Archive for personal

Hedge-trimming, and other exciting events in my life.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 23, 2012 by reignofjotuns

I may finally have some money soon. I’m being paid $200 to trim the hedges around my grandparents’ house. I’ve already worked out most of my shopping list; Carcosa, Vornheim, Classic Traveller books 1-3 reprint, Classic Traveller supplements 1-13 reprint. That leaves me about 70 dollars, which I may or may not spend on OSRIC. I really want Carcosa and Vornheim, but I don’t want to pay the shipping rates from Finland, and seeing a price tag in euros really puts me off for some reason (patriotism?). I’m bypassing these problems by ordering from Amazon and Indie Press Revolution, respectively. I considered buying Traveller books 0-8 instead, but decided against it. I have little interest in the advanced character creation rules, limited funds, and a good deal of doubt about that long paperback format. If I had to choose between Book 4: Mercenary and Supplement 4: Citizens of the Imperium, it wouldn’t take me long.

In less rampantly consumerist news, my first try at running Mutant Future may or may not happen tomorrow. I’m going to go with the tried-and-true flyers in the bookstore method if necessary, but I decided to first try digging through all our old Memphis-area homeschooler contacts and see if anyone wants to play. If I don’t get a good group tomorrow, I’ll go ahead and try to meet new people (not that I know the people I’m inviting first that well anyway).

Learning Traveller

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on February 7, 2012 by reignofjotuns

I recently managed to get ahold of PDFs of the Classic Traveller core books and supplements. After having heard so much about them around the internet, I was extremely excited when I first looked at them. I should point out that I am not what I would call a Sci-fi geek (not that I don’t want to be, I just haven’t gotten around to it). My experience with Sci-fi can be summed up quite briefly:

Firefly (all episodes at least twice- we had a borrowed DVD collection for a relatively long while), Serenity, Star Wars (my dad used to show us the original trilogy a lot), Tron, The Last Starfighter (my great-uncle rented it from Blockbuster- else I never would have thought to watch it), Poul Anderson’s Hoka stories, The Hitchhiker’s Guide series, two of the short stories from I, Robot, ‘I, Robot’ (the Will Smith flick), MiB 1 and 2, some of the Vorkosigan saga, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, The Rolling Stones, Podkayne of Mars, Star Beast, Glory Road, and Red Planet, Heavy Metal, Llana of Gathol and John Carter of Mars, Schlock Mercernary, Dresden Codak, Batman Beyond, Dexter’s Lab, Samurai Jack, Thundercats (the original). Does Gremlins count? What about The Matrix?

I’m not sure how that list measures up to the Sum Total Of All Science Fiction, but as far as I’m concerned, I am much more involved in fantasy. I don’t actively seek out Sci-fi. But Traveller, I think, might help with that a bit.

At first, I read diligently, but ultimately just skimmed. Rules are boring, and they’re much harder to read when you all you have is a .PDF rather than an easy-on-the-eyes hardcopy. I am now actually taking the time to test out the character creation rules, and it comes to life for me. Originally, I had planned to fill every line of a page with character- as I  write this, I have decided, this task finished, that I should add a second column. Character creation is actually that fun. Every time I roll up stats (UPP) I mentally evaluate which service this character would be best for as the stats come up. I’ve even started to convert the numbers rolled to hexadecimal like it ain’t no thing, and come up with a mnemonic for UPP order (Some Dumb Everyman In Exotic Space). Character creation is that fun.

I’m sure this system would work great for a Firefly-inspired campaign, and I’m seeing lots of stuff around the web to support that, but my personal evaluation is “Bujold Novel RPG”. Case in point: 4 in 6 characters are in the military, swords and polearms are still in frequent use, and Social Standing as a stat. Make of that what you will.

Comparing this system to Firefly works, I guess- the ideal firearm for many of my characters is the shotgun. Also, cloth armor- which according to the wiki is inappropriate for formal occasions unless specifically tailored, but not culturally odd to wear publicly. I’m picturing Malcolm Reynold’s coat. But the ships in Traveller RAW work differently, and if I wanted to play a campaign based on Firefly, it would be the episode with the fancy dress party and the sword duel.

