen to occur because of the invocation.  The Invocation result is the difference between the rolls.  This could happen in addition to Phlogiston Disturbances, and if both parties opt to Invoke Patrons, a Phlogiston Disturbance is automatic.  The sheer might of two otherworldly entities struggling will bend reality in all kinds of bad ways.

This just gets plopped down on top of regular combat.  For the purposes of the narrative, all kinds of shit related to the spells' castings are happening - fire, lightning, frogs, holy auras, unholy wailing.  All that stuff.  But during the magical combat while the casters are focused on each other, the spells don't cast as usual.  This way, you can't get summarily destroyed by a failed casting on the first round, if you got an 8 and the other guy spellburned for 33 points or something.  You won't lose the spell for after the fight, if you survive.  You may be drained and weak but you can still do the things the party needs.  You vanquished that sumbitch (and maybe could vanquish another if it came to it) but you're not a dagger with legs, now.

This doesn't fix the Cleric side of things - they're included in my version of the rules (not sure if it's the most recent) but it feels like an after-thought.  I think they ought to be able to KABOOM with some divine intervention, too.  Maybe they can request Divine Assistance in the same manner as Invoke Patron, and go for the roll - I'm sure Justicia or Cthulhu would whoop Sezrekan's ass tidily if it came to it, or maybe not.  Maybe that't the point.

The failure of diplomacy is a tragedy.

DCC Alien Races lifted from Star Frontiers - Perk Buy System Method

Since I don't have an original bone in my body and everything I write is stolen from something somebody else already did 30 years ago, here is a breakdown of new races one might try if one is so inclined, taken from the wide-eyed and optimistic Star Frontiers (much of which is available in PDF format from a variety of fan sources out there).  The tone of it is so much more fun than, say 40K.

These are from the Alpha Dawn boxed set expanded rulebook (which I had as a child but never played!).  The allowed weapons and alignments are dependent upon your campaign setting, obviously.

Androidarts' renderings - my favorite versions

Dralasites (Amorphous Funny Blobs)

  • They only see in black and white, but can smell well enough to recognize people by smell alone.  Disguises generally do not work upon them.  They gain a +3 bonus to track a known target by smell (the DC moderated by the judge) but environmental factors may affect this.
  • Elasticity - can have a number of limbs equal to Agility divided by 3, rounded up.  Any combination of "arms" and "legs" applies.  For each arm above the second, they gain 1 attack per round, at the end of the round.  For each leg above the second, they gain 10" to move per round.  They take half damage from blunt and impacting weapons, but half again as much damage from piercing and cutting weapons.  Each limb takes a full turn to grow or absorb.  Any number of fingers or manipulators may be grown from each limb.
  • Empathic Lie Detection - If a lie is told in the Dralasite PC's presence, it (he? she?) has a DC 14 of detecting the falsehood, modified by Intelligence, rolled secretly by the Judge.
  • Base AC 11, HD d8.  They can squeeze into regular bipedal armor, and gain full benefits from it.
  • Saves, Crits, and Action Die as a Thief of the same level

Vrusk (Thri-Kreen/Phraints/Bug-Men)

  • Vrusks are mostly Lawful.
  • Ambidexterity - Multi-jointed arms and two thumbs per hand give them the ability to attack with two weapons without any penalty - they always get two attacks per round, at the same time.
  • Move at 40" per round, owing to their 4 walking legs.
  • Comprehension -  Vrusk get their Personality bonus to a DC 14 check to understand any cultural interchange that the player him-/her-/itself cannot.  This includes understanding the casting of a spell, a bartered exchange in a market, a religious ceremony - whatever.  With a full turn spent in observation, the Judge can give extra information to the player in secret about what the purpose of the ritual/ceremony/exchange was.
  • Base AC 12, HD d8
  • Saves, Crits, and Action Die as a Cleric of the same level
  • Normal armor for humans and even elves will not fit Vrusk and must be made especially for them.

