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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

So THAT'S why everybody don't run PBEM games!

Cuz that's a lot of work!

I've had to put the overlord game/experiment on a back burner after a month of game-time has passed - it's a shame because some neat things were going down, and I think that it's a viable medium - provided the GM has done enough prep. I don't think I did nearly enough of that - but more importantly, the scale was too large* and too small**.

* Most of the players were geographically separated by many miles from each-other, so there was little direct interaction - though that did allow for some widely divergent 'cultures' being generated in relative isolation.

** The granularity of 'powerful NPCs' is wonky - particularly in the two Free Cities. Councilmembers, Guild leaders, Tyrants, Lord Protectors, etc - a detailed city would itself be an interesting setting for the machinations of the 'overlords' that called it home.

The whole thing is something worth trying again - but I just can't sustain it for the time being. Too much going on in real life and too-many open ended gaming projects lying around needing attention - it is something I want to return to after I've cleared the deck a bit and can give more attention to. I'll collect the details in the near future and post them up - there was some really amazing stuff being created by the players.

In the meantime, I have this large tribe of goblins (95 of them, +10 leaders & assistants that fight like orcs!!!) living in caves nearby. I've put them in my thrall and I'd like to send some of them to raid your villages tonight - a band of 40 + 4 leaders. What forces are present there to defend?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

further evidence of fuddy-duddery

...on my part.

So, on a whim (a cheap whim) I picked up a book of monsters produced somewhere in the 3e glut.
Reading through it, just to mine for ideas, I come across this statement in the description of a minor demigoddess - "...if her avatar is somehow imprisoned...her father Enkili will be pissed off at anyone responsible." (italics mine)

"Pissed off"? Really? Did I just read that in a game book?

Haven't been able to get this off my mind for days now. I'm not a delicate reader, I don't care about bad language (if this really even is considered 'bad language' - I use it all the time w/o thinking twice) - but the rest of the tone of the book is grim, modern nihilism, full of fallen races, curses, doom, etc - pissed off stuck out like a sore thumb.

I suppose this is what I get for random purchasing random 3rd era stuff...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

link contribution to the hivemind

These are both very good posts that have managed to put into words things I've been far too inarticulate to articulate (see!) myself - about preferences/differences in the issue of what a character is, or at least, the assumptions that go into creating a character.

joethelawyer & bxblackrazor

Thanks - very good reads both!

Monday, October 19, 2009

sap (not siege, nor plant)

I haven't quite hit a year on this web world of RPGs - getting close...and *whew* are my arms sore! (cue rimshot... ugh...).

Been a while since there's been a dramatic, emotional geek-storm of rage/indignation/etc that took down more than a few outposts of reason - thank the gods. Things have been kinda quiet recently - and not in a "a little too quiet" sense. Calm. Not uneventful, just not fevered, slathering, frenzied, etc. (with the notable exception of this abomination over at the Swords & Wizardry forum) How ugly!

All of the gaming I am doing these days is via the internet. Still trying to get a group together in person (got 2 to agree in principle, a 3rd (a newb) we believe we can coerce) - but yeah - for the last 10 months I've been gaming more than I have in the last 15 years - all on the internet, with varying degrees of "success" (sorry Alexis!) - but mostly good experiences. Getting back into game shape, hopefully.

I got on the net when my band broke up. Pretty bleary & miserable time in my life, which was quickly assuaged by the environment I found here on this net - so much creativity and energy, enthusiasm, experience - A thriving and expansive subculture which I identified with.

But the internet is still weird. No visual clues/body language/etc. I feel lucky to have become acquainted with so very many interesting people, to make friendships and find communities - There's only a couple of good varieties of groupthink IMO, and a bunch of RPG'ers riffing off of each-other is one of them.

So thanks, ya'll. If my computer went kaput tomorrow, I would still feel awfully enriched by the last near-year in a way I wouldn't have anticipated. After I make my first million, I'll hold a convention and get plane tickets for everyone! ;)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

AD&D early magic items

Another long table - didn't want to post it here. So here's the ubiquitous PDF.

