Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Followers widget gone?

I just noticed that the Followers widget seems to be broken. Anyone else noted it and have a solution? Blogger is, as usual, really wonky sometimes.

I am not not involved in "following" blogs myself (I have zillions of them on my Bloglines reading list, though. I'm rebuilding the blog roll, but it takes time), since it seems to be mostly a tool usable when reading blog in the google reader, which I don't use.

But, I appreciate all my regular readers and followers, and it sucks to have a widget that wont work, right?

Lists, always lists - this is how I roll

What the heck, I give in. It's fun with lists
  1. Ability scores generation method? 3d6, in order
  2. How are death and dying handled? PC dies at 0
  3. What about raising the dead? Sure, but I'd like a cap on it, financial or something like System Shock roll. Implementation would be depending on campaign world.
  4. How are replacement PCs handled? Maybe they belong the the adventurer's guild, maybe they meet in a bar? Depend on the character.
  5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else? I like it individually
  6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work? Yeah, I like those. Best way is to narrate something problematic (good or bad) at a roll of max/min.
  7. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet? Sure, that's why you wear them, right?
  8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly? If you do something stupid, people will get hurt.
  9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything? I'm not running a super hero game, 'nuff said.
  10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no? Depends. Well, yeah.
  11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death? Probably, yes.
  12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked? I'd like them in theory, but have not yet tried Lotfp, so I have rarely had the energy to bother.
  13. What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time? In T&T, it happens on the spot, other old school games I'd say you need to get back to civilization.
  14. What do I get experience for? Acting in the game. Explore, kill, loot and making us laugh.
  15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination? Mainly description, but supplemented with rolls.
  16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work? There are people to hire if the players care. Morale is like a save, when something bad happens they might run.
  17. How do I identify magic items? The Omnipotent Eye
  18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions? Sure, potions are for sale. It wont be cheap.
  19. Can I create magic items? When and how? No. Well, yes, but I might give them drawbacks that you will have to take or leave it.
  20. What about splitting the party? Do you want to split the party? Go ahead.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Another take on how to influence characters, PC and NPC

I just found this quite interesting blog post. It ties into those posts of mine about using social interaction to influence PCs. Maybe if you can't change the player character, change the world.


Monday, February 27, 2012

A small Rolemaster hack

I am running a Call of Cthulhu campaign, just generated a character for a 3rd ed D&D game, have a play by post S&W character kind of still in play and an active play by mail De Profundis character. Guess what? I know had my brain bounce unto another game. Gamer ADD...

Savage Worlds is a game where they explicitly in the book tell you not to invent new stuff for it when adapting it to another setting. Since I have been there myself (WH40k, for those who are curious), I can confirm that that is sound advice. The stats are the same in all settings, the skills are the same and most of the Edges and Hindrances are the same. What do differentiates are the so called Trappings, and some specific setting and flavour enhancing Edges. I kind of like this idea, and I guess it makes sense for most people who had played a bunch of D&D characters who actually differed very slightly from the others within the same class and level.

So, I know that I never managed to feel comfortable with the skill list in Rolemaster 2nd ed. It was something like 15 skills, and they were very general. You did have the optional so called Secondary Skills, which on the other hand in some cases was ridiculously specialized. I guess the line developers thought something similar when they developed 3rd ed which had something more like a 100 skills! Maybe you could combine old school Rolemaster with the Savage Worlds way of thinking?

What I'm thinking of is to make each of the Professions in RM each give you a few of those Secondary Skills and differentiators, just like the setting specific Edge in a Savage Worlds game makes that character with the same skills different from another character in another setting. It is the same line of thinking that lies behind the old school feats suggestion (which might or might not be a popular idea. I got many visitors to the blog that day, but few comments...) of making two level 2 fighters be different somehow.

The question is of course if I managed to develop the idea before I get interested in another game...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What's important in D&D3 - what I (apparently) thought back then

I took out my D&D3 books yesterday, since I made a new character. I also found that I had put small coloured tabs on some sections of the book, like you can see below:

What was it that I found crucial to find when I played this edition every week? Let's take a look.

