Tuesday, August 31, 2010

[In The Game] Jousting

Jousting is awesome. I think there should be more of it in games we play. Jousters are the rock-stars of the medieval times. And whether you are running a historical game or a complete fantasy, it's got it's place, either on the road or in a tourney. A chance for your players to grab that glory and ride down their enemies on horseback with a lance.

It lasted nearly 700 years! The first recorded tourney was in 1066. Henry II of France, the king, died as a result of this sport. The friggin' King of France took part. It was that popular. It lasted nearly 700 years! And now it's a popular draw in Las Vegas and at ren faires all around the world.

I hope that at some point soon, jousting becomes the thing to do in RPGs.

Monday, August 30, 2010

[Resources] The Russian Tsars

Wikipedia has a lot on the Russian Tsars, including the last one, Nicholas II of the House of Romanov, and later claimants to his throne.

If you'd ever want to run a game about the decline and fall of a Noble House, the assassination of a King and the loss of a Kingdom, you couldn't do any worse than something from history. Especially this history.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

[Auld Lang 'Zine] 1001+1 Nights, Issue #6

Issue #6, One Thousand and One Nights and One Night RPG Campaign Design 'zine

Issue no. 6 of One Thousand and One Nights and One Night Campaign Design 'zine was published May 2007.

I continued this issue with Part 2 of my D20 Fantasy Campaign, adding more info like two races of Humans, the Thyatir and the Suldar, both of which are different element-aspected (earth and fire, respectively), and Hobbits. I also included the Vir, a template that is added to any race (but goblinoid) that I let my players have when I ran it for the Corvis Monkey Troupe.

I limited the character classes to Bards, Warlocks, Fighters, Clerics, Paladins, Wizards, and Berserkers and Sidhe Scholars (both from a Dragon Magazine article) and ran the game using the excellent module Three Days to Kill by John Tynes.

Due to my schedule at the time, I didn't have any game notes to add to the issue.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

[Resources] Book of Durrow

The Book of Durrow is a 7th century manuscript of the Christian Gospels. It was created at Durrow Abbey in Ireland (or possibly Northumbria, Northern England). The book is made up of 248 vellum sheets as well as six carpet pages, which are pages of art including geometrical shapes and animals, circular knots, triskeles, and spirals.

Durrow Abbey was a famous school, one of the "Universities of the West" of those times. The abbeys in that part of Ireland were frequent targets of Viking raids but somehow the Book of Durrow survived, until it disappeared after the abbey disolved in the 16th century.

Where the book went after that, no one knew but a century later it was found in the possession of a farmer (who stored it in his cow shed).

What and where was the Book during that century? That is a mystery that could consume a party of time-traveling adventurers, a quest for a group of medieval monks, a secret text for a cotery of hermetic mages or the solution to a epic mission for a bunch of young untried knights.

Friday, August 27, 2010

[Missing in Gaming] Realms of the Sun Book 2: Heart of Stone

In order to complete my Everway collection, I still need a few more books, including the two Realms of the Sun books. I previously mentioned the first book and this one is the second book. Heart of Stone is 76 pages and was published by Rubicon Games in 1997.

Again, I can't find this one for all the searching I do, both in bookshops around the Seattle area and online.

Maybe one day I will find them both. Maybe you can help. If you've seen this book in a local shop, let me know!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

[My Collection] Cadillacs and Dinosaurs

You may be wondering what this has to do with Atomic Thursday (and wondering where the next installment for the D.C. Campaign is but don't worry, I'll get back to it).

Well, a long time ago, back in 1986, a guy named Mark Schultz wrote and drew a comic called Xenozoic Tales. This comic was set in a post-apocalyptic future, where mankind has just come out of generational bomb shelters and had limited technology in a world populated by a vast array of dinosaurs.

The comic spanned a decade, spawned a TV cartoon show, computer games, candy bars and collectible cards.

And GDW turned it into an RPG written by Frank Chadwick in 1990. RPG.net has a few reviews (1, 2) and Dark Horse comics has two trade paperbacks of the comic.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

[Auld Lang 'Zine] 1001+1 Nights, Issue #5

Issue #5, One Thousand and One Nights and One Night RPG Campaign Design 'zine

The 5th issue of One Thousand and One Nights and One Night Campaign Design 'zine was published in May 2007.

This issue I cover the first part of a two part D20 Campaign that I worked up, including two standard races for the game: The Glittergold Cave Elves and the Elessars, a race of stone beings. I also had rules for adding more magic in the game by having everyone in the world able to use cantrips. For some setting style, I added a Elizabethan twist to the world, including standard clothing and weapons (longswords and black powder weapons).

I had four links in my game notes page, three of which still work: The Hypertext D20 SRD Spell Lists, MJ Young's Cantrips and Rose Magic: Orizons and Cantrips.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

[Resources] Hessian Soldiers

Everyone needs good mercenaries, even the most powerful countries on Earth.

The British used the Hessians extensively during the American Revolution, fielding over 30,000. Most were conscripts sold to the King of England by German Princes and, while they were universally called Hessians, 12,000 were actually from Hesse-Kassel.

