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.