Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cutting the fat

Let me begin by stating that I am a huge fan of 3E. Ok, maybe I’m re-stating that, but it’s still true. I like the sheer amount of options and customization potential. Honestly, aside from universal systems like GURPS and HERO, I can’t think of another game that allows you to play exactly the character you want.

That being said, it can quickly become overwhelming.

Case in point, my current game is basically 3.5. We started out using a dash of Pathfinder and 4E, but those elements have kind of fallen away. Anyways, rather than awarding XP regularly, the DM just tells us when to level up, in order to keep us up to snuff for the challenges he plans to bring in next. We recently leveled to 15th, so I sat down with my messy character sheet, and proceeded to add a 6th level in Favored Soul to the 5 levels of Barbarian and 5 levels of Fighter that Ahnuld the Half-Orc already had.

In so doing, I also cleaned up my character sheet, and re-calculated all of my bonuses and whatnot. That’s when I discovered that, somewhere along the way I was forgetting things. Turns out my AC is much better than I had been playing it, and my to-hit bonuses were off by a couple of points. Not a huge deal, as Ahnuld performs quite well in his role as resident Tank. But it was enough to make me wonder. So, I gave the whole character a good scouring, finding points where I could, and maximizing my benefits. I even discovered that his wearing of Full Plate armor was a bit of a hindrance, as the limit to DEX bonus to AC made it less effective than if I was wearing a simple Breastplate.

And then it hit me that I was being a Munchkin. A Min/Maxer. Basically, I was becoming what everyone said 3E would produce. They were right, and I was ashamed. Sorta. Ok, not really. I still enjoy playing the game like this, and will thoroughly enjoy announcing that Ahnuld is just that much better than he was previously. But, I do think that, once this campaign is over, and we are ready to move on to another, I will put forth the idea of simpler system.

Ideally, I would love to go back to B/X, with some add-ons. But I’m not sure everyone would up for that. So, I might see if we can compromise and play Castles & Crusades. It’s got enough d20 crunch to satisfy most of us, but a more simple mechanic for skills and other abilities. Of course, just about the time we finish this, D&D Next will be out. And based on our playtests, as well as the information I am seeing about it, it might fill the niche nicely. Though I will push for a more streamlined version (no feats, prestige classes, etc.).

In short, I want to clean out the clutter, and just play. I don’t want to have to sit and wait for another player to add up all of the bonuses from six different parts of his character sheet (I personally play with a simplified version of my sheet that has everything listed right there in front).

Also, while I really like the idea of playing in a fantasy version of our own world, integrating some real historical event and persons, I would love to play in a more traditional fantasy setting, filled with alien-sounding names and places, and bizarre landscapes that simply don’t exist here.

We’ll have to see how it all pans out. In the meantime, we have a demon lord to slay, and a horde of plague-ridden ratmen to eradicate. Thankfully the God of War has my back.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

One-trick Pony-ism

This weekend I had some spare time before I had to go pick up my daughter from school, so my 5-year old son and I headed over to the local used book store. I love book stores, and can spend hours just looking, browsing, reading snippets, and whatnot. Sometimes I even buy stuff!

This weekend I bought another Pathfinder Tales novel (by Dave Gross, whom I “know” from his Editor days at Dragon Magazine…he bought my one and only professional article back in the late 90’s), a copy of Seal Team 666 for $2, and a copy of the Orkworld RPG.

Published in 2000, I have long known about Orkworld, but had never gotten a copy. I was excited to see it in really good condition for $12. And I was also pleased to see that it was written by the guy who wrote a lot of the material for Legend of the Five Rings and 7th Sea over at Alderac (two very cool RPGs). So, I had to snatch it up.

However, in reading it, I became just a little disconcerted. Basically, this game does almost exactly what I am trying to do with my own orc RPG. But it’s got a more developed, more professional presentation. The rules are apparently very streamlined (based on what others say, I haven’t gotten that far yet). Honestly, I think that the only thing mine has over his is that I am basing it on B/X D&D, which is riding a huge wave of popularity right now. But, even there he explicitly states that he designed the game to be easily adaptable to any rules system you like.

Ah, well. Regardless of all of that, I will still finish my game as I can. It’s a labor of love, so it’s all cool.

As to the title of this blog post, when I posted about Orkworld on the OSRGaming forums, one of the regulars there mentioned that he read the title of the thread and immediately knew who was posting it, without even looking at my name. Funny! Apparently I have a reputation as the “Orc Guy” over there.

And I’m totally cool with that.

