Monday, January 23, 2012

Year Two and Changes!

I've been writing this blog for two years now and I've been posting every day, covering a wide variety of topics, games and campaign settings. I am very proud of all that I've written.

And I think that I've done a good job. I have some followers (thanks guys and gals). I have a list of blogs that I really like. I've done two D20cembers and a September of Short Adventures where over 20 blogs participated to generate more than 300 adventures.

I've had a bunch of campaigns, like my Distinguished Flying Cross Savage Worlds pulp game, my 1938: A Very British Civil War Isle of Man game, and my Ashford Valley Labyrinth Lord game, in addition to other campaigns I've run.

I wrote up a bunch of characters, monsters and gaming resources. Once a week, I had my Atomic Thursday. And I also told y'all about my game collection.

And while I'm happy with the results, after two years of blogging daily, I've decided to change things up a bit.

First the schedule: I'm no longer going to post every day. When I started the blog, I wanted to keep a schedule and post daily. The plan was to do so for at least two years. But now, I find that I want to try some different things while still including blogging into the mix. And those things may be game related, so you'll hear all about them.

Second, I'm ending a bunch of previous categories: Like Atomic Thursday. I really enjoyed finding stuff for that but I think it's time has past. I probably won't come back to it unless I start a post-apocalypse game. And 1938. I've presented 38 posts on it. A bunch of other things I'm going to stop as well. No worries, you'll figure which ones they are.

Third, and finally, this isn't goodbye. I'm not deleting the blog and taking my posts with me. Nothing along those lines. This isn't going to be a dead blog. It may be a slow breathing blog but it'll should still have plenty of life (or unlife) to interest you.

So I hope you stick around.

[Resources] The Lottery

The Lottery was a short story written by Shirley Jackson. Published in The New Yorker on June 26, 1948, it concerns a ritual that a fictional small American town performs each June 27th. Basically, through use of a lottery system, one inhabitant is chosen to be stoned to death (the text is here).

The story was shocking to the sensibilities of the time. Between the cancelled subscriptions and the hate mail, the story struck a nerve.

What do you think would happen if some player characters came into a town with the same tradition? And if the town, seemingly rational enough, where the PCs had developed relationships (including romantic ones), suddenly went nuts. Would the PCs stop it? Would they participate?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

[Characters] The Balrog Brothers' Companions

The Balrog Brothers' Companions consisted of their elven cousin, Zareth, a dwarf named Mikto and a halfling named Boinger.

Zareth Balroginesti
Elf; Ranger, Level 1, Wizard, Level 1; Alignment: Neutral Good; Abilities: Strength 16, Dexterity 16, Constitution 12, Intelligence 18, Wisdom 12, Charisma 12. Armor Class: 16 (+3 Dex, leather & buckler); Hit Dice: 1d10+1d4+2, Hit Points: 13. Attacks: longsword (+4, 1d8+3, 19-20/x2), dagger (+4, 1d4+3, 19-20/x2), longbow (+4, 1d8, x3, range inc. 100 ft); Initiative: +3; Fortitude: +3, Reflex: +5, Will: +3; Languages: Common, Elvish, Gnome, Orc, Sylvan, Draconic; Feats: Point Blank Shot; Skills: Concentration +3, Hide +4, Jump +4, Knowledge (arcana) +9, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +6, Knowledge (nature) +6, Listen +5, Move Silently +5, Ride +8, Search +8, Spellcraft +11, Spot +5, Survival +3, Use Rope +4; Special Abilities: Elf (Immune to magical sleep, Low-light vision), Ranger (Favored enemy: Orc, Track, Combat Style, Wild Empathy), Spells (3 0-level, 2 1-level per day prepared), Wizard (Scribe Scroll).

