Saturday, June 30, 2012

Kids in the Hall Saturday

Featuring the worst straight man in history.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Stealing Critters for Old Campaigns.

Darkling
As a DM there can be limited options for low level encounters, especially when you’re starting a whole new campaign with long-term players who yawn in the face of kobolds and laugh in the presence of giant rats.

However, my buddy, Blade (not his real name) who is running a D&Dpi game had an excellent idea for making low level monsters a little more interesting.

Back in our college days we played a lot of different games, all depending on what we’d picked up on our last visit to the LGS. My favourite was (and is) Talislanta, and over the years, I played the group through a few adventures.
Thrall

Blade remembered the pseudo-alien world while setting up his new campaign and instead of the usual suspects, he used Talislanta beasties instead; Darklings instead of kobolds, Ferrans instead of goblins, Thralls instead of Orcs (which is just plain mean) etc.

It’s a freakin’ brilliant idea! My advice to GMs, plunder every Bestiary, Monster Module and Critter Catalogue you can get your hands on and anything that strikes you as interesting or different, apply liberally.

The nice thing about Talislanta is that you can get all the books for free HERE, including the OGL Bestiary.  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Inconvievable!

Topless Robot held a contest for "Most Helpful RPG Chart". THIS LINK has some of the best, and here is a personal favourite:

by Bombadilly 
You've met a picnicking Sicilian and death is on the line...
01-15 - Treat him as a great fool. Put poison into his goblet
16-31 - Don't treat him as a great fool. Put poison into own goblet
32-47 - He won't trust you. Put poison into own goblet
48-63 - He'll know you can't be trusted. Put poison into his goblet
64-79 - Be strong! Put poison into own goblet
80-95 - Study mortality. Put poison into his goblet
96-100 - Start a land war in Asia

Holly McNarland

This has absolutely nothing to do with anything even remotely geeky, but I am absolutely crazy about two female singers; Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde is one, Holly McNarland is the other. I've seen Holly live a couple of times and I can say from experience that her voice will rattle your teeth from the back of the hall.

She also happens to have a new album out. Just doing my part to add to her web presence.

Some song samples from Soundcloud.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Prometheus and Liver Pate

My wife wanted to see a movie, but gave me the choice between Rock of Ages and Prometheus, and I am not ashamed to say that I picked the Rock. I passed on Prometheus because I was severly disappointed to learn that it is little more than Chariot of the Gods with face huggers.

I watch Ancient Aliens because I think it is funny and because I really, really want this shirt.

I certainly don't watch it because I think it is remotely plausible or will contribute in any way to my knowledge of history or anthropology. And frankly, I find the idea of 'ancient aliens' to be more than a little racist; there often an uncomfortable suggestion that there is no way these people (who often have a skin colour that is somewhat darker than lily white) could have possible figured out how to build such amazing things all on there own, could they?!

Nor does any of that answer the question, if life on earth originated on another planet, how did that life originate? I guess its turtles all the way down.

Rock of Ages, btw was bloody awful despite Paul Giamati, Alec Baldwin and Russel Brand doing their damnest. I'll admit that Tom Cruise managed to be mildy entertaining, if only because he came with a monkey. The two 'leads' unfortunately, were tone deaf and had the combined charisma of a coffee table, though they did have this one funny exchange;
Girl "L.A. isn't working out. I'm a stripper."
Boy. "I'm in a Boy Band."
Girl. "You win."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dungeons and Dragons 3 Trailer

According to Topless Robot, this is the film that offically shows where SyFy draws the line, takes a stand and says, 'Yes we made 'Mansquito', but this, this is to horrible to unleash even upon the nerds of the world'.

Personally, I think that as awful as this is, it still looks more D&Dy than the first movie. If this was a fan film, it would rate a 'nice try'.   

Friday, June 22, 2012

Saboteur*


Saboteur card game by Z-MAN Games. This is a card game where most of the group are dwarves trying to tunnel to the gold, but someone is secretly a Saboteur trying to stop them by breaking their equipment, or tunnelling them into dead ends.