Yazirians (Tree-Gliding Ape-Men - could also be Phanatons from X1 Isle of Dread)

  • Glide - Yazirians have membranous growths that stretch between their arms, legs, and body.  On their homeworlds, where gravity is somewhat less than that of Aereth, they are able to fly upon thermal wind currents for great distances.  On Aereth, they are able to glide short distances, and take -1d damage from falls on a DC 10 check, modified by Agility.  They may move their Agility score in feet for every 5 feet loss in altitude.
  • Night Vision - Yazirians can see in what humans and other demihuman races take for complete darkness.  However, in sunlight or bright light, they attack at -1d unless their eyes are shielded by special goggles.
  • Battle Rage - Yazirians may use Mighty Deeds as a Warrior of the same level.
  • Base AC 10, HD d10
  • If a Yazirian wears armor, they may not take advantage of the Glide ability.  They can wear Human armor with a little modification - they derive -1 bonus to the AC owing to armor worn (except shields, bucklers, and helmets)
  • Saves, Crits, and Action Die as a Fighter of the same level

Sathar (Evil Sapient Worm Creatures)

  • Sathar favor Chaos
  • They may not wear armor made for demihumans or humans.  Their bodies are somewhat limp and are held upright by hydraulic forces.  They receive half damage from blunt attacks.  They may travel on their bellies as a snake at half speed, and squeeze through small openings at the discretion of the Judge
  • They receive no damage from electrical attacks, and are immune to sleep spells.
  • They may see in a 270 degree arc around them, and so are harder to surprise.  Backstab attacks do not work as well on Sathar, and only the normal amount of damage is done to them.
  • Hypnotism - by modulating psionic energies in tandem with the sussuration of their voices, Sathar may attempt to hypnotize any creature with whom they may converse.  This acts as the first level Wizard spell Charm Person, but they suffer no ill effects from a failed casting.  This may be attempted no more than 3 times per day before their psionic stores are depleted.  In addition to their level, they add their Personality modifier to the Action Die roll.
  • Sathar may learn and cast one Wizard or Cleric spell per level (the level of the spell is of no consequence - if they find a level 5 spell they may learn and attempt to cast it in the usual manner)
  • Base AC11, HD d4
  • Action Die, Crits, and Saves as a Wizard of the same level

The following are from Zebulon's Guide, an expansion for Star Frontiers that I saw but never had or played:

Humma (Kangarooish Warriors)

  • Iron Guts - they suffer no drawbacks from eating rotten or poisoned food, and never need to make a saving throw to escape the ill effects of ingested poisons.
  • Spring! - A Humma may leap up to 50 feet into combat with an opponent, and will gain an initiative bonus of +5 if it does so.  They may leap this distance out of combat, or leap 20 feet straight up into the air, assuming normal gravity conditions.
  • Prehensile Tail - a Humma may hold an extra melee weapon in its prehensile tail, and thus gain an extra melee attack per round.  They may use the tail to steady themselves or to lift themselves up, slightly.  Simple operations can be completed with the tail but they cannot e.g. type using a keyboard or paint brush strokes this way.
  • Saves, crits, and Action Die as Warrior of the same level
  • Base AC11, Hit Die d10

Osakar (Multi-limbed, budding, Smooth Talkers)

  • Amibidextrous - Multi-jointed arms that rotate within biologically unusual sockets enable them to attack with two single-handed weapons each round without penalty
  • Adapted Speech Organs - Their fluted throats and double tongues allow Osakar to learn 3 times the number of spoken languages allowed by their Intelligence modifier.  Half of these may be held in reserve until such time that they come into play.  These are not necessarily the written forms of the languages; they will know the spoken forms of the written languages they know (as determined by their Intelligence modifier as usual)
  • Highly Developed Smell - With a DC 12 check, modified by Intelligence, the Osakar may track or recognize a target through normal conditions, or detect the presence of previously-encountered poisons or compounds.  Environmental conditions may improve or reduce the DC (e.g. rain, smoke, gasses)
  • Their weird anatomical forms (4 multi-jointed arachnoid legs terminating in hand-like manipulators) allow movement at 40" per round, and they receive the ability to climb as a Thief of the same alignment and level
  • Saves, Crits, and Action Die as a Thief of the same level
  • They are unable to use most armor but may use shields and helmets.  They may purchase modified armor at 3 times the usual cost.
  • Tough scaly hide gives them Base AC14, with d8 Hit Die

