Dienstag, August 27, 2013

Risus Genius (?)

I was trying to imagine the immense ingenuity of S. John Ross. Humbled I was. I thought to myself: That guy must be a genius, creating such a useful, playable and fun set of rules, and the great Great Companion, too. He must be immensely rich, surely, given that millions of roleplaying gamers bought and collected all sorts of needless rules, and supplements for games either unplayable, or boring. Every single one of them must have bought (at least) one copy of the Risus Companion, so that's tens of millions of dollars. Better yet, millions of roleplaying gamers who own and play the Perfect Set of Rules (7), and probably a few shabby editions of D&D, too.
I could be envious of his achievement; but why bother: I got my own copy of the Risus Companion, so I'm happy, and have fun with it.

Thanks a bunch, Mr. Ross.

[magic item] Magic Message Marbles

An apprentice of the Northern Forest Magic School got tired of his errand runs through the labyrinth of the underground libraries, and by forging a witty letter, and sending it to the Dwarven Sorcerers of the South, had them create a crate full of magical items. He was immediatley kicked out of the school when the package arrived, but took a sack of the magical items with him, leaving the crate half empty.

The magical items he asked for are Magic Message Marbles, and have some useful properties. They work with command words, can be enlarged, or shrinked, and travel magically (by rolling on the ground) to any chosen destination. However, setting the correct destination is tricky. The sender may have to know the location, and be able to recall a strong mental image of it, prior to giving the command to travel.

Magic Message Marbles

The marbles can be enlarged to a globe with a 1' diameter, and then inscribed with a message. Either marble, or globe-sized they will travel upon command and find their destination unerringly. They travel at a speed of 120'.

No more ability score prequisites for character classes

I like the Swords&Wizardry White Box approach of character creation without the ability score prequisites for specific character classes. So, one of the house rules I'm going to write down for my Basic Fantasy group is this:
  • No ability score prequisites. Roll 3d6 in order, pick your class.
It's not really innovative, I know.* But there's no reason not to like the old stuff. (Except that new stuff generally sells better; or has to be marketed better in order to convince people to leave the old stuff, and get the new stuff.)

Oh, you might say: "But magic-users need to be intelligent enough to read and speak languages, so INT 9 is a reasonable requirement for the class."
And I say: "Yes, maybe that was when the PC learned magic. But then something strange happened and he got dumbed down. Like - by the Evil Sorcerer's Mind Control spell, or something."

No, really. I never liked the INT table for languages. (Read here as to why.) And why not play a really, really silly slow-thinking wizard? It's a game, isn't it? When the players generated new characters the other day, one of them created a magic-user with STR 15, DEX 13, and INT 14. These are fine scores to pick any of the basic classes. Though with WIS 7 a cleric would normally not be allowed. But then again, why not play a slightly foolish cleric who is strong, nimble, and can solve puzzles?

*I just remembered that I speed-read the 9and30kingdoms' post on a similar topic, yesterday. So, there may be a connection why my brain came up with this post, today.

Sonntag, August 25, 2013

FAE Character Rick Starborn

I received my print-copy of FATE Accelerated yesterday. Before I will write anything remotely resembling a review, I'm going to create a few characters. Here's the first one.

I was thinking science fiction, and remembered an old animated movie I saw back when I was a kid. It was called Time Masters, and a little difficult to understand. The movie had been split into several episodes, I think. Anyway, I remembered the boy, and decided to create a character who is space-faring boy with a starship.

It took only a few minutes. The Chi-Powers will probably be renamed to something more sci-fi-themed. The Space-Ship-Friend has to be described in a few sentences. But the notes are enough to trigger a few scenes in my imagination. A first digital sketch of the character has been begun, as well.

Rick Starborn

Aged 14

High Concept: The space-faring Boy whose friend is a Super-Intelligent Space-Ship

Trouble: My friends' adversaries are mine, too.