This one is two-hundred elements, each a magic item that is worth less than 1000 experience points as per the DMG (using some items from UA also). Made it for myself to use - I don't like placing magic items personally, rather let chance decide - but hate fudging a roll of 17 on Miscellaneous Magic Table I...or the folding boat...

While on the subject - I have never understood the experience point reward for magic items. The only thing I can think of is that it was a method to ramp characters up from low levels. XP for gold? I'm OK with that (particularly with carousing, spell research, etc...) - but the magic item providing experience still sort of bugs me on some level. Particularly this: as the power of the magic item increases, so does the experience reward. Then, when you get those items that are the top of the heap (artifacts & relics) - THERE'S NO EXPERIENCE REWARD!

Have always been tempted to reinterpret the experience reward for magic items as a minimum required experience to use the item. This makes a little more sense to me - that one cannot even use a Staff of Power (an extreme example - experience point value: 12,000) until 3rd level. This would mean that a fighter couldn't use a +1 sword until they'd got some 400 experience under their belt the hard way.

Tempting...tempting...but I think that recrafting the tables to suit my campaign is better than imposing arbitrary limitations on what characters can do. Am I learning to say yes?

Maybe. Kinda.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Early Dungeon features

I use the term features to mean things that aren't necessarily harmful, nor necessarily an object or a location, but possibly any of the above. I like early dungeon whimsy for the sake of object lesson. New players should be exposed to some safe-ish examples or strange things early on - learn that they can waste time, learn to not make too many real-world assumptions about the game environment, establish that sometimes weird things are just there - not there just to help or harm them. Perhaps this was established by my beginning to play in B1 rather than B2 (though the latter has some wyrd too). Such as it is, here are some things I like to present to early players -

1. The door that will not be opened. Put it in the first or second room. It defies logic, lock-picks, brute force, fireballs, acids - every ingenuity the delvers can contrive. Perhaps different sounds can be heard behind it with each listening. It is not an illusion - it is a real actual door that cannot be opened. (Unless you want to supply a key or a trigger somewhere else in the dungeon or it from the other side and it's a gate to Glerwodd's Taproom...)

2. The invisible wall, the wall of force. Love it! The invisible bridge across a bottomless pit (...well, probably bottomless...) Totally hokey - for the win! People walking into invisible walls (a la Time Bandits) always been a favorite of mine. But this is not about the Schadenfreude of DMing - these features can be used to further develop the point that limitations of actions are not always obvious and that seemingly insurmountable problems may have solutions that require different methods of searching.

3. The ringing payphone. Yeah - even in a dungeon it presents the same quandry as it does in real life (unless one of the PCs is under a Geas to answer it). And with the knowledge that there's a telephone, the players may want to make calls with it. Maybe you can give Dispater or Orcus' phone number scrawled in a matchbook to a player the next time the alehouse is dull...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Wanted to get to GenCon this year, but couldn't. Would have been my first time at that one, and with the Swords & Wizardry win, I'm sure it would have been a memorable event.

I've been to exactly three RPG conventions, all before the age of 18. These were all smaller scale conventions (2 Griffcons in South Bend Indiana and another in nearby Fort Wayne whose name I cannot remember). My memory of the first convention is very dim - I believe that my older brother took me, which would have put me in the 9-10 age range. I do remember, a few Apple ][ computers set up with a dungeon program running. I was amazed by this.

At the second convention, with a little experience under my belt, I signed up to run a total, from-scratch, homebrew (from scratch meaning largely cribbed from a variety of other games). The slots filled and I was excited. On the big day, I waited 1/2 hour, one player showed up - we agreed to go look for a pick-up game instead. Bummer. I'm sure that this is for the better - whatever that game was (all I can remember are some hit location charts from Twilight 2000...), I'm sure it was nothing that needed to be inflicted on anyone at that point.

A few good things happened that day though...

