My blog's evilness ==

This site is certified 38% EVIL by the Gematriculator

Monday, March 30, 2009


This is a pretty funny (and brief) write-up about reacting to earth-collisions.
(has a cool map too!)
(from link in blogroll)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

25 meme table

(why so much space above the table?)
(while you're scrolling, consider buying print versions
of Fight On! They're on a push to win a contest!)

01-04Swamp53-56Vast Mountains
05-08Dark Fae57-60Animal Languages
09-12Local Gods61-64Dangerous Wilds
13-16Sandbox65-68Costly Magic
17-20(Brian Aldiss)69-72(Jack Vance)
21-24Rituals 73-76Reality Warps
25-28Boring Towns 77-80Demons
29-32Ancient Underworlds81-84Orange/Red Sun
33-36Evil Elves 85-88Strange Plants
37-40Cannibal Cultists 89-92Hill Tribes
41-44Underwater Horror 93-96Poisons
45-48Jewelled Throne 97-00NO RAILROADS!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

meh...general whatever

I think I'm getting my head wrapped around Play By Post. I've just started a game up at Vin's Trollbridge (had the last few days off to work on stuff...). It's primitive, and I'm wondering if all of the five players are going to 'show-up', but I think that running this is going to be a blast.

Oddly enough (!), playing more has cut into 'blog-time'...

The pace of online gaming is still a little rough for me but I'm getting used to it.I'm playing in a Warhammer FRP PBP and a couple of the players are in Israel, so there's next to no chance that we'll be online at the same I don't have expectations of 'instant-action' or something...

This mode of gaming lends itself well to 'parlour-games', more abstract gimcrackery, woodshedding, strategy games. Thinking about the Play-by-Mail model - which I admittedly have never done, just read about it...I think it would be really interesting to run a sandbox game where every player<->GM channel had its own thread - or an approach that considered threads calving and merging a trivial thing.

I've been thinking about ways to deal with the absence of players. My inclination is to post up a table like this and let the players know that I'll run them as NPCs if I need to to progress the game. What player would want that? The DM is not to be trusted!

Cue Random Tables! It's just like AI!

Based on what kind of situation the characters are in, the actions of a character-sans-player are 'determined' by a die roll...

1Stumbles and falls down (momentarily helpless)
2Decides to change weapons then changes mind (no action)
3Moves to defend ally
4Attacks nearest opponent/Casts sub-optimal spell
5Attacks random opponent in reach or moves to nearest opponent/Casts optimal spell
6Goes Berserk

1Says something really insulting and wont retract it
2Tangential mouth-mush leaves people confused and suspicious
3Mumbles and grunts at some appropriate places
4Doesn't say much
5Lends good support to own or party's goal/agenda
6Steals the show, very convincing arguments for own goal/agenda - may try to cast an 'appropriate' spell toward this end
*"own goal" meaning maybe the GM's interpretation...

1Gripped my 2 minute choking and coughing fit (very noisy, takes no actions)
2Lazy (-1 search or stealth or whatever negative modification os appropriate)
5Is double-checking already explored areas/normally stealthy
6Is searching (and finds 10 gp!)/sneaking at +1 (or whatever)

ha ha! wouldn't that be cute!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

RPGs vs Music

A war of attrition is always won. (look it up)

I've recently found myself drawing analogies between music and RPGS. I started playing D&D when I was 9. Started playing the bass guitar at 14. Being in a band is a lot like being in an adventuring party (with the singer as 'caller' I guess). I speak of small-potato bands - I have no idea what it was like to have been Fleetwood Mac, Celtic Frost, etc (tho I believe that Simon LeBon of Duran Duran has tried to exert psychic control over me for years...another story..another time...)

Some analogies ensue:

+ Run what you know:
RPG: the system you feel comfortable with, the one that already is the back of your hand. Not to say that one shouldn't use other games - but there's mostly likely one game that you know well enough to run 'off-the-cuff'.
MUSIC: Over the years I've developed some varying degrees of proficiency with a variety of instruments. There's the piano which is a constant struggle for me - it is on the edge of my ability to play it in a way that is satisfactory to me. But when I just want to play some damn music, it is not my instrument of choice.