#1 I can connect to virtually anything via my extraordinary Chi-Powers.
#2 Don't call me lazy, that makes me angry; and when I'm angry I become ambitious to really impress you.

Stunts: Because of my Chi-Powers I'm so in tune with my surroundings that I get a +2 when I move gracefully and quickly when running, or parcouring through difficult terrain.

Approaches: +3 Sneaky; +2 Quick; +2 Flashy; +1 Clever; +1 Careful; +0 Forceful

Refresh 3

Montag, August 19, 2013

Old School Combat - War Hatchet

'Somehow 1d6 is beginning to mean something, when I look at it.'
Krita and Wacom tablet.

Next time your character finds himself confronted by a 1d6 dmg weapon look at this picture.

Old School Magic - The Healing Touch

You seek healing, traveller?
Krita and Wacom Intuos5

Another quick sketch. This time done with Krita. I like the brushes. Black&white is nice to get that old school vibe.

Sonntag, August 18, 2013

Quick MyPaint Sketch - Magic Missile

Magic is easy with the OSR.
MyPaint 1.0 (Ubuntu 12.04) and Wacom Intuos5

I just found out about Krita and MyPaint. So, how did I miss out on those two? Reading too many OSR blogs, probably. But now, I just might put my Wacom Intuos5 to good use, and do some digital painting instead of browsing blogs, he?
Have to boost my drawing skill, and get some experience with digital wet paint. It's just Secondary Skills, maybe the DM allows me to jump from beginner to master in a few sessions.

Donnerstag, August 15, 2013

[magic item] Knife of Wand-Whittling

The travelling wand-whittlers of Arcath Lea not only make the finest wands and prepare them for various enchantments; they are known to work with knives that some claim allow for the magic to transfer better into the wands. However, since some of the travelling wand-whittlers recently set up a knife business, these rumors could have been spread intentionally to further their sales.

The rumors regarding the Arcath Lea Wand-Whittling Knife describe it as having the following properties.

Knife of Wand-Whittling
  • The wielder never cuts himself.
  • Any magical effect placed on the wand gets an additional +1 (or +5%) bonus. E.g. a wand of healing restores an additional hit point of damage.
  • Wands created with the knife are especially durable, and can contain 25% more charges.

Mittwoch, August 14, 2013

My Answers to the Top 10 Troll Questions

Questions asked by Random Wizard (read the comments for some answers.) Some blogs I read:
The Nine and Thirty Kingdoms (questions not tagged, so browse the blog's archive a little. It's worth it.)
Dungeons Deep & Caverns Old
Alex Schroeder

What is a Troll, and why do they ask so many questions about RPGs?
  1. Race (Elf, Dwarf, Halfling) as a class? Yes or no? No.
  2. Do demi-humans have souls? Role-playing game characters are mini-memes infesting the brains of the players. Neither human, nor demi-human player characters have souls. One can argue, however, that they do form the soul of the player; but then, the mere mentioning of players having something remotely resembling souls is - ridiculous, to say the least.
  3. Ascending or descending armor class? I go with the ascending AC of Basic Fantasy; but would choose descending with Swords&Wizardry.
  4. Demi-human level limits? Nope. Or maybe. But give the 1st-level elves, and dwarves aged 50 to 167-something a decent set of Secondary Skills at a reasonably high skill level.
  5. Should thief be a class? It already is.
  6. Do characters get non-weapon skills? Secondary Skills, yes.
  7. Are magic-users more powerful than fighters (and, if yes, what level do they take the lead)? I couldn't care less. If they are, fine. In a fantasy game, why shouldn't they? Fighters do the rough work for magic-users who secretly rule the game world, and get to make out with the Lady-Demons of the Abyss.
  8. Do you use alignment languages? No, although I like the idea of a Fantasy setting where alignment languages work. Also, there is no alignment in Basic Fantasy.
  9. XP for gold, or XP for objectives (thieves disarming traps, etc...)? XP for gold, and some objectives.
  10. Which is the best edition; ODD, Holmes, Moldvay, Mentzer, Rules Cyclopedia, 1E ADD, 2E ADD, 3E DD, 4E DD, Next ? I really like 2e ADD with just the core rules and a bunch of house-rules. I owned the Mentzer B/E/C/M rules, and loved the boxes. Never played it, though. I liked the Companion Rules best. Because of the color, and the illustrations. And I like the word 'companion'. That's why I love my Risus Companion Rules, too. And my Mora Companion knife. Companion is a friendly word. I think I'd like to write and publish some kind of Companion-Something one day. Lore is another fine word. The Mad-Kyndalanth Companion of Lore would make a nice title.
  11. Bonus Question: Unified XP level tables or individual XP level tables for each class? I tend to say unified XP level tables, and single saving throws, because it's simpler; but I think that it feels right that some classes have to gain more XP to advance a level and gain in fame and power.