Friday, April 25, 2014


Is that even a word? It is now, dammit!

I haven't been around much lately (as I'm sure exactly 18 people might have noticed). Well, actually that's not true. I've been around every day. I just haven't had much to say lately.

Sometimes I wonder if I have the right to talk about OSR games. I mean, I haven't played anything older than 3E (aside from a Star Frontiers game at Gary Con this year) in decades. I have bought, downloaded, and dug up my old copies of a bunch of games. I have made plans, written content, and even rolled up characters. But, I haven't actually played anything other than the current 3.5 game with my group.

I had a good run for a bit with my "Monday Memories" posts. That was a fun exercise, but at the same time it was a bit depressing. I quickly discovered that, despite 30 years of experience with RPG's, I don't have a whole lot of standout memories. At least not about specific games. Most of my great memories are about the good times I had, and the overall feeling of satisfaction I have always gotten from a good gaming session with friends.

And I guess that's what is important. Having fun. I see that sentiment in response to a lot of "edition war" discussions. There are always a couple of extremists on either side of the debate, but the majority of people seem to have a "Who cares? As long as it's fun!" attitude.

So, anyways, this is in no way a "signing off" letter. This blog will be around for a while longer. This is just me being sentimental and introspective. I do that a lot, as anyone who has followed my other blog can attest. I have been known to get downright whiny over there. I'll try not to do that here.

I'm still plugging away at the various projects I have going on. And also trying to get myself to simply write more. Today I started laying out a short story for a specific, game-related market. We'll see how that turns out.

Friday, April 18, 2014

“Gaming” Fiction

My current read.
Erik Tenkar, over at Tenkar’s Tavern, brought up a subject a while back that had me thinking about stuff (this happens a lot). The idea that some modules, or series of modules, can be ruined by novels that are written based on them. I have never had any personal experience with this, as I have never played in a game or campaign based on a series of books I have read. But, this is mainly due to the fact that most people share Erik’s view.

Case in point, I am an unabashed fan of the Dragonlance Chronicles. But, I have never played any of the DL modules because no one will run them. Everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) I ask about the idea says the same thing: If you’ve read the books, it will ruin the modules, and you will feel railroaded. I will have to concede the point, since I will obviously never get to experience it myself.

The problem, as I see it, is that this opinion bleeds over into peoples’ views of game-based fiction in general. Even tangentially. Generally speaking, everyone seems to deride books based on RPGs. Ok, not everyone, but large swaths of my associates, both gamers and non, feel that this sub-sub-genre isn’t worth their time. And I find that really sad, since some of the books I have read have been amazing. Personally, I enjoyed Chronicles more than I enjoyed Lord of the Rings.

My current read is a Pathfinder Tales novel written by Howard Andrew Jones, Plague of Shadows. I am really enjoying it. It’s got good characters, a suspenseful plot, and it’s well-written. Unfortunately, I know several people, some of whom are current or former gamers, who will just pass it by simply because it says “Pathfinder” on the cover.

Often times I will see reviews of these books on Amazon or Goodreads, and they will snobbishly label it as “just gaming fiction.” I saw one “reviewer” who said that Chronicles read like nothing more than some fanboy’s diary of his gaming sessions. Really? I have to question whether the person actually even read any of the books.

On a related side-note, one complaint I see a lot is that these books do a poor job of representing magic that is based on an RPG rules system. I couldn’t disagree more. I have never read a game-related book where the magic system felt like dice-rolling. Maybe that's just the gamer-conditioning kicking in.

I don’t know, maybe I’m being too sensitive. But I often find game-related novels more enjoyable than their more “literary” cousins. A lot of fantasy literature is pretentious, verbose, and filled with needless details (Game of Thrones, anyone?). If that’s your bag, go for it, baby. But it isn’t mine. Give me some trite, geeky reading any day of the week.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ye Olde Avengers!

Image taken from Geek tyrant and cropped.

So, as an exercise in goofiness, I got to thinking how one could replicate the signature weapons and abilities of the Avengers as high-level magic items in D&D (3.xE)...

Iron Armor of Freedom
This suit of gold and crimson plate armor grants the wearer a +8 to AC, and Magic Resistance of 8. Additionally, all armor penalties normally associated with plate armor are reduced to zero. The Armor grants the wearer the following spell-like abilities:

• Flight – As a free action, the wearer may cast Flight on himself. The duration of the spell is twelve hours total, after which it must recharge for twelve more hours before it can be cast again.

• Gauntlets of Scorching Rays – Once every other round, the wearer can fire a single Scorching Ray from each hand.

