Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Spud Daddies

image by Ginger Troll via Flickr
Spud Daddies are giant Tatermen that have been modified (willingly or not) with heavy-duty Bioniks to work as guards or to fight in the Blenders.

Rank 4-9
Body: 11
Mind: 3
Spirit: 2
Skills: 5
BP: 22
Special Weapon (choose one)
+8 plus 3in6 chance of setting target on fire (+4 damage per round until extinguished)
-Drillbit or Chainblade +10
-Charge Cannon +12. Can only fire every d4 rounds
+6 Punch
-2d6(roll once to determine)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Everything is a Remix ...

... so it seems, is complaining about how there is nothing new under the sun.

A Fighter, a Thief and a Mage Walk into a Tavern

This is awesome. BFX is running The Third Level Tomb of Horrors Challenge with his players. I can't wait to see how far they get!

The Enchiridon

I’ve wanted to do this for a while; systematically going through each Adventure Time with Finn and Jake episode, and generating stats for the fantastic creatures, items and people in the series. I’ll be doing it for three different systems!

Questamundo (my homebrew system)
TWERPS (The World’s Easiest RPG) and
D&D Basic (Red Box)

Hey, it’s not the kind of stuff that works in everyone’s campaign, but it certainly works in mine.

Episode: Pilot/Adventure Time

Any character wearing a sweater is immune to effects of normal cold. They still take full damage from magical cold.

Snow Golem
Snow Golems are sometimes created by wizards inhabiting high mountains or Polar Regions to be used as guardians to their lairs. If their creator passes away or forgets about them, the golem will eventually become autonomous, at which point their alignment and temperament will become randomly determined.

Snow Golems can only be harmed by magical weapons. They are also completely immune to cold based attacks, though they can be temporarily blinded by a well-thrown snowball. They take double damage from heat/fire based attacks.

D&D Basic
Armour Class: 7
Hit Dice: 50
Attacks: 2
Damage: 2d10
Number Appearing: 1
Save as: Fighter 5
Alignment: Neutral

Rank: 5-10
Body: 15
Mind: 2
Spirit: N (equal to rank if autonomous)
BP: 40
Alignment: Neutral
Damage: +6
Armour: -6

STR: 15
-Strong. Immune to cold based attacks.

Some Awesome Indy Art

lots more by Mathew Reyolds at deviantART

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Roman and Irish Curses

Romans would inscribe curses on lead tablets. While the Irish and Scots would turn a stone. Both make for excellent dungeon trap ideas don'tcha think? via the History blog.

The Death of Genre and the Stagnation of Geek Culture.

This goes on for a lot longer than I intended and may not make a lot of sense, but the thoughts have been rolling around in my head for a few weeks now and I wanted to get them down on paper.

Two books I’ve read over the past couple of weeks have had a major impact on how I’m looking at genre and geek culture. The first tried to stuff dragons; and as many semi-colons; as physically possible; into the Napoleonic wars. The second was a sci-fi love-letter to 80’s pop culture that involved everything from Atari video-games, Dungeons and Dragons, Matthew Broderick movies, Super Giant Japanese battle robots, and a whole lot more into one big glorious ode to geeking the hell out.

The books made me realize three things: 1) genre is officially dead. 2) geek culture has become creatively bankrupt and. 3) authors who abuse semi-colons should be consigned to a special hell where all they do is come up with plots for reality TV-shows.

Have we run out of ideas? The last real development in genre was cyberpunk in the 80’s and since then all it seems we’ve been doing is mashing existing stories together to see if we can come up with anything cool.

Steampunk is arguably the most popular mashed genre going at the moment. Plus you have things like Weird West, Chuthulu is popping up everywhere, zombies are invading everything, gods/clones/monsters in high school and a thousand more examples. These are not bad things and I’m certainly not having a go at mash-ups; Ghostbusters is one of my all time favourite movies of all times and its sci-fi/horror. Mash ups can be awesome and I always like having the possibility of a ray-gun in my D&D campaign.

But even two and three tier mash-ups are getting tired and there are now anything goes, whole-damn-kitchen-sink approach in movies like Spy-Kids; TV shows like Community, Adventure Time and the Mighty Boosh; and in RPGs like RIFTS and GURPS.

