Monday, December 30, 2013

End of the Year

As 2013 winds down, I thought I would take a look back at my gaming life over the past year.

What did I play?
A lot of 3.55E (that's 3.5 with some extras stolen from other games). Our campaign to save an alternate Europe from the Plague Lords and their demonic allies waged on, and it seems there may or may not be an end in sight. Ahnuld picked up a few levels in Favored Soul, he has a sword blessed by the God of War, and is currently trying to muster an army of Orcs to help defend against the incursion.

Also played some D&D NEXT. The playtests went well, I thought. Nothing Earth-shattering, but I'm not sure we went about it the right way. We played a really good story (that will probably continue into next year), but it didn't call forth much need to put the new rules to the test. Which may not be bad thing. The feeling we all get from NEXT is that the rules are lighter and more streamlined than recent editions, and so the lack of need to really get into them probably means they work better. At least, that's what I'm hoping.

Went to my first gaming convention this year, with the inaugural year of Gamehole Con right here in Madison, WI. I got to play some B/X run by David Cook; played games of Call of Cthulhu, Pathfinder, and Dungeon Crawl Classics; sat in on panels with Ernie Gygax, Jim Ward, Kieth Parkinson and Terry Pavlet. I'm really looking forward to next year, which should be even bigger and better.

And finally, I self-published some stuff. It seems they were generally well-received, especially for a one-man operation. Not sure how much more I will follow that trail, though.

What am I looking forward to in 2014?
Pretty much more of the same; more D&D, more NEXT, more Gamehole Con. Also looking forward to Gary Con in March for my wife's birthday.

What am I hoping for?
Honestly, I'd like to play more games. And not just more of the same, but other games. I'd really like to play some supers, and/or spies. Maybe some Sci-Fi, or even Science Fantasy. Basically, I have spent many years reading and playing games from all kinds of genres. And I'd really like to get back into that again. There are so many games to play, it seems a waste to just stick to D&D. Besides, as much as I love fantasy, it gets stale after a while. I crave more.

So, what about you? What did you do in gaming in 2013? And how does 2014 look to be shaping up?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

First hit's free...

A few months I got this jones to play WoW again. Yeah, I know there are better games out there (according to all of my friends who told me to buy Guild Wars II). But visually, nothing strikes my fancy like WoW for good fantasy computer gaming. Well, Skyrim is pretty great too, but I do that on the XBox.

Anyways, while I was on, my 18-year old daughter got into it. I ended up cancelling after a single month because my video card burned out. It's been replaced now, but I had decided to forego re-upping WoW again. I really don't need the distraction.

Apparently my daughter wasn't willing to just let it go. She decided to start paying for my subscription for me, just so she could play again. Heh.

So, I guess I'll be able to work on getting my Orc Monk up in level again. Sweet!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Monday Memories – Dragon*Star

Probably one of my favorite 3rd party campaign settings for 3.x was Fantasy Flight’s Dragon*Star. With the simple premise of “D&D in space” they managed to take fantasy and integrate it into a setting that I think is one of the best space opera settings around.

The idea is that known space is governed by the chromatic and metallic dragons. And every few thousand years, the current Dragon Emperor steps down and another takes over. Only, by agreement, the chromatic and metallic alternate.

At the time of the campaign setting, a gold is stepping down, and a red is coming in. And these dragons adhere to the classic D&D tropes of alignment. So, a Lawful Good dragon is leaving, and a Chaotic Evil one is about to take control. Let the chaos and strife ensue!

This was one of the few campaigns that I actually ran as the DM, and I didn’t really integrate much of the political struggles into my game. My story was basically Firefly with magic.

The party consisted of a cat-person who owned the ship, the Nefarious Lion, and his co-pilot, and Orc named 13. Along the way they picked up two former soldiers, one being a psionicist and medic, a former “NASCAR” type space-racer, and a blob-like mechanic (basically a conversion of Star Frontiers’ Dralasite) who had been raised by dwarves.

I ran several adventures, including one inspired by Event Horizon for a Halloween game. Although each was an individual “episode” of sorts, there were a few subplots that ran through the whole thing. I had several more adventures planned out, but life got in the way for a while, and we ended up changing games. My group did that a lot.

The game itself was very cool. You used the D&D rules for almost everything, with the DS books providing additions for things like technology and such. Magic was just as prevalent as it was in a traditional D&D game. In fact, it was designed so you could bring your D&D character into Dragon*Star, and explained it that some worlds had not been brought into the Empire yet. Which made for some interesting opportunities for game play.

The whole thing got a lot of comparison to Spelljammer. But really, instead of being a fantasy game with sci-fi elements, it was a sci-fi game with fantasy elements. Which ended up giving it a much more unique flavor.

Some of the stories I ran and had planned to run have been adapted to works of fiction (in various stages of development). I am currently creating a setting for stories that is similar in tone (mixing my fantasy chocolate with my sci-fi peanut butter), and I will probably port over some of the plots and ideas when I can.

Although Dragon*Star is out of print now, you can still buy the PDF’s from Fantasy Flight’s website, and you can often find the books in used book and game stores. I highly recommend them.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Determined to help

This morning I opened Facebook while having my coffee, and I see a post from Ari Marmell humbly asking for some help. If you read this blog (and the credits pages of your RPG's), there's a good chance his name is familiar. Ari is a talented writer, and a very good man, who has sadly fallen on hard times, like many of us.

Today he is attempting to dig his way out by promoting his writing. Ari has a new, self-published collection of short stories that could be of interest to readers of this blog, and others. I don't have that large of an audience, but if just a few people would share and spread this...well, you know how this stuff works.

So please, take a little read of his blog post (and peruse his site), and see if you can help out in any way. Personally, I bought the Kindle version this morning.

We are a community. If we don't help each other, who will?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Monday Memories - Hearst, Andrew Hearst.

During the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in high school, I was hard-pressed to find a gaming group. I had friends who gamed, but for the most part, they had more interesting things to do at the time. Then I met Darren, and we soon discovered a common love of gaming, and of James Bond (and also of watching General Hospital, but that's a whole other story). So, we decided to embark on some fine Solo Superspy RPG-ing using Victory Games' James Bond 007 RPG. I immediately rolled up a character and dove in.

My character was Agent 005, Andrew Hearst. I chose Hearst because I loved Hearst Castle, and it was the most European-sounding name I could think of. Andrew just seemed to fit with it. The first thing I noticed about Hearst was that we was larger and more muscular than Bond. So, for visuals, I chose Antony Hamilton, from his role on the TV show Cover Up (he replaced the first guy who accidentally killed himself on set). Interestingly enough, Hamilton was considered for the role of James Bond in 1987's The Living Daylights, but the producers rejected him because he was gay. Had I known that at the time I might have been devastated, as I was very conservative-minded (military brat). However, I didn't find that fact out until many years later, when I had matured into a much more open-minded adult. So, I was just sad that he was gone (died of HIV complications in 1995).

Anyways, Andrew Hearst was a former Royal Marine, and bit more of a "direct action" kind of spy (actually, much like Bond in Daniel Craig's movies). He went on three of the published missions, Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice, and For Your Eyes Only (if I recall correctly). I loved playing those missions. First of all, while the main plot was basically the same as the movies/books, the details were different, so you couldn't just ape Bond and hope to get through. You would invariably face things Bond hadn't. That being said, when you did find yourself in a similar situation, you could always try what Bond tried, if you were stumped for other ideas. All-in-all it was a very fun game.