There are other races in Zebulon's Guide, the Ishfnit (pretty much space Dwarves with fancy eyeballs) and Mechanons, which are essentially Robots.  There are plenty of cool robot classes for DCC out there, already, and if you need a link to one, try --- WHOOPS  -- the Robot class is vaporized like maybe its plasma cannon backfired or something.

The Robot Lives!  +Paul Wolfe sent the space-time-informational-reference coordinates

Hmm.  Stand by on that issue, readers.  I'll see if I can fix it.  Meanwhile, the class stuff from +Patrick Wetmore 's ASE fits nicely into DCC, in my opinion, but they would need a little twerkin'.  There's even a Robot!  Keep an eye out for the ASE Player's Guide that Patrick teases Labyrinth Lord fans with (I'm unsure if it's cool to link to it at the moment).  If you haven't yet found the amazingness that is ASE, then I abjure you to check it out at Patrick's blog over thisaway.  It gleefully and lovingly smashes many old school gaming conventions in the way that people must have felt when they first encountered the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.

It has guns AND robots!  And a dungeon that generated itself!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Consider, if you will, the OBB

First, why did they always capitalize the monsters in the original Gamma World book?  This is 1st edition Gamma World, I never got my greasy little digits on the next editions.  And you know what, also?  In terms of just dropping some weird shit into your typical fantasy RP fare, you could do worse than lift a couple of monsters from the pages of GW.

Let's take the OBB.  30 years on, and the flying fungoid terror that flits mysteriously and ineffably over the surface of the wasted Earth, well, it haunts my nightmares.  I think I figured out that if the OBB blasted you, your chances of saving were slim to zilch... Let me find a thing, and we can confirm this.

You're screwed, mutie.  Totally screwed.
So, an intelligent, winged, hawk-like fungal creature that shoots a blast of radiation out of its eye and when you are inevitably dead, it lays spores inside you and it makes more.  And 3d6 damage PER CLAW!  AND 12 Hit Dice.  Although HD in GW are explicitly 6-sided, that could still mean 72 Hit Points.  30-40 average is nothing to scoff at anyways.  And (if you transition it rather seamlessly to DCC) it's immune to Color Spray, Magic Missile, and a bevy of other super duper Wizard spells that low-level characters rely upon.

Also, if you dig up the Radiation Matrix, you may notice that the Level 16 blast of radiation offers you (mostly) a 20% chance of mutation and an 80% chance of death - unless you have a 17 or 18 Constitution, in which case you just get a mutation a week later for sure.  I don't even know if I'd want to adjust the chances of this, it's so horrible and scary.  And fun.

The one time I saw an OBB in a module (Legion of Gold, incidentally, lost by me in my youth and then gifted to me again by Vincent) - it's in a dark and dead fallout bunker, if I remember correctly.  Imagine a dull flapping of the chitinous wings, followed by the single glowing eye of the OBB. It opens lazily at first, and then acquires a menacing aspect, finally blasting away when you don't get the hint to move on.  It could be totally silent and blinding, searing, ionizing radiation and then your party runs screaming and the survivors grow disadvantageous mutations a week later...


I'm tempted to make it psionic, also, but not in a dangerous way - maybe just mean and confusing alien telepathy to make your nose bleed as a warning sign before you run into the cold night air.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Thinking of Perk Buy for DCC Characters

My presupposition, of course, is that if it's not broken then there is no need to fix it. I think that mixing and matching of skill sets is against the spirit of vanilla DCC - in which humans are humans and everybody has their niche.  All the easy old skool niches are covered, and any of the weird ones can get squooshed into the pre-existing class.  The Barbarian DEATHRAGEFURY is a little gauche, if you ask me, but I think it could be admirable done with a regular old Mighty Deed.  Same for Paladin shit (just be a cleric already - they get swords), and rangers are available with gnomes and bards in Crawl (maybe it was number 6).

