Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Real World Dungeons

It's Christmas, which means I should be making some sort of Christmas-themed post. Instead, I decided to relate a recent experience which made me think of gaming for some odd reason. I do say odd because only a serious nerd would focus on gaming while in the heart of what is commonly referred to as Sin City.

So I was in Vegas the past few days. The reason is unimportant, but in case you're curious, flights are more expensive than necessary around this time of year and hotels are cheap. It averages out in the end, I suppose. We stayed at the Luxor, a pyramid shaped casino with an Egyptian theme. Names shall not be given to protect the guilty. The Luxor is what I'd call middle-of-the-road as far as amenities go, which outside of Vegas would be pretty badass. In Vegas, it's middle-of-the-road. For $45 a night I wasn't complaining, especially considering my time spent in the room was nigh negligible. The beam of light emanating from the top of the pyramid, shooting off into space, a beacon of unadulterated ostentatiousness, provided a reference point which made getting back to the hotel a bit easier. Even a surly drunk can follow a billion candle power spotlight if necessary, and drunkenness did in fact transpire.

Let me say this first, then move on to the point of this post: I am not cheap. I am mostly Irish, but when you think cheap, that's Scottish. Don't lump us in with those guys. You CAN say I am thrifty, however, and I proudly admit it. The difference is easy to explain with an example. A cheap Scotsman would buy a bottle of Kentucky Deluxe, pour its contents into a flask, and proceed to take it wherever he went, ensuring his booze purchases were kept to a minimum. If he rant out swill bourbon, the Scotsman would simply stop drinking because he was cheap as hell. A thrifty gent, however, would instead purchase a better whisky (VO is my favorite), keep it in a flask to drink, and after depleting his flask acquire tall boys of PBR at convenience stores for $1.59 to keep the inebriation going. In either case, money spent is limited compared to the general populace, but the thrifty man will be drunk the entire time, thus in a much better mood. I am thrifty. Yes, I did buy many, many cans of beer for minimal amounts, carrying them from casino to casino as I travelled the strip. I aged a whole year in merely three days but it was glorious. The liver is a muscle and needs exercise; mine participated in the Olympics.

Given my general state during my stay (literally drunk from the time I got on the plane until I arrived back home...no exaggeration), you might think my perceptions are based purely on alcohol-infused delusions. That's possible, so if you come to different conclusions it simply proves empirical data is indeed as Locke described, thus interdependent upon numerous factors. In the context of rpg adventuring, however, I think my experiences bear out, especially given the predilection of adventuring-types to embrace alcoholism. Ale and whores, right? Vegas offers those things in spades (hah!).

Standing in front of casino on the new strip is a strange experience. The façade is inviting, a funnel of sorts, meant to draw you in. There is no normal sidewalk, parallel to the road. Instead, you traverse hundreds upon hundreds of feet of concrete, lavishly decorated, steering you toward the entrance (the old strip is quite different; after you get inside, however, it's pretty much the same). The doors are enormous and literally impossible to miss...there is no mistaking the way inside. After passing through lit archways, massive glass doors, polite doormen greeting you with smiles, the world becomes dim. Not quite night, definitely not day. On the verge of darkness, you're given the impression that it's almost time for bed, but not quite...not quite. Time passes by at a rate impossible to gauge. The dimness never decreases, nor increases, even in places that it should. Off to seek your fortune! Of course you entered the casino to find treasure, try your luck at a table or slot machine, but the the risk is extremely high compared to the reward. After wandering around, you find yourself lost, and it's nearly a hopeless task to determine the way you came in. Every single way out is guarded by monsters of various sorts, be they dealers or bartenders. After many losses and close calls the allure of treasure in greatly diminished and escape is required. You turn one way and go straight, but are intercepted with encounters impossible to avoid. Eventually, however, you make your way to the exit, using either wits or relying on luck. Unfortunately, somehow you end up in an adjacent casino, and the pattern repeats itself. After many tries, you end up outside and hour upon hour has passed. You have walked countless steps and your legs are about to give out. The bar at this casino looks a bit more inviting than the last so you sit down and order a drink. Putting your last few dollars into a video poker machine seems like a good idea to pass the time. A succubus engages in conversation, attempting to convince you that her services are required to pass the night. Somehow you wind up in your own bed, destitute and hungover when you finally awake.

Las Vegas casinos are real world dungeons, fraught with genuine dangers. During my recent adventures, I leveled up and engaged in some Conan-like debauchery. The spoils of war are best wasted after victory, barbarian style. In my opinion, anyone who thinks gold pieces are a terrible way to determine experience points needs to plan a trip soon.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Hobbit: An Expected Pile

First of all, I must preface this post by pointing out it's been a little over two months since my last. That's not entirely by design, as I had plenty to post about but became somewhat lazy when it came time to write about it. I deleted 12 drafts just now, most of them a quarter or half done, uniformly crap. Maybe the new year will bring a new attitude and desire for updating this blog, even if it seems almost irrelevant and inconsequential to me now. Gaming just hasn't been important to me whatsoever in recent months. But The Hobbit, oh yes...to get to the end, in the beginning, this movie makes me entirely ready to play some MERP in an effort to purge its images from my mind.

Where to start? Well, no disclaimers about spoilers, even if this is in fact a disclaimer of sorts. I'm assuming you've read The Hobbit  at some point in your life (I shall italicize the book title out of respect), therefore nothing I will talk about is predicated upon your seeing The Hobbit (no italics...interpret that how you wish). In fact, if you enjoyed The Hobbit, you might have second thoughts about The Hobbit. If, like me, you can be lumped into the category "pedantic nerds who get pissed when someone fucks with Tolkien's vision", you should avoid The Hobbit altogether. I am certain the only reason I did not go to jail during or following my viewing of the movie last night is due to the beer being spiked with Ritalin. At times I had the urge to throw things, yell, start fights and cause a ruckus, but my will was suppressed, almost unnaturally. I should probably say some things about the movie now. But as another aside, I wouldn't really be "spoiling" this movie if I told you about it, anyway; that would make the implicit argument there was something worth spoiling. I'm not being funny, I am Dead Serious, a distant cousin of Yahoo. Sorry, I just don't want to get to the review because I'm still seething inside with pent up rage. Have you ever just wanted to start throwing bricks around, breaking shit, after experiencing something that you willfully agreed to, but in retrospect loathe with your entire existence? Sort of like agreeing to attend your mother-in-law's 60th birthday party before finding out there won't be any alcohol and it's taking place in the women's department at Macy's. They're just gonna shop all day for old lady underwear, you gotta carry the bags. I'd do that over seeing The Fucking Hobbit (the real title, look it up on IMDB), to be honest. At least your wife might give you a blowjob for being such a good sport. Peter Jackson, instead, ass-rapes you during TFH and politely asks for more money to see the next two shitty installments. Okay, rant has started and I'm still in the intro paragraph. Moving on...

The Enchanting Prelude to The Lord of the Rings starts off with a fucking commercial for The Lord of the Rings by Sir Peter Robert Jackson, ONZ, aka THE GREAT SATAN, stylized as George Lucas in the common speech. A few years back, oh say, 2001, I saw this flick called The Fellowship of the Ring, a fantasy film by this dude best known previously for movies about aliens who ate each other's puke and pornographic puppet shows. Out of obscurity he creates a trilogy of decent films that, while not without their warts (Faramir, anyone?), stuck fairly close to the recorded lore of Tolkien. Close enough that I can enjoy the films without getting too annoyed. When drunk, they are especially quite entertaining to watch. But now, The Fucking Hobbit comes along, rubbing into our collective faces 11 Academy Awards and billions of dollars in ticket and merchandising revenue, all within the first 10 minutes of the movie. Yeah, I get it, you made those other movies and they were great and loved and fuck you I don't give a shit anymore, I just want to see Bilbo and the dwarves. There was no need for a long, drawn out scene featuring Ian Holm and Elijah Wood talking about shit that happens in Fellowship, literally an hour after the conversation occurs. Strangely, this scene almost looks lifted right out of Fellowship, WHICH I SUPPOSE CREATES THE ILLUSION OF ONE CONTIGUOUS FILM OF EPIC LENGTH. You know, how Obi Wan goes to Tatooine and drops off Luke with his fake uncle, even though it's his real uncle in Star Wars? Yeah, sort of like that. In fact, Bilbo isn't Frodo's real uncle, either; they are, in fact, cousins and Frodo is Bilbo's adopted heir. You know that, don't you. Everyone does. Us pedantic nerds who get pissed when someone fucks with Tolkien's vision feel no need to bring it up because it's not really relevant to The Hobbit since that story happened years in the past. SATAN doesn't bring it up, either, but he does feel the need to bring up bullshit that happened during The Fellowship of the Ring because for some reason most of that crap was left out in the beginning of Fellowship. I honestly hate the intro, I really do. Show me fucking dwarves and a hobbit and Gandalf.