I honestly don't remember much about the mechanics. I mean, I own a copy of the game now, and occasionally flip through it. But I haven't played it since those days, so I don't remember how it all works. I just remember being enthralled with Darren's copies of the books (especially the Q Manual, which I also now own).

If I were to play a Superspy RPG now, I would probably go with AEG's Spycraft. However, I would not be opposed to using that old 007 game again. It definitely had a unique feel, and captured the tone and feel of a good Bond novel and/or movie.

Incidentally, Hearst has appeared in my many attempts to write a superspy novel. I actually wrote an opening chapter, and polished it into a short story called "Without Hesitation." If anyone is interested in that, let me know. I can post it up here.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hero's Journey for free!

Ok, that didn't take nearly as long as I thought it would.

As mentioned before, I have put my retro-clone WIP out there for public consumption. You can find the link on the My Products tab above.

Or, ya know, I could just link to it here.

Gonna stick it out there

I came to a decision about Hero's Journey today. After looking at the whole thing from different angles, I've decided to just post the whole damn thing for free here. And I might even list it at RPGNow as a PWYW game.

The main reason I am doing this is because it is pretty rough, untested, and kind of incomplete. I have a lot of stuff in there (about 40 pages), but it still needs a lot more to be a real game.

I finished entering the monster list today, and while I was doing that I realized it was kind of missing stuff. It's in a table format, which didn't allow much room for flavor text or descriptions. The table is really there to illustrate how to convert monsters from other editions to Hero's Journey to make them compatible with the new combat rules I came up with. The rest relies on the GM looking at other resources for specifics (I used the Moldvay/Cook books for my references). And that's no way to format a professional game.

I know that a lot of the sections will probably seem incomplete to another readers. Everything is crystal clear to me, but I have the advantage of knowing what I wanted to say, and not just what I actually wrote. Most of the new stuff is a combination of old house rules and ideas that have been percolating in my head for years. This game was my way of putting them all on paper and seeing if I could make them all mesh. I think I succeeded, but I will never know until A) I play test the rules, and B) other people play test them and send me feedback.

So, I will work up a decent cover image, and then format it all for public consumption soon. I'll probably print a copy out myself and see if I can coerce someone to play it with me. Yeah, good luck with that!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Monday Memories - Divin' through the Stargate!

I thought I would try my hand at doing a weekly feature. So, from now until I no longer want to, Monday mornings will have a blog I call Monday Memories. This is where I will talk about the games I played in the past, and how I feel about them now.

For my first entry, let’s talk about the Stargate SG-1 RPG from Alderac Entertainment Group.

The System: Based on the d20 mechanics, Stargate used the rules from Spycraft, and re-created the long-running TV series, based on the 1994 film starring Kurt Russell. Because of the heavy military influence of the show (which was almost unique in that it had actual active duty Air Force personnel as advisors), Spycraft was a perfect fit.

The Campaign: Our campaign centered around our team, designated SG-4, and it was commanded by my character, Ltc. Matthew Valentine, a former Special Forces officer, now working a desk at the Pentagon (and played, in my mind, by George Clooney). We also had a Marine, a former astronaut, a former Para-Rescue, a CIA agent, and a defecting Jaffa. The marine left early on (due to the player having to back out), but the rest of us continued on. And the group even played during my own absence after I moved away a couple of years later.

Most of our early adventures centered around a group of Goa’uld system lords based on Greek deities, specifically, a nasty bitch called Artemis. These were interspersed with some one-off “episodes” (including one based on the idea of the Doom video games).

Eventually, the team found their way to a Ringworld, and were set to spend the rest of the campaign exploring that. It was at this point that I had moved away, so Valentine was promoted to full-bird Colonel, and put in charge of the Ringworld station. That way, should I make it back down to San Diego for a visit, he would be available to jump in on a mission. However, the campaign eventually fizzled as people drifted apart.

I actually built a website for the campaign, if anyone is interested. Sorry about the pop-ups and ads. It’s old, as is my website that hosted it, but still fun to look at for me.

Memories: We had a lot of fun with this one. Between myself and the player with the CIA agent, we had enough real-world military knowledge to add a lot of details to the game, differentiating it from the Air Force-heavy show, including a lot of Army-heavy influences (like weapons, tactics, etc.).

We had a few running jokes. Like diving through the Stargate; we made it a point to do that occasionally, even if it wasn’t necessary, just because it always looked so cool on the show (much to Gen. Hammond’s chagrin). And grenades; we were the team who took the old adage that “any problem can be solved with the proper application of explosives” to a whole new level. I believe the team was responsible for the destruction of at least two Goa’uld system ships this way.

In short, this was one of my all-time favorite RPG experiences. And I would totally love to play the game again.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pay What You Want?

So, I've had a little bit of experience with RPGNow's PWYW feature now. I put Attack of the Furryons! out in that format, and I have actually had a handful of people pay the suggested $1 price tag for it. So far, no one has reviewed it, but that's not a big deal for that one. The supplement for my Life of Rage - OSR Edition, Qruzlat, has seen almost no movement at all. So, today I converted it to a PWYW as well. We'll see how that goes.

Which brings me to Hero's Journey. I am almost done with the writing. Right now I have to convert the monster list from the original listings to HJ stats, and it's ready to go. I also reduced the list from 100 monsters to 50. Now, what I am thinking of doing is publishing it as a PWYW version, without any art (though I'll probably do a simple cover to catch the eye), and maybe offer a fixed price version once I can get some drawings done for it. The fixed price version will probably also include a bunch of new info, and maybe a workable setting to use.

Anyways, this past weekend, we got to play another session of our D&D Next game. I'm liking the system, and am kind of excited to get the final version when it's released next year. It seems to have a good blend of later edition crunch, combined with the early editions' simplicity and flexibility.

On a somewhat related front, before the D&D Next game, I had a fun little discussion with the DM about the various Warhammer games, and I brought up the fact that I own a copy of Dark Heresy from Fantasy Flight Games. Which, of course, lead me to taking it out and reading through some of it. And now I want to play. It's too bad my current gaming group seems to have no interest in anything but D&D. And really, just the one campaign, with some side-sessions of Next playtest.

Sometimes I forget that there is a whole slew of other games out there that I like to play, or want to play. Especially here on this blog. I need to remedy that. So, future posts will most likely step away from D&D and OSR, and chit-chat about some of the other games I love.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Deer in the Headlights

My local gaming group has been trundling along in the same 3.5+ campaign for about three years now. Yes, I have been playing the same character for three, real-time years, which is a whole new experience for me.

Our DM, one of my wife's high school friends, has been working on the setting for years. It's basically 14th century Europe, but with fantasy races, and a pantheon of deities. It's all very intricate and detailed, and he has obviously put a lot of effort into it. Including the story.

Here's the thing; he has a lot of RP-heavy encounters, political intrigue, dealing with the machinations of the gods, and the like. I made a half-orc barbarian. You can probably imagine how that has worked out for me. I have actually had to re-think my character's concept to make him fit in such a world a few times. As he stands now, Ahnuld, the half-orc from Germany, is also an unofficial priest of Templarus, God of War (a few levels in Favored Soul), and was looking towards being a great leader and general in the war that is currently sweeping the continent (a few levels in Fighter as well).