Some folks don't like to play that way.  I offer you a link somewhere to see a list of a bunch of DCC Character Classes that might get you closer to where you want to be.  Go read it - I'll wait.  There, that's a lot of classes to think about, and I bet a good couple of handfuls have sprung up since that thing started to collect cobwebs on the internweb pipes.  Okay, thanks for coming.  I hope you stumble here again, sometime.

A selection of races that are, on the face of it, better than ELF or HALFLING

...

Eh?  What's that you say?  You want a Merman Warrior or an Elven Cleric or a Minotaur Thief?  Something like the original DCC classes but MOAR cool?

Allow me to scrutinize you askance, sir or madam or whatever, as it seems that what you want is all the cool stuff from DCC in addition to feats and perks and shit from 3.75 edition or whatever the Hel it is.  No offense, but why do you need all these lists?  Couldn't you just say "I'm a Dwarf essentially, but instead of stonework skills and gold-smell I have fangs and tree-travel" and have you a Mok?  Couldn't you and the other players and your DM just be like "Cool - eff it, I like it, let's play!"?

No - you persist in your need for a firm framework so everything is 'fair'.

Hmm. Alright.  You sure you don't want to just use DCC as a reference book and continue to play d20 or Pathfinder or whatever the kids play these days?  There are a vast number of modules that you can kludge into any form you want.  You could even use the DCC as a loose framework!

No?

Alright. Let's see what we can bubblegum-and-tape together, shall we? Essentially, you take some base character class that exists already and plop down some things and take some things away.  (except maybe the Wizard - the Wizard can already be weird enough to provide an almost infinite variation  DONT FUCK WITH THE WIZARD is a good rule of thumb)

I'm of the opinion that halflings are great in DCC mechanically, but sort of tedious for RP.  Dwarfs, also.  Elfs, ick.  Now, I'm getting back into Clerics after groking ASE and Petty Gods and all that good stuff, and so that leaves Warriors and Thieves.  Understanding the general DCC philosophy of open access to all the abilities at the start, as opposed to incremental improvements at levelling, blow a good wide selection of the things you want your character to do, right from the get-go, blow it all over the place.  If you want mighty deeds and spells, I say (hear me on this), just play a demigod and have all the powers and play some other game, already.  You will notice that elves are fighty and have full access to the spell list - but they got a neat limitations/mechanical problem to work around vis a vis iron problems.  I take this as a model - get a spare framework of stuff, drop something good on it, and then to even it out drop a problem to work around in play.  Clerics and Wizards already have this in spades.  It's my opinion that Deity Disapproval and Corruptions are good things - NAY GREAT THINGS - because it tacks on something weird and fun to roleplay through and drive your character with aside from all the KILL SHIT GET TREASURE RINSE REPEAT

So mighty deeds AND spells - Not in my campaign, bub, but maybe your 3.5 friendly Judge will allow it for a HJ or something.  Or, if you want mighty deeds and spells, then maybe mighty deeds on a ten sided die roll of 10, and a 1 or 2 is a critical fumble (this is a combat tumble mechanic for a Jester class).  Also, you get a limited selection of spells chosen by me, or the corruption range is like 1-8 instead of 1 or 2.  I mean, if you get greedy you need to pay a price, yeah?  My very own Deep One Hybrid class, which to my knowledge is a mere exercise in page layout and thinking about these mechanics which no one has ever actually played, has stealth skills and magic from cleric list and wizard list, and also the Innsmouth Look which is a sort of Tax.  The healing in water thing is a limitation - gotta get back to the ocean, or a murky pond, or whatever, Fishman...