It’s neat that the game works entirely using d6- I usually have 5-7 of those in my pocket at any time. I do like rolling all the wierd dice, though- I’m sure I can find some way to work them in.

Creating the characters, I was so astounded at the amounts of money they were getting as ‘Mustering Out’ benefits relative to the cost of equipment that I stopped listing equipment that wasn’t gotten free as another benefit after the first character. Now I’m looking at the Starships rules and I’m astounded that anybody manages to get the ship equivalent of a beat-up Toyota without becoming a wanted man in the process. I can see this game is well able to keep people on their toes.

I hope that I can resist at least until the Beetledome is complete.

In other news- I have only five experience points to go before reaching level 15. That’s just 370 until level 16!

How I came to play Old-school (and Why)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on January 16, 2012 by reignofjotuns

I was never introduced to D&D by a friend. That is technically true, though an uncle did introduce me to a game he ‘used to spend a lot of time playing in coffeeshops.’ The rules were ‘roll a d6 for every action. 6 is automatic success, 1 is automatic failure’. I never really played it with my friends, because I really had no idea how to DM.

Most of my exposure to the idea of D&D came from the roguelike game, ADOM. Other influences were present, such as a novelization of E.T. that we owned at one point [I actually watched the movie when I was much younger, but we never owned it or got it from Netflix (by the time it had occurred to me that it might be worth watching again, I was old enough to be disgusted at the Special Edition, which is all Netflix has)], the movie ‘Dorkness Rising’, and modern cartoons Adventure Time and Regular Show.

These were both introduced to me by my current best friend, as I had grown too cynical to watch modern cartoons without being introduced to them. Each of these cartoons had an episode that influenced me greatly, and I think may have been what finally convinced me to start gaming at all. Adventure Time had ‘Dungeon’, originally titled ‘Dungeon Masters’, which I mentioned by YouTube in my last post.

The whole episode is essentially a homage to D&D, with traps, trap doors, a Gelatinous Cube, and even a monster that looks like a chest. Looking back on it, that is the best example of a dungeon I have ever seen.

Regular Show had the episode ‘But I Have A Receipt’, which amazingly may actually have given me the push I needed to get started. In this episode, Mordecai and Rigby bring a new game called ‘Realm of Darthon’ to game night. The game’s rules are incredibly complicated, apparently requiring a protractor to resolve an attack roll.
Rigby: Okay, roll the 50-sided die.
Skips: All we have is a 48-sided die and two marbles.
Rigby: Close enough.

Once I actually decided to play the game, I started at the Wikipedia page on Dungeons and Dragons. I skimmed it briefly, and then right there the first game I decided to search for was 1st Edition AD&D. When I saw that cover picture, it summed up, for me, what D&D looked like. I was very disappointed to find it out of print. If I had done more research, I might have discovered OSRIC, and my gaming might have begun differently.

It seemed that 3rd Edition was the place to go, at this point, so I downloaded the SRD in .doc format. It confused me almost endlessly, as the files were organized alphabetically instead of by chapter- and I never finished reading it. For the time being, though, my picture of D&D was unmuddied by the 3e illustrations.

My local library, as it turned out, had a copy of the 3.5 Players Handbook, which I checked out and read. Obviously, it was missing a lot of information- monster stats, for example. I made a token effort to find games in the area using the Internet, but I never found a group to play in.

A year later, I decided to start looking again. This time, I actually thought to check gaming store websites. One of them had been considering starting an ongoing game, which I called about. The guy said it was uncertain which edition would be played- probably 3.5 or Pathfinder.
I downloaded a PDF of the Pathfinder Core Rules, looked them over.

The ongoing game never started up, but I had my Pathfinder PDF, I was fed up, I was going to just start my own game. I read through the PDF a couple more times, hoping to be able to remember enough of the rules to run a game. Thankfully, I recieved a hard copy for my birthday- all I’d have to do was print monster stat blocks from my Bestiary PDF.

I’ve been homeschooled all my life, and my mom would occasionally take my younger brothers and sisters to a weekly ‘park day’ a bunch of other local homeschoolers had organized- a few families with kids meeting at the park. I sent an Email to the group through my mom and put up ads in one of the local game stores. I started going to the ‘park days’ with the rest of the family. It was at one of these that I met my first player. He was about my age, hadn’t played before but happened to have some dice lying around (good thing- I didn’t). He showed up, and so did one other guy (his mom had pointed the Email out to him).