This is nothing odd. This is the go to list once you get back from the dungeon and want to stock up on something. I also clearly remember that I often used it as a gauge to invent costs for oddities the characters wanted to get

Miscellaneous Actions
Beyond that innocuous phrase lies the biggest turd of the 3rd ed. The tables lists which actions are a Standard Action, Full-Round and Free Actions. While you can see where they came from when designing that, the fact that you had a table covering a whole page delineating which was was indicates it quickly got unwieldy. I've been told the revised edition even added a few classes of actions. I think there are two good ways to design things like that. Either roll a die, or say that you can each turn do three things like attack, dodge or Something Else(tm). Another thing this table was used for, was to list which of these actions provoked Attacks of Opportunity. Oh, how I hate those. In theory a great idea, but it forces you to use a battlemap and slows down play as there are constant interrupts from AoO. Can you do them well? I'm not sure. If you, e.g., let everyone take a "parting shot", you discourage a fluid field of combat, even if you can Dodge out of it. I'm not sure it's a good idea at all.

When 3rd ed was released, they did like TSR did for 1st ed. they released the books in different years, and there was a small summary in the back of the PHB of magic items and monsters so you could play with just the PHB. In theory, a good idea. That do sound like a often repeated phrase when talking about 3rd ed, doesn't it? I had a tab on the page where the index started, since you could just start flipping from the back cover. Always include an index in your rule book, and if you have an appendix, but if before the index. Ok?

This is the tables for generating treasure. You can roll to find how much is coins, magic items, jewels and how many tapestries sewn with gold thread. I used this a few times, more than once, actually. But, I have a vague recollection of the numbers being screwy in some way. Also, on this page is the big brain fart, expected wealth per level. Bollocks, I say!

Quick reference tables for just about everything. In theory this was a good idea (ahem), but I don't think I ever looked at this, since I was always flipping through the books to find something else and then the tables was always nearby anyway.

This is one part where I felt 3rd ed. was inventive in a way I could appreciate. You match up the party average level against a rating for the encounter and see how much of a hindrance it is for that party, and you get XP accordingly. I liked the idea of a measly bunch of 2nd level dudes killing a dragon and scoring big, while the name level knight got nothing for killing kobolds. It felt like a more elegant solution than having different amount of XP per monster and it did take into account the mixed party levels. Neat math, simply. Nothing said you had to match party level and monster rating...

Encounter Levels and Challenge Ratings. This is another thing which in some circles have caught a lot of flak. I like it. Even if you think that the dangers are there, and not scaled to you, I still think it's good to know as a DM of what to expect. I have no idea wiping out a party with a jumbo monster if they are too stupid to run, but I'd like it to happen because I planned it, not because I had no idea of what I was doing! I'm not very good at crunching the math and understanding what happens if I add another gnoll, or decide to reinforce them with a hill giant. Just look at a table and you have some idea. Nothing forces you to scale things to the party level...

Slime molds & fungi
So why did I put a label here? Because those monsters/threats are icky, gooey and very classic? Nothings screams dungeon as a patch of mould. Interestingly enough, there's also a table with spells found in magic traps on that page. I'm not sure if I ever used that. Quite a difference if you roll on that table and get a 2 or a 63. The chest wasn't trapped with an Alarm, it was Power word, Kill. Great!

NPC traits
In theory... well. This is a table I never used. I think I just made it up on the spot, or had NPCs be dispensers of information or there to be killed. Advanced, eh? I like the idea of tables like that, though.

I think in all that it's clear that I like random tables, and that the big EL, CR, XP scheme talked to me. Frankly, it's one of the things I think T&T is missing. I am not happy to be reminded of AoO, but who is?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

ToC - Drives. Free will, again?

I just thought of something.

You know that Dirve your character has in Trail of Cthulhu? It's there to give the Keeper something to point to and prod you with to go head first into danger. Right? According to the rules you take a penalty to enforce your free will as a player, and not act in line with the character psychology you have on your sheet.

That sounds a lot like things I was pondering in my posts about free will. Sure, it does not involve NPCs or other PCs influencing your PC, but the Keeper. Interesting territory, indeed.

I don't think I have seen anyone comment upon them in that light. In my CoC games I have not yet remembered to use them! Interesting.

Friday, February 24, 2012

D&D character generation. Return of an old... friend?

So, tonight I made my first new D&D character in a while! Some friends of a friend have been playing in a campaign for the last five or six years, and now they had an opening. Never being one to pass an opportunity to play, I jumped at it.