So after the infomercial to purchase the extended LotR on Blu-Ray, some crap happens right out of The Hobbit. Haha just kidding, it's more bullshit. They did get the song the dwarves sing cleaning up Bag End right (oddly enough), and the other song sung about the mountain is done pretty well. Although, no instruments; why? Also, no colored hoods but Dwalin has fucking tattoos all over. WHY? I don't need edgy dwarves, I need dwarves with brightly colored hoods and instruments. Who cares. The beards, though...no. Kili barely has a five o'clock shadow. That's not a fucking beard. Sorry, hipster douchebags. For some reason, Thorin is being chased from the start by the PALE ORC, who is named Azog in the film. If I remember my Middle Earth history correctly (and I usually do), Azog did in fact kill Thror and Thorin did in fact attack Moria and Azog did in fact die by the hand of Dain. So why the fuck is he following Thorin around on wargs? That doesn't make any sense at all. Oh wait, yes it does: this is a repeated scene from the idiotic part of The Two Towers where Aragorn falls off a cliff when facing goblin-ridden wargs. Gotta add that part to the movie so Thorin is forced by Gandalf to escape to Imladris, against his will, and get all pissy with Elrond. I guess in the book where the dwarves actively seek out Rivendell and are on good terms with the high elves wouldn't make for good reality television so what the fuck ever. Around this point of the movie I was highly annoyed because there was an interlude featuring Radagast and a sickly hedgehog, attacked by giant spiders. Then he discovered Sauron in Dol Guldur whilst being pulled around by rabbits on a sled. I couldn't make that shit up. Fine, whatever, I have no issue with this part of the film to be perfectly honest as it gives some insight as to why Gandalf takes off during The Hobbit (he was fighting The Necromancer), and Radagast is as good a character as any to figure out Sauron is back. FORESHADOWING with Saruman so we know he's an evil fuck whenever we get around to watching LotR on Blu-Ray this holiday season. Even though Saruman was corrupted by Sauron due to hubris on his part, not through any maleficent intent. Is it so hard, SATAN, to just let the corrupting power of the ring and Sauron shine through? Why must Saruman be evil from the start? He's certainly not stupid, nor a bad guy, which makes Sauron that much scarier. If dudes like Saruman can be corrupted, it makes Frodo and Sam that much more innocent. Right? Right? Nahh, fuck that. It's just a commercial for LotR on Blu-Ray, extended versions on sale at Walmart for a reasonable price.

Elrond comes off as a massive dickhead, and tells Thorin not to go to the mountain. Why? It's HIS FUCKING KINGDOM, and Elrond isn't a dumbass. If Smaug took over Rivendell, I'm sure no one would have a problem with Elrond going in and kicking his ass out. That is just stupid and it pissed me off, but hey, you know, elves vs. dwarves. There has to be real animosity there as opposed to just plain old Jews. vs. Catholics post-Inquisition dislike. Except the dwarves were never murdered by the elves, it was the Muslims I mean orcs doing all the killing. Or something. It's easy to draw religious parallels to the movies made by SATAN, but it was never in Tolkien. Christ, I'm just pissed and ranting again. I need to finish this up quickly before I smash my monitor. Anyway, the best part, and of course I mean the very worst part, is when Gandalf has to convince Thorin to show the map (yeah, you know which map) to Elrond so he might be able to decipher it. What. Elrond, you know, one of the most powerful, benevolent individuals in the world who forgot more shit than most people ever know and can read 98345798347789 languages and has ridiculous resources and a memory of history from thousands of years ago. Yeah, Thorin says fuck you, loremaster, I don't want your help. What. Oh yeah, more racial tension! I glossed over the part where Elrond rides in after killing the goblin-ridden wargs chasing the dwarves which forced them into Rivendell in the first place, but who cares...the dwarves get on guard in case those evil Catholics I mean elves attack and try to steal their Jew I mean dwarf gold. Speaking of dwarf gold, Thror is painted out to be a greedy fuck, obsessed with gold to the point that he grows mad and Smaug attacks to get some of that treasure. The other dwarves cannot understand his obsession with treasure. Did you ever actually read any of those books, SATAN? Dwarves love gold and that's it. All of them. Fuck it, I don't care anymore.

So blah blah blah, meet the Great Goblin, who is a fat idiot. Bilbo gets lost because he actually escapes but then falls into a pit. This is right after he tries to go home. Yes, he has second thoughts about the whole thing and tries to sneak out on the dwarves. You know, after he already signed a contract. There's no need to explain why that undermines Bilbo's character completely as I already alluded to Faramir earlier and that's enough. Fucking retarded. Yeah, the dwarves escape from the Great Goblin's lackeys after Gandalf kills him. Of course, the riddle game with Gollum happens during this time, and this part of the movie is actually fine. I thought it was well done, right up until the part where Bilbo kicks Gollum in the head on his way out of the mountain. Then they're chased by goblin-ridden wargs again, lead by Azog who is dead but makes an appearance anyway because we need a segue into the next film. In lieu of simply writing about the final scene, I decided to paste that portion of the script to save some time. It should be evident from reading said script what the issues are with this part of the film.



EXT. TREES ON SHEER CLIFF NEAR DARK

DWARVES are being chased by GOBLINS on WARGS, led by AZOG, a goblin with pent up animosity toward THORIN, leader of the dwarves.

Azog finds the dwarves hiding in the trees, trying to escape being eaten.

AZOG
Come down, dwarf, and I shall kill you!

The trees begin burning after GANDALF starts throwing lit  pinecones at the wargs and goblins. The dwarves appear frightened.

    GANDALF
*whispers something to a moth*

The dwarves are thrown around as the trees are toppled by wargs. Thorin gets a murderous intent in his eyes and attacks Azog. The warg Azog is riding picks up Thorin and throws him around, just like when Aragorn got fucked up in The Two Towers. Just watch that part to see what I'm talking about.

DWARVES
Thorin! Oh no! Oh my! etc. etc.

BILBO picks up STING, an elvish blade without a name because it's not actually a sword or something and stabs a goblin before it can kill Thorin. Azog is pissed but right before he attacks again a squadron of F-14s flies over in formation. The F-14s begin picking up the dwarves with their talons and carrying them to safety, dropping them on the deck of an aircraft carrier somewhere in the Indian Ocean.

As Bilbo and Gandalf climb down, they see their wingmen on the deck. Thorin is looking in Bilbo's direction. His face is inscrutable. Bilbo gets mobbed, but pushes over to Thorin. They stare at each other for a moment, eye to eye even as they are buffeted by the crowd. Finally, Thorin breaks...a grin.

THORIN
I guess I owe you one.

BILBO
You don't owe me anything.
We're on the same team.

THORIN
You can be my wingman any time.

BILBO
No. You can be mine!

Thorin laughs and embraces Bilbo. Kenny Loggins plays a guitar solo in the background as the screen fades to black.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Some Additional Thoughts on a Game I'll Never Run

Last post about this was back in January, but I had some weird dreams last night after staying up way too late watching the Aggies hold off La-Tech and win, in the exact opposite manner of last season in which they would have found a way to lose. Anyway, a lot of this stuff comes from Tunnels & Trolls, MERP and a few other sources. It's definitely more "pulpy" that a straight fantasy game, which is sort of the point.

1) Revised ideas about classes and magic and stuff...basically dump everything but fighters, thieves and wizards. All wizards must follow some sort of thematic spell-casting and come up with cool names for their spells. Say the wizard is a "fire mage"; he can cast Magic Missile as a spell, but must call it "Bolt of Flame" or whatever. Thieves are pretty much like T&T rogues, and Cugel the Clever would be the prototype.

2) Adding Hunters as a class to replace Rangers. Essentially just combining assassins and fighters, with a few tweaks. Paladins are gone.

3) ALL spells are rolled into one pool. This means wizards can in fact cast from "cleric" lists, but it takes up a slot. I suppose they'll have to decide if they want to cast fireball or a CLW.

4) Going with #1, all wizards must select a patron in order to receive spells. This means that, yes, all spell casters that I'm calling wizards are really priests/clerics. Must fit with the theme they chose. Due to #5, they get to pick a granted power. Patrons will teach how to cast a spell, but no book is necessary most of the time. Basically this means spells are more like math formulas, not some external force. Thieves and hunters can learn some minor magic if they spend the time to do so; fighters lack the proper mental patterns. Anyone can read scrolls. Getting spells from patrons that don't fit within their sphere of influence will be nigh impossible, but a wizard can learn it some other way if they're persistent.

5) To reiterate an earlier point from months ago, undead will exist but characters will have no power over them, i.e. no Turn Undead. I'm going to use them like Tolkien did, though. Wights will attempt to charm people, wraiths are Nazgul, etc. No level drains as although I like them, they're honestly a pain in the ass to run properly. Also, I think undead are overused in the extreme, which makes them pedestrian rather than something to be legitimately feared.

6) All characters can wear whatever armor they can afford. Thieves/hunters get penalties to some of their skills (Unearthed Arcana was good for something). Only fighters get their DEX bonus when wearing armor. Fighters also improve their AC by one step, so Platemail would provide a base of 2 instead of 3 for a fighter. All characters can also use whatever weapons they wish.

7) Magic items are usable by anyone if they know the proper procedure. Unless the instructions are printed on the side, it'll require trial-and-error to get anything to work.

8) Max of 14th level for all classes, using the B/X charts for thief skills (thanks, ACKS!) I'll have to revise the spell-casting charts, but any spell higher than 6th level is beyond the power of a patron to provide. Hit-dice are AD&D, and CON bonuses are gained every level except 1st. At 1st level, characters start with CON number of hit points instead of rolling a die.

