Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Post Wherin I Commit Heresy

  Some time ago I read the interesting post here.

  The same writer, Lowell Francis also wrote this.

 A fair amount of both lists strike me as common issues (we all want combat to go relatively quickly with little need for a lot of book checks, etc.) and some of it is a well-stated preference (called shots, for example - in a really abstracted combat system they might not be possible in order to make combat smooth, etc.). A few of the items made me pause (why should reloading be a free action? It isn't in Real Life and can be a simple mechanic to offset the advantages of big guns). And others (describing wounds, number of opponents, etc.) are just, well, about the GM and the game and the setting and the adventure and such so....

  But a couple of them caught my eye. On the 'Player' list numbers 12
  'everyone should have someone to fight' 
  'If I'm a magic user, I should be able to dish out damage relatively equivalent to a fighter. Some of those effects will probably be not measured in damage, but in my ability to debuff or disable. I accept that the flexibility of magic means a slight trade off, but I should not be significantly behind other characters. If magic costs mana, I shouldn't tap out in a fight unless I've really pushed myself'
  'I should feel all players have equal opportunities'
  And from the 'GM list, number 2
  'Every player should have something to do in the combat'

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Worldbuilding - How Far Away is the Horizon?

  In both my Blackstone and Patchwork Lands campaigns I made worlds larger than Earth. In the case of the Patchwork Lands the planet is much larger - the diameter of the planet is 16,000 miles, a hair over twice the diameter of Earth.
  Since it is a fantasy world there is a lot of handwaving about gravity, etc. because I am more interested in vastness than the speed of a falling object (plus, there are reasons the gravity is still about 1G). But there is a question-
  How far away is the horizon?

  Here is a math formula
   Square root of[D x H/C]
  D = diameter of planet in miles
  H = height above surface in feet
  C = 5280

  So, on Earth a 6' tall person looking out across the plains would see the horizon as 3 miles away. From the top of a 30' tower (36' total!) the horizon would appear 7 1/3rd miles away.

  But on the world of the Patchwork Lands a 6' tall person would perceive the horizon as being 4 1/4th miles away and from a 30' tower that same person would perceive the horizon as about 10 1/2 miles away.

  Now, I am just eyeballing it here, but this appears to mean the horizon is about 50% "further away" on my new world. This also means things like mountain ranges in the distance can be seen a long way away.
 Here is an example: I created a 7 miles high mountain in my world. Because of the larger diameter the peak should be visible from someone standing at sea level 334 miles away. To put that in perspective, on a clear day if you stand at the summit of Dankova mountain in Kyrgyzstan you can just see the tip of the peak by the Hindutash Pass: this is the longest ground-based line of sight on earth and it is... 334 miles away.
  This was completely coincidental, by the way.
  But ti does mean that from the largest mountain in my main story area someone standing on its summit could peer across the plains between and see that peak clearly because the distance between them is only 500 miles!

  It is always the little things in worldbuilding that surprise me.

Rolemaster Unified Beta Playtest: Profession - the Astrologer

  Back in the day when I was playing Rolemaster twice a month, I played an Astrologer. To me, the Astrologer is a good example of everything good about Rolemaster. Let me explain.
  The Astrologer is a hybrid spellcaster mixing Channeling (what Clerics use) and Mentalism (sorta' like psionics). So it is, in a way a multi-class cleric/psionicist for magic-user/cleric. Another hybrid Channelling/Mentalism class is the Healer.
  The Astrologer has some great 'base spells' (or 'primary class spells') that allow them to communicate over vast distances, use some precognition, do a lot of cool tricks with lights, etc. This makes them an interesting mix of diviner and minor illusionist. They can also throw in a broad range of minor healing spells, invisibility, etc.
  But very few attack spells. They also couldn't wear a lot of armor and they could, potentially, be OK in combat with a single weapon. Maybe.

  But everyone in the party wanted the Astrologer along. In addition to being a decent backup healer he was also really good at things like 'no, there is a troll that way' and 'that stair leads back to the surface' and 'don't touch that, it is cursed'. And the Far Voice spells were great for talking between people hundreds of miles away, Really Big Deal in any pseudo-medieval setting!