But then the Goddess of Dark Secrets manipulated us into some situations, and promptly made us choose to either forget who we were, or have the world forget who we were. The rest of the party chose to have the world forget us (I did not agree, but was outvoted). So, now my character's dreams of military conquest and glory seemed dashed, since no one knows him from the proverbial Adam. I have expressed my displeasure with the actions of this goddess, whom I have taken to calling the "Whore of the Heavens" and plan to subtly defile every shrine of hers I find.

Anyways, we are on our way to a hole that was ripped in the fabric of realities by mages doing dumb things, in order to enter Perdition for some kind of "god-killing" weapon. That sounds promising, but the best part is that, in order to get there, we have to travel through Germany. Where there are lots of orcs. Orcs who, if unified under a strong leader, could turn the tide of the war, and save most of Northern Europe from the plague-ridden, demon-spawning armies of the Plague Lords that are about to cross the Alps.

Well, the other night we entered Germany, and quickly ran across a skirmish between some humans and some orcs, with a couple of flying demons poised to attack. I didn't even think twice, and immediately engaged the humans. Well, we made short work of the humans (though my non-orc party members captured one for questioning), and I greeted the orcs as brothers.

And then the headlights came on.

For the last three years Ahnuld has been a background character. His only real contributions have been in combat, and a few small RP-encounters here and there. And now he was thrust into the forefront. And I froze. I managed to stumble through some basic RP, without getting too much into character. Fortunately, I got us set up to talk to the local chieftain, and that will happen in two weeks.

So, my plan is to figure out what Ahnuld would and should say/do to convince the orcs that it would behoove them to band together, and stand united against the oncoming war. That will be interesting. And completely out of my element as a roll-player.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hero's Journey

I thought I'd post some info on Hero's Journey (btw, what do you think of that for a name?).

First off, here is the Table of Contents:




I might move a couple of things around. Like Leveling. I might move that somewhere else. I'm not sure yet.

On the Monster List, I have a list of 100 monsters gleaned from the B/X books, and I will be spending the next few days converting all of the stats to be compatible with the rules as I have them here. Aside from that, and the section on NPC's, the text is completely done. I just need to get it playtested and fine-tuned. Then comes the dreaded art issues. I'll work through that eventually, but it's kind of a pain for a one-man operation with no funds.

Anyways, does this sound interesting to anyone yet?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Essential Monsters

Ok, I'm back to working on my pseudo-retroclone/alternate player's guide, and I find that I would like to add a section on Monsters. Since it's kind of based on OSR D&D (with a LOT of mods and additions), I figure the easiest thing to do (and the one that won't require the tedious re-invention of the wheel) is to create a modest list of "essential monsters" for any fantasy RPG, and include guidelines on how to add to it from other sources.

To that end, I am going to ask for your opinions, my loyal readers. In the comments below, give me your top ten list of monsters that every D&D-esque RPG should include.

Here's my list (in no particular order):
Greater Undead (vampire, death knight, etc.)
Giant Ants (or other insects/arachnids/etc.)
Giant Lizards/Snakes
Wild Animals

In addition, if there is a monster that you don't recall seeing, or that you think needs to be re-imagined, let me know that too. I have a few ideas of my own, but I'm only one gamer here.

I'll probably create a list of 50 or so monsters, but I want them all to be the monsters that will be the most useful.

Thanks in advance!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Attack of the Furryons!

Just a quick note to let you all know that my free kids' RPG, Attack of the Furryons! is now available at RPGNow.  See the link to the right.

Right now, it's listed free.  I would like to list it as PWYW, but I can't figure out how to do that.  Anyone know?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Cross-Blog Promotion

As some of you may know, I also have a blog about writing, and other aspects of my life.  I recently published a new story on Kindle, and I thought I would take a moment to share that with you.  This is copied from my other blog:

Many moons ago, an enthusiastic group of writers had an idea. What if we each contributed a short story to an anthology that took place in a shared world setting? And what if that setting was a Burroughs-esque Sword & Planet setting? And what if each writer wrote his story about a different planet? A Facebook page was quickly constructed, and planets were doled out to several writers, some basic details and ideas were hashed out, and soon work really began.

Well, as these things sometimes go, some writers had to bow out, the editor was forced to abandon ship for several very good reasons, and it looked like the idea was dead in the water. However, that left six people with completed stories that they were unsure what to do with.

A few of us have decided to share those stories on Kindle (and possibly other eBook venues). For my own part, I have formatted it, packaged it with a nice cover, and put it out there. I published it last night, but this morning when I woke up a sudden thought occurred to me, and I realized I had forgotten a few key elements (such as the copyright notice). So, this morning I fixed the base file, and re-uploaded it. It should be available for purchase some time this afternoon.

In re-reading it yesterday, I did notice one flaw, and it may be a big one. But, I will wait for someone to point it out. Because I tried to figure out how to fix it, and I just couldn't think of anything that didn't sound stupid. So, I left the story as is. I rather like it. It's got adventure, danger, excitement, pirates, flying ships, aliens, and a bit of romance. All told, I think fans of the genre will enjoy it.
The story is now available:
The Pirates of Themos

Additionally, Charles Gramlich (who's other writings may also be of interest to fans of many genres) has also published his tale:
The Machineries of Mars

I hope that, if you enjoy the S&P genre, you'll look into both.  They're short stories.  And I can attest that at least Charles' is very good.  I just hope mine measures up as well.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Think of the children!

So, yesterday I saw that it’s “Introduce your kids to gaming” week (or some such) at RPGNow. I have a 10 year old daughter who has already gotten a taste of D&D with 3.5 (run by another 10 year old), and a 4 year old son (who turns 5 in 10 days) who has a pretty good imagination already. I also have an 18 year old daughter who might take part in something, but I doubt she would ever become a “gamer” like her dorky dad.

For the 10 year old, I plan to hopefully run her and her mom (and maybe her older sister) through a few modules using the B/X rules, with some added stuff (like Basic Arcana, of course). In fact, the “from the bottom up” module I am preparing to write is geared for that as well. I know she’ll enjoy it, as she has a pretty good imagination too, and really liked her small taste of 3.5.

For my son, I was looking into some rules and games that he could play. I know there is one out there where you basically use their toys, and a simple mechanic, to re-create a “dungeon crawl” type of adventure. I love that idea. I had the rules, but can’t seem to find them, or remember what they were called. But I do recall that I was unsure about the mechanic part. He’s already kind of advanced in math for a Pre-K kid (his teacher told us so just yesterday at PT Conference).

Of course that means I have to write my own rules. So, I did. Yesterday was a slow day at work, and I found myself with a lot of free time on my hands. As a result, I was able to write a complete 5-page RPG geared for kids ages 5-10, based on the idea of using an action figure to fight possessed stuffed animals. I call it Attack of the Furryons!.

I’m going to do some more fine-tuning on it, and then play test it with my son. When I get it just right, I’ll probably put it up at RPGNow as a PWYW game.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

From the bottom up?

I know it's a trope that has existed since the first days of D&D, but sometimes I wonder if it makes sense. maybe someone out there can explain it to me.

Why is it that the further you go into a dungeon, the tougher the challenges should be?

I ask this because I am embarking on something new for me. In the past, when I run a game, I do so from basic notes, maybe a few graphics and maps, and not much else. I have never actually ran a published module (though I have played in many). And now I find myself wanting to actually write one. Actually, a few.