Freitag, August 09, 2013

Just add bards? - Usherwood Adventures' Updated Expansion for OSRIC

James D. Kramer's Expansion for OSRIC.
Blazing skull, bards, and psi-powers!

I recently ordered Usherwood Adventures' Expansion for OSRIC (updated 2nd Edition) via Lulu. It comes in that handy A5 format just like the updated 2.3 version of OSRIC. Fits nicely on a small bookshelf, into pockets and bags, and on gaming tables.
The Expansion was written by game-designer James D. Kramer who also writes a blog. (You'll find a dragon's hoard worth of inspiring and usable game material there, too! Great maps for the Usherwood Adventures Campaign.)

Take OSRIC, Add Bards

OSRIC being a 1e clone, or rather THE 1e clone, does not offer the bard character class in the core rules. Bards are 2e, or expanded 1e. I loved the concept of the bard character class being a jack-of-all-trades/master-of-none, and I actually played one. The unfortunate guy headed into a large dungeon with a group of weird people, and got lost, because the players never got around to play another session of AD&D. Such was the prejudice of the time. They'd rather play ... Star Wars WEG, I guess? Anyway, I liked the concept, and figured I'd be some kind of bard myself one day. Only that recently I found out I was a dual-classing monk/ranger. (Read here.)

Usherwood Adventures does quite a lot for OSRIC. Adventures for once. And other game resources such as the setting Vermé.

Why would you expand OSRIC?
  • Well, it's cheap, quick, and easy. (You're old school, so you're into that.)
  • You get bards - among dragon hoardlings, half-orcs, and other cool stuff.
  • You get a great new system for psionics! With enough material to spark off a new setting. I mean, really. I owned Dark Sun, and the Psionics Handbook, but this take on psi-powers I find is less cumbersome, and great fun to implement. I might tweak it a little and use it with Basic Fantasy.
  • You'll find optional rules for multiple personalities (and their different alignments!) How wicked is that!
  • New spells for clerics, druids, and mages. (Check out Vomitus for druids, and then think again, if druids were too boring.)
  • New Monsters. Quite a lot, and good for a few nightmares.
  • Different kinds of bards.
  • Monks. Yes! Martial arts, enlightenment, and stuff!
  • The Jack-of-all-Trades. We're talking renaissence man, pulp gentleman hero! This class gives you quite a few options of character development. Far beyond basic - and a little too much for me, but there are those who'll love it!
Will I use it? I read it, and I'll browse through it occasionally. Since I play Basic Fantasy, I use OSRIC as a resource for random tables, mainly. So, I might knick a few ideas, and gradually introduce psionics at some point in the campaign.


Usherwood Adventures - Expansion for OSRIC (A5 paperback) at Lulu
Usherwood Adventures (Website)

OSRIC 2.3 (A5 paperback) at Lulu
OSRIC (Knights'n'Knaves Website)

OSRIC 2.3 - Die Referenz (kurzes Review, auf Deutsch)

What kind of D&D character am I?