Have you made a character in 3rd ed. D&D recently? I can tell you I haven't. I bought the book when they were new, never got on the revised bandwaggon, and ran a campaign for some years. I don't even remember how long time it was! Five years? Three?

I at once felt how some things in that game didn't make sense, already at the character generation step. Many skills are kind of wonky, and the cross class system is clunky. Also, the feat tree is something of a mess. The fact that I got to generate a level 8 character to be on par with the rest of the party might have made it fiddlier than usual, though.

Tinkerer as I am, I started thinking how you could streamline things. How about you take out the hierarchical system for the feats, making it all flat? How about you remove some skills like Use Rope and Escape Artist and merge agile manoeuvres into a few sensible skills, and social interaction skills into active and passive ones? There are many loose ends to start pulling on! I still really like the idea of metamagical feats, though.

I ended up with a multi-classed human Rogue 3/Wizard 5 character. It will be interesting to see how it feels in play!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The question of free will - part two

So, I started off with the situation where a PC want to convince a NPC to to do something. Let's now look at the much thornier issue, influencing a PC.

To begin with, can they do it? It's very easy to say that since that would rob a player of his free will, it can't be done. But, once again we have the question of how to model in a game the situation of a player with very limited social skills playing a character that is a fast talker. How do you do it?

I can see the argument that this is not part of the game. If someone like to play a smooth talker he should talk the talk. If it's not stats, AC or HP it is in the domain of the player. I don't agree. Also, someone might say that skills can do a lot, and it's ok to use Charm as a skill to make a NPC do something, but that it is not applicable to player characters. I don't agree.

The way I see it, if there are skills in the game for social interaction, they are to be used for social interaction! If you start to exclude some characters from effects of the game system, then the next step of course is to exclude the Boss monster or the NPC crucial for the story the GM has planned.

Yeah, I know I couldn't help myself. I slipped that one in. Deal with "story" another time. For now, just accept it exist.

Anyway. I was saying? Yeah, plot immunity. So, I think it makes more sense to have everyone in the game be affected by social interaction skills. Also, remember all those moments when the dice fell like they did and you talked about it for weeks? Now it can happen in more ways than combat! In addition, having your character be affected by an intimidation attempt will probably make that character behave like it really would, not like you would. That is, after all, what roleplaying is about. Regardless if you like to speak in funny voices or use your character like a chess piece, I might add.

So, if anyone can be charmed and intimidated I suggest everyone have skills to counter and handle such issues. Ideally you would have some influence over the way your character behaves, I'm not urging you to abandon that wholly. Instead, if there is a trait to roll for a specific kind of social interaction, that can also be used to defend against it. Needless to say, I think these should be capabilities that all characters should have.

To give you an idea of what this could mean, I present TORG as an example.

In TORG everyone have stats, skills and a set of numbers for Approved Actions. those are Maneuver, Trick, Test, Taunt and Intimidate. Those are all classes of actions that show up on those fancy cards you play to jazz up scenes in the game. Charm, Persuasion and Intimidate have their own chapter in the rules, and all these abilities are resolved on a specific chart, showing the result of the attempt. I think that even if you don't have a game system where there are cards in play, the idea of having these actions be clear and present options in every moment at the table is a great. Everyone has the abilities, everyone can defend against them, and everyone is always reminded that apart from rolling to whack that guy over the head I can also use these abilities. I think it suggests a more interesting and varied play experience.

This is becoming a very long post, I have not yet said anything about how to implement it in a game that is not TORG. Let's see if it can be done.

AD&D is in the air

[edit: The cover on the page I linked to, when I posted this, looked different than it does now. It was using the Trampier demon idol, changed around a bit. Thanks to Greylond for bringing it too my attention.]

I just browsed issue #183 of Knight of the Dinner Table, since I just came home from the local comic shop. In it was an ad for the upcoming "advanced" Hackmaster PHB. Guess how the cover looks like? I have no idea if it's a mock-up or the real deal, but let me say it sure is there to invoke nostalgia.

So, this makes me think of Hackmaster, WotC and AD&D. There's no secret that WotC wants to have the old gamers back. Whether they will succeed, nobody knows. But, reprinting AD&D sure is a good way to flirt with nostalgia. I do wonder why they did such a moronic thing as to limit the sales, though. If they really wanted all old gamers back, they would have sold as many as they could, right? Well, maybe not if they want anyone to by 5th ed. aybe they think that those guys have gotten their fix, and the rest have to buy 5th ed...