Only about 1200 were killed in action out of the over 7,000 dead (the rest died of illnesses and disease), while another 5,000 stayed in America at the end of the war. The other 17,000 went home to Germany, probably to fight in more wars for their German Princes.

The position of a mercenary in a foreign land is tenuous at best and downright hazardous at worst. Besides the regular fighting to deal with, there is the problems with the locals. And not speaking the lingua franca is a pretty major obstacle. Next time your characters are strangers in a strange land, think about that and try to include it in your games.

And after the conflict, your PCs may stay.

Monday, August 23, 2010

[My Collection] Serenity

Yes, I like Firefly TV show and the Serenity movie. I listen to The Signal podcast. I don't dress up as a Browncoat, however.

I also like the game, so I've collected the 5 books (so far) from Margaret Weis Productions. I've played in a couple of sessions and have an appreciation for the Cortex system, moreso because of the Leverage: the Quickstart Job (another MWP product I will be purchasing) game I played at Go Play Northwest in June.

There are a few reviews on the main book and supplements on RPG.net (1, 2, 3, 4). If you've played it, I'd be interested in hearing about it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

[Auld Lang 'Zine] 1001+1 Nights, Issue #4

Issue #4, One Thousand and One Nights and One Night RPG Campaign Design 'zine

The 4th issue of One Thousand and One Nights and One Night Campaign Design 'zine was published in April 2007.

I present two characters that I played in a couple of past campaigns: the first appearance of Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Torpington from a GURPS Forgotten Realm campaign and a young U.S. Marine pilot in a Vietnam War-era game.

The Forgotten Realm campaign was set in Cormyr and my PC was a knight-mage from Shadowdale, sent to Cormyr to recover from wounds after a fight with the Zhentarim.

I also wrote up a bit on my friend GMs Savage Worlds Combat at the Speed of Heat. This chronicled my first experience with the system that, over three years later, it's still my system of choice.

I also talk a bit about character design in My Style and mention an online dungeon builder (and the link still works: Gozzy's Cartographic Emporium).

Saturday, August 21, 2010

[Labyrinth Lord] The Red Fists War Band

The Red Fists War Band is a local marauding band in my Ashford Valley setting. Made up of outcasts from a variety of tribes, clans, cities and nations, they've banded together for mutual protection as well as an opportunity for loot.

Currently an orc named Pink runs the crew, which includes 13 Orcs, 7 Goblins, 3 Hobgoblins, 2 Gnolls, 15 Human Bandits, a Human Necromancer and his three Elven Skeletons, and a lone Dwarf [*].

Pink the Orc (see my 'zine, One Thousand and One Nights and One Night, Issue #20) was born like many Orcs, yet he managed to survive to adulthood. After killing his last brother in a scuffle about some mushrooms, he convinced a couple of other orcs to follow him on a raid to a nearby human settlement. Success was sweet and Pink ate well of human flesh.

He and his followers joined the Red Fists and in short order he murdered the old leader Kraz and took over. After a shake-up in the war bands hierarchy, resulting in a few more deaths, he appointed Nevlan the Necromancer and Joshtin the Bandit as his chief lieutenants. His "Council of Elders" includes the two Gnolls, Grick and Grack, the Dwarf Evor Ironhammer and Old Miller the Bandit.

Between the lot of them, they're bad news. They fight smart and retreat as necessary, conserving their strength. They plan each raid, using some of the Human Bandits as advanced scouts to settlements or farms, then brutally kill all witnesses. They love ambush and turning the tables on foes.

Most of the band fear that Nevlan will animate their dead bodies after their untimely demise. So far that hasn't happened but I wonder what event would push them to that? Lately, though, they've run afoul of the Rangers of Hollow Wood, and are currently on the move out of that territory. Where will they go next?

[*] Sure, not a uniform Orc band, but still pretty cool. If you don't like it, then talk to Pink. I'm sure he'd be amenable to changing your mind ....

Pink the Orc; Alignment: Chaotic; Armor Class: 5; Hit Dice: 2d8, Hit Points: 16; Attacks: longsword (1d8+1); Save: F2; Morale: 9.

Nevlan the Necromancer; Human, Magic-User, Level 9; Alignment: Chaotic; Abilities: Strength 9, Dexterity 13,Constitution 10, Intelligence 15, Wisdom 11, Charisma 12. Armor Class: 8 (-1 Dex); Hit Dice: 9d4, Hit Points: 12. Attacks: dagger (1d4). Languages: Common, Elvish; Special Abilities: Spells (Magic Missile, Charm Person, Protection from Good, Invisibility, Levitate, Web, Fireball, Lightning Bolt, Protection from Normal Missiles, Charm Monster, Polymorph Others, Animate Dead), Scroll with Sleep.

Joshtin the Bandit (1 Normal Man); Alignment: Chaotic; Armor Class: 4 (chain & shield); Hit Dice: 1d8, Hit Points: 8; Attacks: longsword (1d8), short bow (1d6); Save: NM; Morale: 8.

Grick and Grack (2 Gnolls); Alignment: Chaotic; Armor Class: 5; Hit Dice: 2d8, Hit Points: 12; Attacks: longsword (1d8+1), longbow (1d8+1); Save: F2; Morale: 8.