In the meantime, nothing truly NEW is being created. When was the last time you’ve been to a movie, read a book or watched a show and truly said, “I’ve never seen that before!”? ‘The Matrix’ maybe? but even then I can say it was beaten by Red Dwarf’s ‘Back to Reality’ episode by seven years.

And whose fault is it? Ours: thirtyish, primarily males (more on that in a moment) who have been submerged in pop-culture since Star Wars and have never come up for air. While we are incredibly good at coming up with variations on a theme, the truly original seems to have eluded us.

Much of what we now hold dear was not created by geeks, but by television execs, movie producers, toy marketers, artists and overworked writers, all of whom were working for a paycheque, not for love.

Getting back to gender for a moment, let me ask you this; not counting Game of Thrones, what were the last three major book (series) to make a real impact in the spec-fic category? Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and (like it nor not) Twilight, and three were all written by women. Maybe because women are exposed to Geek Culture but rarely suffer from the over-exposure suffered by guys like me allows the room for some original, or at least outside ideas to filter into their imagination.

Yes, I am aware than all of the series are just their own variations-on a-theme, but they are variations on a theme that caught the attention of the muggles, which is rare enough to be astonishing.

Which brings me back around to the second book I talked about, ‘Ready Player One’. First, I’d like to state that the book is a LOT of fun and I heartily recommend it to fans of eighties minutia.

However there are two major problems with ‘Ready Player One’. My wife picked up on them almost right away, but took me longer to puzzle out. It may be because she’s just smarter than me, but it may be gender differences coming into play again.

Firstly, in the book, the hero literally shuts himself off from the world to immerse himself completely in the virtual reality of the game. The story does contain a mild warning against that kind of behaviour, but like ‘The Godfather’ or ‘Scarface’ my wife and I believe that the book will be imitated more than heeded.

Nor does the book go too far to in condemning the behaviour. In the end, the hero is richly rewarded for his efforts, but suffers none of the negative side effects that befall Don Michael Corleone or Tony Montana.

Secondly, and to drag this rambling essay back to my main point, RP1 is set thirty years from now, but the characters are essentially all running around inside the head of an eighties obsessed, autistic shut-in (insert St.Elsewhere joke here). The characters spend all their time interacting with Atari Video Games, debating old Matthew Broderick movies (Ladyhawke is AWESOME), playing classic rpg modules, flying Xwings and listening to music that is already thirty years old.

Seriously, has nothing NEW has been created in the coming thirty years to occupy these kids’ inertest? The book revels in its obsession for geek culture from Star Wars to Firefly (1977-2002), and that is absolutely fine in a bubblegum adventure book, but I couldn’t help but close the book and think, ‘Jeez, geek-culture of the future is really sad’.

Then I remembered that this year we're seeing the release of yet even more Alien, Spiderman and Batman movies. Maybe it isn't just the future that looks sad.

One of my martial arts instructors told me once not to worry if it felt like I’d plateaued in my training. That was when I was truly internalizing the techniques and when that happened, I would naturally progress to the next level.

I think we’ve seriously plateaued. The question is, do we have what it takes to make it to the next level?

Question, Comments, Complaints?

Kids in the Hall Saturdays

Because a room of full of monkeys has always been one of my favorite ways to screw with my roleplaying groups!

Tomb of Horrors/Ready Player One Challenge & the Epic Fail

Armed with their own reference copy of the module, can a simple third level, Basic D&D Fighter survive the infamous adventure, 'Tomb of Horrors'? As postulated in the novel Ready Player One.

Warning: Contains Spoilers to the Tomb of Horrors Adventure Module.

Thacko II, Son of Thacko!
Level 3 Fighter
Str 17 (+3)
Dex 15 (+2)
Con 17 (+3)
Int 9
Wis 8(-1)
Cha 8(-1)

HP: 29
AC: 3

Begin Again the Quest!
Thacko II, Son of Thacko, continued the quest that claimed his father by ignoring the false entrances and moving directly through the teleport gate to Room 11. Since this time I am allowing for automatic Secret Doors finding, he proceeds through the tunnel to Room 13, taking 14hp total damage from traps and falls while retrieving the Ring of Protection +1. He also steals the crystal box (worth 1,000gp). He now has 15hp left, but has fulfilled one Condition of Victory!

Proceeding down the next tunnel, he enters the Chapel of Evil and loots the pews, collecting all the coins. He decides to leave all his loot here since it too heavy to carry now and he will have to back-track to collect the Gem of Seeing anyway.