Poor us.


I'm thinking that Hackmaster, since it's also using the same AD&D nostalgia thing, might be a better choice for the rest of us. I have read Hackmaster Basic (but have not made a review, since I really couldn't make a review without lot of whining, and that's boring) and in some respects I can see that game as a successor to AD&D. It's filled with fiddly bits, and could work decently as a generic fantasy system in a way that, SRD and all those OGL games withstanding, 3rd ed never was. There are even parts there that are obnoxious and makes no sense, just like 1st ed.

So, is this a love letter to Kenzer and their Hackmaster line? No, not really. I have never played AD&D and many parts of it I find outright bizarre, and like I said I never managed to write a Hackmaster review that was very positive.

But, AD&D is in the air. Right now you see that Trampier cover every way you turn. I'm thinking that someone are right in line with the current. I wish them luck.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The question of free will - part one

I saw a new episode show up in the feed from Happy Jacks rpg podcast and downloaded greedily to devour my new favourite show. It turned out that it was a few days too early, and due to a hiccup in the feed, it was an episode from season two that showed up. I listened to it anyway, and not only was it as good as the last episodes, the guys talked about an issue which I find interesting and am thus going to post on. It is the question of to what extent you are allowed to influence other characters in the game, regardless of they are played by a player or the GM. Let's dive into it.

So, let's say you want your PC to convince the guard to let you in to the castle, how do you do it?

  • 1. You roll your skill roll for bluff/persuade
  • 2. You bring out your thespian skills and make it sound good. The GM then let it succeed if it was convincing/funny/dramatic appropriate enough.
  • 3. You bring out your thespian skills, and the GM then gives you a bonus/penalty for the bluff/persuade skill roll.
  • 4. You convince the GM that it would make sense for the character you are playing to succeed in these circumstances.

There might be more variants, but those illustrate some different approaches to the problem.

1. The issue here is that it is pure game mechanics and player skill and immersion is severely limited. The good thing is, this helps a socially disadvantaged person play a suave bard, or what not. That is one of the reasons we play make believe with dice after all, to be somebody else.

2. The issue here is obviously that it is all down to social skills, intangibles like friendship with the GM and all possible issues of power play at the social level. Also, this is the territory in which the free form pretentiousness dwells, beware.

3. This looks like a middle of the road choice from the two above, right? Some immersion, some feedback from the game system and both gamers and thespians gets to play to their strengths. I like this option.

4. This is kind of the social douche bag version of option one. It's what can happen if you have no game mechanic to fall back upon, and you try to rely on player skill but there are only rules lawyers and people playing the rules around. This as bad as option two, I think.

Now let's consider something more complicated. Imagine a player wishing to influence another player character. How do you handle that?

I have some ideas, which I will post next.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Making deities matter

I just browsed the Players Guide for the 3rd ed setting Kingdoms of Kalamar. In the chapter on clerics it had some options I found interesting. Those who have followed me through the years know I have a soft spot for KoK, and this was something I felt could be imported to other games.

You know how clerics can turn undead? In newer editions of D&D, that it because the channel some kind of positive energy from their god. That sounds kind of iffy to me, but you can take the concept and run with it.

If your cleric is channeling power from the gods when casting spells (from a spell list that is mostly identical to all), why not take one effect that conceptualize the area of influence of that god, and make that a power of the cleric?

So, a cleric of the god of merchants should be able to channel the power of smooth talking, charming or something similar. A cleric of the god of death should be able to somehow be more deadly once in a while. A cleric of the god of love could... Well, you get the idea.

How about that?

You could make it happen on a d20 lower than the character level, on a 1 in 6 or just once every session. Scalable to every power setting. Also, if the death channeler just gets +1 dmg or kills outright is also one of those "setting dials". Even a +1 could be fun. Everyone likes to be somewhat special.

You say it sounds like those fiddly "daily" powers from my post on old school "feats"? Yeah, it will take some bookkeeping unless you make it happen just once every session. Everyone should be able to remember if they have used their power this night, unless very drunk while gaming, right?

Then you could just tweak the spell list to be unique for every god/temple/whatever. I think the power channeling idea is more fun, though.