Column A - Fun stuff

1) Luck mechanics (gain, regenerate, trade)
2) Attacks (claws, bites, squirts of insect semen, whatever (note - just seeing if you're paying attention))
3) Movement stuff (flight, levitation, tireless running, leap, swim, climb)
4) shape changing
5) a single spell, or a level of spells
6) wonky adventuring senses (gold smell, infravision, super duper hearing, spot-a-secret)
7) fun miscellaneous mechanics (tracking, bard song, monk type stuff from 1st ed.)
8) any of the perks from, say +Scott Mathis's Transylvanian Adventures

For Column A, a wide range of fun powers, feats, whatever - a jillion jillion sources could inform your choices.  Mutant Futures, Gamma World, Psionics, Robotics Charts,

Column B - Trade Offs

1) Any kind of corruption, minor, permanent, roleplayable
2) madness of any kind, things that compel a player to RP a thing
3) obligations (religious, ethical, whatever e.g. don't eat meat, never kill except in self-defense)
4) slow healing
5) limited but high number of hit points (I think GW did this with robots and androids)
6) any number of drawbacks mutations
7) for bigger awesome powers, the bigger kinds of permanent corruption
8) Decrease the Hit Die

I don't like to play GURPS much anymore, but I did as a kid, and I think you could take a couple of rules o thumb from the GURPS chargen process to design your class.  Forget about the stats and crap and just think about what kind of stuff you could have with a smorgasbord of GURPS books and, say, 50 points of Perks and Drawbacks.  Sky's practically the limit, here!

My opinion, though, is that you don't need any rules of thumb for this, you can kinda eyeball it and agree informally with the Judge on what is fair.  We've done it (me and Evan and the Mok).  Just remember the basic philosophy to get the whole gamut up front without any of the bullshit leveling mechanics other systems offer (let's be Frank shall we Frank, you want the perks to try we all know it, Frank, you want all teh Perks at Level 1).  "I'm  a fighter with four arms so 2 attacks per round, lots of Hit Points, and my skin is green and I have tusks!"  (A Thark)  "Okay, Thark - you can't wear armor better than AC 12 and your Agility and Personality can never be more than 12, either.  You're very big and you take up a whole rank in the dungeon rank and file by yourself, and you sure can't squeeze through any trapdoors."  Fair?  I think so.

this Thark and his mates are going to cut you, Homes
One really cool thing about a good number of the DCC module authors is thay they offer you ways to redo a funnel full of wonky weird character options when your regular party bites it.  +Daniel Bishop and +Jon Marr, in particular.  I can think of three different modules by Daniel that have weird races to play as just casually strewn about the text.  Just like regular humans plus X, minus Y.  Here is one - by the by - it's worth the price of entry just for the extra patrons, but the Moon Men are cool, too.

What are you doing, there, just reading?  Plumb the skeezy depths of the internet and give this dog some hunting room - I think this dog can hunt, I really do.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sneak Preview Teaser of HHSOLO1

Now with much light-hearted (but deadly nonetheless) Old Skool feels


Still mostly on track for late summer 2014 - this is a rough cover treatment that I'm trying to get together for inspiration - the art is by an amazingly fun illustrator named Sam Schultz who will even do some custom paper minifigs for you for a nominal fee.  (I'm not sure Sam still does it but you can take it up with him)

Check out Sam's stuff over thither:

tumblr: http://slamschultz.tumblr.com
email: sam_schultz@me.com
Twitter(optional): @slamschultz
I have another surprise illustrator (besides me) that I'm mostly going to pee my pants about, but I ran into the real and thorny problem of money - which makes this kind of stuff pretty dicey.