I think the game, as-written, would work really well if a large group of people where playing, but we where playing the scaled back 4-Player version (it can be played with up to 10 people) and frankly we had a hell of a time. Basically, the Saboteur won, EVERY ROUND, more or less by default. There was even a round where there was no Saboteur (it is determined at random) and we still couldn’t reach the gold. To make it more playable, we upped the amount of cards dealt each round, and dropped most of the ‘dead end’ tunnel cards. We got closer, but it was still very easy for the Saboteur to throw up a few blocks and win. We played through a whole game and the dwarves never did get their damned gold.

Watching THIS REVIEW brings up an interesting idea on how to tweak things to make it more playable. In the rules, the tunnel cards are played long-side up, like you would with almost any card game. However, in the video review it looks like they are playing the tunnel cards down short-side up (sideways) which, having just played with some of the cards, might actually have a shot of getting you to the gold. I also wonder if allowing the players to play the card in any direction they choose might not also work.

Definitely something to try the next time we play. And if nothing else, the tunnel cards will come in handy if I ever have to design a dungeon on the quick.   

*Star Trek lied to me! The idea that the word 'sabotage' comes from French luddities throwing their wooden shoes,  'sabo' into mechanized looms is unsupported. The word comes from the general French 'saboter' which simply means to do things in a clumsy or slipsod manner. From 'Six Words You Never Knew Had Something to do with Pigs' by Katherine Barber.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thunder Island

“In the southern sea, there is said to be a land out of time that only appears during the fiercest of storms. Wrapped in raging clouds and wreathed in lightning, legend says that it swallows any vessel that stray too close to its shores. Then, when the storm has finally passed the island and any who have trespassed on its shores, have vanished.”

The nice thing about cancer is that you can blame any radical shifts of attention on the chemo fog. In getting ready for a possible D&D skype session this weekend, I was thinking about where I wanted to take the party. While my original intention had been to just walk them through a bunch of old-school modules, I’ve been chafing under the limitations and surprising amount of prep-work needed.

Inspired by a lot of blogtalk about sandbox gaming, my own interest in doing a ‘lost-world’ scenario and finally getting Hexographer to work on my damned computer, I spent the day frittering away and came up with this; 
Click to Enlarge
THUNDER ISLAND

Even though I’m making it up as I go along, this is about a third of what I have in mind. Once I’ve done the remaining landscapes, I’ll start work on the random encounter tables … which are gonna feature a heck of a lot of dinosaurs. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Roll20

Roll20

I have been looking for something like this! I'm going to look it over in more detail and then propose it to my skypegroupe this weekend.

Marvel Universe Redux

My favourite comicbooks as a kid were DC's Who's Who and the Offical Handbook of the Marvel Universe, yes I was just that geeky and it was long before Wikipedia. Anway, I was thrilled to find the Offical Handbook of the Marvel Universe Redux BLOG where indie artists reimagine the illustrations.
Including the Greatest Space Rodent of all time!

So I Finally Saw the Avengers

It has been discussed ad nauseum so I won’t go into how good it was, because it really was quite good. Can you sense the ‘but’ coming?

But…

… the villains were terrible. I was never able to be completely sucked into the movie because there was never a point where I felt that Loki or the alien army (who I will call NotTheKree) represented a real threat. The movie actually acknowledges this a number of times, most notably with Tony Stark’s conversation with Loki in the penthouse and then later when the Hulk and Loki duke it out. As the movie unfolds, it is almost as if Loki was working with Nick Fury to bring this quirky band of lovable misfits together as a team rather than being a genuine super villain with a plausible plan to take over the world.

The dialogue was funny, the characterization of the heroes was enjoyable and the action sequences were big and comic-booky without being too incomprehensible, but given the choice I’d recommend Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (Season 1 available on Netflix), the plotlines are stretched out over 26 episodes and it does a much, MUCH better job of making Loki (and other villians) a credible threat.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On Being Off Line and Bandit Pie!

I didn’t intend to go off line for that long, but life took a rare swing towards the pleasant for a change and I decided to take full advantage. Nothing earth shattering, but a few good positive pieces of good news and the reminder that good friends can go a hell of a long way (in this case, close to 1500kms).
It's filled with Pecans!
One of those friends is the GM of his own D&D3.14159 (D&Dpi) campaign and he has run the party into an area plagued by bandits. However, the party has a few battles under their belts, has gone up a level or two and is pretty confident they can take regular bandits, so he asked me if I had any ideas on how to make the bandits more of a challenge.