9) There will be a "monster" character class. Basically if you want to play some sort of monster, okay. Abilities will be gained at a reasonable pace according to type.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Some Proof For No Reason At All

I've talked about C&S a bunch lately



The other half of the PHBs and DMGs are in storage 


OSR crap I recently bought


Don't even play Pathfinder, but I mentioned it


Stuff I reviewed or mentioned wanting to review recently


Rifts books I bought in the past few months


Crap I won at NTRPGCon


Weird shit



Friday, October 12, 2012

Delving Deeper Yet Again

I literally got the Delving Deeper preview PDFs a few minutes ago, browsed through them, and must say that I made a mistake. These look good. Seriously. I don't understand what purpose they serve (still), other than to duplicate the original D&D boxed set. But they're nice, no doubt about it. From what I can tell, it's basically LBB 1-3 with some Greyhawk thrown in. I do like OEC from Goblinoid, but think it needed to be a complete release. I dislike Swords & Wizardry because it implements some things completely different from OD&D. Delving Deeper is like an expanded OEC, and it's good.

So, basically, if you want to play OD&D get this. Again I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY YOU WOULD WANT TO PLAY OD&D, but hey, that's your decision to make.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Arriba! TheRPGSite and Other OSR Stuff

Why didn't I read this forum before? I've know of its existence for a while, just never had a reason to peruse the threads. But this thread dealing with Dwimmermount made me reevaluate my view of web forums as a waste of time. As someone who essentially buys every OSR product out there (even if I think they're stupid or a waste of money: cf. Delving Deeper), train wrecks like this are of course of great interest to me.

I've held off on rpg-based Kickstarter projects for a while, mostly because Chris convinced me and also because the past few times it's been hit-or-miss. The Dungeon Dice, eh...not a fan. The Labyrinth Lord DM screen, that was pretty good. I'd rather see the product first and decide if I want it, not order it sight unseen and think I got gyped. Of course, I buy almost all my stuff from Amazon or direct retailers, anyway, which means I rarely see anything before I get it. But there's a difference from buying Hackmaster vs. ACKS: I know what to expect with the former, the latter is a gamble. The only gambling I like to do is football betting, not supporting shoddy crap I have no use for.

Also, I got an anonymous email the other day basically insinuating that I couldn't have actually bought all the products I talk about on this blog...well, challenge accepted, Mr. Jackass. Sometimes this weekend I'm going to take a bigass picture of all the stuff I've mentioned on here just to prove I put my money where my mouth is. Quite frankly if someone wants to give me shit because I don't like their product, the one I paid for, they can suck a dick.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Completely Unrelated to RPGs (maybe)

I really dislike all the Kickstarter projects that keep asking for money so someone can sit in a room and type up their house-rules for Yet Another D&D Clone. However, the Parallella project is completely unlike the endless OSR Kickstarters, instead a working implementation  that just needs some backing to be manufactured.

If you're at all interested in things like MilkyWay@Home (my personal favorite), SETI@Home or Rosetta@Home, this is definitely something you need to look into. For only $99 you'll get one of the boards when they finally get fully funded, which is ridiculously cheap for the level of processing power. I got an email earlier stating that for $199 you get the 64-way processor model instead of the 16-way, which made me bump up my pledge.

Scientific research has been pushed to the bottom of the heap by the Federal Government in recent years, so it's our moral responsibility to contribute personal funds to enable such research to continue. Stuff like the Parallella project will allow important research to continue, cheaply, and possibly produce some really fantastic breakthroughs. Or you could use it to run a porn server. Either way, help the cause.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Adventurer Conquerer King: An honest look

Months ago, I had a mini-rant against Adventurer Conquerer King (ACKS) due to my initial perceptions of the project based purely on conjecture and having seen some pre-release material. I saw a physical copy of the book at NTRPGCon, and punched Tavis Allison in the face; however, I did not buy it at the time, spending my money on Carcosa instead. My plans to order were interrupted by numerous factors, but I finally got around to it earlier this week, my copy arriving Wednesday evening. So what follows is a short, honest assessment of the book. No ranting this time as I'm in a pretty good mood because college football starts in only two hours.

Good Things


Only 14 Levels - It's not exactly rocket science, but cutting off levels at 14 means much less room for power creep. It also means the meteoric rise some characters experience will be quelled due to no place to go after a while.

Limited High Level Spells - If you want to cast anything over 6th level (5th for clerics), you first have to pretty much max out and then research it yourself. Just the fact that those spells aren't on the charts is nice; it lowers expectations at higher levels of play.

Magic Item Research - Goes with the above. I think this is laid out very nicely, and is a serious cash sink for wizards.

Proficiencies - I'm not a big fan of skills in D&D, but these are binary abilities gained as characters level up. My favorite part would have to be the customizability of the base classes, especially if you use a little DM fiat. If a player wanted to play a paladin, for instance, starting him off as a fighter then allowing him to select proficiencies from the cleric list would pretty much do it. No other tweaks required. I like it a lot and might steal this.

Spell Signatures - Isn't this how it SHOULD work in D&D? Dungeon Crawl Classics goes to the extreme with this idea, ACKS not quite so much, but again, probably needs to be in a D&D-like game.

Assassins and Bards - Probably the best versions of these classes I've seen in a D&D-like game in a long time. I'm stealing the assassin.

Charts - Hey, I like charts a lot. While I'd probably never roll on these charts, their presence provides some good ideas.

Neutral Things


Economics - Yeah, this game is all about economics or something, but I don't know...just sort of falls flat. It's not exactly poorly implemented, but for whatever reason I can't buy into the idea that there are 50 people/square mile, even if that was the population density of the "Roman Empire". The authors keep referencing Roman cities and whatever, but they must have glossed over the part of their history books where the Roman Empire was mostly confined to costal regions, large tracts of unconquered land left pretty much alone. Yeah, the cities were densely populated, but I highly doubt rural Gaul, for instance, had 50 fucking people per square mile. That's ludicrous. Plus, what does that really have to do with medieval populations, anyway? Rome went from literally millions of people to sparsely populated by the time the black plague rolled around; did they just forget that?

The worst part is probably the uniformity of prices. What incentive is there to be a merchant in this game if everything costs about the same in all parts of the game world? Is there a guild system not mentioned that is fixing prices or something? Is the teamsters union controlling flow of goods between cities? No idea, but it's unrealistic. I have NO PROBLEM with it being unrealistic; it is, after all, a fantasy game. But don't keep talking about historical stuff if you're going to ignore history when it doesn't suit you. There is an example given about buying a boat in a town. The DM can roll a bunch of times to determine availability and cost. It's not a bad system. My problem with it is just this: how hard is it for the DM to make that determination using their own brain? Again, not against charts and rolling, but that sort of makes the DM irrelevant if everything is decided with die-rolls. Plus, the dumbest part is that in the example given, there is no ship available for purchase. Okay, I can see that. However, if I roll into town, see a ship in the harbor and decide I want to buy it, I'll walk up to the captain and make an offer. He'll probably refuse. If I offer a million gold pieces for a ship worth 50k, do you think he'd still refuse? Fuck no he wouldn't. All that die-rolling removes the roleplaying element out of the game, which makes the economics system completely unlike anything in history. Well, it's exactly like modern times: I order shit from Amazon, and there is no haggling. Either they have the product, or they don't, and it costs a fixed amount. This is nothing like historical reality. Again, fine, it's a fantasy world.

I suppose this is neutral because even for all the gripes I have about the economics system, it's still Not Bad if you want to use it in a game that accepts the outlined premises.

Domain Rules - I have the same complaints about the domain rules as I do with the economics system, namely that they don't really model anything historical, but try to pass themselves off as such. Plus, lots of rolling to determine things; my high-level fighter cracked a lot of skulls even after he was king. He didn't sit around telling people what to do. I know the game has king in the title, but rolling a bunch of dice to handle problems is pretty boring. I dunno, the rules themselves are fine, but I can't see this as being very interesting to play.


Stupid Things


Tax Revenue - "...is coin paid directly to the adventurer by his peasants." What in the literal fuck? I thought this was supposed to be rooted in historical accuracy or something. No one in fucking history sat on giant bags of money except Scrooge McDuck, and he's not even real. It doesn't say 2gp of "worth" or "value" or "services", it literally says coins. This is directly from D&D, which again is FINE if you want to say people actually used money instead of barter (they didn't), but hey, I thought you wanted something more historical..? This sort of thing makes it hard for me to tell the intent of this game.

Elven Spellsword - And Dwarven Vaultguard and Elven Nightblade. The classes themselves are just fine, but these names are gay as hell. When I was reading the class descriptions I was almost embarrassed about these. Elves are fruity enough, there was no need to go with the full-on faggotry.

Really Bad Things


Attack Rolls - This is the only deal-breaker in the game, but it's irritating enough to give its own section. There are two major ways to roll attacks in D&D-like games, and ACKS does neither of them. I'm not a huge fan of ascending AC, but rolling is super easy: d20+STR bonus+class attack bonus. I tell the DM what I got, he compares to the AC of the monster. Pretty easy. Descending AC usually means I have to refer to a chart, so I can either tell the DM my total roll and he looks it up, or I say something like "I hit AC 2". Either way, it works fine. ACKS, however, requires the player to roll over a certain number added to the AC of the monster. So the chart says something like +5. If the monster is AC 4, this means I need to roll 4+5=9 or over on a d20. What's the problem here? It's fucking stupid, that's the problem. In both of the previous two cases, it takes literally 1 second to determine if an attack hit; in ACKS if the DM decides not to tell players the AC of the monster, that's just more fucking math to do for absolutely no reason. None whatsoever. Everyone starts with an attack throw of 10+, why not just roll this into the monster ACs like 3rd edition does? Why the FUCK did you feel the need to lower AC and put this in the attack table? It's just stupid as hell. Arrg. Seriously, the only explanation can be that the designers wanted something "different", but really, it's just ascending armor class made more opaque. That is fucking worthless and dumb. I said I wasn't going to rant, but this is annoying.