+ Play what you don't know
RPG: this is one way to stretch out and broaden your vocabulary. Try different games, different settings, etc - try games that seem antithetical to youtr 'normal play'.
MUSIC: Listen to everything! Try to appreciate the best that each 'genre' of music has to offer. Sometimes it's hard to dig through the shit to find the diamond buried beneath - but you can always wash your hands afterwards! And once you have that diamond, appreciate it, yes - but there's something to be learned from it too.

+ Structure vs Improv
RPG: This is so contextually dependant on DM/player group style - but there's always a sweet spot to be found. Some players actually appreciate being lead around by the nose (I am baffled by this, but I have seen it happen...). Some people like to play with meticulous notes and plans for every contingency they can think of - others like to wing-it, riff, or whatever.
MUSIC: I have come to appreciate structure more and more - having been guilty of countless hours of improvisational wankery (some of it good - most of it boring). There's sometimes the magical moment when structure arises from chaos like an emergent system or something - but more and more I don't see these things as ends-unto-themselves. Improv is the woodshed, structure is the home.

+ Human Interaction/Social aspects/Group Dynamics
RPG: Gamers are weirdos. Perfectly normal people - I'm sure (I mean no offense) - but gamers are dedicated to a bundle of specific (various) interests. There's solo modules and the interior times of world-generation or 'game-think' creation sessions - but eventually most every RPGer would like to sit down at (or pace near, or loom above) a table with other like minded folks. We are idiosyncratic. This can make for some tensions (usually inadvertant), but by the nature of gaming, it seems most of us are actually interested in subsuming our own personality/ego to some degree, in the interest of play. Those of you blessed with regular consistent groups of friends and people you know well are lucky indeed!
MUSIC: The only set of people that I think are weirder than musician are people who run small record labels. Let's not start on 'the guitar hero' or (ARGAGRRGAAG!) "The Singer"... Performance brings out the best and worst in people - and barring any ideas of 'making it' in the music business, being in a band is (in most of my experience anyway) kinda a nightmare. Bandmates are like ugy smelly girlfriends that you don't even get to cuddle with...unless you're packed in the back of the van for the 17 hour drive to Missoula ...anyway - I consider myself more a craftsman than an artist and have seen ego and inflated expectation ruin more promising bands than I want to think about right now. Idiosyncatic. Generally stressed out and poor and driven by some combination of impulses to make music. Tough crowd. Of course, I haven't tried to play lounge jazz...or muzak. Betcha that would be pleasant...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

go read Lord of Green Dragons

In addition to the fact that every damn post has been really interesting and well thought out and well written, this one about the Ranger is just amazing.
This just really made me so happy. So I'm a tree-hugger.
As a rule, I'm a total sucker once someone sayd 'liminal'...

Monday, March 16, 2009


I've contacted the propriators of the game store I grew up with. This would be The Griffon in South Bend Indiana. A few nights ago, in a fit of nostalgic desperation, I started doing a web-scour for them and - guess what? No website! Talk about 'old-school'(!). But I did find an email buried deep in antiquated city listings...and it worked!

I spent a lot of time there - it's a new/used book store in addition to being the only real game store in the town. The Griffon really ended up having a pretty big influence on me - as a gamer, sure, but also in a more general sense, and I know I'm not alone in being subjected to fits of nostalgia for the 'FLGS'.

The owners, Ken and Sarah, have agreed to participate in a little email-interview thingee and I'm pretty excited. I'll post up this interview as it progresses.

I'm a shitty trapper

I am.
I try. Grimtooth's Traps? Love 'em.
Spring loaded darts? Cool!
Covered pits (with or without spikes)? Rowdy!
Weighted/counterbalanced floors - man that stuff is fun!
Gears? Falling ceilings? Scything whirly-gigs? Count me in!
The stairs just collapsed and became a slide into a lava pit?
I really appreciate good clever traps and stock mediocre ones too!
but I can't write them.

I've gotta back off of simulation and get back into gaming.

Traps have always suspended my suspension of disbelief, so I think that the way to deal with this is just to remove the expectation of the suspension of disbelief (no more prepositions...)