Monday, February 20, 2012

I hate captchas!

Blogger must have upgraded their captchas or something. Now every time I want to comment on a blog I have to try two times to get the damn words through. I hate it.

It's very ironic that these days when captchas don't stop computers any more (the spam software is "good" enough these days), it does stop humans from communicating.


What game for puzzle gamers?

I guess everyone have heard that what you do in D&D is "kill monsters and take their stuff"? I wont get into the truthfulness of that statement, but I will focus on the idea that some games suit a certain kind of game, and maybe certain scenarios.

If you are a gamer who likes to fight things, I think you would be happy if your DM brought of any of the Giant, or G, series of modules for AD&D. Lots of fights, and lots of different environments and locales that give the fights some different character. An example for T&T would be the excellent solo Arena of Khazan. It is all about fighting in an arena, and it's much more fun than it sounds like. Well, if you like me is not that interested in combat.

Now, I guess anyone who knows about Trail of Cthulhu knows that it's a game for those gamers who likes investigations. Even stronger than Call of Cthulhu it focuses on how clues fit together, hinting at arcane mysteries. While I have played very few ToC scenarios, maybe the oldie Shadows of Yog-sothoth can work as an example of such a scenario.

Are there more kinds of gamers and games? I won't get into the narrative or thespian discussion, but instead shortcut to a kind of game that I was reminded by yesterday.

A few years back I ran a D&D3 campaign, running some old AD&D modules with the 3rd ed. rules. I wanted to try what Necromancer Games called "Third edition rules, first edition feel". When we played one of the A series, A2 more precisely, a very peculiar scene unfolded. There were a pile of broken wagons, and carts, in the module. There were also piles of coins, not easily transportable. Guess what happened when one of my players figured out what could be done with the spell Mend? Curiously enough, one of my players brandishing the table of expected wealth by level declared that they had gotten "too much money"! One player was smart, and outwitted me and another player started a heated argument about it.

Yeah, I know. What a mess, eh?

Apart from the fact that the player protesting was way to occupied with the spectres of balance and level appropriate, there's something else going on here.

What was it that the guy did who got the idea of using Mend? Well, it was smart playing, of course. I would not call it good roleplaying, since it did not really related to acting all that much like a character in a secondary world, but it was playing the game. As a game. I'd call that kind of play a puzzle play. Please note that it's not forensics or investigation, like on ToC or CoC. It's building stuff, re-using scraps and pieces. It's all about being MacGyver, and saving the day with a piece of string and some Duck tape.

How do you facilitate that kind of play? What kind of examples are there out there of games where you can do that a lot, or scenarios where it's bound to happen?

I'm not sure you can plan for it, but I'm thinking that there might be something that makes these things happen, and I'm not seeing it. A few more times before that campaign folded, the same player constructed mechanical ways to defuse traps and other odd things. Multiple times he was kind fo stumped by the fact that neither I as DM, not the other players, understood even what he was trying to do. I think, but am not sure, that this is a very specialized kind of sandbox play. Put some oddities out there and see what they build. But, I have no idea how to do stuff like that...

I'd like to make more thing like that happen. Any stories of such shenanigans or suggestions for how to facilitate it? Feel free to comment.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How to do a a good rpg podcast

I have now listened to a few podcasts, and I think I have some ideas of things to do, and not to do, just from a lot of exposure. I don't claim the list is exhaustive, or that you can't make a good 'cast without, but it will be better if you think of a few of these points. That's my belief.

  • If you have a guest on - make sure you ask that person questions relevant to their expertise. Try asking about what makes their game special, if they are a game designer. Make sure they talk more than you do. Bring on Luke Crane, that will teach you. :)
  • If you have an "open table" discussion on a topic, figure out how someone could argue from certain points of view and then try to address those. Don't just think out loud and then go "I don't know". If you don't know, or feel like taking a stance in order to further the discussion, keep shut.
  • If you have a hard time pronouncing stuff, take a moment before the show to talk it over with your co-hosts. If you have nobody, ask a colleague or your wife! Figure something out, and stick with it.
  • Don't think you know what it means that something is free on the web. Copyright is a word you should not even mention unless you have read up on how things work! If you don't know how the OGL works, ask someone who have published a retro clone. They are often knowledgeable and willing to share their knowledge.
  • Have sections or "columns" with some kind of audio separator. Fix up a quick bumper, and have someone be "editor" for that section. Just a couple a friends rambling back and forth for two hours gets tiring. 
  • Don't state anything about a game being in print, using a specific system or any other fact about games unless you have checked it. If you are unsure, look it up on wikipedia/google/whatever while your co-hosts keeps talking. Otherwise mention that you don't know and check it afterwards and put it in the show notes.
Those are some hints. Most are not hard, but there are reasons why I mention it!