Overall, with the exception of the idiotic attack rolls, ACKS is a decent D&D-like game that has a some good things going for it. As a game that tries to unify low-level play with high-level domain management, it leaves a lot to be desired. I browsed my old Mentzer sets when typing this up and cannot see any reason whatsoever to use ACKS over the system described in those books. What someone needs to do is either goad WotC into reprinting the Mentzer sets, or clone the domain rules outlined in those sets. $40 was a bit much to spend on ACKS, I think. The PDF is probably worth the $10, but print it out yourself and skip the hardcover.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Chivalry and Sorcery character generation

A couple days ago, Chris sparked a discussion about running "some kind of hardcore medievalist game like first or second edition Chivalry and Sorcery" on G+, which resulted in over 100 replies, nearly uniformly positive of such a venture. Part of the discussion dealt with which edition of C&S to run (I'm going with 6th, Chimera, which is technically a bootleg), either 1st or 2nd. I am not one to argue with fate, so I figured I'd roll up a character for each edition for fun. All random, too. No cheating. How long will this take…

2nd Edition

Since I am most familiar with 2nd, I figured I'd start here. On to the die rolling!


1) Determining Omens At Birth

Yeah, lemme roll that d100 to see how my life begins…it's not indicated whether or not you roll for your Astrological Sign or Aspect first, so I'm going Aspect, then Astrology.

55 - Neutral. That's not terrible.
98 - Pisces. +10 bonus for fighter and thief. That sounds good. Or guildsmen or craftsmen. That sounds boring.


2) Computing Character Prime Requisite Points (CPR)

2d6 = 9 x 10 = 90 + 50 = 140 points. Quite a few points to make the character. I'll wait to figure out race and vocation before assigning any points.


3) Choosing a Race and a Vocation

Let's go human here, as I have no desire to play an elf or monster. I thought about making a goblin, but that requires an inauspicious birth. Also, it's difficult to pick man-at-arms or knight vs. thief when I have NO IDEA what the social class of the character is. Arrg…okay, time to roll that.


4) Determining Social Class

Father's Social Class: d100 = 60. Townsman.

Character's Sibling Class: d100 = 75. 3rd son/daughter. I'm gonna say "son", because if this is going to be remotely hardcore and medieval, I'm not about to play a female character. Actually, if I go the thief route, that could be interesting…as I am the youngest, rolling d6s determines that the other two siblings are male (4, 1st born) and female (5, 2nd born). No chance for property either way. I might come back and use the Death Rule to kill those two off once I determine age.

Character's Family Status: d100 + 10 for Neutral Aspect = 69. Good son/daughter. Better than being a black sheep, but if I go thief that could put a damper on familial relations.

Father's Vocation/Rank: d100 = 78. Blacksmith. Monthly income is 150 sp, which is quite a bit, and starts off with a status of 4.


5) Determining the Prime Requisites

So, two ways to go here…female thief or male man-at-arms. Either one would fit with what I've rolled so far; as a change of pace, I'm going with female thief character. No would would suspect a woman as being a thief in hardcore medieval gaming, and the fact that she has reason to be in the city (unmarried, lives with her blacksmith father) means lots of opportunity to do all sorts of stuff. Small size would also be an advantage. Let's go with that. I'm prepared to have no money, nor property, as she'll just steal it. Suckers.

But first…yeah, Character Size. Isn't this fun? d20 = 4. Light Frame. Reduce bodyweight by d10% (7) + 10% = 17%. Size, d100 = 70. 5'7", which is definitely tall for a female back in ye olde dayes. Weight is 132 * .83 = 110 pounds. Body is 13. Going to mybodygallery.com pulls up this as an example type:



Thin, but not ridiculously so. NO ONE WILL SUSPECT MY THIEVERY!

Dexterity - Let's jack this up as high as possible. A DEX of 25 would be 34 points, which seems extremely expensive, but still leaves 106 points left, or an average starting amount. Since this is my character, I'm going with the 25. DEX CR 19, Move Silent +25%, Hide +36%, Pick Pocket +25%, Disarm Trap +25%, Pick Lock +25%. Already an excellent thief.

Constitution - CON of 14 is "healthy", which seems good for a blacksmith's daughter. 14 points, 3% body, 14% fatigue recovery. +3% Resist Disease, 70% Resurrection chance, 0.4 CON Factor, CON CR 14.

Strength - A lithe female who steals crap doesn't need a high strength…I'll go with a STR of 9 for 9 points, CR 7. Strength Factor .7.

Wisdom - Someone dumb enough to be a thief when their family is rather well-off (relatively) cannot have a lot of wisdom. Plus, she's young, so I'll make this low. How about a 9 (9 points) for "naive"? Slightly below average, but not a complete idiot. CR 6.

Intelligence - While not wise at all, a thievish-type needs to be pretty sharp to not get caught. I'll go with an IQ of 18, "brilliant". That use 20 points, CR 15. It also helps with some thief skills: Find Door +25%, Find Trap +15%, Find Hidden Object +20%. Read Well is 95%, Remember Spell 90% (hey, it could happen), unlimited language facility with 7 points/level. She is going to put some scholars to shame.

Bardic Voice - A BV of 15 seems pretty good; that's 15 points and she is "eloquent". CR 13, so somewhat persuasive.

Piety - As a thief, the character probably doesn't put much emphasis on religion whatsoever, given the medieval mindset of certain doom for breaking a Commandment. She goes to church every week to keep up appearances, but really she's just there to look for potential targets. Piety 4 makes her a "nominal" believer, with a minor chance to call on divine intervention (4%).

Personal Appearance - I have 35 points left, and of course as this is a female character I want to dump a bunch of points into appearance. APP of 20 is 24 points (CR 14), and makes her "attractive". Good for distracting idiots when they're getting their pockets picked.

Ferocity - 11 points left over gives a FER of 11, CR 11. "Determined". Not a leader, but no slouch, either.

Now to determine Charisma…

DEX + WIS + IQ + BV + APP + FER / 6 = 16.33, rounded to 16. Pretty good starting score.

DEX 25 = +3
WIS 9 = -1
IQ 18 = +1
BV 15 = 0
APP 20 = 0
FER 11 = 0
Social Rank = 0

So an overall CHA of 19, CR 16, "Commanding". I guess being smart and good looking can make up for a lot.

Body Levels - 13 + 2 for CON +2 for IQ = 17 * 1.0 (thief/assassin) = 17.

Fatigue - CON + 1d6 = 3, 17 to start.

Carrying Capacity - STR Factor + CON Factor x Weight = .7 + .4 * 110 = 121 DR (or 12 pounds). Wow, that is pathetic. So she can basically wear clothes and carry a dagger, maybe a small bag of loot. Whatever.

Military Ability - 1/12 * (DEX + STR + WIS + IQ + CHA + FER) = 7.58 * 1.0 (thief) = 8 rounded.

Command Level - MA/2 = 4.

Personal Combat Factor - Equal to Military Ability (8), which makes me question the usefulness of having Yet Another number to track. Sticking with light weapons, 1 blow per round, +1 to hit/parry, 3xWeapon Damage Factor (which means Not Bad). Pretty decent for a thief. PCF increases by 1 per level.


6) Special Character Traits

Optional, but really the most fun part about this crap.

Eye Color - d10 = 10. Blue-grey.

Complexion - d10 = 2, dark, tans easily.

Hair Color - d10 = 8, auburn.

Hair Texture - d10 = 9 - 2 (dark complexion) = 7, straight

Eyesight - d100 = 02, farsighted, +5% in Archery and Throwing Missiles. No idea if there's any disadvantage to this; doesn't look like it.

Hearing - d100 = 14, normal hearing range.

Special Traits - d100 = 09, Natural Sense of Distance. 99% accuracy judging distances…that could come in handy.

Character Attitudes - d100 = Character is self-interested and can prove disloyal if it is seen to be in his best interests. Hah, perfect.


7) Phobias

Again, optional…but not really. If there's a table, I roll on it.

d100 = 47, no phobias. Boooooring. Out of curiosity, rolling d100 on the table gives 48, Hydrophobia. That could be fun. Maybe the character will develop that later.


8) Experience Skills

Oh boy, the fun part…since this character is a thief, I have a lot of crap to figure out.

Climbing - 75% + 2% per point of DEX over 12 = 101% + 3%/level. Well, that's nice.

Listening/Watching - Normal human chances here.

Learn Languages - Average of IQ/BV = 16.5 rounded to 17. So a new language takes 9 weeks to learn. Average of IQ/WIS is 13.5, rounded to 14. Takes 18 weeks to learn the written language. Starting with 7 points, I'll put 5 points into Writing Like a Native (whatever starting language we get to begin) and the remaining two points into basic fluency in two more languages. How about Thieves Cant and Latin? It'd probably make more sense to assume the written language is also Latin, since anything worth reading would be in that tongue…I doubt written English in a HARDCORE MEDIEVALIST GAME would be very useful. It also means my character is "extremely educated", and that's alright. Helps with the cover.