So, I have kind of been reading advice on how to go about doing it, and in the Swords & Wizardry rule book, they talk about the above-mentioned format: Challenges get tougher as you go down. But, what would happen if you started at the bottom and had to work your way up? Has this been done before? I can only assume it has, I just haven't seen it personally.

Logically, you wouldn't be able to put your high HD creatures at the bottom, and your low HD creatures at the top. But does it make sense to have the low ones at the bottom, and the extra-powerful at the top? I think it would work, if you build a background that lends itself to that.

I mean, the surface is where the riches are, from a monster's point of view. So, logically, the more pwerful monsters would dominate and stake their claim to the surface routes. In turn the less powerful monsters would be pushed in, or down as it were. They would be forced to live off the scraps of the more powerful denizens of the upper levels. They would become somewhat isolated, creating microcosms of society on their own.

And this last part is the thing that interests me the most. Being so isolated makes those less powerful creature more apt to develop along abnormal lines. Who's to say that the Kobolds in that great cavern would be so hostile to a force of adventurers who appear in their midst, if they appear to be headed up? The party might find unlikely allies...even friends down there.

Anyways, these are some ideas I am looking at exploring with my adventure series.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Gamehole Con!

I spent the last three days at my very first gaming convention (well, my first as a patron). Having gone to San Diego Comic-Con for 11 years straight, Gamehole was refreshingly underwhelming. What I mean is that it wasn’t packed to the gills with people and things, leaving no time to see and do all I wanted. No, Gamehole was just about perfect.

As far as the Con itself, I had no complaints, and saw no flaws. The staff were all very nice and enthusiastic. They treated everyone well, and it was cool when my friend and I stopped in the hall to chat with one of the main organizers, and he spilled some secret beans about next year.

The Swag Bag wasn’t stuffed with crap, but I got a nice t-shirt, a couple of buttons, and I even bought a souvenir cup that I could get refilled with the soda of my choice all weekend long. The facilities were very nice, and well planned out. Apparently next year will get even more rooms, for more games and a bigger dealer floor.

The dealer floor was small but cool. Got to oogle and fondle some awesome swords (including Conan’s father’s from the 1982 Conan the Barbarian, my all-time favorite movie sword). They were beautiful and very pricey. A few of the local game stores had a presence, and we bought a couple of things, including a copy of the Gen Con preview version of the Firefly RPG, by Margaret Weis’ company.

On Friday, I played a B/X game run by David “Zeb” Cook. Very fun! Zeb is a neat guy, very laid back and friendly. And the adventure was an “off the cuff” game he made up as we went along, but you would never have known it. That was some quality gaming. And Zeb signed my Expert Rulebook!

Friday evening we sat in on a panel with Terry Pavlet and Jeff Easley, both veteran artists of the TSR days. A lot of funny stories, and cool insights into those days. Jeff had a story about a painting for the cover of a Star Frontiers module he did, and I remembered I had that one. So the next day I brought it in and he signed it for me. We also bought a commissioned picture from Terry. Both were very nice guys.

Saturday my wife and I sat in on a panel with Jim Ward on game design and marketing. Very informative and had me excited about getting some game stuff professionally published. After Jim was a small panel with Zeb Cook, who expounded on all that he had been involved in since leaving TSR. Then we played in a Call of Cthulhu game set in 1885, in the Khyber Pass. We all went insane and/or died. Perfect CoC game. Over all, Saturday was a great day.

Sunday was a kind of a wind-down. Took part in a Pathfinder Society game. That was fun, but I wish I had been more prepared. I was the only person who was using a pregen character. The adventure itself could have been more involved, but it was still fun. In the afternoon my friend and I got into a “DCC” game of “Liberation of the Demon Slayer,” run by the author. It was fun, though the DMing could have been a little more polished. And the adventure seemed kind of loose. I’m sure it’s probably better when run seriously, and not as a one-off Con game. All in all, Sunday was the least fun of the three days, and yet, still very enjoyable.

I met some cool people, and got a line on a local group that meets regularly. I’m going to see if I can work in a game here and there with them. My wife had a great time on Saturday, and has now decided that we are going to go to GaryCon in Lake Geneva for her birthday next year. That will be fun and exciting!

I see a lot more gaming in my future. Which is always a good thing.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Inadvertently following a legend

Behold the TRUE face of David "Zeb" Cook!!
So, this Friday is Gamehole Con. After a brief run-in with possible Jury Duty this week, it is confirmed that I will be there for three days. I’ll be gaming, shopping, and just generally enjoying the company of fellow geeks (and hoping I don’t get sick).

Although the whole thing promises to be exciting, the one thing I am most looking forward to is playing B/X D&D with David Cook on Friday. Yes, THAT David “Zeb” Cook. The man behind the first Expert Set, Star Frontiers, and more recently, City of Villains, along with a host of other fine products.

Oddly enough, I didn’t know about the CoV thing until just recently. Apparently he was the lead designer on that game, and known in-game as Lord Recluse. And now he is working on Elder Scrolls Online, which I have been looking at, and will hopefully get a chance to try out. So, in the big picture I have kind of been following David around without even knowing it! Pretty cool. I hope he agrees to autograph my Expert Set book.

In other news, I have suspended all online RPGs. Mainly because my graphics card crapped out, and I need to replace it. But also, I just don’t need that kind of distraction. I don’t get much time to myself, so if I want to see my dream of being a noteworthy writer realized, I really need to pare down the distractions. Of course, I just started playing the Black Ops Campaign yesterday…

And finally, I sold a single copy of Qruzlat – The Way of the Crushing Fist! YAY ME!! Hopefully whoever bought it likes it, and gives me a good review.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Reflecting on Feline

Way back in about 1985 or so, a group of friends and I decided we were going to play a superhero RPG. At first, Darren thought about Villains & Vigilantes. I was cool with that, since at the time I had only played D&D, and V&V sounded like a supers version of that. But then DC Heroes came out, and Darren bought that. I never did make any characters for V&V, and have never actually played it to this day. Hmmm…

Anyways, DC Heroes. I remember we were all walking over to my house to play in my dining room. There were four of us, I think. I was still trying to figure out what kind of character I wanted to play. Then, when I walked into my house, and saw my Siamese cat, Tippy (the tip of her tail was white), I knew. And thus, Feline was born.

His DCH incarnation was a lot like Batman, and he wore a costume that basically looked like a Siamese cat. The only adventure I played him in with DCH started with us fighting animal rights activists who were trying to destroy a college campus, and free the animals. I don’t really remember much beyond that. But I do remember doing superfluous acrobatics during the fight.

Not long after that, we switched over to Marvel Super Heroes, and Feline really came into his own. By this time I had actually started collecting comics, and Spider-Man was my favorite, so the MSH version of Feline was a lot like him. We played many adventures in that game, and Feline has stuck with me as a character for many years now. I think there was even a Champions version sometime in the late 80’s.

The next time I would create Feline for a game would be around 2002 or so, when Mutants & Masterminds came out. I never actually got to play him, but creating him for that game was very cool. To this day, M&M would be my go-to supers game, if I could convince my group to play something other than D&D.

Oddly enough, though all of the years I played the City of Heroes MMO, I never made Feline. I think I tried once, but the name was taken, and I couldn’t bring myself to rename him. I made someone similar named Devil-Cat. He was kind of a blend of Wolverine and Black Panther. Devil-Cat also has an incarnation in DCUOnline.