The dungeons I've always loved have been the ones that Don't Care - EX:
Player: Why is the poison on the blade hidden in the treasure chest still 'active'? Aren't we in the untouched Tomb of the Ultra-Ancients? How could it have stayed potent over the last 28 million years?
DM: I dunno - Ultra-Ancient secret formula...Funny that they used to put gold coins in chests 28 million years ago too...Roll your save...

That dungeon Doesn't Care. It doesn't have to explain itself - and if it called upon to do so would respond with silence or scorn. The 'why' doesn't matter...

OK. This was supposed to be about me not being able to design a trap.
Maybe I can't write about them either...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

online megadungeon vs MUD

I'm not gonna try to call the winner on this one, but the recent online megadungeon zeitgeistery at Grognardia, the Stonehells (one of the best back-stories for dungeon-rationale I've ever read), Castle of the Mad Archmage, etc - made me think of the time I used to spend playing MUDS.

MUDS (multi-user dungeons, just in case you're unfamiliar with this ancestor of the MMORPG) can be as small or large, explanations as tense or verbose as desired. It's a question of code-base. How difficult would S&W be to turn into a code base? With the simplicity of the rules, it seems it would not be too difficult (for programmers, that is, familiar with MUDS - I am a neophyte).

The point (if any) is that the talk of online megadungeons as resources makes me wish that megadungeons would go up on the internet to be crawled through.

Now no MUD in (my limited experience) re-created the feel of table-top play.
#1 - there is no DM - so there is no ruling, only rules (this inversion of an old-school ethic being an unforunate side-effect of the fact that we've not yet invented a human computer...someday...someday...).
#2 - as far as I know, the player of a MUD could only play one character - so henchmen, hirelings, torchbearers, etc is a no go - as is a balanced party...of course, MUDS are made with this fact in mind. But then, there was also the ability to follow other groups weren't impossible, but their actions were pretty monolithic I think.
#3 - automation is not intelligence (see lament in #1). Monsters (called 'mobs', short for 'mobile' things) are not cunning, not smart, and dangerous in senses other than combat. Maybe this is something that could be improved with some really ingenious integration of code-base and AI - hmmm...

I'm behind the curve on technology. Maybe there are such things on the Internet right now and I am wasting my time complaining about the lack of them - I dunno. I've tried some on-line games (of the strategy ilk) and they are cool (Lords is really fun in a kinda brain-dead way...) -
I can't help but think that an interesting way to introduce more people to old-school ideas would be to let them experience it first hand as a player - much in the same way that I was introduced to D&D (Holmes): by playing in it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

huh! another amazing resource!

Semper Initiativus Unum dropped THIS ONE TO MONSTROPEDIA pretty offhandededly -
and guess what? It's a really awesome read! This is another 'common-knoweldge' gem and I want to make this blog something of a repository for such...

The random page button takes a scroll-down, so I linked the 'Grog On' in my title bar (or header or banner or whatever) to point to the random article action...very lovely site.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

must be full moon

all over the world! I'm kinda rivetted by the both the high-debate and catty BS that's floating around in these blogs these days. oof! We're all just human beings who have obviously been really affected by RPGs. People are really getting aware, or acknowledging, that it's very easy to step on other people's toes, and it's also easy to see that a lot of what people are writing about is of 'fan-product' quality - I place mine own in this category, and generally prefer such over high-production-value or whatever.

There's a great deal of enthusiasm. There's a great deal of release, a sense of community, with divisions and differences. I remember reading Kask, him mentioning the profusion of fan-products BITD - and also some of the horrors of being exposed to massive amounts of's inevitable. His conversation thread is really fascinating - as an (unintentional) analog of what is happening now - largely due to the one is going to produce something that EVERYONE likes - remember, some people don't like D&D...or RPGs at all.

It's all really inspiring - even the setbacks, the rants that piss you off, the content that sometimes provides little more than a ho-hum, the promising ideas that do not come to full fruition - those that take months to flesh-out or even complete...the horrible spelling in my case...This is workspace and peer-review rolled into one, and there are a lot of people taking advantage of it. And it's an opt-in - none of us really have to do this and could decide tomorrow to stop.