Many podcasts out there are great. I recommend you look around and sample some. My two biggest favourites, right now, are Roll For Initiative and Happy Jacks RPG Podcast. They are very different from each other!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Old Traveller adventures - the emptiness of space

I recently bought the Mongoose edition of Traveller, as you might remember me mentioning before. It is a good game, and a fun read. Now I have brought som eof my other Traveller stuff out of storage as well, browsing it since the mind is full of Traveller anyway. You know what? I think I'm seeing a trend in these adventures.

A classic Traveller adventure is describing a locale, either a space ship or a planet. There is usually a task to be done, and some hindrances in the way.

Does that sound familiar? I noted another thing. Quite often the party is stuck in this research outpost, APC, starship, desert, jungle, whatever and need to use their tools to get out alive. More often than not there are rules for how to handle the environment and/or the technology at hand.

I'm missing something.

This setup there's the party, and this locale. That's it. Who the hell are you supposed to interact with?

If you look at classic D&D adventures, there are always NPCs. Remember Lareth? Remember the nutty lich in D2? Remember the zoo of factions in the Caves of Chaos? Space is empty in comparison.

I think I've found out why I so often fail at making science fiction games fun. Space just is too big, cold and empty.

Gender, gaming, are you serious?

How the hell can you make such a fuzz over such a thing?

You think the old AD&D contained boatloads of stupid stuff? I sure think so. Ignore it! Nobody used all that stuff anyway. If they did, we had more fun than them. Wrongbadfun, right?

You think WotC must|must not include whatever such moronic stuff in their new game? Well, who cares about that Type V thing, when we have the old stuff, right? Right?

And if you are a moronic misogynistic twit, I will just ignore you.

The 'net is full of idiots. Ignore them.

Friday, February 17, 2012

More T&T resources!

I don't know if any reader of this blog have missed them, but if you have I think you should check out to nice resources for Tunnels & Trolls.

First, wander over to Tavernmaster Games and have an ale. Behind the fancy name and beautiful website you'll find well known writers and artists. Personally I find Andy Holmes adventures to be excessively brutal, but even accounting for differing taste, it's quality stuff!

Second, I hope you know about the T&T fanzine, TrollsZine? The latest issue, number four, is out. Many pages of interesting stuff. It's a bit like Fight On! in that's it's a mix of everything. Check it out!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Call of Cthulhu on rails

So, we played another session on CoC last weekend. It was the second of two sessions covering the scenario Blood on the Tracks by J. Todd Kingrea from the Pagan Publishing scenario collection Out of the Vault.

The scenario is basically a train ride on a train hijacked by a monster. The intent is to have a feeling of being locked in, of having someone around hunting you for mysterious reasons. I think it is an interesting set up. I'll do a short summary of events and then talk about what went well and what didn't.

So, our investigators left Boston for New Orleans, following the letter our intrepid reported had gotten from her old friend there. Everyone settled in and talked to the other travellers and had dinner on the train. After dinner and cigars most people retired to their rooms, some for "medical tonics for better sleep". Suddenly the peace was shattered when the priest yelled at the top of his lungs that he had seen the conductor run out from Ms Browns compartment, all bloody. The brave investigators broke down the door to the washroom and found the dead conductor.

They spent the night doing autopsies (good with a MD in the group, eh?), examining the blood trail and searching staterooms. Sooner or later the professor of anthropology they had talked to was missing and they started a search, finding him stuffed in a box in the baggage car. By now they all suspected some vampiric activity, considering the blood was missing. They did find, and open, the big crate in the baggage car. Interestingly enough, this lead to the conclusion that Sir Alexander's wife must be a vampire!