But, Feline was always my favorite super hero. Probably because he was my first. Today, my favorite comic book character is Captain America, but I’m also a big fan of super strength characters like Colossus and Hercules. Still, if I had a chance to play in a supers RPG again, I would probably make Feline.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Maybe it's for the best

Well, the other day my computer decided that it didn't want me playing WoW anymore. or any MMO for that matter. I'm not sure what the problem is, exactly, but it would freeze up whenever I was playing WoW, and it would take forever to get it to boot back up. I updated the video driver, but, because it's Nvidia, there are issues with that, apparently.

Last night I decided to boot up DCUOnline, just to test it. Yep, same thing. Only now the damn thing won't boot back up at all, no matter what I do. In the past I ran into some bad sectors on my hard drive, and partitioned them off, so it has worked fine. But, now I am wondering if the problem has spread.

Either way, I am without a viable computer at home until I can get it fixed or replaced. I will probably have to get a new Hard Drive, and hopefully that's it. Heaven forbid if my video card is shot too...

Anyways, that leaves me with no gaming other than my bi-weekly game (which we will finally resume once more tomorrow night). I still have no idea how I could possibly wedge in an additional game, what with family, work, and school. So, I guess I'll just be happy with what I got. Though I am still eying the possibility of forcing my kids to play...

On the writing front, I published Qruzlat last week, and even gave it a better cover. To date, I have 2 "sales" for $0 each. Not sure what that means, but according to RPGNow it might be that they have given comp copies to a couple of featured reviewers. Either way, it really means that literally no one is interested in it. I might just integrate it into LoR-OSR and update that file.

And, as always happens, this poor performance has me second-guessing myself. I look at RPGNow just about every day, and I am astounded by the sheer volume of product being produced and published. Which makes me wonder why I bother. What is my stuff but a blip on a screen?

Eh, I will probably eventually finish the three big projects I have going, and let it go. It's been fun, and I've gotten some good feedback. But, I have to face the fact that I'm not a game-designer. I'm just a fanboy, like everyone else.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Social gaming

As I have mentioned before, I only have a single game going on right now. And honestly, as much as I would love to have more, I don’t really have the time or ability for more than that (though I wouldn’t mind if that one game was a bit more frequent). So, in order to get my gamer fix, I have resorted to re-upping my World of Warcraft account.

I’m actually enjoying it. I even got the Mists of Pandara expansion, which is cool because I can play an orc monk (he’s level 33 after only a couple of weeks of casual playing). And my account is getting plenty of use, as my three oldest kids are all playing it too.

But last night I had a bit of saddening epiphany.

I should preface this by explaining that I got into the game several years ago, and would often wile away evenings playing with my RL friends (with whom I would also meet once a week for tabletop games). We all played City of Heroes together as well, and we are all card-carrying altaholics. But, we had our signature characters that we would play together. So, in my mind, those characters are always associated with the memories of those friends.

And thus my sadness last night. I logged on to one of my first characters, a dwarf paladin named Stonegrimm. He was only 15th level, but I remember playing him a lot with my friends a couple of nights. Only last night, I was all alone. John’s gnome warlock wasn’t there, Richard’s dwarf warrior wasn’t there; and it was a little lonely. I played Stonegrimm for about fifteen minutes, getting him over to 16th level. It was cool to be in Loch Modan again, and to see the changes. But, it just wasn’t the same.

So, I went back to my orc and performed some kung fu on unsuspecting pirates in Booty Bay. That was cool. I just wish I could play with my old friends again.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Where else to campaign?

I previously discussed the idea of running a game using the Dragonlance setting. Now I will turn my attention to the Forgotten Realms.

As a gamer, I actually have more experience in the Realms. I have played in games set there, and have run a few games there myself. This is unlike my experience with Dragonlance, where I have only every played one adventure set there. I have also read a lot of the fiction. Some of it is great, some...not so much.

I like the Realms a lot because of the diversity presented. Granted, the place has become somehwat bloated with supplement after supplement detailing just about everything you could possibly imagine in a fantasy setting. I hear this as a complaint about the Realms a lot, and while I can concede the point, I have to ask why this makes any difference? If you don't like a particular supplement, or it interferes with the game you wish to run, why not simply ignore it? It's the same arguement I have against people who deride 3E because of all of the excessive third party material. Nothing says you have to all of it, or even any of it.

Interestingly, my most successful string of adventures (I can't call it a campaign, because we never finished) that I ran there started in a village I had created, rather than one of the established locations. However, the information available on the various countries and cultures helped me find a great location to set my village, and the surrounding areas fed into its development, as well as the development of the adventures.

In a nutshell, there are enough tools included in the Forgotten Realms to make any idea you have fully realized, without burdening the DM with having to do too much. Additionally, because the Realms includes so many diverse cultures, you can pretty much justify any character you like. It's no wonder they had made it the default setting for D&D for a time.

So, in the end, there are pros and cons to each world. I would probably end up asking my prospective players if they had a preference. Though I am personally leaning towards the Realms. They have orcs there. Dragonlance doesn't.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Available Now - Qruzlat

An orcish martial art, you say? How can such a thing be?

Find out in my newest supplement to the Life of Rage - OSR Edition game book, Qruzlat for only $1.00!

In the beginning, when Argok lead his people west, across the Dragonspine Mountains, he traveled with an advisor known as Tarok Bonecrusher. Tarok was a warrior without peer, believed to have even bested Argok himself in one-on-one combat. But what made Tarok unique was that he eschewed both armor and weapons, preferring to fight in only foreign robes, with fists and feet wrapped in leather...

Qruzlat is the orcish martial art developed by Tarok to harness the natural strength and rage of the orc. This supplement was written specifically for the Life of Rage - OSR Edition game, but can be used in a number of OGL-based systems.

Where to campaign?

Over the course of the past few weeks, I have been organizing my RPG collection. It is rather extensive, and I have actually removed several items from the main shelf, so I can make room for things I want to have handy. I have all of my D&D books, from all of the editions I own, displayed in a row. Next to the 3.5E core books, I have two setting books that I have always liked.

This is where the majority of D&D-players will probably roll their eyes and navigate to another blog.

The setting books I have are Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms. I love both of these worlds, and each for differing reasons. And since I am jonesing to run a campaign, I thought I would take down one of these books, and begin figuring out some campaign ideas. But, which one?

Dragonlance has always had a certain charm that no other world really captures. I am an unashamed fan of the novels, and am not turned off in the least by their level of writing. Honestly, I find the writing to be more than adequate. Maybe it’s not as flowery or as verbose as Tolkien, but it doesn’t need to be. Truth be told, I don’t particularly care for Tolkien’s writing style. He goes on and on where an economy of words would keep me more interested. Reading the LotR trilogy was actually a chore in some spots.

Anyways, Dragonlance. There are several ways I could do this. I could go with the pre-Cataclysm days, the dark ages just after the Cataclysm, the War of the Lance era, or even the post-war, “godless” era. Each has their challenges and quirks, but I think I am partial to the WotL-era. The time that the Chronicles takes place in.

The danger of using this era is that the major events are covered in the books, and involve the characters presented there. So, I would have to come up with quests and missions that focus on the PC’s, and have them feel that their actions will still effect the overall outcome of the War. Most of my potential players have read the books, and so they know how things end. Which could cause them to wonder why they are bothering. That would be the challenge.