Evor Ironhammer (1 Dwarf); Alignment: Neutral; Armor Class: 4; Hit Dice: 1d8, Hit Points: 6; Attacks: hammer (1d6) and heavy crossbow (1d8); Save: D1; morale: 8, Special abilities: mining.

Old Miller (1 Normal Man); Alignment: Chaotic; Armor Class: 4 (chain & shield); Hit Dice: 1d8, Hit Points: 3; Attacks: longsword (1d8), short bow (1d6); Save: NM; Morale: 6.

Elven Skeletons (3); Alignment: Chaotic; Armor Class: 7; Hit Dice: 1d8, Hit Points: 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3; Attacks: short sword (1d6) or spear (1d6); Save: F1; Morale: 12.

Orcs (13); Alignment: Chaotic; Armor Class: 6; Hit Dice: 1d8, Hit Points: 5, 4, 4, 4, 4, 3, 3, 3, 3, 2, 2, 1, 1; Attacks: short sword (1d6), short bow (1d6); Save: F1; Morale: 5.

Brigands (13 Normal Men); Alignment: Chaotic; Armor Class: 6 (leather armor & shield) or 4 (chain & shield); Hit Dice: 1d8, Hit Points: 6, 5, 5, 4, 4, 4, 3, 3, 3, 3, 2, 2, 1; Attacks: short sword (1d6) or longsword (1d8), short bow (1d6); Save: NM; Morale: 5. Half the bandits have leather armor, shields and short swords and the other half have chain mail, shields and longswords. The bandits that have chain mail also have horses.

Friday, August 20, 2010

[Vids] Tales of the Gold Monkey

Tales of the Gold Monkey was a 1982 action/adventure show starring Stephen Collins (as pilot Jake Cutter) and Caitlin O'Heaney (as spy Sarah Stickney White and Jake's love interest) set in the Pacific during the late 1930s, right before the start of World War II. It was created by Donald Bellisario (of Magnum, P.I. fame) in response to Raiders of the Lost Ark. It had a one-eyed Jack Russell Terrier named Jack who, when asked a question, barked once for No and twice for Yes. I loved this show as a kid and was excited when it was released on DVD this year.

But would it survive the Nostalgia Train?

I got the first disk from Netflix which included the two-part Pilot (with John Hillerman from Magnum, P.I. as the baddie), Shanghaied and Black Pearl. All of these episodes were excellent and had tons of good for ideas for my Distinguished Flying Cross Savage Worlds setting. I plan on getting the other five DVDs (18 episodes) from Netflix soon.

I also found a website dedicated to the show at Goldmonkey.com, with pictures, information and an episode guide. And you can find information on Leo the Dog, who played Jack, at TV Acres. He sadly passed away at age 21 on April 6, 1989.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

[Books] Nuclear War Survival Skills

As a break from my D.C. Campaign, I figure a good bit of info for players and GM alike would be found here.

Cresson Kearny wrote this book and it's available free in PDF, all 510 pages of it. Cresson, a Rhodes Scholar , had quite a varied career: civil engineer, geologist, jungle expert, a stint in the Army during WWII (including missions in the OSS in China), researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, civil defense expert.

Hell, his history would make a great background for a character.

If you're interested in a hard copy, you can get the book from Amazon for $20 (giftwrapping extra).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

[Auld Lang 'Zine] 1001+1 Nights, Issue #3

Issue #3, One Thousand and One Nights and One Night RPG Campaign Design 'zine

My third issue of One Thousand and One Nights and One Night Campaign Design 'zine was published in April 2007. I think I really hit my stride with this one. The whole issue was filled with using the old D&D module B2: The Keep on the Borderlands in different settings, and I think it rocks.

I was real proud with my four different keeps: a police station in teenage gangland, a fort on an island in a pirate setting, at a starport in deep space or a military outpost in the Stargate universe.

My game notes link to various threads I started around the 'net on this issue, two of which still work: Alternate B2s (RPG.net) and Alternate B2s (ENWorld).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

[Dresden Files] Hollywoodland: Dutch Schultz

Dutch Schultz was a thug who burglarized houses in his teens and graduated to higher crimes thereafter. In the late 1920s, he threw in with a gangster named Noe and soon was supplying beer across Prohibition-era New York.

Rivals were dealt with harshly - Joe Rock was kidnapped, brutally tortured and eventually went blind because a gonorrhea-infected bandage was smeared in his eyes, while Jack "Legs" Diamond was shot five times but managed to escape to Europe, prompting Dutch to say "Ain't there nobody that can shoot this guy so he don't bounce back?"

In 1935, after a power-play by Charlie "Lucky" Luciano reduced his empire, Dutch was shot (as most gangsters are) in the Palace Chophouse in Newark, New Jersey, on October 23rd, finally dying 22 hours later on the 24th.

During his last hours, he rambled on, talking about French Canadian bean soup or saying nonsense such as:

"You can play jacks, and girls do that with a soft ball and do tricks with it."
"Oh, Oh, dog Biscuit, and when he is happy he doesn't get snappy."
"A boy has never wept...nor dashed a thousand kim."