Unfortunately, he must sacrifice his Ring of Protection to trigger the secret door and leave the chapel. Easily passing through the pit-doors, he ignores the sounds of music and … here we come to an insurmountable end for young Thacko.

To proceed in any direction from this point in the Tomb requires at least one of the following A) The Gem of Seeing, B) some sort of Magical Fire and/or C) Detect Magic a Dispel Magic spells. Since it is impossible for a third level Fighter to have any spells, and he has no gems to go back and collect the Gem of Seeing, he is essentially stuck here. Even getting out of the tomb means facing the Mutant Gargoyle, which means any third level fighter is now effectively dead.

Therefore, I must declare that without some serious tinkering, the premise of the book is declared untenable! A lone, 3rd level fighter with basic equipment cannot hope to defeat the Tomb of Horrors.

Conditions of Victory Met: None. You can collect the Ring of Protection +1, but you later have to destroyed it. And it has been a long time since I’ve bothered to convert silver and electrum pieces, but I don’t think he’s collected the full 20,000 yet.

So Now What?
I'm going to reread that section of Ready Player One to see if there are any further clues as to how the character manuevered through the Tomb, but by this point we are wandering farther and farther away original spirit of the module.

Speaking with BFX, we've come up with two ways to modify the premise to make it gameable:
1) A party of third level characters finds a hand drawn map of the Tomb. Some of the dangers are marked, but certainly not all of them.

2)One night in a tavern, the third level party plies an old, half-mad adventurer with ale to tell of the time she and her friends braved the tomb. Allow the players to read over the module once, then take it away from them. To be especially devious, make them read it the week before.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dinosaurs Attack!

I could build a whole dream campaign off these cards
...via Monster Brains

Tomb of Horrors/Ready Player One Challenge: Attempt 1

Armed with their own reference copy of the module, can a simple third level, Basic D&D Fighter survive the infamous adventure, 'Tomb of Horrors'? As postulated in the novel Ready Player One.

Warning: Contains Spoilers to the Tomb of Horrors Adventure Module.
Thacko: Level 3 Fighter
Str 17 (+3)
Dex 12
Con 13 (+1)
Int 9
Wis 10
Cha 12

HP: 19
AC: 5

Saving Throws
Poison/Death 12
Wand 13
Stone/Paralysis 14
Dragon Breath 15
Spell/Staff 16

Short Sword d6
Leather Armour AC 2
Shield AC 2

Conditions for Victory
While in the Tomb, You Must Collect:
-20,000 (or more) gp!
-A Bag of Holding
-Flaming Sword+1
-Ring of Protection +1
-A Gem of Seeing,
-a full set of Full Plate +3!
Collect all of the above and make it to Room 25: the “Pillared Throne Room”.

Begin the Challenge!
Room 3
Ignoring the false entrances, Thacko made his way past the pit traps and went through the archway to Room 5 with the glowing stones pressed On and was transported to Room 11.

Without any gems, he could not yet get the ‘Gem of Seeing’ (needed to complete the Conditions of Victory) from the broken statue. Moving into Room 12, he ignored the false doors and moved into Room 10. Since he needs the Ring of Protection in Room 13, he goes through the hidden crawlspace, but the hidden door will not open (roll failed) and he is forced to turn back.

Going through the second crawl space, he cannot open the secret door here either (roll failed).

With no way forward, Thacko’s quest is effectively at an end. To return to the entrance he will have to negotiate through the Complex of Secret Doors and if he survives that, face the mutant gargoyle in Room 8.

RIP, Thacko, First of your Name.

Conditions of Victory Met: None!

Thoughts: Ready Player One must make the assumption that the character is able to open Secret Doors if they know they are there. It is something I’ve allowed in my own campaigns (depending on the door), but haven’t really encountered it in any pre-made module before, so I’m not sure exactly how to proceed.

On one hand, there are some very definite rules in TOH for discovering Secret Doors, (1in6 or 4in6 chance), and finding them is very much part of the adventure. But on the other hand, there is now only a 1 in six chance of any Ready Player One Challenge making it past Room 13.

Given the premise presented in RP1, I suppose I’ll have to allow automatic Secret Door discoveries, but it feels like a fundamental cop-out to the meatgrinder spirit of Tomb of Horrors.