Counting - Important! Bahh, start with the minimal 20% as I already blew all the language points. At 2nd level, she'll spend the year (and all 7 points) on becoming an expert, along with Abacus use.

Estimate Distance - 99%, by virtue of the Special Trait.

Understand Simple Mechanisms - SR roll of IQ + WIS x 2 = 54%.

Thievish Experience Skills - This might take a while…

Disarm Trap - 5% + 25% = 30%
Pick Lock - 5% + 25% = 30%
Detect Hidden Door - 3% + 25% = 28%
Detect Hidden Trap - 5% + 15% = 20%
Detect Hidden Object - 5% + 20% = 25%
Hide Object
Pick Pocket - 5% + 25% = 30%
Thief Detecting Thievery
Evade Discovery - 25%, Move Silently + 25% (50%), Hide + 36% (61%)
Mugging and Backstabbing
Evaluate Loot - 50%
Fencing Loot - 20%

Considering I'm starting at Level 1 with no experience points, that gives a base of 1 for all these skills. What's interesting is that the character has bonuses to Move Silently and Hiding, but the actual TES is called Evade Discovery. And that skill isn't even explained. Isn't that great? Also, being a Pisces of Neutral Aspect gives +10% to all thief skills. At least how I understand it. That's cool.

Again, since no XP, can't buy any skills…but I shall roll on the Food Preparation chart. d100 + 15 for being female = 32, so she possessing cooking knowledge. Rolling on Haut Cuisine first = 43, nope. Rolling the rest results in knowledge of Baking Bread, Making Desserts, Cooking Vegetables. Don't ask her to cook any meat or use spices…prepare for bland vegetable soup.


After all that, I have no desire to pro-rate this character, hence I'm done. I'll give her some normal clothing and say she has a "thief outfit" hidden under her bed, along with a dagger somewhere. Fuck this, I'll do the 1st edition character later.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Yggdrasill: Kinda boring

So I got the main rulebook for Yggdrasill the other day (Amazon comes through yet again) and did a quick flip-through. My first impressions were that it captures the essence of Norse myth and legend simply due to the layout of the book. It's rather dreary and somewhat depressing; the colors give a definitive melancholic feel to the whole thing. So far so good. I wouldn't want to play Beowulf in the Spongebob universe (hmmm...there's an idea), hence that's not a knock whatsoever, and in fact is a huge positive. I'm not one to push style over substance, but this is a prime example of why PDFs suck and I hate reading them. The physical presence of the book creates a certain feeling that is difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate through electronic means. Anyway, there's that...

Last night I actually read the whole thing, only semi-watching MNF, which sort of fits within the theme of a Norse rpg: the giants of the NFL traveled to a cloudy, misty land, defeated by a surly group of individuals who won the battle due to interference from the gods. Yes, that game was ridiculous. Where are the real refs? Yggdrasill is not ridiculous, and it's a reasonably good game, but it's kind of boring. Nothing about this game really stands apart mechanically. In fact, I kept thinking that Dragon Warriors would be a better system to use as it has a similar feel.

Lots of flavor text help maintain the atmosphere yet provide nothing compelling when it's all over. I can't really say what it is about this game that I dislike, as I don't dislike it at all; it just isn't that interesting. Playing Vikings (the game specifically states its not about vikings due to the temporal component of that term) can go one of two ways: cinematic and badass or realistic and morose. Yggsdrasill goes with the second, attempting to maintain a very historical view of Norsemen. And then it throws in magic and stuff. So, really it's not "historical", but instead Norse myth (good), tries to put those myths in a historical context (also good), and maintains the tone inherent in those myths (great). This does not make a fun game.

I'm not really that interested in being playing mellow games about inevitable doom. Perhaps this game is not directed at me, then, because Norse myth is about fate and dying and gloomy crap. Just like it can be argued that Middle Earth is a terrible roleplaying world (I'm not entirely convinced but I definitely understand the sentiment), this is not a game you pick up and play every so often. It takes a commitment to engage in a game such as this due to the subject matter. This is not a casual rpg whatsoever.

Should you buy it? If you were to ask me to recommend an rpg that accurately captures Norse myth, this would be it. In fact, the only other game with a true Scandinavian bent I can think of is MEGA*, and it pretty much sucks. Yes, I own that, too. But do you really want to play in that environment? I'm sure there are groups who wish to explore such areas in their "serious gameplay", so yeah, get this. If you are looking for something a bit more lighthearted, I suggest the Spongebob Viking game I mentioned above.



*Don't talk to me about Rune...that hardly counts. And of course I own that.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Carcosa

A while back (like two months) I promised a review of Carcosa. Wait, let me start over. It's been two months since I posted anything, and in that time I've bought a lot of new rpg stuff, so I figured I'd do some short reviews the next couple days. And also, I finally read Carcosa cover to cover the other night and can make an accurate assessment.

First of all, I am outraged. Outraged I considered not buying this for whatever reason. See, ladies and gents, this is why you get drunk and act impulsively from time to time: so you wake up one morn and discover a book you don't remember, peruse it, and become enlightened.

Carcosa isn't groundbreaking. Not in the sense of, "Wow, this is new and exciting!" No, in fact, it's a homage to all the pulp science-fantasy that came before it. The author has gone to great lengths to throw in every sort of pulp influence he could think of. The difference between Carcosa and some other works I shan't mention is simply quality. This is a quality book in all ways. The writing is excellent, the production values are superb and you get a real sense of what a fucked up place the planet Carcosa is within a page or two, but never feel like there's some overarching plot that needs to direct your game.

There IS a plot of sorts, but it's nothing more than, "Everything is trying to kill you." And I do mean everything. Cthulhu and his minions live there. That's enough, right? What about all the space aliens and eldritch horrors lurking in the shadows? Dump in a multitude of races hellbent on using each other as human sacrifices to summon said horrors and bind them to service. This isn't a setting meant for playing with your kids, this is dirty, dirty fucked up pulp that leaves you feeling disturbed.

You can easily use Carcosa in a D&D-like game. In fact, it's pretty obvious that's what it's for, and specifically mentions it was designed for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I can see that. However, there are some mechanics included that are rather interesting, namely rolling on a chart to see what dice you roll. For instance, you hit with a dagger. It doesn't do 1d4 damage 100% of the time. No. Instead, it might do 1d8, 1d6, whatever. And this works for everything. The villager with a pitchfork might be a real badass one round to the next. Throw in the idea that hit points are rolled every encounter, using the same method, and it's possible a high level character ends up rolling a couple d4s for hit points while the villagers are using d12s. The randomness creates an entirely new sort of tension due to the uncertainty of combat. Good luck with your powergaming goals 2012 on Planet Carcosa.

Basically, if you like D&D in the way it was initially intended to be played, Carcosa fits in perfectly.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

South Texas Minicon

If you're reading this post, chances are you've already read one or more posts about the South Texas Minicon taking place next month in New Braunfels, TX. There's a website and everything. Last year it was a bit ad hoc, but this year we're actually trying to organize it a bit better with a rudimentary registration system. We'll also have a dealer's table. How that happened is beyond me, but it did. Looks like NTRPGCon has decided we're important enough to "sponsor", which works out for both parties. It may or not be a rumor that I will have a large flask in my possession at the con; perhaps you should find out.

Like last year, I want to run a game but am having difficulty picking something. I thought DCC would be good, or maybe Mechwarrior. After thinking a bit, the former lends itself to multiple sessions mostly due to the funnel taking a while to produce an actual party. Surely you can make 1st level characters, but that sort of defeats the whole point of the game and eliminates what appears to be the most interesting portion. A con session with massive deaths is appealing, though; but D&D-like games are in abundance. Mechwarrior would be pretty cool although I doubt anyone wants to play it at a con because once the first battle started we'd be stuck there all day. Screw that. That'll go on the back-burner as the G+/Skype game I talked about before. What is needed is a game that's quick, deadly, non-fantasy and which lends itself to one-shots. Taking a lesson from last year, here is what I learned: don't try to be kitschy unless everyone is on board. If you're going to go that route, it needs to be stated in the beginning so the players know how to approach the game...you can't come up with a concept that you think is really cool but could be played numerous ways. It should be patently obvious going in what to expect, lest you create a train wreck. I'm not blaming myself entirely for last year's fiasco, but I'm sure the players were expecting something much different. Not to mention the pregen I used was written for 8 year olds (no joke).

Given that, I think I'm going with Paranoia simply because it's scifi (sorta) and ridiculous. Plus it fits my style in that the players generate 90% of the conflict. I much prefer player-driven games vs. GM railroading, and when I have to supply not only plot hooks but extensive encounters to encourage pursuing those hooks I start becoming disinterested. That is bad. Sure, it's a con game, the players expect some railroading and will follow hooks without much effort on my part, but if I can put most of the onus on them, better for me.