  The Rolemaster Unified playtest is a ton of fun and we re enjoying it immensely. But since it is a playtest they are sticking to the core professions. So - I made my own RMU version of the Astrologer:

  This is a bare bones version, but complete enough to play in the playtest!

  Anyone have their own favorite profession they;d like to see return?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Why My Default Ruleset is 1e, or: I Like Your Ruleset, But Not That Way

  I have a lot "in" the OSR: I write stuff to sell to people in the OSR; I write stuff for free I hope people in the OSR read; I chat with people in the OSR and, like any group, I like some people in the OSR, am neutral about others, and find some to be a bit off.  Heck, I have that little OSR logo on my blog, just over there.
  But I think I might be taking that off.

  No, not because I dislike the OSR, or the people, of anything like that. Nor am I disillusioned by the OSR - there is a lot of great, creative, fun stuff coming out of the OSR. It is because I am not OSR in and of myself. I am of the actual Old School itself.

  This hit me through two things. I decided to do an actual review of Swords & Wizardry (thanks for the feedback, G+ pals!) and I read in about 9 places in one week 'the OSR began with Castles & Crusades or with OSRIC'.

  I own Castles & Crusades, and a lot of their stuff. I've owned it for a long time, actually, getting plenty of it as it came out. Admittedly, some of that was to find out why the Hell they had Redcaps led by someone called 'the Horned One' since I ran Lew Pulsipher and friends against the Horned One and his Redcaps back in 1988, but still.
  Pure coincidence. Redcaps are creatures of folklore as is the Horned One.
  I also got OSRIC early on and refer to it a lot. heck, I have sent about 50 new RPG players to OSRIC as a resource in the last few years and will continue to do so. Great stuff.

  I also have a ton of the OSR stuff from S&W to Blueholme, left, right, up, and down.

  I also have the complete rules plus splats for HackMaster 4th (2 PHBs because we used them so much). I was an HMGMA member.
  Remember HackMaster? Won Game of the Year at Origins? Was a monster impact and produced the most amazingly awesome GameMasters Shield EVER? They even took the old Combat Wheel from Dragon Magazine and turned it into a real thing that I freakin' own?
  Remember that?
  Yeah, well, in my opinion, that award-winning retooling of AD&D 1e/2e is what started the hard look at OD&D/AD&D/Basic that spawned the OSR.  C&C came out three years after it, OSRIC five.
  This doesn't take away anything from anything in the great work from the creators of the OSR, I think we just need to recognize one fact-

 HackMaster 4th spawned the OSR

  Anyway, one of the reasons I loved HackMaster (in addition to the fact that I have an abiding love for KotDT since it is set in my home town and is about my hobby) was I couldn't get AD&D stuff anymore without mortgaging my kids on eBay. Yes, the Source in the Twin Cities (one of the best FLGS I have ever been in, BTW) helped, but it was still hard. HM was great stuff, readily available, and it took minimal effort to make it AD&D.
 But AD&D is the core system I have used for my hobby since about 1978-79. My notes, rules, house rules, monsters, etc. - all based on that foundation.

  So I use those books. I use that core ruleset.

  "Fine, Rick," you say, "But that means you are part of the OSR."

  Maybe not. I mean, let's look at OSRIC: it is such an amazing clone of AD&D that my house rules work as-is with about 3 word changes and dropping stuff about monks and bards and campaign specifics. My streamlined initiative and combat rules, updates to disease, maintenance rules, special hirelings, new NPC-only classes, spells, PC classes - SNAP! Fits right in, all of it. People that bought Far Realms and use it with OSRIC have given me such positive feedback, it really is humbling.

  But I don't run OSRIC, do I? I run AD&D. If I couldn't get any reprints or PDFs of AD&D books I would have 3-4 hardcopies of OSRIC sitting around, all well-thumbed, with copies of my Book of Seaward (the in-house version of Far Realms) and enjoy it a great deal.

  But I have AD&D 1e and 2e. I have OD&D and its supplements. And too much 3e. And 4e. And 5e. And all of the other rulesets that fill 3 bookcases in my house (not counting my kids' copies, which they keep track of).