And that's where the history ends for Dutch, with few people mourning him and his passing.

But that's not the end of the story because even death couldn't keep this bad man down.

See, he knew it was the end for him. The dogs were gathering around, between the law and rival mob bosses, and he wasn't foxy enough to get away from them all. So he planned an out, figuring someone was going to try to whack him.

He put $7 million in a specially constructed safe and buried it in a hidden location in upstate New York with his bodyguard Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz. He found a renegade wizard named Teller willing to do some bad, bad things and bring him back. But he didn't trust Teller not to screw him, so he found another wizard to give him a way out of bondage.

On August 6th, 1936, Teller performed a necromantic ritual to bring Dutch back. It went splendidly and soon Dutch was bound as a Spectre to this necromancer. But Teller foolishly followed Dutch's instructions, including the location where he was to be summoned back and where Dutch had secreted the fetish provided by the other wizard. The fetish and a single bullet later, Dutch was "alive" again and free.

Since Rosencrantz was killed in the shootout that ended Dutch's life (finished off by a bullet from Dutch's .45), no other person knew where the money was. So he himself dug it up and went West, ending up in Hollywood in 1939 under the name Arthur Legend.

And he's got some plans....

Dutch Schultz aka Arthur Legend
High Concept: Undead gangster

Other Aspects: Ruthless and paranoid killer; What's mine is mine, and what's yours will soon be mine, too; No one will control me; Lost humanity; Lead a gang of spectres; Respectable countenance.

Athletics: Fair (+2)
Burglary: Fair (+2)
Conviction: Average (+1)
Endurance: Fair (+2)
Fists: Good (+3)
Guns: Great (+4)
Intimidation: Good (+3)
Presence: Average (+1)
Resources: Superb (+5)
Stealth: Fair (+2)
Weapons: Good (+3)
Most other skills default to Mediocre (+0)

Human Guise [-0]
Inhuman Strength [-2]
Inhuman Speed [-2]
Supernatural Recovery [-4]
Supernatural Toughness [-4]
The Catch [+0] is that he can't heal from stuff that specifically disrupts ectoplasm (like Ghost Dust)

Total Refresh Cost: -12

Mental: OOO Physical: OOO (OOOO) Social: OOO

Notes: Based off of Spectre (OW57). Dutch can also Spawn new Spectres under his control, a power very similar to a Master Black Court Vampire (OW86). Unfortunately, he's not actually sure these new Spectres are under his control (paranoia is a wonderful thing), so he's slow to create new ones.

Monday, August 16, 2010

[Mist-Robed Gate] Edwardian Steampunk London

The Mutant Buddhas gamed again at Games and Gizmos in Redmond last Friday. Present were CS, CB, IL, GM, CM, CR, BB and myself. Since CS wanted a break from his Savage Worlds X-Men game that has been running the past 3 game sessions, I offered to "run" Mist-Robed Gate.

Since Mist-Robed Gate does not require a GM, we brainstormed on the game setting. We decided on Edwardian Steampunk/Magical London, with Cthulhuoid Horrors trying to break through. We went around the table and threw out some character concepts, like: Origami Magician, Glittery Vampire, British Officer, F'd-in-the-Head Doctor, Cultist, Steampunk Iron Man, Big Game Hunter, American Federal Agent, Skeleton Pirate Captain, Japanese Assassin, and a few more. We merged some of them together and each decided on what we'd run.

CS picked the F'd-in-the-Head Doctor, CB chose the Origami Magician/Assassin, GM took the American Federal Agent while CM picked the Steampunk Iron Man (and changed it into a Steampunk Giant Robot). CR wanted the Cultist and IL took the Skeleton Pirate Captain. The Big Game Hunter was played by BB and I, picking last, chose the Glittery Vampire. We chose a bunch of distinctive descriptors and I explained how Props and Sets worked.

I started the game off with the Pirate, the Doctor and my character at the London Cathedral (my Set), with my Vampire trying to get the bones of the Pirate, at the same time as the Doctor. We came into conflict pretty soon into the scene, with the blade being exposed and battle commencing. My character's stakes were that the Doctor leaves, while CS chose to win my Prop (the Final Stone required for the Gate filled with the Souls of the Damned that would allow the Cthulhuoid Horrors access to the World). We each took turns describing the scene with our descriptors, and everyone voted. I lost and the Doctor escaped with the Stone.

The next scene had the Iron Giant, the Origami Magician/Assassin and the Cultist meeting in the London Underground (CM's Set). The Iron Giant was powered by the burning souls of the dead and had murdered and eaten the soul of the Origami Magician/Assassin's brother. An epic battle erupted in the tunnels, with the Origami Magician chopping at the Iron Giant with her Katana and the Iron Giant smashing at her with his giant fists. The descriptors flew back and forth and CB won the match, killing the Iron Giant (who's last wish was that the souls he devoured were permanently damned into the Stone needed for the Gate).