So, Paranoia...it's deadly as hell, funny and requires no one to learn the rules. Plus just about any sort of plot can be shoehorned into a session. I'll have to look through my stuff to see if I have anything that'll fit within a 3-4 hour time frame, but if not I might write up a short scenario. Chris and Mack were talking about a STMiniCon adventure giveaway thing anyway, so maybe I'll do a Paranoia scenario based within the Hill Country after the apocalypse. Maybe.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

NTRPGCon 2012 - Part V

It's been over two weeks since I posted about the Con, as I have been debating whether or not I should share some stories told to me by various parties. Still up in the air on that, but if there is anyone interested I'll relay the info...perhaps privately. Even though they were told over some drinks, in a public setting, perhaps they'd stir up too much controversy. Anyway, here is something I CAN tell without much chance of pissing anyone off:

Dennis Sustare

So I was in the dealers room not That Drunk on Saturday night, mostly because I had already had a few bad experiences the previous night and also because I was keeping an eye on Jason. I guess we had traded off nights to get plastered and do stupid shit. At one point he asked some girl if she wanted to "draw a dick" for him, she said no and got offended or something. Fuck her, seriously. I don't care at all, but the old dude who was trying to hit on her got annoyed and pissed at Jason, so I hauled his ass to Whataburger for some food (I got a chocolate milkshake in case you're curious) and he sobered up a bit. He ranted about some other stuff, justifiably so, and then we headed back to the con. But right before that, I was approached by a guy I did not know, probably in his 60s. He simply said, "That's a really great shirt." And it was. It alluded to my championship in Russian Roulette competitions, of which in fact I am a champion. Surely a braggable feat. I introduced myself, and he himself. Turned out it was Dennis Sustare, someone whose name I recognized immediately.

Mr. Sustare and I started talking about all sorts of random crap, the first of course some game stuff. Because, hey, it was a game con, right? I told him I really liked the economics system from Sword Bearer, and he said that grew out of annoyance with bookkeeping. Basically, as a GM he didn't want to fuck with keeping track of coins and treasure, whatever, so he just created that system. Then I asked him about Kungfu 2100 (yeah, you already knew I would), and why he submitted a whole game in response to a caption contest in Space Gamer. Oddly enough, I had read the article a few days before so it was fresh in my mind. His answer was simple: it seemed like the only reasonable thing to do. That's a great comment from a really creative guy.

But fuck all that gaming crap, Mr. Sustare and I started talking about gaming convention chicks. Or the dearth of such individuals. I just said I was looking for girls and he let me know that anime cons were a great place to meet young ladies. I let him know that a few years ago I had actually played drums for a J-Pop band at a fairly large anime con, which led him to revealing that J-Pop was one of his favorite genres of music. Apparently, he has a station on Pandora devoted to it. I am not making this up at all. We discussed some other stuff in the same vein, mostly about picking up girls, and then he said he was headed to bed. Really cool guy, into young poon and pop music. God bless you, sir.

4TH OF JULY!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY USA!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mechwarrior: A Time of War (it sucks)

So we used to play Mechwarrior eons ago and it was fun...little did we know the game system sorta sucked. Whatever. I recently got (6 months is recent) the new Mechwarrior game called A Time of War, which is supposedly a serious revision of MW 2nd edition, not based on 3rd. No real interest in it at all until I saw some posts about the free quickstart rules being passed around for Free RPG Day. Of course this forced my hand and I actually read the book. All I can say is: okay. Yeah, it's Battletech, so what. The system is uninspiring and way too much work for a game that essentially boils down to giant robots beating the shit out of each other. Don't get me wrong, the BT universe is extremely well fleshed out and compelling (if you ignore all the stupid crap that happened in Jihad and Dark Ages), especially if you enjoy war stories, but ATOW sucks. That said, the book itself IS worth the money because there is so much good information. This might be heresy, but BT is one of the more realistic scifi settings if you can get past the idiocy of duels between multi-billion dollar robots to determine the fate of planetary politics. It's not even the dueling part, really, it's just how stupid the robots are from a pragmatic approach. But like I said, it's cool as hell so pragmatism be damned. And I stand by the "realism". There are no aliens (with few exceptions are usually rubber suit-types in most rpgs anyway), all the tech is justified by at least a reasonable scientific explanation (yes, even the mechs), and the politics are reasonable and interesting. It's unfortunate the rpg is crappy, which is why if I was going to run a Mechwarrior/BT game (maybe...) I'd use another system. But which one?

The biggest question would be how to convert Piloting/Gunnery to the tabletop game were that necessary. Of course it's necessary: really important battles should use BT to play out, not some roleplaying system. I thought for a bit, and decided that the D6 system would be the best to use, not because it's the best system (it's pretty good though), but because the learning curve is essentially nil and conversions between the board game and the rp-system would be trivial. Take the Star Wars rpg, change a few skill names, create a couple templates, done. To determine the relevant mech skills if playing out a battle:


Skill LevelBattletech Equivalent
1D8
2D7
3D6
4D5
5D4
6D3
7D2
8D1
9D0


Most competent starting mechwarriors would have 4D or 5D in their relevant skills to start, which would put them in the 5/4 range in BT. Which is exactly where they should be. Yes, it's really this simple. When those battles did come up, they could be played out relatively quickly in MegaMek. Coupled with the ease and speed of D6, this makes the whole idea of a MW/BT rpg viable for someone who isn't a 14 year old kid with infinite amount of time over a summer vacation.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Alternative die-rolling methods for fighters

I'll get back to the other NTRPGCon stuff tomorrow (probably). I'm debating on posting some of the things I heard due to the content and the individual who said it. Not to be cryptic, but sometimes it's better to not add any fuel to an already burning fire.

Anyway, an idea I had earlier concerned the notion that fighters are mechanically bland in D&D-like games, generally because they have no real special abilities. Except kicking ass, of course. DCC adds the Mighty Deeds mechanic, which is great, but I wanted an option easily backported to simpler games that gave fighters something tactically interesting to do in combat. The full blown 3.X D&D tactics system is right out for obvious reasons (namely that it's a huge pain in the ass unless you also use feats) as is something like GURPS or HERO. Drawing inspiration from BRP (and DCC [seriously, buy that game]) I came up with the following:

At 1st level a fighter uses 1d20 (like all other characters) to determine attack rolls which increases thusly:

Level 1-3: 1d20
Level 4-6: 1d20+1d10
Level 7-9: 2d20
Level 10-12: 2d20+1d10
Level 13-15: 3d20
Level 16-18: 3d20+1d10
Etc.

This sort of follows the multiple attacks table in AD&D (sort of) and is easy to extrapolate. The use of the d20 is obvious, as should be 2d20 or 3d20: at 13th level a fighter can make three attacks, rolling a d20+STR bonus for each. At 4th level, a fighter may make two attacks, one using a d20 and one using a d10, adding STR bonuses to each roll. Thus a 4th level fighter with a 15 STR (+1 bonus) would roll 1d20+1 for his first attack and 1d10+1 for his second attack.

Fighters (and only fighters) can split their attack die roll during combat as they see fit. This means specifically they may make multiple attacks, albeit at a lesser chance for success. d20 attack dice are split in the following manner:

1d20->2d10->3d6->4d4

d10 attack dice cannot be split.

At 1st level, instead of rolling one attack using 1d20+1, a 15 STR fighter could instead choose to perform two attacks, both at 1d10+1. Or three attacks at 1d6+1. It should be obvious a 1st level fighter has little to no chance of hitting using d6 (or even d10 in many cases), and a 20th level fighter can mow down hordes of goblins rolling a handful of d4s.

This system really only works well if you use combat tables (pretty much all of the old versions of D&D). Open-ended AC systems make it more difficult to determine the mathematical advantage of multiple attacks if there is an implicit "a 20 always hits" rule. If you do use that rule, even with combat tables:

When using attack dice less than d20, if the attack roll and damage die both come up as maximum values, then the attack automatically succeeds.

This does require both dice (hmmm..if die is singular and dice is plural, do I still say both dice...both dies is obviously wrong...English, how does it work?) to be rolled simultaneously to determine hits which we all know is Extremely Difficult (tm). At the low end, this gives less than 1% chance of success, with a high end of 6.25%. If high level fighters want to run around with daggers so they can gain a bit of an edge, so be it.

If you use crits, the same system can be applied as generally a 20 results in a critical hit. If you use some other system, work out your own math. Actually, say the crit is a "confirmation", per 3.X. The confirmation can merely be a success on an additional attack roll of the same die. It's mathematically equivalent (not precisely but close enough) without adding any more complication.

Some general examples to explain better:

1) A 1st level B/X fighter with 16 STR (+2 hit) and a +1 sword (obviously a Monty Haul campaign) faces off with two goblins. The player realizes he can split his d20 attack into two d10 attacks, with a 10% chance of hitting the AC 6 goblins with each attack (attack roll total 13 necessary). Or he can roll one attack against a single goblin with a 55% chance of success. The player is not stupid and elects to attack one goblin.

2) A 6th level AD&D fighter with 18/00 STR (+3 hit) and a +2 sword (that damn Monty Haul DM) squares off against three orc bodyguards with AC 4. Knowing he will hit the orcs on a roll of 12 or above (40% chance), he decides to split his d20 attack, giving three attacks using d10, each directed at a different orc.

3) Douglas the 10th level Mentzer D&D fighter with 17 STR (+2 hit) and a +1 sword (part of a much more reasonable game) is confronted with an adult white dragon and two orc minions. Douglas' player begins questioning his DM's rationale behind this encounter, but figures what the hell, XP is XP. Douglas didn't get to 10th level being an idiot and does a quick calculation. He has a 40% chance of hitting the dragon using a d10, or 70% using a d20. As the orcs do not pose much of a threat, he attacks the dragon three times.