They comprised my playing force for a while. The first guy’s younger brother was going to join at one point, but decided not to when I tried to explain character creation (I now understand why). The games we ran at this point were largely “Monty Haul”- creating a character took so long that just not killing them off seemed easier. At one point I looked over some PDFs of the Basic D&D rules- this was my first experience with the Rules Cyclopedia. It seemed easier to read than having to go through B, E, C, M, and I just to get the same rules.

I really liked (still do) the RC line art. Yeah, when you look closely that Fighter’s arm is too short- but Black and White line art is part of my perception of D&D. And to someone coming from the realm of Women with Swords As Tall And Broad As They Are it was like a deep breath. I would have shifted to those rules right then, but I didn’t think my players wanted to go through character creation AGAIN, as well as get used to descending AC. So I left that first read as a skim.

I spent a lot of time on the Paizo forums at that time, and noticed an interesting looking thread about ‘feat-less, skill-less pathfinder”. Someone mentioned that the idea sounded something like Microlite20- so I looked that up.

Almost immediately, we switched. That Pathfinder book still came in handy for the equipment list and spell lists. We were still very Monty Haul, but we at least had a simpler system. That was some of the most fun gaming we had. The first RPG blog I read was Intelligence Check- an obscure pathfinder blog that I found while searching for something-or-other about alignment- I can’t remember exactly what. A little later, I started reading Grognardia. Grognardia took me to Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and a little bit later I designed my first dungeon that was both
A dungeon, and
Out to kill at least some of the party.
It was outstanding. Unfortunately, I moved three sessions later. That move gave me the opportunity to formally decide to start a Rules Cyclopedia game.

Rules Cyclopedia Homebrew Assassin

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on December 4, 2011 by reignofjotuns

I’m going to start a group using Rules Cyclopedia. It will be easier for me to make the transition since I’m starting a new group anyway, and this edition of the rules pulls to me more than the others (so far). it seems less complex than AD&D, and doesn’t require multiple rulebooks, so it seems like a good place to start playing Classic D&D.

This is a homebrew assassin class I made for Rules Cyclopedia/BECMI/BX. I wanted it to have 36 levels, while still following the balance shown in 1e and Advanced Edition Companion. I also wanted to distance it from the thief class- I mainly wanted to REPLACE the thief, which is essentially useless without deciding that no other characters are able to pick pockets, open locks, etc., which isn’t the kind of thing I want. In my game, if you want to be a Thief, steal something. Don’t pick a class.

The Assassin

Armor: Leather only, Shield

permitted Weapons: No Two-Handed or Bastard Sword

Hit Dice: 1d4 every level Prime Requisite: None. The Assassin gains no experience bonus for high stats.

Assassins advance at the same rate as Fighters, and use the Fighter attack roll and saving throw tables. At 9th level (Master Assassin) the Assassin gains the ‘disarm’, and ‘parry’ Combat Options and gains the ‘multiple attacks’ Fighter Combat Option at the same rate as the Fighter.
Assassins gain the following special abilities:

Backstab: when the assassin attacks unnoticed, he gets +4 to his attack roll and deals double the damage. At 5th level, he begins instead to deal triple damage, at 9th level, quadruple, and from 13th onwards quintuple. An Assassin with the Multiple Attacks Combat Option gains this bonus and multiplier on all his attacks (the +4 bonus is not factored in when determining whether he can hit his opponent on a roll of 2)

Assassination: if the assassin gains surprise, he may assassinate the target of his attack. This has a base 50% chance of success, increased by 5% for each of the assassin’s levels (to a maximum of +75% at 15th level) decreased 5% for every two levels/hit dice of the target. if the attempt is successful, the target is instantly killed.

Subterfuge: It is assumed that as part of an assassin’s training, he learned many skills that might be useful to one of this trade; skills such as manipulating small mechanisms (locks, clockwork), handling delicate or dangerous items without incident (poisoned blades), moving stealthily and unseen, and so on. The Assassin will always know how to use such skills, and will very likely have a much higher chance of success than other characters of the same level (DM’s discretion).