The Iron Giant used a Soul Shard (CM's Prop) to burn the souls and, after the Iron Giant was destroyed, the American Federal Agent and the Cultist fought to get the Soul Shard for themselves. The fight resulted in the American Federal Agent shooting the Cultist with his Colt .45 (his Prop) and wining the Soul Shard. The Cultist was brought to the Doctor's Lab (CS's Set) where she was patched up, while the Doctor gave the Stone to the Federal Agent instead of fighting for it.

Another conflict between the Cultist and the Federal Agent resulted in the Federal Agent winning the Cthulhu Jewels (the Cultist's Prop). With the Stone, the Soul Shard and the Cthulhu Jewels in his possession, the Federal Agent was possessed to open the Gate and summon the Cthulhuoid Horrors into the World.

The game ended with the group assembled at the Gate, which turned out to be London Bridge. The Origami Magician/Assassin sought to destroy the Stone with her Prop (a magical do-hicky that would destroy the Stone) and prevent the Gate from opening. The Glittery Vampire wanted the magical do-hicky because it contained the soul of a dead Vampire and the Big Game Hunter wanted Cthulhu to arrive so he could shoot it! With this three way conflict, the descriptors flew and in the end my character, the Glittery Vampire, won! (The first time I've ever won a conflict in Mist-Robed Gate in the two games I've played). The Glittery Vampire took the dead vampire's soul and drank it, escaping in a flash of light as the Gate opened and the World Ended in Elder God Destruction!

The Pirate spent most of his time in every scene trying to get away and drink rum but ended up on the Doctor's slab to be experimented on until the End of the World (about 15 minutes later). And the Cultist was very happy because the world ended and her actions (and failures) brought it about even faster!

The group had a good time playing but it took a while for them to understand the no-dice-rolling describing-what-happened-a-piece-at-a-time process of the game. They all wanted to play it again, with a different setting, so that may happen in some future session.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

[Auld Lang 'Zine] 1001+1 Nights, Issue #2

Issue #2, One Thousand and One Nights and One Night RPG Campaign Design 'zine

My second official issue of One Thousand and One Nights and One Night Campaign Design 'zine was published March 2007.

The contents included an actual play bit on a mixed GURPS Technomancer/Morrow Project game and a variant for The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen (now reprinted by X) that deals with the age old problem: "A plan where you lose your hat is a very bad plan." I also delve more into My Gaming Style with cut-scenes.

My game notes page links still work, from GURPS Technomancer (Steve Jackson Games) to Morrow Project (Timeline). If you are interested, my basic loads kits links are still active (Kit 1, Kit 2, Kit 3, and Vehicle Loads). I still have other notes for that Morrow Project game, maybe I'll post them in the future.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

[Missing in Gaming] Realms of the Sun, Book 1: Bright Fires

I'm only missing a few Everway items and this is one of them. Originally published by Rubicon Games (now Gaslight Press) for Everway in 1997, it's 84 pages long and pretty damn hard to find.

And yes, when it was first out, I wasn't aware of it. Otherwise I would have picked it up. Now, I can't even find it for love or money. There are NO copies anywhere, it seems. Even Amazon doesn't have it. So I search for it, through used bookstores and online, at every opportunity.

Maybe someday I'll find it. Maybe you've seen one in your neck of the woods and will let me know. Here's hoping!

Friday, August 13, 2010

[Blogs] Marley's Ghost

MARLEY was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

A recent post over at the Hopeless Gamer brought up an interesting item (and, no, I'm not going to comment on the John Wick/Play Dirty subject).

What interested me in the post was this sentence:

This isn't a disadvantage, this a "Marley was dead: to begin with" drawback.

Now it's true: Marley was dead. And it was a drawback for him, assuredly. But it was part of a backstory to Scrooge.

And I wonder how many of us run games with these sorts of situations - where the setting or background has an inherent set, an excessive set, of drawbacks that turn the game a certain way.

I'd think it was a lot. Not that everyone starts out as dead, but in a game set on Glorantha, the setting is the drawback but nobody really minds much (unless they're not interested in playing in Sartar).

I wonder if it's possible to trim down those drawbacks to the bone and allow more opportunities for the players. We used to do that back in the old days. The world started in a dungeon and expanded from there, with info added as needed. Now we have tons of books with backgrounds and histories, all mapped out to the nth degree, some settings which require a Bachelors in History/Anthropology to even play in (Forgotten Realms, I'm talking to you).

Part of what gets me about running some settings is that I, as the GM, should know more about the setting than anyone at the table. It's a hang-up of mine, I'll admit, but one that many feel is the right way to do it. Being interrupted during a bit of background fluff and being told that the Elves migrated to Zuchinniville during the 790s not the 1750s and the Fall of Steak Port occurred after the King of Leafy Greens declared all of Couscous part of the Empire just grates on my last nerve. Canon can equally be a GMs boon or bane, and with a player who knows the full histories, including the secret histories, the novels, the modules, all the supplements, and the middle name of the daughter-in-law of the best friend of the blacksmith who forged the sword that killed the beast, it's annoying.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is as follows: cut any background and setting you use, published or not, to the bone and make it obviously that at the beginning. Leave out all the stuff that doesn't fit or will waste time (like that bit on mule production on Easter Island). Announce straight away to the players that this may be Traveller but it's not your father's Imperium. Nothing on the background, histories or anything is valid unless the GM says so. Use the players that have that damn eidetic memory as a resource but not as a cudgel. And don't be afraid to say "yeah, that's the common history but it doesn't add up when you compare the witness statements" and "nope, it really didn't turn out that way because X, Y and Z made up stuff to please their patrons." Use a red pen to excise history, background and characters as you see fit.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

[My Collection] The Morrow Project

I first heard of The Morrow Project in early 1981. A local mail order game company had it listed in their catalog and I managed to track it down at a convention. Produced by Timeline Limited (which has gone through several iterations/owners), you can still purchase half of the ten original modules as well as the two most recent ones.