4) Bill the 18th level AD&D fighter with 18/51 STR (+2 hit) and a +3 longsword is attacked by 20 orcs. The DM has extrapolated the idea about "20 always hitting" above and decided to make "1 always misses" a rule as well. If both dice, attack and damage, (stupid English) come up 1s, the attack is an automatic failure. Otherwise, Bill would never miss the orcs (needs a -2 to hit). Bill's player is annoyed at such a stupid encounter and chooses to split his 3d20 into the maximum number of attacks. This gives him 12 attacks using 1d4 and one attack using 1d10. If any of his attack rolls come up as 1 and the longsword damage for that attack is also a 1 (little over 3% chance), the attack misses. Otherwise Bill will obliterate the orcs in about two combat rounds. Bill's player asks why he's rolling so many fucking dice.

5) Robert the 3rd level B/X fighter with 10 STR (+0 hit) and a normal longsword (3d6 down the line!) is attacked by two earth elementals with AC -2 (only a natural 20 will hit as it is the second 20 entry in the table). Robert's player complains to the DM about not even having a magic weapon, much less being attacked by multiple opponents of a ridiculous power level relative to his character. The DM says he rolled it up that way, but if Robert can hit the elementals, he'll damage them, even without a magic weapon, because he's feeling nice today. Knowing he has no chance to win, Robert splits his d20 into three d6 attacks, one at the first elemental, two at the second. Getting a 6 on each attack, he rolls d8s for damage, getting two 8s. Both elementals are hit for 8 points of damage, pissing off the killer DM.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

NTRPGCon 2012 - Part IV

The Art Panel

After narrowly avoiding being roped into an exceedingly long Battletech game, I headed to the pool to collect my thoughts and sober up. You know you hit the bottle a little too hard when you wake up 10 hours later, still drunk. Prior to the swim, however, we ate breakfast at Taco Cabana and Jason told a story about Sergio Aragones killing Marty Feldman in Mexico. Any story involving Mexico and death usually contains alcohol abuse, donkeys, prostitutes and stabbings, but this one was much more innocuous in content which led me to question its veracity. Jason used Wikipedia as his proof which didn't help convince me in the least. He also said Aragones was a huge asshole; I can buy that part.

Much of the time following the "pool experience" was spent browsing through Carcosa...I'll post a review sometime this week, but I can honestly say if you ever need a diet aid, the book works wonders on appetite suppression. Wanting to heckle Jason was at the top of my list of things to accomplish, so I headed to the main conference room to do just that. The art panel was made up of Erol Otus, Jason Braun, Jeff Dee, Diesel LaForce and Janelle née Paul Jaquays. The premise of the panel was to discuss careers, art and to draw some monsters submitted by select con-goers.

First, the drawings were pretty good, given the amount of time the artists had to work with; I can honestly say I was impressed at the production quality. Some of the descriptions were long, some short, and a few of the people present who submitted ideas agreed the end results were excellent. I guess that's  why they're pros. Still, the discussion was much more interesting, to me anyway. Diesel (a nickname due to his initials: DSL) was the most vocal of the group, Jeff Dee being the most subdued. His (Diesel's) stories were extremely informative and gave a lot of excellent insight into the halcyon days of TSR. He also stated that Virgil Finlay was his biggest inspiration, a name I had never heard before. Looking up some of the art on the internet, it's easy to understand why. Otus said he liked Trampier, and I was waiting for someone to ask what he was doing but no one broached that subject. Unfortunate because he did some great stuff. The artists were also asked their favorite thing to draw, to which Jason replied, "Children are present." (it's dicks, case you care...he can say it's not but I know it's dicks).

One of the more interesting questions concerned "favorite medium", mostly because four of the five all preferred pen/ink/paint, the Old Way of doing things. I was actually surprised at that answer as I thought more of them would like the speed of using a computer, at least during the editing process. Jaquays definitely liked the digital medium much more, which makes sense given her extensive work in computer gaming. Dee did state he preferred to add color in Photoshop after scanning the image, Diesel liking pens most of all. Speaking of pens, Jason had to let Erol borrow his pen to do the drawing as he didn't even show up with anything sort of drawing apparatus. Celebrities!

After the panel ended, I went to get a beer at the bar, and saw Erol Otus once again. I told him I always liked his art but it was extremely creepy, to which he replied, "I'm very happy to hear that."

Raffle Time

Last year I talked about how I didn't even submit my ticket to the raffle because I was 1) drunk and 2) stupid. This year I made it a point to put my ticket into the hopper and get drunk afterwards. This worked to my advantage because I actually won. I didn't want to be in the room while the raffle/auction took place, hence my drinking beer at the bar as it went on. A text from Jason simply stated I had won the "free raffle", which was cool because I never win anything. He told me he'd get the stuff from Mike for me, which was even better. When I told Mark (someone I haven't mentioned yet but who was pretty much with me the whole time; no, it's not like that) that I had won, he thought it'd be awesome if I got one of the battlemats and I agreed. I wanted one of those for eons.

We headed back up to the room and I saw a battlemat on my bed which caused great excitement. Fuck yeah, I won exactly what I wanted! As we made out way back down to the dealer's room, Mike asked me if I had got the rest of my stuff from the raffle, a question which puzzled me. You mean there was more? Hell yeah there was, a rather hefty bag filled with a bunch of OOP Judge's Guild Traveller modules and other miscellaneous items. Perusing through the bag, I added more $1 Traveller modules from Mike's table, getting a massive haul of crap I'll probably never use. I have to run a Traveller campaign now, lest those books go to waste.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

NTRPGCon 2012 - Part III

More memorable names

After Norm had convinced me to buy Carcosa, he asked what I was doing for dinner. I told him the hotel bar was open and the kitchen would start serving food in an hour, so I suggested we get a beer. Norm bought the first round and began reading out of Carcosa, which made my already meager appetite nonexistent. I did end up ordering some food after a few beers, not really sure what it was. By this time I was drunk and it wasn't even 5:30PM. Around this time Erol Otus stepped up to the bar and ordered dinner, turned to me and said, "Didn't we play in a game together last year?"

If memory serves, I was quite drunk during that game which worked in my favor as alcohol-related memories are hard to retrieve unless inebriated. In other words, I was able to remember what he was talking about due to the booze. I think I said something stupid (just assume that's true in every case) and he laughed, probably at my condition, not the content of my words.

After finishing my beer, I headed back up to the room to drop off the games I had bought. Mike and Jason were there, perusing through the box of crap Jason had brought to sell at the con. Most of it was worthless (according to Mike), but he did buy a rather sizable portion of it. Jason offered an adult beverage, Mike refused, then I threatened to punch him if he did not take one before departing. I never got the sense that Mike was stupid, nor impolite, and he graciously accepted a mixed adult beverage, avoiding my rising belligerence fueled only by the love of whiskey.

As they were both going back downstairs, I decided to tag along, carrying a drink for someone else along with my own. There was a large, bald man who turned out to be Sandy Petersen in the main game room, boisterous and jovial. I didn't get a chance to talk to him, which is unfortunate as he was the author of many of my favorite games. My notes are completely illegible here, but I can only assume I was insanely drunk. There is a remark of interest: "@18.10 (I'm guessing 6:10PM) there won't be any VISUAL EXCITING." I say of interest because I haven't the faintest fucking clue what that means whatsoever.

I walked back into the main game room and saw Allan running his game. He asked if I wanted to play, and of course I said yes, even though I was wasted and have a habit of sucking at con games. Someone was leaving so I'd be taking over his character, a fighter of some sort. Easy enough to play even for an idiot like me. My notes for the game were made later and simply state, "Do not remember anything". I have a vague recollection of talking to Mike Stewart about random crap while the party was decimated by a gelatinous cube, and this year I didn't insult him to no end. I did offer to buy him a beer; he declined due to the unknown reaction of the beer with his elephant-grade prescription pain medication.

At some point I bought Allan a beer with the hopes that he'd let my character live; it worked. Somehow my fighter did not die and in fact made it out alive, a first for me in con games. Vague recollection of complaining about that, but I cannot be sure...

Steve Winter

If you don't already know who Steve Winter is, I'll be succinct and use his own words: "Yeah, I don't have my name on anything prominently, but my fingers were in everything." He DID co-write the Marvel RPG, which is braggable, and did a ton of stuff for TSR during the 80s as an editor. As anyone can tell you, an editor can make or break an author, and Mr. Winter by definition was/is a good editor. The products under his watch were pretty good. That said, he's an even better human being. One of the nicest, most outgoing people I met at the con, he was extremely positive, even talking to a drunken fool about the dumbest crap possible. At one point I offered to get him a beer, and he declined until the next day, so I made a mental note (and a note in my journal: Steve Winter: really cool, owe one beer). I did end up getting him that beer and he was thankful. He looks like somewhat Moby, the DJ guy, just a bit older, and that's alright.