I’m also considering the pre-Cataclysm era. This is a bit more open, and would allow for more freedom. If I set it far enough back, even the events that lead to the Cataclysm (with the Kingpriest and such) would be of little consequence. The more I think about it, the more I think this era would be best. This way I wouldn’t really be constrained by existing characters and events, but I would still have a framework to work from.

Then there’s the Forgotten Realms.

To be continued…

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lost and confused...

I opened my blog to a foggy haze this morning. I...I don't know what to write about. For 30 days I have had a focus. And I stuck to it. But, now...what?

Ok, this is not really that bad of a thing. I just like being dramatic. but, the fact is, I don't really have a whole lot to say. And that's distressing to realize.

Well, the new trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug hit today. And I must say, I about squeed out loud. I've been a fan of The Hobbit since I was about 7 or 8 years old. I used to catch the Rankin-Bass animated movie on TV whenever it was on. Remember those days? Some of you might. When there were only three major networks, and a handful of local channels. And once a year one of the networks would show classic movies for the family, and it would be an event that dinner was planned around. Ok, it was usually The Wizard of Oz, and Miracle on 34th Street. But still, in my house, it was The Hobbit (for a few years anyways).

Out of all of Tolkien's books, The Hobbit is my favorite. I love Tolkien's storytelling, and Frodo's epic quest forms the blueprint for every aspiring DM. But The Hobbit holds a certain amount of child-like charm. Which makes sense, as it was originally released as a children's book. Wow, imagine that. What do we have today? Captain Underpants? Sheesh. Today, The Hobbit might have found life as a Young Adult novel, but with some heavy editing.

Either way, I've read it a couple of times, and seen the animated film a couple of dozen times. The music alone gets me all misty-eyed for days of yore when I first learned to play D&D. It was my introduction to fantasy, and for years, that film was my only link to the genre (I actually didn't become an avid reader until my mid-teens). And when I started in D&D, Bard the Guardsman was my only real model for the fighter. but that was fine, because Bard is badass (no one else took down Smaug). And now he's in the second PJ film.

Yeah, I'm really looking forward to this. And I really want to play some old-school D&D. Not necessarily the rules (though I would love that), but the style of game. The epic quest, the clash of steel, the monsters, the whole "band of brothers" mentality. Some of that is hard to reach with the newer editions. It's still there. But people tend to get distracted by all of the shiny parts, and forget that, at its core, it's all still just D&D.

And, in case you have been under a rock this morning...

Monday, September 30, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 30: Best DM I ever had

Me and Chris at the Escondido Renn Faire
(he's the one with the sexy knees)
I've had a lot of good DM's. And a few crappy ones. It's hard to decide which is the best based on game enjoyment. But I would probably have to put Chris Blanchard up there as the best over all.

I met Chris back in 1996. I was in one of my first college classes at a local community college in San Diego, sitting there reading a Forgotten Realms novel. Some guy who looked like Kramer came up and asked if I played, pointing at my book. Of course, by this time I had been out of the Army for about 10 months, and hadn't played anything for almost a year. So, I enthusiastically answered yes. He invited me along to a friend's house for a game of Vampire: the Masquerade. I had never heard of it, but game was game.

Well, on Friday we arrive at the friend's house and I am introduced to Chris, the, Storyteller, and his fiance, Angel. Well, suffice it to say, I was out of my element with Vampire. I mean, I had played just about every type of RPG out there already, but this World of Darkness was something new, and frankly, weird. I had my doubts.

But Chris managed to make the game fun for a neophyte like me. My first character was basically Frank Castle as a Vampire. It was a fun time. And I gained two big things from that experience, a new found interest in WoD games (Werewolf is still my favorite), and a new best friend.

Chris and I hit it off right away, and throughout all of our individual troubles and tribulations, we have remained friends and often still geek out on Facebook together.

For a long period we had a gaming group that started when we shared an apartment for a little over a year. We called it FUBAR (Fraternal Universal Brotherhood of All-round Role-players). FUBAR met quite regularly, and we played a LOT of different games, and Chris ran a good portion of them. I think my favorite is still the Stargate SG-1 game, where I was the commander of SG-4. That was a cool game!

So, there ya go. 30 days of blogs. And only a couple of BS posts in there. There is evidently a Halloween themed one this month, but I doubt I can do that. Still, this has been a good exercise in writing daily. Now, if I can just transfer this to my fiction...

Saturday, September 28, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 28: A Character I will Never Play Again

I will never play a character of any type without first knowing what kind of campaign it is going to be.  I'm not saying that I will plan and cater my character to a specific campaign.  I just won't play that guy who has no business being in a particular style of game.

My current character started off as a Barbarian.  And a half-orc at that.  But it soon became apparent that the campaign was one involving a lot of role-playing, and "talky bits."  Nothing wrong with that kind of game.  It's actually pretty cool most nights.  But my character was completely useless unless we were in a fight.  Eventually I was able to modify his concept through the addition of other classes.  But even then, he's still kind of a "fish out of water" to an extent where it takes away some of the fun.

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 27: A Character I want to Play

As in a race/class combination I would like to try?  Hmmm...

I'm pretty sure I've tried just about everything.  Though a Half-Orc Bard would be cool.  I remember in the 3E splat book for bards, they talked about a half-orc who would rouse the patrons of a tavern by slamming his now-empty tankard on the table, sounding out a primal beat.  The patrons would join in, and as the drumming reached a fevered pitch, the bard would break into an orcish war song that would fill the listeners with primal urges.

Or some such.  Yeah, a half-orc with drums, who uses maces for his sticks and often creates a rhythm by beating on the enemies' shield and helmets.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 26: Favorite Non-Magic Item

About what I imagined it looking like.
The Sea Wolf.

As I have talked about before, I started really getting into playing Tomos when I was in the midst of discovering the Conan stories by Robert E. Howard (though I was reading the Ace editions, which had a LOT of influence from L. Sprague DeCamp). Some of the better stories took place on ships (Queen of the Black Coast), so I was entranced by the idea of having my character own a ship and sail the seas.

So, with the money he got from his first few adventures, he was able to afford to buy a small ship. In game terms, there wasn't a whole lot done with the ship. During the first adventure we repelled some pirates. But beyond that, the ship was not much more than a glorified horse, getting us from A to B.

But when I started plotting stories about Tomos, the ship became much more. I had long ago decided that Tomos would always have a wolf motif wherever possible (Conan had a lion). So, when it came to naming my ship, I named it the Sea Wolf (someday I am to read the book by Jack London).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 25: Favorite Magic Item

This one is almost like my favorite monster. I like a lot of them for different reasons, and the best for the job is subjective. However, as a player, my favorite magic item a character ever had was a vorpal bastard sword.

Tomos was born in B/X, but really came into his own in 1E. During his B/X adventures, he got a hold of a vorpal sword. Didn't think much of it until I converted him to 1E, and my friends revealed to me what I had. +3 to hit and damage, never dulls, on a 19 it will sever a limb, and on a 20 it will decapitate. I believe that was how it went.

I haven't played Tomos in many years, and haven't used a vorpal sword since. But in the hands of my half-elf fighter with his 18(90) strength, and being double-specialized (UA)...well, you can do the math.