If anyone has any strong feelings on this one way or another please let me know. Tomorrow I shall attempt it again with Thacko II, Son of Thacko!

Still Not Dead/Link Dump

It is the usual 'real life's been busy' excuse, but things finally seem to be normalizing and I hope to be able to devote a little more focus to my rpg projects/this blog, including a run through of the Tomb of Horrors: Ready Player One Challenge later today.

I hate when I turn this blog into a link dump, but since I'm playing catch up on my emails/blog/site readings here is a bunch o'stuff for my own reference later.

Lets start with some inspirational pics for Modern/Future dungeons.
Abandoned LA Subway System via io9

The vast Salt Mines below Detroit via Environmental Graffiti.

Abandonned Maryland Amusement Park. For all your Supervillan hideout needs. via io9

Abandoned Malls, via Retronaut

Edgar Allen Poe illustrations by Harry Clarke from 1915: HERE. via Retronaut

Great Smokey National Park brochure, 1950: a good basis for a Wilderness campaign. via Retronaut.

And these are just for fun
1978 Atari Catalog via Retronaut

I admit to having a weird appreciation for the anything goes style of the 1970's. via Retronaut Micronauts! via Monster Brains

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ready Player One: Tomb of Horrors Challenge!

I have just started reading Ernest Cline’s dystopian love-letter to 80’s Pop-Culture, “Ready Player One”. I want to finish it before commenting further and its reflection on geek culture.

What tickled my OSR fancy however (minor spoiler warning) was that the book postulates that a third level fighter, working solo can get through the infamous D&D meatgrinder adventure, ‘Tomb of Horrors’, provided they have a copy of the module in-hand to refer to while they did so.

Challenge accepted, sir!

The Rules
-You may play Tomb of Horrors with any Edition. (RP1 is heavy geeky, but not geeky enough to mention what edition of D&D the adventure is based on. Given the context it is pre-1985, which means Basic D&D or AD&D1.)
-UPDATE: Retro-Clone games such as Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, etc are permitted as well. -You must play by all the rules of that Edition and abide by all rolls of the dice.
-Characters must be third level, basic classes only.
-No multiclass, homebrew or prestige classes permitted.
-The only permitted character races are Human, Elf, Dwarf and Halfling, regardless of edition.
-Character begins with basic, non-magical equipment only. What the starting level, base character equipment is, is all you get.
-True adherents will start with a third level human fighter, equipped with a short sword, a bronze shield, a suit of bandied leather armour and a torch.

While in the Tomb, You Must Collect:
-20,000 (or more) gp!
-A Bag of Holding
-Flaming Sword+1
-Ring of Protection +1
-A Gem of Seeing,
And the big prize, a set of Full Plate +3!

Conditions for Victory!
Collect all of the above and make it to Room 25: the “Pillared Throne Room”.

No one reads this blog, but I’m really curious to see if anyone will join me on this mighty quest!

And if anyone has ever came up with rules for/played out a scenario where they have played classic arcade games with a demi-lich, let me know. Or better yet if anyone can whip up a quick jpg, becuz it would make for a bitchin' van painting!

Not Dead Yet

We interrupt our regular Kids in the Hall Saturday to happily announce that I'm not dead.
The sternotomy wasn't nearly as fun as they made it look in the brochure, but all things being equal, it was a lot more fun than the chemo. They hauled a 9cm bouncing baby tumour out of my chest and if the labwork comes back clear, that should be the end of this nonesense.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Please Stand By

Won’t be much posting here for a week or so because on Friday they are going to be cutting out Kuato, the unwelcome little teratoma who's been squatting in my chest the past year or so.

More on my Kinda has Cancer blog, along with some yummy Youtube footage of how they are going to be going in after the little f*cker.

Welcome to the World of Tomorrow!

An article on books in the future, by Slate magazine

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Problem with Kickstarter

via Mightygodking.

Though he is talking about boardgames, I wonder how many of these problems carry over to RPGs? Certainly they raise money to get some wonderful projects off the ground, but how are they are generating sales after the project is released, or better yet, at generating NEW players?

Given that the bulk of players are in their thirties and forties, I see tabletop RPGs facing extinction in ten-to-twenty years, much sooner if D&DNext flops. Even now they are more of a cultural artifact than active concern. Getting back to Kickstarted I hear about campaigns mostly through other Blogs, which are only read by people already interested in the hobby.