  I am also doing the public playtest of Rolemaster Unified and won three version of that system, too. And I think the kids are buying Palladium FRPG right now in the other room.

  In the end this all boils down to two things, one of which I already said in another rant -

 I am always making my own game and just sue AD&D as the jumping off point. 

  The second thing is something that I believe might separate me from being in the OSR-

I am not interested in stripping down rules and mechanics.

  My goal is to make a set of rules and mechanics that allow me to create the game experience I want to pass on to the players. Here is an example - in AD&D there are some nice tools to roll for followers for fighters who become Lords. My charts are more involved with non-combatants, scribes, smiths, etc. More complexity, not less, to better reflect the total followers a fighter would get. 

  Here's the thing, though. That chart, that 'extra complexity' is for me a simplification. Before I made the chart I would sit down and spend a long afternoon working out the types of troops, their numbers, how many blacksmiths would appear, etc. 2-3 hours of solid work. At some point, about 1989 I think, I instead spent 3-4 hours making a series of charts so I could roll raw numbers in a few minutes, then spend an hour fleshing out details, modifying, etc. and - net - save myself time.

  Swords & Wizardry, For Gold and Glory, OSRIC, etc. all meet their aims well - strip down rules to their foundations. But I've spent almost 4 decades tweaking, changing, and adding to the rules. That's why I love HackMaster 4th with its wacky, complex skills and such - it looks like what I saw in the '70's. It looks like a labor of love.

  So keep doing what you like, OSR, and I'll keep making stuff that works with what you like. But my AD&D books will always be the ones most used at my house.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Rolemaster Unified Playtest: First Session

  Today was a brief (3 hour) playtest of the new Rolemaster Unified. The focus was on a quick, simple combat encounter with travel, etc.

Players and Characters:
All are 4th level, made as Legendary.
My Wife: Melinda Rosybranch, halfling (sylvan) Rogue
        Focused on stealth and ambush with locks and traps
        25 year veteran of RPGs, never played any Rolemaster before.
Oldest Son: Timorbatar 'Timor' Khalyn'Ku, human (nomad) fighter
        Horse archer focus with spear and dagger
        All the boys played 6 sessions of FMFRP with me 3 years ago. All are very familiar with all versions of D&D, HERO system, and many more.
Second Son: Shin, human (highlands) Cleric
        Broad mix of spells with good medicine and herbalism skills
Third Son: Ingmar, human (urban) Magent
        Built as a crossbow sniper and con man
Fourth Son: Fen Chang, human (highlands) Magician
        An eclectic scholar and good combat spell caster

Play Report: Fathers' Day Game

My fourth son is starting his own AD&D 1e campaign. The most recent arc involved following a treasure map that leas to - a treasure map! The map we had claimed to lead to a hidden cove that hel a map to the treasure of Qraros, the legendary King of the Pirates from over a century past.

  I played Brother Bertram, a 2nd level human cleric
        Bertram has a valet named Arthur
  My wife played Amelia Daisybottom, 1st level halfling thief.
  My oldest son played Marcus the Mighty, 1st level human magic-user
  My second son played Falafel the Magnificent, 1st/1st half-elf fighter/magic-user
  My third son played A'Madeus, 1st/1st elven fighter/thief

  We had found the map-to-a-map in the warrens under an old cemetery and had immediately set out for the hidden cove it described. After a long trip with essentially nothing but color encounters (tinkers, merchants, gypsies, and a mendicant cleric) we reach the large town close to the map's destination.

  Following the map we soon find an old, old ship in a hidden sea cave. Arthur carried a torch as the aprty explored and, after a short bit of walking, lights were seen in the darkness, far ahead. The halfling and elf, who were stealthy, slipped off to scout
The cave had been almost-sealed by a landslide long before and, cut off from the sea, the water had mostly dried up. At the far end of the massive cave the scouts found an old ship. trapped for long decades. There were torches burning on the top deck and a new ramp led from the deck to the cave floor. No movement was seen. The scouts informed the party and everyone moved to the ship.
  Marcus and Arthur took cover behind some stalagmites and Bertram (who had the best AC and hit points) moved to the base of the ramp and called out, asking for parley.
  Up popped a skeleton and battle was joined!