Now they had noticed that the radio was smashed and that communications with the engine was down. Our war hero decided it was time for more pulp hero antics and climbed over to the engine via the coal box! He had his big gun with him and managed to blow the two living corpses away. Then there was a fight in the railroad car with the vampire and his acolyte. They ran down the whole train and the fight ended in the baggage car with a stake through the heart of the vampire. Then they had managed to slow down the train and had a lot of explaining to do when the authorities arrived.

So, how was it? Well. I more than once used the guidelines from Unknown Armies about 30-50% being professional level and had everyone with that level automatically succeed at crucial checks like in Trail of Cthulhu. I never had anyone need to be pushed by their Drive into action. Also, I actually forgot to check if anyone's Pillar of Sanity was threatened when they rolled for SAN. The latter was a failing on my part.

Mood wise I think it worked ok. Having one after another being killed off did heighten the sense of being hunted somewhat. I think the fact that things were moving along a pace determined by the villain was a good thing. It meant that even though the investigation could inform the decisions of the players, nothing had to stop because they didn't figure it all out. In fact, I don't think they ever did. The fact that guns are so deadly in close quarters made any gunfight slightly lopsided. I rolled really bad on my part and every second (no, really!) shot fired was an impale! Maybe you need to have a mix of "gun fodder" and some nasty mythos critters to drive home how useless guns are against those.

One of my house rules that will come to matter is how I handle SAN recovery. The doctor who did the autopsies and with reckless abandon ran after the vampire with his hunting rifle did suffer. He gained a temporary insanity and how have this thing for cleanliness. It will affect his work, I gather. But, more importantly he lost 8 SAN which he will never get back. They ended up with a train filled with bloody murder, corpses and guns had been fired. No chance of plausible denial there, so no SAN recovery even though they defeated the monster. That rule will colour this campaign!

Now they will arrive in New Orleans and there are cults, murders and monsters up ahead. I can't wait.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A really good piece of advice on game mastering

Al over at Beyond The Black Gate posted something really good that I just had to share, in the hope somebody reads it that hadn't otherwise. I'll quote the juicy bits.

Lets say, for instance, the party is battling trolls. One of the players, in the midst of combat, wishes to light a torch and start burning troll bits to stop a defeated troll from regenerating back up into the fray. In a "DM vs. Players" scenario, the DM would most likely be inclined to favor getting "his" troll back into action to whup up on the PCs some more, and tell the player its going to take a couple of rounds to light the torch, a couple more rounds to effectively burn troll bits, and all the while suffering the undefended attacks by the remaining trolls.

Unfortunately, what this DM is actually doing is punishing creative play. "Get back to unimaginatively rolling 'to hit' and damage", he might as well say, "or you're going to get pounded on."
Read that again. While it might be tempting to squash that irritating player, god knows I have done it myself!, it is really crucial not to. 

That's some really good advice there for how to be a better DM/GM/whatever.

Say yes!

Are feats that uninteresting?

Amazing. I had a big peak in readership when I posted about my take on FrDaves old school feats, but only one guy left a comment. Odd.

I wonder if there's a flame war going on somewhere that I'm missing...


I think they look cool anyway.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Old School feats - my take

In a post some while back, FrDave posted his ideas about how to spice up the use of stats in old school D&D by some "feats" for those with exceptional stats. I liked the idea of some extra ability that set just that level 2 fighter apart from the dozen next to him in line at the dungeon entrance. Stats mean very little in earlier editions, and while I think the way it works in, say 1st ed AD&D, is a a bit excessive I still think some more use could be had out of them.

Here are my lists for "old school" feats.

This is build for the B/X edition of D&D, with a +1 for 13-15, +2 for 16-17 and +3 for 18 in a stat. The reverse applies for stats lower than 8.

  • STR - 1-3 times a day, the fighter attack may stun an opponent who must make a save or dazed only defend himself.
  • INT - Once a day, you can find and exploit a flaw of the opponent. Adjust his and/or your AC up or down 1-3 points.
  • WIS - 1-3 times a day the fighter can feint an opponent, who then looses his next action.
  • DEX - 1-3 times a day, a successful attack may disarm an opponent.
  • CON - 1-3 extra HP added at character generation.
  • CHA - daily an intimidate attempt may be made, and 1-3 bonus gained to one to hit roll.
Magic-User (repost from Blood of Prokopius)
  • STR - 1-3 spells per day have their durations doubled.
  • INT - 1-3 spells with variable effects are maximized.
  • WIS - 1-3 spells may be spontaneously cast in place of memorized spell of equal or lower level.
  • DEX - 1-3 spells with an area effect have it doubled.
  • CON - may use 1-3 weapons or armour chosen at character generation not normally available. Leather must be the first choice and no heavier than chain.
  • CHA -  1-3 spells a day require two successful saves.