I took the test, and here's the truth, in case you wondered :P

I Am A: Lawful Neutral Human Monk/Ranger (3rd/2nd Level)

Ability Scores:

Lawful Neutral A lawful neutral character acts as law, tradition, or a personal code directs him. Order and organization are paramount to him. He may believe in personal order and live by a code or standard, or he may believe in order for all and favor a strong, organized government. Lawful neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you are reliable and honorable without being a zealot. However, lawful neutral can be a dangerous alignment when it seeks to eliminate all freedom, choice, and diversity in society.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Primary Class:
Monks are versatile warriors skilled at fighting without weapons or armor. Good-aligned monks serve as protectors of the people, while evil monks make ideal spies and assassins. Though they don't cast spells, monks channel a subtle energy, called ki. This energy allows them to perform amazing feats, such as healing themselves, catching arrows in flight, and dodging blows with lightning speed. Their mundane and ki-based abilities grow with experience, granting them more power over themselves and their environment. Monks suffer unique penalties to their abilities if they wear armor, as doing so violates their rigid oath. A monk wearing armor loses their Wisdom and level based armor class bonuses, their movement speed, and their additional unarmed attacks per round.

Secondary Class:
Rangers are skilled stalkers and hunters who make their home in the woods. Their martial skill is nearly the equal of the fighter, but they lack the latter's dedication to the craft of fighting. Instead, the ranger focuses his skills and training on a specific enemy a type of creature he bears a vengeful grudge against and hunts above all others. Rangers often accept the role of protector, aiding those who live in or travel through the woods. His skills allow him to move quietly and stick to the shadows, especially in natural settings, and he also has special knowledge of certain types of creatures. Finally, an experienced ranger has such a tie to nature that he can actually draw on natural power to cast divine spells, much as a druid does, and like a druid he is often accompanied by animal companions. A ranger's Wisdom score should be high, as this determines the maximum spell level that he can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)


Detailed Results:

Neutral Good ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (16)
Chaotic Good ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (15)
True Neutral ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (16)
Chaotic Neutral - XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (15)
Lawful Evil ----- XXXXXXXXXXX (11)
Neutral Evil ---- XXXXXX (6)
Chaotic Evil ---- XXXXX (5)

Law & Chaos:
Law ----- XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Neutral - XXXXX (5)
Chaos --- XXXX (4)

Good & Evil:
Good ---- XXXXXXXXXXX (11)
Neutral - XXXXXXXXXXX (11)
Evil ---- X (1)

Human ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXX (14)
Dwarf ---- XXXXXX (6)
Elf ------ XXXXXX (6)
Gnome ---- XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Halfling - XXXXXXXXXXXX (12)
Half-Elf - XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Half-Orc - XX (2)

Barbarian - (-25)
Bard ------ (-19)
Cleric ---- XX (2)
Druid ----- XX (2)
Fighter --- (0)
Monk ------ XXXX (4)
Paladin --- (-23)
Ranger ---- XXXX (4)
Rogue ----- (-6)
Sorcerer -- (0)
Wizard ---- (-2)

Dienstag, August 06, 2013

2 clips and an Ares Predator

After the previous post images of survival knives, and guns in the Shadowrun game flashed before my inner eye.
Shadowrun has catalogs full of equipment, although the differences between the several heavy pistols are rather minor the fluff has its charm (and its price).

Buying equipment for the characters was a part-time job for Shadowrun gamers, and we used to browse through the books, stare at the simple silhouettes of the pieces and compare game stats, just as if browsing through any other catalog with pictures, short descriptions and prices - say a guitar shop's catalog.
Equipment lists raise attention, grab it, bind it, torture it. Even with short lists as in the Basic Fantasy game. I'm glad my players yet didn't stumble over the magic item section in their rule books...

Did anybody wrote a Shadowrun equipment app for smartphones, or pcs? Would be much nicer to scroll through the stuff, and have an option for side by side comparison.