• Protection from Elements – The armor affords the wearer immunity to extremes of temperature, the ability to breathe without air (underwater, etc.), and 60’ of Darkvision.

• Giant Strength – The wearer of the armor gains a +4 to his Strength score.

Shield of Justice
This shield is indestructible, and grants the wielder a +4 to his AC. Additionally, the shield also has the following magical properties:

• Thrown Weapon of Returning – The shield can be thrown at a target up to 100’ away with no penalties, and it will always return to the wielder at the end of the round. Anything struck by the shield in this manner suffers 1d8+4 (plus Str Mod) damage, and must make a Strength Check (DC 10 +damage) or be knocked prone.

• Shield of Melee – The wielder of the shield may make a free shield bash attack without penalty for 1d8+4 (plus Str Mod) damage, in addition to his normal attacks. If the other hand is empty, the wielder may make an additional shield bash per round.

• Damage Absorption – Any attack that hits the wielder’s AC, minus the +4 shield bonus, is assumed to hit the shield, and all damage rolled is absorbed by the shield instead of the wielder.
Example: If the wielder’s AC is 18 without the shield, then any attack that rolls an 19-22 will hit the shield instead, and the wielder suffers no damage.

This hammer is identical to a Hammer of Thunderbolts, with the following changes:

• Twice per day, the wielder of the Stormhammer may cast Call Lightening, Lightening Bolt, or Chain Lightening as if he were a caster of equal level.

• The wielder does not require the wearing of a Belt of Giant Strength and Gauntlets of Ogre Power to gain the additional bonuses from Thundering.

Widow’s Bracers
These magical bracers grant the wearer a +4 to Dexterity, and have the following abilities:

• As a free action, the Bracers can summon forth a pair of magical hand-crossbows that have unlimited ammunition, and require no reloading. Additionally, the bolts from these weapons deal 1d4+2 magical damage, and the wearer can wield both at the same time without penalty, gaining one extra shot per round.

• Widow’s Sting – The Bracers function identically to Gauntlets of Shocking Grasp.

Unerring Bow of the Hawk’s Eye
This magical bow allows any character to fire it as if he were a Fighter of equal level. The bow is a +2 weapon, and grants the benefits of the Rapid Fire and Point Blank Shot feats. The quiver is Everful, and each round the firer may select one arrow to have one of the following qualities:

• Explosive – A successful hit deals an additional 2d6 fire damage.
• Grappling – The arrow may trail a thin, 100' line that can hold up to 1000 pounds.
• Web – A successful hit envelopes the target in a sticky web, as per the Web spell.
• Shocking – A successful hit deals an additional 2d6 electrical damage.

Ring of Unfettered Rage
The wearer of this ring gains the Rage ability as if he were a Barbarian of equal level, with the following additions:

• Growth – When the rage ability is activated, the wearer grows to twice his normal size, gaining the benefits of the Growth Spell, in addition to the benefits of Rage. However, clothing or armor worn do not grow with the character, and must be removed or it will be destroyed.
• Toughness – The wearer gains a +4 to his AC, and 8 Damage reduction
• While enraged, the character’s skin will turn green, and he will gain a +4 to any Intimidation checks.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Life of Rage Core Rules

Just thought I would share some progress with the Retro-Clone project. Right now, artwork is still in progress. The monster list needs some final details, and probably some fine-tuning. And then some over all editing for the entire thing. I’m even eying a DeviantArt painting that the artist is not too fond of, but that I think would be perfect for the cover. I will probably approach him soon about making a deal for its usage.

In the last couple of days, I have come up with some additional content that I plan to include. First of all, I am going to re-work the Glory rules to be more like a “fate point” system. Orcs who gain Glory can use those points to influence rolls, and change the course of the adventure through luck and skill. Mainly it will be a numbers game, as the system itself is kind of already in place. Of course, this will also necessitate the need to re-work how ranks are determined in the hierarchy. I’m shying away from the level-dependent model, but I may go back to that.

I’m also considering expanding the class choices. To that end, here is the rough copy for an idea I hacked out the other day. I rather like it, but it may be a bit too focused for some (which is why its inclusion is optional, and up to the DM). If I include it, the final version will probably be a little tighter.

(Speaking of “DM” should I maybe use a different name for this person? GM? Referee? Hordemaster? Anyone have any ideas on that?)


Optional: Rager
Note: Ragers are somewhat rare, but more common than Shamans (see below). However, in combat, they can have a tendency to be overbalanced. Therefore, players cannot create a Rager unless their Orc is below average in at least one physical attribute (Strength, Dexterity or Constitution). Additionally, players should be encouraged to play up the class’ inherent weakness, a lack of mental capabilities.