  I was on fire - for 7 attacks only 2 missed and I got max damage with my morning star 3 times!  I totally failed to turn anything, though.
  Amelia was very effective with her sling bullets, too. Falafel got a Light spell over the middle of the ship right away and the light really dd a great job helping us.
  A'Madeus was amazing with his bow, hitting a lot for a ton of damage.
  Marcus and Arthur ended up is a separate fight versus a freaky owl that injured them both but they eventually prevailed - causing it to turn back into a small figurine (!).

  During the battle a guy in chainmail with a shield and mace popped out of a hatch and really hurt Bertram with a mighty blow. Eventually, though, A'Madeus' arrows, Bertram's morningstar, and a timely backstab from Amelia brought down the evil cleric who had animated the skeletons, although only unconscious.
  Bertram healed up everyone, we secured the evil cleric, and tossed the ship. Total cash was in the 3,000 gp range and the magic haul was a +1 shield, +1 chainmail, 2 Potions of Extra-healing, and a Serpentine Owl. The cleric, skeletons, etc. was enough for everyone to raise at least a level in one of their classes.

  Number Four's narrative is getting very good with his description of the appearance of the skeletons earning praise from the entire table. The pacing was good, the monsters tough, and the overarching plot just starting to peek out, which is a ton of fun.
  The map points us to the entire other side of the continent so we have a ton of travel ahead of us.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Rolemaster Beta Playtest - Resources: GM Screen

  As I prepare for the playtest I put together a GM Screen designed to fit the Savage Worlds GM screen. I also have a 'handout' of other charts,too.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Jeffro Reacts to Oriental Adventures and I React to Jeffro. Welcome to the Internet.

 Jeffro, he of the Hugo Nominations, has been looking at the old Oriental Adventures book for 1e and has written a second blog entry about it. I am going to talk about me and then about Jeffro's article.

  As some of you may know, my oldest 4 sons (ages 13 to 19) and my wife are my primary group. About 6 months ago, just before Christmas, #4 pulled down my original copy, first printing, very worn Oriental Adventures so he could memorize that, too. Next day he was sharing the book with his brothers and they were all admiring how fun, weird, and compelling it is.
  Christmas is a busy time for us, so we were doing a ton of other things until the end of the Christmas season in February. Second weekend in February? They all made characters for OA, and the wife did, too:

Wife- Shukenja
#1- Wu-jen
#2- Yakuza
#3- Bushi
#4- Kensai (as a spirit folk of bamboo the only non-human)

  I spent a few sessions doing a Seven Samurai - they protected a remote village from bandits in return for food and shelter and ended up leveling (as designed) and getting used to the new rules. They then moved to the town of the local daimyo looking for better positions, learned of a plot by a ninja clan to trigger a war between the local daimyo and his closest neighbor. Using a variety of stratagems they got received minor positions at the local castle or got 'close enough', eliminated the low-level ninja, and stopped a surprise assault on the outer gate, giving defenders times to react and proving the real threat was a third party. The players had to use guile, contacts, and deceit as much as spells or combat to succeed.
  They loved the non-standard monsters (I created 4 more from Japanese mythology), the different yet same cultural cues, and the unusual class abilities. I explicitly had everything set in my Seaward campaign (I have been using OA in my 1e campaign since the book came out) so they hope to have future crossovers.

  #1 in particular liked the wu-jen, although he found the differences in how they use their "chance to know" very different than standard AD&D spell acquisition for mages. He also liked the 'six hours to learn all spells, regardless of level or number' fun and different - he roleplayed out his character meditating, chanting, burning incense, and bargaining with unseen spirits to get back spells. His 'spellbook' was just the required chants to ask the right spirits for the correct spells.