2 Clips And An Ares Predator

When I was game-mastering Shadowrun (2nd Edition) I used to design the runs so that it was possible to get through them (presuming wits on the side of the players) with one heavy pistol and 2 clips of ammo. We had serious firefights street-wars with some GMs, and while that cinematic-over-the-top-style was good fun, I also liked a different approach. At least, I planned so the players had an option of doing stealth runs.

'When it comes to Shadowrunning nothing ever goes according to plan.'

Why pick up a light pistol, anyway?

In rp games conflicts often (and very quickly) escalate to deadly combat. I find that even with inexperienced gamers: as soon as they play their character they start to roam, and pick fights as if most of the inhabitants of the game world were enemies placed there for combat experience.
This might be true for a series of computer rpgs - and I've yet to find one with reasonable character interaction options. However, when it comes to encounter design, which implies thinking about those options, conflict, and physical conflict is just one of them. (Read: there are other options, too!)
I know that monster descriptions say 'monster will attack PCs on sight', and 'fight to the death', and so on, and so on.

Back to those light pistols. And the intimidation skill. Have you ever noticed that intimidation skill? Have you ever used it? Because I can't recall a situation when we did.

Intimidation Skill

'So, how does a Shadowrun character draw a light pistol on his opponent, and tell him to leave him alone? Yeah, he does so while his other hand levels that modified Ares Predator with his opponent's crotch and pulls the trigger.'

Intimidation with a light pistol alone does not work, because the opponent is likely to have a bigger gun. (Think of that meme-worthy Crocodile Dundee scene.) And the players know the stat blocks. A light pistol within SR2 was a joke, and if it wasn't our GM would have made it one. It could hurt, do some damage, but that damage would be shrugged off, and even if it hurt so much as to cause a wound, the characters would heal and bounce on. (I read SR 20th Anniversary Edition, and light pistols seem to be a little more dangerous here.)

'Shadowrun simulates the gunfire exchange by the clunk and clutter of those many six-sided dice. Otherwise its matrix-style slow-motion.' (That's out of context, but I like it.)

Intimidation (in rpgs) is a bit of acting, skill display, maybe weapon display, and mostly communication. If characters want to tell somebody to leave them alone, they could just ask them, and that somebody may consider the request. If that somebody is smart he'd observe the situation. He might feel intimidated even if no intimidation effort is made on the side of the characters.
The Intimidation Skill becomes necessary if that somebody is feeling lucky in that situaiton, but the characters want to convince him that leaving is the better option.

The reason why I designed the runs according to the 2C/1AP principle was that I wanted the players to explore those other options of interaction, communication, and sometimes intimidation. In a way it's kind of old school. You get XP for resolving the encounter - stealing the treasure from the dragon, or defeating him, or tricking him into giving you its treasure, (as if that would ever work,) or by getting away alive.

Anyway, this was meant to be a follow-up on the magic weapons post. But there are few magic weapons in Shadowrun. There are plenty of cool fluff weapons with fancy names and few differences.

I'd like to play SR4 (or the upcoming SR5) to see how it feels today. The last runs I GM-ed were done using the Saga System.

Montag, August 05, 2013

The cool weapons are magical

Why I like 1d6 damage for all weapons

The formula higher price equals more damage in combat is - I think - not valid. In some instances a high price resembles the cost and effort to produce a weapon of high quality. Scarcity is a factor, too; and when it comes to social status not every weapon might be available to everyone. Some weapons are decorative, and very expensive, but not made for combat use.

A character can pick up a rock and use it as a weapon. Or a heavy stick to have longer reach, and better leverage. Are the properties of these tools reflected in the damage code? No. So, why - in an abstract game system - should the difference between knife, dagger, two-handed sword, long sword, or any other weapon be of any concern? Because some players feel the cool weapons ought to get better damage dice? (They feel they ought to win, too...) *Well*. What about skill?