So, yeah - the horror! Critisism! Appreciation! I know that I've never repsonded to a blog post with fanboy appreciation unless that's how I really felt about it. In general I try not to think too much about how a response is going to be interpreted by the original poster. Anyone can close comments if they don't want them. Why put them on an open blog if you are not, on some level, asking for commentary? There's the potential ego side of that - liking the attention or whatever - but there's also GENUINE INTEREST!

Personally, I'd love it if I got a comment that said "That's shitty." - Especially if the commenter was ready for conversation - or Counter-Attack! Do not submit things to a project if you are not ready for rejection - and do not start a 'community project' unless you are prepared to issue them.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

! play-style (blag)

Forgive a rant...

Alexis at Tao of D&D in this post has said some things which I really find myself in agreement and disagreement with. Obviously there are different takes on "play-style" or methodology or whatever it is to be called - and I generally loathe the analysis and exegis of the variances/pros/cons/etc. The event-of-play works or does not and the 'tenor' of play is decided by the group - and in my (good) experiences has developed organically from that group.

This is a part of that post:

Successful players are ALWAYS those who do not put
on a pretense of being some imaginary character, but
players who dig down within themselves to find something
which they don't generally display. This usually turns
out to be a remarkable trait they possess. I have a cleric
in my offline who, when not a cleric, is shy and speaks
little. But who will, at play, display vocal support for
the party, resolve, bravery and generousity. That is
because, deep inside, the player in question has these
traits--she isn't making them up for the sake of "character."

Players should be themselves.

The first statement. This is an issue of how 'successful' is defined. In his case, as I read it, he's defining it as survival. And I agree whole-heartedly. Players who shoot themselves/the party in the foot because it's 'in-character' or whatever are a drag. Decisions based not on reason and evaluation of the situation at hand, but out of dogmatic interpretation of "who-my-character-is" or "how my character would react" are probably going to get in trouble. I tend to rationalize the actions my characters take after the fact, because that's more entertaining to me.

Now as for the final statement...
The fact is that I have never not been myself while playing a game or otherwise. But none of my characters have 'been me'. I'll draw shallow or deep from myself as seems appropriate. When I feel like really identifying with my character then I do, but I do not feel compelled to, and often find play more enjoyable when I don't. Honestly, it's just difficult to read this as anything but a positive/negative judgement - when a player is expressing something they do not express in real life and use the game as catharsis(?) this is good - otherwise, it does not contribute to Success, and is therefore bad...

By the point of the example he gives above, the argument does not seem (to me) to be about success in the game anymore. I'm all for a person's self-actualization, for people finding the positive, good parts of themselves. At whatever time/In whatever medium they choose. Not to sound too emo or goth or whatever, but I'd rather reach-down and pull up ugly parts of myself while in-game - because these don't commonly find expression in my every day life. And this is not why I play games in the first place - I am generally an escapist and prefer to keep my own psychology out of it as much as possible...

I'm not trying to pick fights!
Just writin' on my blog again!


Friday, March 6, 2009

Somebody else read this other blog

No - actually - read it when you have a lot of time to devote to it.
I'm so blown away by this I still can't react to it except to demand that someone else confirm that it is real and I did not dream it...

The Spitfish!

Spitfish are aquatic creatures that undergo radical morphological changes over the course of their long lives. The Young and Mature forms travel in schools, able to live in salt and fresh water both. A school of Spitfish are all born from the same Elder Spitfish. Schools of Spitfish in freshwater often 'nest' for d6 days at some point near the waterline before moving on. Spitfish feel threatened by the presence of animals at the shoreline or in the water near to their nests, but will target fires in range preferentially.

The common school of Spitfish tend to cluster together at the shoreline to launch a volley of spit attacks at a target and then retreat to deeper water for 10-60 seconds. If the threat remains in range from the waterline they will repeat the process until they've exhausted their spits/day, have been chased off, etc. A common school of Spitfish will contain 3-12 Young Spitfish, and 1 Mature Spitfish per 6 Young Spitfish.