Who woulda thunk that all this work and money goes into a thing up front?  Here's hoping that I can keep the wind in my sails and finish the text and the interior illustrations long enough to put out a first version, nevermind the deluxe version that I have in mind down the road (maybe better as a follow-up or sequel)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Promoting Desperation in Games - What I learned last year from DCC

<<I think I thought this up a couple of weeks ago, and it's been waiting for me to finish and publish it, so here goes, sort of a WHAT WORKS FOR ME PT. DIEUX although I haven't got the balls to implement these kinds of things all the way since it would be like TPK after TPK after TPK>>

One of the things that appeals to me about the OSR, particularly Barrowmaze and Stonehell and the ASE (I guess megadungeons in general), is the sense of desperation that comes with being a schmuck underground with a dull sword and a torch, and maybe a slightly bonkers religious friend and a guy/gal who tends to take things when nobody's looking.  I often feel desperate in real life, or at least I have in the past.  There were a couple of lean years where I was hungry all the time, penniless, and spending a good deal of time in the FSU Strozier Library at night looking for something.  I knew some Greek then, and Latin, and a meager smattering of Hebrew, and my dreams were infected with hunger and longing and the endless quiet of a half-empty dorm room.  I'd spend hours a day hunting for foot-notes in musty disused books, trying to synthesize my understanding of the Gnostic Heresies and POVRAY and Angband.  I may have been a little mad.  I would save up my dimes and nickels for a black bean sub at Subway back when they did that, and I sometimes prayed an atheist prayer that the Krishnas would come and try to convert the kids with free food... Looking back they was some weird times, yes.  But I was sharp as a tack, then.  It were the desperation that made me sharp, I think.  Maybe it was a burgeoning Krishna Consciousness or something.

There's no way my younger mind could have anticipated those real lean years from 1995 to (2014?) 1998... By that time I had given up on RPGs - our group had just tipped into 2nd edition and things started to seem dull to me.  We had tried Ravenloft, and Dark Sun, Spelljammer (very briefly).  I started a job and picked up the 1st Vampire WoD book to try and keep up with the group and then when they started to play it almost exclusively I bowed out into (get this) Necromunda.  I'm not about preying upon the weak and leaping tall buildings and blending seamlessly into the shadows.  I'm about the grotty, filth covered, desperate picking through goblin-stained rags looking for a couple of silver pieces to make all this poking around in the sewers worthwhile.  When I started to hang with the wrong kind of skinheads over the gaming table, I gave up tabletop gaming and RPGs entirely until about 2008 or so.

I don't need empowerment in my fantasy, really, I think maybe I need a similar situation in which I get some imaginary return on the dreariness of humdrum existence.  I guess maybe it is empowerment, of a kind.  Don't get me wrong - in my waking world I'm fairly fulfilled in that I'm happily married and have a great kid, and my day job allows that I make other peoples' lives marginally less dreary...  So, how do you (well, how do I) promote desperation in my games?  Somewhat more importantly, if others don't look for this in their games but look for something else, how ought I to mesh my deep psychological drives with theirs, so that we can have a fun time and get the thing we need?