  #2 loved teh mix of sneak, fight, and know people of the Yakuza and his ability to use contacts to answer questions was a key element of the main adventure.
  #3 played his bushi with gusto, emphasizing his lower-class origins and his outlook on his profession as a way to get paid while drinking, fighting, and impressing farm girls.
  #4was a little down at first; all through the village saving he rolled lousy and rarely hit anything. but at the key fights in the castle he was  Can't Miss Man, cutting down tough foes by himself more than once

  A key figure, though, was my wife. While she is Irish/Polish by ancestry one of her dual majors was Japanese and she went on to study Chinese and Chinese Literature. Since we were in my Japanland, she was in her element. She enjoyed the book and the 'Asian, yet generic' information in the main rules. She most appreciated giving the entire 'inscrutable Oriental' stereotype a total miss.

So, now that our very recent trip to Asialand is covered, let me address a few points that Jeffro brings up in his second post, linked above.
  Jeffro asks,
  "...shouldn’t oriental style magic be a bit more exotic?"
  More exotic than spending hours studying abstract symbols so that you have 5 dimensional constructs stored in your mind, eager to be released, such that when you do release them you summon or create energies from beyond the walls of reality?More exotic than that?
  More importantly, while I understand he is vexed by the fact that the description of how much time it takes a wu-jen to relearn spells is a touch ambiguous he seems to miss a simple fact - either reading is radically different from standard memorization procedures. OA states specifically that spells come from spirits, rather than from mentors or libraries. Sure, if you encounter a scroll you can learn from it, but the implication is these scrolls come from spirits, first- or second-hand. And with the rigid times, rather than the fluid level-based times of the DMG, it smacks of exactly how my son played it - you don't memorize spells, they are slapped into your mind by spirits as part of a ritual where your 'scrolls' are a lot more like a sutra to be chanted, like this;

  So you meditate for a few hours, then burn incense and perform small rituals to summon the spirits, then appease them with offerings (and by confirming that you have, indeed, obeyed all the odd taboos that wu-jen must follow!), then then you fisnish with 2 hours of chanting the sutras from your "spellbook" and at the end, breathe deeply of the smoke from the last of the incense. If you obeyed your taboos and performed your chanting properly you also inhale your spells.

  Rather different than reading a book for 15 minutes per level of the spell for each spell, right?
  As a matter of fact, this would make the reading 'six hours per spell' pretty hardcore. You have to summon and appease a different spirit for each spell! Every spell in your memory is much more precious because of the time needed to recover it....

  "Wait a minute," you say, "I didn't read any of that in the OA!"
  Sure you did. I mean, it wasn't forbidden, was it? And even if it was....
  The classes and mechanics of classes in OA are pretty different and the spells, elemental bonuses, ki powers, taboos, and how spells are memorized by wu-jen are pretty different than standard!

 The Jeffro writes,
  "The bottom line here is that to get a game off the ground, I either have to do the design work involved in creating these sorts of tables myself. OR I have to use the tables from the Dungeon Masters Guide and then manually retheme the results to something feels a little more “eastern”... … the former is simply not going to happen. (With the number of functional, completed game designs on the market, why would I ever do that?! Bah!)..."
Which functional, completed game designs? It was 1985. It was this, Bushido (Which I played a lot and enjoyed, but made AD&D look like a stripped-down version of S&W) or Land of the Rising Sun which was based on Chivalry & Sorcery but much more complex and difficult to play and one reviewer stated 'just play Bushido, it is easier to learn'.
  And as for 'making all sorts of tables myself'.... Yeah. It was '85. That's what you did.
  Look, when the MMII came out with its lists of monsters by occurance my friend Sean uttered a prayer in French because he usually did that by hand so he could make custom encounter lists. My Seaward stuff includes a set of manila folders which hold my custom encounter tables for each region of the campaign area. Almost everyone I knew did that.

  That is just for the Lower Briars and calls a bunch of sub-tables, too. The first draft for this thing is on the basement closet, longhan, in fading Bic ballpoint from lunchtime in 5th grade.

  Of, since Jeffro is really looking at OA for the first time now, almost 1/3rd of a century later, when there are tons of pre-made things all over the place, sure! Get it from somewhere else! But then?