Funny thing was, when I converted him to 1E, he was 5th level, and that was his only magic item. On the other hand, my two friends were playing 9th level characters who had been through several modules, including Queen of the Demonweb Pits. They each had scads of magic items. But in the end, Tomos and his sword made as much of an impact on battles as either of them (one a ranger, the other a fighter/magic-user).

Tomos and his sword used to inspire many stories, and I had a whole cycle of books planned about him. Good times!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My first milestone!

Ok, in the grand scheme, it might be kind of lame. But, I'm excited to report that I have officially sold 25 copies of Basic Arcana (and 15 copies of Life of Rage).

Now, while that excites me, what makes me uneasy is the lack of reviews. I'm hoping that it's just a matter of people don't like to review stuff. Which is cool. But still...

As a side note, I've decided to leave Life of Rage at $2.99, rather than going back to $4.99. If you paid $4.99 for it, and feel cheated, let me know, and I will come up with some way to compensate you. Cuz, I'm cool like that.

Anyways, I'm still working on Hero's Journey. Making some logistical decisions. Mainly with the amount of content. As a one-man show, I'm not sure I have it in me to write a COMPLETE game. So, I may re-write it a bit as a sort of "Alternate Player's Handbook" and just make sure it's all compatible with other editions.

I'm also making some headway on Stars of Fortune. I really just need to get on paper my ideas for creating missions. I'm also looking at creating a bunch of generic maps to be used for multiple missions. I mean, come on, how many factory layouts can there really be? I also need to write the rules for vehicles. And create some designs.

Ok, so Stars is still a ways from being complete. But, I like it so far.

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 24: Favorite Energy Type


Ok, out of the entire 30 days, this is the dumbest one, IMHO. How do I even answer this? I have never played specifically with "energy type" being a factor. In past days I could say "I don't have a favorite" and still eek out an answer. This one...

I dunno. Wind? Steam? Kinetic? Cosmic? Oh so many nonsensical choices.

By the way, my favorite actor is Sylvester Stallone, I'm a Sagittarius, and I am forced to read Facebook on my iPhone at work, because they block the site on our network.

There. I blogged.

Hasta la vista!

Monday, September 23, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 23: Least Favorite Monster

The Tarrasque.

This thing is an indestructible engine of destruction that can't be reasoned with; it can't be bargained with; and it absolutely will not stop. Ever! Until the world is dead!

Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to put kaiju in D&D? I have, fortunately, never had a DM who was so sadistic as to bring one of these out (although I did have one DM who made us fight a brontosaurus...but that's a whole other story). Just looking at the stats and abilities is enough to make me want to just ignore its existence. I mean, who but a god would even be able to take it down?

I'm sure there are a thousand-thousand stories about how this group or that group succeeded. But....why? Why bother? Any sane person would just sit down and play with their toes until the inevitable happened. Where's the excitement in that?

And for the record, I never cared much for Godzilla either. I outgrew him at about 12 years old. Besides, Ultraman could totally kick Godzilla's ass.

Come to think of it, where is the Ultraman entry for D&D?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 22: Favorite Monster Over All

I know that I don't have a favorite monster.  there are a lot of good ones, and really the best for the job is ALWAYS situational.  I mean, dragons, ogres, zombies, skeletons, giants...they all have their places.

But, if I have to pick one that just piqued my interest from the very start, it is the Shield Guardian from 3E.  The very first time I read about them, I immediately developed an adventure idea involving a tower, a long-dead wizard, and actual, in-game consequences for Alignment choices.  And what's more, I successfully ran it, and it worked exactly how I wanted it to.

From the SRD Wiki:
Created by spellcasters to be bodyguards, shield guardians are constructs that protect their masters with spells and stamina. When it is fashioned, a shield guardian is keyed to a particular magical amulet. Henceforth, it regards the wearer of that amulet to be its master, protecting and following that individual everywhere (unless specifically commanded not to do so).

A shield guardian obeys its master’s verbal commands to the best of its ability, although it is not good for much beyond combat and possibly simple manual labor. It can also be keyed to perform specific tasks at specific times or when certain conditions are met. The wearer of the amulet can call the shield guardian from any distance, and it will come as long as it is on the same plane.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 21: Favorite Dragon

My first experience was with a gold dragon when my friend ran me solo through Slave Pits of the Undercity using the Moldvay Basic rules when I was in 6th grade (I obviously needed the help).  Since then I have always had a soft spot for golds.

However, after reading the Dragonlance Chronicles, I was totally enamored of Skie, the blue dragon mount of Kitiara.  He was an actual character, and a cool one at that.  I had read somewhere that some weird shit happened with him during the Age of Dragons (or whatever that was called), when dragons were eating other dragons.  Meh, I'll take Skie during the War of the Lance any day of the week.

The picture above is my favorite one of him.  I have a variation of this as a tattoo on my left shoulder.

Friday, September 20, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 20: Favorite Humanoid

I drew this!

Ok, anyone who has casually browsed my blog, or knows me in any way, should have seen that one coming.

I love orcs. I've played orcs, I've drawn orcs, I've written stories about orcs. I've even written an RPG about orcs! So, why do I like them so much? Honestly, I'm not sure. Maybe it's because they are inherently honest. Mind you, not in a good way, but they wear their inner selves on the outside. They aren't pretentious, or condescending. If they think you are beneath them they tell you. Sometimes in creative and cruel ways. In short, they are simple and direct. And strong.

That being said, there are some representations of orcs that I don't like. The Warhammer (including 40K) Orks were cool when all I did was play mini war games. But as a race in a story or RPG, they are rather 2-dimensional and boring. WarCraft orcs are a bit better, but they tend to be represented as mental simpletons to an extent.

In my mind, orcs are what humans would be without anxiety and the need to be accepted by the other races. They are unapologeticly brutal and fierce. They have their own brand of honor and they enjoy a good scrap.

Unfortunately, they don't tend to live very long.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 19: Favorite Monster (Elemental/Plant)

Earth Elementals. Though I have never used or encountered one in game (ok, I'm starting to get a complex about my apparent lack of exposure here), the idea has always fascinated me. Elementals are really neat anyways, but there's something about the strength and durability of an earth elemental.

When I briefly played the Warlord CCG a few years back, I had a dwarf deck, and summoning stone elementals was part of my army. The Slate Elemental was just bad ass. I remember loving the art on that card so much, that I made a Mutants & Masterminds character based on it.

I also love Ents, or Treants. But this is probably due to the fact the Ents' siege of Orthanc was one of my favorite parts, of both the movie and the book.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hero's Journey - Ideas

I thought maybe I would post updates on the development of Hero's Journey intermittently.

Races and Classes
For my races, I am replacing all of the standard demi-humans with ones of my own, as I mentioned before. The new races will be humans (called the Furst), Katumon (a cat race), Sha-Lans (a sort of blue-skinned gnome), Horka (ram/goat people), and Villow (flightless bird people). Each race will initially have a basic description of their culture and appearance, leaving enough room for the GM to customize them to fit whatever world they like.

For classes I have boiled it down to four basic choices; warrior, rogue, priest, and sorcerer. Each class has certain abilities, and bonuses that will effect the core character, much like his race does. There will be the option to multi-class, handled in a manner similar to that of 3E.

I am also introducing what I call "Traits" to both races and classes. Racial Traits are fixed. They are basically the racial abilities you find in previous editions, and each race has four. Class Traits are class abilities that the character can choose to take as they gain levels. There are several to choose from, so the player can customize his character how he likes.