Gamebooks like Fighting Fantasy are getting a semi-revival by moving into electronic devices and I'm frankly amazed that I haven't heard more from Hasbro about doing this with Dungeons and Dragons. There will always be people who want to hear the dice rattle across the table, I'm one of them, but I'm old enough to know that I'm old.

Quickie Adventure Idea

Sorry for all the movie posts, but on Doctor’s orders, I’ve been convalescing which means sitting on my ass and watching way too many bad films.

-Bad Teacher with Cameron Diaz was pretty funny.
-Gulliver’s Travels is bad, bad, bad, badbadbadbad!
-Drive Angry is similarly awful, but at least it wasn't a cold-corporate attempt at a ‘blockbuster’ written by the ‘scriptotron-3000’ and featuring an almost lethal combination of product placement and Jack Black. Drive Angry was at least attempting for gonzo and I thought that “The Accountant” was a fun character that I would definitely co-op for the right kind of campaign.

I did see one movie that was much better than I had anticipated and had an excellent RPG plot.

A Lord’s son is banished for crimes unspeakable, but he vows to return and conquer the kingdom. He then disappears into the east.

-the Party learns that a group of bandits have been raiding villages and stealing all the metal they can lay their hands on.
-In a nearby village, the Party encounters one of these raids, and an observant Hero will note that the “bandits” are organized and wearing uniforms.
-The Party proceeds to the city where the rightful rulers are imprisoned. In the city’s main square, there is long furrow of destruction and a makeshift memorial.
-Rescue the city’s rulers by breaking into the city’s dungeons- they have sneak through the city and into the dungeons where they will face the city guard, the strange soldiers and a maybe a monster or two.
-Finding the ruler’s in the deepest party of the dungeon, they find that the ruler’s refuse to escape. Stating that if they do so, the city will be destroyed by the banished Lord.
-He has a powerful Weapon that he brought back from foreign lands … (a cannon in a fantasy campaign).
-The Party then has to ascend the Lord’s tower and defeat the Weapon
-At the top of the tower they confront the Lord and defeat a Weapon, only to have the Lord escape and learn that he has many, many other Weapons that the then uses to destroy the tower.
-Then they have to break into the Lord’s fortress filled with smelters where they are smelting down all the metal they’ve stolen to make more cannons.
-If they fail to defeat the Lord there, he builds a fleet loaded with cannons to conquer the entire Kingdom. The Party must stop him and his fleet before they leave the river and enter the harbour.

Kung Fu Panda 2.

Spear of the Peacock
Damage: d8+2
Powers: Once every five rounds, the spear can be caused to flair in a blazing 'fan' that will distract and disorient any opponent.
Save vs Wand or suffer -5 to all rolls for d4 rounds.

Kids in the Hall Saturday

Daddy couldn't dance... Daddy could drink! But he couldn't dance.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

This has D&D monster written all over it...

It does not pay to steal from this tree. Imagine getting spread eagled and devoured alive by millions of ants.

The Post Chemo Blues

Over at my other blog, Kinda Has Cancer

Quicky Movie Reviews

Not a good couple of days health-wise so I’ve been taking it easy and watching a few movies.

Real Steal
Has to be the most unintentionally goofy I’ve seen in a long time. Nothing in this movie makes sense, from the plot to the technology to the central premise; while I buy that we might have robot combat as a spectator sport in the future, it won’t be based (solely) on boxing. I think they did that just to throw in every boxing cliché from ‘The Champ’ to ‘Rocky’ to ‘Ali’ … seriously, the rope-a-dope?

The robots are remote controlled. "Training" it is therefore POINTLESS.

The kid is a precocious little fart to whom you will come to actively dislike right around the time he tries to teach the robot to ‘dance’. Nor do they ever bother to explain the central conceit that a twenty-year old sparring-robot that has been rotting in a drainage ditch for who knows how long is able to beat the more modern bots. They hint at an explanation, and that Japanese guy really, really wants to buy it, but the movie never follows through.

The Raven
Tired serial killer plot that happens to feature Edgar Allen Poe.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Need Some Aliens?

Monster Brains has a nice gallery of Jordu Schell / Schell Sculpture Studios heads. For all your monster and alien needs.

Back to the Future Lego!

Rumours of offical Back to the Future lego!