1)         Cannibals: A nearby wild magic zone, or ancient artefact has infected a nearby village, turning the residents into mutant cannibals.
2)         Merry Men: A band of outlaws fighting against a corrupt Baron/Shereiff/Prince.
3)         Cursed Beastmen: a vindictive sorcerer has cursed a nearby village, something the party does not discover until they kill a beastman and watch it transforms back into a child.
4)         Lepers: a group of plague victims left to die have teamed up to rob travellers
5)         Starving farmers: A drastic crop failure has turned a once peaceful town starving and desperate.
6)         Conan and Company: a band of skilled mercenaries (or a group of deserters) who have fallen on hard times.
7)         Cultists: A nearby town has fallen under the sway of a dark cleric and the cult of the Obsidian Tongue. A night a band of cultists go out hunting disguised as bandits, but are actually looking for sacrifices for their depraved ceremonies.  
8)         Knights: Bandits normally don’t have plate armour and destriders. These bandits are actually a group of knights on a quest.
9)         Monks: A group of students from a local dojo/monastery have decided to use the skill they have learned and use them for monetary gain by ambushing travellers (or possibly, are told to do it by a corrupt Master).
10)       Backed by some serious firepower: The bandits have recruited a powerful, but drunken mage who will sling fireballs at whoever they tell him to, so long as they keep plying him with delicious boozes.  

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Absolutely Adorable...

...or two of the most deadly creatures on earth locked in mortal combat?

Kids in the Hall Saturday

Nobody does this better than Scott...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph

Musings on Magic

I recently realized that I’ve never played a D&D Wizard and reading through Labyrinth Lord and D&D5 lately I’ve begun to realize why … the magic system is not my bag, man. Though it claims to be ‘Vance-ian’ , it is actually not. Yes, in the Dying Earth, Vance’s wizards had pre-loaded spells but that is as far as it goes. (If you’re keen, read through the Dying Earth RPG or Talislanta 4e for MUCH better interpretations of Vancian magic.)

D&D reduces spells to bullets and Wizards (at least higher level ones) to heavy artillery. I’ve seen attempts at making it seem a bit more ‘mysterious’ or adding complications such as material components, but nothing in any form that anyone would actually want to play.

There is nothing actually WRONG with the D&D magic system, if that is the way magic works in the D&Dverse - then that is the way it works in the D&Dverse. At least it is internally consistent. It just isn’t to my taste.

The hang up for me is Saving Throws. The more powerful the character, the better their chance at resisting magic. That seems wrong. No matter how powerful Conan became, he ALWAYS feared magic and Superman’s second most exploited weakness is his vulnerability to magic. Yet in the D&D system, both these guys would have saving throws up the whazoo.

The thing is, that from Merlin to Gandalf to Doctor Strange, Zantanna, Harry Potter and Ponder Stibbons … I’ve never seen a magic system work that way. In almost every other interpretation of magic that I have come across if a spell fails it is because the wizard screwed up, not because their target was somehow able to shrug it off. If the spell gets casts, it works.

So for my own homemade system, I’m developing a system where the wizard must make a series of rolls over a couple of rounds to ‘weave’ a spell together. If they make all the rolls, then the spell is successfully cast and there is nothing the target can do about it. I think I could make this work for LL/D&DBasic as well, but it would take some heavy tinkering and I’m thinking that it must have already been done by someone.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

the Stick of Truth

I don't play many video games anymore, but I think this would be fun. To bad it is not coming out on the Wii (my only consol besides my trusty PS2).

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Completely Pantsless Roleplaying

I was watching the Avengers Cartoon on Netflix and there is an episode where the Hulk and a super-villain named Graviton (he controls gravity) battle it out in a shipyard. Graviton sends wave after wave of cargo containers smashing into the Hulk and I caught myself thinking, ‘Awesome fight, but there is no way you could do that with a hit point system”. RIFTS tried, but the numbers got silly real fast.

In any RPG basically the characters start off with low stats, but generally enter situations that they can handle. As the character gains levels their stats go up, but the situations they find themselves in are more difficult. The basic premise hasn’t changed; only the numbers have gotten bigger. Unfortunately, in some games this leads to stat bloat and/or unwieldy amounts of dice to roll.