Young Spitfish can spit a small jet of water to a range of 15', 5 times a day. The spit attack of a Young Spitfish does no damage, but 3-12 simultaneous jets of water at the same target can be enough to douse/extinguish small fires, soak a dwarf, etc. The Young Spitfish are very small and tend to disperse and reform quickly. They are in every other way identical to other small eels.

Mature Spitfish have developed the ability to store more water and eject it with much more force. The water they spit is stored in a special organ which also infuses this water with a caustic slime. The range of the Mature Spitfish's ranged attack is 20' and they do not target fires. Targets hit by the ranged attack of a Mature Spitfish take d6 damage (save for 1/2 damage). Mature Spitfish generally do not attack the same target that any Young Spitfish present are attacking - unless, of course, there is only one target. The Mature Spitfish are otherwise identical to regular eels.

Old Spitfish travel in pairs. There is a 75% chance that an Old Spitfish pair travel with a school of 6-24 Young Spitfish, with 1 Mature Spitfish per 4 Young Spitfish - otherwise the pair is unaccompanied. An Old Spitfish couple always work in tandem and communicate through weak electrical pulses. Old Spitfish only come to the surface if the school they accompany is hard pressed or has been highly agitated by the presence of something on shore for more than thirty minutes.Old Spitfish have a small pebble (injested as a Young Spitfish) which has worked its way to the bone between its eyes. The Old Spitfish Stone radiates constant darkness 5'R. The spit attack of the third phase of the spitfish is more caustic than that of the Mature ones, and additionally holds a minor charge (2d6 damage). The spit attack can be used one every two rounds. If Old Spitfish come to the surface, they stay there until the threat is dealt with. If one of them is killed, or otherwise stops attacking, the other will go underwater. Some fisher-legends say that the Old Spitfish grant wishes. Should this prove to be true, the chance of capturing such a specimen should be 10% at best. In such a case, the Old Spitfish should probably be able to speak and live & breathe in air (at least while in duress), and would extract an oath to release them and never harm the Elders (the Elder Spitfish). Otherwise Old Spitfish should be treated as large flounders.

Elder Spitfish do not travel with others of their kind and pay no attention to the shore. In tactical situations, an Elder Spitfish should be treated as a large/giant squid with only 4 tentacles. Elder Spitfish spend half of their time wandering and half of their time in nest. While wandering they are voracious, powerful underwater hunters. The presence of a passing Elder Spitfish in a small lake might be noticed when it rapidly destocked. A nesting Elder will digs long tunnels down and if the body of water is small enough, a dip in the water level may be noticed. Nesting Elder Spitfish dig very long tunnels with acidic secretions from their tentacles, and these sectretions should also increase the damage delivered in combat. At the end of an elder's nesting period, there's a 50% chance that hundreds and hundreds of Spitfish eggs have been deposited in the tunnels, producing a huge 'bloom' a few weeks after the Elder departs.
The Spitfish Stone found in the Old Spitfish skull has become an accertion of them in the Elders.
This larger stone produces 10' radius darkness. It is also supposed to be a potent ingredient in some magical/alchemical formulae. Elder Spitfish will eat other Spitfish that are not themselves in the Elder form.

Young (minnow)
Mature (eel)
Old (large flounder)
Elder (large/giant squid)

silvery wand

This wand is 2' long, 1/2" thick, made of a silvery metal. Anyone touching it (or seeing it through infravisual filters) will note that it is very cold. When first held, it will make a prepared telepathic statement to the holder. This statement will take 10 minutes to complete, during which time the holder is immobile and also very cold - can take NO ACTIONS for 10 minutes (game time).

After this period, the powers of the wand are known in full (including with the number of charges available). The wand will never communicate again. It should resist/make all saves vs. 'anti-magic' spells and effects at a substantial bonus, but reverses that bonus against fire. If it is effected by fire it is destroyed.

When the wand is pointed at a magic gate/portal/teleporter/etc it has a 50% chance of revealing to the holder the 'destination' of the target, if such is applicable. If the chance is failed, the wand imparts no information. This can only be used on a specific target once. If the target is not actually a gate/portal/etc it imparts no information.