Mikto Stonewanderer
Dwarf; Cleric, Level 1, Druid, Level 1; Alignment: Neutral Good; Abilities: Strength 15, Dexterity 12, Constitution 16, Intelligence 14, Wisdom 16, Charisma 12. Armor Class: 13 (+1 Dex, leather); Hit Dice: 2d8+6, Hit Points: 22. Attacks: heavy mace (+2, 1d8+2, x2), dagger (+2, 1d4+2, 19-20/x2), heavy crossbow (+1, 1d10, 19-20/x2, range inc. 120 ft); Initiative: +1; Fortitude: +7, Reflex: +1, Will: +7; Languages: Common, Druidic, Dwarven, Giant, Goblin; Feats: Extra Turning; Skills:  Handle Animal +3, Heal +8, Knowledge (architecture) +3, Knowledge (nature) +7, Knowledge (religion) +7, Profession (blacksmith) +5, Ride +4, Survival +5; Special Abilities: Dwarf (Darkvision, Stonecunning), Cleric (Alignment Aura, Spontaneous Casting, Turn Undead), Druid (Spontaneous Casting, Animal Companion, Wild Empathy), Spells (Cleric: 3 0-level, 2 1-level, 1 1-level domain per day prepared; Druid: 3 0-level, 2 1-level per day prepared).

Boinger of the West Midlands
Halfling; Bard, Level 1, Rogue, Level 1; Alignment: Neutral Good; Abilities: Strength 10, Dexterity 20, Constitution 14, Intelligence 12, Wisdom 16, Charisma 14. Armor Class: 19 (+5 Dex, leather & buckler); Hit Dice: 2d6+4, Hit Points: 11. Attacks: short sword (+1, 1d6, 19-20/x2), quarterstaff (+1, 1d6/1d6, x2), dagger (+1, 1d4, 19-20/x2), sap (+1, 1d4 nonlethal, x2), javelin (+6, 1d4, x2, range inc. 30 ft), sling (+6, 1d3, x2, range inc. 50 ft); Initiative: +9; Fortitude: +3, Reflex: +10, Will: +6; Languages: Common, Halfling, Orc; Feats: Improved Initiative; Skills: Balance +6, Bluff +4, Climb +3, Decipher Script +2, Diplomacy +4, Gather Information +3, Hide +11, Jump +4, Knowledge (history) +2, Knowledge (nature) +2, Listen +7, Move Silently +10, Open Lock +6, Perform (sing) +7, Perform (flute) +5, Perform (bagpipe) +3, Perform (lute) +2, Perform (chant) +2, Ride +7, Search +2, Sense Motive +8, Spellcraft +3, Spot +5, Use Magic Device +5, Use Rope +6; Special Abilities: Halfling (Small), Rogue (Sneak Attack +1d6, Trapfinding), Bard (Bardic Knowledge, Bardic Music), Spells (Bard: 2 0-level per day).

Saturday, January 21, 2012

[Characters] The Balrog Brothers

When I started this blog in 2010, I mentioned why I chose Asshat Paladins as a blog name. One of the characters from that D&D 3.5e game was a paladin, one of three brothers, the Balrog Brothers.

The party, including the Balrog Brothers and a few of their friends, were given the opportunity to homestead a wild countryside just outside of a kingdom. The rules were simple: the frontier was open for colonization and if anyone carved out a section of it and kept it under control for six months, then the king would grant that land to the holder(s). A large number of prospective homesteaders spread out across the frontier and the PCs joined them.

The PCs wandered through the wilderness for about a week. One night, they spotted a fire in the distance. The next day in that direction, they found a ruined tower. The first floor was empty. On the second floor, they found a wounded bandit, filled with terror, not of the PCs, but of the thing in the tower above him.

The bandit quietly explained that his crew left him there to die after they fled the tower and the horrible monster on the top floor. He'd been stuck there for nearly a week, trying to remain quiet and begged the PCs for help. They healed him, left a sword for him to use, and proceeded up the stairs to fight the monster.

On the top floor, they found a flaming giant spider. Combat was long and intense. To the players surprise, the bandit charged up to help the PCs out, striking a definitive blow and the party killed the beast.

After the defeat of the spider, the party moved into the tower and started repairing it. The bandit remained as their first follower and the group passed their first hurdle to securing their own section of land.

The game was a lot of fun and it was only a one-shot. There was a plan of continuing it but unfortunately, we never got back to it.

Here are the three Balrog Brothers, one human wizard named Richard, a half-orc paladin named Vrilg and a half-elf ranger named Willow.