  • STR - thrown weapons gets +1-3 damage
  • INT - 1-3 times a day the thief manoeuvre himself so to grant initiative for his side. Ignore the dice.
  • WIS - daily the thief may push and shove enemies in a fight, granting +1-3 to one attack/save on a friendly side.
  • DEX - 1-3 times a day, an attempt at sleight of hand will automatically succeed.
  • CON - 1-3 times a day you get +1 to a save of your choice.
  • CHA - you can tell 1-3 totally convincing lies each day.
  • STR - 1-3 times a day, you can re-roll a to hit or damage for one ranged attack.
  • INT - 1-3 bonus once a day to find hidden things.
  • WIS - once a day, your sixth sense will warn you of impending danger, on a roll of [1-3] in a six.
  • DEX - one fight a day, you get 1-3 bonus to AC.
  • CON - 1-3 bonus to any save, once a day.
  • CHA - 1-3 times a day, you may sing a silly song gaining a 1-3 morale bonus for the whole party.
  • STR - if an opponent if of a faith directly opposing your own, you may once a day smite the unbeliever for 1-3 extra damage.
  • INT - 1-3 memorized spells may be swapped out for a healing spell of equal or lower level, at will.
  • WIS - once a day, turning attempts will affect 1-3 extra targets.
  • DEX - 1-3 spells of variable area of effect is doubled once a day.
  • CON - daily after a short prayer, the cleric will regain 1-3 HP.
  • CHA - the true intentions of 1-3 individuals with whim he has conversed will be revealed by the cleric's god.
  • STR - once a day, you get 1-3 bonus to a save against spells with physical effects.
  • INT - 1-3 times a day, a spell cast will be retained in memory.
  • WIS - on a [1-3] in 6, small woodland creatures will give you warnings of dangers and happening in the wild you are travelling through.
  • DEX - 1-3 rounds a day the elf may shoot twice in combat.
  • CON - 1-3 days an adventure the elf may survive without sleep/food or water.
  • CHA - on a 1 in 6 the elf might know, once a day, a snippet of knowledge of greater or lesser relevance to the adventure at hand.
  • STR - 1-3 attacks a day will not only harm, but also stun the target into loosing their next action.
  • INT - may identify the make and/or source of gems and precious metals, on a [1-3] roll in six once a day.
  • WIS - once a day 1-3 spells of the dwarfs level or lower will not affect him.
  • DEX - when an enemy falls for your axe, you may 1-3 times a day immediately roll to also attack the closest enemy.
  • CON - 1-3 days a week, the dwarf may drink any amount of alcohol without passing out.
  • CHA - once a day, saves against any fear effect will get a 1-3 bonus for everyone within 10' of the steady dwarf. 

So what say you? I think these can be used to great effect to make that character of yours stand out a bit from the rest, without degenerating into super heroics of a kind not fitting for B/X.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Game giveaway

Now I have rearranged stuff on my selves, and some of the stuff I have put aside to one day put up on eBay have showed up. I'm sick of them.

The first person(s) who send me an email (i.e. the one that ends up higher in my sorted inbox) and agree to pay shipping costs (from Sweden) gets these for nuthin.

  1. Rippers - the horror wars : It's a minis game based on Savage Worlds
  2. Tales of the Reaching Moon #13 : a great Glorantha fanzine, this issue is a special about the West. I already have a copy.
Email away.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A lack of commenting ability

It seems like whatever I do, I can't comment on blogs that use blogger, and have a comment box beneath the comments. Like mine. It seems like I can't use my google account, only OpenID. Very annoying. If anyone have any hints, feel free to suggest them! I am using Firefox v10 and it was the same with v9. I would have stayed with 3.6 sites had not started bug me about upgrading. Not your business, bud! Anyway, I can tried clearing a cookies and restarting to no effect. *sigh*

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Gaming in the slow lane

Now I have sent off my first letter in a De Profundis game. This will be interesting. I have tried gaming by forum and that is too slow to be fun. I wonder how physical letters will feel?

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