Old school games like Basic Fantasy do not simulate combat realistically, they use abstract combat rules; so you have to be careful about applying house-rules to the system, or you might unbalance it. And I'm not talking about character-power-game-balance. If you add detail to one part of the system, you might want to consider why you would omit detail in other parts. Rules for character emotions, mental health, diseases, infections, allergies are, if at all, only implemented as abstract as possible. Because you wouldn't want to have your characters mess around with soap, would you?

Obviously, it is cool to get a better weapon

I agree, and that's what magic weapons are there for. There is no need to fuss about the different qualities of metals, or grinds used for knife-making. You, and your GM may consider it for fluff and descriptions, even for story purposes (find out about the Secret Metallurgy of the Lunta Dwarves, for example), but in game stats it is still a knife, dagger, whatever and inflicts 1d6 points of damage. Allow for a +1 bonus to attack, if the weapon is of exceptional (non-magical) quality; even consider +1 damage, if you're keen on it, but let it not be the norm. And the weapons need to be maintained in order to keep their edge, might break because of abuse, get lost, or stolen.

The cool weapons are magical, and they have either to be given to you, or you have to aquire them through purchase, quest, or dumb luck.

Choose the right tool for the job

The reason why I write about this much-written-about-topic is this: I considered buying an outdoor knife. (Something I have no real use for, but wanted ever since I was a kid)
During my research I learned a lesson: not only do guitarists talk and blah about their equipment, roleplaying gamers about their systems, but outdoor-friends, and part-time experts do the same about their knives, and stuff; (but more about knives than stuff.) Often to the extent that equipment talk, and viral marketing becomes more important than the activities the equipment was made for.

To make a long story short, I chose a Mora Companion; simply because the Mora of Sweden knives are affordable, and I like the concept (design, color, production). I'd like to add, that I love the Flaxwood guitars made in Finland, too. Seems to me, the Scandinavians have a knack for innovation, and design. There's even this nice old school game called Lamentations of the Flame Princess from Finland.

So much for the equipment talk, and viral marketing.

Move along, now. Play a game. (You may want to use some of the magic items found on Mad-Kyndalanth.)

Sonntag, August 04, 2013

Morgansfort has new visitors

Our small Basic Fantasy group got together spontaneously, and decided (because one player didn't bring his character sheet along) to roll up new characters just for the fun of it, and because they wanted to play a little riskier without losing their already dear characters Swuff&Lobosh.
So, 3d6 in order they went, and out came the elven mage Malanja (if I recall correctly,) and a young halfling thief named Luro.
Malanja being about 120 years old took two secondary skills: weaponsmithing at master skill, and mountaineering at advanced skill level.
Since there are no secondary skills in the Basic Fantasy game, I house-rule that part. There are five skill-levels: beginner, advanced, expert, master, grand-master. Skills can be aquired during the game, or chosen at character creation. I always disliked elves with a starting age of a-hundred-something-plus with just as little skill and competence than any human teenaged fighter.
Secondary skills do not have anything to do with attributes, or experience level. The latter has more to do with heroicness, renown, fame, and importance to the story. Secondary skills do not hurt the game system.
Yes, Malanja is a mage, and although she is not allowed to use a sword (without a penalty to the attack roll, anyway), she can make one. And think of the magic weapons she will be able to forge after she gained a few levels!
I liked the idea, and since the player rolled a nice STR 15, DEX 13 (and still chose to play a magic-user) I went along with it.
Luro is an advanced mountaineer, as well, and so the players decided the two adventurers would have met somewhere climbing.

We had a lot of fun with those random encounter tables, and exploration. The two defeated a large dire wolf whose head and fur is now on display at the Toothless Dragon Inn, fought a giant hawk, two orc bandits, and met a strange hermit who lives in a ruined tower. All in one short gaming session.

Great game. And they enjoyed their riskier playing style - meaning: they got to explore more, and gained more experience!