Richard Balrog
Human; Wizard, Level 2; Alignment: Neutral Good; Abilities: Strength 12, Dexterity 14, Constitution 16, Intelligence 18, Wisdom 14, Charisma 12. Armor Class: 12 (+2 Dex); Hit Dice: 2d4+6, Hit Points: 13. Attacks: dagger (+2, 1d4+1, 19-20/x2), longbow (+3, 1d8, x3, range inc. 100 ft); Initiative: +2; Fortitude: +3, Reflex: +2, Will: +5; Languages: Common, Elvish, Gnome, Orc, Sylvan; Feats: Martial Weapon Proficiency (longbow), Skill Focus (Spellcraft); Skills: Concentration +5, Decipher Script +9, Knowledge (arcana) +9, Knowledge (architecture) +6, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +9, Knowledge (history) +7, Knowledge (nature) +5, Knowledge (religion) +5, Knowledge (planes) +5, Profession (cheesemaker) +3, Ride +4, Spellcraft +14, ; Special Abilities: Spells (4 0-level, 3 1-level per day prepared), Wizard (Scribe Scroll).

Vrilg Balrog
Half Orc; Paladin, Level 2; Alignment: Lawful Good; Abilities: Strength 18, Dexterity 16, Constitution 14, Intelligence 14, Wisdom 12, Charisma 16. Armor Class: 18 (half plate & shield); Hit Dice: 2d10+4, Hit Points: 22. Attacks: longsword (+6, 1d8+4, 19-20/x2), dagger (+6, 1d4+4, 19-20/x2), longbow (+5, 1d8, x3, range inc. 100 ft); Initiative: +3; Fortitude: +8, Reflex: +6, Will: +4; Languages: Common, Orc, Bugbear, Draconic; Feats: Point Blank Shot; Skills:  Diplomacy +5, Handle Animal +4, Heal +6, Knowledge (religion) +6, Ride +8, Sense Motive +4; Special Abilities: Orc (Darkvision), Paladin (Aura of Good, Detect Evil, Smite Evil, Divine Grace, Lay on Hands).

Willow Balrog
Half-Elf; Ranger, Level 2; Alignment: Neutral Good; Abilities: Strength 14, Dexterity 16, Constitution 18, Intelligence 14, Wisdom 12, Charisma 12. Armor Class: 16 (+3 Dex, leather, buckler); Hit Dice: 2d10+8, Hit Points: 23. Attacks: longsword (+4, 1d8+2, 19-20/x2), dagger (+4, 1d4+2, 19-20/x2), longbow (+5, 1d8, x3, range inc. 100 ft); Initiative: +3; Fortitude: +7, Reflex: +6, Will: +1; Languages: Common, Elvish, Orc, Sylvan; Feats: Point Blank Shot, Rapid Shot; Skills: Climb +3, Concentrate +5, Diplomacy +3, Gather Information +3, Handle Animal +3, Heal +3, Hide +8, Jump +4, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +5, Knowledge (nature) +5, Listen +4, Move Silently +5, Profession (woodsman) +2, Ride +8, Search +6, Spot +5, Survival +4, Swim +3, Use Rope +4; Special Abilities: Half-Elf (Immune to magical sleep, Low-light vision), Ranger (Favored enemy: Orc, Track, Combat Style, Wild Empathy).

Friday, January 20, 2012

[Monsters] Animated Bearskin Rug

Nicely done vid.

Watching the walking bearskin rug got me thinking of a new monster!

Animated Bearskin Rug
Agility d8 Spirit d10 Smarts d6 (A) Strength d12+2 Vigor d10
Parry 6  Pace 6 Toughness 9

Edges: Berserker, Improved Frenzy, Improved Sweep.

Special Abilities: Bite/Claw Attack (STR+2), Size +2, Alertness, Quick.

Skills: Fighting d10, Intimidation d10, Notice d6+2, Climb d6.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Black Out for a Free and Open Internet

I support the English Wikipedia anti-SOPA blackout.

[Distinguished Flying Cross] Captain Columbus Darwin Smith

The 91 year Yangtze River Patrol was performed by the U.S. Navy from 1854 to 1945 to protect American interests in China. Although disrupted during WWII, the river patrol resumed for a short time after the war, until the Chinese Civil War brought it to a formal close.

When the Japanese invaded China in 1937 at the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the patrols petered out. By December 1941, the two remaining U.S. Navy gunboats, the U.S.S. Wake and the U.S.S. Tutuila, were stationed at Shanghai and Chungking, respectively.

The U.S.S. Wake, captained by Commander Columbus Darwin Smith since March 1941, was captured hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The night before, one of the Japanese officers that Smith knew called him with a bogus story about delivering some turkeys for him and his crew. The Japanese wanted to know where they were in Shanghai.