Many Faces: An Assassin may disguise himself, changing his appearance and stature, with extreme skill- the base chance of anyone seeing through the disguise is 2%, with other modifiers added if the assassin is disguised as some one of radically different stature, a different race or gender, etc. (if the assassin is trying to disguise himself as a specific person, there will be a large modifier if the observer is personally familiar with the person in question).

Scale Walls: An Assassin is specially trained to scale sheer surfaces without much heavy, noisy equipment. the base chance of success every 100′ is 85%, increasing by 1% every level. Other modifiers will be added at DM discretion, and may be numerous or few.

Learn Languages: An Assassin will learn more languages, typically, than his companions. An Assassin starts the game knowing one additional language. An Assassin may learn one additional language for each point of intelligence score over 14- these additional languages may be archaic, secret, or even alignment tongues (if they are used). However, only one such language can be learned per level above 8th, and though the Assassin is skilled at learning such, to find an appropriate text for especially rare languages may require questing.
Read Scrolls: At 12th level, an Assassin may read existing arcane scrolls- albeit with a 10% chance of backfiring and creating an unexpected effect.

Bye-Bye Group

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on October 28, 2011 by reignofjotuns

I’m going to have to find a new group soon, as I’m going to be moving. The landlord let the house go into foreclosure. Currently, I’m staying with one of the guys from the group. I might be able to keep in touch with a couple of the guys, maybe find some time to play DDO or Minecraft. DDO isn’t nearly as good as the real thing, and I therefore haven’t played since before my group got started, but it could be a bit fun.

Meanwhile, I recently agreed to play a quick game of EERS with the guy I’m staying with; EERS stands for Easiest Ever Roleplaying System and involves rolling d6 for all action resolution, with DC set by the GM. The experience has made me realize some things about my own campaign.

My sister was also playing, as a witch. I was a lightly armored fighter. We woke up in what was apparently a prison, with all our weapons and armor, for some reason. I decided just to go with it. The first thing I did was stand very still in the corner next to the door until, for some reason a guard walked in completely unaccompanied. Still just going with it, I killed him swiftly. He turned out to have three keys on him, of gold, silver, and iron. I picked them up with a piece of cloth, careful not to touch them with bare skin, and put them in a pocket. I decided to give the GM the benefit of the doubt, and suspect a trap.
I hid back in my corner with the body. Two more guards soon entered, and I managed to bluff them into thinking that I was supposed to be released yesterday- I would never have even allowed a roll, but I went with it. Somehow, they never saw the body.
While they both left, I gave my sister’s character my spear blade to use as a weapon, using the dead guard’s sword and an improvised parrying cloak of prison sheets.
When the guards reentered, we attacked. I entangled one in my sheet, but unfortunately didn’t kill them both before the witch (who chose to specialize in illusion) was slashed across the belly. I left her for dead, as she was bleeding profusely and would surely die in two minutes realistically (to my sister’s complaints), and ran off down the hallway. Here, my sister who had refused to be put out of her misery,
was allowed to fashion a bandage out of sheets, without any healing experience. She found out that for some reason, one of those two other dead guards had keys on him, and as she walked (somehow) down the hallway she just happened to find an imprisoned shaman who was wiling to heal her once she released him. I could feel the sense of danger draining away, and I remembered one of my much earlier adventures, wherein I had given all the players full heals and one of them his sundered greataxe just before a powerful boss fight. They all still died- I wonder if I did it because I cared about them winning, or because I wanted them to see as much of this cool enemy as possible. Either way, I hadn’t made the right choice.
Meanwhile, I somehow found my way to the warden’s office, where I used sheer charisma to try to convince him to let me toughen up the obviously lax standards of the prison. I succeeded and then some on my roll, and was expecting him to at most send me back to my cell whilst he considered it, but he just said
“I’m sorry, but I can’t allow that, as you are still technically a prisoner”.
I’m still not sure if it was the wrong choice, but I immediately thought of a time that a player had plans for world domination, involving slavery, genocide, and deals with evil fey. I shot him down with something along the lines of
“dude, why can’t you just play at least a flawed hero? I don’t feel like you’re taking this seriously”.
I had created this world, and I wanted him to take it seriously, which, neither seeming to be insane nor having a grudge against anyone in my world, he did not seem to be.