  And this leads me to the end of his post. He writes,
  "Y’all got handed a half baked book that looked good on the shelf and that’s it. It was not in the interests of the company that sold it to you to ACTUALLY SOLVE THE GAME DESIGN PROBLEMS THEY WERE PUSHING ONTO YOUR DUNGEON MASTER. That poor sod either had to be so good that he didn’t need the supplement in the first place or else he had to shell out cash for modules that would only complete the design process on an adventure-by-adventure basis."
  Sorry, Jeffro. I like you, and I like your writing, but this is simply wrong.
  "Not having pre-made encounter charts" is not a 'game design problem'. More importantly, you, yourself, name this book for what it is -a supplement. In 1985 you might have to go to a university library to get access to things like 'monsters of Japanese folklore' or 'legends of China'. Having a list of monsters and classes was a huge help to guys that didn't have access to that sort of resource. A bunch of new, unusual classes, rules for making custom martial arts, tons of new spells - that was all pure gold.

  One of the most interesting things Jeffro wrote is this,
  "[the DM] either had to be so good that he didn’t need the supplement in the first place..."
  One of the things I noticed in the first minute of picking up the D&D 3e PHB was a change in assumption about the players and DM, and I miss it. The biggest, most profound, change was the loss of the presumptions of competence, creativity, and confidence.
  Gygax and crew didn't make modules at first because they assumed that anyone running the game was not just capable of creating their own adventures, but that they would far prefer their own stuff. The same folks hesitated to publish settings because they assumed anyone who wanted to build a campaign world could and if they did so it would not just be good enough, they would prefer it.
  I bought OA when it came out. I never saw a module in anyone's hands. Heck, I didn't remember there had been modules until a few weeks ago. And the only time I saw Kara-Tur was on the shelf of a buddy who is a completist. By the Fall of '85 when I was at DLI I know of at least 3 OA games there: one set in Japan, one in Korea (with all new monsters and a mix of OA and PHB classes), and the third in a fun Thai/Philippines/China setting, also full of unique creatures, spells, and a class or two.
  I also really enjoyed meeting a magic-user in 1986 that was PHB with martial arts as his only weapon. He was from Lyonesse, but was orphaned and raised in a monastery for a decade until an uncle retrieved him and taught him magic. Tons of fun.

  Here's the bottom line. Jeffro has every right to be upset about anything he wants to be upset about. And it can be really hard to 'get' that OA was not meant to replace anything ever, just be stuff to add to your game and, with effort, make a more Asian Asialand. But I had never encountered the same pains Jeffro did with this book.

  Thanks for the original work, Jeffro!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Rolemaster Unified Playtest. Character Creation is starting

As we prepare for out Rolemaster Unified personal public playtest the kids have so far created [we are starting at 4th level]:
 Names may change before sit down.

Oldest son: 'Tomorbatar KhadynKu', a nomad from the Grass Sea. Fighter. Uses Spear/Lance, Composite Short Bow, and Dagger. Focusing on Riding and Mounted Combat as his main skills.
Background - born and raised in the vast plains called the Sea of Grass that the equivalent of all of Asia, Tomorbatar [or just Tomor] is from a family of leaders amongst his people. As many young men from his people do, he left the yurts as a teen to travel with friends to the Cities and earned gold and scars guarding caravans. During a raid by the Grey Orcs he was separated and forced to ride West, eventually riding on out of curiosity. He has reached the Patchwork Lands and hopes to find more than gold - perhaps a land for his people to trade with. Or plunder.
  While he seems rather a straightforward hack and slash fighter, he is more subtle than he appears. He learned to outwit other tribes, the wily Goblins of the ravines, and the merchants trying to fleece young men from the plains. He plays a very convincing 'dim witted, uneducated barbarian' while seeing and hearing everything around him.