Getting back to the Hulk, superheroes don’t “gain levels’, neither did Conan, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, Frodo and Sam, or Katniss. Harry Potter kinda did, but he was literally growing up in each book and in an environment where he was actively learning new skills. What do those characters gain? Experiences.

So, in keeping with that idea, and to honour the fact that I've hardly worn pants the past five months, I came up with this. It owes a great deal to RISUS and I have no idea if it would actually play or not, but I think the premise is sound and it was fun to think up, so what the heck? If I get really bored, I'll do a list of possible MAXs and MINs.


To Do Everything Roll 1d6
1-3 Easy
4-5 Medium
6 Hard
7+ Impossible

How to build a Completely Pantsless Character
Player Characters (or PCs) in CPR are created by selecting three MAXs and one MIN. To make it simple, MAXs and MINs can be anything the player can think of, though some examples are provided. When choosing or creating MAXs and MINs, players should keep in mind what kind of personality, background and abilities they want their PC to have.

MAXs are anything that benefits the character such as skills, bonuses, positive quirks, special items, background details or anything the player can come up with.

MAXs can be bonuses to the Dice roll, but must be applied to a specific situation and no bonus may be higher than +3. Each + costs a MAX. For example, Pherry the Wonder Elf has Woodlore +2, which means he spent two MAXs and he can only apply the bonus when doing something woodsy.

MINS any detrimental elements to the characters such as phobias, character flaws, handicaps, etc. MINs can also be applied to Dice rolls with the same conditions. For example, Pherry is coulrophobic, so all rolls made in the presence of clowns are made at -1.

Characters also start with four KO points. At the time of character creation, they can gain extra KO points by sacrificing a MAX, or loose one by using up their MIN. NPCs have KO3 unless otherwise stated.

Fightin’n Stuff
Non-Player Characters (NPCs) and Monsters have three basic stats; HIT, DAMAGE and KO. They are Easy, Medium, Hard (or Impossible) to HIT and then Easy, Medium, Hard (or Impossible) to DAMAGE. There may be a specific number, for example Easy 2, associated with the stat which indicates that they must roll that number of higher to HIT or DAMAGE.

All humans (and humanoids), including PCs are Easy 2 to HIT and Easy 2 to DAMAGE unless they are wearing armour or take a MAX to raise

When a fight breaks out, the GM randomly chooses which player goes first, but she cannot choose herself or the same player twice in a row. The turn then continues clockwise around the room until the fight is over.

The player whose turn it is then chooses an opponent and rolls the D6, applying any applicable MAXs or MINs, to HIT.

If the PC meets or surpasses their opponent’s HIT, then they are successful and can now roll to see how much Damage has been inflicted.

Weapons have a Damage rating from +1 and up. Armour has a negative rating raging from -1 and down. Roll for Damage and apply all weapon and armour modifiers. If the result, with modifiers, is equal or higher than the opponent’s DAMAGE stat, then they loose a number of KO points equal to the weapon’s Damage (so a +2 weapon would inflict 2 KO point).

When a character runs out of KO, they are out of the fight. Their condition depends on how they ran out of KO points. If they were shot or stabbed, they now require medical attention, but if they lost the KO points to a spell or a fall, they may be unconscious or too exhausted to continue fighting.

Doing Other Stuff
Anytime an action or event comes up in play the requires a roll, the GM simply determines if it will be EASY, MEDIUM or HARD and the player rolls a D6. If the PC has any applicable MAXs, the GM may lower the difficulty.

If a PC does not have an applicable MAX, then it is up to the GM to raise the difficulty to reflect how hard it would be to perform that action without training. Fixing a bicycle without training might only be HARD, but fixing a super-computer would be IMPOSSIBLE.

Gaining Experience
Each time the PC does something particularly awesome, they gain 1 Awesome point. GMs also award Awesome points at the end of an adventure. For every 10 Awesome points the player can select a new MAX. For every two MAXs the player selects, they must choose a MIN.

The caveat is that the MAXs and MINs selected must be in some way related to what happened during the adventure. For example, the PC learned to drive a tank and speak Farsi, but has also been Brainwashed by the Order of Chaos to kill the King of Romania.

Kids in the Hall Saturday

Office, SUBMARINE!