Inevitable

What did you expect? A full day of hard drinking with hardly any food (or sleep) without shenanigans? Surely you jest! After talking to Mr. Winter for a while, the booze flowing like the Mississippi, which is to say slowly but in mass quantities, it was sure to happen: someone getting hurt. Unfortunately this time it was me. I will not say I was entirely without fault, threatening everyone in a playful way with fisticuffs. Personally I do not think I'm intimidating, but I can understand that sober individuals might not want to be fucked with by a drunken idiot who is physically stronger than he realizes. So it happened: I started goofing around and pushed Jason. He took none too kindly to this and ball-tapped me. The perfect shot. Holding a can of Miller High Life, I started to hit the deck, albeit very slowly. I tried to correct my descent to no avail, finally realizing I would be biting it momentarily. Thankfully, a large wooden bookshelf hit my temple, breaking my fall slightly; it careened over and dumped its contents on the floor with a loud thud. Sitting next to a pool of beer, holding a crushed can, I lamented my plight and possible brain injury as thousands of dollars of out-of-print materials were in danger of outright destruction. Doug picked up the books and the shelf, corrected the mess and asked me if I was okay. My only response was, "Ow my brain hurts". Or something to that effect. It was around 12:30 and I decided to tuck my tail between my legs, polish off the rest of my beer, and make my way to the room. Somehow I climbed into bed, both inebriated and concussed, into a slumber for the ages. I did wake up at some point to regurgitate the contents of my stomach (mostly beer) before passing out again until the morn. It is hazy, but I distinctly remember offering Doug $35 for a book that was damaged, as if that would cover the price. "That's why I put these things in plastic," he said, leaving out the implicit, "So fucking drunk morons don't destroy them." Again, what did you expect?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

NTRPGCon 2012 - Part II

A most excellent hotel

And by most excellent I mean most horrific. We arrived at the Bedford DFW Airport Area West Holiday Inn for the North Texas Roleplaying Game Convention at half past noon, give or take 5 minutes. Jason went to the front desk to check-in, but was told his room wasn't ready. As check-in time is usually 3PM, this wasn't entirely unexpected, but given that many people would be arriving from out of town for the con at the hotel, it was a bit suspect. We decided to head to lunch, even though my lunch plans were to lift weights. I was dropped off in front of LA Fitness with a bag of weightlifting equipment while Jason and Mack headed to a restaurant close by. One comment about the gym: the douchebag ratio was directly proportional to the hot girl ratio, and there were numerous hot girls if that tells you anything. We returned to the hotel around 2PM to attempt another check-in, this time Jason stating he was in fact a priority member with Holiday Inn after being told the room still wasn't ready. 10 minutes passed as the desk girl looked at her computer, and our denial to entry seemed eminent. She then informed Jason he could sign up again for free, which would allow us to go up to the room. That wasn't ready. The same room magically became available to us after Jason was a priority member in the system.

I'm not one to question the whim of a hotelier, but this hoop-jumping was a foreshadowing of things to come. I took a quick shower, changed clothes, and we headed down to the con. After drinking a few, of course. I hadn't eaten anything since noon the day before, but was not hungry in the least, thirsting only for alcohol. More foreshadowing...

Numerous faces

Drinks in hand, we saw Mike Badolato and Doug Rhea manning the desk area for NT12, and chatted with them for a bit. Mack and I got con badges and packets, then roamed around to see what we could see. Jason apparently had a lot of catching up to do with Mike and went back to the room. I did not question this hypothetical homosexual interlude, instead deciding to talk to Allan Grohe about not needing another copy of OSRIC. By this time I was feeling the effects but didn't let it stop my incoherent ramblings. Bill Barsh was hocking his wares and I made a comment or two, noticing the individual sitting at his booth: Frank Mentzer. Of course I had to say something, and Mr. Mentzer was nice enough to entertain me with a few stories before I left, seeking crap to buy. On the shelf was Adventurer Conquerer King, a game I have bitched about on this blog before. The book did look nice, though, and I picked it up. As an off-hand comment I said, who is Tavis Allison? Sitting only 10 feet away a man raised his hand, and made a statement to the affirmative that he matched that name. I asked why I should buy it, his answer being, "Because we're playing it now." $40! I wasn't going to spend $40 on one book, I thought. I only had $80 total to spend on gaming crap so wanted to look around a bit. Bought some con dice for no reason and a copy of Horror HERO for $3 because hey, why not?

Standing a few feet from me was a short, white haired man I had never met and Norm Harman, a guy who blows more money in the dealer room than me if that's even possible. Norm was trying to convince the man to buy Carcosa, that weird, pulp supplement previously for D&D, now for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. As has already been recorded, I ranted at length about LotFP last year, and full frontal male nudity, so getting Carcosa would be a hard sell. However, the arguments Norm made were pretty good, possibly better due to the rapidly increasing inebriation level I was experiencing at 4PM. I finally realized that the short man was none other than Steve Marsh and he was seriously contemplating buying the book. Not one to let some D&D author show me up, I decided to buy Carcosa if only to rub it in that old man's face. I grabbed the book, threw money at Doug and grinned smugly, having bested Mr. Marsh. WE KNOW MENTZER IS THE TRUE D&D EXPERT, SIR. Then I punched Tavis Allison in the face. That last part isn't strictly true, but apparently I wrote that down in my journal so I must report on it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

NTRPGCon 2012 - Part I

Last year when I posted my experiences at the North Texas Roleplaying Game Convention (I won't spell it out again, I promise), it was done in a rather haphazard manner, mostly because I just wrote down a list of things I remember occurring, hazy recollections due to alcohol abuse. This year the alcohol was in fact abused just as much but I thought ahead and decided to carry a journal around to record things as they happened. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately if you're into stream of consciousness writing), it took me a while to figure out half of what I wrote. Some of it is exceedingly detailed, some nothing more than a barely legible name followed by exclamation points. You can probably determine what parts were done sober and which under the influence...anyway, it took some time to go over all this stuff and make sense of it. That said, I plan to give a chronological account, in narrative form, of my time at the con, broken up into a few posts.

The Waffling

I had planned to attend NTRPGCon 2012 (okay, since I have to refer to this damn thing numerous times I'm just going to use NT12 from now on) after the one last year as I had a lot of fun. Unfortunately I never did get around to registering for it, figuring I could do it whenever I wished. Mistake one, preregistering means registering for games which means having an actual schedule of crap to do. Oddly enough, I didn't want to go to a gaming con to play games, mostly to just hang out with like-minded gamers and hear some good stories. Then some financial issues arose and I put off registration again and again. I always planned to go, figuring things would work out eventually. St. Patrick's Day, Jason Braun (a Special Guest at the con) were at a bar in fabulous downtown New Braunfels, TX, inebriated beyond all comprehension. Mack Harrison apparently showed up and we talked about the con, he expressed interest, and plans were made. We were all going to ride together in Jason's economical vehicle, saving everyone money and fostering nerd conversation along the way. Yeah, I didn't remember that at all until about two weeks ago when Jason mentioned it to me again when we were eating steaks in the same bar. The very one where I ate ghost chilies last year and lamented my intestinal health. NT12 was brought up, I said of course I'd go, done.

Maybe. I kept thinking about it: why would I want to go to that stupid con? I knew I couldn't register to play in any of the games I was interested in, couldn't spend a lot of money there and was more interested in watching basketball anyway. I asked Jason when he'd be leaving, when I should meet up with him to leave, he tells me, I then say I didn't know if I was going to go. A day later I got a windfall of cash which would be enough to buy crap in the dealers room and eat dinners. Would Jason be able to help me with alcohol during the trip? He made a statement to the affirmative, apparently having purchased two 1.5L of Jameson's. With the most important ingredient for a road trip provided, I had no excuses other than laziness and an anti-social attitude. Arrangements were made, and I arrived at Jason's place on Thursday night, ready to get up early in the morning and drive to DFW.

Preparation

I decided to pare down considerably from the previous year and took only a few books figuring any game I'd play in would be either D&D or the rules would be provided. Or the most likely situation: I'd buy them at the con. That was in backpack #1. In backpack #2, a much larger Adidas backpack with multiple large storage areas, there were clothes, toiletries, electronic devices, a .380 handgun and workout clothing, including knee-braces and athletic tape. The gun because I never go on a trip without it and also because I live in Texas. That second part makes sense to Texans, and any reading this post are probably wondering why I even bothered with a token explanation. The workout clothes are most likely more interesting to gamers, so I'll explain that part. Since Jason was going to depart early Friday morning and I didn't want to lift weights at the crack of dawn before driving to his house, I called the hotel and was informed they had a "fitness facility" on the premises. Knowing full well what sorts of fitness facilities hotels are known to have, I found out I could just get a guest pass at an LA Fitness two miles away. I figured when we got to the hotel, we'd check in, I'd change into my gear, Jason and Mack could drop me off and eat lunch, done. It's probably a fair guess that I was one of the few people who would be attending the con worried about missing a powerlifting workout.

As part of the pre-trip festivities, Jason and I sampled some of the Jameson's, ensuring quality and the accuracy of its ABV. I am still of the opinion that it is vastly underrated at 80 proof given my proclivity for idiotic behavior when drinking it. That night I got no sleep on his couch, for a variety of reasons, but I wasn't complaining. I woke up tired, hungover, ready for a four hour car trip to the con. As part of my role as the girl on the trip, I requested we stop by HEB so I could buy a few jugs of distilled water before leaving town. We picked up Mack, loaded his gear, and began our trek up I-35, the sound of nerdy gamer chatter drowning out the road noise.