DMing feels hard to me now- I wanted to be a player, and also get to make the house rules, choose the system, and build the setting. I still do, even though I know that it isn’t possible, which makes it hurt even more. It takes a lot of work to DM, not in preparation, but expenditure of energy during the game to think, and think, and remember, and focus when nobody else is.
I think I need to take a break from it, and spend some more time as a player. Once I move, I’ll try to find a group that will take me, maybe even learn a new system. Could be fun.

rpG, not RPg

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 5, 2011 by reignofjotuns

I’ve been reading through a lot of retro-clone games, and some old 1e books I borrowed from someone, and trying to figure out exactly what it is that attracts me to the older systems so much. Especially with 1e, there doesn’t seem to be much reason. I kind of like the art in the books, but that’s no reason to like the game itself. I like the look of Uncle Pennybags too. I could just incorporate the AD&D classes into my Microlite game, though of course they wouldn’t be EXACTLY the same. If I could only figure out what it is that attracts me to certain games, then I could just emulate it in my own game, and I wouldn’t have to put up with anything I don’t want to put up with, like attack matrices. Many things that I would normally attribute to role-playing are in AD&D completely predetermined- a ranger always attracts followers at level 10, and a fighter always becomes a lord at level 9. For a while I thought (on the surface of my mind) that that kind of ‘predestination’ would be one of the things I’d want to get away from, But now I think that that’s exactly what attracts me to the systems.

Rather than being entirely about role-playing, they’re about the game. A game where you make choices and carve out your own path in the world, but still a game, with simplistic, unrealistic rules. The way you have fun with a game is to take it on it’s own terms. Rather than trying to balance chess, you just play it. My players are okay gamers, but they aren’t very good role-players. Most gamers that I’ve known aren’t especially good at it either (I DM, but if I were a player I think I’d prefer not to bother too much). They are usually perfectly willing to go with the quest that they’re given, and work towards personal aspirations when the DM gives them a cue- because that keeps the game stable by giving all the players a common interest at most times, and ensuring that nobody oversteps their boundaries. For that type of player, it can be a godsend to specific times when things happen, because then they know what to expect.

On the other hand, if you have a group of seasoned LARPers who actually know how to speak and understand ye pseudo-oldspeeche and like to roleplay conversations instead of just saying ‘I don’t think that’s something my character would do’, then having specific levels for things like that shouldn’t deter them. You can still roleplay gathering your band of Merry Men even if you as a player already knew it was coming, or you can negotiate with the DM to get some other benefit.

Dungeons & Dragons requires a careful balance between freedom and stability that is extremely hard to come by, and while I don’t endorse planning out with your DM your character’s complete rise from wandering northerner to exalted king, if I were playing in someone’s campaign it would be extremely comforting to know when to expect some little things.

The right tool for the right slay

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 3, 2011 by reignofjotuns

One thing I’ve always wanted to hear is a player taking the time to describe a weapon in detail. not Aesthetic details, necessarily- They come up with them on their own, if they care at all. I mean the kind of details that betray knowledge of what weapon they’re talking about. This can be expected to be rare, of course- not many DMs would even care, I don’t think. Not many players care to research weapons history even enough to know the difference between a rapier and a small sword (no, I won’t tell you, just look it up on wikipedia why don’t you).

‘Twould warm my heart for a player to take the time to think about what tool they would need for a specific job- to take the time to carry a ‘Basket-Hilted Falchion’ at their side (or even to know that falchions are actually one-handed). To have a parrying dagger strapped to their upper left arm, point down for fast draw. If they had martial weapon proficiency, I might even house rule that it gives them +1 to AC. I’d love to hear someone bundle a cloak around their off hand for a duel, or throw a ‘well-balanced schmaler langsax’ instead of just a dagger.

To hear the ‘Aspiring Warlord’ Fighter mention a ricasso and (parrying hooks/parierhaken/flukes) on their (Claedheam mor/Zweihander/Flammenschwert). To hear them consider a Falcata before it gets featured in some source book, or ask for a ‘pattern welded sword’ (never mentioned in any source book I’ve heard of).

To hear a single person put not just imagination into their weapon, but information as well.