After Pearl Harbor was attacked, the Japanese seized Shanghai and the Wake. When Smith was informed of the attack, he raced to the gunboat, only to find it under guard by the Japanese Army. There is at least one website that described the capture (and destruction of the British Royal Navy vessel HMS Peterel).

Commander Smith and his crew became prisoners of war. After an early failed escape attempt, he was interred at the Ward Road Jail, the high security prison in Shanghai. He managed to escape in September of 1944 and traveled on foot across nearly a thousand miles of Japanese-occupied territory to safety. The amazing story is presented here and Amazon has the book written on the incident here (a crew list is here).

Columbus Darwin Smith was familiar with China and served there for many years. He was a daring and courageous individual, perfect for a contact with PCs in my Distinguished Flying Cross campaign. Since he served along the Yangtze River, the PCs can meet him anywhere in China.

I decided not to stat him up because I don't think it's necessary. As a contact, friend or even a (friendly) rival of one of the PCs, he'd provide ways for the player characters to interact with both sides of the conflict in China.

Monday, January 16, 2012

[Resources] Interconnection

Relationship map from Love Actually
The movie Love Actually (2003) has a rather complex relationship map but not really when it comes to gaming. I ran one of my Aftermath! games with a pretty complex map, linking together a large number of organizations that included the player characters and NPCs within those organizations. As the campaign wound along, the map changed quite a bit - some groups were wiped out by other groups, others formed alliances with each other, and others still pursued their own agendas even amidst the chaos of the post-apocalyptic landscape.

The Smallville RPG has relationship maps built right into the character creation. Perhaps that's the way to start - with character creation, instead of kludging it on later.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

[Books] The Zenta and Matsuzo series

Lensey Namioka has written a series of seven Samurai tales about two ronin named Zenta and Matsuzo.
  1. The Samurai and the Long-nosed Devils (1976)
  2. White Serpent Castle (1976)
  3. Valley of the Broken Cherry Trees (1980)
  4. Village of the Vampire Cat (1981)
  5. Island of Ogres (1989)
  6. Coming of the Bear (1992)
  7. Den of the White Fox (1997)
The stories are excellent and are a must for a ronin-inspired game. A brief query on about stating up the characters unfortunately lead nowhere (1), but maybe I'll take some time when I finish reading the series again to see if I can come up with something.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

[Resources] The Stasi Shredded Archives

The Stasi, the East German Ministry for State Security (aka the secret police), operated from February 9, 1950 to October 4, 1990. The East German secret police employed nearly a quarter million people over the course of those 40 years, all to root out enemies of the state. The majority were informants, with most in East Germany (they fielded nearly 2,000 informants in West Germany).

They did bad things, sure, as the Shield and Sword of the Party. Infiltration and executions, suppressing dissent and watching everyone. Everything you'd expect.

In 1990, the Stasi fell with the East German government and those in charge of the Ministry ordered the Stasi files destroyed. Amidst a riot caused because the East German people demanded the files be kept intact (in order to know the truth), the file room was seized. When Germany reunited in October, the files fell into the new unified government's hands. According to an audit, only about 5% of the records were destroyed.

The Stasi files became available in 1992 after they were declassified by the German government. By 2011, nearly 3 million people have requested access to the files.

But what about those destroyed files? What was in those 5%? Was it really 5% or possibly more? And were they really destroyed? When the riot happened, could that have been started as a cover to smuggle out a section of the archives? Questions to ponder.

Friday, January 13, 2012

[vids] Never Cry Wolf

Farley Mowat wrote a number of great books, the least of which was Never Cry Wolf.

Made into a movie in 1983, it starred Brian Dennehy and Charles Martin Smith.

This bit above was one of the fine points of the movie. Adventure!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

[Characters] The Phraint

When I picked up the Arduin Trilogy in the way-begone days of early gaming (aka the 80s), it was crazy, crazy stuff. The publishing of the Open Game License in 2000 and all the resulting games that came out of it reminded me of those early heady days.

Arduin's humanoid grasshopper, the Phraint, described a full five years before the D&D mantis-like Thri-kreen (1982), were one of my favorites. I played one at every opportunity. The last time was in college, when I played a fighter Phraint. At one point in the adventure, my character collapsed from exhaustion, which prompted the GM to exclaim he "fell over in a dead-Phraint," much to the players' amusement.