Third Son: 'Guarin', a thief from Ravensport. Thief. Uses daggers. Focusing on the core thief abilities and social skills. Guarin is from a family of thieves. His grandfather was a pickpocket, his grandmother an expert at sweating and clipping coins. His mother, who was run out of a decent, if poor, family for associating with his father was a con woman of the first water who specialized in rolling drunks while his dad was a second storey man. His uncle was one of the best box men in the business and his older brother branched out into smuggling. In the meantime all his paternal cousins were in protection, gambling, loansharking, and blackmail.
  Guarin started at the age of 6 helping his cousin as a beggar (he played her poor, blind son) and graduated to beggar/lookout by 8. He went on to work short and long cons, work as distraction on snatch jobs, and a touch of smuggling.
  But he wanted more than to be just another member of the family living in the same quarter of Ravensport doing the same things. So on a smuggling run he hooked up with another group of smugglers, then a greay market merchant, then just kept traveling. He is hoping to find something he can use his skills with that can fill him with pride and that other people, decent people, will admire.
  While he is very genuinely a nice, charming young man his instincts and training are always there. People that meet him tend to share this experience - he is funny, charming, and a great companion. He pours wine for all as he tells stories ranging from hilarious to gripping. He recommends the very best food and shares bites of his dish with all so they can also enjoy it. He dances a jig, teaches new drinking songs, and gives excellent advice. Then he begs off, bids everyone well, and leaves - the bill, for everyone else to pay. In the morning he is off to another town.

More to come

Magic Item of the Week - the Gauntlet of Quartz Lenses

[From a humorous picture in my G+ feed]
Manufactured by a powerful mage to assist his cleric brother in fighting ghosts, the Gauntlet is decidedly not like those of a warrior.
  Very rare, these items can only help magic-users. When worn they do not interfere with spell casting.
  If worn when casting any spell the caster can decide to extend the spell's effects into the Ethereal Plane so that it affects both the local Prime Material Plane and the equivalent area of the Border Ethereal/Ethereal Plane.
  Each time this is done the caster temporarily loses 1 point of Constitution. Any Constitution loss from this item is recovered at a rate of one point per full day of rest. If the caster is down 3 or more points of Constitution at any given time they do not heal through natural means until the recover to full Constitution (magical healing still works). If their Constitution reaches 0 they pass out until they recover to a Constitution of 1.


Friday, June 10, 2016

The Clash of Stars: My Traveller campign

  Traveller was the second game I actually owned. I loved the Doc Smith feel.
  I have played in some great Traveller campaigns, all Classic Traveller rules, and I have run a few games. I have been working on a campaign off and on for 12 years. here is the outline.
  General Setting
- The Terran Confederation is so long collapsed no one in the sectors of space near the game setting is certain in which *direction* Man's homeworld may be found.
- No intelligent aliens, at all.
- 80% or so of inhabited worlds are 'stand alone' and have no interstellar government
- Interstellar trade is almost ubiquitous and mainly of three sorts
    a- run by local planets out 1-3 parsecs
    b- trade guilds and co-ops on runs between 3-8 worlds
    c- independent freighters running either their own routes or wandering about
- General tech level for independent worlds  is 7-9 with 9 a pretty hard ceiling and 7 a soft floor
- There are scattered interstellar nations of 2-7 inhabited worlds. Almost all are Tech 9
- Although most planets have a Dorsai universe median (meaning that while some worlds are heavy into farming, others into manufacturing, some into arts and soft science, etc. they all are still close enough to each other culturally for it to not interfere with communications and trade) some worlds have gotten very strange.
   Specific Setting
  -Players start in the Lanxing Comity, an alliance of 3 inhabited worlds all within Jump 1 of each other. The worlds have a mixed Chinese/Spanish heritage with a relatively strong class structure and their economy and culture based upon a Manorial system. The blending of Catholic religion and Confucian social ideas led to them weathering the long centuries the Cycles of Collapse with a strong social cohesion, positive outlook, and a commitment to charity and justice.
  -Nearby is Marduk, a kingdom that has 7 inhabited worlds (in 5 systems) and close alliances with 3 more. In the dim past Marduk held a Confederation Navy Shipyard that was not destroyed in the Long War or the Cycles of Collapse. A series of computer systems that had been hidden away were rediscovered just a few centuries ago and have helped Marduk advance: allied planets are TL 8, all others but the throneworld are TL 9, and the throneworld is TL 10. Some elements of their navy are actually TL 12! Marduk's navy is small in number of hulls but pack a real punch.
  -Throughout this region of space are the members of the Order of Our Lady the Queen of the Stars, called the Starmen because of their shoulder patches. They provide transport and protection to religious pilgrims and maintain communications with a number of worlds that do not have FTL.
  Most of the Order are workers, pilots, techs, etc. About 10% of them (still a large number) are highly-trained soldiers. And the elite among them are the full Knights of the order; extremely well-trained commandos that use unique gravity weapons in the form of swords and shields, and have psionic powers.
  -The Polity is a TL 9 interstellar government of 38 worlds. New leadership and economic pressures have made the Polity very aggressively expansionistic. They are looking for excuses to expand into surrounding space.