1) Maybe the setting.  Barrowmaze appealed to me since resource-management and desperation is implicit.  Looking back, I think DCC isn't such a great match (for what I'm talking about here) since 1st level DCC characters are a little heftier and tricksy-er than other OSR types.  It's perfect for the funnel, though.  After a bunch of funnels, I find I'm worn out on it a little, but it's a hoot for the most part.
2) No permanent spell effects.  Continual light on a rock is a game breaker for resource-worrier types.
3) Spell limits that are a little heftier than what DCC has, so a modification to the system or else a significant ramping up of spell-resistance in encountered creatures, and a boost to the use of spells in humanoid/human NPCs.  I think making loss of the spell connected to any failed roll, or else 
4) CRUSHING DEATH AND GRIEF, SOAKED IN THE BLOOD OF THE TRESPASSING THIEF
5) Frequent random encounter rolls, but I think maybe tandem use of the reaction table to keep things interesting.  Murderhoboing all the other NPCs was hilarious but stymied my attempts to introduce sinister plots, kind of.
6) Bleed the characters of resources if they aren't used up quick enough.  Waves of zombies to get the PCs worried about lamp-oil.  Gusts of wind and dripping water for torches, crossbow-using undead for lanterns and lamps, monsters attracted to spell use and loud noises (It occurs to me that I am stealing all this from the intro to Barrowmaze I).  Gygax said you have to track time and make them sweat resources.  I came up on 1st ed. and YMMV of course.
7) Hideous awful curses, and not the regular vanilla kinds, on magic items.  A good peppering of weak magic weapons and tantalizing miscellaneous stuff right out of the Friday the 13th TV show.  So bad that PCs will hesitate every time they spend a charge.  I know this is not the kind of game everybody wants, but refer to the title of the article, if you will.
8) Grottiness.  This ain't Krynn, it's Newhon or Discworld.  You can die from disease and poison or malnourishment or fatigue.  Kinda sucks, but adventurers adventure so they don't starve, and they need money to fuel the benders they go on, and maybe save up a little at a time for that banded mail for an extra edge.  I was reading ACKS this morning, and it explains that a GP equals one month's worth of destitute subsistence for a peasant, so adventurers are naturally going down into crypts to find a couple of years' worth of wine, wo/men, and song.  I like that policy.  DCC states up front that most 0-level characters have never seen a GP up close.  I think it's in there, somewhere.
9) I don't think I feel great about purchased potions of healing/scrolls of cure light wounds.  Or neutralize poison/cure disease (maybe cure disease is okay, if it comes with a price...)  I want my magic to be a little weirder and more dangerous than that.  Is it okay I say that?
10) I dig the KEEP FIGHTING mechanics of WHFRP 1st ed. in which you can stay up fighting if you save vs. death, but you're incurring wounds and damage so bad that you may never adventure again without some kind of magical/divine assistance.  Or a wooden leg.  High level characters (i.e. 4th level) are riddled with scars and have excellent and thrilling stories to tell.  Necromunda and Mordheim were fun this way, if you went out of action you had a chance to just have been conked out and scrambled back to camp with a concussion and a good story.
11)  Come to think of it, maybe divine assistance isn't so meaningful until PCs reach a certain amount of importance in the world (i.e. never - Lovecraft's mechanistic materialism).  The gods are petty and jealous and underpowered, and arcane patrons are the same.  They want power in the material world and every follower is tested constantly and held to strict standards...  I like ASE's flavor in this way
12) Coins are rare and the high powered stuff like platinum is generally out of circulation - any treasure-y stuff a party finds is going to be chewed up by fences and pawnbrokers and banks and taxation.  That 1000 GP vase you found?  Likely to get broken on the way back and also if you don't have a trusted appraiser then you can expect about half of what it states in the guidebook.  Reaction rolls might make this better, but haggling may be role-played for better results.  Maybe people don't like roleplaying haggling anymore, I dunno.  You could lose the jewels to a pick pocket on the way to the fence!  Adventure!  I mean, what is the pickpocket skill for if not for NPCs to cut your purse?  Also, better be nice to your henchmen or they may just pull up the ropes and leave you down there...
13) TRAPS TRAPS TRAPS  a party full of anxious thieves is better and more fun than a party full of dead clerics and skewered dwarves (in DCC I bet this would be pretty slick).
14) Rust monsters ought to be as terrifying for a party as wights are, IMHO
15) +Zak Smith proposed a rule, I think, in which you voluntarily raised your fumble range in order to expand your crit range.  I think, amongst the number of other clever things the man has written and thunk up, this is one of the clearest uses of simple mechanics to add zest to the game that I ever heard of, since it promotes FUN.  He's really a very smart guy, and make no mistake.
16)  Speaking of crit ranges, maybe the monsters could use the same rule, and cause crits on 19 and 20, and (for DCC) bump up the crit die a couple of notches.  A simple skeleton could turn into a skeleton brimming with serious necromantic energies - feeling worried, with the smell of mould and hate floating around everywhere?
17) for undead, in DCC, you could do worse than unique-ify 'em with my own awesome d100 table (for some zest and laffs)
18) don't let the party just send henchies and hirelings headlong into disaster without reduction of morale, increase in difficulty hiring down the road at the very least, and it cost a share of the treasure for certain
19) if the party burns enough NPCs, then word travels fast and they get dogpiled by a couple of adventuring parties, also (but at least make it dramatic).  A party of murderhobos with a bad reputation is sure to get a comeuppance sooner or later

Right now I can't think of anything else but I'm sure a glancing over of the AD&D DMG later will spring some things into my brain.  I think after some reads of my blog nobody will want to play in a game I run from here out...