When the wand is pointed at a magic gate/portal/teleporter/etc and a charge is expended the caster may declare a new destination for the target. If the new destination is a place that is known by the wand's user, this is automatically successful. Otherwise, the chance for success is 50% + 5%/level. If failed, user must make a "system shock" roll, or fall into 1-year coma.

The wand can never hold more than 3 charges and no method is known to recharge it save wish magic.

a few things...

OK. I am exceptionally undisciplined - provided I hold myself to the high standard being set by RPG Dumping Ground (in my blog roll - check it!). Discretion being the better part of such-and-such, I'll admit my first blog-noob error - overenthusiasm! (could have been worse...lot's worse...) So, in short, I'm not holding myself to post a detail-a-day - but still hold it as an ideal anyway. Contstant progress...

If you haven't yet, go look at Grognardia and check out his post about the community mega-dungeon. This is a wide open idea and could become anything - several anythings simultaneously - it's an interesting concept. (I remain largly quiet about the M. Cook 'issue' - it's not the exciting part)

The online game over at Tao-of-D&D has been progressing. Heavy shit. There's a lot of generalizations about the human race that one can come to in the study of history. People suck...
and always have. That's is hard is another...I digress. It's very interesting play. I'm finding myself rivetted to the computer when I come home from work, and moreso on my days off, and the in, dumpteraction can't happen fast enough for me. We've hit some snarls on tactics and timing and such - but this medium really makes it a lot easier for me to do something that I've never really done much of: get in character. Yeah. In general I've always liked my characters on index cards and largely consider them disposable until they "stand out" though play - but since I've never actually been a PC very much (running games way more often that playing them) I've never really 'gotten into character' very much (and generally blushed thereafter). It's the format. The PC's are generally trying to post 'in-character', and I'm totally getting into saying the things that my character would say. This may sound really fundamental to most people and it may be - but it's way easier for me to 'indulge' in this over the computer than it has EVER been at the table-top. Josef says (and does) some weird shit. I'm afraid of being called out as pretentious (BTW, I am) but the potential of this as collaborative-storytelling is awesome.

I've gotten a forum site and early next week I'm going to start trying to set it up. I think that it's a good format for PBP games, and I'd like to start running a few. I will give more info about it as it solidifies.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Light Shield

This shield functions as a normal 'target' shield
of strong wood, bound with a rivetted iron band.
While used it is weightless/unencumbering and buoyant,
able to support up to 200 lbs before taking on water.
It will bear a simple two-colored design of the
owner's choosing and will refresh it at dawn. Once
the owner sets the image it cannot be changed.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Non-Spell Users Semi-Spell Users
Fighter Ranger
Rogue Paladin
Warrior Adept
Soldier Monk
Swashbuckler Warrior-Mage
Sage/Tradesman Bard
Thief Dabbler

Pure Spell Users
Magician Sorcerer Druid
Illusionist Mystic Shaman
Priest Warlock Magus
Mentalist Seer Alchemist
Healer Astrologer Enchanter
Lay-Healer Necromancer

This is a list of the character classes I like to use, make available in games I run. It follows the general concept found in Rolemaster of categorizing professions generally by how they relate to magic-use. These 'class concepts' are drawn primarily from 1st edition RM (and the Companions - many of which are really great RPG books in a ridiculous feature bloat/cool idea way).
The presence of magic in fantasy games is really totally fundamental IMO. You can run a high-magic campaign, a low- or no- magic campaign - but EVERY campaign has to define it in some way. So it makes a convenient starting point to conceptualize classes/professions (among many other things)...
But I don't develop characters as RM characters - it just takes WAY TOO LONG. I use them as guidelines and write them into the campaign - usually using whatever base spell lists and skill group bonuses (as wonked into my game). I do run separate 'realms' of magic (a la RM), but default to magic just being magic when it is too inconvenient (example: 'detect magic' in RM is split into three (really more) spells, one to detect each specific realm - too much for me).
I used to have a much larger list of 'Non-Spell Users', but it's just too easy to get way too ridiculous - and this list (Pure-spell users particularly) is close enough.
I used to have this NSU/SSU/PSU profession-group:
laborer/tinker/architect (!)
Wonder why I've developed in a vacuum so much of my life?