While the system leaves something to be desired (initially starting as a non-skill system that later had percentile skills added), the background and concept were top notch.

Unfortunately, RPG.net has no reviews on it but you can find lots of info at the Supply Bunker. There are a few blogs (1, 2) on the subject, too, but I'm sure you can find more.

A 4th edition is currently in the works but whether that actually sees the light of day will remain for the fates to decide.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

[Auld Lang 'Zine] 1001+1 Nights, Issue #1

Issue #1, One Thousand and One Nights and One Night RPG Campaign Design 'zine

My first official issue of One Thousand and One Nights and One Night Campaign Design 'zine was published in March of 2007.

The contents included the second appearance of Quotes (with a pretty cool quote from Sir Richard Burton), a favorite book by Tim Powers, a webcomic that I continue to read to this day, as well as a write-up on a multiverse D20 game I ran.

I had a number of game notes but the three links for the Wizards of the Coast products (Star Wars, D20 Modern and D&D 3rd edition) are well out of date, though the Farscape RPG and Stargate SG-1 RPG from Alderac Entertainment Group, and The Red Star Campaign RPG from Green Ronin Publishing are still valid (all books I own, but those will be separate My Collection entries).

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

[How To Play] Savage Worlds, Part 6: Rolling the Dice

Charley and I discussed how Savage Worlds rolls the dice. Dice choice is very important, since we will be rolling Wild Dice for Sir Nick and various Wild Card NPCs. Having Wild Dice that stand out from the other dice is vital to the game.

Traditionally, it is common to have a set of d4, d6, d8, d10 and d12 in one color, and the Wild Die d6 in a different color. Since we've both got a wide variety of dice, Charley chooses his solid Blues set (d4, d6, d8, d10 and d12) with a Red d6 for his Wild Die. I pull out my Maroon set and my Purple set, plus a couple of Green and Black d6s for various Wild Dice.

During play, when Charley has to make a roll, he'll take the Blue die appropriate to the skill or attribute and his Red Wild Die, roll them both and take the best value. Savage Worlds has an open-ended dice rule - if a die rolls the maximum, an "ace," re-roll that die and add together, as many times as the maximum roll is made.

For example, if Charley rolls his d8 Fighting and his d6 Wild Die, and rolls a 4 on the d8 and a 6 on the Wild Die, he keeps the highest roll (the 6 on the Wild Die) and re-rolls it because it "aced" (getting a 4), for a total of 10. His attack roll is the better of 4 and 10, so his roll is 10 (if that misses, Sir Nick is in trouble!).

In order to succeed at a task, it is necessary to equal or exceed a target number (TN). The standard TN is 4 for most common actions, but if Sir Nick's opponent in the above example has a Parry higher than 4, say a 6 or an 8, he'll have to match that higher Parry.

If Sir Nick is climbing a wall, I would leave the TN at 4, but if he was doing it at night, the TN would be 6, and on a moonless night, the TN would be 8, and in the dark during a thunderstorm, the TN could be 10 or more. So the more difficult the situation or the addition of more and more circumstances that would make a situation dangerous would add to the TN.

Each 4 above the TN is called a Raise, which has good game effects for the roller because it improves the success. For the standard TN 4, the first Raise is at a roll of 8, the 2nd at 12, the 3rd at 16, and so on. The rules allow additional damage for attacks that Raise and other rules are outlined for skills and attributes that Raise. I referred Charley to the Savage Worlds Explorer's Edition if he's interested in reading up on it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

[Resources] The End of the Samurai: The Satsuma Rebellion

In 1877, the last of the major Samurai rebellions occurred in Japan. An ex-samurai and former leader in the Meiji government who supported the new reforms, Saigō Takamori, lead this rebellion as a response to perceived corruption in the new government.

Before he became a rebel, he believed that war with Korea would have been strengthening to the Japanese nation and the military - he wanted to provoke Korea by being so insulting during a visit that they would kill him and start the war.

After the government didn't take to his insult-them-so-they-kill-me-and-we-go-to-war plan, he retired in protest and seemed content to run a private academy that taught things like the Chinese classics as well as bushido with martial training.

Of course, the government in Tokyo was not pleased with this, and after a few bad situations occurred, like the police being sent to "protect" Saigo revealing under torture they were there to kill him and a naval vessel attempting to remove an arsenal from a nearby city (prompting a couple of raids from the academy students), the area was up in arms.