Monday, March 10, 2014

Indeed, the Gods Are Crazy

Thinking about the wide range of Orbital Gods that pop up in the first book of the ASE, and some of the games I've played as clerics, lately.  I read this post about what things a fantasy deity would want from boots on the ground, and here goes the list of stuff the two "on the fly" beings I invented might want:

The Great Albino Catfish, the Lord Who Floats in the Deep, Dark Water (from the STOUTFELLAS game by +Doug Kovacs with +Wayne Snyder +Paul Wolfe and +James MacGeorge).  In this I was "Fishbit" Burris, Lawful (but Evil!) Dwarven Cleric - former smuggler turned low-level gangster, turned hamburger by some mighty Pro-Sex Warrior Priestess Woman.


Wants you to (based on the play):

1) Drown
2) Drown things, or murder them unawares
3) Throw nice things in the water
4) Be cold, and/or wet
5) Move quietly in darkness
6) Murder things and dump the bodies in the water
7) Smuggle, but only in boats at night

His granted spells (this is in DCC) manifest as coldness, dark water, catfish-y tentacles, and the silence of the deep.  I think I had Darkness, Detect Magic, Paralysis, and Holy Sanctuary (which didn't get cast in the course of the game).  I was thinking of a big white Aboleth that masqueraded as a fish...  My chosen weapons were the spear and the javelin (recast as a harpoon).  Distinctly a Lawful Evil god, I guess if I needed to pick domains for other game editions I would say, Water, Evil, and Darkness.  Incidentally, the slow-moving and cold sewer water under the city of Cube sufficed for holy water in this case.

Then there was a DCC game I played in as Forthelbert, 1st level Cleric of The Lady of Day Old Baked Goods; as yet unnamed.  Forthelbert was a homely but pleasant artisan (baker) in his former life, and so tried to give succor to the roving bands of adventurers that sprung up like weeds in his hometown.  This is in +Darien Mason 's game, but I didn't get to follow up in it - not sure if he's followed up, either (I think we played a couple of games since then)

If you read this, suggest a name for the Lady and I will include a reference to you in my upcoming solo module for DCC.  Multiple entries will make for better references ;)  (Note: funny that I studied Greek and Roman mythology in college pretty well and didn't recall Fornax)

She wants you to:



1) Break bread with strangers (even evil ones)
2) Pelt non-believers with stale rolls, or hit them with stale baguettes fortified by faith
3) Heal companions
4) Feed the poor and sick
5) Sell leftover (never fresh!) baked goods at a mild discount and tithe it all to the nearest Lawful temple

Spell effects manifested as heat, with the smell of freshly baked bread that passes quickly.  I think the spells I had were Resist Cold/Heat, Food of the Gods, Blessing, and Detect Evil.  His staff was actually a peel (the baking kind), and his sling sent divinely staled rolls shattering upon the brows of the faithless...  I guess in both instances the spells I rolled suggested the god rather than any other method.

The cool thing about ASE is what it suggests - essentially the gods are sort of like the fractured AI from Gibson's Sprawl Series - intelligences spun out into wild personalities that suck up symbolism from human culture.  I think of some God of Orbital Laser Platforms and how a Flame Strike would look as a laser strike from space, silent and blinding and happening here and there as the platform adjusts to the coordinates, like in the final fight in Akira...



Anyways, thanks to +Daniel Davis for the ideas - what do your non-traditional deities do and want?

Late edit: I just came across this thing by Gorgonmilk which is a sterling example of what I have discussed.  Literally Petty Gods

Also, generating minor deities from games with others

If I may say so, these last two are utterly fantastic.  Why are you still here?  Read those things instead, already!

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