Greybeard Gamer has a retrospective (1) on the Phraint, EN World has a 4th edition D&D write-up (2), there are a few other pics on line (3) and miniatures (4). I'm sure you can find more.

For Savage Worlds Wild Card player characters, the Phraint is pretty easy to stat-up. Known for their agility, ability to leap and attack, and their chitin armor, they are also coldly logical and difficult to understand because of their alien psychology.

The Phraint: net +2

Limited Intelligence: Smarts Restriction: -3
Electrical Susceptibility: -2
Clueless (Major): -2
Heartless: -1
-2 Charisma: -1

Hindrances Total: -9

Edges:Agility d6: +2
+2 Armor: +2
Acrobat: +2
Quick: +2
Base Pace 10: +2
Leaping: +1

Edges Total: +11

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

[Blogs] Land of Nod

The Land of Nod is Matt Stater's gaming blog. In addition to the blog writing, he's also got a bunch of games and games supplements available at Lulu.

I've been collecting his products and have not been disappointed. His periodical Nod is excellent, presenting a sand-box setting with different races, classes and monsters. I've got the first 10 so far and plan on getting the rest as they come out.

Monday, January 9, 2012

[Resources] Canon-Puncture

A Canon-Puncture occurs when one character is told they are fictional by another character, for example: you meet Sherlock Holmes in 2012 and let him know that he's actually a fictional character (and even show him the body of work by Arthur Conan Doyle). It's considered bad form to do this.

The link lists seven steps if you recognize a fictional character (and conversely, are recognized as a fictional character), ranging from Don't Panic (applicable to both situations) to Don't Treat Him or Yourself Act Differently (applicable for most situations anyways).

With the number of characters available to most GMs, throwing in known fictional characters is always a fun bit, especially when the players don't expect it.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

[Blog] Jeff's Game Blog

Jeff Rient's blog is one of my favorite blogs and one that I added to my blog list from the beginning.

Back in 2008, he posted a Desk of Stuff that's really cool and useful for any game, from a pair of orcs-at-arms to a vial of angel tears.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

[vids] Wizards of the Lost Kingdom

Wizards of the Lost Kingdom came out in 1985 and I remember seeing it in the theatre with my high school buddies.

I don't remember much about it except that it had some cool magic items: a Sword and a Ring of Power. It totally fed the gamers in us, in all it's cheesy glory.

Friday, January 6, 2012

[Resources] Gorget

A metal or leather collar is called a gorget. Originally part of a knight's armour, the gorget devolved over the years to be a symbol of a military commission or even military police.

But the full-size gorget made a comeback whenever I played in an Aftermath! game. I often had PCs with gorgets. It seemed very post-apocalyptic (probably because there were a number of pics in the game books with gorgets). And once, it protected my PC from being throttled!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

[vids] Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade

Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade is a 1999 anime set in an alternate history. It weaves in the story of Little Red Riding Hood, terrorism, group dynamics, politics and a love story.

I really enjoyed this vid and suggest it for any anime fan.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

[Blogs] Lamentations of the Flame Princess

I've been reading Lamentations of the Flame Princess (the official blog of the game) for a while now and found nice bits.

For example, Raggi's advice on how to find players is spot on. And, if you are looking for players, then the first thing you need to do is to actually work at getting players. That's right: Work at it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

[Resources] Scorn and Slight Regard

As a Shakespeare fan, I love Kenneth Branagh's Henry V.

This scene has Brian Blessed, as Exeter, bringing a missive to the King of France. After giving it, he inquires whether the Dauphin is present and expresses his king's opinion of the man, which is delivered excellently by Blessed.

What an opportunity, to insult a PC under a flag of truce!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

[Resources] Grim's Dyke

Grim's Dyke, a country home that once belonged to dramatist W.S. Gilbert, was also home to a statue of Charles II. The statue, originally carved in 1681, was removed from it's original location in London and managed to end up on an island in a lake on the estate. It remained on the island from roughly 1880 to 1938, when it was restored to Soho Square, London.

Gilbert drown in the lake in 1911, dying of a heart attack after trying to help a drowning girl. His widow drained the lake thereafter and arranged for the statue to return to London after her death.

The house and grounds have been used as a film location for a variety of TV shows and movies, including Boris Karloff's last film in 1968.

Perhaps there is a reason that the statue remained on the estate so long. Perhaps it guarded the water or something in it guarded the statue.