Saigo stepped in, reluctantly, and lead the rebellion. Between February 1877 and Autumn of that year, a number of battles occurred, from a failed attempt to gain access to Kumamoto castle early in the campaign to an eight day long battle in March, which lead to a retreat from Kumamoto. The final battle occured on September 24th, when the heavily outnumbered rebels charged down the throat of the Imperial Japanese army's gatling guns in one last mad-dash for glory, to predictable results.

This history is a perfect resource for an end of the Samurai game or even for a setting where the transition from one system (feudalism) to another (democracy) leaves a martial/noble class used to being in charge in the dust.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

[Alignment] Chaotic Good

Chaotic Good, "Rebel"

A chaotic good character acts as his conscience directs him with little regard for what others expect of him. He makes his own way, but he’s kind and benevolent. He believes in goodness and right but has little use for laws and regulations. He hates it when people try to intimidate others and tell them what to do. He follows his own moral compass, which, although good, may not agree with that of society.

Chaotic good is the best alignment you can be because it combines a good heart with a free spirit.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

[In the Game] Creativity

I recently read an article from Newsweek titled The Creativity Crisis. Check it out, it's a good read.

It started me thinking that there are a couple of thoughts (or more) we should ask our gamer selves:
  • “How could you improve this game to make it better and more fun to play with?”
And by more fun, I'm not meaning simply rules refinements or more rules, but also actually improve the fun the players have playing the game. In many games, it seems, we have plenty of rules to cover all (or nearly all) contingencies, why would we need more? Have we fully explored the interactions between players? Would it improve the game? Also, sometimes we play before we play, by adding story that should be done during the game. I've heard several podcasts decry this because it takes away from the actual, boots-on-the-ground parts of gaming. And there are other ways we ask each other "What else can improve this game?"
  • "Are we asking enough questions about games we play?"
How many days do you ask 100 questions? I don't even think I hit 50 on most days. The article states that the kids "lost interest because they stopped asking questions." Are there more monologues in your games or more question-answer dialogues? Do your NPCs give answers or questions to the PCs? Do you question the rules more than the setting or what the players want in the game? I know I've said it, we've all said it - the standard GM's question of "What are you going to do now?" especially after a lull in the action. That question doesn't provide any links to the vast array of possibilities that are open to the players and, because it's so open ended, maybe it leads to an overwhelming feeling there, an action paralysis and a fear of "doing it wrong." Maybe adding qualifiers, new information or just a plain off-hand comment to jumpstart the players to do something seems to be the way to go: "What are you going to do now that you've heard a rumor that Mr. X has bought a warehouse downtown?" Will this additional info get the game moving towards fun? I dunno but I'd hope so.

What do you think? Any more things to do to spark creativity at the table? I'm interested.

Friday, August 6, 2010

[My Collection] Lace & Steel

The Australian Games Group (TAGG) published Lace and Steel in 1989. Pharos Press did a 2nd edition in 1998. A single supplement, Castle Keitel, was published in the early 1990s for the 1st edition with another supplement planned called The Highwayman.

I picked up the 1st edition and supplement soon after it came out, both costing a pretty penny at MSRP (though I don't know what they were I remember them being expensive for my budget). I found the Pharos 2nd edition in a Half Price Books a few years ago, sans cards.

What got me interested in this game was the art by Donna Barr. Centaurs and satyrs in an Elizabethan England-type setting. Part of the action to create characters involves using a tarot deck and other card decks are used for repartee and fencing.

Unfortunately, RPG.net has but a single review (1).

Thursday, August 5, 2010

[Atomic Thursday] August Specials

For the month of August, I'll be taking a break from my Aftermath!: The D.C. Campaign write-ups and posting a bunch of real cool things in the post-apocalyptic genre.

Stay tuned.

P.S. And no worries, the D.C. Campaign will be back!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

[Missing in Gaming] Takishido's Debt

I bought Takishido's Debt for FGU's Bushido in the 80s. Heck, I even had the Bushido box set. And in the early 1990s, I gave them away. I can get the Bushido set back, actually the re-printed book, not box, set.

But I've never seen this module ever since.

Someone has it for sale on Amazon for $35, which I haven't brought myself to even considering it yet. Maybe I'll find it in a used bookstore. Or maybe someone out there is reading this and has a lead on a copy.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

[Labyrinth Lord] 4 Swords for Revenge: An Ashford Valley Adventure

I published this one last month for the latest issue of my Switching to Guns 'zine. Who doesn't like a revenge tale?

4 Swords for Revenge: A Get Ready, Get Set, Go! Labyrinth Lord adventure set in the Ashford Valley

Get Ready:
Ten years ago, four men murdered a young boy's family. They used four old short swords to do it then dumped them into a pit. The young boy survived the attack and disappeared. The case was never solved and the four men became rich from the loot they stole. They are now pillars of the community. The boy became a wizard and found the swords that killed his family. He's moved back to town and he'll get his revenge.

Get Set:
The PCs are in town when a grisly mass murder is reported. A prominent member of the town and his wife and children have been hacked to death in his house. No one knows who killed them and the police have no clues. This is the second instance. Over a week ago, another pillar of the community, along with his wife, were killed in the same manner. The rich and prosperous believe that they could be next, so they are hiring guards at double, triple, and more, of the usual rate.