Here is an example of an original race:

Tall and broad, the Katumon are a consummate warrior race. Their culture is a feudal one, with a clear cut caste system, ruled by local warlords, who in turn serve the Khan. Katumon are honorable to a fault, and loyal. Their social belief system is complex, and involves blood-oaths, bonds of servitude, and individual deeds over those of a group. They are very feline in appearance, with long tails, and are covered in soft pelts of fur that vary widely in colors and markings between individuals, though those closely related to one-another will appear similar. They do have retractable claws, but rarely use them in combat, as they consider such actions dishonorable. Scratching is either considered an insult, or a way of marking ownership/mastership. Katumon generally eschew clothing, save for silks that cover their bodies in modesty. Warriors will often wear a leather harness with accoutrements that denote their social class.

Katumon have the following Racial Traits:
• Ambidextrous: Automatically gains the Two-Weapon Fighting Trait.
• Rage: Katumon have a 2 in 6 chance of going into a rage when hit in combat (successful WIS check, DC 10 +damage taken, negates). A raging Katumon is +2 to hit and +2 to damage, and ignores the effects of injuries until he comes down (including dropping below 0 HP)
• Disease Resistant: +1 per 2 levels on any Life Drain save against disease
• Darkvision: Katumon can see heat patterns up to 60’ in absolute darkness

As you can guess from some of the items, I am also revamping how such things as saving throws work. More on that, and other changes/additions later.

D&D 30-day Challenge - Day 18: Favorite Outsider

I think my favorite outsider is the Hound Archon. I like the idea of a celestial paladin with the attributes of a loyal and protective dog. I seem to recall at one point one of my friends rolled up one as a PC. I'm pretty sure he played him some, but I don't recall the details. I think it might have been in TWLD again (a lot of stuff happened in there). Anyways, I did a picture of him, and it turned out pretty neat (not the one to the left, obviously).

As a DM, I'd love to get the chance to use one. Probably as a stray dog, or a lone wolf who starts following the party of its own accord, and latches on to one of the PC's. How awesome would that reveal be when they face a demon?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

D&D 30-Day Challenge - Day 17: Favorite Animal Type

My favorite vermin is the vampire. Ok, so they’re not vermin, really. Just leeches. Never mind.

My favorite animal type has to be cats. Cats come in all shapes and sizes. They make excellent familiars (if a bit cliché), awesome ranger pets (ok, that became cliché too, about ten years ago), and brutal foes. You can keep them as pets, you can ride them, you can even talk to some of them and learn secrets.

If you’re inclined to play in an Egyptian-styled world, you can even worship them. Bast was always my one of my favorite deities. Why? Because she’s a hot cat chick...

Don’t judge.

So, yeah. Cats. He-Man rides a frickin’ green tiger, man! How cool is that?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Hero’s Journey – Reboot

The other day I was thinking about Hero’s Journey, and what I could possibly do to make it stand out from the other retroclones out there. Naturally, I thought about using different races first. Right now I have humans, elves, dwarves, halflings and orcs (yes, full orcs). So, I started thinking about other “archetype” races that might be a bit less Tolkien-esque. I have several ideas, which I will probably go into at a future date.

Then it hit me that I had started world-building for a story I was writing that was technically Sword & Planet, in the Edgar Rice Burroughs vein of John Carter and Carson Napier. In this story there are several races of aliens, and each one would make a pretty cool D&D-style race, with some tweaking and expansion.

So, now I’m in the process of detailing those out. Once I get their write ups for the HJ rules, as written, I will plug them in place of the traditional ones I have (though humans will remain, but will be called something else).

Then I started thinking about the magic aspect. And I came up with an idea for a different magic system that would be compatible with the OSR rules, but work in a completely different way, all the while keeping the original framework that the original rules had.

This is all pretty exciting for me. But I have to wonder if others would find it so. Basically, it would be OSR D&D style play, with some alternate rules and systems, and non-traditional races. It would still be heroic fantasy, with arcane and divine magic, low technology, and all of the tropes and style available in D&D, but with some new flair.

I’ll probably write it all out in rough form, and then offer it up to some people to read it and playtest it. Heck, I might even be able to rope some local people to help me out on that.

D&D 30 Day Challenege - Day 16: Favorite Monster (Aberration)

Just to be sure I knew what I was talking about, I had to look up what qualified as an aberration. From the list I found on D&D Wiki, I think I like the Illithid (mindflayer) the best.

As a DM, I have never had the opportunity to run them. However, as a player, I have encountered them a few different times. I remember at one point we encountered a colony that was under some kind of spell or something that made the elder brain dormant for a period. So, we had to come in and destroy it before it could awaken and destroy us. I remember wondering just how much the DM was cheating by allowing us such access to the illithid colony. It seemed like there were powerful enough to wipe us out.

In our current campaign we encountered them peripherally. As I stated before on the NPC post, we got involved in a war between a dark elf city and an Illithid colony. We never had to face any mindflayers ourselves, but my previous experience as a player made me nervous about it. I'm sure we would have been fine, but still.

Basicically, Illitids are freaking creepy and scary. I should use them in a game sometime.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenege - Day 15: Favorite Monster (Undead)

I don't think I really have a favorite undead that I have used in a game, or that I have fought as a player.  But, the one I always wanted to see used was the Death Knight.

I remember reading about them in the original Fiend Folio and thinking how cool they were.  But, since I never DMed, and I never played to the level that they would be encountered, they just remained cool things to think about.

Then I read the Dragonlance Chronicles, and totally fell in love with the idea of Lord Soth.  This love was cemented when I read Knight of the Black rose, wherein Soth goes to Ravenloft, and meets Strahd Van Zarovich.  I geeked out when they came to blows and it was apparent they were equally matched.  here was an undead that could equal the likes of Dracula!

I think I like the Death Knight the most because it's a thinking undead, and though they are usually inherently evil, they are often honorable.  I kind of see them as a fighter version of a lich.

I even played one in World of Warcraft for a bit.  That was pretty cool.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 14: Favorite NPC

Two weeks in and I am kinda stumped on this one.  I mean, looking back over the games I have played, none stand out as exceptional as a player.  And as a DM they're usually kind of throw away for me.  I use NPCs to fill a need in the plot, and then forget about them once the party has moved on.

I guess my current favorite is Artruus, the dark elf wizard.  In our current game, we were in an "Underdark" area, and we came across four dark elves fleeing a losing battle.  These aren't drow, like in Forgotten Realms.  They have pale features, and dark hair.  Three are warriors, and one is a wizard, and they are all brothers.  So, while the party is deliberating on what to do with them, Ahnuld decides that they should be given a chance to prove themselves.  He declares that all four are under his protection.

Now my character has four minions.  Until one of them gets eaten by a purple worm.  But I still have three.  And when combined with the NPC followers that other players have picked up...well, we kind of have an army.  Eventually, the DM decides to start thinning the herd a bit.  So, rather than see any more of his friends die horrible deaths, Ahnuld recommends that the two warrior brothers stay in the dark elf city and help rebuild after their war with an Illithid colony (all the while spreading the good word of Templarus, God of War).

Artruus (or Arty, as well all call him) stays with me, and ends up being a very useful companion.  I rather like him a lot.  I did the picture above of him.  Even though he's not a drow, it's still pretty close.