The Monks of Ghost Rider 2

Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengence is really bad. Not even the goofy premise, Idris Elba or Nick Cage doing yet another unhinged performance can raise this shlocker to the level of 'so bad its good'. It is hard to take the devil seriously when he spends half the movie looking like the unfortunate victim of a stroke. The Accountant in "Drive Angry" was SO much better.

However, the film did have one interesting visual courtesy of Christopher Lambert which could be used in any campaign, the tatooed monks:

Friday, June 1, 2012

Adventure Time! Snow Golem

I've redone the Snow Golem because I wasn't happy with the original D&D stats. Now they are Labyrinth Lord compatible.
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 or heat/fire weapons. They are also completely immune to cold based attacks, though they can be temporarily blinded by a well-thrown snowball.
If they are in a snowy environment, Snow Golems can repair themselves by packing in new snow, and have even replaced heads and limbs. If attacked by Fire/Heat, snow golems melt by getting smaller (half damage at half hit-points). Snow Golems are the enemies of Fire Wolves.
Labyrinth Lord
No.Enc. 1
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120’(40’)
Armour Class: 5
Hit Dice: 6
Attacks: 2 (Fist/Snowball)
Damage: 2d6 / 1d6
Save: F6
Moral: 4
Treasure: None
Questamundo
Rank: 5-10
Body: 15
Mind: 2
Spirit: N (equal to rank if autonomous)
BP: 40
Alignment: Neutral
Damage: +6
Armour: -6

Because you're all dying to hear my thoughts on the Next Edition, right?

A couple of my players have expressed an interest in taking the D&DNext playtest for a spin, while I am leaning more and more towards converting the D&DBasic campaign into full-on Labyrinth Lord.

New Editions have always bothered the crap out of me because it is like trying to convince someone else to love bean casserole. You might LOVE bean casserole and could eat it six days a week, but if someone else thinks it tastes and smells like an old, lumpy gym sock, nothing you do or say will ever convince them. While it might be fun to debates the merits for a while or tell them that your homebrewed version tastes better, in the end you are just going to have to let it go. Just because they prefer tuna casserole doesn’t make them an asshole.

Nor do I like new Editions because of the cost. My carefree days of disposable income are long behind me, sucked away by mortgage payments, medical concerns, hungry animals and lots and lots of bills. There is no way I am shelling out $100plus dollars every few years to add yet another Player’s Guide/GM Manual/Monster Manual to my shelf next to all the other editions.

And whether you play the new edition or not, suddenly everything else on that shelf is now obsolete. You’re now driving a Desoto and its damned hard to find parts. If you insist on clinging to your diesel guzzling ways, soon you’re reduced to scavenging through files of Raistlin/Tasslehoff slashfick, hunting for homemade conversion guides on a wayback’d geocities sites.

Not to mention that it is this sort of idiocy results in things like edition flame wars, OSR self publishers and copycats like Pathfinder. They all have their merits (except edition flame war trolls), but they all lead to dissatisfaction and degradation of the original product and causes WotC to shed customers like dandruff off a Con-goer.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for Hasbro/WotC releasing* miniatures, computer games, board games, apps CCGs or whatever else they want with the D&D logo stamped on the front. Come to think of it, I’d LOVE the idea, because I think that in the end it would help bring proper (imaginative) role-playing back to a whole new generation (lost to ‘passive’ computer rpgs like WoW and Skyrim). Sure they’ll probably use tablets and interactive cards or figures, and who know what other tools to play. Some old schoolers are going to bitch about how the new kids ‘don’t play like we used to’, but those old schoolers are now in their thirties, forties or more. The game MUST evolve or it will die, and I’m not afraid to say that I have caught the whiff of gangrene settling in. Nor do I believe that D&DNext is anything more than a temporary bandage.

But please WotC, for us old school guys pushing forty, the guys who care enough to write bullshit pieces like this for a blog that no one reads, stop fucking with new editions and give us a game we can all rally behind! No more total reboots or attempts to be clever (Next!) or cribbing from MMORPGs. Just give us a straightforward (backwards compatible, or is that too much to ask?) game and STAND BEHIND IT. You give us that, and we’ll stand behind you.

*I can’t help but wonder if Hasbro isn’t promoting D&D harder more because of the wingnut Christian climate in the States right now. Maybe they are afraid of another ‘Mazes and Monsters’ style backlash which could lead to a boycott of other Hasbro products. Just a thought.