  - The Lanxing Comity is smack dab between the Polity and Marduk.

  One of these days, I'll run it!

New Product: Five Lairs

NOTE: There is a minor technical glitch at RPGNow. Five Lairs is for sale, but you can't search the title right now. Please use the link below for now.

  Five Lairs is for sale! You can buy it here.

  It is also $1.00 off until Monday.

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

What I Remember: A Rant About Old School and When Old Was New

  There is a bit of a kerfuffle online right now about the 'real' Old School of TRPGs, who is telling who what, who is wrong, which people are 'the Taliban'.
  BTW, if there is a person or group who is not involved in actual oppression, rape, torture, murder, and warfare but you call them 'the Taliban' because they have the unmitigated gall to disagree with you, please assume that I ignore all of your opinions about politics, culture, morals, ethics, and etiquette.
  Why? Because thus it has always been. I remember a spirited fight at the Ball State dorms about,
  "No, man, like, the REAL way to play D&D!"
  In 1977. And these two guys had been having the argument for over a year. Then the Monster Manual hit and they really started fighting.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Why the Heck is your 1st Level Wizard Just Standing Around?!

  Not too long ago someone I was discussing gaming with was very dismissive of 1e, 2e, OSRIC, S&W, etc. because low-level mages had so few spells and could not do damage in combat more than once. They felt that all the caster did was 'stand around' while important stuff (i.e., fighting) went on.

  I hesitate to write about how wrong this is for reasons related to length of post, breadth of topic, and losing my ever-lovin' mind to rage-induced psychosis. Mainly because there is a lot more to RPGs than combat. But also because there is a lot more to combat than damage density AND mages are better at melee than you think.

Let's Talk About: The Mangani (Briefly)

  A new Tarzan movie is coming out. Hopefully it won't suck too hard. But the trailer makes it look like they go the Mangani wrong.
  The Mangani are, of course, the species that raised Tarzan. In more contemporary movies and TV they are portrayed as gorillas.
  This is wrong.
  The Mangani are portrayed as being capable of walking upright comfortably for long periods and of being omnivorous with a fondness for meat. They used some tools and even built fairly advanced shelters. They described gorillas as a different species (it is implied Mangani are not as large as gorillas). And, biggest deal of all, they had a complex spoken language!
  Other Mangani were taught human language, were trained to paddle and navigate canoes, and some even wore clothes in order to sneak into a human camp - they are obviously much more human in build, gait. etc. that gorillas and much more intelligent.
  In this language the Mangani spoke of gorillas and chimps as different species but spoke of humans as a "type of" Mangani and humans and Mangani were interfertile - this is a rather Big Deal, actually, showing that the Mangani are very, very close to Humanity!
  But I am guessing that the movie will, once again, have them as gorillas.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Guest Post - Monster Analysis 1:The Sahuagin

  I might have occasionally mentioned my 5 sons, 4 of whom play RPGs with me (#5 is only 3 years old, so....)
  Son #4, who is 13 years old, has been kind enough to write an analysis of monsters and promises many more!
  Without further delay, his article:

This is my first in a series of 7-8 monster analysis articles which take the basic descriptions of 1e monsters and rattle on about the implications.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Magic Item of the Week: Staff of Sundering

  This item can be simple or elaborate, but remains a staff. It can have up to 25 charges and acts as a magical weapon, +1 to hit, +3 to damage. If the proper command words are known it can perform the following, all at 12th level:
  Knock (1 charge)
  Passwall (2 charges)
  Phase Door (3 charges
  Sundering* (3 charges)

  *Sundering is a variation of Disintegration that will automatically shatter any Force Wall or similar effect - Sundering has a range of 30'.