1. Napoleonics! The only time I've had the opportunity to play straight-up miniatures - it was a blast! Whatever the rules being used (I have no idea) they were easy to pick up. The physicality of miniatures and landscaped tabletop allows for less rules - there's not a rule for line of sight, weapon range, etc - there's a tape measure! Empirical! I did not win the scenario I played, but I loved the whole experience, and have always wanted to play more.

2. Got in a game of Fringeworthy. Fortunately, the GM knew the rules well enough that I just had to say what my character did and roll dice (the system is one I would not have to want to run - though the setting/premise is pretty awesome). My friend Donn (a cartoonist and general genius) was running it, and I was awed*.

3. Watching a game of Paranoia after the homebrew wash-out. What a f'in hoot that game was when it first came out! I like games that can throw seriousness into a sea of silly and see what floats. I ended up playing a lot of Paranoia with my buddies - stretched it all kinds of ways and had gonzo-goodtimes.

Then there was a weird quiet one in Fort Wayne. It was quiet, held in a dusty warehouse space. I signed up to play D&D. Turns out that the DM was this guy I went to high school with and didn't much like. We were tasked with chasing some goblins out of a keep. We strode up to it in full daylight (having agreed among ourselves that goblins don't like daylight, so sure - why not?)and stormed the gate. The action couldn't have taken more than 20-30 minutes - we died pathetically under arrows and spears, nets and oil. I ended up liking the DM fella more after that - we were asking for it...

So now I'm getting ready to run a couple of games at a convention the gaming club at Univerity of Kentucky gaming group this February. Want t keep it 'abstract' (I have no miniatures - stay off the battle mat - I like RQ-style 'ranks'...) Looking forward to it - a Swords & Wizardry game and a Tunnels & Trolls game. These are totally new games to the people in the gaming club - yay! Toying around with ideas for what to run - a variation on City of Terrors for the T&T game I think, and I'm inclined to run Chgowiz's quick-start for S&W - and distribute copies to the players afterwards.

Maybe I'll get a chance to play some of these new-fangled games there - it seems a sad certainty that there'll be no fatbeards with musketeer figurines there...

* this has made me think of something.
There's a lot of examples of games that I liked when I was younger, but could never run - out of intimidation. It was a 'write-what-you-know' kinda thing - with fantasy, absurd dystopia, cthulhu spooky, apocalytic mutationry - I felt like I "got it" enough to run it well. It was mostly make-believe.

Traveller, Aftermath, Twilight 2000 - loved reading them, but couldn't bring myself to run them. Note the military/technical theme here. My math has never progressed past simple geometry - my unit-conversion skillz == 3/0...If only I'd thought at the time that it was OK to take the system into my rush-clutch and take it to some far endzone - but at the time, looking at the tables and skills, megacredits and kilometer ranges - too intimidated to even try.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

ramble(Isn't it really just about the ref sheets?)

More and more I think it is. Game books without much authorial voice (i.e. most every game book published these days, i.e. game materials by committee and such) are not fun to read. Sometimes the stars are right and I can get into well written setting and stuff - but most of the the time, meh. I do in various ways enjoy reading T&T, Paranoia, Gygax - but for book use, it's the lists and the tables I'm after. I've had one experience with a DM aid - a ref screen for AD&D. Loved it. Handy.

I'm really glad to see that the 'DIY ethic' has caught hold with so many other people of and near my generation - not something I see much of in my day-to-day local life.

Isn't it really just about the ref sheets? Pre-prep organization work, tweaking frequencies on random tables... not just that - it's really about sitting down and playing. Or pacing, as you see fit...

Ramble much? yug.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

now that that's off my chest

some more AD&D class rambling...
On a logical level thieves, assassins and monks make more sense to me as sub-classes of fighter -
paladins and rangers as subclasses of cleric and druid respectively. But I don't like the division of magic into divine/arcane, so I think that the cleric & magic user should be merged into one class, with a few permutation subclasses:
Magic User (learns magic user & cleric spells)
- Illusionist (learns magic user & illusionist spells)
- Druid (learns magic user & druid spells)
and heretical though it is (they can cast spells after all...)
- Paladin
- Ranger

This is, mind you, just logical ordering