All orcs are born with an inherent level of Rage, an inner fire that seethes and strains to be released. However, even among their own kind are those individuals in which the rage burns even fiercer, instilling fear in the breasts of even their peers. These orcs, called Ragers, are always larger than average, usually standing between 6’ and 7’ tall, and sometimes more. They are phenomenally strong and tough, even among orcs. However, the rage that burns within them has taken over their minds to the point where they are little more than wild beasts, constantly needing to be kept in check. Ragers speak in simple words and phrases, and often have a hard time understanding complex commands.

A Rager’s Prime Requisite is Strength. Creating a Rager begins by creating an Orc. If that Orc has a Strength, Dexterity, and/or Constitution score of 12 or less, they can be converted to a Rager before play begins. At this point, the player must reduce the Orc’s Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma each by two points. Then he must raise his Strength, Dexterity and Constitution each by 2 points. If his Strength attribute is still below 12, he may take an additional 2 points from any one mental attribute and add it to his Strength (if it is still below 12 after this, the character should probably be re-rolled). No mental attribute can be lowered below 3, and his Intelligence may never rise above 8.

RESTRICTIONS: Ragers use a 12-sided die (d12) to determine their hit points. They may only use clubs or fists in combat (see below), may not wear armor heavier than leather, and may never use ranged weapons other than thrown improvised objects. Before play begins, the player of a Rager must designate another orc as his Keeper. This should be voluntary. The Rager will always defer to his Keeper in all decisions, and will do what he is told to by that orc (or goblin) only, including following the orders of someone else. Ragers will never actively harm their Keeper, even when enraged, and will even expose themselves to danger in an effort to help a Keeper in trouble. Although Ragers can gain Glory, they can never be promoted above Warrior.

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Ragers have 60 feet of infravision, just like all orcs, but do not possess the instinctive mining abilities of their race. Ragers will automatically enter an enraged state (see Rage, below), when entering combat, and will only calm down if another orc is there to help by making a successful Charisma check against the Rager’s Wisdom score, plus the amount of damage he took in combat (the Keeper need not make this roll, and can automatically calm the Rager down). Ragers recover hit points at twice the rate of normal orcs. Ragers have tough skin and flesh, giving them a natural bonus to their AC equal to half of their level, rounded up. If they wear armor heavier than leather, they lose this bonus. And finally, a Rager can attack with his fists as if he were using two weapons (including any and all penalties), doing 1d6 + Strength bonus in normal damage with each successful hit.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


So, Dyvers brought up the ENnies earlier, and I was thinking about putting myself out there.

I dunno, does anyone here think either Basic Arcana or Life of Rage - OSR is worthy of consideration?

Looking to the future

Our current 3.5 game is starting to wind down. Our DM thinks we are about 80-90% through what he had planned for us. Of course, considering that the campaign has been going on for about three years in Real Time, that could mean four or five more months of gaming. But, in either case, I find myself looking towards what comes next.

Before I moved to Wisconsin, I lived in San Diego. There I was part of a gaming group that met every Tuesday night (and a few of us also got together on Saturdays as well). Our group was such that we didn’t get overly attached to any single game or campaign, and as such our longest might have lasted maybe a year. Usually we would play for a couple of months (sometimes only a couple of weeks), and then decide as a group to play something else.

We varied our systems, our genres, and even who GM’d. To me, this was comfortable. So, when I came here, and things were different it threw me off. First of all, it took a long while before we managed to get a regular game going. We had a false start with Vampire, and then an attempt at 3.5, followed by two attempts at 4E. After that it looked like it was never going to happen. Then my wife’s HS friend decided it was time to run a campaign he had been nursing for years.

So, for the past few years we have been traipsing around a variation of our own world, populated with fantasy races, monsters and gods. We have fought demons, assassins, dragons, plague-bearing rat men, and all manner of beasts and foes. Each of us has had some life-altering encounter with a deity, some more so than others, and we have a vested interest in seeing this war end.

But, as a player, I am ready to move on. After this weekend, I realized that I love variation. As attached as I am to my character, I want to play different things. Even if it is just a different D&D game. I have had moments where I am willing to run something, and I have plenty of ideas for that. But, when it comes down to it, I’m a player. And enjoy being in front of the Screen more than being behind it.

So, here’s hoping that, when this Plague War ends, we can retire these heroes, and roll up new characters to have grand new adventures with.