The PCs hear about the murders when a wealthy merchant comes to see them to offer them a job guarding him and his family.

Alden the mage spends time in one of the local dive bars. While there, he drinks with some of the patrons and finds a group of them, specifically looking for four, to spend time with. Using his Ring of Spell Storing, which he has pre-filled with four Charm Person spells, he charms each of them and gets them to carouse without getting more drunk. They sing songs together, declare their undying friendship and talk about the troubles that beset the town, including one which Alden introduces: the problem with Orcs infiltrating the town.

After a few hours of this, Alden convinces his friends, in conspiratorial whispers, that a group of Orcs is living in the town, right under the noses of the authorities (and maybe with their tacit approval). The group leaves the bar and wanders around town, each time they pass a street, Alden uses his Charm influence to mention the street is something different, a street on the other side of town, and his friends all agree with him. He wants them so confused so they don't remember where they were when they do the deed.

Alden takes the group to an alley and tells them that a house nearby has those Orcs and they need to do something about it. He convinces them that the Orcs have disguises and bad ones at that but they should be able to see them fairly well. He gives each of them a short sword and a set of canvas overalls to put over their clothes, admonishing them that they need to bring the swords back to him as they are very precious. Then he takes them to the house, uses his Knock spell to open the door and sends them in to do the crime - butchering the human family within.

After the deed is done, Alden takes the swords and overalls and leads the group around again, to confuse them yet again, and tells them that they've done an action that will improve their town. And the corrupt authorities probably will cover-up the Orc killings with something else, maybe by murdering someone else. They need to watch for this. And, being such great friends, they believe him.

He's done this twice so far and it seems to be working out pretty well. He's only got two more on his list, then he'll skip town, never to return. He's used the same four men for the first two crimes and so far there are no problems, however, one or two of them are having nightmares as a result of their activities and that will come to a head. In the event that even one of these dupes starts given Alden a problem, he'll take each of them aside separately or use his Sleep spell on the lot and murder them. This may lead the PCs in his direction (due to his association).

Notable NPCs:
Alden the Mage; No. Encountered: 1; Alignment: Neutral; Armor Class: 9; Hit Dice: 3d4; Hit Points: 9; Attacks: dagger (1d4), staff (1d6); Save: MU3; morale: 9; Special abilities: Ring of Spell Storing (with Charm Person (minimum 1, maximum 4), 2 Sleep and 1 Knock spells), Spells: Charm Person, Sleep, Knock.

Charmed Townsmen; No. Encountered: 4; Alignment: Neutral; Armor Class: 8; Hit Dice: 1d6; Hit Points: 5, 4, 4, 3; Attacks: short sword (1d6); Save: NM1; morale: 10; Special abilities: immune to charm.

Alden only wants revenge. If the PCs stop him and he escapes, he may show up later to get revenge on them. Whether he fits into the Necromancer plot is up to you but being thwarted could push him over the edge to Chaotic.

Monday, August 2, 2010

[My Collection] Witchcraft

Witchcraft was the first game to use the Unisystem rules. It differs from the more cinematic Buffy system by just a few ways (Witchcraft is more gritty).

I have the first and second editions of this game (by Myrmidon Press and Eden Studios) and am currently working on getting the four published supplements: Mystery Codex, the Abomination Codex, Power and Privilege and The Book of Hod.

RPG.net has a ton of reviews on the main books, 1st and 2nd editions (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11), but only a few on the supplements (12, 13).

Sunday, August 1, 2010

[Characters] Nick Chopper VI

I came up with Nick Chopper for a Savage Fringeworthy game but the character was shot down. What to do? Well, let you guys see him, obviously.

I figured he's the 6th in line of the famous Chopper family and the Munchkins recently uncovered a Fringe Path gate on Oz. Of course, a young and dashing knight like Nick just has to find out where this leads.

Sir Nick Chopper VI
Knight, Tin Woodsman of Oz
Novice + 48 XP (Novice + 9 Advances + 3 XP)

Agility d6, Smarts d8 (Nov Adv), Spirit d8, Strength d8 (Seas Adv), Vigor d8 (Vet Adv)
Pace 5, Parry 8, Toughness 8, Charisma -0-

Hindrances: Tin Woodsman (Outsider, Max Agility d6, Pace 5, Water/Rust Susceptibility, Heartless, Uniform Size), Code of Honor: Knight of Oz [M], Loyal [m], Quirk [m]

Edges: Tin Woodsman (Construct, Level-Headed, Repair d6, Woodsman, Armor +2), Noble, Block, Frenzy, Improved Frenzy, Common Bond, Luck, Trademark Weapon:

Fighting d10, Guts d4, Repair d6, Intimidation d4, Persuasion d4, Stealth d6+2, Tracking d6+2, Survival d6+2.

Tin Woodsman of Oz racial template
Clunky: Agility restriction to d6 and Pace 5: -4
Water/Rust Susceptibility: -1
Outsider: -1
Heartless: -1
Uniform Size: -1
Total: -8
Construct: +3
Level-Headed: +2
Woodsman: +2
Armor (+2 toughness): +2
Repair d6: +1
Total: +10
Net: +2